Happiness and Tranquillity
In our busy world, we tend to overlook the capacity we have to allow the mind to settle down and rest, to become deeply silent and peaceful. This stillness is a great power in meditation, and through it we can learn to listen more fully to the world around us and to the wisdom of our own heart. To support tranquillity in practice we need to foster a stillness in the body, a calmness of breath, and an inner ease and restfulness. Exercising, breathing, sitting, calming—all of this can be practiced. Tranquillity is also fostered by our time alone and by time in nature. It is not by accident that the Buddha chose to live in the forests rather than in the cities of Benares or Rajagaha. Periodic retreats and other forms of outer stillness can powerfully nourish our inner tranquillity.
Mentally, the most direct way of coming to rest is to learn to let go of our likes and dislikes. This means to stop living so much in our desires and plans and regrets. Life can become so complicated and filled by preferences and plans that we miss the actual experience of things as they are. We can go for a hike on a beautiful trail in the mountains and spend three-quarters of our time thinking about what we’re going to do when we get back. We are so attached to our judgments and plans and ideas, as though we really knew what is going to happen. We might be able to make a fair guess, but we really don’t know. We don’t know who’s going to die today or who’s going to be born; whether we’ll get run over by a car or win the lottery. A great sense of tranquillity comes when we let go of the futile urge to control everything, and instead relate to each moment with openness and awareness. It is like the cool shade of a tree to a person previously affected by the sun’s heat. It’s not that it is somehow wrong to have plans and ideas—plans and ideas are fine—it is the attachment to these ideas or the excessive reliance on them that causes the trouble.
Inner calmness is a way of being that can transform our lives. Taking one thing at a time as our focus, letting the imperfections of life be, fosters a sense of the present, a contentment with the moment. At first our meditation may develop in some ways but still be mixed with a quality of striving or judgment. As our skill in meditation grows, we can learn the art of letting go and finding a calm center in the midst of our changing sense. As we sit, extraordinary levels of silence and peace can open for us. We can feel as if the whole world had suddenly stopped moving. Our body can become light and transparent like a clear spring sky. The senses and the heart can open in a sweet and delicate way, and a powerful contentment can arise. We can learn how happiness comes from a heart at rest and not from changing outer circumstances. All of this can be discovered as a power and as the fruit of our simple mindfulness practice.