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Lions Roar : March 2018
IF YOU’VE EVER WATCHED a movie that really rivets your attention, become immersed in a great book, or been totally absorbed in a project, you know how emotionally positive a state of concentra- tion can be. Most likely, you forgot all your wants and doubts. You didn’t feel tired, bored, or anxious. If you noticed it, you found you were in a pleasant mind-state. This shows us that one way you can experience positive emotional states is to cultivate the act of being fully absorbed HEART & MIND The Real Source of Happiness The Buddhist teachings on the jhana states contain a secret about where positive emotions really come from. ALLEN WEISS explains. ALLEN WEISS is director of Mindful USC at the University of Southern California and a senior teacher at InsightLA. ©ALEXEYKUZMA/STOCKSYUNITED in something, whether an activity, per- ception, or experience. In Buddhism, this is called right concentration, which, together with right mindfulness and right effort, constitutes the wisdom section of the Buddha’s noble eightfold path. The positive mind-states that arise from sus- tained concentration or absorption, such as joy, delight, happiness, and content- ment, are called the jhanas. How can you experience the benefits of the jhanas in your everyday life, when you are not meditating? The good news is that you don’t need to study the jhanas or go on a month-long meditation retreat to reap their benefits. You can use the teachings about the jhanas right now to cultivate and sustain positive emotional experiences in your life. There is a key difference between the jhanas and our typical experiences of absorption. With the jhanas, your positive mind-state is not created by something in your external world (a movie, proj- ect, book, etc.). It’s created by your own innate ability to concentrate and become absorbed in something. As the Buddhist teacher and nun Ayya Khema said, “We may believe that it’s the quality of the sunset that gives us such pleasure, but in fact it is the quality of our own immer- sion in the sunset that brings the delight.” So although we might think the trigger (e.g., the sunset) is what’s important, what LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2018 21 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE