Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Identifying a soul mate relationship

by Dorothy Thompson


Did you know there are three main kinds of soul mates?

They are: Karmic, Companion and Twin Flames. Study the different kinds and discover which category your soul mate falls under. This will give you a broader understanding of why he or she has come into your life. To help you, I will explain the differences.


The karmic soul mate experience is very common. You can have many of these in a lifetime. They enter your life to teach you an important lesson. Karmic soul mates can be co-workers, family members or close friends. One young woman particularly close to me comes to mind. Her name is Amanda Jane, and she is about twenty years my junior. She jokes that I must be her mother from another life. What makes our friendship special is that we touch on a spiritual level.

I often wonder why Amanda was brought into my life. We are very close, but what lesson am I to learn from her? To enjoy life again? Amanda comes from a dysfunctional family. Am I here to teach her a lesson? Am I to show her that she is loved and cherished? It can and does work both ways.

Sometimes karmic soul mate relationships can be romantic in nature; but if so, they won’t last long. That is because these relationships are solely meant for learning lessons and for growth rather than for obtaining a life partner.

Another thing we must keep in mind is that not all karmic relationships are human. Sometimes, pets we consider to be special members of our family can display the same karmic characteristics as humans. An example of this is Avis Townsend’s story “Back With Eli” in the karmic section of the book. Ms. Townsend’s story shows there are special relationships we can have with our pets to the point where the bond between pet and human becomes so deep it’s hard to dismiss it as anything other than the true karmic soul mate relationship.

Another point to remember about karmic soul mates, as well as other kinds of soul mates, is that each one, whether human or animal, comes into our lives for a reason and to teach us a lesson about ourselves.


A companion soul mate relationship can be a relationship that is romantic in nature. It involves your wife/husband or someone you are intimate with. Oftentimes, these soul mates are not destined to be with us forever but, like Karmic soul mates, are brought into our lives for a purpose.

It is possible to spend a lifetime with your companion soul mate if you haven’t met your twin soul. However, when the twin soul is found, the companion soul mate relationship could suffer. When this happens, the companion soul mate relationship is generally short-lived or, if it continues, a non-satisfying one. However, this is no reason to jump ship when it happens. Remember, there is a reason your companion soul mate is in your life (for example, so you can raise children together).

When your twin soul comes into your life and you are in a companion soul mate relationship, it is important that you take things slowly. It may be that the companion soul mate relationship will come to an end—or it may not. One thing you must keep in mind is that ending an existing relationship solely because one feels one has found one's twin soul is never a good idea, because over time you will realize that both associations are meant to be and both have an important role in your life.

An interesting aspect of the companion soul mate relationship is that we put more of our energies into it. The karmic soul mate relationship tends to go at an easy pace, without much effort from either partner, as it does with twin souls. The companion soul mate bond requires more work on our parts to sustain a healthy, loving atmosphere.


This is the highest form of soul mate connection. Your twin soul is your other half; to find your twin soul is like finding yourself. We go through our life searching and searching, and what we don’t realize is that we are looking for someone just like us. Sometimes, we find them in this life and, other times, in other lives.

I believe they are always around, but for some reason it is not apparent. Perhaps we close our eyes to them. We don’t listen and observe. We go through life at such a hectic pace we don’t stop and take in things that would otherwise be apparent, so the presence of a soul mate could hit us flat in the face and we wouldn’t even know it. This is sad, because we have missed that one, rare opportunity for total bliss and happiness.


In order to find your soul mate, you must know what to look for. I have compiled the ten most important traits in recognizing your soul mate. Read them to help you decide who your own soul mate(s) is.


Your soul mate must accept you for who you are. He or she must accept your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Your soul mate does not try to change you, nor do you try to change them. He or she lets you be yourself, for the more you are yourself, the stronger your bond with your soul mate has a chance of becoming.


Your soul mate makes you feel good about yourself. He or she never criticizes, only encourages. If they cannot do this, then they are not your soul mate.


Your soul mate cares about you and what happens to you. He is the first to be by your side in accomplishment and defeat. She picks you up when others throw you down. He nurtures your spirit so you can roll with the punches, no matter where they fall.


Your soul mate is your best friend in the entire world. She or he laughs with you, cries with you, sings with you. They are there for you when life throws you those bad curves; they are there for you when you surpass your highest expectations of yourself. A soul mate will understand you and give you what you want and need without hesitation. She will make you feel at home, comfortable and at ease.

As you would with any friend, take the relationship slow. Savor each milestone of firsts: the first time your eyes meet, the first time his lips brush against yours, the first afternoon spent together walking through the park or along the seashore or even just in your own backyard. You have to remember that if you end up together, these “firsts” will be ingrained in your memory forever. Cherish them.


Your soul mate is generous. He gives freely of his time and his possessions. She will ditch whatever she is doing to be with you. He will give you your heart’s desires. She will give you her heart and soul, if need be.


Soul mates are interested in what each other have to say. My soul mate and I would spend hours contemplating the mysteries of the universe. Since we thought alike, we never did stop talking. We talked about our past, our present and our future. As we had so many things in common, each of us was interested in what the other had to say.


You may have premonitions of your future soul mate in dreams. Whether they are when you are asleep or when you are in meditation, you will picture your soul mate as if he or she were standing in front of you. You will note the color of their hair, the sound of their voice, their way of walking. You will picture your soul mate as you want them to be. If you are fortunate enough to be able to do this—and it can happen anytime, anywhere—remember it. For, in time, your soul mate will appear in front of you just as you envisioned.


One of the main ingredients for a successful soul mate relationship lies in the power of karma. In layman’s terms, karma is basically the theory that whatever you do, there will be another event to follow that is directly consequential to your actions. Therefore, the law of karma teaches us that what we do today may come back to haunt us tomorrow. How does this apply to the soul mate phenomenon?

If you are in a bad relationship, and you continue to remain in that relationship, you are setting up a path of bad karma for yourself because of the negative energies that arise. Once you learn to set up a shield against this negativity, good karma will infiltrate your life and open your soul to a promising and healthy soul mate relationship.

Not until this happens will you ever receive a satisfactory soul mate union. Both parties must bring good karma into the relationship. You have to remember that we are all souls, just pure energy “visiting” this planet; and we have been here many times. Neither partner can come from a place where negativity is present, or the soul mate experience just won’t occur..


You will feel a connection with your soul mate, as if you had known him or her before. You will feel an energy radiating between you. You will look into each other’s eyes and see each other’s soul, for that is where the true soul mate connection lies.

Not enough can be said about the spiritual connection between soul mates. It is the most important quality in a soul mate relationship. You will feel this in the depths of your heart and soul. Without it, the soul mate relationship is doomed.


Your soul mate will love you more than anything or anyone he has loved in his entire life, although he will give you freedom to be who you are. “You cannot possess a soul mate any more than you can possess a person in your physical world,” says Robert Egby, author of Thank You For The Flowers. “Soul mates are free and must always be so. Love cannot be possessed or controlled. Soul mates are together because they share an unconditional love, a mutual vibration. There are no exceptions.”


Other things come into play in seeking your soul mate that you might not count on. One is perfect timing. If it isn’t the right time for you and your soul mate to be together, it will likely not happen.


I have learned in doing research for this book that many people do not believe in soul mates. They say they have searched and searched for the one person who will make them happy, and have given up. They have come to the conclusion they do not believe there is one, and only one, person who is perfect for them.

They are absolutely right. There is no one person who is your soul mate because, as I noted earlier, there are at least three types of soul mates. Those who do not believe at all are missing an important part of their life experience, for it is our search for our soul mate that makes our spiritual journey complete.

The bottom line is, don’t give up. Our soul mates are out there. Perhaps, they are right under our noses and we don’t even realize it.

Dorothy Thompson

When you have really found true gratitude

When you exist in the great state of gratitude, you become a person who only wants to give. You become so grateful that it takes over your life, and you can't find enough opportunities in a day to give. You give joy, you give love, you give money, you give appreciation, you give compliments, and you give kindness. You give the best of yourself in your job, in your relationships, and to strangers.

