These words are written with care, in response to a question. A friend asked: What is the basis for your viewpoints regarding happiness? This is my response to her, modified slightly.
4 years ago I stumbled upon meditation, mindfulness, and self-compassion in the framework of Zen Buddhism. In Buddhism, it’s not enough to think about happiness. That won't do. One has to practice happiness, day after day, year after year. 4 years ago I began practicing happiness - meditating each morning and evening, applying mindfulness to my normal everyday activities, and in general, earnestly striving to be a more open, compassionate, generous, and loving person.
At first I wasn’t sure about meditation – how to do it or even if it worked. I was also intimated because growing up I learned to be skeptical of religion and meditation, with its Buddhist connotations, seemed improperly religious. Nonetheless, after reading ‘An Idiots Guide to Meditation’, I started meditating. Even if the mumbo-jumbo associated with meditation was bullshit (like ‘knowing oneself’ or ‘enlightenment’), breathing meditation likely had practical benefits such as relaxation and concentration.
Following the breath, watching it go in, watching it go out, listening to it, feeling it – there was no religion, no prayer, and no faith – just observation. Each morning and evening I sat on some pillows and practiced breathing meditation for 15 minutes. After a month or two, changes in my emotional stability became apparent, especially in wrestling, where I no longer suffered from anxiety bouts before matches. By this point I knew meditation was legitimate and wanted to learn more. The Idiots Guide to Meditation mentioned another book for further reading- The Three Pillars of Zen.
I sometimes wonder if I was meant to read Three Pillars of Zen, for I actually tried to buy a different book at the store but was unable to because of a barcode error. A barcode error! Is this providence or luck? Either way, I instead bought Three Pillars of Zen and learned about a type of spirituality grounded in personal experience and by no means absolute.
Zen Mind Beginners Mind, Tao Te Ching, 8 Mindful Steps to Happiness, Osho’s Buddha, Buddhism Explained, and other books about meditation followed. These writings were full of practical wisdom I tried applying to my life. Over time, as numerous benefits manifested and the quality of life improved, meditation came to mean more and more. By the time I entered college, meditation practice was an integral part of my life.
College summers were spent at Tassajara (a Zen monastery in California), a silent 10 day Vipassana retreat, and 2 weeks at a Forest Monastery in Thailand. I created a weekly meditation group for college students as well. These experiences helped me determine the pursuit of meditation and mindfulness, as well as the teaching of it to others, is my life path.
My dream goal is to see meditation and mindfulness taught in public schools. My plan is to finish college (only 2 quarters left!), spend 2 years at Tassajara, then go to graduate school and become involved with mindfulness education. Hopefully I will be able to work, in some capacity, towards seeing my dream goal become reality.
Therefore, the basis for my viewpoints regarding happiness lies in the fruits of my own efforts. I speak from my own experience, confident I am happier than I once was. I have worked hard to establish grounded awareness, eliminate harmful thinking patterns, create positive habits, bounce back from failure, and to continue. The most important part of a spiritual practice, other than beginning, is continuing.
Ultimately, I am more able to be myself and trust my heart-instinct. Awhile ago I realized I like writing, helping others, and being creative. This blog is just me writing, simply out of creative joy. There is underlying theme of mindfulness and spirituality that I hope you will be able to pick up on, learn from, and apply to your own life - but at the end of the day, I’m just writing and having a good time doing so.
P.S. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to hear from you! I'd love to hear from you. If you have any questions, comments, random musings – comment at the end of an article or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.