Archive for April, 2013

I Want You To Be Happy Minute Mantra

It isn’t always easy to be in a good mood when interacting with people especially when there is a conflict involved.

The following blog post is a review and summary of ideas that Chade-Meng Tan (Meng) spoke about in a presentation he gave at Google.  The concepts are also the premise of the book Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).  At the end of this post you’ll find the Minute Mantra.

Meng’s three steps to improving your life, attitude and peacefulness are 1) Attention training, 2) Self-knowledge and self-mastery, and 3) Creating mental habits.

Attention Training
The first step is to increase your mindfulness using attention training.  This training develops the ability to create a mindset on demand that allows you to be calm and clear at the same time regardless of your surroundings and stress.

The attention training is simple – Meng describes the step of mindfulness as the practice of bringing attention to your breath for a 10 second period.  For 10 seconds focus your mind on your breathing – you can do this at any time, anywhere and multiple times per day.  If there’s any distraction, just let it go.  The idea is that at any time, in any situation and in any place you can drop into the state on demand where your mind is both calm and clear.

Continuing to practice the exercise of bringing attention to your breath will help you realize this and develop the ability to call upon it on demand.  The result is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.  Things may bother you, but you have the ability to calm yourself on demand.

Meng offers the following analogy for mindfulness: “your mind is… a flag fluttering in the wind, in motion or in distress. Mindfulness is like a flagpole that… grounds the mind.”

Self-Knowledge and Self-Mastery
The second step is a result of your mind sharpening when you have training in mindfulness.  You have the ability to see yourself from a third-person perspective and develop the ability to turn off emotions such as anger by shifting from existential to experiential.  The result is instead of believing that you are angry you recognize that you are experiencing anger (or happiness, sadness, etc.).

You also discover that the emotion is not you, but instead a sensation in your body which means there are things you can do about this emotion (i.e., choose to ignore it, find another distraction, etc.).  The other advantage to self-awareness is self-assessment and an increased knowledge of your resources (what truly interests you and your passions).

Creating Mental Habits
We have the ability to create the mental habits for social skillfulness.  The first mental habit is that of loving-kindness which is to look at any human being, anyone you’ve never met before and making your first thought “I want this person to be happy.”  This is also applied to a group of people in a meeting or a crowd by making your first thought “I want all these people to be happy.”    People will want to work with you and people will be drawn to you and your energy.

The mental habit of human similarity is a second mental habit which strengthens the social skillfulness muscle when you find yourself in a situation of conflict. This mental habit involves looking at the other human being and thinking, “This person is just like me.”   More specifically “This person is a human being, just like me.  This person wants to be happy, just like me.  This person wants to be free from suffering, just like me.”

There is also the act of a random intention of kindness. The idea is look at any human being at random and think, “I want that person to be happy.”  Try this while walking by someone on the street, while on the train or while driving on the freeway.  It changes your perspective and the way others perceive you.  You’ll also experience a sudden flash of relaxation, empathy and softness which others will notice in your eyes, face and presence.

Combined or practiced separately, these steps can make improvements in your life by creating calmness in yourself, empowering you to manage your emotions and increasing your effectiveness in your ability to interact with others.

A compelling byproduct to all of this is that there might be a critical mass point at which a more peaceful world is possible when more people incorporate these practices.  It is difficult to be angry, possess bias or be judgmental with someone when you say to yourself “I want you to be happy”. Imagine if everyone in the world practiced this Minute Mantra.

Minute Mantra

  1. Take 10 seconds to focus on your breathing at any time during the day.
  2. View yourself from a third person perspective and recognize that emotions are not you, but instead, an experience which can be addressed.
  3. Say to yourself when looking at a random person “I want that person to be happy”.
  4. Say to yourself when you walk into a meeting or room full of people “I want all of these people to be happy”.
  5. During a conflict with someone say to yourself “This person is a human being like me, this person wants to be happy like I do and this person wants to be free from suffering like I do”.

The book with endorsements from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chip Conely, Deepak Chopra, and Jimmy Carter can be found here at Amazon (AL)
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace)

Watch Meng discuss these concepts with Monks, engineers and Google employees in this video.

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