You will know when you have really found true gratitude, because you will become a giver. One who is truly grateful cannot be anything else.

May the joy be with you,

Rhonda Byrne

Saturday, April 23, 2011

31 Life Lessons

by Tina Su (excerpt)

31 Life Lessons

1. It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes and failures are there to teach us. If we learn from them and correct the way on our path, better things will result from it.

2. We create our own reality. We have the power to break mental patterns that no longer serve us, and we have the power to consciously choose thoughts that empower us. It’s only a matter of breaking old habits and creating new ones.

3. Finding validation and seeking love from another person through relationships is a self-destructive path. Those types of relationships never last, and when they end, they burn in heartache. You must love and respect yourself first. When you wholeheartedly love who you are, the world will fall in love with you, and the right relationship will fall into place. Until I fully accept, love and respect myself, I will continue to attract those relationships rooted in fear, insecurities and disempowerment.

4. A few moments of silence each day will broaden your horizon, strengthen your self-awareness, and heighten your inner clarity. With clarity, you can do anything.

5. You will never be ready for what you want to do. The trick is to just start it anyway, and to develop the discipline to work at it consistently. Taking baby steps in the direction you want to go means that you will eventually get there.

6. Life is short. Live it the way that will make you happy.

7. Change creates resistance. We don’t like change and we will always gravitate towards what is familiar because familiarity keeps us feeling safe. But sometimes, change is good for us. In fact, change is inevitable. Change is the only thing that is for certain. Embrace change.

8. Don’t be afraid to dream. Dreams create the vision that governs the story of our lives. Our dreams create our future. Dream big. Remember #6, life is short.

9. Money is a renewable resource. If you lose some money, don’t sweat it. You can always make more. However, if you spend valuable time stressing over money, or lost opportunity, you’ll never get that time back. Time is more valuable than money.

10. Fear comes from uncertainty of the unknown. It happens to all of us. It is part of the natural mechanisms for our survival. Its job is to keep us safe. You can never suppress fear, nor ignore fear, nor cure fear. The trick is to fully embrace fear by simply acting despite the feeling of fear. When you’ve fully faced fear and experienced it, the fear will subside.

11. Self-doubt, like fear, seeks everyone. You are no exception. Just do it anyway.

12. Time is the most important resource in the world. It is the only non-renewable resource in your life. Choose wisely how you spend time, and with whom you spend it.

13. Less is more. Say less, listen more. Own less things, and you’ll experience more freedom.

14. The people with whom you spend time matter. They influence you in unconscious ways, both positive and negative. Your income is the average of the three people with whom you spend the most time. Your potential to achieve greatness can be limited by the negative influence of the opinions of the people around you. Similarly, if all your friends were living self-empowered and awesome lives, wouldn’t that rub off on you to live extraordinarily? Choose your friends carefully.

15. We really don’t need very much (stuff) to be happy.

16. The most important thing we can do is to love ourselves. By making self-love a priority, everyone and everything we care about will be better because of it. We become better parents, employees, lovers, friends and contributing members of society.

17. Learn to let go. Surrender to what is happening right now. Fully embrace and experience this moment, regardless of what this moment holds. Like all moments, this moment too shall pass.

18. People are really kind and helpful if you give them a chance. Be open to receiving without feeling the need to “pay them back.” Let others know what they’ve provided for you, and how much you appreciate their help. Fully receiving what someone else has to offer is a gift in itself.

19. We are stronger and more resilient than we think we are.

20. The most damaging influence in our lives is the limiting beliefs we hold about ourselves. It’s the unexamined limiting beliefs that cause us to sabotage our success, sell ourselves short, and limit our own potential to living extraordinary lives. If you are not achieving the kinds of results you want in your life, sit down with a journal and examine your beliefs.

