Archive for July, 2012


The outpouring of support from everyone has been tremendous and overwhelming. When I haven’t been crying out of fear and frustration (still waiting to hear about my father’s condition) I’ve been shedding tears of gratitude from all of your comforting comments, emails, calls, and texts. Thank you for embracing me and my family in well wishes and love during what is, undoubtedly, the most difficult thing we’ve ever had to deal with.

Lynn, we are with you.

It’s 9:48 AM here in Ocean City, Maryland where I walk the beach in the gentle rain and caressing with the ocean waves.

Some will claim thoughts are like ocean waves, coming and going, with no two waves exactly alike.  Yet, I’ve allowed myself to enjoy the waves, its harmonic balance and tranquility. They bring an awareness to deeper aspects of myself that reside underneath ~ i.e., the waves of my own thoughts, emotions, and sensations.

Sometimes I want to dance upon the waves, cup its energy in my hand and hold onto the softness of beauty reflected in the morning light. I dive into the deep well of water, to a place of peaceful abiding, watching the abundant life underneath the shoreline.

As actress Lynn Chen quoted on her blog, The Actor’s Diet:

“Life is far from perfect for me right now.  This morning my father went in for heart surgery.  There were complications.  I’m still waiting for him to wake up, and to hear what our future will be.”

“Be careful before you put any negativity out into the world, because you never know the full story of what’s going on.  And please, take the time to embrace as much love as you possibly can.  Right now.”

Each person is an ocean; each person is a wave. We can hate or we can love. We can live and we can endure. We can build or destroy.

Today, hereon this beach, in this moment, I choose to share my love with all whom cross my path. I especially give my prayers to Actress Lynn Chen and her father and hope that the oceans of people give comfort and love.

Rock and a Hard Place

On an east bound American Airline flight, I stumbled upon a great article in the “American Way’ magazine written by Ethan Rouen. Mr. Rouen’s article “Between a Rock and Hard Place,” described the life of Alex Honnold, one of the greatest free-solo climbers in the world. Mr. Honnold, 26, climbs free-solo, flawless, and represents the same ability of many top climbers including mental fortitude, his ability to remain focused hour after hour.

One of the key statements was a prolific Buddhist statement:

“He is always in the moment, embracing the immediate physical demands of his task while accepting the inevitable distractions without letting them bother him.”

In a CNN report by John Cassaras, filmmaker Peter Mortimer state Honnold’s “an elite climber. In the mental game, Alex is inarguably the greatest in the history of the sport. His ability to be composed in the most extreme positions is beyond wherever anyone has gone or thought they could go.”

The key to being successful, in all forms of business is to be in the moment, be composed and embrace the demands without being bothered. That is the true form of artistic Buddhism and greatness.

U.S. Has 50 Percent of the Guns

Fareed Zakaria wrote an excellent reflection on gun control. Accordingly, Mr. Zakaria wrote:

“The United States stands out from the rest of the world not because it has more nutcases – I think we can assume that those people are sprinkled throughout every society equally – but because it has more guns.”

As a conscientious citizen, I loved Mr. Zakaria’s reflection, for after the Aurora, CO mass killing, I too have struggled with the perplexing issue of gun control. Is it right, wrong or am I just too indifferent?

While everyone can reflect upon the days of the original framers of the U.S. Constitution, many don’t. And after subsequent nights of gun violence in Chicago, the nation once again faces the moral issue of weapons and ownership. I wonder what the original framers would think of the current weapon dilemma the nation experiences today.

I presume the amount and death capacity of today’s weaponry would overwhelm them with emotions. In 1776, life was harsh and central/local militias were required. Today, missiles have the capacity to travel half the globe in an hour and destroy an entire nation.

While I concur with the right to ownership, I do not concur with the right to any and all weapons simply because I can. As a practical matter, is there any reason a college student seriously requires an AK-47 and over 5,000 some odd forms of ammunition, simply because he can?

We can only progress to inspired dialogue by asking the proper questions. If we start to ask great questions, maybe we can get better answers.

At times I am often asked about the nature of meditation.

