Tag Archive: Compassion


According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 90 per cent of people over the age of 65 will die from one of six chronic illnesses: heart failure, cancer, lung disease, stroke, dementia and diabetes. In the wake of an ongoing government shutdown over an ineffective border wall and the President’s $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy, almost nothing has been allocated for any the six pivotal illnesses.

Over the Christmas holiday, a friend was visiting her native land. It was Christmas Eve here when I received a call. My friend exhibited strange mood swings, purposely instigated an argument with her sister on her sister’s birthday and ripped into her father on Christmas Day. Then, there was the constant worry over children, world events and a sense of dread for the future.

Many incorrectly perceived it to be jet lag. No one understood what I’ve long suspected. Dementia! That word. That ugly beast.

Unfortunately, none of her family really understood what was happening. And truth be told, there is no one in the medical community who can help guide family, friends and partners through the day-in, day-out aspects of helping to guide one through dementia. There is no one who’s willing to say, “Your relative has dementia and here’s what’s going to happen – step by step – over the next few years.”

Living constituents of life always look for the disease. Got to name that bastard. I am living proof that the name is of little comfort. In most cases, when you’re in the throes of battle, it’s fucking irrelevant. In the end, it’s about living. It’s about how to carry on a meaningful life in spite of the affliction.

Even when there is a diagnosis, like so many others, we often fall into the trap of remembering the person who was rather than the person who is. When we realize it, only then do we begin to understand we’re looking for someone who’s no longer there. When my father was in ICU, lay in a coma, all my mother wished for was that my father return home. “Be careful of what you wish for.” Miracles rarely occur. And, just as predicted, my father’s dementia increased significantly from even a year prior.

Just as the daughter of my friend’s family had known, the father my family had known is gone. There’s only the person who is.

Most never come to grips with the terminal nature of our lives. We simply believe we’ll always be the person we were. Simply put, take nothing for granted. In the end, functional limitations force one to adapt. Personally, I can no longer run. I can barely kneel on my right leg for that matter. I can’t play any contact sport. Football is relegated to Sunday television. Some days, I sport a Forcemech wheelchair.

We have to adapt. All of us, in his or her own way. Yet few understand the level of ineptness our society is at caring for patients suffering from heart failure, cancer, lung disease, stroke, dementia and diabetes. Our health care system is based upon diagnosis and treatment. However, what can be done when no medication or treatment can be performed?

We fall through the cracks.

I look at my parent’s road as well as the road of my friend and wonder, “How will I face the final phase of life?” The best answer I get is ‘unknowable.’ I certainly don’t want to be a burden, yet I want to be affirmed. I want death to be appropriate in time and place.

Unless we change how we’re going to care for the afflicted, I too, will be one of many falling through the cracks.

Letter 15 was written on ‘Mentoring Day.’ I attribute my entire success and my multi-decade career to mentoring. The reason I believe so strongly in mentoring is because those key individuals will tell you the truth. If you have a good mentor, they are brave enough to tell you what you don’t necessarily want to hear but need. For me, those key mentors helped me see a clearer path by clearing out the noise.

There is a saying, alternately attributed to Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni and the Theosophists: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I first heard the phrase from Wayne Dyer. Regardless of who came up with it, I think it’s a key concept. In my own life, I “went it alone” for years. “I am a rock. I am an island” was my mantra. Even though I had friends to lean on, I never did. Not only that, when I felt challenged in my life, it took years to realize that’s not what I needed. As such, over the decades, even the most unintentional connections turned into mentoring situations.

For me, my mentors lit the way. However, I had to walk the path. As a Buddhist, I have realized that anything and everything is a teacher in this world. I wrote this letter to my love in an effort to reminded others when they made a positive impact. The role my love had in my life, regardless of how long or how brief, how positive or negative, how ordinary or extraordinary, shaped my world for the better. Some would claim spirituality guided me. Maybe. But not quite. In truth, it was her that guided me through the ebbs and flows of life, and made an irrevocable impact on who I am.

A mentor should be life’s samurai. Cut the crap, “separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Always thank your mentor. This letter was meant for that.


My Dear Friend:

I am no longer the island seen from afar. It’s neither because God called me for a higher purpose nor for missed adventures. Simply understood, it’s because I know you are my port of worship.

Your willingness to expand horizons – to include me – ensured my existence. You are, bar far, the most influential person of my life. I am surprised to hear the multitude confused by your compassion. However, I can hear your heart from thousands of miles. Your eyes shine. Your heart beats. Your care sparks raging infernos. You make everyone possess the “well of possibility.”

I didn’t have enough life experience to know how special you were. You provided a wealth of growth that encouraged me to be the best person possible. You’d ask deep personal questions. And even though I didn’t know how to answer, I wish someone would ask me the same today. I was an unlovable monster. Yet you loved. I was often confused. still, you guided. At times, I was heartbroken. And you comforted. When I was me, you proved that was enough. You got so tangled up in my life’s web that you became my mentor, my love, and my friend.

I’ve been open and drank every glass of wisdom. I tasted your ups and downs, glory and peace. You peered into the crystal ball and gave me your best advice. I only hope my brain properly recorded and stored these thoughts forever.

I promise to continue chasing my dream, but I understand it will be hard. My journey will not hand success without sacrifice. I will be humble, charismatic, reserved, and learn to blend in. I will ensure the world sees my heart, mind, and yearn to understand how the flame within will be harnessed and used wisely.

You have influenced me to transform lives. I will transform lives.

You have influenced me to transform communities. So. I will transform communities.

You influenced me to transform myself. Yet, I hope I can transform you.

God hadn’t called for a higher purpose. I called myself.

With Love, …. W

Early in my career, I met Stephen Covey during a cross-country flight. In those brief hours, we connected and I was presented with a high-level preview of his forth coming book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ For a long thereafter, I was a Covey fan.

When Covey passed in 2012, had we met on the street, I would confess I had forgotten many keys of Habits success. Same is true of Wayne Dyer. I had met Dr. Dyer during several conferences, but admittedly, since his death, the methods of the guru has simply disappeared. Likewise Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Dale Carnegie, and others.

Most experts have their ‘time,’ then end. What’s the difference? True change is adopted and lasts forever. I then decided to look past the guru section of life and focused on those known and seen – business leaders.

As one ascends leadership’s ladder, you’ll eventually face a quandary: it takes a unique type of person to campaign for leadership of a multi-national company. Most of the extraordinary great have a deep sense of humility. In true form, no one denies also having an out-sized ego, deep level of self-love, and massive ambition as additional requirements.

Still, regardless of personal quality, in the course of running a business, some will fawn. Others will become suspicious. A few will hate everything for no other reason than ‘just because.’ Don’t ignore such attitudes, but don’t be drawn to or led by them either.

The key lesson learned from these leaders is this: offer support. Always support those who deserve and those in need. Letter twelve was written form this perspective.


My Dear Friend:

Over the past several months, Company ABC has created significant distress. In the aftermath, all the anxiety, stress and self-doubt has created a few endless nights of staring into the ceiling.

Whatever is said and done, you are more than enough. You’re unique – one who’s often been above the fray and beyond reproach. Your touch has graced many a person and those fortunate enough to have worked for you know integrity is your constant companion. And if all this is a common daily event for us, then presume to understand God knows as well. You simply need to know how much we love you; how much everyone in your life loves you; how much everyone in your life supports you.

It’s true. Every leader faces challenges. Some surrounding you will find it difficult to express words of support, for they’ve missed all the ways you’ve touched their lives. As such, remember, that regardless of what is said, you bring an unimaginable amount of love to the world and radiate that love is a way God expressed all to do.

You are the only person who’s been committed to developing our future. Throughout your career, you’ve provided valuable jobs for those in need, assisted so many in building professional skills, and provided innovative solutions for those facing a challenging business market.

