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The Power of Meditation
by Kadam Sonja Hanson

Underlying much of our life is the assumption that we can find happiness and contentment by enjoying external pleasures. We believe the cause of our happiness lies outside of ourselves. Therefore, we spend so much time and energy seeking happiness from outer conditions. Think about how often you have said to yourself, “If only I had a better job, a partner, a newer car, a slim figure, more money.... then I’d be happy.” How often have we actually felt completely content once we had these things? Can these be the cause of our happiness?

Geshe Kelsang says, “Without inner peace there is no happiness.” No matter how hard we try to rearrange our external conditions to get the “perfect” combination, we will never be truly happy unless we cultivate happiness within our own mind. Americans are beginning to realize the futility of seeking happiness and contentment from outside the mind. More and more, people desire to slow down and look inwards for the source of their joy.

Buddhism has a lot to offer in this area. Meditators in this tradition have spent the last 2500 years exploring how to find lasting peace and happiness inside of oneself. Our society could benefit greatly through Buddhist meditation. Americans are tired of working so hard to earn more money, the supposed cause of happiness. We are tired of being sold to by advertisers claiming happiness can be found in buying something new. We have tried everything, and yet we are still unhappy and dissatisfied. If we learn to meditate, we discover an inner source of peace from which happiness and contentment naturally spring forth. The best thing is: it’s free! You cannot buy happiness. Happiness is a state of mind; therefore the cause of happiness must also lie within the mind. Through meditation, we create the cause of happiness within our own mind.

When we become interested in meditation and look inside, all sorts of things are going on in the mind. It is difficult, at the moment, to experience a peaceful mind because its nature is movement, jumping from one thought to another very quickly. Our initial attempts at meditation can be rather exhausting, but with patience and gradual training, meditation can be a blissful inner journey.

Meditation means not only turning our awareness inwards, but letting go of distractions and holding our mind on a particular object. A simple method is breathing meditation. We all breathe; therefore the breath is a relatively easy object to find. Once we become aware of our breath, we hold our mind on our breath moment by moment. When distractions arise, we do not follow them, but continue holding our mind on the breath. Gradually, distractions die down and we can easily concentrate on our breathing. Through the power of our concentration, our mind becomes very calm and peaceful. Because of this, we experience a pleasant feeling. If we do breathing meditation every day, we become more and more familiar with concentrated, peaceful states of mind. Therefore, we become more and more happy. This is the power of meditation: it is the best tool available to help us cultivate inner peace. It is a tool that we can use anytime, anywhere. We can do breathing meditation on the bus, on our break at work, or sitting in the park. We can be cultivating the causes of happiness in our mind throughout our day. By doing this simple breathing meditation, you will see the quality of your life transform.

Kadam Sonja Hanson is the Resident Teacher at the Mahasiddha Buddhist Center in Portland. Mahasiddha Center offers regular meditation classes to the general public. Beginning Thursday July 5, Mahasiddha Center will offer a series of three classes on breathing meditation, taught by senior practitioner, Patrick Hurley. Held at Mahasiddha Center, 3453 NW Thurman Street from 7:30 to 9 pm. For more information, please call 503-233-6747 or see www.mahasiddha.net.

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