Mental Medicine: Daily Happiness Training
Weekly Insights from Meditation Classes You May Have Missed
By Joseph Giacona, Williamsburg Meditation Teacher
We have problems - two, to be precise. Our actual heart-wish is to experience lasting happiness, not just short-lived, temporary happiness. We crave unceasing happiness. Sadly, at the moment, the happiness we experience is fleeting and momentary. What we yearn for is lasting happiness but what we end up with is temporary happiness. This is our first problem. Our bigger problem, problem number two, is, in truth, we actually do not believe lasting happiness is possible. It sounds like an impossibility, a fantasy. Many people scoff at the idea of lasting happiness, casting it afar as downright absurd. We should ask ourselves, "Do I believe lasting happiness is possible?" If our answer is no, why not?
In Buddhism, lasting happiness isn't fantastical - it's reality. The very nature of our mind is happiness. And we can prove it. If it's possible to be just a little bit more peaceful and a little less agitated, then it's conceivable to be even more peaceful and even less agitated. We can then increase that experience of peace even further, becoming additionally more and more peaceful and less and less agitated until finally, we are permanently peaceful and permanently unagitated/cool all the time. In Buddhism, we give this experience a name, enlightenment. More to the point, it's simply reality. Lasting happiness, enlightenment, is reality. In Buddhism we don't sell ourselves short, we go for it, we go for lasting happiness. Momentary happiness just isn't good enough. Enlightenment or bust. There is no limit to the inner-happiness we can experience.
According to Buddhism, actual happiness comes from a happy mind. In other words, when our mind is happy, even if it's cold and raining, we are happy. Unhappiness also comes from the mind. Even if we are with close friends, in the most fantastic ‘external’ situation, with beautiful weather surrounding us, if our mind is unhappy, we experience discomfort and pain. The pain comes from the mind, not the situation. We know this from our own experience. We have all been unhappy in the 'postcard' situation and we have all been overjoyed when everyone else around us is miserable.
Here's a fun example to contemplate, riding in an elevator. From an outside perspective, this situation couldn't be more innocuous and simple. You walk into a steel box, the door closes and you move up or down. So why are we often so uncomfortable in elevators? Is the uncomfortable, awkward feeling coming from the elevator? Is it coming from the people in the elevator? Is it coming from the space between you and the other people? Is it coming from the soothing elevator music? Of course, the obvious answer is no. The anxiety, the sense of isolation, sense of distance and discomfort is coming from the dis–comfort in our mind. When our mind is peaceful our journey in an elevator can be lovely; sharing a short trip with potential friends, sometimes making their acquaintance and sometimes even sharing a laugh. We even have the freedom to develop a deep, profound love for these people. Yet, if our mind is agitated, even if the elevator is simply moving from floor one to floor two, it can be miserable. 'In theory,' we have choice as to which state of mind we would like to bring with us into the elevator.
Look at any situation in your life that you regard as stressful and you will discover there is no stress outside the mind. What makes a situation stressful is the mind. A stressful mind creates stressful situations. In How to Solve Our Human Problems (which contains page after page of practical methods on how to skillfully transform difficulty, conflict, heartbreak, let down i.e. life), Geshe Kelsang says, "When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us to cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress. Just by doing breathing meditation for ten or fifteen minutes each day, we shall be able to reduce this stress. We shall experience a calm, spacious feeling in the mind, and many of our usual problems will fall away. Difficult situations will become easier to deal with, we shall naturally feel warm and well disposed towards other people, and our relationships with others will gradually improve."
Meditation for this Week
We contemplate, "My real wish is for lasting happiness. At the moment, all my experiences of happiness are fleeting and ephemeral. I have not found the lasting happiness that I, in my heart of hearts, long for. Even when I do manage to experience some happiness, I can't maintain it and soon I am left seeking short-lived happiness once again. How wonderful it would be if I could attain lasting happiness." Once we develop this wish for lasting happiness, we then ask ourselves, "Where can I find lasting happiness? In friends? Family? My hobbies? No. Happiness is to be found in a peaceful, controlled mind. If my mind is peaceful I will be happy no matter how difficult my external situation may be. Therefore, I must begin to train in meditation, stabilizing peace in my mind." Soon, we will be able to abide with that peaceful mind for longer and longer periods of time. Then, during the course of our daily life, whilst enjoying our various forms of temporary happiness, we keep our sights set on attaining lasting happiness. This is our happiness training.
The Unmistaken Dharma of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
Geshe la says. . .
“If, while experiencing adverse conditions, our mind remains calm and happy through the practice of patience, we do not have a problem. We may have a challenging situation, and may even be sick or injured, but we are free from pain. By controlling our mind in this way, we experience a cessation of our pain, worry and depression, and find true inner peace. Furthermore, by keeping a peaceful mind in difficult situations, we are far more likely to find solutions and respond constructively. The practice of training the mind is very gentle. It does not require physical deprivation and hardship but is mainly concerned with the internal task of controlling and transforming the mind. Once we have learned how to do this we will understand the real meaning of these instructions.” - From How to Transform Your Life (FREE E-BOOK)
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After Sunday class, relax and enjoy fresh coffee & tea chatting with a community who share similar spiritual questions and goals.
NOTE: Though each day covers a specific topic, each session is a stand alone lesson and can be taken in any order.
Sunday - Journey to Lasting Happiness
11:00 AM - 12:30PM
New Class Series: Monday - Meditations on Love
7:00 PM - 8:30PM
Wednesday - Freedom from Anxiety
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
Thursday - Freedom from Painful Emotions
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
New class series will be added to the schedule in the coming weeks and months.