Human Moments: How to Find Meaning and Love in Your Everyday Life


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

An engaging storyteller, Hallowell uses his own personal ...

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Human Moments: How to Find Meaning and Love in Your Everyday Life

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

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

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

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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558749108
  • Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/7/2001
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 892,660

Meet the Author

Edward M. (NED) Hallowell, M.D., is an instructor at Harvard Medical School and the director of The Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Massachusetts, an outpatient treatment for emotional and learning problems. He is the author of the bestsellers, Connect: 12 Vital Ties That Open Your Heart, Lengthen Your Life, and Deepen Your Soul; and Worry: Controlling It Using It Wisely; and coauthor of the bestseller, Driven to Distraction. For more information on Dr. Hallowell, visit his Web site at
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Read an Excerpt


Where Meaning and Love Abide

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

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

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

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

But until we get to heaven, nothing goes on forever. We donÆt have time to wait. We have to make these connections matter now-these relationships, passions, and interests-if we are to draw out of them all the juice they have to give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My family and I had been driving in bad weather for six hours, and we had about another hour to go when my youngest child, Tucker, announced, ôI canÆt hold it any longer.ö

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

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

Finally, Tucker climbed back into the car.

ôWhat took you so long?ö I gruffly asked.

ôI was writing your name in the snow with my pee!ö Tucker proudly replied. ôD-A-D.ö

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

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

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

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

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

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

TodayÆs world both promotes and threatens connectedness. Thanks to technology, it is easier to be in touch with people than ever before in human history. Technology has given us miraculous tools of connection. Yet, oddly enough, the connections people need to feed their hearts and souls are gradually breaking down in many lives. We no longer spend as much good time with each other as we need to. We risk losing the human moment if we donÆt take care of it, and we need the human moment, just as dearly as we need a vitamin. As a doctor, I think of human contact like a vitamin in its own right. It is the other vitamin C. This one is not ascorbic acid but Vitamin Connect. We all need it, not only to feel happy and fulfilled, but for our physical health as well.

Numerous studies have shown that connected people live longer than those who are socially isolated. Connected people have lower rates of heart disease and colds and flu. Connected people suffer less physical illnesses, as well as mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Furthermore, they report much higher rates of satisfaction in life and general feelings of well-being. Connectedness and positive human contact not only feel good, they are good, in every measurable way. Science has proven that they prolong our lives, enhance our health, and deepen our enjoyment and appreciation of life.

But in todayÆs world we have to hack through the bramble bush of our schedules to find time for each other. Unless we prune and cut, the bramble bush becomes a thicket. As one woman said to me, ôI barely have time to go to my job, feed my kids, and do the laundry. Where am I supposed to find time to connect?ö We have to pare down our daily schedules, if we intend to preserve our most important connections. We have to cut our way out of the thicket before it completely traps us. We must make time.

We are connected electronicallyùwith television, the Internet, email, voice mail, and cell phones. If we use our electronics wisely, they can connect us heart-to-heart. But if we let the electronics control us, rather than vice-versa, we can spend our whole day watching a computer screen, answering voice-mails, or speaking on our cell phones as we hurry on through time, starved for one conversation we actually care about.

I chose the stories in this book, all of which are true, to illustrate the power of the human moment. Let me give you another example from my own life. My name for my grandfather on my motherÆs side was Skipper. He never had much money, but he was rich in the ways that count. He was a true gentleman. I could not have had a more accomplished expert to teach me one of lifeÆs most essential skills: how to shake hands. ôLook the person straight in the eye,ö Skipper always said, ôand give their hand a strong shake, like you really mean it.ö We often practiced this skill. After I would make a few attempts that Skipper deemed not firm enough, I would finally squeeze his hand as hard as I possibly could. To my surprise, my tightest grip always brought a smile to his face and a sparkle to his eyes. ôAtta boy!ö he would exclaim. ôNow thatÆs a real handshake!ö To this day, people sometimes wince when I shake their hands.

Skipper worked in the financial industry, and he took many trips from his home in Newton, Massachusetts to New York, where he would win waltz contests dancing with his daughter (my aunt Duckie) to the music of Guy Lombardo (people said they looked just like Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire). He became friends with Guy Lombardo, and with practically everyone he ever met. Skipper-known to the world as John McKey-was my first model of virtue. Even his appearance was stylish and honest: white hair, tortoiseshell glasses, well-worn three-piece suits, and knit ties adorned this six foot, two inch thin-as-a-rail Gentle Man. Skipper loved friends, he loved to dance, he loved baseball, he loved taking the train to New York, and he loved his ôheists,ö his term for the scotch-and-water he imbibed often and to the enjoyment of all around him. In retrospect, I guess he drank more than a doctor might recommend, but no one cared. He was always one of the most kindly and dignified men I ever knew.

