Drop the Stone – Dr. Rick Hanson

Drop the Stone - Dr. Rick Hanson


Is it heavy?

The Practice: 
Drop the Stone


As we begin a new year for many people, it’s natural to consider how to make it a good one. Besides taking action in the outer world – from fixing a dripping faucet to feeding every child – we can act inside our own minds . . . and take the benefits with us wherever we go. This year, what do you think are the top five things you can do inside yourself to be happier, stronger, wiser, and more loving?

In this JOT and those that follow, I’ll suggest my own top five:

  • Drop the stone
  • Let it flow
  • Learn as you go
  • “Us” all “thems”
  • Be Amazed

So, what do I mean by “drop the stone?”

Most of us are lugging around at least one thing that is a needless burden. Such as holding on to resentments, worrying over and over about the same thing, or trying to make someone love you who won’t. It’s like a load on your back, a weight in your hands, that you really don’t have to carry each day.

Perhaps it’s an unrealistic standard you keep failing to meet, an old quarrel you keep rehashing, or something addictive you can’t do in moderation so you’re always thinking about it. Or maybe it’s an old shame, disappointment, or loss. Or perhaps a chronic tension in your body or armor around your heart. Or a rigid belief or righteous indignation.

I’m not suggesting we turn away from pain, stop caring about others, or avoid ambitious goals. It’s healthy to allow sadness, hurt, or worry to flow through your mind, and good to keep faith with yourself, bet on yourself, and dream big dreams.

But it’s stressful and harmful to get sucked into repetitive preoccupations, to keep looping multiple times around the same track. I heard that the great Tibetan teacher, Tsoknye Rinpoche, had once said essentially: “Thinking the same thought again is OK – but ten is enough!”

In your brain, negative preoccupations tend to engage the “default mode network” centered in the back half of the midline cortex. As this network evolved over millions of years, our ancestors used it as a simulator in which they could review past actions and imagine future possibilities, and thus learn from their mistakes and make good plans. But when the simulator uses you, it’s more like a “ruminator” in which you are trapped, feeling bad, and reinforcing negative neural circuits.

Instead, it’s OK to step out of the movie inside and OK to drop the load.