The Scientific Meditator has one special goal in mind, one which he wishes to obtain with all the hours he spends on the meditation cushion. This goal is simply to become truly happy!
In order to be successful on this quest towards happiness, it seems necessary to ask the question: “What is happiness?” Only then can the meditator really assess what is it that he has to do in order to transform his life into a happier one.
Of course, the meditator already knows what’s required. But I wanna share it with you, in case you haven’t considered it as carefully as I have, yet. Let me provide you with my take on it. Happiness is this:
Happiness is a natural, human condition that emerges from within any of us whenever we are totally free: Free from fear, stress, anger, anxiety and anything of the like. And also free from desire, lust, passion and the like. If none of these states of mind is present, then happiness is naturally what we feel
And why is this? Heck, I don’t know! Perhaps it’s just good to be alive if we are not worrying about something or anxiously anticipating the future?!
The reason why we are happy when we are free, is not important. What I wanna get at in this post, is a brief argument to why we know that the above is true, and then I wanna draw a direct line between the practice of the Scientific Meditator and what clearly must be the purpose of the quest for happiness. Hang in there!
So is happiness really just our minds being free? Does it really not depend on some fixed, external circumstance? Is it really just in our minds?
YES! Because if our happiness was set in stone and dependent on external stimuli, then please tell me why exactly one half of a full football stadium cries from joy, and the other half cries from agony, when they both observe the exact same thing: That the ball goes in through the net in one end of the field. The roles change when the ball goes in through the other net. Then the other team is in agony, and the first one is ecstatic!
Happiness is therefore also a different thing altogether, than temporary excitement. The one half of the football stadium may be “happy” if their team is winning. For the moment. But this excitement is not true happiness if you ask me. We all know this excitement (“happiness”) is in constant jeopardy – All it takes for the lives of the dedicated fans to be shattered to pieces, is simply that their team is not doing so well as the other team. And that is going to happen at some point, isn’t it? So at least this “happiness”, if you wanna call it that, is hanging in a pretty thin wire…
If excitement, or even bliss, was true happiness – Then please explain to me why it is not true happiness to be a heroin junkie?! After all, you can’t argue with the fact that the heroin junkie feels more ecstatic than you have ever felt in your life! And he does so several times a day! Is this repeated ecstasy true happiness? Even if the heroin user was rich and could get hooked up 24/7, would that be true happiness?
Anyways, excitement is not necessarily happiness for me. I stick to my definition: That happiness is a state of a mind which is free, and not dependent on any event or drug. When we are really happy, it’s not like we have our focus on any special event anyway, is it? No, we are not dependent on anything, we’re just happy!
Notice for yourself, the next time you are truly happy, that this is a time where you don’t really think about things. Perhaps you can think back and recognize that this is true? Perhaps you can do it right now and you’ll notice: When you are happy, you worry of nothing and you look forward to nothing. You are not thinking of what you are going to eat for dinner or what you will do later. You are simply, completely in the moment, without wanting anything and not feeling like getting rid of anything.
You want nothing more, nor do you want anything less. There is a perfect balance between wanting and not-wanting, craving and aversion, with neither of these being the characteristics of your mind in your happy moment.
Lack of craving and aversion are the true conditions of happiness!
We must be free from these mental states of fear, anxiety, lust, desire and so forth, not because they are bad or wrong in and of themselves, but because they imply craving and aversion in our mind. We cannot lust for something, without craving it. Or fear something without feeling aversion for it.
Actually, we can interpret anything that we experience in life, in a way that makes craving it, or feeling aversion towards it seem natural and justified. The only preliminary condition to doing so, is thinking of it as either good or bad. And this is something we do all the time, consciously or subconsciously. Just like the football fan that sees one team winning as being “good”, or the same team, losing, as “bad”. He or she may say that it’s a conscious choice which one they choose, but there’s probably often times also some subconscious factors. Like where the person lives and what team the family and friends of the fan support. Things like this will definitely affect the persons choice of which football team to support on some subconscious level…
But letting good and bad result in craving or aversion in our mind just screws up our plan of becoming truly happy…Big time! Craving and aversion just can’t be, if we want to nail this happiness thing, I am telling you!
