There are two kinds of concentration meditation. The first has you focus, through a single-point, on some object (e.g. a mantra or a visualization). I think this form of meditation is ineffective. The second kind is more of a ‘composition.’ It says, in essence, that your concentration is as strong as your distractions are weak. This is a composition because distractions come from many different places and layers in the mind, and each one has a different blend of emotional coupling. The act of composing is the act of (1) becoming familiar with each distraction, (2) gleaming insights of its nature, and (3) appropriately responding with action. In this sense, one accrues concentration as one works through distractions.
I think happiness follows a similar framework: You can’t go directly for it (like the ‘single-point’ concentration meditation). Instead, happiness is the effect of an aligned composition. This alignment has to exist between the three layers of personality.
The first layer refers to basic traits (for example, the “big five”: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness (warmth/niceness), and conscientiousness). The second layer of personality, “characteristic adaptations,” includes personal goals, defense and coping mechanisms, values, beliefs, and life-stage concerns that people develop to succeed in their particular roles and niches. The third level is the “life story” that integrates a reconstructed past, perceived present, and anticipated future into a coherent life myth.
A vertical composition (having many things play in harmony) that aligns our levels of personality is an effective approach to becoming happier. This composition exists between an internal world of stoic detachment and acceptance, and an external world of meaningful goals, hopes, and valued expectations. Happiness comes from the progress of constructing a composition that exists at the intersection of pleasure (present benefit) and meaning (future benefit). Below is an attempt at some pieces that create my composition:
-climb Maslovs. Paint your mosaic of ideals in the clouds. Reify.
-attention. gratitude. awareness. appreciation. acceptance. an allowing for authenticity.
-love, not fear. Authentic connection with others.
-fill the buckets: self, family, friends, career, partner, hobbies, spirituality. Without a focal.
-don’t take myself so seriously. Life is a game. Its called Samsara. Nobody wins.
-help others. contribute to systems larger than myself.
-flow: program. solve technical problems. build beautiful things. collaborate with others.
-don’t chase ideals. the path is the goal. hone my craft.