Soapbox: Mountain living encourages us to explore the spiritual | AspenTimes.com

Soapbox: Mountain living encourages us to explore the spiritual

Susan O'Neal
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

A tragedy of considerable pro­portions would have befallen Aspen if the visit of the Tibetan monks and the Dalai Lama were considered a pleasant week, with pleasant thoughts of harmony, and nothing more. It’s encourag­ing to see many people are now questioning their own approach to life as a result of sitting at the feet of the master of compassion, regardless of one’s religious affili­ation. We are meant to question ourselves.

Socrates said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” Robert Burns wrote, “O would some pow­er the gift ye give us to see our­selves as others see us.”

If you’re wondering how my now infamous question to the Dalai Lama arose ” why a beauti­ful town nestled among magnifi­cent mountains finds itself with people who are too frequently cantankerous ” it arose from lis­tening to more than one spiritual leader who has graced the Aspen Institute with their wisdom. These enlightened scholars have said time and again that societies that live high in elevation are frequent­ly more spiritual in their approach to life than societies at a lower ele­vation, because mountain com­munities literally are closer to heaven.

This was not me fantasizing about nirvana; these were the words of numerous spiritual scholars who have shared their wisdom in Aspen. (Don’t forget that the Tibetan monks, Greek monks and Snowmass monks live high in the mountains, where con­templation and meditation become easier.) It was those refer­ences from spiritual masters that prompted my question to the Dalai Lama. Those who would deny it should consider the para­ble of the emperor’s clothes.

Kristine Crandall’s comments in her Aug. 1 commentary in the Aspen Daily News bear careful consideration: “The Dalai Lama’s comments about the intercon­nectedness of humans encour­aged combining our instinctual biological practice of compassion with our intellectual reasoning abilities to radiate it outwards. But a large part of this involves reori­enting the mind away from its pre­carious habit of automatically starting with that which makes us different. To think first of what makes us similar would improve our chances of realizing that what we do to someone else and to the planet-at-large we do to ourselves. “It sounds simple, but I already can imagine it not being simple at all to coach the mind away from the dichotomous “me/them” mode it craves the next time I have issues with a neighbor or attend a city council meeting. … Those of us who inhabit or visit Aspen are 100 percent fortunate to be in this special place. … [A]s the simple Buddhist monk remarked, ‘We are all same.'” To which I respond, can we choose to live our lives in a grate­ful and joyful manner, and allow our actions to reflect those lofty thoughts? We are fortunate to live in this mountain paradise, so let’s live as if we appreciate this bless­ing! Let’s not forget when it comes to the human species, we are one, so when it comes to daily life, may compassion prevail among us.

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