Tag Archive: Life Lessons


Heirs of Our Actions

What distinguishes humans from other species is our inherent ability to examine our character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our effectiveness. To be effective one must be proactive. Reactive people take a passive stance — they believe that the world is happening to them. “That’s just the way I am.”

Yet sometimes, fate intercedes.

The ‘average joe‘ calls it ‘Karma.’

Thirty years ago, I visited a major shopping mall in Schaumburg, Illinois a few days past Thanksgiving. Being just at the start of the Christmas season, the mall was crowded, and I parked quite a distance from the store.

Walking down a parking row toward the store I came upon an older woman in Cadillac waiting patiently for an owner to enter her vehicle back up and leave. With blinker on, she just started rolling forward when a younger driver in a Honda CRX skidded into the parking space.

Flummoxed, the elderly lady rolled down the window, “Young man. Didn’t you see I was waiting for that spot?”

With a sneering laugh and the flick of his wrist, he waved, “Well, that’s what it’s like to be young and quick.”

He turned and continued walking. Fifteen seconds later, there was such a loud crash that nearby shoppers stopped in their tracks and looked. The young man turned, mouth agape and noticed his Honda CRX was completely smashed.

Running to the Cadillac, he screamed, “What did you do?”

The woman calmly rolled down her window. “Young man,” she lectured with a twist of her finger. “That’s what you do when you’re old and rich.”

For a Buddhist, Karma is the law of moral causation and is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today.

The Buddha once explained:

All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”

In our world, proactive people recognize they can choose how to respond to a given stimulus or situation.

Hence, the significance of the Buddha’s statement is that “We are the heirs of our actions.”

I close with the following story.

When a bug crawled across his desk, an adult education teacher gave an impromptu lesson in safety. The teacher had an unusual paperweight: a 40-mm shell he found when hunting. Using opaque reasoning, he assumed the ordinance had to be ‘inert.’

As the bug crawled across his desk, one would presume the teacher would use a flyswatter. Nope. Instead, he lifted his ‘inert’ artillery shell and slammed it onto the insect. 

The impact set-off the primer.

The resulting explosion caused burns and shrapnel lacerations on his hand, forearm, and torso. Fortunately, no one else was hurt. To the teacher’s consolation, the bug was killed.

So, was that an act of God, fate or karma?

How about inheritance?

As a young twenty-year-old fresh out of college the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), was my go-to ride. Whether by bus or rapid transit, my typical work route from the city’s north side to downtown was approximately 40 minutes. During my years as a commuter, it wasn’t out the ordinary to encounter drunks, beggars, dirty jokes, fights, thefts, robberies, drug sales, arrests and several dozen claiming to be Christ, Buddha, the Archangel Michael or superhero. I’ve seen bus drivers stop mid-route, leave the bus, get coffee, newspapers, and grab lunch. All the while, riders remained frozen in time and space, on the bus.

By the time I received a living wage, I had an established proof positive test for anyone claiming to be a deity. If (fill in the blank) ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) can fix the CTA ‘s Red Line, said ______ (God, Deity, Superhero) would have established a new church by ride’s end. Thus far, the challenge remains just that – a challenge.

One ride remains memorable.

It was late fall, and the sun began setting early. As usual, riders piled on near downtown, often mashed against one another, holding anything within reach. Rounding a corner near Sheridan Road, the train suddenly stopped and leaned right. The doors suddenly opened and one rider lost his balance and began drifting outward, sixty feet from the ground. Just before becoming flightless, three passengers reached out and pulled the man back.

Are you all right?” asked a woman.

Jesus Christ,” replied the man. “Thanks.

Damn, that was close,” said another.

Yeah,” the young man smiled. “I saw an attorney down there holding a business card.

Laughter swallowed the nearly fatal horror.

Why me?” muttered the man as the train started.

No one can ascertain why this world is destined for so much pain. At some point in time, all of us will ask, “Why me?” And truthfully, the whole dialogue about Adam and Eve, the great apple (i.e., fruit from the tree of knowledge) seems like a used car salesperson selling an Edsel. God promised a time when ‘evil’ will be defeated. Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen today or tomorrow.

