The following is an excerpt from a book by leading Buddhist Fabrice Midal. 

‘Is Meditation only for Buddhists?

Is Meditation only for Buddhists? By Fabrice MidalMeditation isn’t about attaining a state of calm, or emptying your head, or applying certain techniques. It’s about being more present, and learning to see things as they are – and this is something all of us can do! This illuminating book takes the reader on a true journey of discovery, revealing how the story of the Buddha reflects our own lives, and offering meditations to guide us in the everyday situations we face.

True Happiness

The Buddha grew up receiving an education in keeping with his position. For his sixteenth birthday, his father had three palaces built—one for the cold season, one for the hot season, and one for the rainy season—and decided to choose a wife for him from among the daughters of the neighbouring monarchs.

The prince was asked what he wished for. He gave no value to the caste of his future wife, but wished for her to be firm in the face of truth, modest, and to always act with kindness. A young woman, Yashodara, perfectly met with these conditions, but her father refused to give his daughter to a man who could not prove he was truly skilled in the arts, or knowledgeable on the rules of fencing, archery, scripture, or good with numbers.

Bronze Buddah, Nepal, 18th century

Bronze, Nepal, 18th century

A great contest was organised. The prince demonstrated his skills in the twelve arts. The young Yashodara was then given to him to be his wife.

The texts describe the numerous pleasures to which he could then devote him- self. However, in the midst of these various pleasures, he realised this was not the life he wished to lead. None of this managed to satisfy him.

His privileged situation allowed him to understand early on what most men take far longer to discover: that having a high social standing, being rich, intelligent, and possessing everything you want is not enough to acquire true happiness.

Meditation on true happiness

We expend a great deal of effort to improve the external conditions of our existence, but we neglect our own mind. Yet it’s precisely our state of mind that allows us to be happy. There are examples to prove this: some, who lead a comfortable life, are unhappy, while others, who have almost nothing and encounter difficulties, radiate with joy.

You, too, can feel the joy of being in the here and now, wherever you are. There’s no need to wait for the arrival of a particular event or person. You can experience this feeling right now. Here are some instructions to help you get there.

Settle yourself down on a cushion or on a chair. Take the time to notice how pleasant it feels to be sitting. Then sit up straight. It’s such a good feeling to no longer need an excuse to be, and to feel yourself sitting upright. Then feel how good it is to breathe. and simply be present to the joy of inhaling and exhaling.

You are now feeling the ordinary yet magnificent simplicity of just being.

This state isn’t perfect, of course. It doesn’t prevent fatigue, tension, or occasional painful emotions from overwhelming us. But these discomforts don’t ruin our happiness of being.

It’s this happiness, independent of external circumstances, which the Buddha teaches us.

Bronze, Nepal, 18th century

This was an excerpt from ‘Is Meditation only for Buddhists?’ by Fabrice Midal. Fabrice Midal is one of the leading teachers of secular meditation in France, and founder of the Western School of Meditation.