The guest of honour was Geshe Tenzin Zopa, Buddhist monk and recipient of the 2019 World Peace Congress Global Peace Leadership Excellence Award.
The panel also included Grace Williams (writer, director, human rights lawyer in the making), Dr Matt Killingsworth (Senior Lecturer in International Relations at UTas) and Jake Snepvangers, whose goal is “for people to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives…to come to the world as a whole human, fully accepting of what life has been, and courageously embodying all that can be.”
In summary, an amazing line up of awesome people well qualified to talk about compassionate leadership.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to attend this event as my teenage son Ben had to have knee surgery a few days before and we didn’t know exactly what to expect in terms of his recovery. After hovering in his room for a while and receiving several eye-rolls in response to my enquiries into his wellbeing, I decided to go. As soon as I arrived, Polly bounded over and showed me my “VIP” seat, front row and bang in the centre – I achieved VIP status because I donated hearts for everyone who attended, but given that I’m naturally an introvert and was feeling vulnerable in my post-hospital fatigue, I quietly moved myself to the side, near the back (Polly understood).
I met the panel members and had some brief but inspiring conversations with these smart, insightful and startlingly knowledgeable folks, ensuring my brain was fully engaged before the main event even kicked off.
Then I was introduced to Venerable Lindy, a Buddhist nun with the Chag Tong Chen Tong Meditation Centre here in Tasmania. I put my hand out to shake Lindy’s, and she took it in both of hers and held onto it while we spoke…it was like the best, most respectful hug I’ve ever received – her energy enveloped me in a warm glow of compassion and welcome while she told me how much she loves 1000 Hearts and expressed her gratitude for my donation.
There’s no way I can offer you the full experience of being in a room full of people who have come together to talk about compassion, peace and positive leadership. How do we make the world a better place? How do we find love beyond our daily grievances and concerns? How do we achieve selflessness in a world fuelled by consumerism, competition and conflict? How do we put faith in world leaders who so frequently demonstrate the opposite of mindful compassion?
Grace spoke passionately about how difficult it can be to practice kindness in a world where power is understood in terms of winning and controlling. She talked about showing compassion through listening and striving to understand others’ stories. Matt talked of Jacinda Ahern as a shining sign that a change may be coming in global leadership and expressed his hope that the power of her compassion will not be dismissed because she is a woman. Jake spoke of authenticity and meditative practice as keys to manifesting the best version of ourselves. After a break for chai, chat and a quick dash to my car to fill up the meter, we were back for a Dharma talk by Geshe Tenzin Zopa.
The other panel members joined the audience and at the front, sat this man in his orange and maroon robes, his round face full of peace and warmth. This guy exudes gentleness, acceptance and calm; being around him made me feel so hopeful for the future of our world. As we all seated ourselves, I noticed he was holding one of my hearts in his hands, contemplating it as he turned it slowly over and over.
As he started to speak, he turned and spoke directly to me in the audience. He thanked me for the hearts and said how special it is for someone to receive one and to know that “someone is thinking of them and considering them”. Then he showed the heart to the audience and said that THIS is being the change you want to see in the world and that’s what’s important, offering those things you know will create a better world, even if it is as simple as a small handmade heart.
After his profound and incredibly kind acknowledgment of 1000 Hearts, he turned to me and said “and thank you for leaving it on my seat because it gave me a good topic to start my talk with” and he laughed, a truly pure, delightful giggle that rang with the sound of undiluted joy. I was overwhelmed at being spoken to directly by the keynote speaker and incredibly humbled by his words.
Unfortunately, the news crew who were at the event chose that moment to point the camera in my direction and my weird smile was beamed to TV screens across Tassie that evening. Apparently when I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and humility, my best response is a smile that makes me look like an “awkward” emoji. Ah well...I was too full of love to care!
So, what can I offer you from this truly soul-changing experience? It reminded me of the important values in my life and eradicated the doubts I’d been having about whether or not 1000 Hearts really matters.
Because yes, it does matter. It always matters when we take action to increase kindness and demonstrate compassion, as that’s what will create the world we want for ourselves and our children. It doesn’t take grand gestures or huge effort. Whatever your role in life, bring some more loving kindness to how you live that role. Be a compassionate leader in your role as mother, father, sister, friend, volunteer, CEO, pet owner, gardener. Remember that we are all the same and want the same things; to be loved and happy, to feel safe, to be free from suffering. When you have conflict with someone, look for the ways in which they are the same as you rather than focusing on the differences.
Offer compassion and start by offering it to yourself. Try a little selflessness. When people treat you badly, create some space rather than going into battle.
When you feel low, say to yourself “I love you. I want you to be happy” and mean it. Delight in small things. Open your heart to compassion and see what comes.
And as always, keep hearting.
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