“But what’s so wrong about craving something, or simply steering ourselves away from something we feel aversion from?”. You ask? Well..
Because craving is, per definition, wanting something which we don’t have. Or wanting something to be in a way which it is not! This leaves us dissatisfied (unhappy) whenever we crave. Unhappiness (dissatisfaction) is simply a natural consequence of our mind craving something. Kind of logically sound, right?
And aversion is, per definition, averting from something that is in a way which we don’t want it to be. Or wanting something to be different than how it is. This also leaves us dissatisfied (unhappy) whenever we avert from something. This is also, simply, a natural consequence of having a mind that averts. Or feels aversion.
So what on earth can we do? All that we perceive is bound to go in either category of good or bad… Isn’t it?
Well, we should remember the third option. And may I add: The Scientifically correct option, which the entire scientific community on the planet preaches to: Objective observation!
Objective observation is never good nor bad. It always just is!
Let’s go back to what I mentioned real quick, just a few paragraphs back: That our natural state of happiness is one where we want nothing more, nor anything less – Happiness is a state of mind in perfect equilibrium of not craving nor averting from anything. This cannot be argued!
How can we be happy if we crave? That is, how can we be satisfied if we want something? Doesn’t wanting imply that we don’t have it already? That we are lacking something? That we are dissatisfied with what we have or don’t have? That we want something more? That our current situation is incomplete? You get the picture…
Obviously happiness requires us to have a balanced mind which doesn’t avert from or cling to anything. So on the quest to happiness, what must we do? How can we stop clinging or averting from things, other than to learn how to observe things objectively?
This actually almost gives us a complete answer to what we must do and what we must practice: OBJECTIVITY! We must erase our judgments and practice seeing things exactly as they are, and not as good or bad. The scientific way!
But where on earth (or in our minds), does this judgment of good and bad and craving and aversion happen? We have to know where to look for where this judgment takes place, such that we can consciously interfere and actively practice changes, which will be for the better of our over all well-being. We will simply become more enlightened as to what goes on with our judgment, and we can choose to remain objective, realistic (and scientific)!
I suggest that we look where the happiness is located!
Our happiness is located in the feelings of the body. And why can I say this with such clarity? Well, simply because happiness is something we feel!
Us humans, we are capable of sensing just 6 different kinds of things – Smells, sounds, sights, tastes, thoughts and…feelings! And as it seems to me, we don’t taste happiness. Nor do we smell happiness. Or hear it, think it or see it. Heck no! We feel it! And we are able to feel things at any place in and on the body.
Wait a tick..! This means that our happiness is a result of what our body feels like, and if we feel aversion or clinging to it or not!
This must be so, because we just agreed (did we?) on the fact that we don’t think, smell, hear, taste or see happiness – We feel it! And where else can we feel things, other than in the body? Can you perhaps feel your thoughts? Well, no…
May I in stead suggest, that thoughts and what we see, hear, taste or smell can result in us feeling happy. It’s like these other sensory capabilities can create feelings of happiness, but they are not happiness by themselves. They are merely correlated: We see something, then do we feel happy (or unhappy).
This means, that if we think that we are unhappy, for instance, because someone has trashed us with harsh words, then it isn’t really possible that we are unhappy because of the sounds and words that this person uttered at us. No! We don’t hear unhappy, remember?! We feel unhappy! And for us to feel unhappy, there must be something in those sounds that we hear, that have generated resulting feelings in our bodies, which is then either craved or felt aversion towards by our mind.
What happens is that we hear the harsh words and as a result our chest may feel tight, our temples may feel like they’re throbbing, our palms may feel like trembling. And all of these things we don’t like. We feel aversion for them. Usually, of course, the non-meditator won’t notice all these details, she will just feel angry, not paying attention to this underlying behavior of the entire body.
But the anger really results from the fact that these feelings in the body are perceived as bad and we react with aversion towards these! The words and sounds we heard may be forever gone and forgotten, but the throbbing temples and tight chest stays for a while. And so we’re angry for a while; We’re unhappy for a while because the feelings in our body stays for a while. These feelings are the anger as long as we feel aversion towards them.