21. Complaining, criticizing and gossiping is a waste of time and saps your energy.

22. Being a victim is a lot easier than being a leader. Leaders take responsibility and own up to their part in the doing. Leaders take action to change themselves and to overcome setbacks. Victims refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and emotions. Victims would rather sit back passively and give their power away by placing blame on an external trigger. Be the leader of your life. You are the only one capable of the job. Take responsibility of your own emotions. The world needs more leaders.

23. Forgiving someone is a lot easier than we think. When we forgive, we are setting ourselves free. Forgiveness is not about other people; it’s about letting the pain go in our own minds.

24. It’s easy to find fault in others–much easier than seeing fault in ourselves. How we view the world is a reflection of how we view ourselves, and this gives us insight to our internal thought patterns. Next time you catch yourself complaining about some fault in others, ask yourself, “What is it about myself, in relation to this topic, that I don’t like?”

25. Naps are good. It’s okay to sleep in, sometimes. We need rest to recharge. Staying up late into the night is bad for our bodies, and we pay the price with our health.

26. There is always a silent and graceful solution to every problem. When feeling nervous, stressed or anxious, stop everything and take three deep breaths. Or better yet, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Try the mantra “I am safe. All is well.”

27. Master creations in the arts (writing, drawing, music, dance, even software programming) are the result of someone’s love of the process of creation. Masterpieces are never created as a result of someone trying to be brilliant. Get out of your head and get into your heart. Stop overthinking! Just relax, start creating and fall into the flow. Focus on what you are doing without being concerned with what other people will think. Create for the sake of creation. Create out of love of the process, and you just might find that your resulting creation turns out to be a masterpiece.

28. When you passionately and genuinely believe in something, it will change you. You will embody the energy of your passion, and the world will notice the light that you shine. When you believe in yourself, others will believe in you, too.

29. Learn to say no. If you don’t want to do something—go to a party, accept an obligation, meet someone—just say “no, thank you.” You don’t owe anyone an excuse or explanation.

30. Giving unsolicited advice to others—regardless of how much you feel that they need it—is a waste of time and energy. Unless your advice was specifically requested, what you say will not be heard or appreciated. Unsolicited advice is perceived as annoying. Don’t do it.

31. Slowing down to self-reflect, to contemplate, to sit quietly, to journal, to breathe, or to clear your mind will actually make you more productive than if you worked until you collapsed. Slowing down has more benefits than just a clear mind; one side effect is a happier life.

Bonus Life Lessons
I started with a big list of life lessons, then I started trimming until I was left with 31. The following are additional important life lessons I couldn’t leave on the editing floor:

1. People will not change no matter how badly you want them to. People will only change if they want to. Instead of trying to change others, change yourself. Change your perception about the person, and allow them to be themselves, without you trying to change them.

2. We are not alone. No matter how bizarre or embarrassed or pathetic we feel about our own situation, there will be others out there experiencing the same emotions. When you hear yourself say “I am all alone,” it is your mind trying to sell you a lie so you will continue to feel sorry for yourself.

3. We are the only ones who can solve our own problems. We are the only ones who can change ourselves. We are the only ones who can choose to see the good, to see hope, to pick ourselves up, and to accept help. We must rely upon and trust ourselves.

4. My body knows what I need. Sometimes, I get sick because my body is trying to get my attention. Its message is usually something like this: relax, recharge, you’re working too much, drink water, exercise and get more sleep. When I get sick, I listen to my body’s messages and I heal.

5. Watch my language. The words I use to describe my experiences carry with it more power than I can consciously fathom. Saying that “I Can’t” do something has a profound effect on my beliefs about what is possible. It can limit my potential or empower me with possibilities. Choose your words carefully.

6. Help other people get what they want. You will be rewarded not only financially, but also with the priceless reward of fulfillment.

7. Trying to be right is a waste of time and energy. I would rather be happy than right.

8. Drink lots of water.

9. When you want something and you ask for it, you will more likely get it. Don’t be afraid to ask.

10. Within each of us lies a vast well of wisdom. It is a source within the depth of our soul which connects to infinite intelligence and the capacity to heal all our wounds. To access this source and to hear its messages, we must slow down, quiet our minds and go within. Only in the stillness of our being can we recognize the soft ripples of our inner voice and intuition. Learn to trust it. It is always right.

