At the age of 42, in the 1950’s Lester Levenson suffered a heart attack and was seriously ill. At the end of two weeks of stay at the hospital Dr. Schultz arrived on his regular morning visit. After examining him, he pulled up a chair and sat down.
“I’m discharging you today. Your condition is stable, and there’s no reason to keep you here any longer. Now that doesn’t mean you’re well. Far from it. You need an indefinite period of convalescence as well as checkups at regular intervals. But you don’t need to be in the hospital any longer. You can continue with bed rest and medication at home.”
As the discussion wore on it became apparent to Lester that he had at most a few years to live. And yet there was very little he could do in the remaining time. His anger boiled over when the doctor told him that he was sorry.
“You’re sorry? Well, so am I! You saved my life … for what? So that I can be an invalid for the rest of it? What the hell kind of life are you giving me back anyway?” He raved on till all his frustration and rage boiled over. He began to gag and choke. The doctor held a basin for him while he gagged and heaved. He finally fell back exhausted, his hands shaking as he wiped his mouth.
The end of the road?
Back home in his penthouse he felt as if he was in a tomb. His sisters wanted to help him but he sent them away. He wanted to be by himself. He mostly slept for the first three days, waking up occasionally to eat or take medicines or use the bathroom. On the fourth day he felt something change. As he sat in a chair after the midday meal, he looked out of his window. It was beautiful. There was snow and the trees were sparkling. But he felt no joy inside. He felt dead. He could not respond even to beauty. The thought made him furious and he rushed to the bathroom to the medicine chest. He pulled out all the pills and counted them. He had a good supply, enough to take him off the planet and put himself out of his misery.
For the first time he felt that he had regained some control. He had a choice. Should he do it? Then he realized that he still had his mind intact. He went back to his chair and spoke aloud to himself, “You’re still breathing. No matter what those doctors or anyone else says about the prognosis, you’re still breathing, and that’s what counts. Maybe there’s some hope after all.” He decided he could take the tablets anytime if things got bad. Till then he would try and understand the meaning of life. Why was he on the planet?
Then the enormity of the task ahead sank in. He did not know even where to begin. He once again wavered and thought about the pills. Then he shrugged and thought, “Oh, what the hell … I got nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, I can always take the pills.”
A journey commences
His mind felt clearer and for the first time he felt truly hungry. He went to the kitchen and fixed himself a real meal. Still very weak, he took his time to eat. As he ate he mulled over his new project. What are the questions he wanted to answer? Where should he begin? He then realized that the core question he wanted to answer was “What is happiness?” How could he find happiness and be happy? He knew the answer had to be somewhere in the library of books he had. He rushed to his library and began pulling books off the shelves. He had already read most of them but maybe he had missed something. He began skimming through them. He went through the many books he had of Freud. When it provided no answers he began reading books by philosophers. He even went through books on medicine and physics. For a few days he was reading furiously and had books strewn all over. The room was a mess with books on the floor, the ones he had thrown away in frustration.
Then suddenly it occurred to him that he was looking for answers from the same sources where he had looked earlier. All the knowledge he had gained over the years had gained him nothing. He was smart and intelligent and had prizes and accolades, but what had all that got him?
He thought, “Well, if you’re so smart, big shot, what did all that study and knowledge and reading get you? Migraines, kidney stones, ulcers, appendicitis, pain, misery, unhappiness, and finally a coronary which should have finished you off and didn’t. What more do you need before you come to your senses?”
“For a smart boy Lester, you are stupid, stupid, stupid! All that knowledge has availed you nothing. And here you are looking for more, wanting more books written by someone else who hasn’t found the answers either.”
“That’s that!” he told himself. “I’m finished with all that crap.”
With that decision, he felt a lifetime burden lift from his shoulders. Suddenly he felt light, almost giddy. He realized he had actually been looking for the same answers all his life, but now he knew, without a doubt, that if they were to be found in any of the conventional places, he would have already found them. He would have to look somewhere else. And he thought he knew where.
The problem was within and he would probe within himself. He would dig into himself and find out what made him happy.
With that he sat in his chair and began relentlessly questioning and probing. At first he worked at it only for a few hours and then rested for remaining part of the day. But soon he was working at it during most of the day. He had two-way conversations with himself, first posing a question, and then exploring each possible answer until he could either validate it or eliminate it. By doing this, he made his first big breakthrough; got the first real answer.
It was about a month after he’d begun his self-search, and he was looking into the question of happiness. He’d already eliminated some answers and once again asked himself, “What is happiness?”
The answer that came this time was, “Happiness is when you’re being loved.” That seemed simple enough. But when he validated this answer by probing deeper it failed. He knew he was loved. His family loved him, his friends loved him, but yet he did not feel happy. It came as a shock to him to realize that with all the love he had in his life he was still unhappy.
He then began probing all the times in his life when he was happy. He examined each situation in his memory. Why had he been happy? He took up each incident and examined it. Thinking about some of the incidents still made him feel happy. But he could not put his finger on what it was that made him happy.
