Can you SEE happiness

Published on February 12, 2016


Last week I went on holiday to a place called Kamalaya on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand. It’s nice, so I must have been happy: sun, sea and sand create happiness don’t they?

Not quite.

Sometimes the sun makes me too hot. And it rained one day which made me, er, wet. It’s our reaction to the environment that makes us happy right? That’s as obvious as ABC:
• Action (input)- sun –  is filtered by
• Beliefs – I can enjoy it after 4pm due to my delicate English skin – which lead to
• Consequences – when I’m in the sun at 4pm I’m happy.

No that’s not quite right either.

Emotional intelligence teaches us that, at least some of the time, we can control our thoughts and feelings. It rained on the day that I went on a boat trip for a beach barbecue and some snorkelling. We were drenched before we even got on the boat and despite the captain’s optimistic forecast, it never lifted. Half our party retreated to the dry saloon. The remainder of us went snorkelling. For my part I started with one thought: “I’m not cold”. Then a second idea “I want to go snorkelling and deal with the claustrophobia that I experienced last time I tried it”. And so I did. As Buddha once said “When you realise how perfect the world is you’ll throw your head back and laugh at the sky”. Even if it’s a grey one. We had a good time and were described by one of the “drip driers” that stayed behind as “our heroes”, albeit just for one day.

Kamalaya isn’t just a resort it’s a wellness spa which offers healthy food, massages, yoga and many other forms of physical, emotional and spiritual treatments that leave you feeling healthy and enriched.
My most valuable lesson was on the Art of suffering. Rajesh, an ex-monk, explained to me how we all try to escape suffering and in the process enlarge it and so make it worse. That’s because we don’t simply accept the thing which is making us suffer – say a complaint about our service – but enlarge it in a four step process:

  1. We ask Questions – e.g. how did this happen to me? Why did this happen to me?
  2. We seek Explanations – it’s because I’m not good enough; because the world is against me…
  3. We dole out Blame – I really need to perform better; if only customers were better informed…
  4. We end up feeling desperate – I’m not going to succeed because these things keep happening to me…

His solution is to start by realising that when something threatens us we have four responses to it. In addition to the Fight or Flight response, animals have a third response (Freeze). But we humans have a fourth one: become Aware. Notice the issue and how you (try to) run away from it. It’s impossible to stop these thoughts but if you notice them, and the physical pain that the issue has created, you will be able to come back to the issue until, quite soon, the pain passes.  Then you can ask what meaning you gave to the event that caused the hurt. And eventually learn to laugh at the sky. I think a few more trips to Kamalaya will be needed before I, for one, get near to that heightened state.