“The day is ending, our life is one day shorter.
Let us look carefully at what we have done.
Let us practice diligently,
…Putting our whole heart into the path…
Let us live deeply each moment in freedom,
So time does not slip away meaninglessly.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Here’s to a year (and a life time) dedicated to happiness–where we shall focus on the good in our lives, cut out gossiping and criticizing others, create healthy habits, work on meaningful projects, dream about future creations, go on dates and spent more quality time as a family.

If I had to choose, the most important life lesson is summarized to this: Life is so short. What’s happened is already in the past. The future is here for us to create. The power is in this moment. In this moment, we have the choice to create painful memories from the past, or we can create a beautiful tomorrow. You have that power.

A beautiful life is closer than we think. It’s already here … if we choose to see it.

Friday, April 15, 2011

3 tips to remember when everything goes wrong

Blue Skies...
Editor’s note: this is a contribution by Cat Li Stevenson
“To a mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.” ~Chuang-Tzu
The beauty of life is that we constantly have the opportunity to change it.
We always have the power to recreate it. We can change our thoughts, remember how to live instead of planning each moment, forgive the past, be present for the now, slow down the speed, and push the reset button on a day that has escaped us.

Here are the 3 tips to remember when everything goes wrong:


We are each so powerful in our ability to completely change how we feel this very moment.
We can escape the pursuits of tomorrow, the clinging of negative thoughts, the spiraling of worry that creates fear. We can escape negativity and embarrassment and get out of a funk when we give ourselves the choice to do so.
What resets do you have? Perhaps a long walk outside? Or a yoga class to help you center? Or a phone call to a friend for encouragement? Or a visit to your favorite blog? Or a quote that puts things back in perspective?  Or a picture that reminds you of all the abundance you have?
Can you remind yourself to use these resets when experiencing moments of spiraling?
Our fearful thoughts can take an event that seemed bad and draw it out way longer than necessary. It’s amazing how this type of thinking can actually create more events that seem bad.
It is natural and common for our thoughts to wander from one instance to the next. Our thoughts can either carry us to a place of hope, motivation, and excitement—or to a place of frustration, worry, and resentment.
We have the ability to choose to drop those thoughts that don’t serve us. We can liberate ourselves from fear by choosing to let go of stories about what happened in the past.
Next time your fear-based thoughts take over, ask yourself, “Which thoughts are interrupting the flow of my day?” Then drop it like it’s hot.
No matter what changes in our external setting, the gift we have inside is always unwavering.
When circumstances in our day seem to become scattered and our day has completely escaped us, perhaps it has. But that’s just what’s going on outside us.
We can center by bringing ourselves back to this very moment with our breath. Take a moment to just be here, to connect with the now.
Breathe out all of the imperfections of today and breathe in the ability to find clarity in resetting.
Use the breath as a reminder to revel in this moment. At any time, we can choose to make adjustments, adapt, and reset.  We always have the ability to choose to be at ease.
Next time you have one of those days when everything seems to wrong, remember: Reset. Drop. And breathe.

Cat Li Stevenson is an idealist who savors each day as a gift, and, intrigued by the simple brilliance of life, discovers inspiration in all dynamics of her day. Add Cat as a friend on Facebook,follow her at @Cat_Stevenson, or visit www.thinksimplenow.com

Life is a game of boomerangs

On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know that life is a game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later with astounding accuracy.

Florence Scovel Shinn said that, and she was right. So before you think, do, or say anything -- imagine what it would be like to receive what you are sending.

Then, go one step further. Decide ahead of time what you would like to receive...and then send it. Quite deliberately. That is, give to, or cause in the life of, another what you would like to now experience.

Then...watch the magic.

Your friend

Neal Donald Walsch

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's About Frequency

by Margaret Paul, Ph.D

...In my experience, like attracts like means that like frequency attracts like frequency. My high frequency attracts the things I want and my low frequency attracts the things I don’t want.

