Why Meditation Matters

For me, with a fairly active schedule, being able to dedicate a certain amount of time every day to completely shut down the "clatter" from my mind, is invaluable. Enjoying the luminosity that rests there, when all the clattering ceases, is priceless!

The monkey mind, as some call it, is the constant chatter/ clatter reminding you what happened yesterday, what will happen tomorrow, what will happen in the future, etc. The continual blah, blah, blah of wasted energy. To be able to turn that off with the process of meditation is important, not only for the health of your body but the health of your mind, as well.

 Meditation can be used by anyone regardless of religion or culture, ethnicity or background. To calm your mind and be a more productive human being is the goal of most all great religions. When you are relaxed you make better decisions. When your mind is "at ease" calmness and tranquility reverberates through-out your body.

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 I am occasionally asked by people new to meditation how to start. What do I do? There are many different types of meditation but sometimes for people beginning practice, it's easiest to focus on the breath. It's probably a good idea to start small, maybe 10 or 15 minutes.

 First get yourself seated, if you can get into the Lotus position do it, if not, no big deal, just sit comfortably somewhere on the ground or a chair. The important aspect is to keep the spine erect.

Once seated, check your motivation. Why am I meditating? This is basically a check on yourself just to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons, ie: to make yourself better, stronger, to be able to help others, etc., and not to impress people or other selfish reasons. It’s also important to add Awareness as a framework for your meditation. Be aware of everything that is happening.

After that, make a strong mental affirmation that you will keep your mind free and clear of any and all thoughts, good or bad. Occasionally people new to meditation inadvertently allow themselves to be “carried away” by their thoughts. With Awareness, you can recognize when the thoughts appear and detach them immediately. The goal here is to get Beyond thinking, to turn the mind off, if you will. If you are observing your breath that should be your complete, Focus. Don't fixate on it just follow it in and out.

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 When you realize thoughts are coming and attaching themselves, simply detach from the thought. Make an image for yourself. When I find thoughts attaching, I imagine a Samurai with a very sharp sword cutting the thought from my attachment. Here you're not trying to push the thought out or obliterate it, you are just cutting it from your attachment and allowing it to flow with all the millions and billions of other thoughts floating around in space. After releasing the thought, simply go back to observing your breath.

 It may seem like a hard task at first  because it appears as if the thoughts will never stop. Our minds are usually programmed to listen to the clatter but if you persist, with practice, it gets easier and more rewarding. Also, some people get discouraged that their meditations aren't always as good as previous ones. We are human so we have good days and bad. The important thing is to keep on with your daily practice, as it has a cumulative effect.

 This is my simple attempt to help convince you that meditation is definitely worth the effort. There are people much more eloquent than myself who can probably explain it better. Below I have included 2 videos that I consider excellent, both are by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master. His use of English is precise. I invite you to watch these videos.

 Please consider adding meditation to your daily routine. You will be very happy you did!

 

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The Direction of your Life

Be passionate about the direction of your life!

 

This is the “road map” you’ve chosen, thus far, in your quest forward. Realize, with absolute certainty, that you can make a positive difference” in your life, and in that of others!
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It occurred to me recently that “being thankful for what I have” is very important in my life. I have been fortunate and realize that being grateful and appreciative of my successes is one of the main reasons for my good fortune and happiness. I look forward for the opportunities of being able to say “Thank You” to someone, every day of my life. A simple “Thank You” can make other people feel good but it also makes me feel good.
Look around you. No matter who you are, there is something to be thankful for. It could be a roof over your head or food in your fridge or your family and friends. Each of these are truly gift! Every-day that you are in good health, every day you get to drink clean water, every day that you get to go to work,etc. When you begin to recognize the goodness in your life, and make a conscious effort to be grateful for those things, you will see that every day there is more and more to be thankful for.
If you really think there is nothing to be thankful for in your life, you’re probably not trying hard enough. At the least, you should be thankful you are fortunate enough to have access to a computer with internet, to be able to read this.
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I sometimes tend to focus too much on the” Big Picture” rather than appreciating the smaller accomplishments of every-day life.  The larger picture is definitely important, don’t get me wrong, but if we properly appreciated the things we do accomplish in the course of a day, I think we would be happily surprised. Simple things like safely driving your loved one to an appointment or taking the dog for a walk or just having created a nice meal for someone special in your life. There are probably many different examples in your own life. These are all great accomplishment just in and of themselves. Add these things up, in the course of a day, and you may be pleasantly surprised. Give yourself a pat on the back, you deserve it!
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Equally important is the fact that we are endowed with “creative mind”. We should use and direct it for compassionate, peaceful means at every opportunity. When we do this, we are training our mind to “creatively visualize” positive results. With continued practice it gets easier and easier.
Try it for yourself – visualize a close friend who may need some help. For example, if they are depressed, imagine that person “bathed in peaceful, joyous energy”.  Whatever the malady - depression, fear, sorrow, anger, hatred, etc. just imagine the opposite feeling. For depression imagine absolute joy, for fear imagine strength, for sorrow imagine unbounded joy & happiness, for anger imagine peaceful calm and for hatred imagine absolute, powerful love energy. Be creative in your prayers.
I have videos on this site that may help with the above; under TIBETAN BUDDHIST CHANT VIDEO'S you will get a pop up menu. There are 10 different chants from Lama Tashi, world renown chant master, to help with healing, protection, wisdom, compassion, purification, tantric abilities, etc.
 

