Once More for the Greater Good

UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center has published an article I wrote about “What Makes a Compassionate Man.” Click on image to check it out. I appreciate anyone who stops by and gives a facebook “like” or comment at the Greater Good. If you haven’t been there before, you are in for a treat.

Greater good

Richard Rohr: The Compassion Interviews

The Compassion Interviews is a project of mine at PeaceInRelationships.com. I am trying to interview the most compassionate people I can find to supplement the lack of compassionate role models in the media. With 10 interviews completed, I have to say that this project has changed my life. I’m realizing that compassion is the key to not only happiness, but also success and peace.

Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan friar and blogger for the Huffington Post. Author of over 30 books including Falling Upward and From Wild Man to Wise Man, Father Rohr has spoken around the world about Christian contemplative practices, male spirituality, radical compassion, and silence. He is founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In this interview we discuss:

  • How we cannot just wish to be compassionate
  • How to enjoy life by experiencing it at depth
  • How technology can be an instrument for our liberation
  • Why now more than ever wise elders are needed
  • How powerlessness leads to real power
  • The six big issues that the dualistic mind cannot process or deal with—love, death, suffering, infinity, God, and sex
  • How Scripture supports Christ as a meditator

Everyday Thanksgiving: January 2014

This is my monthly download of my daily gratitude practice. I have been doing this for over a year and a half now, and I have seen tremendous changes in my life. Sometimes the changes aren’t the ones I envisioned, but overall I am grateful for the new trajectory I’m on.

January 2014

Thank you for Legoland Hotel’s bunkbeds with a separate television set; Shamu smiles; Sunsets at Meditation Mount in Ojai Valley; spending all day at the pool in January; roadtrips with Tara Brach CDs.IMG_0992

Thank you for a wonderful interview with Richard Rohr; upcoming interviews with Scott Kriens and Marc Brakett; the goodwill of our PTA president; a heartfelt lunch with a fellow life coach; Jesus as a meditator.

Thank you for “abiding as the stream of love”; “I am that am I”; palindromes; Eckarte Tolle’s uncovering of the ego; non-reactivity; “they hate me when I’m Buddhist, but they love me when I’m the buddha.”

Thank you for the eternal Dharma; getting into shape; basketball with other out of shape fathers; the kind scheduler at City of Cupertino; Hotpot meals.

Thank you for Jumanji; authentic relationships; dinner with my sister-in-law; my nephew’s magic tricks; self-love born from authenticity.

Thank you for granulated emotions; increasing emotional bandwidth in boys; micro-moments of silence; The Sounds of Silence; the sound of compassion.

Thank you for Rick Hanson’s day-long seminar on the Neurology of Awakening; Woodacre; a beautiful lunch with awaken souls; mushroom sandwiches; the scent of fresh orange peels.

Thank you for my older son saying, “You’re part enlightened, but you still get angry”; ceasing to control and manipulate my experience; Roma’s hospitality; Spiritual NVC;  “Most people don’t see things as they are; they see things as THEY are.” ~Richard Rohr

Thank you for Fierce Gentlemen’s email reminding me to practice gratitude; my empathy buddy, Oliver; Cathy Lu for helping me schedule my talk; the thought that we are all neurons in God’s brain and the neurotransmitters are love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

IMG_1028Thank you for Skyping with Rarasaur; Goldfish’s courage; No Drama at Everyday Gurus; a comment from Dianne Gray; Kenny Johnson.

Thank you for kale and chicken wraps; how cute Jett’s crushes are; a birthday play date with cousins; the wonderful and generous Vitamix salesperson at Costco; Costco.

Thank you for learning iAuthor; a new book idea; calm parenting; not taking things personally; Loving what is.

Thank you for less aversion every day; abiding in meditation; Steve Bearman’s enlightenment; another Satsang with Adya; a peaceful and compassionate conversation with my cousin.

Thank you for my brother’s hospitality and advice; transformational counseling; dancing without shame; noticing defenses to shame; matta latte.

Thank you for naked counseling; authenticity leading to unconditional love; kinetic sand; Greens Take Out sandwiches; an argument that ended in love.

