Happiness-Psychology and Spirituality

By: Anmol Piplani (LTEN)


Happiness is absorption.” – T E Lawrence

Welcome back to science and spirituality. This is the fourth article in series.

Hope you have seen videos I mentioned in last article on HeartMath, Heartfulness. If not, here are the links



{Another must watch 3 minute inspiring lovely video from Jason Silva, this one about creative absorption and flow: we will not discuss this video as this is worth watching}


First video:TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

He starts with a chart showing that percentage of Happiness has not changed with economic growth over last 5 decades. He says that although lack of material resources contribute to unhappiness but increase in material resources doesn’t contribute to increase in happiness.

He quotes some artists and professionals…

Quote by a music composer

You are in an ecstatic state to such a point that you feel as though you almost don’t exist. I have experienced this time and again. My hand seems devoid of myself, and I have nothing to do with what is happening. I just sit there watching it in a state of awe and wonderment. And {the music} just flows out of itself

Quote by a Poet

It’s like opening a door that’s floating in the middle of nowhere and all you have to is go and turn the handle and open it and let yourself sink into it. You can’t particularly force yourself through it. You just have to float. If there’s any gravitational pull, it’s from the outside world trying to keep you back from the door.

By a skater

It was just one of these programs that clicked. I mean everything went right, everything felt good…it’s just such a rush, like you feel it could go on and on and on, like you don’t want it to stop because its going so well. It’s almost as though you don’t have to think, it’s like everything goes automatically without thinking…It’s like you’re on automatic pilot, so you don’t have any thoughts. You hear the music but you’re not aware that you’re hearing it, because it’s part of it all.

By CEO of Lockheed Martin

Success is contributing something and being happy while doing it. You have to enjoy what you are doing.

By Masaru Ibuka- The first “purposes of Incorporation” of Sony-

To establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society, and to work to their heart’s content

These are the examples with which he describes the concept of FLOW, how the state of FLOW is created in a musician, a poet, a skater, work life of a CEO and in a company of engineers.

He says that we can be in flow when we are doing some work, playing some music, be with one’s best friend, etc

Flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. According to Csikszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channelled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.

Second video:TED talk by Martin Seligman

Martin says that he said that they have means to measure happiness. They studied ‘Very happy people’ and how do they differ from other. They found that it’s not about the money, their bodies, their religious involvement, good or bad events. In one way they differed from others is that they were extremely social and have a romantic relationship. This is not causal data but a correlational data. This happiness is what he mentioned is in the Hollywood sense-happiness of ebullience, giggling and good cheer. And that’s not nearly enough.

He came up with 3 classifications of “Happy Life

  1. Pleasant Life-Life full of Pleasures.
  2. The good Life (Engagement/Flow)
  3. The Meaningful life

The pleasant life slowly decreases in degrees as we become more habituated to these pleasures.

Then he talks about a friend –‘Len’. He was a very successful stock trader and a bridge player. But he was an introvert. The American women, as he says, rejected him and he comes in bottom five percent of what they call positive affectivities. So the question is Unhappy? He says, in fact, he is one of the happiest people in the world because Len was enormously capable of FLOW. When he entered his work place or when he entered a bridge game, Time would stop for him. In flow one would forget himself while engaged in a activity, while in pleasure one is conscious of oneself. This is what Mihaly talked about. You get more absorption.

And the third life is meaningful life-which in parallel to life of engagement-is using one’s skills to service of something larger than you are.

He says that life satisfaction is achieved highly when one has both engagement and meaning while pleasure doesn’t stand anywhere. If one has both the FLOW and MEANING then PLEASURES are just like whipped cream and cherries. One can have all three and that’s called FULL LIFE.

And he says that our Health and productivity is the directly proportional to degree of FULL LIFE.

Happiness according to Spirituality

Happiness is not anywhere outside. It is in our fixing the attention, in the steadiness of disposition, and in the withdrawal of our mind. The mystery of happiness lies in the steadying and settling down of the activity of mind

Shri Ram Chandra (a.k.a Lalaji Maharaj), Fatehgarh, founder of Heartfulness Meditation.

