His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, is in Seattle this week. I don't know if I'll get a chance to see him, personally - I've just returned from Florence, Italy (CHI 2008), with a really bad cold - but I just read a report by Ward Serrill in The Seattle Times on connecting Eye-to-Eye with the Dalai Lama when he first arrived in town that resonated deeply with me:
We don't speak a word. As he moves in front of me, my hands involuntarily reach out to grasp his. As our hands meet he looks up into my eyes and my world stops spinning. His eyes reveal a deep gravity. I see the serious work behind his childlike humor and spontaneity. The man has suffered much and discipline has made him into a spiritual warrior. This is serious work, these eyes tell me, this inner work to discover peace and being.
His attention is riveted. In this moment he is not a busy spiritual leader but simply a human looking gravely into the eyes of another. In this moment I see his greatness. It is this:
Humility is not a discipline; it is not a practice with him. Humility is simply what he is. I see in this moment of eyes meeting that he is incapable of placing himself above or below me. I am stunned by the reality of our equality.
And then he is gone, swept out of the room by his handlers. For the next three hours I am nearly incapable of speaking, stunned as I was with the presence of this understanding.
Ward's experience reminded me of the altered states and magnetic attraction of awakened people I experienced at Pop!Tech 2007, which had, in turn, reminded me of some earlier reports of this kind of high-resonance experience:
I was also reminded of Oriah Mountain Dreamer's observations in her audiotape, Your Heart's Prayer - which I'd earlier projected onto the practice of unfolding through blogging - about people who come into contact with spiritually enlightened individuals, such as
Mahatma Ghandithe Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa, likening the experience to what happens when two tuning forks coming into proximity of each other: the strong vibration of the spiritually enlightened person transmits energy to any other person that comes near.
[Having just listened again to the passage, I've amended a memory / transcription error in the original post above ... all the more apt because Oriah had actually referred to the Dalai Lama not Ghandi.]
As I have continued to reflect on how highly enlightened people have such a great impact on us, I am reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz' insights into the ways that people act as mirrors for us - enabling us to better see who we really are ... and/or what we could be. As he notes in the introduction to The Four Agreements, where he relates the enlightenment of a Toltec man:
He had discovered that he was a mirror for the rest of the people, a mirror in which he could see himself. "Everyone is a mirror", he said. He saw himself in everyone, but nobody saw him as themself. And he realized that everyone was dreaming, but without awareness, without knowing what they really are. They couldn't see him as themselves because there was a wall of fog or smoke between the mirrors. And that wall of fog was made by the interpretations of light - the Dream of humans.
I would expand this to claim that highly enlightened people act as highly reflective mirrors for us. When we encounter highly enlightened individuals, there is less fog in the local atmosphere, and so we are thus better able to see the light in ourselves being reflected back more clearly.
"I am in awe of the journey right now," said Serrill. "It really is a labor of love that's gotten bigger than me. It's really opening its own doors right now."
Although I have not yet seen the film, Ward's comments suggest that he is not a stranger to greatness, understanding and humility, himself, and I would not be surprised if his film acts as an agent of reflection and resonance for others.
And I can't help but reflect on my last post - Do YouJustGetMe? Do I Even Get Myself? - and wonder how well highly enlightened individuals might score on guessing or being guessed in a personality test. [And, reflecting on humility, I wonder if the subtitle to that post should have been "Can I Even Get Over Myself?"] Somehow, though, these ideas regarding reflectance and resonance suggests that there may be a deeper level - perhaps deeper than western science can effectively probe - than guessing or being guessed. That the ultimate goal is simply to understand and accept ourselves, exactly as we are ... and to mirror that understanding and acceptance to others.
Amy, who cut out the article for me while I was away, just pointed out her favorite passage, which resonates with all of this, and aligns closely with our own view(s) of religion ... and humanity:
When asked about his [Dalai Lama's] religion of kindness, he replies, "... all these things: compassion, charity, patience, forgiveness, joy; these do not belong to religion. One does not need religion to understand or practice them. They are simply the expressions of what it is to be human."
[Update: having mistakenly attributed Oriah's remarks as referring to Ghandi rather than the Dalai Lama, I decided to go back for a more attentive listening of the passage in Your Heart's Prayer (Side 2b, about 18 minutes in), during which I saw the further connection that involved another filmmaker. I transcribe the passage as attentively and faithfully as I can, below:
I had a dream a number of years ago, this was after I'd heard a couple of stories about people being deeply affected by being in proximity to the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. One was the story of a man who was a friend of a friend, and he happened to be somewhere where the Dalai Lama was, and he wasn't particularly interested in hearing him speak, but for some reason, encountered him coming out of the lobby of the hotel. And the two of them spoke to each other and the two of them had this moment, and this man just felt this sense of incredible love and well-being in himself.
And another dear friend of mine who's made a film about Mother Teresa, talks about one of the first times she tried to talk to Mother Teresa about making the movie, and my friend, who is Ann Petrie, was on a bus with Mother Teresa, knelt down and had her sunglasses on, and mother Teresa flipped her sunglasses up, and Anne was ready to launch into the business of when can I film you, and Mother Teresa said to her "You're so tired, why don't you just stop for a minute?" And Anne had this experience of this sort of bolt of light going through the center of her body, not from Mother Teresa, but what she felt was really from God. And she had been in her own words a lapsed Catholic for many years.
So I had been hearing these stories, and I had a dream one night, where the grandmothers, who I mentioned earlier, said here is how it works: I saw an image of a glass cylinder filled with coarse salt, and then somebody poured a pink fluid, like colored water, into the container and it started to come up from the bottom up through the salt. And they said, this is what a person is like. The fluid being poured in is like their level of consciousness of who they really are, that what they are is a participant in this sacred life force, and the higher their level of awareness, two things happen: the more the salt dissolves, so the more there is a dissolving of all the structure of the identity that they think they are; and the other thing that happens is that everything becomes colored with this awareness. And when they are in proximity to someone else, because we're all made of the same stuff, it sets up a similar knowing in the other person.
So what people have a flash of when they are near someone who is very conscious of that Chui-ta-ka-ma, that life force energy that they are, is they experience the same thing in themselves. It's a little like bringing a tuning fork next to another tuning fork. So it's not so much they get an awareness of the other person being that divine life force but themselves.
The good news for me about this is that the task, then, is to just try to be with that awareness to the best of my ability, and that will create a ripple effect in ways that I can't even anticipate, because of the nature of our interbeingness. And it means we can have an enormous effect on the world by simply paying attention.]