Other religions teach that evil is a force outside ourselves which seduces us into sin. This force is sometimes thought to be generated by Satan or various demons. Thus, the faithful are encouraged to seek strength outside themselves to fight evil, by looking to God. I take a more nuanced approach to Buddha’s teaching:

“By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another.”

Buddhism teaches us that evil is something we create, not something we are or some outside force that infects.

My ‘why me’ point came after a back injury. Strapped to a body board, I underwent various medical tests, poking, prodding and other indignities of the medical world. Why? In essence, to keep me from having to ask that question for the remainder of life. After a year of therapy, I was able to walk. Eventually, I ran. And now, later in life, I return to pain. The cycle of my life nears its end.

Fortunately, the sum of those I know does not experience trials experienced in my life. Every life has a story receives their form of tests, moments marked by pain, loss, and sorrow. What connects us to god is our humanity. Jesus, suffered, and died. Near death, Jesus offered a question, “My God, my God? Why have you forsaken me?” Jesus question, much like our own, is not a sign of faithlessness. Instead, the problem comes from the soul of humanity. And that humanity is like a version of iMessage.

Working in hospitals, I’ve seen a lifetime of pain. But I’ve seen enough of life to know that where there are scars, there’s love and compassion. It’s the same love and compassion that reached for the man in the rain. It’s the same love of clinicians that restored me.

Nothing in this world brings us closer to ‘why’ – I stopped asking decades ago. Instead, I ask what do I choose to love and how can I positively impact others?  Now that I reflect upon it, that might be my own personal ‘why.’

Accessibility

It’s been announced our company is moving to the cloud. How’s your fear of heights?

~ CloudTweaks.com Cartoon ~

As suggested by CloudTweaks, technology hits everyone.

Several years ago, I read an article in Digital Trends indicating Buddhism was embracing technology with by installing a Buddha-bot. In hopes of luring a younger generation, a Buddhist temple in China welcomed a robot monk to its order. Xianer was designed to promote the wisdom of an older order. Xianer has a touchscreen that helps answer 20 questions. On a humorous note, if you’re the one person requiring 21 questions, this monastery is far too advanced.

The theme of it all centers upon the notion that Buddhism and technology are harmonious. According to the creator, there are plans for future expansion. In the past year, the electronic monk has learned English, established a WeChat account that was reportedly acquired 1.5 million followers. It also likes ice cream. “Wish I could have 100 ice cream cones at one time.” Me too, Xianer. Me too.

Pay no mind to the fact the Chinese government monitors WeChat. One wrong chat Xianer, and you’ll likely be hacking foreign governments, implanting ransomware and gathering secrets, including wqho really shot J.R., what’s really in that beautiful Bush bean recipe and is there an ancient Chinese secret to Calgon? Wait … the ancient Chinese secret was Calgon.

Sorry, I digressed.

All this made me ponder how Xianer could assist me. Like a company purchasing carbon offsets to balance carbon emissions, maybe Xianer could offset uneven meditation days. For instance, I usually perform forty-minutes of meditation per daily. Should I only get thirty-minutes, Xianer can offset my footprint. Fail the abstention from intoxication? “Xianer, come here please.” Maybe Xianer could answer the client who writes at 3:00 AM in the morning asking why I haven’t responded to his email at 2:00 AM.

Inevitably, women will daydream of Xianer. So many questions: Can Xianer cook? Can he cuddle? Or better yet, can he listen to any conversation longer than three minutes in length? Will he leave the lid up? Seriously ladies, there are easier things in life than trying to find the perfect man … like nailing jelly to a tree. Maybe – just maybe – Xianer is your guy.

The Longquan Temple introduced Xianer in 2015 in hopes of using cutting edge technology to spread Buddhism. Companies volunteered their expertise for the unusual project.

Developing Xianer wasn’t for promotional or commercial purposes,” said Xianfan, the head of the temple’s animation studio.

We only wanted to explore how to fuse Buddhism with science better, to convey the message that Buddhism and science aren’t contradictory.

And the tactic works well with China’s younger, digitally savvy generation.

