Life Lessons

The Sickness of Duality

It is important to become aware of interdependence by realizing that a phenomenon occurs owning to multiple causes and conditions. Reducing it to one single factor would lead to a fragmentation of reality. Awareness of interdependence eventually brings about a lessening of violence. All the more so because when one places oneself in a wider context, one becomes less vulnerable to external circumstances and acquires a healthier judgment. Non-violence is not limited to an absence of violence, for it is a matter of active attitude, motivated by the wish to do others good. It is equivalent to altruism.

Selfless love is often misunderstood. It is not a question of neglecting oneself for others’ benefit. In fact, when you benefit others, you benefit yourself because of the principal of interdependence. I want to stress the importance of enlarging your mind and bringing the suffering of others onto yourself. Altruism changes our temperament, our humor, and our perceptions and allows us to develop a more serene, more even temperament. The opposite of altruism makes us vulnerable to external circumstances.

Egocentrism is against nature, for it ignores interdependence. It is an attitude that closes all the doors, whereas altruism develops profound vision. We should develop the feeling of belonging to a large human family. The causes and conditions of our future are largely in our hands.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama – My Spiritual Autobiography”
Pg. 107 – Transforming the World

Everyone must assume a share of universal responsibility

I don’t believe in the creation of mass movements or in ideologies. And I do not appreciate the fashion of creating an organization in order to promote one idea or another, which implies that one small group is responsible for carrying out a given project, to the exclusion of everyone else. In the present circumstances, no one should assume that someone else will solve his problems. Everyone must assume his own share of universal responsibility. This way, as the number of concerned, responsible individuals increases –first dozens, then hundreds, then thousands even hundreds of thousands, the general atmosphere will be improved.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama – My Spiritual Autobiography”
Pg. 117 – Transforming the World

Today, you will have to humor me as I deviate from my typical posts –

With the Thanksgiving holiday last week, I’ve wanted to write something more than a post about mountains and valleys. Unfortunately, I found the inspiration when yesterday I received an email that a former classmate, Janika, passed away on Thanksgiving day in a car accident in Morocco. We weren’t exceptionally close, mostly acquaintances having shared the same space, classes, and classmates for two years of graduate school. Any death leaves us with a sense of loss, but the death of a friend, with similar life experiences and dreams, creates a profound moment for reflection along with a great sense of loss.

Some of my greatest friends have come out of my graduate school experience — 200 slightly eccentric, highly adventurous people thrown together in a common experience, and now strewn all over the world doing amazing things. Any one of us could have been in that accident. If our places had been changed, would I have been content in the fact that I had made the right life decisions? Would she have been better off staying at home in London? Would I have been better off staying at my job and home in NY?

When people ask me if I am scared to travel, my argument has always been that I would prefer to spend my days tempting fate on a mountain side in Nepal or under the Sahara sky, than in a NY pedestrian cross walk. Would my friend agree with that now?

Life, and death, can happen to us anywhere. Knowing that, I think that the best way to honor those that leave this world before us, is to embrace this life that we have and live every day to its fullest. We need to wake up every morning, throwing open the doors to our lives, forgiving grudges, and finding new ways to share love and kindness with the people we encounter.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas season, take a moment to reflect on the simple privilege of being alive. And in honor of Janika. linger an extra 5 minutes over your dinner with friends, give your husband that extra kiss or niece that extra snuggle, make that phone call just to say hi to you sister or best friend. Live your life relentlessly, honestly, and without apology, because the only thing we know, is that we never know.