The question then becomes, what raises or lowers frequency?

What Lowers Frequency?

Anything that makes you feel down lowers your frequency. Here is a list of what I have found lowers frequency:

• Intent to control - When your desire is to control your feelings, as well as others and outcomes, you are operating out of your wounded self, which lowers your frequency. Even positive thoughts can lower your frequency when your intent is to control rather than be loving to yourself and others.

• Negative thinking, Resentment, Judgment and Self-Judgment - The lies you tell yourself from your ego wounded self lower your frequency. Feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, jealousy, and envy all have a low frequency, so any thought that comes from false beliefs and that creates these feelings lowers your frequency.

• Resistance - The fear of being controlled by others, by God, or even by yourself, creates resistance, which lowers the frequency

• Alcohol – While people might convince themselves that they raise their frequency when drinking, this is not true. Just because it may lower your stress, doesn’t mean it raises your frequency.

• Prescription drugs – Since prescription drugs are alien to the body, the body has to work to deal with them, which causes a lowering of frequency.

• Recreational drugs – A few recreational drugs – the kinds of drugs that indigenous people used infrequently to connect with Spirit – can raise your frequency for a short period of time. But frequent use has the opposite effect.

• Food – Fresh, whole organic food has a high frequency, but processed foods have a low frequency and lower the frequency of your body.

• Lack of exercise – Our bodies are meant to move; not moving lowers your frequency.

• Lack of sleep – It is hard to have a high frequency when you don’t get enough sleep.

• Lack of water – Dehydration creates huge stress on the body, which lowers the frequency.

• Negative environment – It is often hard to maintain a positive attitude when in a negative environment. We are affected both positively and negatively by others’ frequency.

What Raises Frequency?

• Intent to learn – Our free will to choose our intent in any given moment is the most powerful choice we have. Choosing to learn about loving ourselves and others, rather than choosing to protect/avoid/control is the major way we have of raising our frequency. This is why, when we think positively from an intent to control, in an attempt to manifest what we want, we are often not successful, as anything done from the intent to control – even positive thinking – lowers the frequency.

• Positive thinking – This might seem like a contradiction to the statement above, but it is about intent. When your intent in thinking positively is to be loving to yourself and support your highest good, this raises your frequency. When your intent in positive thinking is to control others and outcomes, then it lowers your frequency.

• Food – Fresh whole foods that are in alignment with your metabolism and that support your health, raise your frequency.

• Exercise – Exercise that you love and that makes you feel alive raises your frequency. Forcing yourself to do exercise that you don’t like lowers your frequency.

• Getting enough sleep – Sleep is vital for feeling good enough to be open to and connected with yourself, others and your spiritual Guidance. Being disconnected from ourselves lowers our frequency.

• Drinking enough water – Being fully hydrated is vital to keeping your frequency high.

• Being in a peaceful environment – Being in nature, listening to music, and being around loving and accepting people raises your frequency.

• Love – Love and peace are the highest frequency feelings, so being loving to yourself and others, which creates inner peace, raises your frequency.

Like does attract like, so focus on keeping your frequency high and you will manifest your dreams!

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a best-selling author of 8 books, relationship expert, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® process – featured on Oprah. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This is Your Brain on Bliss

