The Thailand jungle, far away from where any tourist has been for a long time. After six years of no interruption, a small group of the first foreigners set foot in this area onto a small dusty path. This group had just left the temple where they chose to spend their ‘gap year’ by learning how to meditate, learning about Buddhism and about the way of life in a Buddhist temple.
I was a part of this group and this is my story.
We arrived at a shrine with a small hut next to it –looking for a monk that decided to live without human contact for a while to meditate. Despite this decision, we were still invited to meet him and he was even more excited than us as it was his first time in his life to see foreigners.
Our guide and translator, and one of the first persons we met in Thailand, was a ladyboy – which was a nice surprise and a great welcoming to the country.
She was unlike any prejudices that we had before about the Thai ‘girls’ and was very open about it and willing to tell us about the whole unique ladyboy culture in her country.
In the little hut, we found a beautiful altar with a magnificent Buddha statue on top of it surrounded by incense sticks and flowers and the monk covered in orange robes sitting next to it. We clearly saw that he was excited to see these strange white faces and blond hair (which everyone had except me), but his voice was very calm and slow, as you’d expect from a wise old Buddhist man.
We were told to sit on the ground as he only had one plastic stool in his hut, which was used as a table. We were told, before we entered that we have to sit on our knees and never point with the sole of our feet towards the monk out of respect. None of us were used to sitting in this position on a hard floor for a long time but no one seemed to care that much as everyone was too excited to hear what this wise old monk had to say.
Our guide translated while he talked about his life and decisions and while he answered our questions. E.g. What is the most difficult part of being a monk? His answer was (once again, imagine an old man that embodies peace itself with a slow soft voice, dressed in a beautiful orange robe)
“Not being able to be with a woman is bearable, but not being able to masturbate is the hardest thing about being a Buddhist Monk,” he said and then quickly added,
“But my will is strong, which makes everything achievable”.
Little did we know that after only a few minutes there, our life would change with only a small sentence.
We talked for a while about Buddhism, Thailand, Ladyboys and all kinds of subjects until our guide said that the monk wanted to give us one last piece of advice before we left.
He took a second and looked at us all as if he wanted to prepare us for what was coming and then started to speak.
We saw that our guide was excited to hear what he had to say as well and she looked at us with a wide smile before she translated his words:
“Thinking positive could never be wrong.”
We did not expect this, and were kind of disappointed. After seeing our guide’s face who was so happy with his advice, we thought that maybe we just did not understand it. We were expecting him to tell us about how to live our lives, how to become a good person, how to be unconditionally happy. We thought he would give a piece of his peaceful mind, shaped after years of thinking about life and meditation. This felt too simple for us… this couldn’t be his advice, right?
It wasn’t until later that week that most of us realized what this actually meant and that he taught us all of the things that we hoped he’d say. We started talking about these words and realized that it might have been something special.
Could thinking positive really change the way you live and feel?
Thinking positive is not directly in everyone’s nature and often difficult to carry out. People can lose their minds if something doesn’t go their way, it makes people unhappy if something happens that they cannot control or when things go wrong. This has an effect on being able to make the right decisions and looking at situations without blurring clouds of negativity.
It does not mean that you can’t be sad, that you shouldn’t cry or complain about things that go wrong because for some people this helps. However, most people tend to use those feelings and complains as an excuse to not do anything about it, to just give up or take the easy way out.
If you try to see everything from a positive perspective instead of focusing on the negative sides, you are already looking for a solution for the problem, or sometimes even changing the problem into something positive – such as a challenge or a new way to learn. This creates new possibilities and is a great motivation to push forward.
If you look at a problem in a negative perspective, you will persuade yourself into taking the easy way out.
For example, instead of being sad about leaving a place and your new friends after traveling – be happy that you had these experiences and that you met so many amazing people. If you loved this place so much, think about how you can go back! You already met so many people, so you might even get some free accommodation out of it.
If you keep thinking that it costs too much money to go back or that you don’t have time, you’ll be tempted to give up easily and focus on something else. You will convince yourself that it can’t be done, or that you didn’t want it so bad anyway. You will miss a lot of opportunities this way.
Think about it, how often have you given yourself these excuses and ended up not applying for a job, going on a trip, asking that girl/boy out?
Don’t want to go because you don’t have money? Don’t be sad about the fact that you’re broke! Be happy about the fact that there are plenty of ways to save money for a ticket!
Nobody likes someone who complains too much. Seeing everything as negative is happening in your own head and it is very simple to change.
Don’t want to approach this girl or boy because you think they’re out of your reach? Well, that means you’ll never get them. Think about it, what will you lose if you go up there? Will it just be awkward? Isn’t that worth landing this hottie, eventually marrying them, have beautiful children and a lifetime of happiness? I would choose being happy for the rest of my time any day.
Instead of thinking that something costs too much, that it can’t be done or that a restaurant looks disgusting and so the food might be too, or even that you would love to travel but are quite an introvert … think again! Give it a shot before you say no and try to be open-minded about it.
You don’t know how something is going to work out before you try it!
Since I really started applying this method, I went on holiday almost every other month before studying in China and working in Bali (both for about 6 months each), but everything I did was on a poor student’s budget while mostly staying on couches.
Before, I would be afraid to do something like this but guess what, I loved it! This was my dream and I wish I did these things earlier. Talking about dreams, mine was becoming a travel writer – obviously you won’t become one unless you start to write articles, email magazines, talk to people who you could write for, etc,….And now here you are reading my article, maybe even thinking about what your dream might be and how you can achieve this.
With that small group or foreigners in the jungle, the translator and the monk, we have stumbled on something special.
During our drive back to civilization in a bus that was probably not made for human transport, we got stuck, lost and it took us hours to reach the volunteer camp where we were staying before.
But something changed. Obviously everybody was tired, broken from the trip which lasted for five hours of which we spent mostly on the wooden floor of the bus, but nobody was mad about it. There were people saying how great it was that they finally got to write in their diary, how many beautiful pictures they took along the way, that they’ve finally started reading the book they brought, and now they finished it, “it saves weight in my luggage!”
Our group from all over the world became very close during our stay in the temple. Of course, after such a trip you often don’t speak to each other again, you’ll drift apart and it becomes an effort to let your former ‘best friends for a while’ know how you are and what you are doing.
Instead of giving up right away though, this group stayed positive and actually made the effort. We became best friends, celebrated New Year’s together, met each other almost every week and kept on traveling together to all outskirts of the world. This trip was nearly 5 years ago and we still talk every single day.
We now make choices in life based on whether it makes us happy, not on whether we think it’s going to be difficult or not. We stay positive, grab chances and take actions in order to see the world and be happy.
So, do you want to reach your dream? Take those steps and keep on thinking positive, because this could never be wrong.