What a day – in the presence of grace

I’m probably no more enlightened than I was when I awoke this morning but I feel very much lighter. Walking back from the small university arena, I was struck by the falling cherry blossoms and told myself, you must remember this day, these blossoms, this song. The Ode to Joy is sounding in my head and I keep humming it. Walking through thick snow banks of cherry blossoms I felt at peace.

I was on my way back to my office after seeing and hearing His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and a large panel of spiritual leaders discuss compassion. How do we get rid of the anger in our hearts? How do we deal with those who practice violence in the name of religion?

I got to the arena to wait for my friend Nancy. We were both working on the website http://wiki.seedsofcompassion.org and got free tickets. She’s from New York and after 9/11 still has great fear of crowds, me I’m not into them much either, so we thought solidarity would be good.

We’re moving along in line chatting with others when I run into the Ven. Dhammadinna. She was a student of the Dalai Lama and afterwards came to Seattle with the Ven. Jesse to open up a buddhist temple. I had the honor of designing their website. In gratitude she gave me a tonka from the Dalai Lama’s temple. That started things off very well, a hug from a friend I haven’t seen in awhle.

At the door they turned me away because my purse was considered a bag due to its size. They would not let me in. I wasn’t the only woman in this quandry. I heard that some were stashing their bags in the trees and bushes and trusting they would remain safe. I’m just not that trusting. Thankfully I work on the university campus where this event took place. I started walking the mile across campus to my office and back when I got an idea. I went into the closest building and put myself at the mercy of the first woman I found. She graciously agreed to hold my purse for me. I was out of breath from marching up hill and up stairs and at first she must have thought I was nuts. But she was very kind and I was able to hurry back.

The line was now incredibly long but I got to see the motorcade with many many motorcycle police and cars. Who knows which car the holies and vernerables and all were in but it made my excitement start to race.

Inside there were free vegetarian lunches for everyone. I felt a little bad because I didn’t purchase my ticket but there was plenty of boxes to go around. Free lunch tastes extra good.

Nancy and Pam (the head of my volunteer project) were waiting for me with great seats. We were just up and to the left of the stage. Great view of everything. The energy was incredible, there was this light buzz that suddenly exploded as HHDL and ADT entered the stage left. The crowd was on their feet, loudly but politely clapping. I couldn’t help myself, I let out a loud wooop, a couple others did too, and suddenly every one burst into cheers. That felt awesome to be able to express my joy in voice and not be all prim about it and to find that instead of being stared at, I was a catalyst.

The panel discussion was opened by two ceremonies. The first was a singer from Africa. The moment he began singing, in an African language, I knew from the notes and the cadence that it was a song about compassion, the topic of the 5 day event. And I knew I’d be in tears throughout the morning. Nancy and I were sitting there crying and we were not alone. After this wonderful man was done the city presented HHDL with a gorgeous prayer wheel made by a Seattle artist. It stood about 3 feet high, carved out of wood with wooden inlays, there was a mountain scene with a huge tree in the foreground. Just gorgeous. Lots of bowing and prayerful hands…

The panel had many people from around the world. Half the panel were teenagers. They represented their age group so very well. There is so much hope for the world.

HHDL and ADT were clearly enjoying each other’s company because they took the opportunity to jest with each other. Cuties those two. So cute and yet so serious. They gave us many chances to laugh like crazy.

The discussion was familiar territory and while I didn’t hear much I wasn’t already in sync with (if woefully lacking in practicing it), it was so uplifting to hear how others put their experiences and ideas into words.

Nancy and I both fell in love with the Rabbi David Rosen. Oh la la was that man gorgeous, smart, caring, and as Nancy and I noted at the same time, not wearing a wedding ring. Too bad he lives in Israel… his pictures don’t do him justice. What a charismatic man. When he got upset and said he just can’t understand WHY the media keeps showing all the ugly things in the world when there is so much going on that is good the crowd was on their feet…. And when he told Sister Joan Chittister, who evidently believes in “disloyalty as obedience,” that he agreed with her on everything but the Catechism everyone whooped!

We broke for lunch and the Seattle Symphony and Choir broke into Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. And I’ve been humming along ever since.

I came back to the office early as I had work to do, Tuesdays being my busy days, and the seats were killing me. And because I got what I needed.

It was an amazing experience. What an honor to be in the same room with such amazing people doing such good works.

I was in tears of gratitude, thankful that I was able to participate as a volunteer in this noble and worthy project, that I was privileged to hear my values spoken en mass, to think of my loving parents who taught me the art of compassion and helped me foster that whenever they could, to listen to Sister Joan talk about teaching children compassion when they bury a bird or feed a stray dog or pet a stray cat.

I feel like the luckiest woman in the world right now…

P.S. I retrieved my bag, safe and sound, and left the cookie from my lunch in thanks. Turns out I wasn’t the only woman who brought her bag by that office. I had a giggle with the gals who were so kind to help us out.

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