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Human Moments is unlike any book available today. Renowned author Edward Hallowell proposes a simple, effective way to find happiness and love in this totally unique guide to living a fulfilling life. Dr. Hallowell teaches us how to recognize and appreciate a “human moment,” an instance when we recognize and connect to things that really matter most in life and make it worth living.

An engaging storyteller, Hallowell uses his own personal experiences from a traumatic childhood to a prosperous adulthood to illustrate concepts and connect with readers. Skillfully he teaches us how to recognize human moments when they happen, how to savor them, treasure them, and turn them into an enriching experience. Best of all, he reveals how human moments are happening to us all the time-in fact, every day.

Hallowell forms each chapter around narratives of intensely moving stories from his own life and embellishes them with personal accounts and reflections from others. He concludes each one with suggestions on “creating connections” in our own lives through which we find true meaning and love.

For all those engaged in the ongoing work of personal growth and life enrichment, Human Moments is at once poignant and inspiring, uplifting and endearing-an unforgettable book that will awaken hearts and change lives.

Where Meaning and Love Abide

Excerpt from Human Moments. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The most reliable places to find meaning and love in your everyday life are in moments that affect you emotionally and move you most deeply. I call these human moments. The most reliable places find human moments are in the connections you make. I am not referring to your business connections, of course, but to the connections of your heart. The people and the places that you love. The part of work you really care about. The children you raise and the grandchildren they may give you. The friends you trust. The pets you adore. The garden (or any pastime) that you fuss over. Even the teams you fanatically root for.

All these connections lead to human moments. We hold these moments in our hearts, long after they occur, and feed on them when we are hungry for something to lift our spirits, or simply for something that we believe in and care about. I adopt as a credo what the poet, John Keats, wrote almost two centuries ago: “I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections.” That is the subject of this book: the holiness of the heart’s affections, the importance of our most heartfelt connections and the human moments they lead to every day in so many different, wonderful ways.

Life is just a series of mostly forgettable events unless we love, and love in as many different ways as we can, from loving a person to a book to spirit to a place to an idea to a dog-to almost anything. With love, we endow certain moments with a special power and significance. With love, and its cousin, imagination, we conjure up the richness and power that lies beneath the surface of even the most trivial second in our lives. By the power of love and imagination we turn ordinary, inert moments into what I call human moments, those moments when we feel connected to someone or something outside of ourselves and in the presence of what matters, what we call meaning.

Heartfelt connections and the human moments they engender are what make life good. Of course, how we rank them changes over time. When I was in high school my vision of heaven was sitting on the third base line at Fenway Park in the ninth inning of a never-ending game that I was guaranteed the Red Sox would ultimately win. Now, my vision of heaven is sitting at a table in some restaurant where my wife Sue and my three kids (frozen in time at their current ages, eleven, eight, and five) and all my friends are eating a dinner that goes on forever.

But until we get to heaven, nothing goes on forever. We don’t have time to wait. We have to make these connections matter now-these relationships, passions, and interests-if we are to draw out of them all the juice they have to give.

In this country, most of us actually have what we need to be happy. The challenge is to make what we have matter-matter now, today-and matter enough.

The basic ingredients of a happy life are simple. They include friends and neighbors; relatives; some work you like; perhaps some pets; a club, or a church, or a team; maybe a garden or other passionate pastime or hobby; maybe a good book or a movie; and some hopes and memories, too. To relish the full pleasure of these connections, we have to delve deeply into them and make the most of them. We have to nourish them so they become as strong as they possibly can be.

But how? It is one thing to say it, another to do it. I often stop and wonder if I am doing it right in my own life. For example, as a parent, I give my kids a lot of my time, but someday I probably will wish I had given more. Who can ever give their kids all the time they wish they could? There isn’t that much time available, even to the idle rich (which I am not) because childhood is brief. And after our children’s childhoods are over, who doesn’t wish for one more day–one more sunny afternoon in the park–when our kids were young?

