It’s been two years since I was lucky enough to travel to the mysterious and wondrous Tibet in 2018.
Today as we navigate a global pandemic again I return to this far distant land, to reflect on what I discovered. I share what I experienced in this ancient civilisation – a link between our wellness, compassion and living to our inner values.
Tibet’s 17th Century Potala Palace stands tall. Potala is a world famous cultural and historical icon. A towering ancient monument overseeing the rapidly changing infrastructure of Lhasa below. Today Potala watches the advancing tower blocks and western high street brands below; symbols of globalisation and our thirst for materialistic culture, our 21st century religion.
Potala’s heavily restricted and guarded access pays testament to Tibet’s complicated history, and current spiritual and political tensions. Heightened by the absence of the World famous figure of compassion and the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the 14th Dali Lama. His Holiness has been unable to return to Potala, (his winter home and palace) since his exile from Tibet in 1959.
Around the base of the Polala however, a mesmerising sight. Local Tibetan people, of all ages, connected together mindfully walking their early morning ritual, their daily Kora. Unfazed, walking clockwise in their Tibetan dignity, quietly chanting, prayer wheels and beads in hand. Dedicated in their devotion, to their deep spiritual roots.
Intrigued I ask Jigme my Tibetan guide “why are people walking round the Potala?“
“Lou mam, The Daily ritual of Kora, helps the Tibetan people bring peace of mind to their daily lives. They rise early before work to undertake the 30 minute circular Potala, maybe one or up to three times, a practise to show their inner faith, prayer, love and compassion for their spiritual leader and others.”
One cannot help but be touched by this profound show of devotion, their compassion, purpose and meaning. The Kora is a powerfully quiet and peaceful demonstration of Tibetan inner faith, a focus connecting inwards to their strong sense of intrinsic values. All set amidst the landscape of “The Cultural Revolution”, initiated in 1966 by China’s Chairman Mao.
Later chatting Jigme explained “In Tibet Buddhism there is no “I”, there is a “We”” , he continued knowing my interest, “I is for Illness, We is for Wellness”. A very different philosophy to the Western culture that I know so well that focuses on the ego and individualism, and often a lack of or little self-compassion. My guide smiled at me knowingly, as “I” in true Western fashion opted for the closest seat in the restaurant’s stove to warm up!
The lack of influence Tibetans have on their outside world is well known, from restrictions on access to information and lack of freedom to travel. At times we felt the officialdom with countless police and army checks, visas and controlled movements in our trip. My thoughts move to what I hear about the rise of and growing stress and anxiety in the Western World.
In my role as a coach I listen to clients voicing the restrictions they feel about their personal and work lives, their concern over personal wellness. I hear that their relationships, jobs, bosses or organisational cultures often fail to meet their basic intrinsic needs. Basic needs described by psychologist and neuroscientist Rick Hanson Ph.D., of feeling fulfilled, valued, safe and loved.
Turning again, back to Tibet. I notice the spirit of community with the Tibetan people. They appear unfazed and authentic, bringing a peaceful, calm antidote to the surrounding hostility and armed police presence. I observe the normal, every day, human interactions between the young officials and Tibetan children and Elders. I wonder are the Tibetans quietly revealing their ancient, inner secret, their sacred wisdom of wellness?
Going inwards, the Tibetans seem to be finding a way.
Now another mountain to climb as we make our way along spectacular hairpin bends and mountain passes to the roof of the world and Everest Base Camp.
Lou Booth (May 2018)