Dear Friends,

We’ve recently started the Awakening Joy course. It’s exciting even after 15 years to support so many in having more fulfilling lives. At the live class in Berkeley as I looked out at the sea of people and thought of all the many more taking the course online, a familiar thought occurred to me, “How did that happen? How did that little, insecure boy from Elmhurst, Queens get to do this?”

Our first course theme is Intention. And looking back on my life I can see that once I had an intention that inspired me, life supported me as long as I kept listening honestly inside and showed up.

From my current perspective I see everything in my life has been an essential part of my life’s journey – my shyness, insecurity, and fear were just as important as my longing for truth and loving goodness. No blaming myself (or others), nor taking credit for how things unfolded. My guiding principle has been, as best I could, to keep listening inside to what would feel genuinely fulfilling and “right.”

When I was in college I went through a deep existential crisis where life had no meaning. (I write about this in Chapter 9 of Awakening Joy.) I spent several months feeling quite depressed at the pointlessness of it all. One day in the Queens College cafeteria, as I looked at hundreds engaged in conversation in the huge, crowded room, it occurred to me that everyone I saw was just wanting and trying their best to be happy.

It occurred to me that perhaps the one thing that could give life meaning would be to bring a bit more happiness into the world. That vision became my clear intention and it led to the decision to find out where true happiness could be found so I could share it with others. As W. H. Murray who wrote The Scottish Himalayan Expedition wrote,

“The moment one definitely commits oneself then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no person could have dreamt would have come their way.”

I became a psychology student to understand how the mind works (and also to get a little insight as to why I was so screwed up!). The Beatles not only made me believe that “all you need is love,” but led me to try meditation since I thought if it was good enough for John Lennon it was good enough for me. Reading Be Here Now motivated me to explore a deeper spirituality. Teaching elementary school for many years was part of my training in the art of teaching, which I had no idea I would apply in later years. All of these are part of the script that I couldn’t have seen or imagined. And they all came from that intention I had in Queens College when I decided to try to bring a little bit more happiness into the world.

As you start this journey, please understand that you don’t have to figure out how to awaken joy. Just take the first essential step: Get clear on your intention to place well-being at the center of your life. Become interested in discovering where true happiness lies for you. Listen honestly inside to your truth in each moment. Show up, learn as much as you can and allow life to support you.

As W. H. Murray also writes:

“I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.’ “

I wish you well and I’m delighted that we’re traveling on this journey together.