The Dalai Lama laughs. Easily. Heartily. He laughs, even though his story is one of a refugee, witnessing in exile the suffering of his people and so many others in the world. Realizing his heart’s desire – to free Tibet from Chinese control –would make a difference in the lives of so many, but his happiness doesn’t hinge on this outcome.
He spoke about the power of our energy and essence when one of the presenters asked if doing good works in the world isn’t what’s most important. Acts of compassion, he answered, while important, can only affect a limited number of people. That is, one can only do so much.
On the other hand, going inward, meditating, being fully present leads to influencing so many more. If compassion radiates from one’s core, in every moment, he explained, it affects people who aren’t visibly suffering, but who nonetheless need and feel the effects of one’s compassionate presence. It gave me goosebumps because the sense of being the good work, more than doing (or writing) the good work, stands conventional wisdom on its head.
The Dalai Lama’s presence is, of course, a perfect example of such power. And I suspect all the great spiritual teachers, like Jesus and Buddha, understood this insight, lived it. Peace. Presence. Pure and simple.
It says something to me about a way to be, en route to bringing a book into being. After all, what if, because of a funny or thought-provoking or inspiring “read,” the amount of suffering in the world that is alleviated is infinitesimal? What if, after writing and revising and querying and connecting with an agent, and then an editor, one publishes a book that goes out of print after a couple of years? (In an LA Times essay called “Hero Librarians Save My Babies,” Amy Goldman Koss thanks public librarians on behalf of her characters who face just such a demise.)
In the process of creating a manuscript that I hope will make a difference, what’s the state of my be-ing? Do I practice compassion for myself along the way? Can I be playful, joyful, about what I do at each stage or only at the thought of the destination? In a recent Facebook post (“Life is an Education“), affirmation guru and worldchanger, 80+year-old Louise Hay celebrates a commencement address at Stanford University given by founder and CEO of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs, who revealed that for the last 34 years, he has looked in the mirror every morning and asked himself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do?”
She suggests a handful of affirmations that would likely prompt a smile from His Holiness: I am responsible for my experience. Every thought I think is creating my future. I need to release the past and forgive everyone, including myself. The point of power is always in the present moment. I am safe in the Universe, and all Life loves and supports me. All is well in my world.
I’m playing with this last one, that all is well at any point in the process.