Warm breezes, a slight sticky humidity in the air, swirls of pollen, and the lilting of birdsong accompanied my morning stroll. I thought of the Dalai Lama's talk on Sunday, "Finding Inner Peace in a World of Turmoil." And his message is really quite simple--we need to begin with inner disarmament, to carve out peace within ourselves which can then have a transformative effect on the world as a whole. It's a lesson I've read numerous times, and its simplicity belies its difficulty. How often do I forget that I can change how I act, think, and feel, instead of being so reactive to the stimuli that life throws my way? It's a lesson from yoga too--to focus inward, to find the rhythm of the breath and to steady oneself.
The Dalai Lama also spoke of the importance of hope--another seemingly simple concept to grasp, but also with the power to change the world. He spoke of our modern culture's reliance on the material world to distract us from the inner world that is so often in turmoil. Instead of turning to the outer world, the material world, as a means of transformation, we need to begin within. Not be so distracted, so distanced from ourselves.
His message of non-violence, of using dialog as a point of connection between individuals and warring nations, struck a strong chord with the group of people assembled. I appreciated his emphasis that ALL sentient beings desire to avoid suffering. We (humans) are simply another species in the interconnected web of life, and we have the advantage of a more complex brain that allows us to engage these questions.
And the most delightful aspect of his talk was his own presence--he sat lotus style, and as the cool breezes gusted off of Lake Michigan he quipped, "it's cold here!" and wrapped his crimson robe more tightly around his body. He conducted his talk in English, with a translator ready to offer the English word to the Dalai Lama or to translate whole sentences to us, the eager audience. But the most delightful quality of the Dalai Lama remains his infectious laughter, even when discussing serious topics--a reminder to not take ourselves so seriously, and to find delight in the midst of suffering.