Despite having it all I struggle to find happiness in my life. I am very fortunate but lasting satisfaction eludes me. I enjoy health, a good job, a wife and child whom I share a wonderful home with and enough money that going out for dinner once and a while isn’t something I have to think twice about, I am surrounded by natural beauty. Despite all this I find myself often feeling dissatisfied, disconnected and troubled. After trying many avenues to find happiness I have been lucky enough to discover meditation.
Meditation and mindfulness are buzz words these days. In doctors and dentists offices throughout the world magazine covers showing beautiful young women and men in yoga pants sitting serenely by a lake while the sun rises are what we are presented with as ‘meditation.’ There is a reason for the buzz. Meditation and mindfulness are incredibly powerful and simple tools that, in my experience, are not in the toolbox of our modern culture and we are much poorer for it. The reality of meditation is at once much more mundane and much more powerful than those glossy images.
I learned how to meditate by taking a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course near my home taught by Theodore Tsaousidis and his wife Adele Brown. At the course I was taught how to sit quietly and observe my breath as I breathed; to observe my feelings as I felt them; to observe my thoughts as I thought them; to observe the chaotic marketplace of my inner experience as it was happening.
How can happiness and lasting satisfaction come from that?
It‘s much like a scientist working to solve a problem. A good scientist attempts to unencumbered themselves of their preconceptions, observing the process of their experiment and allowing the outcomes to speak for themselves. They know that it‘s only through clear eyed observation, free from expectations, judgement and desires, that they can hope to discover something true about the world. To learn something true about the world is incredibly powerful, you need look no further than the technology you are using to read this article on for evidence of that.
Meditation, like the scientific method, helps us as individuals to uncover reliable facts about ourselves so we can effectively transform our lives. The alternative, as I know all too well, is to run furiously from problem to solution to problem to solution. We’re very, very good at dealing with the symptoms of unease and dissatisfaction in our lives – have another beer, buy another toy, maybe go on another vacation – but we’re quite lost when it comes to uncovering root causes and escape the exhausting cycle once and for all.
Meditation practice can help peel back a deep ignorance about who and what we think we are. Armed with direct knowledge of how our body/mind is working we can – at last! – do what needs to be done.
After being married for almost a decade I think I know my wife pretty well. This knowledge has come directly from careful observation and experience. If you’re like me you’re probably more aware of your partner and their moods than your own. You could notice a subtle change in their body language across a soccer pitch. I know what is likely to upset her, what is likely to make her smile and feel safe. I am able to love my wife because I understand her. I can love her because I know her. What would life be like for you if you were to understand yourself? What would life be like if you treated yourself like you were somebody you loved?