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week of November 15, 2018
The Art of Creating Your Joy and Happiness

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NEW ROSES AS AN ANTIDOTE TO NEUROSIS

The phrase "new roses" can serve as an antidote to neurosis -- as a kind of magical spell. You might invoke it when you're in danger of getting undermined by either your own neurosis or someone else's.

If you notice, for instance, that your subconscious mind is spiraling down into a sour fantasy stirred up by one of your habitual fears, you could mutter a cheerful round of "new roses, new roses, new roses."

If your allies slip into the same compulsive behavior that they tend to get stuck in whenever stress overflows, you could chant "new roses, new roses, new roses" in a tuneful, affectionate tone.


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IF THE ANGEL DECIDES TO COME . . .

"If the Angel decides to come it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning; to be a beginner."

- Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell


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BE SCARIER THAN YOUR FEARS

EXPERIMENT: Be scarier than your fears. If an anxious thought pops into your mind, bare your teeth and growl, "Get out of here or I will rip you to shreds!" If a demon visits you in a nightly dream, chase after it with a torch and sword, screaming "Begone, foul spirit, or I will burn your mangy ass!"

Don't tolerate bullying in any form, whether it comes from a critical little voice in your head or from supposedly nice people who are trying to guilt-trip you. "I am a brave conqueror who cannot be intimidated!" is what you could say, or "I am a monster of love and goodness who will defeat all threats to my integrity!"


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DEVOTIONAL PRONOIA THERAPY

Devotional Pronoia Therapy. Experiments and exercises in becoming a gracefully probing, erotically funny, shockingly friendly Master of Orgasmic Empathy

1. What causes happiness? Brainstorm about it. Map out the foundations of your personal science of joy. Get serious about defining what makes you feel good.

To get you started, I'll name some experiences that might rouse your gratification: engaging in sensual pleasure; seeking the truth; being kind and moral; contemplating the meaning of life; escaping your routine; purging pent-up emotions. Do any of these work for you? Name at least ten more.

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2. Are other people luckier than you? If so, psychologist Richard Wiseman says you can do something about it. His book *The Luck Factor* presents research that proves you can learn to be lucky. It's not a mystical force you're born with, he says, but a habit you can develop.

How? For starters, be open to new experiences, trust your gut wisdom, expect good fortune, see the bright side of challenging events, and master the art of maximizing serendipitous opportunities.

Name three specific actions you'll try in order to improve your luck.

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3. Dumb suffering is the kind of suffering you're compulsively drawn back to over and over again out of habit. It's familiar, and thus perversely comfortable. Smart suffering is the kind of pain that surprises you with valuable teachings and inspires you to see the world with new eyes.

While stupid suffering is often born of fear, wise suffering is typically stirred up by love. The dumb, unproductive stuff comes from allowing yourself to be controlled by your early conditioning and from doing things that are out of harmony with your essence. The smart, useful variety arises out of an intention to approach life as an interesting work of art and uncanny game that's worthy of your curiosity.

Come up with two more definitions about the difference between dumb suffering and smart suffering.

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4. Write the following on a piece of red paper and keep it under your pillow. "I, [put your name here], do solemnly swear on this day, [put date here], that I will devote myself for a period of seven days to learning my most important desire. No other thought will be more uppermost in my mind. No other concern will divert me from tracking down every clue that might assist me in my drive to ascertain the one experience in this world that deserves my brilliant passion above all others."

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5. The primary meaning of the word "healing" is "to cure what's diseased or broken." Medical practitioners focus on sick people. Philanthropists donate their money and social workers contribute their time to helping the underprivileged. Psychotherapists wrestle with their clients' traumas and neuroses. I'm in awe of them all. The level of one's spiritual wisdom, I believe, is more accurately measured by helping people in need than by meditation skills, shamanic shapeshifting, supernatural powers, or esoteric knowledge.

But I also believe in a second kind of healing that is largely unrecognized: to supercharge what is already healthy; to lift up what's merely sufficient to a sublime state. Using this definition, describe two acts of healing: one you would enjoy performing on yourself and another you'd like to provide for someone you love.

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6. Is the world a dangerous, chaotic place with no inherent purpose, running on automatic like a malfunctioning machine and fundamentally inimical to your drive to find meaning? Or are you surrounded by helpers in a friendly, enchanted universe that gives you challenges in order to make you smarter and wilder and kinder and trickier?

Trick questions! The answers may depend, at least to some degree, on what you believe is true.

Formulate a series of experiments that will allow you to objectively test the hypothesis that the universe is conspiring to help dissolve your ignorance and liberate you from your suffering.

