Have you ever noticed that often the most generous, happiest people are those who have “nothing”? I found that was especially true of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns.
But how could they be happy when their friends and families had been murdered, jailed or exiled; their homes destroyed; ruled by a government that prohibits basic human rights?
She held my hand as we walked into the temple. We had just met, but the beautiful lady with the saffron robes and shaved head eagerly grabbed my hand as if we were playmates at recess. She gestured for me to sit next to her in the large meditation room where there sat a few dozen Tibetan Buddhist nuns ready to chant.
It was an odd picture, to be sure. A spattering of travel-clad westerners sitting, holding hands, with these bubbly Tibetan women in simple, maroon robes. The moment’s initial beauty was the tacit assumption that we westerners belonged there and that we were all old friends. And then the chanting began.
To say I cried would be an understatement. I wept. My heart broke open and tears of joy and relief, sadness and hope spilled out into the room… I had found my way Home.
It wasn’t that I needed to stay there with these lovely women. It was the example they lived – the utter joy and simplicity of it all – that I knew was bursting to come out of me!
Is there anything waiting to burst out of you? (And no, I don’t mean a bowel movement.)
I had always been too happy for people, too friendly, too “deep”. So I had toned it down. Day after day living a kind-of half truth. I thought that if I could make other people comfortable, it would bring me joy. But these brave women showed me that it was, in fact, the opposite: Only when I embraced the joy within me, could I possibly help to comfort others.
We didn’t speak the same verbal language, but we understood each other perfectly and I would never be the same again. For I had learned I wasn’t alone.
Seven years later on the other side of the world in a safe suburb of Kansas City, I’m still coming out of the spiritual closet. I know so much about faith and finding serenity, yet it can be hard to be content. Though uncomfortable, I think this discontent is actually good for me at times. Particularly because it led me here – to openly share my truth in the spirit of connecting with others.
What is your truth? Are you living it?
Thank God for the chance I had to witness those who seemingly have next to nothing, yet have everything. They showed me the way.
Serenity is yours.
When chaos looms seek the sweet
surrender of simplicity.
Gaze above at the glassy sky,
feel each blade of green
beneath your feet,
listen to the sound of faith
like a reed flute playing
inside your chest.
Stand in witness of
your true nature.
Remember the compassion
of the lover’s eyes,
the calm wisdom of
the elder’s voice.
Go within. Be at rest without.
Fall to your knees in gratitude.
You have all you need.
Turn from the riot of distraction.
Let it roll over and beyond you.
Serenity is yours.
It lives always within your reach.
– Ching Qu Lam
Our trip leader, Maureen St. Germain, with the kindest, happiest people I’ve ever met.
Baby Goats and Monks with Kittens, as promised in Part I
Visiting the Potala Palace, the former seat of the Tibetan government and residence of the Dalai Lama, was bittersweet, but apparently it remains in good hands. While roaming the grand palace I noticed a guard dressed in all black petting a tiny, purring kitten. But this guard was no ordinary man. He radiated so much joy and peace that his presence froze me in my tracks with my mouth open in a stupefied gaze. It turns out my instincts were right: when the gates of tourism were re-opened, China hired monks to be the janitors and guards of the palace.
As for the goats, they really were adorable.
The Four Immeasureables
May all beings be endowed with happiness;
May all beings be free from suffering;
May all beings never be separated from happiness;
and may all beings abide in equanimity, undisturbed by the eight worldly concerns.
For as long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain,
until then may we, too, abide to dispel the misery of the world.
– Rime Buddhist Center’s “A Buddhist Service” guide