I had always prided myself on my ability to make good choices and I thought this was one of them. A lifelong quest for the secrets of happiness; the years of studying and reading about attaining goals, human behavior, spirituality and psychology, had helped prepare me for this moment. And yet, I still did not have an answer.

I decided to sit at one of the beachside cafés and ponder the question. It occurred to me that a book I had recently purchased called Practicing the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, was in my bag. I took it out and flipped through the pages, hoping it would give me a clue. I came upon this passage:

“Surrender is the simple but profound wisdom of yielding to rather than opposing the flow of life. The only place where you can experience the flow of life is the Now, so to surrender is to accept the present moment unconditionally and without reservation. It is to relinquish inner resistance to what is.”

A surge of profound insight rushed through me.

In the five minutes it took to read and absorb that passage, I had an instant awakening. It was miraculously clear to me:

“Accept the flow of life.” These people and situations were exactly the way they were supposed to be; my resistance to them was only causing pain and suffering for myself and those close to me. I needed to surrender to what was, and to what is, moment by moment.

For years I had vacillated between living in the past and the future. For me, the present was simply not present! It was merely a stepping-stone for the future. Intuitively, I knew Tolle was right, that living in the moment was the answer.

I’d tried using sheer discipline and perseverance to achieve this goal, but it would only work temporarily. Now all at once I had a knowing that this time was different. This time, the pain had been too great. I had to change my outlook in order to be happy — here or anywhere. There was no other way. I was finally ready to embrace this higher level of awareness.

Six years have passed since that climatic day on the beach. I am thankful for the lesson I had to learn in order to be at peace with my decision to stay. We have been living here happily ever since, and I have no regrets about my choice. I have successfully integrated this lesson into my life because I am ready and I have discovered mindfulness meditation.

Through meditating every day, I am able to slow my racing mind and be present at a much deeper level. This higher level of awareness is who I am; it is no longer forced, or something that is outside of me.

Now when I see the poverty and hear of the tragedies, I do my best not to resist. I do what I can to help, and accept what I can’t.

I now understand that it is necessary to find the balance between the joys and sorrows of life. Regardless of where you live, tragedies and sadness are part of life, and inescapable. It is how you choose to perceive these situations that creates your reality.

Some people (as I did) think that acceptance and surrender are weak. Rolling over and letting life treat you like a doormat. On the contrary; acceptance and surrender are the keys to happiness. Our pain comes from resisting. We still need goals and dreams and the drive to take the actions necessary to move forward. At the same time, we can accept what life throws at us along the way.