Up Close and Personal with His Holiness the Dalai Lama
By Lisa Haisha
“We all have a natural tendency to desire happiness and avoid suffering.”
– Dalai Lama
When I opened my Christmas present from my husband, which was an envelope with “Merry Christmas, Lisa” on it, I had no idea what to expect. As I opened it and pulled out the piece of paper and started reading, I discovered that in three months I was going to be part of a select group that was going to India. I looked at my husband, he smiled and said he saw this offer on the Celebrity Buzz auction and he won. He knew India was on my bucket list. He went on to say that the money he spent will go to the children in India and we get a two-week trip that will take us to New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. We would stay in Palaces, have a chauffer, translator and dinner each night with interesting people like the Dalai Lama’s astrologer, his meditation teachers, his yogis, royalty, the Prime Minister, and best of all, three-days get with his holiness to discuss the spirituality.
As the host of the Legacy series, the Dalai Lama was on my bucket list for people to interview, even if not formally. He is someone that I admired for all the work he does with compassion and in politics, but especially because he says his religion is happiness.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn from the source. I saw this trip also as a gift to connect to a culture that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to explore. I feel it’s so important to spend time in places that are different from ours, to have compassion and a better understanding of the world, and to share that knowledge.
New Delhi – Taj Hotel
When the day came that the Dalai Lama was going to arrive at our hotel (yes, we stayed at the same hotel) everyone was on high alert. They said he was arriving around noon. As we ate breakfast around 7am, the hotel staff was decorating, and white flower arrangements kept pouring in. I couldn’t just sit there stuffing my face with vegetable curry, so I got up and went to explore. I saw about fifty men coming in and a lot of commotion. It turned out that the Dalai Lama had arrived four hours earlier than scheduled. I realized they wanted him in the hotel safely without all the commotion of the hotel guests. It looked like a procession. About thirty monks formed two lines and the Dalai Lama walked between them, protected from anyone trying to get access. Guests started to notice and began scrambling for a look, a picture, anything. Locals, who were staying at the hotel started bowing and his holiness shook hands as he started walking through as people grabbed at him, calling his name. Some people dropped to their knees as he was walking the thirty feet from the lobby to the elevator. When he passed me, I put out my hand as he approached me. He took it and looked at me with his perennial smile and jovial energy. We locked eyes for about five seconds as he squeezed my hand and we both smiled. Several people snapped photos. Then he was off to the next person and gave them blessings, as he moved in the direction of the elevator. His posse then circled him and guarded the elevator as he got in, not allowing anyone else in as the elevator door closed. The crowd was left feeling like they just met Jesus Christ himself… some in tears, others were emotional and sharing their profound experience just seeing him up close, in person.
The 14th Dalai Lama is the longest-lived incumbent.
We were in a small meeting hall in the hotel, decorated with Tibetan art. There were about one-hundred-fifty chairs with the invited guests coming in after being screened at the door like they were at Heathrow airport: “Take off your shoes, purses on the conveyor belt, take off your coats and sweaters…” They weren’t taking any chances. Finally, after being patted down from head to toe, I was in.
I was seated in the fourth row aisle seat next to my host during the trip. The Dalai Lama was set to arrive at 10am and speak until 2pm and to my surprise, he arrived on time and with a big smile on his face. The guests stood up. He shook hands or just touched a shoulder and said a few words with everyone he passed. When he got to me, we locked eyes again. It felt surreal. I couldn’t believe I was in the same room with him and I happened to be on the aisle that he walked down. I had already been blessed by him earlier and now again.
About a year ago, I went to hear him speak in New York. I thought I was going to meet him at that time since I had a VIP pass to meet him backstage. By the time they let me in he had left the premises. Also, in New York, his Holiness only talked about the political climate with China for two hours straight. Even though it was interesting, I was craving a talk about spirituality, which is his main focus these three days.
So now I’m in this sacred space with him again and with about a hundred other local healers, monks, Buddhist scholars and people who have devoted their lives to helping others through their non-profits. We were all seeking wisdom and wanting to heal our psychological and emotional wounds. All of a sudden a bell rings, then the Dalai Lama’s right-hand-man walks to the podium and says, “Welcome, please meet the Dalai Lama.”
The Dalai Lama sat there and then started laughing. And laughing. We all started laughing. “We need to laugh more. Be in our bodies. Love more,” he said. Then he went on for three hours talking about life today in 2015. What we need to do globally to survive. He wanted us to go out and be the leaders of a compassionate crusade. He said people in his inner circle selected us (our hosts are in his inner circle). He said we were a collection of people from around the world that have an audience and to please take our responsibility seriously.
For the twelve hours of being in the room with this extraordinary group of minds and with his holiness, I learned a huge amount, but a lot of it was at a cellular level, during our meditations.
