I was never good at geometry. In fact, I hated my high school geometry course which puzzled and perplexed my very kind teacher.
My brain had, and still has, difficulty grasping the spatial relationships of geometric shapes: their principals, angles, lengths and volume. But I've always appreciated the perfect symmetry of a circle. A circle is such a beautiful illustration of unbroken connection in space.
We humans talk about something coming "full circle" when an event, person or circumstance ends up in the place where it began. I don't think a recent event could be described as coming full circle, rather there was a magnificent synchronicity that brought me face to face with one of the world's holiest men--and for the second time in my life--which isn't the amazing part. What takes my breath away is the timing of the meeting. It was mysterious and beautiful and could not have been more perfect.
"You want me to talk to WHO?"
I got a call from Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota late in the afternoon as I was frantically prepping for another public event. Would I have time to moderate a public discussion with the Dalai Lama in a few days? His Holiness had been at the clinic for about a month seeking medical treatment. He wanted to talk about compassion in medicine to doctors and nurses and there was need for a moderator.
Because I wasn't thinking clearly, I started mentally juggling an already full schedule, and had started to get anxious about making the drive to Rochester when, in the next minute, I came to my senses. OF COURSE, I would be DELIGHTED to be moderator and again join the Dalai Lama on stage! Who, I thought, gets a second visit with one so wise?
With Death Waiting
My first encounter with the exiled leader of Tibet was March 1, 2014 in Minneapolis. I was the moderator of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, racing into the event with less than an hour to spare. I had been with my father, who was in his last hours on Earth, dying of a lymphoma that had exploded in his spleen. I almost cancelled because I wanted to be with Dad when he passed. My Mom thought otherwise, saying that if my comatose father could talk, he'd tell me in no uncertain terms to be with that holy man, because he'd probably teach me something. Indeed that would be something my Dad would've said.
March 1, 2014 was also Bruce Kramer's 58th birthday. Bruce and his entire family were in the darkened audience that afternoon. Bruce, like me, almost didn't show up. He was feeling quite tired but his beloved family urged him on. It turned out to be the strangest of all birthday gifts.
"Meanwhile, my blessing..."
I'll admit to not being completely present to His Holiness on stage that afternoon. My mind would flit from what the Dalai Lama was talking about (peace and happiness) to whether my Dad had died in my absence. There was a sharp grief that was barely hidden underneath my cool exterior. I was a mess.
I barely remember anything His Holiness said that day, but I will take to my grave the vivid images of what happened immediately afterward.
Someone had asked whether His Holiness would give the audience his blessing, which he graciously declined, citing his Buddhist background. But after he spoke, he jumped up and with no prompting or pre-planning, walked to the far left of the stage and peered into the darkness. Then gestured and pointed. I couldn't see what or to whom he was pointing. The lights were blinding.
A long, white silk scarf appeared from the back of the room and made its way, overhead, to the stage where the tiny Buddhist monk, wearing saffron and maroon robes, grabbed it and held it to his forehead, saying, "Meanwhile, my blessing. " and handed it back into the crowd to a stunned and sobbing Bruce Kramer.
Leap Day. February 29, 2016.
Jump now, or rather leap, to February 29, 2016.
Each of us, it is said, has a specific set of lessons to learn in this life. If we don't learn those lessons they come up again and again and again. Depending on your beliefs, either we keep relearning the lessons in the next life or not.
Maybe I needed to hear and absorb the message of compassion, understand better the lessons of compassion, as taught by a master. Maybe that is what brought me, full circle, to the altar at the chapel at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, seated alongside the Dalai Lama, two years to the day we sat together on stage in Minneapolis. You see, had it not been for Leap Year, that day with the Dalai Lama, would have been March 1. Coincidence? A cynic would say "yes" and as a trained cynic that's exactly what I would've said but I'm tired of playing the role of jaded cynic. I think the Universe enjoys presenting these wondrous, mysterious gifts of synchronicity to us. It's our job to pay attention, and so I did.
Fodder my friends, for another blog post!