Chapter Twenty Nine
DO COMMUNITY SERVICE
Giving Frees Us
Many of us go through periods of feeling we are locked into a rut. The kind of rut does not matter. When I put my life on automatic–which I do periodically–I reach a point when I can no longer live with myself unless I change my approach. Most of us go through cycles of activity and rest which we can identify if we look closely into ourselves. Shifting from rest into activity can happen smoothly, can be a very hard and sudden transition, or may drag on uncomfortably for a long time.
To me a rut is when my shift out of a rest phase into a dynamic period of living gets stalled. If you are struggling in a rut and cannot find the solution, consider doing some community service which is appropriate for you. Like any new adventure, you may need to try more than one option before finding a situation which is right for you.
What good does community service do? Look around you. There are people everywhere a little more lost than you. If you take the time to make the effort you may make a difference in another’s person’s life. You may make a difference in your life. You may or may not be aware of the effect of your actions, but sooner or later you will feel the reward which comes from giving.
When I lived in San Francisco and was unable to earn a living, the counseling program I was in required I do some volunteer work. Before that time I would help a friend without hesitation, but had not considered taking time to do community service. I spent eighteen months helping the people who ran The Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. The people at this non-profit agency work hard to support San Francisco’s efforts to retain its historic integrity. The staff was very appreciative of my office work for them. Being a part of their efforts helped me feel useful and productive. I also felt lighter by shifting my attention away from my health problems.
After my grandparents were gone, my father told me how he, his sister and brother had made jokes every year when their parents disappeared for the day on their wedding anniversary. The kids presumed their parents were sneaking off to make whoopee. My father had just learned from a family friend that my grandparents had spent each anniversary day delivering baskets of food to the people in our small town who were not as able to buy food as was my family.
Giving frees us from our self-involvement. Often when we let go of a problem and relax our overly-concerned self, a solution pops up in a surprising way.
If you choose to give community service, your experience will be your own, unique to you and your situation. A constant which transcends individual differences, though, is that giving has a reward which cannot be duplicated any other way, one part of which is Being Happy!
Is This Your Goal?
Does anyone not want a lot of money? Of the people who are wealthy, some are very bored with money, some want even more money and some make a conscious effort to use their money to give to others. The great majority of the rest of us hunger for enough money to buy what we need or what we want.
What is this hunger really about? Hunger for money may be about desire. Most physical world desires require money to fulfill, even the desire to help others with their physical needs.
The hunger for money may be about power. Power over others is the negative form of this hunger, the power to guide our lives is its positive form.
Hunger for power may also be about freedom. On the surface, the hunger may be for freedom from a repressive parent, boss or political environment. Deeper within ourselves freedom takes on a higher meaning.
Of the many forms of riches, the surface glitter which money buys is a trap. Once acquired, keeping material possessions requires more energy and can lead to obsession. The things of life are fine to have as long as we remain neutral about their being with us. An irony often plays out with people not finding the happiness they thought lay in a nice car, bigger home, more jewelry or finer clothes, so they chase happiness still deeper into other things money can buy.
Often through losing our possessions, we discover the riches we seek cannot be found outside ourselves.
The happiness of the moment when something new comes into our lives is great, but has no depth. The more someone is unhappy within themselves, the more likely they are to try to find their happiness outside themselves. Emotional pain gets old fast. Most of us hit our limit and then look for ways to change how we feel. The quick ways to alter feelings –alcohol, drugs, escapist sex, power over others, anger, buying things–are easy to try. Later we find these paths are downward spirals, turning very difficult and leading to greater unhappiness.
True happiness comes from within, comes from the investment of time and effort in making choices which help us grow. This happiness shows as a light within us shining forth more vibrantly as we clear our inner overgrowth.
Money is a great tool and a lousy master. Let money both come into your life and leave without attachment. Work hard to grow and work hard to be responsible for you and your family. Leave the things of life to Spirit and you will attract riches beyond imagination. One of these riches is Being Happy!
Chapter Thirty One
WE PAY FOR EVERYTHING WE GET
Do you really think you can get something for nothing? Do you think the man who robs a bank and does not get caught has no price to pay for the money he takes?
On some level most of us know we do not get anything for nothing, but many people do not live their lives according to this principle. I am one of these people. I have been saying “No” to my finagling self for more than ten years now, yet the impulses are still strong. I have remembered several times that I owe my mortgage company about $170 for four megabytes of ram for my new computer at home. I have been paid three times since the debt and each time pushed my debt to the company aside in my mind. Finally I see my behavior clearly and will be sure I pay for what I have gotten with my next paycheck.
My level of awareness has expanded about this part of myself. I have more work to do. How much work you need to do–and when you do it–to be aware of the debts you incur is your concern. Our awareness level does not change the principle of paying for what we get. Not knowing does not excuse a debt. Ignorance of the law in our society does not relieve us of being responsible for our actions. This same principle applies to the spiritual laws. There is no cop to arrest us or a court to answer to in the physical world for our spiritual debts. Instead, we live our debts. Working to expand your awareness will enable you to better see how your actions are coming back to you.
When I first consciously studied spiritual laws I lived in San Francisco. One day Jane and I went to buy some earring and necklace making supplies. The woman who owned the supply house was rude and her prices were high. When she put two items in my bag without ringing them up, I smiled to myself. “Serves her right,” I whispered to Jane. I had saved about four dollars.
Leaving the store we walked under a section of raised freeway on the way back to my car. A bird pooped on my shoulder. The cost to clean my jacket, $3.75 plus tax, was almost exactly the amount of money I had “saved” in the jewelry supply house. The incident nagged at me for a week until I made the connection.
Recently I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone. Suddenly she asked if I wanted to go to a movie. “When?” I said. “Now. I just remembered I have six movie coupons which expire tonight. It’s after 8:00 now, so we would have to go to a 10:00 show.”
Too tired for a late movie I declined, but said, “Why don’t you run over to the mall and surprise the last six people in line with free tickets. You would make them happy and avoid wasting your twenty-four bucks, too.” My friend deflected my suggestion.
Ten minutes later I again approached the subject by saying, “Imagine how happy we would be if someone gave us free tickets.” My friend agreed, but did not want to make the effort. She’s missing such a wonderful opportunity, I thought, and soon said good-bye in a grumpy voice, my heart closing down.
I slept fitfully. The next morning, sitting quietly in contemplation, I realized that if giving away the tickets was so important to me, I should have done so myself. Maybe I am the one with an issue about giving, I thought.
An hour later the phone rang. I listened to a young man tell me that if I signed up for one or more magazine subscriptions, 12.5% of the money would go to the Special Olympics. My “gift” to my friend the night before had just come back to me. I had a strong urge I needed to send money to the charity to pay for the grief I had given my friend.
“I don’t need the magazines,” I told him, “but I can send you a check for $25 which would be the equivalent of $200 in magazine subscriptions.” The dollar amount I chose came without thinking about it.
The telemarketer was surprised, but gladly gave me the charity’s address. I wrote the check and mailed it that day. My cash flow was low. Since I was not sure when I would be paid next, $25 was more than it usually would be.
Later, another friend pointed out that interest had already begun accruing on my debt. The tickets in question had cost $24. A day later my bill was up to $25. Grateful for both the awareness and to pay my debt quickly, I called my girlfriend and apologized for being grumpy and judging her. We laughed at my expense.
We pay for what we get and give, if like me, we give grief. Pay attention to what you want and what you do to get it. The more aware you are about what is happening, the more able you are to guide yourself in a direction which will help you Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Two
APPETITE & HUNGER
Do You Know The Difference?
When I first started having serious health problems I relied on traditional western medicine to prop me up. I had contracted mild hepatitis. It was too mild an infection to show up on blood tests, but still capable of leveling me for three months at a time. These episodes happened during periods of over-work and too much drinking. I would develop a viral throat infection and go to the doctor who would give me antibiotics. The infection would pass but I would be weak and too sick to work for another eight to ten weeks. In about three months I would start the cycle again.
At the end of these three years I finally admitted to myself I needed to make some changes in my life. I was still years away from realizing I had to take responsibility for my health, but my admission was a start.
Reading through different books at the health food store, I began buying vitamins and supplements. The more I read the more it became clear to me what I was eating was making getting healthy more difficult.
Being used to mid-western cafeteria food, New York style Italian dinners and drinking wine almost daily, I found changing my diet was not easy. My idea of dessert was a six-pack of dark beer and a family-size chocolate bar.
I ate different foods, read more about people who had changed their lives by eating smarter, made more changes in my diet and gradually became used to eating much simpler foods. One guideline I learned was to eat food as whole as possible. The more processed and the more ingredients on the label, the more potential a food had to cause complications I wanted to avoid.
My taste buds went through shock. Motivated by a deepening frustration with my declining health, I lost my attachment for “pleasure eating” and tried raw foods, vegetable juices and fasting. As my body cleansed itself, I found I liked this new way of eating.
During this several-year-long process, I discovered my body gave me two sets of signals when it wanted food. What I had always called hunger, I learned was often just appetite. The difference? For me desire fuels appetite. My body’s need for nourishment produces hunger.
Appetite and hunger: I contemplated about this realization for months. Slowly I saw the way my body expressed itself as a metaphor for more of life. Desires work like appetite. The more I indulge my desires, the more power I give them, whether the arena is food, anger or titillation. Most desires can lead to destruction if carried to extreme. True hunger, though, is our higher self calling for nourishment. To grow we must give ourselves high quality nutrients of all kinds.
