You’re ridding yourself of millions of years of accumulation, but it can be done in months. How do I know? I did it back in ‘fifty-two, not knowing what you know. Had I known the method, instead of taking three months I really believe it would have taken one month. Because for the first month I just released on approval, love. And then I was spending the second month releasing on wanting control, change. And then the last month I saw the fear of dying and I worked on that. So I was really going one at a time: approval, control, security.
I was born July 19, 1909, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, into a middle class family as a very shy person. I tried to do things the way they were supposed to be done—doing the right thing, getting a good education, and being the best in my field. My natural inclination was towards science, especially the science of the world, and of man himself. I graduated from Rutgers University in 1931 as a physicist, after which I worked twenty-some years in physics and engineering. In physics I worked in research and development on measuring instruments and automatic control, connected with Brown Instrument Co., which later became a subsidiary of Honeywell. And in the engineering field I worked as a mechanical engineer, an electrical engineer, a construction engineer, a heating and venting engineer, and a marine engineer—actually fourteen different fields.
I also went into various businesses, including restaurants, lumber, building, and oil, intertwined with engineering, wanting to make money, wanting to make it in the world. At that time I did not know what I now know—that what I was seeking was actually the answers to life itself. Nothing that I had worked at would give me that answer, and as the years went by I became heavy with depression and with sickness.
By 1952 I had been through constant illness—I even had jaundice three or so times a year. I had an enlarged liver, kidney stones, spleen trouble, hyper- and hypo-acidity, ulcers that perforated and formed lesions, and to top it off, I had at least ten years of migraine headaches. This all culminated in 1952, when I had my second coronary thrombosis.
After the second coronary, I was told I would not live much longer—that I might die any day and shouldn’t make the effort to take so much as a step unless I had to. I was extremely fearful of dying, but I said to myself, “You’re still breathing, Lester; there’s still a chance.” So I sat down and began thinking on an around-the-clock basis. Having lived forty-two years, and having reached the end of the line without happiness, without health, I realized that all the knowledge I had accumulated was of no avail. I had studied Watson’s behaviorism in the ‘30s and Freud in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. I had studied the philosophies. I had studied logic. I studied economics. I studied all the major fields of man, and with all that knowledge, there I was at the end of the line. This made me realize that the accumulated knowledge of man was of no use.
So I decided to start from scratch. Forget all that knowledge. Begin from point zero and see what you can pick up. So I posed the questions, “What am I?” “What is this world?” “What is my relationship to it?” “What is the mind?” “What is intelligence?” “What is happiness?”
I began by asking myself, “What do I want out of life?” And the answer was happiness. Investigating further, I went into the moments when I was feeling happiest. I discovered something that to me was startling at the time: it was when I was loving that I was happiest. That happiness equated to my capacity to love rather than to being loved. That was a starting point.
I began correcting all my thoughts and feelings in that direction from wanting to be loved to loving. And in that process I discovered another major thing that kind of shocked me. I saw that I wanted to change this entire world, and that was the cause of my ulcers—or one of the major causes. In realizing how much I wanted to change things in this world, I saw how it made me a slave of this world, and I made the decision to reverse that. And in the process of following out these two directions—actually unloading all the subconscious concepts and pressures in those directions—I discovered I was getting happier, freer, lighter, and feeling better in general.
As I saw this direction was good, I made the decision that if a slice of pie tasted this good, I wanted the whole pie. And I decided not to let go of this direction until I got that entire pie of happiness, and with it the answer to, “What am I?” “What is this world and what is my relationship to it?” This decision allowed me to get the answer to life itself in a matter of only three months. I believe if I can do it, anyone can do it if they want to as much as I did.
In that three-month period, all the ailments I had in my physical body corrected themselves. All my miseries dropped away. And I ended up in a place in which I was happy all the time, without sorrow. Not that the world stopped pushing against me—it continued—but I was at a place where I could resolve things almost immediately. Having cleared out the negative fears, all the thoughts that “I can’t,” I would focus right on the answer to every problem and get it very quickly. And so, my whole life turned around from being depressed and sick to being happy all the time, and being in perfect health all the time.
