Real Happiness empowers you to live the life of joy and purpose that you were meant to live.

Many of our definitions of happiness are shaped by Madison Avenue. They define only the outer shell, or the mask that we show to the world. They describe how we look to others, not how we feel about ourselves. If we accept these definitions, we probably believe that a happy person is physically attractive, rich, influential, liked and respected by others, and powerful in the world. Those are the people we see on television and in the magazines. But if we look a little more deeply at the lives of these models of happiness, we see that they are not really any more happy than the rest of us. They have the same struggles and frustrations that we do, and their lives also fall apart, just as ours do.

Just because we have a good "happiness mask" does not mean that we are really happy. We are just good at pretending to be happy when we really aren’t. It takes courage to pull off our mask and show up as a real person, especially if we have a public image to protect. Yet even if we aren’t famous, we are still trying to save face. We still don’t want others to see the pain that lies behind our mask.

Both Madison Avenue. and Wall Street give us a very superficial definition of happiness. They give us the veneer, not the heartwood. It is easily tarnished. Hollywood doesn’t do much better. Idols are not only made in a flash; they fall and crash just as quickly.

Real Happiness is not based on how we appear to others or what others think about us. It really has very little to do with that. Real Happiness is not about the outer shell, image or mask, but about the inner core. It is not about how good we look to others, or about our ability to please them and get their approval. It is about how we feel about ourselves in our hearts.

In other words, happiness is an internal state not an external condition. It is not about surface things like money, lifestyle, possessions, role or image. It is not about what we do or what we have, but about who we are and how we feel about ourselves.

This is a radical definition. While many people continue to define happiness by how good they are at what we do or by how much money or material possessions they have, the truth is that they can have name, fame and riches and still be unhappy. Real Happiness does not come from the outside. It comes from within. It must be measured from the inside out, not from the outside in.

Real Happiness is a journey

Another important characteristic of Real Happiness is that it is not a static state. It is not just a goal that we aspire to. It is a dynamic process. Most of us are in the process of becoming happy or, to be more precise, "happier" than we have been in the past. No matter how happy we are, more happiness is possible. That is because, at any given time, we are actualizing only a small percentage of our full potential.

So how do we maximize our potential to be happy? How do we take the next steps on our journey to self-actualization?

The same people who gave us the Madison Avenue version of happiness also gave us the most common prescription for happiness. That prescription was "make the best mask you can and put a big smiley face over your pain." In other words, "Deny your pain and pretend to be happy." That prescription doesn’t work for most people. Or else they need other more serious prescriptions to reinforce it. It’s not long before the mask begins to degrade and they return to the doctor for a back-up prescription of Prozac, tranquilizers or sleeping pills, or they might reach instead for a joint, a hit of cocaine or their second bottle of wine.

Numbing ourselves out does not lead to Real Happiness. It just helps us try to cope with the fact that we are not really happy. It helps us feel better for an hour or two when it becomes clear that our mask is not working and the pain behind it is leaking through.

To be really happy, we need to stop doing two things: Denying our pain, and medicating it. And we need to begin to do two very different things: Feel our pain, and heal and move through it.

Healing our pain

Have you ever wondered what your life would be like if:

• You believed in yourself and knew you had a gift to share?

• You could move forward with your dreams instead of questioning them?

• You could face life problems without fear?

• You loved yourself no matter what happened?

You would be well on your way to manifesting your full power and potential as a human being, would you not? So what stands in your way?

There could be several things that stand in your way. For example: You could have childhood wounds and could be carrying a great deal of fear, guilt, anger or hurt inside. While you might have a handle on all that, there may be times when you lose control and what comes out it isn’t very pretty.

Your wound-driven behavior may undermine your relationship with your children and loved ones. It might challenge you at work. Because of your shame around your wounds, you may show up with a mask or a False Self, either apologizing for yourself and seeking approval, or taking charge and dominating others. You might be under-confident or over-confident. You might be hard on yourself or hard on others. You may be a victim or a victimizer. Either way, the bottom line is that you might not like yourself very much. You could judge yourself mercilessly. Or you could judge others harshly, which is the flip side of the same coin.

We don’t like to talk about our reactive behavior or the wounds and beliefs behind them, but they are the root of our deepest pain. If we don’t find that root and heal it, we cannot be happy. We will simply continue to recycle our pain and pass our wounds onto our children.

Loving without conditions

How do we heal? We learn to love and accept ourselves unconditionally. We learn to bring love to the wounded parts of ourselves so that we can heal and stand in our power as authentic human beings. Once we are able to bring love to ourselves, bringing love to our loved ones and our human family becomes a lot easier.

Now this idea is a fairly simple one. Yet, loving ourselves unconditionally seems to be the most challenging assignment for all of us.

Fifteen years ago I wrote a book called Love without Conditions. It was an international best-seller. Other books on this subject followed, including The Laws of Love, The Power of Love, The Presence of Love, and Love is My Gospel. Many people have read my books and subsequently come to my retreats and workshops all over the globe to learn how to heal, to forgive the past, and to love themselves unconditionally.

During the last year I have synthesized and condensed the transformational material from over 35 books into a weekend experience that can be life changing. Participants in my Real Happiness Workshop learn to surrender the False Self and connect with their True Self. They are empowered to stand in their strength, attract honest, fulfilling relationships, and create meaningful work that expresses their true talents and gifts.

A joyful and empowered life

This work assumes that genuine happiness is possible for all of us. There is no defect or deficiency in us that prevents us from being happy. However, there are false beliefs that need to be challenged and hurts that need to be healed so that we can open our hearts fully to love and to life.

I have spent the last 35 years of my life coming up with a roadmap for the journey of healing and transformation and concrete tools that can help us learn to love ourselves without conditions. The Real Happiness Work is the result. I feel that it is powerful, authentic and effective. I hope that you will experience it for yourself and, if it speaks to your heart, learn to teach it and bring its message of hope and healing to others.

Paul Ferrini is the author of 32 books on love, healing and forgiveness. The above article was adapted from his latest book entitled The Presence of Love which will be available in stores in March, 2006. PaulÕs work has been translated into numerous languages and his transformational workshops have touched the hearts of people all over the world. For more information about PaulÕs books and his inspirational Easter Retreat on April 14-17, visit www.paulferrini.com or call 1 (888) HARTWAY. Copyright © 2006 Paul Ferrini. All rights reserved

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