Anyway, it is clear to say that anger definitely isn’t on the to-do list of a happy person…
So now that we know that a balanced mind is key to happiness, and that happiness is located in the feelings on the body – What do we do to turn our unhappiness around? What can we do with this valuable insight?
First, like at an AA meeting, we have to realize that we are not in control (yet) and admit it to ourselves. “Hi, my name is Christian and I’m not truly happy. I don’t have control over unhappiness, unhappiness has control over me. It comes whenever it wants, at random times. And it does so even though I swear to remain happy every time. But not before long, always, I find myself being unhappy again. I don’t know what to do.”
By the way, do you always choose if you want to be unhappy or not? Or does your unhappiness also seem to come around whenever it wants to, regardless of the fact that you’d rather be happy? I know this is the case for me. I would want to be happy most times when I’m not…
If we get angry over something said to us by someone, then we obviously have fallen victim to a behavior that was automatically suggested to us by our biology, by means of a strong impulse. An impulse to get angry, which is stronger than our mind, has taken control over us.
You may think that it helps you to be angry and that you wouldn’t want to not be angry, in some situations. Because you think it is important to stand up for yourself and take forceful, angry, action. And I agree with you on that, but we have to get past the fact, for the sake of your future happiness, that anger is not a necessary state of mind for you to take forceful action. (For instance, I can shout plenty loud without being angry. Wanna hear? AAAARGHGHGHHS! See..? I can bite too, you know. Without being angry!)
If you think that direct, forceful action is necessary, then don’t let your impulses dominate you, without having a conscious say in it first! Simply tell the other person to go dig a hole or punch him straight in the nose, if that’s what you deem necessary! There’s no anger needed to determine if this is the right action or not. And you can do it without being angry, too.
But there’s a huge difference between losing temper, letting anger overpower you, and intelligently deciding that a punch to the nose is in its right place. In the second scenario, you can at least choose. If you don’t decide and simply act on an impulse to get angry, you are on par with a gorilla: Like a gorilla, you will have become a slave to the drum of your conditioned mind. And the whole time you are angry, you will both be at risk of doing something stupid and you will be unhappy! Being angry is not being happy.
So, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that you do need to get rid of craving, aversion and anger and all other states of mind that follows as a result of craving and aversion – It’s back to the plan: What do we do to fix our mental state of aversion or clinging? How do we create true conditions for happiness in our minds, even if someone talks harsh words to us? Even if it’s definitely not very smart to punch them in the nose, what do we do?
We go to where the unhappiness is taking place, which is in the feelings on the body. This is the time for us to strengthen up that mind of ours and avoid letting already existing impulses dominate us. We remain balanced with whatever we feel. Throbbing in the temples? No problem! We observe it as it is, objectively, like a true, intelligent scientist. And we keep at it, observing whatever feeling it is until it’s gone. This will take a few minutes, tops!
Then, we move on to the next feeling that we can identify. First, throbbing in the temples, next the tight feeling in the chest. We observe this and start forming a new habit of simply observing, without getting carried away. By the time we’ve done that, our anger may have left, and we have been succesful in keeping our cool, at least this one time – A first step towards an important change of habits. A most necessary step for a truly happy person!
The reactions that we will be fighting will be met with the strength of our balanced mind. We are fighting already existing behaviors of ours. Perhaps these can even be thought of as neuronal pathways in our brain that have become the default (just to put a bit more scientific standpoint in place). These behaviors were initially created because they worked out in the past. Just like it worked out for the gorilla to get angry at some point, because it was so stupid that it may have had to get angry in order to take an action that would save its life.
The gorilla most likely doesn’t think about which action is preferred, and it probably can’t help but getting angry, even if it waned to. It would definitely get angry if you took its banana away! It is not able to asses the situation intelligently. Perhaps the gorilla beats up the zoo keeper – Guess what, gorilla? No more bananas for you! We would be able to act smarter, if only we do not let our animalistic urges dominate us.
Being highly conscious is a unique human gift. We should really take advantage of this to the best of our abilities! Without this consciousness, we are simply acting out of already installed software programs in our neuronal networks, basically. But with consciousness, we can interfere in a most intelligent way. We can chose to not beat up someone who takes our banana, because we can see that it would ruin our chance to receive another one in the future.
