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 Id be happy. How often have we actually felt completely
content once we had these things? Can these be the cause of our
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: its 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.