Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Mindful Advent: A Mindful Calendar

As I look at the next three weeks I've realized there are 21 events in as many days, a handful social, most work-related, all wonderful opportunities to be with friends and colleagues. The season has begun. It used to launch with the arrival of Margaret Crow's Crane Christmas Card very properly hand-addressed on the day after Thanksgiving. Now it is the memory of how thoughtful she was to be the first to exclaim her hope that we would all have a very Merry Christmas. 

Our plans are a weaving of new and old traditions, familiar faces in all the right places. So, as we continue this journey together of finding the space for quiet anticipation in these days of jolly cheer, know that the real work is to find the litte moments that we and our children will remember the most. I'll do my best to make it to these many and wonderous occasions, but I am going to do so with a new awareness for how my being there is really being there: awake and alive, listening. 

First, I am not going to worry this season of waiting and patience about being late. We will get there when we get there. Friends understand, and this season of love is not a time to be hard on ourselves. I will work on compassion for the effort to arrive when I can and leave when I need to. The compassionate host understands. Just being is enough. As simple as the in breath and the out breath: all we have to do amid this list and that one is just breathe and just be. All is well. And all is well. 

I am going to really listen and be present for the people I am with. This moment, not the gifts or the frolic, this moment with this amazing person is the one that matters. As with works of art in a large gallery, the moments of really studying just two or three on a tour are the richer, more rewarding experiences. Instead of the slow art tour this Christmas season, I'm taking the slow-friend tour: I'm setting aside small talk for bigger, more meaningful connections. I want to be there, in new more mindful ways as my gift to the people I will meet, and a gift to myself. 

And as I cross this landscape of really being with the people I am with, I hope to also give myself the gift of One New Friend. I was once endearingly called a Collector of Friends, and I hope to create a new friendship this December: someone I will know and learn from and with for the rest of my life. I can secretly call them my Advent Friend. 

So, in this quest to be mindful and quiet, I recognize that we live in this world of engagements. The real world is busy, but as with mindfulness, we have to learn to quiet the mind in a very busy environment. Simple techniques like mini-meditations at the valet stand, on elevators, in lines and just in a corner for a short moment will remind me of this work toward a Mindful Advent: one little breath at a time. Join me as we explore the beauty in quiet: the beautiful interactions between loved ones and colleagues, the exquisite glow of a Christmas Tree, the love and compassionate hospitality put into creating these parties and the gift of more time to be with each other. Join me in that celebration. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Mindful Advent: Please Wait, Here

Be serious. What's to laugh at? Advent has begun and its real meaning is so far from the Black-Friday today's Cyber-Monday it's hardly funny. So what is the moniker for Advent?

By definition of time and purpose, Advent is twenty-six days of waiting and expectation: a reason to do the exact opposite of what commercial culture asks us to do: pause. Please wait, here.

But we don't. How can we possibly pause with email reminders of greater discounts and hours and one more day to spend more and save less. Or we can spend less time going there, all of the places they tell us we need to go and spend more time...Here.

Please wait, here. Here in this moment. If we are really listening to the reason for this season of Advent, we are listening to a request to pause, wait and think. We are asked to wait for the news of a bright star, a mother, a father and a Baby. Just wait.

Waiting is the best kind of meditation. A call to be still, to center your mind and remember to breathe.   The wait brings us the quietest moments of our day: in line, waiting to be next, in a queue on a call, waiting for a human, in bed, waiting for sleep to come. Quiet the mind and know that all you really have to do in this moment of is be present and breathe. The lists will get shorter and the worries will dissipate. Real meaning comes when we are focused and calm.

Like every sunrise, What Child is this we are waiting for? This Boy-Teacher who carries love and compassion in his future, like other teachers before him and others after him, he is just a human, living in truth, putting care and concern for others first and teaching us how to love. And this month, this season of Advent we wait for him so we can begin to Listen.

Please Wait, Here. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Mindful Advent: One Candle

Watchful waiting, a mindful Advent. If we are truly awake and alive our December is one of pause, gratefulness and peace: one of realizing how precious it is to have these days anticipating one coming or another.

It begins with the light of one candle. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." [John 8:12 
As a seeker of the sunrise, this first light is cherished, especially on the coldest mornings of the year. This first light is the promise of today, of warmth, hope, a calling and a coming, as it is every morning and in this Advent. Ever-present, as it is on this first day of Advent, as "continuous as the stars that shine and twinkle on the Milky Way" [Daffodils, William Wordsworth Longfellow this light says "Yes, I am here, I am coming. Be peaceful". 

Be peaceful. I have been studying about mood lately: how mood informs our capacity for the possibility of our lives. This Advent we can choose a mood of hope or one of despair. And as we learned in Fr. George Luck's poignant sermon this morning at St. Matthew's Cathedral Church: "Hope only comes when we are ready for a change."

Be peaceful. Be ready. be prepared: prepared for a different season of Advent. We have the gift of 27 days. I am hopeful this Advent will be different. 

