I recently took a trip to Dharmsala, Himachal Pradesh, the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to attend his teachings to the Indian public. The series of 2 days with a renowned professor of Eastern and Western philosophies and 3 days with His Holiness, focusing on an introduction to the Nalanda School of Buddhism. At the end of the 3 days, we were invited to write our questions down, and a few were selected to be answered in a group of about 500 registered participants.
My question, which I was thinking about since the moment my eyes fell on His Holiness’ body, was “How is it that you are always smiling?”
It was chosen by the organizers as the last question, an apt way to end the program.
His Holiness spent about 30 minutes answering the question, running through topics from 7th century Tibet and spiritual and political relations with China, Mongolia,and India, to Marxist and Communist economics. Along the way he made little jokes, and explained his own family background and how he studied as a child (somewhat naughty at times!).
Always smiling, though. He said that most Tibetans smile, despite the hardships they face in their own country, and elsewhere in the world. I beg to differ!!! His former Prime Minister sat for the entire program, and I never saw him smile even once!
His Holiness said too, that perhaps it was out of practice– he has been the 14th Dalai Lama for many, many decades! He learned how to smile at a very young age.
Dharmsala and McLeod Ganj are filled with Yoga classes and retreats and teachers. It was not from them that I took away one of the most important lessons of my life and my yoga practice– to learn how to smile. My own teacher, Christy Burnette, came from an Anusara background, where we are taught to “let the grace flow”, “open our hearts”, and, I always add, “let your heart smile”.
Since I teach others the same, I’ve often thought about increasing my smiling capacity, and now, from June 21-July 31, I’m holding my own 40-day “Lent/ Ramadan/ Month of Margazhi”. While many people choose to give up alcohol, meat, chocolate, or another “sin”, I am choosing to work on something so precious, a lesson from one of the greatest Peacebuilders of our time: Smile.
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