There are two things that unite every single living being on this planet (and, I’ll wager, in all the other solar systems out there). Forget ideologies, fashions, culture, the World Cup, Strictly and One Direction because I’m talking about something far more fundamental, primal and very, very simple. Ready? Okay, here they are: everybody wants to be happy and everybody wants to be free from pain. There you go. That’s it. In a nutshell. Everything everybody has ever done in the entire history of the world had these motivations at the heart of their ambitions.
So in this respect, all our differences melt away. We are one cosmic community linked by these two simple truths; two truths which govern our lives – yours and mine. Don’t believe me? Good, because maybe you’ll mull it over, test it out and see it for yourself. Go on, I dare you. If you check carefully, you will see that underneath all the complexity of our societies, our politics, our sciences and our relationships with each other are these two simple motivations driving everything. Everything we do in our day-to-day activities are either attempts to feel better about ourselves or to avoid feeling worse. If we have a loving mind towards others then we have these wishes for them, too. But let’s be honest: it’s mainly about us, isn’t it?
Okay, so where does meditation fit into this picture? Well, it wouldn’t have to if our search for happiness and freedom from pain actually worked. The thing is, we never really do find the happiness we’re seeking. We try so hard to acquire and then cling on to the things we think will make us happy; and there are many potential candidates, aren’t there – new jobs, better kitchens, bigger houses, more attractive partners with galloping libidos, retail therapy, chocolate therapy… the list really is endless because we keep looking for newer and better things to satisfy our restless mind. This is how adverts work. And even if we do find what we’re after, how long does it last until the effect wears off?
More than two and a half thousand years the Buddha gave a very simple reason for this. He said we never find it because we are looking for happiness in the wrong place – a very simple statement but one that could change your life. It changed mine. I’ll say it again: we can’t find what we are looking for because we are looking in the wrong place.
Buddha said that happiness and suffering are feelings. They are internal. They are states of mind. So, logically, if happiness is internal then its cause must also be internal. Still with me? Again, please take your time with this. Test it out; and here’s one way to do that: think of things that make you happy, e.g. a picnic, a party or a coffee with friends. They make us feel good, right? But if we are upset at the time, do these things still have the same power to make us happy? No, of course they don’t. This is because the cause of happiness is not present in our mind at that time; whereas the cause of suffering is. That cause could be resentment, jealousy or anger.
So what is the main cause of happiness? Simple: Buddha said it is peace of mind. When our mind is at peace, when the turbulence of anxious thoughts settle down then a feeling of wellbeing and contentment naturally rises up from deep within. The buzzword here is ‘naturally’. Happiness is already with us. It’s the nature of our mind, deep down, underneath the choppy surface. We just need to clear some space to get to it.
This is the best news you’ve heard for a long time because it means we don’t need to spend tonnes of cash or micro-manage our world to feel good. All we need to be happy is a peaceful mind. And how do we get a peaceful mind? You guessed it. We meditate.
Meditation is a very simple and powerful way to make our mind familiar with a calm and peaceful state. Here’s how to do it: we simply sit in a quiet space, make a determination not to follow distracting thoughts, create a wish to do this meditation for the benefit of both ourselves and others and then we focus our attention on the soft feelings of the breath at the tip of our nostrils, whilst breathing normally. We do this every day for 10 minutes. Don’t worry about distractions. They’ll come up every few seconds. The important thing is to bring our mind back to the breath whenever we wander. If you do this regularly, as well as immediate calm I guarantee you will feel a change in your daily life within in a couple of weeks. For me, it meant less anxiety, a reduction in that feeling that they’re going to find you out (ever get that?), greater confidence to change, a wider view of things, a greater ability to think of other people’s wellbeing and not just my own (that’s continual work in progress) and, finally, more happiness. It works. The more mental peace we have, the happier we are, QED.
So go on, give it a go. I dare you. If you feel these instructions weren’t enough then you can find a meditation class near you. There’s bound to be one nearby. Go for it! It’s the best chillout there is. Our mind needs a rest. I once saw a Zen t-shirt which summed it up perfectly. It said, “Don’t just do something, sit there!”
Scot Peacock, over and out.