How to Be Happy

What makes life a joy for some, while a sad and frustration filled journey for others?  It is karma?  It is luck?  Is it disposition?  Is it fate?  I don’t think so.  I think you are supposed to be happy.  You are supposed to be full of joy and wonder, yet somehow, somewhere on this journey, things got out of control and you spiraled into the tedium of everyday life and found your life filled with conflict, suffering and the never ending pursuit of happiness.

How do you get out of this rut now?  How do you find your way back to joy and peace?  Here are 5 tips which I think you will find useful on the journey to reclaim your birthright – fundamental happiness.

1. Understand the Problem:

The first thing you need to do is understand the root cause of your angst.  Why are you so restless and discontented?  Why is your default state not happiness?  To understand this, inspect this very moment of your life and study the situation honestly and openly.  The root cause you will discover is time.

You think in terms of time and time brings in the issue of “becoming” into your psyche.  To put in another way, you are unhappy and bored with your life, because you have believed in an ideal or goal, which you think will make you happy when you will achieve it.  This thirst for the ideal – seeking, destroys the beauty of your life just the way it is in the here and now.  It kills the wonder of the moment and ordinary life.

So drop all your ideals and just attend to your life just the way it is.  This is the pathway to joy.

2. Live Your P assion:

As I explained in the article, Stop the Madness of Self-Discipline, one of the most important things to do in order to live a happy life, is to discover and live your passion.  If you can do this, you will be free from the clutches of society, for you will be doing what you love to do without a care in the world.

You will not be result oriented, as the doing itself will be the reward, and you will have something that no one can take away from you, as it is something that comes from within.

This is also one of the most important lessons for parents to learn.  One of your biggest responsibilities is to help the child discover what it is that he or she loves to do and then help them to do that without concern for survival or success.  Living your passion is one of the most essential aspects for living a happy and meaningful life.

3. Have Trust:

Our faith and trust in life is constantly challenged and over time eroded by all the endless failures and problems we are forced to endure.  This loss of trust then leads to a life filled with worry and anxiety.  We become obsessed with self-security and become completely immersed in our pursuit of happiness.  So instead of living in trust and going with the flow, we become machines of fear and worry and have no peace within.

This peace and ability to live spontaneously comes with just being able to trust.  Not trust someone or some belief, but simply just having trust in life.  This then translates into being carefree and not carrying the burden of self-interest, which bring w ith it g reat freedom and joy.

4. End Isolation and Endless Self-Interest:

All of our endless thinking about ourselves and endless selfish activity isolates us more and more from the whole.  It keeps on putting more and more walls around ourselves and eventually we find ourselves utterly alone and lonely, cut-off from the world, miserable and unhappy.  So you need to change this approach if you indeed what to live a happy life.  You have to simply drop endless self-interest and instead live in a connected way.

Connect with all aspects of life, be a part of the great play of life, connect with nature and others, connect with awareness and intelligence, this will bring you to happiness.  Thinking about yourself, isolates you more and more, so just stop doing that.

5. Mediate:

All of the above tips I have given for being happy, are really a part of meditation.  It is living a mediate life.  Mediation is the process which starts in time and then transcends it.  So if you really want to be happy, want to be at peace, meditation is the way.

If you have more tips for being happy that hav e worked for you, please do share them with us in the comments section below.  Also, if you like this or any other article on the website, please share with your friends and family or Facebook, Twitter, etc.  I appreciate your support.

Spiritual Happiness For The Ordinary Person


This page is my offering of spiritual happiness for ordinary people only – so if you’re a bit special, or a bit beautiful, or a bit out of the ordinary in any way, please leave now. We will refund your money at the door.

While the OOO’s (Out Of the Ordinaries) make their way out, lets talk about spiritual happiness.

What is it?

My old copy of Webster’s Dictionary defines spiritual as: Pertaining to or consisting of spirit; not material; incorporeal; pertaining to the mind or intellect; mental; intellectual; pertaining to the soul or its affections as influenced by the Divine Spirit; proceeding from or controlled and inspired by the Holy Spirit etc. etc. etc.The same defines happiness as: The state or quality of being happy etc. Click this link for Wikipedia’s definition of spirituality

In my experience, spiritual happiness is quite rare, and characterized by the following traits: serenity, kindness, humility, non-materialistic and of course the happiness just flows from them. A spiritually happy person is in tune with and accepting of themselves.They feel no need to impress anyone or to compete.They love themselves (not in an egotistical way) the way they are. So, is your spirit happy?
No? The best way I know to achieve a happy spirit is to give it room to emerge by learning meditation

Studies have shown that children are more resilient when they have some kind of spiritual belief system.Well, guess what?

A child + a few years + a few kilos = you and me! So, we are ALL more resilient when we have spiritual beliefs.If you clicked the above Wikipedia link you would have read that a part of spirituality is the perception of a connection to ‘something bigger’ than oneself.This does not mean we should cart ourselves and everyone we care about to church every week.However, if you do attend church and have found an organized religion in which you can express your own spirituality that suits your needs, continue merrily on your way!

Hands up who knows someone ‘holier than thou’ who attends church every week, may even be on the committee and yet they can’t speak with civility to their own family? Okay I can’t quite see down the back………………oh yes, yes that’s nearly everybody here! Thanks you can put your hands down now.The scary part is that person thinks they are spiritual/holy! They honestly believe walking into a building on a regular basis and being nice to the people there (whilst being an -no can’t say that on the net- a ‘less-than-nice person’ six days a week) makes them heaven-bound! Go figure!! Their God (or whoever) must only work church hours!

There are obviously many thousands of people for whom organized religion works – but the numbers of dissatisfied churchgoers are climbing. Congregations are realizing that listening to a man in a frock preaching from a rule book written centuries ago is not of much real relevance in their daily lives. People are searching for a more personal connection with ‘something bigger’ and yet many more have found it.

If you have tried an organized religion but it didn’t sit well with you, or you haven’t even dipped your toe in the water, this page may be the answer to your prayers (pardon the pun).Please be aware this is not a criticism of churches. Many spiritually happy people do attend church as a way of expressing their own spirituality – not merely to ensure gaining admission upstairs when their big day arrives! I’m not here to tell you what to believe, but given the previous show of hands, it would be very difficult to believe spiritual happiness is found inside a building.

Well then, where is it?

