THE BLOG

Maximize Your Inner Happiness, With One Simple Mindfulness Practice

08/13/2013 03:12 pm ET | Updated Oct 13, 2013

I would like to share a little known mindfulness practice that can make a big difference in how we live each moment. It requires that we pay attention to the quality of our experience. And it is remarkably simple!

How we feel falls into three categories: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. Most of us don't stop long enough to notice, and yet this is precisely what we need to do if we are to maximize our inner happiness.

The practice goes like this:

1. Sitting down, eyes closed, get in touch with your breath and start paying attention to the quality of your experience, moment to moment, asking yourself the question, is it pleasant or unpleasant? Do this for a few minutes.

2. Then pay attention to how you react. Most likely, you will find you want to hang on to the pleasant moments, and you wil want to escape the unpleasant ones. This is how the human brain is wired. We are pleasure-seeking organisms.

3. Next notice the accompanying physical sensations in your body, particularly places of tightness. Whenever we react to our experience, our body naturally responds by tensing the muscles. We each have a place that our body favors. For me, it is a knot in the stomach, but it could just as well be tightness in the throat, or tension in the shoulders...

4. Without judgment, acknowledge the pain. The pain is two-fold, mental and physical. We stress our mind with our resisting thoughts, and we stress our body with our physical tensions. We can relax around this added discomfort, and discover the relief when we are just present for our experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant.

We can take this practice into our daily life. It can be particularly helpful when dealing with intense emotions. During the course of my work with caregivers, I am often told this is the one practice they find the most helpful. Going through a tough moment, one can relax in this simple acknowledgment of, "Unpleasant, this is unpleasant." We also learn to see the transient nature of our emotional highs and lows. Pleasant one moment, unpleasant the next one. That grief, that anger, that pain shall pass, just like anything else.

We also understand the nature of things as they really are. Embedded in the pleasantness is the seed of impermanence and hence unpleasantness. Even the most pleasant of things will turn to unpleasantness if indulged for too long. To want to cling to the idea of constant pleasure, is foolish. We need to lower our expectations and learn to welcome unpleasantness in our lives. That way, when it comes, we are not surprised, and we don't recoil with aversion.

We have little control over outer conditions, but we can definitely influence how we choose to respond. How are you feeling right now? Is it pleasant, or unpleasant? And how do you react?

This practice will allow you to maximize your inner happiness.

For more by Marguerite Manteau-Rao, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.