4 Keys To Happiness Discovered In Bhutan
Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors
4 Keys To Happiness Discovered In BhutanOne Woman’s Happiness Secrets
Editor's Note - Writer Linda Leaming traveled across Europe and Asia in the mid ’90s after college. Eventually, she made her way to Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist country in the Himalayas, known to be a very beautiful and a very happy place. Linda described her amazing Bhutanese adventures in her first book, Married to Bhutan. Now she opens new doors to wisdom, humor, and cultural discovery in her second book about Bhutan, A Field Guide to Happiness:
Once I visited Bhutan, I couldn’t wait to get back. It feels like heaven on earth. I hardly notice the hardships of living in a developing country because the people are charming and funny, and it is truly the most beautiful, unspoiled place I’ve ever been. And there was something else, something intangible that drew me in. Once I had a taste of it, I realized I couldn’t live without it. It filled me with a sense of well-being. I liked myself in Bhutan. And because of that, I could be nicer to myself and those around me. Being kind is practically a law here because there are fewer obstacles to happiness. Life is still simpler. The country has never been colonized, and that gives the people an independent streak, a clear identity, and an optimism. They take care of each other. They laugh and enjoy life—and it’s contagious. Waking up every day in Bhutan with an attitude of kindness makes so many wonderful things possible. It convinced me that kindness is the way to happiness.
Nonetheless, Bhutan isn’t a place that slips easily into categories or stereotypes. It’s full of surprises, conundrums, and contradictions. It is a frustrating place, a holy place, a changing place, and a hideously profane place. It smells like wood smoke, dung, clean mountain air, chilies, and incense. And if you’re willing to slip out of your shibboleths and hard-held prejudices, Bhutan just might teach you some enlightening things.
I moved to Bhutan in 1997, fell in love, and married Phurba Namgay, a Bhutanese painter, three years later. In 2005, we brought a little girl, Kinlay, to live with us. It’s been an incredible journey of change and adaptation: learning to live with less and more. For me, extreme measures seem to work. But don’t try this at home. Or rather, try this at home. I’ve learned that you don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to figure out how to be happy. Heck, you don’t even need to leave the privacy and comfort of your own living room. It’s not necessary for happiness. In fact, it might even be better to seek out happiness right where you are. I hardly left Bhutan for more than ten years, but for the past few years I’ve been dividing my time between Nashville and Thimphu, half a year here, half a year there. It is a heck of a commute, as far as you can go in either direction on the globe. But work, family, and life make it necessary. To keep my sanity and enjoy my life, I’ve put a lot of thought and energy into how to be the same person, live the same way wherever I am. There is such a big difference in the two places: how people go about their days, how people spend their time, what they think is important, how they work, play, and eat.
In the West, we have everything we could possibly need or want—except for peace of mind. We go to extravagant lengths to try to be happy. Living in Bhutan and then coming back to the U.S. has taught me that we can all learn to create a space within us where we are untouched, at our best, where we can be open to life and we can be, even in the darkest hours, calm and relatively happy. That can happen anywhere.
I’ve now lived in Bhutan for much of my adult life. My happiness comes because living in this ancient culture forces me to think differently—about time, work, money, nature, family, other people, life, death, tea, kindness, generosity, washing machines, waking up, and myself. Ironically, there’s a lot of discomfort. But I’m happy, deeply and thoroughly. The thing is, Bhutan won’t always be Bhutan. Change is inherent in all things. So when I leave I try to take these feelings and ideas I have in Bhutan with me. I call it “simulating Bhutan.” Even while in Bhutan, Namgay and I have to “simulate Bhutan,” because even in this quiet, relatively pristine place, we can still lose the thread.
Sometimes, we think we’re happy when we feel we’ve achieved a sort of stability or success with our jobs, our bank accounts, love life, and other relationships. Happiness is complicated, no doubt. It is a life-long quest. A huge part of being happy, and the quest for it, is actually knowing you’re happy, or rather knowing what makes you happy. It is deceptively simple. That’s why it’s so hard! That little children’s song that starts out “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands,” while ever so slightly cloying, is also prophetic. Happiness is harder than it looks because so many other things get in the way. So we have to simplify things, strip them down, gut the house, and then build it back up.
My 4 Happiness Keys
When I talk about being happy in A Field Guide To Happiness I mean well-being. I think of happiness as being a state wherein we are “without want.” Happiness is linked to kindness, compassion, and having what you need, and being comfortable with yourself, but it’s not necessarily linked to outward comfort. Here’s what I think about happiness:
• Everyone wants to be happy.
• Happiness begins with intent.
• Happiness doesn’t just happen; it’s a result of conscious action (and sometimes that “action” is to do nothing).
• This action involves doing simple things well.
In short, to be happy you need a skill set. Over the years I’ve developed one of my own, and I’ve found what works for me and what doesn’t. I’m a storyteller, by the way. My book is a collection of stories, insights, impressions, and suggestions highlights things that have pushed me in the direction of peace of mind, and contentedness. Think of them as a little nudge, a push, a leg up to the top of the metaphorical mountains into the rarefied air of paradise—of bright sunlight and beautiful views.