Secret of Happiness is known to Eastern Mystics from ages. Remember, quotation of Patanjali on Samyama quoted in last article. It talks exactly about the same thing- Absorption .

There are many areas in which we can experience absorption. We can have absorption in Gaming, sports, music, dance, studies, any kind of work, meditation, talking with friends, with our loved ones, etc.  Anything in which we can forget ourselves partially or completely.

Shri Lalaji Maharaj elaborates that it is the settlement of current of mind (absorption) which gives happiness and its unsettlement from that particular thing will give sorrow. If our current of mind is settled on body, we will feel happiness when we are healthy and sorrow when we are unhealthy. But suppose during ill health if we get absorbed in music, for that particular time period we will forget our sick body and its ill feelings. In fact the soothing feelings of mind may help body to repair better.

There are also different levels of absorption-Body, Mind and Soul.

  • We all understand what all things can come under bodily pleasures-Food, Sex, etc. And while we are on this topic, I would like to point out effect of drugs in creating what we call ‘High’. This is the chemistry of body affecting the mind. By these attempts we weaken the mind. We should understand that Mind is a very powerful instrument when properly regulated and used. And as we will discuss later, we do not need drugs or alcohol to attain the states of high. Regular mediation can itself leads to places beyond imagination and also enhance our awareness levels.
  • Under the level of mind, mental and intellectual pleasures come. Under this head all the artistic talents, solving math & science enigmas, engineering, etc comes.
  • To move towards a higher level of absorption we turn our attention towards the soul through meditation. (We experience the soul consciousness every day during deep sleep period, but we are not able to retain in because of our limited conscious level)

That is the meaning of what spiritualists say about bodily consciousness and soul consciousness.

So to understand, we all engage in one activity or the other to move into state of happiness. But the thing is, state of happiness gained is temporarily in all the engagements. Meanwhile Sorrow also follows. Because where there is happiness, there is Sorrow too (principle of duality). And also as understood from above, there are different levels of engagements. So what to do if we aspire to permanently move into the state of ultimate happiness.

That is what Heartfulness meditation provides. Gradually our mind gets regulated and starts settling on something finer. But it doesn’t mean we get distracted from all other things. As Rev. Kamlesh Patel (current president of Shri Ram Chandra Mission) explains that we acquire 360⁰ awareness with the regular practice of Heartfulness meditation: ‘We are aware of both inner world and outer world without getting disturbed from either and carry out all activities’.

Through regular practice of meditation we extend the period of absorption from the limited duration of meditation to 24 hours of our daily routine.

If we look again the quotation of the music composer presented by Dr. Mihaly, we can say that this is the state of forgetfulness (which we discussed in last two articles) which the composer achieved and music flowed out automatically. This very state of forgetfulness is what we try to achieve through meditation on heart. This state of forgetfulness is the state of union or Oneness. So in a way we go beyond Happiness where there is neither happiness nor sorrow (similar to state of beyond knowledge, “Ultimate Ignorance”-as we discussed in second article)

And if we see all the quotations by different artists Dr. Mihaly used, we can see that this is also the highest state of Concentration. So we can also say that

Concentration is in Absorption

(By Shri Ram Chandra Maharaj of Shahajahanpur, a.k.a Babuji, successor of Lalaji).

This is the place where from all knowledge and creativity within us can be accessed easily.

And with gradual increase of our consciousness level, when we ultimately become absorbed in ‘Brahman’ (Universal Consciousness) through practice of Meditation, we move beyond the individual soul consciousness too and arrive at what is coined as ‘Brahmanand’(Supreme Bliss).

This is what half an hour to one hour of daily practice of Heartfulness meditation can lead to. Explore more at www.heartfulness.org

So, thank you and Happy Meditating.

Next Topic: Freedom-Science and Spirituality

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