With this book, I am seeking to meet you exactly where you already are in your life and offer resources so you may find your own answers to the following questions: How do I live the most meaningful life I possibly can? What does that life look like for me? How do I find the voice of courageous creativity within me and trust that voice in the face of harsh realities that swirl around me—and around those I care about? What does this mean for my relationships at home or at work? How do I move forward in my life? How does a family or business or staff or board of directors—or nation, for that matter—leave behind the force field of fear and enter one of love? And what difference does all of this make in the lives of those who are suffering?
This is the tremendous, transformative journey upon which you embark when you embrace these 8 Habits of Love. As immodest as it may sound, it is my earnest hope that over time the Habits of Love will change your life and that of your community in profound and exhilarating ways. I truly believe that by integrating these habits into our daily lives, we make the world a better place. In opening our hearts and our minds, we ultimately change not only ourselves, but also—over time—those around us.
When practiced consistently, these Habits of Love can in fact become habitual and thus change the way we think and behave, fundamentally altering our interactions with those we love most dearly, those we barely know, and with the world at large. They help us see ourselves and those around us with entirely new eyes, as I did when I came to understand that every creature in the world is loved.
In some ways, each Habit of Love is stunningly simple. None requires any deep academic knowledge or religious commitment, but each asks that we look within ourselves so we may open our hearts by identifying and accessing our loved and loving selves. Yet for many, recognizing our inherent goodness—referred to here as the Beloved within or our inner sanctuary—is the most difficult hurdle of all. Each of the eight habits within these pages will offer you the vision, energy, and inspiration to help you make that leap.
The Habit of Generosity is the practice of opening our hearts so we may give and receive. This habit allows every gift that flows into each of us to flow through us to others. In this process we become affluent in the real sense of that term. Stillness is the habit in which we experience how richly, completely, and unconditionally each of us is loved and how every other person on the planet is loved in the same way. When we feel lost, frantic, scared, or inadequate, returning to Stillness can restore calm confidence and a vision for the next step. Contrary to what many of us believe, the Habit of Truth is not something we can ever fully possess, but is something that leads us, step by step, during the course of our lifetime. It sheds light on those stories we have inherited from our families, cultures, and religious traditions, and shows us which stories need to be abandoned in order to have an expanded life of freedom.
The Habit of Candor is significant because it is so often misunderstood, yet it is a habit that can be life changing for all the parties involved. It is about having the courage to engage in difficult conversations. In practicing Candor—with those with whom we work and socialize, not only those with whom we are intimate—we deepen our relationships more than we put them at risk. When we are overworked or stressed out, fear breeds like a virus. The joy that comes from allowing the Habit of Play into our lives rescues us from hurting ourselves or others because we were too tense and closed minded.
Forgiveness is something that we do within ourselves as a way of moving forward with our lives. But its benefits are not for us alone. After inviting the Habit of Forgiveness into our lives, our feelings about others and the way we relate to them also change, thereby positively affecting the lives of others within the larger community. Surprisingly to many, the Habit of Forgiveness is, in actuality, about releasing ourselves, not others—whereas the Habit of Compassion is about revealing to others the goodness that is inside them. And finally, the Habit of Community teaches us a truth that beats at the very heart of the universe: each of us needs other human beings in order to become fully human. I am because we are. We cannot be humane or human alone.
The practice of these eight habits expands the space within us and within our relationships, where love's sacred power can actually be felt overcoming and dispelling fear from inside our being. When love is the summit toward which we are headed, fear is our biggest obstacle. Yet when we open our hearts to love, we are at the same time opening our minds and choosing love over fear as a guiding force. No matter how many inspiring texts, stories, lectures, or sermons we receive, none is as inspiring as discovering the richness of love in our core. I call this love inside all of us the Beloved. The 8 Habits of Love outlined in this book help us access that core of love and power within each one of us.