The Problem With Happiness

In early 2020, we plan to release our book, Threads of Resilience: How to Thrive in a Turbulent World. It will come not a moment too soon. This week alone, there has been another mass shooting in Texas, a threatening hurricane in Florida, and escalating tensions in our beloved Hong Kong. We feel a rising need for the many hopeful messages in our book.

The following is one such message–a short excerpt from the book:

. . Jeremy and his dad spent the evening discussing what they soon realized was a foundational concept in dealing with any challenge in life. They discussed an important characteristic of happiness: it comes and goes. In fact, it comes and goes pretty easily. Joy, on the other hand, goes deeper. Joy is slower moving. Joy is always from within, while happiness can so easily depend on things outside of us. People often say, “I’m happy about” something. They don’t say they are “joyful about” something. People might say, “I’m happy about the weather” or “I’m happy about the promotion I got at work.” But they never say they’re joyful about those things.

There is a very subtle, implied insertion of the word, “about,” nearly every time someone expresses their happiness, thus happiness is more fleeting and dependent on external factors. If the situation after the word “about” is negative, then typically the happiness is not even expressed. But joy is different. Where happiness is about the small moments in time, joy is more focused on the big picture. It’s very possible to live a joyful life even when there are unhappy incidences.

Chuck said to his son, “The longer I live, the more I’m able to look back and see the bigger picture unfold. Looking back on a span of several years will give you a different perspective.” Jeremy realized that looking back on his own life, there were certainly unhappy incidences, but through it all, even he could recognize threads of resilience which brought joy. Happiness comes and goes but the lack of it never has to interrupt one’s joy.

In the middle of deep, emotional, even devastating times, continuous threads of resilience not only allow us to survive the difficult times, but to thrive in true abundance. These threads of resilience can literally pull us through momentary trials or even years of unhappy circumstances.

Balinese Family and Faith

Prior to our 7-day sailing cruise, we decided to spend three days in Bali itself. We are so glad we did. Not only did we see some amazing sights, we also learned something about the strength of family and faith. It was a lesson we’ll never forget.

Laraine sitting with the parents of our Bali driver in their “grandparents” pavilion.

While Indonesia as a whole is largely Muslim, the people of Bali are largely Hindu (83%). We arrived at Bali’s Denpasar airport late at night and saw no hint of the magic that awaited us. Our driver drove through non-descript streets for over an hour before arriving at a narrow, unlit alleyway in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. We exchanged some worried glances at each other, wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. After all, we had not relied on any recommendations to choose our hotel . . only those on Hotels.com.

We needn’t have worried. No, we were not at a major hotel, but we did manage to snag the coziest slice of paradise on Bali. The 11-room Bali Bohemian turned out to be a destination unto itself. The friendly night hostess greeted us with smiles, a cool mint drink, and no urgency to run our credit card or even discuss money. “Let’s just worry about that tomorrow when you’re rested,” she said. Who DOES that? We were very impressed.

The view from our veranda

She walked us around a beautifully lit pool into our villa, an eclectic and authentic Bali experience. As she showed us around, one of the most notable items in our room was a sling-shot. She explained that it was because of the monkeys. If we should ever need the sling-shot, we could simply point it at a monkey and pretend it was loaded. The monkey would scamper off. I smiled, thinking this was a quaint “gimmick” to impress visiting tourists.

The next day, we learned how practical those sling-shots were. The online listing for the villa mentioned a nearby “Monkey Forest” that was within walking distance. In reality, the monkey forest was literally adjacent to our villa and we also learned that monkeys do not care about signs or fences. They were an amusing and sometimes exciting punctuation to our trip.

Our time in Bali was dreamy, to say the least. We thoroughly enjoyed visiting various temples, waterfalls, woodcrafting shops, painting shops, jewelry shops, coffee plantations, and much more. Everywhere we went in residential areas, we noticed very ornate architecture and decorative elements. One day, our driver/guide was driving in an area and said, “I live right over there.” We were impressed with this driver and his gentle spirit. He then asked if we would like to come see his home. We jumped at the chance.

Laraine managed to buy a dress for our driver’s new baby, once he told us that he had a new daughter. We are preparing to enter this Balinese home and look around.
Restaurant staff take a moment to worship in the evening

Every home in Bali consists of a walled compound in which ornate pavilions are carefully placed. The way these structures are laid out is determined by culture and religious conviction. Each home has a pavilion for the grandparents, a sleeping pavilion, a kitchen pavilion and some kind of ceremonial hall. In addition, each home has its own temple. These properties are not simple; they’re extravagant and well-maintained.

Our driver and guide, “Katoot,” with Brandi, Chuck, Laraine and Rob. The family runs a small coconut shop facing the street just outside their home. Coconut water is great on a hot day.

Multiple generations occupy the same property and the strength that comes from participating in daily religious rituals and having strong family support is obvious in Balinese society. Balinese people who are blessed to enjoy these strengths are largely protected from the difficulties we’ve seen in other Asian and western countries. We felt humbled and blessed to have witnessed this strength in action. The abundance felt by all family members seemed much higher than one would expect in a country with meager incomes.

The experience reminded us how faith and family can work together to bring greater abundance and prosperity.     

Inside a Balinese family compound. Absolutely beautiful. Above is the entrance to their family temple and inside the family shrine (temple) area. Rob Kraese is impressed too.

Is Christmas Gift Giving a Mistake?

Christmas Gifts

The spirit of giving is a beautiful part of Christmas. But when families have so many things gathering dust in their closets, the “wonder and awe” that is such a big part of the Christmas spirit can suffer. In their yet-to-be-published book, “Surviving by a Thread: Finding Joy, Abundance and Resilience in a Turbulent World,” the Chamberlains identify a survival “thread” called “Give Up and Let Go.”

Learning to give up and let go is critical to the flow of abundance in our lives. This is no more evident than at Christmastime. In the book, Jeremy recalls an unusual discussion with a young mother:

“I remember coming across someone else who seemed pretty conscious of this ‘letting go’ thing. It was the mother of a family I met once. They were getting ready for Christmas. There were several small children and their Christmas tree was surrounded by many wrapped gifts. But at the same time, they still had a good number of toys and games left over from the last Christmas in their children’s rooms. When I talked to the mother, she said something I’ve never forgotten.”

“What did she say?” Laraine asked.

“She said, ‘We love this time of year because it’s a perfect time to sort through the toys and games from years past and get rid of those that are unusable or seldom used. Our children have learned to give away or throw away their old toys at least one time every year.’ . . .

If we could help our children shift their mindsets away from accumulation towards the direction of abundance, which includes the concept of “flow,” we would be teaching them a valuable lesson. They would appreciate their toys a little more, learn to experience the joy of giving, and avoid the bad energy that comes with too much clutter.  

There is certainly nothing wrong with gift-giving at Christmas. But by taking a few subtle steps in the direction of abundant thinking, we can make the giving more positive and meaningful.