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On Finding Joy Q&A with Alan Cohen is Copyright © 2001 by Alan Cohen. Excerpted by permission of Alan Cohen Programs and Publications.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"Who you are is far greater than what you have learned."

  "On Finding Joy" Q&A with Alan Cohen

Alan Cohen, author of such spiritual classics as The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore and I Had It All the Time, offers many excellent insights in this series of Questions and Answers on finding a sense of joy in our lives. - Eds.

Why do you say that struggle is not required? Are you preaching laziness?

Struggle is born of resistance, which disempowers us. When we fight against anything, inside or outside of us, we generate more of it. Jesus said, "turn the other cheek," encouraging us to focus on what we want rather than resist what we do not want. Imagine for a moment how wonderful your life would be without struggling! Proceeding from a sense of ease is far more effective than trying to push against something. Struggle is not required by God, and we do not need to require it of ourselves. Attention is required. Intention is required. Focus is required. A purposeful attitude is required. Energy is required. Love is required. Action may be required. Persistence may be required. None of these activities imply struggle.

Set your internal emotional barometer to make you aware the moment you begin to step into a sense of struggle. As soon as you realize you are starting to lose your peace, ask yourself, "How would I being doing this differently if I were willing to approach this without struggle?" The path of ease offers many viable and effective alternatives to emotional warfare.

How can I find joy or follow my bliss if I feel depressed?

The quickest and surest way out of depression is to start expressing yourself. You cannot express and depress at the same time. Depression is life force turned inward against yourself, and expression is life force moving out into the world. If you start to feel depressed, do anything creative ó play music, write poetry, work in your garden, dance, draw or paint ó anything to move your energy outward. Express your feelings to a friend, a therapist, or in a journal. Life force is always moving, even in depression, and if you can get a handle on it and express it in ways that empower, rather than debilitate you, you are on the road to greater joy.

How do I overcome negative core programming? When I was young I was imprinted with many limiting beliefs by my parents, teachers, religion, and society. Now when I set out to have a good job or a healthy relationship, I seem to sabotage myself.

Who you are is far greater than what you have learned. Your negative beliefs were adopted from outside authorities, and you can return to internal authority at any time. As a spiritual being, you run far deeper than anything you have learned, and while you may be influenced by your past, you are not determined by it. Your history is not your destiny.

I learned of a new birthing technique in which the placenta is frozen and stored. If, later in the childís life, he or she needs a blood transfusion, blood cells are taken from the placenta that lived with the child in the womb. They are pure, untainted cells that match the personís exact original blueprint for well-being. Similarly, on a spiritual level, we can access our pure Source at any moment, and heal our hearts, minds, and bodies.

We may get so involved in trying to recall, analyze, and understand our core negative programs that our very attention to them perpetuates them. Letís remember that we get more of whatever we pay attention to. If we concentrate on what limits us, we remain imprisoned. If we concentrate on what brings us joy and freedom, we invite more of that into our experience. I would pay little attention to what went wrong, and as much attention as possible to how I would like or choose it to be now.

How does prayer or meditation or visualization fit into following my joy?

For many years I have started my days with time to connect with God. This practice has made a huge difference in my life, and I highly recommend it. Before you do anything, align your thoughts and feelings with Spirit. Connect with the loving energy that animates you and all living things, and feel how blessed you are. Open your heart in appreciation of the good in your life, and send kind thoughts to everyone you can think of. Set the tone for your day, and you will become a magnetic force field that draws unto you health, prosperity, love, and well-being.

Prayer should not be approached simply as a religious ritual, but a practical exercise to tap into our infinite reservoir of good, and align with universal forces to fulfill our highest purpose.

Is it advisable to pray that a particular situation turn out a particular way, such as to get a certain job or marry a certain person?

It is much more advisable to pray for qualities of experience. Rather than trying to manipulate the universe to land you a certain position, pray for a job that brings you reward, delight, creativity, right business relationships, and whatever else your heart desires. Then let the universe take care of the details. If you get too specific, you can set your situation up to backfire. I know a woman who prayed, affirmed, and visualized receiving checks in the mail. After a few days she received two checks in the mail ó unfortunately, they were social security checks addressed to the previous occupants of her apartment. She got hung up on the form, rather than the essence. She would have done better to pray or know that she was in the flow of great abundance, and the universe was providing her with everything she needed to have everything she wanted.