Thank you for writable CDs; The Work by Byron Katie; the photos of Alison; finding what takes me away from enlightenment since we are all already there; Adya’s Sangha.

Thank you for Rara’s thoughtfulness; Rara’s baby brother; the miracles of unconditional love; Fuji apples; blue jello.

Thank you for Drew’s courage and wisdom; vulnerability leading to acceptance; Fox rubbing my neck while he sleeps; Jett becoming more independent; loving what is.

Thank you for the seminar on the Neuroscience of Adolescence with Dan Siegel; Dr. Siegel agreeing to an interview; arugula, brie, and ham sandwiches; teachers around the world; the gentleness of horses.

IMG_0979Thank you for realizing that my sons are wise teachers; seeing my life as a whole; loving those who hurt others; Adyashanti’s perspective on unenlightening ourselves; Byron Katie’s courage and authenticity.

Thank you for trampoline birthday parties; Fox’s joy; teaching my son about neuroscience; in-assurance to replace insurance; seeing friends everyday.

Thank you for Anita Moorjani’s Near Death Experience; Barbara Fredrickson’s study of love; the Vagus Nerve; touching my chest everyday; heartfelt words and touches.

Thank you for Fox’s first Kung Fu class; the insightful interview with Marvin Maurer; bitter melon; ideas of a men’s group; Scott Kriens getting back to me.

 

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Everyday Thanksgiving: October/November 2013

This is my archive that I will post at the end of the month. Note that some of the things I am grateful for have not happened yet, but I am creating the reality of them happening through gratitude.

I learned a great thing about gratitude this month. Gratitude needs to be given without expectations of returns. I started gratitude practices because I read that they bring prosperity and wealth into one’s life. It turns out that this is true, but the ideas of prosperity and wealth are not what we usually associate with these words. Gratitude practices are deeply embedded in the acceptance of the present AS IS. We are already wealthy and prosperous if we are grateful. Hope this brightens your day.

October/November 2013

x wing fighter model Thank you for school picnics; jumpy houses; Star Wars (the original); birthdays; mindfulness for children at Insight Meditation Center.

Thank you for chicken soup to nurse a cold; ume plums; my son’s squishy cheeks; zafu pillows; ear phones.

Thank you for vegetarian family meals; Japanese yams; carpooling; spinach salads; eyebody exercises; blogs.

Thank you for parent teacher conferences; carbon footprints; friendly strangers; strange friends; the love of my brothers.

Thank you for reconciliation; David Daeda’s gender analysis; David Richo’s NVC;  Curry Up Indian Food; a day in the hills of Marin.

Thank you for the amazing interview with Dr. Ted Zeff; highly sensitive boys; compassionate men; my son’s love; family photos.

Thank you for Dr. Rick Hanson’s generosity; Vipassana friends; free lunch at Google; horchata; flavored water.

Thank you for children’s floss; wooden trains; FastTrak; giving up the need for security in money; photos taken by friends.

Thank you for restarting my gratitude practice; my wife and my new workshop idea; long car rides with my wife; 4 AM meditation; 6 disc CD changers.

Thank you for Goenkaji’s teaching; eradicating sankhara; the Eckarte Tolle book my sister-in-law lent me; The Way of Liberation by Adyashanti; Dharmaseed.

Thank you for a day without conflict; water in a glass; the infinite now; Ender’s Game; empathic main characters; science fiction.

Thank you for Pali chanting; St. Francis de Assisi; putting holds at libraries; Interchange Counseling; Steve Bearman.

Thank you for counseling; clienting; not trying to fix anything; loving my clients; loving my work.

Thank you for sincerity; authenticity; the courage to tell my story; zafu pillows; guided meditation.

Thank you for Bearded Papa; fruit plates shaped like faces; walking through horse stables; Molokai; Jamaica Osorio.

Thank you for Richard Rohr’s insight; Meng Tan agreeing to do an interview; cosmic connections; giving attention to my wife; going down the rabbit hole of my fantasies to discover my need of being wanted.