Whether you think you’re a spiritual being or not, your spirituality is inside of you! Not in a building, nor in a rule book (but there are some greatbooks which can help you form your opinions/beliefs). We are all spiritual beings i.e. we all have spirits. If you are ignoring yours, you may be an unhappy person, or you may have an otherwise ‘perfect’ life, but experience a gnawing emptiness you can’t quite put your finger on. If I’m describing you, why not open your heart and mind to your spiritual side? Closed-minded people, having no spiritual beliefs, are ignorant of the life-changing potential they are eschewing. Everything you need is within you – you just need to find it!

Who do I ask?

It is not necessary to find yourself a ‘guru’ (especially if they want thousands of dollars for the pleasure of speaking to you). Spiritual happiness, like any form of happiness is an individual, personal state. It is not up to anyone else to tell you what will suit you or lead to your spiritual happiness.

Do you know someone with a happy spirit?

If you are well acquainted, they wouldn’t mind answering your probing questions. If you’re not well acquainted, I should imagine they’d be flattered by your opinion of them as ‘happy’ and by your intrigue as to their spirituality. But be careful here, numerous people put on a happy exterior for the world when they’re really miserable inside. Don’t let ‘happy’ be your only search criteria – you should also know this person is kind, content and ‘together’.This person also need not become your guru. They are just an information source. Gather information. Ask different people. Read. Make your own decisions. Visit some organizations of interest on fact-finding missions (be careful here too – there are some scary, weird cults out there that prey on the vulnerable, so take someone older and wiser with you). Become your own guru. The knowledge and experience you collect on your journey will slowly form your belief system. Don’t believe everything you hear. Follow your intuition.

You are your own best guide.

Why Do I Need Spiritual Happiness?

When you develop your own spiritual beliefs,you will find life is easier. Depending on how long you search and how deep you delve, you may also find answers to the “Why am I here?” type of questions. They will be answers that make sense to you (and possibly only you!).
Expanding your mind to encompass a ‘big picture’ view of your life really helps you to make sense of it all. Making some sense of the universe will assist you to overcome lifes’ hurdles. That sense of connection to something bigger will comfort you in times of need, reassuring you that you are not in this life alone.

Imagine, just for a moment, you are walking through a seemingly endless, dark tunnel, alone. You trip over several times when the ground becomes uneven, but still you stumble on, not even aware of why you are here or your ultimate destination. Your awareness is limited to the fact that you are in this tunnel and one day you won’t be.

NOW imagine that suddenly you become aware of a presence by your side! A welcome presence. A welcome presence with a torch! This presence knows the terrain and is able to help you negotiate your way through the bumps and troughs.You trust this presence to help you reach a destination of which you were previously unaware. It also explains why you are in this tunnel to begin with. At a certain point in your journey, the presence bids you to turn around as it shines its torch on the path you have trod. To your amazement, the bumps and troughs form a brilliant pattern to which you were oblivious during your negotiation of them!! Everything now makes sense: the tunnel, the bumpy terrain and the need to move forward. This presence has given you a perspective you would never have discovered alone.

And that perspective my friends, is spiritual happiness.

When Do I Need Spiritual Happiness?

The very short answer to this question is: every minute of every day.
You will find the more spirituality you discover inside yourself, the more often you use it. The more often you become aware of a connection to something bigger, the stronger that connection becomes. The stronger that connection becomes, the happier you become, spiritually. Unfortunately, there may be times in your life when your spiritual beliefs are all you have to keep you going. Don’t be one of the many, many people who don’t form their beliefs until their world comes crashing down around them. If you spend some time now really working out what feels right for you, then, should your world come crashing down, your safety net will be firmly in place.

If you are a parent, its even more urgent to get your spiritual happiness together, so you can be a great example to your kids.(See comment above re resilience!) But bear in mind, whatever suits you now may not be what feels right to them when they grow up. They, too will need time and space to explore their own spirituality.

How Do I Find This Spiritual Happiness?

I covered a lot of this answer above under ‘Who Do I Ask?’ when I talked about finding someone you admire and asking them about their spiritual side. Also very carefully, explore some churches/spiritual organizations that may pique your interest. Also, read, read, read, choosing the information that fits well with you, to take on board.
However, there is one more very important action you can take if you are to plumb the depths of your own spirituality…….and that is learning meditation. You may be shocked to learn just how many different religions and philosophies extol the virtues of meditation. Everyone from Catholics to Buddhists use meditation in some form or other.

If you’d like to try (or continue) meditation in a casual, friendly, relaxed environment, you could try my meditation classes in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Read what happy Melbourne clients have to say about them.

To find the spiritual happiness you deserve, explore the spirituality within you. Define your belief system and live it!

A happy life is incomplete without spiritual happiness!

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill

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A molecular biologist turned Buddhist monk, described by scientists as “the happiest man alive,” demonstrates how to develop the inner conditions for true happiness.

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Mindfulness in Plain English

Mindfulness in Plain English by Venerable Henepola Gunaratana

Mindfulness is the English translation of the Pali word ‘Sati.’ Sati is an activity. What exactly is that? Well, this is one of those questions without a precise answer, at least not in words. Words are devised by the symbolic levels of the mind and they describe those realities with which symbolic thinking deals. Mindfulness (Sati) is pre-symbolic. It is not shackled to logic. Nevertheless, Mindfulness can be experienced – rather easily – and it can be described, as long as you keep in mind that the words are only fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the thing itself. The actual experience lies beyond the words and above the symbols. Mindfulness could be described in completely different terms than will be used here and each description could still be correct.

Mindfulness (Sati) is a subtle process that you are using at this very moment. The fact that this process lies above and beyond words does not make it unreal – quite the reverse. Mindfulness is the reality which gives rise to words – the words that follow are simply pale shadows of reality. So, it is important to understand that everything that follows here is an analogy. It is not going to make perfect sense. Please don’t sit around scratching your head and trying to figure it all out. In fact, the meditational technique called Vipassana (insight) that was introduced by the Buddha about twenty-five centuries ago is a set of mental activities specifically aimed at experiencing a state of uninterrupted Mindfulness or Sati.

