Number 5: Find Happiness Through Meditation

Photo(c)syda productions/DollarPhoto.com

Photo(c)syda productions/DollarPhoto.com

Happiness does not exist in the past and it does not exist in the future. It exists right now. To be happy, you have to be here now to experience it. If your attention is on what happened to you in the past, or what may happen in the future, you will not be in the present – and happiness will elude you. Regular meditation is the most powerful tool we have for keeping attention in the “now.”

Regular meditation is the most powerful tool we have for keeping attention in the “now.”

Meditation means all kinds of things. The way I am using the term is to describe a practice that helps you focus on the current moment. I will not be talking about meditation that helps you relax or obtain insights into your life. These are important, but these are not the goals of the meditation I will discuss.

As you learn through meditation to focus on the current moment, you begin to experience happiness. You will be able to see for yourself that, “Yes, happiness really is inside of me.” Once you start to see real happiness, you can choose it. The power to choose to be happy exists only right now. You cannot choose to be happy in the past, and you cannot choose to be happy in the future.

The power to choose to be happy exists only right now. You cannot choose to be happy in the past, and you cannot choose to be happy in the future.

People sometimes think of meditation as mysterious and otherworldly (a kind of “woo-woo” practice). It is not. It is merely the practice of focusing your attention. In everyday life, thoughts come up and capture your attention all of the time. In meditation, you learn to choose what to think. You can view meditation as the practice of the power to choose what to think.

Merely learning how to control your attention may not seem very powerful, but it is. Thousands of years ago, The Buddha said, “Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.” Left to its own devices the mind can often lead your attention down negative paths of thought. These thoughts can cast a dark cloud over your entire life. To turn away from these thoughts, you have to learn how to control your attention.

In addition, without controlling your attention you are constantly being distracted by the chattering of your mind. You cannot center yourself in happiness if you cannot quiet this noise. What we chatter about is what we call our lives, or the stories of our lives, formed through memories of what happened and anticipation of what will happen. Memory and anticipation frame the current moment and tell us what we are doing. If you are focusing on the story of your life, you are driven to react to the drama that is your life. This makes it impossible to find true happiness.

Thoughts connected with what you want, what you do not want and what you fear are powerful. Your mind constantly chatters on about them giving you very little peace. It is very hard to be happy with all that nasty chatter. Your thoughts may express longings for pleasurable sensations; the need to please (stroke and inflate) your self-image; and the need to avoid unpleasant things. Many of the thoughts are emotion laden. Each little emotion-laden thought  is not bad in itself. However, the pattern of automatically giving in to them can ruin your life. Without learning to control your attention you are at their mercy.

What to do

In the meditation we will practice here, you learn to center your attention and quiet your thoughts. You do this because it allows you to be in the current moment. All of the power to change the way you are, and to find real happiness exists in this moment.

First, meditation is something you practice regularly. Each session of meditation will help you towards the power to focus, but daily meditation (even if it is only for ten or twenty minutes) has a dramatic cumulative effect. For instance, researchers have found that after only eight weeks of focused meditation, the area of the brain believed to be involved in promoting emotional stability, learning, and memory increases in size. [1]

There are many good books and Youtube videos on how to meditate. In my book, Finding Your Power to Be Happy, I devote three chapters to mindfulness and meditation. Here I am going to focus on the particular way you should meditate in order to move towards focusing your attention on the current moment – on the now.

The easiest way to meditate is to sit, so that is what I am going to talk about here. You can sit with eyes open or closed. I do both. I find leaving my eyes open to be somewhat more effective in keeping my attention in the current moment.

You can sit cross-legged on the floor or you can sit in a chair. Both methods are effective. The only requirement is that you sit in a way that your body is balanced, so that once you are settled you do not need to move. Ideally, your back should be straight and your head balanced over your body. You want a position that encourages you to stay alert during meditation.

The object of this meditation is to focus your attention, so you need to pick an object of meditation on which to focus. That object can be anything, such as your breath or a physical object such as a flower. You can focus on a word (mantra) repeated over and over. You can also meditate on a particular thought, such as compassion. The breath may be the most common object of meditation, so I suggest you start with it.

Once you are settled and have picked an object of meditation, simply focus all of your attention on that object. Ideally, you try to do this for the entire period of meditation, without allowing your attention to waver. Practically, however, your attention will waver. So, let’s talk about what to do when this happens.

As you sit in meditation thoughts will come up. It is extremely difficult to stop the mind’s incessant chatter. Just allow the thoughts to come up. The trick is not to get involved in them, no matter what they are. Think of the thoughts as bubbles in a champagne glass. They keep coming and coming and you just let them float by and disappear. You can also think of them as clouds drifting by. Just let them come and go without getting involved in them.

Inevitably some thought will grab your attention and pull it away from your object of meditation. However, after a time you will notice that your attention has been snatched away. When you do, gently move your focus back to your object of meditation.

What we are trying to do here is pull your focus away from the ongoing story of your life. If your attention is focused on the current moment, not on the past or future, you will have pulled yourself out of the drama, and made yourself ready to enjoy the now.

It is important that you do not spend time thinking about why you are meditating or what will result from meditation. Any thinking about meditation pulls you back into your mind. For example, if you are thinking about the benefits of meditation you may be putting your attention in the future. If you are thinking about how meditation will resolve some old problem, you may be putting it in the past.

If you must think about meditating at all, then tell yourself, “I am meditating for the sole reason of meditating and for no other reason.” Try to view meditating as purposeless. This attitude will help keep your attention out of your mind and in the current moment.

Remember, in meditation you are not trying to get anywhere. You are already here now, and that is where you want to be. Happiness is right here, right now, so that is where you want your focus.  All you are trying to do in meditation is to free your attention from your mind, which always wants you to be somewhere else.

Posted by D.E. Hardesty

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For more, see Finding Your Power to Be Happy.

finding your power to be happy

 

[1] Narang Ph.D., David. Leaving Loneliness: A Workbook: Building Relationships with Yourself and Others.

One thought on “Number 5: Find Happiness Through Meditation

  1. Pingback: Number 5: Find Happiness Through Meditation | How to Be Happy

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