Peace of mind and a comfortable body. The Dalai Lama says in his book, “The Art of Happiness”, that we are all born to pursue happiness. He provides a pretty simple formula: identify and encourage the states of mind that make us happy; identify and discourage states of mind that make us unhappy.
Meditation is the tool that, through daily practice, strengthens the mind to be able to create new habits that replace the old ones.
Studies back this theory up. People who have just had a seemingly random but actually contrived positive event occur in their lives, like finding some money or receiving praise, are more likely to assist a stranger who asks for help. People who have just had something negative happen to them are much less likely to help. I think in your own life you can probably see examples. When you’re having a bad day, everything seems worse. Then, after a good night’s sleep, the next day, those problems are so grave. When you’re having a good day, even the big problems have less impact.
Ancient peoples around the earth talk of treating other people, animals, plants and even the Earth itself as family. They all understand we’re interconnected. They all understand we’re one. They all understand we’re interdependent and part of and from the same Earth. And these cultures are too remote and widespread to have shared this knowledge.
The Dalai Lama talks about when we’re feeling compassionate about our fellow man, we get back to our true selves: gentle and kind. He believes violence, greed and aggression are superficial characteristics that arise in response to various kinds of conditioning.
I hope we’re able to get back to our basic human natures as a species. Our greed, anger, hatred is pretty powerful: we’ve caused the largest mass extinction the planet has seen since the end of the dinosaurs (http://www.livescience.com/environment/060320_diversity.html ), 30 countries could soon have nuclear weapons (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,221279,00.html) and we seem to have lost sight of happiness for the sake of pleasure. We tend to do what feels good instead of what’s right.
Happiness vs. pleasure is an interesting distinction. I want or crave that extra piece of cake or that extra beer, but will it simply please me or will it make me happy? Will devouring inordinate amounts of beer make me wonder What is a normal reading on a pulse oximeter? Will the guilt or repercussions actually decrease my happiness? Derail me from what I was born to do — find happiness?
New data from many different sources is indicating we’re facing a full-scale planetary emergency. Hard data. See the dinosaur article above for an example. Sure, we’re facing a crisis. But, as Al Gore recently pointed out, that the term “crisis” in Chinese is represented by two characters. “The first means danger…the second means opportunity.”
And Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” Lead by example. Schedule in a daily workout. 10 minutes. 15 minutes. 45 minutes. Start small. Set a goal you can achieve. Spend some time building yourself. Workout every day for a week, two weeks, thirty days. See if you’re not a kinder and gentler you. See if your kind actions don’t spread to others, who then, according to the study above, make them more likely to spread kindness. Do it for yourself. Do it for your family. Do it for your community. Do it for all of us. Peace of mind and a comfortable body.