Sunday, 14 September 2014

Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life by Barbara Berger

This is a book to read more than once. I could go on and on about the value and wisdom of this book. But I'll start here, with a profound statement I heard years back: Sometimes the questions matter more to us than the answers. Though author, Barbara Berger, presents us with beneficial answers and information to consider and integrate, she also presents us with valuable questions (and all-important solutions), such as: Is the past controlling your present? Are you a people-pleaser with an aversion to conflict? Do the opinions of others influence or manipulate you? Do you have healthy boundaries? Do you fear your emotions? Do you know what the collective lie is that affects nearly all of us? What is the difference between consciousness and mind? Who are you beyond your thoughts that arise? What kind of life might you have if you stopped allowing other people to mind your business and if you stopped minding theirs? How many ways do you make or keep yourself unhappy, without realizing you're doing this? How can you communicate honestly and clearly with others if you aren't honest and clear with yourself? How can you have a fulfilling life if you're afraid of making mistakes or fear others believing your choices are mistakes? How can you become mindful, especially when emotionally upset or afraid? These (and others she covers in the book) are questions many of us contend with but may not address, as this book does and does so well.

The ten chapter titles give a preview of what's to come in the book, whether they build enthusiasm and eagerness to delve into them or, perhaps, make you quake a bit. It all depends on how ready you are to live a more authentic and fulfilling life. The titles are as follows: Accept what is; Want what you have; Be honest with yourself; Investigate your stories; Mind your own business; Follow your passion and accept the consequences; Do the right thing and accept the consequences; Deal with what is in front of you and forget the rest; Know what is what; and Learn to see beyond impermanence. There are worksheets at the back that help you address each chapter concept, as well as an Epilogue titled "Don't Believe What You Think." You're either ready to see what the author has to offer about each of these or you're telling yourself there's laundry to fold or grass to cut (i.e., avoidance).

This is a book written by someone who who's been through a lot, was facing a lot, including moving forward in years-and asked herself an important question: "... 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?" This is a question (what do you need to remember to live a happy life?) many of us contemplate, but likely do so in passing rather than addressing it head-on as the author did. Berger states in the Introduction that she recognized how much of her life she'd "spent worrying about stuff or being nervous and insecure about stuff or not really enjoying the fullness and richness of" her life. This is more of a common complaint than, I believe, most of us would like to admit, and one we truly desire to resolve. (I love the mountain example in Chapter 8, and find it highly beneficial!)

In her candid, straightforward manner, Berger discusses how we resist what-is, whatever the what-is is in a moment (weather, an event, pain, health, relationships, finances, etc.), and how we tend to fight the reality of what-is nearly all the time, as well as how this resistance affects not only us but how we experience life. However, she makes a keen point that accepting what-is is not saying "yes" to everything and doing nothing; that it is not about passivity, but the opposite. There were certainly additional brilliant points made beside these two I'm about to share, but I love these: We more often than not don't live our lives, but live our interpretations of our lives; we're dancing with illusions. And, we let other people manipulate us with their uninvestigated codes of behavior.

Berger proposes that all of us can lead happy lives regardless of our situation, and then demonstrates how to accomplish this throughout the book. She asks how well we know ourselves, or if we're afraid to do this, asks why; discusses our responsibility to ourselves and our right to exist; and how we can deal with the fear of criticism and choice with integrity. She shares that we can remember the wonder of our own existence; discusses common worries and stories we tell ourselves and how to transform them; and shares what she discovered real happiness and success is, and how clear and simple it actually is.