“Everything flows” (Heraclitus)
“Not only is everything changing, but all is flux” (David Bohm 1981: 48).
“It seems, then, that what is required is an enlargement of our concept of ‘structure’ so as to include and recognize that in the living organism it is not merely a question of spatial structure with an ‘activity’ as something over against it, but that the concrete organism is a spatio-temporal structure and that this spatio-temporal structure is the activity itself” (Woodger 1967: 330).
"Real time is the harmony of the time process - past, presence, and future - with the source of time: timelessness" (Katagiri Roshi 2007: 117)
Contents: Introduction - Structure and Process - Physics - Life Sciences - A Leaf as a Cosmic Event - The Human Being as a Cosmic Event - The Primacy of Process - Process Philosophy - Process Language - Just Loving - No “I” - Essentialism - Flow creates Happiness - The Wisdom of Insecurity - Relationships – A Joke - Transformations of the Mandala -Transcendence of Statics and Dynamics - A Centering Meditation – Summary - References - Quotes
As I pointed out in detail in the Preface and Introduction of this book, this book is based on a mandala that consists of an empty centre surrounded by two circles. The empty centre represents the unnamable, the inner circle the worldview of holism, and the outer circle the worldview of materialism and mechanism. Holism means wholeness, materialism and mechanism imply fragmentation of the whole into components. Whereas the holistic worldview in one form or another is found in the alternative culture, the materialistic/mechanistic worldview still characterizes mainstream culture and science in the Western and Westernized world. I discussed the many ways in which the two world views are related to each other in the Introduction to this book and therefore I recommend reading the Introduction before proceeding with this chapter. Nonetheless, I think that this chapter also makes sense without reading the Introduction first. But please have a look at the mandala on which this book is based. You find it in the Preface (after the Table of Contents) and the Introduction of this book. I devised a conceptual and pictorial version of the mandala. For each circle I chose 12 characteristic concepts so that each concept of the outer circle representing materialism and mechanism is paired with a concept of the inner circle that represents the holistic view. Each concept pair is related to the empty centre of the mandala, the unnamable, the mysterious. This chapter deals with the concept pair "dynamics and statics/dynamics."
Since complete statics seems to be rare or does not occur at all in mainstream science, I refer to the outer circle concept as statics/dynamics, which means that the dynamics is embedded in a static framework. I have indicated this in the pictorial version of the mandala of this book by placing two waves (representing dynamics) into a static box (see below at the bottom of the mandala). In contrast, the waves representing the inner circle concept of dynamics are not embedded in a static box.
Pictorial version of the mandala of this book.
The characterization of mainstream science and society in terms of statics/dynamics seems appropriate because they tend to be dynamic within a static framework, which implies a dualism of statics and dynamics. This dualism can be seen in the dualism of structure and process.
Structure and Process
In the life sciences as well as in other sciences and everyday life, the distinction of structure and process is usually taken for granted. That is, there are structures and within and between these structures processes occur. For example, in the human body there are structures such as a heart, liver and spleen and within and between these structures various processes occur.
Structures tend to be seen as static in contrast to the dynamics of processes. However, structures are not totally static. They may appear static, but a closer look shows their dynamics, which may be strikingly revealed through time lapse photography.
The conclusion then is that everything changes: dynamics seems all-pervasive. Everything is in flux. Everything changes, although some things change so slowly that they appear static compared to fast changes.
Physics is the most advanced science also as far as dynamics is concerned. According to Capra (1983: 91-92), quantum physics has shown that “atoms consist of particles, and these particles are not made of any material stuff. When we observe them we never see any substance; what we observe are dynamic patterns continually changing one into another - the continuous dance of energy...In modern physics, the image of the universe as a machine has been transcended by a view of it as one indivisible, dynamic whole whose parts are essentially interrelated and can be understood only as patterns of a cosmic process... There is motion but there are, ultimately, no moving objects; there is activity but there are no actors; there are no dancers, there is only the dance.”
David Bohm, another physicist and holistic thinker, has also emphasized the radical dynamics of modern physics. He wrote: “The new form of insight can perhaps best be called Undivided Wholeness in Flowing Movement . This view implies that flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the ‘things’ that can be seen to form and dissolve in this flow” (Bohm 1981:11). In this connection Bohm also referred to holomovement. Thus, modern physics, at least according to some physicists, has reached the complete dynamics of the inner circle. What about other sciences such as the life sciences?
