A treeI got back to Chiang Mai earlier this week, feeling both exhausted and more than a little sad. This past month has been a tough one for me and I’m still grieving the loss of my beloved Uncle. Just before I got the news that saw me flying back to the UK, my life in Chiang Mai was the closest it’s ever got to perfect. Coming back this week and seeing my world through the filter of loss has seen everything look differently.

What first got me thinking about perspective was a couple of hours spent walking around the city the morning after I got back. When I first arrived in Chiang Mai back in July, I rented a motorbike on my first day here and as such have never actually walked around the city. Walking around, I saw things that I’d never seen before. Sure some of the key landmarks were familiar but I was seeing the streets I used to speed down on my motorbike from a totally new perspective. I saw details for the first time and at points I even struggled to work out where I was, even though I was walking along streets I’d driven down every day for months.

Thinking about this change of perspective made me consider the change in perspective I was feeling at a deeper level. Losing someone I love has made me reconsider everything. All my plans, beliefs, ideas suddenly don’t feel as set in stone or as obviously important as they once did – I take none of what I had before my Uncle’s death for granted and it’s clear that my emotional state has been much changed. Before I left Chiang Mai I felt contented and carefree, on returning I’ve felt heavy-hearted and a little lost.

Just as I had started to adjust to this new perspective, I went for lunch at my favourite place to eat and started a book I had taken from my Uncle’s collection. The book is called Only Fear Dies: A Book of Liberationand it was written by one of my Uncle’s favourite spiritual teachers — Barry Long.  I read a Chapter called ‘The Truth of Life on Earth’ and in it Long spelt out that truth as the following: You have no right to be unhappy—ever.

Considering how unhappy I was feeling, I was intrigued and continued to read. The chapter was enlightening and any Buddhist shrinesummary I could give you would do it no justice (I highly recommend reading the book). Barry Long’s words made me realise that we choose to be unhappy, we cling to unhappiness because we love it and if we didn’t then we would surely let it go. A few years ago I had a light bulb moment when I realised that we can choose happiness, how funny that it’s taken me so long to realise that this is also true of unhappiness.

“You are life itself, personified on earth. And you are life all the time, behind the incessant ups and downs of the personality — not just some of the time. Life does not change or pass away. Life goes on. Has there ever been a moment when you did not go on, when you did not get through even the direst crisis? Of course not. Life is good because life is true. And it is every moment — once you surrender the right to be unhappy.” ~ Barry Long

And with that half an hour sat reading in a beautiful garden in Chiang Mai, my perspective had shifted once again. Instead of choosing to focus on loss and my pain at losing someone from the past, I’ve been consciously choosing to feel grateful. Grateful for the time I had with my Uncle and grateful that his influence on my life and his wisdom are ever-present.  Slowly but surely I’m feeling less lost and more peaceful day by day.

I know that at some point this melancholy will subside completely. I’m a naturally happy and optimistic person and I know that sadness is not a cloak I can wear for too long. I also know that when the time comes to let go of my pain, it will be as a result of changing my perspective. It’s my believe that we are all capable of changing our lives by changing our perspective, if we only put our minds to it and believe that we can.