Archives for posts with tag: Dalai Lama

There is a debate which has been circulating on Facebook which I got sucked into last week. It concerns the Dalai Lama and whether his search for inner peace should be interpreted as an indifference to injustice, especially if it messes with a personal sense of calm.

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This sort of debate I realise is a challenge for me right now. On the one hand I’ve been respecting and practising much of the Buddhist principles of meditation, non-attachment and letting go. On the other, I am now working for one of the most outspoken and respected human rights organisations whose responsibility it is to speak out – with force and anger if necessary – on grave injustice. As already noted in my previous blog post, I am entering a new chapter in my personal transition which requires integrating all I have learned on a spiritual level in a meaningful way, as I go about working on difficult or upsetting issues which are likely to provoke negative emotions and energies.

It got me thinking again about anger and how we use it. There is no doubt that political change often occurs after anger has resulted in positive or constructive action. But is this the emotion that should really be guiding us? Or has it become our default reaction to life’s challenges because of the political system we live in, which we know tends to favour the privileged and neglect the needs of the impoverished or voiceless? Even if we look at the United Nations system – supposedly a bastion of peacemaking – we see that much of our international relations is governed by the interests of the five permanent members of the Security Council, some of the most powerful nations in the world.

It is hard to imagine our world not being governed according to the political interests of the most powerful countries. But that is what the Dalai Lama, Buddhists, shamans, yogis and millions across the globe – from the temples of Asia to the forests of the Amazon – are indeed trying to do. They believe that the day will come – maybe not in our lifetime, and maybe not in the next – when this type of political system will evaporate and be redundant, because our lives will be governed by a far greater force than money or power.

They are preaching a completely new system of thought and action, which starts at the individual level through meditative practice, but which is truly expansive and universal in scope. It is only once we look deep within ourselves and realise our connection with every living soul on this planet – beyond boundaries, or front lines, or negotiating tables – that we might be able to realise a shift in our entire ideology and philosophy. When we connect with the purity of love and compassion which exists beyond the habits, attitudes and energies we pick up from our social environment, our anger falls away. Indeed, conflicts so often rage on because the warring parties are unable to let go of the anger and negative emotions which burn inside them.

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OK, so I know sitting and meditating, and connecting with our pure and positive energies isn’t going to bring peace overnight. It won’t succeed in stopping the exchange of fire between two warring parties and it won’t succeed in getting a resolution tabled at the U.N. But dare we let ourselves believe that it is one small step in generating a whole new conception of life and how we relate to each other? The Mayans would argue that we have indeed reached a new and profound phase in human existence – we entered this phase on the 21st December last year, when we moved to a higher state of consciousness. We have entered an age of greater awareness, and a re-connection with wisdom which has been lost through the previous age of rapid technological progress and a neglect of Mother Earth. There may be many more wars, more bloodshed, and more environmental disasters before we truly realise this new phase in human existence – this is all part of the Shift of Ages. But the indications are already there of many millions of people challenging the current world system; not only by taking to the streets as we’ve seen with the Occupy movements and the Arab uprisings, but also choosing to engage in spiritual practice. Whether we choose to get on board and be part of this shift depends on whether we are ready to let go of old structures, ideas and thoughts which we have been bound by for hundreds of years. If we want to see real, transformative and positive change on our planet, then we must start from within.

Two weeks have past since I wrote my blog. Apparently this is very bad practice for a blogger, if you want to keep your audience interested. But what’s a girl to do when she’s spending half the time knee-deep in mud, the other half cleaning it all off? This will be explained below…

And I keep reminding myself that ultimately the purpose of this blog is to see how writing it helps me in my journey of transition. I am truly touched and so reassured that some people want to follow me on that journey, as they go through similar experiences and can offer support or words of encouragement and understanding. But no transition is the same, and there may be times when what I have to say doesn’t really resonate with anyone. I’m still going to say it anyhow.

So here goes….

The last two weeks have mostly been about pleasure-seeking and connecting with old friends. But given that I took a conscious step back from job-seeking, and from reading any bad news, I somehow filled the resulting extra time with other thoughts, experiences and lessons learned. Here they are:

1. I learned how to survive a muddy festival – whose unfortunate name and tagline was ‘Sunrise Celebration – another world is possible’. OK, so this wasn’t the first muddy festival I’ve been to. Glastonbury 1997 was probably the worst, followed by Bestival 2008. And, like previous festivals, survival relied mostly on tequila, cider and whatever else we could lay our hands on. This was unfortunate, as I had gone to Sunrise full of good intentions – to take advantage of the array of yoga, life-coaching and healing that was on offer in the Serenity Field , and maybe go to the odd talk on how to make the world a better place in the Village Green. But when faced with endless rain, wind, and a thickening mud soup which we had to wade through to get anywhere, we went for the easier option – the nearest tent with some live music and a patch of warmth and dryness. I did however dance a lot (albeit in wellies covered in what felt like several kilos of mud) – always a good release for me. And big respect to the organisers and all the talented musicians for keeping the punters happy and upbeat despite the weather conditions. There were moments of darkness and despair, but these were matched by moments where the mud didn’t matter anymore.

