I was in East Tibet in July, when the days are apparently the hottest. Yes, the days certainly were, but the nights were freezing.
Many people had set up camp in the mountains. “Shall we sleep outside?” asked my Tibetan guides.
“Why? There’s plenty of room in our tent,” I replied. And when I stuck my head out of the door flap, I shivered with cold.
“Yes, but it’s summer,” they smiled.
When I was young, I loved Lennon. My brother used to play his songs on the guitar. I could listen to him over and over again. But listening to the same songs all day became tiring.
In the same way, I loved strudel. The first piece of apple strudel was blissful. The second wasn’t as good. And the third I didn’t enjoy at all—it became too much.
When I went on camp, I loved the cold evenings and the warmth of the fire. It was wonderful. But when I got too close to the flames, they started to burn.
It was as though my happiness never lasted long. It was as though it was all found in the first experience, and that it was impossible to achieve permanent pleasure.
There in Tibet, in the ‘summer’, whilst freezing at night, I learned how the Dalai Lama had visited Portugal. The Portuguese had proudly shown him their most modern districts, and comfortable high-rise buildings. But when he saw them, he shook his head. “In the West, you all build these things around you. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to build something inside you as well?” And he added, “you know, when you are deeply unhappy, then, on the super-modern and technically-advanced 100th floor of a hyper-luxury building, you will be looking for a window to jump out of.”
I like travelling around the world. It fascinates me that many people living in very difficult conditions are free, peaceful, and retain their inner strength. “It’s because,” one Tibetan monk told me, “their internal conditions are stronger. What comes from the outside influences us, but it is what is inside that interprets it.” In other words, we decide for ourselves how to process what’s happening to us.
“It is summer,” said the Tibetan guides. And sure enough, they slept in front of the tent. I, however, stayed shivering inside, sure that it was too cold.
The guides woke up alert and happy. I, however, woke up groggy and bad-tempered. How, though, when we had spent the night in the same conditions?
“Imagine the tide,” the first of them told me. “The waves wash onto the shore. If you are underneath the waves, you will be thrust against the ground, and broken on the cliffs. But all you need to do is glide along the surface. After all, why does the sea make you happy? If you look at it from above, you’ll see that the surface is a mirror. If you want depressions, you’ll travel deeper. The lower you go, the greater the pressure. Eventually, the pressure will crush you. Just like it will in life.”
“You must be thinking,” said the second guide, “how much of it you need for happiness. But you’re preparing for failure. If you don’t get anything from it, your happiness will disappear. But you don’t need to travel the entire ocean of life. All you need to do is enjoy the waves, even if deep issues still exist.”
“Even in hell you can find a piece of paradise. And in paradise, you can still be unhappy inside,” added the third guide.
When I invite readers of my blog to a meeting, I can feel their desire for happiness. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking “today, I want to be unhappy.”
One boy who was unhappy in love wrote to me on Christmas Eve. He told me that he wanted to take his own life, justifying his decision with the words: “I don’t want to bear the suffering anymore.” He thought that suicide was a way out of his unhappiness, or, rather, a way for him to reach happiness.
I taught him what they I had learned in Tibet. The Greeks call it “eudaimonia”—wellbeing. We call it a “feeling of spiritual ease”.
So then, how to achieve it?
Please, continue to the 2nd page.