Experiment if you are curious. See if you can learn to discriminate between your appetite and your hunger, between your desires and your higher self’s urge to grow in a particular direction. The greater your self-awareness, the greater your chance to guide yourself in a direction which can lead you to Being Happy!
Chapter Thirty Three
WHO IS IN CHARGE
Trying To Control Your World?
Pain usually is behind our efforts to control our world. Most of us learn so many ways to hide, avoid and not deal with what really hurts us, that we often become experts at creating smoke screens. Control is one such smoke screen.
Some people go through one or more devastating romances and then attempt to avoid any more pain of this nature by controlling their emotions.
Other people try to control the actions of those around them so their weaknesses will not be challenged. I spent much of my twenties doing just this, trying to structure my world so that I would not hurt. The effort backfired dramatically, causing my thirties to be focused on recovering from my twenties. I was given a spiritual principle then which has proven true in the years since.
“To ask others to adjust to my weakness will perpetuate my weaknesses. To adapt to what comes to me will help me grow stronger.”
These words are a paraphrase of what I learned twelve years ago. They stopped me cold. I could not continue the way I was, embroiled in long, emotional discussions with friends and lovers about life and feelings, slowly twisting my viewpoints to avoid facing my fears.
I saw that I had been spending a tremendous amount of energy trying to take from life what I wanted and attempting to reject the rest: my “cookie cutter” approach to life.
Life is so much simpler when I watch what is coming to me to see what I need to learn next. Doing the work is much easier than avoiding it, and eventually I have to learn the lesson anyway.
Surrender your controls to Spirit. Look both inward and outward to learn about the lesson you are faced with today, knowing it will stay with you in some form until you learn it. Give up trying to control your world and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Four
An Act Of Love
How often have you told a friend about an experience and they interrupted your story to say, “I’ve had that happen to me, too.” Depending on how your friend handled themselves you might feel validated or cheated. Why?
Most of us carry the need to be listened to by someone as part of our baggage. The greater our need to be listened to, the more likely we will be a poor listener.
A peer counseling network I was once involved with taught that from birth we are not allowed to cry through our pain, which would allow us to release the hurt. Instinctively parents pick up their babies to comfort them when the little ones cry. Some people can handle a baby crying longer than others, but eventually almost everyone will try to quiet their child before the child is ready to stop crying. This premature end to expressing a hurt can create a small cobweb of clutter in our emotional selves. Growing up, we accumulate a large amount of this webbing, complicating our emotional responses.
One aspect of this emotional clutter is unprocessed anger. The child within us may still be upset it was not allowed–or encouraged–to get rid of its many hurts. One result of accumulated, unresolved anger is the strong need to be listened to, beyond the kind of sharing which happens between people who have dealt with their old baggage.
During an eight-week training class of this peer counseling group, we paired off and took turns listening to the other person talk. In turn we each experienced the difference in talking to someone who has made an agreement to be there with and for us for fifteen or thirty minutes, knowing we, the talkers, would then become listeners for our partners for an equal length of time.
Quickly the person in the talker role was able to open themselves to buried pain which they could then talk, cry, laugh or scream about as much as they wanted. In class we were shown how to be an effective listener and gently assist the talker in processing and hopefully discharging their old pain.
There was an agreement within this peer counseling group to not have any social contact with the people met in the group, except to get together for counseling sessions. This group guideline helped to establish mutual trust and safety, and was particularly challenging for people like me who habitually hooked onto others to seek relief from pain.
Short of joining a similar peer counseling group, how can you become a better listener?
First, try it. You may struggle to listen well, but keep trying. Sometimes I use the image of stapling my lips shut. Sometimes I am too full of my own experiences and am not a good listener.
Good friends of mine during this time shared with me that when they got home from work, they set a timer. Each person has five minutes to talk about their jobs. After those ten minutes were past they agreed to put their work lives behind them for the rest of the evening or weekend. If one partner had an usually stressful day, they could ask for extra time. The other person had the option to give it or not, depending on their state of mind and heart.
After becoming a better listener, open yourself to having someone listen to you. This special person may already be a part of your life and may already be listening to you much better than you listen to them. Or this person may have yet to come into your life.
By working to become the best listener you can be, you will attract good listeners to your life. Both experiences will help you Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Five
ACTIONS & FEELINGS
One Creates The Other
I fell in love when I was seventeen. Life suddenly became golden. My feelings were new and wondrous to me. Six months later we broke up. I was devastated and reacted angrily.
Most of us experience love and heartache. How we handle these feelings, how we handle all our feelings, can have a noticeable effect on our lives.
For years I hungered for that feeling I had with my high school sweetheart. Over the next thirty years I was deeply in love with four more women. Each time has brought the incredible high, which then slowly or quickly shifted into complication.
As I go through more experiences I repeat many of my same patterns. Sometimes I learn something. Slowly over the years I knew I was creating problems for myself by jumping so quickly into relationships with women. Almost all of my intimacies began suddenly.
Through the help of working with kind and skilled counselors and by learning to sit quietly by myself, contemplating a feeling, thought or action, I learned how I run from pain. I have run to women, alcohol, drugs, sex, work…whatever helped me feel better in the moment. Afterwards I would feel worse about myself, which just became something else to run away from.
For many years I did not see the repercussions in my life from my dashes to supposed freedom. When I did begin to see the effects of my causes, I often ignored them. No matter how illusionary the freedom was, I had grown used to escaping. These destructive habits changed what I was feeling for a short time, but gradually I dug a deeper and deeper hole for myself.
In San Francisco when I became ill again I went to a good physician whose I house I had been repairing. He ran blood tests, did not find any abnormalities, and then told me to see a psychiatrist.
I had been learning nothing meaningful from doctors for several years, but no one had been this blunt with me. I had a strong inner knowing that my body was struggling with something, but I took this man’s advice.
I was very fortunate to find a therapist with whom I could work comfortably. Christine was kind, gentle and clear about what I was doing to myself. I listened to her, but I resisted accepting a connection between my emotions and my physical health for months and months. I did, though, see the wisdom in what I discovered by talking to her.
Christine was an expert at helping me find my solutions. Her timing in occasionally presenting a viewpoint was just right for my head strong personality. Had she just told me what she thought I should do, our therapeutic relationship would not have been very successful.
I worked with Christine for four years. During this period I spent time in the hospital, in a crisis center, a half-way house, and in co-op housing for people trying to put their lives back together.
These years were not easy, but I had hung on to my destructive patterns for years. I was given many warnings to change and many opportunities to stop my downward spiral, which would have make the trip back up less harsh. I am grateful I finally listened.
During the first two years of working with Christine–and other counselors who were a part of each care environment I stayed in–I made a conscious effort to stop the various ways I was hurting myself. I ate better, dressed warmly, stayed out of bars, stopped running after women and tried hard to stay with the surging discomfort I felt in my solar plexus. This is where I store pain and anxiety in my physical body and it is from this constant discomfort that I seek escape.
Underneath my fear of pain was just fear. I learned I was giving this fear power over me by holding on to it. After this realization I spent a month confused because I had presumed since I was now aware of what I was doing, I should be able to just stop it. Other people may be able to “just stop it,” but I could not.
Gradually I realized life was more complicated than simply changing trains. The momentum of the train I wanted to leave was still with me: Karma usually works off slowly.
After two years of doing everything I could possibly do to help myself, while not doing anything destructive, I experienced a good feeling about myself bubbling up inside. This good feeling was the first I could remember and took me by surprise. I was trying to survive. I did not know there was a reward coming.
This experience of feeling spontaneously good brought into focus for me a principle which I had been reading about and which Christine had mentioned casually. The principle:
“We create our feelings by the actions and thoughts we choose.”
When this principle sunk in, I felt lifetimes lighter. No longer was I chained to my emotions. I could change how I felt, really change it for the better.
I would be delighted to share with you that life since then has been a steady climb upwards, each step getting easier and happier—but it has not. I still slug through my destructive patterns.
In a bigger sense, though, life does get more free and lighter with each constructive step I take. I have learned to love myself. Sometimes I regress. And sometimes I can still love myself when I have chosen unwisely.
However you glide or stumble along your path, your experiences can be smoother if you take with you the awareness that you are creating your feelings of the next moment, the next day, the next years of your life by what you are choosing. Do you dislike how you feel? Look at what you are doing, thinking and saying. Choose wisely for yourself and before you know it, you will Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Six
EXPRESS FEELINGS & LOVE
My girlfriend of almost twenty years ago came from a different culture than mine.
When we first met she was very reluctant to open herself emotionally. She had been taught from birth that harmony in society was more important than any individual’s feelings.
When my parents broke up before I was two, I went to live with my father’s parents. My way to get love was to be as open as possible. Much later, a counselor at the hospital in San Francisco told me I had never developed a personal border. She used the image of an amoeba, whose porous membrane lets in nutrients and lets out waste. Toxins are kept out. Good stuff is kept in. Because of my toddler’s hunger for love which I carried in my adult years, I took in everything, nutrients and toxins alike.
My girlfriend and I began our relationship from opposite directions. I was very clear that she needed to open up, but hazy at first about my lesson, which was to be more discriminating about what I give out and what I let in.
Many uproars later, we developed a deeper respect for each other and peace between us. I learned to give her space and to keep some for myself. Better able to contain my feelings, I became happier when alone, yet able to share with her without making myself unnecessarily naked. She discovered the wonders of really opening to another person and began learning about her personal limits.
