The Balinese people have a series of questions that they ask you: Where are you from? How long do you stay? What do you do? Do you like Bali? Are you happy?
They ask these series of questions with a purpose: What direction are you coming from and what energy are you bringing with you.
Asking how someone is is a question I am familiar with. I can it hear up to dozens of times a week and I am prepared for this type of question. But asking if I’m Happy? That threw me off-guard.
The question itself was simple. What threw me off is it was only then I realized I could not respond with the bright shining YES.
I can’t over complicate the conversation in English with an ‘I guess’ or ‘Well, in some areas yes but not so much in others’. I responded with the best bright Yes I could muster without sounding too fake.
I could feel the lie pouring out of me lingering on my breath and started to bother me. The word happiness has come up a lot since I started my solo trip through Asia and now was a good a time as any to finally figure it out what happiness meant to me.
I’m not UNHAPPY by any means even despite my recent challenges, but a strong YES wasn’t ready to make an appearance. But why not?
Like any logical person, I Googled it. In order to understand the answer, I first had to understand the question- right?
“Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being characterized by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. A variety of biological, psychological, religious, and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources.”
Thank you, Wikipedia. (insert sarcasm here).
I started to meditate on happiness, void of any instant answer I took to my immediate surroundings.
I take the same walk into town each day, but today with new eyes. I take the narrow concrete path through the bright and massive rice paddies, the only real sound with no one around is the wind blowing through the tall grass that surrounds you. Calm. The hand-carved elaborate doorway structures that give a very opposite message from the tall concrete walls boarding in the houses and their hand-attended gardens.
What is also very typical for Bali are 60 year old + women working construction under a warm sun and unforgiving weight on their heads. Their job is to take the rocks, placing them in a basket and carrying them on their heads or into wheel barrows to dispose of them down the street. Their work attire is a layered dress with a sarong and slippahs (flip flops.)
When I pass them, they always have a warm smile accompanied with a heartfelt greeting. I feel honored they would take time out of their day and energy to bestow such cheerfulness to a stranger.
It was in their eyes is the true definition of Happiness really resonated with me.
These woman are the same age or older then my Nana. I could never picture her in their shoes, or I just didn’t want you.
They are doing the kind of hard labor I’ve only ever seen prison workers do in movies……. paired with a genuine smile.
Prior to my personal journey here in Asia, Happiness was a word that I would attach to something outside of myself and rode the feeling until the new project, money, career, relationship, item or phase wore out and incidentally so would those positive feelings.
A constant roller coaster ride of emotions. I’m not sure if I picked up the habit along the way or if I was taught it from birth, but once all the things I prided myself on were stripped from me during this trip, I was forced to start looking within and it was clear I had to create new habits.
I have been utilizing Bali as a place to rid myself of any prior identify or notions I created for myself and explore further into my potential.
I purged myself of all distractions. Netflix, music, social media, alcohol, a social life, busy work, projects, brainstorming, browsing the internet, etc. all the things I typically turned to distract or numb myself. Gone.
Only then, could I fill the newly made void and I forced a once busy mind into a room with only my thoughts.
Then began the home stretch of a long fought battle.
This space I created gave me time to truly give myself a clean-slate without outside reminders or influence or who I thought I was or who I should be.
I made a daily routine of eat, sleep, meditate, reflect, repeat. I was amazed the sun kept setting even through I didn’t do anything. Life kept on moving around me. What once were endless hours seemed to turn into a normal day.
This went on for the next 21 days.
My big event for the evening is when I would run to the edge of the cement wall when the sun was about to set. I’d stand on the second step that led you to a small offering statue. I was just tall enough to peer over the wall, beyond the fields and say a little prayer of gratitude.
The path to happiness is different for everyone, for me it took a two month solo trip through Asia to get there.
After many years of reflection, study and intense practice as of late the only answer I have to access my inner happiness is through SURRENDER.
Letting it all go, surrendering to the process is the Key is to channeling happiness abundantly when I can no longer produce it myself. I surrendered with more faith than ever before and letting go of control was the best thing I have ever done for my health, head and emotions.
Just to nail the point home, I was faced with one last challenge.
I walked one hour to attend a Tibetan Bowl Meditation at a highly acclaimed Yoga resort- this was going to be where I could practice my peace within, but I could not enter. I came to the realization I lost my debt card in a foreign country.
No debt card=no cash, Ouch. Life testing my faith again, this time I reacted differently; I was calm, the mistake didn’t consume my life and I didn’t blame myself. (I am terribly hard on myself). Whereas prior I would feel totally lost and cursing the feeling of helplessness turning all mistakes inward.
The effectiveness of surrendering fully were swift, getting there was a long hard road.
I negotiated a taxi back home after my realization of my next
challenge adventure with what little cash I had on me after I bought a few provisions to get by until I could think of a plan.
The taxi driver asked “Where are you from? How old are you? How long are you in Bali?”
Then he said the most amazing thing: ‘You look Happy’.
It’s not a question anymore. It’s a statement.
I am happy.