I started writing something a few days ago but ran into a case of writer’s block. Then I got busy with other stuff. And then I got locked out of my website!!!
I’m finally able to access my website again though I’m still suffering from writer’s block. So I thought I’d share the video below. I came across it a few days ago and found it quite impactful.
By the way, if you’re receiving this by email, you’ll probably have to go to my website to see the video. I haven’t yet figured out how to include videos in email.
Now. I don’t want to get into a debate about how to help the homeless or whether it’s a good or bad idea to give someone $1,000.
For me, what’s important about the video is the moment of connection between the two of them. While the gift of money is what facilitated the connection, there are always lots of ways to connect with another person.
We can connect with others by sharing our authentic feelings, by sharing what’s inside of our hearts. We can connect through truly, deeply listening to another person. We can connect by noticing what’s going on with another person.
I’ll give a personal example of that last one. Several years ago, I was in the emergency room due to a reaction to a medication I was taking. Basically my jaw had stuck shut and I could barely open my mouth to tell anyone what the problem was. I was frightened and scared.
Fortunately, the emergency room was slow that morning and I was able to see a doctor right away. For me, this doctor was an angel. She calmed me right away and assured me that everything was going to be okay. She gave me a shot of benadryl to relax my muscles and the problem quickly went away.
I couldn’t leave the emergency room right away however since benadryl obviously makes you drowsy. As I was laying on the hospital bed, waiting for the benadryl to leave my body, the doctor looked at me and asked me “Are you hungry?”. I was. I was starving.
Because of my reaction to the medication, I hadn’t been able to keep food or water down for over 12 hours. The doctor left and came back with food for me.
I can’t begin to tell you how much that meant to me. This doctor, this angel, looked beyond the superficial and saw that there was more going on with me than my original problem.
I’m not sure I ever properly thanked her and sadly I don’t even remember her name. But I will always remember her. She even called me at home the next day to make sure that I was doing okay.
So that’s all I have to say. Look for ways to connect with other people. Look for ways to be someone else’s angel. You don’t have to give someone $1,000. Small things can mean a lot too. I know. I know because I met an angel several years ago in the emergency room.
You might think you already know what this post is about. You might think it’s about how dogs can teach us about the importance of unconditional love. It’s not. I want to use dogs to illustrate a different, but in my opinion, equally important point.
Here’s what I’ve noticed about dogs over the years: Dogs are never indifferent to one another.
Think about it. Have you ever seen two dogs pass each other in the street without acknowledging each other in some way? I certainly haven’t. Granted the interactions aren’t always positive but I’ve never seen two dogs ignore each other.
Contrast that with how we treat each other. How we avoid acknowledging other people. Whether it’s walking down the street, in the grocery store, the shopping mall, or any other social situation.
Many times we actually go out of our way to avoid other people, looking in the opposite direction or looking down at the ground. And if someone makes us feel uncomfortable in any way (e.g., a homeless person), we double or triple our efforts to ignore them.
I consider this one of the greatest social sicknesses of our time: our refusal to even acknowledge each other’s existence.
We depersonalize each other in this way. And these small depersonalizations eat away at us, eat away at the other person.
Now. I’m nothing if not a realist. I understand that it’s impossible to acknowledge everyone that you walk past. That’s particularly true if you live in a big city. But even in a smaller city it can be hard. Sometimes you’re the one being ignored and if someone doesn’t want to interact with you, there’s not much you can do about it (short of tackling them, which is definitely not something I’m suggesting!!!).
So what am I suggesting? Just this…to be more present when you’re out in the world. To look for opportunities where you can acknowledge someone else, whether through a smile, a little eye contact, or a nod of the head.
These small gestures may not seem like much but they can add up. They can improve your mood, they can increase your level of happiness, and they can brighten someone’s day.
Many of us want to live in a kinder, friendlier world. Why not start today? One smile, one nod of the head at a time.
Since today is Friday, the last day of the work week for many of you, I decided to lighten things up a bit. I’m going to share a video of one of my favorite comedians – John Pinette. Of course, I will tie in a spiritual lesson afterwards.
I do hope that you enjoy the video and that it lightens your day a bit. I will mention this….while John rarely uses foul language, he does cuss once or twice during the clip. So if you’re not comfortable with that, you’ve been warned.
And now for the spiritual lesson. I think it’s fair to say that we can all relate to this video. We all struggle with lines. We whine, we moan, we complain.
And yet all of that negative energy doesn’t change a thing. It doesn’t make the line move any faster. You’re just hurting yourself And if you carry that negative energy into other parts of your day, you may end up hurting people who are important to you.
