Over 2 years ago, I began a quest for happiness. I read, thought, wrote, spoke, and dreamt about happiness. With the support of the Baltimore Happiness Club, which I founded and coordinate, I worked through just about every major idea out there about how to be happy.
Happiness is a cool topic these days, and lots of people have ideas about how to achieve it, from the mystical (Eckhart Tolle) to the psychological (Martin Seligman) to the religious (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin), and just about every stop in between.
In short, all these approaches really do work to produce more happiness in everyday life. Rabbi Pliskin’s book “Gateway to Happiness” is a treasure, an encyclopedic overview of anything you can think of that will make a person happy. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s mindfulness practice is an excellent approach for combating anxiety and depression. The Dalai Lama’s “Art of Happiness,” based on both Tibetan Buddhism and modern research into the plasticity of the brain (yes, we can change the physical structure of our brains and it’s not even all that hard to do), is a beautiful primer on happiness written by one of the world’s happiest people. Mathieu Ricard, officially the World’s Happiest Person based on scans of his brain, tells us to meditate (the Tibetan way) to achieve real, lasting happiness.
They’re all right, but they’re all a bit short of the mark.
Sydney Banks, an uneducated Scottish gardener living in the Pacific Northwest, discovered that there is a paradigm of Three Principles underlying all of reality: Universal Mind, Universal Consciousness, and Universal Thought. The gist of it is that we create our psychological reality through thought, that our experience of life is not really based on outside events so much as on our thoughts about those events (rendering the context of our lives somewhat irrelevant to our level of happiness). We can experience reality only through thought, there’s no other way, but these thoughts (which are unavoidable) lead us astray much of the time and create much needless unhappiness and suffering (I have a bumper sticker: “Don’t Believe Everything You Think”).
Amazingly, all feelings come from thought, so the emotions we trust so fervently are just as likely to be inaccurate and untruthful as the thoughts that source them! As Carlson so aptly puts it, “We do it to ourselves.”
Feelings actually are symptomatic of thought that’s gone wrong, and that’s their purpose. Bad feelings are not natural to human beings, happiness is—our innate selves are joyful and happy (believe it or not; remember childhood?)—and the feelings are there to get our attention that we’re off track. Just an incredible, brilliant process that’s rarely understood.
As an example: I’m at the dinner table with a group of people. I start feeling uncomfortable and think, “I don’t belong here with these people. As a matter of fact, they probably look down on me. Why on earth did I wear this dress? I’m WAY underdressed and don’t fit in here at all… etc.” It just goes from bad to worse, and pretty soon I’ve decided what everybody is thinking and can’t wait to leave. The feeling of uneasiness is by now acute discomfort bordering on depression.
What just happened? Did these people upset me? Not at all. It all started with a single thought, “I don’t belong here,” or some similar thought before that. Once I realize that the powerful feelings are coming not from the company but from my thoughts, I’m free to have other thoughts about the situation. Once the thought is suspect, it loses its power over me and may even disappear entirely, taking the lousy feeling with it. It’s kind of magical, really, when you realize how the process works.
Imagine the potential for alleviating lashon hara! Once you know the problem isn’t “out there,” talking about another person is just irrelevant and purposeless, even boring.
The Three Principles approach to happiness, compared to other approaches, is akin to treating the disease rather than the symptoms. Although we can never, nor would we want to, be rid of thoughts, we can raise our consciousness about the role of thought in creating our reality.
The freedom that comes from this consciousness is just indescribable. It’s like finding the mother lode of happiness, the keys to the kingdom. One need never struggle with positive thinking, or spend hours meditating, or delve into one’s childhood in search of the source of our unhappiness. It’s all right there, in the moment, changing moment to moment, just like life itself.
Rabbi Michel Twerski and Rebbetzin Faigie Twerski were introduced to the Three Principles approach to mental well being years ago, while trying to find an approach to treat the ills in their community. They formed the Twerski Wellness Institute, with the mission of propagating this knowledge among the Jewish people.
Twerski Wellness Institute is bringing the Three Principles to Baltimore in a three-day seminar. If you’re intrigued by these ideas and would like to find lasting peace of mind, happiness, and inner wisdom, come to this seminar. You’ll be glad that you did and will probably find it to be a life-changing event.
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” With the Three Principles, you will know how to feed yourself with your own abundant happiness for the rest of your life.