Real Leaders

7 Things I Learned in Tibet

Debbie and I just returned from almost 3 weeks in Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan. Yes, we saw Mount Everest (from a small plane… no more mountain climbing for me). But the most enriching part of the trip was spending every day with a guide who happened to be either a devout Buddhist or Hindu. This allowed us to get into extended conversations about their beliefs, their hopes and dreams, and their life strategies. Two of the guides were young women ages 30 and 27. Both of them were very open, sincere and strong.

Perhaps the most compelling realization on the trip was that the new generation of women everywhere in the world shares a mindset that things are going to be different.

The cultures of these countries are deeply rooted in Buddhism or Hinduism. These religions contain deeply held beliefs that each of us are born into circumstances we deserve… and that men are more spiritually evolved than women. In other words, if you were an awesome spirit you would’ve never been born a woman. I know, what a great way to set up a culture if you’re a man. Well the young women of Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan are not buying it.

They are pursuing educations, significant careers, marrying later, and treating their husbands like partners rather than gods. One extremely positive outcome is that women are asserting themselves in terms of resisting sexual abuse, rape and virtual enslavement. This is all happened in one generation. Universal media and the Internet are definitely impacting it. It is also driven by a new web of personal connectivity between young women around the world.  Women do network and communicate… everywhere and all the time.

One thing I can predict with high certainty is that in the next 30 years the world will change significantly because more women will make more important decisions and create greater influence than ever before in history. It’s about time! (If you like to watch a film that reinforces this idea click here.)

Since the trip also allowed me to both study and reflect, I thought I would pass on 7 ideas I found worth considering. You may not agree with all of them but if there is a nugget for you put it in your “mental pocket” and examine it more closely.

  1. Buddhism is a lot more than meditation and chanting. Hinduism is a lot more than yoga.  While it is true that all religions have serious defects… invariably caused by centuries of hard power leaders using fear to control the thoughts and behavior of their believers…the spiritual inspiration at the root focuses on inner peace and acts of compassion. Finding inner peace is the power source of true compassion.
  2. The tribes we belong to dilute our conscience. For instance, when large groups of people engage in business activity that cause employees to suffer by reducing their individual power while increasing their demands in an effort to make products that generate high profits but little value, we accept it as business as usual.  The cost of this mindset is high. If my prosperity depends on others’ suffering my soul submerges in an ocean of self-justification.
  3. My TRUE self, my intrinsic self has a manipulative roommate. He shows up as the other voice in my head insisting I need status, money, popularity and achievements I can brag about to feel secure and self-satisfied. It turns out this nasty roommate is a big fat liar. My TRUE self knows that if I put my higher attention on attaining wisdom and loving others I will learn what I need to learn and do what I need to do to be happy in any circumstances.
  4. If I consistently sell out my TRUE self to anger, jealousy or fear I will find myself trapped in a life that is smaller and more stressful than the life my heart desires.
  5. If I allow my self-interest to masquerade as virtue I will become a moral barbarian. 
  6. Our life is designed to challenge us. Our future rarely turns out as we envision.  Nearly all our plans for our career, marriage, finances and health don’t materialize as we imagined. When we are surprised by crisis and disappointment it is time to question our desires, our values and our choices. If these moments cause us to pause and reflect and realign with our inner sense of purpose we will grow. If we don’t we will re-enter the cycle of disappointment and self-frustration. This is true for everyone. It is how life is designed.
  7. While it is reasonable to forgive people who seek our forgiveness, forgiving those who hurt us without remorse is masochism.  Escaping the anger of past and unresolved pain doesn’t require forgiveness…it requires transcendence. This means that we cease to want justice or to wallow as a victim.  We literally transcend our pain by focusing on our own growth, our own power and the positive difference we are designed to make. Transcending undeserved betrayal or abuse requires not thinking about it anymore. When we stop investing our energy in our mental movie of past wrongs and disappointments we free our minds so our hearts can embrace today and generate optimism for tomorrow. As my 27-year-old Buddhist guide said, “You will gain nothing from meditation… but you will lose your anger, jealousy and fear.”

I am so grateful for our trip because it was so thought-provoking and inspirational. I would write some more but it’s time to meditate… 🙂

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