Happiness? What?

I was thinking that the holiday season seems to be more fraught with the futile expectation of happiness than any other time of the year. On that jolly note, I thought it might be useful to share with the group some odd takes (to me, anyway) on the pursuit of happiness. The first article is Nobel prize winning psychologist talking about happiness as something that is ephemeral, while what he calls satisfaction is defined as more long-term, but it doesn’t seem to be much fun! The other story discusses how the more we define our lives by the need to be happy, the more unhappy we are! I’d like to think that the group got something out of it: but it might be best to just listen to Joseph Goldstein’s video on how to deal with the angst of our chaotic age again and again (giving you the link below, again!).

A Nobel Prize-winning psychologist says most people don’t really want to be happyhttps://qz.com/1503207/a-nobel-prize-winning-psychologist-defines-happiness-versus-satisfaction/

Why the quickest route to happiness may be to do nothing: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20181218-whats-the-quickest-way-to-happiness-do-nothing

Wisdom for Troubled Times:


I led a one day retreat in Cincinnati yesterday, and I was struck by the power of the distracted mind; watching others and watching myself. This led to a contemplation today on how easily we slide into distractions which pull us away from the present moment and dump us into the “ongoing drone of thought fragments and opinions.”

The group all remembered that we shouldn’t be eager to condemn our inevitable slide into the distracted mind, but rather, when we come back to our bodies and the present, we can rather congratulate ourselves for our lovely moment of awareness!

Acknowledgement and Understanding

We talked about our search for forgiveness and our need to “fix” ourselves and assumption that there’s something about us that always needs fixing.  I am taking some ideas from Mary Ellen’s Landolina’s wonderful talk at the Wednesday sitting group. I also quoted from a newsletter I received on a new book by Anne Lamott: Here’s the newsletter that I quoted from:

On forgiveness

I also found a very powerful article on the power of connecting with someone and the difference it makes. Take a look at this:

from the Guardian: https://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/how-to-help-someone-who-is-suicidal/

Suffering and Retirement!

We had a smaller group today, but it was very cozy.  I read a piece on suffering: this time some wise words from the writer Ursula La Guin, who speaks about the universal experience of suffering and it’s place in our lives:


 The conversation then morphed into a talk about our views on retirement, being productive, and being shaped by our expectations of ourselves and society.  It was all quite interesting.

Antidote to Anxiety

We talked a bit today about anxiety, our own personal sources of angst and our conditioned responses to them. I shifted from eastern writings to the wisdom of the ancient Greeks: here is a lovely article from “Brain Pickings” (I highly recommend the site for bibliophiles!) 

We’re moving south this week from the shores of Lake Superior to Covington Kentucky, so I’ll give you a view of the Ohio River next Sunday!


This being Thanksgiving week, and the beginning of the holiday season, we may find it difficult to maintain a consistent formal meditation practice. I thought it might be  a good time to talk about the small moments we can anchor ourselves in the present moment, take a look at what we’re doing, and look at our “intentionality.” These are moments when we are not only mindful, but we recognize our ability to make a choice. Those moments where we act out of wisdom are like planting “karmic” seeds which can grow and generate more wisdom and less suffering. Moments where we are acting out of habit or mindlessness have the potential to lead to more suffering.

Gil  Fronsdal has a great article on this: Karma and Intention: Link


We talked about the possibility of doing nothing; of resting in a place of quiet, with no “should” and “shouldn’t.” Sometimes we forget that the essence of meditation is to (eventually) get to a place where we are at ease.

Everyone shared some very tender and sensitive places where we don’t often go, and I and I believe everyone appreciated that. We talked about what a strong inclination we all have to being distracted by our cell phones and other devices, and how driven we are to feel we need to “get things done”, unless illness or pain force us into stopping. I suggested this article. 

Warning: this article is written (and titled) in such a way as to assure you if you do this you will still be “productive.” The authors are still deeply fixated on our powerful belief that only if you are “doing” something, is it viable.


I also found another article about the Buddhist technique of samadhi, or just being aware of your thoughts. Samadhi practice is basically doing nothing!

I also shared a book which discusses our fear or resistance to rest and lying in bed, doing nothing!

I just want to end with saying that our final meditation was not a meditation at all: it was resting. My instructions were to do nothing or whatever each person wanted. So, was it a meditation?

Oodles of Empathetic Joy for this week!

I wanted to offer the group some Dharma-type support for how to survive the upcoming elections. I found an article that I forgot to include in our class last week on Empathetic Joy, and thought it would be good to refer to it.  Using the delightful film, “Groundhog Day” it illustrates the potential for finding happiness by appreciating the goodness in others:

I also gave the group a list some of the things I go to as a relief for anxiety; they offered some ideas of their own (which included appreciating the good circumstances in their lives, remembering impermanence, happiness that people are actually out voting, and the joy of a real groundhog)!

Here is another antidote to anxiety:

Bach’s Double Violin Concerto:

Neither good nor bad

We had a rather “interesting” talk today, in the wake of all the sadness and agonies going on in the world right now. I thought it might be useful and maybe could give us some ease by noting or looking at the quality of equanimity. It’s not easy to do, because it might seem that equanimity is saying that everything is great the way it is. But it’s not about being blind to the suffering of the world at all, it’s recognizing that we can’t change the way things are at this moment and sitting with the suffering with compassion, love, and a sense of calm.

There’s a lot more to it than that, of course. Here’s the link to the article in Tricycle magazine. It’s a really helpful article, so if you don’t have a subscription, send me an email!

If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? –Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Feedback loops

Well, it looks like this week I re-used an article from Tricycle which I mentioned in another post. However, this is because I focused on a different aspect of the article, so that’s my excuse! Better excuse: I forgot!

I wanted to use it because I loved this paragraph:

Meditation interrupts the endless feedback loops between consciousness and language, between consciousness and being, not disrupting them as one might with a drug or madness, but opening a space, a pause, a higher order function of attentive compassion. In practice, one learns to accept finitude, mortality, and the great ending, and in practice, one learns to cultivate the patience, compassion, and peace that lead to freedom.”

The article is based on the book: “Learning to Die in the Anthropocene”

We had a talk that we agreed was much too extensive and deep to do in 15 minutes! Here’s the Rumi poem I promised:

This is a verse from the poem:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”
doesn’t make any sense.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”