A message from the Dalai Lama
This quote appeared on social media recently and maybe familiar to many of you. It is new to me although its message is not. The words are so profoundly relevant to the world we live in today that I will repeat them, and then reflect on them from a personal perspective.
When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered 'Man'
' He sacrifices his health to make money, then he sacrifices his money to recouperate his health.. then he is so anxious about his future that he does not enjoy the present. The result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die and then dies, having never really lived'.
The message to live in the present is a familiar one, from the Dalai Lama to Eckhart Tolle there are many evangelists and spiritual leaders who encourage such mindfulness. From personal experience this message is easier to understand in theory than it is to put into practice. Because of the pace of life and the demands we face, it can sometimes feel impossible to meet them, let alone live a zen like existence, or anything approaching it. As a coach I meet some people whose lives are fundamentally out of balance and for others, the pressure is self generated and they are their own worst masters. However there are also systemic and economic pressures which underpin the problems we face as individuals and as a society.
It seems to me that our dominant but increasingly challenged economic model is in need of fundamental rethinking, from both a personal and macro perspective. These are some of the questions which many of us are asking of our leaders with increasing urgency today. How can an economic model which is built on the premise of unrelenting growth continue when the result may be catastrophic for societies and the environment? How can the prosperous northern and western economies ask the emerging economies to observe environmental and nuclear constraints which we have largely ignored? How can we as individuals continue to work harder and smarter than our counterparts in these countries to stay ahead? More to the point, if we share the Dalai Lama's sentiment, why should we?
It seems to me that the ideological as well as practical and functional aspects of our dominant culture, protestant work ethic, consumer model, or whatever we chose to call it are coming under question from all sides. We may be able to buy just about any of the worlds produce 24 hours a day and seven days a week but what are the costs and are they worth paying? Why should the dominant retail giants, and their equally pervasive on-line cousins have so much power over our lives and the myriad of small suppliers who they bully without restraint? If the Internet is not the answer, as a notable book of this title now suggests, then what is? How should we go about finding our own answers to these and the many more issues which face us?
I do not have the answers but, like many others, I will increasingly make choices which reflect my values and the way I chose to live my life. I chose self-employment and all of its uncertainties so that I can live more flexibly. I chose to buy my books from book shops rather than from you know who. I will never vote UKIP or support wars fought on spurious grounds. I will do my best to support worthy causes and ideas, like this one from the Dalai Lama. And let's not forget Gandhi, who sadly is in danger of being forgotten, Did he not say 'an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind' ? These words may seem outdated, perhaps a little naïve now but perhaps that is because we have all become accustomed to the worlds problems and injustices. How much safer and harmonious would we all be if our leaders had actually listened to his message?
If enough of us make choices which reflect our values and the way we would prefer society to be, perhaps we can change it , and give future generations a better legacy. As a species, we may dominate all others but a touch of humility of the kind expressed by the Dalai Lama and Gandhi would help to make our story a happier, more enduring one.