Mainstream life sciences almost exclusively operate within the structure-process dualism, also called structure-function dualism. There are, however, some biologists who have advanced toward the dynamics of inner circle of the mandala. For example, Mae-Wan Ho (1993) has been advocating a dynamic view of heredity and evolution that emphasizes the primacy of process. She highlighted the integration of organism and environment, which includes the dynamism and flexibility of the genetic material seen as process.
In my own research on the structure and development of plants, I have tried to go beyond the structure-process dualism by means of an approach I called dynamic morphology or process morphology (Sattler 1994). In process morphology all structures are seen as process so that there is only process. I distinguish the following four basic processes: growth and decay, differentiation and dedifferentiation. Each of these processes has different modalities. For example, growth may be equal in all directions, or it may be far more pronounced in one direction. As a result, we obtain spherical “structures,” or “structures” such as a stem or a leaf. These “structures” are not structures as opposed to processes; I see them as combinations of processes and thus they appear completely dynamic. Let me give you an example.
A Leaf as a Cosmic Event
In terms of process morphology a leaf is seen as a process combination, not a structure within which processes occur. The processes that are combined include processes of growth and differentiation, metabolic processes, solar radiation and cosmic radiation. Because of the two latter processes, the process combination we call a leaf is integrated with cosmic processes. Thus, the process combination we call a leaf is not just a localized process combination on a plant, but a process combination of cosmic dimensions: the so-called leaf is seen as a cosmic event or process. Since the process combination we call a leaf is integrated with the whole plant that is also seen as a process combination, we can say that the so-called plant can also be seen as a cosmic event or process.
This example shows also the integration of dynamics and wholeness, as Capra and Bohm pointed it out in physics. Processes are not as separate from each other as things. Processes flow into each other, thus constituting a holomovement. And this holomovement has cosmic dimensions.
The Human Being as a Cosmic Event
Although a human being does not photosynthesize as a leaf, its process combination involves integration with solar and cosmic radiation through the human energy field. As a result, a human being can also be described as a cosmic event or process. Such a description represents an outer, external description of the inner experience of the mystic who utters, “I am the Universe”. In a description from the outside, the inner experience is lacking (see Chapter 2). The mystic, however, has the inner experience of oneness with the universe.
The Primacy of Process
For many people including scientists it seems difficult to see the difference between the complete dynamics of the inner circle of the mandala of this book and the dynamics of the outer circle that is embedded in a structure-process duality. One difference is that in the structure-process duality structure is primary and process is secondary. This means that one first has to fragment the world into things or structures and then one can investigate the processes within these structures. One can also recognize that the processes of the different structures interact with each other. But since the structures are primary, no total integration can occur. Fragmentation cannot be totally overcome. The sun and the plant remain separate, although the sun’s rays touch the plant. Similarly, we as human beings remain separate from the rest of the universe, although solar and cosmic radiation impinges on us.
However, recognition of the complete dynamics of the inner circle changes this situation. Here process is considered primary, and structure, if taken into account, appears secondary. First there is the cosmic process, holomovement. Then structures are abstracted from this holomovement. As David Bohm (1981:11) put it, “flow is, in some sense, prior to that of the ‘things’ [such as structures].”
The complete dynamics of the inner circle is not restricted to science. It is also the subject of a philosophy called process philosophy, which applies process thinking to all aspects of reality (Whitehead 1929). The Center for Process Studies in Claremont, California makes great contributions in this regard. Its vision of process thought is: “An organic, holistic cosmology of inter-relation. A post-modern integration of science, religion, ethics and esthetics.” Obviously the emphasis is on process, integration and wholeness in the widest sense. The philosophy of the Center of Process Studies is largely based on that of Whitehead whose book on “Process and Reality” (1929) has been a milestone in process philosophy. According to Whitehead, each individual is a specific enfoldment of its environment. As a result, the individual and the environment are completely intertwined, forming one larger whole and this whole appears completely dynamic.
