Last summer I had the great fortune to travel to Ladakh, India and attend the “Super Bowl” of Buddhist ceremonies, The Kalachakra Initiation, presented by H.H Dalai Lama. Just for the record, I am not Buddhist, although I do tend to gravitate towards Buddhism’s simple teaching that ALL beings deserve love and compassion.

We meditated 4-6 hours a day for 6 days straight! After each intense teaching and meditation from H.H. Dalai Lama we would then have a 2-3 hour lecture led by Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University, a former Buddhist monk and literally the worldwide authority on all things Tibetan Buddhism and H.H Dalai Lama.

I am often asked what I learned from this special time spent focusing inward…

Most of the people in our group were Buddhist. And many of these people had been to multiple Kalachakra Ceremonies – I fondly call them, Dalai Lama Groupies. I sat in awe as they asked profound questions and expressed their views about the teachings, most of which were way over my head. What surprised me the most, was that some of these same groupies were often short with, or downright unkind, to the staff that served our food or kept our tents clean. I wrongly presumed that people with so much spiritual wisdom would walk their talk. (You can file that one under, “Things that make you go Hmmm.”)

So what I took most from H.H. and my fellow seekers that week was very simple:

PRACTICE loving kindness to yourself and others.

And it is a PRACTICE. Like everything in life, practice make permanent. You cannot just SAY you are something or will do something. You must put in the time and practice to become that which you want. It is a perpetual journey.

Here is one way that I practice loving kindness to myself. When I sit down to meditate, the first thing I say to myself is, “I deeply and profoundly love and accept myself.” Sometimes I actually spend my whole time meditating by breathing in PEACE and breathing out LOVE.
And speaking of meditation…

Get Present. 

It sounds so simple, but the only thing you have control over is this moment right now. When you are focused on the past or thinking about the future, you cannot feel truly at peace. I find that meditation, whether it be for 5 minutes or 1 hour, is a great way to become present. Slowing your breathe, eliminating some of the “monkey mind” is also a way to become more self aware.

When I sit down to meditate and I cannot stop my own incessant thoughts, I do a counting meditation. Lately I have been: (all nasal breathing) Inhaling for 6, holding for 2, and exhaling for 7. Exhaling for longer than you inhale calms your nervous system.

Practice Gratitude.

Studies have shown that feeling gratitude boosts our wellbeing. We tend to unconsciously focus on the negative things that happen to us, but when you start to recognize all the awesome things that fill your day, you will SEE more of those awesome things.

Start a Gratitude Journal! Every evening, or even just once a week, write down 3-5 things you are grateful for. Think about what people, opportunities, experiences and things bring you joy and are enhancing your life. Easy.

My favorite quote from H.H Dalai Lama is: “My religion is very simple, my religion is kindness.” Sometime’s life’s simplest lessons are actually the most challenging. Keep practicing.

(Photo Credit: Christopher Michel)