Meditation calms you down. It chills you out. It makes you sharper and smarter. It can improve your health and make you feel younger. But most importantly, it makes you happy!
When you meditate you go into the light inside of you, the light that makes up everything and everyone. It’s the light of eternity and it’s happiness itself. So when you meditate, you are making yourself more available to the light in your being, which literally makes you happy!
When you meditate you come to have silent knowledge about the universe that makes some of the seemingly harsh and random events of life more understandable. You come to see that you are not just your body and your mind, but that there is a part of you that lives beyond the death of the body. You see that who you truly are is eternal.
This might sound simplistic or fantastical, so you have to check it out for yourself to see that it is true. In fact, one of the reasons I like the practice of meditation is that it’s not about blindly believing what someone preaches to you, but rather finding out for yourself what is true.
Recently I was on vacation, and with the exception of a few email checks, I also took a vacation from the Internet. Though I have done this many times before, I was still amazed at the blissfulness of the mind without the energetic push and pull of the Internet. The mind is so much more quiet and unconcerned with the goings-on of the world when released from the tyranny of the Internet :–). I highly recommend you give yourself a vacation from the Internet the next time you go on vacation.
Our incessant internal dialogue—all of the strategizing, defending, regurgitating and worrying that we do—covers our true nature. When you stop thought, you directly experience that you are made of light, Consciousness, God (you choose your favorite word).
Keeping the mind quiet won’t make you unconscious or an idiot. Rather you become wiser as you begin to see the vast wisdom that is at your core. You’ll find that you begin to understand things without having to think them through and that you have access to greater knowledge that isn’t available to you when your mind is a cyclone of thoughts and concerns.
But keeping your mind quiet is hard to do in our digital, socially-networked world, where we are constantly bombarded with information and never out of reach from…anyone! How do you do it? The answer is simple—you meditate. For instruction on how to meditate, download the free eBook on How to Meditate.
Your mind is an amazing and essential tool, but it is not who you truly are. All the thoughts and ideas that run through our minds feel very close, like “us,” so it can certainly feel like our minds define who we are—but if you put your mind on “Pause” for a moment and stop your thoughts, you will find that there is still a presence there. You find that you are still there even when your mind is not thinking.
What is that presence that is still there when the mind is gone? I can tell you that it is your true self, the light and consciousness that make up everything and everyone. But it’s not very transformative to read that. What’s powerful is to experience that eternality for yourself! What’s transformative is to start meditating and slowing down the mind so you can find out for yourself that who you truly are is beyond the mind and the body, is eternal and is good.
Everyone at their core is made of this light. Both the best person and the worst person have this light at their core. What this means for you is that this light is inside you and available to you all the time, but you have to slow down your mind to be able to see it. So, yes again, meditate!
It’s a personal choice to be happy. Everyone has a high, happy side and a low, bored, angry or depressed side, and which side you live in is determined by the choices you make. The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that challenge us, awaken us, and keep us balanced—they are the choices to meditate and work-out when you’d rather watch TV; to be mindful when you’d rather obsess on something negative; to work on your career when it seems easier to just hang out where you are; and, also the choice to relax and unwind when you know you need that, but want to stay plugged in.
The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that take care of the things that are your responsibility—and just as important, the choices to not take on things that are not your responsibility. On a daily basis, we are presented with numerous choices, both simple and complex, that lead us to either more happiness or less. When you become the person who makes the higher choice by default, you will absolutely feel happier. The good news is that meditation increases your powers of discrimination and will, so it’s easier to both discern the higher choice and follow it.
Of course, many of the physical circumstances of our lives are beyond our control, but even in these situations there is a choice to be happy. When you get caught in a major traffic delay, you can bemoan your fate which magnifies the misery of the situation, or you can keep on hand great audio books, podcasts and music to entertain yourself while you are trapped in your car. In more dire situations, like finding out your partner cheated on you or that you have been diagnosed with cancer, there is still an opportunity to be happy. Stick with me for a moment on this one. Sometimes the most painful situations in life can act as a catalyst to finally get us to really stop thought, go into our inner light and experience that we are not who we think we are—to see that we’re made of light and are eternal. This is the happiest of all experiences. When everything is going our way, we tend to not be very introspective. But in truly unpleasant times, in our disillusionment with how we thought our life would go, there is an opening to experience something deeper. So even amidst the crappiest situation, there is a choice to indulge in the difficulties of your life or an option to go deeper into the quiet and deeper into your soul where true happiness resides. True happiness isn’t about everything working out your way. It’s really about being in touch with your inner light.
