“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” - Leo Tolstoy
Andy, a friend of mine in Leeds, was going to see the Dalai Lama speaking in Manchester on Sunday, on the topic of “Real Change Happens from the Heart“, and asked if I wanted to join. I jumped at the chance. It was exciting to go to a venue holding thousands to see someone, not for entertainment, but for insight and education and to be inspired. I don’t think I have ever been to an event filling a stadium where that was the purpose. I see now maybe the power in such people as Martin Luther King speaking to crowds of thousands, uniting them in hope and inspiration.
The Dalai Lama spoke about cultivating compassion and moving “beyond religion“, the title of his latest book. He spoke about the confusion in thinking which conflates morality and religion together, rather than seeing that morality is about how one wishes to experience day to day life:
“The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea [...] While we can live without tea, we can’t live without water. Likewise, we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion.”
I liked this emphasis on values as it moves the conversation to what is common, what unites rather than what divides. What he also emphasised, which I think is often missed, is how cultivating compassion only comes through making an effort, it does not necessarily come naturally. Our mental attitude can therefore change over time, a hugely valuable insight as I for one often thought I was born with innate mental attitudes which were not really changeable, they were part of who I was. I now feel it is right that mental attitudes can be changed with effort, through having experienced the changes in me since last summer when I seriously began to try to become more aware of my inner landscape (see about, 15 Feb- changing your life with appreciation, and 24 Feb Facing Fears through Yoga). And, unlike with the physical, there are no limits to the mental landscape, which makes it all the more exciting to explore.
I also received an invite from Simon Sutton for the launch screening of a film about the Dalai Lama’s UK Tour last night, called “The Road to Peace“. Simon Sutton is an explorer of transparent communication (see 25 Feb: Language of L.O.V.E) and he hosted a Q&A with the director Leon Stuparich after the showing of the film. It was wonderful to hear how Leon got to make the film. It wasn’t some commercial deal, it was his heart’s desire to make this film as he felt he was a Tibetan inside, and he felt drawn to use his gifts to celebrate the humanity of the Dalai Lama. He also spoke about how his experience of making the film changed him as a person, living proof that not everyone follows Tolstoy’s words. He is also proof that, with enough faith in one’s heartfelt dreams, they can come true.
The film was inspiring in a different way to seeing the Dalai Lama in person. Although it was wonderful to be in a stadium to see and hear the words of the Dalai Lama, in some ways I found it difficult to focus on what he was saying. I thought it was me but then, when I watched the film and felt every word cutting through to me, I wondered what the difference was. Maybe its this. In the film I felt I was being spoken to directly by the Dalai Lama, there was a sense of connection and therefore relationship that, somehow, was more difficult to feel in a stadium of thousands. In the stadium I felt the grandness of the event, in the film (counter-intuitively) I felt the intimacy of the personal.
I also got a real sense of the “soul” of Leon shining through the film, by what he chose to show and reveal. Instead of focusing on the grandiosity, he focused on the small intimate moments, the Dalai Lama having a chuckle when he sinks into a sofa, the shining eyes and words of ordinary people who had brief encounters with him. Knowing the director was to be interviewed after the film, I got a different sense of the film. I began to observe the observer, the person making the film, and began to see his compassion and love coming through by seeing what it is he decided to focus on and bring out.
Is this like us, can we begin to observe ourselves and begin to see ourselves like watching a film? If so, can we then begin to observe what it is we are deciding to focus on and bring out, see what kind of director we are of our own film, called Life?
Someone from the audience asked how the film could reach a wider audience. Leon said he had tried to get the film a wider distribution but he wanted the film to spread through the right intention, not a commercial one, which meant that we the audience were the distributors! So, this is my way of spreading the message about the film:)
The last comment taken from the audience was from a lady who said she felt drawn to speak despite her shyness and nerves, she felt a “synchronicity” (her words) in what was being spoken about in terms of compassion and dialogue and her own recent experience at a workshop on Non Violent Communication, a methodology created by someone called Marshall Rosenberg. She said if only 5 people connected with what she said, she would be happy. I for one have been thinking about ways to come to truth more compassionately. As a lawyer, I am used to conflict as a way to “truth”. To know that there is a tool available for coming to truth through compassion as an alternative is good news and one I think worth exploring, so that’s at least one of the 5 people she hoped to connect with!