When you first become aware of something there is a fleeting instant of pure awareness just before you conceptualize he thing, before you identify it. That is a stage of Mindfulness (Sati). Ordinarily, this stage is very short. It is that flashing split second just before you focus your eyes on the thing, just before you focus your mind on the thing, just before you objectify it, clamp down on it mentally and segregate it from the rest of existence. It takes place just before ,you start thinking about it – before that little ‘yak, yak’ machine inside your skull says, “Oh, it’s a dog.” That flowing, soft-focused moment of pure awareness is Mindfulness (Sati). In that brief flashing mind- moment you experience a thing as an un-thing. You experience a softly flowing moment of pure experience that is interlocked with the rest of reality, not separate from it. Mindfulness is very much like what you see with your peripheral vision as opposed to the hard focus of normal or central vision. Yet this moment of soft, unfocused, awareness contains a very deep sort of knowing that is lost as soon as you focus your mind and objectify the object into a thing. In the process of ordinary perception, the Mindfulness (Sati) step is so fleeting as to be unobservable. We have developed the habit of squandering our attention on all the remaining steps, focusing on the perception, cognizing the perception, labeling it, and most od all, getting involved in a long string of symbolic thought about it. That original moment of Mindfulness just gets lost in the shuffle. It is the purpose of the above mentioned Vipassana (or insight) meditation to train us to prolong that moment of awareness.

When this Mindfulness (Sati) is prolonged by using proper techniques, you find that this experience is profound and it changes your whole view of the universe. This state of perception has to be learned, however, and it takes regular practice. Once you learn the technique, you will find that Mindfulness has a number of interesting characteristics.


Mindfulness (Sati) is mirror-thought. It reflects only what is presently happening and in exactly the way it is happening. There are no biases.
Mindfulness (Sati) is non-judgmental observation. It is that ability of the mind to observe without criticism. With this ability, one sees things without condemnation or judgment. One is surprised by nothing. One simply takes a balanced interest in things exactly as they are in their natural states. One does not decide and does not judge. One just observes.

It is psychologically impossible for us to objectively observe what is going on within us if we do not at the same time accept the occurrence of our various states of mind. This is especially true with unpleasant states of mind. In order to observe our own fear, we must accept the fact that we are afraid. We can’t examine our own depression without accepting i fully. The same is true for irritation and agitation, frustration and all those other uncomfortable emotional states. You can’t examine something fully if you are busy rejecting the existence of it. Whatever experience we may be having, Mindfulness just accepts it. It is simply another of life’s occurrences, just another thing to be aware of. No pride, no shame, nothing personal at stake – what is there, is there.

Mindfulness (Sati) is an impartial watchfulness. It does not take sides. It does not get hung up in what is perceived. It just perceives. Mindfulness does not get infatuated with the good stuff. It does not try to sidestep the bad stuff. There is no clinging to the pleasant, no fleeing from the unpleasant. Mindfulness sees all experiences as equal, all thoughts as equal, all feelings as equal. Nothing is suppressed. Nothing is repressed. Mindfulness does not play favorites.

Mindfulness (Sati) is nonconceptual awareness. Another English term for Sati is ‘bare attention.’ It is not thinking. It does not get involved with thought or concepts. It does not get hung up on ideas or opinions or memories. It just looks. Mindfulness registers experiences, but it does not compare them. It just observes everything as if they were occurring for the first time. It is not analysis which is based on reflection and memory. It is, rather, the direct and immediate experience of whatever is happening, without the medium of thought. It comes BEFORE thought in the perceptual process.

Mindfulness (Sati) is present-time awareness. It takes place in the here and now. It is the observance of what is happening right now, in the present moment. It stays forever in the present, surging perpetually on the crest of the ongoing wave of passing time. If you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is memory. When you then become aware that you are remembering your second-grade teacher, that is Mindfulness. If you then conceptualize the process and say to yourself, “Oh, I am remembering”, that is thinking.

Mindfulness (Sati) is non-egoistic alertness. It takes place without reference to self. With Mindfulness one sees all phenomena without references to concepts like “me”, “my” or “mine”. For example, suppose there is a pain in your left leg. Ordinary consciousness would say, “I have a pain.” Using Mindfulness, one would simply note the sensation as a sensation. One would not tack on that extra concept “I”. Mindfulness stops one from adding anything to perception, or subtracting anything from it. One does not enhance anything. One does not emphasize anything. One just observes what is there – without distortion.

Mindfulness (Sati) is goal-less awareness. In Mindfulness, one does not strain for results. One does not try to accomplish anything. When one is mindful, one experiences reality in the present moment in whatever form it takes. There is nothing to be achieved. There is only observation.

Mindfulness (Sati) is awareness of change. It is observing the passing flow of experience. It is watching things as they are changing. It is seeing the birth, growth, and maturity of all phenomena. It is watching phenomena decay and die. Mindfulness is watching things moment by moment, continuously. It is observing all phenomena – physical, mental or emotional – whatever is presently taking place in the mind. One just sits back and watches the show. Mindfulness is the observance of the basic nature of each passing phenomena. It is watching the thing arising and passing away. It is seeing how the thing makes us feel and how we react to it. It is observing how it affects others. In Mindfulness, one is an unbiased observer whose sole job is to keep track of the constantly passing show of the universe within. Please note that last point. In Mindfulness, one watches the universe within. The meditator who is developing Mindfulness (Sati) is not concerned with the external universe. It is there, but in meditation, one’s field of study is one’s own experience, one’s thoughts, one’s feelings, and one’s perceptions. In meditation, one is one’s own laboratory. The universe within has an enormous fund of information containing the reflection of the external world and much more. An examination of this material leads to total freedom.

Mindfulness (Sati) is participatory observation. The meditator is both participant and observer at one and the same time. If one watches one’s emotions or physical sensations, one is feeling them at that very same moment. Mindfulness is not an intellectual awareness. It is just awareness. The Mirror- thought metaphor breaks down here. Mindfulness is objective, but it is not cold or unfeeling. It is the wakeful experience of life, an alert participation in the ongoing process of living.

Mindfulness is an extremely difficult concept to define in words – not because it is complex, but because it is too simple and open. The same problem crops up in every area of human experience. The most basic concept is always the most difficult to pin down. Look at a dictionary and you will see a clear example. Long words generally have concise definitions, but for short basic words like “the”, “is” or “but”, definitions can be a page long. And in physics, the most difficult functions to describe are the most basic – those that deal with the most fundamental realities of quantum mechanics. Mindfulness is a pre- symbolic function. You can play with word symbols all day long and you will never pin it down completely. We can never fully express what it is. However, we can say what it does.


