Recently, Harvard published the results of what might be the longest running scientific research project ever. During a period of no less than 75 years, a few hundred men (and later, women too) were followed throughout their lives, while the researchers focused on the question: “What’s the real key to happiness?” Well, as it turned out, these research subjects did not find happiness in financial wealth, a booming career, or becoming famous. The single most important factor for happiness turned out to be the quality of their relationships. There was a clear proportional correlation between between loving relationships and happiness and longevity. (View a 12-minute clip about this study.)
“Small wonder,” Jesus would probably say. “Didn’t I tell you over two thousand years ago to love your neighbor as yourself?” In Ephesians 4:2, we read: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Paul wrote in Romanians 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” So we might as well forget about the personal development programs that promise abundant wealth overnight. Having money is nice, but it will not make you happy, in the sense of leading to fulfillment. So why are relationships so much more important than anything else that we might put on the list of fulfillment factors?
In A Course in Miracles, the main theme is forgiveness. Although forgiveness initially seems to be directed towards people around me, Jesus teaches us that in the end I forgive myself for what I blame others of, since everyone around me mirrors some aspect of how I perceive myself. This is because projection makes perception (W-XX): what I perceive in you is a projection of what I have made real in myself. If I see hate around me, I have projected out my unconscious self-hate. If I see gentleness around me, it is because in my mind I have chosen gentleness. The outer and the inner are really the same, as many other spiritualities teach as well. A Course in Miracles makes this explicit by the metaphysical principle that there are no others out there; duality is one big illusion. That’s why Jesus says to us: “If you would know your prayers are answered, never doubt a Son of God.” (T-9.II.4:1), meaning our neighbor, who is our brother, who is the same Son of God as we are, since God only has one Son (T-2.VII.6:1).
Jesus’ clearest teaching on this perhaps comes in workbook lesson 122, “Forgiveness offers everything I want”: “Forgiveness lets the veil be lifted up that hides the face of Christ from those who look with unforgiving eyes upon the world. It lets you recognize the Son of God, and clears your memory of all dead thoughts so that remembrance of your Father can arise across the threshold of your mind. What would you want forgiveness cannot give? What gifts but these are worthy to be sought? What fancied value, trivial effect or transient promise, never to be kept, can hold more hope than what forgiveness brings? […] Sink into happiness as you begin these practice periods, for they hold out the sure rewards of questions answered and what your acceptance of the answer brings. Today it will be given you to feel the peace forgiveness offers, and the joy the lifting of the veil holds out to you.” (W-pI.122.3;11)
We can now easily see how the Harvard study relates to this. People who have chosen to invest in loving relationships must first have chosen right-mindedness over wrong-mindedness; love over condemnation. They’ve chosen to focus on the sameness in all of us, instead of on the differences between us. Although that choice is usually unconsciously made, it is the single most important choice that Jesus urges us to make throughout his course in miracles (cf. T-31.VIII.3:2). Small wonder then, that the ones in the Harvard study who chose this as the primary focus of their life, experienced by far the most happiness, good health and well-being!
A Course in Miracles offers us a unique curriculum to train our minds to consistently focus on love and speak the Word of God to everyone we meet, as for example workbook lesson 276 “The Word of God is given me to speak” points out: “Father, Your Word is mine. And it is this that I would speak to all my brothers, who are given me to cherish as my own, as I am loved and blessed and saved by You.” (W-pII.276.2:1). This means that we affirm that life is not composed of separate creatures who are at odds with each other. As Kenneth Wapnick comments on these lines: “Whatever I have accused you of doing, whatever you think you have done, whatever pain you are in, has not changed the fact that you [and I] remain God’s holy Son, perfectly at one with our source.”
So the Harvard study has merely confirmed what spiritual masters have taught for millennia on end: collecting “stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs” (w-pI.76.3:2) or an endless list of other things we do not really need, is a very meager substitute for what will really make us happy. Love your neighbor as yourself. Forgive the Son of God for whatever sins you think he or you committed, for the outer and the inner mirror each other. As you nurture your relationship with the Holy Spirit in your mind, you will experience much more happiness within you and around you. And although wars and other suffering will not immediately seem to stop, you have chosen to be a light in this world, which is just what Jesus needs to save the world, that is, jointly end the dream of duality and return Home, where God would have us be.
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: