At this year’s Art of Wellbeing show in Cardiff, I was lucky enough to hear Lama Rabsang, a Tibetan monk, talk about the art of happiness.
Born in Kathmandu, Lama Rabsang, spiritual teacher at The Dharma Centre in Brynmawr, first studied to be a monk age 11 under the direction of his uncle. He then went to India to Palpung Sherabling, where he completed his studies. After entering a three year retreat he was appointed discipline master of Palpung Sherabling Monastery, where he stayed for four years. From there he travelled via Birmingham all the way to Brynmawr!
Today, Lama Rabsang works on a voluntary basis, organising meditation classes and ‘drop in’ sessions, for people who may want to learn more about the ancient teachings of Buddhism. He regularly travels to three sites in Finland where he gives empowerments, teaching and instructions, and leads the regular prayers, teaching and meditation sessions at the Brynmawr centre, as well as offering public teachings and advice for individuals.
Buddhism dates back to the historical founder, Siddhartha Gautama, who is more commonly known as the Buddha. He was born as a prince in Nepal in 623 BC but the religion came relatively late to Tibet, in the seventh century. It teaches about four noble truths linked to the existence of suffering and Buddhists believe in karma, meaning people are reborn in different situations, possibly thousands of times.
So what did the Lama advise? Briefly, he told us nothing is permanent and that we will never be truly happy unless we learn to live mindfully, experiencing the joy of each moment. He told us that negative thoughts cannot and should not be resisted. He said that negative emotions like anger, desire, jealousy, envy and greed cannot be pinpointed to one particular point in the body and we should just let them wash over us like a wave and if we do this, they will soon be gone.
This has a particular resonance for me during the ‘arsenic hours’ of 4 – 7 each evening when the kids are wound up, tired and likely to kick off at the smallest thing, I frequently find myself shouting and then wishing I hadn’t!
Lama Rabsang advises that when we reach the end of our rope we should absent ourselves and sit somewhere quiet for a few moments to, as he put it, “simply be”.
If there are situations in our lives that we do not want, we must either seek to change the situation or practise forgiveness. For example, a cheating partner should either be left or forgiven. Staying put in unhappiness will not help us. We must accept, change or move on. That is the art of happiness.
He also advised us to practise the art of gratitude. He told us that here in Wales we are vastly better off than his fellow countrymen in Tibet and yet we are always chasing more, more, more.
Mindful meditation may be the answer to help us to focus on living in the moment. He gave an excellent example of how we are too future focused. We spend ages cooking Christmas dinner, he related and yet after many hours shopping, preparing vegetables, planning the menu and setting a beautiful table, we will sit down to eat and promptly start discussing our plans for Boxing Day.
I could have listened to him for much longer because he radiated an enviable calm and happiness which filled the room.
Truly, a thought-provoking, and out of the ordinary experience for a Sunday afternoon. The art of happiness is definitely something worth pursuing.