Sure you’ll get knocked about a bit. Supposed too, but that’s how compassion, empathy, and love gets developed. You may feel like giving up. Yet, that’s where strength is molded. Trail and tribulations may batter your shore, but faith becomes the armor. Through the tears and smiles, laughter and heartache, all of us shares your vision. You are more than the selfish opinion of one company. You are amazingly special. There is no one other person like you.

No person sent to this world has your heartbeat and soul. Stand strong, for we are with you.

The eleventh letter focuses upon the beauty of reflection. One day prior to New Year’s Eve, my love and I sipped Starbucks coffee and discussed the past year. In discussing self-reflection, I realized that one’s internal reflection process is extremely important. Rarely is it performed properly, for authenticity is quite difficult.

The reality is that all of us will face many different risks throughout our life, and the process of identifying them can sometimes be critical and yet complex.  Emerging risks are ever present, and much like my generation, the situations faced by parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles may not have even comprehended what we face today.

So, just as you see a changing world, the importance of reflection is critical. Yet, many of use are bogged in the quagmire between arrogance and confidence. I have learned more from times of failure versus success.  My hope for you is that you take time to learn the importance of reflection how this one skill will assist you in triumphing more than falling.  Recognize failure, however so slight, and learn from it.

Moments of self-reflection is both dynamic and powerful. Self-reflection is how we can transform society. Transforming society happens one person at a time, by our willingness to be kind to ourselves, and our willingness to be kind to one another. Please self-reflect. Learn to feel worthy and to connect with human goodness.


My Dear Friend:

Self-reflection, in and of itself, can be extremely difficult. Spending time self-reflecting can allow self-efficacy (belief in our abilities) to blossom. The point of self-reflection is to see progression in your thinking and understanding of what you’ve learned – either about yourself or something else. Make changes accordingly.

However, over time, you will grow to be your own best friend and your biggest enemy, but I know you will balance it out as you go. Your face will change and it won’t be as soft. I want you to know you’ll only get more beautiful as time passes, and I’ll need you to believe it, for every day, a new world awaits, filled with new people, waiting for just you.

Some days, it feels as if time passes. Comes and goes. As Heinrich Harrer wrote:

“… even in a world in which time stands still, everything moves.

I don’t know where I’m going nor if my bad deeds can be purified. There are so many things I have done that I regret. But when I come to a full stop I hope you understand that the distance between us is not as great as it seems.”

Some claim my best work is accomplished alone. As I move across the country to work with the best, I am seen by many as having a good amount of success. The importance is that being alone doesn’t stop the tasks at hand. And constant reflection is the compass by which I move. I am connected and interconnected with a higher truth of guidance.

Reflect. Crave change. Nothing is perfect and no timing is never right. So, act anyway. When crap hits the fan, remember reflection and compassion is the Kevlar that will ensure your life. Therefore, be fearless in your pursuit of your life, your love, your truth, and purpose. There’s no harm in not knowing it all. You never will. So, trust me, it’ll change anyway.

Reflect my love. Reflect – for the distance between is not that great.

This letter was about transcending people and events to live boldly – to transcend the common. While this letter was written years ago, it could have been addressed to anyone living boldly, without having known.

Tamara Ferguson is such a person. The LA Times byline is as follows: As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye. The story is a great read.

Dalai Lama described himself as a “simple Buddhist monk.” And it is in that simplicity that his lessons emerge. As a Buddhist, being kind and compassionate is at the core of all spiritual teachings and path. The commonality is compassion. It’s something that everyone can cultivate by choice. Instead of criticizing others, transcend the common. Remain compassionate.

We forget that life is beautiful. We overlook the joy of the ordinary, that little things can be worth celebrating. There’s always something beautiful worthy of discovery and you don’t need to go anywhere to find it. It’s not what we see that matters—it’s how we see that makes all the difference. We’re not even responsible for what we see. We are called to transcend the common, to be responsible for how we choose to perceive what’s seen.


My Dear Friend:

When telling complicated stories like yours and mine, one needs clarity. There is always the fundamental human need for beauty, and likewise, resisting through beauty. Our interactions must never become just another event among other common life events. As such, solving disparity and misunderstanding requires imprinting and living in anew.

In today’s world, everybody seems to have developed armor for the secondary self, the artificially constructed being that deals with the outer world. That’s what you and I often meet. That armor has never been exposed to living. It’s never participated in life.

When I ponder transcendence, I think of Ted Hughes:

“The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.”

My dear love, you’ve always given your best. You’ve strived quite well to rectify the wrong. Yes, we should strive for an ideal, ideally pure thoughts and actions, but is an ideal possible in real life? So, is a pound of gold really a ’pure’ pound of gold? Quite honestly, I say, is there not hundredths, thousandths of impurities inevitably present? There is no pure, there’s only us.

You’ve always believed that a commitment to the common good requires both benefits and burdens, that gains and sacrifices be shared equitably. But this call is not unto you alone. All are charged to safeguard the vitality of the common good, the protection of our poorest, the vulnerable, and our solidarity with each other. Our social and moral teaching requires we never turn our eyes from the hurting, those, as I would say, who live on the margins.

In your own way, you’ve always reached out. Scripture tells us in Matthew 25 that what matters in the end is our ability to answer the question “When did we see you Lord?”:

For I was hungry and you gave me food.
I was thirsty and you gave me drink.
A stranger and you welcomed me.
Naked and you clothed me.
Ill and you cared for me.
In prison and you visited me.

I was me hungry and gave me drink. You shed my armor and welcomed me. You clothed me in love. And when I was down, you visited me. I am so proud of you. You have lived boldly.

You have transcended the common. You live a beautiful life.

Why We Vote

Time magazine reported today that after instituting a $1.5 trillion tax cut and signing off on a $675 billion budget for the Department of Defense, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the only way to lower the record-high federal deficit would be to cut entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Thus, as many have mentioned, the only people who’ll pay for the rich tax cuts are the poor.

This reminds me of my post from yesterday, Today We Campaign, November 6 We Vote.  Holding true to form, The Atlantic reported last year that Republicans are hoping to use the deficits created by their own tax cuts to slash the social safety net—but they may end up setting the stage for tax hikes instead. So what would happen? Here’s a few thoughts:

  • Massive homelessness — millions of the working poor use their paycheck to cover rent, relying on welfare for food. But hunger wins over homes. Within a few months, landlords would go broke across the country.
  • Housing prices collapse — with a large percentage of houses and apartments are rented to the working poor comes mass evictions landlords will be unable to cover mortgages. Foreclosures soar and the frail housing market collapses again.
  • Far Less Money — With far less tax money going to poor people. Let’s assume the government uses the cash to pay down debt instead of offering tax rebates. This drops interest rates and frees up capital for business loans. That would be stimulative, but with far fewer consumers, the economy is sliding into massive recession.  Business will contract, not expand.

The Republican Methodology – The Ant and Grasshopper Parable

The ants worked hard all summer collecting food and preparing for winter. The grasshoppers ruled all who worked. When winter came, the grasshoppers felt they didn’t have enough. No worries. They elected themselves a hard line leader and took away 40 percent of all ant benefits and gave it to the grasshoppers.

Being naive, the following year, the ants decided that the new government would certainly care for them in the same manner as the grasshoppers. However, as winter returned, there were no more benefits and the ants starved.

That’s why this election is important.

 

This story has been on the Internet for quite some time. But I found it yesterday. According to what I understand, the author is unknown, but remains greatly appreciated! A video of the story can be found by clicking the picture.


I sat with my friend in a well-known coffee shop in a neighboring town of Venice, Italy, the city of lights and water.

As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat at an empty table beside us. He called the waiter and placed his order saying, “Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.”

We heard this order with rather interest and observed that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two.

