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3 Lessons from Traveling That Lead to Everyday Happiness

Ehren Prudhel in China

“Remember that happiness is a way of travel—not a destination.” ~Roy M. Goodman

After graduating from college I took off to explore Europe for four months with one of my best friends.

We backpacked through fourteen different countries and learned things about the world and ourselves that we never expected. We often joked that we learned more about life and ourselves traveling abroad for four months than we did going to school for four years in college.

When you’re traveling, you get a whole new perspective on what really matters, and you feel this sense of adventure and excitement that reminds you just how many possibilities you have in life.

Still infected with the travel bug, I decided last year to spend six weeks with a good friend in China. In the land of Buddhas, bikes, and chopsticks, I remembered three important lessons that have helped me find happiness and fulfillment in everyday life.

1. Great things can happen when you’re flexible.

Ehren and Ping Ping

When you’re traveling, you expect there to be bumps in the road or unexpected surprises, and that’s what makes it so exciting. If everything went as planned, you wouldn’t have a story to tell other than “I saw the Great Wall of China and it was large.”

If you’re being flexible, you open yourself up to opportunities that sometimes can stem from a single moment gone wrong.

My friend and I booked a few nights in a hostel in Yangshuo a week ahead of time with plans to stay in the same room together. Things didn’t quite work out as we planned. The management gave our room away, which meant we’d need to stay in separate rooms for a few nights. So we did, without complaint.

This is how we met Ping Ping, who worked at the hostel front desk. Because we were flexible, understanding, and patient, Ping Ping took to us and gave us an authentic experience we wouldn’t have had otherwise. She became our friend, confidant, and tour guide.

We spent several nights in her father’s house in her hometown, where we cooked with her family and shared the meal. We played basketball with local kids at a nearby school and toured a sacred Buddhist temple with her brother.

Ping Ping gave us the opportunity to see life in China well off the tourist grid—and she also gave us the chance to really know her. Not just as the person who checked us into our hostel, but as a genuine friend. It all happened because we were willing and happy to go with the flow.

It’s not always easy to be flexible in life. We sometimes get attached to rigid ideas of how things should work out, personally or professionally, but this can backfire and end up limiting us. When you’re adaptable, you open yourself up to possibilities that you might not even know are available to you.

2. Life is a lot more beautiful and manageable when you proactively create moments of awe.

Lijiang River

One of my favorite things about traveling is when I experience a moment of awe.

In Yangshuo, I biked through a fairytale land, full of water buffaloes and small villages, surrounded by mountains curved like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. It was truly breathtaking.

However, the most amazing moment happened when I put my bike on the back of a bamboo raft and sailed down the river back to Yangshuo. The light from the day was fading away, and all that was left was the sound of nature and the stirring reflection of the Karst Mountain peaks on the water.

It was then that a feeling of calm came over me. My thoughts were pure. I felt fortunate to have this experience, and at the same time I felt so small. I couldn’t help but feel unbridled joy and freedom. Everything in life seemed so easy—and, for a moment, I was problem-less.

It doesn’t take something as grand as the Lijiang River, but for me, this feeling often comes from nature. Maybe it’s a beautiful setting that does it for you. Or an intimate, meaningful conversation with someone else—someone who is going through something just like you are, who makes you realize you are not alone.

These moments, when you remember you’re part of something much bigger than you, ignite a sense of awe. They’re humbling, and if you let them wash over you, you’ll feel a sense of connection and peace that makes all your problems seem manageable.

We need to choose to create those moments—to get out of homes, and out of our heads, and into the great, big world together.

3. You have to let go of where you were to get where you can be.

Mogao Caves

When I was young, my mother used to tell me and my brother to wave goodbye to places when we left them. If we were at the ocean, she would say, “Wave goodbye to the ocean!”

I remember waving goodbye and feeling the car rolling over the hill, and then it was gone. I didn’t know if I’d ever see it again.

After spending two days in Dunhuang, riding camels through the desert, savoring the culinary delight of another region, and exploring the Mogao Caves, we headed back to the train. It was a twenty-four-hour ride to our next destination.

As the train started to slowly move forward and gain speed, I looked out the window and waved goodbye (in my mind—didn’t want the Chinese family sharing a train cabin with me to think I was crazy).

I was there only two days. I had seen only a few of the 492 temples in the “Caves of the thousand Buddhas” and sampled only a few dishes of the local cuisine, yet I already had to move on.

As the train was leaving, a part of me wanted to stay. I knew that I would most likely never see the desert oasis town of Dunhuang again. But I also knew I was heading somewhere else equally amazing.

When you’re traveling, it’s easier to let go of a beautiful moment because you know the adventure continues. No matter what rolls by outside your window, there will inevitably be more to appreciate when you get off the train.

In everyday life, when you leave a moment you loved, it’s tempting to cling to it—particularly when you’re headed back to work or to a place you’ve been to many times before.

We forget sometimes that waving goodbye to one beauty allows us to wave hello to another. We may not know for sure what that might be, but there’s always something good ahead if you’re open to recognizing and appreciating it.

Benjamin Button said, “I was thinking how nothing lasts, and what a shame that is.” He’s right—they don’t. But it doesn’t have to be a shame if we enjoy each moment while we have the chance and stay open to the next adventure.

It’s been over a year since I returned from my last journey abroad. Naturally, I’m itching to travel again. But the adventure continues nonetheless, and I am open to where it may lead.

Avatar of Ehren Prudhel

About Ehren Prudhel

Ehren Prudhel is a writer and avid traveler. He recently created the eCourse Recreate Your Life Story: Change the Script and Be the Hero with Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene.

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  • http://www.deliberateblog.com Melody Fletcher

    What a beautifully written piece, full of amazing insights. It’s definitely made me want to go out traveling again. I love the adventure of it, the scariness of the unknown, and giddiness of possibility. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Hugs,
    Melody

  • Sonial1210

    LOVED this!!! A great reminder that life is an adventure, but only if your heart is open! Thank you for sharing!

  • Faith Harding

    I’ve been traveling since I was 4 yrs. old and have lived many places…gratitude for life, for the amazing planet we are privileged to live on…travel is truly the best teacher of our lives. Mahalo nui loa from Kauai, HI.

  • Julia

    I couldn’t agree more!

  • Mary

    loved it! Make me want to travel more and more.

  • Suzshannon

    Thanks for this wonderful piece Ehren! It really resonnated with me. Life is really an adventure, even in your own backyard. Your wonderfully written story is a reminder to always be open to the moment, fully present and express gratitude for where you’ve been and have an intrepid sense of enthusiasm and excitement for the journey, wherever it leads. Best, Susan

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ludy-Manuel/100002194231957 Ludy Manuel

    i love to travel …it enriches me…<3

  • Maruskap

    Love it, so very true and beautifully written- thank you

  • http://datingandrelationshipadviceformen.blogspot.com/ Bellaisa

    Awesome post! Loved every sentence of it. I love traveling as it gives me that ‘living in the moment’ feeling – and I love the way you applied the lessons to every day life.

  • http://twitter.com/YEGmamaMD Kim Kelly

    Lovely!  Thank you.

  • MomentOfZen

    You put into words what I couldn’t about all of my traveling experiences. I have been so fortunate to see far off lands, be immersed in other cultures, and step out of my comfort zone and I am such a better person because of my travel experiences. Thank you for expressing so eloquently what I couldn’t – it’s the perfect way to explain to others what traveling has meant to me.

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  • Steve Miller

    Thank you for the reminder.

  • Samantha

    Great piece Ehren! The photo of the mountains on the river is amazing!

  • http://www.OdetoSuccess.com Monica Ray

    I love this point, “Life is a lot more beautiful and manageable when you proactively create moments of awe.” Beautifully said and so true.

  • Digitalteacup

    Wonderful.

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose Alannah Rose

    What a lovely piece and beautiful perspective.  Thank you so much for this thoughtfully written article!  Flexibility and openness are so essential in all situations, but especially during travel when so many uncontrollable situations can occur.  You’ve presented such a fantastic way to handle changes and create oppourtunities out of what many people would consider hassles or headaches.  I really appreciated this today!

  • Bri

    I’m going to start waving goodbye to places when I leave them. Too cute. 

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Thank you so much! All the best to you and yours as well.

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Thank you so much! It makes me happy that you found enjoyment from my post. All the best to  you!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Thank you so much for reading. All the best to you!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Mahalo! We do live on such and amazing planet. And the Flower Island is a breathtaking place. I cannot wait to go back some day. Thank you for reading and all the best!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    The unknown can be exciting or scary, most likely exciting because its scary. I cannot wait to travel again. Thank you so much for reading and all the best to you!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    A person is never the same after traveling. I am glad that you have had the opportunity to see far off lands. Thank you so much for reading. All the best to you!

  • Anonymous

    i loved what you said about flexibility – something i’m physically blessed with, but mentally…mmm, not so much.

    and you’re so right – when i do “allow myself” to be flexible, when i nudge past the familiar and homey comfort of habit & routine, i experience a lighthearted joy… like a weight of “i HAVE to do this/that” is lifted. 

    i recently went on a family vacation to jamaica (i know; my life is SO tough). i’m the kind of person who thrives on routine & timeliness…so vacations can ironically stress me out. “yah mon,” i know it’s messed up. but that’s just how i am. anyway, i found that if i just let get, let myself go with the flow, i was able to actually enjoy myself.

    i know i probably sound crazy to a lot of people – “straining” myself to enjoy myself on vacation – but it’s something that i’ve grown to accept about myself. relaxing is just difficult for me to do. but once i got past that first blockade of mental inflexibility, it got so much easier. and a lot funner. 

    i know funner isn’t a word – i was an english major – but i’m being gramatically flexible ;)

    thanks for the awesome article!

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  • http://www.makingthesamedifference.blogspot.com selah

    I live in Buenos Aires and go back and forth between North America and you are so right. Here in Buenos Aires, 5 things can happenin this country in an hour and you always need to open yourself up to a new way of doing things. The one thing this country has taught me is that if you open your heart and not insist on being set in your ways….a whole new world of rich experiences, friends, relationships, and opportunies can open up to you :)

  • Flowergirlra3

    Your piece touched me, especially when you talked of connecting with nature. Thank you for reminding me how much  those moments mean. Thank you for putting into words what I feel everyday.

  • http://www.volunteerstays.com Adele

    I love Tiny Buddha. And I LOVED your piece - enough to share it with my travelling facebook fans at http://www.facebook.com/VolunteerStays.
    “When you’re traveling, you get a whole new perspective on what really matters, and you feel this sense of adventure and excitement that reminds you just how many possibilities you have in life.”
     
    More please. – Adele

  • http://www.thegreatnessmind.com Parin Patel

    Love the opening quote and this post!

    Especially like #2 “Life is a lot more beautiful and manageable when you proactively create moments of awe.”

    I did a bit of traveling last year for work, so I had the opportunity to spend more than enough time on a plane 30,000ft in the air. While the lifestyle of staying in hotels and eating out isn’t something I particularly enjoyed, the views of the breathtaking snow-peaked mountains, stretching green landscapes, wandering clouds and clear-blue bodies of water, were simply amazing!

    It’s like you wrote:

    “These moments, when you remember you’re part of something much bigger than you, ignite a sense of awe. They’re humbling, and if you let them wash over you, you’ll feel a sense of connection and peace that makes all your problems seem manageable.”

    That’s exactly how I felt! And I always aimed to have a window seat on a plane because of those awe-inspiring moments.

    One of my most memorable moments is watching the full sunrise at 30,000 ft when I had an early AM flight. The blend of the blue, red and pink sky, while the radiating sun glows and rises is absolutely stunnningg!! I never experienced something like it before, and the pictures I took sure don’t do it justice. But that vision is forever ingrained in my mind. :)

    Thanks for the wonderful post Ehren. :)

  • Apple

    WONDERFUL!

  • Apple

    WONDERFUL!

  • lidia

    Wonderful post! It reminds me of my honeymoon in Moorea and how we stumbled upon one of our favorite meals while biking on the island: a French chef with a rotisserie chicken cart in an empty parking lot. Paired with fresh French bread and Tahitian beer bought at the local store, it was a simple yet fabulous dinner I will never forget!

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  • http://twitter.com/wendymiyake wendy miyake

    I loved your story! It made me want to travel again. It brought back all those feelings of being truly alive when you travel. It really is the small moments in traveling that you remember. Yes, there are all these grand monuments but in the end, it is the way an old man helped you find your hotel or a conversation in French with a fruit seller that really sticks in your mind all these years later.

  • http://twitter.com/VintageAmanda Amanda

    This is my favorite part “You have to let go of where you were to get where you can be.”  It’s so true.  You can’t move onto the next great adventure until you say some goodbyes…

  • http://twitter.com/VintageAmanda Amanda

    I love this line: “You have to let go of where you were to get where you can be.”
    It’s so true in life. You can’t move onto the next great adventure until you say some goodbyes…

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Nothing beats a window seat! Thank you so much for reading and your comments. All the best!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Thank you so much for sharing my post. All the best!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    Couldn’t agree more. Thank you for the lovely comment. All the best!

  • Ehren Prudhel

    It is not crazy at all. Thank you so much for commenting on the post. All the best! 

  • http://www.wiseatwork.net Susie @ WiseAtWork

    Ehren.

    This is an absolutely lovely, fluid post and I greatly appreciate your insights and writing style. Also, the photos were great.

    The words that  struck me were  “You have to let go of where you were to get where you can be.” (I see that it resonated with other readers too.)Although I can let go and move on pretty well from event to event, after reading your post I realized that I don’t wave goodbye (in my mind or with my hand). I think it could be a powerful symbol to allow me to intentionally bid adieu and move toward another adventure.Thanks for deepening my day.

  • http://bellavidabyletty.blogspot.com/ BellaVida

    I really enjoyed reading this post. My favorite was the part about being flexible and the wonderful experience you had.  A beautiful lesson.

  • http://bellavidabyletty.blogspot.com/ BellaVida

    I really enjoyed reading this post. My favorite was the part about being flexible and the wonderful experience you had.  A beautiful lesson.

  • Annjer60409

    This was very encouraging especially since I’ve left a comfort zone I’ve known 4 30 yrs and moved to a whole new city to experience life and live life according to a whole new set of rules that aren’t being dictated by people who are well-meaning but don’t have a clue about my destiny or my purpose..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IIUDMTT2BJMGNZJ5JEP5TI2SGQ Arabella

    i like your post! hopefully i can travel the world soon. all the bestsssss!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IIUDMTT2BJMGNZJ5JEP5TI2SGQ Arabella

    i love the post! all the best!

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  • http://www.thegreatnessmind.com Parin Patel

    “Nothing beats a window seat!” Couldn’t agree with you more! =)

  • Thecaotran

    What you said about “waving goodbye to one beauty allows us to say hello to another” really resonated with me. I’ve traveled a bit in the past few years and there are times I would take plenty of pictures so that I could “have it all” and bring it back with me. But in reality, it’s futile. You can never appreciate and enjoy fully except in the moment. The adventure does continue. :)

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  • http://twitter.com/sarahneanbruce sarah nean bruce

    hi ehren ~ your post inspired me! i just posted an article today
    “w.o.w.~3 Lessons from my everyday happiness that will lead to my fantastic traveling”excerpt ~ 
    for many people,those 3 traveling lessonsin the Tiny Buddha articlemight sound simpler and be easierwhen they are not at home…but ironically for me{in my past travelsto incredible localeswith various people}i haven’t entirelybeen able to executethese elementary exercises..there was oftenmuch expectationand circumstanceand fearinjected andimposed andintertwined andtwistedupon the situation andthe trip.
    please READ MORE ~> http://wp.me/pSiBm-FM thanks!

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  • Erin

    Ehren thank you so much for sharing your experiences!! I have been wanting to travel to places around the world all my life, but just haven’t had the confidence to do it; however your perspectives are very inspiring! Life truly is about taking risks, and to your point being flexible and willing to accept and take on the things and situations you don’t expect, because those can be some of the most valuable and wonderful experiences. I’m trying each and every day not to be scared of the unknown, but to embrace it.

