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Spiritual Guidance: the clown and the lama

Within the last two weeks I received spiritual guidance from a clown and a lama.

Monks in Thailand

Let me recount these two pieces of spiritual guidance in chronological order vs order of importance. As I just entered the street fair in Pittfsfield, Massachusetts with my wife, I encountered a clown. He looked at me and commented, "Hey, you're not going to the dentist's office. This is a festival." I was taken aback for a moment as I honestly had no idea in that split second what he was talking about.

I reflected and realized he was reading my body language, specifically my face. I did a quick body scan and noticed the furrow in my forehead, the stern look i was having as well as leaning forward like I had someplace important to get to. Inwardly, I then took a moment to appreciate the clown for pointing out the visible truth of where I was at!

There was spiritual guidance through the archetypal energy of the fool, the clown, who bestows guidance in this playful and simple, zen sort of style, "Hey, you're not going to the dentist, come into this moment and see laughter and play around you."

I was reminded how our body speaks our mind. It doesn't take a movement therapist, a body-centered psychotherapist like myself to be the human expert that we all are in reading the language of the body.

Another piece of guidance from spirit, "be aware of how I'm feeling by simply tuning into my body language". I invite you to do the same.

There is an abundance of research that demonstrates the power of the face to communicate our emotions. So, in any given moment you can tune into your face and ask your face what message is present here, what emotion is being felt.

Not only can we be aware of where we are at, what we are feeling by tuning into our body language and facial expression we can influence our mind state through a simple change in a body state: a meditation tip that Thich Nhat Hanh offers while one is seated in meditation is to engage a gentle smile and feel the power of the body to shift our state of mind.

Now onwards to the Tibetan Lama, Anyen Rinpoche, who I met a little over a week later at a talk at a Buddhist sangha in Pittsfield as well. What I can say that touched me the most about this lama was his depth and lightness. The lightness is something he shared with the clown.

He mentioned he wanted to talk about death and its importance in Buddhism, but he didn't think it would be too popular of a talk and proceeded to laugh and laugh and laugh, so instead he chose to talk about how to achieve genuine happiness. There was something about his laughter as he mentioned death not being a popular subject that communicated something so profound in that moment, like the laughter was communicating something about ultimate non-attachment.

I don't remember if he actually said something like, "death is no big deal, it's just our attachment to ego, our identity that makes it painful" or if I heard that teaching through the non-verbal language of his laughter.

So he segued to talking about how to achieve a state of genuine happiness, a much more popular subject to talk about he jested. He shared about our clinging to our identity, the experience we all have of clinging to the flow of reactions we all have. We forgot to connect to the vast power of the human mind and consciousness that can watch the flow of reactions.

Now in many ways this is all "typical" Buddhist talk. Yet there was something unique and profoundly alive in his presentation. It was sprinkled with such playful humor, like when he shared about his being unhappy when he first came to the U.S about 8 years ago and wanted to go back to Japan where he had been teaching. He mentioned that he didn't want to teach these "wierd Americans".

He came to the end of his lecture and asked if anyone had any questions. A few people asked questions and I felt a stirring inside me that wanted a direct connection with this teacher, so I considered what I might want to ask. I was intrigued by his humor around the statement of "wierd Americans" so I thought I would ask about that.

What I became aware of as I was preparing to ask a question was how frightened I was beginning to feel in bringing myself forward and sharing my thoughts, my voice into this group. This fear of "speaking into groups" is not a new fear.

In that moment I weighed whether or not I could "let myself off the hook" and just not share my question. Maybe it was my ego, that felt attached to being seen and heard...I think so, so I asked my question with a trembling voice and all.

I asked my question as to what was it about Americans that felt "wierd" to him. It was like akido as he shifted his stance, so to speak, and shared that actually it wasn't the Americans at all that were wierd. It was what he needed to feel inside, the insecurities in learning a new language and meeting different people than what was familiar to him since he was deeply committed to honoring his bodhisattva vow, the vow to alleviate the suffering in others. His commitment to his vow to help others, helped him release his own "ego-clinging" and make way for whatever discomforts he might have in traveling around the States and sharing these teachings.

I felt so touched that he took full responsibility and became truly humble in acknowledging his humanness, his own insecurities and fear (what I couldn't do when I asked my question and felt my fear).

I will give myself credit for sharing my gratitude towards the Rinpoche before I shared my question, which was my heartfelt appreciation for him for traveling as he is doing to teach and inspire in such a meaningful way.

This was a level of spiritual guidance I received from this Rinpoche that has echoed in my own heart and mind since that meeting, "what am I so committed to that I am willing to let go of my own discomforts; whatever feelings the outer circumstances bring forward, so that I can share what is my deepest passion and truth and not have those discomforts stop me?"

I love the work I do and sometimes I hold it as "work" and forget the profound service that is at the heart of it, which is what called me into doing this work of transforming and healing the body, psyche and soul.

I offer this question, this quest for you as well if you feel it of value.

Blessings on your path,


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