Rest your mind upon the right things

Apr 07, 2015

by Rick Hanson

There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes the shape it rests upon; the modern update that the brain takes the shape the mind rest upon. For instance, you regularly rest your mind upon worries, self-criticism, and anger, then your brain will gradually take the shape–will develop neural structures and dynamics–of anxiety, low sense of worth, and prickly reactivity to others. On the other hand, if you regularly rest your mind upon, for example, noticing you’re all right now, seeing the good in yourself, and letting go, then your brain will gradually take the shape of calm strength, self-confidence, and inner peace.


Meditation is to the mind what aerobic exercise is to the body. Like exercise, there are many good ways to do it and you can find the one that suits you best.  Meditation is the quintessential training of attention. Since attention is like a vacuum cleaner – sucking its contents into your brain through what’s called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity” – getting better control of your attention is the foundation of changing your brain, and thus your life, for the better


  1. Relax. Rest. Intend to meditate.
  2. Find something to anchor attention, such as the sensations of breathing, a work or phrase (e.g., “peace”), or an image.
  3. Start by giving attention fully to the anchor, letting go of everything else.
  4. Then, with an ongoing awareness of your “anchor,” let your attention widen to include your body, thoughts, feelings and overall atmosphere of your mind.
  5. Gently open to relaxing and quieting and breathing in peace.
  6. Meditate for as long as you like. Even one minute is good – and ten, twenty, or even forty-five minutes could be even better.

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