There are three fundamental activities of Mindfulness (Sati). We can use these activities as functional definitions of the term: (1) Mindfulness reminds us what we are supposed to be doing; (2) it sees things as they really are; and (3) it sees the deep nature of all phenomena. Let’s examine these definitions in greater detail.
Mindfulness (Sati) reminds you what you are supposed to be doing. In meditation, you put your attention on one item. When your mind wanders from this focus, it is Mindfulness that reminds you that your mind is wandering and what you are supposed to be doing. It is Mindfulness that brings your mind back to the object of meditation. All of this occurs instantaneously and without internal dialogue. Meditation is not thinking. Repeated practice in meditation establishes this function as a mental habit which then carries over into the rest of your life. You should be paying bare attention to occurrences all the time, day in, day out, whether formally sitting in meditation or not. This is a very lofty ideal towards which those who meditate may be working for a period of years or even decades. Our habit of getting stuck in thought is years old, and that habit will hang on in the most tenacious manner. The only way out is to be equally persistent in the cultivation of constant Mindfulness (Sati). When Mindfulness is present, you will notice when you become stuck in your thought patterns. It is that very noticing which allows you to back out of the thought process and free yourself from it. Mindfulness then returns your attention to its proper focus. If you are meditating at that moment, then your focus will be the formal object of meditation. If you are not in formal meditation, it will be just a pure application of bare attention itself, just a pure noticing of whatever comes up without getting involved – “Ah, this comes up… and now this, and now this… and now this.”

Mindfulness (Sati) is at one and the same time both bare attention itself and the function of reminding us to pay bare attention if we have ceased to do so. Bare attention is noticing. It re-establishes itself simply by noticing that it has not been present. As soon as you are noticing that you have not been noticing, then by definition you are noticing and then again you are back to paying bare attention. Well, that all sounds very involved, but there is nothing complex about it. It is just the words. It is just a thing you will learn to do by feel, the way you play baseball. Mindfulness creates its own distinct feeling in consciousness. It has a flavor – a light, clear, energetic flavor. Conscious thought is heavy by comparison, ponderous and picky. But here again, these are just words. Your own practice will show you the difference. Then you will probably come up with your own words and the words used here will become superfluous. Remember, practice is the thing.

Mindfulness (Sati) sees things as they really are. It adds nothing to perception and it subtracts nothing. It distorts nothing. It is bare attention and just looks at whatever comes up. Conscious thought loves to paste things over our experience, to load us down with concepts and ideas, to immerse us in a churning vortex of plans and worries, fears and fantasies. When mindful, you don’t play that game. You just notice exactly what arises in the mind, then you notice the next thing. “Ah, this… and this… and now this.” It is really very simple.

Mindfulness (Sati) sees the true nature of all phenomena. Mindfulness and only Mindfulness can perceive the three prime characteristics that Buddhism teaches are the deepest truth of existence. In Pali these three are called Annica (impermanence), Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), and Anatta (selflessness – the absence of a permanent, unchanging, entity that we call soul or self). These truths, by the way, are not presented in Buddhist teaching as dogmas subject to blind faith. The Buddhists feel that these truths are universal and self-evident to anyone who cares to investigate in a proper way. Mindfulness is that method of investigation. Mindfulness alone has the power to reveal the deepest level of reality available to human observation. At this level of inspection, one sees the following: (a) All conditioned things are inherently transitory; (b) every worldly thing is, in the end, unsatisfying; and (c) there are really no entities that are unchanging or permanent, only processes.

Mindfulness works like an electron microscope. That is, it operates on so fine a level that one can actually see directly those realities which are at best theoretical constructs to the conscious thought process. Mindfulness actually sees the impermanent character of every perception. It sees the transitory and passing nature of everything that is perceived. It also sees the inherently unsatisfactory nature of all conditioned things. It sees that there is no sense grabbing onto any of these passing shows. Peace and happiness just cannot be found that way. And finally, Mindfulness sees the inherent selflessness of all phenomena. It sees the way we have arbitrarily selected a certain bundle of perceptions, chopped them off from the rest of the surging flow of experience and then conceptualized them as separate, enduring, entities. Mindfulness actually sees these things. It does not think about them, it sees them directly.

When it is fully developed, Mindfulness sees these three attributes of existence directly, instantaneously, and without the intervening medium of conscious thought. In fact, even the attributes which we just covered are inherently arbitrary. They don’t really exist as separate items. They are purely the result of our struggle to take this fundamentally simple process called Mindfulness and express it in the cumbersome and inherently unsuitable thought symbols of the conscious level. Mindfulness is a PROCESS, but it does not take place in steps. It is a wholistic process that occurs as a unit: you notice your own lack of Mindfulness; and that noticing itself is a result of Mindfulness; and Mindfulness is bare attention; and bare attention is noticing things exactly as they are without distortion; and the way they are is Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta (impermananent, unsatisfactory, and self-less). It all takes place in a flash-bang. This does not mean, however, that you will instantly attain liberation (freedom from all human weaknesses) as a result of your first moment of Mindfulness. Learning to integrate this material into your conscious life is another whole process. And learning to prolong this state of Mindfulness is still another. They are joyous processes, however, and they are well worth the effort.


Mindfulness is the center of Vipassana meditation and the key to the whole process. It is both the goal of this meditation and the means to that end. You reach Mindfulness by being ever more mindful. One other Pali word that is translated into English as Mindfulness is Appamada, which means non- negligence or an absence of madness. One who attends constantly to what is really going on in one;s mind achieves the state of ultimate sanity.
The Pali term ‘Sati’ also bears the connotation of remembering. It is not memory in the sense of ideas and pictures from the past, but rather clear, direct, wordless knowing of what is and what is not, of what is correct and what is incorrect, of what we are doing and how we should go about it. Mindfulness (Sati) reminds the meditator to apply his attention to the proper object at the proper time and to exert precisely the amount of energy needed to do that job. When this energy is properly applied, the meditator stays constantly in a state of calmness and alertness. As long as this condition is maintained, those mind-states called ‘hindrances’ or ‘psychic irritants’ cannot arise – there is no greed, no hatred, no lust or laziness. But we are all human and we all goof. Most of us are very human and we goof repeatedly. Despite honest effort, the meditator lets his Mindfulness slip now and then and he finds himself stuck in some nasty, but normal, human failure. It is Mindfulness that notices that change. And it is Mindfulness that reminds him to apply the energy required to pull himself out of the soup. These slips happen over and over, but their frequency decreases with practice. Once Mindfulness has pushed these mental defilements aside, more wholesome states of mind can take their place. Hatred makes way for loving kindness, lust is replaced by detachment. It is Mindfulness which notices this change, too, and which reminds the Vipassana meditator to maintain that extra little mental sharpness needed to keep these more desirable states of mind. Mindfulness makes possible the growth of wisdom and compassion. Without Mindfulness they cannot develop to full maturity.

