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Happiness Is A Choice

Chapter II Continued

We Are Belief-Making and Belief-Consuming Creatures

No one judged Denise more severely than she did herself. As she sat silently and half listened to the other members of her group share on the opening night of a personal growth seminar at The Option Institute, she rehearsed over and over what she would say. When her turn came, she mumbled inaudibly and never once looked up at anyone else in the room. A casual observer might have perceived her to be timid and shy, but she characterized herself as inept and dull. Therapy had not helped. Explorations of her past with a psychologist had never yielded any "ah-ha" revelations.

During a sequence in which participants paired themselves with just one other person, Denise conversed much more easily. I noticed an animation I had not seen in previous sessions. As soon as we returned to a single large group, she faded, never vocalizing an opinion or sharing anything intimate about herself. She loved people but felt incapable of participating effectively in a group. She used her discomfort as proof of her ineptitude and her belief in her ineptitude generated her discomfort. She had trapped herself in a circle of misery.

On the fourth morning of our time together, I led the group through a vigorous series of disconnected experiences, then I asked them to freeze in their places. As they held their positions, I suggested they be open to experimenting in the safety of this human laboratory. Could they drop any limiting beliefs they had of themselves and create a new personal vision that would enable them to be the facilitator and lead the group through an improvised experience of communion ? When they indicated their willingness, I called out Denise's name and announced, "The class is yours."

She stared at me aghast, giving me nothing less than direct and intense eye contact - a first for Denise. As I withdrew to the back of the room, everyone waited. Denise later told the group that her first impulse was to run, jump down, the stairs and leave the building. But then, in what she experienced as expanded time, she touched a profoundly peaceful place within herself and dared to create a vision of herself as a commanding yet gentle teacher. She imagined the power her voice would have and what it would be like to look directly at people as she had looked at me. Then Denise did the seemingly impossible; she jumped into her dream, casting aside her judgments and doubts.

In a voice strong yet soothing, she gathered the participants into a circle and then led them through an open-eyed meditation that was at once original and inspiring. At the end of the segment, the group applauded and gave Denise a standing ovation. She held her hands in front of her mouth and giggled.

Later that morning, five others took their turn at leadership. Ultimately, the class voted Denise to be the most effective among them. She remained high-profile for the rest of the program, never reclaiming her old beliefs about being inept or dull. She continued to be outrageously open and communicative even after her return home. Two years later, I received an invitation to one of her growing number of public speaking engagements.

If we change one belief,
we change the feelings and behaviors that come from that belief.
If we change our vision, which consists of a tapestry of beliefs,
we alter an amazing conglomerate of feelings and behaviors at once.
Neither endeavor takes any more energy than the other.

Chapter 2 Continued