Archive for August, 2012


From a perspective of ‘right speech,’ I give Romney a lot credit for pretty much holding to the higher ground.  Thus, when comparing Mr. Ryan with Mr. Romney, one appears to get the ‘good cop-bad cop’ routine. In rewinding Romney’s speech through my head last night, I remembered an email I recently read, “…he’s banking on Americans having total amnesia about 2001-2009, including failed wars and a multiple increase of the national debt.”

In truth, for a ‘speech of a lifetime,’ the policy portion was void of any detail. As listener, I found myself affirming the question that yes indeed I may not be better off than I was four years ago, but I certainly found no substance in how Mr. Romney and Ryan would actually make my life any better.

To that end, I found Romney’s speech more a checklist speech. Discuss family background. Check! Honor women. Check! Disparage the Chinese and Iran. Check! Check! Check! Check! But unless I feel asleep, we heard no plans for the country. There was almost no mention of his budget, tax, health care or Medicare plans.

To answer those magic questions, I visited the Romney-Ryan campaign site. So here’s a quick summary:

  1. On Taxes: Mr. Romney supports a fundamental redesign of the existing U.S. tax system. Great. Every four years, some candidate throws out the gauntlet of redesigning the tax rate. Unfortunately, his website does not actually detail exactly how’s he’s going to do that nor how he would manage the subsequent mess of said redesign.
  2. On Taxes: Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Tax Policy Center (TPC) reported the four major new tax cuts in the Ryan plan, including repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, and repealing the tax increases in health reform would cost $4.6 trillion in lost federal revenue over the next ten years. All four revenue-losing measures would disproportionately benefit wealthy Americans. Romney fails to mention how his policies would replace the $4.6 trillion.
  3. On China: As President, Mr. Romney will work to enforce stronger protections of our Intellectual Property in an effort to ensure proper renumeration for our technological accomplishments. This is nothing more than a sound bite. Every candidate says this. But to get an entire business community who rely upon cheap Asian labor to manufacture their products in supporting actual sanctions would be on par with the second coming of Christ.
  4. On Spending: Governor Romney wants major cuts in spending, by a reform of Medicaid, wage alignments, federal workforce reductions and undertaking a major restructuring of government programs and services. Mr. Romney supports capping federal spending at 20% of GDP and wishes to pursue a Balanced Budget Amendment. Another sound bite. Sounds great. In truth, needs to be done. However, Romney’s fails to clarify his definition of ‘major.’ There are no details of what Romney would restructure, which federal workforce would be reduced.

Continuing the entitlement perspective for a moment, Ryan lambasted Obama for failing to act on a deficit-reduction plan that he himself helped to kill. He chided Democrats for seeking the same $716 billion in Medicare cuts he sought. And he admonished Obama for the nation’s credit rating, which was downgraded after a debt-ceiling standoff that he and other Republicans instigated.

Borrowing a quote from the movie “The American President,” all I’ve heard from Democrats and Republicans is “… two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it.” In truth, while I can unequivocally state I dislike where America is at the moment, I still don’t know what Romney’s for, except to say he seems to be for winning and against Obama winning.

Damn … Where’s the beef?

RNC’s Critique of Obama

If it’s clear to anyone, most Democrats and Republicans have vastly different visions about of America, but for Paul Ryan to openly critique Obama’s vision as “a government-planned life, where everything is free but us” pretty much insults everyone. And blaming Obama for an auto plant closing that occurred under the Bush administration was one of many pretty blatant lies.

But that’s the difficulty in politics; it is the listener who must spend endless hours vetting the parched words of hypocrisy.

What’s missing from both Democrats and Republicans, and most campaigns for that matter, is that right speech is truthful and life giving. It is caring, straight forward, peaceful, never vulgar or hypocritical. Would any man, of any good faith, be honored by either campaign? Probably not!

Right Speech has four aspects:

  1. Not lying, but speaking the truth;
  2. Avoiding rude and coarse words, but using gentle speech beneficial to the listener;
  3. Not slandering, but promoting friendliness and unity; and
  4. Avoiding frivolous speech, but saying only what is appropriate and beneficial.

An essay written by Thanissaro Bhikkhu stated right speech means speaking in a trustworthy manner. All of us need to be harmonious, comforting, and worthy. When one makes a practice of right speech, one’s words become a gift to others. In response, other people will start listening more to what you say and most are likely to respond in kind. This gives the speaker a sense of the power of actions. Thus, the way you act in the present moment does shape the world of your experience.

From a view point of the RNC crowd, Paul Ryan made a great speech. Many will dispute much of the points made, but what both Democrats and Republicans know is that the listener cannot adequately scrutinize content as its being delivered. A speech like the one given by Ryan gives the speaker an unchallenged platform to define the RNC party and his world.

Was Ryan’s speech a gift to all listening? Was the speech truthful, honest and unifying? Not on your life.

In many ways, I love watching the electoral process. Every four years, we Americans are treated to a diverse and often opposing set of beliefs. And this year is no exception. If there was a contrast of opinions, last night should provide plenty of food for fodder.

With such contrasting complexity, Ms. Ann Romney rallied the Republican National Convention (RNC) audience with the power of love while Governor Chris Christie declared “…we’re (i.e., either America or the RNC) going to choose respect over love.” further adding, “Our (i.e., presuming RNC) ideas are right for America, and their (Democratic) ideas have failed America.”

In essence, the theme that most stands at the RNC forefront in this election, as well as that of 2008, is one of “take back America.” Take Back America? From whom? Last time I checked, there were no ‘radicals’ in the White House, Legislature or Judicial branches of government. Most who work for the government came from working class neighborhoods, Independents, Democrats, Republicans and Tea Party alike. Most are distinguished educators, attorneys, skilled workers and the like.

In continuing a theme of ‘Right Speech,’ I can only rebut with the old saying “As you think so shall you be!”

In continuing my theme of ‘right speech,’ when one speaks, you our relationships are all in how you think about the other people of your life. The words you give, the breath you take is not only a reflection of the receiver, but it’s also a reflection of you. Your experience of all those people is in your mind. Your feelings of lovers, relationships and people met come from your thoughts. You cannot own people, you cannot be them, you can live in love or you can live in hate.

Need an example? Former Governor Mike Huckabee just quoted to the RNC audience:

No small differences among us in our party approximate the vast differences between the liberty-limiting, radical left-wing, anti-business, reckless-spending, tax-hiking party of Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi …

So far, of what I have seen of the current RNC convention, I think of professor Russell Roberts at George Mason University who recently quoted:

I think fear is a tremendous factor. It’s one of the most depressing things to me actually, about American politics these days. It’s not so much the partisanship, which has always been a part of our lives. It’s the unwillingness to imagine that someone on the other side of the ideological fence might have an interesting idea, and I think that’s a very dangerous situation for a democracy.”

Remember to honor yourself and live always in ‘right speech.’

Acting Out of Love

18-year-old Matthew Scheidt wasn’t a board-certified surgeon, but, according to Florida authorities, he acquired a medical badge via a clerical error and spent several days posing as a doctor’s assistant and treating patients at Osceola Regional Medical Center during August of 2011.

The kicker? He was only 17 at the time.

On top of the first precept of “do no harm,” the Buddhist precept of truthfulness is very difficult. Some take truthfulness as the single most important precept quality. And if one looks deeply, there are four guidelines of wiser speech: truthfulness, helpfulness, kindness and appropriateness.

I would venture to say that most of us struggle with truthfulness. In taking truthfulness as a guideline, I myself have noticed the subtle ways in which I am not truthful. In business, as in our personal lives, there are many nuanced ways in which we are not being truthful. They always seem to many so-called gray areas.

But how about white lies? For instance, do we not lie by telling a child of Santa Clause? Is the Easter Bunny real? How about the tooth fairy? Some claim ‘white-lies’ used in towards a child’s pleasure and are not in fact all that harmful. However, for adults, spouse-to-spouse, manager to employee, it is best to avoid lying during day-to-day conversations. More so, we should be factually accurate.

But truth also requires being kind. Thus, while I have found some words were very truthful, others may have tended to label me an asshole. In earlier years, I have lied to sustain an image, make a point, to expose someone and to avoid doing something. Sometimes, I have not been truthful to even myself, including certain truths about myself, my relationships and intentions. Being completely transparent, there were many times in my life when I was a complete dipstick. And eventually this untruthfulness cost me the love of my life, for I never see her again. I will never caress her hair or kiss her lips.

So while people like me and Mr. Scheidt may have intended to be truthful we got lost along the way. Albeit, it is very important to articulate that speech must be kind and compassionate. In part, not harming ourselves or others is an essential prerequisite. Honest words create deep intimacy, a profound sense of love and self-knowledge.

Unlike Mr. Scheidt, I never played doctor, never performed a medical procedure to which I wasn’t trained. And now, at least in this world, there is no one single place without memory. Thus, like me, Mr. Scheidt’s life will be impacted forevermore by simply discarding the simple moments of integrity.

As a Buddhist practitioner, when the truth suffers, true communication suffers. We must always realize the depth and abuse caused by simple and thoughtless speech. As such, a proper mind is crucial for self-transformation and transformation of society. We, as in the singular ‘I,’ are not the center of the universe. If we are honest to ourselves, the rest will follow.

Without truthfulness, there can be no society. Without society, there can be no love. Without love, there can be no forgiveness.

So today, I ask everyone, have you acted out of love?

Chöd and EMDR: A Powerful Combination

I have been meditating for over fifteen (15) years. So I have a lot of experience at it.

Over the course of the last year, I have been combining eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) with ‘Chöd’ (pronounced ‘Chuh’) meditation.  EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to resolve the development of trauma-related disorders caused by exposure to distressing, traumatizing, or negative life events, such as rape or military combat.

By combining Chöd and EMDR, I have successfully overcome various impediments of my daily life through loving kindness. Rather than struggling against the fragmented aspects of “Self,” this practice is of tremendous importance for me when I am under great duress and need a powerful method to retrieve my own sanity, awareness and wholeness.

The practice of Chöd is said to be an advanced skilful method that enables one to become free of clinging to false notions and beliefs regarding inherent existence of appearances and experiences and therefore of an individual self. Attachment and clinging to a self are forces that give rise to the defilements, which are the source of anguish and pain. Chöd is the practice that enables me to understand emptiness of all appearances that are fit to arise and therefore can be apprehended. It is an exceptional practice. By in truth, anyone can actually perform the Chöd meditation.

While performing Chöd, EMDR music allows me to enhance my brain’s ability to activate all of its areas and effectively allows the left-side of my brain to communicate with the right-side. By using this EMDR (Biolateral Music) and Chöd, I have resurrected an effective self-image, creative problem solving, confidence necessary to be assertive, the ability to regain full functioning after a troubling experience and freedom from unhealthy psychological defenses that impact how I can learn and interact meaningfully.

Check into Chöd. And if you have experienced trauma and need assistance, please see an EMDR therapist.

—————–  EMDR Resources  —————–

If you are in or near New York, David Grand is your go to person. If you are in the Midwest, Dr. Hsin-hsin Huang (David Grand’s protégé) is the best. Together, Mr. Grand and Dr. Huang have been successfully treating television, film and stage actors, professional athletes, business leaders, and survivors of profound traumas, including 9/11, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Sexual Assault, eating disorders and Iraq/Afghanistan combat veterans. Believe it or not, treatment can be done in 12 or less sessions.

Both Dr. Huang and David Grand use EMDR BioLateral music to take advantage of auditory stimulation to produce left/right aural tones, i.e., bilateral stimulation as an alternative to eye movement.

A poor man, Depa, once found an enormously valuable jewel.

Being a person of little desire, and content with his small income,
Depa pondered to whom he should give the jewel.
He tried to think who was most in need and suddenly was inspired
to give the jewel to King Prasenajit. The king was astounded as
there were many poor and needy people, but Depa said, ‘O King,
it is you who is the poorest, because you lack contentment!’

~Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend~

         _____________________________________________________

Over the past several days, a few friends have asked ‘Why? Why did you choose to leave a solid job? In today’s unseemly bipolar job market, why did a solid job for a ‘Contract’ position? Why leave all that solid income and benefits?”

When reflecting upon the story above, my answer’s pretty simple: I was ‘poor.’ Yes it’s true one can find the above story at the beginning of Buddhism for Busy People by David Michie, a book that takes you on an autobiographical journey into Tibetan Buddhism and its philosophies on the path to true fulfillment. But taking my readers on a path to true enlightenment has never been my targeted goal.

In truth, I will paraphrase the character Leo McGarry of The West Wing, adding a smidge of ‘Artistic Liberty:’

Because I’m tired of it year after year after year after year having to choose between the lesser of who cares? Of trying to get myself excited about a hospital IT Director who can speak in complete sentences. Of setting the bar so low, I can hardly look at it.” 

For the most part, healthcare provides solid income, but rarely does one run across someone truly genuine. Most executive management watches dollars and cents like stockbrokers watching the DOW. Rare is that someone talks about the quality of patient care.

Over the years, there have been many buzz words: ‘innovative care,’ ‘patient empowerment’ and ‘leveraging wholeness.’  In truth, I have seen hospital management order employees to shred compromising patient records prior to audit, purposely falsify financial records and determine employee pay based upon city residence versus skill. I’ve seen a hospital with no morgue that stuffs the deceased into janitorial closets, compromised Information Technology Systems that any three year-old with a crayon could hack and doctors who couldn’t find an open wound with two hands and a flashlight.

After learning of my company’s acquisition several months ago, I stumbled upon the audiobook ‘Cutting through Fear,’ by Tsultrim Allione. The audiobook focuses upon the ‘Chöd’ meditation. Also known as “Cutting Through the Ego”this meditation releases what ancient Tibetans called “demons:” i.e., the fears, obsessions, illnesses, and hopes; the demons of addiction, compulsion, anger, and other difficult emotions. These can be faced and dissolved with this powerful meditation technique.

It is through meditation that I can release fear, my fear of being rich. Yes, some days are difficult, as any job change is. But now I live alive! And all of us need to live alive.

NBC News 8/25/2012: Updated at 7:40 a.m. ET:

“Tropical Storm Isaac dumped heavy rains on Haiti on Saturday, threatening floods and mudslides in a country where hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless more than two years after a devastating earthquake.

Lashing rains and high winds were reported along parts of Haiti’s southern coast and in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, where more than 350,000 survivors of the 2010 earthquake are still living in fragile tent and tarpaulin camps.”

So what the heck happened in Haiti? Where did all that money go?

According to The Journal of Investigative Journalism recently reported, “One out of every two American households gave with $1.5 to 3 billion being donated to about 23 major charities. The international community came together pledging an unprecedented $5 billion – the largest pot of post-disaster reconstruction money ever.”

Yet, across the street from a squalid camp where three latrines service an estimated 7, 000 people, fleets of white SUVs line the streets as aid workers and Haiti’s tiny elites frequent a luxury restaurant with an extensive wine menu, tuna tartar, escargot and New York steak at $34. Reconstruction in Haiti is proceeding at a “snail’s pace,” leaving half a million Haitians still homeless two years after the quake. It urged the Haitian government and donor countries to accelerate the delivery of funds for reconstruction. Unfortunately, the Haitian government and donor countries have failed to come up with a coordinated strategy to rebuild the country and house the more than 500,000 people still living in tents and under tarpaulins without access to running water, a toilet or a doctor.

According to recently published reports by Oxfam, the UN, the US Government Accountability Office and international aid experts interviewed by GlobalPost, billions of dollars of aid were pledged to Haiti’s reconstruction, but promises of funding have not translated into money on the ground. According to the UN report, as of the end of September 2011, donors had disbursed just 43 percent of the total $4.6 billion pledged for reconstruction in 2010 and 2011.

Also, profiteers seem to wander the streets of Haiti. The CNN Freedom Project shined a significant light on the plight of the Restaveks, the estimated 300,000 children working as domestic servants in Haiti. Many of them are Restaveks in forced labor, not kids helping mom or dad.