There are probably many people who would accept the dynamic worldview of process philosophy. But, among other factors, the structure of our language works against its implementation. Like most languages, the English language is based on a noun-verb structure. Nouns refer to entities that are perceived as static or enduring, whereas verbs refer to processes. Thus we say, for example, “the sun shines,” which means that there is an entity (structure), the sun, with a process of shining. Hence a structure-process dualism is implied. This dualism is amplified by the subject-predicate-object structure of our language: we say, for example, “I love you” which means that there is a subject engaged in an activity (process) with an object. Since both subject and object are entities (structures), there is again a duality of structure and process.
A language that is only based on verbs obviously would represent the ever-present flux of the world more adequately than a language with a noun-verb structure. The question is: Is it possible to have purely verb-based languages? Are there any such languages, and, if not, could we develop one? According to Benjamin Whorf (see Carroll 1956), there are Amerindian languages such as Nootka (on Vancouver Island) that are based on verbs. Dan Moonhawk Alford, a linguist with indigenous roots met Sakey Henderson who said "that when talking in, say Mikmaq, he could talk all day long and never utter a single noun." In the Hopi language nouns are used, but much less than in English (Whorf, in Carroll 1956: 243). There are sentences without a noun. For example, instead of saying, “the sun shines,” a Hopi would simply say “shining.” For us, in the English language, “shining” alone is not acceptable as a sentence. We would have to say at least “it shines.” This means, we require an agent that does the shining. However, according to the dynamic worldview, there are no agents, there is only activity, process: “An activity is not an agent that acts. To think of an agent that acts is to move back to the idea of substance. The agent would have to exist first apart from the activity and to be essentially unaffected by the activity. There is no evidence of such agents in nature” (Cobb in Griffin 1988: 109). And yet in most sciences and everyday life we write and talk as if the world were full of agents. We say first there is the moon (a substance, an entity), and then we ascribe activities to it: it moves, it shines, etc. Or we say there is the heart and then we attribute processes to it: it beats and interacts with other organs. This means that we first conceptually decompose the world into entities and then these entities function as agents of processes. In other words: fragmentation is a prerequisite for creating agents, which in turn are a prerequisite for conceiving and expressing dynamics in our normal noun-verb language. Thus we can see how the incomplete dynamics that is based on a structure-process dualism involves fragmentation (see Chapter 1).
Could we develop a language that avoids reference to agents? If not a complete language, could we at least move into the direction of a more dynamic language? One first attempt would be to convert nouns into verbal forms that suggest activity. This would create a more direct awareness of the dynamics. For example, instead of using the noun “leaf,” one could refer to “leafing,” which reminds us more directly of the dynamics and the lack of an agent. Alan Watts (1975 and 1977: 99-100) gives several other examples in a discussion of things and events.
How can we proceed in this fashion to develop a more dynamic language and as a result a more dynamic and less fragmented perception and experience of the world and ourselves? Remember, less fragmented means more whole, which also means more holy.
Here is an example that shows how much the language we use colours our perception and experience. In the English language we say, “I love you,” that is, there are two entities, I and you, and one expresses love toward the other. Entities, in this context, are primary because they exist first and only then can the activity of love happen between them. In contrast, according to Berendt (1991: 46), a Japanese would say “Aishiteru,” which means just “loving.” There is no implication of two entities, just the process of loving. Should there be any reference to “I” and “you,” then these two entities represent secondary abstractions from the primary process of loving.
How much does this different use of language affect our perception and experience? I know that a Western lover also may become absorbed in his beloved, in spite of the fragmenting subject-predicate-object structure of our language. But how long does this love last? It seems that in most cases the fusion phase in which lovers feel one is followed by a phase in which they strongly reassert their differences. Then the “I” and “you” acquire again exaggerated importance as it is expressed in our language structure. Needless to say that in Japan the activity of loving may also change and disappear. But that does not mean that therefore the “I” and “you” must resurface. It could simply be a change in the universal play of processes.
I have been told that in traditional Japan lovers would not even say “Aishiteru” because loving, being an activity, does not need words at all, not even verbs. This realization can also happen in the West when lovers are together in silence, knowing that no word, neither noun, pronoun, nor verb, can express the depth of their feelings.
