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When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.
Today is my birthday (51, but who’s counting?). I’m celebrating in a very special way—on a spiritual pilgrimage in Thailand with a group of 40 American tourists.
I’m so delighted by the people of Thailand, which is often called “The Land of 1,000 Smiles.” The minute I landed in Bangkok I noticed that everyone looked so joyful and at peace. The Thai truly seem to live up to their nickname, as everyone was smiling.
Today I asked Mam, our tour guide, why she thought the people here are happy, and she gave me three very wise answers.
First, Mam said, “We don’t worry about things, we let them go. There is a common expression in Thai, ‘Ma Phen Rai,’ which means ‘Don’t worry, never mind.’ So whenever something doesn’t go our way or makes us a bit irritated, we just say, Ma Phen Rai, and we let it go. If someone’s late, we just take it easy. If we forget to do something that can be done tomorrow, it’s fine.” (It sounds like their version of “Don’t sweat the small stuff!”)
Secondly, Mam said, “We are contented, which leads to happiness. We are satisfied with what we have, whether it is a little or a lot. We feel, ‘I have enough, and I am enough.’”
Finally, she added, “We don’t compare. We appreciate what we have without looking at what other people have or what they do.”
This explains the lightness of spirit in Mam and the other Thai people I’ve encountered on this journey. Their life is not easier or less stressful—quite the contrary—they just know how to let go, be at peace, and focus on the good.
I experienced a visible demonstration of this the other day. My taxi got caught in a rush-hour traffic jam in downtown Bangkok that made any LA traffic jam look like the Indy 500. Nobody was moving, and yet as I looked around I didn’t see anyone getting angry or impatient. People seemed to just accept the situation as it was and not react to it. It was a profound difference from what I’m used to seeing on the freeways in the States.
As I thought about how to bring this relaxed and healthy attitude back home with me, I remembered a daily process renowned cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien recommends. She says that according to ancient wisdom traditions, everyone should ask themselves three questions at the end of the day:
1. What made me happy today?
2. Where did I experience comfort and balance today?
3. Who or what inspired me today?
Ask yourself these questions before you go to sleep for the next few weeks, and notice how it helps you see more of the perfection around you. Then you too can join the ranks of smiling people who “laugh at the sky.”
Marci Shimoff is a celebrated transformational leader
and #1 New York Times best-selling author. To learn
more of her powerful techniques for establishing deep
and authentic happiness and well-being, visit