You have a powerful, creative mind so you might as well use it to help others.

 

REALIZE YOUR GOOD FORTUNE AND PASS IT ON.

 

In Appreciation of Memorial Days

For me, the beauty of the celebration is the emphasis placed upon remembering the finest qualities in people who have passed on before us. We place the spotlight on other people instead of ourselves.
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Much attention is focused on the military community, and rightfully so. Without the brave service of these men and women, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we enjoy today. I salute the courage of these brave warriors and their families, who sacrafice, too! I have friends actively serving in the Navy & Marines, I always make a point of “thanking them” for their service. It feels good for them to hear it and be recognized.  Equally for me, I get to offer a heartfelt recognition that their efforts are noticed and appreciated. It’s a win-win!
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I have friends who have traditions, as well. Some visit the graveyard where their loved ones rest and others have gathering of friends and family, usually involving food, to honor the person(s) memory. In all cases, the focus is on the positive qualities of the dearly departed. We are paying “special attention” to these higher ideals and what they stand for.
For me, as a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, I absolutely love the idea of a Memorial Day. It highlights attention on the positive aspects of the people we respect and admire.  I think the secret might be to take all these wonderful qualities we admire in our loved ones and incorporate them into our own daily lives.
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We should have Memorial days more often than once a year!

 
May all the positive qualities of your dearly departed loved ones be absorbed in every fiber of your being!
Peace and Happiness, always
 

Stop Carrying the Past

Occasionally, you read something that is well written, simple, powerful and direct, so much so, that you just want to share it. Thus is the case here. It was written by New Zealand born, Pong Re Rinpoche, who has an excellent and precise command of the English language.

Please enjoy!

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STOP CARRYING THE PAST

 

It’s not a big surprise if I tell you that we can't change the past - we all know there is no way to turn back time. Still, we cling so strongly to memories and experiences of the past that we hardly enjoy the present. And especially negative memories, which can have a very deep impact on how we plan our lives and think about the future.

Because of this some people develop very negative thoughts. For example, constantly thinking about revenge and wishing a person suffers for the things they did to them. Or they are so affected by the difficulties they have been through that it is almost impossible for them to find happiness in their lives, they become depressed and unable to help themselves or others.

Although you may not be able to see it, these kind of thoughts can be very harmful. They may lead to negative actions, if you succeed in carrying out the plans you made. But most of all these negative thoughts will take away your joy in life, awareness of the present moment, and the opportunities you have to become a better human being.

Actually, the best revenge you can take is not allowing other people to make your life miserable, don't give them this kind of power or satisfaction. You are the one who controls whether you are happy or unhappy, no one else. It all depends on your mental attitude.

Of course we all face challenges in our lives, but we can face our problems with strength and courage or we can let ourselves down. We can allow the past to take over our present and future, or let go of the past and decide to turn our present and future into a better one.

I can tell from my own experience, letting go of negative things that happened in the past can be a great relief. It is like a great weight we have carried for so long being lifted from us. It makes us light and energetic to continue on our journey. As Indira Gandhi said, "Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave." So, forgive yourself and others, be brave, let go of the past, and try to make every moment of your life meaningful.

Pong Re Rinpoche

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RELATIONSHIP BREAKUPS


Love is blind, and sometimes stupid too. It doesn’t ask for permission and it doesn’t go through a check list to make sure that you fall for someone who is a perfect match for you. When love takes hold of us, we usually fall, and sometimes we fall very hard. You may fall for someone who lives next door or someone who is very far away, even for someone who is from a different country and speaks a different language, or someone whom your parents don’t like. It’s also possible to fall for your teacher or even a family member, for example a cousin. As I said, love is blind.

