If I were to assume what one might hear the most of at a Dalai Lama speech, I would assume spirituality, not reality. Maybe more of what one would call preaching as opposed to speaking, teaching, talking. And laughing.
(Maybe it was preaching, but one is less inclined to consider it so when the preacher says things that validate your own thoughts and opinions.)
Nevertheless, I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but not precisely what I received.
I recently had the blessed opportunity to attend a speech given by the Dalai Lama. I had prepared for this day months in advance, set an alarm on my iphone for the morning- and minute- that tickets went on sale, woke up bright and early and went about both trying to call the ticket line and reload the ticket purchase page on the internet.
Busy. Busy. Busy.
As I would later find out, this was a problem that many a person I knew had. In fact, I only know one person who was able to actually purchase tickets at all before it was sold out despite their efforts, and as luck would have it, it was the one person who had agreed to take me, my aunt.
My aunt is probably the person I am most close to in my family. She’s also one of my favorite people in general. I think this is the case for most that meet her, and I would say, that many are jealous that she is my aunt and not theirs. She’s creative, thoughtful, and driven, all while sharing the same general philosophies and love for eccentric projects as myself. Put simply, she is just plain cool- as much as she would argue that.
There was a two ticket limit per buyer. We had already anticipated that it might be difficult to nail some tickets down and had agreed that if one of us should get them- and not the other- she would give her extra to me and I would give mine to her.
Luck, fate, coincidence, whatever your poison, picked us for some reason, and she was able to get through, while every single other person, including myself, was not. Eventually the show was sold out but I knew I was going regardless.
The irony of the event is that it really couldn’t have come at better time. Rarely is my life dramatic, but on the day that my aunt and I were piling into her bright yellow VW Beetle, I had been dealing with some interesting issues.
Exhibit A) Mike. My ex-ish boyfriend who had almost fully recovered from his severe injuries was now certain that we were going to be together forever. (He, in fact, told my friend Jodi, quote: “We are going to be together forever.”) Right before his accident, like right before, I had moved out, we had broken up, and I was certain that we would never get back together. Life stepped in, in the form of severe head trauma and a coma, asking me to set aside our differences, and I had just spent the past couple weeks taking care of him. I was confused, to say the least. I knew I loved him, that had been made clear, but I was worried that we would get stuck again; stuck at a point where we could not communicate well enough to work through our problems. We were doing really well, truthfully. I had told him every wrong doing, every dirty text, every wink I had been involved in during our brief problem time- excluding most names- and we discussed everything and got to a point where it was obvious we were capable of forgiving and trusting. But I question everything. Every decision I make, I make with only one foot in the door, glancing behind me, wondering if it is the right one, especially those concerning love. My whole world had been flipped around fast, and- well, that’s scary.
Exhibit B) Witness protection. Just a few days prior to the Dalai Lama speech, I had received a phone call, threatening my whole life. I was told I had to quit my job, move out of my house, and relocate to some far off land, or else I was going to get beat up constantly and my life would be made a living hell. (Add in a lot of curse words to that.) After being irrationally and irrevocably bullied for a while, the person hung up, and I shrugged my shoulders and went about my day. Was I going to move and quit my job and dye my hair a different shade and hide? Um, no. But there was a resentment building over the course of the next few days that was beginning to get hard to ignore. A little voice kept asking why didn’t you say this? Why didn’t you say that? Negativity feeds negativity and mine had been starved for quite some time. So when presented with this dish of hate, these negative feelings began to devour it in an attempt to try and grow stronger.
Exhibit C) My mother. It just so happened she was getting married on the very same day as the speech by the Dalai Lama. My aunt and I had to pretty much go straight from the event to the wedding. This was another situation in my life that harbored anger and resentment, and quite frankly, turning me into a person I did not want to be. I was the maid of honor and the only time I had even talked to her since the engagement was two days before she actually got married. She had destroyed my trust, hurt my feelings, and made me question her overall. On top of that, I was not particularly proud of the choices she was making for the wedding itself. I had been sort of dreading the whole thing, which is hardly what one should say concerning someone’s wedding. I just wanted it over and done with, so we could get right on back to not talking to each other.