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7. Those who explore pronoia often find they have a growing capacity to help people laugh at themselves. While few arbiters of morality recognize this skill as a mark of high character, I put it near the top of my list. In my view, inducing people to take themselves less seriously is a supreme virtue.

Do you have any interest in cultivating it? How might you go about it?

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8. Computer programmer Garry Hamilton articulated the following "Game Rules." Give examples of how they have worked in your life.

1. If the game is rigged so you can't win, find another game or invent your own. 2. If you're not winning because you don't know the rules, learn the rules. 3. If you know the rules but aren't willing to follow them, there's either something wrong with the game or you need to change something in yourself. 4. Don't play the game in a half-baked way. Either get all the way in or all the way out. 5. It shouldn't be necessary for others to lose in order for you to win. If others have to lose, re-evaluate the game's goals.

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9. "There are two ways for a person to look for adventure," said the Lone Ranger, an old TV character. "By tearing everything down, or building everything up." Give an example of each from your own life.


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PRONOIA RESOURCES:

111 women were elected to the U.S. House and Senate. There have also been eight female governors elected. Among the women elected to office, 40 are women of color.

Colorado Democrat Jared Polis won: the first openly gay man to be a Governor of a state.

New Mexico is sending a Native American woman to Congress. She's Debra Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo. A second Native American women is also going to Congress, Sharice Davids in Kansas. She's a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation. They are the first two Native American women ever elected to Congress.

Democrat Laura Kelly beat Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, one of the most notorious voter suppression crusaders in the country, to flip the governorship in deep-red Kansas to the Democrats.

Michigan's Democratic candidate Rashida Tlaib and Minnesota's Ilhan Omar will be the first-ever Muslim women in Congress. Omar is a Somali-American.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer won the governor's race in Michigan.

One of the NRA’s top-funded Republicans went down hard in Virginia. Democrat Jennifer Wexton has unseated Rep. Barbara Comstock. Rep. Wexton promoted more serious gun safety, while Barbara Comstock continued to be one of the top ten NRA-funded House officials.

Ayanna Pressley is now the first-ever black woman to represent Massachusetts in the House.

Florida voters smashed a legacy of Jim Crow and restored voting rights to more than 1 million citizens.

Donna Shalala picked up Ileana Ros Lehtinen’s Miami House seat for the Democrats.

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Dana Rohrabacher, Putin’s favorite Congressman, lost his seat to Democrat Harley Rouda

Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia are the first Latinas elected to Congress from Texas.

Democrat Janet Mills is the first woman elected governor of Maine.

New Mexico’s Michelle Lujan Grisham is the first Democratic Latina elected governor in the U.S.

Democrat Abby Finkenauer and Democrat Cindy Axne became Iowa’s first two women elected to the House.

Democrat Tony Evers became governor of Wisconsin, ousting Scott Walker.

Gavin Newsom was elected the new governor of California, placing the risk-taking liberal at the center of the resistance to Trump.

Sadly, Beto O'Rourke lost in Texas, but Democratic House candidates flipped 11 red seats in the state.

Democratic Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts will become the new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Neal just announced that his first order of business will be to demand the IRS hand over Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Seven scientists were elected to Congress, which is a hopeful sign in the wake of the Republicans' anti-science propaganda


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YOUR HOLIEST DESIRE

I invite you to devote five minutes to visualizing the fulfillment of your holiest desire, followed by five minutes of visualizing the fulfillment of a loved one's holiest desire.


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"Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible. Never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed."

- Abraham Joshua Heschel, Jewish theologian and civil rights activist

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"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

- Rainer Maria Rilke

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"The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to seeing them that we call them ordinary things."

- Hans Christian Anderson

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"I will wade out till my thighs are steeped in burning flowers. I will take the sun in my mouth and leap into the ripe air, alive, with closed eyes."

- E. E. Cummings

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"The whole existence is celebrating. These trees are not serious, these birds are not serious. The rivers and the oceans are wild, and everywhere there is fun, everywhere there is joy and delight."

- Some guru


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FREE MIND, WILD HEART

To be the best pronoiac explorer you can be, I suggest you adopt an outlook that combines the rigorous objectivity of a scientist, the "beginner's mind" of Zen Buddhism, the "beginner's heart" of pronoia, and the compassionate friendliness of the Dalai Lama. Blend a scrupulously dispassionate curiosity with a skepticism driven by expansiveness, not spleen.