So how does this affect you? Many American couples are the opposite of what my girlfriend and I were. The man is perhaps too closed and the woman sometimes too open.
For a strong and clear relationship to develop, each partner must do their personal homework and take responsibility for themselves. Yes, couples often divide their work according to who does what best. Nothing is wrong with this approach unless it prevents one or both partners from growing.
I used to be very skilled at finding a woman’s weakness and supporting her in that area. The problems began when I would then use my giving as a bargaining tool to get what I wanted.
Being in a relationship out of need, to pull from each other what we lack, can easily become a downward spiral. When each partner works on strengthening themselves emotionally, physically and spiritually they gradually become able to be in the relationship to share, instead of just getting needs met. The stronger and clearer the individuals, the stronger and more vibrant the relationship can be.
Take a look at yourself. What can you do to balance the way you express your love and feelings? Finding the area of yourself you next need to work on will strengthen your relationship and help you Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Seven
FINDING A LOVER
Do Not Look!
Having lived a significant amount of my adult life single, and being a love-hungry, overly-giving male with an addictive nature, I have spent a tremendous amount of energy pursuing women.
When not involved in a relationship, I seem to be caught in a hormonal jet stream, running from one flirtation to another. Since I have a great imagination, many of my encounters happen without the women even knowing I am interested.
In my twenties I was a roman candle. In my thirties, severely depleted from how I acted in my twenties, I had to be more subtle. In my forties I had moments of wild behavior followed my weeks of recuperation, slowly morphing into an extended period of “What’s the fuss?” My neutrality ended when I could not contain my yearnings and I skulk through Honolulu’s night life for two or three hours, beginning my cycle anew.
What I have I learned through all this? In addition to lessons like not pitting my will against Spirit’s will and that love grows from the inside out, I have learned countless times the best way to find a lover is to not look.
If you would like some meaningful company in your life, do things which interest you, volunteer for a nonprofit organization, work with yourself to be happier alone, accept your Karma whatever it may be, surrender to Spirit, go with the flow, change your feeling by more carefully choosing your actions–anything else but looking for a companion.
When I am anxious, mentally or physically, I go hunting. Woman sense this and move out of the way. I feel like I am a wound-up toy soldier parading around with my little rifle trying to find a shooting range.
This experience is humbling. I must need a lot of humbling.
If you are the hunting type, try letting your passions dissipate. Try letting someone find you attractive for a change instead of always being the predator. If you are not a hunter, guard against becoming passive and stay active. In my twenties I was free of common sense. Mellowing with age has been helpful, tempering my urges somewhat. Getting older and getting sick probably saved my life.
If you find yourself compulsively hunting for a lover, try your best to stop doing so. Loneliness is our higher self’s hunger for unconditional spiritual love.
We find spiritual love by giving unconditionally. Looking for a lover is not unconditional giving. Learning to love ourselves will help us open to this love of Spirit. As we open we radiate this love, touching others around us. We become more able to feel love, more able to give love and far more attractive to others.
At times I do not receive love from others gracefully. When I am hungry for love I am willing to accept what I am hungering for—illusion or not—but often I reject love when someone is giving me love in a way which does not match my hunger. Opening ourselves to receive is important. Being humble enough to accept what is given is equally important.
Once we learn to open ourselves to Divine Love, Spirit just may bring someone into our lives. Until we are ready both inside and outside for a relationship, looking will not help us find anyone.
Learn to Be Happy! with yourself, then when a lover does come along, you will have a better chance of being in a happy relationship.
Chapter Thirty Eight
HANDLE YOUR ANGER
It Will Come Back To You
Do you get angry? What do you say to yourself afterwards? Whether you get angry at yourself for having gotten angry, dismiss your anger as part of life or stop and take responsibility for your actions, it is human nature to try to justify yourself.
What does it mean to you to justify an action? Most people would say, “To justify is to say, ‘It’s OK’. It was OK for me to be angry with Sarah, she was an hour late picking me up.” Hard to argue with being angry at someone who makes us wait for an hour. Or is it?
What does anger accomplish? Does anger bring people closer together? Will anger get the project finished more quickly? When you get angry in traffic, does your commute then smooth out? No, anger does not accomplish anything. Anger destroys.
“But getting angry makes me feel better,” some people say, or “I let off steam when I get angry.” Sure we can vent frustrations by getting angry, but with what result? We may feel better in the moment, but then we have our anger to deal with. Anger does not dissipate like steam. Anger lingers in our hearts and in the hearts of those with whom we have shared our anger.
To justify anything we do is to attempt to neutralize the effects of our actions. Do you believe you can undo what you have done? I do not believe I can change the effects of the causes I have set in motion. I can change what I do, but not what I have done.
I worked closely with an attorney during my mortgage business. He has helped several of my client’s solve sticky problems. When he needs a mortgage, though, Steve is my partner, Bob’s, client.
Two months after applying with Bob to refinance his home, Steve was getting panicky. He was buying out his roommate and wanted the timing to go smoothly.
During a phone conversation with Steve about a mutual client, he let me know how upset he was that his loan had not yet closed. I had heard two people in the office mention how anxious Steve was getting over his loan, so I was not surprised he was irritated. I was surprised that he became hostile and angry when I mentioned to him that he might be overreacting.
Up to this point I was breaking even. Steve is a business friend, and a professional in the business world who handles judges, other attorneys, clients and his staff with seeming ease. When Steve began blaming our company for his problems, I got angry. I did not need to get angry. I was not part of Steve’s transaction with our company, but I dug in my heels anyway and became as obstinate as was he. We threatened to stop doing business together, but ended our conversation before doing irreparable damage.
What did I accomplish? My anger lingered with me for several days, gnawing at my serenity. Bob closed the loan with Steve and gave him the best of deals, making Steve happy. I felt foolish after the loan closed, still living with my lingering bad feelings. The office had moved past the crisis, but I had not. Getting embroiled when I was not a part of the transaction: How stupid could I be?
I do have some strengths in the business world, but when it comes to diffusing anger, I am grateful Bob is so good at it. At best I can, I stumble through tense times, happy if I do not make matters worse. Steve and I did make our peace. I apologized for my role in our unpleasant conversation and he acknowledge how vulnerable and anxious he had been feeling.
Did I pay for my anger? Yes, I paid for it by feeling lousy about myself for days. Perhaps I paid for my actions in full or I may have more to pay. I will control my temper better for awhile…until the next time I lose it.
We are continually pulled between the positive and negative energies here on earth. Sometimes we get angry.
When you do get angry, take a moment as soon as you can and admit to yourself that you have just created some destructive energy which will come back to you. You may not be able to know what you have set in motion, so just acknowledge your actions and the possible results. Blaming yourself will not help. Just accept the responsibility.
You may not be aware of the energy when it does come back to you. When we have unpleasant things happen to us, most of us are mystified. Why did that happen? Beats me! Our energy does come back to beat us, to trip us, and to humiliate us–as well coming back to please us, to make us feel loved and happy. Whatever we put out comes back.
If you keep a lookout for your energy to return, you probably will be less tempted to get angry. The less you are angry, the more you will Be Happy!
Chapter Thirty Nine
Are You Handcuffing Yourself?
Do you have opinions? Most of us do. Do you have opinions of people, events or things you do not care about? Most of our opinions concern something we care about, perhaps passionately. If you dig deeply you probably will find your cares, your passions, your desires are at the root of all your opinions. If you do not care about something, and if this something does not stimulate any other emotional response in you, then why waste the energy to have an opinion? Most of us do not.
What does an opinion do? An opinion draws a line in the sand. The line may be casually drawn and easily erased, or it may be a deep trench. Which kind of opinions do you hold most often? Why? How important are your opinions to you?
Opinions can be a substitute for knowledge, especially when we feel insecure. Ever been in a heated discussion which took you into an area you knew little about? Perhaps you reached the point where you were defending a position you were not sure of. Many of us surround ourselves with opinions rather than admit we do not know as much as we would like to know.
Opinions can be an attempt to control others. Look what Hitler did with his opinions. We use opinions in many different ways. Why?
On some level my opinions make me feel good. My opinion is that I am like most people in this sense. You have read a lot of my opinions in this book so far.
Opinions are shadows. Awareness is the light. Opinions have a relationship to awareness in a way similar to how beliefs relate to experience. You may believe you can run a four minute mile, graduate from college or find a better job. When you do any of these things, then you know you can, you have experienced it. If you train hard and your best mile is run in 5:50, then it may be time to revise your belief–based on your experience–that you can run a four minute mile. In the same way opinions can be stepping stones to awareness. But if we hold tightly to our opinions, we prevent ourselves from taking the next step. The person who believes people of a different ethic background are inferior may well never learn the truth. We have to be open to learn.
Opinions, like beliefs, can keep us closed. The key to whether we learn or stagnate is how we hold our opinions. Held lightly with an inquiring and open attitude, we can change our opinions as quickly as we reach a new awareness. Clutched to our breast in defiance, however, opinions will hold us down like an anchor. The heavier the anchor the farther down we sink.
Is it possible to be opinion-free? Yes, it my opinion we can be opinion-free. Clearly I have yet to reach that level. Opinions cause problems in my life. As I learn to be more neutral about things and use my energy more wisely, I find more peace.
