HAPPINESS IS A GENERAL TERM, and because
of that, the word isn't very useful. But when we break happiness
into its component parts, we find a new realm of practical possibilities
for increasing our own happiness. Let's look at these component
parts. When we say we're happy, we are experiencing one or more
of the following:
1. flow (feeling engaged or deeply absorbed
in an activity)
2. pleasure (physical stimulation of pleasure
centers of the brain, production of endorphins)
3. affection (feelings of closeness, warmth,
4. contentment (calm and pleased with things
as they are at this moment)
5. excitement (feelings of thrill and anticipation)
6. satisfaction (feeling productive or
glad you accomplished something)
This is what happiness is made of. These
are the component parts of the general term happiness.
With happiness divided like this, we have something we can work
with. For each of the component parts, you could profitably ask,
"When is the last time I felt it?" Or "How can
I have more of it?" Dividing happiness like this is simple
enough, but it has powerful consequences. It gives you more control
over how much happiness you experience in your life.
Ask yourself or anyone else, "What
can you do to be happier tomorrow?" It's a difficult question
to answer. But you could easily answer the question, "How
can you feel more productive tomorrow?" Or, "How can
you experience more flow?"
Look at the list. What is your favorite
kind of happiness? How can you make more of it? Could you schedule
On that list, which kind of happiness do
you experience least often? Do you know how you could make more
of it? Could you schedule something this week?
This is a profound and useful insight.
We all want to be happier. But when you think of happiness in
its component parts, you really can be.
look again at meditation
Some kinds of meditation cultivate calmness.
Mantra meditation is one of them. In ancient India, they called
calmness-cultivating meditation samadhi meditation. This
is distinct from sati or mindfulness meditation. The two
kinds of meditation overlap in their methods and effects but
they each emphasize something different. Sati (mindfulness) cultivates
an acute awareness of what's happening in this very moment. Samadhi
(concentration) cultivates a deep calm.
In samadhi, you hold a single thing in
your attention, like a mantra or the breath. In sati, your focus
of awareness is more open and fluid. You pay attention to whatever
is happening: A thought, a feeling, a sound, whatever. And you
try to give it all of your attention.
Samadhi meditations like mantra cultivate
certain aspects of happiness:
Sati exercises like zazen cultivate certain
other aspects of happiness:
- satisfaction at doing a job well
- communication with others
Both cultivate equally well a sense of
contentment and feelings of empathy and affection for others.
When you meditate, you will become happier. But happiness is
a general term with many components. You can choose which components
you most want to cultivate, and then choose the meditation method
to help you develop those components in your life.
Many of the teachers of sati meditation
consider samadhi meditation to be like training-wheels. Zen practice
is like that. Many of the Thailand and Burmese Buddhists believe
it too. They consider the "real" practice to be mindfulness
But samadhi is vital. It is a kind of training
in transcending your own attachment-compulsion. How can you let
go of fears and desires if you can't even let go of some fleeting,
The process of awakening starts with samadhi,
continues with samadhi, and requires samadhi. It is not really
a first stage. In a sense, it is the whole enchilada. In fact,
samadhi is a kind of mindfulness and helps to develop mindfulness.
But more important, you gain a deep calm with which you can face
life and solve problems and strive for goals more effectively
and in better health.