I recently came back from Honolulu, where I was attending events that His Holiness the Dalai Lama spoke at. My heart is full and my spirit is high; I feel so validated by the message His Holiness shared, of warm heartedness as the key to inner peace and happiness.
From personal experience, I have felt how true that is, but it took years to know that that in itself is enough. I used to think that there was something far more important that I could do than being a warm-hearted person. Surely that can't be all there is to it, I would think.
However, while in His presence this weekend, the dots connected for me. I recently wrote a book, Unbinding the Heart, which includes 32 stories from my life and shares how I eventually learned how to do what truly matters: live with an open, loving heart.
Since the book's publication, I have been going to different venues and gatherings, sharing this very important message. I have been so thrilled to find out that people resonate with this truth and that's what they want as well. But I confess I, too, in some way wouldn't go all the way. I was still holding back a bit in case I ran into the voices of naysayers who might respond with, "Oh, that's too unsophisticated and simplistic. Surely, there has to be something more to it." Then, I'd start thinking, maybe I can dress this truth in some clever way so it won't be judged as too simple.
The Dalai Lama in a most authentic way helped me change all that. In his 76-year-old body, he stood in a humble and connected way, he stood at a podium in huge stadium that held 13,000 people and said, and "The key to inner peace is warm-heartedness. That bridges the gap from one human being to another and then transparency is present and oneness occurs."
Suddenly, I got it! By George, I got it.
I wanted to jump up and down the aisles of the stadium and say, "Yes, yes, yes!" This is it, I thought. I wanted to jump up and give him 1,000 hugs and kisses for making this message so clear and so substantial.
You see, I was raised by a mother who thought that a moment of heartwarming connection with the woman behind the cashier at a supermarket or any stranger she encountered was equally important as a dinner with scholars, kings, CEOs or billionaires. And she could sit equally with any of them and share herself authentically.
At every moment we have the power invested in us to touch another human, heart-to-heart, and affect their lives by conveying the truth of all truths: We are One. We have the power to bridge the illusion and pain of separation.
And that is inherent in all of us, but often we judge and say that is not enough. Or we discount it or censor whom we share it with and whom we don't. In doing this, we have thrown away the most precious free gift we all have. This gift is not gained with knowledge or money or any kind of education, other than our willingness to come forward in our hearts and open them with no expectation but the reward that this is the quickest and direct access to our essence. It is the hidden treasure that we all know, but we have to go around that ring life to simply return to it and claim it.
The Dalai Lama talked about the gap of who we are and who we appear to be. And that gap creates insecurity fear and anxiety. It is a gap that separates us from one another by pretending to be something special and different -- but this only puts layers of protection and walls us in, and then we experience the ache of separateness from others, especially from ourselves. The person we really are often feels exiled from our lives as we go about achieving, accomplishing and completing our endless to-do lists. Put yourself into everything you do. Bring your heart present. Connect the dots. Do what you do, but include your heart.
And that the gap will be bridged with this warmheartedness.
And then confidence appears, and transparency and trust, and as a result of that, we have inner peace. That's when you will feel so real and alive and you will light up your life -- and others will light up around you.
Have you ever had the experience of feeling lonely, only to reach out to a friend to express what is going on? You don't disguise your state, and then you get lifted, because you feel you are not alone. You feel connected again. Why? Because you simply connected with another heart.
Imagine if we did this unconditionally for each other? What if we made an effort to experience more random acts of connections?
Assume that the person next to you, not just your family and friends, but wherever they are, is the key to opening that door to your heart.
The Dalai Lama said this is especially true for strangers and your enemies. I say start with where you are. Try it practice this inside and just when that little voice says, "No, not them," reach out, bridge the gap. Educate yourself in being authentic. The reward is enormous. It is the best education you'll ever have, free of charge. You can become a master and have a Ph.D. in warmheartedness.
His Holiness is so committed to the happiness and the oneness of all individuals. He conveyed the message of how our personality projections create a manufactured reality, which distorts the truth of what the truth really is.
The way I see it, what we appear to be, what we show in the world is often not congruent with who we are inside ourselves. We hold back who we are and project a makeover of our true selves. But what are we to do in a society that doesn't encourage authenticity? I say, keep unbinding our hearts, keep living and loving with courage, no matter how difficult a situation may seem. In this place, you will emerge into your true self.
Please share with me your experiences of how you bridged the gap to your true self and experienced openheartedness.
For more by Agapi Stassinopoulos, click here.
For more on mindfulness, click here.