Thank you for free art projects at the library; playing London Bridges with 20 kids; library volunteers; napping after lunch with my 3 year old; homework club.

IMG_0751Thank you for my nephew’s love for my sons; ping pong with kids; magic tricks; garage playrooms; trading inspirational youtube videos with my nephew.

Thank you for a silent conversation with a cat; non-violent communication with my brother; hugs from strangers; watching a master counselor in action; finding allies serendipitously.

Thank you for writing my bio and having the courage to share it with others; understanding from those who thought I might offend; a trajectory towards heaven; Fort Mason in SF; farmer’s markets on Sunday.

Thank you for a beautiful day at the beach; gender talks with my new friend A.S.; revealing my heart and getting smiles in return; caring for others; learning to feel adequate.

Thank you for discovering a new sangha at an Adyashanti discussion group; the amazing story of parental love and non-attachment  I heard today; getting the boys to school on time today; the cheeky slow driver who made me realize how silly it is to rush; the saying “sin happens whenever we refuse to keep growing.”

Thank you for my son’s meltdown to teach me about compassion; all the supportive comments I received from my lovely blogging friends; the hug my son gave me after the meltdown; more than a year of knowing Rarasaur; one of the parents who texted me empathy.

Thank you for the Family Feast at my son’s school; homemade Acai shakes; happiness from doing good; fierce gentleman.com; Fr. Richard Rohr agreeing to a live interview for the Compassionate Interviews Series.

Thank you for a wonderful interview with Meng Tan; the Star Wars exhibit at the Tech Museum; my son’s understanding that Darth Vader is not a “bad guy,” just a hurt person who hurts others; X-Wing fighters; “Trust your feelings, Luke” advice from Obi Wan Kenobi.

stormtrooperThank you for the film I Am; sleeping in the living room with my son; all the compassionate men out there; Dyson Blade handdryers; the excitement of the holidays.

Thank you for closed city parks that we got all to our selves; anyone who cleared out all the poison oak near the creek; chocolate covered pretzels; massage chairs at Costco; Macklemore’s song “A Wake.”

Thank you for the smoked turkey by my step father; mashed potatoes from Mitch; all the cousins playing with my sons; the wonderful emails I got from new friends on Thanksgiving; a family gathering without any reactions or negativity.

Thank you for a wonderful play date with Natalia; the beautiful warm weather; tennis in the park; stealing snacks from my kids; school starting again.

Thank you for Frozen; my 3 year old’s crush on both the princesses in Frozen; Olaf from Frozen; Popcorn in a movie theater; frozen yogurt in November.

Label Me A Loving Abuser

My 6 year old son would not get out of bed until 7:45 this morning. We have to leave for school at 8:15. Then he wouldn’t eat his eggs since he was distracted by his Pokemon cards, so I threw the cards in the garbage. This is when his meltdown started. It was 8 AM, so I asked him to put some clothes on which he threw back in my face. This is when my meltdown started. I grabbed him and put him in the car in his pajamas. Then I dragged him without shoes or a jacket in front of the whole school to his classroom. He was kicking and screaming the whole way, which is why I couldn’t put his shoes or jacket on.

The whole time I was seeing tunnel vision. I did not notice all the other kids laughing at my son or all the parents aghast at me dragging him across the rain drenched pavement without shoes. When we got to the classroom, I awoke from my sleep state and realized how much my son was suffering.

Onelove photoIt is International Label Day at Rarasaur’s house, so it only seems appropriate that I wear the label of abuser or bad father which is quite different from the photo I sent Rara with “LUV” scribbled across my forehead. But like I told Rara in the comments, “Labels like the ego are neither good nor bad. They are a necessary step in claiming our identities so that we can give them up to reach a higher consciousness or what Fr. Richard Rohr would call the Second Half of Life.”

One way I’m breaking the label of abuser is by how I treated my son after I realized that I was being irrational. As the survivor of physical abuse, I speak from experience when I say that although the beatings hurt, they were not the cause of the deepest emotional scars. What really tore me up as a child was the lack of compassion from my step-father and mother AFTER the beatings. No one ever comforted me and explained to me why I was beaten. No one put an arm around my shoulder and told me that the beatings were done out of love.

