Joy on Demand
Rating: 9/10Author: Chade-Meng Tan Read The Original
Loved this book, as someone who has been on and off on with meditation for years this book gave me the motivation to make it a part of my lifestyle. Many people after reading this book will have a complete perception shift as to what meditation really is. It's gonna make it a no-brainer to practice it on a daily basis. If you are someone who is having a hard time maintaining a meditation practice or are completely clueless as to why people do it I highly recommend giving this book a read.
The Book in 3 Sentences
Joy On Demand Summary
- A 2003 study yields a similar finding, that just eight weeks of mindfulness training is enough to cause significant changes in the brain associated with increased happiness.
- We have a mind condition that makes us itch for two types of pleasure: pleasure of the senses and pleasure of the ego.
- we train the mind to access joy even when it is free from stimulation. This is also the secret of raising your happiness set point.
- Joy is a building block of happiness. A happy life is made up of many moments of joy.
- The ability to access joy on demand enabled me to build a happy life. In this sense, joy leads to happiness.
- And this is the silver lining of pain: whatever else it is, it’s an opportunity to practice getting better at working with pain.
CHAPTER ONE Joy Becomes You Surprising (and Not-So-Surprising) Benefits of Mind Training
- Steve Jobs, for example, famously said: If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things—that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it. One study even shows that a joyful mind’s influence on creativity lasts up to two days after the positive mood was felt.
- Confidence, however, is highly sustainable because it is independent of success or failure.
- Upon reflection, I realized that this confidence has three wholesome sources:
- 1. Confidence arising from knowing
- 2. Confidence arising from equanimity
- 3. Confidence arising from resilience
- Knowing yourself means strong self-awareness, both at the level of emotional awareness (discerning your emotions in your body from one moment to the next) and self-assessment (knowing your abilities, limitations, resources, and habits).
- The lesson from Shinzen: With meditation, you gain some mastery of mind, and once you have that, you can gain expertise in any subject.
- equanimity. This comes in part from the ability to calm the mind on demand.
- The ability to hold your ego very lightly comes partly from mindfulness training and the self-awareness that comes from mindfulness.
- The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane, charisma is the result of specific behaviors: behaviors of presence, behaviors of power, and behaviors of warmth.
- The three kinds of luck are:
- 1. Being born into the right circumstances
- 2. Being in the right place at the right time
- 3. Being surrounded by good people
- Taking advantage of major opportunities often requires completely letting go of something safe and comfortable, and venturing into a deeply uncomfortable unknown. Doing so takes two things: the self-confidence to put yourself in very uncomfortable situations, and the self-awareness to clearly know your values, priorities, and purpose in life.
CHAPTER TWO Just One Breath? Surely You Jest
- Once a person hits the Joy Point, the virtuous cycle of joy and skillfulness keeps her going. She has the skill to reliably access inner peace and inner joy, which makes her practice joyful, so she practices more and becomes more skillful, which makes her practice more joyful, and so on.
- Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Search Inside Yourself (SIY) report their lives changing during the short seven or eight weeks of their training. Based on that, I did a rough tally and arrived at the conclusion that it takes no more than a hundred hours of practice before a meditator begins to experience benefits that are significant enough to be life changing.
- Dalai Lama was asked a similar question, he said, “About fifty hours.” I had to adjust my answer so that the Dalai Lama and
- 2007 study by Chinese scientist Y. Y. Tang showed that a hundred minutes of meditation training is sufficient to effect measurable changes.
- A much more recent, 2013 study reinforced the hundred-minutes finding.
- In this study, students who practiced mindfulness meditation for ten minutes a day for two weeks, a total of 140 minutes, had measurably improved GRE scores.
- Richard “Richie” Davidson showed that when experienced meditators spent eight hours in intensive mindfulness practice, their gene expression started to change.4 Specifically, there was a reduction in the expression of pro-inflammatory genes, which correlates with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.
- Nolan Bushnell, founder of the video games company Atari. Bushnell’s Law states, “All the best games are easy to learn and difficult to master.”
- The physiological reason is that breaths taken mindfully tend to be slow and deep, and taking slow, deep breaths stimulates the vagus nerve, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system. That lowers stress, reduces your heart rate and blood pressure, and basically calms you down. The psychological reason is that when you put your attention intensely on the breath, you are fully in the present for the duration of the breath. To feel regretful, you need to be in the past, and to worry, you need to be in the future.
- A friend of mine who is an avid tennis player tells me that one very important thing that distinguishes the best tennis players in the world is their ability to reset and calm down their bodies and minds in the ten to fifteen seconds between points.
- "to meet Novak Djokovic, one of the very best tennis players in the history of the game. The first question I asked him was whether the above claim is true. He confirmed that it is indeed true. More than that, he said that at his level, tennis is no longer a physical game—it is a mental game, and a key part of that mental game is the ability to stay calm whatever happens."
- two key ingredients: gentleness in attitude, and intensity of attention.
- There are three qualities you can use, any one of which can help you get there. The first is physical relaxation. Put yourself in a situation that is physically relaxing for you. For example, sit in your favorite chair,
- Remember that meditation can be easy. You’re not doing anything in particular, you are simply noticing the breath, which happens by itself anyway. Even better, you are doing it only for the duration of a single breath. It’s so easy, even Meng can do it. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do, no goal to achieve. Where there is a sense of ease, gentleness follows. The third quality is loving-kindness.
- Intensity is important because the more intensely you are attending to the present moment, the more temporary freedom you gain from regrets about the past and worries about the future.
- Furthermore, the more intensely you practice, the longer the benefits linger after the practice.
- “The Truth About Exercise.”6 In this documentary, two subjects were shown. One subject biked at a speed he could sustain for thirty minutes a day. The other biked intensely for merely one minute a day, going all out for twenty seconds until he was exhausted, resting for a few minutes, and then going all out again. He did this three times, for a total training time of one minute. Weeks later, they both achieved the same improvements in at least two important measures: VO2 max, the amount of oxygen the body is capable of utilizing, and insulin sensitivity, which measures how sensitive the body is to the effects of insulin.
- I apply the same principle to my daily meditation: at least some fraction of my daily meditation involves intense attention to my breath.
- For example, if being intensely focused on the breath causes you to feel stressed out, then you must lower the intensity until you no longer feel stressed. Here is an important general rule: if, for whatever reason, you can only choose one, always choose gentleness over intensity. In this case, attend very gently to the breath, and over time, as you become accustomed to gentleness and get comfortably relaxed with the breath, then increase intensity.
- First, I never waste any time anymore, because every moment I wait is a moment I get to spend productively, practicing mindfulness meditation. Second, if the waiting causes me any agitation, I get to use the breath to calm down. And perhaps best of all, once you do this practice often enough that it becomes a habit, you will never be bored anymore because boredom itself becomes a cue.
- Knowing that you are not entirely at the mercy of agitation can bring some joy.
- the joy of ease is always available when the mind is both alert and relaxed at the same time.
- life-altering conclusion, which is that with sufficient proficiency in nothing more than the most basic meditative state, one may gain the ability to reliably access a highly sustainable source of gentle joy
CHAPTER THREE From One Breath to One Googol Settling into Sustainable Joy
- The first method is anchoring. This means bringing gentle attention to a chosen object, and if attention wanders away, gently bringing it back.
- Anchoring (1 Minute) For one minute, bring gentle attention to the breath, or the body, or any sensory object that affords the mind some measure of attentional stability. If attention wanders away, gently bring it back. Resting (1 Minute) For the next minute, rest the mind. If you like, you may imagine the mind resting on the breath the same way a butterfly rests gently on a flower. Or say to yourself, “There is nowhere to go and nothing to do for this one moment, except to rest.” Being (1 Minute) For the next minute, shift from doing to being. Sitting without agenda. Just sit and experience the present moment, for the duration of one minute. Freestyle (2 Minutes) For the next two minutes, you may practice any one of the three methods above, whichever your favorite is, or you may switch between them at any time.
- One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that it involves “emptying your mind of all thoughts.”
- Instead, meditation is about allowing the mind to settle on its own terms, in its own time, which includes allowing thoughts to arise as and when they want to.
- the secret to effective cooking is the skillful management of energy.
- The secret to effective meditating is the skillful management of effort.
- skillful meditator periodically does three things: periodically he arouses mental energy, periodically he calms the mind, and periodically he watches the mind with equanimity.
- “Relax” and “rejoice” cover mental relaxation, “resolve” and “refine” cover mental energy, and “release” covers equanimous watching.
- I was a stereotypical Asian overachiever with a fragile ego, so I always put a lot of pressure on myself in everything I did.
CHAPTER FOUR What, Me Happy? Inclining the Mind Toward Joy
- Inclining depends on one key faculty: familiarization. We noted earlier that meditation means familiarization, in this case, to familiarize the mind with joy.
- Whenever there is any joy arising in our field of experience, even if it is merely a subtle hint of joy, simply notice that there is joy, that is all.
- Because noticing is the prerequisite of seeing. What we do not notice, we cannot see.
- One of the ultimate goals of mind training is to completely understand four things: the nature of suffering, the causes of suffering, the nature of freedom from suffering, and causes of freedom from suffering.
- To attend to joy is to go one step further, which is to consolidate joy in the mind. The way to do that is with intensity of attention. All you need to do is to pay intense attention to joy, that is all.
- Why is this simple practice so powerful? Because it contains three elements conducive to joy all in one place: stillness of mind (from the first breath), ease and relaxation (from the second breath), and invitation and awareness of joy (from the third breath).
- That is all. For example, at lunch, bring full attention to the enjoyment of the first bite.
- habituation, which for our purpose simply means we take things for granted.
- One of the early scientific studies on Zen monks looked at this phenomenon way back in 1966.6 The study measured people’s neurological reaction to a repeated click stimulus at regular intervals while they meditated. A novice meditator’s brain, unsurprisingly, habituates to the sound and after just a short while stops reacting to that sound. In contrast, a master meditator can choose to not habituate to the sound. So even after many clicks, the highly trained mind is still reacting to each click almost as if hearing it for the first time. Zen tradition poetically refers to this as “Zen mind, beginner’s mind.”
