Rick Hanson, Ph.D., is a neuropsychologist, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom, a member of the University of California Berkeley-based Greater Good Science Center’s Advisory Board, and author of the best-selling book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. In a recent column for Greater Good: The Science Of A Meaningful Life, Hanson writes about an intense experience he had during a meditation retreat at Spirit Rock in Woodacre, California (follow Spirit Rock on Facebook, and see where it is via Google Maps). As he explains, the process of deep meditation is powerful and rewarding, but one night when he finished a heavier than usual session he felt rattled and discombobulated, “One of the benefits of a retreat—though it can be uncomfortable—is that it stirs up of the sediments of your psyche, which can muddy your mental waters for awhile.” Hazy-headed, Hanson meandered back to his room under a blanket of stars, and found himself looking up at the Big Dipper:
“[I] soon noticed the Big Dipper. My eyes followed its pointing to Polaris, the North Star, and a wave of easing came over me. The star felt steady and reassuring, something you could count on. It connected I think with a young part of me who loved the outdoors and learned to believe that as long as he could locate the North Star, he could find his way out of the tangled woods and back to safety. Gazing at Polaris, I asked myself, ‘What’s my North Star?’ One answer came to me immediately, and another just seconds later. Immediately I felt better. Calmer and more resolved.”
In the remainder of his piece, Hanson elaborates on how easy it is to get tangled up in life’s daily grind: wake up, get breakfast, pack lunches, get the kids off to school, go to work, come home, sleep, repeat. After years of this, many people are left scratching their heads with the question: “What the hell is this all for, anyway?” Often times, we find ourselves stumbling through life in very much the same way as Hanson when he emerged cloudy-headed and disoriented from his mediation session deep in the rolling hills of California late one night. In Just One Thing: Find Your North Star, Hanson explains the importance of determining what exactly it is that is guiding you in life, and describes a simple, effortless technique for doing so. To read the full piece be sure to visit GreaterGood.Berkeley.edu. To pick up your own copy of Rick Hanson’s Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom simply head over to Amazon. For LIVE updates from Greater Good: The Science Of A Meaningful Life you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter. To learn more about Rick Hanson you can visit RickHanson.net, and to learn more about his Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom you can visit WiseBrain.org.