When you begin meditating, the most important thing is to establish a daily practice—you need to focus on just showing up and doing it! Once you are meditating on a regular basis, then the focus shifts to meditating correctly.
You won’t experience the benefits of meditation if you just space out and let your mind wander. In order to meditate correctly, it’s important to not think about other people or talk to other people in your mind. Don’t work on your to-do list or ruminate on projects at work or school. Instead, when you notice you are thinking, simply bring your focus back to the area of focus (chakra, breath, mantra or yantra). Don’t fight the thought or get frustrated that you are thinking—be patient with yourself and just return your mind to the area of focus.
Also keep in mind that a shorter, completely focused meditation is more effective than a longer, spaced-out one.
When we love, light comes through our being and brightens us, lightens us and makes us feel happy. The love you express doesn’t have to be towards another person, it can be towards a great number of things—pets, plants, your artwork, sports, challenging experiences. In fact, love has very little to do with a person. It comes from us and it grows the more we love. We are happy when we love. We are unhappy when we stop loving.
Similarly, when we laugh, we relax and light flows through us more easily. It brightens us and makes us feel happy. Laughter and lightheartedness are great balms for our body, mind and soul. When we laugh a lot we are happier people. (It should be pointed out however that laughing at others, their misfortunes, sorrow or pain, will in no way make you happy. This lack of compassion actually decreases the amount of light flowing through you.)
“You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do it.”—Eleanor Roosevelt
People perceiving you as rich, beautiful, lucky, tough or smart will not make you happy, yet you wouldn’t know this if you observed how much time and energy people spend trying to get other people to think they are those things. If people think you have got it made, it won’t make you happy. Just look at celebrities—many people admire them and think they have it made, but clearly it doesn’t make them happy. In fact, given the number of divorces and trips to rehab, you could posit they are one of the least happy segments of the population. So stop being concerned with what other people think of you, it’s a waste of your energy and keeps you from having a quiet mind.
Honesty with yourself is essential to being happy. You have to check that what you are doing in your life is working for you. Sometimes we have such a strong idea of how our life should be and what will make us happy, that we don’t want to face that these ideas aren’t right for us anymore. We may have grown out of them or they may have never been our ideas and dreams in the first place, but instead were imposed by family or society and accepted by us as ours. Other times we have invested so much time and energy to get our life to where it is, that we don’t want to face the fact that it is no longer working. When we honestly recognize that something is no longer working, then from this place of recognition we can begin to change it.
Being honest about what is working applies to all aspects of your life, big and small—whether it’s recognizing that you’re bored with your job and you need to mix it up, or that constantly checking your phone diffuses your focus and you need to dial it down. When you change what is not working in your life, despite past ideas of what you think will make you happy, you will be a happier person.
Note that you don’t have to necessarily share or discuss your internal honesty with others. In fact, if we had to share all our internal insights with others, we’d never be completely honest with ourselves! What matters most is that you are simply honest with yourself.
The student asked the Buddha: “Why is it that wise women and men in the world—priestesses, rulers, and others—always offer sacrifices to the gods?”
The Buddha answered: “They offer things to the gods because as they get older they want to keep their lives as they are and have no misfortunes.”
“But, Buddha, does it ever make any difference to their old age by making these careful offerings?”
“Their prayers and praises and offerings and hopes are all made on the basis of possessions, rewards, and longings for pleasure. These experts in prayer are longing to continue becoming. But it will make no difference to their old age.”
“Please tell me, Buddha, if all the offerings from these experts don’t get them beyond old age, then who has ever gone beyond?”
The Buddha said: “When a person has thoroughly understood the world, from top to bottom, when there is nothing in the world that agitates them anymore, then they have become somebody who is free from confusion and fears and tremblings and the longings of desire. They have gone beyond getting old and beyond birth and death.”