2. I saw the Dalai Lama at the Royal Albert Hall. It was quite a privilege to see His Holiness in the flesh – this modest and funny figure, who talked gently and cracked jokes to a mixed audience of several thousands. I have to admit, I went there with rather high expectations after having read his book ‘The Art of Happiness’ when I was in Thailand. I was hoping that he would lead us into a group meditation and have the entire audience sitting in contemplative silence. This wasn’t the case, and in many ways the content of the book was far more rewarding than the content of this two hours with His Holiness. The focus of the talk was on bringing positive change in the world, and how this can only happen from the heart. The message was clear, and a familiar one if you’ve read his book: no political, social or economic change is possible until we work on ourselves and our own sense of love and compassion. This entails releasing anger and seeing each and every person on this planet as one of us – with the same desires, fears, hopes, and insecurities. The emphasis was on the importance of having love and affection in our lives in order to give love and be compassionate. This must start from childhood if we are to succeed in playing a role in changing the world for the better – the love and affection our mothers give us is fundamental to how we relate to others and the world we live in.

Above all this, I think what I was most moved by was seeing in real life how, despite all the tragedies and injustices he has no doubt witnessed as the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness applies modesty and humility every step of the way, stooping down to help the stage assistants clear the space for him after some Tibetan performers had left the stage. He was able to hold his audience as if we were sitting together in a small living room drinking tea; the polar opposite to the formality of the politicians and their rhetoric that we’ve become so accustomed to in the West.

“When we are motivated by compassion and wisdom, the results of our actions benefit everyone, not just our individual selves or some immediate convenience. When we are able to recognize and forgive ignorant actions of the past, we gain strength to constructively solve the problems of the present.

Dalai Lama XIV

3. Now on to a few more personal and emotional ruminations. I still feel moments of anger and pain. Certain names, conversations, places, leave me with an aching heart, bringing back good and bad memories from my recent past – in Uganda, in Palestine, in London. When the memories arise, then follows questions of whether I truly want to put the past – my work, my relationships, my lifestyle choices – behind me and move on to something completely new and different. I still find myself dwelling on my past as if it’s some indicator of my future and what I should be doing next. The past is so familiar, and I’m still not sure what I truly need to let go of in order to embrace this transition. Is it OK to turn my back and walk away from situations and conversations that no longer serve me?

4. I need to get out more. For the last few months I have spent most of my time at home with my parents – helping them around the house, baking cakes, cooking interesting recipes, watching TV, reading. I’ve ventured out for Tai Chi and belly dancing classes (more on that later) and for the odd cup of coffee or glass of wine with friends. Going to a festival, and a few days after that going out in Brixton for the first time in a while, has made me realise I seem to have lost the ability to socialise and talk with strangers. And yet this is very important if I want to move on with my life and form new relationships. My ability to talk about myself and what I’m doing with confidence, and to the opposite sex in particular, needs further work!

5. In an ideal world, there are two possible things I’d secretly like to be when I grow up (as, being a thirty-something in transition, I’m essentially like a child discovering a whole load of new exciting and scary things). One is a writer. Well, many of you could have guessed that one. I also would secretly like to be a dancer. This realisation has been a long time coming – starting from when I was eight or nine years old and fell in love with Hollywood musicals from the 1940s and 1950s, and developing recently whilst going to Five Rhythms in Vauxhall and weekly belly dancing classes. Last week in class we performed a dance sequence all the way through from start to finish for the first time to the Arabic song Zaalni Mennak by Carole Samaha. My effort was as clumsy as I would expect given my lack of co-ordination and ability to pick new skills up with any speed or grace; but this was an achievement nevertheless. Part of my transition seems to involve being like a child again – trying to let go of the embarrassment and fear that comes with learning something new, and just embrace the fun of being carried along by the experience.

Use what talents you possess. The woods would be a silent place if the only birds who sang were the ones who sang best.

Henry Van Dyke (Writer, poet and essayist, 1852-1933)

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