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G ol d e n

Path

Th e

By J. A. Hall Edited by Rachel Rene

Dedicated to all of my good friends who have helped me grow And to all those people who deserved better from me

Preface
As I begin this paragraph, in the prologue to the first book of three, I am twenty-eight years old, while small I doubt I will finish this text in the next day, week, month, or year. I tell you this because believe it is important for you understand that the man who has begun this text will not be the same man that finishes it, just as you will not be the same reader who finish this text. As we take this journey, we will grow, we will evolve, and we will, I hope, reach an apotheosis. To understand how and why, I must explain what this text is. But before I do, I must ask you to do me a favor, my reader, whoever you are: Please read this text through to its end. Walk with me along this road and complete this journey, regardless of your bias, your beliefs, or your convictions, even if only to tell me Im wrong, please, finish this text with me, it is not long, but it does matter. With that said, what I hope to discover with you is a method of rational thought and mindfulness, which anyone can apply to achieve lasing happiness. I will not try to convince you of any ideas, I will not try to convert you to my way of thinking. I will only ask you that you think, at times in new ways, at times in ways that may not be immediately comfortable. I will no doubt struggle to choose my words very carefully, if at times I use a word in a context that does not immediately make sense, or it is one with which you are not familiar, do not be discouraged at all. Learning new things helps us all grow; be willing to learn and to question it if you do not immediately agree or understand.
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This is not a self help book. If you want mantras or self actualizations, please look elsewhere. If you want to be rich, successful and confident, I am sure that you could be, but I dont think this text will cover it. But, if you want happiness, truth, understanding, and maybe a bit of freedom, we should continue. If you dont want to come along, I understand, and will be waiting for you when you are ready. I cannot yet imagine what each chapter in each book will contain, nor will it be an easy task to for us to understand this method. I can tell you that first we must examine the mind, thinking, and learn to question. Second, we must question ourselves, the nature of emotional investment, happiness, and thought. Lastly, we must apply the first and second we must master thought, decision, and choice. To do this, any of this, we must draw upon a hundred thousand years of human history, knowledge, and evolution. We will draw upon great thinkers and philosophers and we will extract the abstract essence of their ideas. I am eager to begin, I hope you are too.

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Book one: Small Steps

Meditations

Everything we do, each act, takes time. The more factors, the more moving pieces, the more time. Time is in a metaphorical essence (and in many non-metaphorical ways), the energy that drives all things forward, but time can only become work as long as the time is being used, otherwise it flows right by. To gain any ability you must use the time to practice, and with practice you will grow. To accomplish any small feat takes an infinite number of smaller feats of which you are likely unaware. This is what allows for gradual change: a number of far smaller far less profound plateaus. You have already reached one, in reading and comprehending the paragraph above. You may have had similar thoughts before but it has never been put exactly like that before, and that new knowledge has created new pathways in your brain. If youre quick youll already know what Im about to say in principle: What I hope to accomplish will take time and an infinite number of small feats. You will have those moments of sudden epiphany, but they will be spread out over a period time. Do not expect instant results, instead, expect to put in the time necessary to move your mind forward. Human learning is a complicated subject with many facets. What we will focus on now in this book is the principle of rational thought; that is practicing thinking methods that are constructive and healthy, while identifying unhealthy methods. This will take many small steps to master.
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Thinking
You may rightfully believe you know how to think, and may indeed be capable of thinking. If you questioned for a moment whether or not you know how to think rationally, you probably just did. The key to thinking is questioning. To think properly we must first be willing to question, by this I mean to have intellectual curiosity of those things we experience our thoughts and our actions. As we are exposed to new ideas and knowledge we must accept them, and question them. This is the definition of open mindedness, always accepting and thinking about new ideas. This is not to say we should at all time doubt things, ourselves or others, rather what I mean is we must always look at situations and be willing to question what we know and what we think we know. The more you are certain of any fact, feeling, or belief you hold, the more you should be willing to question it. To question a thought or feeling ask:
Does this thought help me accomplish any tasks or goals? Is this thought based on observable evidence? Can I test this thought to see if it is true or false?