After 2,000 years of practice, Buddhist monks know that one secret to happiness is simply to put your mind to it.
What is happiness, and how can we achieve it?
Happiness can’t be reduced to a few agreeable sensations. Rather, it is a way of being and of experiencing the world—a profound fulfillment that suffuses every moment and endures despite inevitable setbacks.
Matthieu Ricard
Matthieu Ricard, left, quit his career as a cellular geneticist nearly 40 years ago to study Buddhism. He is the French translator for the Dalai Lama, right. Photo by Pagoda Phat Hue, phathue.com
The paths we take in search of happiness often lead us to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. This is why we can be deeply unhappy even though we “have it all”—wealth, power, health, a good family, etc.—and, conversely, we can remain strong and serene in the face of hardship.
Authentic happiness is a way of being and a skill to be cultivated. When we first begin, the mind is vulnerable and untamed, like that of a monkey or a restless child. It takes practice to gain inner peace, inner strength, altruistic love, forbearance, and other qualities that lead to authentic happiness.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama often teaches that, while there are limitations to how much information one can learn and to our physical performance, compassion can be developed boundlessly.
Practicing Happiness
It is not difficult to begin. You just have to sit from time to time, turn your mind within, and let your thoughts calm down. Focus your attention on a chosen object. It can be an object in your room, your breath, or your own mind. Inevitably, your mind will wander as you do this. Each time it does, gently bring it back to the object of concentration, like a butterfly that returns again and again to a flower.
In the freshness of the present moment, past is gone, future is not yet born, and—if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom—disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace. That is basic meditation.
Matthieu Ricard’s brain. Photo by Waisman Brain Imaging Lab, University Of Wisconsin
Find out what happens when the meditating mind of a Buddhist monk is examined by magnetic resonance imaging: Matthieu Ricard’s brain.
Photo by Waisman Brain Imaging Lab, University of Wisconsin
Pure consciousness without content is something all those who meditate regularly and seriously have experienced—it is not just some sort of Buddhist theory. And anyone who takes the trouble to stabilize and clarify his or her mind will be able to experience it, too. It is through this unconditioned aspect of consciousness that we can transform the content of mind through training.
But meditation also means to cultivate basic human qualities, such as attention and compassion, and new ways of experiencing the world. What really matters is that a person gradually changes. Over months and years, we become less impatient, less prone to anger, less torn between hopes and fears. It becomes inconceivable to willingly harm another person. We develop a propensity toward altruistic behavior and the cluster of qualities that give us the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life.
The point here is that you can look at your thoughts, including strong emotions, with a pure mindfulness that is not associated with the contents of the thoughts.
Take the example of malevolent anger. We usually identify with anger. Anger can fill our mental landscape and project its distorted reality on people and events. When we are overwhelmed by anger, we cannot dissociate from it. We perpetuate a vicious circle of affliction by rekindling anger each time we see or remember the person who makes us angry. We become addicted to the cause of suffering.
But if we dissociate from anger and look at it with mindfulness, that which is aware of anger is not angry, and we can see that anger is just a bunch of thoughts. Anger doesn’t cut like a knife, burn like a fire, or crush like a rock; it is nothing more than a product of our mind. Instead of “being” the anger, we understand that we are not the anger, in the same way that clouds are not the sky.
So, to deal with anger, we avoid letting our mind jump again and again to the trigger for our anger. Then we look at anger itself and keep our attention upon it. If we stop adding wood to a fire and just watch, the fire will die out. Likewise, anger will vanish away, without being forcibly repressed or allowed to explode.
There is no question of not experiencing emotions; it’s a question of not being enslaved by them. Let emotions arise, but let them be freed from their afflictive components: distortion of reality, mental confusion, clinging, and suffering for oneself and others.
There is great virtue in resting from time to time in pure awareness of the present moment, and being able to refer to this state when afflictive emotions arise so that we do not identify with them and are not swayed by them.
It is difficult in the beginning, but becomes quite natural as you become increasingly familiar with such an approach. Whenever anger arises, you learn to recognize it right away. If you know someone to be a pickpocket, even if he mingles in a crowd, you will spot him right away and keep a careful eye on him.
Just as you can learn to deal with afflictive thoughts, you can learn to cultivate and enhance wholesome ones. To be filled with love and kindness brings about an optimal way of being. It is a win-win situation: you will enjoy lasting well-being for yourself, you’ll act in altruistic ways towards others, and you’ll be perceived as a good human being.
If altruistic love is based on an understanding of the interdependence of all beings and of their natural aspiration to happiness, and if this love extends impartially to all beings, then it is a source of genuine happiness. Acts of overflowing love, of pure, disinterested generosity—as when you make a child happy or help someone in need, even if nobody knows what you have done—generate a deep and heartwarming fulfillment.
The Habits of Happiness

TED TALK: Listen to Matthieu Ricard answer the questions: What is Happiness, and How Can We All Get Some?