Don’t be like a gorilla…Choose your preferred reaction with intelligence and balance of mind!
Noticing these immediate reactions we have to things, such as hard words that make us angry, will have to be replaced a number of times with a different reaction before it really sticks – The reaction of the Scientist: Objective, neutral observation! By observing our impulses objectively, our behavior slowly changes, from reacting to not reacting. From a mind out of balance, to a mind in balance! But it takes time, of course. It’s a matter of habit and habits are formed over time.
This seems as if it our emotional reactions are like habits we are putting behind us. In fact, it is just like this! It is hard and it takes work, but we must do it if we want to make a change towards becoming happier. Just like the smoker that quits smoking may have a few hard days or weeks before it gets easier, and eventually: No problem! Likewise, our emotional reaction habits to feelings on the body change slowly, if we practice. We can learn to become objective, and not averting or clinging to anything that we feel.
Perhaps what happens in this case (again, to take a more scientific standpoint), is that the neuronal pathways in our brain, and the smokers brain, simply changes slowly when we change our behavior. Because they are completely connected, just ask a neuroscientist and he will tell you: Our behavior is our brain composition! It is the one and same.
As a result of changing our behavior, our mind becomes balanced. And balance of mind leads to happiness, remember? No craving. Nor aversion. Just a perfect balance. Perfect objectivity of clear observations.
Whoa! We’re almost in house with a full, logical derivation of what happiness is and how to avoid sabotaging it with our emotional judgment! Now we just need to take care of the details of our action plan for generating this happiness in our life. We need a real practice!
Theoretical nonsense and talking is fine, blah blah… But we gotta aim for getting the results in real life too, right?! And this requires a real pragmatic, detailed practice! One that we can break up into steps we actually can take, one by one. Don’t worry, such a practice exists! Just stay tuned…
But let’s recap a little bit, and start from a beginning, just once more, and sum it up:
When our mind is neutral, it is the most balanced, and craving and aversion cannot be present. This is exactly what we recognize to be the case when we are truly happy. I encourage you to investigate this for yourself. Think back to a happy moment and try to remember, not what happened, but how you felt.
Furthermore, we can understand that what we are able to feel anything about, whether it’s craving, aversion or neutrally, obviously this has to be feelings! That can’t be any other way, right? It’s called “feelings”, after all – We feel them!
And we can only feel feelings in or on the body. Obviously! So far, so good…
This all means, that the key to happiness for us, is in becoming conscious of whatever is felt in the body and simply changing our respective reactions to neutral by remaining balanced in the face of these feelings. No judgment! Only objective observation. No good, no bad. Just the way things appear without then forcing our opinions on them.
We know it is possible for us to change our emotional judgment. Everyone knows this, I’ll prove it! Because we can all image ourselves sitting at an exquisite dining table, right? And we can imagine that we are sitting with Her Highness and the Pope, together. Right? Now, if we imagine that we accidentally bite our tongue very hard and our automatic impulse is to get angry and shout: GUDD–DAMMIT!!! Well, we know we won’t do this, because of the company we’re in. We have to retain our composure, we have to!
We obviously all have the power needed to remain cool, at least this one time, in the presence of the Pope! If, on the other hand, it was just you and your homey, you wouldn’t give a damn about your coolness, and you may as well just shout out and get angry. Maybe you’d slap your friend if he laughs at you.
You know, that you can either choose to react to such impulses, or not. It all depends on how aware you are of yourself. If you’re with the Pope and the Queen, you’ll pay attention to even the smallest movement you make. But if you’re with your pals, you’ll fart and burp while eating, and you may not even notice! (OK, I may be just speaking for myself here, but you get the point I reckon!)
It is required that we practice our coolness in the face of any feeling, as if the Pope and her Highness were meditating alongside with us. If we wan’t to be happy, we have to strain ourselves a little bit in this way, as this is needed if we wish to change our rock-solid habits, formed over years and years. The smoker that wishes to quit, will also have to strain himself a bit for a few days or weeks. Only then does it get easy. And it will be worth the effort!
