After spending both a morning and an afternoon session in the presence of His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, my mind was reeling with what I wanted to remember. I told my husband that at our age, it wasn’t so much that what he said was new to me because I try to live a well-examined life (even though I sometimes fail) but that it helped to hear and be reminded of the right ways to live, along with 10,000 other people. Because His Holiness spoke to two groups of people in Portland each of the three days he was here, certainly there should be soon an upsurge in better behaviors and right action in our communities, right?
What I enjoy most about His Holiness is that he giggles. I would like to be there when he sits and chats with his friend, Bishop Desmond Tutu, because he giggles, too. I imagine that giggles are joy burbling from souls focused on unconditional love.
Also, he didn’t try to pretend to know something, to have an answer, when he didn’t. He said, “I don’t know. That I will have to leave to the experts. I can answer only as far as I know. They have studied more.”
He wasn’t about blind acceptance, however. He said that we should analyze and study before coming to a conclusion. In other words, the scientific method is very important to follow.
Most of what The Dalai Lama is about is common sense. If you are living from your soul, from the part of you that is the part of me, you will be full of joy and helping others. Nothing worthwhile is about acquisition of objects and money; everything worthwhile is about compassion for others. We need to show affection and receive affection. Those deprived of early affection grow to be insecure adults who lack self-confidence. Those assured of affection, no matter how poor, grow to be happy, confident adults.
All people, religious or not, should be compassionate. All the major religions have compassion as their basis, but that gets lost in the delivery. Instead of focusing on a specific religion and saying it’s the only one, we should focus on the message instead and make it secular. Everyone should practice compassion because it’s the right thing to do, not because the religion says it is. Our soul knows the right thing is to practice compassion for others. Making the choice to show compassion, affection for others, is what makes you happy. Affection is necessary for survival. The mother child bond of nursing, for example, makes for a happy person.
In the morning session, the topic was our environment. Our own personal environment, our community environment, and the global environment. The Dalai Lama was joined by Andrea Durbin, Executive Director of Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, David Suzuki, all of whom were introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
All agreed that the focus on consumption as a measurement of economic growth was ruining our environment, personally, in our country, and globally. They suggested that we determine a system whereby our focus isn’t on money but what really makes us rich. That we re-use, re-cycle. That we do not export natural resources that will pollute another country. That we ban toxic chemicals and products. That we find other ways to obtain the energy and food we need. That we learn ways to shrink our carbon footprint.
I always enjoy hearing a discussion on re-purposing and recycling. I grew up in a household where our carbon footprint was no bigger than the piggy who went wee, wee, wee all the way home. We were poor and being poor necessitates knowing how to grow your own food, how to wear hand-me-downs, how to make your own…anything. How to can, freeze, and dry food products. How to make what you do buy last, how to think before you toss. I remember my mother telling me that after my father’s mother cleaned up vegetables for the table, she took the scraps and boiled them to make broth. The same with chicken bones.
My father could fix almost everything and invent almost everything he needed on our farm. I’m hopeless at that, but my sister can do it. My brother does that.
Most of what I learned from my parents and grandparents growing up, I do myself, not because I have to, but because it’s fun. I preserve the food we grow so I know what’s in it. No Roundup-infused or GMO food on my plate. I make my own laundry soap, cleaning products, and some beauty products. I grow my own herbs and make my own teas.
When I noticed my friend Linda washed her Ziploc bags and used them over and over, I realized this made sense and I’ve done the same ever since. My mother washes and saves plastic wrap. She washes and saves plastic silverware. I don’t do those things. I don’t save the dishwater and throw it over the flower beds like my grandmother did, but I think it makes sense. I wish our house had a retrieval system for gray water so it could be re-used. Why aren’t houses built that way to begin with?
For that matter why aren’t houses built with solar panel roofing materials? Why aren’t little windmills in our backyards? Why don’t our exercise bicycles hook up to the electric grid so we can generate our own electricity while we pedal? Other countries do this. Why don’t we? My friend Rosemary and her husband tried to do some of these things when they built their new home but they found the costs involved were prohibitive. Why is that?
I love that in my little town the young mothers get together once a year and bring all their outgrown baby and children items to swap and trade. I love it when grown-ups do the same thing with their clothing. That’s what my parents, their relatives, and friends did when I was growing up and it just makes sense.
I love that in Portland young people are embracing this lifestyle rather than one of full-out consumption without regard for finite resources. They’re finding out that this way to live is meaningful, productive, creative, and fun.
In the afternoon session, His Holiness was introduced by Representative Earl Blumenauer. The Dalai Lama was presented a Trailblazer cap and jersey with the number 14 on it. He said he couldn’t use the jersey, but the cap came in very handy, and then he put it on so the light wouldn’t be in his eyes. He spoke of the need for compassion and understanding we all are interconnected, so what we do to one, we do to all. Therefore, we are all better served if we treat others as we would like to be treated. Treating others with compassion means that compassion will come round to you. My husband has found his joy in mentoring neglected and tortured youth. Teaching was my career, which also often requires mentoring neglected and tortured youth, being compassionate even though the ego feels something else entirely. I know lots of people who love unconditionally day after day and so do you. Those are the people you love.
When asked what to do when confronted with the overwhelming negative news stories we see daily, he said that if you can make a change for good regarding a negative matter, then work to make the change happen. If it’s not possible for you to make a change for good to happen in some matter, then work on something else where you can make a difference. That will bring you joy.
When asked what we can do to help make Tibet its own country again, he said that 400,000,000 people in China are practicing Tibetan Buddhists even though they are Communists. In other words, China is becoming Tibet instead of Tibet becoming Chinese. Hee-hee-hee. (giggle) China now needs, with all its pollution and climate problems, the Buddhist solutions.
When asked what to do when things change, like climate change for example, he said that if change happens and there is no way to reverse that change, then you need to change yourself in order to deal with the new. It’s that simple.
Here’s the thing. If we are interconnected and your soul and my soul are from the same place and if nature is also like that and connected to us, then why would we want to hurt ourselves? Why would we disregard ourselves? I think compassion and taking care of ourselves, others, and the Earth are the things we are here to learn. They are also the things I forget from time to time when I'm ensconced in my ego.
I’m so glad, then, to be reminded of them in the books I read, the music I listen to, the films I watch, the relationships I have—which are all, by the way, my choice, the way yours can be your choice—and I am honored to have been reminded of essential truths once again by a representative of unconditional love and right living, His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.