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The obstacles to happiness and how to overcome them

Everyone has their own obstacles to happiness. Perhaps it is regret for a missed opportunity, jealousy that someone else seems to be doing better than you or worry about financial planning. Some obstacles are beyond our control, but there is a great deal which we have the power to change.

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa is an active environmentalist, educator and the spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage, one of the main Buddhist schools of the Himalayas. He applies ancient Buddhist philosophy to resolve today’s problems and has thousands of followers worldwide on social media @drukpa. In his book, Happiness Is A State of Mind, His Holiness presents the core obstacles to happiness, and suggests that in combination with everyday mindfulness, meditation is a means to achieving lasting happiness and overcoming these obstacles, using our own minds. He outlines these benefits:

And here he outlines the basics of one meditation practise:

‘Sometimes people worry when they are a beginner that they might not get everything “right”. But we are really all beginners, even those of us who have been practising for many years. So never worry and know that there is no right or wrong way to meditate; it is simply a guiding process to help you get to know yourself and develop your understanding.

There are seven features of the basic posture:

1. Cross-legged, with the left leg inside.

2. Straight back.

3. Shoulders stretched straight, like the wings of an eagle.

4. Neck slightly bent.

5. Eyes open, focused and downcast to about one metre in front.

6. Mouth slightly open with the tip of the tongue touching the upper palate.

7. Hands on lap, right palm over the left, with thumbs gently touching.

You can engage in meditation anywhere – while sitting in a chair, standing or walking. However, by sitting to meditate in the position described your body is grounded, which will help to ground your mind. The main point to remember is to keep your chest and shoulders open, so that you may draw in your breath deeply and by keeping your body posture open you will help to open up your mind.

White light, black smoke meditation:

Here, while breathing in, we visualise that all the positivity of the world enters into us in the form of a white light. When breathing out, we visualise that all the negativity inside us – like anger, jealousy or sadness – comes out in the form of a black smoke.

1. Begin with a long exhalation through both nostrils – visualise all the anger, hatred, negative karma, disappointment and stress coming out in the form of black smoke.

2. Close the left nostril with your finger, inhale deeply through the right nostril and keep it in the stomach for two seconds – visualise all the positivity going into your body in the form of white light.

3. Then, close the right nostril; exhale all the negativity through the left nostril in the form of black smoke.

4. Inhale one more time all the positive thoughts through the left nostril in the form of white light.

5. Close your left nostril and exhale all the negative thoughts through your right nostril in the form of black smoke.

6. Inhale deeply all the good and positive thoughts with both nostrils in the form of white light.

7. Exhale with slight force all the bad and negative thoughts through both nostrils in the form of black smoke.’