I hope the point is clear now: That we must change our habits and that this is done by becoming conscious of what we’re already doing, which is reacting emotionally and judgmentally. And we must stop it.
Now we just need to make a final remark, which concerns the promised, specific action plan.
The example given above, with anger in focus, teaches us that if we want to change our angry habits as a response to a nasty verbalization or the like, we have to face feelings on the body. This may be feelings of tightness in the chest, throbbing in the temples and trembling in the hands. We have to be able to distinguish these from the more general feel of simply feeling “angry”. This is but the overall name for it. But we have to be able to see what this general feel is made up of. We have to be able to separate the details of our perceived concept of anger, and the feelings all around the body, that actually make up the anger: One part of our anger will be thoughts, another will be trembling hands, and another will be pressure in the chest, etc.
This example with anger and the corresponding feelings in the body is a very crude example. Obviously it is not an everyday example, but is serves well to illustrate how we can take an actual situation and break it down into bits that seem surmountable to us. And once we’ve broken it up into bits, we can work with these much easier. One at a time. I’ll bet you and everyone else could stay cool in the face of a tight chest and throbbing temples, if the Pope sat next to you. Couldn’t you? See, you would already be a meditator if you did! You’ve got this in you!
All you need is an effort to become aware of your feelings in your body and take responsibility of where these are guiding you – Anger fit or composed, intelligent response? You actually get to choose, and there is no wrong one – Flip out if you want, and remain calm and composed if you want. It’s up to you, if you actually are aware enough of what happens in your body…
The thing is, that very subtle feelings are going on in your body all the time. And all feelings in the body are not so obvious, like the tightening in the chest or throbbing in the temples when you’re angry. These are easy to feel, because they are big and loud feelings, if you will. Very obvious. But the meditator practices towards being able to feel more and more of these subtle feelings that are constantly on the body, such that she can become conscious of her reactions towards each of them – No craving or aversion anywhere, please! Not even in the subtlest parts of our mind, towards the smallest, finest feeling in the body.
We need to really get our awareness around all the things that happen on our bodies. We need to follow the example offered by so many wise men throughout all times, who have said “Know thyself”. Well, one way to know ourselves is certainly to know what is happening around our body, as this obviously lays the foundation for how we feel at all times! And since we actually react based on emotions, we should definitely know how we evaluate what we feel and produce emotional responses as a result.
It is so important to actually know ourselves because our body is so highly automated. You don’t need to know, or be conscious of anything, in order for your body to work just fine. You can sleep, and your body will smack yourself in the face if a fly lands on it. Or you can be blacked-out drunk, and your body will still take you home to your bed before you regain consciousness. You may wake up in the morning and wonder how that bio-machinery of yours got home without you in the driver’s seat. Well, your body is, to be honest, the most complex machinery on the planet, and it can easily survive without “you” being there. Conscious or not, your body keeps on going.
If you are not aware of what goes on in your body, it will still take you home in the middle of the night, automatically. Or it will smack you in your own face if a fly lands on it. Or it will be unhappy, even though you may wish to be.
Remember: Your body is advanced, and it automates everything and creates habits out of it. That’s why you don’t even have to think about what to do when you drive to work each morning. Even teenage girls can do their make-up in the rear-view mirror and drive to work at the same time. Your body has got it all, by itself.
So know and accept this: Your body and brain also reacts with craving and aversion automatically! You don’t need to be conscious of this for it to happen, your body has got it figured out, with or without you!
Yup, that’s right. You’re totally screwed if you want both: To be truly happy and to remain unconscious of the subtle feelings in your body. Your body doesn’t care if you’re conscious or not! It will keep you alive, by running all the millions of automated programs that are installed in that software you call your brain! It won’t care either, whether the automated impulses are stupid and disruptive or not. The impulses that are automatic to your brain, may be as stupid and ridiculous as you can imagine! They are there for your survival, and they are in the brains of every animal on the planet.
Humans are the first species with enough consciousness to start actually doing this emotional judgment manually, so let’s get to it! We are no longer interested in basic survival, we’ve got that covered! We want to thrive and be as happy and fulfilled as possible! But it sure does require that we read the manual for our body and mind thoroughly, before we can expect to utilize all its functions properly!