If the answer is yes to all of the above, this knowledge, feeling, or belief that you have questioned, has withstood your inquiry and examination. These are valid objects for making decision and forming new ideas. If you answered no to even one, then the idea, knowledge or feeling is invalid, and should be considered less useful for making choices.

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Consider why we call these ideas or feelings valid or invalid; valid ideas are ones that can be understood rationally and help us accomplish things, valid ideas can also be proven to be invalid if they eventually lose their usefulness. Invalid ideas are either not useful to us, have no evidence to support them as a conclusion, or cannot be proven to be true or false. This means they cannot be used to make rational decisions. Would you want someone making choices for you based on ideas that were harmful, had no basis in evidence, or were beyond your ability to prove or question? Of course not! Questioning is not the same a doubting. Do not let doubt sabotage good ideas. Question your doubt if your doubt can be questioned, you were right to second guess an idea, if it cannot, then your doubt is baseless, and you should act on the healthy thoughts you have. Thinking is the ability to accept and question knowledge, feelings, or beliefs to ascertain their validity.

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Feeling
Few things are as wholly misunderstood as our feelings, and few languages are as poor at expressing the depth and breadth of human emotion as English. In psychology we associate emotions with stimuli, behavior, mood, temperament, and personality. Biochemically, emotions are observable responses in the brain that while honed by experience seem, all too often, beyond our control. This Idea, that our emotions are beyond our control, is a very common fallacy. Many emotional responses are instinctual knowledge that, devoid of reason, would enable an organism to survive and reach some measure of success. However, we are beings with reason, and we must think about our emotions question and validate thus we can address our feelings. The first step to self control, discipline, and mastery of our emotions is simply questioning them. Ask why you feel each powerful emotion and you will often find it no longer controls your behavior. There is nothing at all wrong with feeling, so long as we understand why we feel the way we do, and we do not make choices ruled by feelings we dont fully understand. The reason for this is to prevent bad habits and others from dictation our actions through emotional bias such as fear, desires, or loneliness. These are often exploited, and very rarely questioned in everyday life.

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One of the most common methods by which we are manipulated and deceived is through emotional appeals. This is called Pathos, and is one of the three methods of persuasion; it is also the method most commonly used to deceive us. This is why questioning our feelings rationally is so important, when presented with a situation where someone or thing is appealing solely to your emotions, trying to invoke strong overpowering feelings, they are often trying to prevent you from thinking. When you are presented with strong emotional appeals, especially fear, practice thinking about the feelings you have. This makes you the master of your emotions. Feelings are good; understanding our feelings is better. Question what you feel, and why, to rule your emotions.

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Practice
Long ago people realized that with enough small steps you can accomplish great things; the mind is absolutely no different. This process, of repeating behavior over and over in iteration, it is called practice. The more you practice a pattern of thinking the better at it you become. To think and master feeling takes practice questioning your ideas, feelings and beliefs. To practice this internal examination question all knowledge and feelings, and question new information and new situations. By practicing this kind of thinking, you learn to see the truth in yourself and in the world around you. And remember, we learn by doing small steps, each act is an improvement over the last. Just as you repeat the act of thinking and questioning, repeat the thoughts that you have examined and found to be helpful. This grows the ability to think new thoughts that are rational, provable, and healthy. Furthermore it makes your ability to question stronger and more able to adapt to new situations, problems, and dilemmas. Repeatedly think about new and old ideas, practice questioning and repeating valid thoughts.

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However, this same process of repetition and practice can also lead to self destructive behavior and delusions. Repeating bad ideas over and over will ingrain them deeply in the mind, it is the basis for many mental disorders, delusions, and cognitive dissonance. This is why you must question each thought and feeling:
Does this thought help me accomplish any tasks or goals? Is this thought based on observable evidence? Can I test this thought to see if it is true or false?