Deeply buried in the mind, there lies a mental mechanism which accepts what the mind perceives as beautiful and pleasant experiences and rejects those experiences which are perceived as ugly and painful. This mechanism gives rise to those states of mind which we are training ourselves to avoid – things like greed, lust, hatred, aversion, and jealousy. We choose to avoid these hindrances, not because they are evil in the normal sense of the word, but because they are compulsive; because they take the mind over and capture the attention completely; because they keep going round and round in tight little circles of thought; and because they seal us off from living reality.

These hamperings cannot arise when Mindfulness is present. Mindfulness is attention to present time reality, and therefore, directly antithetical to the dazed state of mind which characterizes the impediments. As meditators, it is only when we let our Mindfulness slip that the deep mechanisms of our minds take over – grasping, clinging and rejecting. Then resistance emerges and obscures our awareness. We do not notice that the change is taking place – we are too busy with a thought of revenge, or greed, whatever it may be. While an untrained person will continue inn this state indefinitely, a trained meditator will soon realize what is happening. It is Mindfulness that notices the change. It is Mindfulness that remembers the training received ad that focuses our attention so that the confusion fades away. And it is Mindfulness that then attempts to maintain itself indefinitely so that the resistance cannot arise again. Thus, Mindfulness is the specific antidote for hindrances. It is both the cure and the preventive measure.

Fully developed Mindfulness (Sati) is a state of total non-attachment and utter absence of clinging to anything in the world. If we can maintain this state, no other means or device is needed to keep ourselves free of obstructions, to achieve liberation from our human weaknesses. Mindfulness is non-superficial awareness. It sees things deeply, down below the level of concepts and opinions. This sort of deep observation leads to total certainty, a complete absence of confusion. It manifests itself primarily as a constant and unwavering attention which never flags an which never turns away.

This pure and unstained investigative awareness not only holds the fetters at bay, it lays bare their very mechanism and destroys them. Mindfulness neutralizes defilements in the mind. The result is a mind which remains unstained and invulnerable, completely unaffected by the ups and downs of life.

[California Buddhist Vihara Society, 4797 Myrtle Drive, Concord CA 94521]

Introduction To Insight Meditation

Amaravati Buddhist Centre, U.K. (1988)

The aim of this booklet is to serve as an introduction to the practice of Insight Meditation as taught within the tradition of Theravada Buddhism. You need not be familiar with the teachings of the Buddha to make use of it, although such knowledge can help to clarify any personal understanding you may develop through meditation.

The purpose of Insight Meditation is not to create a system of beliefs, but rather to give guidance on how to see clearly into the nature of the mind. In this way one gains first-hand understanding of the way things are, without reliance on opinions or theories — a direct experience, which has its own vitality. It also gives rise to the sense of deep calm that comes from knowing something for oneself, beyond any doubt.

Insight Meditation is a key factor in the path that the Buddha offered for the welfare of human beings; the only criterion is that one has to put it into practice These pages, therefore, describe a series of meditation exercises, and practical advice on how to use them. It works best if the reader follows the guide progressively, giving each sequence of instructions a good work-out before proceeding further.

The term “Insight Meditation” (samatha-vipassana) refers to practices for the mind that develop calm (samatha) through sustained attention, and insight (vipassana) through reflection. A fundamental technique for sustaining attention is focusing awareness on the body; traditionally, this is practised while sitting or walking. The guide begins with some advice on this.

Reflection occurs quite naturally afterwards, when one is “comfortable” within the context of the meditation exercise. There will be a sense of ease and interest, and one begins to look around and become acquainted with the mind that is meditating. This “looking around” is called contemplation, a personal and direct seeing that can only be suggested by any technique. A few ideas and guidance on this come in a later section.

(It should be noted that knowledge of terms in Pali — the canonical language of Theravada Buddhism — is not necessary to begin the practice of meditation. It can be useful, however, to provide reference points to the large source of guidance in the Theravada Canon, as well as to the teaching of many contemporary masters who still find such words more precise than their English equivalents.)

1. Sustaining Attention


Time and Place

Focusing the mind on the body can be readily accomplished while sitting. You need to find a time and a place which affords you calm and freedom from disturbance.

A quiet room with not much in it to distract the mind is ideal; a setting with light and space has a brightening and clearing effect, while a cluttered and gloomy room has just the opposite. Timing is also important, particularly as most people’s days are quite structured with routines. It is not especially productive to meditate when you have something else to do, or when you’re pressed for time. It’s better to set aside a period — say, in the early morning or in the evening after work — when you can really give your full attention to the practice. Begin with fifteen minutes or so. Practise sincerely with the limitations of time and available energy, and avoid becoming mechanical about the routine. Meditation practice, supported by genuine willingness to investigate and make peace with oneself, will develop naturally in terms of duration and skill.

Awareness of the body

The development of calm is aided by stability, and by a steady but peaceful effort. If you can’t feel settled, there’s no peacefulness; if there’s no sense of application, you tend to day-dream. One of the most effective postures for the cultivation of the proper combination of stillness and energy is sitting.

Use a posture that will keep your back straight without strain. A simple upright chair may be helpful, or you may be able to use one of the lotus postures (See the ” Notes on Posture“). These look awkward at first, but in time they can provide a unique balance of gentle firmness that gladdens the mind without tiring the body.

If the chin is tilted very slightly down this will help, but do not allow the head to loll forward as this encourages drowsiness. Place the hands on your lap, palms upwards, one gently resting on the other with the thumb-tips touching. Take your time, and get the right balance.

Now, collect your attention, and begin to move it slowly down your body. Notice the sensations. Relax any tensions, particularly in the face, neck and hands. Allow the eyelids to close or half close.