To have this many stressful things clouding my mind at one time is rare- at least in the past few years- just the same as to have an opportunity to attend a speech spoken by the Dalai Lama himself is. So the collision of these events all at one time, was a beautiful coincidence the universe put together for me. Normally, it’s easy for me to set aside anxiety, anger, or anything that negatively impacts one’s positive emotional health, but for some reason, all of these things were bubbling up to create a perfect storm that was probably going to result in me getting shit-housed drunk, saying things wildly spit in every which direction out of spite and anger rather than respect and truth, and doing things that in the end would only hurt me and not the person I intended to target.
On the morning of the speech, it was exceptionally sunny, which was welcomed by everyone in the state of Vermont, after having had weeks of rain. My aunt and I chit chatted the whole way, excited, anticipating, wondering. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but I had some idea. I knew that no matter what, I would come away having grabbed some of his words and tucking them away for me to keep. I just didn’t realize how much so. I didn’t realize how pertinent his speech was for me on that day, in that time of my life.
The speech was much what I had expected and much of what I had not.
The Dalai Lama reminded me of Yoda. Honestly. He spoke slowly, in an almost cartoonish voice, every now and again referencing the translator that stood by his side to help him with certain words or phrases. Dressed in his typical robes and putting on a Middlebury College visor halfway through, he addressed a crowd of thousands, from all walks of life and all ages, with words that were completely void of negativity and only punctuated- often, really- by a great, bumbling belly laugh.
He spoke of loving everyone as your brother and sister. He spoke of thinking before you acted negatively because it hurt you the most. He said anger was a sign of weakness. He spoke of always checking for reality and looking at a situation from every direction before you responded. He spoke of forgiveness as if it were a necessity, as much so as water or air. He spoke of how free we were as citizens of the United States, and that we lived in a great country, no matter who was running it. He also briefly touched upon republicans and democrats being the same, but that a system that helped everyone was better in regards to our politics. He spoke of how peace comes through action, not prayer. I would imagine every person that was listening in the crowded giant, tent was able to pull something away that would better a situation in their life. I found it slightly upsetting that not every single person in the world would have the same opportunity to take his words from this setting, as I had.
Like I said however, there were a couple surprises for me in regards to what I expected and what I received.
The first, was reality. I was expecting a much greater emphasis on spirituality, and honestly, I can only recall him mentioning it once. He spoke more of looking at a situation from every angle as opposed to coming at it head on. There is perception- how we feel- and then there is reality.
The second, and probably the most enlightening aspect to me, was the amount he laughed, especially at himself. He laughed a lot, and it was an infectious laugh. The kind of laugh that had you not understood a word of his slow speech, you would laugh anyway, deep from the gut and sincere. The fact of the matter is I could picture him by himself, cracking jokes, and then slapping his knee and laughing until his stomach hurt. He seemed effortlessly happy.
But the third and most eye-opening surprise was the thought I’m really not a bad person that kept looping through my mind. Refreshing, to say the least. I had sort of expected to walk in and listen and feel some sort of shame and guilt and think oh man, I have to fix this and that and all of everything, but those feelings and that thought never came.
I’m not perfect. I dare say, neither are you, the reader of my meandering life/thoughts/words. However, if there is one thing I can say for myself, and would like to assume for you as well, its that I have been working and striving to be a better person and for the most part, I’ve been successful. Every day I come a little bit closer to being a person that I can be even more proud of than I am already. I don’t always approach situations the way that another might think I should, but I always do it with the best intentions, and I think, in the scope of what we can understand, that’s a good thing. As I said, I’m not perfect, nor do I think I ever will be. Perfect in regards to a person is all perception anyway. No matter how much I strive, there will always be someone who thinks I am anything but.
When we left the speech and made the hour long trip back to go to the wedding, my spirits were quite high and I had an overall feeling of hope, joy, happiness. Put simply, I felt good. We talked excitedly about what we had heard and how we could weave the words into our own intricate lives. We talked about a lot of different things.
I’m not perfect. I still have a lot of work to do and its a tough, full-time job. I fuck up all the time, but I’m proud of both my achievements and me as a person. My love life is occasionally chaotic, confusing, and downright messy. People may call and threaten everything of mine they can think of and curse me out. My family may do things that I don’t understand or just don’t agree with.
But when all is said and done, I’m capable of being happy through all of that. I’m capable of making sure I laugh and then laugh some more. I’m capable of looking at situations from a different perspective. I’m capable of helping others no matter and sincerely wishing the best for all, even those I dislike. I’m capable of being the best friend I can for those I care about. I’m capable of setting aside my anger and resentment before it hurts me. (And if all else fails… I’m capable of writing a book about it.)
That is my reality.
And it is beautiful, indeed.