On Monday, Mayo Clinic staff had the opportunity to hear a talk on "Compassion in Health Care" from one of Mayo's own patients — also known as His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He suggests a simpler address, however. "When a specialist asked how to address me, I said, simply, 'Call me brother,'" he told the audience. "When someone calls me 'brother,' I feel touched on a basic level of humanness." That message of connection was one the Dalai Lama returned to many times during his nearly two-hour conversation with staff. "If we put the emphasis on the sameness … (instead of differences), we can reduce problems across the world."
The Dalai Lama's message resonated with many in the audience. Perhaps none more so than Joe Sharp, Ph.D., a retired researcher at Mayo Clinic. It was "wonderful" to hear the Dalai Lama speak, he tells us. But even more than his words, it was the Dalai Lama's presence that impressed Dr. Sharp. "What he said was really interesting, but that wasn't the most interesting thing to me," Dr. Sharp tells us. "What was most interesting was just to be in his presence. He's so modest, so open, so human. He was compassionate, and deep, and humorous. It was his presence that was so real, and it's something I can't put into words very easily."
Dr. Sharp got to experience that presence more directly than most. Before the presentation, he got to meet the Dalai Lama to give him a gift: a book written by his late wife, Victoria Beckett, M.D., a longtime rheumatologist at Mayo Clinic. The book, an autobiography titled "Living Medicine," includes a final chapter detailing the impact the Dalai Lama's teachings had on her life. "At the end of her life, my wife became captivated" by the Dalai Lama, Dr. Sharp tells us. His teachings on "inner discipline" were particularly meaningful to Dr. Beckett and led her to focus on mastering her "worst traits" while endeavoring to become "more compassionate."
Dr. Sharp wanted to share with the Dalai Lama the very real impact his words had on his wife. "I told him that his writing and teaching … meant an awful lot to her, and I wanted him to receive a copy" of the book, he tells us. He believes the Dalai Lama appreciated the gift. "I think it meant something to him because … he reached out and held hands with me."
Those in the larger audience heard about the Dalai Lama's gratitude for other gifts: their compassionate care to him as their patient. According to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the Dalai Lama "credited Mayo staff with greeting him daily with smiles and becoming his friends during each visit." And that type of "loving kindness" is just what the world needs more of, he suggests. "Basic human nature is loving kindness," he told his audience. "Once we understand that, there is hope."
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