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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Is there an upside to the downturn?

May 12, 2009

Two of the world's leading spiritual teachers say 'yes.'
They'll speak at this month's Sun Valley Wellness Festival.
The Idaho Statesman
May 11, 2009

Separately, they are each inspiring and influential:

* The Rev. Michael Beckwith is the author of
several books and founder of the Agape
International Spiritual Center in California. He
has reached millions as a featured teacher in the
book and film "The Secret," and regularly appears on "The Oprah Show."

* Robert Thurman is a professor of Indo-Tibetan
Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and is a
close friend of the Dalai Lama. He is the
president of Tibet House U.S. and is considered
one of the world's foremost experts on Buddhist thought.

Put them on stage together, and the room might
just levitate at this year's Sun Valley Wellness
Festival later this month. That kind of energy is
par for the course at this festival, which has
brought Deepak Chopra, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and
Ram Dass to Idaho to share their wisdom about the
mind-body connection and its place in cultivating personal health and wellness.

While Beckwith and Thurman each approach things
from different perspectives, they connect on many
points. This will be the first time they have
engaged in a public dialogue. The two will
discuss the "Spirit of Enlightenment" - and who knows where it will lead.

As a warm up, the two spoke with the Idaho
Statesman via a telephone conference call.
Beckwith was in Detroit, where he was teaching a
workshop and giving a speech; Thurman was in his
home in New York City, preparing for the Dalai
Lama's visit the next day. The first topic up for
discussion was tolerance, which is close to both
of their hearts, and if that applies to what is
happening now. It turns out it is all related, they said.

MB: When individuals have a small perception of
themselves, they see themselves as separate from
others É so they harbor fear and become
intolerant. As one begins to do inner spiritual
work, they grow in the awareness É and that the
so-called other is actually an extension of themselves.

People are so conditioned by the external world
that they inherit prejudice, bigotry and
preconceived notions. When those begin to break
down, then appreciation and compassion can begin to flourish.

RT: Yes, that is exactly the Buddhist and Hindu
teaching, that tolerance is a weigh station
toward compassion. You first have to work on
reactivity and anger and (get to a point) where
you can absorb how others feel. When you're not
reactive, you can begin to feel compassion, even
if someone or something is harmful to you. That
is the beginning of enlightenment.

MB: I like that idea that tolerance as a weigh
station, because tolerance is just the beginning.
As one begins to get over their own shame and
guilt, and begins to understand that we're all
part of the human condition, you have a greater
tolerance for yourself. Then you can offer that
patience and tolerance and love for everyone else.

RT: True. When people feel bad, they externalize.
They think if they had this or that possession,
hoard wealth or have a relationship with someone
who would aggrandize them, then they will feel
better. They are greedy. Of course, everyone else
is a threat and that gives them an excuse for
more intolerance. Spiritual work often involves
being a bit renunciant. People usually think of
that as self-denial. Actually, it's being content
about one's self without all those things and not
going through the strain of trying to attain. It's an interesting paradox.

MB: It's becoming aware of that "wanting to want"
syndrome that affects so many human beings. They
just walk around looking for something to want,
to fill the hole in their lives. They can never
fill it because the hole is imaginary.

RT: That plays into the consumer culture we have
going here and, luckily, it's collapsing. We are
losing this false way of living, and hopefully a
new, sustainable economy will grow out of this mess.

MB: It's making us shift our priorities as a
nation. People are understanding the soft values
they've been holding. Now they have a chance to
turn to something that is more lasting, more
eternal. That's the upside of the downturn.

RT: This downturn is a blessing, I think, from
God, or from Buddha or whoever. I've been
shocking people at my talks in welcoming this
disaster. I'm very sad about people who are losing their jobs, I really am.

MB: Absolutely, but I think there's some shift happening É

RT: Yes, shift sure does happen.

MB: What we're looking at is the end of an old
culture and the sprouts of something new trying
to happen, in which our economy will be fueled
and funded by renewable resource.

Q: Then how do people shift their attitudes during this upheaval?

RT: There's a Tibetan expression, when someone
asks you how you are, you say, "Well, I'm just
barely not dead." It's a bit of a joke but É
that's where one starts. Maybe one has lost a
job, but wait a minute, you say, "I'm alive. My
family's alive, and we have to manage it." You
have to start to see it half full, see the positive.

MB: You know, a good crisis is a terrible thing
to waste. (It) is an opportunity for
transformation, an opportunity to shift rapidly.
During this particular time, we have to ask
empowering questions: What is seeking to emerge
in our lives at this time? What is trying to
happen on a national scale, on a global scale?

We live in a progressive universe. Something is
always evolving, always progressing. And knowing
we have infinite potential, because we are
infinite beings. Instead of thinking the glass is
half full, see it as half full of manifestation -
what you can see - and half full of potential
-Êwhat you can't see. It only comes into
manifestation if you ask the right questions.
It's not merely positive thinking, because I
don't really believe in that. I believe in affirmative realization.

Dana Oland: 377-6442



This year's festival theme, Harmony in the Midst
of Transition, is a perfect topic for these
troubled times, when emotional well-being is
affecting physical health more than ever, said
Heather Lamonica Deckard, the festival's co-director.

Total health is about more than just your
physical body. And for the organizers of the Sun
Valley Wellness Festival, it is the
mind/body/spirit connection that makes for
complete health. That is the focus of this annual
gathering later this month that brings together
practitioners in disciplines such as yoga and
qigong, meditation and other forms of self-healing. DETAILS, C5


WHEN Friday, May 22-Monday, May 25.

WHERE Sun Valley Inn, 1 Sun Valley Road, Sun Valley.

TICKETS $75 Day Pass (Saturday and Sunday
workshops only); $135 Silver Pass (includes all
workshops, but not the keynote); $175 Gold Pass
(includes keynote and Toni Childs concert); $275
Platinum Pass (all access pass and preferred seating for keynote and concert).


* "Spirit of Enlightenment" keynote with Michael
Beckwith and Robert Thurman 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Friday, May 22. ($40, general seating, $100 for preferred).

* Toni Childs Concert, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 24,
Sun Valley Pavilion, $15 lawn seating, $25
general, $100 preferred (includes a 6:30 p.m. reception with Childs).

* For a full schedule, go to

LODGING The Sun Valley Lodge is offering a $115 a
night wellness package for participants. For other options go to
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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