One of the things that happened in this process was my identification with others. I saw that we are all related, we are all interconnected. That each mind is like a radio broadcasting and receiving station and that we are all tuned into each other unconsciously; we are just not aware of it. As a lot of the suppressed energies are let out, this becomes obvious to us. And once we identify with everyone else it is just natural that we want everyone else to discover what we have discovered—that life was meant to be beautiful, meant to be happy all the time with no sorrow. And to be with perfect health. And so after reaching that high point of understanding in 1952, I have wanted to help others to discover what I had discovered.
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I was at the end of my rope. I was told not to take a step unless I absolutely had to because there was a possibility that I could drop dead at any moment.
This was a terrible, shocking thing, suddenly to be told that I couldn’t be active anymore, having been so active all my life. It was a horrible thing. An intense fear of dying overwhelmed me, the fear that I might drop dead any minute. This stayed with me for days. I went through a real horrible, low, spinning period there, in the grip of intense fear of dying or of being a cripple for the rest of my life in that I wouldn’t be able to be active. I felt that life would not be worthwhile anymore.
This caused me to conclude with determination, “Either I get the answers or I’ll take me off this earth. No heart attack will do it!” I had a nice easy way to do it, too—I had morphine the doctors had given me for my kidney stone attacks.
After several days of this intense fear of dying I suddenly realized, “Well, I’m still alive. As long as I’m alive there’s hope. As long as I’m alive, maybe I can get out of this. What do I do?”
Well, I was always a smart boy, always made the honor roll. Even got myself a four-year scholarship to Rutgers University, at a time when scholarships were very rare, through competitive examinations. But what does this avail me? Nothing! Here I am with all this brilliance, as miserable and scared as can be.
Then I said, “Lester, not only were you not smart, you were dumb, dumb, dumb! There’s something wrong in your intellect. With all your knowledge, you’ve come to this bottom end! Drop all this knowledge you’ve so studiously picked up on philosophy, psychology, social science and economics—it is of no avail. Start from scratch. Begin all over again your search for the answers.
And with an extreme desperation and intense wanting out of the situation, wanting not to die, I began to question: What am I? What is this world? What is my relationship to it? What do I want from it?
“Well, what is happiness?”
“But I am loved. I know several very desirable girls with beauty, charm and intellect who want me. And I have the esteem of my friends. Yet I’m miserable!”
I sensed that the closest thing related to happiness was love So I began reviewing and reliving my past love affairs, looking at the points where the little happiness that I had were. I began to pull up and dissect all of my high moments of loving. Suddenly I got an inkling that it was when I was loving that I had the highest feeling!
I remembered one evening, a beautiful balmy evening in the mountains when I was camping with my girlfriend. We were both lying on the grass, both looking up at the sky, and I had my arm around her. The nirvana, the perfection of the height of happiness was right there. I was feeling how great is love for my girlfriend! How wonderful is knowing all this nature! How perfect a setting!
Then I saw that it was my loving her that was the cause of this happiness! Not the beauty of the setting or being with my girlfriend.
Then I immediately turned to the other side. Boy it was great when she loved me! I remembered the moment when publicly this beautiful, charming girl told the world that she approved of Lester, she loved Lester, and I could feel that nice feeling of approval. But I sensed that it was not as great as what I had just discovered. It was not a lasting feeling. It was just for the moment. In order for me to have that feeling continuously, she had to continue saying that.
So this momentary ego approval was not as great as the feeling of loving her. As long as I was loving her, I felt so happy; but when she loved me, there were only moments of happiness when she gave me approval.
Days of further cogitation gradually revealed to me that this was correct. I was happier when I loved her than I was when I got that momentary ego-satisfaction when she loved me. Her loving me was a momentary pleasure that needed constant showing and proving on her part, while my loving her was a constant happiness, as long as I was loving her.
I concluded that my happiness equated to my loving. If I could increase my loving, then I could increase my happiness! This was the first inkling I had as to what brings about happiness. And it was a tremendous thing because I hadn’t had happiness. And I said, “Gee, if this is the key to happiness, I’ve got the greatest!” Even the hope of getting more and more happiness was a tremendous thing, because this was the number-one thing I wanted—happiness.
That started me on weeks and weeks of reviewing my past love affairs. I dug up from the past incident after incident when I thought I was loving, and I discovered that I was being nice to my girlfriends, trying to get them to love me, and that that was selfish. That was not really love. That was just wanting my ego bolstered.
