INTRODUCTION: WALKING THE TALK
All I ever wanted was to be happy. I am 68 years old now and all I still want is to be happy. Does that mean then that maybe I haven't really changed at all? It bothered me for a while to realize that a part of me had not changed, and may never change. Maybe it is not supposed to change. For now, until I get to know better (and I hope I never do), I am growing to love this part of me. I am going to take a chance and believe there is an unchanging part of me that will always long for happiness, and that it is okay to be that way.
This is how life is. We are alive, we’ve been given the gift of life, and we are going to live. So, we may as well choose happiness.
This basic longing for happiness has led me through every episode in my life so far. I’ve been busy exploring as many methods of how to be happy as I can. Many of the techniques I’ve discovered were quite easy to mentally comprehend, but when it came to putting them into practice I kept running into problems. I'll start with the simplest principle I know, for an example, which is “Do not do anything to anybody that you would not like done to you.” Have I paid attention to and practiced this principle most of the time? I must admit that until I realized how much discomfort I was causing myself by not following this rule, I was not even aware of how often I broke it! Even after I realized this was the root cause of many of my discomforts, doing something about it didn't always come easily. It meant tackling my issues about expectations and patience. I am pleased to say, though, that at this moment in time, at the ripe old age of 68, I am getting better at not breaking this rule as often as I used to. I can also say that I continue to feel better and better every day as I get better at working with love. Yes, I finally got the message behind this Golden Rule! It’s about love.
Now I wake up every day anxious for an opportunity to help “transmit” love, and I don't feel the least bit selfish in admitting to the fact that the more love I help spread, the more love I get! Being filled with more love comes with the fringe benefit of feeling better and better! Apparently, there is no limit to it. I have heard this referred to as the “peace beyond all understanding” … but I am beginning to understand.
I am also slowly becoming aware of how simple it is to transmit love. Every moment seems to present a chance to do it, and I am getting better at being patient with myself. To borrow a baseball expression, my batting average is on the improve. How do I know that? Well, quite simply, every time I get a “hit” and succeed at being the best I can be in the moment, there is an explosion of light and sound within me – visible and audible love – and a jolt of happiness that leaves me feeling much better than I felt before. The only thing that interferes with my capacity to keep feeling better and better is my personal need for love. The needy me is my worst enemy. (Hence, perhaps, the phrase, “You are your own worst enemy.”) I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I am basically the only one standing between me and God; that I am the one who is preventing myself from fully embracing life. Silly me! So, I decided to do something about this. That is when all the fun began, with the process of getting my self out of my own way.
I’ve found that the first and most easily accessible place to transmit love is in my thoughts. In my continuous attempts to discover practical ways to be happy, I learned from some sources that a happy person directs their thoughts. It sounds very simple, and I have been able to succeed at it to some degree. I am well aware of how tricky the mind can be, though. I keep working on this. And when I’ve had a hard time directing my thoughts, I am not too surprised to find that my actions at those times might not be too good either – meaning that they are not along the lines of love. When that happens, I think and do things that predictably end me up in some kind of pain or discomfort. At first, I was not really aware of this cause-and-effect process within my personal system. I was just aware of the effect part, the pain or lack of happiness part. This lack of awareness contributed toward opening little fountains of anger into my system. I am aware of it now, though, and becoming aware or conscious of the source of a problem is a good first step. The second step is learning how to uproot the problem. The third step is learning how not to grow that problem again!
I really believe that our lives are the result of our thoughts, and this makes me reflect on how I have thought and acted at times in my past. Thankfully, coming to grips with the process of growth has made me let go of guilt, because I’ve become aware that I am work in progress! Is this where humility and compassion sneaks into my system? I sure hope so! I am busily working on my thoughts and my actions all the time. It takes quite a bit of effort to be vigilant, but I know very well how it feels if I don’t do it. The end result of vigilance feels too good for me to stop, so