Jun 14, 2013
When you practice joyful appreciation (mudita) or any of the related attitudes such as kindness (metta) or compassion (mudita), you become happier.
Your friends become measurably happier because you’re happy.
Your friends’ friends become measurably happier.
And your friends’ friends’ friends’ become measurably happier.
Happiness spreads outward into the world through your social network like a virus — although a rather beneficial one.
This may all seem rather incredible, but I stress the word “measurably” above because the evidence for this is solid, and is based on a huge study carried out by Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego.
Professor of Medical Genetics James H. Fowler (he’s the San Diego …
Jun 02, 2013
The third of the Brahmaviharas, or “immeasurables,” after lovingkindness and compassion, is muditā. Muditā is sometimes translated as sympathetic joy, or empathetic joy, or as appreciative joy.
Our old friend, the first century text, the Path to Freedom, describes it like this:
As parents, who, on seeing the happiness of their dear and only child are glad, and say, “sadhu!” so, one develops appreciative joy for all beings. Thus should appreciative joy be known. The undisturbed dwelling of the mind in appreciative joy — this is called the practising of it. Gladness is its salient characteristic. Non-fear is its function. Destruction of dislike is its manifestation. Its benefits are equal to
May 16, 2013
In his book, Living Ethically: Advice from Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, Sangharakshita has some advice for those who feel guilty about wanting to be happy. I have to confess that I’d forgotten that it was possible to feel this way…
“How can we wish for the happiness of others if we are alienated from our own desire for happiness?
“Unfortunately, many of us in the West were given to understand when we were young that it is selfish to want happiness for onself, and we therefore feel unnecessarily guilty about wanting it. As a result, we can feel guilty even about BEING happy. ‘After all,’ the perverse logic goes, ‘with all my
May 06, 2013
One of my favorite stories took place a number of decades ago when the English had colonized India and they wanted to set up a golf course in Calcutta. Besides the fact that the English shouldn’t have been there in the first place, the golf course was not a particularly good idea. The biggest challenge was that the area was populated with monkeys.
The monkeys apparently were interested in golf too, and their way of joining the game was to go onto the course and take the balls that the golfers were hitting and toss them around in all directions. Of course the golfers didn’t like this at all, so they tried …
May 02, 2013
Be forewarned. You’re going to see a bunch of headlines soon like this one from Business Week: Economists Nail It: You Can Never Be Too Rich.
The Business Week post is rather breathless: “I just spoke with Justin Wolfers, co-author of a short but important new paper that concludes the more money you have, on average, the happier you are.” I almost see the author’s laptop screen misting as he pants with excitement.
Business Week describes this finding thus: “That may seem to deserve a Homer Simpson “Duh!” award for most obvious research finding of the month” before going on to admit that actually previous research …
Apr 20, 2013
Yesterday I discussed what “well” means when we say “May you be well.” It’s not as straightforward as “physical health.” Today I’d like to talk about what “happy” means when we say “May you be happy.” Again this isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
I was prompted to think about this because of questions people had about the recent bombings at the Boston marathon, and what it means to cultivate lovingkindness for the bomber or bombers. But this applies to many of the people we find difficult, and whom we bring into the fourth stage of the metta bhavana practice.
One person commented that some of the people he …
Apr 04, 2013
“No man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.” Mary Wollstonecraft
Wollstonecraft’s words encapsulate perfectly something I’ve long held, which is that the Buddhist view of greed, hatred, and delusion — often called the Three Unwholesome Roots (akusala mūla) — is far removed from the western conception of sin.
Sin is “bad.” It’s “evil.” It’s a transgression against the Divine law.
When we encounter the Buddhist teaching of the Three Unwholesome Roots, it’s easy to slip it into the sin-shaped space that exists in our minds. But the Buddha’s understanding of these roots is wholly different from how sin is understood, and we need to disentangle the two sets of concepts in our own minds.
Here’s something that when you think about it is rather …
Mar 28, 2013
For years I’d heard that qigong was an ideal meditation for physical healing, and when I first experimented with it, I did find that the practice helped me feel more embodied and energetically attuned. Qigong is based on a Chinese system of still and moving meditation. At its heart is the understanding that this world is made of chi, an invisible field of energy, the dynamic expression of pure awareness.
When my health hit a new low in the summer of 2009, I decided to explore the practice more deeply by attending a ten-day qigong healing retreat.
During the third day, I remember sitting at the retreat while our teacher was guiding us: “Send …
Rick Hanson PhD
Mar 04, 2013
As the most social and loving species on the planet, we have the wonderful ability and inclination to connect with others, be empathic, cooperate, care, and love. On the other hand, we also have the capacity and inclination to be fearfully aggressive toward any individual or group we regard as “them.” (In my book – Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom – I develop this idea further, including how to stimulate and strengthen the neural circuits of self-control, empathy, and compassion.)
To tame the wolf of hate, it’s important to get a handle on “ill will” – irritated, resentful, and angry feelings and intentions toward others. While it may …
Dec 31, 2012
Robert Wright, a senior editor at The Atlantic and the author, most recently, of The Evolution of God, writes from time to time about his meditation practice, especially when he’s going on retreat, for example here and (most recently) here.
Wright has found, as many people have, that meditation improves his life. He talks of the “sharp, even cold, clarity” he gains from sitting, as well as the “warm and fuzzy” feelings that arise from that clarity.
Surprisingly, to my mind, Wright finds himself in the position of having to “defend” finding that meditation makes him happier. One commenter said, for example:
Well, if you’re talking about