The Best Mantra for 2018: Om Mani Padme Hum

I’m pretty new to meditation (dabbled a bit in college but it didn’t stick) and I’m restarting with the basics.

In terms of actually practicing mindfulness and compassion (to self and others) – these are things I’ve sporadically attempted for a few years.

I think it all started during an annual exam when my lady doc suggested something in between my Pap Smear and and the breast exam: every morning, I need to look in the mirror and say “I love you” to myself.

I told her I couldn’t possibly; it was embarrassing, what was the point, and she said in addition to filling my body with healthy foods and wheat grass, turmeric, ginger, and Vitamin D (I was deficient at the time), that loving oneself is another and very important piece of the puzzle needed to attain an optimal level of wellbeing.

When the La Costa Chopra Center used to host one-hour meditations in the afternoon, I attended a few times with friends and it was a good re-introduction, but I’m more of a solitary soul and would rather do my internal discovery not in the company of strangers, no matter how kind…

It’s all about rewiring our brain-using neuroplasticity to change negative thoughts and belief patterns into positive actions and a joyful future.

Meeting the Dalai Lama was a significant experience that opened my eyes (and my heart) and encouraged me to follow an inward searching path.

Om Mani Padme Hum is an ancient mantra related to the bodhisattva of compassion, Avalokiteshvara, and with the Dalai Lama, who is considered to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. It is believed that all the teachings of the Buddha are contained in this mantra.

Tibetan Buddhists believe that by saying Om Mani Padme Hum out loud or silently to oneself invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.

From His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

It is very good to recite the mantra Om mani padme hum, but while you are doing it, you should be thinking on its meaning, for the meaning of the six syllables is great and vast …. The first, OM … symbolizes the practitioner’s impure body, speech, and mind; it also symbolizes the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha…. The path is indicated by the next four syllables. MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the … altruistic intention to become enlightened, compassionate and loving…. The two syllables, PADME, meaning lotus, symbolize wisdom…. Purity must be achieved by an indivisible unity of method and wisdom, symbolized by the final syllable HUM, which indicates indivisibility…. Thus the six syllables, om mani padme hum, mean that in dependence on the practice of a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, you can transform your impure body, speech, and mind into the pure exalted body, speech, and mind of a Buddha….

All I know for sure is that when I say or think Om Mani Padme Hum, no matter how sad or anxious or stressed I feel, even when I wake up at 3AM in a panic, a certain calmness and quiet joy washes over me.

As we leave one year and transition to another, I wanted to share this with you and hope you also find solace and wisdom in this mantra.

Happy New Year!

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Meeting the Dalai Lama. Thaumaturgic.

This is going to be the first in a series of posts about my thaumaturgical, magical, and enchanting encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet. He was born July 6, 1935. The Dalai Lamas are considered the manifestations of the Bodhisattva (Buddha) of Compassion, who chose to reincarnate to serve the people.

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What does thaumaturgic mean?
…Of, or relating to, the working of magic or performance of miracles.

Lastly, powerfullest of all, least recognized of all, a Noblesse of Literature; without steel on their thigh, without gold in their purse, but with the “grand thaumaturgic faculty of Thought” in their head.
–Thomas Carlyle, The French Revolution, a History

So yes, an otherworldly experience for sure. Because as Emily Dickinson once wrote, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I really am NOBODY. That’s correct. But somehow, the Universe was aligned at this moment in time to bring me to the front row of a press conference with the Dalai Lama at UCSD.

Fourteen years ago, almost to the exact day, I was at Rimac Field in this same intense heat screaming myself hoarse (and annoying everyone around me #sorrynotsorry) as I watched Angel Boy 1.0 graduate with honors. I’m not sure it compares to the day he received his PhD from Yale, but at that point in time, I couldn’t have foreseen the future. Actually I DID, but more on that later.

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I heard that the Dalai Lama was planning to speak at UCSD for two consecutive days; the first public gathering was to be preceded by a press conference and on the following day, he was the commencement speaker for 2017 graduates.

After the year I had endured, one in which I was broken into a million pieces and each of those pieces exploded into a million pieces; this little princess who had her rose colored glasses cruelly ripped off her face and shattered-the shards of glass slicing and ripping apart every tendon and muscle, deeply cutting to the bones, her bones that were now stripped of all flesh– and oh especially her heart, her innocent innocent vulnerable heart…that she could have and DID muster up the wherewithal to apply for media credentials for the press conference is really nothing short of a miracle.

But she did. I did. She persevered. I persevered. She triumphed. I triumphed. She rose from the whirlpool of a sinking boat and she took one breath. And then another. And another.

Apparently, I still live an enchanted life. In spite of everything.

With nothing to lose, you lose nothing by trying. You only have everything to gain.
That’s one of my new mantras.

It’s the ultimate despair to have nothing left. TRUST ME.

Yet another story for another day.

It’s not like I felt unworthy of being in the presence of His Holiness. It was more akin to feeling that this was purely pure serendipity.

And what was my very first thought? It was of fashion, of course. What’s the appropriate fashion statement for an event of a lifetime? I chose a simple Calvin Klein slim line dress and accessorized with a triple strand of pearls. My heels were a respectable height, don’t you think?

We had to submit questions in advance with no assurance that our particular question would be chosen, but I was prepared for anything. After all, when you expect nothing, there are no expectations, right?

True to form, I was one of the first in attendance, and the first to snag the best seat in the house, in the front row, literally six feet or so from the Dalai Lama.

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The energy in the room was palpable. With about one hundred jaded journalists and photographers who’ve seen it all, there was a certain excitement and anticipation; talk of feeling a sense of positive and uplifting spirituality.

When he walked in, His Holiness didn’t immediately climb the riser to sit on the small stage. Instead he stopped to chat with and bless many of us lucky enough to sit in that first row. He said “hello” while looking directly in my eyes, took my hand, and blessed me. His hand was warm and I felt touched on a cellular level.

HE TOUCHED ME.

After Ann Curry formally introduced him (she looked GORGEOUS, by the way), His Holiness spoke for about fifteen minutes (I captured it all on my phone) about compassion and kindness and education and the state of the world, and then opened it to questions. There was a bit of confusion because he didn’t want to be read questions that were previously submitted; instead he wanted to connect to us in the present moment.

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Most people weren’t prepared for that, but I was.

He answered a couple questions about politics and a macro vision of the world (sorry, didn’t pay much attention haha) and then I raised my hand and he pointed at me. Now let me ask you guys, how would you have felt at that moment? Would you be nervous? Scared? Shy?  I felt no anxiety. I asked the question I had previously submitted. He didn’t hear me the first time and I had to repeat myself:

“If you have suffered deep personal and emotional pain, how do you turn that pain and anger into love and compassion and forgive the one who hurt you?”

For the next fifteen minutes, his eyes locked on mine as he spoke directly to me. As if we were the only ones in the room. You could hear a pin drop. There were things he said to me that were conveyed only by thought, I know, because I started tearing up, wiping away tears unashamed to be so emotional and so raw in public. Ann Curry nodded to me, as if she too understood,  and he kept talking, leaning forward to heal my pain cell by cell, deeply and lovingly.

It was the most transformative experience of my life, right up there with the births of Angel Boy 1.0 and 2.0, a moment in time that I’m still processing.

Stay tuned for Part Two and I’ll have video, too.

Namaste, y’all. And #gratitude.

(PS These are all my images, copyright Enchanted Seashells.)