"Please help me" are three of the most powerful words in the English language, according to therapist Cathy Conheim. People like to help others, they like to feel generous, especially if they share something in common (a spiritual connection, a shared belief, devotion to a common cause, etc.) For those asking for help, there is strength in vulnerability, providing an opportunity to connect with others in compassion and generosity. We create powerful bonds when we ask for help -- as well as when we give it.
With a new book coming out in January, I need a little help these days. This book, "Being Buddha at Work," is an important part of my own spiritual path as well as a gift to help others along their own paths, too. When I'm involved in a project I care about passionately, I am not at all shy about asking for help.
My editors were skeptical when I told them I wanted to ask His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his help, in the form of a foreword for our Buddha book. "That's a real long shot," they said. "Not likely. Who else could you get?"
"Oh ye of little faith!" I gently chided them. "Where's your optimism? Has the publishing business made you cynical? It's important to ask for what you want in life, especially if you care deeply. Sometimes long shots pay off. And besides, the worst that can happen is the Dalai Lama says "no" -- then I'm not any worse off than when I started."
Undeterred, I set off on my quest. First, I turned to my BFF, Google. (What would I ever do without Google?) "Contact info for Dalai Lama" I typed into the Google search box. Presto! Up pops the mailing address, phone number, and email for the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Well, that was easy, I thought to myself. I crafted a simple request, explaining what I wanted and why, and hit "send." Then I waited.
A few days went by, then a week, then several weeks. Silence. Hmmm, maybe I should try another approach, I thought.
My son studies with a Tibetan Lama, who has become a cherished friend of mine as well. So I emailed him in India: "Tulku, can you help me?"
A few hours, his reply came: "Yes. I have a good friend in Dharamsala; he is director of a foundation there. I have just spoken to him by phone. Here is his address. Send him your manuscript and a cover letter. He knows what to do."
I thanked him profusely and did as he instructed. Then I waited.
A week later I received an email from the foundation director telling me he had received my package and delivered it to the Office of HHDL. They told him that they had gotten my email some weeks earlier, but July was a very busy month for His Holiness and it would be impossible to promise when they might have an answer for me.
I understood. It's not like the Dalai Lama doesn't have enough to do, with many people who need his care, support, prayers, visits, compassion, teachings, and leadership. He's a busy guy. I shall wait.
A couple weeks later I received an email from a special assistant to HHDL, telling me that my request was under consideration by a review committee that handles such things. He told me to email them in a few weeks to see where things were. I thanked him for his kind attention and replied that I would do as he suggested.
So far, so good. It's not a "yes" but it's not a "no" either. I feel one step closer. My editors are incredulous that I've gotten this far in my quest for a foreword from the Dalai Lama. But they're happy -- they're very happy.
In the meantime, we begin to discuss who could do the foreword if we don't get a "yes" from His Holiness. Another Buddhist leader perhaps? Or a Buddhist scholar? Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Jack Kornfield, Robert Thurman? Since our book is about Buddha's teachings for the workplace, we try to think of a leader who has actually used Buddhist practices in a secular organization. I suggest Phil Jackson -- he would be perfect. As coach of the LA Lakers, he taught his players to meditate and he brought Buddhist philosophy to his sports organization.
My editors are intrigued by Phil Jackson, but skeptical of me reaching him. "Phil Jackson has an army of people to protect him from people like us," they say.
"What do you mean, 'people like us'?" I ask. "Phil Jackson is a Buddhist. Just like the Dalai Lama, Jackson would want to help us bring the Dharma to the workplace. Our goal is to help folks find freedom from suffering ... and most people suffer a lot at work. I think Phil Jackson would love to help us by writing a foreword."
I set out to prove my editors wrong. Once again I turned to Google, typing in "Phil Jackson's contact info." This time the results were not so clear. No address, no phone number, no email. Hmmmm, what to do?
I called a speakers bureau that represents Jackson. They said unless I wanted to hire him for a speaking gig, they can't tell me how to reach him. I sent an email to the L.A. Lakers' office; although Jackson is retired from coaching, I thought they might know where to find him. No reply. I contacted the publicist at Hyperion, publishers of Jackson's book, "Sacred Hoops." She replied almost immediately, suggesting I contact Jackson's literary agent; but she didn't tell me who that was. Back to Google: "who is Phil Jackson's literary agent?" I find the info and send an email to the literary agency in New York. No reply.
What's the deal here? I wonder. I'm in Los Angeles and so is Phil Jackson. This should be a slam dunk.
I called my friend Alan, who is in the sports memorabilia business. "How do I get in touch with Phil Jackson or his assistant?" I asked him. "I don't have a clue," Alan replied. "I understand he's a very private person and keeps to himself pretty much." No kidding.
I decide to try social media. I put a note on Facebook to see if anyone knows how to reach the reclusive coach. I get the usual suggestions: "contact his publisher, his literary agent, his speakers bureau." Been there; done that.
So now I'm stumped. Here in L.A., everyone is supposedly just six degrees of separation from anyone they want to meet. Yet I can't find anyone who can tell me how to reach the basketball Zen master. This is crazy. I can't believe it's easier to contact the Dalai Lama than it is to find Phil Jackson!