Happiness and meditation
First of all, happiness – true, genuine, deep and lasting happiness – 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 all equal.
If asked whether they would prefer more happiness or more suffering any person will choose happiness. 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. As a result it stays deep in the subconscious areas of our awareness. In addition we often don’t see the link between what we do and our wish for happiness. Consequently the shape of our life drifts further away from being able to make sound decisions. We therefore lose sight of what really is good for us. Thus blinded, we are unable to see what really does support happiness.
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 therefore think that happiness is found in material things, in beautiful things or in success.
Perhaps we think that someone else is the source of our happiness. “This beautiful person will make me happy!” “If I were to have this friend, or more friends, I would be happy.” Perhaps we think 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. In contrast if you are married, you may come to think that you would be happier single. Like this, the result for most of us is happiness being lost in search for that ever elusive greener grass.
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. However we soon find that this is a fleeting and unreliable way to generate happiness. When we have the circumstances we define as ‘happiness producing’ we are happy. As soon as those outer 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 subjective experience. That experience may well be provoked by an external thing, event or person. However the happiness itself is a subjective experience. Thus happiness is firmly rooted in the events of your mind, in the inner phenomena of feeling. It is found among the contents of your mind, as a part of your inner world. It is here that we can begin our search for the real means to happiness. Meditation, therefore, has a critical role in exploring this inner or subjective aspect to our experience.
Understanding the mind
There have been recent advances in the understanding of psychology and neurobiology. Despite this the functioning of mind remains something of a mystery for the average person. It seems as though it might require yet another degree to understand our mind. Weighed by the thought of more intellectual blah blah and statistics, we may never get started.
Fortunately being an average human has advantages. We already have a mind to study. In fact it is the very mind we are most interested in. Having a mind, we can meditate. With meditation we can learn of our mind directly and immediately. We gain personal experience of the workings of mind and with that can see what is happening in others.
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 allows us to gain an ever deeper understanding of mind. It also equips us with the means to improve our mind. We can improve its functioning, its clarity, its intelligence and logical ability. We can develop intuitive insight, emotional stability, peacefulness and tranquility.
Meditation shows us how to identify the positive states of mind which genuinely support a state of happiness. 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. It also gives us the tools to overcome those destructive states.
At an advanced level, meditation is the key to uncover the greatest human potential. We can realize an ability to rest constantly in a state of bubbling happiness. We have a joyful, playful, spontaneous zest for life, love and liberty. It is possible 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. The depths of an ocean rest undisturbed by the movement of waves on the surface. So too our happiness and peace remain 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 and guided and sustained me through the ups and downs of a spiritual path. It lead me to become a Buddhist monk and devote over thirty years of my life teaching and writing about Dharma (the Truth) with my teacher.
The urge to share meditation’s grace and beauty with others is the reason for presenting the meditation classes 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. The aim of this and subsequent blog posts is to reinforce these perspectives.