Ask yourself: How often do I say “I” each day? And you will notice that you say it very often. You don’t just say “I love you,” you say also “I am going to do this,” “I will do that,” “I did not do this,” “I did not do that,” “I”... “I”...”I”. As a consequence there is an all-pervasive reinforcement of “I”.
“I” is a pronoun. Like nouns, pronouns refer to entities, structures, substances, agents. Using the pronoun “I” so often reinforces the conscious or subconscious belief that there is an enduring entity, the self or the ego. And this belief may create a fixation that interferes with the natural flow. Therefore, we may try to avoid using “I”. Instead of saying, “I am going to visit my friend,” simply say, “Visiting friend.” Or instead of saying, “I enjoyed the film,” simply say, “Enjoyed film,” and so on. Practice this for some time and let me know whether it makes an important difference.
There are Japanese and Chinese poems that do not include pronouns such as “I”. The following Zenrin poem is an example:
Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.
We could render this verse even more dynamic linguistically by eliminating the nouns in the following way:
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, springing comes, and grassing by itself.
Although this version may not be aesthetically pleasing as the original verse, it shows how through the use of language we can emphasize dynamics.
Language and language structure condition us. Changing the structure may help us to become aware of the conditioning and overcome it, at least to some extent.
There are, of course, also other ways to overcome conditioning. All the meditations in this book may be helpful in this respect. Dancing meditation (see Chapter 5) seems particularly appropriate with regard to dynamics and holodynamics because in dancing meditation the dancer, the agent, disappears in the dance so that there remains only dancing, only process. At the same time there is transcendence of language, both noun-verb and process language, which may lead into the unnamable mystery (represented by the empty centre in the mandala of this book).
Besides language structure there are, of course, other factors such as certain worldviews and philosophies that reinforce statics or a dualism of statics and dynamics. One such worldview or philosophy is essentialism, which claims that there are unchanging eternal essences that constitute the core of reality. Thus, any phenomenon represents this or that essence, is essentially this or that. Therefore, the dynamics of the phenomena is only superficial, only appearance: its ultimate reality, its nature, is its essence. This is a profoundly static view of reality and also deeply fragmenting because anything is either essentially this or that. Note the implication of either/or logic (see Chapter 3).
Essentialism is a widespread philosophy. Note how often people say: This is essentially true, or, he is essentially good, always implying that, although the appearance may be different, the basic reality is either this or that. Each time one resorts to essentialism, one interrupts the flow because essentialism involves statics. And interrupting the flow creates problems. Being with the flow creates happiness.
Flow Creates Happiness
Csikszentmihali (1990) published a book entitled Flow. The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In this book he documents that being in the flow without resistance creates happiness, joyfulness, harmony. It enhances the quality of living and leads to greater creativity. And it supports good health.
Flow creates total involvement with living. Whatever we do, as long as we are totally in it, we flow because reality flows, nature flows. Dancing is a good example. Losing oneself in dancing means total involvement. But it cannot be forced. It must happen spontaneously. Then the dancer becomes the dance.
The Wisdom of Insecurity
Flow means surrender to existence. Letting go. Not hanging on. Since there is no permanence in anything, it seems foolish to look for security in permanence, that is, to look for security where it cannot be obtained. Paradoxically, we can have security only by embracing insecurity, that is, in the flow of existence. In a book entitled The Wisdom of Insecurity Alan Watts (1951: 77) pointed out: “If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness, which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I,” but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid.” And therefore Alan Watts (1951:43) concluded, ”the only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”
Long ago, William Blake came to the same conclusion:
He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
Since life is in flux, relationships, which are part of life, are also in flux, sometimes more, sometimes less, but they are in flux. However, the mind tries to control this flux, tries to keep it within predictable limits, tries to fixate it in a pattern in which it can feel secure because the mind, which creates the “I,” the ego, hankers for security; it seems afraid of the unknown and the unpredictable that threatens to undermine its controlling power. Because of this, the mind wants to define relationships and institutionalize them. However, once a relationship is constrained into a fixed pattern, it becomes deprived of spontaneity and aliveness; it becomes routine, dead. What survives in such a relationship, if anything, is its form. It loses its soul (see also Beckwith (2012) on Harmonizing your Relationships).
