Happiness is Attention

We may not want to believe it but happiness is entirely available, no matter what.  Attention itself makes us happy, not its object.   Says Spinoza, "When the mind regards itself and its own power of activity, it feels pleasure."   Allow me to emphasize: Pleasure!  Not just boring old serenity.   And it's not just regarding the mind that is so much fun.  Attending even to something awful is surprisingly interesting.

Ogre is paying attentionAgain and again, my clients describe the agony of anticipating and imagining a disastrous event.  A huge amount of preparation and tension goes into preventing the dreaded thing, and yet the ACTUAL event is, without fail, a better experience than its imagining.  That's because when there is a crisis, attention is sharp, one-pointed without even the effort of meditation.  That's why I sometimes say:  Emergency is a pricey shortcut to engagement.   The experience of focus and its action is unifying, unless of course you've fallen out of the working zone.

Without a crisis, it takes more effort to bring your attention right here.  One of the most common mistakes is trying to get somewherechange something, like I gotta breathe to make my nasty thoughts disappear.  Just stop trying.   Start where you are.  Pay attention to what is there:  Is it anger, craving, boredom?  What IS it?  a smell? a touch, a cherry blossom, a dirty dish?  The attention itself will change you, and happiness will unfold from it.  If, on the other hand, you chase happiness, you guarantee your misery.  

 In Zen, they say: when walking, walk.   Are you walking? 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (2)

We lose attention when we are preoccupied with the anticipation of some agonizing event, but I notice that I lose my attention to the present when I start grasping for something that is not even in front of me. I am too too busy searching for higher ground.

I noticed this a couple of weeks ago when I was at a zen retreat. I was doing breakfast crew, and went to throw out the compost. The compost area had three separate bins: "new compost", "fair to middlin", and "ready for earth!!". It struck me. I want "ready for earth" right now...this very instant. I am really just "fair to middlin". Perhaps, I may just be brand new compost. But, it is all right here. Right in front of me.

Fair to middlin.

Ready to wake up!

August 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Tajo

What is this higher ground, anyway?

September 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterClown

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>
« Take Anger, for example | Main | I am I: A Tribute to Margaret Cho »