I am: a psychologist with more than 30 years of clinical experience; a qigong teacher with nearly 15 years of study, practice and teaching; and a man who is nearly 60 and has spent most of his life searching for happiness. And I really didn’t understand that a central element to that happiness was sitting in front of me all the time.
As a psychotherapist, I was looking for the right theoretical school, the right technique, the right approach to help my clients not only heal, but also find happiness. I spent years in therapy myself looking to become more lighthearted and happy. But I never found that.
What finally became clear to me was that psychotherapy was able to remove some of the obstacles to happiness. So even if it couldn’t give it to you, therapy could make happiness more likely. Continuing my search, I found myself delighted to be practicing qigong, an ancient Chinese energy system of simple movements and deep meditations, wonderfully opening my heart energy. I thought this would surely give me the key to happiness.
I felt calm and energized, and I began not just to practice but to teach this qigong. I even translated what I was learning about qigong into my work as a psychotherapist. I taught people how to breathe, drop their consciousness into their energetic body and even into their hearts. I thought I had found the missing key in my search for happiness.
I felt blessed — filled with vitality and almost addicted to the wonderful energy I could produce — and yet, I must admit, not very happy. I had moments — great moments that I could expound on at length to make others and myself think I had found happiness. But I was fooling them and myself.
I was a senior teacher with a qigong master who seemed to embody happiness and love. So, given my rich history and all I had done and was doing, I must have been embodying happiness and love, too. But what I learned was that even mystical experiences and moments of happiness and love don’t necessarily translate into a transformed and happy life.
Then I stumbled upon what I was missing in the unlikeliest of places — in the epilogue of my own book, and it wasn’t even close to what the epilogue was meant to convey. The book told the story of my healing journey through trauma to profound mystical experiences in the Christian faith, on the Native American path, and then on the Taoist road through meditation. It was about how love pierced me in all those traditions and brought itself forward in ways I didn’t imagine possible.
In the epilogue, I am having an incredibly romantic dinner in a little restaurant at a resort on the beach in Mexico reflecting on the experiences of love I had written about in the book and what they taught me. But what I realized as I was reading those pages was that it wasn’t the experiences of profound spiritual love that made me happy. I had had them for the previous 35 years, and they never led to much more than moments of happiness.
What made me happy, I realized, was my new ability to be in intimate relationships — ones that opened up my heart energy in a manner I had never been able to sustain. I could see that my therapy and spiritual healings helped give me tools and inspiration to lean, again and again, into these relationships — to lean into the heart-opening and gentle unfolding of a deepening in me and a deepening in them. It was being in relationships, this one with my partner and others, that was making me feel happy.
I was now able to be more transparent and vulnerable, was able to be more humble, was able to stay in relationship and not emotionally withdraw as much. I was now able to take in love and be loving with a depth I didn’t know previously was possible. I hadÂ found,Â through all my wanderings, how to better stay in my heart and in my body, which allowed me to stay in relationships.
AndÂ that is what is making me happy.