Happiness Divided

Happiness is a general term, and because of that, the word isn't very useful. But when we break happiness into its component parts, we find a new realm of practical possibilities for increasing our own happiness. Let's look at these component parts. When we say we're happy, we are experiencing one or more of the following:

1. flow (feeling engaged or deeply absorbed in an activity)

2. pleasure (physical stimulation of pleasure centers of the brain, production of endorphins)

3. affection (feelings of closeness, warmth, love)

4. contentment (calm and pleased with things as they are at this moment)

5. excitement (feelings of thrill and anticipation)

6. satisfaction (feeling productive or glad you accomplished something)

This is what happiness is made of. These are the component parts of the general term happiness. With happiness divided like this, we have something we can work with. For each of the component parts, you could profitably ask, "When is the last time I felt it?" Or "How can I have more of it?" Dividing happiness like this is simple enough, but it has powerful consequences. It gives you more control over how much happiness you experience in your life.

Ask yourself or anyone else, "What can you do to be happier tomorrow?" It's a difficult question to answer. But you could easily answer the question, "How can you feel more productive tomorrow?" Or, "How can you experience more flow?"

Look at the list. What is your favorite kind of happiness? How can you make more of it? Could you schedule something tomorrow?

On that list, which kind of happiness do you experience least often? Do you know how you could make more of it? Could you schedule something this week?

This is a profound and useful insight. We all want to be happier. But when you think of happiness in its component parts, you really can be.

look again at meditation

Some kinds of meditation cultivate calmness. Mantra meditation is one of them. In ancient India, they called calmness-cultivating meditation samadhi meditation. This is distinct from sati or mindfulness meditation. The two kinds of meditation overlap in their methods and effects but they each emphasize something different. Sati (mindfulness) cultivates an acute awareness of what's happening in this very moment. Samadhi (concentration) cultivates a deep calm.

In samadhi, you hold a single thing in your attention, like a mantra or the breath. In sati, your focus of awareness is more open and fluid. You pay attention to whatever is happening: A thought, a feeling, a sound, whatever. And you try to give it all of your attention.

Samadhi meditations like mantra cultivate certain aspects of happiness:

- calm
- serenity
- bliss

Sati exercises like zazen cultivate certain other aspects of happiness:

- flow
- satisfaction at doing a job well
- communication with others

Both cultivate equally well a sense of contentment and feelings of empathy and affection for others. When you meditate, you will become happier. But happiness is a general term with many components. You can choose which components you most want to cultivate, and then choose the meditation method to help you develop those components in your life.

Many of the teachers of sati meditation consider samadhi meditation to be like training-wheels. Zen practice is like that. Many of the Thailand and Burmese Buddhists believe it too. They consider the "real" practice to be mindfulness meditation.

But samadhi is vital. It is a kind of training in transcending your own attachment-compulsion. How can you let go of fears and desires if you can't even let go of some fleeting, unimportant thought?

The process of awakening starts with samadhi, continues with samadhi, and requires samadhi. It is not really a first stage. In a sense, it is the whole enchilada. In fact, samadhi is a kind of mindfulness and helps to develop mindfulness. But more important, you gain a deep calm with which you can face life and solve problems and strive for goals more effectively and in better health.

Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.

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