It’s super cute…I feel it is like a temple mascot, making Buddhism much more accessible,” said Liu Jiyue, a college student who went to the temple to meet the robot.

What? A robot making Buddhism more accessible?

Technology has been available for years. A cursory review of the Apple Store has apps such as Breethe, Buddha Quotes, Buddhist Scriptures, Chill, and iDharma to name a few. If you’re Catholic, there are apps such as Abide, Laudate, Catholic Daily Readings, and Daily Bible Verse Devotional are available. Likewise, if you’re an Atheist, one may find apps such as Atheist Pocket Debater, Atheism, and American Atheist Magazine may be helpful.

The point being, technology isn’t new. And almost every religion has been, quote, ‘accessible.’ Buddhism has been accessible for hundreds of years. The problem is that many are too obsessed with celebrity teachers and practice validation. There’s nothing wrong with having a specific technology, a teacher who isn’t famous, or just practicing with a group of fellow travelers on the path. It’s about commitment: commitment to a group, commitment to keep showing up, and commitment to keep trying even when there is no financial incentive or approval of a famous teacher.

Simply put, if you want to make Buddhist (or any religion for that matter) more accessible, do it.

In Memoriam: Tony

A former colleague called. My fingertips deeply massaged my forehead listening to the news streaming through the phone. Tony was dead.

Tony wasn’t a longtime friend. We never hiked nearby rivers on summer afternoons, traversed local cliffs or watched football on lazy Sunday afternoons. Not once did we grab a beer, eat lunch at a local pub, or shoot the sh** while sitting in bleachers as our favorite baseball teams lost for the umpteenth time.

Our relationship was, um, complicated.

An ash-burnt sky added to the misery. Rain pelted the windshield and my hands tensed when I gripped the wheel. Once off the elevator, the heavy wooden entry door swung inward, and I eased into the living room. I flung my laptop to the couch, caring neither if it landed adequately or not, powered up the stereo, and inserted the CD ‘Rent.’ An ice cube skidded across the floor after bouncing off my shoe. I stared momentarily before plopping the remainder into a quarter-sized glass. Southern Comfort oozed over the clear cubes of frozen water and a passing whiff of steam ascended then disappeared. Frozen in thought, I sat looking outward, unto the ceaseless rain. “Seasons of Love” echoed in the background.

I met Tony in February 2018. An accountant by trade, he spent several years in internal audit. He loved baseball, and dutifully charted his favorite team throughout each season. Pictures of his wife and kids dotted along desk shelves and stacks of audit samples sat on the floor in checkerboard format. By all accounts, he appeared happy.

I began a two-month company audit in February. To say the company had financial control issues would be an understatement. All-in-all, he knew the results wouldn’t be positive. The firm struggled, often chartering its boat to the prevailing wind of the day versus destination. And while that alone is a common mistake by most firms, Tony knew he would be under siege; he would be responsible; only he would be accountable.

Two-and-one-half months later, he died.

I learned of his death by coincidence, from a friend of a friend of a friend. I Googled his name plus the word ‘obituary.’ A summary of his life followed: “beloved husband … ; loving father of … ; dear brother of … ; brother-in-law, uncle, cousin, and friend: will be greatly missed—he already is!” The story of life – crammed into two paragraphs of an obituary page.

Hauntingly, I ask, “Had I known, could have I done anything?” More so, “Would I have done anything differently? Did I fail him, God or both?

Ethically, no. Spiritually? Most definitely.

My failure is that I discovered only a handful knew anything about Tony. Like most, I reduced many of those around me to ‘just acquaintances’ – just another person, not someone special. And harder still is the fact I’ve used humor as a defensive weapon to remain emotionally detached from almost everyone. I’m unsure if Tony acted similarly. Yet, I feel profoundly connected.

In singing “Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes,” the cast of Rent asks listeners how to quantify the value of a year in human life. The song concludes with the most effective means – “measure in love.”

Love” was the spiritual connection missed. Love was the only connection that mattered. When physically alive, I could not feel or respond to his love. Now that he’s dead, only now do I realize the abundance and capability of the love he had. He was an untapped treasure I failed to grasp and call ‘friend.’