To pull this off, you'll have to be willing to regularly suspend your brilliant theories about the way the world works. Accept with good humor the possibility that what you've learned in the past may not be a reliable guide to understanding the fresh phenomenon that's right in front of you. Be suspicious of your biases, even the rational and benevolent ones. Open your heart as you strip away the interpretations that your emotions might be inclined to impose.

"Before we can receive the unbiased truth about anything," wrote my teacher Ann Davies, "we have to be ready to ignore what we would like to be true."

At the same time, don't turn into a hard-ass, poker-faced robot. Keep your feelings moist and receptive. Remember your natural affection for all of creation. Enjoy the power of tender sympathy as it drives you to probe for the unimaginable revelations of every new moment. "Before we can receive the entire truth about anything," said Ann Davies, "we have to love it."

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To achieve what the Zen Buddhists call "beginner's mind," you dispense with all preconceptions and enter each situation as if seeing it for the first time.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities," wrote Shunryu Suzuki in his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, "but in the expert's there are few."

As much as I love beginner's mind, though, I advocate an additional discipline: cultivating a beginner's heart. That means approaching every encounter imbued with a freshly invoked wave of love that is as pure as if you're feeling it for the first time.


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THE BEAUTY OF IRREGULAR THINGS

When you're an aspiring master of pronoia, you see the cracks in the facades as opportunities; inspiration erupts as you careen over bumps in the road; you love the enticing magic that flows from situations that other people regard as rough or crooked.

"That which is not slightly distorted lacks sensible appeal," wrote poet Charles Baudelaire, "from which it follows that irregularity -- that is to say, the unexpected, surprise and astonishment -- is an essential part and characteristic of beauty."


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UNLEASH YOURSELF

Even if you don't call yourself an artist, you have the potential to be a dynamic creator who is always hatching new plans, coming up with fresh ideas, and shifting your approach to everything you do as you adjust to life's ceaseless invitation to change.

It's to this part of you -- the restless, inventive spirit -- that I address the following: Unleash yourself! Don't be satisfied with the world the way it is; don't sit back passively and blankly complain about the dead weight of the mediocre status quo.

Instead, call on your curiosity and charisma and expressiveness and lust for life as you tinker with and rebuild everything you see so that it's in greater harmony with the laws of love and more hospitable to your soul's code.


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MORE PRONOIA RESOURCES:

23 charts and maps that show the world is getting much, much better.

1) Extreme poverty has fallen

2) Hunger is falling

3) Child labor is on the decline

4) People in developed countries have more leisure time

5) The share of income spent on food has plummeted in the US

6) Life expectancy is rising

7) Child mortality is down

8) Death in childbirth is rarer

9) People have been getting taller for centuries

10) More people have access to malaria bednets

11) Guinea worm is almost eradicated

12) Teen births in the US are down

13) Smoking is down, too

14) In the long term, homicide rates have fallen dramatically

15) In the short term, they’re down in the US, too

16) Violent crime in the US is going down

17) We’ve rapidly reduced the supply of nuclear weapons

18) More people in the world live in a democracy now

19) More people are going to school for longer

20) And literacy is, predictably, up as well

21) Moore’s law isn’t quite over yet

22) Access to the internet is increasing

23) Solar energy is getting cheaper


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VOWS

I invite you to speak these vows out loud:

"As long as I live, I vow to die and be reborn, die and be reborn, die and be reborn, over and over again, forever reinventing myself.

"I promise to be stronger than hate, wetter than water, deeper than the abyss, and wilder than the sun.

"I pledge to remember that I am not only a sweating, half-asleep, excitable, bumbling jumble of desires, but that I am also an immortal four-dimensional messiah in continuous telepathic touch with all of creation.

"I vow to love and honor my highs and my lows my yeses and noes, my give and my take, the life I wish I had and the life I actually have.

"I promise to push hard to get better and smarter, grow my devotion to the truth, fuel my commitment to beauty, refine my emotions, hone my dreams, wrestle with my shadow, purge my ignorance, and soften my heart -- even as I always accept myself for exactly who I am, with all of my so-called foibles and wobbles."


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LOVE TIPS

Love thrives when neither partner takes things personally, so cultivate a devotion to forgiveness and divest yourself of the urge to blame.

Love is a game in which the rules keep changing, so be crafty and improvisational as you stay alert for each unexpected twist of fate.

Love enmeshes you in your partner's unique set of karmic complications, so make sure you're very interested in his or her problems.

Love is a laboratory where you can uncover secrets about yourself that have previously been hidden, so be ravenously curious.