In response, I simply direct them to BuddhaNet’s advice on Meditation:

The most important feature of meditation is not technique, but the way of being, the spirit, which is called the “posture”, a posture which is not so much physical, but more to do with spirit or attitude.

It is well to recognize that when you start on a meditation practice, you are entering a totally different dimension of reality. Normally in life we put a great deal of effort into achieving things, and there is a lot of struggle involved, whereas meditation is just the opposite, it is a break from how we normally operate.

The BuddhaNet has excellent articles for all levels, from beginner to advanced.

Check them out.

Many leaders have failed to understand and respect the power of communication.  When exposed, our sometimes backwards world of antiquated laws and legal maneuvering forcibly open the stench and sickness of the human soul.

This could be said of China. According to Time report Hannah Beech, just how much is a dead baby worth?

“Just how much is a dead baby worth? This week, a settlement from China’s Shaanxi province put that figure at $11,200. In early June, Feng Jianmei was bundled into a van with a pillowcase over her head, then driven to a hospital by family-planning officials and held down while medical staff injected poison into her pregnant belly. The forced abortion of her seven-month fetus occurred because Feng and her husband Deng Jiyuan did not have enough money to pay a $6,350 fine for contravening China’s so-called one-child policy. Such late-term forced abortions are illegal by national Chinese law, but such violent incidents are not unusual. Feng’s case, though, was different in one key respect: a photograph was posted online of the 23-year-old lying in the hospital bed with her lifeless baby girl beside her. A horrified Chinese public rallied to her cause.”

Having lived and worked in China for several months, I understand how this couple’s battle with authority might have ended there, but access to the Internet allows millions of Chinese citizens to elude censors and read postings from fellow citizens on taboo subjects such as forced abortion, dissidents and Communist Party corruption.

Fortunately for us, technology continues to outpace the dictators. One of the reasons Egypt’s revolution succeeded with minimal bloodshed was that satellite TVs and the internet draw international attention to the legitimate demands of the oppressed and the regime alike. Raw footage can be gripping, emotional and often serves as the fulcrum to change. As the future moves forward, there will an Internet that cannot be shut off.  Thus, for oppressors, you must move forward. You cannot live in the past.  The once ‘hidden voice’ can cry forth, speak and demand justice.

While I personally do not concur with ‘forced abortions,’ The ‘Life Group Devotions’ did make one to which I do concur, “Protecting and defending life is like running a long marathon, not a short sprint.” But I accentuate group’s statement more broadly: protecting life means utilizing current technology to embolden the message, generate dialogue and bridge differences. It as an arena to any dictator cannot venture.

For the dictator, ‘Truth’ is the enemy. Truth cannot leaven. It’s destructive. The self-immolation of Tunisian street vendor Muhammad Bouazizi, led to demonstrations that toppled the regime. It was Facebook photos of Egyptian Khaled Said, that drew attention and Twitter posts helped organize protests.

Strong-armed control over the Web is the clearest sign of political weakness. China continues to vet communication services. China employees more than 300,000 government employees in “community service management,” meaning they monitor the World Wide Web for dissent. Facebook, Twitter and sources of information like Google has been shut down. Likewise, Iran has largely closed off communication, and North Korea has no Internet access. These dictators simply choose repression when dealing with most problems. When you live life as a “big hammer,” you tend to treat everything as a nail.

From my Buddhist teachings, all our interactions must come from a compassionate perspective. It is this connection that’s the heart of mutual respect. Compassionate communication is used to advance recognition, inclusion, contribution, acceptance, consideration, and support. It is at the heart of problem solving and relationship building. As the Buddha said:

“Be aware of suffering caused by the inability to listen to others and unmindful speech, I vow to cultivate deep listening and loving speech in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or bring suffering, I vow to learn to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope.”

If we do this, we don’t have to worry about the Web … for we become leaders.

LCWR Nuns Versus The Vatican

With interest, I have been following the ongoing battle between the ‘Catholic Nuns and Vatican.” In brief, the Vatican is essentially stating the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is promoting a “new kind of theology that is not in accordance with the faith of the church.”  As such, approximately four years ago, the Vatican began an in-depth assessment of the LCWR, in essence reviewing the whether the nuns were acting in accordance with the teachings of the church.