If the answer is No to any of the above, the thought is destructive, and probably not something you want to base choices on. This helps prevent delusions and breaks down bad thoughts in our mind. Ultimately, these things take practice and iteration to master. Consistently practicing this kind of questioning will build up a resistance to bad ideas and help you overcome old ones, but only through practice, time, and consistency. Practice thinking by questioning your thoughts, the things you learn, what you think you know, and what you feel.

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Evidence
We have discussed thinking and questioning what we know and whether it is valid. To discern if anything we think or feel is valid we must also accept evidence. Simply because an idea or feeling has evidence to back it does not make it true, rather, only if an idea or feeling has evidence that can withstand scrutiny of observation and explains our idea or feeling, or is explained by the idea, we can consider it valid evidence for forming our thoughts and feelings. Evidence cannot be its own validation, you would not believe a police-officer who threw you in jail and told you he was right, because he said he was right. You would want a Jury and Judge and a fair trial. Just as we question ideas, we must question our evidence for ideas to prevent delusion. We do this so that a valid idea, thought, or feeling is one we can use it to make choices. This is paramount you must think about (question and observe) evidence for ideas, thoughts, and feelings to make good choices. If any idea or feeling has no evidence or source the idea cannot be proven wrong, therefore it is invalid, because we cannot properly question or understand the idea. If the idea or feeling is caused by another idea or feeling, we must question that idea or feeling, and if that idea or feeling has no evidence, it is also invalid. The key to thinking about your ideas is respecting the need for evidence or correctness for an idea or feeling.

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Mindfulness
For our purposes, mindfulness is an awareness of self and our surroundings in any given moment. Practicing mindfulness allows us to examine others and our selves, be keenly aware of our bodies, thoughts, feelings, and the actions of others around us. Awareness and wisdom grow from mindfulness. For those that have never experienced this kind of mental state, it can be exceedingly challenging at first. A mindfulness state requires considering each thought as it arises, being aware of the sensations of the body and environment, and not succumbing to distraction or negative thought patterns. To be mindful requires practice, but explaining how to practice mindfulness is a serious challenge that has confused and confounded eastern philosophers for millennia, and psychologists recently for decades. However, mindfulness is a constant ever present thing, you dont need to follow strict steps and spend an hour a day being mindful. Yet we still need a guide, to show us where to begin practicing mindful thought. But the truth is, if you have practiced thinking about the thoughts and feelings you have in any moment, you have begun practicing mindfulness. We can develop mindfulness by taking a quiet moment, and considering all those things in our mind, surroundings, and what we are doing and feeling. Think on these, consider their validity. Be present in the moment and in your mind. This is mindfulness.
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Mindfulness is awareness born from practicing thinking. As you develop your ability to question and experience understanding of your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, you develop mindfulness. It becomes clear which are successful ideas and which arent as you question more and more of our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts that are destructives stand out as they inhibit your ability to perform or succeed, they lack any basis in evidence, or they cannot be tested. To be Mindful, be present in the moment and aware of your thoughts and feelings as they come. Try to focus on the things that are happening now, right around you, and inside you.

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Book Two:

Truths

Lasting Happiness
It is a difficult subject to broach with people, that of happiness and its definition. People have very interesting and wholly destructive ideas of happiness, and few have ever been contradicted. Worse, English is a rather poor language to discuss the topic, as most emotional topics, because it is very short of finite and specific words for emotional states. Because this idea is so nebulous and so complicated I want to first clearly define what I mean when I say Lasting Happiness, and what that isnt. It is important because ideas like bliss, contentment, even comfort and safety are not lasting happiness, but often confused with lasting happiness, or worse, sought in place of lasting happiness. So what is lasting happiness?
Lasting Happiness is a ground state of optimistic, content well-being. When I say ground state, I mean when all other stimuli and impetuses have been removed, the state of mind is one that is optimistic, alert, content, and accepting.

