EMILY AS YOU ARE – The Emily Dahl Foundation


Emily acted with the fundamental truth that as human beings, we are all the same; each one of us aspires to happiness and each one of us does not wish to suffer. It was always Emily's goal to draw people's attention to what we all as friends and family have in common in the deeply interconnected nature of our lives together. That is also what she experienced deeply on her trip to Belize in the fall of 2018. She came home on December 25, 2018, from Belize with bright and energetic eyes. Only a few days after her return we went on a family trip to Saskatchewan and on that trip, Emily told me all about Belize and the simple life she experienced there. She said to me with clear and wide-open eyes: "Dad, there is a better way."  Less than one month later, on January 26, 2019, Emily made the stunning decision to take her own life and discard her own body, shocking us all. 

The Emily Dahl Foundation is here to fulfill the wishes of Emily Dahl - to help others and to promote happiness. The Emily Dahl Foundation wishes to draw the world's attention to the remarkable words of the ancient Santideva. 
Only a fool could not see that it is most certainly the hand of Emily that leads us all to this incredible possibility: 
"For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world."
Today, there is an increasing recognition, as well as a growing body of scientific evidence, that confirms the close connection between our own states of mind and our happiness. On the one hand, many of us live in societies that are very developed materially, yet among us are many people who are not very happy. Just underneath the beautiful surface of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration, unnecessary quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide, and drug overdoses. There is no guarantee that wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfilment that you seek. The same can be said of your friends too. When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred, even a very close friend appears to you as somehow cold, distant, and annoying.

However, as human beings we are blessed with this wonderful human intelligence. Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be very determined and to direct that strong sense of determination in whatever direction they like. Emily demonstrated this intense determination on the volleyball court and also in her commitment to helping others whenever she could.  So long as we remember that we have this marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to develop determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our underlying mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential gives us a fundamental strength. This recognition can act as a mechanism that enables us to deal with any difficulty, no matter what situation we are facing, without losing hope or sinking into feelings of low self-esteem.

I write this as someone who lost his daughter and one who knows many others who suffer in all sorts of ways. One day, not that long ago, I was having lunch with a couple in Richmond, BC who I met at the International Buddhist Temple in Vancouver, BC. They were helping me along my way of discovery and they both looked at me and said with a big smile - "Emily is your guru - she is teaching you". The amazing thing I realized over lunch was that the merit/love that was coming our way was also going Emily's way. The warmth was incredible. 

One of the approaches that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. The Dalia Lama once said, if there is a solution or a way out of the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more sensible to spend your energy focussing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case, the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you. This formula, of course, implies directly confronting the problem and taking a realistic view. Otherwise, you will be unable to find out whether or not there is a resolution to the problem.

Taking a realistic view and cultivating a proper motivation can also shield you against feelings of fear and anxiety. If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help based on kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal. Even if you fail to achieve your goal, you can feel good about having made the effort. But with a bad motivation, people can praise you or you can achieve goals, but you still will not be happy. Let us all teach ourselves and our children this ultimate reality of the way things are. Find this truth and you will destroy all illusion and the light of your true self will emanate. Understand this crucifixion and you will understand the work of the higher self, which is at play within you. 

We may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we feel on the point of being overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront us, as if it is us hanging on the cross of suffering. This happens to us all in varying degrees from time to time. When this occurs, it is vital that we make every effort to find a way of lifting our spirits. We can do this by recollecting our good fortune. We may, for example, be loved by someone; we may have certain talents; we may have received a good education; we may have our basic needs provided for - food to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live - we may have performed certain altruistic deeds in the past. We must take into consideration even the slightest positive aspect of our lives. For if we fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to believe that we have no capacity for doing good whatsoever. Thus, we create the conditions of despair itself. Instead, look at others with compassion as if you are looking at yourself and see that they know not what they do. 

As Emily's father, I have learned that what principally upsets our inner peace is what we call disturbing emotions. All those thoughts, emotions, and mental events which reflect a negative or uncompassionate state of mind inevitably undermine our experience of inner peace. All our negative thoughts and emotions - such as hatred, anger, pride, lust, greed, envy, fear and so on - are considered to be sources of difficulty, to be disturbing. Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most basic aspiration - to be happy and to avoid suffering. When we act under their influence, we become oblivious to the impact our actions have on others: they are thus the cause of our destructive behaviour both toward others and to ourselves. Murder, suicide, drug overdoses, scandal, and deceit all have their origin in disturbing emotions.

This inevitably gives rise to the question - can we train the mind? There are many methods by which to do this. This is the work of understanding the spirit and the body - a special instruction called mind training, which focuses on cultivating concern for others and turning adversity to advantage. It is this pattern of thought, transforming problems into happiness that can enable you to maintain your dignity and spirit in the face of great difficulties. This is the real work that needs to be done to overcome negative emotions and give clarity to the often-cluttered mind of thought and illusion. It is entirely possible if you focus on the most important question: Who Am I? 

There are many great teachers that have talked about mind training, and all have remarked that one of the mind’s most marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed. I have no doubt that those who attempt to transform their minds, overcome their disturbing emotions, and achieve a sense of inner peace, will, over a period of time, notice a change in their mental attitudes and responses to people and events. Their minds will become more disciplined and positive. And I am sure they will find their own sense of happiness grow as they contribute to the greater happiness of others. The Emily Dahl Foundation offers these positive thoughts so that everyone who makes this their goal will be blessed with success.

Always remember, there is no shortcut to transformation. You can attempt to cover your pain with all sorts of band aids and temporary things, but you will not rid yourself from the basis of suffering. If you really want to get rid of all your suffering, all the difficulties you experience in your life, you have to get rid of the fundamental cause (greed, hatred and delusion) that gives rise to the aggregates that are the basis of all suffering. Nothing temporary or external is going to solve your problems. You need to go within and ask; Who Am I? 

Sherman Dahl 
The Emily Dahl Foundation 
November 2021