Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This is your brain on bliss

Perfect sincerity and transparency make a great part of beauty, as in dewdrops, lakes, and diamonds.
-- Thoreau, from the Journal (June 20, 1840)
OK, so it's hard to show you your brain on bliss. But that is certainly a tranquil picture (Crater Lake in Oregon), and that's how your brain can be as well -- very tranquil.

I read this excellent article by Matthieu Ricard. Ricard is the French translator for the Dalai Lama, a former scientist turned Buddhist monk, and a well-published author. The article demystifies meditation, and shows how it is simply training of the mind. Very wise training, perhaps, but simply training nonetheless.
Authentic happiness is a way of being and a skill to be cultivated. When we first begin, the mind is vulnerable and untamed, like that of a monkey or a restless child. It takes practice to gain inner peace, inner strength, altruistic love, forbearance, and other qualities that lead to authentic happiness.
Practice indeed. And an ability to detach ourselves from our emotions.
The point here is that you can look at your thoughts, including strong emotions, with a pure mindfulness that is not associated with the contents of the thoughts.
That's really the secret, isn't it? A detachment from our emotions. Not a numbing of them -- but an ability to recognize them, and -- more importantly -- recognize that we are distinct from them.

It's all really so very simple. But it does take realization. And it does take practice. And it sounds like it is worth cultivating to me.

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