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"How to achieve Happiness"

“How to achieve Happiness”

“Where do I begin, to tell the story of how great [a] love can be?”  The lyrics of Andy Williams hit in the movie Love Story come to mind instantly when I sit down to write of  my experience of hearing the Dalai Lama speak  yesterday in Berkeley.  For this is a love story, of that I am certain.  A story of how I went to see the Dalai Lama filled with expectations of learning “How to Achieve Happiness” and came away, with a profound experience of the truth of the heart of love that exists within each and every one of us.  I know what you want to hear because this is what I wanted to experience, I saw the Dalai Lama, I heard his words and I came away as if touched by an angel with his glory still ringing in my ears.  That is not exactly how it happened.

We were up at 5am to dress and drink our daily protein drink before heading to Berkeley.  We wanted to be in place no later than 8:30 so we could witness the grandeur, the joy, the event.  My husband, my daughter, our dear friend and coach and myself were all tired from our over-scheduled week, three businesses between us, my daughter’s  final quarters at UC Davis and teaching credential program interview and now an early effort for our bucket-list experience of seeing the Dalai Lama.  We drove from Sacramento through strips of batting-like fog still draped around the hills and arrived to a chilled Sunday morning in beautiful downtown Berkeley.  The only students awake and in sight were those protesting the Dalai Lama (DALAILAMA boom boom STOPLYING boom boom). We paused to notice the small but organized battalion with well made signs and expensive bullhorn and briefly wondered who paid for the signs and the organization and who benefitted.  People there with tickets to see the Dalai Lama were streaming in from all sides having found both street and garage parking all over the area.  Most were dressed in Tibetan national dress of woven brocades silks chemises, longs skirts and aprons for the women and longer jacket/chemise with trousers and knotted wraps for the men.  The children and babies looked like the little dolls you find in Chinatown with perfect little moon faces and giggling eyes and coal-black hair. Even the tiniest of babes were dressed in crimson, gold and cobalt woven fabrics. The security of the day befitted a world leader.  We were not allowed to bring bags, cameras, phones, water bottles etc.

Instructions for ticketholders

Instructions for ticket-holders

This alone was enough to cause this Westerner a wee case of preemptive PTSD.  My handbag is my pacifier, my Linus’s blankie, my own last straw.  It carries the usual money, id, water bottle & food bar,  notebook, colored pens, iPhone charger, the what ifs (band aids, Advil, corn pads, lip balm, tissue); often books, extending love practice card and an extra pair of knee-highs.  I was allowed my id and cash in a pocket (fyi, for organizers out there not all women’s clothing has pockets), and a teeny spiral notebook and a pen.  I am a chronic note taker and recorder, I would have been a scribe in ancient Egypt. I was already feeling vulnerable and slightly naked.  After we found our seats with the aid of one of the many and lovely volunteer ushers in Tibetan dress, we naturally looked for the Ladies room.  Oh goodie, there were already 150 ladies in a line that stretched from the entrance down a flight of stairs to the block of toilets downstairs.  Upstairs we found why the line was so long downstairs:  none of the toilets flushed and there was no running water.  So, it wasn’t  tooooo bad yet in the Men’s room  when we string of desperate ladies determined (thank you to the men who didn’t blink an eye) that flush or no flush we had to pee.  That done, I realized I was terribly thirsty so we stopped at the water fountains downstairs only to realized there was no water there either.  Ugh and drat!  Why didn’t we ignore the instructions and sneak in water?? As we waited, and waited………and waited for HH Dalai Lama to arrive we had plenty of time to people watch, meditate, cat nap and ponder our thoughts and feelings.  I was beginning to think this whole seeming lack of organization and timetable was designed to do just that; get us to notice our thoughts.  It worked.  Even as I pinched myself with the reminder that “EEEEK I was about to see and hear THE Dalai Lama!!!” I was a bit annoyed at the crying baby behind us.  I was intolerant of the “disorganization” and poor handwritten signage.  I was somewhat impatient for the “show” to begin.  There was still more waiting and only a brief explanation of the obvious:  “The Dalai Lama is delayed at the Tibetan Community Center”.

