From Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. with Richard Mendius, MD:
There’s been a growing interest in the contemplative traditions, which have been investigating the mind—and thus the brain—for thousands of years, quieting the mind/brain enough to catch its softest murmurs and developing sophisticated ways to transform it. If you want to get good at anything, it helps to study those who have already mastered that skill, such as top chefs on TV if you like to cook.
Therefore, if you’d like to feel more happiness, inner strength, clarity, and peace, it makes sense to learn from contemplative practitioners—both dedicated lay people and monastics—who’ve really pursued the cultivation of these qualities.
Although “contemplative” may sound exotic, you’ve been contemplative if you’ve ever meditated, prayed, or just looked at the stars with a sense of wonder. The world has many contemplative traditions, most of which are associated with its major religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism…
…scientists, clinicians, and contemplatives have already learned a great deal about the brain states that underlie wholesome mental states and how to activate those brain states. These important discoveries give you a great ability to influence your own mind. You can use that ability to reduce any distress or dysfunction, increase well-being, and support spiritual practice; these are the central activities of what could be called the path of awakening, and our aim is to use brain science to help you travel far and well upon it.