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Posted By Opening the Heart

Charles River, Elm Bank

" I am tremendously blissful!" was one of the often repeated statements of my spiritual teacher Osho.
"Yeah…. right," sneered my skeptical mind — even though I felt great love and respect for him. I just didn't get how it could be possible to live in a constant blissful state.
Recently I've been reading Rick Hanson's wonderful "Buddha's Brain, The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom." It is a remarkable affirmation and celebration of the correspondences between Buddha's teachings and the discoveries of modern neuroscience. Chapter 4, "Taking in the Good" has proved to be the key to opening the door of blissfulness.
My daily walks were already positive experiences for body and spirit. The sense of aliveness engendered by robust walking addresses one of my essential needs. If I don't exercise, my systems rapidly come to resemble stagnant pools collecting all kinds of old rubbish, as opposed to clear flowing streams.
I am fortunate to live in a town with lots of open space and great walking trails. However, until reading Hanson's book, I was missing an opportunity that my daily walks offered. Hanson makes the point that, when if comes to negative experiences our brains are like Velcro, but when it comes to positive experiences, our brains are like Teflon. We have a predisposed tendency to hang on to and remember negative stuff and to quickly forget about — or not even notice — the positive. So — he writes — "Whatever positive facts you find, bring a mindful awareness to them — open up to them and let them affect you……….Savor the experience…………Make it last by staying with it for 5, 10, 20 seconds". When we are mindfully aware of positive experiences the neurons in our brain fire in a distinct pattern. The longer or more frequently we engage with the positive the more durably the neurons are wired together.
I don't know how many walks I have taken with some "shoulda, woulda, coulda" issue churning away in my brain, completely oblivious to my surroundings, but, after reading Hanson, I made a conscious decision to follow his advice.
What I can tell you is that it works! My walks take me along routes that are packed with "opportunities for positive response." Not necessarily beautiful scenery or a captivating flower — though these are certainly positive experiences — but also a well crafted building detail, the playfulness of a puppy, the gurgle of rainwater falling into a catch-basin, the starkness of winter trees silhouetted against the setting sun, the smile of a stranger on the path. I discovered that I was deluged with these opportunities, and that, if I stayed conscious of my positive response to these stimuli, I could easily access a taste of the blissful state that Osho was referring to.
Of course, I'm still working on "having it stick." Too easily I fall out of the state and into the familiar, everyday mind churning. But the more I practice, the more "wired" the state of blissfulness seems to be getting. I really encourage you to try it! Oh yes, if you're planning to purchase Rick Hanson's book, please purchase it through the link in our blog. Just scroll down the left hand side bar. The small kickback we receive from Amazon goes into our Opening the Heart Scholarship Fund.

Wishing you many blissful experiences of 'taking in the good.'


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