Deeply involved in writing this book of opinions–it could be titled Unsolicited Advice From Nobody You Know–I find myself back-sliding. A friend called me during the first draft of the manuscript with a problem about selling her car. She had entrusted her ex-boyfriend to sell the car, but he had not gotten as much money for it as he had planned. I asked my friend a few questions and discovered her ex-boyfriend had bought the car from her prior to selling it, signed for the title and made no provision to split the profit, if any. My friend was feeling torn, not sure what was right for her to do.
Immediately I saw what I thought was right for her to do and told her so. I completely missed the point. This was her experience. What was right to me may not be right for my friend. Whether my friend made the “right” choice or not, choosing for herself, acting on her choice, then seeing the result of her actions in both the outer world and inside herself is more important than whether a “right” choice gets made. Why? Because this is how we learn. Subconsciously my friend set up the car transaction to learn something. Maybe she felt better after I gave her my approval, but did that help her grow?
Opinions can easily cause more trouble than they are worth. Opinions about people can be the most troublesome. When carried to an extreme, these opinions can be destructive. In today’s world television, radio, newspapers and magazines bombard us with opinions and material from which to form opinions. In our environment holding opinions is rarely questioned.
As uncomfortable as it may feel at first, try holding your opinions more lightly, voice them less often. Let these non-productive thoughts float away. Perhaps you will become opinion-free and then you can email me and tell me how you accomplished this feat.
Hold too many opinions too tightly and you handcuff yourself. Instead, recognize opinions as potentially bothersome fluff, give them little room in your life and you will Be Happy!
They Are Tricky
To celebrate Thanksgiving in 1972 I quit smoking. I had grown up watching my father smoke, knocking the ash off his cigarette for him when it got too long and cleaning his ash trays for him when when they overflowed. When I was five I ate burnt match heads until my grandmother made me stop. Smoking seemed natural to me.
In the fourth grade I found a half-smoked cigarette my father left unfinished and shared it with my cousin behind the rose bushes on the secluded side of my grandparent’s home. The cigarette tasted too hot and made us cough. We found thirty cents, went down to the gas station on Ninth Street where no one knew us and bought a pack of Kools and some matches. We hurried back to the rose bushes and lit up. Kools were just as hot as the other cigarette butt had been. Determined to smoke, we overcame our disappointment of the taste and finished the pack in two hours.
Neither my aunt nor my grandmother understood why we were so sick that night. I did not smoke again until I was sixteen. When I did start, I developed the same zest for excess I had that fourth grade afternoon. Within a year I was smoking four packs a day of unfiltered Camels. Since I did not smoke at home or in school, I once calculated I smoked a cigarette every six minutes during the time I was free, loose and not yet twenty-one.
After graduating from high school I discovered Picayunes and Home Runs, reportedly made with wild Mexican tobacco. Whatever they contained they were far stronger than the Camels and Lucky Strikes I had been smoking. I also got into pipes, cigarillos and rolling my own. With all this smoking going on, plus inhaling moderate amounts of marijuana, I was seldom without something lit stuck in my mouth. Even when I had pleurisy, I only slowed my smoking, rather than quit.
Two years after the bought with pleurisy I got a little worried. I switched to Springs, a “light” menthol cigarette, and cut back to two packs a day. My conscious awakens slowly, but even I saw smoking was bad for my health, so I tapered off for several months. I reduced my smoking to such a minimal intake of nicotine I got headaches and became nauseated when I smoked my first cigarette each day. Happily on that Thanksgiving I quit and have not looked back.
Clearly smoking did not create good health for me. After quitting I found I could no longer drink ice tea without feeling shaky and unable to sleep. This was curious since I had ice tea with meals for years, along with three packs of sugar per glass. My body felt more sensitive to food, too. Because I had stopped drinking tea for about a year prior to quitting smoking, I made the assumption that while I had cleansed my body of nicotine, I had also cleaned out other not-so-good things. Since experiencing the unpleasantness of smoking when not used to the habit, I wondered if there were other things I was putting into my body which were not very healthy. Perhaps I was growing sensitive to their subtle destructiveness.
Ten years later when I had to clean out my body in a more profound way I again discovered a sensitivity to some foods and activities after eliminating them. Butter, fat, marijuana, cocaine, alcohol, rock music, coffee, grease: the list of foods and activities I could no longer handle after I quit them grew long.
From these experiences I developed a theory:
“Just because I do not feel bad when eating a certain food or doing a certain activity does not mean that the food or activity is good for me.”
One way I found to test if something is good for me was to stop it for a while. I tested wheat and felt better if I avoided bread. When I ate bread again I felt worse quickly. I tested Mexican food with mixed results. Corn was better than wheat for me, but if I ate too many chips I felt shaky. I found that over a period of time my body changed in how it handled some foods and experiences. New Age music felt better to me that the rock music I had loved for years. The more I cleaned out, the better I felt, but the more sensitive I became to marginally unhealthy foods and activities.
Since then I have become increasingly more aware of what is toxic for me. Take an inventory of your life. Experiment with anything you think might be subtly harmful to you, but understand that cleansing your body is a process with cycles of its own. You may feel worse at first, but patience will help you endure the discomfort which periods of both change and cleansing bring. The more toxins you can eliminate from you life the more you will Be Happy!
Chapter Forty One
Like Any Habit-Forming Substance
In my experimenting to find what was healthy and what was not, I also tested television. After not watching anything on the tube for a year, I found myself feeling shaky and unsettled after sitting down for an hour program. What I watched made a difference. Laugh tracks proved more unsettling than National Geographic.
A sensitive person by nature, I have grown more sensitive by pushing myself beyond reasonable limits. I know that I am sensitive to some things which are healthy for most people. Maybe, just maybe, I experience a not-so-healthy reaction to some things which are not healthy for most people, but they do not know it because they are too healthy to beware of a small a drag on their health…yet.
Like a canary in a nerve gas manufacturing plant, maybe people like me can act as a warning siren of bad stuff approaching.
Television is a good example where a person such as I may serve as a warning canary for others. What does television do to you? “Nothing,” most people will say and there is a lot of truth in that. Most television programs do offer a lot of nothing.
You cannot get any exercise sitting in front of a television. We do not communicate in a meaningful way while watching TV. Mental stimulation is limited by most programming. Almost everyone eats too much in front of the tube. So what do we get?
We get dull and fat. We become slugs with programmed emotions. Television programs and advertising depend on creating in viewers specific emotional responses to be successful. Do you want to be programmed by someone else?
The physiological environment we put ourselves into by sitting in front of a television is questionable. Where do all those electrons go which bombard the inside of the cathode ray tube we look into? The electrons are aimed straight at us. Last summer after years of no television in my home, I bought a VCR and monitor. When I watched a long movie–or if I sat too close to the TV–I feel a little nauseated and shaky inside, like I had been bombarded by countless electrons which had no business bombarding me. Flat screen TVs probably have a lesser detrimental effect on us. Or maybe their negative effect has yet to be detected.
A therapist I worked with in San Francisco told me she limited her ten-year-old son to thirty minutes of television a night. Why? “Because,” she said, “he becomes a maniac if he watches any more than half an hour of television.”
If you are concerned about becoming a slug with programmed emotions, try not watching television for a week or a month, then watch an hour program. You may find you feel jangly inside; hungry for any snack and compelled to watch more and more TV. If so, reduce your television to thirty minutes a night and have no fattening snacks. In time, you may find you seldom watch TV at all and because of your new lifestyle you are Being Happy! more often.
Chapter Forty Two
GIVING OTHERS FREEDOM
A Sign of Spiritual Strength
To me there is no wrong way back home to God. We all walk our individual paths. We are guided by our choices in the moment, the momentum of all our past choices, the degree of attachment we hold to our passions and–most importantly–how much we consciously work to open ourselves to Spirit.
We create problems for ourselves when we say to another person, “This is the way,” without adding, “…if it feels right to you.” We stumble in this way just as easily whether we are embroiled in the darker energies or have learned how to bring a new level of light into our lives. The surest way to lose awareness is to force it upon another.
Giving Others Freedom is a spiritual law just like gravity is a physical world law. Violate this spiritual law and we imprison ourselves in the Karma we create.
In 1988, I was in Los Angeles on business and called a friend whom I had been close to in the early ’70s, but had not seen much since then. Our last two visits had been rocky, so as I took a cab from my hotel to his new home I wondered what harmony remained.
My friend had insisted I go with him to his spiritual group meeting before we had dinner. My inner nudge had said his group was not for me, but I wanted to support him, so I agreed.
He was busy on the phone when I arrived at his home and we left quickly. Between his home and the meeting we had too little time and too much distraction to reconnect.
Once at his meeting, and too late to leave gracefully, I learned his spiritual group was the same religious sect of a former roommate who chanted to bring material things into her life, oblivious of the karmic implications of her actions.
I watched my friend lead the meeting and discovered he was the regional leader of this group. As he asked each person in the room about their recent experiences, I listened to their tales of wanting and sometimes receiving new cars, clothes, jewelry, furniture, stereos…the list was amazing. Twice he reminded the people at the meeting that the real goal of their chanting was to bring them closer to God, but each time he said this in an off-handed way. No one else at the meeting mentioned anything but their new toys.
Two people who were new to the group were pressured about returning and becoming permanent members. Before the group started chanting he asked me when I would be coming back. I said, “Never, as far I as I know. I have my own spiritual path.”
He then told the group, “BC is an old friend of mine. I will handle him later.” I wondered what the hell he meant.