Investigate how you are feeling. Expectant or tense? Then relax your attention a little. With this, the mind will probably calm down, and you may find some thoughts drifting in — reflections, daydreams, memories, or doubts about whether you are doing it right Instead of following or contending with these thought patterns, bring more attention to the body, which is a useful anchor for a wandering mind.

Cultivate a spirit of inquiry in your meditation attitude. Take your time. Move your attention, for example, systematically from the crown of the head down over the whole body. Notice the different sensations — such as warmth, pulsing, numbness, and sensitivity — in the joints of each finger, the moisture of the palms, and the pulse in the wrist. Even areas that may have no particular sensation, such as the forearms or the earlobes, can be “swept over” in an attentive way. Notice how even the lack of sensation is something the mind can be aware of. This constant and sustained investigation is called mindfulness (sati) and is one of the primary tools of Insight Meditation.

Mindfulness of breathing (anapanasati)

Instead of “body sweeping”, or after a preliminary period of this practice, mindfulness can be developed through attention on the breath.

First, follow the sensation of your ordinary breath as it flows in through the nostrils and fills the chest and abdomen. Then try maintaining your attention at one point, either at the diaphragm or — a more refined location — at the nostrils. Breath has a tranquillising quality, steady and relaxing if you don’t force it; this is helped by an upright posture. Your mind may wander, but keep patiently returning to the breath.

It is not necessary to develop concentration to the point of excluding everything else except the breath. Rather than to create a trance, the purpose here is to allow you to notice the workings of the mind, and to bring a measure of peaceful clarity into it. The entire process — gathering your attention, noticing the breath, noticing that the mind has wandered, and re-establishing your attention — develops mindfulness, patience and insightful understanding. So don’t be put off by apparent “failure” — simply begin again. Continuing in this way allows the mind eventually to calm down.

If you get very restless or agitated, just relax. Practise being at peace with yourself, listening to — without necessarily believing in — the voices of the mind.

If you feet drowsy, then put more care and attention into your body and posture. Refining your attention or pursuing tranquillity at such times will only make matters worse


Many meditation exercises, such as the above “mindfulness of breathing”, are practised while sitting. However, walking is commonly alternated with sitting as a form for meditation. Apart from giving you different things to notice, it’s a skilful way to energise the practice if the calming effect of sitting is making you dull.

If you have access to some open land, measure off about 25-30 paces’ length of level ground (or a clearly defined pathway between two trees), as your meditation path. Stand at one end of the path, and compose your mind on the sensations of the body. First, let the attention rest on the feeling of the body standing upright, with the arms hanging naturally and the hands lightly clasped in front or behind. Allow the eyes to gaze at a point about three metres in front of you at ground level, thus avoiding visual distraction. Now, walk gently, at a deliberate but “normal” pace, to the end of the path. Stop. Focus on the body standing for the period of a couple of breaths. Turn, and walk back again. While walking, be aware of the general flow of physical sensations, or more closely direct your attention to the feet. The exercise for the mind is to keep bringing its attention back to the sensation of the feet touching the ground, the spaces between each step, and the feelings of stopping and starting.

Of course, the mind will wander. So it is important to cultivate patience, and the resolve to begin again. Adjust the pace to suit your state of mind — vigorous when drowsy or trapped in obsessive thought, firm but gentle when restless and impatient. At the end of the path, stop; breathe in and out; “let go” of any restlessness, worry, calm, bliss, memories or opinions about yourself. The “inner chatter” may stop momentarily, or fade out. Begin again. In this way you continually refresh the mind, and allow it to settle at its own rate.

In more confined spaces, alter the length of the path to suit what is available. Alternatively, you can circumambulate a room, pausing after each circumambulation for a few moments of standing. This period of standing can be extended to several minutes, using “body sweeping”.

Walking brings energy and fluidity into the practice, so keep your pace steady and just let changing conditions pass through the mind. Rather than expecting the mind to be as still as it might be while sitting, contemplate the flow of phenomena. It is remarkable how many times we can become engrossed in a train of thought — arriving at the end of the path and “coming to” with a start — but it is natural for our untrained minds to become absorbed in thoughts and moods. So instead of giving in to impatience, learn how to let go, and begin again. A sense of ease and calm may then arise, allowing the mind to become open and clear in a natural, unforced way.


Reclining at the end of a day, spend a few minutes meditating while lying on one side. Keep the body quite straight and bend one arm up so that the hand acts as a support for the head. Sweep through the body, resting its stresses; or collect your attention on the breath, consciously putting aside memories of the day just past and expectations of tomorrow. In a few minutes, with your mind clear, you’ll be able to rest well.


Cultivating good-will (metta) gives another dimension to the practice of Insight. Meditation naturally teaches patience and tolerance, or at least it shows the importance of these qualities. So you may well wish to develop a more friendly and caring attitude towards yourself and other people. In meditation, you can cultivate good-will very realistically.

Focus attention on the breath, which you will now be using as the means of spreading kindness and good-will. Begin with yourself, with your body. Visualise the breath as a light, or see your awareness as being a warm ray, and gradually sweep it over your body. Lightly focus your attention on the centre of the chest, around the heart region. As you breathe in, direct patient kindness towards yourself, perhaps with the thought, “May I be well”, or “Peace”. As you breathe out, let the mood of that thought, or the awareness of light, spread outwards from the heart, through the body, through the mind, and beyond yourself. “May others be well.”

If you are experiencing negative states of mind, breathe in the qualities of tolerance and forgiveness. Visualising the breath as having a healing colour may be helpful. On the out-breath, let go — of any stress, worry or negativity — and extend the sense of release through the body, the mind, and beyond, as before.

This practice can form all or part of a period of meditation — you have to judge for yourself what is appropriate. The calming effect of meditating with a kindly attitude is good for beginning a sitting, but there will no doubt be times to use this approach for long periods, to go deeply into the heart.

Always begin with what you are aware of, even if it seems trivial or confused. Let your mind rest calmly on that — whether it’s boredom, an aching knee, or the frustration of not feeling particularly kindly. Allow these to be; practise being at peace with them. Recognise and gently put aside any tendencies towards laziness, doubt or guilt.

Peacefulness can develop into a very nourishing kindness towards yourself, if you first of all fully accept the presence of what you dislike. Keep the attention steady, and open the heart to whatever you experience. This does not imply approval of negative states, but allows them a space wherein they can come and go.

