Happiness and meditation
What role does meditation have in producing our quality of life. How can learning to meditate contribute to being happy?
Happiness – of the true, genuine, deep and lasting kind – is the birthright of every being that lives. Our deepest yearning is to be separated from suffering and to experience ever more happiness. In this we are the same as everyone else without exception. If asked whether they would prefer more joy or more suffering any person will choose joy. The pursuit of happiness is actually at the core of every move we make in life. Unfortunately for most of us this core wish is left unacknowledged and deep in the subconscious areas of our awareness. Because we often don’t see the link between what we do and our wish for happiness, the shape of our life drifts further away from being able to make sound decisions about what really is good for us, or to see what really does foster a happy state.
The way that we are conditioned by those around us can convince us that happiness comes from something or someone outside of ourselves. We may come to think that happiness is found in material things, in beautiful things or in success. We may be convinced that someone else will make us happy, that to have this friend, or more friends, or that by taking a lover we will become more happy. We may also look for happiness in changed circumstances – ‘I would be happy if only I was less busy!’ Perhaps, ‘I would surely be happy if I was less bored and had more to do!’
If you happen to be single you may at times think that you would be happy if you were married. If you are married, you may come to think that you would be happier single. For most of us happiness is lost in a never ending search for that ever elusive greener ground covering.
The source of happiness
So where do we find happiness? What is its actual source? External things may sometimes provide us with enjoyment, and changed circumstances can produce some joy, but it seems clear that this is a fleeting and unreliable way to generate happiness. When we have the circumstances we define as ‘happiness producing’ we are happy, but when those circumstances are no longer with us we lose the happiness which depends on them.
If we reflect more deeply, however, we can see that happiness is a feeling, an internal and purely subjective experience. That experience may be provoked by an external thing, event or person, but the happiness itself is utterly subjective. Happiness is firmly rooted in the events of your mind, in the inner phenomena of feeling. Happiness is found among the contents of your mind, as a part of your inner world, and it is here that we can begin our search for the real means to happiness. We can see therefore the critical role of meditation practice in exploring this inner, subjective aspect to our experience.
Understanding the mind
Despite the great advances in understanding of psychology and neurobiology, the functioning of mind remains something of a mystery for the average person, and, although there is a natural tendency to study the above disciplines to gain an understanding of mind, a far more direct and personally relevant means to understand the mind is found in the practice of meditation. In fact, all the greatest of philosophers and psychologists over time have achieved their major breakthroughs in understanding through some form of personal introspection.
The truly exciting and inspiring thing about meditation is that it gives each of us the opportunity to observe the functioning of mind directly. We can learn about mind from the recorded observations of other experienced meditators, and we can put their observations to test and make our own observations through our own practice. Because introspection and reflection is natural if time is allowed for it, everyone can meditate. You may only have a minute to spare, but in that minute you can meditate. The only pre-requisite is to have a mind!
Meditation not only allows us to gain an ever deeper understanding of mind, but also equips us with the means to improve our mind – to improve its functioning, its clarity, its intelligence and logical ability, its intuitive insight, its emotional stability, its peacefulness and tranquility.
Meditation shows us how to identify the positive states of mind which genuinely support a state of happiness and then it gives us the tools to reinforce and nourish those happiness producing inner states. At the same time meditation allows us to identify the negative states of mind with which we unconsciously sabotage our happiness and gives us the tools to overcome those destructive states.
At an advanced level, meditation is the key to uncover the greatest human potential and to realize an ability to rest constantly in a state of bubbling happiness, with a joyful, playful, spontaneous zest for life, love and liberty, and to maintain this irrespective of whether external circumstances are good or bad. Our happiness then is not tied to others or to anything at all outside of ourselves. The moment we look within, total happiness is right there. As the depths of an ocean rest undisturbed by the movement of waves on the surface, so our happiness and sense of well being remains constant and not swayed by the ups and downs of changed circumstances.
This is true happiness, true contentment, true joy and peace. It remains with us constantly and is ever present and spontaneously shared. This happiness is only accessed by properly directed meditation.
Needless to say, I am a great advocate for the benefits of meditation. It has lead my own search for meaning and spiritual truth. It lead me to become a Buddhist monk and devote over thirty years of my life teaching and writing about this path with my teacher.
The urge to share meditation’s grace and beauty with others is the reason for presenting the teachings that I give, for in meditation we find a true and final release from suffering and negativity and a definite establishment in deep and lasting happiness.