In her book on The Future of Love, Kingma (1998) writes on the sacred frontier of relationships. This frontier is soul territory. Thus relationships become “soul-driven,” not driven by norms and patterns of society that constrain and eventually kill relationships. Living a soul-driven relationship demands courage and surrender to the unknown. It requires the acceptance and wisdom of insecurity as pointed out above.
Osho (1999: 636) told the following joke:
A man is drowning in a river and is shouting for help, saying, “I can’t swim, I can’t swim!”
“So what?” shouts back a drunk from the bank, “I can’t play the piano, but I am not shouting about it!”
Transformations of the Mandala
Now we have to apply what has been said so far to the mandala that is guiding us throughout this book. It seems obvious that this mandala is presented in a static form. I could not do it otherwise. And it seems useful and serves a purpose in this static form like most other mandalas that are also static. Nonetheless, the mandala on which this book is based is meant to be dynamic. In fact dynamics and transformation are an integral part of it. Thus it can and should be transformed. And many transformations are possible. I shall describe just a few of them and invite the reader to create others and let them flow into each other (see also the Dynamic Mandala).
Conceptual version of the mandala of this book.
First, different names could be given to the concepts that I selected and some or all of the concepts could be replaced by related concepts. For example, one could replace “variability” by “uniqueness” or “fuzziness” by “cloudiness” or “exactness” by “sharpness”.
Second, still other concept pairs could be added to the circle of the twelve pairs. For example, incoherence and coherence, imbalance and balance, control and spontaneity could be included in the mandala as additional concept pairs. As a result the circle would be enlarged.
Third, groups of related concept pairs could be formed. For example, the concept pairs of continuum and discontinuum, fuzziness and exactness, openness and closure could be grouped around fragmentation and wholeness since they are closely related to the latter and each other. This would change the shape of the mandala.
Fourth, concept pairs could be amalgamated or broad topics could subsume narrower ones. For example, fragmentation and wholeness could include all of the following concept pairs: discontinuum and continuum, exactness and fuzziness, closure and openness, subject-object division and self-reference, simplicity and complexity, isolation and context-dependence. Similarly, statics and dynamics could comprise all of the remaining concept pairs. As a result we would obtain a mandala consisting of only two concept pairs: fragmentation and wholeness plus statics/dynamics and dynamics (see Chapter 5 of Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond for this and other transformations of the mandala of this book) .
As I pointed out elsewhere, wholeness and dynamics can be combined into holomovement or holodynamics and statics and fragmentation into statics/fragmentation. This leads to a further transformation of the mandala. Alternatively, one could place statics/fragmentation into the centre, surround it by holodynamics and let that fade out into emptiness so that the transcendence of the concepts into mysterious emptiness, the unnamable, is still indicated. Through this reversal the typical mandalic structure would be reversed because now the nameable would be in the centre and the unnamable would surround it, a pattern reminiscent of Wilber’s (2001) four-quadrant map (see Chapter 5 of Wilber’s AQAL Map and Beyond).
Finally, the conceptual versions of the mandala could be transformed into a great variety of pictorial versions, one of which I presented at the beginning of this chapter.
Transcendence of Statics and Dynamics
Let us now return to the mandala that forms the basis of this book. To reach its unnamable centre from the concept pairs of statics/dynamics and dynamics, we have to go beyond both statics and dynamics. As we do this, we can see both statics and dynamics as expressions of relative existence in which dynamics is all pervasive, whereas statics seems more like an approximation when the dynamics slows down to imperceptible or barely perceptible speeds.
The unnamable centre of the Mandala remains mysterious. However, sometimes metaphors or analogies are used to describe the indescribable. This may be helpful, but it can also be misleading and dangerous because the unnamable cannot be named and explained; it can only be experienced.
