Archive for January, 2008

Is our spirituality about finding happiness or finding Truth?

How do we view spirituality? What are we trying to find? Some of us see spirituality as a search for Truth, and many popular religions claim to know this Truth. Others view spirituality more as a quest for happiness, looking for a set of beliefs or practices that will bring this about. Both of these goals are perfectly natural: The quest for Truth is worthwhile and important, and the desire for happiness is common to us all. Nonetheless, it is important to be clear about which particular goal we are aiming for.

If our goal is to find Truth then a certain approach is appropriate. We must inquire with no restrictions on what we might find. The Truth could be good or bad: We cannot believe something because we would like it to be true, we can only believe it because we think it is true. Thus, we must question with an open mind and accept whatever we discover.

If our goal is to find happiness, then our approach is different. We are looking for a way of living that makes us feel good. The primary goal is not Truth. In fact, we may even find ourselves wanting to believe things that we think are untrue. For example, we may find it comforting to believe that a God-like figure watches over us, and yet deep down consider this possibility unlikely. In such situations, it is foolish to delude ourselves and believe something untrue. However, we can acknowledge the idea as a useful way to think, even if not necessarily factual.

Problems arise when we are confused about our goal. We may state that we are looking for Truth when deep down we are really just looking for happiness. This can result in us defending beliefs that make us happy – such as the belief in a God-like figure – even when another part of us thinks they are untrue. Such conflicts are less likely to arise when we are clear about our goal. Although we may be reluctant to distinguish between searching for Truth and searching for happiness, it is well worth doing. The two are related, but not identical, and our journey will be more directed and less confusing if we know exactly what we are aiming for.

1 Stars2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(Rate it!)

Comments

The benefits of focusing

On first consideration, it might seem that intently focusing on an activity would be an exhausting or stressful experience. However, research using indicators such as skin conductance and peripheral temperature has shown that engaging in focused activity actually induces relaxation. A popular example used to illustrate this is crossword puzzles, but the same results have been shown for more serious activities such as solving difficult mathematics problems.

Although it may seem that focusing harder would use up more energy, this is not actually true. When we focus on something, our mental activity is reduced. We are not wasting energy thinking about tonight’s dinner, replaying an argument with our spouse, or cursing how busy we are. As a result, focused activity is an energizing and refreshing experience.

As an example, the principle behind most forms of meditation is that the mind focuses on a single object such as a mantra or the breath. By paying attention to this, and not being carried away by the usual hive of mental activity, the mind becomes very still. We would likely have a very different experience if we were a passenger in a long car journey. Here, in the absence of anything to focus on, the mind tends to wander all over the place. Thus by the end of the day we feel exhausted, despite having done nothing.

Ideally, we would spend most of our day in a state of focused activity. However, some jobs by their very nature involve multi-tasking, which may seem to preclude this opportunity. Yet even in these situations, we can make sure that we keep our minds calm and attentive to the tasks at hand, avoiding unnecessary thoughts such as what so-and-so thinks about us, or what is on TV later tonight. We can also be disciplined about avoiding common distractions, such as constantly checking e-mail or browsing the web.

Naturally, the more we enjoy something, the easier it is to focus on it. But the reverse is also true. Focusing on an activity increases our enjoyment of it, and at the end of the day we feel much happier and more fulfilled. Therefore, it is worth cultivating the ability to concentrate. The benefits are not just limited to an increase in productivity.

1 Stars2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars
(Rate it!)

Comments

« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »

Personalized recommendations

(As you rate more content, we tailor the recommendations just for you)

Recommended articles

Recommended Zen stories


Recommended quotes


« Previous Page« Previous entries « Previous Page · Next Page » Next entries »Next Page »