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It takes heart to live in, live with, and live beyond times that are really hard.
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Just One Thing


Simple practices for resilient happiness from Rick Hanson, Ph.D.

You may recognize the Just One Thing practice below,
which I sent out last May. Given recent events in the United States,
I thought it was worth sharing again.

And if you'd like, here's
how to help the victims of the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

What do you do when the
bottom falls out?

The Practice:

Take Heart.


It takes heart to live in even ordinary times.

By "taking heart," I mean several related things:

  • Sensing your heart and chest
  • Finding encouragement in what is good both around you and inside you
  • Resting in your own warmth, compassion, and kindness; resting in the caring for you from others; love flowing in and love flowing out
  • Being courageous, whole-hearted and strong-hearted – going forward wisely even when anxious, knowing your own truth and as you speak it

When you take heart, you're more able to deal with challenges like aging, illness, trauma, or conflicts with others. You're also more able to take advantage of opportunities with confidence and grit.

Additionally, it takes heart to live in, live with, and live beyond times that are really hard. Your personal hard time might be bad news about your health, the death of a parent, or betrayal by others. Or it could be related to changes in your country and world, and your concerns about their effects on others and yourself; I've written about the importance of finding and facing facts at the level of society (please skip it if you don't want my summary of recent history).

There are so many examples of honorable people facing great difficulty with dignity, principle, and courage. They did it. We can, too.

Start by riding out the storm. When big things happen at any scale – in your child's schoolyard or in a refugee camp on the other side of the world it is completely natural and normal to be shocked and disturbed by them.

As best you can, stay with the raw experience, the body sensations, the deep feelings, the stirred-up fears and anger and perhaps paralysis. Whatever it is, it is your experience; some may be upset about a big event while others may be glad about it; I am definitely not trying to talk you out of your experience. Be mindful of whatever is passing through the big open space of awareness, observing it without being flooded by it. Painful and counter-intuitive as it may be, this is the foundation of releasing really hard experiences and replacing them gradually and authentically with thoughts and feelings that are helpful, wholesome, wise, and even happy.

Do things that help you come back to center and find your footing. Personally, I prioritize exercise, sleep, and meditation; I try to feel the truth of being basically alright right now, in this moment, moment after moment (alongside and deeper than pain or sorrow); I do the dishes and make the bed. Walk the dog, call a friend, eat something, look at trees and sky, get a cup of tea and stare into space. Take good care of your body.

Guard and guide your attention. It's one thing to find facts and form the best plans you can. It's another thing to get distracted or upset by news or other people that do not add any useful value.

Take heart in the good that is real. Outside you, there is the kindness in others, the beauty of a single leaf, the stars that still shine no matter what hides them. Right now, as you read, all over the world children are laughing in delight, families are sitting down to a meal, babies are being born, and loving arms are holding people who are dying. Inside you, there is your compassion, sincere efforts, sweet memories, capabilities and much more. Take heart with others, sharing worries, support, and friendship.

Do the things you can. The more that events are turbulent, alarming, and beyond your influence, the more important it is to grow stability, safety, and agency inside you and around you.

Have courage. At all human scales, strong forces have always tried to confuse and frighten others. Whatever outward action is necessary, you can preserve an inner freedom, never cowed or bowed in your core.

Last, I've found it really helps to have perspective. Without minimizing one bit of whatever is awful, it is also true that humans like you and me have been walking this earth for 300,000 years. I see the trees, the land, the ocean all of it here before me and lasting long after me. Empires rise and fall. Sometimes the center does not hold in a body, marriage, or nation and still. And still people love each other, go out of their way for a stranger, and marvel at a rainbow. Nothing, nothing at all can change this. We keep putting one foot in front of the other one, lifting each other up along the way.

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Though there is no more human experience than death, it’s one of the most challenging topics to explore. In this episode we learn from a true pioneer in the field of end-of-life care: Roshi Joan Halifax.
Gratitude can ease a bad mood, and make real, positive, and lasting changes in your brain. If you're feeling frazzled, here's A Meditation on Gratitude that can help overcome the brain's tendency toward a negativity bias.
Join me in the Rocky Mountains September 20-29 for my 10-day Neurodharma retreat, exploring the upper reaches of human potential taught by the great sages, and engaging 7 powerful practices to feel increasingly centered in your fundamental goodness, enoughness, and wakefulness.
"The number of actual failures in any person’s life is tiny compared to the vast number of goals that have been
successfully attained.

Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
JUST ONE THING (JOT) is the free newsletter that suggests a simple practice each week for more joy, more fulfilling relationships, and more peace of mind. A small thing repeated routinely adds up over time to produce big results.

Just one thing that could change your life.
(© Rick Hanson, 2019)