Thursday, November 3, 2016

Slices of Happiness and Non-Attachment

Last week I read about the concept of "Slices of Joy" by the former Happiness Ambassador at Google, Chade-Meng Tan. I also went to temple on Sunday, where the guiding teacher explained the concept of "Detachment," which always seems to be problematic for people. What could these two things have to do with each other, you ask? Lots.

I like the concept of "Slices of Joy." Tan, a former mindfulness instructor at Google, teaches us that our attachment to our own thoughts and slights keep us from noticing all of the "Slices of Joy" that the world offers to us. A golden burst of color on the fall trees. A sudden text from an old friend. A moment of sheer delight on our children's faces. All of these moments can be missed if we're too wrapped up in our own thoughts.

On Sunday the guiding teacher of my temple, Koho, spoke about the Buddhist concept of Detachment or Non-Attachment. This almost always freaks people out. They think it means Buddhism makes you not give a damn about anyone or anything. As though transcending into some unfeeling, unruffled saint is the whole object. Which it's not.

The concept of Non-Attachment is the concept of not attaching ourselves to the stuff that's not important. The stuff that robs us of our happiness. If we were to live fully present in each moment, we would find bliss. It is bliss to breathe in and out. It is bliss to feel a breeze flowing carelessly across your cheek. It is bliss to watch children laughing in the park. And bliss to see the sun play across the grass and light each blade with fire.

But alas, we let all those thousands of moments slip by as though they were nothing. Instead, we spend the majority of our time lost in thought. Thoughts about other people. What they said or did. Thoughts about what we said or did. Thoughts about what we might say or do. Things we might have done wrong in the past or may do in the future. Money we might save or spend. Chores we might get done. Chores we might blow off. Micro aggressions hurled at us from other drivers on the road or from our spouses. Children. Friends. Family. Such a litany of suffering. Such a litany of irritation.

If you attach yourself to all that, you're missing out on all the slices of joy.

Not big joy.

Not overwhelming euphoria.

The majority of life does not offer us that.

What it does offer us is tiny moments of happiness. Tiny pleasures. Pay attention. Seek them out. Smile. Recognize them. For they slip past so quickly, it will be as though they never happened.

But if you pay attention, my god. You may suddenly realize that your life is chock full.


  1. This really resonates with me this week! Thank you!!!!!!

  2. In addition to getting lost in my thoughts I sure get lost on Facebook a lot... Elizabeth Gilbert talks about practicing gratitude by noting one highlight of each day - even if it's something as simple as the warmth of the sun on your face. All of your "slice" examples feel right in that vein. Those simple things that we overlook. Thanks for the reminder. I so needed it today.

  3. Thank you for sharing. Your blog is a slice of joy, or two or more.
    Sincerely, Richard O.use

  4. "I loaf and invite my soul." Walt Whitman

    Now I'm off to get drunk, it being Wednesday and all.

    1. I am doing less as we speak. So efficient, so paradoxically efficient.

      Now I must lie down.