The one question we all find ourselves asking is “how can I be happy?” Yet this seemingly straightforward question is one of the most difficult to answer.
Fortunately, Young Post met someone who may just have the answer to this question. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Nepalese monk, teacher and best-selling author who is scientifically proven to be the happiest man in the world, let us in on the best ways to find true, lasting happiness.
“When I was very young, I used to have really bad panic attacks, and I was very unhappy,” said Rinpoche, who spent years wandering the streets and living in the mountains by himself. “After I started meditation, I actually became friends with my panic. Meditation saved my life.”
There are many different kinds of meditation, and he believes the best one depends on the person.
“Some people like to sit still, close their eyes, and focus on [their] breathing. Some people are visual: maybe they like to look at flowers. Some people like to listen to sound. It depends on your personality; so whichever one is easiest for you, begin with that.”
He believes meditation is like exercise, but for the mind. So the most important thing – especially for young people – is to build a habit of meditating every day. “When I was very young, I liked the idea of meditation, but I didn’t like to practise,” he explained. “I was lazy, and I just wanted to get rid of my panic quickly. I kept thinking to myself: ‘don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic.’
“When I started to meditate seriously, I learned how to accept my panic, not fight it. I used my panic as the object of my meditation, and I found peace with panic; I enjoyed my panic. It was a [strange] feeling.”
To make things easier, Rinpoche recommends keeping meditation sessions short at first.
“You cannot meditate a lot at the beginning; it’s not a good idea,” he said. “If you are very new, maybe do five minutes [every day]. But do it for 30 days. Then, it will become a habit. Once you build up that habit, you can add another five minutes, and it gets easier and easier.”
Most people’s minds moves around uncontrollably, kind of like a monkey.
“Everyone has a monkey mind,” he said. “The monkey mind sounds like this: ‘I’m bored; I don’t want to study; I’m going to watch this video; I’m hungry; and blah blah blah.’ Monkey mind never stops talking.
“The monkey mind is always going here and there, and you cannot concentrate. Sometimes it makes us feel upset, or maybe it makes us angry, or jealous of others. You want to control your feelings, but monkey mind won’t stop talking. [You] cannot be happy if you just listen to the monkey mind.”
The key to controlling the monkey mind is, ironically, to make less of an effort to restrain it.
“Controlling the monkey mind is too difficult. It is too wild,” said Rinpoche. “What I say instead is: ‘guide the monkey mind’. Make friends with the monkey mind.
“The monkey mind likes when you give it small jobs, like ‘focus on [your] breath’. Once you give it jobs, the monkey mind starts to behave better, and you become the boss.”
We all have countless thoughts every day, and not all of them are nice. Sometimes, we think negative thoughts like “what if nobody likes me?” – and we take them too seriously. This triggers an emotion, such as sadness or jealousy.
According to Rinpoche, the solution is to separate ourselves from our thoughts and emotions as they’re happening and just watch them take place.
“When you feel a strong emotion, just relax and focus on the sensations in the body. Maybe anger makes your chest feel tight or your face feel hot – and that’s okay. Once you understand that anger is just a feeling, you don’t have to ‘become’ anger,” he said.
“You can have much better control of your emotions by practising meditation and awareness.”
Finally, Rinpoche thinks a big part of being happy is to enjoy the present.
“Normally, we are so busy going back and forth thinking about the past, then the future, the past, then the future, that we lose sight of the now,” said Rinpoche. “With meditation and awareness, you can learn how to enjoy the moment.”
While some people may think of “living in the moment” as being irresponsible and not planning for the future, Rinpoche believes the opposite is true.
“Being in the moment is good for your planning,” he said. “Being in the present means your mind becomes more calm, and you can see the future better. I actually think if you want to make a big plan, rest your mind, then think. If you just think, think, think, it doesn’t work.
Rinpoche currently runs the Tergar Hong Kong Meditation Centre, which offers free meditation classes for those interested.