Joy is the foundation of happiness and success, which is controllable through mindfulness training. The benefits of mindfulness training start with giving your full attention to one breath. Giving your full attention to the breath, or the present moment, relieves your mind from affliction, as regret is in the past and worry is in the future, and helps you find a sense of ease (alertness and relaxation at the same time). To extend past one breath, first settle the mind, gently bringing your attention back to the present moment, and then watching your mind with composure.
Feed your mindfulness practice through joy. Incline your mind to joy by finding thin slices of joy in everyday moments and attending to these moments with gratitude and acknowledgment of finitude. Joy also comes from sources outside of yourself. The joy of loving-kindness, or wishing well for other people, helps you unlock altruistic joy (joy in the success and good fortune of others), compassion (joy in helping others be free of suffering), and equanimity (a calm mind in the face of suffering).
However, there are moments in life where it is difficult or impossible to summon joy on demand. To roll with those punches, you have to master the art of suffering: calming the mind, accepting the painful emotions, and thinking through the root cause of the suffering.
Ultimately, reaching mastery in your mindfulness practice is about effortlessness - you’ve pushed the boat to the shore and now it’s time to let the waves carry it. In the end, mindfulness training is about not stopping and not straining - don’t give up in the face of suffering or challenges, and in those moments, don’t forget to keep you mind at ease, full of loving kindness and joy.
Breathe when you’re bored
If there’s one actionable thing I started doing because of this book, it’s breathing when I’m bored. Coincidentally, I read this book around the time Sarah and I watched The Social Dilemma - a Tristan Harris documentary on the implications of the advertising model big tech companies employ to control our attention for profit. One of the implications is just reflexively pulling out your phone and browsing Twitter or Reddit when you’re bored.
So instead of taking out your phone, take a breath. Place full attention on the breath. For that one moment you’re completely in the present - regret is in the past and worry is in the future. Temporarily relieving yourself of any worry or regret, even for a split second, is the foundation of building a mindfulness practice.
Thin slices of joy
Another favorite idea of mine because it’s so simple to do - find joy in everyday moments. When you take the first bite of dinner, when the warm water first hits you in the shower, when the weather is nice and sunny. There’s joy in each of those moments but often we’re too concerned moving from one thing to the next that we end up missing all these joyful moments.
An added benefit - recognizing the joy in all these moments shifts things that you originally perceived as neutral to potentially joyful. Not in pain when you’re walking? There’s joy in that. More moments become moments of joy, which add up to longer term happiness.
Fulfillment is through mastery of the mind
We often seek fulfillment through our careers, achievements, wealth, or others. But fulfillment and happiness comes from none of that - those are what Meng calls short-lived forms of joy. They are temporary - the novelty of a raise or promotion, the satisfaction of praise from a boss or an achievement - they wear off and leave you wanting more.
Mindfulness training is about letting go of all these things. That doesn’t mean not caring - it means that success in these things will come by first mastering your mind. The consequences of a strong mind are loving-kindness, celebrating in the joy of others, having compassion, and composure in the face of struggle. No matter the challenges, you will be able to find joy in the present moment.
How small changes in inclination make big differences in how you think and feel:
The skillful way to train the mind is not to exert forceful control over the mind itself, but to change its inclination so that thoughts and emotions occur effortlessly in the direction one intends.
An important mindset in understanding growth:
When you are growing, it often feels like you are failing all the time, but I encourage you to look back at your journey every now and then and see how far you have come.
Joy is the building block of happiness and happiness leads to success, whatever you define it to be. Contrary to popular opinion, joy can be trained, and it can be trained through mindfulness training. Whether it’s the techniques I mentioned above like taking fully present breaths or finding thin slices of joy, you can incline your mind to being more joyful, and through this familiarity, finding more moments of joy.
All the small moments of joy in aggregate add up to happiness. In the same way, training your mind to find joy helps in the face of struggle. Whether it’s your job, family, or life, you’ll always have struggle and being able to roll with the tough punches of life through being predisposed to finding joy and being able to calm your mind is essential to succeeding in anything.
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