A few years ago I sat in a cafe in McLeod Gange, home to the Dalai Lama in the middle of a HUGE crisis over a long term relationship. If you’ve ever been in a relationship that’s got so much love and so many wonderful qualities but your heart is desperate for freedom and you’re caught making pros and cons lists pretty much every minute and in addition to all of that, you’re so hooked into the person on so many levels that it’s going to take major surgery to get away from each other, and you know that you’re both going to get heart broken in this process. If so, then maybe you can identify with the anxiety I was experiencing at that time. I’d been a therapist for 8 years successfully helping others to deal with the waters of life, and yet in that moment I could feel there was something deeper to understand about dealing with the turbulent times and about true happiness. “You’re in the land of the Buddhists. They’re always banging on about happiness,” some voice said inside of my head. Just then an angel messenger burst through the door, “the Karmapa Lama is giving a spontaneous blessing at his temple in an hour. There’s a bus leaving in 15 minutes.”
I finished my momos and was on the bus as if a gust a wind was blowing me toward this deeper understanding of happiness that my soul had suddenly called me to. The Karmapa lama is sort of second in command after the Dalai Lama and is said to be the embodiment of all Buddha activities. “Sounds like someone I need to meet,” I thought as I sat on the bus watching the passing city and then mountains.
I arrived at the temple only to bump into a Dutch woman who told me all about her relationship and I’m telling you, it was the perfect story to send me further into my own relationship saga. The fires of anxiety burned within me, a mixture of heart ache and fear of the future. Fortunately I was at the Karmapa’s temple.
Soon we were lining up for our blessing. I looked ahead and there he was, the Karmapa. I’d met the Dalai Lama twice before and he was always smiling and looking deep into the eyes of the one he was blessing. The Karmapa on the other hand was in his 20s and looked slightly bored, as if he wanted to get this over with so he could get back to his football game or perhaps his meditation or whatever it is that the Karmapa lama is doing when he’s not giving blessings. But I was rock solid. I needed an answer and this guy was gonna give it to me.
“Dont think you’re going to pull that ‘just a quick blessing thing’ with me,” I began to speak to him telepathically as I got closer. Finally I was in front of him. I gave him my scarf to bless and put around my should. But instead of just slithering on by like the rest of them, I looked him straight in the eye and asked my question in my mind, “what is it that I need to know today to live life with greater happiness?” He tried to get me blessed and moving, as if I was in his blessing factory, but I wasn’t having it, and he got the message.
He looked at me, deeply, soulfully, fully. We may have been locked in our gaze for 5 seconds or 5 minutes. Time stopped. Life stopped. All that existed was his eyes and mine until… The force broke. I’d received what I’d come for. I thanked him one last millisecond with my eyes before we parted. I walked outside. I sat down. And I did something that I had never truly done before in my life. I FELT the anxiety that was rushing around my body without trying to get it to go away. I just let it all BE. And it felt SO strangely GOOD! To just feel the emotions without putting a story on top of them or trying to fix them. It suddenly dawned on me that all of the therapies I’d learned and practiced, from hypnotherapy, kinesiology, flower remedies, and breath work, were trying to CHANGE the emotions. And that is not to say those things aren’t healing and even life changing. But what I learned that day that embracing my emotions with love is the bedrock of peace.
Normally when we experience challenging feelings, we just want to get rid of them as quickly as possible and get back to the good ones. To FEEL all thoughts, emotions and sensations with a calm and clear mind takes a deeper wisdom. It is an act of true self love to hold space with compassion and loving presence for whatever may be coming up for us.
“The only way out is through,” I heard the Karmapa say. Or was it just me? Had I come all this way to look him in the eye just so I could tell myself what I needed to hear, what I’d always known somewhere inside. Karmapa, mySELF. It didn’t matter. I certainly didn’t become an overnight master of this. But It was one of the big AHA moments of my life. It was a moment when I realized that there is an eternal and loving presence within me that is always just THERE no matter what is happening.
This photo was taken that week spinning the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels in one of my favorite secret places in the world.