Thailand is an absolutely wonderful and beautiful holiday destination. Many tourists and travelers enjoy visiting, partying, rolling in the mud with elephants and hiking in the mountains. And on top of that, for no one the loveliness of the Thai culture goes unnoticed.
Thailand has definitely changed me as a person. Most importantly, it has taught me to think more positively. Let me explain to you what I’ve learned about positive thinking from Thai culture.
Don’t Mind Others – Focus on Yourself
Let me start this one off with a wonderful explanation about the karaoke culture in Thailand. Where I’m used to going to a karaoke bar if I feel like having a good old karaoke night, Thai people highly prefer getting a home karaoke set and decorate the neighborhood with their singing voices.
Powered by their slight overconsumption of Chang beer, the entire neighborhood is able to enjoy listening to their tipsy neighbor(s) singing their heart(s) out to their favorite music.
The Thais can often seem oblivious to other people in their close proximity. On the other hand, however, Thais also don’t mind the noise; no matter what they hear, they fall sound asleep like babies anyway. Why is that?
One of the many beauties of Thai culture is that Thais don’t get annoyed at others as easily as I’ve learned to do growing up in the Netherlands. When people are being loud in neighborhoods of the Netherlands, we can often expect some annoyed glances and complaints from the neighbors. They operate on the idea that these noisy people are disturbing the neighborhood and thus they are being inconsiderate.
Thai people just don’t see others in such a negative light. They lack the energy that we put into feeling incredibly annoyed and negative about others and thus they are able to go to sleep soundly, without worries. Even though the neighbors are blasting their hearts out through their speakers, Thais don’t get bothered or upset.
This was the most eye opening thing for me, because it has made me realize how much time I’ve spent getting upset at others, while in the end, I’m the one that suffers by losing energy on getting frustrated.
Let Go of the Pain from Your Past
When I did a meditation retreat (also known as Vipassana) in temple Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, there was a short period at the beginning where I started crying and couldn’t stop crying for days. As someone with mental health issues, not speaking, eating and no distractions for several days was quite the challenge.
So I decided to take the only chance of interaction I had and I tried to speak to my teacher (Ajarn) when he inquired how my meditation was going, during our daily 10 minute talk.
“Excuse me, Ajarn,” I said. “Do you know PTSD?”
“What…? No.” He answered.
“Bad things have happened to me in the past,” I answered in my simplified English voice. “And I…”
My Ajarn didn’t let me finish. “No, no, no,” he said, while he held up one hand. “You are stronger than your past.”
He ended our daily chat right then and there. But later that evening, during his dhamma talk, he addressed a similar issue.
“Many people come here with pain from the past,” he said. “They keep thinking he hurt me, he hurt me, he hurt me. Yes, he hurt you once. But when you keep thinking about it, you only hurt yourself.”
Our Ajarn explained how we often harm ourselves more than necessary, by constantly repeating events that happened in the past in our heads. That person has harmed you once, but only we have the ability to harm ourselves for a lifetime.
Are You Thinking Negatively?
A very important person who helped me realize the extent of my negative thinking was my ex-boyfriend, who was by my side when I went through this process. One night in a restaurant I was talking negatively about something – I honestly don’t remember what it was -, when he asked me three important questions:
“Do you think negatively about others?”
I thought about the story that I was telling him.
“Yes, sometimes,” I answered. Clearly I did.
“Do you think negatively about me?”
I smiled, “yes, sometimes.”
“Do you think negatively about yourself?”
“Oh, all the time!” I said without hesitation.
“That needs to change.” He said.
And he was right, because it is not a healthy way to live.
One night I was sitting in a touristy area and on my left there were two Dutch guys who probably thought that no one in their close proximity was able to understand what they were saying. On my right there was a couple with a small child, who started crying and screaming over something small, as children often do.
I shall not try to describe what exactly the Dutch guys were saying, but the way in which they expressed their annoyance was incredible. The words they used and the emotions they used to express themselves in, they held so much and such a heavy load of negativity.
That’s the moment I realized how much living in Thailand had changed me for the better. I don’t get triggered as easily by others anymore and I don’t hold those emotions inside me anymore to the extent in which I become my own victim. These lessons of positivity and lightheartedness will be ones that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.