    I hope to make my first trip to Europe next year, and it’s stories like yours that keep me motivated =)

    Thnank You!!

    Erin

  • islandtradermarket

     Creating moments of happiness and awe is a great way to live your live to the fullest on a daily basis.

  • Rachel

    Fantastic! Working in NYC with a broken foot – things NOT going as planned – thanks for the uplift and perspective change :D

  • olivia

    loved this -thanks you

  • Martha Speer

    I often wonder to myself why I am here . I moved to Ohio from the small beautiful town of Redding Ca where I grew up and spent most of my life . There and southern Ca where the sun meets the water . I moved to Ohio for love and I have really tried to embrace the people and the different way of life and thinking .I however am not a good Midwestern folk. I don’t like the cold much and know I have complained to whoever will listen at certain times of the year . This monday I was locked out in the cold for like three hours not dressed right, not focused, . I have been so defiaint about what I saw as conforming to a way of life I don’t really like . I’m a beach rat we don’t do boot’s ,hat’s , gloves , and layers of clothing . My lesson in the cold was simple dress for the weather fool . I don’t have to change my laid back way of thinking but I do need to be safe while I am here . I made peace, I made peace with Ohio, I made peace with the cold and most of all I made peace with my choice to move here for now . I have kept my Ca license plate on my car paid extra to keep it and I am not willing to give it up just yet . I plan to move back home to the sun . I learned however something I didn’t know about Midwestern people some of them are like minded as I . Some of them didn’t choose to live here either they are here because their family is here and they need them . I found respect in my heart for these folks . I woke to a new blanket of beautiful white snow today and I smiled . M

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Great piece Ehren! Traveling with someone else is one of the great things to do in life. The pluses outweigh the minuses that one might feel because you end up doing things you wouldn’t have chosen to do — and the pluses from that flexibility include having experiences you wouldn’t have otherwise had.
    All the best,
    David

  • C

    Hi Martha, Welcome to Ohio!

  • http://www.pinchmeliving.com/ Bernadette @ PinchMeLiving.com

    Great message Ehren, thanks for sharing. Loved reading this at the start of a New Year! B :)

  • Ehren

    Thanks Bernadette!

  • Ehren

    Agree! And it is a wonderful chance to really get to know someone even better. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. All the best!

  • Ehren

    I’m a CA boy myself who is currently braving the cold of Massachusetts. I hear there is going to be a massive snow storm tomorrow and I’m reminding myself to love it, even though a shovel is in my future! All the best!

  • http://www.foftravel.com/ Krissa Curran

    Absolutely enjoyed reading this, especially at the start of the new year. I went to Yangshuo with one of my best friends a few years ago and it really is breathtaking, eh? Took some amazing photos (see here: http://www.foftravel.com/inspirations/top-5-reasons-why-I-travel-part-2) Anyway, loved this line of yours, “These moments, when you remember you’re part of something much bigger
    than you, ignite a sense of awe. They’re humbling, and if you let them
    wash over you, you’ll feel a sense of connection and peace that makes
    all your problems seem manageable.” Happy new year wherever you are! :)

  • Ehren

    Thank you Olivia!

  • Fawzul Yusoff

    THANK YOU! this is so beautiful. i travel to Dunhuang from Xian in June 2013. I can relate myself with your story. again, thank you so much for this wonderful piece.

  • ana maria

    Very nice. Thank you. You touched me.

  • lv2terp

    Inspiring post!! Great advice, and everyday wisdom to share, thank you…truly beautiful and I felt peace, joy, and excitement reading this! :) Cheers to the next adventure!

  • Leslie

    What an amazing post!! I have anxiety when I travel, but it magically disappears when I experience a moment of awe. Thank you for reminding me of those wonderful moments of peace. I am also always so proud of myself when I let go and become flexible. It is so worth it! I love that you always waved goodbye to places! My family too! And I still do today! Bye beach! Bye ocean!

