Today I woke up and listened to a webcast teaching from my teacher, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche. We practiced Guru Yoga with thousands of practitioners worldwide. The practice consists of singing the Song of the Vajra, a sacred mantra that takes about 12 minutes to chant. As I did this practice I was still a little dreamy. There was a bit of blue sky visible outside my window. As I connected energetically with the Master and the Teaching and the essence of my being, I felt my heart expand. The energy had shifted again. My understanding deepened and I felt grateful.
After that I got down to the Memorial Coliseum with my ticket to see His Holiness Dalai Lama. The ticket said 9:30-1:30. That was going to work out well since I was supposed to be in my Yoga Sculpt (with weights) Teacher Training at Core Power Yoga at 2pm. But when I got there people were leaving. Apparently there was a break until 1:30. I thought, “Wow, I missed the Dalai Lama!”
A woman said, “Hey Darren!” as I was beginning to feel pretty bummed and was trying to decide if I was going to leave. She said she was my friend on Facebook. I didn’t recognize her. As we were talking, a pretty girl walked by and said, “Hey Darren!” I waived, but didn’t recognize her either. The first women told me that she was happy to meet me because, she said, “You’re a minor celebrity in Portland.” That made me feel happy for some reason. So I decided to go into the coliseum just to see what was up.
I got into the venue and found a couple of friends from the 12-Step Buddhist group. We went to my publisher, Beyond Words, table. They had a stack of the 12-Step Buddhist books that I’d planned to sign. It was, after all, a pretty cool deal to have my books on sale at such a prestigious event. To my right I saw a practitioner from our Dzogchen community who I’d last seen in Los Angeles as last summer’s retreat. She was selling some necklaces and I’d grabbed one at one point, and had failed to pay her for it. It was interesting because I’d just seen her name pop up the day before and I’d though, “Oh yeah, I have to give her $20.” Then there she was at the book table. She lives in the Bay Area and there we were in Portland. I decided to take care of the debt immediately and sat down to sign some books. A girl walked by, smiling. I put the back of my book up to my face and looked up to the left, smiling. She said, “Hey, you were at Powell’s last night, and you told me you liked my hair.” It was true. And there she was again. I told her that we definitely had karma and our meeting again must not have been an accident. We exchanged cards and I left to make my way to my seat.
On the way I ran into a couple of Canadian friends from my first Tibetan Buddhist retreat at Vajrapani Institute in California. Then I haggled with a vendor and procured an excellent statue of the Medicine Buddha. Got to my seat, sat down for teachings.
When the Dalai Lama came out, my heart burst gently open even more than it had earlier while singing the Song of the Vajra. It was as if the morning teachings and practice were somehow preparation for this. I cried a little and held my hands in prayer mudra: gesture. I looked to my left and saw Matt, a few seats down, with his son. Matt hadn’t been able to get a ticket to the Dalai Lama so I’d sent him a link when Maitripa offered up 250 last minute tickets. He was watching me in this moment of opening and I connected with him from 20 feet away, knowing that he too was feeling it. That was another nice moment on this strangely awesome day.
His Holiness spoke on compassion, wearing a Portland Trail Blazers cap that the team owner had presented to him. His teaching was clear and powerful. His main point were that you don’t have to be religious to practice compassion, that compassion didn’t emerge from religion, rather that religion was a response to our own innate, biologically founded compassion, that human beings possess the special capacity to develop compassion and that compassionate people were happier people. He backed it all up with brain science and barely tied anything to Buddhism, though it was all Buddhism. He’s the Dalai Lama, what other perspective would he speak from.
He also taught us that the Indian definition of the word secular does not mean anti-religion. It means embracing of all religions and it also means embracing non-believers. He said that if people reject religion, fine, it’s a personal choice. But if you reject the principle of compassion, which are the basis of all religions, then you’re wrong. Just plain wrong. I really admire the Dalai Lama’s ability to tell it like it is.
After teachings 11,000 people held out katas: silk offering scarves as a gesture of appreciation. That was a powerful moment. His Holiness explained the meaning of the kata, the color, white, represented purity of heart, the texture, softness, gentleness. The material was silk, which used to be imported from China with Tibetan letters on it, but now it also comes from India. I’m not certain I caught what the significance of that was.
We went on a 15-minute break before the Red Hot Chili Peppers were to perform. I have no idea why or how that concert got set up, but I was in. I’d never seen them and their songs had been in my head for over 15 years. In line to get some water, I looked over and saw her: the girl I’d loved a couple of years earlier. This was the girl for whom I moved out of the house, ending a 13-year relationship. This girl had been through a lot and most of it was, in my opinion, a legitimate and powerful spiritual experience. After sinking to a new low during that period, I’d gotten over it and had rebuilt myself into the strongest, most confident version of myself I’d ever been. And there she was. I walked over and spoke with her for a few minutes. I asked her how she found the Dalai Lama’s energy. Her eyes went up and back, like they always did when she does that thing. Not sure what it is, except that it was a kind of altered state that she was in most of the time that I knew her. I walked away from that moment feeling like I’d taken an energy drowning. The love was still there, the gentle concern for her, the confusion of being in her presence. I don’t know if I could ever learn to integrate with her energy. But I felt for a moment that I wanted to. Some things like this linger. Who knows if it will ever go away completely?
I decided to purify with the funky rock and roll jam of the Red Hot Chili Peppers that was about to come on stage. Those boys do rock. I needed to integrate the energy of all of these powerful experiences of the day. There was no way I was going to let myself sink down into a spiral. Not today. So I danced, banged my head and closed my eyes doing Tara mantras. Along with the super cool stage lights, the lights in my head went out to all Buddhas, sending and receiving lights. I decided to use the energy of the music to drive my practice and my practice to drive these demons of doubt out of my head.
After the show I went for a good run, had a good meal and spent time with good friends. This was really a unique day for me. The energy continues to shift. I have the feeling that my best work lies ahead of me. Stay tuned.