I have just finished reading “The Art of Happiness – A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D. Dr. Cutler is a Doctor and Psychiatrist and he raises many psychological issues afflicting the modern western culture in his discourses with the Dalai Lama, with awesome results. It is written clearly in easy language for anyone to pick up and read.
I highly recommend it – to everyone – particularly anyone suffering any sort of anxiety – and aren’t we all. It is not a “religious tome”. It is a genuine discussion/series of conversations with a wonderful learned man of great wisdom and charm.
This was a borrowed copy which I must return. But I think I will buy my own copy as it has so many pages which I just want to re-visit, re-read and absorb. I am not a Buddhist, but topics in these discussions – particularly in relation to training the mind – seem strikingly similar to the “newly-discovered-in-the-West” mind-body connection. This mind-body connection is an area of great interest to me and I have several books on my shelves that I am working my way through on mind-body connection, the mind-heart connection and Mindfullness in general.
There is no quick fix. Change takes time, patience, commitment, practice and persistence, and more time. The Dalai Lama has been studying and training and practising since he was a child, so he has a significant advantage; but we too can become mindful of what we think and do – and so begins the change.
I find the Dalai Lama’s conversations show a warmth, humour, and a down-to-earth approach, to issues which beleaguer us especially in our western world. I would like to share some of his insights with you, as a result of these in-depth discussions between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler over a period of many years, in some forthcoming posts. Better still, read the book.
His intrinsic philosophies, including compassion, are based on the fact that each one of us is a human being – no more, no less. Each person feels he deserves the right to be happy. Once you grasp this, then a feeling of compassion for your fellow man – whoever he is – begins to flourish. ( see “Self Love” ). This compassion is an important key to releasing many of our own anxieties.
Each one of us, and each sentient being on this earth, has basic needs: food and water; shelter; safety from harm; to feel loved. High on the wants list include: good health; a sense of satisfaction/achievement/legacy; a sense of being part of a community or several communities (this could include family, friends, cultural ties, religious ties, employment community, town, state, nationality, et al) – whatever you think gives you a sense of identity; and a connection to something bigger than our human selves (there are no atheists in foxholes).
All mothers want their children to be healthy and happy; all fathers want their children to be strong – a good combination for each new human being. Human Beings want the very best for their children and those they love – even under the worst of circumstances. In this respect we are all the same – not different. To quote a song – “the Russians love their children too”. This can apply to any “enemy” we perceive in our world today.
A favourite quote of mine from another song: – from “South Pacific”
You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late,
Before you are six, or seven or eight –
To hate all the people your relatives hate.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
We are often indoctrinated without rational thought, on issues that are no longer valid, like many outdated family feuds of generations past, that have no relevance on or to the current generation.
The wars and tragedies of the world are in our faces every day thanks to the incredible technology available to us. We cry out : “This issue is so big”, “It is so far away”; “What can we do”; “This is not right”; “someone should do something”, etc. and also “it’s not relevant to me” “it’s someone else’s problem”; “they are the problem” etc.
But before we can attempt to solve the rest of the world’s problems of fear, hatred, greed, persecution, prejudice, war, etc. perhaps we need to start with ourselves, then our close relationships and then move out in ever increasing circles into our various “communities” and ultimately to all sentient beings.
To enable individuals to connect and communities to function we each need to practise genuine Compassion, Patience, Tolerance; Understanding and teach our children these attitudes – by example. Sometimes we need to shift our focus -“to walk a mile in their shoes”. We do need to be carefully taught these co-existence sustaining attitudes.
What are we teaching our children – by our example – not just our words?
Let’s be aware of what and how we think – and change our thinking – for the better, and watch the ripples.