I am hopeful this Advent will be simple: as simple as the age-old practice of lighting a candle. One candle. The one that lights the beautiful faces of children, the one that lights our table, our homes, our temples and churches. This universal practice is the start of a change: a glorious change in all of us. Light one candle for us: knowing that the dawn of a change is coming. We are aware and we will be ready. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Mindful Detox

On September 7, 2015 I began, with a small group of friends, an elimination cleanse foregoing processed sugar, coffee, gluten, dairy and alcohol. I paired this effort with a new meditation practice we started three months prior at water's edge at White Rock Lake. A daily practice of mindfulness opens up new worlds for what is possible with focus and clarity. You see the places where chaos is and chaos isn't. My detox started in my mind. 

Eating in healthy ways has been easy--as long as I stay prepared with fresh foods and nutrient-rich options. Each morning as we sit with the rising light of day, I am called back to this work: this work of being with myself and taking a new layer of my health on. It's a thick layer, but one wanting to be less, wanting to be less-inflamed, less allergic and more energetic, nimble and capable to do all of the things I want to do. I believe it is the mindfulness that is making this possible. 

About two weeks into the cleanse I started listening to the wildly popular book: Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,". I kept my distance from this topic, seemingly too challenging for me, by not reading it but listening to during my morning commute. Twenty minutes here, twenty minutes there can't hurt, right? Sure, I might try some of these things, but I am just going to dip an ear in and out, and well, it's not a bad listen. 

Kondo reached me through osmosis, or hypnosis or some unexpected osis. It started three Saturdays ago with the garage. It was a deep dive cleanse: focus, resolve and move on. We hauled trash to the trash, Goodwill to the Goodwill, we categorized and purged. I didn't spend time fretting that I actually found items (many) set aside for goodwill the last time we made efforts to de-clutter. I went fast and fastidiously so. No time for sentiment. Three hours later we sprayed down the inside, revealing a concrete color I didn't know,  and driving into the garage is now a pleasurable, mindful and clear experience. 

This joy seeped into my house, and the next purge was with the boys' room: I completely emptied it out: to every last foot-piericing lego. We removed the large clutter-magnet shelves and told the boys to pick a small number of toys to bring back into their room. They absorbed our energy, and surprisingly for the first time there were no tears and grabbing back the treasures of their lives. We picked out a paint color together, removed the dust-gathering plantation shutters and made it a room of their own. We took four carloads to Goodwill. 

In the second weekend, I scanned and de-cluttered every cabinet in the kitchen and bathrooms, categorizing collections I didn't even realize I had. We gave more away. And with Kondo's call to acknowledge the life these objects have had with us, and let them go off into the world to other places this detachment was easy. And cumulative. The more we worked the more possibility I saw for how this new way of being felt: freeing, possible and clear. 

I went through all of my jewelry. Forty-three years of jewelry. I took the pieces I don't need anymore to the office and relished in watching my colleagues play and try and take. It was so joyous. And I haven't looked back. 

With the help of a friend, I boxed 17 boxes of books on Art and Asia: beautiful books both from my adventures in learning and from the gifts of my parents and professors--most unseen and unopened for the last fifteen years. They have gone into the library at the museum on long-term loan. They have a new life in a new world, with new seekers of wonder. 

I sold the large rug in our bedroom: a landscape for dust and a big piece we'd kept not because we loved it, but because it was, well, big. After a swift sell on a Facebook estate sale site, a darling young lady, soon-to-be married, practically skipped down the driveway as we helped her move it to her car. "It's perfect" she said. We smiled, thinking of our own expression of the same sentence when we found it just after we married almost eleven years ago. Yes, it was. 

There is still more to do, but there always will be. This is a new practice, too. I will keep meditating and continuing to bring the balance of pause into each shelf and closet. And will will think twice when I stop at that estate sale down the street or as I stand looking at a silent auction item I think I can't live without. It's a new day, and I have a new living room and den, the art completely re-installed with a sensibility for less. And how fulfilling to create new attachments to less by letting the more go. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Eight Days with the Dalai Lama: Are We Listening?

The Dalai Lama’s talk at SMU on Wednesday, July the first, 2015 opened with George W. Bush Presidential Center President Margaret Spellings welcoming His Holiness and presenting two seniors from the Tibet Club at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The newly minted high school graduates offered handmade prayer flags in honor of his visit. These young women, ebullient in stature and expression, stood on the stage with the Dalai Lama waving the flags like little children—a gesture, amusingly, he started.

In the audience we could hear him chuckling and saying “thank you” several times. As directed, they politely exited the stage, but he in his warm way called them back, wanting to offer them the traditional prayer scarf. Giddy with the moment, they accepted this loving gift and literally danced away from a remarkable exchange. My thoughts swept to Eva Kutsheid, our beloved printmaker and teacher who lit a bright light of love for Tibet for all of us over fifteen years ago.  Eva inspired a compassion movement for Booker T. Washington and for the Crow Collection of Asian Art and now for Dallas. She passed from this earthly plane just over one year ago, but this was very much a moment bursting with her love and presence: her light now takes on a different form. And it is beautiful. The lesson: remember.