I kept reviewing incidents from the past, and where I saw that I was not loving, I would change that feeling to loving that person. Instead of wanting them to do something for me I would change it to my wanting to do something for them. I kept this up until I couldn’t find any more incidents to work on.
This insight on love, seeing that happiness was determined by my capacity to love, was a tremendous insight. It began to free me, and any bit of freedom when you’re plagued feels so good. I knew that I was in the right direction. I had gotten hold of a link of the chain of happiness and was determined not to let go until I had the entire chain.
I felt a greater freedom. There was an easier concentration of my mind because of it, and I began to look better at my mind. What is my mind? What is intelligence? And so I dug into that. I began to examine thinking and its relationship to what was happening. And it was revealed that everything that was happening had a prior thought behind it, and that I never before related the thought and the happening because of the element of time between the two.
When I saw that everything that was happening to me had a thought of it before it happened, I realized that if I could grab hold of this, I could consciously determine everything that happened to me. And above all, I saw that I was responsible for everything that had happened to me, when before I had thought that the world was abusing me. I saw that my whole past life and all that tremendous effort to make money—and in the end, failing—was due only to my thinking.
This was a tremendous piece of freedom, to think that I was not a victim of this world, that it lay within my power to arrange the world the way I wanted it to be; that rather than being an effect of it, I could now be the cause of it and arrange it the way I would like it to be. That was a tremendous realization, a tremendous feeling of freedom.
I was so ill when I started my searching; I had one foot in the grave. And when I saw that my thinking was the cause of what was happening to me I immediately saw my body as perfect, from my chin down to my toes. And instantly, I knew it was perfect. I knew the lesions and adhesions of my intestine due to perforated ulcers were undone. I knew everything within me was in perfect running order. And it was.
Discovering that my happiness equated to my loving, discovering that my thinking was the cause of things happening to me in my life, gave me more and more freedom. Freedom from unconscious compulsions that I had to work, that I had to make money, that I had to have girls. Freedom in the feeling that I was now able to determine my destiny, that I was now able to control my world, that I was now able to arrange my environment to suit me. This new freedom lightened my internal burden so greatly that I felt that I had no need to do anything.
Plus, the new happiness I was experiencing was so great! I was experiencing a joy that I had never known existed. I had never dreamed happiness could be so great.
I determined, “If this is so great, I’m not going to let go of it until I carry it all the way!” I had no idea how joyous a person could be. So, I began digging further into how to extend this joy. I began further changing my attitudes on love. I would imagine the girl I wanted most marrying one of my friends, or the boy I would least want her to marry, and then enjoy their enjoying each other. To me this was the extreme in loving, and if I could achieve it, it would give me more of this wonderful thing that I was experiencing. And so I worked on it. I took a particular fellow, Burl, and a particular girl (Annette, Lester’s college sweetheart), and I wouldn’t let go until I could really feel the joy of their enjoying each other. Then I knew I had it—or almost had it.
Then later on, I had further tests of this in talking to people who were opposing me no end when I was trying to help them. I would consciously feel the greatest love for them when they were attacking me. And the joy of loving them was so wonderful that, without thinking, I would thank them so profusely for having given me the opportunity of talking with them that it threw them into a dither. But I really felt that. I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for having given me the opportunity of loving them when they were making it as difficult as they possibly could. I didn’t express that to them, but just thanked them for the opportunity of having been able to talk with them.
That I was able to do this was good news to me because, like other things, I was able to carry loving to the extreme. I could love people who were opposing me.
And I would not stop until I could see the end of the line of this happiness I was getting. I would go higher and higher and higher and say, “Oh, my gosh, there can be nothing higher than this!” But I would try, and I would go higher. Then I would say, “Oh, there can’t be anything higher than this!” But I would try, and go higher! And then I would say, “Oh, there can’t be anything happier than this!” until I realized there was no limit to happiness.
I would become incapacitated. I could look at my body, and I couldn’t move it, I was so top-heavy with ecstasy and joy. I was actually incapacitated. I would do this for hours, going higher and higher, and then I would have to work for hours to keep coming down and down and down until I could start being the body again in order to operate it.
