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5 Lessons The Dalai Lama Taught Me About Happiness

5 Lessons The Dalai Lama Taught Me About Happiness

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity of attending a lecture, titled ‘Happiness: the power of giving & receiving’, handed down by none other than the 14th Dalai Lama himself upon the eve of his 80th birthday.

Now, I’m not much of a spiritual person, or a religious person for that matter. I attended an all-boys catholic high school and was made to sit through hours of religion classes on a weekly basis, but it became quickly apparent that religion, prayer, and meditation weren’t really for me.

I came in with an open mind and I left with nothing but appreciation, respect, and praise for a man who represents so much, has been through so much more, and has such a wonderful and practical message to share with the world in search of inner peace and happiness for all.

In light of that, I thought I would share with you the 5 things that really hit home to me, not because they are profound or paradigm-shifting, but actually because they are so frank and deliberate, and can apply to everyone from every walk of life:

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You are your own master. Ultimately, no one can make you happy if you aren’t able to find it yourself

This was the key to his whole lecture. The only person truly responsible for your own happiness is yourself. Others can try; they can give you the world and expect nothing in return. But if your heart cannot find a way to find contentment and peace within your surroundings, whether engulfed with love and support or starkly alone, nothing else will be able to overcome that.

You are the master of your own happiness, your own sadness, your dreams, and your regrets. The Dalai Lama argued that happiness comes from finding inner peace with yourself and your life, along with service and engagement in your community. But one comes hand in hand with the other.

This one really hit home with me. On my travels, away from my support network of friends and family at home, I’ve had to teach myself new ways of finding happiness and peace when loneliness takes over. And I have found that engaging with the community, giving back to others, and embracing all aspects of the life I lead are major contributors to putting a smile on my face as I wake up every morning.

Seeking happiness through material goods brings only temporary relief, and hides the real problems

Just like the people around us are ultimately powerless to overcome our own feeling of emptiness, the value of papering over our issues with material things is also temporary. In fact, the Dalai Lama stressed that focusing our energy on distracting ourselves from the real issues only prolongs and clouds our path to fulfillment.

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So the next time you drown your sorrows in a bottle of wine, or turn to retail therapy to paper over the loneliness, try mindfully accepting and embracing the hurt, and focus on why it exists, and how you can shift your psyche to make it disappear.

Secular education and a strong sense of compassion for others is the key to happiness

I found this point of his to be extremely refreshing. For the head of a spiritual order to endorse secular education within schools, away from dogmatic religious shackles, and towards the scientific embracing of the mind and soul was extremely impressive.

He rattled off anecdote after anecdote about his time studying with scientists in psychology, neurology, quantum physics, and chemistry, explaining how science is the key to educating people into the future about the world we live in, and through that, building a global foundation of compassion and understanding.

It was truly inspiring. Through better educating ourselves of the world we live in, we build stronger connections with those around us. Through empathy we build compassion, and through compassion, we build happiness. From the poorest streets in Zambia, to the bustling skyscrapers of New York, this is true for everyone.

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The power of praying to a god or deity for happiness or help is questionable at best

This one shocked me a little. It really affirmed to me that the Dalai Lama is a rational, logical, frank, and open-minded person. Instead of preaching from the book, like the rest of the spiritual leaders around the world, he preached from his own mind and experiences.

He told us of his time as a refugee from his own country in March 1959. He recalled a period of great despair where, as leader of six million Tibetans and not much older than I am, he was powerless to protect his people from the might of the Chinese Communists. He was urged to pray to Buddha for help.

So he did. But does he believe that prayer to Buddha, or any deity for that matter, actually does anything? His answer, “I don’t know”, as he chuckled away. Instead, The Dalai Lama said that meditation, education, and deep thought about the issues he faced, were probably the key to finding his way through the toughest times of his life.

Formality impedes true connection with others

I found this one to be the most humorous, but also the most telling of them all. Obviously, the Dalai Lama receives a great deal of respect wherever he goes. He is greeted with a level of pomp and procedure received by few. But he made it very clear at the outset that he thought very little of the formalities prepared for him.

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In fact, he argued through his usual anecdotal style, that formality is a mask that sits in front of who we truly are, and that when we are simply being ourselves, we build stronger connections with those around us. It’s something we see every day, and simply accept as a part of life. But to have a man of such a high office argue against the acts of respect he receives in order open the floor for real dialogue and trust is a very impressive thing.

Breaking down the barriers of formality and hierarchy were a key tenet in his assertion that we really are all equal, including his holiness himself. The Dalai Lama spoke like the most traveled and educated man I had ever met.

His thoughts and beliefs reflected not that of a spiritual leader tied to his holy scriptures, but of a pragmatic and compassionate elder, enlightened by decades of learning from and sharing with people across the globe. Through education and the extension of his arms towards all he has met around the world, he stands as a shining example of the beacon of peace and happiness we can all be.

Featured photo credit: Minette Layne via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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