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Open Your Hearts and Your Minds
 
If we can access the inner sanctuary living inside us and be brave on behalf of freedom, be brave on behalf of emotional, physical, relational, and spiritual health, be brave on behalf of unearthing the Beloved in every one of us—then we will know what we are called upon to do. The key to life, I think, and the most beautiful thing in the world is to know who we really are. We begin this journey by recognizing that we are deeply loved. We can live with an open heart and an open mind; we can be instruments of peace, reconciliation, and justice.
 
In preaching about the Habits of Love, I have had the honor of learning how everyday people gain joy and freedom from choosing love over fear—and now I seek to share those lessons with you. Living with love and methodically embracing its habits have changed many lives for the better. The Habits of Love helped Kathy find common ground with a friend from whom she had been distanced for many years. "I began to see her differently—to recognize her sincerity and her passion, although so different in direction from mine, was nonetheless rooted in a desire for good. Our relationship began to slowly change," she said.
 
Jerry and his brother Tod had not talked in many years, and when their mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he considered not even sharing the news with Tod. But instead, Jerry chose to embrace love over fear and reach out, warmly and without bitterness, to his brother. Tod reconnected with his dying mother, and they began getting together weekly to engage in what they lovingly called "Swing Therapy" by making music together. "My mom was so filled with joy at the end of her life because our family was so close," Jerry explained. "And the best part of all is that my brother is now my very best friend."
 
When Carla attended her son’s wedding, she had to deal with panic about having to face her ex-husband’s new girlfriend for the very first time. Pulling over for a moment of Stillness in a parking lot before facing the crowd, she remembered that she was loved, and in so doing her fear retreated. "I felt comfortable enough to honestly smile and extend my hand, and realized that she too must have felt uncomfortable at that moment," Carla said. "I enjoyed everything about that beautiful evening, especially because—even though I was willing to fake it—in trusting love, no faking was necessary!" Over the years, Adam has introduced the terminology of the loved and loving self versus the fearful self into his home. "An awareness of fear as love’s opposite gives my wife and me, and our children, greater understanding of why people turn on one another, why exclusion, violence, and hate are so prevalent in our world," Adam told me recently. "Everyone knows fear, and if we believe fear is at the root of much misery, we can and should pledge to do our part to help dissolve that fear."
 
On a daily basis, practicing the habits expressed in this book will help you live a life grounded in the energy of this love. It isn’t enough to know these things intellectually or to put them into practice sporadically. What is needed is experiential, trial-anderror practice. These are habits designed to help us forswear the reactive and fear-based thinking that causes us to make destructive choices—and leads us to avoid making important, transformative changes in our lives. As you will see, I came quite close to missing my own calling in life, and only by implementing the Habits of Love was I able to shift my perspective and find the courage to make the changes I so desperately needed. After that crucial turning point, I learned that such is the pattern of life: in every moment, some element of our loving self is at stake.
 
In my line of work, I hear from people with wildly divergent beliefs and from wildly varied places. I hear from those who struggle with personal fear and with abuse from religious and cultural practices. I hear from Christians of all stripes, as well as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, the nonreligious, and even atheists about how inspired and hopeful they become when they hear the message of the Beloved. There is an enormous hunger and need in the world for spiritual guidance in living a life grounded in love and free of fear. It is this hunger and the power these habits have to change lives that have convinced me it’s time to get this message out. I hear a call to action, and I turn to you and call you to action too. Open your heart and you will be amazed at the transformations taking place all around you.
 
Come, my friend—will you join me on this adventure? Excerpt from 8 Habits of Love by Ed Bacon. Copyright 2012 by J. Edwin Bacon, Jr. Used by arrangement with Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

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