Tag Archives: Dalai Lama

Mega Weekend Coffee Share

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You might want a cool drink this weekend. It’s warming up around here and we’re enjoying some glorious Spring weather.

It’s not every week that I can tell you that something’s happened. I’m not talking about my usual staring at the waves or up into the clouds and finding peace, joy and harmony in the trees.

No, indeed.

I’m talking about some pretty extraordinary stuff. Not that I’m showing off because I was just in the right place at the right time, which I’ve got to tell you is a bit of a rarity for me…especially when all this happened at our local beach an hour from Sydney. We’re not a backwater but we’re hardly Mecca either.

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The kids learning to surf.

Wednesday morning, the kids started a three day surf course. I was really excited about this as I have a secret passion for surfing, even though I’ve only caught a few waves in my life time and they were lying down. Yet, I loved that sensation of surging through the waves. Wow! My husband has also been interested in learning to surf and so we bought a board when we were in Byron Bay a few years ago but it’s never seen the beach and has been filed away in the deepest, darkest recesses of the garage…a doomed holiday “romance” of sorts.

So, the kids are lined up on the beach learning how it’s done on the sand before they hit the surf. I’m taking a few photos and follow them down to the water.

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That’s when I spot a group of Tibetan monks on the beach. They’re dressed in their robes. The same coloured robes as the Dalai Lama. Not only that but they’re all lined up carrying surfboards.

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Blessing the Beach.

That’s right. There was a group of Tibetan monks at our beach going surfing. Well, not quite going surfing yet because they were giving a blessing for the beach, posing for photos and talking to the media. Then, they changed into board shorts and life jackets before they headed out.

I’ve written two posts about their visit:

Accidents, Blessings & Tibetan Monks at an Australian Beach.

The Gyuto Monks of Tibet in Australia

Backtracking a little, that morning I had a nasty fall at the shops and sprained my ankle and tore a hole in my knee. There was no one around at the time and I must admit it would’ve been really good to have someone help me get up. Even better, just imagine if those monks had found me. They could’ve carried me back to the car and blessed me on the way. What a shame! That would’ve been fantastic!

But, I’m Tonka tough. I kept going.

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The Family with Jimmy Barnes at Book Bazaar.

Saturday morning, was planned excitement. Australian rock legend Jimmy Barnes was at our local bookshop, Book Bazaar, signing copies of his book: Working Class Boy. I’m currently reading the book and love loving it even though it’s heavy, emotive, dark and very much like Angela’s Ashes. I’ve actually found it pretty hard finding out the back story behind the man. A man who is as Australian as Vegemite. Pretty much every Australian “of a certain age” has a story about Barnsey and or Cold Chisel.

Anyway, meeting Jimmy was pretty nerve-wracking. Not because I was nervous or shy but because I was desperate to get a good photo of him and ideally him with us for the blog. However, I knew they were  expecting 200 people through in 2 hours and they had at least 3-4 queue cops on duty. In the past, I’ve found that while they talk about embracing social media, bloggers don’t even rate a spot at the bottom of the pecking order. I just had to hope. Pray. Usually, the long lens comes through, but queue cops can show no mercy. When you’ve had your allocated 30 seconds, you get the boot.

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This queue cop wasn’t wearing the official t-shirt and looked like he was in the wrong side of the globe.

However, unbeknown to me, I had two magic tricks up my sleeve. I’d at least read some of his book and I showed compassion. Who wouldn’t? He might be a famous rocker now, but once upon a time he was a little boy living in a war zone and as a Mum, I wanted to pick up that little boy, give him a huge hug and a Matchbox car.

Here’s the full story: Jimmy Barnes: What do you say when you meet a rock legend?

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Jimmy Barnes signing our books.

Being a complete and utter dag, I sad as much to him as he was signing the book and made a connection. Just because your famous, it doesn’t mean you don’t need people to care, listen to your story and give a damn.

So, I’ve felt like I’m sitting on Cloud 9 after those outstanding experiences this week and yet, at the same time, the cough is more repetitive and less productive than even though my lungs are clear. My ankle is still swollen and badly bruised from the fall but doesn’t really hurt…the ups and downs of life.

This weekend is also “Bathurst”. That is the “Bathurst 1000”…a 1000km race around Mt Panorama with such thrills as “Hell Corner” “Forrest’s Elbow” and “The Chase”. I don’t think any of this track is what you’d consider “safe”. It’s definitely a case of “maniacs only need apply”. Another aspect of Bathurst is the intense rivalry between Ford and Holden. Will Davison & Jonathon Webb won this year and yes they were driving a Holden!

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one and I’ll be trying to visit everyone for  coffee.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at https://parttimemonsterblog.com/  and you can click through to the linky here

xx Rowena

Accidents, Blessings &Tibetan Monks at our Australian Beach.

It’s no wonder I “over-think” things. Strange things keep happening and I’m trying to work out whether it’s chance, coincidence or destiny. That’s why I like the word serendipity because it seems to covers that ambiguity. It was “meant to be”, and yet it was also brought about by chance.

Moreover, I should also add that it’s up to you whether you grasp that serendipitous moment (that is, if there is such a word) and run with it or let it slip through your hands into the wind where it could well be grasped by someone more daring.

Before I get to the audaciousness of the woman with the long camera lens (I tell you I’ve lost count of how many doors a long lens has opened for me over the years but it’s certainly been more influential than the sword!!)

As I said, before I get to the audaciousness of the woman with the long lens, let me just tell you that before I was strutting my stuff down at the beach and flashing my lens around, yours truly had a nasty fall. Not of the figurative kind but of the real, painful and ouchy kind. I’d ducked down to get my daughter a loaf of bread and for no reason whatsoever, my ankle flipped over, gave way and I landed smack onto the concrete.

As I’m lying there, pain receptors all over my body are flashing red and my  brain is doing this desperate mantra: “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” Meanwhile, inside I feel this desperate, crushing sadness. It’s almost been 2 years since my last fall where I broke my foot in equally pathetic circumstances and yes, I was feeling sorry for myself. I was wanting someone to rescue me and give me a hand up. I might have been at our local shops and I know a lot of people around here, but there was no one in sight. As much as it’s embarrassing to have a fall, it’s also a relief to have help getting up and some loving, caring stranger ask if you’re okay and bless you with the touch of human kindness.

However, as I said, there was no one in sight.

So, I picked myself off the ground and hobbled with my sprained ankle on one leg and my grazed knee on the other, looking like a mutant John Wayne. Bought my bread. Said hello to a friend (without mentioning my accident) and drove home.

Life as a parent…there is no off switch.

The kids were going to their first surf lesson this morning. I’d been really been looking forward to watching them, but now I was wondering how I was going to walk along the beach. I was angry with my foot. Angry with life.

By the way, as far as I’m concerned, it’s alright to ask: “Why me?” at these times.  It’s just not good to dwell on it.

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The kids learning to surf.

Anyway, I made it onto the sand and was taking a few photos of the kids and listening to their surf instructor, when I noticed a group of Tibetan monks wearing flowing robes on the beach. Immediately, instinctively even, my photographic eyes were starting to switch.

Obviously, a group of Tibetan monks in robes stood out on an Australian beach. We’re about 90 minutes  North of Sydney and not what you’d call a multi-cultural area. It’s bikinis, board shorts and surf board territory around here.

Now, I have seen some interesting sights on the beach, and more often, I’ve been an “interesting” sight myself (what with taking photos of things at the beach…tea cups, Eeyore, kids etc ). However, Tibetan monks on an Australian beach is a first.

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Our son taking to the waves.

So being the helicopter parent that I am, I totally switched off from my kids’ surf lesson and started chasing these poor monks up and down the beach with my camera instead. Actually, unlike my kids they were there to be photographed, were only too happy to meet and greet and they also did a meditation to bless our beach.

However, these monks weren’t just there to look at the waves. Apparently, they’re going surfing. They’ll be having a surf lesson and I later saw them wearing wet suits and life jackets, although we left before they had a go. The TV station was there and an official photographer with a much bigger lens than mine. They were conducting interviews, filming and taking photos. However, I was able to mention  1000 Voices for Compassion  and my blog. I also found out that they’re coming back in November for a series of talks in Gosford. I’ll be there!

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The Monks have changed into beach gear and life vests ready for a surf.

It was remarkable timing running into these Gyutan monks from Tibet after my disheartening fall this morning. It gave me such a such a sense of yin and yang. There was the physical pain, shock and disappointment of the fall followed by the excitement of seeing the monks but also feeling touched by meeting them and being reminded about peace and the goodness of God and the need to look up instead of down.

Perhaps, I was meant to learn to trust God. That even when I fall and feel incredibly alone, that God is still there with me and carrying me forward to something better. And I know that if we didn’t have the rain, we’d never appreciate the sun and the plants would never grow.

That said, getting hurt still hurts.

“Happiness is as a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

— Nathaniel Hawthorne

As you may recall, I’ve mentioned  in various posts before, about how I see better when I’m looking through my camera lens. That I see things I miss with my own eyes.  Well, photographing and meeting these monks was confirmation and I really appreciated these added insights.

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The Monks blessing the Beach as their feet get wet.

It turns out the monks haven’t had much, if any, exposure to the beach and, for example, didn’t know that the water would be salty. I noticed that they flinched as the waves rolled over these feet. Perhaps, the water was cold but I saw this as an unfamiliarity with the waves.

However, while they were meditating and the very same water whooshed over their feet, they stood completely still. They didn’t flinch.

That touched me. That gave me an insight into the depths of their meditation and its power. That it’s something deep and very real. Not only that, I would love to reach that level of peace in myself…especially in stressful situation. It was such a powerful testimony.

“We must begin our search for meaning when things are going well. A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm, but the tree can’t grow roots just as the storm appears on the horizon.”

Dr Howard Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” (which was co-written by the Dalai Lama.) […]

So, after photographing and meeting these inspirational monks, I was back to Parenthood 2.0. Watching the end of their surf lesson and taking them to Maccas for lunch on the way home…a special holiday treat.

Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, we have a way to go too!

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By the way, you may be interested in a previous post I wrote where I reviewed The Pursuit of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard Carter. You can check it out here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/the-dalai-lama-and-the-psychiatrist-converse/

xx Rowena

PS Tonight my husband was catching the train home from work when he spotted our dear neighbours returning prematurely from the trip. They’re in their mid-80s and the wife had had a nasty fall and had spent the night in hospital. I received a phone call on my “death bed” and the next thing I was driving to the station picking them up and helping her back into the house… past their tribe of about 8 duckling and a single parent who were missing them terribly along with their “pet” magpie. It felt nice to be useful and to be able to help them and be part of community instead of sitting on the edge! This couple have been a bit like grandparents to our family and today it was our turn to look out for them instead.

Prepared for the Storm

“We must begin our search for meaning when things are going well. A tree with strong roots can withstand the most violent storm, but the tree can’t grow roots just as the storm appears on the horizon.”

Dr Howard Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” (which was co-written by the Dalai Lama.)

By the way, I really struggled to find an image to accompany this quote. While this Australian Gum Tree, depicted by Sir Hans Heysen appears very stable with exceptionally strong roots, being honest, gum trees are renowned for falling over in storms and causing quite a lot of damage. So while there’s some incongruity here, I hope you’ll just appreciate the image until I can find something more appropriate.

xx Rowena

The Dalai Lama and the Psychiatrist Converse.

In my last post, I mentioned that I’m reading “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler.

Although I don’t usually write book reviews, I’ve made an exception in this case and I’ve been so inspired by this book that I couldn’t wait to finish the book to share my glee. I’m only halfway through and I definitely can’t put it down (except to update the blog and touch base with the family).

I strongly recommend you do whatever it takes to read this book and to read it slowly and carefully. I read such books with my pen and write notes to myself and underline text and use the book as a notebook. For me, I guage how good a book is by how much ink I’ve scribbled all over the pages. So, on this basis, this book is doing brilliantly.

Before I read the book, I must admit that I was a little uneasy getting too engrossed in a different religion. Although I’m a Christian, I do read very broadly but at the same time I wondered whether reading this book and absorbing the thoughts of the Dalai Lama was going too far. That I was crossing over into foreign soil and that when it came understanding happiness, I should turn to my Bible first.

However, while they certainly address Buddist beliefs, the book has been written as a series of life-lessons for a Western, largely American, audience and it doesn’t delve into the spiritual in an overbearing way at all.

Indeed, in many ways it reminded me of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and “Tuesdays With Morrie”.

“The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living” by His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler

As the Dalai Lama explains, “We attempted to present to the reader a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and overcoming life’s inevitable adversities and suffering. Our approach combines and integrates, hopefully, the best of East and West—that is Western science and psychology on the one hand and Buddhist principles and practices on the other.1.”

“In The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama offers a good first step when pursuing any positive goal: Learning. If our objective is happiness, we need to begin by learning about the benefits of happiness. The recent scientific evidence has identified a wide array of practical benefits of happiness extending far beyond merely feeling good–including better physical and mental health, longer life, stronger relationships, greater career success, higher income, and many other personal rewards.

One of the fundamental principles of The Art of Happiness is that cultivating greater happiness not only benefits oneself but also one’s family, community, and society. There is new scientific evidence supporting this principle as well. Such evidence helps dispel our common cultural biases and myths, such as perceiving happiness as a somewhat “soft” or frivolous subject, or considering the pursuit of happiness to be self-centered or self-indulgent”2.

The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama

This book is also about so much more than happiness. It also looks at sorrow and has a whole chapter about compassion, including a meditation exercise. Being part of 1000 Voices for Compassion (http://1000voicesspeak.org/), I really appreciated that chapter. It added quite a lot to my understanding.

The book is also very helpful for writers interested in personality, what makes people tick and how to create really complex, more diverse characters. There’s quite a lot of discussion about what makes people tick…or indeed, not tick. After all, this is more of a book about people than just happiness itself.

I’d also like to add that the Dalai Lama doesn’t pretend to be able to solve everybody’s problems and acknowledges there are people facing very complex problems. He doesn’t pretend to be able to fix these any better than anybody else. However, he does offer a few tools, which might help.

When you consider that one of these tools might say alter your path by 10 degrees and perhaps another by a further 10, you are now 20 degrees away from where you were originally heading. Perhaps, this place is no different to where you were but it could be. There’s that hope. I often think that making these seemingly small changes can make quite significant difference over time.

I must admit that while this book is a new to me, it did spend 97 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list so obviously thousands, maybe even millions have beaten me to it and that could well include you.

Have you read it? In which case, I would love to hear your thoughts and how it might have impacted on you.

xx Rowena

Sources

1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/howard-c-cutler-md

2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/howard-c-cutler-md/learning-the-art-of-happi_b_374134.html?ir=Australia

3. His Holiness The Dalai Lama and Psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler: “The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living”, Hachette Australia, 2003.

What Is Your Idea of Perfect Happiness?… The Proust Questionnaire.

Working on character for the “Book Project”, a few weeks ago I decided to run through the Proust Questionnaire: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/in-pursuit-of-character-the-proust-questionnaire/

However, progress has obviously stalled at Question 1: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Needless to say, pursuing this question has evolved into quite a challenging and thrilling journey, resulting in multiple stepping-stone posts and even devouring precious wisdom from:The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.

You could well say I covered my idea of perfect happiness in my last post: By the way, you can read that post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/the-dna-of-happiness/

However, I really wanted to nail it down.

Be specific.

Write something succinct.

Yet, of course, I’ve failed. After all, how could I ever encapsulate happiness in just a few words?

Thread and Thrift: Crazy Patchwork Appliqued Birds by Mandy Pattullo http://threadandthrift

Thread and Thrift: Crazy Patchwork Appliqued Birds by Mandy Pattullo http://threadandthrift

Finally, getting straight to the point, my idea of perfect happiness is something like a crazy patchwork quilt. Fabrics with a diversity of colour, pattern,texture, age and origin are all sewn together with a multiplicity of threads to make a truly eclectic life. It would also have to include something of a rainbow because even in my state of supposed “perfect” happiness, there would still have to be sun and rain. Otherwise, I’d stagnate. After all, flowers need sun and water to grow.

I love this sense of diversity, leading a varied and eclectic life because I thrive on that tension of yin and yang.

For example, consider intimacy and solitude.

Footprints in the sand.

Footprints in the sand.

There are times where I thrive on and really need my own space to write, think, eat my chocolate and simply breathe in peace. In other words, I can find true happiness basking in solitude and being completely alone and I can ever feel annoyed when someone enters that sacred place.

Cartwheels in the sand.

Cartwheels in the sand.

However, as a people person, I prefer to be with my kids, my husband, family, friends and being an active part not only in our local and now global community.

Yet. I love, appreciate and find happiness in both states.

Mister painintg himself.

Mister painintg himself.

Another way I’d describe my idea of perfect happiness would be to embrace life the way my children used to paint. Carpe Diem seize the day is definitely my mantra. While my kids still enjoy painting, they were really in their element painting as toddlers. I’d turn my back for just an instant and those thieving little hands would be squirting and smearing “Mummy’s paint” all over the page, their bodies and the house with exuberant delight. Even their cheeky little grins and their precious toothypegs were covered in paint. No holding back. No fear of making mistakes or not being good enough, there was only joy!

Love that paint job!

Love that paint job!

So often, we as adults have lost that joy, becoming too inhibited to spread our wings to fly or perhaps to open our lungs and truly allow ourselves to breathe and not hold back.