During the chant, I sang a one word sound, “HU,” which is for me a love song to Spirit. Singing this simple sound is my way to clear away my negative energy, helping me to have a higher viewpoint and to revere Spirit. During the chant a man sitting next to me kept pushing a sheet of paper in front of me with the group’s chant written on it. I indicted to him I would not be participating. He kept pushing until I had to make myself very clear.
After the meeting, dinner with my friend was strained. Our old harmonies had faded and I let him know his spiritual path was not for me. When we said good night I felt angry at him for what he did and at myself for not saying what was in my heart.
This man, my one-time dear friend, did not give me the spiritual freedom to be who I was. He was not content to let me have the experiences I chose. Instead he tried to push his path on me in the short time we were together.
Why do some people say their spiritual path is the only true path? Eleven years ago, when I was new to my spiritual path, I wanted others–such as my girlfriend Jane–to join with me. Why? I felt unsure spiritually and wanted company to convince myself I was on the right path. I soon learned the spiritual law of Giving Others Freedom, but it has taken time and work to live it.
Attempting to pull people onto a spiritual path is a powerful weapon of darkness. Ironically this choosing of power over love is often done by a person who has seen some spiritual light. When we dash up the spiritual ladder it is easy to get off balance and think we know what is best for someone else.
Holding a doorway open for anyone who is interested and letting them come and go as they choose can be a wonderful act of service. Pressuring someone to join anything is not giving freedom, it is attempting to take it away.
We each create and earn our experiences. Choose your experiences wisely, let others choose their experiences freely and you will Be Happy!
A Poor Substitute For Responsibility
Imagine a world identical to ours here on Earth, but in this imaginary world the effect of each thought, spoken word and action was instantly clear to all involved. In this imaginary world people would be billed on the spot for what they did. In some cases they could chose a payment plan or defer payment, but each person’s daily baggage reflected the additional weight of even the smallest unpaid debt.
How do you think behavior in this imaginary world would differ from our world? Do you think people there would be more responsible than we are here on earth? I think people are more responsible when the illusion of “getting away with something” is lifted.
I grew up learning what I should not do by exceeding the limits set by my parents, grandparents and teachers. The loss of love was my great motivator. In my teens I learned our society judged a person’s action by a vague standard called “morals.” Murder and spouse-swapping were instantly pronounced “immoral” by my grandmother. My father agreed that murder was not productive, but was more forgiving toward the idea of sexual experimentation. I was confused.
As I met other people I learned my father and grandmother were not the only ones to disagree about morals. Some cultures encourage what other cultures condemn. Reportedly, one area of Tibet at that time allowed women to have more than one husband. In Indiana that is immoral. In Hawaii many cultures mix at odd angles. At least one branch of a fairly major religion in Hawaii and on the mainland still endorses polygamy.
In our American society thievery is common, unfortunately. When I visited Bali in the early 1990s, I was told there was virtually no crime, even though the people there had few possessions and tourists brought through all kinds of goodies. What is the difference? In America many people are focusing on what they can get for themselves today with little or no understanding that we pay for everything we receive. No one is exempted from this principle. Balinese people grow up with an understanding of Karma. I asked Eravan, our Balinese driver, about crime on Bali. “Noooo,” he said smiling. He shook his head and laughed, “No one here make stealing. Why steal when is stealing from self? Only crime here is by people from Jakarta and some few foreigners. Bali very with peace.”
Balinese people know that to harm another is an illusion: they would be harming themselves. They know their act of aggression comes back to them in a way Spirit chooses. The Balinese may not recognize exactly how Spirit asks them to pay for their violations of Karmic Law, but they have complete confidence the karmic debt will come due.
Karma is not unique to Bali. The expressions, “What goes around comes around,” and “As you sow so shall you reap,” show the concept of Karma is a part of western culture, too.
The Balinese, and all people who consciously live their lives with an awareness of Karma, govern their actions by principles which go beyond morals. Morals are changing codes of behavior. Morals do have purpose in a world where people rarely take full responsibility for their actions, but often morals are used to control rather than educate.
In the imaginary world discussed earlier morals would not be necessary. Why attack someone when you know without question you can only lose? If someone else hits us, they have incurred a debt. Why should we then hit them back? If we are acting in self-defense to protect ourselves, our family, our country–our freedom–then the price we pay for our actions is lifted. Most aggression today, though, is motivated by a desire for power.
The small actions of life add up, too. Kindness clears our path, malice makes our lives harder.
For a week, assume you are fully accountable for everything you do. Relax while you live this experiment, making mistakes is part of being human and one of the ways we mature as spiritual beings. Remember, no one is grading you, there is no arbitrary authority who will step in and pronounce you a bad person. Assume there is a Law of Karma and you are living with full awareness of it and in harmony with the give and take of your choices. Remember your thoughts and spoken words count as much as your actions.
At the end of the week, look back on your behavior. Did you take a step up in awareness, did you live life with more consciousness about how you affect the world you live in, how you create your world?
Learn to live in harmony with the spiritual law of Karma–by any name you wish–and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Forty Four
WHO ARE YOU?
When I was fourteen I awoke one morning and realized I was not part of my father. Perhaps this is normal for teenagers, though none of my friends ever mentioned similar thoughts. Until that day what my father thought, I thought. Dad’s opinions about music, UFOs, reincarnation, other people’s behavior were my opinions.
This was not a fun time in my life. I loved my father desperately. My parents split up just before I turned two. My mother traveled to California without my sister and me, then was unable to come back for us. My father became an indulging uncle, stopping by my grandparents’ Illinois home in mid-winter to visit my sister and me with fun toys and a Florida tan. By early grade school my sister and I spent our weekends and summers with Dad. At the beginning of high school–and just a few months before my realization–I moved in with him full-time.
My father was not an easy person to be around. His tempered flared quickly and he seemed to be ensnared in one troublesome business situation after another. His love for my sister and I was driven by his neediness. I was delirious to be with him every day, happy to ignore the unpleasant side of life with Dad. For me then, it was no small discomfort to realize that I had made myself an appendage of him. I felt like I did not exist outside of my father.
After a year of working to fill in the hollow core I felt inside, I further realized that I did not like my father very much. I loved him as desperately as ever, but saw that he often was not nice to people. When he wanted something he would be charming. When he got what he wanted, he no longer seemed to care about this or that “good friend.” Some of his friends from childhood he talked about lovingly, but they were never around.
In my thirties, living in San Francisco, sick, unable to get well and working with my therapist, Christine, she one day told me my father, as I described him, was a “dry alcoholic.” Dad stopped drinking in his mid-twenties, I knew from family friends, so I had to think about what Christine meant. I decided that I did not know what a dry alcoholic was, but I did know loving my father was like hugging a fan. I felt some relief, but I got very cut up in the process.
Through experiences during my spiritual exercises, I have become aware of entering into this lifetime to repay certain debts and to learn some particular lessons before moving on to a higher level of service. The first debt I repaid was to my father. I have not always been graceful to him in past lives and needed to be of service toward him for a period of time. That period ended in 1978 when he died.
My hardest lesson so far this lifetime is learning again and again the difference between power and love. In the way my life and body formed, exercising power has not been an option for me, unlike some past lifetimes. I am grateful for this condition, because I would have been even more beat up physically if I had outer power to flex.
What did I do early in high school during my year of soul-searching to learn about myself? At night I lingered in that inner world between being consciously awake and fully asleep. Some nights I never went to sleep. Though tired, I always found the energy to get through the next day. Hovering nightly in the inner worlds, I began to awaken the next morning with a knowingness about ways people or the world worked that I did not have the night before.
After a while I called this “learning without doing.” Slowly I began to feel more whole. The completion of this period for me came five years later when I became friends with a fellow who worked at the pizza place near our home. John was ten years older than me and had been in the Marines, been around the world, done things and been with women in ways I could not yet fully dream about. Yet in our conversations we had a very similar world view. John had developed his outlook from worldly experiences, I had gained mine from inner worldly experiences.
All during this time of self-discovery a question nagged at me: “Who am I?” When I was young and went to Sunday School with my grandparents, I was told I have a soul. I knew I had a mind and a body…and I accepted that I had a soul; but what or who was I? Nobody ever told me.
My doorway to the inner worlds closed when I neared my fifteenth birthday. Girls and cars became important to me. During my time of inner world awareness I had a warm, secure feeling about myself, about who I was, but I never had the words to describe my true self. Twenty years later, when once again the inner world doorways opened, I found the words and discovered they had been with me all the time.
I do not have a soul, I am Soul. Changing one small modifying word cleared up who I am. I felt instantly at home with this personal refocus. I do have a body, emotions, the karma of my past lives, both a conscious and a sub-conscious mind–but I am none of these. I am Soul!
The time I spent when I was fourteen cruising the inner worlds was a time spent with my higher self, with myself as Soul. My lower world bodies were left in my bedroom, no longer able to separate me from my true self.
How did I gain this awareness? Through being willing to take risks; through being fortunate to live now in a time of great freedom; through being hungry to know my true self; and through being given gifts I can only assume I have earned.
Follow your inner nudges, so often they come from our higher selves. Follow your inner guidance and when you know yourself as Soul, you will Be Happy!
Chapter Forty Five
POSITIVE & NEGATIVE
Earth Is Both
Think life is hard? You are right. Ever wonder why life is so hard? It is because the physical world is the lower of the lower worlds of Spirit.
We can choose to look at life here as hell on earth, which we can certainly create for ourselves, or as part of our spiritual training. Whether your present lifetime more closely resembles summer camp or boot camp, reflects your past choices and current attitudes.
