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15 Jun
2012
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Keys to Happiness – Love

I was raised as a Roman Catholic and so I heard a lot about love in Church. The Gospels were full of the stuff. But I never really got the hang of it. I think I got a sense of what it was, but I was totally puzzled because the behaviour of the people who were teaching this to me and supposedly demonstrating it (like my Catholic school teachers) didn’t behave the way the gospels and the sermons said they were supposed to be behaving.

In my very first year at secondary school the children were split in to four ability streams. I was in the top stream and my classroom was back to back with the room that contained the bottom stream. There was a connecting door alongside our blackboard that opened into the back of the other classroom. Our teacher, Mrs Griffiths I recall, was a lovely gentle woman. But as we would go about our lessons it was not an uncommon occurrence to hear the board duster hit the back wall of the class next door as it missed the student it was aimed at. We knew what the bang was because it was always preceded by shouting in a manner that, as an adult, I would say indicated a total loss of control. The board duster, by the way was primarily a 6” x 2” x 1” block of wood.

In a school whose raison d’etre was the promotion of Love!

I’m sure you can understand the confusion of an 11 year old, who had led a relatively sheltered life up to that point, when he was trying to make sense of what love was by noticing what his religion taught and how the practitioners of that religion behaved.

In my adult life, after moving away from the religious programming of childhood I discovered an interesting fact when researching the truth about the times of the gospels. The version of the gospels that we used in church had been translated from Greek. It appears that Greek has four words for love: agape, eros, philia, and storge.

Agape – affection, the feelings you have for your children.

Eros – passion, sensual desire and longing.

Philia – friendship and loyalty to family and community.

Storge – acceptance of things the way they are.

They all turn into the word ‘love’ in English.

No wonder nothing made sense, and you might be wondering by now what it’s got to do with happiness anyway?

Let’s consider another definition of love that brings us much closer to happiness.

What isn’t fear is love.

I’m using fear here in a very broad sense to describe any negative emotion or feeling. You might put it this way, when you are unhappy you are in a state of fear; when you are happy you are in a state of love. Love in this case being nothing more than a sense of well-being and good feeling. You know, one of those mornings when you wake up and the world seems like a wonderful place to be. If that’s an unfamiliar experience to you, then let me tell you that it is possible for you to achieve that state from time to time with nothing more than a shift in your thinking – a shift in the way you look at the world.

For instance…

You set off to work. You are driving along quite happily when someone cuts right in front of you. Immediately you feel a flood of negative emotion because this person was driving with no concern for your safety, and without an ounce of respect for you. You know that you deserve respect and you want to get to work, and home again, without having an emergency visit to the hospital in between.

Nothing wrong with any of that but it ain’t love and it ain’t happiness.

With a little effort you can forgive the other driver. Be aware that they may have had things on their mind. They may well be inconsiderate of others, but you can’t change that, and if they are generally inconsiderate of others then the only one suffering as a result of their bad behaviour is you. They are unaware of your ire. They are totally ignorant of your ill-feeling directed towards them – unless of course you sound your horn. Especially if you sound your horn in a repeated, angry fashion – because that will make sure they never do it again.

Except it won’t make any difference because if they are truly inconsiderate they’ll be wondering who the idiot is behind them blasting away on the horn. Some people are so insensitive…

Here’s another way of looking at this. It might have been a close call but nothing bad happened. If you had to take avoiding action then give thanks for your concentration on the traffic and the speed of your reflexes. Understand that not everyone has your empathy for others. See yourself as special. Feel good that you can rise above such trivial events. Feel good about your calmness in a crisis. Resolve to use the time in the car in future by listening to educational, or inspirational audios from your favourite speakers or authors. That way you’ll have more important things to do on your journey than sit in judgement of the driving skills of others.

There is always another way of looking at this.

Your task, if you are truly a happiness-seeker, is to seek out that other way, that more positive way, of looking at each situation that attempts to pull you into its negative mindset.

Is there something to learn here?

What else could this mean?

What does this feeling remind me of?

That last question will often reveal something from the past that has been triggered and you will discover that your negative emotion is arising out of the past not from the present. Heal that past situation in your thoughts and this kind of event will no longer be experienced by you.

Look at the world through eyes of love. Look for the good intent that was behind something that went wrong. Release judgement of others as best you can. When those judgements arise in your mind (and they will whether or not you want them to) remind yourself that you are not your thoughts. Remind yourself that just because you are thinking it, you don’t have to believe it. Remind yourself that you are not in control of, nor responsible for, the thoughts that arise in your mind. Your only responsibility is to choose whether or not to act on them.

As you do this, you will find that your reactiveness to the world decreases. You will become more peaceful. As you become more peaceful, the happiness that is your true nature will come to the fore.

Michael

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