Slave of Love

For the past few weeks I have been a full-time caregiver for a 74 year old man from my meditation group who has treatable blood cancer.

The other day, Fox, my 8 year old son, shadowed me while I took my client to the cancer center and back to his house. After watching me work, Fox said, “So you are a slave.”

IMG_2894I explained to Fox that I am a caregiver. I help others that need assistance. But I can see how he could perceive me as a slave since I cook, clean, attend to, and follow my client around making sure he has everything he needs.

At first, I was saddened that my son had such a low opinion of what I do (Read: Who I am). But then I thought about Hawaiian elder, Hale Makua’s description of the roles we play in life.

The 1st level is kauwā—the slave, the level of the servant. These souls have come to be of service. The 2nd level is kaha kiʻi—the artist. The 3rd level is the warrior—ke koa. The 4th is meaʻimi naʻauao—the scholar. The explorer, sage, teacher is the next level. The 6th level is the priest, the prophet, the healer—the kahuna nui. The 7th level is ali´i—the chief, king, queen, the one who has achieved mastery of all the previous levels.

The first 2 levels, the servant and the artist, are about aloha—love, compassion. But number 3, the warrior, is about the energy of —competition. On the level of scholar, we step back into aloha. But at the level of the sage, we go back into the energy of . The 6th level is a return to aloha, for “in order to be effective as the priest or as the healer, we can only come from aloha, from love, from compassion, and we have to choose it.”

In this lifetime, I seem to have taken on all of these roles. In high school, I was a servant at Marie Calendars and Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor. I’ve been a filmmaker/writer throughout my life. I tried to be a warrior as a martial artist and surfer. I was a scholar in grad school. I then became a teacher. And lately, I’ve been a healer.

I don’t claim to have mastered any of these roles, but I do feel like I’ve come full circle. In the eyes of modern society, I appear to be a failure—a 52 year old caregiver making just enough to stay afloat. But in Hawaiian epistemology, I am returning to Aloha and service. Nothing is more important than Aloha.

I am grateful for the return to service. I hope one day my sons understand the choices I’ve made. My life isn’t how I’d ever envisioned it, but it makes a lot of sense.

 

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“Earth School”

Spent the last few nights with Gary Zukav and Linda Francis. So grateful for their dedication to the path.

Books_The_Seat_ofthe_SoulAlthough Gary has been on Oprah 37 times, he is one of the most humble, vulnerable, and authentic men I have ever met.

A few pieces of wisdom really resonated with me.

First, Gary said that at one point in his life he was afraid of being afraid. He said the clinical term for this is “macho.” I realized how much of my life I overcompensated for being afraid—afraid of being alone, afraid of my emotions, afraid of not being good enough.

Next, Gary and Linda said there are only two intentions—one that comes from love and one that comes from fear. Other intentions they referred to as “out-tensions.” When deciding on any course of action, they ask themselves if they are coming from love or fear.

This reminded me of a conversation we had with a Hawaiian elder named Manulani Aluli Meyer. She said, “When love is at the center, ego isn’t.”

Manu continues, “We are dedicated to the purpose of what love means in this lifetime. And it must start within your own practices and your own commitments and your own deeds. That is why I love Shakespeare’s quotation when he said, ‘By my actions teach my mind’. I love that because it is not by our talk or by our words, it is by our actions. So that is a very cultural statement. Basically, stop talking, start doing. And when you are doing in the vibrancy of what aloha is, then there is a healing on the planet.”

As a grandson of a Hawaiian man, I have the kuleana (responsibility) to dedicate my life to “what love means in this life time.” My purpose is to be aloha. To be pono (righteous).

I often ask my sons, “Are you being pono (righteous) or pilikia (troublesome)?” This is similar to Gary and Linda’s practice of questioning whether they are coming from love or fear.

Lastly, both Gary and Linda refer to this life as “earth school.” We are souls here to learn. I love that view of life.

During one circle, I felt obliged to share a talk I had with my cousin. I was telling him how I was a compassionate boy when I was young. I remember crying while watching Laura Ingals on Little House on the Prairie.

Then my step-father entered my life and started whipping me with a leather belt when I was 5 years old. Talking to my cousin, I was furious that I didn’t have a choice in this monumental event in my life.

After 12 years of abuse, I turned into a cruel and angry adolescent who lacked compassion. This lack of compassion torpedoed my life. I lost lovers, friends, and jobs. After I hit rock bottom, I dedicated myself to becoming a compassionate man and raising compassionate boys.

But it was/is a process. On the phone with my cousin, I simultaneously grieved the innocence of that 4 year old compassionate boy and raged at the injustice that he was forced to suffer.

Then I was struck with a vision. I saw my soul floating above the earth plane before I was born. My soul could see my whole life laid out before it. And then…it CHOSE to incarnate into this life.

I chose physical abuse. I chose cancer. I chose unemployment. I chose all these things because I knew that they would bring me to the awakening I am experiencing right now.

I thanked Gary and Linda for the term “earth school,” because I now realize that I chose my own curriculum. Of all the classes available, I chose Physical Abuse 101, Introduction to Cancer, Financial Hardship 2B, Mediation 100, Advanced Surfing, Intro to Kapu Aloha, and the Noble Friends Seminar.

After this realization, I no longer blame others for what is happening in my life. I don’t blame my step-father for using corporal punishment. I don’t blame my mom for choosing to marry my step-father. I don’t blame my biological father for choosing to go back for a second tour of duty in Vietnam from which he never returned. I don’t even blame myself for all the trespasses I have committed.

When there is no one left to blame, we can only love. Love everyone. Love everything. I hope this new path helps me do “in the vibrancy of what aloha is” and heals the planet.

Who are some of your influential spiritual teachers? What realizations have shaped your life?

 

 

Peace is Every Child

peacefox7-year-old Fox wanted a history book for his daily reading, so I let him loose in my bookshelves. First, he grabbed my Bible.

“Is this a history book?” he asked.

“Yeah, it’s a kind of history book,” I replied.

“Can I have it?” he asked thumbing the vinyl cover.

“Of course,” I said.

Then he grabbed A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., but it had too many big words for him.

“Here is a history about a Vietnamese monk,” I said handing him Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh.

Reading the editor’s introduction, Fox stopped after reading this poem:

Peace is every step.

The Shining red sun is my heart.

Each flower smiles with me.

How green, how fresh all that grows.

How cool the wind blows.

Peace is every step.

It turns the endless path to joy.

“Daddy, can I write this poem out?” asked Fox with wide open eyes.

“Sure,” I said thrilled because his penmanship needed work.

Fox carefully wrote out each line. He smiled when he wrote “each flower smiles with me.” I was stoked that he was learning to spell smile, peace, and heart. At the end he wrote “Love, Fox.”

“Can you make copies?” he said as he handed me the hand written poem.

I gave him two copies. On one he wrote, “Merry Christmas. Thank you. To Mrs. Kraemer and Mrs. Grant” [his second grade teachers].

I almost cried. What a wonderful gesture. I am so grateful that he resonated with Thich Nhat Hanh, even though he had trouble reading the name. When I told a friend the story, he asked, “Who is the teacher and who is the student?”

What poem would you have a child copy?

Poor Students or Poor System

IMG_3052Both my sons got their first semester report cards last week. They are only in the 5th and 2nd grade, so I don’t pay too much attention to these evaluations.

Unfortunately, both boys are below grade level. Fox, the younger son, had more minus signs than average or plus signs. Jett, the older one, had more 2s than 3s or 4s. A 2 means “developing,” while a 3 means “proficient.”

I take responsibility for these low marks. I want my sons to have fun while they are kids. We don’t stress too much over homework. We spend more time outdoors than in the library.

In the comments, both my sons’ teachers used the word “struggling.” I’m still not too concerned because I was a teacher, and I know when the time comes, I can easily bring them up to par.