Because Lasting Happiness becomes the ground state, the normal position of the mind, this happiness will pervade all other aspects of life. This state will breed benevolence and confidence which in turn create further happiness. Unfortunately, most societies fail to recognize this for a variety of reasons. People who have attained lasting
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happiness tend often to question authority and bring about innovative new ideas. Most cultural ideas of happiness are transitory happiness, the kind that can be lost in an instant, or require consistent gratification. The truth is that love, wealth, entertainment, indulgences, narcotics, and sexual gratifications are all often confused with or cited as sources of happiness. While all these things will bring about bliss, and even joy, none will create lasting happiness. Once achieved, lasting happiness cannot be stolen, lost or taken in life. It will always be a part of your thoughts and feelings and define you. People with Lasting Happiness have no need of Stone Age morals and antiquated dogmas, they dont harm other people. Why? Because lasting happiness is watered by other peoples happiness. In the success of others we find the keys to our own success. In others happiness is a community that is happy, successful, and free of the petty demons of jealousy, greed, and violence. All this things are the symptoms of an unhappy mind. Stop wanting to be happy and just smile.

Fake it if you have to.

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That was the first step, and it is the only one that is easy, because the rest of the trials and complications that come with seeking lasting happiness are not simple, are difficult to understand, and will test our world view. We will not achieve happiness by sitting there reading this wanting happiness, you will achieve it by smiling and thinking about things rationally, practicing happiness. You wouldnt expect to achieve getting to the store by sitting on the couch wanting to get to the store would you? No, you achieve getting there by getting up and taking one step at a time until, before you know it, youre there. Lasting Happiness is the same way so lets keep walking. The second step you have hopefully already taken, and that is thinking and developing mindfulness. To move forward we need to understand what creates lasting happiness. Lasting Happiness is built upon a foundation of mindfulness, wise emotional investments, ownership of successes, and firm correctness in decisions. The journey is getting interesting, Let us move forward and confront emotional investments, owning success and failures, and succeeding more when we do fail.

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Realize Emotional Investments


We only have so much emotional effort to give, and where we are investing that effort is very important if you want to achieve lasting happiness. Part of lasting happiness is being a wise investor of emotional effort; knowing what gives a solid emotional return, and what does not, and how to spot an emotional sinkhole. Everything we let in to our lives requires an emotional investment; some measure of emotional effort is spent on everything, from our job, hobbies, loved ones or friends, to our problems, worries, debts and conflicts. Investing emotional effort is just like investing money you should only invest it in things that have a high return rate: people who treat you well, jobs that are rewarding, hobbies that are fulfilling, and problems you can solve. When we begin investing in things that have little or no return; people who treat us poorly, jobs we hate, problems we cannot solve, or conflicts that are self-perpetuating, we quickly run out of emotional energy and must borrow that energy from somewhere. We borrow this from our lasting happiness. This creates emotional debt, a state of stressed exhaustion brought about by poor emotional investments eating up our emotional effort and then burning away our lasting happiness with interest.

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When thinking about our emotional investments, we can use the basic criteria set forth in book one to analyze each thing we have invested emotional effort in:
Does this investment help me accomplish any tasks or goals? Does this investment return based on observable evidence? Can I test this investment to see if it is positive or negative?

This is a great chance to practice thinking; looking at the things in your life, what is rewarding, what is not? If the answer is No to any of these, then withdrawing your investment and letting go of this element in your life is essential to your wellbeing. But letting go is easier said than done, isnt it? After all, youre invested. Practice thinking you know this investment is bad, you can demonstrate it is bad because it fails to meet criteria for a good investment. Making bad investments with your emotional effort does not make you feel better, nor does it make you a good person. We want to be good people, because benevolence waters our own happiness. Yet we also want to be able to share our happiness in the form of emotional effort invested in people and things that return to us happiness. A common myth is that good people sacrifice their happiness for another persons. This is an incredible lie, and it uses pathos to deceive us, because we want to be good and benevolent.
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Good people elevate the happiness of others through sharing a little bit more emotional effort than they initially receive, if they will receive more from this investment than they gave. If someone in your life is constantly taking your emotional effort, and never has any to give they are a thief stealing from you. Being a good person means investing emotional effort wisely to elevate peoples happiness, not sacrificing your own energy and wellbeing for others. By elevating their happiness you create a healthy cycle of emotional returns for them, and for yourself. The more you consider your good investment vs. your bad investments the easier it will be to withdraw your effort from them. Letting go of investments means slowly limiting their place in your life, each time more effort is required question why you should and if there is a return. If there is not, do not continue to invest. This is a process that takes time and practice. Worrying about issues we cannot or will not be able to solve is a poor investment there will be no return and it takes a lot of emotional effort. Addressing small problems in your life that you have a solution for already is a great investment because the return is slightly higher than the original effort.

