Could you be more content? San Francisco’s Liberation Prison Project recently held its first conference that promised “tools and techniques for a happier life for ourselves and others from 40 of the best minds in psychology, philosophy, science, education, business, politics, the arts, medicine and sports.” And yes, it delivered. Here are highlights from Toward a Joyful, Carefree Mind, the opening workshop with Dr. Thupten Jinpa, the principal translator for the Dalai Lama and a visiting scholar at Stanford Neuroscience Institute’s Project Compassion.
Meditation is a workout.
People spend an hour a day in the gym to ensure fit bodies but don’t do what is necessary to have a fit mind. Meditation is a process of “internalized introspection” that bridges the gap between our knowledge and our hearts. Jinpa says formal sitting meditation “recharges your battery; you need it to live in the world.” But be patient. In Sanskrit, meditation translates as cultivation. Cultivation takes years. So it’s a struggle for Western minds, because we want everything right now.
Navigate away from negative emotions.
“When you are gripped by negative emotions, you have lost choice,” says Jinpa. Emotions belong to an old part of our brain and bring toxicity to our bodies and our space. Emotions become dysfunctional when we attach them to our perceptions. For example, if someone is shouting at us, our perception is that she or he is angry. Fear or outrage arises, and that can lead to fighting back or running away. Unless we have an effective way of dealing with negative emotions, they rob us of our happiness.
The real heartbreak.
Research shows that men over 50 who use the words “I,” “me” and “my” a lot have a greater tendency for heart attack and heart disease. Their self-absorption causes the stress that ignites the disease.
Leaving Tibet was liberating.
The Dalai Lama said that he felt a sense of freedom when he left Tibet because he left behind the “pretension of all of the rituals, formalities and ceremonies” that he had to attend.
Karma, reincarnation, rebirth are not liberating.
Jinpa says these concepts are not essential to spiritual growth or to liberation. Compassion for others and service to them is.
Suffering is the antidote to arrogance. It cuts you down to size so there is no division between you and others. Adversity and suffering are opportunities to develop greater empathy for others. “Suffering makes you real,” Jinpa says. “In the West we want to believe we are special, unique. But we are all human beings and we all suffer.”
The truest teaching.
“As a Buddhist, I can say that the New Testament has the most powerful teachings on compassion,” he says. As Jesus revealed, advanced spiritual practitioners confront their enemies. Try it: Vow to be kind to the person causing you harm.
Deal with life’s ups.
“A true spiritual practitioner must learn to deal with life’s downs and ups. Ups can create arrogance. Equilibrium allows a carefree state of mind.”
Real happiness is inside.
“The more we depend on externals for happiness, the more we open ourselves to unhappiness,” Jinpa says. The more we transform our adversities into enlightenment, the more content we become.
And that’s what I want for you, dear readers—enlightenment and the happiness it brings.