We all settle in for the moment we are most present for: his teachings. The moderator of this talk is Cokie Roberts (formerly with ABC) and she bashfully admits she will do her best to “interview” His Holiness. She asks the Dalai Lama if he is going to do what some people do on their eightieth birthdays: jump out of an airplane and he chuckles a reply: “It’s quite silly”. Indeed. It’s clear interviewing His Holiness is a tall order. Rather than be “interviewed”, he walks over to a familiar place at the podium and begins teaching. I’ve now watched him in several documentaries and have surmised that he laughs to himself every time he stands up. Today is not different.  The lesson: laugh.

He thanks first President Bush and describes a “heart to heart” friendship kindled at their first meeting. If there is a theme for this day with the Dalai Lama it is friendship. Then he tells us that he is talking to us on the level of just one human being, among 7 billion human beings, no differences: emotionally, mentally, physically: we are the same: same right to achieve a happy life. We have the equal right to this happiness. He illuminates our “special” brain as the source of infinite love, compassion and tolerance, but this brain also causes destructive emotions such as anger, hatred, fear and more complicated feelings. He believes that a lot of problems we are facing are our own creation: man-made products of our own intelligence.

He describes this day for us in the Moody Coliseum: peaceful, equal, using individual freedoms and liberty. But, this very moment in a different part of the world: suffering is happening, killing and human beings killing human beings. And he says, the worst thing: religions, various religious traditions carry the message of love and with that a message of tolerance, forgiveness and self-discipline. So, religious faith is really a source of love, forgiveness but sadly it is a perception of religious difference that is causing more division, hatred anger and unthinkable killing.  These divisions are man-made problems. The lesson: this is on us.

He points to our material culture, one of an affluent society: as individuals we are coping with too much stress, worry, fear and distrust. He notes that material facility cannot provide inner-peace. He tells us we are lacking a deeper understanding of the value of compassion and love. Of the seven billion over one-billion are non-believers, but they also have the right to have a happy. We all need to pay more attention to our respective inner-value.

He calls on modern education to increase curriculum on inner-values and moral principles. We human beings as social animals, no matter how powerful one individual, without the rest of community one individual cannot survive. Emotionally we need a certain set of emotions that bring us together: love, affection and sense of community. We are social animals but deep inside we have a very self-centered attitude: just me, me me. But biologically we have an inherent sense of community. We can teach people a simple concept of how important the rest of the community is to our survival. He tells us that others are the basis of our future. “Take care more seriously about the well being of others. We need friends, friendship: friendship entirely based on trust, trust based on taking care of others well being. Then trust comes. Too much self-centered attitude will not bring friendship. We are social animals and part of humanity, we have to pay more attention to inner values. We must include more information and training in the education field.” The lesson: teach love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness.  

He then references his study of science, how constant anger and fear are eating our immune system. A greater concern for others’ well being brings inner strength, inner strength brings a calm mind, a calm mind is very important factor for a healthy body. He then teaches us that thinking about love, certainly useful, isn’t enough. Thinking about love is important, but implementing love, serving other people, helping other people: love translated into action is more effective for health. We need some sort of lesson about warm-heartedness as a value in the education field as a counterpoint to a generation steeped in material value. The lesson: love in action leads to improved well being.

He notes too much emphasis on the secondary level of our difference: color, religious faith, rich, poor—negate completely the oneness of the first level: the human level. If we do this—emphasize our oneness in humanity, the secondary level of difference won’t matter. We need constant effort through various professions to recognize at a global level for a peaceful, compassionate world. He calls on each of us as part of humanity to develop a sense of a responsibility to this lesson to carry it forward. “Each of you individually analyze, analyze, get more conviction, share with one friend, share with ten people and each of them will share with ten people and [on and on]…” He believes the changes on a global level will only come from the individual, the individual who listens and just tells one person. And he ends this stunning lesson with the simplest: Ok, what do you think?  He challenges us to either take his lessons with us or actually take action with them. The Lesson: Commit, commit to compassion.

Our teacher chuckles to himself as he takes a seat, dons a “shade” hat in his usual University custom, and Cokie begins with a tough question on China’s new willingness to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. He claims they are shortsighted, too much emotion: Out of their weakness they are shy to admit their failure. Silly! Admit mistake! Then change!

What if we used these exact sentences when coaching ourselves in the mistakes we make and repeat? 

Silly! Admit mistake! Then change! 

Why are the toughest answers the most simple? 

How seriously we take ourselves. The talk flowed into a few questions he answered humbly, but the real lessons in the longer and unexpected talk washed over me like love does and stayed with me for weeks. They are still with me. I traveled on to California to the Global Compassion Summit, experiencing five additional lectures by His Holiness and realized nothing was like this talk he gave. The length of his talk and his humble, honest intention of hope that we might carry a message were ours and ours only in Dallas. And now they are yours.

Please enjoy the full capture of this magical day at Southern Methodist University in this Youtube video:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Life in Love: Good Morning, Your Holiness

On the morning I was to meet His Holiness I woke up restless, sleepless and anticipating a day I knew would change me. I met my loyal writing partner, Nancy Dorrier, on a conference call at 5:15, and we wrote about the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, love and compassion. This practice settled my nerves, somewhat.