As I mentioned in my last post, for many poets and philosophers, happiness and sorrow are inexorably linked. You can’t have one without the other. That as opposites, that “yin and yang”, they help define each other. This would suggest that happiness is also identified and appreciated only by experiencing its opposite. This means no tears, suffering or frustrations, you also miss out on happiness…even if that doesn’t make sense.

A few years ago, if you’d asked me about happiness, I know I would’ve said: “getting my books published”. Indeed, even getting one book published would be a thrill. However, I’m not so sure that fulfilling that goal would bring enduring happiness. Sure, there would be such a sense of achievement, accomplishment and that “FINALLY”!! But I’m not sure that this would guarantee happiness. It is very tempting to think so but I’m not that sure. Of course, one suspects if it’s a best-seller, you’d never turn back but….?

I also don’t want to put too much weight on something that will happen in the future because I also need to be happy, content and excited about getting out of bed right now. That means right here, right now…NOT tomorrow!

That means that my idea of happiness currently has to involve NOT having the book(s) published.

In addition to all these more creative representations of my perfect state of happiness, I have also taken a more systematic approach.

A few years ago, when I first started working on writing my motivational memoir about living beyond a chronic, life-threatening illness, I came up with a list of things, seemingly out of nowhere and I wrote it down and have pondered that list for years now. A few items come and go but the list is essentially:

Mind
Body
Spirit
Community
Environment
Work

They stayed in this linear list format for a few years until I discovered Mind Mapping and then I put them into this format. I really didn’t know what happened when you put all this things together at once and just left it as a question mark…an enigma. It might be happiness. It could be self-actualization or resilience but I do believe it is a very powerful, life changing force…a bit like shaking up that bottle of Coke and taking off the lid.

The Keys To Happiness or Contentment?

The Keys To Happiness or Contentment?

However, these musings didn’t stop there.

When I started to work out the next level of the mind map i.e the things that I could do to develop these areas, a surprising thing occurred.

Or, at least it surprised me.

There was considerable overlap between categories.

For example, playing my violin managed to tick off mind,body,spirit and community because I not only play by myself but in an ensemble. It might even get a half tick in the environment category because at least I don’t think playing the violin is doing any harm.

Walking my dogs at the beach ticks off everything except work. Well, actually as my writing is my work and I write about dogs, I guess that’s also ticked off.

So, you see, if you are clever, you can activate many of these areas through a single activity, although you’d probably want and need more diversity than that.

I have been living quite consciously to this road map of sorts for a few years now and I am pretty sure it’s helped. For example, when my violin teacher and I discussed my future goals, I said that violin was a form of therapy to me. I know that it’s actually rewired my neuropathways quite significantly taking me from being unable to listen to music and finding it annoying due to a noisy brain, to someone who now attends concerts regularly, listens to CDs and plays an instrument. Indeed, I’m becoming a musician of sorts.

Unfortunately, all of this hasn’t resulted in perfect happiness. My health continues to be a serious concern and as I’ve mentioned before, while I’ve been exploring happiness, I’ve simultaneously been battling a nasty bout of bronchitis and am only just avoiding a hospital admission.

Our family also lives under a lot of stress and more often than not, this all boils over and it’s not all happy families, despite the photographs. However, what does perhaps give us a boost is our tenacious perseverance. We don’t give up easily. My husband is up at 6.00 AM every morning to go to work in Sydney no matter what. He did work from home on Friday because I was that crook but that doesn’t happen often. Geoff arrives home around 7.00PM and that’s the beginning of another day. Our kids are also fairly intensive and have some time-consuming medical issues.

So with all this going on, how could we possibly be happy? How could I be happy?

Well, despite how I come across, I’m not happy all the time but I am optimistic. Moreover, after all I’ve been through, I feel like I’ve been living on borrowed time for quite awhile and I am incredibly thankful. I consider myself very lucky. I carpe diem seize the day, which doesn’t just mean living for myself and our family but also being active in our community. I do the publicity for the kids school and can be seen running around at events taking photos, even when I’m not particularly well. I do the same for there Scout troop.

So, once again, I haven’t manged to answer this question in a nutshell but I think I’m getting close.

I hope some of these thought might also help you further along your journey towards happiness, contentment and along with it that sense of peace. It’s not about having all your ducks lined up and having the perfect life, but somehow seeing beyond all that to something for less tangible. Something you might not be able to see and touch but you know it when you feel it in your heart.

Love & Blessings,
Rowena