On July 17th, 2008, I experienced one of those motion picture, perfectly scripted, life-altering moments as I found myself in the presence of a man who is compassion incarnated—His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
I sat perched on the edge of a sofa, in a room in the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, tape recorder at the ready to receive the answers to questions that I had written and revised countless times over the years.
I did this in preparation for the one day when I would be within “arm-patting” distance. (He did that for emphasis, when he wanted to make a point—in response to some of my queries, throughout what I refer to as my “dream into reality interview,” which was 20 years in the making.)
My journalism career began with the launch of Visions Magazine, which my husband and I had co-published from 1988 to 1998. During our ten year run, which ended when he died from Hepatitis C, we featured such notables as Ram Dass, Bernie Siegel, Jack Canfield, Marianne Williamson, Grover Washington, Jr, Shirley MacLaine, Ben & Jerry, Debbie Ford, Bella Abzug and Dan Millman.
All along, I had the desire to interview His Holiness. I have always been surrounded by “yay-sayers” who encouraged my dreams. Not once did anyone scoff at my vision. In fact, I heard often that they knew that this someday would manifest in actuality.
Like many who believe in the Law of Attraction, since I have seen it work, I began creating vision boards with his photo on them. Someone suggested placing my picture next to his on it. I began speaking about it as if it was a done deal. I also had the opportunity to attend a lecture he gave at my alma mater, Rutgers University, a few years prior. There, in the presence of 20,000 people, I walked around the stadium and interviewed some of the folks in the stands—asking them why they were there and what this man meant to them.
Afterward, we were given a post card with His Holiness’ image on it. I taped it to my dashboard, and there it remains to this day—I think of him daily and send him blessings.
Then I did the most challenging thing of all—I let it go. I surrendered, in trust that someday it would happen.
It reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in the movie Under The Tuscan Sun. In the film, a realtor named Martini explains to a discouraged Frances Mayes:
“Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come. “
On that day seven years ago, my train did indeed come steaming down the track, and I was thrilled to jump on board! I describe the moment I was informed that I had officially landed the interview, as catching me somewhere between holy-shit-abject-terror and orgasmic bliss. I advise—when in doubt, always go for the orgasmic bliss.
But then that familiar gremlin snuck up, bearing the sign Impostor Syndrome—snarking at me that just maybe I wasn’t as competent a journalist as I pretended to be—indicating that I would let people down or that I might stumble over my words and feel pretty darn foolish in the process.
Then, in a moment of infinite courage, I grabbed a hold of myself and said, “Wait a minute, woman. You wouldn’t have been given the chance if you hadn’t earned it.”
I began to believe my pep-talking self over my snide and sly inner critic.
As we celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday on July 6th, I want to take a few moments to share what the—still somewhat surrealistic—experience has meant to me.
It is a potent reminder that we ought never to give up on our dreams, even if they take decades to show up.
I was able to witness the power of grace, compassion and love in action, as His Holiness expresses those qualities—whether it is in a room with two reporters, two photographers and a Tibetan translator or in a public forum attended by multitudes.
He is one of the most genuine people I have ever met—what you see is what you get.
I’ve since discovered that the interview really is a big deal—as much as I sometimes minimize it, in saying that this journalism gig is “what I do for a living.”
The experience has given me the chance to make a difference, by sharing his teachings with a world dearly in need of healing and peace.
It’s allowed me to put into practice, a piece of wisdom my father shared with me many times over the years, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.”
My father shared this with me so I wouldn’t be intimidated by anyone—of course, in this instance, it was more a case of putting his robe on one sleeve at a time.
The truth is, the prospect of the interview was far more intimidating than the audience with His Holiness itself.
When I told a friend that I had waited 20 years to interview the Dalai Lama, the response I received was, “How do you know that he didn’t wait 20 years to be interviewed by you?
Regardless of position in life, we are all entwined in a web of Oneness—what each of us does impacts us all.
Whenever I see His Holiness—in the news or in a video—I have a not-so-secret smile, as I recall those 45 minutes that altered the trajectory of my life.
I am reminded of the Joni Mitchell song called “A Case of You”—specifically the line: “Love is touching souls.”
Surely, he touched mine.
Kyekar nyin tashi delek to His Holiness, as he celebrates 80 turns around the sun.