When he left, the waiter put a piece of paper on the wall saying “A Cup of Coffee”.

While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he put a piece of paper on the wall saying, “A Cup of Coffee”.

It was something unique and perplexing for us. We finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.

After a few days, we had a chance to go to this coffee shop again. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man poorly dressed entered. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, “One cup of coffee from the wall.”

The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this, as the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the trash bin. Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear. The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town made our eyes well up in tears.

Ponder upon the need of what this man wanted. He enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem… he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee… without asking or knowing about the one who is giving this cup of coffee to him … he only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

A truly beautiful thought. Probably the most beautiful wall you may ever see anywhere!

Moral

In our fast lives we often miss to see the needs of those around us. Needs are not always financial. Those could be emotional as well. Or certain needs can just be gratified with simple “hello” and “genuine smile” to a stranger. We never know what value such a simple ‘hello’ will hold for many people. Of all the resources available in this world, every species has its claim to. Let’s see ourselves as custodians – custodians of love.

I am one of many who never told my parents what happened to me. From age 8 through 10, I was sexually assaulted four times – once by my brother and cousin, once by my brother and his friend, once by my cousin and once by my brother’s friend. I wrote of one event in December 2012, Theodicy – No Easy Answer for Children.

After Dr. Ford’s testimony this past Thursday, I was chilled re-reading my 2012 blog post.

“Never shall I ever forget the laughter …”

Watching the Kavanaugh hearings, my helplessness was magnified by the possibility Kavanaugh would be elevated to a position of enormous authority, and seeing the sympathy and the sympathy he cries for just irritates me. Trump called Kavanaugh “a wonderful man, and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court Justices ever.” Similarly, my attacker is considered a Catholic man of honor, has a family and grandchildren.

Another point. Is ‘living hell’ really hell? In the Judicial Committee Hearing, Lindsay Graham yelled, “This is not a job interview, this is hell.” Likewise, Kavanaugh stated his life was ruined, that these past several weeks was a circus.

Really? Two weeks is hell?

I wonder if Graham or Kavanaugh understand what Dr. Ford’s life is like. How about mine? I can’t speak for Dr. Ford, but in 2012, I posted, “… my soul was murdered and fell into a silent abyss … [I am] both insignificant and invisible, nothing more.”

Commentator Andrew Prokop captured my thoughts perfectly.

Graham indisputably made a splash in Trumpworld, providing exactly what they needed politically and telling them exactly what they wanted to hear — that Democrats were the villains and Kavanaugh was a good man.

In essence, Kavanaugh’s defense suggests a prestigious education is evidence of moral righteousness. The accused is an honorable man who attended a privileged Jesuit, all-boys, preparatory high school and onto Yale law School. Dr. Ford completed degrees from the University of North Carolina, Pepperdine University and the University of Southern California.  If we take Kavanaugh’s claim verbatim, would Dr. Ford be more honorable if she had attended Yale? And what of me? I completed college at a state university. Therefore, do I remain nothing? In the sight of God, am I still insignificant and invisible?

I offer three thoughts.

First. Do no harm. As a Buddhist, I know all of us have a short life span. Therefore, we cannot know the long-term results of our actions. But recognizing that what we say and do can have repercussions for months, years, or eons.  We cannot know the “final” outcome of something we think, do or say.

Second. Great gifts of spiritual/social insight can coexist with psychological and psychiatric illness. It’s important to understand that it is possible to be simultaneously gifted and disturbed. No matter what school, wisdom or privilege a teacher or pastor or imam claims, no one is exempt from psychological suffering. Even leaders. If all if us were more understanding of ourselves and others, it would be less shameful for such exalted mentors, Kavanaugh and all, to receive treatment when required.

And third. Perhaps in the years to come, the #MeToo allegations will steep like tea throughout Kavanaugh and help usher in a growing awareness that sexism and sexual assault invariably sets the stage for suffering in all faiths and all levels of privilege.

