We all have our daily habits: what we eat for breakfast or lunch, the route we drive to work, what programs we watch on television, and a thousand other little repeated patterns. What if we cultivated emotional and spiritual habits that made our lives warmer, bigger, and more transcendent?
In Ed Bacon's new book, The Eight Habits of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind (Hachette Book Group, 2012) he gives illumination and insight about how we can grow these emotional habits in our day to day lives. Ed Bacon serves as rector at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California, and is known for his radically inclusive views about building interfaith community between Christians, Jews, Muslims, and atheists. Ed has received awards his peace and interfaith work in Southern California.
What are the 8 habits of love?
1. The habit of generosity: Overcoming fear to live daily with the spiritual practice of an open and generous heart. This means knowing that love flows through you, generously, to others. This includes not only giving money to less fortunate people, but also time, emotional and spiritual support, and encouragement. You can make a practice of lifting others up. Giving time and attention to others only enhances your own life.
2. The habit of stillness: Learn to quiet your body and your mind. This quiet space within us is where we plan, get inspiration, strategize, dream, and self-nurture. There are many roads to this inner stillness. Look for yours. You might start with 10 minutes a day.
3. The habit of truth: This involves developing the courage to go against what is expected of you by others at times. Choosing your truth, rather than self-deception or the deception of others, takes daily practice. Telling the truth is both frightening and refreshing. Bacon says, “Truth leads us to a more honest and vital life.”
4. The habit of candor: Using both tenderness and tact, candor helps us have difficult and important conversations with those we care about. We don't avoid in fear; we move towards the other person in love and candor. The habit of candor is one of the hardest habits to practice, because it involves risk. Candor is not a power grab. I notice the healing, transcendent power of honest, candid, heart-centered conversations in my counseling office on a regular basis. Couples often do not say the things they need to be saying to each other. When those difficult conversations begin in a safe way, transformation can begin between two people.
5. The habit of play: Bacon reminds us that play and laughter change our brain chemistry. Play activates our imagination, creativity, and joy. Spending time with a child always helps me remember how vital play is. It relaxes and refreshes us. Play and lightness renew us, and are the perfect foil for dealing with life's challenges. Bacon suggests when you have made an error, acknowledge it with humor, poking fun at yourself. Invite play into your work, the things you do at home, your time with your partner, your family, and your friends.
6. The habit of forgiveness: When you can, forgiving someone who has wronged you releases a powerful, loving energy. When we hold onto wrongs, we hold tension, anger, resentment, and hurt. You don't even have to reconnect with the person that hurt you in order to forgive. Forgiveness brings self-healing and self-empowerment. In his book, Bacon tells a heart-warming story about Nelson Mandela establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa after the end of apartheid. Those who acknowledged guilt to those they harmed weren't punished. Forgiveness, and moving past blame, moves individuals, families, and communities forward towards healing.
7. The habit of compassion: Most religions are founded on it. The challenge is in trying to stretch the edges of your compassion to all living beings. Try not to dehumanize any group of people. In categorizing others, Bacon suggests, we cut ourselves off from the foundation of our own humanity. If you did not receive compassion growing up in your family, you may need to look outside the family to experience the compassion for yourself and others that is your birthright.
8. The habit of community: It's not good for us to get too isolated. A shift in our awareness can help us realize that we need each other. Connecting with the people whose lives intersect with ours is practicing building community. Look for your community. Developing a sense of belonging in community is good for our mental and physical health. Whether you apply community by interacting kindly with counter staff or others you see at the gym, at work, or next door, or look for a group of like-minded people in the larger community, it makes a difference, both for you and for others. Respecting differences within the community is essential.
The Eight Habits of Love is a thoughtfully written reflection on ways to begin moving forward in your life in an open-hearted way. We will make mistakes, but stretching ourselves to live with a more generous spirit, playfulness, bravery, honesty, compassion, forgiveness, and community will help us to make our lives well-lived. Now that's success.