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The Balloon Experiment: A Lesson in Finding Happiness
A university professor designed a wonderfully insightful experiment. In a class of nearly 100 students, a balloon was given to each with the following instructions: inflate, sign your name, then toss it in the hallway.
The class subsequently gathered amidst the swarming sea of blown-up spheres. The teacher guided students to wade through the distended ocean and find the one with their name. Despite a hectic search, no one found their balloon.
At that point, the professor suggested they take the first balloon they encountered and hand it to the person whose name it bore. Within 5 minutes, everyone had their balloon.
The teacher then tied up his prudent moral: “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people’s happiness, we’ll find ours too.”
It’s a lovely lesson, speaking to the heart of union. Clearly the way to contentment is not by contemplating, “What would make me happy?” That well-trodden path always dead-ends in disappointment.
But when we compassionately consider what each moment has to offer, allowing our sense of self to be guided wherever it might lead, we become a channel for extending love.
It’s a bit counterintuitive as our inner judge incessantly demands, “What’s in it for me?” Particularly as all sense of value and fairness is always in relation to the “me”. Yet there’s another way of being. One in which each moment (balloon) represents an opportunity to re-connect with the oneness that unites all.
As we’re guided in A Course in Miracles:
Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. (W-pI.189.7)
The more we practice this wise counsel, the more joy we share and experience. The realization that happiness is a choice, not a consequence, dawns on our awakening mind, enveloping us in exquisite peace.
Join me in Thursday’s class where we’ll explore this idea of unconditional present moment acceptance and sharing, including the concomitant serenity that naturally ensues. I look forward to seeing you then.