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Excerpted from Happiness Is an Inside Job by Sylvia Boorstein. Copyright © 2007 by Sylvia Boorstein. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc.  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.

"Becoming wise means, for me, forgetting less often -- and remembering sooner when I've forgotten -- the three things that are fundamentally true."

  Sylvia Boorstein
Happiness Is an Inside Job
, Part 2

I took off my jacket and shoes and pushed them through the X-ray machine along with my carry-on bag with my computer out for inspection. Retrieving my possessions on the other side, balancing on one foot and then the other to hurriedly put on my shoes, I noticed the couple just in front of me, also just emerged through the sensor gate, taking a moment to kiss each other, give each other a hug. I was amused by the thought that they were congratulating each other for having made it through the security hurdle unscathed. It was the briefest of exchanges of affection, but it was there. Right in the middle of getting re-dressed. 

Then I thought, "I should call the attention of the arguing folks behind me to the kissing folks in front of me. 'Look,' I could tell them, 'here is another possibility. In fact, there are only two possibilities in any moment. You can kiss or you can fight. Kissing is better.' "

Of course, I said nothing and went on to my flight. I also knew then, as I know now as I write, that in situations where I feel stressed, I might behave like the couple behind me. Not even "long ago, when I wasn't wise," but right now, when I presumably understand that struggling with anything to make it be other than what it is creates suffering. If my mind becomes confused, broadsided by a challenge that upsets it, even a "minor" one such as "I'll miss my plane," I forget, at least for a while, what I know.

Becoming wise means, for me, forgetting less often -- and remembering sooner when I've forgotten -- the three things that are fundamentally true. The Buddha called these the Three Characteristics of Experience.

Everything is always changing.

There is a cause-and-effect lawfulness that governs all unfolding experience.

What I do matters, but I am not in charge. Suffering results from struggling with what is beyond my control.

The line from the Dhammapada, a compilation of say- ings attributed to the Buddha, that sums this up for me, that seems the one-sentence best expression of wisdom, is: "Anyone who understands impermanence, ceases to be contentious."

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