One analogy that has been used for the unnamable is that it is like the centre of a cyclone: in the centre of the cyclone we find stillness from which the turbulent periphery can be witnessed in a detached way. The advantage of this analogy is that it may give us a feeling of what witnessing in a meditative sense means (see the meditation in Chapter 2 and below). Its disadvantage is that the stillness of the centre could be equated with statics, as a lack of dynamics, which would mean that statics, the concept of the outer circle, becomes central. Jumping to this conclusion would be a grave misunderstanding because the centre of the cyclone as a metaphor for the centre of the mandala, the unnamable, is beyond statics and dynamics. Statics and dynamics occur in space and time. The centre of the mandala, the unnamable, transcends space and time. And therefore, even if we call the centre of the mandala the still point or the centre of the cyclone, it is not static. It is not dynamic either. Dynamics is not an ultimate reality, not the Absolute. It represents relative reality. Ultimate reality transcends all concepts, all thought, even all experience because experience may still imply the duality of the experiencer and experience. With these warnings I will now present a centering meditation based on a sutra from an ancient Tantra.
A Centering Meditation
The following sutra is from the Vigyana Bhairava Tantra. It says:
“When a mood against someone or for someone arises, do not place it on the person in question, but remain centered” (Osho 1974: 212).
Where is the centre and how do we remain centered? As Osho points out in his commentary to this sutra, the centre is inside oneself in one’s greatest depth where we are one with the centre of the mandala, where we are pure witnessing, pure awareness. In this awareness we are not identified with the movement and turmoil that occurs at the periphery in the relative world of thoughts, emotions, moods, likes and dislikes. We just observe all that in equanimity and thus we cannot be drawn into it. For example, if someone insults us, we just observe our reaction to it. We stay in the centre of the cyclone, if we want to use this analogy. In other words: we stay in the centre of the mandala, which is also our deepest centre.
As long as we are in the centre, we are not repressing our anger or other emotions. Repression as well as expression of these emotions occurs when we lose the centre and become identified with these emotions, moods and thoughts.
Repression can be harmful to our health and well-being. Expression can be harmful to others around us who have offended us. So we have to learn witnessing, being in the centre (see also the meditation on witnessing at the end of Chapter 2).
Although we find great emphasis of dynamics in modern science, the dynamics has limitations because of a prevalent structure-process dualism, which means that processes occur within and between structures that as structures remain static. To overcome this common structure-process dualism, one has to recognize that structures also represent processes. Thus, in quantum physics atoms and subatomic particles are not seen as material entities but rather as dynamic patterns. In other words, there are not moving objects, only motion; there are no dancers, only the dance. Similarly, according to process morphology of plants, plant organs such as roots, stems, and leaves are not seen as structures, as entities, but as process combinations. Since the process combinations that constitute a leaf or the whole plant are integrated with cosmic processes, we can see a leaf or a plant as a cosmic event. Similarly, we can see a human being as a cosmic event. Process philosophy conceives all of reality as process. Process is considered primary, structures as abstractions from the primary process. One reason why most of us find it difficult or impossible to view reality in this way is because of the noun-verb structure of the English language and most other languages. Nouns and pronouns usually refer to structures, things, entities, and verbs imply process. Thus, a structure-process dualism is implied in almost everything we say. This dualism could be overcome through a process language that consists mainly or only of verbs. According to Whorf, there are some Native American languages that use only or predominately verbs. For example, a Hopi would not say, “The sun shines” or “it shines,” but would simply say “shining.” Such an expression does not involve an agent that does the shining and thus no dualism between the agent and its activity exists. Avoiding the pronoun “I” that we so commonly use could have far-reaching consequences. Instead of looking for essences that are static, participating in the flow would create more joy and happiness, also in relationships. The wisdom of insecurity implies the awareness that in a world of flux security cannot be gained through fixation on anything. Change also applies to the mandala of this book. Although it is presented in a static form, it can be and should be transformed in many ways, some of which are suggested. The centre of these transformations remains unnamable, mysterious, and in this sense transcends both statics and dynamics. In the centering meditation that concludes this chapter we focus on our centre as the witness of everything, including statics and dynamics.
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"Whitehead [the author of Process and Reality] saying about the atom that all we know of it is its radiating, but there is no 'thing' [agent] there radiating [no thing that does the radiating]" (Dan Moonhawk Alford).
"Native American and other indigenous peoples value the dancing over the dancers, believe that processes and interrelationships are more real than the 'things' that grow out of them" (Dan Moonhawk Alford).
"When your relationships are healthy, you no longer seek relationships to make you happy. Instead, you bring your happiness to your relationships" (Michael Beckwith).