By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch
In my guidebook, “Millionaire Meditation,” there are 40 ways to achieve the happiness that comes from meditating. All 40 have one common element: To be truly happy you must master “Rule One — Focus on What You’re Doing in This Moment, and Nothing Else.”
Billionaires have mastered this rule passed down from the great Chinese Buddhist masters: To be truly happy, they focus on money, block everything outside that Eternal Now, at least till you become a billionaire and can sign the “Giving Pledge” along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, to give most of your money for the common good. Till then, you must meditate on becoming a happy billionaire, focusing on money, nothing else.
The challenge: Judging from the new 170-page United Nations World Happiness Report, our “Millionaire Meditation” may not be helping the 99% rest of the world be happier. Jeff Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, an editor of the report, confirms the world’s seven billion are not real happy campers. Even millionaires are not happy.
It’ll get worse in the next generation. At least for the masses as the UN is now upping its forecasts: Global population may reach 11 billion by 2100, with China leading.
Are New China’s billionaires happier than American millionaires?
“New China Billionaires’ Happy Meditations Guide” will be the title of my next edition. Why? Meditations in my current book — like running, the arts, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness — evolved from ancient Chinese Buddhist traditions.
But China’s new leaders believe the ancient ways are too slow for their accelerated economic plans, may be ignored. Perhaps. Still China must find multitasking solutions that integrate its urbanization plans with the time-honored ethics of Buddhist meditations.
So the new, special edition is to help China’s Communist Party leaders and their billionaire capitalist buddies who must focus intensively on the “New Eternal Now” to achieve their just-announced plans to accelerate China’s GDP growth … with their bold plan of rapid urbanization … spending trillions, building hundreds of new high-rise cities … relocating 250 million rural farmers in one decade … and incredible 500,000 a week … as China marches relentlessly to emerge as the world’s dominant economic power by 2040 … with a GDP of $123 trillion equaling 40% of the world’s economy, as predicted by Nobel economist Robert Fogel.
Yes, China-in-transition needs calming meditations.
To begin: Here’s our modified “14 Secrets of Happiness,” a summary of the “Millionaire Meditation” updated with commentary for New China’s billionaires and Communist Party leaders planning to move 250 million people off farms and into high-rise cities.
As a former city planner, architect and attorney, this is the ultimate “impossible dream,” with huge risks, uncertainties, mine fields. So in daily meditations New China’s leaders must consider these 14 happiness meditations as koans — questions without answers — challenges for you personally, your personal odyssey — not just some collective quest to create a New China.
Meditate on these challenging koans:
1. Happiness is doing what you love
Love every minute till 2013. Zen master Warren Buffett once said, “I tap dance to work, and when I get there, I think I’m supposed to lie on my back and paint the ceiling. It’s tremendous fun.” He also said, “success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” Koan: In 2023 will you be happy with whatever New China you get?
2. Happiness is faking it so well that you really are happy
In “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior” the young disciple’s mentor says: “A fool is ‘happy’ when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That’s what makes happiness the ultimate discipline … goes on forever. Act happy, feel happy, be happy, without a reason in the world.” Will you build the New China of a billion happy Chinese?
3. Happiness is making others happy — family, friends, even strangers
Use multitasking meditations. Focus on money with your left brain. With the right hemisphere: Loved ones. I have over 300 Buddhas all over our home. My wife loves Mary Engelbrecht’s calendars. Our favorite has a happy, bright-colored Santa strolling along with a huge bag of gifts — reminds me of our Happy Hotai Buddhas — with an Oscar Wilde saying: “Some cause happiness wherever they go.” Do new cities cause happiness?
4. Happiness is getting lost in whatever you’re doing
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi looks more like jolly St. Nick than a psychology teacher. In Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness,” Mihaly says he’d been studying happiness forever. His best definition: “Being deeply involved in the moment” with no “opportunity to think about anything but the task at hand.” This is a great multitasking koan for China’s leaders relocating 500,000 farmers a week: Namaste, can you trust your inner Buddha?
5. Happiness is getting into action and doing what’s right
In “The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems,” martial artist Chuck Norris says: “At heart, we all want the same thing … enlightenment … happiness … love. Too many people spend their lives waiting for that something to arrive … Zen is always on the side of action, always on the side of doing what is necessary and right.” Action plus heart.
6. Happiness is feeding Cheerios to a baby
When you have trouble focusing on the next decade (and you often will), go home. Stop. Read “A Short Guide to A Happy Life.” Anna Quindlen suggests you “pay attention to a baby as she scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a Cherrio with her thumb and first finger. Turn off the cell phone … keep still … be present” with “people you love.” Then go back to building your New China with a clearer mind.
7. Happiness is often ‘doing nothing,’ say the ancient zen masters
In “The Art of Doing Nothing” Veronique Vienne relates this little de-stressing gem: “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” said Bacall to Bogart. “Just purse your lips and blow.” If you “want to take some pressure off … a tense situation, try whistling a few notes. …. You feel pretty sexy and carefree with your puckered lips.” Can you hold onto that happy feeling for just one hour, while you’re moving another 10,000 farmers to your new cities?
8. Happiness is a bunch of little moments more than big deals
From Roger Rosenblatt’s “Rules of Aging”: “Rule 40. A long, happy life lasts five minutes.” Five minutes is already an eternity in today’s China where a quarter are over 60, with health needs, living below the poverty line. Build lots of affordable housing?
9. Happiness is knowing when ‘enough is enough’
Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh was a close friend of the Trappist monk Thomas Merton. In “Stepping Into Freedom” he reiterates: “Buddha says happiness can only be possible in the here and now … the conditions of happiness that are already there in your life.” Koan: Would all China be “better off” if farmers over 60 stayed on the lands?
10. Happiness is not being attached to money and stuff
Henry Miller’s opening line in the “Tropic of Cancer”: “I have no money, no resources, no hopes, I am the happiest man alive.” Buddhist monks “vow not to allow money or possessions to become a preoccupation,” to be “happy just by being aware of what is in front of us.” Koan: Have China’s monks reviewed the accelerated building plans?
11. Happiness is spending less than you earn
Remember this truth from Charles Dickens’ famous formula: “Annual income, 20 pounds; annual expenditure, 19 pounds; result happiness. Annual income, 20 pounds; annual expenditure, 21 pounds; result misery.” Dan Millman echoes that message in “The Way of the Peaceful Warrior”: “The secret of happiness is not found in seeking more, but in the capacity to enjoy less.” Or as Confucius might say, are China’s economic plans too fast?
12. Happiness is being of service … to the whole world
In “The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success” Deepak Chopra says: “Everyone has a purpose in life, a unique gift of special talent to give others.” So ask: Are you best “serving humanity?” … Are your plans creating the right New China? Or just making you personally richer?
13. Happiness is doing what you really love
“Why is it that only a minority of our population love their work?” asks Thomas Stanley in “The Millionaire Mind,” “Select the ideal vocation, you can win, win big-time.” But have China’s capitalists and party leaders been blinded, focusing too much on the opportunities for personal profits from helping build 250 million housing units more than on the common good?
14. Happiness is about being ‘rich in spirit’ in the New China
“Instead of focusing almost exclusively on our finances,” says Ralph Warner in “Get A Life — You Don’t Need A Million To Retire Well,” we “should be thinking about the things that truly make a difference … health, spiritual life, relationships with family and friends, and having a plate full of interesting things to do.” Will your plans really make the New China happy? Or just make more happy billionaires, but more unhappiness for the rest?
Paul B. Farrell is a MarketWatch columnist based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWFarrell.