Tag Archives buddhism

48 Hours in Bangkok

by Friday, May 22, 2015

thewanderlustyogi.netI spent 48 hours in Bangkok last month.  My daughter and I took a trip to Thailand and stayed in Bangkok for 2 nights. We didn’t do this in succession. We spent one night in the city and then left Bangkok for the islands of Thailand, then on our return from the islands, we stayed an additional night. The reason we did this was because our flights, to and from the USA, were out of Bangkok.

This city was everything I hoped it to be. Bangkok is known as the gateway to all of SouthEast Asia. I can see why this is said. There are so many flights per day out of their local airport Don Meuang, with very low fares. You can get a flights out of Bangkok to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and even Bali for less than $50 USD, roundtrip, just to name a few. This is a great way to be able to explore all of these beautiful countries for less money than one would think.

Air Asia now has an ASEAN Pass that you can pre-purchase a 10 credit pass for only $160 USD and 20 credit pass for just $290 USD. The destination, depending on how far, can be from 1 to 3 credits per leg. If you strategize right, you can make as many as 9 stops for less that 200 bucks! Now that’s a deal! There are many restrictions, but even with them, it’s still seems to be a great deal. I’m so tempted to buy it, but still haven’t yet.

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waiting for the tourist boat on the Chao Phraya River

Our first day in Bangkok started with a tourist boat ride. This was actually a little scary. Seeing how we were staying right on the Chao Phraya River, at the Sheraton Royal Orchid Hotel, we were told the easiest and most economical form of transportation, was taking the tourist  boat. You literally have to quickly jump on and off the boat with the other tourists, while the boat is rocking back and forth. I can’t believe people don’t trip and fall off it, all the time. That was an adventure in itself.

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entrance of Wat Po Temple

We went to the Wat Po Temple first. This was beautiful and I was so happy that it wasn’t busy at all. At first there was only a few other tourists there. By the time we left it started filling up a little, but nothing too crazy.

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Reclining Buddha at Wat Po

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monks are tourists too at Wat Po

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Buddha, Buddha, Buddha

We walked in and just started snapping away at all the beautiful architecture the temple offered.  There was a shrine at the beginning that, if you wanted, could take a flower, light incense and sit in front of the altar, set up with the image of Buddha. We joined the other tourists and it felt very spiritual and peaceful.

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meditating at alter in Wat Po Temple

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incense at alter

After walking around for a few hours, enjoying all the statues and unique buildings with hand painted artwork and engraved with semi-precious stones embedded within them, we were approached by some massage students, to see if we wanted to get a Thai massage. Of coarse we did! I forgot that this was one of the things I wanted to do in my planning. There was a list of prices depending on the type and duration of the massage.

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Wat Po massage price menu

We opted for a 30 minute Thai massage for 260 baht, which was only like $8.00 USD, nice!

We were both brought into a large, air-conditioned room (thank goodness), with many massage beds lined up. The massage was great, especially being so sore from our long haul flight. It was pretty intense with deep tissue massaging as well and being folded up like a pretzel at some points. It even hurt a little, but the good kind of hurt. After we were done, they gave us a lemon drink and we were on our way.

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massage room at Wat Po Temple, done by students

We left Wat Po and started our way out and decided we wanted to eat. Now was a perfect time to try our very first street food in Thailand. Although we were a bit worried we would get sick, we heard so many great reviews of the authentic  Thai dishes being offered on the street for insanely low prices.

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first taste of Bangkok street food

We found a lady making pad Thai. Perfect! This is a staple in Thai dishes. We ordered two coconut waters and two pad Thai. She started cooking away, using fresh ingredients and then pointed us over to a make-shift dining table and told us to sit.

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pad Thai street style (spices on the side)

After a few minutes she brought us over our savory dishes. My daughter didn’t realize that on the side, the woman put the hot spices, crushed peanuts, and salt, so that you could add it in as you preferred, depending on the hotness and flavor you like. My daughter, unknowingly, just mixed it all in.  Although she thought it was delicious, it was much too hot for her.  I, figured  this out, and only put a little in my dish. I wish I would have told her before she jumped right in. The total for both of our meals was only $3.40 USD. People have always told me how cheap it was here to eat, but I still wasn’t convinced it could possibly be that cheap. It was!