Skipper died slowly, and it was hard. He had emphysema, and he struggled to breathe. But he was a gentleman to the end. The last time I saw him, I was still a little boy. Skipper was lying on a couch, oxygen hooked up to his nose. I gave him a hug. But then he put out his hand, to shake one last time. I looked him squarely in the eye, as he had taught me to do. His hand trembled as he squeezed my hand, hard. As I squeezed back, hard as I could, I saw his eyes brighten for a few seconds, and the old twinkle I knew so well reappeared as if magically charged by the handshake. In that moment, I said good-bye to Skipper for the final time.

Human moments connect us not only to what matters, but also to what gives us joy. Unless you are careful, though, you can lose your sources of true joy. Just the other day, I was talking to a man in my office who told me his life had become one-dimensional. ôI am very successful,ö he said. ôI make a lot of money, and I am happy that I do. But it seems like thatÆs all I do. I work my tail off, then I come home, often tired and grumpy, watch TV, say a few words to my kids and my wife, and go to sleep. The next day, I do it all over again. Is this all there is?ö

Even in the midst of success, you can find yourself looking for something different, for whatÆs called meaning. Even though you may be well off, you can have periods when you feel lost, tired or just not sure what your life adds up to.

Human moments provide the antidote to such feelings. As you begin to look for human moments in your own life, you will find them everywhere, even when you are alone and least suspect to. For example, I was driving to work by myself the other day and that corny old song, ôClimb Every Mountain,ö came on the radio. The next thing I knew, I had tears coming down my cheeks as I thought of my mother, dead now for more than a decade, and her many struggles in life. But she sure did try to climb every mountain and ford every stream, as the song exhorts. I remembered seeing the movie in which that song became famous with my mother when it first came out, The Sound of Music, as I continued to cry and drive. Corny and silly? Sure. But my tears were real, and my feelings were true. In that moment I re-visited my mother and felt once more how much I loved her, no matter what. Suddenly, what had seemed mundane, an old song on the radio, radiated warmth, as I felt in the moment the power that was there, just waiting to be captured and taken in. All I had to do was suspend my critical, cynical side and let the human moment emerge. All I had to do was let it happen.

No one will stand next to you and tell you, ôLook! This is a human moment! Cherish it! Make it last! You will be a happy person if you do!ö That you have to do for yourself. This book will show you many examples, so as you read you will start recognizing human moments more and more in your own life.

I have observed many times in many ways that the antidote to the emptiness in the question, ôIs this all there is?ö isnÆt more money, or more fame, or more trophies, or fewer pounds, or a new lover, or a trip to Timbuktu.

The answer is learning how to value deeply what we already have. What makes life magic isnÆt hard to find, but it is invisible. It is the emotion found in close connections. That emotion shoots back the bolt that guards our hearts and opens us up to what matters the most.

The other night I came home from work late. Jack, who was supposed to be asleep, called to me as I was coming up the stairs. I was tired, so I ducked into his room, quickly said good night, and left. Jack called out, ôDad, come back.ö I could have said, no, go to sleep. But, thank goodness, I went back in. There, in the moonlight, I saw Jack, standing on his head in his bed. ôDad, IÆm sleeping upside down!ö

So, whatÆs the big deal about that? Just that if I hadnÆt taken the extra ten seconds it took to go back, I wouldnÆt have had that moment with Jack, and more poignant to me, Jack wouldnÆt have had the moment of pride and delight he had as he showed me his new posture for sleeping. He would have gone to sleep thinking, Dad was too busy. I am sure there have been nights when he did go to sleep thinking that thought, but I hope not too many, because moments like that with Jack give us both what we need the most.

The vignettes in this book are all true. They each provide doses of that other vitamin C, the Vitamin Connect that ministers to our emotions. With enough of this kind of vitamin C in your system, you can do what otherwise would be insurmountable.

(c)2001. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Human Moments by Edward M. Hallowell, M.D. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: HCI, 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2001

    Now is the time for this Human Moment

    Human Moments is a powerful interactive book that you literally will NOT put down until you have finished it. This book works like an anitdote to the poisons of our lives, both internal and external: it pulls out our pretenses of fear and hatred, leaving us with a present awareness of our humanity, connections, and capacity to care. Human Moments is a perfect vehicle for real discussion amongst couples, families, college students and book groups. It is a tremendous gift to any literary club. Now, when we must remember that we are human and why we are here or perish; now is the right time to read Human Moments, together.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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