Real Happiness Through Attention
I got some more of my Real Happiness on this evening with this uplifting podcast series from the Upaya Zen Center.
Salzberg says suffering is key to happiness, that when we look at those habits of mind we’ve developed, we often don’t see things as they actually are and we act from a mistaken notion of reality and from where happiness comes.
So when we feel daily suffering such insecurity, unreliability, and even stress — things can feel off, rubbing, not in harmony. There’s this subtle feeling of being oppressed by the ways we are trying to be happy, which Salzberg says are mistaken notions.
What’s key is that we are hanging on to things that aren’t really bringing us much joy. That’s where cravings come in. She says these dopamine driven pleasure seeking loops, specifically mentioning digital media use, are contributing to less happiness by taking us away from what really matters for inner tranquility and compassion.
It’s not a question of feeling, but being overcome by getting lost in feeling-driven tunnel vision, resulting in states of fret, hostility, and anger. The states aren’t enemies, but the speakers suggest we should create a different relationship with what we experience, understanding our reactions, and understanding we have a choice.
They say we should start with development of greater concentration and move on to mindfulness. Concentration is the platform for mindfulness, and you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to do it. Instead of reliving the past or creating scenarios of the future and getting filled with anxiety, judgment, and speculation, concentration is about gathering all that scattered energy and bringing it together, so that over time we experience a much greater sense of attention and power.
One important aspect is balance, which requires relaxation and ease, and resting attention on an object, for example, the feeling of your breath or images.
Both Salzberg and Halifax clearly call for us to get out of the dopamine seeking trip that so many of us are on (especially when it comes to digital media), bringing our attention instead to one thing and to hold attention on that one thing whatever that is for you. Attention should be stable, not in a state of dispersion, where you can hold stable on a single object for a long time.
It’s not about attention for rewards, but rather the quality of unbiased attention. Without that attention, compassion is not possible because we can’t see suffering. Our bodies may recognize suffering, but we will lack the ability to perceive deeply the truth of suffering. We need to experience a certain level of stress, some quality of arousal, in order to experience compassion.
They also claim our conceptual mind is constantly charactering our world, that we are toys to our own thoughts. The ability to be transparent to the continuum of our own cognitive stream to give us a sense of what’s going on is critical in a world constantly relying on the next email, the next noise, the next collective attention deficit.
Being transparent to ourselves is important for happiness and wisdom. We should be aware of this: we have a body talking to us all the time, but we don’t have to listen to everything it tells us in how we respond and how we make decisions.
Anyway, these ladies say *the answer* is through meditation.
I’m making more of an effort lately.