"As human beings we all want to live a happy life and be part of a happy society."
- The Dalai Lama
On Monday, 21st September I made my way to London (the journey in and of itself its own story of resilience, faith, and determination), to attend an event "Creating A Happier World" by the Action for Happiness Organisation.
We were late .... very late, due to rail issues ... a lesson about patience, mindfulness, and being present - I think the Dalai Lama would have been proud of our response to the situation. We walked as quickly as we could to the Lyceum Theatre in Covent Garden, excitement and hope kindled deep within our hearts, a hope that the Dalai Lama was still on stage and still dispensing his wisdom and wit to an audience already flushed with optimism and drive. A quiet anticipation rippled through my being as the usher opened the door into the theatre and quietly led us to our seats, as, yes, the Dalai Lama, still seated comfortably on stage, was responding to a question we were not privy too. Finally settled into our seats, relief poured through my skin, seeping into my heart; there he was, one of the greatest men to ever walk this earth, a sage, a leader, a humble man.
Sure, we had missed the first hour and half of his infinite wisdom and soothing voice, but the opportunity was still there to learn, and so I listened with intent ...
His most profound and yet most simple of teachings shone through his every word, his every response - compassion and love. If you can approach every situation in life with compassion and love, then the suffering, so talked about in Buddhist thought, so experienced by all who claim to be human, the suffering will ease. By ease I do not mean our suffering will disappear into the ether and not affect us ever again, but by ease I mean the ability to sit with what makes us sad, or angry, or upset, to sit with it and accept it as it is ... and then still approach the world with love and compassion.
His Holiness' perspective on the way that we feel, the emotions that rise and fall, he instructs that we do not quash or deny these emotions - these emotions are part of the human experience; we feel - but we learn to look at these emotions that can be destructive, that can be bitter, and we learn to let go of them, to acknowledge them, but ultimately let them go. (Here is 40 ways you can learn to acknowledge and then let go of negative feelings and thoughts, courtesy of tinybuddha).
Inevitably the issue of the current refugee crisis was raised, but imbued with the love and compassion that he talks about, the Dalai Lama spoke of the necessary approach we should all take towards others, and problems that we as a species have created, an approach based on the human and practical. In the West we are so caught in the ebb and flow of what the media and government want us to believe about the refugees coming from the Middle East and Africa, that we tend to lose the human side of the story, we forget to feel. His Holiness reminded us that these people are human, they are just like us, and we must open our hearts and our arms to them .... BUT ....
We also have to recognise that a lot of these people are fleeing war torn countries, countries that are their homes, their identity, their hearts, and that ultimately, most of them would move back to their countries of origin in a heartbeat, if there was peace there. So, it is also our responsibility to help establish peace in these parts of the world, but establish peace without further violence, without guns, or grenades, or bombs, but through dialogue and understanding.
Thank you, the Dalai Lama, for your deep insight into the human heart and mind.
Jayne Snell and Fred Roberts from the RWS Programme doing "Laughter Yoga" with the pupils from Clifton With Rawcliffe Primary School in York. (photo taken by J Maiden)
The Dalai Lama was not the only person at the Action for Happiness event, a slew of speakers and experts were there to give us their personal insight into how we can create happiness - on a personal as well as community level. One of the speaker's was Sir Anthony Seldon, former Master of Wellington College, the college was where he "pioneered" teaching of happiness to pupils - some would say this is radical, other's would say it's inspired, I'm with the inspired group.
Sir Anthony Seldon spoke with such passion about broadening the educational landscape, about the necessity for teaching young people how to be happy and maintain their happiness, and how it is our responsibility to ensure that wellbeing and mental health issues are addressed activity and without prejudice in our schools. In addressing these topics, he aims to see a shift in the ideology of schools; schools become a place where children want to be, because in school they are accepted for who they are and what they want to achieve.
As human beings we are constantly learning, growing, absorbing every day, and this event was one of serious learning, growing and absorbing of information and experience. It is how you translate it into your life that determines whether you have really gained from the experience. This event has not only informed my own life, but also the programme I have developed with Frederika Roberts and Jayne Snell - RWS | Resilience Wellbeing Success. RWS is a programme for schools, that was developed to explore and instil in young people the mental health care and wellbeing that helps them throughout their whole lives, that see's them see success as a personal experience, a personal goal, that they can strive for.
If all we ever aim for is to be happy, if all we ever do is to help others aim to be happy, then I say that what we are doing is exactly what the Dalai Lama instructs - show love and compassion, infinitely.