Off the bat, my first reaction is ‘Jesus Christ! A four-year assessment? Holy s**t!” Oops sorry Lord. Forgive me. Man, that’s like suffering through a week-long colonoscopy. With current reports of human trafficking, financial swindling by CEOs and banking establishments, continuing sexual misconduct of the clergy, an endless worldwide recession and poverty, one would figure such an investment of time would have been better spent.

As such, the Vatican claimed the LCWR undermined Roman Catholic teachings on homosexuality and birth control and promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” It also reprimanded the nuns for hosting speakers who “often contradict or ignore” church teachings and for making public statements that “disagree with or challenge the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.”

According to Sister Pat Farrell, the President of the Leadership Conference, “… the mandate is more critical of positions we haven’t taken than those we have taken.”

Being an excommunicated Catholic from the church I loved, I believe there is a significant variance between tradition and the current world. I love tradition. I honor and respect tradition! Yet I recognize the world today is wholly different from that of Christ’s.

There is a need for genuine dialogue where none exists. The church’s climate seems to cling to the past. As Buddhist, the problems facing us here today must be addressed and the faith of our past will not address the needs of those Christ commanded us to assist.

Need an example? Ok! While I personally believe faith can move mountains, 35.5 million Americans are underfed each night. Thus, it may be wise to remember an old Buddhist quote:

“If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past.”

Our past cannot be our current life. We cannot relive the past. And my recommendation to the Vatican is simple: Publicly engaging in this battle is pathetic. It doesn’t matter who wins or loses. The only real winners are those who achieve illumination of the inner self.

Dudes, take a look around.

Over the past several days I have continually run across a newswire story regarding the television series “Modern Family.’  In what has to be a public relations nightmare for both actor and studio, the cast of the award-winning TV show sued the comedy’s production company for violating their work contracts. According to sources I’ve read, this is a bid for higher pay.

In truth, five key stars actually sued to have their contracts voided. “‘Modern Family’ has been a breakout critical and financial success. That success, however, has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts,” the lawsuit said.

According to USA Today, With the exception of O’Neill, the actors were paid in the $65,000-an-episode range for the show’s 22-episode third season, according to sources. O’Neill is believed to have made in the $105,000 range.

So, in all transparency, I must admit, I have never seen the show. Nada! Not Once. I do not even have a clue what the show’s about, it’s cast, story-line or ratings.

But what intrigued me was this one little item: salary … of $65,000 per 30-minute episode … for 22 episodes.  So do math here.

Oh OK, I will … $1,430,000.00 per year … well not even a year’s worth of work, probably a little over half a year. So how many families would love to make 6.9% of that per year? (6.9% is about $100,000.00.) How many would love to make 3%.  I know many who would. When you put pad to paper, ‘Modern Family’ reminds me of my own pain.

I seriously do not begrudge someone getting paid their worth.  In fact the Apostle Paul addresses the concept of wages in Romans 4:4 when teaching about God’s grace, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” But in the Anguttaranikaya (A.II. (69-70) the Buddha mentions four kinds of happiness derived from wealth. They are:

  1. Atthisukha – The happiness of ownership.
  2. Anavajjasukha – The happiness derived from wealth which is earned by means of right livelihood, i.e. not dealing in the sale of harmful weapons, not dealing in the slaughter of animals and sale of flesh, not dealing in the sale of liquor, not dealing in the sale of human beings (e.g. slavery and prostitution) and not dealing in the sale of poisons.
  3. Ananasukha – the happiness derived from not being in debt.
  4. Bhogasukha – the happiness of sharing one’s wealth. This kind of happiness is an extremely important concept in Buddhism.

I don’t know about you, but I for one, can be extremely happy living on $1.4 million.

Still I have one question for actor and studio alike, “With the number of people unemployed or underemployed, is this the only honorable and reasonable way to negotiate?” Isn’t claiming illegal contracts and under value a little extreme?

