Mindfulness and detachment: paradox, or two sides of the same coin? I’m pondering both this morning. I invite you to consider two anecdotes, loosely tied to the topics at hand…
1) I attended three panels at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books last weekend. Most authors were gracious; their books, compelling. I scribbled lots of take-aways into my journal. More on that later, but I wanted to mention an aha! moment I had while listening to the Q/A portion of "Memoir: Finding the Hook."*
Question from audience member: In this era of Internet anonymity, people seem increasingly comfortable in posting negative comments about authors, and in writing nasty book reviews. Given that you’ve poured your heart onto the page, how do you handle the hurt?
In response, Jillian Lauren (SOME GIRLS: My Life in a Harem) related this story: After a particularly unkind newspaper reviewer ripped into her book, readers piled on. Negativity bred negativity, and the comments got ever more personal and insulting.
Jillian railed against the injustice. She buckled under the pain. Then she dried her tears and tried to move on. But again and again, she allowed herself to be sucked back into that negative vortex.
Until, that is, her husband intervened. "Are you done?"
"What do you mean?"
"Bad reviews are going to happen," he told her. "They’re part and parcel of what you do. You can’t control their reactions to you or your work. But you control your own responses. So…are you done?"
Quick disclaimer: For brevity’s sake, I’ve paraphrased this interaction, I’m no doubt telling it to you slant, as I’m relying on memory, not transcripts. Still, in honoring the sacred bond of trust that comes of being privvy to something so deeply personal, I’ve strived for accuracy in intent. So if I distorted the original conversation in any way, I’m open to correction.
2) I’m really looking forward to hearing His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet speak about "Global Leadership and Compassion" this afternoon, as part of the Living Peace Series at UCI.* Given the world events of late, this topic seems very timely.
Here’s one of my favorite stories about the Dalai Lama, via The Center for Visionary Leadership:
"The Dalai Lama emphasized to us the importance of seeing the big picture and looking with detachment on our problems. He himself demonstrated the detachment of a great laughing Buddhist master who is wise enough not to take anything too seriously–except his efforts to help others. When he first came to meet our group, the Tibetans put on an elaborate welcoming ceremony with singers, dancers, and a tea and rice ceremony. After all the ceremony was finally complete, he put down his tea cup, and looked around carefully at everyone in the audience with a bemused expression. Then he burst into a long period of deep, heartfelt laughter that soon spread to everyone in the room. He seemed to be saying “Isn’t this all laughable –all this ceremony and formality? Don’t take it all too seriously.”
This, my friends, is the art of happiness.