Pre-accident, my parents were a lively young eighty-year-old something couple. Post-accident, I look through my father’s eyes and see life’s bewilderment. Hmm, the future for both of us is an uneasy fear – an fear of the future and declining health. Pre-accident, my father was lively, inspired and full of wonder. Post-accident, he sits in an easy chair, moves little and stares endlessly into repeat episodes of NCIS.

At dinner, my mother discussed how many members of the 55+ retirement community often commit suicide after receiving terminal diagnosis. “Somehow,” she muttering string through her coffee, “I thought our final years would be different.”

After 14 years in the medical industry, I with certainty that the final years for the majority will be unlike any Hollywood film illusion. In “On Golden Pond,” Henry Fonda’s character, Norman, is similar to my father.

“You want to know why I came back so fast? I got to the end of our lane. I couldn’t remember where the old town road was. I went a little ways in the woods. There was nothing familiar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death.”

Many of us in the shimmering landscape of life will seemingly suffer needlessly. Living this life means all of us will have to navigate the constant demand of human growth and change. And what my father is living is fear. It’s the same fear his father lived, and his father’s father. Like Norman, the road for all leads to nothing familiar.

Everyone ages differently. Then if we must age, as all do, we must age differently than our fathers and refuse the role of victim or recluse. We must remain interested in maintaining relationships, remain nonjudgmental and approach our “twilight” with a sense of adventure.

In life, and in death, in order for us to understand the ideals of harmony and peace, a certain amount of discord and dissonance must be endured. Human frailty tests the limits of personal endurance. Yet if we overcome our frailty, even in death, we join the cycle of the seasons and become what God has always wished – perfection.

On many occasions, I encounter those who make their daily obsession with legalism above real love. As such, they are unable to see beyond their own “shadows of bigotry” and refuse to allow all to experience God as commanded by Christ. To highlight, I offer two contrasting stories: the first from twenty-two years ago and the second from today.

In the fall of 1996, I attended a weekend retreat at a northern California Monastery. During a Saturday night Eucharist, the Benedictine monk explained mass is a privileged time when we offer ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord along with the gifts of bread and wine, and, by receiving him in Holy Communion, allow him to transform us too into the Body of Christ, just as surely as the gifts are transformed.

One-by-one, each retreatant moved from the congregational seats and proceeded to receive the Eucharist. Just before ending, the monk noticed a lone woman remained three rows deep. With offering in hand, the monk stood to the woman’s side as tears flowed from her eyes.

“Please?” the monk gestured.

“No, I cannot” the woman responded.

“Why not?”

“Father, I have immigrated from Iran. I have not Catholic and am forbidden to receive the Holy Communion.”

“My dear child,” the monk whispered. “I am most certain Christ will not mind.” The monk outstretched his arm, placed the communion in his fingers, “The Body of Christ.”

“Amen,” said the Iranian woman as a river of tears flowed from her heart.

Contrast the story above against that which was witnessed today.

An Asian woman was the Taiwanese daughter of a Protestant Pastor. Having spent all her life giving to Christ and to the mission of God, she immigrated and found a home in an eastern Missouri city.

After years of dedication and service, she received her PhD in counseling and Christian theology. As a result, she was highly coveted speaker in the Christian arena and was actively recruited by a local Catholic seminary to teach seminary students, priests and nuns counseling and Christian faith.

As she often does, she attends mass almost daily and receives communion regularly.

Just like all other days, she proceeded to receive communion, but today was unlike all other days. The Jesuit Priest knew she was not Catholic and when her turn for communion came, the priest publicly refused her Communion.

This servant of God was publicly called out, not for her love, dedication and communion with Christ, but simply because she was not Catholic. As a river of tears flowed from her heart none of her peers challenged the priest.

Verily I say, those who pretend to be above it all are the ones to worry about. These are the ones who destroy the relationships of Christ. Be careful, for Christ calls them “blind guides.”

In both stories, Christ witnessed a river of tears. Yet, which servant will Christ honor?

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