Cultivating Compassion One Breath at a Time


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?


Everyday Thanksgiving: May 2014

Just got back from the Greater Good Gratitude Summit where we spent a whole day learning about the benefits of gratitude. From better health to Olympic gold medals, gratitude is proven to be one of the most important practices we can incorporate into our lives.

May 2014

Thank you for my brother, nephew, and parents coming to Jett’s soccer game; Jett almost scoring 4 goals; superballs; sunscreen; water balloons.

Thank you for giving up on being cool; RSA animated videos; Fox wanting to play golf; bbq pits at parks; tamales.

Thank you for the joy of getting toy airplanes out of trees; rip sticks; riding on BMX tracks with Jett’s 16″ bike; reading about Atlantis today with Jett; another article published by The Good Men Project.

Thank you for a paying client; sharing an office with my wife; the power of movement in counseling; another transformative session with Gary Heine; freedom.

Thank you for Rara being safe; all the support we are generating through blogging for Rara; protective custody; realizing how the Universe spreads light to the darkest places; Rara getting over 250 likes on her post about being falsely accused.

Thank you for Fox saying, “Ok, Fine!”; realizing that that is a mantra for life; Evangelist calls with The Good Men Project; all the smiles I’m getting from other parents; a deep talk about the importance of emotional intelligence for our children with another parent.

Thank you for white snake lotus movement meditation; changing meditation pillows; Letmerun; teaming up with Ashley at letmerun to spread compassion; being on the Rebel Alliance of compassion for men.

Thank you for Jett’s koala diorama, origami; RSAnimate; understanding purpose, autonomy, and mastery; living purpose, autonomy, and mastery.

Thank you for Alfie Kohn on NPR; having too much to say about raising compassionate boys; Fox wanting to get a bike and helmet for me for my birthday; poetry as gifts; stamps.

Thank you for Temporal Thermometers; children’s Advil; staying at home with my feverish son; Sadhguru’s wisdom; Kumare.Sadhguru

Thank you for BBQ at my parents; hanging out with my cousins; a visit from Dr. Harry Edwards; rice crispies made with salted caramel; wiffle ball in the park.

Thank you for Mother’s Day dinner with my wife; chazuke; ume; $1 ice cream at McDonalds; hot summer nights.

Thank you for high fives with Vaibhavi; Wind in the cypress trees; a long talk about surfing and life with Lawson; Sadhguru videos; getting Ender’s Game DVD from the library.

Thank you for group processing; Kathy’s advice that everything will be ok eventually; Don’s power and softness; Laura getting raw about sexism; Mood Meter sessions with Jett.

Thank you for not getting over-involved in Jett’s soccer practice; playing wall ball with Jett; Bro Alerts; not reacting to getting no reaction from others; recognizing that aversive thoughts are an opportunity to deepen into compassion and equanimity.

Thank you for realizing the importance of mindset; finishing another track of the Raising Compassionate Boys Audio Program; Fox wanting to take a new way to school everyday–partly to spend more time in the car with me; a snail mail letter from Rara; vegan fruit pie.

Thank you for Fox’s “rainbow slide” watercolor painting; Father Richard Rohr’s two hour talk on silence; NVC empathy buddy training with Oliver; all the disrespect I receive to teach me patience and compassion; Vietnamese Garlic Noodles.

Thank you for Jett’s music performance; the joyous courage of children who haven’t been told they aren’t good enough yet; all the time I get to play with Jett and Fox; push up popsicles that don’t drip; my boredom with luxury.

Thank you for Robert Bly; taking initiative on the Good Men Project Men’s Groups; ancient wisdom hidden in myths, tales, and stories; Lisa Nicols talks; peace in Isla Vista.

Fox with AviatorsThank you for Boomerang Bay; aviator sunglasses for kids; pocky sticks; Harvey Jackins and Re-evaluation Counseling; lifeguards at public pools.

Thank you for Jett asking “Is that bad karma?” when someone stole his birthday gift in front of the restaurant we were eating at; three tables representing 3 generations of Hattoris at a Memorial Day lunch; silence; realizing all parts of my life are connected although they seem so different; all the brave men and women SERVING our country in the armed services.

Thank you for Roma telling me to speak from my toes; seeing embodiment as connection to everything; realizing that humility is the path to uncertainty which leads to freedom from knowing; more articles getting published by The Good Men Project; Esalen.

Thank you for Conversations with Compassion with Paul Ekman; Paul Ekman as an agnostic and psychologist admitting that the feelings of peace he experienced sitting with the Dalai Lama were “thick, palpable, and mysterious”; being invited to give a workshop at Bonfire Heights; Fox crying because he didn’t get to hug and kiss me goodnight; Dr. Doty giving me a hug.

Everyday Thanksgiving–March 2013

“Thank you, Lord, for what you’ve done for me.
Thank you, Lord, for what you’re doing now.
Thank you, Lord, for ev’ry little thing.
Thank you, Lord, for you made me sing.“~Bob Marley
This is my monthly download of my daily gratitude practice–everyday I try to post five things that I am grateful for. Hope you find gratitude in your life. Continue reading