As daylight faded, I am reaffirmed by faith that all existence will fade into God’s love. And therein, will be Tony. A friend whose soul and memories will merge with the tapestry of life I continue to weave. As such, I am assured Tony’s death will not go in vain.

I will carry forward the lesson that relationships go through seasons and we all always be finding ourselves looking for signs of growth, signs of life and symptoms of renewal. “Eternal possibility,” a mentor once claimed. Tony helped bring an understanding of myself and allowed me to ponder the desire for a deeper understanding of others. As such, life is not measured in time alone, but in the moments spent with others. It’s about little moments in life; the coffee and the hugs; the tears and the laughter. Don’t remember a year as merely gone. Rather, remember each year for the time spent in the company of good friends that love you.

Measure your life in love.” Measure the people you love in love.

Without love, life is death.

Thank you, Tony, for sharing. Thank you for your life.

My last post stayed with through much of Saturday. The question, “What am I about?” What on earth gives me meaning?

One writer who had an imprint upon me is Viktor Frankl. Man’s Search for Meaning was written in nine successive days. Having a keen sense of human behavior, wrote a most profound observation:

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts, comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Frankl noted any man, under such circumstances, can decide what shall become of him – both mentally and spiritually. And truth be told, I am by nature, one of those ‘hut guys‘ – those who comfort and help.

Like most, I spent an awful lot of time searching for meaning. As a kid, I used to believe a variety of positions would provide meaning I longed. First, there was a police officer. A fireman was next, followed by a football player, baseball player, preceded by a preacher and humanitarian.

Nothing settled.

Instead, I melted into unimaginable. My life’s resume included Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery to government trained sniper, college kid, investigator, auditor, consultant to governance. I married, then divorced. I married again, later experienced a beautiful true love (but not the physical affair). I managed to blow that and divorced again. Became homeless and lived out of a car. Through a friend, I regrouped and learned to relive. And now, at 58, I still can’t quite define what gives me meaning.

After posting yesterday morning, I called my mother. In the course of our conversation, she blurted:

Have you started your book yet?”

Ah.” I paused, as I always do when broaching the subject. “Not yet.”

Oh. You’re such a good writer.”

I realized at that moment, therein lay my meaning. I was meant to write. That’s what I do.

My blog is interconnected with my life, my career, and readers. I’ve written nearly 570 posts and have approximately 180 followers. I am proud of that. True, my blog does not generate an income. As such, I never considered myself a super blogger that posts on anything or everything. It’s just not my style. And honestly, I’ve never charged for access or asked for profit.

I started this blog to write, to share ideas. Like most writers, I experience periods of mental blocks. Other days, words flow freely, as if channeled by a spiritual force. Yet, I understand writing takes work, as each post can quickly absorb several hours.

So, how does writing fit with my position at ABC Inc.? I can only say that everything in my life is interconnected. Woven like tapestry skills from ancient artisans, my job provides the opportunity to interconnect – to see stories, pain, successes, and failures.

We are likely to find our unique meaning based upon our circumstances, our relationships and our experiences. The Buddha might say, “everything is interconnected.” As such, you, my friends and coworkers, are my canvass, for, without you, I would not have written a single word. And just as I, one is more likely to find meaning hidden in the relationships of others.

I’ve come to believe that life essentially tests us. Frankl noted we need to stop asking about the meaning of life each day and hour. Therefore, the meaning of life is not on some remote mountaintop or exalted from gurus living in a cave. Instead, it is revealed daily and hourly, in our choice to take the right action as we perform our duties and responsibilities. It is found in the ability to love others richly.

So, have I found my meaning? Yes. I am meant to write. And I do.

Several days ago, a friend asked a favor and requested if I could take her to the airport on the way to work.  “Of course,” I replied. I agreed to pick her up at 7:30 AM. At 7:40 AM this morning, she stumbled out of her condominium. I carefully placed her luggage into the back of my vehicle and off we went.

I checked TSA wait times just before picking you up,” while navigating my car through a series of curves before entering the main thoroughfare. “The current wait is 11 – 21 minutes. I don’t believe you’ll have a problem today, but you should be cognizant of wait times on your return.”

