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Lions Roar : September 2015
I do as a person—with my body, speech, and mind—and how it affects all other beings.” Lang threw herself headlong into her commitment to the dharma. Now she concedes that she was perhaps too extreme. As a new practitioner, she says, “You can become pretty carried away, to the point where you feel you have to let go of your friends and your house and all sorts of things, and nothing can be integrated. “It’s total chaos. Then all of a sudden everything starts to integrate. At a certain point, Buddhist practice is so inseparable from everything you do that you start to live and breathe it. I suppose that’s the gradual process of awakening—it’s naturally incorporated into your very being.” Buddhism is a non-proselytizing religion, and when celebri- ties talk about Buddhism in the press it isn’t always beneficial. With that in mind, lang adopted caution in discussing her practice publicly. But at the same time, she felt drawn to con- nect people to the dharma. One of lang’s questions after taking refuge was whether or not she should explicitly incorporate Buddhism into her lyrics. “Oh no, not necessary,” Lama Gyatso assured her. “It doesn’t matter what you say. It’s the quality and essence of your offering.” For lang, this was a relief. Because she didn’t have to produce explicit dharma songs, she could allow the dharma to natu- rally integrate into her music, just as the dharma was—over time—naturally integrating into the rest of her life. She felt it was her good fortune to be close to great Buddhist teachers, and she wanted to somehow, through her music, connect people to them. “Not in a mundane, phenomenal way,” she clarifies, “but in the most divine way possible.” In 2003, Lama Gyatso established Ari Bhöd, a center based in Los Angeles that is dedicated to preserving the Nyingma tradi- tion, and lang was a founding member. She also got involved with Tools for Peace, a nonprofit organization also founded by Lama Gyatso, which provides people from all walks of life with practical methods for cultivating compassion, peace, and well-being. Lang was not afraid to get her hands dirty, and for several years she served as cook and bottle washer for the Tools for Peace summer camp for children. This meant cooking three meals a day for fifty people, plus scrubbing pots and wiping counters. It was twelve or thirteen hours of hard labor daily, and she found it rewarding. Lang loved spending time with the kids and doing every- thing she could to provide them with tasty, nutritious food that was both comforting and fun. Using her own money to get the best-quality organic ingredients available, she might make, for example, Middle Eastern-inspired dishes, maybe offering chicken and halloumi kabobs with quinoa tabouli. She enjoyed stretching the kids’ culinary experience. PHOTOBYJERIHEIDEN