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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 37 Lama applied himself every morning. With perseverance and self-control, he learned to sit still for long periods. Gradually he was better able to con- trol his errant impulses. Meditation and study came before play; delayed gratification became a matter of course. For a long time, psychologists focused on raw intelligence as the most important predictor of success in life. Nowadays most would agree that IQ is largely at the mercy of self-control. The brightest kids cannot always get by purely on their brainpower. Long-term success depends on the ability to self-regulate, to mitigate harmful impulses and enhance life-affirm- ing ones. Kira, I think you can relate to this. All through school, you used to dive into your homework, not leaving it until the last minute. This speaks well for your ability to delay gratification. I think you rel- ish the feeling of accomplishment that comes with discharging your responsibilities in a timely manner. It lifts a burden from your shoulders and frees you to do other, perhaps more fun, things. I’m very glad you have internalized this useful habit, one that could prove important in your life. The Dalai Lama has lectured often on the importance of self-control. He believes it is a necessary element of spirituality. It gives us the means to cultivate and hone our life-affirming qualities. It allows us to question our behavior and open up the possibility of remedies. He likens our undisci- plined mind to an untamed, rampaging elephant. If we are able to instill a good dose of inner discipline, we are more likely to foster the development of compassion, the foundation of genuine happiness. It is obvious that meditation is important to the Dalai Lama. He spends a big part of his day doing it, and I have seen him invigorated after his morning session. The Dalai Lama was quoted recently as saying, “If every eight-year-old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” More and more people are meditating these days. But I suspect that despite good intentions, not many are able to keep it up in a sustained way. Sooner or later, pressing concerns interrupt the routine for many. For the Dalai Lama, meditation is like brushing his teeth. It is a daily habit. He does it every morning and every evening. By my calculation, he has devoted well over 100,000 hours of his life to meditation. And without a doubt, he is the happiest person I’ve ever known. His sense of humor, his ability to laugh and to enjoy life, is legendary. The Dalai Lama has given me some simple tips for integrat- ing meditation into a daily routine. Don’t try to be too ambitious; temper your impatience. Don’t practice for too long in the beginning, not more than ten or fifteen minutes per session. But do it fairly often—a few times a day—and make it a regular habit. Creating a sustained rhythm, making meditation a daily habit, is the Dalai Lama’s secret to increasing his reservoir of well-being. And in recent years, science has confirmed the close correlation between meditation and genuine happiness. “But progress takes time,” the Dalai Lama told me. “It’s not like switching on a light. More like kindling a fire: start from small spark, then becomes bigger and bigger, more light, more light. Like that.” PHOTOBYSUSANNEMARTIN ➢ page 67 His Holiness walking with the author.