Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment, Ezra Bayda

Happiness, that illusive quality, has become the subject of lots of books lately. I’ve been given several by hopeful publishers lately… hopeful that I’d review them. Well, this one is worth the review for sure.

I could start at the beginning, but I think this quote from p. 100, halfway through, is perhaps a more interesting dive into it. It will also give you a very good idea of Ezra Bayda’s approach:

Are we supposed to be grateful for our roommate who doesn’t clean the sink, or our boss who doesn’t appreciate us? Are we supposed to be grateful for someone who criticizes us? Of course we are! Because from the point of view of spiritual practice, whoever, or whatever, pushes us to our edge – to that place where we’re stuck, and beyond which we don’t want to go – is our teacher and takes us to the exact place where the deepest learning takes place.

Take that! Seriously, it’s rough advice isn’t it?

Like the whole book, this paragraph has the precise effect of facing us with our issues. In fact, one of the recurring themes in the book is the ‘how things should be’ issue. Our tendency to have a problem with what IS, because we feel it should be different. Our boss SHOULD be appreciative. Our roommate SHOULD clean up after himself.

However, the advice is a SHOULD in itself: we SHOULD be grateful to the person who criticizes us. If left to the mind itself, this can become a circle to get stuck in. I should not get annoyed at people who should be kinder.

Enter the meditation exercises Ezra Bayda has in this book. The basic premise of the book is asking three questions (still on the level of the mind):

  1. Am I happy now?
  2. What blocks happiness?
  3. Can I surrender to what is?

For me personally that last question is really what this book is about and the only meditation exercises in the book that I ended up trying (and repeating) are closer to this question, than to the others. For me that last question leads quite automatically to the answers to the other two. However, the point of the questions isn’t the answers, it’s the looking at what is that is necessary to be able to answer them.

There are various meditation exercises in the book. I didn’t try them all, nor do I think the author would advise that. Practicing one meditation exercise for a week or even longer is probably just what the doctor ordered for many of us. Baydu doesn’t answer that question, which is really the only thing in this book that’s missing.

The meditation exercise I find myself repeating every morning, and every time I don’t feel to good is the following (p. 39):

Breathing into the center of the Chest

Sitting down on a meditation cushion or chair, take a few deep breaths to bring awareness into the body.

Place three fingertips on the chest center, directly between the breasts.

Press in slightly, feeling whatever sensitivity may be there.

At the very least you will feel the sensations of the fingers against the sternum.

Become aware of the breath, and as you breathe in, feel whatever sensations arise where your fingers rest on the chest.

Imagine you are breathing as if the breath is entering the body through the chest center, almost as if there were a conduit right into the heart area.

Do this for just a minute or two, but come back to it periodically throughout the day, untill it feels natural to ‘breathe into the chest center.’

Eventually it will feel very refreshing and enlivening, as if the breeze were going right through you.

Beyond Happiness: The Zen Way to True Contentment, Ezra Bayda

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (December 14, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590308255
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590308257
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.6 x 1 inches

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