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A Present for You – ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World’

Isabel 's audience with H.H. the Dalai Lama.

OK. So I have the chance, through Migyul, to write a letter to the Tibetan and Himalayan community and tell you about a gift I have for you. If you use it, I know it will be very useful for you. It’s a book… NO! DON’T SIGH! It’s a funny book – an entertaining book and a book that will make you laugh. It’s a book for you to buy for your American friends for their birthdays because it will make them laugh and cry because, as well as being ‘fast funny and inspiring too’ (according to Joanna Lumley), it tells the story of Tibet, And of one woman who wants to make a difference. Or, to be more precise, it tells the story of what happens when one crazy English actress (me) decides to give up two years of her life to find out what she can do to help the Tibetan cause. It is part travel, part campaigning and part Buddhism. As you all know – as you’ve been involved in the cause a lot longer than I have – serenity is called for, as well as courage and wisdom. So I base the book on the old Christian Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change
The Courage to Change the things I can
And the Wisdom to know the difference.

In the first section of the book I travel to Nepal and am surprised to be flirted with by a Khenpo whose English is perfect. And I flirt back – all the time wondering who is the cat and who is the mouse. And I fall in love a little. You’ll enjoy that part, I know. Then I travel to Tibet and experience for myself the beauty and the tragedy of your extraordinary land (I thought that being positive would help me avoid altitude sickness – ha ha!). I write about Tibet too – but don’t worry – no long, boring descriptive passages. I like to get on with the story.

In the second section (Courage), I look at the assumption in the prayer that there IS something that we can change – and I meet many different Tibet Support Groups and consider what is effective and what is not effective. That wasn’t easy, I can tell you. In the end I decide that rewarding His Holiness is what it’s all about. And we had a stunt man come and jump off Nelson’s Column in London (illegal and very dangerous) to make sure the media came. We concentrate on POSITIVE action. My motto in the book is, ‘THINK GLOBALLY, ACT JOYFULLY.’ I also interview the Chinese Ambassador in London who pretends that he has never heard of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and says that the Dalai Lama is a liar. I think you’ll find that section interesting, too.
Then, finally, Wisdom (shame for me that the prayer didn’t have wisdom first). I think about wisdom, go to Dharamsala, speak to recent arrivals from Tibet and a young nun that was tortured (I make the reader cry as well as laugh in this book) and I’m very very very proud to say that the book ends with a forty-minute interview with His Holiness that I transcribe and write out for you. I ask him ‘What can one person do to make a difference?’ and ‘What is wisdom?’

So I’m telling you this because I want you to read the book and USE the book to promote the Tibetan cause. It has been read by children as young as 13 on the one hand, and on the other Professor Robert Thurman is kind enough to write: “It is a great read, a live teaching! I enjoyed, laughed and learned a lot!”

You can give it as a gift to your American friends – your bosses – your neighbors – your customers – give it as a thank-you present – but please use it. And just in case you are thinking that I’m going to get rich and that’s why I’m writing this: I want to let you know that authors earn less than people who work on supermarket checkouts. I will never get rich by selling books. On the contrary, supporting Tibet is making me very poor. I wrote this book for the joy of it and because I think the Tibetan cause is the most important and the most just cause on the planet and if there is one more thing that I can do that may play any tiny part in giving Tibet freedom (or genuine autonomy for that matter) then please let me know and I’ll do it.

The book is called ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Changing the World’ and it’s published by Harper Collins San Francisco this month to honour the 70th Birthday of His Holiness. It can be found at any Borders or Barnes & Noble. Please USE IT!

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Isabel's List of Ten Indispensable Things You Need to Change the World

Losada, Isabel. A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World: For Tibet, with Love. New York: HarperCollins, 2005. [View on Amazon.]

A store cupboard. To put your TV in. Leave it in there.

A crazy, wonderful, foolish positive plan.

Selective deafness. (The complete inability to hear the word no).

A coffee addiction (impossible otherwise).

Unconditional love and compassion for others – 24/7.

Deranged friends.

An irrational desire to do mad things – called fundraising (jump out of planes, etc.).

A Web site that you made yourself and can maintain yourself. No really!

An unbalanced sense of humour.

Persistence. Joy. Persistence. Joy. Persistence. Joy. Persistence.

Isabel Losada