Why?

Well,” I explained. “Due to the shutdown, if TSA agents aren’t paid this week, many may call in sick or become unavailable. An absence of TSA Agents could delay your processing time through TSA lines.”

Exasperated, she muttered “I don’t get these TSA Agents. They’ll all get paid. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid.

Yeah,” I momentarily fumbled. “But the agents need to pay landlords, car payments, medical bills and other items today. So, at the moment, they are not getting paid and have to make ends meet.”

“No,” she countered. “TSA Agents are not working for free. When the shutdown ends, they’ll get paid. If that can’t handle that, then they need to find another job.”

Driving 65 miles per hour, I sat stunned. Coming from a Christian educator, her response was dismissive, as if to say, “Tough toenails, toots.”

I guess Trump would be proud.

For many of us in the world, it doesn’t matter what position you have, going without two paychecks, especially families with children, food, rent and other necessities becomes critical. These are people who never imagined that they’d have to stand in line for food. Imagine what that’s like — for someone in uniform to come through a food pantry door … and say, “My children are hungry.”

Like my friend, many US Legislators are clueless. US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross expressed confusion at reports that many unpaid federal were having such a tough financial time during the government shutdown, suggesting instead that those people could take out loans to survive the partial government closure. Likewise, Lara Trump, Eric Trump’s wife, had a different message for the more than 800,000 federal workers going without pay, it’s “a little bit of pain” but your children will thank you later.

In other words: suck it up. Uh, yeah sure.

Is this the price these workers have to pay … for an idiot president who won’t give in for fear of looking foolish?

In my heart of hearts this morning, I personally wished my friend would lose her job. Then, I could say, “Find another job.” Or, maybe the TSA would strike and she would have to rent a car and drive back. I said neither. Instead, I quietly dropped her off and drove to work.

So, here’s what I did.

I read of one impacted government worker today – Alecia Lane. Ms. Lane’s story is as follows.

“I am single mom with 2 boys (ages 12 and 8). We have been impacted by the government shutdown, I thought I was prepared but I wasn’t prepared for it last this long especially so soon after Christmas.  It has taken me days to ask for help through GoFundMe.  I haven’t struggled like this since I was growing up.  My kids don’t know the kind of life I had cause I never wanted them to grow up the way I did.  I’ve never wanted to tell my kids we can’t do this or eat this because I don’t have the money.  This shutdown became really real when we missed my first paycheck and we are about to miss the next one.  I am retired Navy and blessed to at least get a retirement check, but I still have bills to cover.”

I donated (click on picture).

Ms. Lane’s story is not unique. A quick search of the term “Government Shutdown” in GoFundme revealed 3,978 results. From here on, until the shutdown ends, I will donate to a needy family or organization.

As a Buddhist, Christian, Atheist, or whatever, donating to those in need is the right. It’s just. Donate anything. Any amount will help.

Selfishly, totally un-Buddhist like, donating is my way of saying ‘F*** You’ to the “Tough Toenails, Toots” naysayers.

I knew it would happen. Eventually, the name of the Covington student noted in the protest march would be revealed. In an updated statement, Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School junior provided his side of the story. I’ll summarize it for you.

“Lord? Lord? Let me tell you about them protesters.”

In all honesty, I watched the entire video of events preceding the viral images. It’s an hour and forty-six minutes of my life I’ll never get back. Like Sandmann, our inability to see our own personal failures is paralleled by our inability to see our church and parental leadership sins as well.

Christians are usually sincere and well-intentioned people until you get to any real issues of ego, control, power, money, pleasure, and security. Then they tend to be pretty much like everybody else. We often gave them a bogus version of the Gospel, some fast-food religion, without any deep transformation of the self; and the result has been the spiritual disaster of “Christian” oriented version of proud, racist, and superiority class conscious.

Here’s why Sandmann and the adults supporting them were wrong.

That Damn Stupid Hat

The MAGA hats are just the most recent and most visible symbol of a racial divide. It’s used to identify oneself as part of this group to the exclusion of others. These high-school kids wear them mostly for fun, without comprehending its divisive nature.  For such a seemingly small accessory, it’s associated with the emotional impact of the president’s entire campaign and term so far: every comment he’s made about Mexicans, women, or immigrants, the Muslim ban, the threats against bodily autonomy and affordable health care. These are broader issues to which the Covington High School students would probably never understand.