I could see the first light of day casting a new glow across the sky. I prepared to present four works of art from our collection, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center: Avalokitesvara, Varupa, Shri-devi from Tibet and a Guardian Lion from Nepal.  President Bush and Laura Bush would be leading His Holiness through their museum. It was so interesting how I barely considered the intensity of meeting my second president when the opportunity was attached to the Dalai Lama. All three encounters, however, were powerful in their own way.

The Museum Tour: 45 Seconds with the Dalai Lama

I arrived just before my expected time of 7:30 am. at the loading dock entrance of this Federal Fortress in Dallas, Texas. I meditated for a few moments, breathing deeply and repeating a mantra of “love in, love out”. “Just love them.” I surprised myself by saying out loud.

I shuffled purses and papers, laptop and wallet. So much so when I arrived inside the dock entrance I was without proper identification. I failed the first step of a behind-the-scene tour with two heads of state. The stoic security officers were un-amused (that’s their job), and despite my agreeable offer to go back to the car, proceed to complete the extra-thorough background check for the girl who shows up to meet a president without her license. I’m sure they learned a lot about me in their Federal database. I was X-rayed, wanded, and wanded again. Then, with the alert and professional decorum of a Buckingham guard, a gentleman escorted me swiftly to my place in the galleries.

Danny Skinner, our Director of Exhibition and Charles Camp, Assistant Registrar, were loyally waiting for me next to the expertly-installed works of art from our museum. I nervously shuffled from purse to bag, to notes, to purse to bag to notes. We were alerted the tour would be in our gallery between 8:50 and 9:00 am. It was 7:40. We chatted with the wonderful collections team at the Bush Library about museums, presidents, collectors and objects as the time slowly ticked by. A security officer helped us with what was an excruciating countdown. A countdown to the Dalai Lama: 20 minutes. 8 minutes. 4 minutes. 45 seconds.

And then, I caught a glimpse of total goodness. Between two columns of the exhibition in the next gallery I saw the elegant profile of Laura Bush and the unmistakable robes of His Holiness. I was told later in the day that I gasped and exclaimed, “I just saw him”. And then they entered the room: A President, A First Lady, A Dalai Lama. They were holding hands and laughing. They paused to admire President Bush’s portrait of His Holiness. The Dalai Lama was lovingly critical of the work, but Bush, stalwart and humble in his labor of love, laughed it off. I believe portraiture is the most difficult kind of painting, and it takes notable courage to be out there learning something new, and offering these works to the world.

The tour continued as they paused to reflect on the moments in history that the Dalai Lama presented various gifts to the First Family: a prayer cloth, thangkas and relics of Tibetan culture. The curatorial team at the Library also displayed several objects of other faiths as a reflection of an inclusive world view of religion.

His Holiness stopped at a Bible, poignantly the Bible used in both inaugurations. He opened it freely to Psalms and read something to President Bush we couldn’t hear. Context aside (of course I would love to know which Psalm it was), it was a beautiful exchange.

My heart was jumping out of my chest as they rounded the corner. Love in, love out, love in, love out. And they arrived at our stop on the tour. We were graciously introduced by Mrs. Bush and the next few moments were a whirlwind of Tibetan art, His Holiness taking the lead as teacher, the swiftest exchange in the history of Asian Art tours. It was so clear to me that His Holiness is already in the next moment—he literally and very happily skipped past us into the day and perhaps already into tomorrow.

I took a deep breath and leapt into my moment to offer him a gift: an eightieth birthday gift. I handed him a first edition of “Pocket Sunrise”, a collection of twenty-four photographs I have taken over the past four years of our beloved White Rock Lake at sunrise. He seems a fitting recipient for this little morning project of mine. The back page is inscribed with this text from the Buddha: Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. I was honored by Mrs. Bush’s appreciation of sharing a little bit of Dallas with him. She could not have been lovelier, the President more magnanimous and welcoming, and the Dalai Lama more joyful. The whole experience was brimming with joy and total delight in the day. It was all about being together and celebrating life.

And then they were gone. Like a cloud passing back over the sun. The galleries fell silent again (save for the haunting 9-11 sirens in a nearby display). He was there and then he wasn’t. We amused ourselves with interpretations of this fantastic whirlwind of power, peace and possibility. I hugged Danny who steadily “had my back” as the swiftest tour in the universe unfolded. It was an astonishing morning, and it was all well, done and packed up by 9:30 am. I made my way (escorted of course) back through the rhythms of security and into the bright hot sunshine of this new July day.

In the car, I tried to write, but the words were swimming too quizzically in my head. It truly was so fast. And so wonder-full. I made a few calls, downsized to a practical clutch and returned to the front door of the Bush Center for a very small luncheon hosted by the Bushes in honor of His Holiness. Yes, this day is just beginning in its splendor.

The Lunch

I landed on the public side of the Bush Library at the valet (Dallas-style) and was whisked in for another x-ray and presidential greeting. The protocol was simply put: a lesson in Presidential protocol. We were blessed with a photo-opportunity (my second) with the Bushes and His Holiness. The Dalai Lama took my hand cheerfully, and I said without hesitation, “I’m going to get as much of you as I can!” (Author’s note: you can’t always plan what you’re going to say to the Dalai Lama, and when you say what you do, you just know that it is both delivered and received in love.) I thanked them and moved into the area where we dined.