If you find yourself fixated on a particular car or mate, enjoy visualizing being with the car or person, but end your prayer with "this or better," indicating that you are not trying to dictate the form. If God has a bigger or better idea for your well-being, you are open and receptive to it. This way you are assured of results in your highest interest.

I feel stuck about money. I have enough to think about just trying to pay my bills. How can I follow my joy when I have obligations?

There are many forms of prosperity other than money. If you can develop your sense of prosperity independent of money, doors will open. Begin to notice and appreciate the many blessings and forms of abundance you already have: good health, beloved family, dear friends, rich green trees, the vast expanse of ocean and sky, the internet which offers infinite information and connection at your fingertips, a wealth of ideas, etc. As you shift your attention from what is lacking to what is overflowing, your whole energy field becomes lighter, your body chemistry changes, and an entirely more powerful level of manifestation becomes available to you.

A number of years ago I found myself in a financial pinch and I felt restricted. I asked myself what I would do if I had the money to have whatever I wanted. My answer was to buy a new Mazda Miata. But I didnít have the money to buy one. So I went to the Mazda dealership and acted as if I was going to buy one. I poked around the showroom, took a Miata for a test drive, and talked options and prices with the salesman ó all the while knowing that there was no way I was going to buy a car that day. I came home feeling exhilarated; just playing in the field of ideas surrounding having that car lifted me into a sense of abundance.

That was a turning point for me. As I reconnected with my joy simply by exploring delicious possibilities, money started to flow, and before long I remembered that I live in a prosperous universe. Within a year I bought a car ó a Mazda RX-7, the top of the Mazda line, far more attractive to me than the Miata.

The point here is not that I got a car; the point is that I regained a sense of prosperity, which paved the way for the car. Attention is intention. Hold thoughts on vision, and vision manifests.

Why do so many people have so much difficulty in relationships? Is there something wrong with us?

Maybe there is something right with us. You and I came into a culture which offered us many dysfunctional models of relationship, and we are learning through our experience, painful though it may be at times, how to create healthy relationships.

I have certainly had my share of lessons in relationships, both joyful and difficult. Yet with each experience I have come closer to knowing myself better, to loving more deeply, to telling a bigger truth, to finding God in my partner. I am far ahead of where I started (although sometimes I go unconscious), and now I realize that this path has led me to much greater understanding, love, and acceptance of myself and others.

Everyone has their cutting edge of growth, their area of greatest fear or darkness or challenge. For some it is physical health, others money, and others relationship. It is the chunk of darkness that you chose to figure out how to bring more light to. Every time you peel away another layer of illusion, the entire universe becomes lighter and freer. Let us congratulate ourselves for being willing learners and, in the truest sense of the word, healers.

How do I know when to hang in there in a relationship, or a job, or a friendship, and when to let go? How joyful is the journey?

Every job, relationship, or friendship offers both flowers and weeds, things we love, and things we do not. Everything may not be wonderful all of the time. The question is, what is the balance between what is wonderful and what is not?

Consider your relationship like a cup. If the foundation of the cup is good and strong and glued together with love, challenges can come up and occupy space in the cup, but they will not have the power to crack the cup; in fact, moving through the challenges strengthens the cup. If, on the other hand, the cup is cracked or weak, even little things can shatter the cup. Is the basis of your connection joyful and rewarding, and do the challenges come and go? Or is your foundation one of pain and difficulty and separateness and bitterness, with a few occasional bright moments? If there is more joy than pain, you are ahead of the game. If there is more pain than joy and things are not getting better, but worse, it is time to question what you are doing.

Even the best of relationships have difficult moments. What is the overall trend of the relationship? Are you growing and discovering more about yourself and your partner and Spirit, or is the relationship sucking life force from you? The purpose of relationship is to grow in love. Evaluate it from that perspective, and you will have your answer.

How can I know my lifeís purpose?

Use everyday situations to build your intuition and authenticity. The mundane is a magnificent springboard to the divine (that is its whole purpose!). You can find yourself through everyday life by finding God in everyday life. If you feel drawn to go to a particular seminar, go, even if you are not sure why. If you feel moved to take one plane flight instead of another, go with the energy. If you feel like calling a friend you havenít called in a long time, do it immediately; you might discover that person has been thinking about you, or needs help, or can offer you help. As you use "little" experiences to find and express your truth, you will discover they are not so little at all. After a while you will start to see patterns and discover the big picture.

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