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Happiness, Obsessive Thoughts, and Seeing the Dalai Lama

I’m not sure if it's the summer heat or the fact that I've been without a home and couch-surfing for the past 5 months, but I've been feeling a little crazy lately. I've let some thoughts spin out of control, obsessing over seemingly stupid details and life tales, and letting the crazy ideas or stories that my mind creates drive me, well, crazy. So when a friend suggested taking a 1:15am bus ride to Washington, D.C. to see the Dalai Lama speak on July 9 on World Peace (the west lawn of the Capitol Building opened at 7am for seating), it seemed like a pretty good idea.











There might not have been so many people in attendance who journeyed as far as my friends and I to witness the momentous event, but there were literally thousands there delighting in His Holiness' presence, no matter the heat--a scorching 93 degrees is what someone's iPhone reported. It felt like it was 133. But it didn't seem to discourage too many with second thoughts. This was history in the making, and we all awaited with bated breath--some of us for three or four hours--to hear the knowledge HHDL was going to drop.

After being introduced onstage by Whoopi Goldberg, who was just as surprised as all of us lawngoers that introduction duties had been bestowed upon her, HHDL began talking about happiness: Everyone has a right to it, and everyone is born with it, but that the mistake lies in thinking that happiness comes from an external source. In actuality, HH says that happiness is found by cultivating peace of mind, and that the only way to change society is by creating a calm mind. It sounds so simple, but I am but one fine example of how hard this is, in fact, to achieve.

And let’s let my ego dazzle you with a story here, shall we? Once upon a few short hours before His Holiness took to the stage, I was speaking from that cracked-out place of delirium brought on by lack of sleep, heat exhaustion, and an impending caffeine rush to one of my companions on the New York-to-DC adventure. As we walked back to the lawn after having procured the sweet stuff (in this case coffee), I spoke to her about how I was my own worst enemy (my ego wanted center stage here, too)--that I was the creator of all my problems, and why do we think, think, think, and then get stuck on one specific thought? Why can’t we be free of these thoughts that we somehow give power to, latching onto it and obsessing over it once it pops up out of thin air. She totally understood what I was talking about, but neither of us could come up with a good reason why it is we do what we do. So when HHDL started talking about finding peace of mind in order to be happy, it felt like he was talking directly to me, that he somehow overheard my conversation and was giving this speech specifically for my benefit.

Okay, so my ego isn’t THAT big, but in speaking to my friend that day and other friends during the week about this issue or problem I’ve been experiencing, it humbled me to know that I am not the only person who suffers with this. We all do it, and HH knows this. So what to do with a mind that works like a broken record, going over the same groove over and over again?

According to His Holiness, to be able to see our reality fully, we must look at ourselves objectively; transversely, in order to see things objectively our mind must be calm. A hard thing to achieve, an even harder thing to maintain. But HHDL says that through confidence, inner strength, intelligence (if used properly), warmheartedness, compassion, and concern for others’ well-being, we will be able to make our personal noise pollution stop. Through the practice of compassion comes inner strength, a greater calm to see things objectively. By being compassionate to ourselves as well as others, we are more likely to investigate our problems as they arise; it’s through our own thorough investigation that we realize that it’s not worth it to worry about our problems, but to, instead, accept them--the key factor in letting go of the obsessive thought process.

The fact that everyone has a right, a choice for happiness (and for us Americans,it’s one of our basic Constitutional rights) gives the Dalai Lama hope for humankind. And according to His Holiness, utter happiness equals peace of mind.

So I encourage you to notice when your thoughts start playing on repeat and see if you can observe them and realize that they are keeping you from attaining a calm mind. Try to meditate and really just let the thought go. Get rid of it. You don’t need it. It is a problem of your own device and it is keeping you from a calm mind, from happiness.

I know it is easier said than done, but to be free from the incessant, negative chatter inside my head? Sounds like heaven to me.


Jessica Mahler is a New York City writer and yoga teacher. Check out her blog about yoga, Downward Facing Blog.

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