The last time I saw the Dalai Lama (I love saying that), I had a date with my then-estranged husband to hang out in Central Park and listen to a talk on compassion with some 200,000 people. He didn’t show up (the estranged husband, not the Dalai Lama).
This time, I was sitting in a lunchroom at the Department of Education’s Hearing Office waiting for my son to be called to testify about being shot by a BB gun three times at school, and I picked up a paper out of boredom – I never read the paper – and there was a full page announcing the Dalai Lama at Radio City Music Hall.
What I remember most about the first time was the way that man laughs, how readily he does, and how his upper arms shake with joy. The ad was a sign – as unexpected as me with a newspaper in my hand – it was a gift, a call for peace, on what was turning out to be a very bad day.
Armed only with a texting cell phone, which is high tech for me, and one flickering bar of service, I texted my partner Ming from the lunchroom and asked if he wanted to go, and if so could he get tickets? There was a flurry of texts – which day, what time, which one could Ming reasonably get to immediately upon returning from a ten day trip to Australia and Singapore? He got tickets. But somehow in our truncated back and forth, and our New Yorkers’ assumption of options, we failed to realize there was only one public talk on Awakening the Heart of Selflessness, and what he had purchased were seats for the final in a series of six intensive teachings on the Commentary on Bodhicitta, which was delivered in Tibetan and translated.
We went, of course, because when you have the chance to hear the Dalai Lama, you go.
It was a dense teaching, with a heavy emphasis on how to meditate, offered by a jolly robed man sitting cross-legged on an enormous, ornate throne; a man, I guess I should be calling him His Holiness, who popped a maroon visor (which matched his robe) onto his bald head with a grin to read the scriptures. I enjoyed his English punctuations: “Generally speaking, vegetarian food is best.” “Mainly using common sense, isn’t it?” One of his messages was joyous effort, and amid his directions for how to cultivate a single point of attention, how to understand that appearance is not the true nature of reality, and how we are all too attached to “I,” this comment stood out:
“Just as the wind blows a piece of cotton, so shall I be controlled by joy.”
The wind has blown me all over the place recently, and I am so grateful to have a cheerful, maroon-visored reminder to relax into it and let it be joyful.