Letter from the Founders – Rainbow Connection 2022 Issue One

By Yen-Lu Chow

Welcome to Issue One 2022 of Rainbow Connection. Time waits for no one. It’s nearly 13 years since we lost our dear son to suicide – on October 22, 2009. He was 26 years old. It was parent’s worst nightmare – and the darkest time of our life. His suicide was also a wake up call, for us as parents, but for the society as a whole. Our son’s life, his passing and legacy became the inspiration and the genesis of our family foundation the WholeTree Foundation, and Over-The-Rainbow youth mental wellness initiative. 

This October marks the 10-Year Anniversary of the launch of Over-The-Rainbow (OTR). Since launching in 2012, Over-The-Rainbow has been a pioneer in the space of youth mental health – with wellness workshops and festivals, outreach events, community initiatives, volunteer training programs, online support platforms, mental wellness magazines, newsletters and social media campaigns. These initiatives and activities collectively have touched nearly a million lives through both online and offline touch-points, and transformed many others. 

At OTR, our mission from day one is to transform youth mental wellness for the 21st century, by empowering young people on their mental wellness journey via holistic self-care and a supportive community – in a journey of self-discovery, healing and transformation, to achieve their full potential as human beings, and to attain true happiness and optimal wellbeing.

In this issue we explore more in depth the topic of “The Pursuit of Happiness”, itself an ageless human pursuit. 

Indeed the topic of “The Pursuit of Happiness” has been explored and written about by countless many in countless ways over millennia. It was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence (c. 1776) which served as the founding document for the United States of America: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 

It was also highlighted in a letter from S Rajaratnam (Minister for Foreign Affairs, Singapore) to Mr. Ong Pang Boon (Minister for Education) on a suggestion for the pledge for a Flag Raising Ceremony (c. 1966): “We, as citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves to forget differences of race, language and religion, and become one united people; to build a democratic society where justice and equality will prevail and where we will seek happiness and progress by helping one another.”

Happiness is something we all aspire to – as nations and as people. Every single person on this planet wants to be happy, there is no exception. The question is: what is happiness, exactly? How can happiness be attained – and where can it be found? Is it a destination, to be avidly pursued – or more a process, of becoming?

Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and philosopher, famously said, “Look within: within is the fountain of all good.” He advised us to look within ourselves to find that “fountain of all good”, the source of our happiness.

Buddha preached that happiness is an inside job – that the pursuit of happiness starts from the inside, starts in our mind, and that a deeper fulfillment comes from recognising that we are part of the wholeness, unity consciousness, that we are inseparably one, and that the cause of suffering is due to not knowing our true nature, the true nature of reality. The solution is to raise our awareness and expand our consciousness. 

Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 6,000 – 20,000 thoughts a day, an average of one to two thousand thoughts per hour. The problem isn’t necessarily the number and the frequency of thought, although that in of itself is already a problem; it is because most of these thoughts are repeated thoughts or negative thoughts – rumination of the past, worrying about the future – thoughts that don’t serve us well. This endless and aimless flow of thoughts can increase our anxieties and our worries. Our mind becomes our inner prison. If we can reduce the number of these aimless useless thoughts, imagine how much energy and time we could save. How much better we can focus, if thoughts did not bother us. And how much more calmness, inner peace, and happiness we would enjoy.

Every person with a few exceptions is born with a beautiful mind, a pristine mind. But something happened on our way to growing up in modern society: childhood trauma, broken marriages and dysfunctional families, lack of social support and parental love, increasing academic stress, external expectation and pressure; many are pursuing lives and dreams that are not their own – they are not their authentic selves; we have addictions of all kinds – devices, social media, chronic stress and anxiety, self-harm and even suicide. The troubled mind is one that is fragmented, divided, disturbed, distracted, disenfranchised, distressed, deluded, depressed, disillusioned, chronically stressed. The pursuit of mental wellbeing (and happiness) involves making this mind of ours whole again, making our body, mind and spirit one again. This oneness that emerges is our core being, our authentic self.

Aristotle, a student of Plato, taught that happiness (eudaemonia) is “an activity of soul in conformity with excellence or virtue”, virtues such as wisdom, courage, love for humanity, justice, temperance and transcendence, that a good life is one where you develop your strengths, realize your potential, and become what it is in your nature to become. According to Aristotle, happiness comes from the pursuit of excellence and living a virtuous life.

Leo Rosten, an American writer at the turn of the 20th century, gave us these poignant words: “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.” 

Dr. Wayne Dyer, a modern-day spiritual teacher, gifted us with this memorable quote: “Your life purpose is to serve and to give the best of yourself to the whole world, because you see, when you seek happiness for yourself, it will always elude you, if you seek happiness for others, you will find it for yourself.”  

From all that’s been said about happiness – the wisdom throughout the ages – by great sages, spiritual teachers, philosophers and psychologists – it appears that perhaps there’s more than one path to happiness, and that happiness is a quest, a journey, an emergent phenomenon. 

For me, happiness is dynamic and it’s not a destination; it is the choices we make and actions we take, a result of pursuing worthy goals and meaningful activities, not so much an end in and of itself to be achieved directly. That happiness comes from within, and happiness also comes from without: having the right relationship with yourself and within yourself, with your work, with others, and with something greater than yourself. When I can step back from any situation and see the bigger picture, connect to my higher self and accept whatever is happening with compassion, wisdom, humility and gratitude – to leave the situation better and happier than I found it – that’s happiness.

Enjoy the many articles and many treatments on happiness that we’ve curated for you in this issue.

Wishing you every success in your pursuit of happiness, in 2022 and beyond.

©WholeTree Foundation Limited 2022