I recently read an article about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, written by Stephan Talty. Stephan describes the life of this man: how he was taken away from his family early in his childhood, how he had to study and meditate, and live a life that he did not choose for himself. His country, Tibet, was taken over by China and he was forced to go into exile. Now in his 80’s, he has been given many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Stephan says about the Dalai Lama: “He thinks like a man that is guaranteed nothing.”
Reading this created a profound awakening for me, as I realized the degree to which I believed, and was trained was true, that because I did good deeds, I loved well, studied and worked hard, I was guaranteed everything I desire and more. The presumptions of entitlement to happiness came to a halt when I read this quote by the Dalai Lama: "I see that my suffering is created by my disappointment that the guarantees I thought were in place have yet to be honored."
I have had to take a hard look at my anger and rage, my despair and my judging and blaming, and see that so much of it comes from my belief that I was guaranteed the fulfillment of all my desires. However, it appears that if I truly want a life that is infinitely pleasing, and the serenity that comes with that, I’ll have to start thinking differently.
People who live in what we consider to be physically impoverished countries actually see the United States to be a 3rd world country, when it comes to spiritual prosperity. They have learned to live without guarantees, yet live in a faith that seems unfathomable to most Americans. They see how we have very little capacity to be happy and content within ourselves. We constantly seek stimulation and self-gratification from external sources. We presume we will get it all because we believe in the guarantee. And, perhaps we presume that getting, taking, and having more is what we are guaranteed, yet the happiness factor is missing. I witness this in client after client after client. Regardless of how much money they have, how many toys are in their garage, they are suffering!
Though the United States has such abundance when it comes to material resources, we have the most unrest and violence within our homes and neighborhoods. We have huge health problems: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and lots and lots of cancer. Perhaps our diseases are the consequences of not squarely facing the consequences of ignoring and denying our relationship with guarantees. No one likes this conversation – just like the conversation about Global Warming, it sucks to have to face reality!
As we age we have the potential to begin to think differently. Perhaps the dreams we had for our careers, for our families, for our environment, for our well-being were not fulfilled. Perhaps we live in certain living conditions that we declared would never happen to us! Perhaps health and money issues interfered with opportunities to be more adventurous in life. I think the older we get, the more we are like the Dalai Lama, surrendering to the reality that there are no guarantees.
The funny thing is that, what is guaranteed – death and aging, is what we deny as part of being human. As we move toward the certainty of death we refuse to be in a harmonious relationship with ourselves within the process of aging and the process of dying. Though it is guaranteed, perhaps because it is guaranteed, we live with death as a matter of fact, like, for most of us, putting our underwear on one leg at a time. Not much thinking required, until there is. We ignore what is occurring within us – who we are being as we experience the shrinking of our abilities to get more and have more.
As parents, and grandparents, we want to guarantee our children freedom from suffering, pain, betrayal and abandonment, yet those guarantees are often broken by ourselves. Now, we feel broken and we feel bad because we have caused brokenness in our children.
We may be broken but we are not broke. What that means, at least to me is that we can heal ourselves and in so doing we can heal our children. How do we teach our children that broken guarantees is a guarantee – that it is part of the Game of Life. The strategy is not to avoid broken promises; the strategy is to figure out how to be true to yourself in the midst of all the consequences you meet as life falls apart, as you face that the guarantee was/is an illusion.
The hurricanes of the past month certainly have thrown a lot of people incredible opportunities to learn how to be with broken guarantees. It proves that no one is alone going through such suffering and loss.
As a side note but relevant to what I’m about to say, I’m putting together a collection of these articles in a book called, Aging Like a Guru – Who Me? It is the third book in the GURU Series I’ve written; Parent Like a Guru, and Diet Like a Guru were its predecessors.
I believe that all gurus started out like you and me, just normal everyday people who, at some point, got sick and tired of living in suffering. Much like the Dalai Lama, they were disappointed with living as if their guarantees would be honored. They were done suffering and decided to do something different -they decided to let go of living for the fulfillment of their guarantees! They began to practice living as if there are no guarantees. Nothing more than that!
To age like a guru is to think differently about what we really want. We think differently in service to creating simplicity within our everyday world, whether it is within our heads, our refrigerators, our homes, or our hearts.
To age like a guru, we notice how our presumptions, our expectations, and our anticipations influence how we be, from one moment to the next. We practice releasing those thoughts and beliefs that no longer serves us. With mindfulness and with gratitude, we let go of what no longer belongs to us – maybe never did, knowing that to release is to trust that we may be living in the Guarantee of all Guarantees – that we have all we need right now. We lack nothing and will never lack for anything again. Yeah, that’s pretty deep and lofty – it’s a lot to take in, I know.
To age like a guru is to develop trust that you are okay, and will continue to be okay with all your brokenness, with all your unfulfilled guarantees. In the end, it’s going to be okay!
Thank you, Dalai Lama, for being a light-full leader, showing us how to be human and be in harmony with the bigger Guarantee all at the same time.