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Maddie eating her way too spicy street food

It was the best pad Thai I have ever eaten!

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hanging with the locals- a nice shop owner let us take a picture with her

We later walked around a bit and looked at all the shops. There were so many things to choose from. We were on a mission to find harem pants, and bring them home as souvenirs for our friends. We found a ton of them, all for less than $5.00 USD.

We headed back to the hotel and made a reservation at our hotel restaurant. On check-in we saw that they had a Thai dinner show that night and thought it would be fun to see. We relaxed a bit, took showers and then headed to the dinner show.

We walked into the restaurant and it was nicely decorated with a zen-like vibe. The tables were low and we were to take off our shoes. How traditional! We ordered our food and were ready to enjoy the show.

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sitting at the restaurant for the Thai dinner show at the Sheraton Royal Orchid (no shoes required)

There were a few acts. The first act was with women dressed in Thai costumes adorned with gems, with extravagant, feathered headpieces, dancing like puppets; another act was with a man dressed as a dragon. They were talented and looked liked dolls or robots.  Their moves were so animated. It was a good first night and we felt like we got a little taste of Bangkok (no pun intended).

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Thai dancers at the dinner show

On our second day, on our return from the islands, we went to Grand Palace.

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inside Grand Palace

This was on a Sunday and probably the worst day to pick. It was extremely hot and ridiculously overcrowded. The place was absolutely stunning, but with the amount of the crowds it was very difficult to enjoy. We couldn’t wait to leave. It was really that bad. The price for admittance was also very high for Thailand standards, $15.oo USD, per person. That is super expensive when considering,  most of the other temples are less that $4.00 USD/ per person or free.

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guards at Grand Palace

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Grand Palace

I honestly wouldn’t recommend going to the Grand Palace unless you love to be packed in like sardines with other tourists, or unless you go on a day that isn’t so busy. There are so many other temples and places to see, this one seemed to be a tad overrated. I had such a better experience at Wat Po Temple, plus you get massages there, I mean, who wouldn’t love that?

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sea of umbrella carrying tourists at Grand Palace

Once we got out of there, we were so glad. I almost felt claustrophobic. We decided, since we still needed to get some last-minute souvenirs, before we leave Thailand, we better focus on shopping again. My daughter was addicted. Back on our hunt for harem pants, by this time we had made up a name for our much sought after souvenir, “trinket pants.”  I ended up with a few, my daughter, on the other hand, bought about 10 pairs! I hope her friends like them?

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Maddie on her hunt for “trinket pants”!

We spent the afternoon shopping and took a tuk tuk ride. Then decided, since it was lunchtime, we wanted to find that lady, cooking up her amazing street food, and eat it again.  However, this time, my daughter would be able to enjoy it more, because she now knows not to mix in all the spices.  We were excited!

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tuk tuk ride in Bangkok

We went back to the location of her food stand, but we noticed what she was cooking. It wasn’t her mouth-watering pad Thai, it was shell-fish, and we were instantly disheartened. We were too afraid to eat it, plus my daughter isn’t a fan of seafood either.  Bummer! We ended up finding an indoor restaurant, more like a cafe style place.  It was called The Gate.

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bubble tea from the Gate restaurant

We got two bubble teas and shared a tom-tom soup.  We weren’t very hungry. I think the heat and being dehydrated made us lose our appetite a bit. The soup was okay, but my daughter hated it. She thought it was way too fishy tasting. It was nothing like our street lady’s food. I asked my daughter if she wanted to get something else. She didn’t want to. She had no appetite.  We could wait until dinner that night. It was still nice to sit inside the air-conditioning for a little while to cool off from the intense heat. Plus they had free WiFi. Got to love that!

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tom-tom soup, not one of our favorites…kind of fishy!

After leaving the cafe we shopped more, walking around a flea market. My daughter called it the “hobo flea market“, we shouldn’t assume they were hobos, but they sure looked like it.

