While living in France in 1986, I met Christian Almayrac, a medical doctor who helped people get well by showing them how to get in touch with their happiness. He saw illness as the result of an unhappy body, or outlook, or psyche. He came upon happiness in an unusual way. Several times, he visited India to see an avatar named Babaji. On his last visit, knowing he would likely not return again, he asked Babaji to give him a parting piece of advice with which to live his life. Babaji replied, "Be happy, be happy, be happy."
Taking this advice to heart, Christian began to use happiness as the deciding factor in all of his decisions. It turns out that happiness is a highly evolved state of being. Note how zen masters giggle like children. Note how truly enlightened people have a sense of humor and a lightness about them.When you are being happy, you are doing a lot of things right: It is good for your health, for your emotions, you are living in the moment, you are not judging people, and more. When I look an many spiritual traditions, the practices they encourage almost all take place by choosing to be happy.
When I first met Christian, he asked me: "What is more important than being happy?" Several frivolous answers occurred to me, such as being right, or being rich and beautiful. But when I considered it, such things as financial security and good relationships and rewarding work all have as their objective reaching a state of satisfaction and happiness. It turns out, that rather than waiting for those to occur in order to be happy, if you choose happiness first, all of the other things will happen easier and sooner.
When I brought Christian Almayrac to the United States for two years to teach happiness seminars, we billed him as "Dr. Happiness." Not having a degree, I guess I was just "Mr. Happiness." After that encounter with happiness, I now am aware much more quickly when I am not happy. When that happens, I use the principles described below to lift myself back into happiness. There are many popular books now, and schools of psychology, which take on the subject of happiness. They all, however, have missed the true secret. They all place requisites or necessary precursors to happiness. Even Marci Shimoff's book, Happy for No Reason, is a relentlessly marketed new age approach (not unlike The Secret) which, despite its title, lists the things you need to do first in order to be happy for no reason. Probably the best book was published years ago by Barry Neil Kaufman entitled Happiness is a Choice.
My spiritual path is a metaphysical teaching called A Course in Miracles, which states unequivocally that God's will is for our perfect happiness. The Course describes itself as a means of mind training, showing us how to make the choice between truth and illusion. Virtually everything the Course teaches is reflected in BeHappy. Yes, Christian Almayrac called his work in France Le BeHappy (pronounced "luh bee appy"). I guess it was unique there. He probably never heard of Meher Baba or Bobby McFerrin ("Don't worry, be happy . . . "). The choice between happiness and unhappiness is similar to the choice between truth and illusion. The truth is happy, always, and illusion is not. Happiness is our true identity, unhappiness is of the ego and the world. When you follow the lead of happiness, it takes you in the direction of truth and well being.
An evening of teaching BeHappy consisted of taking five minutes to explain the technique (see below). The rest of the evening was answering people's reasons why it was not possible or socially responsible or sensitive for them to be happy. Each argument was refuted in turn. If you think you are doing something for others, say, cook for your family, but you are not happy in doing it, the actual benefit to them is lost. You may as well not do it. Cook when you are happy to cook. The rest of the time, send the family out for pizza. BeHappy gets very radical when it come to raising children. You have no obligation to educate them, to prepare them for the dangers of the world, to assure their success in life. Your only duty as parents is to raise happy children. The rest will take care of itself. As it turns out, Christian's five children were wonderful. They were creative and open and fun to be with. As students in school, they were only so-so. But as people, they were extraordinary. So was Christian, who was extremely charismatic, with no fenced off areas, and also no inhibitions. He had quite an effect on people around him.
BeHappy is based on the Law of Happiness: Being happy is the best thing for me and for everyone else. For me to be happy is one of the best things I can do for people around me, and with whom I interact. But what if I lose my job, my best friend gets cancer, my wife runs away with another man. Is my response supposed to be happiness? Yes. That's what I'm saying. Will you find a job easier by being happy or being depressed and morose? Which of those people would you want to hire? If I visit my friend in the hospital, should I look like he has caused me to be miserable? Should I be silent and afraid, like most of his visitors? Or should I be clear and happy and straight forward? Should I be a breath of fresh air or a cloud of fear for my own mortality? It turns out that every adversity is better handled by being happy than by being miserable, even when it doesn't seem socially appropriate. I don't mean silly, or slapstick, or going around pasting smiley faces on things. I mean real happiness.
Happiness is a state of mind. Like A Course in Miracles, BeHappy teaches us how to train our minds to enjoy our happiness. It is indeed a choice. The more practice we get making that choice, the easier and more natural it becomes. Here is the key. You cannot think something that you do not enjoy, and at the same time be happy. Conversely, you can't think something you do enjoy, and simultaneously be unhappy. The presence of happiness depends solely on the quality and nature of our thinking -- very specifically, each and every thought. So, to be happy, we need only to think something that we enjoy thinking. To be happiest, think what you most enjoy thinking. In practice, there are several principles you need to understand. They will come out after I describe the BeHappy tool.
Ask yourself this question about your current thought: "Do I enjoy this thought, yes or no?" We don't need definitions here. You know what it means to enjoy something. If your answer is not an immediate and unequivocal yes, then it is no. Having a good excuse for not being happy is not an acceptable alternative. If you can't spontaneously answer "yes," then you don't enjoy that thought.
