This book came about when I was lying on my sofa one afternoon thinking to myself… “OK Barbara, now that you’ve been through so much and are getting older, what do you need to remember to live a happy life? If you would sum it all up, what would it be? What do you need to know to get you through the rest of your life in a better way?”
So I wrote this list.
I wrote down the points that I thought were important. Just to see if I could sum it up for myself. And then I started writing down why I thought each of these points was important – again just to explain it to myself. I thought if I could explain it to myself then maybe I would remember the points better. And then maybe I’d be able to live the remainder of my life a little more wisely, a little more peacefully, a little more happily.
Because you see, looking back, I could see how much of my life I spent worrying about stuff or being nervous and insecure about stuff or not really enjoying the fullness and richness of my life. I had to admit that to myself. Because it seemed to me – in retrospect – that even though I’ve had a wonderful, exciting life, I was often worried about something or afraid of something or anxious about something. And look what happened! I got here anyway. Despite all the worries! Somehow I made it to today. I might not be able to tell you exactly how, but here I am anyway.
Sitting right here in front of my computer. Maybe a bit worse for wear, but sitting here just the same! So what did I learn from all of this?
In other words, what does it take to live a happy life?
This is what I’ve found out so far – and am trying to live. Maybe it can help you too!
Where’s the proof?
When I do the things in this book, I feel happy!
The 10 ways:
Accept what is
The number 1 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting life to be something it’s not.
Let’s try a little experiment. Just think how you would feel if you didn’t resist what is, just for a few minutes. And I’m not joking when I make this suggestion. In fact it’s a very interesting experiment. So let’s try it and see how would it feel if we didn’t resist what is, if we simply couldn’t resist the way things are. If we could just for a moment allow things to be exactly the way they are, without fighting them.
If you play around with this idea or mind shift, you will discover that it can be quite liberating. So please give it a try.
Want what you have
The number 2 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting what you don’t have.
If you aren’t completely happy with your life, if you spend a lot of time wanting what you don’t have, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at your expectations. When you do this, you might discover that you are setting yourself up for failure and unhappiness without being aware of what you’re doing.
Be honest with yourself
The number 3 cause of suffering and unhappiness is not communicating honestly with yourself. One of the secrets of living a happy life is to become your own best friend. But you can only do this when you know who you are, when you honestly and truly know yourself. Because what does a best friend do? A best friend sees you for who you really are and unconditionally loves and supports the real you. But how can you do this for yourself if you don’t honestly know who you are?
Investigate your stories
The number 4 cause of suffering and unhappiness are the scary stories you tell yourself about life and the world.
We live in a mental universe and that means that nothing but our thoughts can prevent us from being happy right now. No event our outside circumstance can do this, only a story. But please don’t believe me; find out for yourself if this radical claim is true.
Mind your own business
The number 5 cause of suffering and unhappiness is minding other people’s business.
So go wherever you want, but stay at home with yourself. Be whomever you want, but stay at home with yourself. Try whatever you want, but stay at home with yourself.
Follow your passion and accept the consequences
The number 6 cause of suffering and unhappiness is not doing what you want because you think people will disapprove.
The reality is also that we all know when we are following our passion or our heart’s desire because it feels right. Everyone has experienced this feeling of ‘rightness’ at some time in his/her life. It’s called integrity. And it’s easy to recognize. It’s a sense of real comfort. A feeling that life is good and that life is moving freely in and through you.
Do the right thing and accept the consequences
The number 7 cause of suffering and unhappiness is not doing the right thing because you’re afraid of the consequences.
The impulse to do the right thing burns brightly in each of us. It is our nature, the heart of us, which is love. When we oppose our innermost nature, we suffer and so do others. That is why I feel so strongly that if you want to live a happy life, do not cover up this urge, this flame, this bright impulse to do the right thing (which is always an expression of love) – regardless of the cost. This flame is your morning star, this flame is your guiding light, this flame is the heart of you.
Deal with what is in front of you and forget the rest
The number 8 cause of suffering and unhappiness is shadowboxing with illusions instead of dealing with the reality in front of you.
Being fully present in the now-moment is like seeing without a filter. Because your stories actually act like a filter between you and what is. Without your story, as we have discovered, there is just seeing. The view. Life. Happiness.
Know what is what
The number 9 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting absolute satisfaction from relative experiences.
We get in trouble – over and over again – because we don’t know what is what. And since we don’t know what is what, we want (and expect) absolute satisfaction from relative things and experiences. And this is impossible.
Learn to see beyond impermanence
The number 10 cause of suffering and unhappiness is believing we become nothing.
Perhaps it is more truthful to ask, considering what we truly ‘see’ when we look closely, did we ever begin and will we ever end?
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life by Barbara Berger
Barbara Berger presents 10 practical ways to use this understanding in your daily life, your relationships, at work and for your health. And she gives examples from her own dramatic life since leaving America at the young age of 18 in protest against the Vietnam War and settling in Scandinavia to her lifelong exploration of the power of mind and the nature of consciousness.