I began to worry what would happen when I needed to use the bathroom the toilets would surely be disgustingly full and unusable.  I sighed and asked to instead extend love to my ramped up judgment thoughts getting situated on their own high white horse.  It suddenly dawned on me this must be what the crowd of thousands must have felt like when coming to hear Jesus.  The story of the loaves and fishes came to mind.  I thought, if a few measly fishes and a couple of loaves of bread fed thousands then surely three toilets could miraculously house the refuse needed for the thousand here around me.  I began to breathe and settle down.  I closed my eyes and just let myself accept all that was going on.  I relaxed and found myself looking at the crowd with fresh eyes. Just then the Dalai Lama HHimself came onto the stage without fanfare with a small few of his entourage of hosts.  His beaming face looked out onto the waiting audience and he said “Hi!  So.  A little bit delayed.”  And proceeded to sit down on the large overstuffed persimmon colored chair in front of the extravagant twelve-foot long tapestry of the Buddha hanging behind the chair and two huge floral displays of orange, red, gold and white.  He was entirely relaxed and in no hurry.

Sketch of stage for Dalai Lama visit

Sketch of stage for Dalai Lama visit

The official welcome and introductions began and before the Dalai Lama got up to speak he placed his two hands on the Congresswoman’s  (from the 13th congressional district, who had just introduced him in a booming American voice) arms and gently led her to and placed her in his royal stuffed chair.  Beaming all the while.  She looked a bit stunned and awkward but sat in the chair with the Dalai Lama, thigh to thigh, until he returned to finally speak to the waiting audience.

The Dalai Lama squinted into the hot bright stage lights and said “Oh, light very strong!  Just a minute….” and walked back to his chair and fished out of a loose bag a visor, the color of a red marigold and placed in on his head and returned to the podium, “Ahhh, much better!”  while smiling and bowing.  Thus the talk of “How to Achieve Happiness” began.  I could not hear very well as he speaks with a very soft voice and apparently finds no need for emphasis or even much gesticulating.  He spoke of practicing love, extending compassion and not worrying so much about philosophy.  Even as I was missing every third word due to poor sound quality I vowed to listen with my heart more than my ears and just noted anything down I heard.  In this way I was completely aware of only my own experience.  The crowd and any bodily needs quickly faded.  It was if I was in a room with only the presence of great love and compassion, gently demonstrated by the smiling man on stage.  All of my worries and discomforts prepared me more perfectly to hear the message of happiness than any expected perfection of organization or free bottles of water.  The Dalai Lama declared “money is good facility for comforting the body but happiness is internal”.  And so it was.

My experience of happiness was simply BEING together in the presence of the love that was within us both.  The love that we all were made from.  The love that declared that I would remember more the shift from outward discomfort to inward joy only if it were aptly and obviously demonstrated.  Thank you, thank you and thank you.  Dalai Lama continued with “One God.  One Source.  All same. We all have spark of God and it is infinite love.”  We listened because he was the Dalai Lama, but I FELT it because it was true.

I recorded it all in my heart and notebook.  I have already told the story a half a dozen times and still marvel at the shift from outward bodily concerns to inward truth of happiness and love that was already within just waiting to be noticed.  I realized I didn’t have to wait for the Dalai Lama to feel this and that he was, as he put it, “just a human being, emotionally and physically the same.  We all want happy days and nights.  I am just a man”.  It was  privilege to be reminded by my fellow human being of my own, readily and always available happiness within, waiting for me to join and remember.  I am happy.  I am love.  I am holy.

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Empty Nest

Empty Nest

I nurse my grievance

a wee babe fresh

from the wound

The days and nights

pass one after the other

with little but certainty

of purpose

I nurse my grievance

a toddler now

      sure and strong

I can barely remember

the details of the birth

but still feel the exhaustion

limits and bewilderment

I nurse my grievance

who is now unwilling

to be fed by her maker

Surrender

Surrender

and stand alone

able to leave or stay

if I but say the word

I want to say “Go!”

but hear instead

“Surrender”

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