Dalai Lama Renaissance

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Human qualities often come in clusters. Altruism, inner peace, strength, freedom, and genuine happiness thrive together like the parts of a nourishing fruit. Likewise, selfishness, animosity, and fear grow together. So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant,” it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony with the interdependence of all things and beings.
Afflictive mental states, on the other hand, begin with self-centeredness, with an increase in the gap between self and others. These states are related to excessive self-importance and self-cherishing associated with fear or resentment towards others, and grasping for outer things as part of a hopeless pursuit of selfish happiness. A selfish pursuit of happiness is a lose-lose situation: you make yourself miserable and make others miserable as well.
Inner conflicts are often linked with excessive rumination on the past and anticipation of the future. You are not truly paying attention to the present moment, but are engrossed in your thoughts, going on and on in a vicious circle, feeding your ego and self-centeredness.
This is the opposite of bare attention. To turn your attention inside means to look at pure awareness itself and dwell without distraction, yet effortlessly, in the present moment.
If you cultivate these mental skills, after a while you won’t need to apply contrived efforts anymore. You can deal with mental perturbations like the eagles I see from the window of my hermitage in the Himalayas deal with crows. The crows often attack them, diving at the eagles from above. But, instead of doing all kinds of acrobatics, the eagle simply retracts one wing at the last moment, lets the diving crow pass, and then extends its wing again. The whole thing requires minimal effort and causes little disturbance.
Being experienced in dealing with the sudden arising of emotions in the mind works in a similar way.
I have been exposed to the world of humanitarian activities for a number of years since I decided to dedicate the entire royalties of my books to 30 projects on education and health in Tibet, Nepal, and India, with a group of dedicated volunteers and generous philanthropists. It is easy to see how corruption, clashes of ego, weak empathy, discouragement can plague the humanitarian world. All this stems from a lack of maturity. So the advantages of spending time to develop human altruism and compassionate courage are obvious.

The Fragrance of Peace

The most important time to meditate or do other types of spiritual practices is early in the morning. You set the tone for the day and the “fragrance” of the meditation will remain and give a particular perfume to the whole day. Another important time is before falling asleep. If you clearly generate a positive state of mind, filled with compassion or altruism, this will give a different quality to the whole night.
When people experience “moments of grace”, or “magical moments” in daily life, while walking in the snow under the stars or spending a beautiful moment with dear friends by the seaside, what is really happening? All of a sudden, they have left their burden of inner conflicts behind. They feel in harmony with others, with themselves, with the world. It is wonderful to fully enjoy such magical moments, but it is also revealing to understand why they feel so good: pacification of inner conflicts; a better sense of interdependence with everything rather than fragmenting reality; and a respite from the mental toxins of aggression and obsession. All these qualities can be cultivated through developing wisdom and inner freedom. This will lead not just to a few moments of grace but to a lasting state of well-being that we may call genuine happiness.
In this state, feelings of insecurity gradually give way to a deep confidence that you can deal with life’s ups and downs. Your equanimity will spare you from being swayed like mountain grass in the wind by every possible praise and blame, gain and loss, comfort and discomfort. You can always draw on deep inner peace, and the waves at the surface will not appear as threatening.

Matthieu Ricard wrote this article as part of Sustainable Happiness, the Winter 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Matthieu has authored seven books, including Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. He lives at the Shechen monastery in Nepal, travels the world for Karuna-shechen (www.karuna-shechen.org) and does an annual solitary retreat in the Himalayas.
The Habits of Happiness: Listen to Matthieu Ricard address the TED conference.
Dalai Lama Renaissance: The Dalai Lama invited the West’s most innovative thinkers, including YES! Magazine’s Fran Korten, to discuss solutions to the world’s problems. See the trailer for this film, narrated by Harrison Ford.