In a world where competition is revered and compassion seems rare, Julie Tallard Johnson shares a story about her decision to step back and allow someone else to take her place ...
a decision that leads to a surprise encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a powerful lesson in showing kindness and generosity to others.
A dynamic that often played out in my life and prevented me from receiving life's abundance was that of feeling competitive, thus often left out; I learned there was only so much love and attention to go around. In 1995 I was at a reception for His Holiness in Madison, Wisconsin, and I was fortunate to be at a small gathering of around 200 to receive him. We waited for him in the local Unitarian temple where a catering service had provided sweets and tea. The energy was intense. Most of the food, untouched. Everyone was in anticipation of his arrival, and when he arrived, I found myself on the side of the path made for him. Behind me a man was shouting, "Your Holiness, Your Holiness!" and in his hand he held a bouquet of flowers that jetted out past my face. He sounded like he was in pain.
"... in his hand he held a bouquet of flowers that jetted out past my face. He sounded like he was in pain"
Then I asked myself: What is this about? Is this about me being seen by His Holiness or is this about compassion and kindness, the core teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama? The answer was sweet and simple: It was about practicing kindness; it was about generosity. So I stepped back, and the man happily took my place on the side of the path in front of me. When His Holiness came by, he reached around the large man, smiled at me, and squeezed my shoulder. All this simply from asking and opening to what this is truly about. His Holiness gave a short talk on the Tibetan cause and being kind to one another. Then when he was to leave, another path opened up, and I found myself on the side again. And again, a woman behind me cried out, "Your Holiness, Your Holiness." It was a natural response at this point to let her have my spot. And again, as His Holiness went by, he reached around the woman, squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me.
" ... again, as His Holiness went by, he reached around the woman, squeezed my shoulder and smiled at me."
I have used this practice in other situations where I felt the snag of negative desires or was confronted with difficulty or negativity from others. I have offered this practice to those in a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and a diversity of settings, all of which has found this is not only useful but transformative.
First we ask: What is this about? Then we can naturally move into being receptive to the reality -- an answer to that question -- and touch reality. Something certain and real takes place. To touch reality we reach a place, even if briefly, where we are in sync and in touch with all that is.
This story is an extract from the book "The Clue of the Red Thread: Discovering Fearlessness and Compassion in Uncertain Times by Julie Tallard Johnson
“In The Clue of the Red Thread, Julie Tallard Johnson reminds us that we can best navigate uncertain times by joining our inner truth with our words and actions. In ways both poetic and practical, she invites us to make time and space for inward discernment, returning to the visible world better able to help advance the work of love, truth, and justice. ” ~ Parker J Palmer
Julie Tallard Johnson’s writing and teaching explore the timeless relationship of human beings to their natural and inner worlds, and to others. With her nearly forty years of counseling others and leading transformational circles, Julie shares her experience and wisdom in her books, blogs, and retreats, which invite us to meet our circumstances with equanimity, curiosity, and fearlessness.
She has written eleven books, which include The Zero Point Agreement, The Wheel of Initiation, and Spiritual Journaling. She holds a master’s degree in social work and is a licensed clinical social worker. Julie collaborates closely with her business partner, yoga instructor Molly Chanson, to offer inspiring retreats for all levels of yogis and writers. Julie resides in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin with her two dogs. For Julie’s retreats, online courses (her popular one: Be the Cause of Your Life), blogs, and updates, visit her website.