Mindfulness is a guide to living a happy and carefree life without disappointment. In this book, Dr. Evan Gray shares techniques from Tibetan Monks that will get you on the path to a more fulfilling and happier life. At the end of this summary, you will have the tools you need to be anxiety-free, have plenty of energy, and to be happy and confident.
Mindfulness revolves around the concept of observation and selflessness. This concept of mindfulness is often referred to as Dhamma, which means “the way things are.” Being mindful means you will observe your surroundings to become aware that everything is only a temporary experience, even your thoughts and feelings are temporary. Feelings such as hate, lust, and disappointment are considered to be “not-self”, or emotions that do not define you, but rather are a temporary state of mind. By realizing negative feelings are temporary and no self-definitive you can easily let them go.
Before you begin, it is good to know that the mindfulness techniques you are about to learn can be executed in any physical position, so there is no need to be in a yoga or contortionist pose. Sitting upright in a chair is the most common pose. You can even walk while practicing mindfulness which is a technique called Jongrom. Once comfortable, you can try the first technique, meditation. You may have rolled your eyes when you read meditation, and that’s for a good reason. In modern society, meditation is often used incorrectly and has certain stigmas. There are correct ways to meditate, and the two distinct forms of meditation are Samatha and Vipassana.
Samatha Meditation is the sharp focus on a single object or action. You want to clear your mind and direct your attention on only your breathing. The more you focus on your breathing, the more the rest of your mind will clear and your attention will be focused only on your breaths. This will leave you in a calm and relaxed state with a decluttered mind. Experienced monks can go 10 minutes without their minds drifting away from their focus. If you are new to meditation, then perhaps the goal is only to go a few seconds without your mind drifting to a new thought. If you find your mind drifting away from your own breathing make note of the deviation, and bring yourself back to your breathing. It’s okay for your mind to wander but when it does, bring it right back to your focus.
Vipassana Meditation is ‘insight meditation’. During this type of meditation you are trying to observe your surroundings. Be as open and aware as possible. You should not focus on a single action, but rather observe everything as the way they are. Do not judge or try to identify anything in particular, just observe. The goal of this practice is to observe that everything surrounding you changes, and you yourself also changes. All observations should be made with an open mind. Observe all sounds, smells, and feelings. You should even be aware of the feeling of your feet touching the floor or your back resting against the chair. With time and practice, your observations will become more complex, and you will start to see past material and meaningless possessions in life. You will start to realize that your thoughts and emotions are a factor of your surroundings. Once you realize this, you can better understand which societal factors provide temporary happiness and which factors provide life-long happiness.
Meditation as a whole promotes continuous observation, which is counterintuitive in the fast-paced modern world. Mindfulness allows you to take a step back to reach a calm state of mind that allows you to focus inward. Peace and happiness within yourself are what lead to a fulfilling life, not materialistic and meaningless sensorial experiences that are common in the modern world. If you ever find yourself with a negative emotion such as anger, do not react to these feelings. Be mindful of your emotions, discover where they are coming from, and realize they are temporary and let them go.
Perhaps the best way to live a happy life is to show love toward one another. In Tibet, the principle of love is called Metta. Metta applies to every human being. Regardless of someone’s attitude toward you, you should treat everyone with dignity, kindness, and forgiveness. Not only should you treat others with these principles, but this is how you should treat yourself. There may be traits or feelings about yourself that you do not like. Metta says that you should accept these aspects of yourself and let go of any negative emotions toward them.
Even if you never sit down to meditate or to practice metta, you can apply these to everyday life to better understand your surroundings and to seek inner peace. For example, if you desire a new car, observe the desire without analyzing it. Observe all the reasons you want to new car and get to the root of the desire. Your desire for the car may then fade if you only wanted the car because it is ‘cool’ and there is no other functionality. Always observe and reflect on your thoughts and actions.
Another everyday example is if you are having a bad day and you find yourself tired and angry, you shouldn’t let these emotions create new negative emotions. Don’t say to yourself “I am better than this, I shouldn’t be feeling this angry.” Instead, observe your feelings without judgment and accept that it is human to feel these emotions. Understand that the feeling is temporary and that it does not define you, it will pass. Gently let go of the feeling and practice metta by not beating yourself up about it.
There is a lot we can learn from Tibetan Monks and their way of life. By taking time each day to practice mindfulness and showing love, you may find that your quality of life will greatly improve and that you will feel less anxious about your day to day life. Observation, reflection, and love are three great ways to life a fulfilling life, and I hope you are able to use some of these concepts to live the happy life you deserve.