Tenzin Lama Sherpa
When: 9-10:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 18
Where: First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville
How much: Free
Tibetan Buddhist monk Tenzin Lama Sherpa is constantly aware of every moment in his life. He feels every breath he takes, notices the wind as it blows through his robes, and hears the faint sounds of nature all around him. Because of this awareness, he is at peace and has clarity of the mind.
Tenzin, who is said to be from the same lineage as the Dalai Lama, learned this practice when he was in the monastery 12 years ago. Now he travels all over the world to share his wisdom and teach awareness to anyone willing to learn.
On Wednesday night, he spoke to a group at Unity of Gainesville Church off Clarks Bridge Road.
"Awareness is like ice, and the mind is like water," Tenzin said. "They are the same but different. When ice melts, it becomes water and it is pure and clear."
He is a firm believer awareness can bring peace to the mind and help a person deal with problems, work more efficiently, be more focused and tap into happiness. Awareness, to Tenzin, is a key practice for unlocking the deepest parts of the self and living life to the fullest.
"One of the most precious things in the world is human life," he said. "Without awareness, we cannot get the full benefits of this life. We must use all five of our senses and see things for what they are."
When a person looks at something simply to look, or hears something just to hear, it frees the mind from judgment and allows people to enjoy the moment, Tenzin said. This kind of awareness eliminates any thoughts of self, which Buddhists believe leads to true happiness.
"Being aware of the moment prevents us from being upset about the past or nervous about the future," Tenzin said. "All of the happiness comes from wishing happiness to others. All of the suffering comes from wishing happiness to self."
True awareness and enlightenment is difficult for many people to reach, but the goal of the practice is to free the mind of any thoughts, especially negative ones. Once this point is reached, Tenzin feels people can be more focused, productive and at peace with their lives.
"The more awareness is developed, the more it will meld with the mind, and the world will become more and more clear," Tenzin said. "It’s not always meditating, it’s just living as it is and noticing that everything is changing every moment."
For Tenzin’s host and Unity of Gainesville member Nancy Amestoy, developing this awareness has been a practice she has worked at for years.
"We did a three-day silent meditation last year, and it was really hard to let all of those thoughts pass through," she said. "But on the third day, I had this clarity of a wide-open mind with no disturbances. I was magnetized to the spot I was in."
Although Amestoy has been practicing awareness and meditation for some time, Tenzin told beginners how to get started and practice awareness.
"Start by being aware of your inhale and exhale, listening to the sounds around you, paying attention to your sitting position, the wind, atmosphere, all of these things," he said. "Try to give one hour to awareness each day."
During this time, Tenzin noted it is important to let thoughts simply pass through the mind without following them because they always change. He emphasized thoughts and emotions are creations of the mind. If the mind can be clear, peace can be achieved, he said.
"Look at the nature of your thoughts," Tenzin said. "Are they beneficial to you or not? Be aware of thoughts, feelings, situations and circumstances. And use all five senses to achieve your goal of awareness."
Meditation to reach awareness can be achieved by sitting with feet flat on the floor and hands in the lap, or laying flat and looking at the ceiling.
Faye Henry, who plays gongs and crystal bowls, noted the primordial sounds of the gongs can help achieve the primordial wisdom Tenzin strives for through his teachings and practice. The sounds can assist in meditation.
"Be aware of the vibration of the sound as it moves through your body," she said. "Everything is vibration. We have a sound print that is unique, and vibrations can be measured within the body."
The combination of sound with the practice of awareness may lead to an increasingly relaxed state, which can be beneficial to many people. Henry mentioned studies have been done on the effects of vibrations on the body with positive outcomes.
"They monitored people during a gong session with transmitters hooked up to the brain," she said. "The feedback showed that the body became very relaxed, so the mind could clearly focus."
Tenzin mentioned he has made four trips to Gainesville so far, but is taking a break soon to focus on his practices. However, he enjoys teaching others about awareness because he feels it can truly help people have peace in their lives.
"Everybody wants peace and happiness and health," he said. "Fighting in the world is because we don’t have peace in our minds."
Tenzin also suggests teaching anyone as young as 8 years old to practice awareness and meditation to help them be at peace. He suggested people start with as little as five minutes at a time.
"The Dalai Lama said that we can eliminate violence in the future if we teach kids to meditate," he said.