EVERYONE WANTS TO BE happy and blissful.
But what hardly anyone knows is that the path to bliss is increasing
your tranquillity. It doesn't seem that would be so because
when you think of being happy, you think of particular events.
You get married. You win the lottery. Your baby is born. You
think of exciting moments.
Thinking of happiness in these terms, it
would be hard to see that being happy in your daily life does
not come about through achievements or big moments. No matter
how fast you move, you cannot fill your life with these big events.
To feel contentment and bliss, to feel really good most of the
time, is a different story and the path is hidden by your own
As you become calmer, as the stress is
drained away and you are left with a tranquil feeling of inner
peace, you will be happy. No matter what happens, you will be
happy. And in the exciting moments, you will be extra happy.
The path to bliss the avenue, the
way to get there is in the cultivation of a deeper and
deeper calm. To get to bliss, cultivate these states:
feeling at ease
I used to think meditation was for the
cultivation of concentration, but I think that's a mis-translation.
It is really for the cultivation of a state that's a combination
of calm and concentration. In fact, you can just call it "calm"
because concentration is rather effortless when you're calm.
I've thought of juggling as a kind of meditation.
I learned how to do it a few years ago. You really have to concentrate
to do it. It's a good focuser of attention, so it must be a great
meditation, right? But when I do it, I don't feel more serene.
Just the opposite. It is tension-producing and therefore
it's not something that can produce bliss.
So although meditation is a concentration
exercise and gets you deeply tranquil, not all concentration
exercises produce a calm state. Concentration is not enough.
It must be a kind of concentration that produces relaxation,
calm, and tranquillity.
Almost too obvious to mention, the base
from which to approach a feeling of deep calm would include eating
healthy food, getting some exercise, and getting enough sleep.
Also, refraining from things that would
raise your stress hormone level artificially: Caffeine, alcohol,
cigarettes. These substances prevent serenity. So does sugar.
And lying, cheating, and stealing raise
your cortisol level, and so they would interfere with the cultivation
of the deep calm you're after. A lie detector works because lying
is stressful and the stress registers on the machine. Cheating
and stealing are stressful in the same way. They take you in
the opposite direction of deep calm.
And in saying these obvious things, notice
we have essentially reinvented Buddha's famous Five Precepts,
which is considered in Buddhism to be the foundation Buddhist
practice is built upon.
I'm not a Buddhist and I'm not trying to
promote Buddhism, but if you read the Buddhist and Zen Buddhist
literature, you see the word "enlightenment" many times.
It's a curious word and it's often unclear what they are talking
about. However, if you substitute the phrase "deep calm"
a state that can be directly cultivated with meditation
everything becomes clear. This is not some exotic, magical
state. It is a progressively deeper serenity you can most definitely
reach, with or without a tremendous "Aha!" experience.
With the understanding that enlightenment
means deep calm, the rest of the practices of Buddhism seem very
straightforward. The Five Precepts are merely the first stage
of the development of deep calm. All Buddha was saying is: Stop
deliberately agitating yourself with your voluntary actions.
This is sane advice.
The Gift of Calm
Meditation takes time. And while you meditate,
you aren't doing anything for anyone else. You aren't doing anything
productive. Is it a selfish act? Is it selfish to seek bliss?
The answer to that is rather interesting. Here's one place where
you can realize your oneness with others. Your bliss feels good
to you and feels good to others and benefits their lives.
Your calmness prevents upsets, makes you a better listener, increases
your empathy, makes you kinder, more tolerant, more patient,
and more forgiving.
Here's a quote from an excellent book called
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living:
The purpose of our existence is to seek
happiness. It seems like common sense, and Western thinkers from
Aristotle to William James have agreed with this idea. But isn't
a life based on seeking personal happiness by nature self-centered,
even self-indulgent? Not necessarily. In fact, survey after survey
has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused
and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic.
Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable,
flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life's daily
frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, most important,
they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.
The path to bliss is to cultivate calmness
in yourself. The first, most basic step is stop doing those things
guaranteed to upset or disturb your calmness like lying,
stealing, taking drugs, etc. Cultivating calmness makes you happier
and makes the people in your life happier. It is not a selfish
pursuit. It may be one of the best things you can do for the
people in your life.