Can Mindfulness Meditation Help You be Happy?


Mindfulness Meditation Makes You HappyCan mindfulness meditation make you happy?

I have a friend that calls herself spiritual who attends an evangelical Christian church every Sunday. She also does lots of voluntary work in a Christian organization that distributes food to homeless people.

Despite her spiritual practice and her good works, she is not happy.   I also have some Buddhist friends who are miserable.

If you consider yourself to be a spiritual person then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does your spirituality make you happy?
  • Do you struggle to make sense of life and how you fit into the larger scheme of things?
  • Are you content with where you are, or are you reaching for some spiritual or mystical state that always seems just out of reach?
  • Have you found your purpose in life?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, then your spirituality could be, instead or a source of comfort, a cause of conflict in you.

All this has got me think about spirituality and how genuine spirituality should, at the minimum, make you happy. What do I mean by the word spirituality? The best definition that I came across said:

‘Having coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe; knowing where one fits within the larger scheme; having beliefs about the meaning of life that shape conduct and provide comfort’

I would add to this definition – ‘and makes you happy, at ease, and with a sense of well-being.’

What spiritual practice can provide this? Whatever religion you follow or do not follow, mindfulness is a great way to start. Although mindfulness is a component of Buddhism, it is practised today by people of all faiths, or even no faith.

Mindfulness allows you to witness yourself – your thoughts, feelings, the sights, sounds and other sensory information. In this witnessing state there is a tendency to remain calm and at peace. Mindfulness practitioners report that they feel a sense of stillness and connection to the whole universe.

How do you practice mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a process of paying attention to the ‘now’. So much time is spent remembering the past or looking forward to some future event.

One of the easiest ways of practising mindfulness is through walking. If possible do this in the countryside or in a park if you live in the city. As you walk pay attention to your breathing. Then look at the sky or the trees that you pass. Notice any physical sensations – the wind on your face, the temperature, the intensity of the colours that you see.

The idea of this is to pull yourself away from the internal dialogue – the constant chatter of the mind that mulls over events in your life, passes judgments on those around you, creates expectations of future events. The internal dialogue stops you noticing what is going on around you. You are not trying to stop the dialogue by force of will but by simply and gently taking your attention away from it. The benefits of Mindfulness are explained by Andrew Weiss in his book Beginning Mindfulness are:

‘Mindfulness allows us to experience the delight of touching life deeply and authentically. It gives
us a way through suffering to joy. It encourages us to do all of this at every moment in our daily
lives.’

Mindfulness also means becoming a witness of our own lives. If you are feeling stressful or anxious, step back and observe the stress or anxiety as if it was a program that you are watching on television. By becoming the observer or the witness, you will find that the stress and anxiety will start to diminish. It may also help to then place your attention on your breathing to make sure that
your are breathing deeply and at a slow place.

Now is the only time that is important. How often do we find ourselves worrying about the future? Anxiety about the future takes up a significant portion of our thoughts. Worrying about the future doesn’t help in any way. If you always live in the past or future you will never be able to relax. To be in a state of relaxation means living in the present moment.

 

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Comments

  1. I love mindful walking and find that I don’t do enough of it, possibly because I am usually also mindfully pushing a stroller and pulling along 2 unruly young children. I do find, though, even in times such as those, that it is possible to be mindful. I also like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s quote “It’s not a matter of letting go—you would if you could. Instead of “Let it go,” we should probably say ‘Let it be.'” I often find that I can only mindfully walk (or talk or cook dinner etc.) by letting the chaos around me be.

    I enjoyed your comments and suggestions on how to observe mindfully.

    Christy Matta’s last blog post..References on Mindfulness and Meditation-Related Activities

  2. The fact that your spiritual life may not be making you happy doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with your practice. If you’re lost in misery the first thing you need to do is locate yourself, and a good practice does this by bringing your situation to the front of your mind. It’s not very pleasant to face up to inner resistance and denial, and that’s just the beginning; it has to be followed by some serious digging. If you think that signing up for a spiritual discipline will instantly dispel unhappiness, think again. Beliefs and ideas are nice, but a path consists of the work you put into it. It’s not magic.

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