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hobo flea market

She loved bartering with the locals. She didn’t buy any more trinket pants, but got a bunch of bracelets. I was about shopped out when a thunder and lightning storm started. Good thing my husband made me pack  ponchos (just incase). We put them on and everyone stared at us. Had they never seen ponchos before? Two American looking guys walked by laughing, and one said,” ha ha ha, ponchos, awesome!” referring to us. Hey, at least we didn’t get soaked! Because of the rain we got a cab back to our hotel. I can’t imagine how much more scary it would be on the tourist boat in a lightning storm, and I didn’t want to find out.

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us in our ponchos

That night we relaxed a bit and then got ready to go out to dinner. Since it was the end of our vacation, and last in Bangkok, my daughter, even after buying all her souvenirs and tons of trinket pants, still had a lot of spending money left over. She told me, as a thank you for me taking her on this awesome trip, she wanted to treat me to dinner. I laughed and said it wasn’t necessary, but she insisted.

We noticed, while driving to our hotel, that there were many cute restaurants, walking distance away from our hotel. This time we stayed another hotel, the  Shangri-La Bangkok. It was a very nice hotel also along the Chao Phraya River, but on the opposite side. We at first, said when in Bangkok, we would not go out, after dark, as a safety precaution, but since there were very close-by restaurants, and the area appeared to be pretty safe, we risked a 2 minute walk.  We were fine.

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Mazzano Boutique restaurant Bangkok, Thailand (near Shangri-La Hotel)

We chose a cute little boutique restaurant called Mazzaro.  The owner greeted us and asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside. We both said, “inside” in harmony.  Although, my favorite type of dining is al fresco, with this unbearable heat and humidity , eating outside would not be enjoyable.

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pad Thai at Mazzaro restaurant

The menu was expansive, but we both stuck with traditional Thai dishes. She got pad see u ad I got pad Thai, and we both shared an order of spring rolls, drank two coconut waters, and finished off with a pot of tea.  This restaurant in Boston would be considered a mid-range for price, dishes would be approximately $20.00 per meal.  Not in Bangkok!  Our total,  with everything, including a 25% tip was $30.00 USD. It wasn’t as crazy cheap as the street food, but still a bargain!

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“tea time” at Mazzaro restaurant

Since we really only had two quick stop over days in Bangkok, we really didn’t get to see all the awesome thing this city offers. We did get a glimpse of one of their gorgeous temples and  their famous Grand Palace, and had a ton of fun shopping and eating their delicious cuisine.  We just wish we had more time to see things we missed, such as all the other temples, the floating market, the Silk Road, and taking a cooking class, and we really, really wanted to try the fish massage.  We searched for a long time, asking everybody, but no luck.

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markets in Bangkok

Visiting Bangkok for only 48 hours was great, but also sort of  tease. I just started to feel the culture and what the city was all about, and then we had to go. This only makes me want to go back and explore more. With the ASEAN pass that Air Asia offers, I definitely want to take advantage of that awesome deal, to not only see more of Bangkok, but all of SouthEast Asia. So far, in all of my travels, Thailand has  been  my favorite destination. I can’t wait to go back!

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hat shopping in Bangkok

 

 

 

 

4 Reasons why people tell me not to Travel to India, and 5 Reasons why I should anyway

by Saturday, November 22, 2014

I’m planning a 2 week trip with my daughter this upcoming April, with stops in India, Thailand and United Arab Emirates. When I tell people of my travel plans the first response is always, “Why India?” And then they continue, “it’s so poor, and dirty, and your will get sick.” My response  in defense is, ” There are many things that give good reason to want to visit this country”.  Let me ellaborate. If you are one of the many that feel the same way, thinking anyone would be crazy to want to go to India, hopefully I can share some insight on why it’s not as bad as you think afterall. Possibly you could even become more open-minded about it and consider going yourself? Well, I’m probably not going to be that convincing, but I can share some positive things I’ve learned for my approaching visit that could set a clearer picture of why I’ve chose to go there. I understand there is validity in some points, but travelling to me is a form of education. You learn so much from visiting places and seeing how it really is, for the locals to live, day in and day out,  in their part of this world. What would you learn from sitting in a fancy hotel, at a typical location, just like where your from, with all the comforts of home?  Not much of anything in my opinion. If you want to travel that way, then save your time and money and stay home. If you want to get the best out of your trips, get out and emerge yourself with the people, their food and  their culture, even if it’s not so pretty or you feel completely out of your element.  You not only are learning, but you may also get a new sense of  respect and gratitude of how you live yourself.