The tables, just ten, were appointed with beautiful green and gold china and brilliant summer hued-centerpieces of roses and mums. A gold-inscribed place card led me to my seat. I joined a Rabbi, friends of the Bushes from Iowa and several Dallas leaders at my table. What a privilege to be in this moment with other seekers. The atmosphere was buoyant and tangibly so. We dined as princes and princesses do, and at the start of the dessert course we sang a hearty Texas round of “Happy Birthday” to His Holiness. He was delighted. It was such a sight to behold.

President Bush introduced him with total love in his heart. These men love each other: as friends, brothers, colleagues in peace. Their mutual-admiration is real. As the Dalai Lama launched into his remarks, he mirrored Bush’s affection, likening him to a younger brother. He talked about the authenticity of their friendship: one cloaked in truth, love, forgiveness and compassion. He demonstrated their friendship as a model for peacemaking: if two friends can be honest, loving, forgiving and compassionate, what is possible when two countries are like this? This Dalai Lama has been practicing compassionate loving kindness for so long, with such admirable discipline, he has become loving kindness. He has become love: a walking manifestation of love. He is love.

During the close of this talk at the end of a remarkable birthday lunch a woman in the audience asked this question: “If all of the languages in the world were merged into one language, what single word would be the most important?” I heard a few whispers of the answer “love” around me but without a moment’s hesitation, he swiftly responded with the word “life”. Life, the word we never think about but the word we exist by. There was a barely-audible intake of air across the room. The power of his word, it’s meaning and the way it lingered in the air around us was arresting. Love might be the first order of the day, but love and the capacity to love are only possible with life.

This was my first real, visceral in-person lesson from the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.

The Talk

Too stunned to speak about anything small, we floated downstairs to the shuttles that would carry our pre-screened bodies into Moody Coliseum at Southern Methodist University. I was efficiently escorted to the front row, Aisle 1, Seat 6. My astonishment of this day only continues. I am introduced to my seatmate in #7: known to me as Tenzin without a business card: a kind, stately gentlemen traveling and working with His Holiness’ entourage from Dharmasala. We muse on our impressions of the morning, as the anticipation builds. The Dalai Lama delays the start of the talk by about 15 minutes. I later learn he has chosen to linger a little longer with a group of 25 Tibetan refugees who now live in Austin. This day, they have journeyed here to Dallas as pilgrims to see him. And he won’t disappoint. 5,500 people can wait as he laughs and charms and blesses. He is theirs and they are his—their moment in time suspended just as it was for me. This Dalai Lama, who has said he will live for 20 more years, is on his own time.

One of the most poignant moments of the day happens just as the lights lower. The crowd across the stadium is pin-drop silent. No one is coughing, laughing, talking, moving. Silent. Two monks are seated from His Holiness’ team and small cheers erupt from somewhere afar. They quickly realize these two devoted gents are not the Dalai Lama. A wave of laughter then silence falls back over the crowd.

Brad Cheeves, a good friend and Vice-President of Development and External Affairs for SMU, welcomes us to this glorious day. He warmly welcomes the First Family of Dallas, SMU President Gerald Turner and Mrs. Turner, the President of the Bush Library and Presidential Center, the board, my friend Jim Falk of the World Affairs Council, Dallas –Fort Worth and me. In front of a crow of 5,500 I am introduced. Jim and I stood grinning ear-to-ear, so happy to be acknowledged as community partners in this event and so deeply honored to be present for this historic Dallas moment. I sit down, breathless and bursting with joy.

I am humbled, recalling that twenty-five years and one-month ago, I sat several rows back in this same spectacular coliseum, as a senior at Plano East Senior High School’s graduation: one of those marvelous effervescent rites of passage. And here I am inside of another one.

Margaret Spellings, former Secretary of Education in the Bush Administration is invited to the stage and she welcomes His Holiness and our moderator: the skillful Cokie Roberts.  She then introduces two young students from the Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts. These darling girls are part of the 20-member Tibet Club at the school and represent a 15-year museum-school partnership between our museum and the school initiated by my treasured friend Eva Kutscheid. Prayer flags were given to the Dalai Lama, made of linoleum and woodblock prints and His Holiness is purely delighted. He matches the bubbly energy of the girls with a playful waving of the flags. Eva, who passed away in February of 2014, fills my heart in this moment, no longer on this earthly plane, but unquestionably with us through her beautiful legacy and spirit. 

The girls dance off of the stage, and then all of us, all 5500 of us are drawn into the most spectacular lesson.

During his speech, we are captured by this tremendous heart of a man. Given the length of this post, I will re-listen to his words and write tomorrow about the talk itself. If you can “experience” the Dalai Lama, I experienced him in three different ways yesterday: one on one, one on one-hundred and one-on-fifty-five hundred. His intensity increased exponentially and relationally to the size of his class. There was more connectivity in the coliseum than I have ever known. It was truly magical, the air thick with his real and honest, humble love. We laughed through our tears, and we cried through our laughter, but we mostly laughed. How seriously we take ourselves! It is this simple: love, forgive, be true and compassionate. This enchantment is certain to long stay with all of us who were there. This enchantment is the limitless expression of a life in love. This enchantment is love. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Love, His Holiness and My Home in the Pew

The Dalai Lama is coming to Dallas this week.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wished for this visit. I’ve imagined this visit, dreamed and day-dreamed about it. The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, universal sage of wisdom, model of compassion, a purveyor of lovingkindness, a Teacher comes to Dallas. 