Contemplating the source of intelligence and energy, I discovered that energy, as well as intelligence, was available in unlimited amounts, and that it came simply by my freeing myself from all compulsions, inhibitions, entanglements and hang-ups. I saw that I had dammed up this energy, this power, and all I had to do was to pry loose the logs of the dam, which were my compulsions and hang-ups. And that was what I did. As I let go of these things I was removing logs and allowing this infinite energy to flow, just like a water dam flows if you pull the logs out one by one. The more logs you pull out, the greater the flow. All I needed to do was to remove these logs and let the infinite power and energy flow.
Seeing this, the power that was right behind my mind was allowed to flow through like it had never flowed before. There were times when I’d get this realization of what I am that would put so much energy into me, I would just jump up in the air from my chair. I would go right straight out the front door and I would start walking and walking and walking for hours at a time—sometimes for days at a time. I just felt as though my body would not contain it, that I had to walk or run some of it off. I remember walking the streets of New York City in the wee hours of the morning, just walking at a very good pace, and not being able to do anything otherwise. I had to expend some of that energy, it was so tremendous.
I saw that the source of all this energy, of all this intelligence was, by nature was basically harmonious, that harmony was the law of the universe, and that’s why the planets were not colliding, and that’s why the sun rose every day, and that’s why everything went. And I’m discovering this harmony. It fell in on me. I would go out into the streets; people would look at me, smile and say Hello. And I’d want to park my car; people from the sidewalk—two, three of them at a time sometimes—would get off the sidewalk and help direct me into a tight parking spot. Policemen, taxicab drivers, would give me their parking spot when I couldn’t find one. Everything was falling into line for me at that time. Be fair how to say this: they never would meet a red light. That’s the extreme: to drive through New York City and not meet a red light.
When I started my search, I was a very convinced and absolute materialist. The only thing that was real was that which you could feel and touch. My understanding of the world was as solid as concrete. And when some of these revelations came to me that the world was just a result of my mind, that thinking determined all matter, that matter had no intelligence, and that our intelligence determined all matter and everything about it. When I saw that the solidity that I formerly had was only a thought itself, my nice, solid, concrete foundations began to crack. Twenty years of buildup began to tumble. And my body shook and shook so much; I just shook for days. I shook just like a nervous old person. I knew that the concrete view I had had of the world was never going to be again. But it didn’t drop away gracefully, with ease. For days I actually shook, until I think I shook the whole thing loose.
Then my view was just the opposite of what it had been months previously: the real solid thing was not the physical world, was not my mind, but something that was much greater. The very essence, the very Beingness of me was the reality. It had no limits, it was eternal, and all the things that I saw before were the least of me rather than the all of me. The all of me was my Beingness.
I saw that the only limitations I had were the ones that I accepted. So, wanting to know, What am I? and looking for this unlimited Being that I had had an inkling of, I got insight of this tremendous unlimited Being that I am. And on seeing that, I right there and then realized, “Well, I’m not this limited body that I thought I was! I am not this mind with its limitations that I thought I was!” And I undid all body limitation and almost all mind limitation just by saying, “I am not it! Finished! Done! Period! That’s it!”
It was obvious to me that I wasn’t that body and mind that I had thought I was. I just saw it, that’s all. It’s simple when you see it. I let go of identifying with this body. And when I did that, I saw that my Beingness was all Beingness. That Beingness is like one grand ocean. It isn’t chopped up into parts called drops of bodies: it’s all one ocean.
This caused me to identify with every being, every person and even every atom in this universe. Then you are finished forever with separation and all the hellishness that’s caused only by separation. Then you can no more be fooled by the apparent limitations of the world. You see them as a dream, as an apparency,1 because you know that your very own Beingness has no limits. In reality, the only thing that is, is Beingness. That is the real, changeless substance behind everything.
- From apparent—Something that seems to be real or true but may not be. (See “appearance” in the Glossary)
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Dwoskin, Hale and Levenson, Lester (2001). Happiness is Free. Sedona, Arizona: Sedona Training Associates.
Levenson, Lester (2003). No Attachments, No Aversions: The Autobiography of a Master. Sherman Oaks, California: Lawrence Crane Enterprises.
Lester explains how to release: https://youtu.be/Q3m7I8C6zZQ