Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Can Meditation Make You Happier?

This year's "Spiritual Renewal Week" (http://expandinglight.org/) at the Expanding Light Retreat (located at Ananda Village near Nevada City, CA USA), has for its theme, "Finding Happiness." Numerous speakers will share thoughts on many aspects of the increasingly vital topic, "how to find happiness." It just so happens that "Finding Happiness" is the title of the movie about Ananda's worldwide network of intentional communities, but it also presents to us in these days of great uncertainty, countless lifestyle options, and turmoil, a timely AND timeless subject.

It is difficult to keep up with the published studies on the effects of meditation on the brain, the mind, the body, and general "spirits." But the question is worth asking: "Can meditation make you happier?"

My favorite answer to these types of questions is, "It depends......on you!" Let's start by saying meditation can help you become calmer. Being calmer allows you to be clearer in both emotions and thoughts (two sides of the coin, I'd say). Being calmer allows you to make choices about your response to stress or anything that might make you UNhappy or LESS happy. To activate this potential, you have to make the effort to retain that calmness sufficiently well enough to use your will to remain even-minded, and to choose your response rather than react. Rather than bite someone's "head off," you might take a deep breath and remaining calm, patiently explain your thoughts. Etc. etc.

But meditation can take us deeper than simply remaining "mindful" and calm. There are stages of meditation and much of what's taught under the stress reduction category of "mindfulness" is just an entry level stage....unless practiced "longer and deeper," that is. Other techniques (combining attitude, feeling, intention, and the technical aspects of the deeper meditation science) can accelerate the depth of your meditation. But not merely mechanically. There's more to it than mere mechanics.

Many prior blog articles have explored aspects of meditation but for this blog, on finding happiness, let me say that a deeper experience of meditation partakes of the nectar of true happiness directly, without intervention of thoughts, intentions or techniques. It's like taking a bath or shower; standing under a weightless waterfall of joy and peace! Experiencing a form of happiness that is not circumstantial and not conditioned by any outer situation, one "knows" a joy that slowly begins to percolate through one's body cells and consciousness. Bit by bit, day by day, the bubble of happiness permeates your thoughts, attitudes and actions and, by so doing, magnetizes to you even greater opportunities for joy, for gratitude, for service, for self-forgetfulness..........for lasting happiness.

It would be fair to ask whether this deeper experience requires a belief system, a faith ideal, or any form of religious or spiritual affiliation or inclination. I want to say "Yes," but, in fact, it does not. But, which came first, the "chicken or the egg?" The one can lead to the other and vice versa. I cannot say for sure that deep and regular immersion in this state of consciousness can remain always a subjective experience with no intuition about God or "other" arising, but let me say, rather, that the search for meaning (and what is meaning if not happiness) will ineluctably, inevitably and indubitably lead us to the "truth that shall make us free." I think that's all I need to say because each soul's path to truth (and what is truth if not God) is unique and is his own. I can speculate but, no matter.

I will say this, however, those souls who intuitively are drawn to seek the "other" (as I have frequently commented upon in other blogs), who are open to the presence of God, Christ or the masters, in whatever form, and have an innate devotional awareness will have in place an important piece of this thing we call "truth." That's as much as I can say.

So, yes, meditation can help you find the wellspring of happiness that is, as we often say at Ananda, "within you."

I believe some of the key events are video streamed on the internet. Classes begin Monday mid-morning, August 18. See the link above for more information.

Blessings to all,