There’s a Difference Between Protesting and Knowing Jesus

A student in our group asked one of our teacher chaperones for permission to begin our school spirit chants to counter the hateful things that were being shouted at our group,” Sandmann said in his statement. “The chants are commonly used at sporting events. They are all positive in nature and sound like what you would hear at any high school,” he said.

Why? What for?

At the 1:09 mark, one kid (I presume a Covington high schooler) removed his mega hat, his coat and his shirt and led the students in a chant. To which I say, how is that Christian? Where in the Bible did Jesus remove his clothes, strut around bare chested and chant. This leads me to believe that neither the kids nor parents really understand Jesus.

When religion does not move people to the heart of love, it solidifies angers, creates enemies, and is almost always exclusionary. At this level, it is largely incapable of healing, reconciling, forgiving, and peacemaking. When religion does not give people an inner life or a real prayer life, it is missing its primary vocation.

Their religion has never touched them or healed them at the unconscious level where all of the real motivation, hurts, unforgiveness, anger, wounds, and illusions are stored, hiding—and often fully operative.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it. Covington High School students got played. Parents and students alike let their ego get the best of them. All we saw was grandiose behavior while insisting nothing but a high and legitimate ambition to win a battle for either life or Christ! As Jesus put it, we “see the splinter in our brother’s or sister’s eye and miss the log in our own” (Matthew 7:4–5).

So, congratulations Sandmann, that video will follow you forever. No PR firm will remove that smug smile.

Jesus was nowhere to be found in that mess.

Shoes

When I lived in New York City, I was flabbergasted at how the city compromises it’s walking environment by dumping garbage on the sidewalks before nightly pick-up. Every day, people must wade around, through or over mountains of waste, dumped on street curbs once reserved for vehicle storage. Anything remaining after pickup is pulverized, ground down by pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Strangely enough, residents are seemingly acceptable to this cyclical motion as the price for city living.

Likewise, as daily bowel movements from the Trump administration gets dumped upon America, we’re seemingly acceptable to the daily, cyclical motion.

Still, there was time, not long ago, when America’s legislature lived for a higher cause. At Gettysburg, Lincoln described America as a nation conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Ronald Reagan loved the United States, both with passion and without apology. During his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Obama described his love for America – qualifying that we did as well and so did John McCain.

Several months prior, in honor of his friend McCain, before Senate peers, Lindsay Graham wept. Maybe in a brief moment of personal grief, he reflected to the nation. Maybe he reflected inward to a deeper soul of life. Maybe both.

“It’s going to be a lonely journey for me for a while. Don’t look to me to replace this man (McCain).”

I bite my lip … I wonder if Graham even tried.

If Graham’s message was internal, the nation will wonder if it truly ever hit home. For whatever ember that toiled in his soul was obviously snuffed out. And ever since, for many a American, it’s been a long, lonely walk.

The lesson America should understand comes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It’s in the walk. It’s about shoes. Hope is in the sole.

I read Cortez’s campaign shoes are now on loan to the Cornell Costume & Textile Collection exhibition “Women Empowered: Fashions from the Frontline.” Cortez claims to have knocked doors until rainwater came through the soles. 80 percent of her campaign operated out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind a bar. Her campaign was about living life, on the street, every day. Cortez adeptly notes most politicians have forgotten how to connect to others.

Form a Buddhist perspective, you never realize just how different the world is until you knock on doors. And like life, walking home-to-home maybe hit and miss. One door, you’ll get rejected, the next, you might have an amazing conversation. Sometimes, you’ll change a mind. Sometimes, you’ll change yours.

I have no idea how successful Cortez will be. But I suggest you build personal values upon life experiences. If you want to truly successful, wear out a pair of shoes. Stop texting. Put the cell phone away. Walk. Meet neighbors. Meet coworkers. Meet the rich. Meet the poor. Talk. Face-to-face. Works as much in campaigning as it does in business.

