His Holiness and His Humble Heart

"My message is the practice of compassion, love and kindness. Compassion can be put into practice if one recognizes the fact that every human being is a member of humanity and the human family regardless of differences in religion, culture, color and creed. Deep down there is no difference."-- Dalai Lama

dalai Recently I had the rare privilege of meeting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and listening to his public address on “Compassionate Ethics in Difficult Times.”  The significance and meaning of such an honor is still settling in, but I would like to express a few thoughts on my experience in the meantime.   Obviously, I was incredibly moved and left with many a concept to ponder, but as I listened to him speak, I saw a man who not only has a remarkable understanding of the human condition and capacity for compassion, but who embraces every atom of this experience we call being human. His humbleness and his ability to express a genuine love for all human beings is awe-inspiring.

Despite my uncanny ability to feel undeniably average in every way, I still find it a challenge to relate to those I perceive as not like me.  And yet here is a person who has experienced the most horrific of hardships, who has had the responsibility of running a nation under attack since the age of sixteen, who was forced to flee his country and live in exile since the age of twenty four, and here he sits, joyful as can be, empathizing with the woes of our daily lives and teaching values of kindness and compassion.  If anyone should have the right to judge our superficial struggles and first world “suffering,” surely he has the authority to do so.  But no, he seems to understand the true essence of human existence, seeing beyond the content of our individual confusions with reality, and to the essential nature of what unites us all.  After all, we are all doing the best we can within the context within which we were born; and within the reality we continue to co-create.  So as I continue to digest the complexity in his heart-felt words, I take comfort in the simplicity of his so-called “religion of kindness.”  For it is easy to talk in new age idioms about being present, unattached or non-violent, but to truly connect with our deepest selves and see all others as expressions of our shared humanity, now that is something to strive for.

Photo by Patrick Dodson / Albany Student Press

The World Ethical Foundations Consortium

in the stars

i'm not sure if anyone can relate to this, but sometimes i feel like getting up in the morning is like confronting mount everest - i used to compare this feeling to being covered by the x-ray blanket at the dentist; or sometimes i simply question my direction and the choices i've made in my life so far.  you with me?  and while i think introspection is important and imperative to the evolution of humanity, I think it's a fine line between mindful contemplation and living in the past...  but then i'll have an experience that changes my perception of everything.  if i subscribed to astrological beliefs, i would say the stars are aligned in these moments.  such experiences come in all forms - having a chance encounter with an old friend; reading a book that feels as if it were written to me, for me and only me; absorbing an awe inspiring view of the ocean; having an accident that provokes an evaluation of priorities; watching a film that challenges my beliefs about the world; witnessing the struggle of another and the will exerted in pushing through adversity...  these are but a few examples of things that inspire me. as often as i can, i seek to see and understand the essence of everything that exists in my world.  i think part of understanding ourselves is considering our environment and how we relate to every little detail.  i also believe it is possible to find beauty and magnificence in even the most seemingly benign image, object or act.  and then there are times when i am completely caught off guard by what moves me.  it could the innocence i see in a small boy walking self-consciously, hands shoved in pockets, imitating an oblivious father.  it could be the generosity of a stranger offering their spot in the grocery line, or the humility i feel when i stub my own toe.  it is my impression that it is these simple things that we often overlook that can give us the most insight into what it means to be human.  one such experience occurred recently as i was reading through my fan mail.  [on a side note i would like to apologize to those whose mail i have not yet responded to, i know there are many - i have been occupied with myriad travels and work commitments, but i assure you that your letters are read and greatly appreciated.]  i'm not sure whether it was the accumulation of the correspondence or something about the particular letter i was reading, but i felt a shock of recognition of how we participate in each other's lives to such an explicit degree, and often without any awareness of it.  it's incredible to me that i can do what i love to do and have an impact that reaches across countries, cultures and social demographics.  it's something i've been thinking about a lot lately and part of the reason why it's important to me to express the intricacy of my values and not just those you see on tv.

"A wider of more altruistic attitude is very relevant in today's world.  If we look at the situation from various angles, such as the complexity and inter-connectedness of the nature of modern existence, then we will gradually notice a change in our outlook, so that when we say 'others' and when we think of others, we will no longer dismiss them as something that is irrelevant to us.  We will no longer feel indifferent."— from The Dalai Lama's Book of Wisdom

the world