The way to happiness is not by accumulating wealth, climbing the career ladder or acquiring material items. The secret to happiness is simply this: give to others without expecting anything in return. When you drop the ego, stop focusing on the "I" and focus on others, the doors to happiness will be thrust wide open.
Giving loving-kindness and compassion not only ensures happiness but it helps others on their path of awakening. The kindness I am talking about here is what I call "authentic kindness." It springs from deep in the heart and is not something we are doing because we should or feel we have to. It is kindness at its purest and comes from realizing that we are all connected - we are all part of the one source, one heart, one life, which is God. Realizing the inter-connectedness of all is what allows kindness, love and compassion to spring from deep in our hearts and touch others in a most intimate way.
This is what Jesus was talking about when he said to love your neighbor as yourself. He was talking about actually seeing your neighbor as an extension of your very own being. He taught nondual, or unitive, consciousness - no separation between God and humans or between humans and humans.
Coming from this nondual consciousness opens our hearts and allows us to have authentic kindness from within that extends out to others and eliminates their suffering. The Mahayanan Buddhists call this heartfelt need to alleviate suffering in others and help them awaken, bodhichitta. When we have a bodhichitta attitude, we yearn to be an instrument of Spirit to bring peace, love and joy to sentient beings.
What can interfere with our inherent kindness are the challenges in this life that harden our hearts making us anxious, afraid and selfish. But we have a choice. We can take life's hard knocks as a way to soften our hearts and cultivate a gentle, loving attitude. Instead of breeding anger, negativity and blame, we can touch the tenderness of our sadness and use it to deepen our compassion for others. Even during our most difficult times, we can connect with the loving heart of bodhichitta. It's always within us like a flame of love that is never extinguished.
Keep in mind that bodhichitta attitude is not about doing random acts of kindness to rack up good points with God. It's about a profound kindness that bursts from our hearts and creates a yearning to help others on their paths. One good way to develop bodhichitta attitude is to wake up in the morning and dedicate your life to others. Say an affirmation such as:
"God use me as your instrument today. May I go about this day bringing love and compassion to all who I meet."
In this way, you will have unbounded joy and happiness the whole day long. We need this attitude in the workplace, community, families and in our government today.
Another way to develop bodhichitta attitude is keeping at the forefront of our minds that other people feel just like us - they have the same feelings, needs and fears that we do. Remembering our shared humanity with others we are able to send loving-kindness not only to those we love, but to those who have harmed us as well. This is the deepest form of compassion, and it is this compassion that heals us as individuals and as a society.
What's next on the path of enlightenment? For me, I am making a commitment to nourishing my bodhichitta attitude. Won't you join me in this effort? I'm certain it will bring about the most happiness for yourself and those in the world today. I invite you to drop me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you are doing to enhance the bodhichitta attitude in you.
Peace to all.
Spiritual Coaching with Rev. Barbara
"Barbara Gulbranson helped me through one of the darkest periods of my life. She shined a light on my situation, providing healing and comfort. Her confident and compassionate guidance helped me to resolve and move on from a long career that no longer fulfilled me. I cannot imagine where I would be today if it were not for Barbara's skillful and loving coaching. I thank Spirit that at the exact moment of my greatest sense of desperation, I found Barbara's book, Live Your Joy: How to Awaken from Spiritual Slumber, which prompted my contacting her for a session and starting on a new path of really living my own joy. Barbara's work is truly a gift to the world."
-- Mickey Hay, PhD. Thriving in the Third Act
Dr. Barbara Gulbranson is one of the nation's leading spiritual teachers, author, spiritual coach, ordained minister and director of the Suicide Prevention Center, a program of United Health Services.