Ask yourself a simple question: “How much sole are you willing to give life.”

Shoes. It’s all about ‘shoes.’

Flipping through channels late afternoon, I caught the ending scene of Cast Away.

Cast Away tells the story of a FedEx executive who must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a plane crash and being washed upon a deserted island. In the years of survival, he saves one Federal Express package.

The ending sequence finds Chuck delivering that package to Ms. Bettina Peterson (played by the late Lari White).  In the end Chuck stands at an intersection – of his life. With map in hand, Chuck must decide which direction the rest of his life will travel and has no idea where the roads will lead. A woman who stops and gives directions is the addressee of the package just delivered.

Like Chuck at the film’s beginning, My life was mapped. I had places to go, people to see, work to do, limited time to spend on anything. Yeah, I was very good at my job.

Everything crashed in April 2010. The identity I created died. Meaning, I crashed. Lost job. Lost love. Lost home. Lost reputation.

Like Chuck, I was limited to few choices. I adapted and survived. My first six weeks comprised of long walks and filing unemployment. I was 50. And the chances for good employment like the one I was fired from would not come again.

May 2010 was filled with day-after-day of job applications. I was completing my customary job application quota when I clicked on a Career Builder ad for a job in Albany, New York. I sent my completed resume, printed the receipt, attached the acknowledgement for unemployment compensation evidence. Then, I moved on.

After working several gigs just to bring in a paycheck, I realized I had so soured my life in the city that it would be unlikely to get any decent job offer. Strangely enough, Albany called. A few interviews later, I landed in Albany, NY with two suit cases and a heart of hope. I found a small apartment in Cohoes, NY, adjacent to the banks of the Hudson River.

Metaphorically speaking, my world was exactly like Chuck Noland as Albany would become my small island. Prior to landing on my island, I painstakingly created an identity, but I didn’t live it. I called myself a chameleon, for I embellished so much I could easily adapt and fit in almost any situation.

That’s a key statement. I lived a created identity and remained unable to fully understand just how lucky I was.

In the end, God’s quest for accountability and the events of prior months broke me from my obdurate foolishness. My overall lack of concern for the threats to my life and to those I loved were disastrous.

As such, when walking along the Hudson River at night, each river tide brought peace and tranquility. Even though I lost Karen (Noland’s Kelly), I remain grateful that she remained in my heart – at every step in New York.

Eight years later, I’m an experienced valuing person. I learned to appreciate life and others. Decreased workload allowed me to think about other people and respect them for who they are. God had to cast away Chuck (to throw) Noland (no land). I, wandered and moved onward, albeit slower and hard.

As a Buddhist, I want to say to everyone experiencing deep anguish, it’s normal to consider quitting. Don’t. When we are in the midst of a season of suffering our decision is either to lay down and quit or to keep breathing and trust God will bring what we need during life’s tide.  For me it has brought real peace to my soul.

My dream job before 2010 was illusion.

Last year, The New York Times (NYT) chose Jada Yuan from 13,000 applicants to travel as a journalist to go to each and every place on the NYT’s 52 Places to Go in 2018. In her January 4th, NYT article 1 Woman, 12 Months, 52 Places, Jada Yuan summarized lessons learned. The key lesson applies to everyone.

“Trust in myself, trust in the fundamental goodness of people, trust that as a traveler, I could watch my back without walling myself off from experiences,“ and that “… the center of my life isn’t there [New York City] for me anymore. It’s with me and it’s mobile.

Same lessons applies for me. Of all my experiences since 2010, I too have learned to trust myself – that the center of my life isn’t in any one particular place. It’s within me and within my ability to love.

Given the fact that on any given day I could die, someone asked how I keep going. I remember Chuck Noland:

“… keep breathing because tomorrow the sun will rise, and you never know what the tide will bring.”

Martha Snell Nicholson was bed-ridden for thirty-five years. Yet, her spirit was triumphant through those many weary years and wrote some of the finest poetry ever been written.

