About happiness

Thailand-7859Back in Bangkok for a few days. One of the evenings, I go for a walk by myself, in the park close to our guesthouse. I sit somewhere near the river. I can see in the water, glittering and moving lazily, the lights of the buildings next to me. Boats pass from time to time – boats from the five-star hotels down the river, small, decorated with little strings of lights, big touristic boats, sliding across the waters surrounded by a halo of colored light and music, long cargo ships, dark, anonymous, noticeable only by the dark enormous shades with which they cover the reflection in the water of the buildings across the river. Closeby, a Thai young man is playing the guitar. A girl is sitting beside him, holding out a notebook from which they both read. Sometimes I can hear her voice, timid, slightly off key, singing. The sound of the guitar reaches me faintly, like in a dream. I cannot recognize the song, but the warm and gentle notes of the guitar make my heart soften and smile, opening up and filling as if to the memory of a long forgotten love. And to all the beauty that is now around it.

And I suddenly have a feeling, a familiar feeling that it’s been creeping into my life, the last year or two: that THIS, this moment right here, could be a scene of a movie. One of those movies that we love to let ourselves drawn in, enraptured, intoxicated by. The kind of movies that we want to be a part of. And my mind instantly creates the whole story around it: it could be about this girl that left everything and when on a trip around the world. To look deeper into the world, to look deeper into herself. She is now in Bangkok, exotic, chaotic Bangkok, looking at the lights of the boats passing by. And a soft soundtrack music kicks in, the distant sound of a guitar blues.

Yes, it could be a movie! One of those romantic, I-want-to-be-in-it, happy-ending kind of movies. But – and I start laughing by myself – all of it is just such an illusion! I’ve been in Bangkok for several days, visiting, going around, trying the street food. And I did not have that “this is a perfect moment – I am perfectly happy“ kind of feeling. And I realize (a realization to which I come back, again and again) that the scenery of our lives does not contribute but little to our feeling of happiness. That you can be in the most extraordinary and exotic place on earth, on a beach in Thailand, sitting in the sun, but if you don’t open up to feel its beauty, to fill up with the wonder and gratefulness of you living all the sun and the sea and the sand, it is as if you were not really there. And then, you can be in your own house, in a little apartment in Bucharest (let’s say :) ), having a glass of wine with a friend, on your balcony, or a cup of hot tea inside, with some music and small candle lights, and you could feel, as I felt many times, truly blessed and perfectly happy.

Throughout this year of travels I have been, many times, more often than I would usually find myself, in places and situations in which I said to myself: “wow, this is a truly perfect moment!”. About some of these moments I wrote in this travel journal. But each time it happens, I realize that it is not necessarily the place and the time that makes it perfect, but the way my heart, in that moment, melts down a little, opens up to receive and understand the beauty around it. Because the beauty is always there! Even in the most ordinary situations of your life, even at the breakfast table, pourring your coffee, or going to work in the morning, looking at all the different people around you, each with their world and life around them, or looking at the clouds in the sky, with their different shades and colors, or going to a park, or meeting a friend, or enjoying the comfort and coziness of your home. Or reading a book, or playing a computer game you love, or cooking for someone you love. All of these can be moments of happiness – only if you acknowledge them as such. Of course that when you travel, as I am now, it is easier to let your heart open in this way and feel this happiness. But I tell you, precisely because I do feel it now and because I felt it sometimes when I was back home, happiness does not depend on what is happening in your life or in the world around you! I know that many have said this before and that this is not anything new, but I just want to share this with you, my own little revelation: happiness is about opening your heart to receive the beauty that already IS there. Sometimes this is easier to do, other times it’s more difficult. That’s why we should practice it, whenever we find it easy, so that we have the experience of what happiness feels like, for those moments when everything seems dark and gloomy and hopeless.

So go out today, and choose one place, one moment in which you can just relax. Look around you as if it were the first time you see everything, with new eyes and new heart. Smile and look at the beauty, the tenderness, the sweetness in the things and in the people surrounding you. Invite all that into your heart and let it sink in, until it reaches every fiber of your being, until you can feel it in your toes! Then breathe in, smile and feel how blessed you have been today.

After a while, hearing again the tune of the song that lighted up in me all that stream of thought, I got closer to the Thai couple, made friends and listened to what they were singing. And a new smile took over me. It was an old song that I had just discovered this summer and with which I fell instantly in love. I heard it from an Irish guy, who stayed in Afroz for a few weeks and used to play the guitar in the afternoon. It brought back memories of wonderful times, full moons, and loves, and friends, and smiles.