Above a certain level in the worlds of Spirit, above the dual polarity of the lower worlds, above time and space stretch the vast regions of the pure positive worlds of Spirit.
Below these higher regions of pure positive energy, life is subject to the push and pull between positive and negative energy. The farther down the spiritual worlds ladder, the more hold the negative energy has on the Souls living there.
Living in the physical world is not a punishment. Greater opportunity for spiritual growth exists here than in the higher regions because of this pull between the positive and negative energies. How much have you learned during the periods of your life when things were smooth? As much as when you met resistance and had to struggle to take your next step? If you are at all like me, you learn more when you have to work harder. This does not mean that suffering in itself will bring spiritual growth. Even when life here is hard, would you trade it for an easy time, an easy job and a dimmer awareness?
Soul often reincarnates here on Earth after spending an in-between lifetime on one of the lower inner worlds just above the physical, learning about the meaning of its last Earthly lifetime and preparing for its next venture on the physical. Soul can create the ability to choose its next lifetime, based on what it has earned and is ready to work on next. As fascinating as our history is, history is only information unless the information is relevant to my–or your–specific spiritual needs to help us take our next steps.
The negative power is part of Spirit as much as the positive power. Both forces are our teachers. One of the traps of the negative is hunger for power. Another trap is an over-dependence on our minds. The area our mental power comes from is higher spiritually than the physical world, but to rise to the worlds of Spirit beyond the mental, every Soul must eventually surrender its attachment to its mind. Getting caught up in assembling “information,” can keep Soul mired in the lower worlds.
Soul is a vehicle for Spirit. Soul can remain an immature, self-centered being of little or no help to Spirit in running events of even the lower worlds. Or Soul can grow into a mature spiritual being, taking its place as a spiritual helper where Spirit can best use its assistance.
Living here on Earth in the classroom of the positive and negative is an important way for us to mature as spiritual beings.
A spiritual teacher I respect greatly has said, “The highest form of creativity is being positive.” Whenever I am positive I create an up swell of love in my heart which uplifts everything I do. Being negative immediately begins tearing down my work, and sometimes the efforts of those around me.
Accept the part of life in the physical which is negative as the teacher it is meant to be, while working to be positive as often as possible and you will Be Happy !
Chapter Forty Six
PASSIONS, VIRTUES & NEUTRALITY
A Map Through The Mire
Do your passions sweep you away?
In my twenties I thought the more passionately I lived life the more I was alive. I ignored the wisdom of moderation and indulged whenever I could in work, art, sex, drinking, anger, laughter and breaking rules. Today my passionate outbursts are more subdued, yet they can be just as costly.
What are the passions? For me, passions are upswings in emotional intensity which often feel productive, but usually have a destructive underside. The names of the passions vary from person to person. A spiritual teaching I feel in harmony with calls them The Five Passions of the Mind. They are: Anger, Lust, Greed, Attachment and Vanity, in no particular order.
Do any of these qualities play a role in your life? Do they build or tear down your health, relationships, well-being and personal growth?
Are you better off being a colorless person who is afraid to feel anything or a passionate person who feels the world and its pain deeply? Either extreme has its pitfalls. Is there a midpoint where we can be more in harmony with ourselves and of better service to life?
I have experienced a middle path which helps me navigate the passions of my mind, but it is illusive. I find a good footing one morning, then by the afternoon I have again swept myself away by fueling one or more passions.
For me this middle path is neutrality. Being neutral about something does not mean I am disinterested or not involved. Being neutral means I have surrendered my opinion about how I think things should work to Spirit and am doing my best at whatever I can.
This being neutral sounds simple as I describe it, yet for me it is difficult to practice. Slowly, v-e-r-y slowly, I am getting better at reminding myself to be neutral in the heat of the moment. This process of training where I put my attention is a first step. Wanting to be a particular way and then becoming this way involve different levels of self-mastery for me
Another way to neutralize one or more passions is to develop our virtues, or the side of ourselves which turns a particular negative into a positive. Again, the words I use are what works best for me. Use your descriptions of passions and virtues if they work better for you. For me Grace is the virtue which best neutralizes Anger; Discrimination saves me from Lust; Gratitude opens my heart and frees me from Greed; Charity releases me from the heaviness of Attachment; and Humility saves me the embarrassment of Vanity.
As I write about virtues and passions I am reminded of the preaching at my grandparent’s church. Every path has truth. We grow stale, however, if we think we have the whole truth while in the human state, or if we fail to update what truth is for us as we gain experience.
One passion can uplift–the passion for Spirit, however you chose to express it. As with any passion, it is very easy to delude ourselves into thinking our will is more important than Spirit’s.
As you neutralize your passions, you will gradually experience the wonder of feeling Spirit come through you in a way it has been unable to do before and you will Be Happy!
Chapter Forty Seven
WATCH YOUR DREAMS
A Window To The Higher Worlds
In the second grade I became determined to “wake-up” in my dreams. After several nights of going to sleep repeating to myself, “I will wake up in my dream,” I did. In the dream I was at school, in my normal classroom, though it looked somewhat different. I stood in front of my teacher’s desk near the door. Suddenly I thrust my fist in the air and yelled, “This is a dream!”
Satisfied that I had accomplished my purpose, I abandoned any further efforts to become conscious in my dreams.
Four years later I spent a winter wondering if I was dreaming when I was awake and if, when I was dreaming, was I truly awake. No one, including my father, had any answers for my questions, so I dropped the subject.
Today I know more about dreaming than I did then. I have done enough work with dreams that, coupled with hearing the experiences of many other people, I know some of what is possible through dreams. However I have never committed myself to the project with the unwavering dedication I had during the second grade.
For me today, dreams are the most ready doorway to the inner, higher worlds of Spirit. Souls live in these worlds as surely as we live here in the physical. When our physical bodies die, we, as Soul, go to one of these inner and higher worlds to review this lifetime and to then prepare for our next lifetime, wherever that may be.
Remember, I do not ask you to believe what I believe or experience just because I say it. Even if you had my identical experiences you would probably see life at least a little differently than I do. There are as many techniques for exploring our dream worlds as there are people. Later I will share some examples.
Through our dreams we gradually gain guidance for our daily lives. My step-by-step process includes declaring my spiritual growth to be important and then actively working at understanding my dreams. Spiritual awareness comes to each of us as we earn it, and leaves us just as surely if we abuse it.
Dreams are filtered. We–our higher selves, Soul–filter the content of our dreams to avoid needless shock and upset. If in a past life you had killed and eaten numerous small children, your higher self would undoubtedly protect you from this awareness until you were strong enough to deal with it and until the awareness could help you grow. Most of our past life activities were, thankfully, not this overt.
Dreams can provide insights into our daily situations if we learn how to interpret our dreams. I feel most comfortable looking at the feelings and events in my dreams as having meaning unique to me. Some dream researchers feel there is a universal system of meaning in all dreams. Since dream scholars have assigned different meanings to the same “universal” symbols or events, I am skeptical. Rushing water in my dreams may not have the same meaning for me as it does for you. If dreams interest you, make a study of the field, and more importantly, your dreams.
The best way to learn about yourself through your dreams is to keep a dream journal. You need to be dedicated. Waking up in the middle of the night to record a dream is much harder to do at 3:00 am than it is to plan to do the night before. Some people keep a small tape recorder by their bed. Other people must be careful to not disturb their spouse and slip out of bed, going to another room to make their notes. However you accomplish this feat, if you do record your dreams, review them periodically. The patterns and insights you see unfolding over time will likely amaze you.
If you have difficulty remembering your dreams, do two things. One, do not worry. Everybody goes through periods of not remembering dreams. The period may last for a few days or as long as decades. Not remembering our dreams may be caused by something simple like what you ate or needing fresh air before bed, or could be the result of a deeper issue, such as an inner world lesson unlearned. And, two, try any technique you can think of or hear about. What works today may not work next week.
One technique which has helped me is to write this partial sentence in my dream journal before I go to sleep: “Last night I dreamed….” The next morning I begin to complete the sentence as if I had remembered a dream. If you try this you may find a dream suddenly popping into your mind when you think you had no dreams to remember. Give this technique a month before moving on.
One December morning I woke up with a strong memory of moving into a new apartment in my dreams. What made an impression was the unshakable feeling that this was going to happen in my physical world. The apartment was all white, large, all new, empty, “up,” and waiting for me. I lived then in a small ground floor apartment in Waikiki. Financially I was struggling to pay my rent. Moving seemed out of the question. I pushed the dream out of my mind, yet it lingered.
Sixteen months later, I had a similar dream. I was in no better shape financially and wondered what was going on. In six weeks my income surged and I moved into my new apartment within days. This apartment was on the second floor, all white, all new, much larger than my old apartment and had been empty since my earlier dream.
At the time of my first dream I was pulling together a loan application for a borrower who was in foreclosure. I knew his condo had been recently renovated and that he was living with his fiancé in her home. I found a private lender who made this borrower a loan to get him out of trouble. But the borrower fell behind again on his payments. At the same time as my second dream, the borrower called the investor, without my knowing about it, and proposed that the investor buy the apartment from him to avoid another foreclosure. The investor bought the apartment, then ask me if I knew anyone who wanted to rent it.
I saw the apartment for the first time and realized it matched the one in my dreams. Even more surprising to me was suddenly being able to afford it.
