Have you ever stopped to notice change? It's happening all the time everywhere. Change is natural, just look around and you will see the leaves change colors; the moon changes phases, and the ocean waves ebb and flow. Change also happens in our daily lives with fashion, technology, workplace re-orgs, relationships, health, thoughts and emotions. As the famous saying goes, "The only thing constant is change."
This concept of change is exactly what I spent three days pondering and exploring at my recent "refresher" Vipassana course out in beautiful North Fork, Calif. I put the word refresher in quotes because technically that's what these short courses are meant to be, a re-charge for old students that have previously completed the 10-day course. In my case it was a combination of "shocker" and "refresher."
Vipassana literally means "to see things as they really are," and it is an ancient Indian meditation technique taught by a lineage of teachers from the time of Buddha, over 2,500 years ago. The whole idea of it is to understand the deep connection of mind and body through self-observation. The practice is done in noble silence meaning no talking, reading, writing, eye contact, etc.
I quickly realized how much junk I had accumulated in my brain and body since my last course. My body was literally vibrating while I was sitting on my cushion in a room full of silent people and I couldn't help but wonder if anyone else felt me shaking. The first set of directions was simple, focus on the breath. I looked for my breath and realized it was nowhere to be found. Of course I was still breathing; however, I could not notice the subtleties of my breath as it traveled through my body. It's a bit embarrassing to admit given that I teach about the breath through yoga and meditation; I should be able to drop right into this, right? Wrong.
After my ego finished having its meltdown I came to understand the reality of the situation. Something had changed. Regardless of my extensive work teaching meditation, first and foremost I'm human, and like all humans I am affected by my surroundings. I stopped to reflect on the months leading up to this course and quickly realized my high energy and lack of focus was an indicator of poor meditation maintenance as of late and increased tech toxicity (hmm... maybe I shouldn't have gotten that iPad). The good news is everything changes. With some deep breaths and practice I noticed my breath flowing and I managed to find a seated position that didn't send my foot straight to sleep.
Change can be evaluated in many ways boiling down to two fundamental opinions -- good or bad. Depending on your opinion, the experienced change can lead to happiness or misery. After three days of silence and 30 hours of meditation I discovered that the key to happiness is accepting change.
Here are three ways to master the art of happiness in 90 seconds or less:
1. Let go. Everything (feeling, thought, emotion, experience) rises and falls. Enjoy the experience for what it is. Feel happy during a happy occasion and then let it go. Feel sad during a sad occasion and then let it go as well. Everything changes all the time.
2. Remain equanimous. The body's natural state is to return to balance. Staying in a constant state of excitement or sadness results in dis-ease. When emotions run high practice staying even tempered. If you don't get too carried away in a reaction you regain balance quickly. Again we're human, we laugh we cry. Feel it, and then let it go by refocusing the mind on the breath, you will automatically stop reacting to whatever it is triggering your emotion.
3. Wait 90 seconds. This is the amount of time it takes for the body to process a wave of intense emotion. If you don't react to the initial trigger, slowly the energy will dissipate and you will regain balance.
Everybody is unique and different, but we all experience change on some level. Commit to trying out these tips for one week and master the art of happiness.
Mindfulness doesn't require five days in silence or hours under a banyan tree. Sign up to get a free "Press Pause" audio meditation to add a dose of mindfulness to your well being journey in less than five minutes.