The Dalai Lama Visits Danbury

What did I take away from hearing the Dalai Lama speak at Western Connecticut State University in October, 2012? I first should mention that the theme of his talk centered on the factors that are involved in moving away from anxiety and moving toward a happier life. I feel drawn to attend lectures which span a broad range of disciplines and ideas. On an individual and professional level, I am curious about diverse experiences and mindsets. I truly enjoy gathering different perspectives and then integrating them into my own life, sharing them professionally with my clients in my private practice, and in presentations in front of groups.

The afternoon of the lecture was exquisite day weather wise and the crisp, fall colors were exceptionally vibrant as a result of the cloudless sky. I attended with my husband and teenage daughter, and we three had the sense that we were going to see someone elusive, someone important, and someone who had tremendous compassion for others. I have attended many conferences and never before was there such a palpable energy prior to a lecture’s beginning. From my perspective, the lecture hall was literally buzzing.

After an introduction by Richard Gere and soulful chanting by monks, the Dalai Lama took the stage. He was accompanied by his interpreter who did a fine job of filling in the blanks when there were words that eluded him. The Dalai Lama oozed humanity, what I mean by that is that he was the essence of humility while also being filled with laughter and smiles for all.

I took as many notes as I could while he spoke, my pen jotted furiously to capture things which caught my attention. One of those things was that people today remain more isolated, and that most of the problems we are facing today are connected to our own behavior, and is a result of how we view ourselves in terms of our differences instead of our commonality. Another point which struck me is his statement that, “… all hope through prayer is not realistic, and that all prayer should lead to action, “… and that real peace does not come through prayer alone”. I was both surprised and pleased by this and it really struck a chord within me. As a therapist and fellow human being, action is something that makes sense to me, small steps that slowly progress one forward are my comfort zone. This reminds me of the saying, “slow and steady wins the race”. In this case, winning would be having compassion for oneself and others, and through this compassion one would reap the benefits of lower anxiety and depression and a deeper acceptance of oneself.

I felt electrified toward the end when he said, “Buddha taught different philosophical views that were contradictory at times, and that this was not due to his own confusion; this modeled the different views that exist in society”. I thought this paired nicely with the varying models of psychology and philosophy, while also touching on basic principles of communication. I thought of how I often hear clients and people in my own personal life discuss communication breakdowns that have occurred in a negative way with someone; what would it be like if we all viewed such conflict as engagement? Engagement that occurs daily and not as a result of a defect in yourself or others. Having differences with others would then be expected and then the ancillary anger and cognitive shut-downs would occur less frequently. Another unexpected part was when he answered a question with, “I don’t know”. Well, that just put it all into perspective for me. How humble he remains, it was so powerful to witness that.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on his statement surround “… knowing the limitations of material values”. Being happy is based on a felt sense of well being, where you feel you are enjoying your life (for the most part); and this is not based on how much or little you possess but an unending belief that you are loved and that you love. Strengthening one’s mind to develop deep inner confidence shifts that locus of control from the external to the internal; this is what we mean when we say, “healthy self-image”. The Dalai Lama was so at ease in front of a crowd at capacity, it was as if he was just sitting across from us. A gift to see someone so comfortable in his own skin, with a glint in his eye when he shares his thoughts with the world.

Kelley Hopkins-Alvarez is a psychotherapist and life coach who has a private practice in Ridgefield, CT. For more information or to contact Kelley, please go to