10 Things in our Control to Give our Love…and Receive Love


“So the question is not:  How can we obtain love and understanding?  The question is whether we have the capacity of generating love and understanding ourselves…true love is like that too.  Loving one person is really an opportunity to learn to love all people. If you have the capacity to love and to understand, you can do that now, you don’t have to wait.  When we succeed in this, our worry and fear go away, and we feel wonderful right away.” –Thich Nhat Hahn Answers from the Heart

Oh, the eternal questions about love (read more here).  What is love?  When will somebody love me? Continue reading

How Can I be a Hero? Ten Things to Try Now!


“Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.” –Kansas

“We are the champions my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting til the end!” –Queen

Fate and impermanence are powerful concepts.  I’ve dwelled upon them in my previous posts…just about all of them, in fact.  You can find examples of this here, here, and here.  If I am destined for failure, doomed to death, and my world will eventually crumble before me, what’s the point?  Should I just throw in the towel?  If we are all destined for misery, then why should I even try?

Should I just give up?

No, no, no!  That is not my point!  It is true that much struggle, much strife will befall us.  It is also true that your existence, as well as that of all around you will be gone in no time.  Face it, in about 100 years it will all be new people.  100 years…that’s a blink of an eye in the continuum of the 13.7 billion (or so) the universe has existed.  For comparison, think of the age of the universe as a year.  If you live to be 100 years, your life span would be less than second in that year (actually, about 0.23 seconds).  So if our time is so short, then what does that mean?  What is it you want to do with those 100 years…with that blink of your existence?  How can I be a hero?  Here are some suggestions:

13.7 Billion Years!

  1. Make Something – Set yourself to building, or creating.  Build your child a treehouse, build a business.  Create art, music or poetry.  Design a widget to make someone’s life better.  Leave a legacy…for your own sake.
  2. Help Someone – You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, be a crossing guard, find a career where you can help someone…as a doctor, nurse, architect.  Be a banker, but bank with passion and compassion to make a difference in your world (not the ENTIRE world, just yours).
  3. Become a Master– Master the piano, brain surgery, flying a helicopter, fixing motorcycles.

    Master Brain Surgery!

    It may take years, it may take much of your time, but find something you love and master it!  It will make you proud, it will be worth it.

  4. Love Someone – Take a chance on an old relationship gone bad, maybe it is with your mother, father, brother, ex-husband, or an old friend.   Take a chance on telling someone how you feel…someone who might not know it…maybe it’s that huge crush, or a friend who doesn’t know about your romantic feelings.
  5. Love Everybody – You don’t need to trust everybody all the time, but you can give them a chance.  “Respect all, measure each.”  Most of those around you struggle to hold their ground in this wrestling match called life, and many are doing it honestly.  Have compassion for them today.
  6. Be” with Someone – When you are with someone you love, pay attention to them.  Really listen.  Feel their feelings.  Empathize with them.  When you interact with anyone reallypay attention.  Be with them in the moment.


    You will notice more if you really pay attention.  Remember, you only have 100 years so use every moment wisely.

  7. Appreciate this Day– What kind of day is it?  The warm sun, the cold breeze, the wet rain, the cold snow…appreciate them all.  Take a deep breath…notice how it feels so refreshing as it replenishes your oxygen stores.  If 100 years is .23 seconds, then 1 day is 0.0000063 seconds.  Sands in the hourglass, no?
  8. Teach – Share what you know with someone.  Share your talents, pass on your skills to the next generation, or your current community.
  9. Reach a Goal – Finish that marathon, lose 10 pounds, golf below 80.  Finish college (just make it a degree worth pursuing)!  The pursuit makes life interesting.
  10. Relax – Yes, just take a break once in a while.  Maybe you could use a “staycation.”

No need to try them all, although you could in a 100 years, but maybe just try a few.  So, even though fate will have its way with you, you can take it on with tenacity.  You can be a hero if you put yourself to it.

…and you can be proud of it, because YOU made the effort!

Anchor #1: Compassion


If you’ve read any of my entries, you know that an awareness of suffering is key to my own journey of living a virtuous life.  Whether it is through Stoicism, Buddhism, Zen, or any other philosophy I have taken as my own, I strive to remain cognizant that everywhere people struggle.  The nature of our world can be violent; it is all around us.

Much of the time, we can be wrapped up in our own world.  My problems, my money, my lifestyle, etc.  But all around us there are others with problems.  By making yourself aware of these problems, you open your mind to caring about others.  As a bonus, awareness that suffering is indeed common to all of humanity puts your own personal strife in perspective. In short, as you view your own problems and struggles, as well as all those around you, you then see them as a constant in all of the human condition.

Suffering everywhere, plenty of room for compassion

However, being aware of suffering is only the beginning.  To feel compassion is to care about the sufferer.  When I meditate on compassion, I begin to feel the struggles of those around me.  Turn on the news, take note of one or two stories of grief.  It won’t take long to find them, because the news is full of them.  Alternately, you can think of your friends and family and their struggles: sickness, accidents, hunger, poverty, mental illness, loss of job.  Do you have sympathy for them?  Of course.  Do you want to comfort them?  Yes.  Now you are showing compassion.

Don’t you deserve some compassion, too?  Well, absolutely.  What about your worst fears, your phobias, your inner struggles?  You have them.  I know you have them, because everybody does.  However, these struggles are yours.  Do you deserve compassion?  Absolutely!

You can begin with compassion for yourself, as if you were another, then you can start to direct your compassion outward.  As you start to feel compassion for others who suffer, you become free from self.  As you start to focus outward, you become motivated to act for the sake of others, rather than for your own sake.  This is refreshing, and it leads us to virtue.

So let’s meditate on compassion.

As you continue to read this post, please slow down, s-l-o-w–d-o-w-n, breathe in……….then breathe out.  Now…close your eyes…notice your breath, inhale, exhale…

…think of all your struggles, and any sadness you may have.  Now follow your breath, inhaling and exhaling.  Show yourself compassion as if you were another, mentally pat your own back and say, “I understand” to yourself.  Show yourself compassion because you deserve it.  You may show compassion for yourself as long as you wish in this reflection, and you can take as long as you need until you are ready to show compassion for those around you.

Now, take a person you know closely and mentally give them a long comforting hug.  Don’t forget your breath…inhale, exhale.  Maintain your “hug,” and tell this suffering person that “I know how you feel” or “I can empathize with your plight.”  Close your eyes, and continue to psychically hug them…hold them for a long time, and feel their pain.  That’s compassion.  You can continually do this over and over.  You can start with those close to you, move on to casual acquaintances, then maybe move on to those you don’t know (like someone in the news).  Each time you go back and start over with your “mental hug” expand your compassion outward.

Give Somebody a Hug! Anybody!

Possibly, you can broaden your scope.  Feel the world around you, as you inhale and exhale.  Gently and easily repeat “compassion” over and over.  Maybe you have someone who you disagree with, is just plain disagreeable, or someone who is your enemy.  Do you think they suffer from some malady?  Feel compassion for them and their suffering as you inhale, then as you exhale…”compassion.”

You can continue this as long as you’d like.  I hope it helps you with your compassion…and on your quest for virtue.

7 Meditation Anchors


Am I being virtuous?  Am I focusing on what is important?  What follows are what I call my Seven Meditation Anchors.  During times of relaxation (before bed, with morning coffee, or even when I think I need to relax–e.g. heavy traffic or when family has driven me to the limit).  I use these 7 anchors to help me come back to what is important.  Sometimes I focus on one of them, other times I meditate on each in turn.  I rarely meditate for longer than 15 minutes.

Thanks, Siddhartha!

For those familiar with Zen/Buddhism, four of these, Compassion, Love, Joy, Equanimity will have a vaguely familiar look…the Four Sublime States are a cornerstone of my anchors.  They are what I call the spiritual/emotional anchors.  They speak to the cerebellum, the medulla, the spiritual/ancestral (limbic and reptillian) brain.

The remaining three, Understanding, Patience, and Persistence, I consider rational anchors.   They speak to the cerebrum (Neocortex), or thinking brain. They elicit cause and effect, and help with the “why’s” of what to focus on.

So, here they are with a short description for each.  Don’t worry, I will expand upon each in the upcoming days.  (Rationals are blue, Spirituals are green)

  • Compassion – is to feel the suffering of others.
  • Understanding – is to put yourself into another’s mind, or into a situation and really think about what you would do
  • Patience – is to understand that things take time, despite large amounts of effort
  • Persistence – if things take time, then great effort is required over and over and over…
  • Joy – is not just joy, but sympathetic joy.  This is to revel in the good fortune of others…the opposite of envy
  • Equanimity – is the ability to see things as they are, from a distance, to be the water and not the waves (see Passionate Equanimity)
  • Love – as in Lovingkindness; this is love without possessing, without judging, without expecting it in return, it is to love as if a god

Note:  You may be wondering why these are listed in this particular order.  It’s a simple practical decision for me:  it’s because in this order, they spell CUPP-JEL, which I can remember easily.  None is more important than another, in my opinion (see last paragraph of my credentials here).  You might choose to start with the “rationals” and finish with the “spirituals,” or vice versa (that would spell UPPJELC). For all I care, use PLUC-JEP.