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True Happiness Is...

By Howard Cohn

The imagined happiness and security we feel when we think of fulfilling our hopes and desires is just that: imaginary. It’s a happiness that is dependent on specific circumstances. It’s a happiness that we gain when circumstances are in our favor, and a happiness that we lose when those circumstances change.

This “happiness” is actually a form of bondage.

True happiness is free — no strings attached.

True happiness is real.

True happiness is here and now.

True happiness is lasting.

True happiness is peace.

True happiness is our true nature, our natural state, and our birthright.

True happiness is all there is.

Why would we ever choose anything else?

But we do. We enslave ourselves to ever-changing circumstances and outcomes. We tie our happiness, our well-being, and our enjoyment of this most precious gift of life to the unpredictable whims of the world. We seek happiness outside ourselves when there is an abundance within. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves?

Perhaps we know of no other way. Perhaps because it is our mind’s habit to wander — to become lost in thought, swept up in thought, swept up in imagined scenarios, and attached to outcomes.

There is another way.

That way is here in the present moment. That way is found by guiding our attention back to the present moment when it wanders away from it. Gently. And repeatedly. That way is found by reconnecting with our breath and our bodily experience — sights, sounds, and sensations — again and again. That way is found by establishing new habits of mind.

And how can we do that?

We can meditate.

Excerpted from Invitation to Meditation: How to Find Peace Wherever You Are by Howard Cohn (Chronicle Books, 2016).

Howard Cohn has practiced meditation since 1972, and has led vipassana retreats since 1985. He leads a weekly ongoing class in San Francisco. Howard has studied with many Asian and western teachers of several traditions, including Theravada, Zen, Dzogchen and Advaita Vedanta, and has been strongly influenced by contact with the Indian master H.W.L. Poonja. He has done postgraduate work in East/West Psychology and has a private counseling practice. Howard leads a weekly sitting group in San Francisco on Tuesday evenings 7:30 - 9 pm at St. John's Episcopal Church, 1661 15th Street at Julian (between Valencia & Mission); entrance on Julian St. through the garden. For more info call (415) 447-7761 or visit MissionDharma.org.

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