I came up with a list of 4 reasons why people tell me not to go and 5 reasons why I think I  should.  First the bad news.


Why I shouldn’t go to India:

  1. DIRTY

thewanderlustyogi.netLittering in India is a big problem. Unfortunately, it is something that seems to have gotten worse and out of control because its been going on for so long. There were no anti-littering laws made by Indian government as they do in other, cleaner, countries.  The government now has made laws, that if caught littering in public places, the government would fine you 500 rupees. The anti-littering campagnes and new laws in place, are aiding to help solve this problem. Seeing this first hand would be an important lesson to my daughter and me as well. By witnessing these dreadful sights and unpleasant smells up close, it could make a huge impact on our feelings of how important it truly is, to respect your land and environment, for the health and welfare of the people, animals and the Earth itself. This paints a clear picture of the  importance for sustainablity for our future generations, and how devastating it can be if you don’t.


The Lesson-  Take care of our planet


 

  1. POOR

thewanderlustyogi.netUnfortunately, India has an unequal distribution of wealth.  Most all of the economic development is found in the larger cities, where as most of the population is living in the countryside. By going to these poor countries, it helps you put into perspective of how good we really have it. It may even influence your desire to help in some way, possibly volunteering or giving donations to a cause. As an American, I am guilty of living a pretty spoiled life. Im not rich by any means, but I do understand that I am extremely fortunate to have a home and bed to sleep in, food in my stomach and clothes on my back, which is not a given to many people all over this world. We are so quick to complain about what we don’t have, but spend little time appreciating the abundance of the things we do have.


The Lesson-Be grateful 


 

  1. OVER-POPULATEDthewanderlustyogi.net

India is set to be the most populated country in the world, climbing to 1.21 billion this year. While that is astonishing, why is that a reason not to go visit? I look at is as an adventure. Call me crazy, but I think it would be so fun to zip along in the crowded streets of New Delhi in a rickshaw, or shop in the Grand Bazarr, full of the colorful items for sale, noises, smells, and fast-paced action throughout the market.  Although I may not like to “live” in a place that is so congested with people everywhere, why not enjoy the exposure of that sort of enviroment for yourself? It could be a real thrill: sometimes you got to get out of your comfort zone to feel alive. It doesn’t mean you have to stay there.


The lesson- Culture-shock can be fun!


 

  1. YOU WILL GET SICK

thewanderlustyogi.netYes, there is a possiblitiy of getting food-poisoning in India, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting. If you are educated on what to do and what not to, get the proper immunizations, and are careful, you probably won’t get sick. You are also likely to get sick in places such as  Mexico and Dominican Republic,  (I did when I last visited Punta Cana, DR in May 2011)  but that doesn’t seem to stop the flocks of tourists heading to the sandy beaches these places offer. Planning ahead and being sensible could avoid unwanted illness on your trip. Tips like: not drinking the water, being sure water bottles are sealed, not eating from street venders, being sure to get any needed vaccinations and medications from your physician before you leave. If you and cautious of what you eat, you should be fine.


The Lesson-Be prepared



Why I should go to India:

  1. INEXPENSIVE

thewanderlustyogi.netThe good news about traveling to India is it is very inexpensive.  Unlike expensive trips to places like Europe , your US dollar will go a very long way.  $1.00 US is equal to 61.69 Indian Rupee.  Some of common things you would buy would be a lunch, including tea, would cost the equivilent of $1.00-$2.00 US , a rickshaw ride would cost  $.50 US,  the entrance to museums would cost $2.00 US equivalent.  While on vacation in India you can have $20.00 US, per day and do many things and eat very well. Not bad at all, when I consider I spent about $200 US, per day, while I was in Paris this past August, and I was being very frugal!


The Lesson-The value of money and economics


 

  1. FOOD

thewanderlustyogi.netIndian food is so distinct with its intense flavors of curries and local spices. You can’t help but to instantly know when you smell Indian food.  Although many feel that all Indian food is spicy, a lot of it is, but that’s not always the case.  They also have aromic foods and naan breads that are rich with flavor, but not hot to the palate.  To be able to taste the ancient culture through its food, is a learning experience to the taste buds. Trying meals that have been past down  from generation to genration can help feel a sense of the people through their food.  Many of the local spices cannot be found anywhere else, so by eating their food, you get to expose yourself to  flavors like no other, even if you prefer a cheeseburger at home.  Be adventurous and try something you never have. You never know how much you may like it if you’re too afraid to try.


The Lesson- Food is good for the soul


 

  1. SPIRITUALITY

thewanderlustyogi.netIt is said that visiting India is an unmistakenly spiritual experience, whether intentionally or not. By visiting the many beautiful temples of India or the Holy water of the Ganges River, you can tell that relgion and spirituality is a very important part of the Indian culture.   No matter if  you are a Christian, a Buddhist,  a Jew, a Hindu, an athiest, a yogi;  this place manifests spiritualism from it’s core.  That’s why it’s no surprise that celebrities seeking a some form of spiritual awakening, such as the Beatles,  Steve Jobs, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Goldie Hawn, and many others, have travelled to this Holy land in their quest. If being in a place gives you a feeling of inner peace and improves your spiritual awareness,  I think it could impact your life in a very positive and meaningful way.


The Lesson-Travel is a good way to find yourself


 

  1. NATURE

thewanderlustyogi.netIf you love nature and all of its beauty, why not go to India and climb the Himalayan mountains?   While being the highest mountain system in the world, it is also has almost every type of climate due to the many ranges in altitude.  If you aren’t that adventurous but still want a little action, you could always go white water rafting on the Ganges River, but if you are a little more laid back and like sand on your toes, go visit the beautiful beaches of Goa.  Whatever form of natural beauty you enjoy, India offers a variety of landscapes that would be worthy of seeing .


The Lesson: The beauty in nature


 

  1. HISTORYthewanderlustyogi.net

If you are a history buff, India has a lot to offer you.  You can visit the world famous Taj Mahal and be in awe of its beauty and architecuture. There is also the Outb Minar, the tallest monument in India. Or witness the flower shaped Lotus Temple with its petal- like  construction. There is the Red Fort,  which was the home of the Mughal emperor of India for nearly 200 years, until 1857, and you can also see  his resting place by visiting  Humayan’s Tomb, just to name a few of India’s many historic sites. From temples to museums to statues of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, India has sites that can only be seen in its part of the this world.


The Lesson- Learn from the past to plan for the future


Okay, so maybe you are still not ready to jump on the next flight to New Delhi? Fine. But hopefully, I shared some worthwhile highlights of India that you can only experience if you have a chance to go. I don’t always pick third world destinations for my travels, but I would never exclude them. Learning is key to all of my destinations. That to me, outweighs any sort of short-term inconveniences I may endure. Every new place I visit teaches me something and also helps me learn more about myself. The value in that to me, is priceless.

Dalai Lama Boston 2015- Drops the F- Bomb!

by Sunday, November 9, 2014

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I have been raised a Christian. My entire family, generation to generation have all been Christians, all except one family member, that converted to a Jahovah’s Witness after marriage. This is what “I” was by default.


Most of my life I have been pretty far removed from religion and church, not thinking too much into the meaning of life, where we come from and what happens after death. I was a busy mom of two kids and a wife with not too much time to myself to think of anything, but what the task at hand was.


In most recent years, I’ve found myself really thinking alot about these subjects. The trigger, I think, was a few years of extremely turbulent and low times for me. Within 5 years I got divorced from an 18 year marriage, got laid off from my job, suffered depression and self medicated with alcohol. This time in my life really made me stop and look inside. I wanted to figure out how my life got to this point and what I needed to do to regroup and get happy again. I started yoga.


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“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” The Bhagavad Gita

Yoga somehow just fell into my lap. I was thinking of ways to naturally lessen stress, besides my glass of wine, or two, or three per night . I’ve heard the many benefits of yoga and always wanted to get more into it.


I happen to be scrolling on Facebook one day in August of 2012 and saw a first time yoga class for free at a local studio. I said, “why not?” It couldn’t hurt. This day was like one of those “a-ha moments you hear about, I knew this is exactly what I needed at the exact time I needed it. It felt like the universe was speaking to me directily, and I was listening. Yoga would now be a part of the rest of my life. That very next month in September,  was the start of a Yoga Teacher Training program, that happened to have one more opening left.  I was drawn to fill-it.  I was only working as a temp at the time and didn’t think I could or should afford it, but I did it anyway.  I just knew I had to.

Through the training I felt stronger, happier, more stable, more mindful, more at peace, and started feeling really spiritual. I still believe today, it is one of the most life changing experiences I’ve ever had.


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I started meditating, or at least trying very hard to, and became interested in Buddhism. Although Buddhism and the Yoga Sutras are not the same, they follow common principals and insights.

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I started listening to Youtube videos of speeches given by the Dalai Lama. I’d fall asleep to them with headphones on. Listening made me feel peaceful and enlightened.  Dalai Lama is probably the most  well-known Buddhist, and offers words of peace and compassion to not only other Buddhists, but for all races, and religious backgrounds, giving lectures and public talks around the world. He says,” Do not try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist: use it to be a better whatever-you-already -are.” thewanderlustyogi.net

I continued with my research on Buddhism and the Dalai Lama reading some of his works and even watching the movie Kundun, by Martin Scorsese, that was based on his life.


Fast forward to a  few weeks ago, I was browsing ticketmaster, actually looking for concert tickets and came across upcoming dates of the Dalai Lama’s visit to Boston . I was so excited! I didn’t realize just anyone could get the chance to see him live. I had to go.

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“Educating the Heart and Mind” Public talk by His Holiness The14th Dalai Lama, in Boston, MA 11/1/14

His public talk was at the TD Bank Garden in Boston, and to my surprise, the place was packed.  His focus of discussion was “Educating the Heart and Mind”. From the moment he arrived, you could hear a pin drop.  As he walked in, you could feel his presence and warm compassion.  He touched the heads of people along his path and said a little prayer as they bowed to him. Some just gazed in awe, while others cried at his sight. It was moving to say the least.

 


 

thewanderlustyogi.netThe talk started with music from Tibetan children, an introduction by Senator Elizabeth Warren, a lecture from His Holiness, questions from the audience, and closing remarks from actor Richard Gere. thewanderlustyogi.netthewanderlustyogi.net

 

 

 

 

 

It was very inspirational with a message of finding inner peace and happiness, while also helping others do the same. He expressed that in today’s world, especially in the Western world, we as a culture, seek fame and fortune to achieve happiness and to feed our ego. He advises that this will only give one short term contentment and eventually will end in suffering.

 

He noted that many people who appear to be happy on the outside; great job, big house, big bank account, nice car, etc, but are secretly taking “tranquilizers” in order to keep sadness away.

thewanderlustyogi.netHis point stuck with me. How true this is. I am a dental hygienst and have to ask people’s medical history at each visit. The number of patient’s that are on anti-depressants is astonishing. It really made me think about how money has always been brain-washed in our heads that it equals happiness. “Get a good education so you can get into a good college, so you can get a good job, so you can make alot of money!” Happiness, right? What about find your passion, and live it fully and share it with the world? I understand, yes, we all need money to survive to have food and shelter and things we need to sustain life, but couldn’t we happy with less?


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His Holiness closed with a brief discussion how all people are the same, despite the differences, we all seek happiness and if we share that happiness with those around us we can achieve peace. ” And if you don’t understand that, then Fuck it!”The crowed cheered with mixed reactions of joy and shock.  “Did he really say what I think he said?”, my husband and I asked eachother. Either way it got his point across loud and clear.


Now, I’m not saying I’m a Buddhist, or a Christian for that matter, but I consider myself more of a spiritual person, than one who attaches themselves to a particular religion. I enjoy learning about all belief systems, and take away what I feel a connection with.  For me, I feel a strong connection to the Buddhist philosophy because it has helped me through a very dark period, but it doesn’t make me a Buddhist.   If anything, the message of Buddhism and most all religions is to be kind to others and love, right? And isn’t that how we should all live anyway?

thewanderlustyogi.net” Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”-Buddha


 

Whether you are a religious person or not, you could learn a great deal from  the Dalai Lama. He has spread words of kindness and compassion for decades, even winning the Noble Peace Prize in 1989. Humanism is really the message he is spreading, not Buddhism.  Even my poor husband, who reluctantly came with me could appreciate it, especially the cursing.

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