This dream experience is typical for me of what I can learn in the dream state, if I am willing to be open and look for guidance. Most of what I have learned from dreams has to do with my behavior and the underlying causes and effects of different situations, rather than advance warnings of changes in my outer life.
Dreams of guidance can occur when awake, too. These are called Waking Dreams. Several years ago I let myself get very angry with a business client. I was right in my complaints, the client had not kept his word, but my anger threatened our fragile relationship. That afternoon as I got out of my car, the car door closed on me and the edge of the glass poked me in the back. I was not injured, but it got my attention. Because I had been working on my awareness of Waking Dreams, I asked inwardly, “OK, what does this mean?” In a flash I had an inner knowingness that the door closing on me was a reminder that my anger was “stabbing me in the back.” With this new awareness, I called the client and apologized. I have remembered vividly this feeling of stabbing myself in the back since then, often reminding me to check my anger.
These are two ways of gaining more awareness through our dreams. If you have the discipline and are so motivated, make a study of your dreams. If you are curious about how Spirit provides guidance in our everyday life, pay attention to daily events and get in the habit of asking, “What does this mean?” when something catches your attention. You may wait a while before getting your first inner knowingness. Anything worthwhile takes practice and patience.
If you wish to know more about yourself and the worlds of Spirit, try the following technique. When you lay down at night, just before you are ready to fall asleep, ask silently to be taken to that place in the inner worlds where you have earned the right to go, where you can find the answers you need to take your next step.
Who do you ask? Any spiritual leader you feel comfortable with and you trust. Start with “Spirit,” if you wish. Asking for guidance is one way to avoid unnecessary problems. There are many spiritual teachers who no longer occupy physical bodies, but are available for the asking to guide us in our learning.
Dreams and Waking Dreams are a way to know more about ourselves and our lives. More awareness does not always mean an easier life, but it does give us more opportunity to Be Happy!
Chapter Forty Eight
Is All There Is
I ate my lunch alone today (as I write this) at a health food store. Tired from too many people needing too much of me at work, I was happy for the time to myself. I had just sat down when a man asked if I was reading the paper on my table. I looked at him and looked at my still-folded paper lying by my tray of food. “I just bought it,” I said. “I imagine I am going to read it.” He apologized profusely and backed away.
What did I do? In that moment I chose power over love. I could have used the moment to share the paper with this man. Sometimes I do share a newspaper, but usually not. In this way I am selfish. I am not able to open easily and be loving about sharing my paper when asked. I use power to control my newspaper so I can read exactly what I want when I want.
I can rationalize my actions. I did have a “right” to my paper, but I cannot change the reality that I chose power in that moment. I could have chosen love and still kept my paper. Later as he left, I smiled at the man, but a small place in my heart sat selfishly saying, “No, you cannot have my paper.” I had filled that corner of my heart with power.
Most spiritual teachings are supposedly based on Divine Love. Many of these different paths, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, appear to attempt to control how their members think. Controlling others is using power.
The spiritual teaching I feel most at home with says we exist because of Spirit’s Love for us. Spirit’s Love causes Soul to exist. The teaching also emphasizes that each person’s inner and outer experiences are valid for that person. No written word, no spiritual leader can tell me what is truth for me. That was the principle which allowed me to get to know the teaching. Some of the path’s teachings echo what I have experienced. Other parts of the teachings ring true in my heart. I have not run across any declared principles of this path which feel untrue to me, but the ones which I do not know about yet, well, I just do not know…yet.
I have felt for a long time there is more power in Divine Love than there is in the most powerful use of power. If this is so, some people will say, “Then why are there so
many bad things happening in this world? Divine Love should stomp out the misuses of power.” This is too simple an approach. For me to understand even a little of what is going in our world, I have to keep in mind:
1) We each create and recreate our worlds and experiences by the choices we make and have made,
2) We are here to mature spiritually,
3) Our physical bodies are temporary,
4) Our true self, Soul, is a naturally happy being who never dies and cannot be harmed,
5) Pain is caused primarily by our resistance to hurts which will leave us if we do not hold onto them,
6) We grow through experience–all kinds of experience,
and 7) There are as many paths home to God as there are people.
The tricky part of dealing with power comes when I–or any of us–try to direct it. The power of Divine Love is the trickiest. We cannot direct any power. We can only fool ourselves. What we do may not come back to us for a few lifetimes, but it is coming back. The miseries in our lives today come from past attempts to direct power. Some of us, like me, learn slowly.
When I have tried to redirect a strong flow of love coming through me for my purposes, invariably I get burned. This folly of mine feels like trying to shake hands with a laser.
If we exist because of Spirit’s Love for us, then Love must be all there is. A more practical approach for me in this world is that Love is all there is…that counts.
Three years ago I sat in an attorney’s office discussing his need to refinance a condo he owned. I listened as he described his problematic history with this apartment. He had purchased the property to help a friend who could not close her escrow. The friend had walked out on the deal leaving him with an apartment he never wanted. His current tenant was fulfilling neither of his promises to renovate the place and pay partial rent, adding cash flow and repair problems to the attorney’s list of woes.
All through the attorney’s monologue about how B-A-D the situation was surrounding the apartment I kept seeing how he was looking at the experience only through his mind and wallet. He apparently had not opened his heart to let Spirit have a chance to go to work. This was my inner awareness. I did not know if it accurately described the whole picture and I did not sit in judgment of this man. When he finished, he said for the fifth time, “I just do not know what to do with this apartment. Everything I try turns bad.”
A voice inside of me cried out, “Give this situation some love. Just stand back and open your heart. Keep a rein on your mind and your checkbook, while you allow love to dissolve the knots of conflict.”
Feeling full of awareness and love, I said to the attorney, “Have you tried just…loving the apartment?” The good rapport we had built up over the past thirty minutes shuddered. He looked at me, his mouth half open for what felt like a long time. I knew I had blown the interview. He snorted and mumbled and said something not quite intelligible. My smile faded.
Perhaps there was good that happened that day. I did not accomplish my goal of completing his loan application. The attorney did not appear to have understood my point about love. We parted ten minutes later with him mumbling that he would call me when he had his financials together. He never officially finished nor canceled the loan application I had taken, but I have not heard from him since then.
So what did I learn that day? Being foolish was not new for me, but I still remember the look on the attorney’s face and have used that experience to wait a little longer before introducing new elements to business transactions.
I felt I had offered a gift to the attorney and he was not ready for it. If I was deluding myself it will not be the first time. I would have liked to have his business, would have liked to have seen him a happier man, but survived without either. I took a risk. Once away from his office, I grinned at my craziness.
Today in the restaurant, if I had taken the risk to rise above my little stresses, I could have been gracious to the man who wanted my paper and therefore been a little happier with myself. I would have let more love shine through me. The more love you let shine through yourself, however you can manage it, the more you will Be Happy!
Chapter Forty Nine
Many spiritual teachings talk about the Light. Some paths speak of the Sound. A few teachings work with both the Light and Sound as the way Spirit manifests itself in the lower worlds, including the physical world.
The light and sound in our everyday world are reflections of this inner Light and Sound. Ever catch a flash of light–perhaps a twinkle of blue–out of the corner of your eye? Have you had a ringing in your ears, or heard birds, bees, rushing wind or other sounds of nature when no one else did? If so, you might have been experiencing a psychotic episode or suffering from tinnitus, but the chances are good you were hearing the inner Sound of Spirit.
If you sit quietly by yourself with your eyes closed and look gently into the area a little above your eyebrows and between your eyes, you will be gazing into what is called by many the Third Eye. This area is where our spiritual vision can open to the inner worlds. What people experience when looking into the Third Eye varies dramatically. Some people have little, if any, awareness except looking into the back of their eyelids. Other people see colors swirl, images form, sometimes whole worlds unfold before them. Still other people have experiences with Spiritual Guides who can exist in the physical world and the inner worlds at the same time, or no longer occupy a physical body at all.
Whatever your experience, it will probably not be as clear as I have just described. With people today so used to watching movies and television, giving validity to more subtle experiences are difficult. When I sit quietly and focus on my Third Eye, my inner experiences are not like watching television. Most people do not have technicolor inner experiences, but some do. We each vary in how we are best able to perceive Spirit. I am better at recognizing the hand of Spirit in everyday activities than I am at having Hollywood extravaganzas on the inner.
There are many different sounds which can be chanted, sung softly or sung loudly. Although appearing to be just sound made by our vocal chords and mouths, different sounds have different effects upon us and our world around us.
Imagine yourself sitting quietly in a sunny room on a spring morning, playing with a kitten, while you listen to a soft wind blow in the window and birds singing outside. Into the scene imagine a dozen men with jackhammers ripping up the sidewalk outside your window. Sound can have a noticeable effect on our lives. The sound of some people’s voices are more harmonious to you that other people’s voices. Why? Sound–and which sounds you are in harmony with. In just this way the sounds we sing or listen to can gradually change our consciousness.
The sound I like to sing is HU. Twelve years ago I learned about HU as a very old name for Spirit. Reportedly the sound of HU (pronounced like the man’s name, Hugh) is of a very high spiritual nature and can uplift anyone singing it. My experience of singing HU has been more than was reported.
To sing HU, I take ten to twenty minutes each day, often at the same time of day, sit quietly and comfortably in a room where I will not be disturbed, close my eyes, breathe deeply a few times, then on my outward breath sing softly, “HHHUUUU.” Over and over again I sing, “HHHUUUU”. Usually my voice softens until I am no longer singing, but often I still hear the HU in my inner hearing. Sometimes I fade out of a soft HU with my physical voice and into a loud roaring HU on the inner, like I have stepped into a waterfall of sound.