Her poems are both sobering and searching. As written, her poems were not intended to condemn, but rather to encourage us to chose the right and to invest ourselves (and others) in ways that fulfill the promise God gave each of us. They help us to discover the wholeness of our life, heal the hurts and make us loving, compassionate, merciful, serene and joyful. For someone who suffered so much, her insights to the works of God was outstanding. Her poem Guests is particularly haunting.

Pain knocked upon my door and said
That she had come to stay;
And though I would not welcome her
But bade her go away,

She entered in. Like my own shade
She followed after me,
And from her stabbing, stinging sword
No moment was I free …

When I read Jennifer Spangenthal’s compelling opinion piece titled A Fortune 500 company hired me to help them be more family-friendly. Then my own kid got cancer, I immediately thought of Ms. Nicholson. In essence, Spangenthal argues that ‘humanity needs to return to corporate America, for the sake of both employees and employers.’

Ms. Spangenthal’s argument isn’t new. After accepting a job at Unilever, she thought she might have found the role that would help her achieve the elusive work-life balance. However, a couple years after joining the company, her child was diagnosed with cancer and subsequent cancer treatment altered her daily life. However, after her leave of absence, she received a common ultimatum: return to work full time or resign.

Her experience is by no means isolated. Many … like her … like me … work and reside in parallel universes. By day, in waning hours of daylight, we go unnoticed, at work, completely in pain, complete in our suffering, complete in our tears. At night, we muddle through repeat episodes of television, medical bills, medications, physical therapy … unnoticed, completely in pain, complete in our suffering.

My health care summary tells a brutal story.

Retrolisthesis of the L4 on L5, L4 on L5 and L5-S1 degenerative disks, demyelination plaques in the spine and brain (Multiple Sclerosis), severe left neural stenosis at C3-C4, degenerative disease at C5-C6, osteoarthritis at C6-C7, and heart disease, with evidence of a silent heart event (i.e., heart attack).

No one knows. My employer has no knowledge. to avoid being recorded, I buy medications from Canadian pharmacies, my wheelchair never appears at my employer. I move in constant pain. I grit my teeth, bear the pain, endure the battle.

By chance, I was able to re-watch the movie My Life Without Me. One day, Ann, collapses and goes for a medical check-up, where a clinician informs her she has terminal cancer. Determined to shield her daughters from the truth and at the same time take control of her life and to make the most out of it, Ann tells no one.

Like the character Ann (and I beg to extrapolate, like Ms. Spangenthal), I am often burdened by my secret, yet somewhat liberated in that in spite of my disease and pain, I have been led to unexpected places. Still, I forge ahead at work, listen to complaints of the common cold, a broken finger, stubbed toe, ungrateful spouse, dumb this, dumb that. All the while I smile as volatile emotions simmer within. And in this balance, I recognize that as a Buddhist, I have the power to understand, examine and fully live my own life.

For the very reasons to which Ms. Spangenthal experienced, many fail to disclose chronic medical conditions and hidden disabilities for fear they will be labelled, treated differently or jeopardize their future career prospects. As a consultant, I’ve too often heard the boss only wanting to know that the job is done, without hassle.

In Buddhism old age, illness and death are acknowledged to be inherent in life itself, so Buddhists will generally appreciate frankness about diagnosis, the effects of treatment and prognosis. No one is—or should be—required to divulge their medical condition, whether that be to family (even immediate), friends (even close), or to colleagues.

As mentioned in a previous post, 90 per cent of people over the age of 65 die of one of six chronic illnesses: heart failure, cancer, lung disease, stroke, dementia and diabetes. If your genes bless you with long life, I suspect you too will suffer and succumb from one of these illnesses. One day, you too will meet the Angel of Disease. As such, you are presented frontward, will the scales of justice remain blindfolded in objectivity, in that your worth be meted out objectively, without fear, favor, regardless of money, wealth, power, or identity? Will the scales remain balanced for you?

In light of the passing holiday, the classic A Christmas Carol forewarns all:

But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge.

‘Business!‘” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands. “Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!

The chain Marley forged wasn’t imposed by a God in the afterlife. Instead, his chain, as well as ours, was created of our own “free will.” Remember then … employees are not commodities. We are assets. And real work-life balance is important. Oftentimes, it’s critical.

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