Miller asks Kornfield: "You describe yourself as happy. What is happiness, as you see it?"
"Happiness is a profound sense of well-being, which includes both being connected with ourselves and the world. That's different from pleasure. Pleasure comes and goes. You can have a good meal and it's great -- but then it's over. Pain and difficulties also will come and go. Happiness -- true happiness -- is a quality of well-being in the midst of pleasure and pain and gain and loss.
We see it in people like the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela, who could walk out after 27 years of prison on Robben Island with a magnanimity of heart and a beauty about him that didn't blame the world in a bitter way. That kind of dignity and presence and wholeness of being is possible no matter where we are."
Miller: "For many people, happiness is about chasing after something -- a new car, a promotion, a trip to Bermuda. But when they get it they aren't satisfied. They want more. Why do you think that happens?"
"I'll tell you a story. A reporter was asking the Dalai Lama on his recent visit to Washington, "You have written this book, 'The Art of Happiness,' which was on the best-seller list for two years -- could you please tell me and my readers about the happiest moment of your life?" And the Dalai Lama smiled and said, "I think now!"
Happiness isn't about getting something in the future. Happiness is the capacity to open the heart and eyes and spirit and be where we are and find happiness in the midst of it. Even in the place of difficulty, there is a kind of happiness that comes if we've been compassionate, that can help us through it. So it's different than pleasure, and it's different than chasing after something."
Miller: "What would you say is the most practical spiritual advice you can offer?"
Kornfield: "Relax. That's my first instruction. We have all of these things that we are in the middle of, you know, whether it's tending to an emergency at work, or a relative is in the hospital, or some great thing has just come up that occupies your mind. Relaxation allows for our natural response, rather than the kind of tension and fear that can often control our lives.
My second instruction is, especially when things are difficult, try to hold your experience with compassion. Whether a crying child is keeping you up all night, or a car accident has just happened, or you are trMying to get along with someone who is difficult, you can respond appropriately if you hold all of it -- your own body, mind and those around you -- in compassion. And your life becomes much wiser as a result."
Miller: "That sounds simple enough, but how easy is it to do?"
"Well, the beautiful thing about compassion or mindfulness, the things that we are talking about, is that they are innate to us. Even the most hardened criminal would reach to pick up a child who'd fallen in the street in danger. Something in us knows what compassion is, but it gets covered over by our busy lives and our fear."