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Tahlia Newland

The discipline of Happiness

It is easy to spiral into depression or to find our lives suddenly stressful and racing along at a clipping pace. It easy to stop it too, but we think it's difficult and so we make it so. Really, it's not. We just have to have a daily mediation practice.

But even if we know that a daily mediation practice will help us, we see it as just another thing we have to try to fit into our day, and our ego battles us all the way, always finding some reason why we can't to it today. Then we may feel guilty, which adds even more stress to the situation. And on it goes. It's easy for not mediating to become a habit. Even if we're just taking a break for a while, the break can become our routine. Making ourselves happy, as in truly deeply happy - the kind that doesn't rely on anything external - does take discipline. There's no way around it.

So how do we make the leap? How do we fit mediation into our day?

We have to want to, so much so that we willingly give up something so we can fit it in.

Then we have to do it enough that we notice the difference it makes to our happiness - and therefore the happiness of others.

Then we have to remember that.

That will make us want to do it so much that we willingly give up something so we can fit it into our lives.


We can jump into this self perpetuating cycle at any point, but a good place to start is to listen to the teachings until you understand the benefits of mediation. Then you have to try it and notice the effects. You also have to notice the effects when you stop. Then you need to make it part of your routine, a part that you never question. The more you stick to your routine, the more you will feel the benefits and the more you will notice the negative results when you stop. Noticing how much happier you are, and how much easier your day is  when you've done your morning practice is the best thing for helping you stick to your routine.

It's a kind of a happy pill. Or you could think of it as a mental work out, or an inoculation against negativity. You need to take it daily, just like a vitamin.

A really practical thing is to start by  sitting up in your bed as soon as you wake up, or roll out of bed onto your cushion, and sit for 30 seconds.  Everyone can do that. Once that's a habit, you can extend it to 5mins, and that's all you need. Telling your ego that that's all you need will take the pressure off, and once it's a habit and you note the benefits, the rest will flow. The five minutes will become twenty - sure you'll have to get up earlier to make the time, but you just have to go to bed earlier and not watch that second TV show.

If I make it sound too easy, if you have too much trouble cutting through your mental mess in a short time, try chanting. It has a very positive affect on the body and mind.

Another thing that will help a lot is to find one practice that really nurtures you. Loving kindness meditation, for example, may be the best kind of mediation for you at the moment. Or chanting may be better than watching the breath for you, or maybe just dropping your mind and sitting is better. Find a way of practicing that feels so good that you don't want to miss it.

Of course, meditation is about much more than just feeling good, but working with that is  a good start to creating the kind of discipline we need to go further. Or, as in my own case, to come back to daily practice after a period of instability.

I practiced for one and a half to two hours a day for twelve years, and studied for another hour a day. I couldn't imagine my life without meditation, but then I got inspired to write a book. I ended up writing four books in that first flush of inspiration, and my practice suffered. Why? Because I wanted to write more than I wanted to practice. In a way, writing was practice because when my creativity was flowing,  I was in a meditative state, and whenever I sat down to practice, more of the story would unfold, effortlessly, in full technicolor, like a movie running through my mind.

But the not doing a formal daily practice became a habit, until five years later, I found the one practice I really needed to do. I'd been doing it before, but I'd abandoned it to give me more time to write. Gradually, my happiness had decreased and negativity grew, I had to get to a low place before I realised how much I needed this practice. After two days of reapplying myself to it, I realised - my husband did too - how much I needed it. The chanting and visualisation raised my energy and optimism markedly.

If I don't have time to do the full practice, I do a shortened version of it, but in the same way that I never miss the  tablet that controls my epilepsy,  I never miss my practice because it controls my negativity.

With the negativity out of the way, our natural peace and happiness can shine and in that state we can be an inspiration to others. That is the result of the discipline of happiness ie your daily mediation practice.


Do you meditate every day?

What helps you to stick with it?

What pulls you away from it?

What do you need to do to make time for mediation in your life?