Jett at school

Photo of Jett Post-Meltdown

So I told the teacher that Jett would be late and we went back home. At home, I let my son pick out his favorite shirt. I washed his feet, fully aware of the religious connotations of this action, and warmed up his half-eaten breakfast. I explained to him how sorry I was for taking him to school in his pajamas, but also how sad I was that he refused to listen to me. I told him that I loved him, but I needed his cooperation if we were going to get to school on time. I also told him how to handle any teasing that the other kids might dish out today. I will make sure to check in with him after school and honor any shame he felt in front of the other kids at school.

Being a compassionate man is hard. Raising compassionate boys is even harder. Social conditioning and past scars take constant vigilance to overcome. The good news is that compassion is a skill that can be learned over time. We can heal ourselves and heal others in the process.

Although I am not proud of my actions today, I am thankful for the growth I displayed and the hug my son gave me when he finally got to his classroom.

Thank you for reading, empathizing, and/or sharing.

Have you transcended your labels? How? Please share.

 

 

Re-Authoring Our Lives

This weekend at Interchange Counseling Institute, Steve Bearman introduced us to Narrative Therapy. We learned how to help clients re-author their predominant stories by “thickening” marginalized stories. We often get caught in one story that dictates our perception,self-worth, and mood. Examining the cracks in this predominant story often lead to awareness of a more preferable story.

“What limits people is that they don’t have the fucking nerve or imagination to star in their own movie, let alone direct it. Yuck….It’s a wonderful time to be alive. As long as one has enough dynamite.”~Tom Robbins

Part of this weekend was writing and sharing our bio. When I wrote my bio, a book on my bookshelf that I haven’t read yet haunted my peripheral vision–Radical Honesty. I wrote my story leaving nothing out. When I shared this story with a group of three other counselors-in-training, I buried my face in the printed copy almost out of shame. I revealed how I had spent a large part of my adult life hurting others. How I had stabbed loved ones in the heart with my words. How all this hurt I brought into the world created a karmic tidal wave that almost drowned me. I ended with how hitting rock bottom allowed me to set my sights for the heavens.

When I finished reading, I peeked up to see three smiling faces. It felt like I had confessed all my sins to a compassionate God who had nothing but love for me. One of the group members gave me a hug. Another called me courageous. What I realized is that often the tragedy of our lives is actually a story of hope and redemption. Below are a few quotes from wise people who have a similar take on re-authoring.

  • “The Art of Suffering goes together with the Art of Happiness” “No Mud/No Lotus”~Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Before the ‘truth sets you free’ it tends to make you miserable.”~Fr. Richard Rohr
  •  “Many of your greatest successes you thought were failures. And many of your greatest failures, you thought were successes.”~Marianne Williamson

To be sincere does not mean to be perfect. In fact,the very effort to be perfect is itself insincere, because it is a way of avoiding seeing yourself as you are right now. To be able and willing to see yourself as you are, with all of your imperfections and illusions, requires genuine sincerity and courage. If we are constantly trying to hide from ourselves, we will never be able to awaken from our illusion of self.~Adyashanti

I’m hoping you can re-author some of your stories. I feel a lot lighter since I did the exercise. Here are some suggestions:

  • Can you see part of your story as a preparation for a launch? Is a low point simply the loading for an acceleration towards the good, like stretching a rubber band right before you let it fly?
  • Is hitting rock bottom laying the foundations for a rebound in the right direction?
  • Is the tragedy of your life a glimpse into the comedy of life in general?
  • Is your need for “closure” an opening to a new way of loving or acceptance?

In no way do I want to disregard your story. In fact, narrative therapy does not try to erase the predominant story; instead it offers a new angle to view one’s life. A marginal story is meant to transcend and include the predominant story.

You’ve probably seen this before, but if you haven’t, ignore everything above and hit play.

Thank you for reading, smiling, and/or sharing.

Have you ever re-authored your predominant story? What did it do for you? Please share.