BeamTeam Books header - getting real



by Tim Ray


What does it take to live a happy life? Tim Ray talked to Barbara Berger about her highly acclaimed book “Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life”.

It all started when Barbara Berger asked herself the question “Are you happy now?” one afternoon several years ago. The answer was a list of 10 points which grew into her book “Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life”.

As Barbara says, “If you asked yourself – what is preventing you from being happy right now, right this very moment – what would your answer be? Would it be that your relationship is preventing you from being happy right now? That the fact that your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife doesn’t understand you. Is that what’s preventing you from being happy right now? Or would you say it’s your health? Would you say you’d be happy, really happy, if only your health was good and you had more energy? Or would you say  that it’s the fact that you don’t have enough money in your bank account? Is that what’s preventing you from being happy? Or is it the fact that you weigh about 10 kilos more than you think you should? What would your honest answer be?”

Happiness – and what is preventing us from being happy right now – is what Barbara Berger’s book – “Are You Happy Now?” – is all about. According to Barbara, life is a gift and happiness is our true nature, something we already are. Happiness is the state of being itself. Life! Existence, something we did nothing for and which we simply are. But we often don’t experience the joy of existence because of our thinking. And this happens because the only thing we can experience is our thinking – in other words – the thoughts in our minds.  So whatever we are thinking, that’s what we are experiencing. That’s our life. So if we’re not happy now, if we are not experiencing the happiness which is our true nature, there is only one thing that can be preventing us from experiencing this happiness – and that is our thinking, i.e. the thoughts we are entertaining right now in our minds.

This is a pretty radical way of looking at life, since most of us believe that our happiness depends on a wide range of outer events and circumstances – such as the state of our health (how our bodies are functioning), our relationships to the people who are close to us, i.e. our partners, parents, children, and friends, the amount of money we have in the bank, the kind of home we have, the cars we drive, the kind of jobs we have, the way we look, the clothes we have, our age, our weight, our hair, our size, where we live…. According to Barbara, the list of outer conditions and things that our happiness depends on is endless. “No wonder we are unhappy. No wonder we feel that happiness is so illusive!” she says. “We’ve got it all wrong – backwards. And it’s all because we don’t understand the nature of mind. And we don’t see that nothing in the outer world can make us happy or unhappy because the only thing we can experience is our own thinking. And this radical understanding is the key to living a happy life.”

Barbara’s book was born one afternoon when she was lying on her sofa thinking...“OK 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 remember to get you through the rest of your life in a better way?”

After she asked herself this question, Barbara started writing a list of answers, just for fun. To see if she could sum it up for herself, sum up what she had learned about life. “It was an interesting exercise,” she says with a smile. “And then when I looked at my list I thought if I could explain to myself why these points are so important, I would probably be able to remember them better! And then maybe I would also be able to live the rest of my life a little bit more sanely and be a little bit happier! So I wrote and I wrote – and suddenly I realized a book was being born!”

Lessons from a dramatic life

Barbara’s life has been pretty dramatic. Catapulted into intense “awakening” experiences by the tumultuous events of her early life, Barbara became a seeker. Her quest to find a way out of suffering led her to explore many different pathways and approaches – mental, physical, metaphysical, psychological and spiritual. After leaving the US in the mid-60s in protest against the Vietnam War and settling in Scandinavia, she continued her quest. In the early 1980s, Barbara began to study the science of the mind, the nature of consciousness, metaphysics, and finally traditional spirituality and psychology.

“In retrospect, I can see that because I didn’t understand how the mind works and how our thoughts are creating our experience of life, I used so much time and energy on thoughts that had nothing to do with reality. By this I mean things like worrying a lot about the future (which is just a thought in our minds about something that doesn’t exist) and/or thinking about the past (which again is just a thought and something you can do absolutely nothing about because it no longer exists). Like most people, I had so many thoughts and ideas that made me anxious or I worried about things (big and small) which were beyond my control. Things I could do absolutely nothing about. Things I had no influence over. So this is one of the big things life has taught me. Things are the way they are. And then there are our thoughts about how we think things ‘should’ be. And these are two different things. Life/reality is one thing – and our thoughts about life/reality are another thing. But you have to understand the nature of mind to understand this. I try to investigate this question in my new book.”

Life is a gift

”We have been given this great gift which is life – and what do we do?” continues Barbara. “We struggle against it because of our thoughts and waste a lot of time and energy, get stressed, and make ourselves sick just because we have some insane (confused) ideas/thoughts about how we believe things (life/reality) ‘should’ be. And when things and reality aren’t the way we think they ‘should’ be… we’re unhappy! But it’s we ourselves who are making ourselves unhappy – and not life! Life just is.”

”So if I ask you – what is preventing you from being happy right now – your answer will probably be because there is something or someone that is not the way you think it ‘should’ be. And this means that you are unhappy because of the thoughts you are having about this matter. It’s really interesting when we become aware of this mechanism and understand it. So I write a lot about this mechanism in my new book – to remind myself (and you) that it is just our own thoughts that are preventing from experiencing the happy life we so desperately are seeking right now.”

“I know this is a pretty radical statement, but it is true nevertheless. When you investigate the mechanism, you will discover it is true. You will discover that it is always – always – your thoughts that are preventing you from being happy now. How can this be? It’s because – as I say so many times in all my books – we live in a mental universe. So our thoughts are determining all our experiences. That is all that is going on! And this is good news because it means that nothing – absolutely nothing but our thoughts are preventing us from living a happy life right now. Nothing else. No outer event or circumstance can prevent us from being happy, it’s only our thoughts and the stories we are telling that can do this. But don’t believe what I say – find out for yourself if this is true or not.”

Here is Barbara’s reminder list – 10 ways to live a happy life

No. 1:

Accept what is
The number 1 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting life to be something it’s not.

No. 2:                                                                                                  

Want what you have  
The number 2 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting what you don’t have.

No. 3:

Be honest with yourself
The number 3 cause of suffering and unhappiness is not communicating honestly with yourself.

No. 4:

Investigate your stories 
The number 4 cause of suffering and unhappiness are the scary stories you tell yourself about life and the world.

No. 5:

Mind your own business
The number 5 cause of suffering and unhappiness is minding other people’s business.

No. 6:

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.

No. 7:

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.

No. 8:

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.

No. 9:

Know what is what
The number 9 cause of suffering and unhappiness is wanting absolute satisfaction from relative experiences.

No. 10:

Learn to see beyond impermanence
The number 10 cause of suffering and unhappiness is believing we become nothing.