He then brought up the memory of Nettie his ex-girlfriend. Oh yes, he had many happy moments with Nettie. Just catching her glance during a party across a room full of people flooded him with love. Then he hit a raw nerve and the dam broke. For the first time he cried over his lost love, his Nettie, his darling. Grief seemed to come from bottomless pit of pain and loneliness. It went on for what seemed like a few hours, and when it was over he felt drained and weak. All he could do was creep back to his bed and sleep.
The next day morning he felt rested and refreshed. He had touched a raw nerve the previous day. But he was unwilling to give up. He once again asked himself, “Well then what is happiness?” He laughed at this tenacity. But as he mulled over the question as he prepared his breakfast he finally came to the answer: “Happiness is when I am loving!”
It soon became clear to him that being loved was not the answer. He could see that when other people loved him, unless he felt love in return he was not happy. Their loving might make them happy but it could not make him happy. He felt elated by his new insight but he had scientific training so he wanted to make sure that he tested it. He went through all the incidents in his life when he felt happy and examined them again. It worked! His insight held up!
He looked at the other side too, the unhappy times and now that he knew what to look for, it was very obvious that he had not been loving. Oh, he’d thought at the time that he loved them, as with Nettie and June his ex girlfriends. He loved them, needed them, wanted them. But was that love, he wondered now? No, it was painful … he was experiencing pain that they didn’t love him. And even though he called it love, he was really wanting to possess them completely, thinking he needed all their love to be happy.
That was the key! He had been experiencing a want or lack of love, expecting the other person to supply the love, waiting for the other person to make him happy. He had to laugh, it seemed so ludicrous. To think that someone else could make him happy seemed like the funniest thing in the world. He knew, better than any one, that no one could ever make him anything. He’d always been very proud and stubborn and self-sufficient, sure that he never needed anyone or anything. “What a joke!” he thought. The truth is that he’d been all the time dying inside for want of love, thinking he had to get it from someone. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he laughed and laughed at the realization that what he’d been looking for all his life was inside him. He had been like the absent-minded professor looking everywhere for his glasses which were on top of his head all the time.
“What a shame,” he thought, wiping away the tears. “What a shame that I never saw this before. All that time, all those years wasted … what a shame”
Turning hate to love
Then it struck him. Why bother about the past? He was still alive and he could still be happy! If happiness was a feeling that came up when he felt love, could he not turn some ill feelings he had for someone and feel love instead and be happy?
He decided to try it. He looked at his most recent unhappiness, the day he left the hospital.
“First,” he asked himself, “was I experiencing a lack of love that day?”
“Yes,” he answered aloud. “Nobody gave a damn about me, not the nurses, not the orderlies, not even Dr. Schultz. They did not care. As sick as I was, they threw me out, sent me home to die so they wouldn’t have to watch one of their failures… well, the hell with them. They can all go to hell.” He was shocked at the vehemence in his voice.
His body trembled with rage and he felt weak. He really hated the doctor. He could feel it burning in his chest. “Oh, boy” he thought, “This sure isn’t love.”
“Well, can I change it?” he asked. “Is it possible to turn it into love for the doctor?”
“Hell, no,” he thought, “Why should I? What did he ever do to deserve any love?”
“That’s not the point,” he answered himself. “The point is not whether he deserves love. The point is, can you do it? Is it possible to simply change a feeling of hatred into a feeling of love-not for the benefit of the other person but for yourself?”
As the thought crossed his mind, he felt something break loose in his chest. A gentle easing, a sense of dissolving, and the burning sensation was gone. He didn’t trust it at first. It seemed too easy so he pictured again the scene with Dr. Schultz in the hospital. He was surprised to find that it brought only a mild feeling of resentment rather than the previous intense burning hatred. He wondered if he could do it again.
He then picked up another incident of resentment and see if he could turn it into love. He applied the same technique and boom! He felt the resentment dissolve in his chest. Then it was totally gone and he was happy! Like an eager child he began exploring other incidents in his life where he bore resentment and ill will and see if he could turn the anger and hostility into love. Sometimes he had to repeat over and over again till he could only feel love for the person. Sometimes the process took him just a few minutes and sometimes hours.
His entire life came up in bits and pieces. One by one he changed to love his old hurts and disappointments. His life began to fill up with love and happiness. Soon he had so much energy that he could not sleep! There was so much to be corrected in his life and he did not want to stop! He would doze a few hours seated in his chair. He began feeling stronger as the weight of his pain dropped away.
Then one day he hit a roadblock. He came to the day when Nettie broke up with him and she chose someone else. No matter what he tried, he could not let go of the pain and anger. As he tried again and again, he began to feel the old pain of ulcer starting up again. It was then he realized that this was the source of his ulcer.
As he tried again and again he heard himself say, “It is finished. I won’t let it be finished!” His throat hurt now and he felt like smashing things. Then suddenly he heard what he had just said, “I wont let it be finished.” He then realized that all these years he was holding his hurt back as he could not accept what had happened. He wanted to go back in time and change what had happened. His inability to do so had kept all the pain buried inside, eroding his happiness.
