[The following wonderful biographical tale was kindly shared with us by Happy Cow's marvellous friend Heidi Becker. This is Heidi's first contribution to Happy Cow. If you like Heidi's work, please show your appreciation and encouragement by clicking on the 'Like' button at the bottom and sharing the article with friends.]
After beginning at roughly age 11, I began a quest. I didnít know at that time that I had launched this quest, but it began nevertheless. I began questioning why there was so much suffering in the world, and vowed to do whatever was in my 11-year old power to do about it. I handed out food and blankets from a van to homeless men and women in Philadelphia, I became the only student member of the local Amnesty International chapter: I wrote letters, I went to rallies, I formed a Peace Club at my high school. I laid awake at night wondering what else could be done. And all of this work made me inexplicably happy, and I didnít know why. It just did. And frankly, I felt a little selfish for feeling that way. Silly, no? And I didnít know why. I didnít yet know enough.
Later in life, as an adult, I strayed quite significantly from this path - of attempting to relieve the suffering of others - and set out on a path where I concentrated only on relieving my own perceived suffering. There were diagnosis, there was addiction, there was rehab, there were ill-advised relationships, all because I had thrown myself into the fantasy that somewhere, out there, was my salvation. I had forgotten the bliss that little girl me had discovered.
Not too long after escaping what I can only describe as a personal hell, epiphanies began to rain down on me. I remembered being happiest in that van, giving out warm meals, having fascinating conversations with people that most of society would write off as "crazy" - I remembered that the most fascinating people I met, homeless, with nothing, were happy. (And thus invariably called "crazy" which is an insanity all its own). I began to notice that later in my life, in the midst of mind blowing turmoil, sitting alone and painting, the calm and happiness returned.. Sitting alone and writing, looking at trees on long car rides..little amazing miracles.. What I had an inkling of, but had yet to learn, was that a revelation was poking me on the shoulder, whispering in my ear - all you need is here.
Soon I read a translation of the Tao, further awakening me to the paradise that lay within and without. I fell head over heels in love. I spent more time outside, admiring simple things, like the sun, the clouds, wilting flowers, the color of leaves and the miracle of flocks of birds. I sought out waterfalls and rivers and chased butterflies. I listened to myself breathing; I felt my own pulse.
It was very difficult at first, grappling with the notion of losing the Ego and retaining the Self. Iím still not entirely sure I grasp the difference. But what I do know, beyond any shadow of doubt, is that happiness resides with me, in what I choose to do, in whom I choose to help, in the wonders of nature I become immersed in. It resides in my breath, it grows with my smile, it flourishes when I give up resistance. Most importantly, I finally realized what my major stumbling blocks had been all along - the twin devils: ego and expectations.
Almost anything that creates an icky feeling inside results from one of two things, or both: a perceived affront to my Ego (thinking Iím very special and important, offended because someone doesnít realize how f***ing amazing I am). OR, and this is much more common, (because frankly, I donít think Iím that f***ing amazing) because I have an expectation that someone else, a person completely and utterly different from me, with their own thoughts and dreams and ideas, should react to my words or actions in a way that Iíve completely made up in my own mind. They have no idea, and how could they? And yet we waste so much of our anger because we give - not to give - but because we expect something in return. This is not giving - this is trading. And the recipient of your "gift" has no idea itís a trade, because you present it as a gift. Does that make any sense? Of course not.
Now I approach every situation with the following questions: Is this situation offending my imaginary Ego? Am I upset because I was expecting a result based on my mindís solo perception of how things should be or how someone should act?
Guess what? Most of the time itís one or the other or both, and the moment I realize it, the anger, the upset, has vanished. Not because I took a pill, not because I got into an argument, not because I suppressed any rage, not because I screamed into a pillow and vowed revenge at a later date. No, itís because Iím listening now - all I need is here.
I let things pass, I love the moments of beauty I am blessed with, and I continue to help others in whatever small ways I can. I need nothing in return.
Why? Because I am all I need; and all I need is here.
"If love is for a reason it is not love, but desire. If happiness is for a reason it is not happiness, but pleasure. Both happiness and love are intrinsically unconditional." Happy Cow
Search within the Happy Cow Website
The Happy Cow website and all articles on it are created entirely voluntarily and free of charge. However, if you feel that anything on the site has been of value to you, you may wish to make a voluntary contribution to the upkeep of the site. Click on the 'Donate' button below.
If you have an inspiring tale or some interesting philosophy to share with us, please feel free to e-mail your ideas to