And what does this mean, to feel this way, as a cradle-Episcopalian from a long-line of Episcopalians, all rocked in the same wooden cradle? I already have a teacher, three to be exact, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But for me, curiosity led me to more: more points of view, more knowledge, access to something beyond the liturgy I memorized in the fragrant pews of my childhood.

As the director of an art museum presenting works from Asia: Japan to South Asia and a multitude of diverse belief systems, my work also led me to more. I have encountered Buddhism in the astonishing process of the construction of a sand mandala. I have encountered Hinduism watching a priest bathe a deity in Irving, Texas. I’ve marveled at the beauty of a Sikh profile, in turban, and I’ve chanted in unison at the Hare Krishna Temple in East Dallas. I’ve tried on these experiences—each with a new awe, an open curiosity and an intentional sense of wonder. And every Sunday, I return to Saint Matthew’s Cathedral Church to teach Sunday School, to recite psalms, and prayers in the pews, and to sing my grandmother’s favorite hymns, pitch-matching the choir.

I am a Christian. I believe in a Jesus who, like Buddha did 530 years earlier, walked this earth with one message: love. Love each other, love your enemies, love your neighbor as you love yourself. And today, a Dalai Lama walks, with the spirited step of a three year old. He walks in love. I think Jesus would have loved the Dalai Lama: for his fearless walk in truth and love, for his conviction to live each day compassionately for others. He gives of himself in the same way Christ teaches Christians to live. Love your neighbor. Be compassionate. Be peaceful. Maybe it's that simple. 

Buddhism may be better described as a practice, a way of being to our practice and discipline-starved 21st century minds. The doctrine of praying, confessing, absolving, of “command”ments and all of the rigors of religion as we know it may be better entered through a gentler course of practice including a quieter space like meditation. For me, the teachings of Buddhism and the wisdom of the Dalai Lama offer a non-threatening curriculum of lovingkindess. This curriculum has inspired new ways of being in my life. These teachings have impacted how we are together at our office as colleagues. They have bolstered my work as a leader in the arts community and in my personal life as a mother and wife. I have encountered new practices of writing, walking, praying and studying nature all before 7 am. I am exploring my faith through the teachings of many faiths and with each journey I return home to my church, stronger in who I am and who I want to be in this very short moment here on earth.

The Dalai Lama comes to Dallas this week.  I am preparing, pouring over his words, his videos and his teachings. I was humbled by his appearance at Glastonbury at a music festival with Patty Smith just this past weekend. The YouTube Video captures his first moments on stage, eyes bright and animated. He is joyful, every part of his being, like a small boy seeing a new world for the first time. He walks ahead of himself, as if he just can’t wait to enter the next moment in time. He reaches out for a hand to steady him, and a hand is ever present. And he knows it. He is humble in his needs and in his humanness. He walks over and greets every person on stage with the deepest respect. He laughs at jokes we won’t know. He stands in the center and bows deeply to the crowd. Here is this man, revered the world over, standing with total honor and respect for the audience. He is in as much awe of the thousands in the crowd as they are of him. He appears to create a personal experience, a personal connection with everyone there.

And finally, after brimming with joy at the rounds of “Happy Birthday to you”, he takes the familiar microphone, the spirited crowd falls silent, and in just three minutes, doles out a bounty of loving lessons for the human spirit. He is the embodiment of lovingkindess. All of this is captured and experienced in my moment in Youtube on the tiny screen of my iphone6. It’s a different world.

I believe I am a keen observer of the world—and I can say with faith there is so much love to be seen in the world. Everyday. You just have to look for it. I call them Little Alleluias. I find little alleluias in airports, on the steps of a church, in a museum gallery. The Dalai Lama believes this, too. He asks us to be observers of the world around us, to find ways to give love and compassion to the beings we know, and those we don’t know. And as I think about how, the more you look, the you see. Just as suggested by our teachers, the more the love we see and share, the more love there is in the world.

So, Love is my teacher. 

And it will flow through me as I learn and as I teach others. I will seek the wisdom of my religious beliefs, I will pray to my God with more wholeness in my heart, and I will see the light brighter in others as they pursue their own journeys in the world. For me today begins an eight-day journey with the Dalai Lama: he arrives this afternoon in Texas and I will follow his eightieth birthday celebrations to Irvine, California where he will speak on compassion, the environment and lovingkindness. I will write my learning and my reflections, my views on love and religion and all that happens in between. Love is my teacher, my pen and the blank page, the sunrise at the glorious pivot of night to day as if to say, knowledge is coming: listen. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The thing I didn't see at first

Green moth on the window
It looks like a leaf.
But on second glance you know that it’s not
Perfect symmetry
The unexpected flutter of a wing
A supernatural shape
How long will it be?
Before it is something else.
Just a part of
The memory
Of this mysterious morning.

