Yesterday was the UN’s International Day of Peace. A good-as-any time to reflect, especially in the context of the Syrian refugee crisis, stark proof of the ongoing fear and hatred of difference, the ongoing decline of compassion.
I have set myself a Peace Day Challenge: giggle and encourage others to do so too. It is not as trite as it sounds.
Spiritually, it was perfect timing that on Saturday I went to see the Dalai Lama at the O2. His holiness was giving a talk and Q&A session on the topic ‘Compassion: The Foundation Of Well-being’.
Although I was extremely excited about it, I was skeptical.
I had come to believe that compassion is a difficult concept for many in today’s world: a lot of people appear to (mis?)construe compassion as leading to a burden of having to do something, and that this would mean some sort of unwanted compromise or sacrifice on their behalf.
I have spent a good while navel-gazing over the past several months and I have been leaking optimism. I have been losing my belief that humans are inherently good, or at least in today’s world, it’s asking a helluva lot of most people to be so.
It is as if compassion has become an act of choice and consideration rather than a pure emotion, an integral autonomic function of our humanity. Slowly, in our Western capitalist society and right across the developing world, we are moving to compassion as opt-in rather than opt-out… you go first, no you, no you…
I have almost accidentally become one of those “because that’s how it is”, “because some things can’t be changed” serious, dulled and gloomy adults.
Not very me.
My blogging has become sporadic. I have not lost the yearning to write but I have partly lost my voice. On my most beloved topic – being happy – I had lost a lot of clarity.
So much is going wrong in the world. What could I do about it? What is the point of anything?
The experience of seeing the Dalai Lama was wonderful and beyond surreal: this cold, vast soulless rockstar venue first filled with gorgeous, resonantly chiming and almost hypnotic Tibetan songs then topped up to bursting point by palpable love for, and from, the inarguably adorable teddy-bear-cuddly (refugee) rockstar of religious leaders.
Who giggles, lots.
His words were a bit hard to follow at times – the sound quality wasn’t great, he’s 80 with some gaps in his English, and, with the giggling, sounds like a benevolent and slightly tipsy granddad – but actually, for me, that didn’t matter.
The second he walked out onto the stage was a huge private epiphany.
I cried as soon as I saw him. I hadn’t anticipated that. Tears streamed down my face, to the consternation of my companions who were a lot less fangirl about the whole experience.
I cried simply and purely because the Dalai Lama is happy. Simply and purely happy. There is nothing so beautiful as happiness. He is happy in a way that I think a lot of people only believe possible of children.
Suddenly I remembered what it was to be happy. Sometimes it comes easy, it floods out of you, overwhelms you, you can simply go with it. Other times, it is a conscious choice. You may need to work at it by being mindful, practising some self-compassion before you can find it, but happiness is always there waiting for you.
And a giggle is the easiest way to share it.
Whilst I watched the Dalai Lama giggling as he repeatedly patted someone on their bald head, slightly too hard and for slightly too long, seemingly on purpose for his own amusement, I found myself giggling too, and I found myself again.
The rest of the Dalai Lama experience almost didn’t matter. I roughly knew what he would say and whilst it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hear it first-hand, I was already spiritually fired up and at ’em. Empowered with/by the giggles.
After his holiness had finished speaking, he then ate birthday cake presented by Ian Cumming, his personal UK photographer cum Great British Bake Off contestant (how very ‘now’), and shuffled off smiling and waving to rapturous applause…
My overall impression was of wonder, of how he was enigmatic and endearing, and in some ways quite childlike. He’d insisted on the birthday candle being lit, and insisted on sharing the cake. Taking time, doing things properly, finding the joy in small things.
During his talk, the Dalai Lama said:
“I want to live a happy life and others want to live a happy life too. This is something we all have a right to do.”
It is that simple. I had lost sight of that.
If we can stop sweating the small stuff, we can remember what’s truly important, we can find happiness and then we will find compassion.
The Dalai Lama assures us that, actually, this will actually make us feel good. Hey, we might even get the giggles.
Recently someone asked my husband what he loved most about me; apparently he said that it was that I was so quick to smile and laugh, whatever the situation. How could I have forgotten that?
So I am going to giggle. And I am going to giggle at you.
In a situation that could go one of two ways, amusing or irritating – maybe I dropped the milk, bumped you with my shopping trolley, accidentally played footsie with you on a crowded train, maybe my autistic daughter just (rudely) pointed out your sad eyes or your angry face, maybe someone is talking on their mobile too loudly, maybe we’re in a hurry and bashed into each other rather than giving way – I don’t know about you, but I’m going to giggle.
And I am going to look at you and I am going to giggle at you until you catch my giggle. If you choose to pass it on, that’s up to you. If you have children, I hope you take your giggle home and share it with them too.