- One BBC story titled “Bhutan’s Dark Secret to Happiness” suggests that people in Bhutan are so happy because they think about death five times a day.
- As I was drinking a glass of water in my kitchen, a powerful thought suddenly arose in my mind and refused to go away. The thought was: “At this moment, right here, right now, I am not in pain.” Specifically, at that moment, I realized I was temporarily free from physical pain. I was not having a toothache, for example. Suddenly, for once, I remembered to be happy to not have a toothache. And to not have back pain, or shoulder pain, or pain anywhere else. And I did not have any pain walking or sitting or lying down. More than that, I’d just had access to drinkable water, which means I was unafflicted by thirst. I was unafflicted by hunger and cold. More than that, in those particular few seconds, nothing particularly bad was happening in my life. I was unafflicted by the mental tortures of hatred, anger, jealousy, envy, betrayal, anguish, grief, fear, or sorrow. I was unafflicted by the mental agitation of greed, want, loss, worry, or restlessness. Dude, I was just getting water in the kitchen.
- notice the absence of pain, and noticing the absence of phenomena doesn’t come naturally to us.
- I used to think my progress would be marked by big, mind-blowing experiences. Instead I discovered something much subtler. Over time, something I refer to as the smile-reflex began to emerge.
CHAPTER FIVE Uplift the Mind in Seconds The Joy of Heart Practices
- Simply stated, loving-kindness is the wish for self or others to be happy, and compassion is the wish for self or others to be free from suffering.
- Healthy sadness is sadness without despair. Sadness without despair comes from the confidence that you have the inner resources to deal with difficulties.
- However, being successful never took away my feeling of inadequacy—it only added to it.
- There is, however, one thing I can and do fully own, which is the intention behind my actions. When I donate money out of an intention of generosity, I own that intention—that was me.
- Uplift the Mind (2–5 Minutes) Take a few minutes to: Bring to mind one or more people to whom you have brought joy or benefit out of purely altruistic intent. Reflect on the deed(s). Reflect on the good intention(s) behind the deed(s). Take delight in your good intentions and deeds. OR Bring to mind somebody you greatly admire and whom you aspire to become. Reflect on the inner goodness or the altruistic deeds of this person.
- The far enemies of altruistic joy are jealousy and envy.
CHAPTER SIX Happiness Is Full of Crap Working with Emotional Pain
- Similarly, happiness is already there, so we don’t have to create the mental conditions for happiness; we merely have to remove the mental conditions that hinder happiness.
- The meditator who learns joy without learning suffering is like the fighter who learns to attack without learning to defend—her training is grossly incomplete.
- When we experience an unpleasant bodily sensation, the sensation leads to perception, the perception leads to aversion, and the aversion leads to suffering. We don’t like feeling this way. We think we can’t stand to feel this way. The most important insight here is that aversion is the proximate cause of suffering.
- she is human, just like me; she wants to be happy, just like me; she wants to be free from suffering, just like me. Keep that in mind and give her the benefit of the doubt.
- Love yourself enough to allow yourself the space to suffer, without shame or judgment.
- Matthieu Ricard and fellow researcher Tania Singer, while researching altruism in the brain, made a fascinating discovery. When Matthieu recollected a disturbing video of handicapped children dying from abandonment and hunger, parts of his brain associated with pain were activated. ^^However, when he did that while he meditated on altruistic love and compassion, the cerebral networks linked to negative emotions and distress were not active, while certain cerebral areas associated with positive emotions were, for example, parts of the brain linked to feelings of affiliation and maternal love.^^ Matthieu and Tania demonstrated scientifically that altruistic love and compassion are antidotes for suffering.
- CHAPTER SEVEN The Great Mind Is Better than Sex
- For example, many people signed up for Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class because they were in serious physical pain that their doctors couldn’t do anything about, so their entire early mindfulness practice was around pain.
- Every thought follows a similar pattern too: first there is conception of the thought, followed by an emotional response, followed, usually, by clinging or aversion. As we saw in Chapter 6, the direct cause of suffering is the clinging or aversion, not the sensation or the thought.
- Identity has no substance whatsoever—it is nothing but a mere creation of mind.
- The advantage of meditating on sound is, unlike the breath or the body, the mind does not perceive sound as an embodied experience. Instead, it perceives sound as an experience “outside.”
- In this flavor of the nonself experience, the mind observes the sound but does not experience the presence of an observer, and then one moment later, the mind constructs the observer to cognize the absence of the observer in the previous moment.
- meditation is not about getting anything—meditation is entirely about letting go.
- what I experienced was the joy of freedom, for example, the joy of freedom from boredom, freedom from want, freedom from anxiety, freedom from my own ego, and freedom from resentment.
- Ultimately, the reason to practice and master meditation is to free ourselves and others from all suffering (L6)
- My friends, on your path to inner greatness, may you never stop and never strain.