My daughter gave me a calendar containing the sayings of the Dalai Lama. I read the quote each day and ponder its application for my life. One in particular caught my eye; it was a quote that fell around my birthday. The Dalai Lama said, "In twenty years' time, I'll be just an old man with a stick, moving like a sloth bear." I sat there surprised and somewhat bewildered by his statement.

Several things struck me about that quote. The Dalai Lama is the head of Tibetan government in exile, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and he wasn't taking himself very seriously. While I can't identify with a world leader or a spiritual leader of millions of Buddhists, I can relate to someone who is aging. I move around more slowly than when I wore the clothes of a younger man. While I'm not yet walking with a cane, there are times that I'm stiff and sore all over. I don't recall having those aches and pains twenty years ago, and I can only imagine how I'll feel twenty years from now. It is indeed sobering to predict how I'll be getting around in 2021. The Dalai Lama and I will both be moving around like his metaphorical sloth bear.

Another thing that intrigued me about the thought for that day was his humility. The Dalai Lama ranks in the top handful of world leaders and is respected throughout the world. I would imagine that being venerated by millions of Buddhists worldwide and being held in high esteem by billions could go to ones' head. Yet, the Dalai Lama is like all of us-especially those moving rapidly toward old age and moving more slowly.

As I pondered his words, I put down some thoughts about the Dalai Lama's prediction about resembling a sloth bear.

  1. We are all moving toward non-existence on earth. Enjoy life now. In Eastern thought, there is the concept of reincarnation-the idea that we'll come back to this world after death-possibly in another form. However, there are no guarantees of reincarnation. It is just an idea without any certainty. We may only go around once, therefore, make it a good trip.
  2. Enjoy the ride. Even a bad day is better than "no day". Life is a gift even when life is mixed with suffering. Even suffering in life is better than non-existence. Smell the roses and the ragweed. Those in cemetery plots can't smell anything.
  3. Exercise both mind and body. Both will seize up unless you exercise them daily. Your brain won't function well if your body isn't functioning well also. Therefore, make every effort to get both into shape.
  4. Don't take yourself too seriously. We are on this spinning blue marble called Earth and are essentially the same whether we are rich or poor or whether we are leaders or followers. Life will end for us all too soon. Death is the common denominator running through all of life.
  5. Protect the environment. Treat the world gently. Whether you are able to run like a gazelle or totter around like a sloth bear, protect the environment. Gazelles, sloth bears, and humans need to breath clean air, drink fresh water, and enjoy healthy foods. If we don't take seriously the responsibility of caring for the environment, there won't be anything moving around on earth.
  6. Reach out and love someone. Our journey, whether we are moving like a sloth bear or not, will be enriched by caring for those around us. It will not only enhance their lives, but ours. Make a special effort to tell those that you love of your feelings for them. Do this on a regular basis. Whether they move around quickly or slowly, there is no reason why they should experience the aches and pains of not knowing that they are loved.