Another word that both teachers used was “kind.” “Jett is very kind to his fellow classmates.” “Fox is a kind, considerate, and curious student, well liked by everyone.”

At first I was upset that my sons were so far behind in school, but upon further reflection, I was grateful that they are both kind boys.

I’ve always said that I would rather my sons be kind and compassionate than smart, academic, athletic, or “successful.” I was a very smart kid. I graduated magna cum laude and did well in graduate school. I landed a cushy job as and was making more money than I could shake a stick at. But I was not kind. And my lack of compassion poisoned all of my accomplishments.

In the span of three years, I was unemployed, on the verge of divorce, and diagnosed with cancer. I had to learn the hard way that “compassion protects you more than guns, bombs, or money.” (Thich Nhat Hahn)

I have no idea how my sons will perform in school at the higher levels, but I do know that armed with kindness and compassion it won’t really matter where they land in the world. They will be OK.

What would you like to score high in on the report card of life?

Cultivating Compassion One Breath at a Time

breathwork

Watching men in high positions fall like autumn leaves has inspired me to start a daily compassion practice. I have no doubt that if these men had more compassion and empathy, they would not assault women. I don’t want my sons to become highly “successful” only to fall from grace from a lack of compassion.

Dacher Keltner at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center discovered that there isn’t a universal look of compassion, but there is a universal sound of compassion. People around the world make the same sound when they sympathize with the suffering of others—“Aaawwwwhhhhh.:

Moreover, modern research reveals that making this sound stimulates the vagus nerve which lowers inflammation in the body and leads to more pro-social behavior. The vagus nerve runs from most of the major organs in the body to the brain stem. It also runs through the vocal chords and the inner ear.

Making the “aaawwwhhh” sound stimulates the larynx and the inner ear and, thus, the vagus nerve. In addition, Stephen Porges found that when our exhale is longer than our inhale, we also stimulate the vagus nerve and feel more connected with other.

So I am setting a goal of saying “aaawwwwhhh” as many times a day as possible. When I am stuck in traffic, I say “aaawwwhhh.” When my sons start to whine about how they only get to play 2 hours of video games, I reply, “aaaawwwhhh.” Every time I hear a news story about men committing heartless acts, I say, “aaawwwhhhh” for them, for myself, for men in general, and for the victims.

When my aunties in Hawaii would see someone do something harmful, they would make the universal sound of compassion and say, “poor ting.” They felt sorry for individuals who were so disconnected with aloha (love) that they felt the need to cause conflict with others. In essence, my aunties were saying, “Awwwhhhh, poor thing has no aloha.”

Every time I make the universal sound of compassion, I feel warm vibrations resonate through my body. I feel grateful to connect with others through suffering. Everyone becomes my family regardless of what they look like or what they have done.

So grateful for this simple practice.

What daily practices do you do to connect with others?

My Life as a Dog

IMG_2205

My 7-year-old son believes in reincarnation, so I asked him what he would like to come back as in his next life.

“Probably a dog,”  he said nonchalantly. “Or Santa Claus.”

After a bit of contemplation, I realized how wise this response was. We often think that humans are at the top of the reincarnation ladder, but this isn’t necessarily true. Dog is God spelled backwards.

“If you can remain perfectly calm in traffic…

If you see others succeed without a tinge of jealousy,

If you can love everyone around you unconditionally,

If you can always be cheerful just where you are,

You are probably…

A Dog!”

I’m starting to think that dogs are far more enlightened than even high-vibration spiritual masters. Our two Shi Tzus are definitely the two most compassionate and equanimous members of our household.

When my sons are crying, both my dogs will start to moan and howl in unison with the cries. When I had a tumor, Skye and Jax would come lie on my belly when I was sleeping. They could sense my pain and would just be with me.

These dogs spend most of their day sitting in silence. One could argue that they meditate over 5 hours a day. They always welcome me with open paws when I return after a long day and never seem to hold any grudges, even when I forget to feed them.

I think my son was intuitively sensing into a higher consciousness. Even his answer about Santa Claus can be seen as refined.