Generating good-will toward the world beyond yourself follows much the same pattern. A simple way to spread kindness is to work in stages. Start with yourself, joining the sense of loving acceptance to the movement of the breath. “May I be well.” Then, reflect on people you love and respect, and wish them well, one by one. Move on to friendly acquaintances, then to those towards whom you feel indifferent. “May they be well.” Finally, bring to mind those people you fear or dislike, and continue to send out wishes of good-will.

This meditation can expand, in a movement of compassion, to include all people in the world, in their many circumstances. And remember, you don’t have to feel that you love everyone in order to wish them well

Kindness and compassion originate from the same source of good will, and they broaden the mind beyond the purely personal perspective. If you’re not always trying to make things go the way you want them to; if you’re more accepting and receptive to yourself and others as they are, compassion arises by itself. Compassion is the natural sensitivity of the heart.

2. Reflection


Meditation can also proceed without a meditation object, in a state of pure contemplation, or “choiceless awareness”.

After calming the mind by one of the methods described above, consciously put aside the meditation object. Observe the flow of mental images and sensations just as they arise, without engaging in criticism or praise. Notice any aversion and fascination; contemplate any uncertainty, happiness, restlessness or tranquillity as it arises. You can return to a meditation object (such as the breath). whenever the sense of clarity diminishes, or if you begin to feel overwhelmed by impressions. When a sense of steadiness returns, you can relinquish the object again.

This practice of “bare attention” is well-suited for contemplating the mental process. Along with observing the mind’s particular “ingredients”, we can turn our attention to the nature of the container. As for the contents of the mind, Buddhist teaching points especially to three simple, fundamental characteristics.

First, there is changeability (anicca) – the ceaseless beginning and ending all things go through, the constant movement of the content of the mind. This mind-stuff may be pleasant or unpleasant, but it is never at rest.

There is also a persistent, often subtle, sense of dissatisfaction (dukkha). Unpleasant sensations easily evoke that sense, but even a lovely experience creates a tug in the heart when it ends. So at the best of moments there is still an inconclusive quality in what the mind experiences, a somewhat unsatisfied feeling.

As the constant arising and passing of experiences and moods become familiar, it also becomes clear that — since there is no permanence in them — none of them really belong to you. And, when this mind-stuff is silent — revealing a bright spaciousness of mind — there are no purely personal characteristics to be found This can be difficult to comprehend, but in reality there is no “me” and no “mine”– the characteristic of “no-self”, or impersonality (anatta).

Investigate fully and notice how these qualities pertain to all things, physical and mental. No matter if your experiences are joyful or barely endurable, this contemplation will lead to a calm and balanced perspective on your life.


These meditation exercises all serve to establish awareness of things as they are. By bringing your mind fully onto experiences, you will notice more clearly the state of the mind itself — for example, whether you are being lazy or over-eager in your practice. With a little honest appraisal, it becomes evident that the quality of the meditation practice depends, not on the exercise being used, but on what you are putting into it. Reflecting in this way, you will gain deeper insight into your personality and habits.

There are some useful points to bear in mind whenever you meditate. Consider whether you are beginning afresh each time — or even better, with each breath or footstep. If you don’t practise with an open mind, you may find yourself trying to recreate a past insight, or unwilling to learn from your mistakes. Is there the right balance of energy whereby you are doing all that you can without being over-forceful? Are you keeping in touch with what is actually happening in your mind, or using a technique in a dull, mechanical way? As for concentration, it’s good to check whether you are putting aside concerns that are not immediate, or letting yourself meander in thoughts and moods. Or, are you trying to repress feelings without acknowledging them and responding wisely?

Proper concentration is that which unifies the heart and mind. Reflecting in this way encourages you to develop a skilful approach. And of course, reflection will show you more than how to meditate: it will give you the clarity to understand yourself.

Remember, until you’ve developed some skill and case with meditation, it’s best to use a meditation object, such as the breath, as a focus for awareness and as an antidote for the overwhelming nature of the mind’s distractions. Even so, whatever your length of experience with the practice, it is always helpful to return to awareness of the breath or body. Developing this ability to begin again leads to stability and case. With a balanced practice, you realise more and more the way the body and mind are, and see how to live with greater freedom and harmony. This is the purpose and the fruit of Insight Meditation.


With the practice of Insight Meditation you will see your attitudes more clearly, and come to know which are helpful and which create difficulties. An open attitude can make even unpleasant experiences insightful — for instance, understanding the way that the mind reacts against pain or sickness. When you approach such experiences in this way, you can often unwind the stress and resistance to pain, and alleviate it to a great degree. On the other hand, an impatient streak will have different results: becoming annoyed with others if they disturb your meditation; being disappointed if your practice doesn’t seem to be progressing fast enough; falling into unpleasant moods over insignificant matters. Meditation teaches us that peace of mind — or its absence — essentially depends on whether or not we contemplate the events of life in a spirit of reflection and open-mindedness.

By looking into your intentions and attitudes in the quiet of meditation, you can investigate the relationship between desire and dissatisfaction. See the causes of discontent: wanting what you don’t have; rejecting what you dislike; being unable to keep what you want. This is especially oppressive when the subject of the discontent and desire is yourself. No-one finds it easy to be at peace with personal weakness, especially when so much social emphasis is placed on feeling good, getting ahead and having the best. Such expectations indeed make it difficult to accept oneself as one is.

However, with the practice of insight meditation, you discover a space in which to stand back a little from what you think you are, from what you think you have. Contemplating these perceptions, it becomes clearer that you don’t have any thing as “me” or “mine”; there are simply experiences, which come and go through the mind. So if, for example, you’re looking into an irritating habit, rather than becoming depressed by it, you don’t reinforce it and the habit passes away. It may come back again, but this time it’s weaker, and you know what to do. Through cultivating peaceful attention, mental content calms down and may even fade out, leaving the mind clear and refreshed. Such is the ongoing path of insight.

To be able to go to a still centre of awareness within the changing flow of daily life is the sign of a mature practice, for insight deepens immeasurably when it is able to spread to all experience. Try to use the perspective of insight no matter what you are doing — routine housework, driving the car, having a cup of tea. Collect the awareness, rest it steadily on what you are doing, and rouse a sense of inquiry into the nature of the mind in the mist of activity. Using the practice to centre on physical sensations, mental states, or eye-, ear- or nose-consciousness can develop an ongoing contemplation that turns mundane tasks into foundations for insight.