As a clear example of the fact that we are habitual creatures, but shouldn’t always be because we now can choose: A persons’ brains’ automated impulses may force an addict to go get a drug again and again. Even though he or she wants to sober up! But because this behavior has become highly habitual by constant repetition, it has become nearly impossible for the drug user to sober up!
The power of the addicts mind may be strong – But the power of habit will break any strong mind! That is why habitual patterns in the brain of every species has ensured their survival for all time thus far. Some parts of this are good, some aren’t. But the good news is, however, that habit can make any strong mind, as well as break it! There is a way out: A software upgrade, if you will! And it starts with changing habits.
In order to make the mind stronger, we have to start taking responsibility of our own happiness by becoming conscious what it is that the body and mind does.Only then can we start to interfere with the automated reactions of our mind that keep us from being balanced (happy!). We can create balance of mind by becoming conscious of what goes on in our body and mind, and remaining our cool!
This is what the Scientific Meditator practices every day on the mat (and beyond it when he doesn’t forget). And this practice takes some dedication. Even more than the smoker that tries to quit the cigarettes. This is because there isn’t just one sensory impression that the body is reacting to at all times, endlessly, around the clock! Most of these reactions we are unconscious of, obviously. In fact, I can demonstrably prove to you right now that you are very unconscious of what your body is doing in this moment! I just have to point out that you’re not even aware of how your butt feels as you sit on it right now! Ha! Did I get ‘cha?! Were you aware of your butt right now?
Whether I got you or not, the good news is, that just as I mentioned it, you can easily be aware of how your butt feels this moment, in case you weren’t already. And you can asses these feelings and see how you’re reacting. Are you a little bit grumpy, or do you feel fine? Whatever it is, it is naturally a product of all that you feel right now, everywhere on your body.
Who knows, there may have been an uncomfortable feeling on your butt that you, up until now, weren’t aware of. If that was the case, you should remain your cool and not make a habit out of being grumpy whenever you sit uncomfortably on your butt…
The same is true for every other little, tiny sensory impression that takes place on your body right now, and at any other time. If you don’t believe me, tell me then: Are you right now aware of how the soles of your feet feel? Or how your stomach feels? Your ear channel, your temples, your inner thighs or even your butt?…And have you perhaps already lost the awareness of what feelings are on your butt, as well as how you are reacting to these? One can easily fall off track in just a second!
If you are not conscious of all of these bodily feelings right now, how can you safely say that the way you are reacting emotionally, right now, is your choice? Could it not just be an automatic response by your highly developed and independent mind?
I’ll say it: You can’t say for sure! If you are unconscious, what makes up your general feeling, right now, is the body’s and mind’s automatic reaction, which could be clinging or aversion! If you are unconscious of what’s going on in your body and the way you react, you are essentially out of control and a victim of whatever automated choice your body makes for you! Thus, your emotional feelings right now may not be your choice.
So, if I have convinced you, now is the time for me to reveal that I have a special program on sale for you, which will help you change all these automatic reactions of your mind around: From craving and aversion, to pure balance and happiness!
The program on sale is actually for free these days – But you have to take action NOW!
The program is: Vipassana Meditation (Read an introduction on this practice here).
“Start meditating today, get your happy tomorrow!!” Would be a good sales pitch, right? Except for the fact that all changes take time. It will take a smoker weeks to stop feeling constant urges to smoke, and it will take at least that long for you to sort out your anger issues, if you have any. But the fact is that it can be done!
I hope you’ve gained a new, more scientifically sound, and rational way, of looking at your happiness. I also hope that I’ve sparked your interest in becoming a meditator. Let me know!
And also, I do actually plan on writing a complete step-by-step guide on how to developing insights about the body and mind! Of course I would recommend taking a 10-day silent meditation retreat to really get the basics under your nails. But in case you don’t feel like taking that big of a leap of faith just yet, you can stay tuned for my in-depth guide, coming up soon.
The best of luck to you and your happiness! May you chose whichever emotional state that makes you the most fulfilled.