In the WAY of greatness. This has been a mantra that I have adopted for my life.
By that I mean stepping out of my everyday living and take the steps necessary to grow, learn, stretch and LIVE. Others around me are happy to share their wisdom, insight and love.
Part of this years choices to be in The Way of greatness was to purchase tickets to The Visit 2010 at Emory University of his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Of all the venues, I chose the SUMMIT ON HAPPINESS. I’ve laughingly said: “Me and 4000 of my closest friends get to visit with the Dalai Lama.”
I and my companion, a fellow seeker who is also a hospice nurse, drove down early Sunday morning to Emory arriving with plenty of time to find great parking and walk the campus. We chose walking to find a inner space of quiet contemplation to be able to hear more fully what was being said. Instead of being all frustrated with parking, lining up, honking horns, etc. We went into the park and up the hill to the President’s home and then around to the swinging bridge where we watched an early morning walker with his yellow lab in the water falls. That dog just pounced on the water coming over the spill way. Laughingly running back to his companion to shake off early fall morning wet dog spray. As we went to walk past, the gentleman graciously held the dog for a bit so as not to share this cold treat. The best part was finding this pond on around the trail. It really was this serene and still and yes, we are in the middle of Downtown Atlanta.
As we came back up the hill from the pond, we paused for me to get gravel out of my shoe. While sitting in the pine straw by the path, a very young golden retriever puppy decided he needed to visit with us and plopped down at my feet to chew maple windmill seeds. His master had to offer chasing ducks down at the pond to get him to move. All of us watching him just laughed at his happy smile as he wagged off to find the ducks.
The next turn of the path brought us to an open field where a proud Dad was with his two small children attempting to teach the boy of about 3 years how to fly a kite while the younger sister stood passy in hand watching. Again, opportunity for my heart to open, enjoy, relax and be present. Such fun, joy and moments of LIFE to be shared.
Walking back through the traffic and folks lined up at the venue entrance, my essence of being was totally different about taking my place in line. This line stretched down, around and out of site along the route. Both of us remarked to one another, we were glad our choice had been to experience Emory rather than just to wait in line.
As the line began to move, we got up to security checkpoints and then were fed into the bleacher seats outside along the soccer field. Uniformed men kept assuring us it was a temporary holding area as the inner venue got ready for this afternoon session. While standing in line to walk up the concrete steps, I remarked out loud with humor: “Another place to practice mindfulness.” The gentleman ahead of us turned and replied: “My daughter would remind me of the same thing. She would get a kick out of this [being held in the bleachers].” When we began to be allowed to go inside the venue, this same gentleman remarked: “I’m following you gals. You look like you know where you are going.” about the same time as we all came to an abrupt halt with masses of bodies clogging the only entrance point. He spontaneously said: “There just is no justice.”
I bust out laughing. Looked him full in the face and said: “I could make a fortune tweeting your comments.” Then gesturing as if I had a newspaper banner: Heard at Happiness Summit with Dalai Lama – There JUST is no justice!
His reply: “Yea, my daughter does that tweeting stuff.” To which I only laughed more.
As we entered the doors for the Woodruff PE Center, chairs, bleachers, cameras and stage area all came into view. At last, present.
Only not so much. I found myself getting really activated at the rudeness of folks coming in late, cell phones in hand or worse at their ears hurrying to their seats. (Notice: Judgment, judgment, JuDgMeNt has ahold of me again.)
Pause, breath, square my shoulders, So Hummmmm. Ahhh.
Finally, the ushers held the latecomers as the Dalai Lama took the stage. (Did I say that we were sooo far back that the jumbo screens really helped? Yea.. they did.)
Here is the YouTube link for his entrance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqQjYiFL6mA
In person, he looks just like all the YouTube videos, photos, books show. No pretense. This smiling happy countenance fully present on the stage in the same room as I. I felt myself resonate in anticipation.
For me, a significant moment was as he pauses and bows to the crowd before taking the stage. This wave of love poured forth into the room and straight into my heart. It was as if I was directly in front of him. No barriers. Acknowledged. Even now, I’m tearful as I write this. The words I have are more, they go through different dimensions and do not even begin to describe 1/10 of what I felt in his presence and with that one gesture. How does a person in human flesh illuminate a whole room? He does. He radiates goodness, compassion, love, joy, happiness.
You see his love of others as he greets those already on the stage. Deep honor and respect for life. As he began to speak I sense something profound occurred on levels different from auditory and visual. For me it is not definable in terms that are immediately understandable. I just feel loved, supported, held to be even in the same room.
My left brain kicked back in as the moderator began to introduce the guest speakers and then ask questions. There was the Dalai Lama, Moderator- Krista Tipett, Katharine Jefferts Schori – Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Lord Jonathan Sacks – Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University.
Many times, Lord Jonathan Sacks’ answer would have a resonate quality that had me pondering the depth of his words. The first example was him speaking of Jacob wrestling the angel and his words: “Don’t let loose of that which is causing you pain until you see the blessing within it.” I just rocked back in my seat. To have the mindset to see the blessing in pain. Huh!
As the talk unfolded, there were many such moments. I just allowed by body to be impacted and open to the flow of these words. Very conscious not to begin to analyze. Bringing myself back to my breath and fully being present. Krista then asked the question of the Dalai Lama about the American constitution and our Right to Happiness.
His reply staggered me: “…. It is our purpose to be happy…”
I found myself in that moment just quietly sobbing, shoulders shaking. Tears began to pour gently down my face. Heart cracked wide open. How many times have I questioned my purpose? Taken classes, sought direction, gone one step further with a longing to ‘get it right’… this time.
The talk continued and other insights were shared. The discussion flowed back and forth across the stage with much wisdom being offered. Professor Nasr expressed great concern for the level of escalating violence against Islamic thought. The Dalai Lama then began to speak of Buddhism in terms of inner focused practice. He drew the parallel between traditions having value and the works, thoughts and inner work of these traditions having value. His funniest point was that Buddhism is like an inner jihad allowing no rest only full inner focus.
So we come to the place where I know I am not fully on this path of inner contemplation. Towards the end, people began to leave early. Dunking out in 2′s, 10′s, 20′s at a time. I got right up on that judgment horse again. How rude. How disrespectful. Yes, my stuff to handle because I had just heard the Dalai Lama speak about happiness. He was not bothered that people were coming and going. Only my inner voice who wanted absolute respect, honor, deference to this great human being was.
At the very end with the exchanging of white silk scarves, the crowd flooded out into the aisles. I was grateful for a seat that afforded a view of this simple ceremony. Wanting not to leave, move, disconnect from this loving Being on the stage. Once he finally moved off the stage and behind the curtain, we joined the throng of humanity flowing out the doors.
We went upstairs to the Tibetan bazaar for a bit to let the crowd thin. Finally walking out into the sun and finding our car in the garage to join the line up of cars dispersing to their respective destinations. Wonderful! To have a like minded companion. For the next 4 hours on the drive home, we discussed every element of the talk. With questions: “Did you hear the Dalai Lama say>>>” “Lord Sacks made a great point when >>>” and both choosing to find out more about the other speakers on the stage.
Alas my companion was wiser than I having chosen to have Monday off for inner contemplation. I jumped right back into my world of busy business and only today have carved out time to more in depth observance of myself.
I find myself in deep gratitude for the wisdom expressed.
I find that this idea -yes right – for happiness can be applied to all areas of my life. It has only been my rules that has kept that from happening.
I find myself with choices, gentle steps and hope as a North star.
Just like other impactful events, I am positive I will continue to unfold a fuller path now from this knowledge.
Happiness now as a benchmark not just a far away place that occasionally I reach.