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The Mindful Art of Happiness

Taken from an article by Oliver Burkeman:

“We may believe that it’s the quality of the sunset that gives us such pleasure, but in fact it is the quality of our own immersion in the sunset that brings the delight.” That seems like a technical distinction and, to be fair, Buddhist teachers do love making technical distinctions. But this isn’t one. It’s a crucial point about human happiness that might make us all more cheerful if we grasped it.

To begin with the basics: most of us, most of the time, act as if it’s external circumstances that make us happy. That’s plainly true in the case of the deluded materialist who thinks earning millions will bring lasting joy. But it’s no less true of the discerning soul who seeks happiness in family, or nature, or improving the world: they’re all still external circumstances. Buddhism, a more radical creed than it’s often given credit for, rejects that, arguing that happiness comes not from what you’re experiencing, but from how deeply or mindfully you’re absorbed in that experience. It’s definitely easier to get absorbed in a “nice” experience like a sunset than, say, battling with a supermarket self-checkout machine. But ultimately it’s the quality of your experiencing that counts. That’s why, in the states of extreme concentration known as “jhanas”, Buddhist meditators can reach heights of rapture by focusing on something as boring as the breath.



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