Anna Quindlen wrote that the biggest mistake she made as a parent:

Is the one most parents make. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little bit more and the getting it done a little less.

I want to urge you-and me-to learn from Anna Quindlen’s words. I want to urge us not to simply nod wistfully in agreement, but to take action. I want this book to inspire us to deepen our lives, using what we’ve already got, not waiting until we have the mythical more money, more time, or more freedom.

What we’ve already got is with us now, aching to be noticed and delved into. We need to take care of our most heartfelt connections-persistently, deliberately, lovingly-before they disappear.

We need to make time for all the people and places and projects where our hearts have set a significant mooring. To do this, we have to get rid of the insignificant ones. We have to get rid of what hurts us or wastes our precious time, if we possibly can, so we can involve ourselves fully in what and whom we love. I think this is the secret to a happy life.

Our loving connections beget meaningful moments, like a magical plant that blossoms all year round. The flowers of these healthy connections are what I call “human moments.” They grow before our eyes in a million different ways, and they blossom day by day.

The human moment is my term for those moments when we feel most connected to someone or something outside ourselves, and most in the presence of what we’re living for.

There is an immense variety to human moments, so much so that it is difficult to define a human moment more precisely than I already have without losing the variety in the process. So, instead of offering further definition as you might find in a textbook, I will show you through the real-life examples in this book not only the meaning but also the power of the human moment. Let me now give you some examples of human moments taken from my own life.

My family and I had been driving in bad weather for six hours, and we had about another hour to go when my youngest child, Tucker, announced, “I can’t hold it any longer.”

I felt grumpy, tired and in no mood to stop. Having battled holiday traffic for ten hours the day before, spent the night at a Hampton Inn, and headed out for the second leg of our long trip from Boston to West Virginia early that morning, I was eager to arrive at my wife’s sister’s home where I envisioned my body gently collapsing into an easy chair like a parachute collapses when its cargo hits land, accompanied, I hoped, by some beverage consisting mostly of alcohol. I did not want to stop for anybody to do anything. But Tucker repeated his plea. “I reeeeeally need to pee!”

Annoyed, I pulled over onto the snow-covered shoulder of the highway way up in the West Virginia hills. Tucker, age five, got out while the rest of us waited. And waited.

Finally, Tucker climbed back into the car.

“What took you so long?” I gruffly asked.

“I was writing your name in the snow with my pee!” Tucker proudly replied. “D-A-D.”

In a heartbeat my mood changed. “Thank you, Tucker,” I replied with a smile, imagining my name being playfully carved into a snow bank by a little boy doing something little boys have done forever. Even though that warm-water inscription would soon disappear, it mattered more to me than any permanent inscription I could ever see in cold stone.

Human moments happen unannounced, and then they disappear, like names drawn in the snow. But if we capture them-by noticing them and letting them matter-they can infuse our daily lives with meaning and with love forever.

This is how we cherish what we have: by not looking past it, by not saying to ourselves, But this isn’t what I really want, it isn’t what I have been waiting for my whole life long.

Was Tucker peeing my name in the snow what I had been waiting for my whole life long? Well, in a way, yes it was. If I was ever going to be a happy man, I had to catch on to that fact. I had to relish that moment, cherish it, and remember it-eat it up like the spiritual food that it was-as I drove along through the hills of West Virginia and into the rest my life.

But what about the millions of dollars I might have wanted, the perfect marriage, perfect children, fame, power and who knows what else, maybe perfect teeth? No one has it all. Instead, we have this thing called life. Like an unnoticed child, life so wishes we would take notice. If we do that, it repays us, as that child would, with more than we ever, ever dreamed possible. It gives us the treasure of human moments, the blossoms of connection.

It is in connection that we are most fulfilled. The feeling of connectedness goes with us everywhere we go. It is the most stabilizing, comforting feeling there is.

More details

By Edward M. Hallowell
Published by HCI, 2001
ISBN 1558749101, 9781558749108
400 pages

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