Singing HU washes away my negative feelings. Singing HU helps gently raise my outlook to a higher spiritual viewpoint. Singing HU helps open my heart, allowing the Love of Spirit to more freely flow through. Singing HU helps open my spiritual vision, often leading to an inner experience with the Light and Sound and sometimes with one of the Spiritual Guides I work with best.
My mind chatters sometimes when I sit down to sing HU, and that is fine. Let your mind wander where it wishes. After a while you will learn to guide your mind away from its chatter to calmness or to a contemplation topic. Sometimes I am able to step around my mind’s chatter like I would step around children playing on the beach.
After singing HU for a few minutes, when the HU falls quiet, I sometimes gently focus on a subject or question or spiritual teaching and quietly contemplate. I let whatever I have focused on roll gently through my mind. This is not a time to be controlling anything. Contemplation opens us to our inner wisdom. Spiritualizing our contemplations by singing HU opens us more deeply and in a more balanced way to the Love of Spirit.
During a contemplation, in the dream state, or in everyday life, if you find yourself frightened or upset, sing HU out loud or silently and ask Spirit for help. The help you receive may or may not be what you want, but if you keep your mind and heart open, you may be amazed at what happens.
Sound and Light and singing HU are nondenominational. People practicing many different spiritual teachings use HU to uplift themselves spiritually. When you feel lost or are not sure which way to turn, think of the Sound as your homing signal which will lead you out of the dark forest to the warmth of your home. The Light will help illuminate each step you take so you can avoid unnecessary troubles on your way home.
Even when we do not feel lost and unsure, singing HU can give us additional clarity about our next step. If you are curious or adventurous and you try singing HU, Being Happy! will be just one step on your path of spiritual unfolding.
EVERYTHING HAS VALUE
Some Paths Are Shorter
I have shared with you some of my experiences and beliefs, given you too many opinions, suggested ways to find more happiness, hopefully posed some thought-provoking questions, perhaps helped you find ways to open your heart and maybe simulated you to push the envelope of your spiritual awareness.
Whatever you have experienced from reading these pages, I hope you will keep what works for you and forget the rest. This is how we learn. Some of us move through life in this way more easily than others. I tend to either reject immediately what I hear, read and see–or take it all in too deeply and then have a hard time letting go of what does not work for me. I get my waste products and my nutrients all mixed up. Having learned this part of myself, I now weave more easily through the onslaught of the world’s outer stimulations, though the chatter of my attachments can still get in the way of learning from the inner worlds.
I hope you have an easier time with your growing than I sometimes do with mine.
Experience is our teacher. Learning to rise above the pleasure and pain of a situation and seeing that our experiences, no matter how they feel, are teaching us freedom is a great step. If we attach ourselves to pleasure or avoid pain we trap ourselves. Enjoy your pleasure, be smart enough to limit your pain, and–at the same time–learn to welcome what comes your way with the graceful awareness that you have created it for your spiritual growth. The better you master this principle the lighter and higher your steps will become.
Some paths are longer, some paths are shorter. You may choose. With a modest effort, you can shorten your path and Be Happy! along the way.
Chapter Fifty One
HOW TO HEAL A RELATIONSHIP
A Spiritual Exercise Which Works
My wife and met in very tangled circumstances. Sweetie—as I now call her—had answered my singles ad, but for her sister, who was visiting the islands. We had an hour- long conversation in which I learned she was in an unhappy relationship and that I liked her a lot. I had been down the confusing road of being in a relationship with someone already in a relationship and was not looking for a repeat of the pain or karmic complications.
One evening the three of us met for dinner at a local Thai restaurant. I sat across from them. Communication was interesting. They are from a different culture than mine and are not native speakers of English. Sweetie taught English in her home country, but her sister’s English was very limited. Sweetie served as translator for her sister at our dinner, so I had to look at both of them a lot. I work hard to divided eye contact and conversation equally between these two lovely women, but my heart was totally focused on the woman I would marry 17 months later.
Marriage was not in my plans at all then. Getting involved with someone already involved was even less inviting. But Sweetie was so wonderfully inviting. She was not trying to invite me into her life, she was just being herself. I could have looked into her eyes forever.
The evening ended awkwardly, however. We were asked to leave the restaurant after ordering only pupus (appetizers) and sitting talking intensely for three hours. I forgot about ordering main dishes and the restaurant was packed.
So we found ourselves out on the sidewalk talking and laughing. I was feeling a little strained. Later I found out they thought I was strange for not ordering more food and wonder if I was tight with money.
I went home stirred up, confused and wanting to put the evening behind me. I knew there was no attraction between her sister and I. And I knew I did not want to get involved with Sweetie because of her situation.
But I did want to get involved with Sweetie.
I called her a few days later, but missed her. She called back later but I was busy. Finally after a week went by, we talked and ask her if I could have lunch with her alone to talk about her sister. She agreed.
Then next week, on a Thursday, we met for lunch. I told her that I was not attracted to her sister and I was sorry about that. I also offered to be her friend. These words did not coming tumbling out. I struggle for half the lunch to explain. Sweetie was very graceful…and oh so charming to me
I learned her S.O. (Significant Other) would not help her buy a car. She had the money and disliked driving his SUV into town from the north shore for work every day.
So after lunch we went car shopping in the rain. A few days later we looked at car lots again.
Over the next few weeks we saw each other several times and a closeness began to build. Sweetie’s sister and mother lived in town because her S.O. was not being kind to them. Sweetie often stayed overnight with her mom and sister. One night she stayed with me.
We then began a two month dance about whether she was going to leave her S.O. Their fighting had increased, her happiness at her home was dissolving, but she had entanglements with him which were not easily cast off.
I began going through my personal hell. Wanting her, needing her, I still knew that loving meant give freedom. My spiritual goals and my emotional neediness clashed horribly. I was doing it again—in a relationship with someone already in a relationship. Damn!
We roller-coastered through the next several few weeks. One evening just before we were leaving my apartment, Sweetie told me she was thinking she should stay with her S.O. for a while longer for reasons which had nothing to do with her heart. I was crushed. As we drove in her car to her mother’s small home, I just could not stand the pain. I pulled over and stopped the car. “I just can’t take this anymore, “ I cried. I got out of the car, left the motor running and took off walking back to my place.
I was blind with pain and rage. The rage came primarily because I could not stay with my pain. I was also upset that Sweetie was going to stay with her S.O.
As I walked home and cooled down a little I wondered if Sweetie would come looking for me. Boy was I wrong. Later that evening, when I called her to apologize, she would not even speak to me. She also would not talk to me the next day when she was work. After her workday was over, I showed up her at her mom’s apartment with a double bouquet of roses. I felt very relieved to see her car in the drive.
The roses at least got me in the door. I apologized with every ounce of my heart. I felt horrible. I had abandoned her. I had left her sitting in her car on the side of the road. She had been pissed. She thought I was nuts for just taking off walking. She had gone home later that evening and had a huge fight with her S.O. She had told him about me. She had told him what she then told me: she was leaving us both.
My world ended with her words. My heart filled with nothingness. I looked into her eyes and saw her hurt and a steely determination to stop being with anyone who caused her grief.
I left crushed. My own doing. I drove home slowly. I sat at the desk which served as my dining table for a long time. The phone was silent of course. Sweetie would not be calling me.
Then I called Arlean. She was a dear friend with a lot of spiritual wisdom. She knew about Sweetie, but had not met her. Arlean and I talked for a while. She asked me a lot of questions about how I felt about Sweetie and about the details of her situation. Then she told me about a spiritual exercise which she uses when she has a problem with someone near to her. She talked about the troubles she had had with her daughter when she was growing up. Arlean offered me the following technique:
“Sit quietly when you are alone and gently put your focus on the person you are having a problem with. Then say the person’s name out loud and follow with: The God in me loves the God in you. Do not say this to the person or try to influence them. This is a neutral statement which will help raise your energy to a higher level and will also help the other person because you are removing some of your inner tangles from their lives–at least for the time being. You can also say this silently to yourself. Whether out loud or silently repeat it often for as long as you wish.
I thanked Arlean and we hung up. I wondered about what she had said, but not for too long. Sitting in my chair in the middle of my apartment I began saying softly, “Sweetie, the God in me loves the God in you.” I repeated it softly and loudly for a long time. I slipped into singing Hu, then into a quiet contemplation.
I awoke the next morning in bed with my contacts not in my eyes. I had no memory
of going to bed. I called Sweetie at work. She had taken the day off. I called her cell phone. She answered. I ask her if I could come see her. She said yes. Her tone of voice was neutral. My heart wanted to soar, but I held it in check.
I drove to her Mom’s home and knocked on the door. Sweetie answered. I took her hands in mine, still standing in the doorway. I told her how so very, very sorry I was to have been so stupid and that I would never leave her again, unless she wanted me to do so.
Sweetie looked at me, into my eyes, for what felt like a long time, then smiled warmly and said, “Why don’t you come in.”
You can guess what a happy camper I was!
Have Sweetie and I has some problems since then? Sure. But not too many. I learned first-hand in the next year with her that harmony is more important than being right.
I also treasure the gift Arlean gave me. If you find yourself wishing to heal a relationship you have, then I whole-heartedly recommend that you say to yourself, as often as you wish, the person’s name followed with The God in me loves the God in you. You will Be Happy!
May The Blessing Be!