Centred more and more in awareness, the mind becomes free to respond skilfully to the moment, and there is greater harmony in life. This is the way that meditation does “social work”– by bringing awareness into your life, it brings peace into the world. When you can abide peacefully with the great variety of feelings that arise in consciousness, you are able to live more open[y with the world, and with yourself as you are.

3. Further Suggestions


As our insight deepens, we see more clearly the results of our actions — the peace that good intention, sincerity and clear-mindedness promote, and the trouble that confusion and carelessness create. It is this greater sensitivity, observing in particular the distress we cause ourselves and others, that often inspires us to want to live more wisely. For true peace of mind, it is indispensable that formal meditation be combined with a commitment to responsibility, and with care for oneself and others.

There is really nothing mysterious about the path of Insight. In the words of the Buddha, the way is simple: “Do good, refrain from doing evil, and purify the mind“. It is a long-observed tradition, then, for people who engage in spiritual practice to place great importance on proper conduct. Many meditators undertake realistic moral vows — such as refraining from harming living beings, from stealing, from careless use of sexuality, from using intoxicants (alcohol and drugs), and from gossip and other graceless speech habits — to help their own inner clarity, and perhaps gently encourage that of others.


Meditating with a few friends at regular times can be a great support towards constancy of practice and development of wisdom. The solitary meditator eventually faces diminishing will-power, as there’s often something else to do that seems more important (or more interesting) than watching the breath. Regular group meditation for an agreed-upon duration keeps the participants going, regardless of their flux of moods. (The investigation of these shifts of disposition often yields important insights, but on our own we can find it difficult to persevere with them.) As well as seeing the personal benefits, you can reflect that your efforts are helping others to keep practising.


The ideal is an upright, alert posture. Slumping only increases the pressure on the legs and discomfort in the back. It is important to attend to your posture with wisdom, not insensitive will-power Posture will improve in time, but you need to work with the body, not use force against it.

Check your posture:

  • Are the hips leaning back? This will cause a slump.
  • The small of the back should have its natural, unforced curve so that the abdomen is forward and “open”.
  • Imagine that someone is gently pushing between the shoulder blades, while keeping the muscles relaxed. This will give you an idea of whether you unconsciously “hunch” your shoulders (and hence close your chest).
  • Note, and gently release, any tension in the neck/shoulder region.


If your posture feels tense or stack:

  • Allow the spine to straighten by imagining the crown of the head as suspended from above. This also lets the chin tuck in slightly.
  • Keep the arms light and held back against the abdomen. If they are forward, they pull you out of balance.
  • Use a small firm cushion underneath and toward the back of the buttocks to support the angle of the hips.


For the legs:

  • Practise some stretching exercises (like touching the toes with both legs stretched out, while sitting).
  • If you have a lot of pain during a period of sitting, change posture, sit on a small stool or chair, or stand up for a while.
  • If you usually (or wish to) sit on or near the floor, experiment with cushions of different size and firmness, or try out one of the special meditation stools that are available.


For drowsiness:

  • Try meditating with your eyes open.
  • “Sweep” your attention systematically around your body.
  • Focus on the whole body and on physical sensations, rather than on a subtle object like the breath.
  • Stand up and walk mindfully for a while in the open air.


For tension or headaches:

  • You may be trying too hard — this is not unusual — so lighten your concentration. For instance, you might move your attention to the sensation of the breath at the abdomen.
  • Generate the energy of good-will (see the section on “Cultivating the Heart“), and direct it towards the area of tension.
  • Visualising and spreading light through the body can be helpful in alleviating its aches and pains. Try actually focusing a benevolent light on an area of difficulty



This is not a comprehensive or exclusive guide, but a suggested outline for practice. Meditators are strongly recommended to seek a trustworthy and experienced “spiritual friend” or teacher for ongoing advice.


May all beings be at peace;
May all beings be freed from suffering

Note: This booklet was originally published in 1988 by Amaravati Buddhist Centre, UK, for free distribution. It was subsequently reprinted by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia in 1997. Contact addresses:

  1. Amaravati Buddhist Centre
    Great Gaddesden. Hemel Hempstead
    Hertfordshire. HP1-3PZ. U.K.
  2. Dhammaloka Buddhist Centre
    18 Nanson Way
    Nollamara. WA 6020. AUSTRALIA

Special thanks to Phat-Tan Nguyen (Quebec, Canada) for his kind assistance in scanning the original document.

Meditation: A Course To Pave Your Happiness

Meditation: A Course To Pave Your Happiness

A busy executive took leave to attend a meditation course conducted by a well-known saint. At the end of the course, he told the saint, “Revered Sir, I agree that meditation gives peace of mind. It takes out lots of pressure out of our mind. And you say that I need to do meditation at least one hour daily. Sir, we business executives are very busy people. I am unable to spare one hour for meditation”

The saint replied, “The purpose of meditation is to make your mind pressure-free and pave way for your happiness. If you don’t find time for your happiness, continue to live the miserable life”

Meditation is the best thing that can happen to an individual. Its positive effects are tremendous. It rejuvenates your personality. It totally transforms you. Its ultimate goal is not self improvement, but self-realization, which is a much, much higher level.

Meditation is not done for any resultBut results are ingrained in its vibrations. Don’t have an iota of doubt about it. It makes your body fit. It tunes your mind. It annihilates the demon in you. It establishes divinity within you. Slowly and steadily, it changes your entire thought process for the better. When your thought process is changed, your action process is also changed.

Meditation sets the process to remove all the negative tendencies within you. In this modern materialistic world, we live the life of many pressures. We cry in anguish, we have forgotten the art of crying in joy. We have created numerous scientific appliances to make our life more miserable. Instead of our using the appliances, the appliances do make use of our life.

Meditation is the only alternative to restore the balance in your lifeWhole world including the rich nations of the world has realized that the real road to happiness is through meditation and spiritual exercises. Better late than never

Meditation is the firing of the light missile within youIts range is limitlessIts purpose is dynamic construction, not mindless destruction

The deeper it penetrates, the more beautiful will be your experiences. It will generate more peace of mind

Seeking reverence for meditation, the business executive bowed to the saint and thanked him without a further query.