Then he said to himself, “To hell with that!” and suddenly with that decision the whole thing was gone. He couldn’t believe it. The hurt, pain, despair, the anger, everything just melted away. He remembered Nettie as young and beautiful and he felt love. All the hurt was gone!
Working through issues
This was a breakthrough. Many of his past hurts he was holding on to because he could not accept or change things that had happened in the past. With this new insight his progress accelerated as he learnt to dissolve his desire to change things that had happened in the past.
Sometimes he felt as though he had hold of a chain with many links of incidents on it which needed correcting. Once he got hold of the chain, he would follow through incident by incident until there was nothing left to be corrected. An example of such a chain was jealousy.
He had always been intensely jealous but managed to hide it most of the time under a facade of not caring. Nevertheless, his insides used to burn if the girl he was with so much as looked at someone else, or even mentioned another man. Once he decided to correct this tendency in himself he looked for it, not content to let it come willy-nilly.
He would probe his memory for instances where his jealousy had driven him; correct it; then look for more. When he thought it was cleared out, he tested himself by imagining the girl he loved most making love with the man he would least want her to be with. It was a good test because he could see immediately if there was more work to do. Sometimes the intensity of his feelings would almost drive him mad, but he continued for days until there was no last vestige of jealousy left in him. When he could finally enjoy their enjoyment of each other, he knew he was finished with jealousy.
Insights came with increasing frequency. He would often gain a sudden, complete understanding of something which had always puzzled him. Philosophies he had studied became clear, and he could see that they had often started off on the right track, only to veer off into distortions, having been diverted by an incorrect idea springing from the author’s own storehouse of uncorrected feelings.
His mind began to feel like crystal … clear, sharp. Colors seemed brighter and everything was more sharply defined.
Final frontier and healing
He was now into the third month of this process. His effort was intense but he did not want to stop. He felt so much energy within himself with each breakthrough that he had to walk for miles to work through his feelings. He was brimming with joy, but he did not want to stop, as he wanted to see how far he could take this process. Sometimes he would walk through the entire night, and sometimes his knees buckled from the depth of his feelings. Finally he came to the final frontier: His fear of death.
Now he recognized it as the basis of every single feeling he had ever had. He began to coax it out into the open, wanting to take a good look at this biggest foe of all, which had so very nearly won the battle only a few months ago. He began to lure those feelings into the open and to dissolve them. And it worked!
He got to the place where, with great confidence, he laughed and laughed and laughed at this foe which had kept a fire lit under him his entire life so that there had not been one moment of real peace, ever. This last of the monsters turned out to be, after all, only a feeling.
As he dissolved the fear of death, he realized one day that his body was sound, healed. The physical impairment was corrected. He couldn’t explain to anyone how he knew; he just knew it as surely as he knew who he was. His body was sound.
By the end of the third month, he had slipped into a blissful, joyous state, which he could only describe as feeling like a million orgasms surging all at once through his entire body. It went on and on, and he realized that this feeling, although not sexual, was what he had always been looking for but never found in sex. He felt light, living for weeks with joy exploding inside him every moment. Everyone and everything became exquisitely beautiful to him. He kept looking for more things to correct, but there didn’t seem to be much. Occasionally something would occur to him, but it would be gone almost before he could define it and the joy would surge through him even more strongly.
After a few weeks he began to wonder if there could be anything better than the joy he was experiencing? Then one day the answer came to him. He understood that it was peace that lay beyond the continuous bliss he was experiencing. All he had to do is decide to move into this peace. And when he took that step he slipped effortlessly into this new experience of timeless ever-flowing peace.
Everything was still. He was in a quietness that he now knew had always been there but drowned out by incessant noise from his accumulated, uncorrected past. In fact, it was more than quiet; it was so far beyond anything imaginable that there were no words to describe the delectable deliciousness of the tranquility.
His earlier question about happiness was answered too. There were no limits to happiness, but when you have it all, every minute, it gets tiresome. Then this peace is just beyond … and all you have to do is step over the line into it.
“Is there anything beyond even this?” he wondered. But as he asked, he knew the answer.
This peace was eternal and forever, and it was the essence of every living thing. There was only one Beingness and everything was It; every person was It, but they were without awareness of the fact, blinded by the uncorrected past they hold on to.
He saw this Beingness as something like a comb. He was at the spine of the comb and all the teeth fanned out from it, each one thinking it was separate and different from all the other teeth. And that was true, but only if you looked at it from the tooth end of the comb. Once you got back to the spine or source, you could see that it wasn’t true. It was all one comb. There was no real separation, except when you sat at the tooth end. It was all in one’s point of view.
Lester Levenson continued to live another forty years. On the way, even though he never desired to become a guru, he found that people gathered around him and he began teaching what he had learnt. He never charged anybody any money. Lester Levenson’s life is an inspiring story of the transformation that can be bought about by letting go past hurts and wants and instead filling our lives with love and forgiveness.
Credit: This has been written from the full account here. The original account was written by Larry Crane. We have edited and compiled this from the original account.