Monday, June 1, 2015


This evening at the Buddhist Blessing and Wedding for Dear Family Friends Melissa Ann and Daniel Medrano I was honored with the opportunity to welcome everyone to Crow Collection of Asian Art.
I gave them this poem: 
The skies had something important to say
Nature in her wildest way blessed us on this
Wedding day.
Each drop of water is a gift
We will save and remember
Like the life before Daniel and the life before Melissa.
Today is a Changing:
A transformation into something new.
Their lives are a gift
A gift to these families who brought them up into
This bright and beautiful, wild and precious world. 
You are a gift, today in this museum
Here for the marriage of two very special people.
Gifts surround us.
Little Alleluias everywhere.
From the teachers we have known
And those we hope to see again.
Ganesha without obstacle;
Vishnu, preserver and protector;
Buddha, giver of benevolence and wisdom;
Filling all beings with joys and peace.
As the Sun, a bright glorious sun, follows the rain.
And fills us with something new.
Bright as these sunflowers:
A reminder of all that is possible
In Love. 
Be a gift to each other,
With every word
Every glance
And dream.
Today is yours.
And thank you for making today
Ours, too. 
Daniel + Melissa

Monday, May 4, 2015

From my remarks at the Closing Ceremony of the Sand Mandala from the Mystical Arts of Tibet, May 3, 2015

Earlier this week as we viewed the White Tara Mandala constructed by the monks of the Drepung Loseling Monastery, my friend Ambassador Jorge Lozoya stood at the edge of the sand mandala in-process and exclaimed with warm enthusiasm, 

“This is it! This is Everything. A man lives 70 or 90 years and then is it over. This is marvelous.”

A marvel indeed. 

In Nepal one week ago a series of devastating earthquakes shattered centuries of architecture and sacred historical sites. It was a dismantling of a mandala of culture. Temples became sand and were returned back to the dust of a region’s beginnings. 

Not far away on the tallest mountain in the world a group of explorers from The Google Adventure team were camped at one of Everest’s base camps. The earthquake sent an avalanche through the area and young man named Dan Fredinburg was caught in its path. 

Dan, a Privacy Director for the Google’s Project X Team is responsible for some of the company’s move forward-thinking initiatives including Google glass and driverless cars. He formed the Google Adventure team and mapped the mountain using Google’s 360 tools: he was our lens, our explorer mapping the places we can’t easily get to. 

These intrepid explorers are peering over the edge of the earth and I just wonder, what is a life like that like? The following passages are from the first 22 days of Dan’s Everest Adventure. 

2015 Everest Expedition fully underway. Gear is ready. I am ready. Now spending some time thinking about how this year's climb can be as impactful as possible! ‪#‎Everest

Kathmandu! No one here is focused on the destination bc the journey is complicated enough... ‪#‎brickslikefreethrows ‪#‎nepal

Quick Puja ceremony in Kathmandu to make sure all the energies are aligned. Our Nepalese crew is jacked and can't wait to get started. ‪#‎Puja ‪#‎Nepal

Day 4: Lukla. The most dangerous airport in the world (due to lack of sufficient runway). I'm 5-0 at this airport. Keep the streak going! ‪#‎Lukla ‪#‎airport

Day 4: The new Kathmandu domestic airport has strong reflection pool game. Some are clearly electrified... ‪#‎Kathmandu

Day 5: It takes me 4 days to walk to the mountain town of Pangboche written on the box he's hauling there.This guy better hope the recipient doesn't return to sender. ‪#‎porter ‪#‎Everest

Day 5: Our flight in was delayed so we stick around Lukla for the views. ‪#‎Everest

Day 6: Namche Bazaar is the last trading post on the route to Everest Basecamp. ‪#‎Namche ‪#‎everest ‪#‎djiphantom

Day 6: The Hillary suspension bridge lets us cross high above the Khumbu valley floor. ‪#‎Everest ‪#‎Khumbu

Day 8: Road to Basecamp. Pasang Sherpa from Ward 4 is one of my favorite characters. He's been building a rock road from Namche to EBC for 53 years to help protect travelers. ‪#‎Everest ‪#‎Sherpa ‪#‎hero

Day 9: Lama Geshe gave me a piece of string, a scarf, and a postcard for luck. Pem Chhiri, our climbing Sirdar, and I are studious. ‪#‎everest2015 ‪#‎lamageshe

Day 9: Push up into the valley. On our way to visit Lama Geshe to get blessed for our journey. ‪#‎everest

Day 9: Back on the old yak farm to wrangle up some help to carry gear. ‪#‎yak ‪#‎everest2015 ‪#‎yakcity

Day 11: “Tonight you have learned the final and greatest truth of the ninja: the ultimate mastering comes not from the body, but from the mind. Together, there is nothing our minds cannot accomplish. Help each other draw upon one another, and always remember the power that binds you.” - Master Splinter... and @gammanine ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎ChungKhung

Day 12: The snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place. ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 13: Sucra Sherpa, or as I call him, Sugar, getting really close for the photo, or warmth, whatever. ‪#‎5530m

