Last week, I was privileged to hear psychologist and Dharma practitioner Rick Hanson speak (online). His topic: Neurodharma: Practicing Meditation with the Brain in Mind

According to Hanson, there are three basic needs that we share with all animals: safety, satisfaction, and connection.

We feel safe when our basic needs of food, shelter and physical safety are met. When we feel scared, uncomfortable or frustrated, that’s a sign that our need for safety is not being met.

Satisfaction has to do with goals and pleasures. When we feel glad, grateful, successful or satisfied, our need for satisfaction has been met.

Connection, he says, is when we are abiding in relationship with another. We are “aware of something that is alive between us and another person.” He pointed out that we are the most social species on the planet.

When we feel safe enough, satisfied enough and connected enough, the body naturally defaults to its resting state. We are at ease.

When we don’t get our needs met, we move into aversion (hatred), grasping (greed), or delusion (the three Buddhist poisons) or – he heads a fourth, which is interpersonal: we feel hurt, or lonely, resentful or depressed.

Meditation is practicing abiding in the needs-met space. If we repeatedly rest in peace, knowing we are safe right now, then our mind will take that shape. Hanson advises us to “cultivate the positive. Find out what’s meaningful and enjoyable and rest in it for a breath or three..”

“If you rest your mind on love and compassion,” he says, citing recent findings of neuroplasticity, “you will literally grow that inside yourself, based on physical changes in your brain.”

The fruit of the path is happiness, love, and peace. Happiness, love and peace are the path.