Five insights and/or facts I gained from the 3-day gathering:
1. Compassion and Kindness are Paramount:
The Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his work with Tibetans worldwide and for being the leading advocate of kindness, compassion, and nonviolence in all relationships – personal, political, social. He is considered the moral guide of humanity and is one of the most admired figures today. He said we must all practice kindness more now than ever before, even to terrorists groups like Isis. Even they are still people who can show love for their family and tribe, and if we keep thinking they’re evil, they will stay evil. Our thoughts are powerful; He suggested we send them compassion.
2. Focus Outward:
We need to think about others more and humanity as a whole, not just as individuals. His Holiness is on a mission to help us all come together, but even he expressed his own doubt on whether it’s possible anymore. He said he gave up on politics and advocating for Tibet because he wants to prove that non-violence works. He even has compassion for his oppressors, the Chinese government. I valued his honesty and sharing even his own fears.
3. Practice moderation and less Indulgence:
Humans are lower than animals. If you look at the African savannah, for example, predators prey on other animals only out of necessity when they are hungry. When they are not hungry, you can see them coexisting quite peacefully. But we human beings, despite our ability to judge between right and wrong, can act out of pure greed. Sometimes we engage in actions purely out of indulgence--we kill out of a sense of "sport," say, when we go hunting or fishing. So, in a sense, one could argue that human beings have proven to be inferior to animals.
The point is to try to develop the scope of one's empathy in such a way that it can extend to any form of life that has the capacity to feel pain and experience happiness. It is a matter of defining a living organism as a sentient being.
5. Reflect humbly on our own shortcomings:
To counter one's arrogance or pride, you need to reflect upon shortcomings in yourself that can give rise to a sense of humility. For example, you can think about all the things in the world about which you are not proficient in. Some people can’t cook, others have no language skills; still others are ignorant when it comes to computers. So, whenever you have a little tingling sense of pride, think about your own ignorance, it should set you straight.
There is so much more to the Dalai Lama’s teachings. He said it took him hundreds of lifetimes to know what he knows so not to be hard on our selves. He encouraged us to keep studying, teaching, and opening our hearts.
If you’re interested in learning more, please visit his website and attend one of his events. It seems he is always traveling around the world giving talks, even though he is based in India. It is a life-changing experience and I am so honored and excited to share what I have learned even in those short 3 days. They were so full of love and learning, I felt it was worth a lifetime.
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs, and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.
Because our mission at TNH is to encourage every person to Rise Higher and Shine Brighter, we love to feature both amazing women being rock-stars in their life, AND men who are pillars of their communities, homes, and themselves. This Amazing Man, Roger Wolfson is truly an extraordinary human being. He has it all—intelligence, drive, talent, compassion, openness, vigor and heart. We are excited to share a few thoughts from this passionate, successful writer, former lawyer and speechwriter for John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, and genuine animal rights advocate—not to mention he’s the Commissioner for Animal Services for the City of Los Angeles. So if anyone knows what it’s like to have a full plate—he does. Read on and get inspired!
1. Please tell us who you are and what you do?
Roger Wolfson. I’m a TV writer who has written for five TV series (including Law and Order: SVU, Saving Grace, Fairly Legal, and the Closer). I’m also a civil rights attorney with a background in politics. I’ve served as counsel to four US Senators (Lieberman, Kerry, Wellstone, and Kennedy) and as speechwriter to several members of Congress, Senators, Governors, and Presidential Candidates. I currently serve part-time as the Commissioner for Animal Services for the City of Los Angeles.
2. What other amazing men would you nominate? Why?
I’m a particular fan of Tom Schulman, the screenwriter who wrote Dead Poets Society, among other great films. He’s a truly conscious person with an amazing heart.
3. Who was/is the most profound male influence in your life and why?
Obviously my father is a key player in my development. He’s a cardiologist and a professor at Yale, who has placed a high premium on civic duty his entire life. When he was young, he was the Vice President of the NAACP for his college – and in that role he brought a real radical to speak at Columbia. Eleanor Roosevelt.
Also on that list, even though I was raised Jewish, I’ve always admired the teachings of Jesus, Siddhartha, and Mohammed (who founded Islam as a the religion of the underclass and as a means of providing rights to women – believe it or not. The religion in many countries has pulled away from it’s founding principles. Such has been true of Christianity as well).
I’d have to include my former bosses Ted Kennedy and Paul Wellstone on this list. Wellstone in particular was one of the most humble leaders I’ve ever known, and even though he died tragically, his life continues to inspire me to this day.
