So. Yesterday my friend and I went to see the Dalai Lama. He was speaking at the Universal Amphitheater in Universal City. To access the Universal Amphitheater, one must puzzle their way through Universal City Walk, which is basically an outdoor mall on Ritalin. Among what seems like hundreds of sight gags, an enormous coffee cup and saucer proclaim "DAILY GRILL!" And although there's a Starbucks across from it, with its own brilliantly colored green, white and black mermaid logo singing its siren song, the giant cup and saucer effectively shushes Starbucks. That has to be a first.
My friend is a friend with money, so we've valet parked, a super-treat for me. Even so, we've chosen the valet-parking that is about a ten minute walk from the venue, so by the time we arrive (we know we've arrived because right beside "WATER WORLD" there's a huge throng of people in all kinds of dress not moving, just squinting and fanning themselves with the various flyers that different people are handing out through the crowd) we've been over-stimulated to within an inch of our lives. It's good to just be with the humanity. There are young people, old people. There are people wearing earth shoes, what are they called? Those sandal things, Birkenstocks. And then there are people like Kathy, my friend, who is probably wearing Chanel footwear. There are hat people. There are wig people. There are sexy babes. There are business men. There are people here with their babies. There are children who look like they haven't had their hair combed or a washcloth behind their ears in months. I'm guessing they're from Topanga. There are housewives, looking bored and lonely and, yes, desperate.
We wait an eternity in the sun, shuffling forward by inches. Sometimes, people who will soon be termed by His Holiness as Extremely-Self-Centered push past, bustling by as if they have better things to do than wait their turn. At one point, Kathy turns to me, all six feet of her towering over most of the crowd around us, and announces, in her beautiful suit and Chanel pumps, "Well, I don't know about you, but I have butt sweat!" I do a "Shoulda had a V-8!" moment and laugh at how she just took the words right outta my mouth. Soon after that, the crowd is not pushing in on us so much.
Once we get inside, it is better. Quieter. We find our seats, which are right in the center. We can see the chair where His Holiness will be sitting, and we can see the screens on either side. This is good. This is very good. We smile at each other. People file in, take their seats around us. We smile at them. They smile at us. Lovely.
A couple take their seats in front of us. We smile at them. They smile at us. They sit down. Uh oh.
The man has sat in front of me. He has, I swear, a satellite dish for a head. I sit bolt upright. Well, if I sit bolt upright and crane, I can still see His Holiness' chair. Sort of.
Then, his wife, or girlfriend, who has sat down next to him, pulls out her little toy. I don't know what it is. A blackberry or a blueberry or a PDA or a phone. I don't know. It is a contraption with a large monitor on it, very bright. She proceeds to start texting like crazy. I say to myself, be calm. She's just getting her last bit of bullshit-L.A.-obnoxiousness out of her system before the Dalai Lama comes out. It will be fine. Besides, I'll be so busy craning and sitting up like a ramrod, I won't even notice.
A few minutes later, His Holiness is introduced by a Buddhist nun. She is very calm, very sweet. I love her instantly. I love all the Buddhist nuns and monks. They have such a commitment to them. I wonder if I could shave my head and stop eating meat. I think I could. I also love red. And orange. I think I would make a very cute Buddhist nun. Of course, I do have the one little issue of talking to God pretty regularly, and I think they aren't really into that so much. I don't know. I'll have to look into it. Oh wait - she's introducing him! Here he is!
He's wonderful. He comes out and immediately my heart is filled with so much emotion. He does a namaste to the crowd and we all namaste back to him and it feels more like love than any time I've ever said I love you to a boyfriend or a husband. I am blown away. He motions us all to sit down. He sits down. He begins to talk. He's down to earth. He's funny. He tells us if we came with expectations, "great expectations? That WRONG!" and everyone laughs, including him. He insists he doesn't know anything, if we came here for answers, he doesn't have any. And then he proceeds to show us that, indeed, he has been to the well, many many times. His humility is staggering, his spirituality is more perfect than anything I've encountered in human form. He talks for a solid two hours on his topic, which is compassion. For the most part, I am right there with him, hearing every word.
That girl. With the PDA, Blackberry Monitor Screen THING. She's texting the entire time. At first I try to just really turn my attention away. Then, I think about leaning forward and asking her to turn it off. But there is NOT A SOUND in this auditorium, and all I can think is, if she's so crass as to do this while His Holiness is speaking, what is she capable of doing if I ask her to stop playing? And I don't want a scene. But she's getting under my skin. I fantasize about grabbing it from her and hurling it across the amphitheater. Oh yeah, you don't want a scene. Right.
And then, the Dalai Lama is asked a question about happiness. And he says, "Happiness not being up, down, go-go-go, smart, right, winning-winning-winning! That not happiness. That something else - on the surface. Not happiness. Happiness in the middle, calm, getting along, compassion for others, thinking of others, strong for others, because really we are all the same. We are others." And blammo. The dude hit me right between the eyes. Man knows his shit. I'm just sayin' is all...
When we left, I felt like a visit with a wonderful family friend had ended. How interesting that that room was filled with thousands, and yet, it felt like we'd just sat around the kitchen table together. Even though we stepped right back out into the crazy, Vegas-like environment of City Walk, we took with us a measure of calm, of true happiness. We even saw a posse of Buddhist monks converging on Starbucks. It felt like all was right with the world.
I think my heart expanded yesterday. Just a little. I'm certainly nowhere near being a spiritual giant. But baby steps. Being calm, right in the middle, just long enough to hear a powerful message and not follow my baser instincts. That's a miracle in itself.
Namaste, my fellow over-stimulated brothers and sisters.