  • Liz Roberts

    Thank you for taking me along on your travels! Great post, very inspiring and the love and light you in your words, is felt… Cheers, Liz

  • J Peazzy

    Awesome piece!

  • Kate

    This resonated with me entirely. Fantastic article. I have experienced those moments of awe while traveling, especially when enveloped in nature. It truly is a remarkable feeling everyone should experience throughout their lives :)

  • Tony Griffin

    As someone who loves going to India, Nepal and Thailand and who has been a Buddhist for 20 years, I think that, when discussing China, one should always remember the horrific suffering and destruction it has inflicted on Tibet, from its invasion and occupation to the terrible oppression of the Tibetan language, people and their way of life. The ‘Land of Buddhas’ you describe is a nice portrait of China and some of the no doubt many nice people who live there, but the Chinese government has managed to rape, pillage and destroy huge swathes of the real Land of Buddha, Tibet. I’ve travelled for over 40 years, in Africa, Europe (I’m from the UK) and the Far East, and while I am happy to see you extolling the benefits of travelling (especially with a mind open to new experiences), I would recommend against going with a tick list of places to visit – 14 countries in 4 months does not give one much time to absorb or understand much about a country. I lived in Spain for 4 years, France for a year, Holland for a year, even India and Nepal for 18 months, but I learned something new about the country and its people most weeks that I could never have known by a fleeting visit. I accept its not always possible to travel but if the need to explore and discover new things – often about ones self -then one will find a way. I sold my house to return to Mount Everest in Nepal after visiting it once and falling in love with the place.

  • Ehren

    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Kate. All the best!

  • Ehren

    Thanks!

  • Ehren

    Thanks so much Liz!

  • Ehren

    Thanks for the wonderful comment Leslie and for waving!

  • Ehren

    Thanks so much!

  • Ehren

    Thanks!

  • Ehren

    Thanks for reading and commenting Fawzul! Both Dunhuang and Xian were wonderful places to visit. I trust you had a wonderful time!

  • Ehren

    Thanks Krissa! I loved my time in Yangshuo because of its natural beauty and the wonderful people I met there. Happy new year to you as well!

  • Ehren

    Thanks for the thought provoking comment Tony. The first time I went to Europe was after graduating college and my friend and I had an amazing time, but we did make the mistake of seeing for the sake of seeing. At the time, we had no idea if we would travel to Europe again or not, so we wanted to try and maximize what we saw. Of course, as I have learned now, you can barely peel back a layer with snap visits. In some places we spent more time and thus did get more from the experience. After that trip, I realized I wanted to stay in one place longer to absorb more. In China, I found a decent balance, which still would fall short of living there for some time.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I couldn’t agree more that there is a huge difference between traveling and living in a place. I undoubtedly would learn more not only about those places, but also about myself with such immersive experiences. All the best!

  • Tony Griffin

    I suppose the most important thing in your article was that, wherever you are, meeting and getting to know other human beings is always an adventure, occasionally not a good one but in the vast majority of cases, a very good one!

  • Ehren

    Completely agree!

  • Michael

    I have a question that is causing me a lot of concern. I have a lot of ambition, not for material things or concerning relationships particularly. I strive to have an extraordinary life full of incredible and exciting experiences. I love travelling, last year just after I turned 19 I went to shanghai on my own for no apparent reason, just to do something out of the ordinary and extreme. I aspire to be a doctor and am travelling to Tanzania at the end of August to volunteer in a local hospital for a fortnight. I volunteer at my universities first aid society. And I felt like I was on the right track for the extraordinary life that I want. I also enjoy going to the gym and power lifting, I plan to start painting again, join a band to make the most of my guitar playing abilities, and I also plan to start a YouTube channel. But I recently came across the idea that happiness comes from within, separate from external experiences or achievements. I find this very demotivating, as it means that in order to be happy, it doesn’t matter if I do all the things I like doing, and if happiness comes from within through things like meditation, then why do anything? I am now questioning if happiness is the most important thing in the world. Could you please clear up if I’ve misinterpreted this information and clarify what it means.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated, thank you.