5. What is your personal motto/mantra?
That’s a fantastic question. I’ve never been asked it before. I don’t think I have a specific saying, although Annie Dillard’s “How we spend our days is, of course, how we live our lives” comes to mind. I think the most common refrain of my life is the concept of daily growth and a daily deepening of compassion, love, and joy.
6. What advice would you give to young men and women?
Well: A) Go Vegan. It’s the best way you can save the world every day, along with your own soul and the lives of those you are here to protect. B) Follow your bliss, as Joseph Campbell said. C) Find ways to expand your heart every day – practice relentless forgiveness of yourself and others. And D) If all else fails, the Golden Rule is a great start. Including the reverse: sometimes, when you can’t be kind to yourself, ask yourself – how would I treat someone else who I love. Then, do that for yourself.
7. What causes are you passionate about and why?
Veganism. Education. Compassion. Worldliness. Fighting against judgments. Embracing everyone as individuals instead of as stereotypes. Community engagement and kindness to all those you meet. I’m involved in all of these causes for a very simple reason: without them, we don’t stand a chance as a species.
8. How do you contribute to your community and why?
First and foremost, with my day job. I strive to write scripts and support projects that promote a value system that I think is healthy for all who encounter it. I strive to raise the bar creatively with everything I do. Secondly, I take on responsibilities in my community, like animal rights. Third, I built an Amphitheater in my backyard so that I can bring my neighbors and my community together to learn new things. I constantly put together events that I think will challenge and inspire those around me. Fourth – I engage actively in exercise, healthy eating, therapy, and spirituality so that I can be a healthy person and a healthy contribution to everything I do. Fifth and finally – I strive to have a positive influence on my family, so that those I spend the most time with can also be of service to the greater good. I think that endeavoring to be a loving spouse and someday – father – is one of the highest forms of contribution.
9. What is your definition of being man versus being a boy?
A boy’s job is to focus on his own personal universe, and discover his place in it. A man’s job is to make the world better for everyone.
10. Any additional ideas, stories, or points of view that you feel will enhance readers on understanding who you are and what your purpose is please elaborate?!
Honestly, I think we’re at a key moment in human history, when we all have to take the time to look at the direction we are headed in, and find aggressive ways of taking action. I don’t see how to be a conscious person and not look for ways to contribute. I take every public opportunity to encourage people to examine their daily choices – what do I purchase, what do I eat, and how will those choices affect my well-being and the well-being of this planet? What kind of a consumer am I of culture – what do I watch on TV, what movies and plays do I see, what do I read, and how will those investments of time and money affect me, those I love, and my community? How do I handle stress and challenges, and what does that teach me about how I can be a gentler and stronger person? What can I learn from my failures about how to be compassionate? How can I do better next time?
My Journey Into Becoming A Yoga Instructor….
By Andrea Bogart
If you asked me 10 years ago if I ever thought I'd be practicing Yoga, let alone sharing the practice with others as an Instructor, the answer would have been no. I giggle as realize I had never even heard of Yoga growing up so now when asked, ”How did I end up teaching Yoga?" it's not a short answer. There are several life experiences along the way that stand out which helped me profoundly discover my own Yoga practice and gave me no choice but to delightfully pay it forward.
After teaching my dolls a lot of choreography as a child, requesting to teach my own students as a pre-teen, being the HS dance team captain, moving on to coach and instruct through college and now for the past 12 years, class rooms of tiny dancers have blessed me with their cuteness one day a week, it's fair to say my theme of loving to teach has been a big part of my life. I remember my High School Athletic Director asking me to come back and be a motivational speaker for the graduating class just after me. Being well into gaining my “freshman 15” and getting partying down to a “T,” I wondered "Why Me?" He reminded me that I went to a college where I didn't know anyone and got accepted based on my dancing, not the ACT score (let me tell ya it was low!) I was given a scholarship with MSU's Sugar Bear Dance Team and he thought I could encourage other students to get involved, be brave and inspire them to go for what they want during that pivotal time even if odds were against them. That opportunity inspired me; it was something I really enjoyed and felt honored to do.
I moved to LA in 2000, age 22, with wide eyes and dreams of being in the popular dancing GAP commercials. I landed in a city filled with souls searching to find their way to break out and be seen. Dancing is what made my heart soar, and I believed in my talent. It was my outlet of self expression and my life revolved around it. The success I was having professionally was encouraging, it but didn't come without a lot of heartache, self-doubt, disappointments and concerns about my future. "What would I do in 15 years?" I asked myself, when my body wouldn't be able to keep up like it can now--assuming that at 37 I'd be considered old bones or something! Still very new in Los Angeles, a friend recommended an acting showcase class with Bobbie Chance, and that's where I started spending most of my time. I fell in love with the craft of acting. I continued to study with various A list coaches and learn techniques and styles. I performed in my first ever two plays, booked multiple National commercials, and guest starred on hit shows, booked leads in features and finally landed a role on ABC’s Daytime Soap General Hospital. My career was flourishing, and I felt proud to say, "I'm an Actress."