Santa Clause spreads joy and gives generously without any expectation of getting anything in return. If he was a Buddhist, he would be what we call a Bodhisattva—a being that compassionately refrains from enlightenment in order to save others. Was my son saying that he wants to come back as a Bodhisattva?

A dog or a Bodhisattva, those are two noble intentions. Amazing how simple and wise young children can be.

What would you come back as in your next life if you had the opportunity?

 

 

 

 

Aloha Healing 12/17/2015

 

 

‘Ole Kû Lua
Makali’i 17

 I have been getting Healing Touch treatments at Stanford Cancer Center every Monday. A volunteer named Beth Orlando gives me an hour energetic healing that is very similar to reiki.
After almost every one of these sessions, I have had some pretty consistent bleeding.
     I have a feeling that these sessions are moving energy that is causing my body to reject the tumor which leads to bleeding.
     I am so grateful to Beth for her self-less service and for Stanford Cancer Center for offering an alternative treatment like Healing Touch for free. Beth tells me that Stanford has a whole training program for volunteers interested in healing touch.
     Great to see an allopathic, well-known medical center like Stanford implementing alternative treatments as a part of their healing protocol.
Diet
     I’ve been eating quite a bit of legumes and cooked vegetables lately since the weather has been so cold. Somehow a cold salad just doesn’t feel right when it is 40 degrees outside.
     One of my favorite meals is a copy-cat of the Chipotle salad complete with grilled red and green peppers and onions, guacamole, black beans, and honey vinaigrette.
    I’ve also been adding pomegranate to my morning vegetable juice. It adds a tangy sweetness and is supposedly good for breaking down tumors.
Exercise
     It has been harder and harder to get outside to do my Aloha movements since there is frost on the rooftops most mornings. I am sleeping longer, perhaps in a semi-hibernation mode.
Relationships
     I had an amazing men’s group where the other members helped me see how I’m still angry/sad about Thanksgiving. It boils down to being hurt that my family isn’t supporting me in ways I expected.
      At one point, I realized that most people aren’t well versed or practicing holding space for others. Our men’s group practices non-judgmental, empathic, compassionate listening every other week. To expect that from my family is asking a lot.

 

I am so grateful for the men’s group, Awakin Circles, Service Space, and this blog for all the empathy, compassion, connection, and love they [You all} generously offer.

Spirituality

IMG_1766Woke up the other morning and told 5 year old Fox that I had to go do my prayers.

“Why can’t I do the prayers with you,” asked Fox.

At first, I thought it was too cold to take him outside, but then I decided to just do the prayers indoors with him.

We stood in front of the Christmas tree and did the whole set of prayers in unison including Hawaiian chants, St. Francis prayer, Ho’oponopono prayers, and the Aloha chant.

It was adorable to watch Fox sing “Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘âina I ka pono” while bowing.

At Awakin Circle last night, Harshida Aunty shared that sometimes she feels she should go outside to be in the beauty of nature. Then she will look out a window and see a butterfly.

“Beauty is everywhere,” said Harshida with a smile.

It felt so refreshing and powerful to do prayers indoors with a 5 year old child.

________

At the same Awakin Circle, Birju shared how he spoke to an indigenous elder who was at the Paris Climate Change talks. The elder said that the only thing that is going to fix climate change is love. Modern man (I specify gender intentionally here) has lost touch with loving the land.

In Hawaii, they live “Aloha ‘Āina” which means love of the land. The indigenous elder reminds me of Auntie Pîlahi Pâkî standing in front of the 1970 governor’s conference saying, “…in the next millennium the world will turn to Hawai’i in its search for world peace because Hawai’i has the key…and that key is Aloha.”

I also thought about those Hawaiian protesters who are picketing the construction of the 10 meter telescope on Mauna Kea. They chant, “Ku Kia’i Mauna” which roughly translates to “stand guard of the mountain.”

A Native American elder once told me, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything.”

The message is clear. Start loving the earth, land, gia at all costs.

Kūkae (BM)

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