“In Australia, there are many shops. But there are no shops that sell peace of mind. If you go to a shop and say, ‘I want to buy peace of mind’, they will laugh, or think there is something wrong with your mind!”  

The true source of happiness is in our minds and loving hearts.These are the words of the Dalai Lama who I had the absolute pleasure of hearing when I attended the Happiness & its Causes conference in Sydney last week. Today I wanted to share with you my favourite two 'take aways' from this glorious conversation, take aways that really spoke to me and my personal circumstances. 

As the days go by, I think increasingly about how I can simplify my life. Gone are the days I used to spend all of my hard earned dollars fitting out a wardrobe and filling my home with new cushions, tea pots and throw rugs. These things don't make me happy, I understand that now. What makes me happy is the park on a sunny day with my dog, belly laughing with girlfriends, diving into the sea, creating a meal and consuming it with others, the air filled with stimulating conversation and witty banter. It's not things, it's experiences. It's time spent alone in a proud moment of recognition that it was only 5 years ago that aloneness was tortuous, as I sat batting away the negative spiral of self criticism. These days I pine for a sea or a tree change, to feed chooks in my backyard, to pull organic veggies direct from the soil and onto the plates of those I love. The simple life.

So it is that the most significant of messages from the Dalai Lama was one of materialism

Modern Education he says, is increasingly materialistically oriented - we learn from a young age how to make money, to grow our possessions, to make significant purchases in life  - but is this really adequate to bring happy people into society? Instead he tells us that we need to educate people by teaching them (children, first and foremost) how to have a warm heart, by teaching them about compassion. 

"Materialism bears no relationship to happiness". 

He went on to speak about a highly stressed and unhappy Chancellor of a prestigious university with many thousands of students.  “In such cases, where people are materially successful and have a high profile, that doesn’t have anything to do with inner peace and happiness.”

He also spoke of a Catholic monk in Barcelona. The monk had spent five years living a hermit life in a cave. He was living on bread, water and meditating on love. “In his eyes and face was something very happy and peaceful. This shows that inner peace is the ultimate source of a happy life.” The monk had little concern for material possessions.

The Dalai Lama went on to say that Tibetan monks and many other practitioners know this.

“It doesn’t depend on money or fame or modern education. Modern education is oriented around material gain. We should think seriously about whether this is really adequate to bring happiness to people.”

Losing a loved one, grieving loved ones, is often so inexplicable; it can be very difficult for us to manage the pain associated with such huge loss. The same can be said for the end of a significant relationship. Whether it ends amicably or with great, hurtful finality, it can be very difficult to reason with this loss. I experienced a sudden and terribly hurtful end to a relationship just weeks ago and regardless of the fact I understood this behaviour to be inexcusable in another (and that there was simply no way to have a long term relationship with this person), the pain was still palpable. Over the coming weeks I pulled huge strength from this experience. Fundamentally, I understand that there is a blessing in every situation, no matter the challenge. There was so much to learn of my own communication and behaviours, good and bad. There are so many things I will do differently, compromises I will or will not not make when the next 'one' comes along. These are just some of the blessings.

The Dalai Lama provided a beautiful example of how he deals with loss and grief in his own life. “When I received news that my special friend had died, and then my main teacher had a stroke and later died, I thought, ‘It already happened, nothing can be done.’ He went on to say that this is very sad, but the sadness he then tries to translate, to bring more enthusiasm and determination. He says ‘I must fulfil my teacher’s wish!’  The sadness was transformed into a source of strength. "The closer connection you have to someone, the more responsibility you have to fulfil that person’s wish,” he says.

Have you found great strength during challenging times that you are happy to share? Perhaps you too are pining for more simplicity in your life, like me. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


June 16, 2015 — Amy Crawford

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