The Dalai Lama was at the White House last week. It was their fourth meeting, held in private with no video cameras or reporters present. This rankled the officials in China, who see the Dalai Lama as “a dangerous separatist.” Obama considers him a friend, and I imagine a trusted advisor and fellow leader. Given the timing of the visit, the Dalai Lama offered his condolences for the many victims of the Orlando shooting.
Last year, the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday. There is a big photograph of him off to one side of the yoga studio where I practice. He’s laughing and pointing, like he just made a joke or is putting someone at ease. Looking at it yesterday, it struck me that he has been the spiritual leader of Tibet for my entire life. Even when I had no idea who he was.
My yoga studio sometimes hosts a group of Tibetan monks, who stay for a week to build a sand mandala, teach about their culture and hold daily meditation sessions. In a ceremony at the end, they chant and bless and sweep the sand together, then walk in procession to a nearby stream to return the sand to the earth, via her waters. They also sell things to help support their monastery in northern India. I have this banner with a quote from the Dalai Lama hanging in my office:
No matter what is going on
never give up.
Develop the heart.
Too much energy in your country
is spent on developing the mind
instead of the heart.
Develop the heart.
not just to your friends but to everyone.
Work for peace
in your heart and in the world,
work for peace.
And I say again,
never give up,
no matter what is happening,
no matter what is going on around you.
Never give up.
In yoga, we often do poses to open the heart, to be more grounded and openhearted at the same time. You can never love too much. I have this image of a wide zone of discomfort and embarrassment that comes from being open-hearted in a cynical, grasping, materialistic, ridiculing culture. But then, you keep it up anyway, and you get to be like the Dalai Lama, who loves everyone, always. Regardless of politics. Despite world events. This man, who at age 24, had to flee his home country after it was invaded by China. Walking over the Himalayas into northern India.
The Dalai Lama lives in a zone beyond the discomfort zone of heart, in a timeless, causeless pure realm of love, a reality that exists beneath everything. In his presence, people can feel this. In his presence, you have no desire or need for self-preservation, no urge to ridicule or be cynical. Something deep inside recognizes the authenticity of his love, and resonates with it.
It’s as if he has given you permission to be yourself, possibly for the first time in your life. Doesn’t it feel wonderful?
I see this zone diagram clearly in my head, like this:
This diagram came to me with the promise that if you stick it out in the discomfort zone, you will make it to the Dalai Lama zone. So stay with it. The cure for the embarrassment and vulnerability of open-heartedness is to be more open-hearted, not to retreat back into the shell that has been custom-made for you by our culture. There are more of us with you here than it may seem.