Friday, March 4, 2016

If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path - Buddha

I was extremely blessed and grateful to have been lucky enough to be chosen via a lottery for a seat to hear the Dalai Lama speak at my place of work. His talk, 'Compassion in Health Care,' was held on February 29, 2016. Contained within a beautiful chapel on the hospital campus, I waited eagerly for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.

On that February day, stillness flowed down the center aisle like a soft breeze, and our eyes turned to the chapel’s back entrance. From there, the Dalai Lama entered, walking with a smile, eyes open, hands folded in greeting. He swept his eyes to all those in attendance. When his eyes met mine, for just a second, his smile was genuine and peaceful. He is a small man, but a powerful gentleness emanated around him. You could feel it as he walked by.

(Dalai Lama walking to the front and occasionally stopping to shake a person's hand)

As he spoke, his message of understanding and sameness between all people was truly inspirational. While at the same time he realizes that he is just one individual person, he noted that if that one person touches another person who touches another person, etc., then great changes towards a more compassionate world can be made.

So on that note, I thought I’d share some wisdom from his talk in hopes that it touches your heart and connects with you as it did me.

In his words (bolded words my own addition):

• Basically, we are the same, human beings, whether different faith, nationality, fate, rich, poor, educated, uneducated.

• If we put the emphasis on the sameness of 7 billion people (instead of differences), we can reduce problems across the world.

• When someone calls me 'brother,' I feel touched on a basic level of humanness. Otherwise, we're creating barriers. If I put too much emphasis on being His Holiness, I create a barrier... If I consider my secondary differences as important, I create a wall. In that wall, I am a lonely person.

• Destructive emotions are linked with ignorance; not knowing the reality and focusing on just one aspect of our emotions. The only remedy is to look at it from a wider perspective. Some part of our curriculum should be to study the map of our emotions and the vast interconnectedness.

• Each of us, part of the 7 billion, should share a clear goal of a happy humanity, a peaceful humanity, through awareness and through education. Practice as individuals, and be an example to others. Each of us has a possibility to make a contribution.

• Basic human nature is loving kindness. Once we understand that, there is hope.

(Dalai Lama shares his thoughts on compassionate care)

• Without love between us, how can families and communities be happy? We are social animals, and what brings us together is love. No one can survive entirely alone, we depend on one another. Whether you believe in religion or not, as a human being, happiness is related to your state of mind not just to your various sensory experiences, what you see, hear, taste and touch.

• We are all formed the same way, in the womb. A newborn child and mother are naturally drawn to each other. This is the same for all of us. We are also all the same in wanting to live a happy life. It's on such a basis that we can treat each other with respect.

• Remembering that all 7 billion of us belong to one human family is very important in today's world. It's how we can ensure harmony among humanity. But we need to make an effort to educate people about this reality.

But this one is my favorite:

• Ninety percent of negativeness is your own perception. We should utilize our wonderful brains and analyze and look for wider perspectives. The same person from one angle may appear irritating, from another angle they may be neutral, and from a different angle they may be positive … When you develop anger, try to look at them from a different angle, from different dimensions.

Isn’t that beautiful? Simply find a different angle to see things from (be it inside, outside, or upside-down as the children’s book would say). He encouraged finding a new angle and training yourself to seek peace instead of anger towards our “brothers and sisters” of humanity. Anger is not fixed or absolute. He said that many of our destructive emotions are mixed with exaggeration. Thus, anger changes based on our personal perceptions.

(Dalai Lama waves goodbye)

What makes these messages so much stronger was the humbleness the Dalai Lama had when speaking to us all.  He offered up so much gratitude to his own care providers.  He also has the most delightful little chuckle.  Yes, he laughs at himself!  While many conversations had a serious message, he made time for laughter as well.

Recently, I asked myself what so interests me in historical fiction, particularly ancient history. Do I read historical fiction solely to catch glimpses into lives of the past (is curiosity driving me)? Perhaps I’m looking for something to relate with (how long have people been dealing with this parenting issue??). Do I seek answers to personal struggles, scouring the past to find new paths to cross today? Truly great historical-fiction storytellers seem to wave magical wands to enchant and beguile their readers. Books written by the likes of Mitch Albom or Ted Dekker can reach into a reader’s spiritual and emotional depths and draw out beautiful new discoveries like miners pulling out precious gems.

I think part of why I love ancient Egypt so much is because of the humanness in how they lived. They lived for thousands of years without the need to develop technology like computers, cars, phones, whatever it may be. They lived and thrived for so long (we’re talking thousands of years). This is what fascinates me. Their lives were happy and purposeful. Nature and humanity were more peacefully interconnected in daily life.

So what made us modern people develop such technologies? What basic need were we seeking to fill that these ancient peoples did not require? What questions required answers for us? Knowledge is very powerful, yes, but it can also be very dangerous if used in the wrong context.

I think our technologies, like smartphones and email, has taken away a lot of human connections. What is it you see when you walk down a street without your cell phone turned on? Very little in terms of connecting on a basic human level. How many eyes do yours meet?

When was the last time you turned off technology and really looked out at the world?  Go out and absorb the beauty of a sunrise, watch laughter light up a child’s face, listen to the birds sing to one another without worry who hears them. Find peace in your heart; find peace in your mind. Then find the similarities out there. Look past the fences dividing neighbors and find ways to connect. As the Dalai Lama said, Change starts from the individual. On that belief, one individual's belief will not change the world, but we must start as individuals.”

Individually, I’d like to start looking at things via different angles. It will not be easy, because anger can be powerful and easy to succumb to (just ask Anakin Skywalker), but it’s something to start with. Disagreement with a coworker? What other angles can I approach this problem from? My book gets a bad review? Let’s review the reasons from a different angle. Argument with my kid? Let’s explore the points of contention from a new dimension.

So I’ll use my (as the Dalai Lama calls it) “wonderful brain” to uncover new points of view. That’s my springboard. What’s yours?

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