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Own Success and Failure


Taking responsibility is often associated with taking the blame (or stealing anothers glory) for some failure or accomplishment. But ownership has a very different connotation. When we hear ownership we think of possession, physicality, and maybe responsibility. When I speak of owning both successes and failures, I dont mean taking responsibility or getting bragging rights, I mean that you need to take possession of each decision you made, you need to think about the things that led to that success or failure and why. Remember, when I say think, I mean question and analyze. In owning each success and each failure you make them a part of you and your story, you learn from them how to repeat successes and how to prevent failures. This is accomplished by simply thinking about each and how you behaved, where your emotional effort investments were at the time of each, and what qualified as a positive return. There is more to understanding ownership, but we need to examine other elements of decision making first. For now we can understand that lasting happiness is impacted by our ability to accept ownership of our successes as much as our failure, from here we can grow an understanding of choices and why we make them. By thinking we can develop mindfulness and learn to be aware of ourselves and our environment, simply by observing and questioning, and most importantly, practicing thinking.

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Succeed More When You Fail


This is really the basic foundation of lasting happiness. In many cases our mistakes and failures haunt us. If we are practicing thinking, rather than recriminate ourselves for our mistakes we can critically analyze them, why we look that action, and what ideas we gained from it. We can determine valid vs. invalid ideas and emotions form this. Most importantly we can learn from what happened by questioning our thoughts and feelings. Bad things do not happen to us because of karma or fate Bad things do not happen because of some supernatural force at work in the universe. We do not suffer for some beings grand plan or evil forces working against us. Bad things happen because we are either in the wrong place at the wrong time or we make choices that bring about misfortune. This is hard to accept but it is true. When faced with mistakes, challenges, and failures you should practice thinking; why did you think that way, why did you feel that way, was it beneficial, was there any evidence to support these thoughts or feelings, can these thoughts or feelings be proven true or false? These basic questions can help you understand, and more importantly, not repeat mistakes and failures.

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Book Three: Actualization

The Golden Path

Book One and Book Two laid out a framework of ideas to support and hopefully help us reach the following concepts. Understanding the above was essential to understanding the following. We have been armed with an understanding of what thinking is and how to do it. You have been presented with an idea of lasting happiness, why it is good, and been shown some of the obstacles that prevent you from achieving it. So let us begin understanding how to live happily. Lasting Happiness is actualized by accepting that choices once made cannot be changed, you cannot doubt choices; such requires that decisions are made and accepted equanimously, with calm consideration. Accept and own our choices; they cannot be changed, but we cannot let ourselves feel regret or resigned to these choices. They are our own. Own them. Each decision, if you have thought about it, you must accept with firm correctness this is the acceptance that there was no other choice you could have made given the same information and situation, you have to understand that you were doing the right thing if you have been mindful and have thought about the things that drove you to this choice then it was the right thing.

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Firm Correctness
This is a term borrowed with some interpretation from Chinese. It can be summarized as simply this: Do the right thing by your choices. The right thing this is not an ambiguous idea; morality, ethics and all the social constructs can be ignored. The right thing is the choice that maintains your lasting happiness while supporting the wellbeing of those around you. I do not imply this is simple. There is no choice that harms another person that brings about lasting happiness, and there is no choice that harms you that brings about lasting happiness. Encouraging the lasting happiness in others builds the firmament of your own happiness through benevolence. To act in firm correctness we must think about our thoughts and feelings, questioning whether our actions are rational; you must consider why you make each choice, understand them and yourself. And we must help others think and understand themselves and their choices. We must stand by our choices, especially when wrong. In acting with firm correctness we act rationally, with mindfulness and consideration, and we make choices that are beneficial for ourselves and others.

