It was in the autumn of 2005 when I first encountered and meditated with the Dalai Lama. I had just completed a year in England working on a Masters degree in Buddhist Studies. Through some lucky connections, an email appeared one day saying that a ticket was available for me, for free, to sit with the Dalai Lama for a day - with about 1000 other people - while he taught on the chapter on overcoming anger from Shantideva's "Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life." That was one of his 'private' talks, followed by a large public audience at the University of Arizona in front of more than 15,000 people.
In 2010, as a teacher on a program in India, I again had the opportunity to see and meditate with the Dalai Lama. This time it was in his mountain home in Dharamsala, India, and I was surrounded by mostly Tibetan monks of various ages, together munching on chunks of dense bread with traditional salted yak butter tea.
It is not easy, especially for us in rugged and rural Western Montana, to have such an opportunity and I am incredibly lucky to have had these two chances to encounter him. As countless people will attest, he really does have certain qualities of kindness and calm that radiate outward, touching all who come in contact with him.
These qualities, he will tell you, are a result of much practice. And the practices he has spent a lifetime mastering are available to all who wish to learn them. Here, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta visits the Dalai Lama for a rare discussion of the activities that have shaped this great religious leader.
As Dr. Gupta notes, it is reassuring to know that the Dalai Lama himself has difficulty meditating sometimes. The key is practice though, and good instruction. Generally, one begins with calming meditations, usually on the breath or an object such as a candle flame. It takes much practice, but over time, one can train the mind to rest on that object for extended periods of time with the qualities of calm and concentration.
It takes a pretty large amount of work to stick with this meditation - often with days of just frustration. But, like going to a gym or training a puppy, progress does happen, often seemingly out of the blue. "Ah-ha moments" arise as clarity develops in the meditation and around it in your everyday life.
Then one can move on to "analytical meditation" where one brings in aspects of one's life to examine more closely. One can extend this out to noticing certain things, such as change, as a quality of all of our experience and the world itself.
You can see more from CNN's "Vital Signs" - Mindful Meditation with the Dalai Lama here.