This morning before I fully awoke, I decided to meditate. I focused on Happiness, because in my foggy state I thought I pledged I would meditate on Happiness each day. The experience immediately felt awkward, contrived, and self-centered. I noticed I was in my head and realized something needed to change in order for me to begin to actually meditate. Then I remembered it wasn’t Happiness that I had pledged to meditate on, but rather Love. I made some mental adjustments and refocused on Love.
The experience was amazing! In an instant my focus moved from my head down to my heart. A warmth developed in the core of my body and I eased into a beautiful meditation. My monkey mind has a way of bouncing in and out of what I would call deeper meditation, but by focusing on Love I was able to visualize warm energy filling my chest and pouring out of my heart-center when my mind needed an anchor. The whole experience was gentle, light, and left me feeling positive when I moved out of the meditation and into the task of walking my dog and buying coffee from the kiosk down the street.
As I walked my dog I realized that it is the cultivation of Love, not Happiness that I would like to emphasize as a focus for lifting one’s mood or soothing anxiety. The act of cultivating Love can create a sense of well-being and because it is something generated from within and then put forth into the world, it’s contagious and has a positive effect on those around us. When we create that loving feeling (sorry couldn’t resist) others will respond with kindness and love in return. It’s a win-win and it’s so simple.
In contrast, when I thought about how our culture focuses on ‘being happy’ or ‘striving for happiness’, I was struck by how the aspiration for Happiness can in itself create depression or other feelings of discontent. The pure pursuit of Happiness is completely self-oriented and when we are too focused on ourselves we ultimately feel depressed. By looking at Happiness as a personal byproduct of much greater things — such as Love — which are both self- and other-oriented we become elevated and so do the people around us.
When I was purchasing my coffee from the barista, who is also a personal friend, I explained my experience with the meditation. She immediately understood what I was saying and we had a quiet moment of what I think was communicating love and appreciation to each other. It was a quick moment, but one that left me uplifted and positive and ready to take on the day.
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness,” — Albert Einstein