Friday 15th June 2007. Today. 10 years ago.

The Dalai Lama came to Sydney for a visit. His 7th tour of Australia. It was also the day I left the military. The day I entered my signature in the top secret register for the very last time.  Never to wear overalls again. Never to salute. Never to run that damn 2.4k track.

That afternoon I was officially unemployed and on a bus to the Domain. Perfect way to transition into civilian life, listening to the world’s most revered speaker on peace and love. It felt intimate and even though I was in a sea of people, I felt like he was talking directly to me.

His talk was called “One Earth” and in true Dalai Lama style, he spoke about compassion and peace. What I remember is how. How to generate world peace.

Genuine world peace must come from internal peace. 

I loved being a sailor. Until the day I didn’t.  I knew I’d learnt all I had to learn there. It was time for me to set sail. It took close to 12 months to leave. Those bastards don’t like you to go. Those 12 months were really hard, to go everyday to a workplace that progressively felt more and more foreign. Like I’d started fighting for the other side of the war. Odd feeling.

This is how some people spend their entire working life. Everyday for 60 odd years. Feeling odd.

I think I joined the military with a peaceful mind but over the years it eroded. Not because of the system persay but because I had changed and no longer fit the system I had once joined. I could stay and beef up my super. That would be savvy. I could stay for another medal.  That would be greedy. I could stay for the next trip. That would be great money.

I could stay.

But really I couldn’t. As the Dalai Lama pointed out to me, in our intimate conversation at the Domain, I couldn’t contribute to genuine world peace unless I was operating from a place of internal peace.

He also spoke about solving problems. Super helpful for me given I was unemployed, with a mortgage and a little fuzzy about what the future looked like. To this he told me;

If a person’s mind is strong and peaceful, even in the midst of hostility, they can solve difficult problems without losing basic human values. 

So I had my to-do list. Re-establish basic human values. Work out how to cultivate a peaceful mind. Thankfully time was on my side, on account of being unemployed and all.

10 years later and time to reflect on my to-do list. My mind does feel peaceful again, most of the time and what contributed to this was not the executive job,  nor the journalism degree. It wasn’t the countries I went to or the house I bought. It was actually going against the grain. Going against the grain of what I thought I would do with my life and what family thought best and doing my own thing.  It could have been yoga or gardening or communications. It could have been fashion or furniture. Irrelevant. It was respecting the deep, internal voice. The voice of internal peace which is actually quite loud.

The military did teach me something I use now, everyday in fact. In the world of military comms, there is only one rule; a message hasn’t been passed unless it’s been receipted for. Even if you can prove you sent a signal, unless the recipient acknowledges it, you’ve not sent it. The onus stays with the sender until the receiver acknowledges it.

It wasn’t so great back then, especially in the middle of the night when we would pass by a foreign vessel and get dragged out of bed to send morse code by light. If I could have, I would have sent one crappy signal, told the boss they didn’t respond and jump back into my rack but no, we must keeping sending. Over and over. So many nights spent on the bridge, sending messages not received.

Unlike in the military this rule now works in my favour. I place a lot of importance on having a million ways to explain and do things. If the message isn’t received one way, explain it another way. People learn differently and if the onus is with the sender, then we need a million different ways to approach things.

Someone asked me the other day if I missed being at sea. Yes, of course. Without a doubt, but only twice a day. Sunrise and sunset. The rest of the time I try really hard to contribute, even something small, to genuine world peace.