Day 13: Always a long line of yaks at the toilet under Ama Dablam. Yak city bitch, yak yak city... ‪#‎amadablam ‪#‎yakcity ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 14: Stopped by the Italian Research Center today. Not surprised to see the yaks out front chowing on spaghetti. ‪#‎yakcity ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎Italian

Day 15: Temp in tent is -12C tonight. Temp in tent during day spiked to +46C! This is really confusing... ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 16: Unseasonal snow storm in the night buries our tents. Dig out required in the morning. ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎Snow

Day 16: Dear @urbangaucho, thanks for sending mental images of your triceps and calves. I shared your photos with my Sherpa. He laughed and told me to ask, "do you even lift yaks, bro?" ‪#‎bodybyzabes ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 18: Our camp, Jagged Globe, is positioned right next to the entrance to the icefall and with a view over Khumbu glacier and the valley below. ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎JaggedGlobe

Day 19: The ceremony calls for rice and flour to be slapped on our faces to grant us the appearance and wisdom of age (is that right?) and Lama Dawa gives me a sweet black medallion. ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎puja

Day 19: After snow delays, our Puja ceremony is finally underway. We piled up our gear on the alter to have it blessed. Lama Dawa Rita, a Sherpa from our Gurka team, asks the Goddess Everest for permission for our team to step through the ice fall soon. ‪#‎Everest2015 ‪#‎puja

Day 19: Jagged Globe Sherpa team. JG bought them all top of the line jackets to wear this year. Guys in green work Basecamp. Guys in blue climb with us. And Pem, in the black best, is the boss and does it all. ‪#‎JaggedGlobe ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 19: We're cleared for launch. Now we help the Sherpa celebrate this auspicious day and the next stages of our expedition. ‪#‎Everest2015

Day 20: Saving ice on top of Kala Patthar. Everest Basecamp in the background is a climate change hotspot. ‪#‎Savetheice

Day 22: Ice training with @micbattelli means frequent stops for morning cappuccino, regardless of danger. ‪#‎Everest2015

After reading these entries I exclaimed to a friend, “I want to live like Dan.”  I am learning through his memorial page, others do, too. 

Wayne Price was with Dan last year on the trek to Everest Base Camp, and filmed Dan at the orphanage. From Wayne’s Facebook Page: 

"What's on your mind, Facebook asks, as I struggle along with you to find the words to describe the love and loss I have been feeling the past 48 hours. Robert Frost said, "A poem...begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words."
Dan Fredinburg was, and will always be, a complete poem. In the short time our eyes played ping pong on this Earth, I bore witness to the rarest of rare, a human so aware that his life was a work in progress, that he actively sought every one and every experience possible in order to... find the words.
A little over a year ago, during a spontaneous dinner on a Tuesday night in San Francisco, I looked across the table at my friend who was hauling down his second plate of food, and asked him, "Aren't you going to Everest, like, in a few days?" He swallowed, took another bite, reached for my plate, took a bite and barely having swallowed this one, said, "Wanna come?"
This is for you, Dan. I wrote it while sitting on a plane, not fighting back tears, flying back home to be with our friends. If it sucks, I'm sure I'll hear you laughing at me. Just know while you laugh that I'm working on that last thing you asked of me before leaving, for the kids we met, for Nepal.

I met a magic man 
Who with one glance 
Convinced me to take a chance
with my own sanity.
An invitation to the next destination
Of my own humanity. 
His name was Dan,
Which mixed up spells and...
I hopped a flight through the night 
And landed back in time
Where a dime could get you fed 
Or a bed. 
Where earth and sky both were red.
Barely time to think
Decided on a blink 
To tame a mountain.
What the hell am I doing here
at the end of the road?
At the end of the year it might make sense. 
Now breathing is my best defense
As I ascend...
I look over to my friend 
Who hides behind a bandana and yellow specs. 
I can feel him smile 
Like a child.
This is mountain,
We've been told. 
This is mountain,
We've been sold.
The swirling rush of wind and river
Finding peace, despite a shiver
A promise, delivered
On day one.
Yet the man's duty isn't done 
Until he peaks. 
Until he finds what he seeks
Atop the mountain.
Where the only place to look is down
Upon the very ground we walk now
My feet complete their rounds
Each step, tiny sounds 
From mighty hounds 
Whisper "Stop! Turn around!"
The voices
The choices 
The mountain compounds.
As we arrive, 
No matter the weather,
Or distant the pain.
Not a hug or a drug
That can cure the insane.
The mountain still looms 
As I bid adieu 
For I've come and I've done
What I needed to do
But you, magic man
With the peak in your eyes. 
As you chase the horizon
Making truth out of lies. 
Crossing over a rainbow
Sliding into the gold
Living life like a story
That has to be told.
That hasn't an ending 
But rather, two 
You tame the mountain,
Or the mountain tames you"

Wayne Price

Let the messages of Dan’s life also be his mandala, the sands of his life, the energy of his words and his work continues here with us in this room today. Take the lessons of this White Tara mandala with you and spend some time thinking how this life, this climb can be as impactful as possible.