So … think that this type of profiting is simply only in Haiti? I will give one totally unrelated example: corporations are lining their pockets off the life insurance they take out on employees who die. In late 2011, Lake Worth, Florida woman got a letter, alerting her that Wal-Mart benefited richly from her husband’s death. Like hundreds of thousands of its other employees, Wal-Mart had secretly taken out a life insurance policy on her husband when he worked as a department head in the garden center. Her husband’s death put between $75,000 and $150,000 in its pockets.

Some of the companies who engage in this practice are: Wells Fargo, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney and Winn-Dixie. They carry policies that amount in the billions. “The Wall Street Journal reported that Bank of America and Wells Fargo both have $17 billion each in these life insurance policies. Chase has $11 billion.”

The Buddhist Precept “Do no harm” crashed through my body as I watched the Haiti report. And like many of us, we may not steal face-to-face, but we do allow the rich to exploit the poor simply via the normal day-in-day-out workings of our banking and economic systems. It’s only when we raise our national conscience to unified level that we can force our ‘elected’ to serve, “We the people….”

But I dare to say that while Tropical Storm Isaac careens across Haiti, few, if any, will give a damn.

Legitimate Rape?

When I heard Akin, I was totally baffled.  I still am.

http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/19/13365269-missouri-republican-legitimate-rape-rarely-causes-pregnancy?lite

Rep. Todd Akin, a tea party candidate challenging incumbent Democratic Senator McCaskill, was asked whether he supports abortion in the case of rape. Quoting Rep. Todd Akin:

People always want to make it into one of those things — well, how do you slice this particularly tough ethical question. First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

The LA Times reports the headlines as: Rep. Todd Akin: No pregnancy from ‘legitimate rape’

Yes Missouri, you elected Mr. Akin.

Need I say more!

I like the sign in the background. Seems apropos.

My Daddy’s Face

My father often presented himself as a very private, conservative, and quiet person, but with his friends and family, he was actually very open in thought and considerably verbose. In fact, sometimes we couldn’t get him to stop talking! He often repeated long monologues on his thoughts, beliefs, views, and feelings so often I had them memorized.

Because he was so silent with strangers, it always surprised me that he not only permitted, but encouraged my very public life. Since I moved to Los Angeles seven years ago, we seldom saw one another in person, but became closer than ever, because he religiously followed my 3-year-old blog, where I shared every single moment of my day with the entire world. Sometimes I feared he believed I was revealing too much, but the truth is, he was proud of every single decision I ever made, often telling me he was continually learning more about himself in my most raw and honest moments. Even when I announced that I would literally be baring myself to the world in the movie “Saving Face,” he shocked everyone not only by making it clear I had his full support, but that he was impressed with my bravery.

When I made that movie “Saving Face” in 2005, I learned the meaning behind this concept most Chinese families are familiar with as keeping up appearances – of maintaining a certain public demeanor and proper self image, even when you are suffering and in pain. My father spent his whole life saving his face and maintaining the most impeccable, disciplined, and powerful public image.

Everyone keeps telling me to be strong, not to cry, and hold it in – like my father would be right now in this situation – but the truth is, the most valuable lesson I ever learned from him was just a week ago, on his hospital bed, when he reached out for my hand, making it clear he needed me and did not want me to leave his side. I summoned a strength I never knew I possessed to help soothe him in his most painful moment. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry, and admit any weakness. He spent his entire life sacrificing his own desires, showing great strength and absorbing his own pain for the happiness of others. I had never seen my father so emotional – I’ll never forget how close that difficult moment made me feel to him, and honored that he finally revealed his vulnerability to me.

I spent a large portion of my life believing I couldn’t tell my family anything, literally stuffing my emotions down through food to “save face.” Even with professional help from eating disorders specialists, my body image battle continued for years. It wasn’t until I finally revealed to my parents, by being completely honest with them (and everyone else) through my food blog – that I wasn’t perfect and was able to finally heal. Just a few days before my father passed away, I was so honored to announce to him that I became the newest Celebrity Ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association. Even in his condition, I understood how proud of me he was, and I asked him to fight just like I did, to be strong in the face of fear, to help me summon up all of his will and courage so I could continue speaking up and help change lives and families around the world, just like ours.

My father suffered a great deal those last two weeks. But during that time, he taught me more lessons about life without saying a word. I learned how to truly be humble, kind, generous, strong, independent, empathetic, patient, compassionate, courageous, hopeful, connected, thoughtful, present, and most of all, to truly understand the saying he embedded in me for as long as I can remember – “Don’t cut your standards to fit other people.” I always thought that represented pure strength and independence, but I see now it also indicates knowing your self worth, to ask for just that, and accept nothing less. And yet, at the same time, it also means knowing when to let go and say “enough,” despite what others may want or need from you.

I must admit that I doubted those lessons the evening he died. Although I was raised Catholic and my mother is very religious, I have never had a deep relationship with my spiritual side. The last few years have been especially troubling for me in testing my faith with life’s many struggles, and just before he passed, I spoke to him, privately asking him to teach me that all the hardships were going to be worth it. When I found out moments later his life had ended, I felt confused, angry, sad, and hopeless, believing that there really was no lesson, no meaning, no purpose.

But a few days ago, sitting in Church, asking for a sign from my father, and listening to the Deacon speak about strong women, I heard something familiar. It was the Deacon, and he had the same voice of the director of all my high school plays, someone who literally started my career as an actress. I took it to be a mere coincidence, but it turned out to actually be him! And as he hugged and comforted me in my greatest moment of despair, I felt the presence of my father, and the profound faith that his lifelong struggle really HAD all been worth it. I sense he is now somewhere far greater than any of the places he believed would bring him peace during retirement – like the homes in California and Philadelphia that he worked so hard to purchase but never got the chance to experience. I sense he was teaching his family in the last few weeks the most important lessons we’ll ever learn to carry on and live happily, but we have to let him go peacefully to his final retirement, so that he can enjoy his lifelong sacrifice as well.

Even in his physical absence, I trust that he will guide me through my life by holding my spirit as I continually learn this balance and face even more challenges. I feel so blessed knowing I had a father I could be myself with – flaws and all – who truly loved, accepted, and was proud of me. I hope you can see now just how loved, accepted, and proud we all were of you, Daddy. You will never, ever be forgotten.

In a recent LA Times article, Seema Mehta  quoted Romney:

Over the last four years, this president has pushed Republicans and Democrats about as far apart as they can go. And now he and his allies are pushing us all even further apart by dividing us into groups. He demonizes some. He panders to others,” Romney said. “His campaign strategy is to smash America apart and then try to cobble together 51% of the pieces.

And of course there’s Biden:

Romney wants to—he said in the first hundred days he’s going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street! They’re going to put y’all back in chains.

There’s certainly an uncomfortableness in both statements. Technically, both Biden and Romney are pandering. And personally, I haven’t “y’all” from a politician since I moved from Alabama in 2002. But then again, Ryan did discuss the need to ‘unshackle our economy.”  Each candidate panders to the religious. Each candidate wants to make you afraid. Hence, that’s why negative campaigning is all we will ever get.

The sad fact folks are that both campaigns combined have acquired over $198 million dollars (www.opensecrets.org). Let me repeat that, ‘both campaigns combined have acquired over $198 million dollars.”

In the end it’s all about the money. The fictional Senator Bullworth nailed it down:

Obscenity?

I’m a Senator

I gotta raise $10,000 a day every day I’m in Washington

I ain’t getting it in South Central

I’m gettin it in Beverly Hills

So I’m votin from them in the Senate the way they want me too/ and-and-and I’m sending them my bills

But we got babies in South Central dying as young as they do in Peru

We got public schools that are nightmares

We got a Congress that ain’t got a clue.

There is an inherent problem in intermingling religion with politics. When an elected official needs $10,000 a day in donations, no politician truly cares about abortion. No politician really cares about education. They say they do, but they never will.

President Obama once said:

“The particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times.”

Mr. Obama … “We can only Dream.”

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