A miracle is a shift in perception from fear to love ~ Marianne Williamson
With a shift of my focus, I thought of being an actress like I did being a dancer: it takes discipline and dedication, and I knew confidence would only come with hard work. My body and mind craved working out, stretching and keeping myself in shape, which is a way of life for me, but I had to find what would work now since I wasn't dancing as often.
It's not easy to take a good look in the mirror and ask myself: am I really this healthy person I'm trying to be? Or is this what I think is healthy because I run, hike and work out at the gym, while the rest is just my fun life and nothing to worry about in this "self image" category. Being a lucky one with high metabolism didn't exactly have me overly concerned with what I ate and having been in a long relationship that involved socially drinking A LOT, concerns were arising physically in my body. So out came the microscope to assess my life. What I didn't plan for was the personal heartache I endured after ending a deep love and 7-year relationship. I needed some well-rounded healing desperately.
At that point, I had pretty extreme joint pain in several areas of my body, I felt bloated all the time, I was extremely tired mid-way through my days, had red, itchy patches showing up on my back regularly, craved sugar like a mad woman, was convinced my birth control had me completely imbalanced. To top it off I had adult acne and was heartbroken and sad but doing my best day in and day out to wake up and show the world I'm great. I really wanted to feel good and BE happy! I was desperate to figure out what was happening to me and worrying & stressing surly wasn’t helping matters. I needed BALANCE and to push through the rut of insignificance I was drifting into. Seeing a Holistic Dr. was my next step and seemingly an important one.
My first introduction to Yoga was at age 29, and it was oddly not one that had me wanting to go again. I share this now with all due respect to the practice because I now know how personal it is and how you have to find what works for you with all the teaching styles and variety of instructors and studios out there. A year later my addiction to Yoga came on strong when a girlfriend introduced me to Matthew Reyes at Yoga Hop in Santa Monica. It was a Vinyasa Flow style class where you dripped with sweat, awesome music was pumping with a lovely calming end into savasana to surrender. It was my jam! I started bouncing around taking classes all over with the great teachers you read about Andrea Marcum, Vinnie Marino, Annie Carpenter, Megan Townsend, Jake Ferreer, Joe Komar--to name a few. These teachers have been a big part of my growth, healing and newfound passion. Finding stillness, releasing stress, joint pain dissipating, rain drops of spirituality, always feeling better after a class... something was happening, something really, really good and not just in the room on my mat--I started to experience more joy in my everyday life. The way in which a consistent Yoga practice was changing my life gave me no choice but to combine it with my love for teaching, get certified and share this with as many people as I could. I want people to know how having a consistent Yoga practice can be, LIFE healing.
We work on ourselves in order to help others, but also we help others in order to work on ourselves ~ Pema Chodron
This was a waterfall effect for me wanting to change and live a healthier lifestyle. If you listen and pay attention your body will show you signs of what you need--it's up to us to ignore it or listen. Our relationship to food and exercise is certainly a struggle for most and it's so very personal. With the blood tests & symptoms of an auto immune disorder developing for me, I changed my diet completely, alcohol is no longer a wingman, and my love for life and carving out time for things I enjoy is a priority. It all works together and you have to do the work to find the recipe that works for you. The same worries that existed with my dancing career I quickly learned would all be factors in my career as an actress as well. It’s a roller coaster that is filled with rejection, and it’s not easy waiting for someone to say “Yes” you get to work; we want you. Just like life: life is a rollercoaster, it doesn’t matter what you do or who you have or don’t have in it, so finding that inner connection with yourself and learning how to nourish it with compassion & gratitude will help you outwardly share that with others. When you know you want happiness in your life you will figure out what you have to do to live it, but it is in fact a choice. So when you’re really ready, I challenge you to ‘check-in’ with yourself and to open up to the understanding we are NOT perfect beings. Give yourself permission to grow, be open-minded and see that possibilities are everywhere.
As breath stills our mind, our energies are free to unhook from the senses and bend inward ~B.K.S. Iyengar
I’ve been passionately teaching Mindful Vinyasa Flow Classes, Privates sessions, Small Group & Company Privates for 2+ years now. It feels ever evolving for me as a practitioner and as an instructor, and I’m incredibly grateful to all the students I share a space with and to the instructors sharing their gifts with others. I truly feel honored and excited about this beautiful communal and yet personal thing we call YOGA.
*Please note that not all experiences, beliefs, and ideas are shared by each member of “The New Hollywood.” We are a group of shepherds, not sheep.