Monday, November 1, 2010

Seeking happiness through meditation...!!!

Seeking happiness through meditation

Daya Hewapathirane(Based on Dr.Mark Epstein’s remarkable insights on Buddhist meditation)

One reason we have so much trouble attaining happiness is that we don’t even know what it is. We keep trying to get rid of or annihilate troubled states of mind such as anxiety or feelings of uneasiness, worry, fear and apprehension and other mental disturbances which bring about unhappiness. Mark Epstein, a ground-breaking psychiatrist who blends Western and Eastern thinking, says that happiness has more to do with broadening your perspective and that Buddhism holds

Meditation disciplines the mind

the promise of more than just common unhappiness in life, it sees the pursuit of happiness as our life goal and teaches techniques of mental development to achieve it.

The Holy Dalai Lama insists that “the purpose of life is to be happy”and “no amount of technological development can lead to lasting happiness.What is almost always missing is a corresponding inner development.” By inner development? the Holy Dalai Lama means something other than mastering the latest version of a full-featured word processing program for computers.

He is talking about cleaning up our mental environment so that real happiness can be both uncovered and sustained.

Most of us, especially those of us who have been exposed to or influenced by the Western world, tend to have a peculiar relationship to happiness. We do everything in our power to try to possess it, most particularly in materialistic form. Materialistic comforts by themselves have not led to lasting happiness. Although many of us are well aware of that conclusion, we do not often see another way, and therefore, return or retreat into our material comforts, barricading ourselves from what appears to be a hostile and threatening world. Acquiring and protecting, we continue to crave a happiness that we think we deserve but out of reach.

Buddhism tells us that the very ways we seek happiness actually block us from finding it.

Our first mistake is in trying to wipe out all sources of ispleasure and search for a perennial state of well-being that, for most of us in our deepest fantasies, resembles nothing so much as a prolonged erotic reverie or day-dreaming.

Even as adults we rarely come to terms with the fact that good and bad are two sides of the same coin, that those who make pleasures possible are also the source of our misery.

The Buddha showed the way

In Western society, without its extended family structure and rabid pursuit of individualism, people often find themselves with nowhere to turn for support in dealing with these feelings.

In more traditional Eastern societies, there is a much greater social and family support system that helps people contains their anguish or the agonizing physical or mental pain, torment, and regrets.

Sense of well-being
However much we, as adults, think we have come to terms with the fact that no one can be all good or all bad, we are still intolerant of frustrations to our own pleasure.

We continue to grasp at the very objects that have previously disappointed us. The Buddha’s point about happiness is that as long as we continue trying to eliminate all displeasure and preserve only pleasure for a prolonged sense of well-being, no lasting happiness is possible. Disturbing thoughts and situations of rage, envy, and the desire for revenge will always interfere. Real life and its complications inevitably trickle in. The root cause of our unhappiness is our inability to observe ourselves properly. We are caught in our own perspective, unable to appreciate the many perspectives of those around us.

And we are unaware of how stubbornly or insistently this way of perceiving drives us. Only through the uprooting of our own self-centeredness can we find the key to happiness. Buddhist meditation practice is one way to catch hold of this me-first perspective and begin to examine it.

The first step to inner development is to find and hold the sense of single, one-point perspective. When a person is able to do that successfully, there is often a sense of freedom. In meditation, as the

tendency to view the world self-referentially or from our self-centred approach and perspective loses its hold, we begin to appreciate the Einsteinian world in which all realities are relative and all points of view subjective.

Meditation calms anxiety

Then a happiness that has more to do with acceptance than gratification becomes available to us. Happiness is the ability to take all of the insults of life as a vehicle for awakening. In pursuing a study of Buddhism and psychotherapy, I am convinced that a method of mental development exists that enables a person to hold feelings of injury without reacting destructively.

Rather than immediately responding to rage or anxiety, a person can use feelings of injury to focus on the core sense of self that will prove illusive and nonexistent.

If there is no self to protect, there is no need to react in rage or anger. Pleasure and displeasure can then be appreciated for the ways in which they are inextricably linked. Well-being becomes understood as an inseparable part of a larger whole that also encompasses catastrophe.

Happiness, then, is the confidence that pain and disappointment can be tolerated, that love will prove stronger than aggression.

It is release from the attachment to pleasant feelings, and faith in the capacity of awareness to guide us through the inevitable insults to our own narcissism or excessive love or admiration of oneself, the psychological condition characterized by self-preoccupation, lack of empathy, and unconscious deficits in self-esteem. It is the realization that we do not have to be so self-obsessed, that within our own minds lies the capacity for a kind of acceptance we had only dreamed of. This happiness rarely comes without effort. To accomplish this we must first discover just how narrow our vision usually is. This is the function of meditation.

Mark Epsteinis an American Psychiatrist and a Professor of Psychology. He has written extensively on Buddhism and psychotherapy. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School. He has been a practicing Buddhist since his early twenties. He is one of the editors of TRICYCLE: A Buddhist Review.


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