There are plenty of better, more positive options for directing your energy in a line. If you have a spiritual practice, lines are the perfect time for practicing it. You could pray, you could meditate, you could recite a mantra, you could send silent blessings to those around you.
If you don’t have a spiritual practice, you could read a book or strike up a conversation with someone near you.
These are just a few ideas. You may be able to come up with better ones.
So here’s my suggestion for today. Next time you find yourself stuck in a line, don’t be like John Pinette. Pause, take a deep breath, and see if you can find a positive way to use that time. A way that benefits you and those around you.
Have you ever wondered where your thoughts come from? Don’t many of them seem to come from nowhere?
Your Thoughts Aren’t Your Own
At the very least, most of your thoughts aren’t really yours. Your thoughts are influenced by so many things outside of yourself…your parents, your friends, your culture, and mass media just to name a few. You may talk about “my thoughts” but the truth is that few of your thoughts are really your own.
You Can’t Control Your Thoughts
Meanwhile, it’s almost impossible to direct your thoughts. No matter how much you try to concentrate or focus on a particular subject, your thoughts are continually jumping from one place to another, seemingly with little purpose. You start thinking about one thing, and 5 minutes later you realize that you’ve moved onto another subject, one that’s completely unrelated to what you wanted to think about.
Buddhists refer to this phenomenon as “Monkey Mind”. Our minds are like monkeys, endlessly jumping from one thought to another, just like monkeys continually jumps from one branch to another.
Your Thoughts Aren’t Real
And here’s another thing…your thoughts aren’t real! Can you touch your thoughts? Can you taste them? Can you hear them? Smell them? See them? I’ll answer those in order…no, no, no, no and no.
How about this? Can you eat your thoughts? Drink them? Breath them? Can you share you thoughts directly from your brain to someone else’s brain? Again, the answers to those questions are obviously “no”. So as much as you may believe your thoughts are real, they’re clearly not solid, physical objects.
Don’t Believe Your Thoughts
Now. There’s nothing wrong with thinking. In fact, it’s literally impossible to stop thinking.
But that doesn’t mean you have believe your thoughts. In fact, if you’re not sure where your thoughts come from, if you have little control over them, and if they’re not real, wouldn’t you be better off NOT believing them?
How Your Life Would Be Better
Think about how much better your life would be if you stopped believing your thoughts. If instead, you just let them come and go, like clouds drifting through the sky.
- For one thing, your relationships would be so much better! You’d have fewer conflicts with other people because you wouldn’t cling so tightly to the need to be right.
- You’d also be happier! Instead of accepting and believing the negative thoughts you have about yourself, you would see them for what they are. And let them pass on by.
- You’d have fewer fears and anxieties! Again, why bother believing all your fearful and anxious thoughts about the future? There’s really no reason to do so!
These are just a few of the ways your life would improve if you stopped believing everything you think. And instead let your thoughts drift by, like clouds drifting on the wind.
I want to start with a story, a story that is well known in Buddhist circles. For me the story touches on the roots of compassion. On how and why we should extend compassion to everyone. Not just to our friends. Not just to people that we like. Not just to people that we have things in common with. But to everyone.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
There was a young woman whose child had died. Distraught, the woman went from house to house, asking for medicine to bring her child back to life. One of her neighbors urged her to visit the Buddha. Perhaps he had a way to bring her child back to life?
The young woman found the Buddha and begged and pleaded with him to bring her child back to life. He agreed to do so upon one condition. He told her to return to her village and gather mustard seeds from households that had never been touched by death. He would then use those mustard seeds to create a medicine to bring her child back to life.
The woman raced back to her village and began asking her neighbors for mustard seeds. All of her neighbors were willing to help her, but try as she might, she was unable to find a house that was untouched by death.
Gradually she began to understand that her suffering was not unique or special. She began to understand that suffering is universal. With this new understanding, her grief was calmed. She buried her son, return to the Buddha, and became one of his disciples.
What The Story Teaches Us
Suffering is universal. Let’s start with that premise. I think, deep in our hearts, we all know the truth of that statement. We know that everyone suffers in lots of different ways.
Death, as the parable of the mustard seed teaches us, is one of the ways in which we all suffer. But there are plenty of other ways in which we all suffer, both small and large.
And yet, we often reserve our compassion for those select few people that we decide deserve our compassion. But it’s not up to us to decide if someone’s suffering is worthy of compassion. ALL suffering is worthy of compassion. Period.
If your suffering is worthy of compassion (and it is!), then so is mine and so is everyone else’s. And yes, that includes people you don’t like, people that you consider your “enemies”. In fact, maybe the reason they do things you don’t like is BECAUSE they’re suffering. Maybe they deserve a bit of extra compassion. And perhaps, just perhaps, they deserve a LOT of extra compassion. Think about it.