If the answer is yes, then you are presently enjoying your happiness. To keep it up, enjoy your subsequent thoughts as well. If the answer is no, as it often is (at first, as least), then you have two choices. 1) Decide to enjoy that same thought, or 2) Think something else, that you do enjoy thinking. This choice happens over and over, thousands of times, every day. As you gain more practice, the first choice becomes easier. You begin to enjoy thoughts that previously bothered you.This is the entire method of BeHappy. Monitor your thoughts, and enjoy them.
At one of our programs, someone said that their mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Having said the "C" word, a heavy cloud fell over the group. So, we went around the room and asked everyone to express a thought that they enjoy thinking, about cancer. "I'm a cancer survivor, so I know you can do it too." "When you are ill, you see how deep your friendships are as people come to be with you and help you." "I had a friend who had cancer and reordered his life priorities. He now has a much better life, all because cancer forced him into making better choices." By the time we finished going around the room, a lightness returned to the atmosphere and fear was not present. How? By enjoying what we were thinking about cancer.
The second choice, switching your thought to something that you do enjoy thinking, is my favorite. In it lies a lot of creativity. Psychologists might say it is denial, but it really is only regulating how much you can enjoy, and when. Spectacularly, the thought we choose to enjoy does not have to be factual. It doesn't have to be true. It doesn't have to be realistic. Happiness is a higher truth than facts.
One woman was miserable because her son lived at home, was unemployed, and did drugs. We asked her to think a thought she enjoyed about her son. Nothing. She couldn't come up with anything. We knew, from experience, that if she started enjoying what she thought about her son, the home situation would change considerably. Somewhat frivolously, I made a few suggestions. "How about this thought. See if you enjoy it. Tomorrow, General Motors is going to come and ask my son to be president of the company, and pay him a fabulous salary, allowing him to move into his own mansion."
That thought is actually more true, on a deep metaphysical level, than her current thought, "my son is a no good bum," if she could enjoy it. Instead, looking flummoxed, she replied "What? General Motors is going to do what? Hire my son? Nobody's going to hire my son . . . " So I tried again. "OK, try this. Tomorrow, aliens are going to come and take my son away to a distant planet, leaving behind his weight in gold." Alas, the same result. "Aliens? What? They're going to take my son where?" And so it went. She never did come up with a single thought she enjoyed about her son, even a made up one.You can imagine the depth of her despair. Think, if she had learned to enjoy a thought such as, "I have a perfect son, his presence blesses my home," how it might have transformed the situation, her son included.
That's it, folks. Happiness is available at will, anytime you choose. Just enjoy your thoughts. Do I enjoy this thought, yes or no? If no, then change the situation until the answer is yes. You can also do this in writing. Journal by writing down something you don't enjoy, and then proceed to write down what you do enjoy. The process often leads into very interesting territory that you other wise would never reach. You have plenty of material to work with, what with the politics and economy and natural disasters that surround us. In every case, write something you enjoy. For example, the other day I saw two men drag another man from his car and beat him up, kicking and hitting him numerous times before shouting something and driving away, leaving him bloodied and bruised. I was shocked by such viciousness and inhumanity. How could I possibly enjoy anything about that?
"Those men were lawless thugs who ought to be punished. I wish I'd been able to kick the crap out of them." Do I enjoy that thought? No. What sort of thoughts could I enjoy? "Although I don't understand the reason for the violence, those men are children of God and equal in value to every other child of God." I like that better. "I don't understand the reason for the episode I witnessed and cannot make any judgment about who was right and who was wrong, or who was good and who was evil. So I will refrain from unwarranted assumptions." Now, I could keep this up for some time, and would eventually arrive at some thoughts that I fully enjoy. In the process, the situation will have changed, and the fear and anger I had initially expressed would be dissipated. Choosing happiness is not the same as condoning what you see. I still wish the men would be caught and held subject to the laws that rule society. But if you look at the beginning direction of my statements, they go from hate towards a more loving and compassionate stand, from judgment toward forgiveness. Happiness and Truth and Peace and Love, all those words with capital letters, are synonymous. When you have one, you have the others. I find Happiness the most accessible of those qualities.
Society, of course, would teach us to judge and condemn. Religion wouldn't be far behind. I know happiness is consistent with many teachings, but among them I do not include the three Abrahamic religions, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. To me, they are all based on rules and laws. If you follow the rules, you get rewarded with eternity; If you blow it, God hates you and punishes you forever. I don't see any value there for happiness. I certainly never encountered it during my Christian years. I once saw a drawing called the laughing Jesus. It showed a young, 30-ish man laughing happily. It turns out there are numerous examples. And in the gnostic gospels, there are stories of Jesus dancing with his disciples. What a different image that is. Mostly, I see jesus hanging on walls, looking pretty miserable. Mostly, I see an institutional church which, for centuries, used fear of hell to exercise political and economic power. Happiness? One Jewish man I know described his family life like this: "Yesterday was awful, today will be horrible, and tomorrow will be worse yet." I know there are people who have little joy in their lives. I wish they could learn to use BeHappy.
I hope to write more about BeHappy and happiness, so as to be able to share this valuable system with the world.