Love is never a perfect match of totally compatible saints, so don't let sterile fantasies seduce you away from flawed but fecund realities.
Love is not a low-maintenance machine, so work hard on cultivating its unpredictable organic wonders.

Love is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of DreamWorks or Disney, so don't let your romantic story be infected by the entertainment industry's simplistic, sentimental myths about intimate relationships.


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INVITATION TO LOVE THE RIDDLES

I invite you to study the brazen contradictions . . .

and draw inspiration from the crazy-making incongruities . . .

and marvel at the mysterious ambiguities . . .

and give your compassionate attention to the slippery paradoxes . . .

and say lusty prayers of gratitude for the contradictions, incongruities, ambiguities, and paradoxes that are making you so much wiser and deeper and kinder and cuter.


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LET'S MAKE MORALITY FUN

Are you turned off by the authoritarian, libido-mistrusting perversity of the right-wing moral code, but equally reluctant to embrace the atheism embedded in the left wing's code of goodness?

Are you hungry for a value system rooted in beauty, love, pleasure, and liberation instead of order, control, politeness, and fear, but allergic to the sophistry of the New Age?

Are you apathetic toward the saccharine goodness evangelized by sentimental, superstitious fanatics, but equally bored by the intellectuals who worship at the empty-hearted shrine of scientific materialism?

It may be time for you to whip up your very own moral code. If you do, you might want to keep the following guidelines in mind:

1. A moral code becomes immoral unless it can thrive without a devil and enemy.

2. A moral code grows ugly unless it prescribes good-natured rebellion against automaton-like behavior offered in its support.

3. A moral code becomes murderous unless it's built on a love for the fact that EVERYTHING CHANGES ALL THE TIME, and unless it perpetually adjusts its reasons for being true.

4. A moral code will corrupt its users unless it ensures that their primary motivation for being good is because it's fun.

5. A moral code deadens the soul of everyone it touches unless it has a built-in sense of humor.


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TYPES OF LOVE?

The ancient Greeks had a variety of names for different kinds of love. Here are some, according to Lindsay Swope in her review of Richard Idemon's book "Through the Looking Glass."

1. "Epithemia" is the basic need to touch and be touched. Our closest approximation is "horniness," though epithemia is not so much a sexual feeling as a sensual one.

2. "Philia" is friendship. It includes the need to admire and respect your friends as a reflection of yourself—like in high school, where you want to hang out with the cool kids because that means you're cool too.

3. "Eros" isn't sexual in the way we usually think, but is more about the emotional gratification that comes from merging souls.

4. "Agape" is a mature, utterly free expression of love that has no possessiveness. It means wanting the best for another person even if it doesn't advance your self-interest.

I invite you to coin some additional new words for other kinds of love.


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"The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change," said psychologist Carl Rogers.


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Attention, please. This is your ancestors speaking. We've been trying to reach you through your dreams and fantasies, but you haven't responded. That's why we've commandeered this space. So listen up. We'll make it brief. You're at a crossroads analogous to a dilemma that has baffled your biological line for six generations. We ask you now to master the turning point that none of us have ever figured out how to negotiate. Heal yourself and you heal all of us. We mean that literally. Start brainstorming, please.


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How can we outwit and escape the numbing trance that everyday routine seems to foster? What can we do to stay alert to the subtle miracles and intriguing mysteries and numinous beauty that surround us on all sides?

Some possibilities:

1. Make it a daily practice to refresh the ways we perceive the world.

2. Scan regularly for opportunities to play and for creatures that like to play.

3. Assume that the entire world is a constantly changing source of oracular revelation that has meaning for us.

4. Experiment with what happens when we use empathy and intuition to imagine how animals and other people experience life.

5. Don't take things too seriously or too personally or too literally.

6. Expose ourselves regularly to provocative myths and intriguing symbols. Seek out stories that bend and twist our beliefs. Be open to exploring events and phenomena that elude rational explanation.

7. Regularly give our unconscious minds the message that we want to feel deeply.

8. Cultivate a willingness, eagerness, and receptivity to being surprised.

9. Others?


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I invite you to experiment with the theme "Healthy Obsessions." Not "Melodramatic Compulsions" or "Exhausting Crazes" or "Manias That Make You Seem Interesting to Casual Bystanders," but "Healthy Obsessions."

To do it well, you will have to take really good care of yourself as you concentrate extravagantly on tasks that fill you with zeal. This may require you to rebel against the influences of role models, both in your actual life and in the movies you've seen, who act as if getting sick and imbalanced is an integral part of being true to one's genius.


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