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How are you feeling today?  Are you on cloud nine (=very happy) or down in the dumps (=very unhappy)? 


Buddhism teaches us to strive for joy unaffected by our external circumstances, but for most of us, that’s not too easy.  Some people seem to remain in a baseline level of happiness with few disturbances to their peace of mind, and some – like me – seem to go on a rollercoaster of emotion every day.  I’m either over the moon (=ecstatic, extremely happy), blowing a fuse (=getting very angry) with everyone around me, or wallowing in the depths of my own misery (=being very sad).  Sometimes the variety of strong emotions I experience every day leaves me exhausted!


I’ve read a lot of books about happiness, two of my favourites being The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Ruiz says the four steps to happiness are as follows:

  1. Be impeccable (=honest, truthful, with good intentions) with your word.  Don’t lie, gossip (=talk about other people), or criticize.
  2. Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you.  When you are immune to (=unable to be affected by) the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of unnecessary suffering.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.  Find the courage to ask questions. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.
  4.  Always do your best.  Remember that our best changes from moment to moment. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.


Do you think these four steps could help you?  How?  What do you think is the key to real happiness?



 “You better start swimmin'

Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.”  - Bob Dylan


Yep, I think Bob said it best – The times they are a-changin, and we don’t have much choice but to adapt and change with them. Greek philosopher Heraclitus was expressing the same sentiment many years earlier when he said…


“There is nothing permanent except change.”


I’ve always been something of a change-addict to be honest, and I’m a big devotee of the expression “A change is as good as a holiday.”  It’s for this reason that I’ve been travelling for 11 years, and have visited around 35 different countries, stopping to live in 5 or 6 of them.  When one place isn’t fun anymore I move on to the next, changing jobs, friends, scenery, language, and whatever else is necessary.  Out with the old, in with the new! There’s nothing like a change of pace (=a variation in routine) to make life interesting again.  I’ve been in this city for 2 years now and I’m currently trying to figure out a way of moving back to a beach.  Waking up to the sea breeze would be – figuratively and literally –a breath of fresh air (=anything new and welcome, a relief, a pleasant change).


Of course, once I’m on the beach for a year I miss the noise and variety of the city and generally go off in search for one.  I’d get bored really quickly if I couldn’t shake things up (=change things a lot) from time to time.


Do you suffer from fear of change, or do you embrace it?  What major changes have occurred in your life?  Were they welcome?

 I’ve lived in several different countries, and I always find it interesting to note the differences in gender roles.  In Australia – my home country – we seem to be becoming quite androgynous (=not being strongly male or female).  Women are working and choosing not to have children at all, and I even know a few men who have taken on the role of childcare while their wives worked.  Men no longer open doors, help you off a bus, or pay for your dinner, and women are far from the subservient (=obedient, submissive) dependent creatures they once were.  In fact, a lot of them would consider a man offering to carry her bag to be chauvinistic (=having an attitude of superiority towards women)!  Men are becoming rather metrosexual (=a straight man who displays traits of being homosexual or female), and it’s fashionable now for them to have good grooming and cook gourmet meals for their dates.


In Colombia, I truly enjoyed the chivalrous (=polite, gentlemanly) manner of men there.  I don’t think I ever once stepped off a bus without being assisted by the outstretched hand of a random man, and I love the fact that guys all over Latin America will even carry their girlfriends’ handbags.  Several times I’ve seen men in clubs with 3 or 4 girly bags hanging off them while their female friends dance, unhindered, nearby.


However, here in Latin America, I’m constantly frustrated by the comments of my male friends, deriding (=ridiculing, insulting, putting down) the girls who go out drinking and smoking all night.  Are we not in the 21st century people?? They all want nice, well-behaved responsible girlfriends – who will wait for them at home while they themselves go out partying with the ‘crazy’ girls!


How are gender roles defined in your country?