When you first meet a Thai person, invariably they will ask you, “Are you happy?” It’s a fair question and one which we’re not used to asking in the U.S. Here’s my “so-called” dilemma. Do I deserve to be happy right now?  Is it okay that I’m so fortunate to be in Thailand when the pandemic is raging at home and our country is so rife with divisions? As Jimmy Carter wrote in his editorial “I Fear for Our Democracy,” which appeared in the Times last week, we really need to find ways to connect human to human and “re-engage across the divide.”  It’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

Yet, here I am in my “happy place” back in Thailand in my sanctuary, Songdhammakalyani Temple, with my beloved teacher, mentor and friend, Venerable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni. It has been 2 years since I last visited and I missed her so much. I delight in the simplest pleasure of being in her company. Yesterday we had tea in the garden in the afternoon. The intense heat of the day began to cool down and a gentle breeze blew softly through the leaves. I don’t remember much of what was said, I simply know I felt completely at peace and content in that moment.

What is happiness? For me, it’s a state of mind that happens when we least expect it. It’s a feeling of oneness with myself and the other person, no walls no barriers in between, just two loving hearts beating in unison. Time stands still for an instant, and we savor the moment together.

I think the world needs more “happy” right now. Maybe the Thai people have it right and it’s no accident this country is known as the “land of smiles.” I do not mean to diminish the amount of suffering that’s going on in people’s lives right now, nor ignore the difficulties that confront us. I am also aware of just how privileged I am to be able to travel in the first place and am grateful for the opportunity. While all that is true, I still think it’s important to find peace and contentment in our lives.

Life is so precious, it’s good to slow down and savor the moment once in a while. And who knows, you may find happiness in unexpected places!

Thanks for listening! What’s your happy place, what brings you joy?