If an actor or studio wants to really learn hard times, try feeding a family of four on $40,000 a year. Personally, if I’m watching this show, I don’t want to be reminded of how bad you have it.  I want to forget how bad I have it.

Earn your livelihood in joy and love, not anger, frustration and hatred.

Made In America

July 22nd. I am currently sitting in a Pizza Hut in the rural south.

The Pizza Hut I am at appears to be only one of two decent eateries in town. It’s also clear that this location is ad hoc town meeting place.  After noticing I was using an Apple MacBook Pro, a local patron called, “Hey, we believe in ‘Made in the USA’ equipment.”

“I’m sorry?” looking up to clearly hear.

Pointing to my computer, he restated, “We believe in made only in America products.”

“Oh, I am sorry,” I stated. “I did not realize there were good computers made solely in the U.S.”

“Sure there is. I have a Hewlett Packard. Good Ol’ American.”

“Sigh!”

—————

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.”

—————

When thinking about the story above, I kept reiterating that to conquer myself I must conquer my own mind. From a personal perspective, I wanted to note the man’s folly by simply noting that almost all good computers, including HP, were in fact manufactured overseas.  In the end, I lived in the moment and allowed my own ignorance to go. There was simply no point in belittling him in front of his peers or family.

We all must control our thinking. Our thoughts cannot be tossed to and fro like the waves of the sea. Some will actually think, “I can’t control my thoughts, if a thought comes, it comes.” To that I say, you may not be able to stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can certainly stop him from building a nest in your hair.

Dismiss thoughts that are contrary to the life you desire to live. Buddha said, “It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe that lures him to evil ways.”

Men of Good Will

I am deeply saddened by the level of violence and death at the ‪Aurora Colorado Century 16 Theater. Words cannot fully comprehend my profound sadness of the pain and years of post-traumatic stress many will experience, including the victims, workers, medical technicians, medical clinicians, fire department and police officers.

Still, in the days and weeks ahead, this shooting and that involving George Zimmerman will ultimately become linked.  Somewhere, somehow, many in fact, will ultimately claim, “…this was part of God’s plan.”

If that’s that really the case, then ‘God’s a chicken shit.’ If people believe that these acts were truly the will of God, then these acts are the very best reason never to believe in God! It’s plain and simple, there’s no other way around it.  I just cannot see why all these people had to die.

I am not stating this in response to the God I believe. Rather I state this to all those like Mr. Zimmerman who publicly espouse some diatribe of their belief of the Holy Spirit. If these events are the work of God, then this is simply a not a God I choose to accept. How could God be in the horror of Aurora, Colorado? The difference between this level death and the level of love people claim God communicates is irreconcilable.

What’s clearly lacking in Aurora, Colorado and Sanford, Florida was one’s ability to step beyond their adrenalin and become the better man. In Mr. Zimmerman’s case, a better man would have walked away. In Colorado, a better man could have seen how personal actions were leading onto an avalanche of untold grief. Either man could have and should have evaluated the road less taken and stopped. Yet both, for some untold reason, proceeded as if thought and action were not interdependent.

I’m appalled God can sit in Heaven and allow His name to be contextually used by George Zimmerman, “I feel like it was all God’s plan.” It’s sad, disgusting and disingenuous.

The real love of God can be found in the actions of those who gave their life for another. Real love can be found in every first-responder and victim. These people all gave us an insight of true love, the connectedness, the oneness and brief moments where God did reach through darkness, grabbed our pain and allowed all of us to remember how interdependent we are. It’s because of their love that we find an innate ability to wake up and move forward.

I believe in the Buddhist precept, do no harm. Personally, I accept the Constitution’s Right to Bear Arms. I don’t like it, but I accept it.  However, someone with better logic has to explain to me why a twenty something year-old kid needs to own an AK-47.

As the character Kenny O’Donnell (Thirteen Days) quoted:

“If the sun comes up tomorrow, it is only because of men of good will. And that’s all there is between us and the devil.”

I hope each of us believes and responds to the goodwill like fellow citizens of Aurora, Colorado and their neighbors. And to God, if you believe in this type of ‘goodwill,’ then I’m in.

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