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Benevolence Grows Happiness


Perhaps you are beginning to realize lasting happiness is cultivated by acceptance of your choices and making choices you think are the right thing because you have used reason and evidence to evaluate them. The next step is to fertilize happiness in yourself and the world around you. This is accomplished through firm correctness, treating others with respect, and encouraging their happiness through rational thought; sowing the seeds of lasting happiness in their minds. Helping others will fertilize your mind for happiness, and creates a lasting feeling of success. Beyond the mental effects, as you help others you will create lasting positive impacts on their lives that may grow in to loyal friendships, and may also help you identify those who only take but do not reciprocate your benevolence. This increases the social happiness of your immediate environment, and by extension removes elements that may inhibit the development of your lasting happiness. To understand this, we must understand our emotional investments and avoid emotional debt. Employ benevolence and wise emotional investments to create an environment of lasting happiness, within, and with-out.

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Choice Hypotheses
The final step to Lasting Happiness is the understanding of choices, and learning to make Choice Hypotheses. Making a choice and owning the decision is a process of commitment and learning. Each choice is a hypothesis, which is experimentally tested by the outcome. The next time the situation is similar, looking at the validation or invalidation of the choice determines the course of action. This prepares you to repeat good choices, and by owning choices frees you from regret and resentment. Testing emotional process is difficult and challenging. If you feel a way about a choice, the best option is to remain uninvolved or to choose something opposing your feelings, so that you can observe the validity of your awareness and emotional responses. You must remember these key decisions, however, and keenly observe the outcome. From this you will learn when to trust your instincts and emotions, and when not to. You will learn what choices you are ill equipped to make and those where you are acutely aware of the most desired out come. This experimental method is the accumulation of all of the above, and it means making mistakes, sometimes intentionally, so that you may learn from them.

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Choose Happiness
Finally, Lasting Happiness is a choice, one we must commit to, and it is difficult. It is unfortunate that we have heard this so often that the power of the statement is lost. Lasting Happiness means owning even the most disastrous outcomes as your own and accepting them, it means owning every misfortune, every ounce of powerlessness, and building happiness by rationally considering all the things in your past you cannot change. Because you can change what becomes of tomorrow. You have an entire life of experiences and information upon which to learn and make better choices, you have the faculties to think, question, and reason a solution to all of your problems. The Golden Path is one you walk a step at a time. It is paved in rational thought, open mindedness, and awareness. It is happiness that cannot be stolen, taken, or touched.

We have begun that path.

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Final Thoughts
I encourage you to question and think about my conclusions. I am in no way shape or form wholly responsible for the sum accumulated information that informed my conclusions and I encourage you to look into these subjects for yourself. My thoughts on thinking and valid thoughts are fundamentally identical to the basic principles of the scientific method, as well as rudimentary logic and critical thinking. I extensively researched the work by Matthieu Ricard, Nancy Etcoff, and Daniel Kahneman in understanding happiness and peak human experience. For much information about neurological aspects of happiness I looked closely at the work of Dan Gilbert, and Srikumar Rao. Mindfulness as an idea presented here is a synthesis and extrapolation of ideas in Buddhist, Zen, and Taoist philosophy and strongly encouraged by the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, whom I encourage you to look into if awareness-based cognitive development is of any interest. Lastly the idea for this book was inspired by the 14 Dalai Lama, Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso who once said that religion has a foundation in nurturing the happiness and spiritual needs of people, and will not disappear until a secular philosophy arises to fill that need. Im paraphrasing, that is not exactly his quote. Any mistakes, fallacies, or faults in this work are, however, mine and mine alone and should not be attributed to any of the wonderful and brilliant minds whose ideas informed me. Thank you for reading. I hope you gained something worth having from this.
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