If we fall for someone, lets say Pema Choedon or X or Y, our entire happiness seems to depend on that person’s attention. Therefore it hits us very hard when things don’t turn out the way we expected - sometimes we turn into complete fools in our helpless efforts to stay together with that one special person. Believe me, I know that being rejected or dumped by someone whom we dearly love is very painful. It can make us feel angry, lonely, desperate, depressed and utterly sad. Some people suffer so much that they even consider suicide.

The breakup of a relationship marks the end of a story between two people, and often it’s not a happy ending. Suddenly all our hopes and expectations for a shared future burst like colorful soap-bubbles and disappear. It leaves us with a feeling of disappointment, failure and loss. There are so many factors involved when people meet, and it’s the same with parting. Sometimes we are able to solve the problems and fix the relationship, but often we’re not, even if we have the best intentions. In such cases we have to let go without letting ourselves down.

The bad news is that the pain of separating will most likely not stop straight away. Just like a wound needs some care and time to heal, your heart needs some time to heal also. So be patient during this healing process and don't give up. The good news is that a time will come when the pain will go away. Just like everything else in this world, the sorrow of parting from those you love is also impermanent. I can guarantee it!

So try to be thankful for the experience, for this lesson that life has taught you and for the love you shared. Forgive the other person for their mistakes and forgive yourself also. Most importantly, don’t allow the breakup to break you. Actually you don’t need anyone to make you happy, just make yourself happy! You don’t need another person to survive. You can live on your own: eat, sleep, work, smile, study, pray, meditate, help others. You don’t need a girlfriend/wife or boyfriend/husband to do all those things.

So feel good about yourself, feel free and enjoy your life, it’s short enough! Finally, move on with a heart that is brave and courageous, yet tender and compassionate. A heart that is free and capable to love even more, to yourself, a new partner, and all beings in this world.


 

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Reincarnation / Rebirth

In recent years, it seems, many countries of the world, have developed an interest in reincarnation. Contemporary films, books, and popular songs frequently mention reincarnation. In the last few decades, academic researchers have begun to explore reincarnation. Published reports of memories of past lives have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and books.

I've compiled a short list of books that I think make the complex issue of Rebirth/ Reincarnation easier to understand. This is by no means a complete list but some of these books are more than one hundred years old.

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The ”Hidden Side of Things” by Charles Leadbeater was written in 1913. I also like reading about Edgar Cayce and his insight into the past and future. The Jane Roberts series of books about “Oversoul 7”are good for their simplicity in explaining/ understanding the complex issue of simultaneous rebirths. She is a great storyteller. The most popular book I listed is “Illusions” by Richard Bach. It’s a great uplifting story!

I’m sure some people have thoughts about it and come to a conclusion, as to their belief or non-belief on the subject. If you are a definite non-believer, I would like to offer blessings to you and your families!

If you are not sure, curious or definitely believe, I invite you to read any of these books for yourself. A good asset for obtaining the earlier literature is the Theosophical Society. They have a good selection of earlier works, like the Leadbeater books. There is a lot out there about Edgar Casey, too.

Thank you for reading my thoughts. Please feel free to submit your comments.

We truly are all related!

 

 

BOOKS

(In no particular order)

 

Lama Karma Samten

Living with Death & Dying -Teachings on the 6 Bardos

 

Charles W Leadbeater

The Hidden Side of Things

The Souls Growth through Reincarnation –

 

Manley Hall

Reincarnation: The Cycles of Necessity

Past Lives, Present Problems

 

Rudolf Steiner

Reincarnation and Immortality

 

Gloria Chadwick

Discover Your Past Lives

 

C Jinarajadasa

How We Remember Our Past Lives

(Theosophical Society)

 

Virginia Hanson

Karma

 

Richard Bach

Illusions

 

Geoffrey Hodson

Death – The Door to the Future

 

Brian Weiss

Many Lives, Many Masters, Through Time

into Space; Only Love Is Real;

Messages from the Masters

Same Soul, Many Bodies; Mirrors of Time

 

Frederick Lenz

Lifetimes: True Accounts of Reincarnation

 

Ian Stevenson

Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation

 

Geddes MacGregor

Reincarnation in Christianity

 

Ruth Montgomery

Here and Hereafter

 

Mary Ann Woodward

Edgar Cayce’s Story of Karma

 

Raymond Moody

Life After Life

 

Elizabeth Clare Prophet

Reincarnation: The Missing Link in

Christianity

 

Jane Roberts

Education of Oversoul 7 ;  Further Education of Oversoul 7

Museum of Time

 

Jess Stearn

Edgar Cayce: The Sleeping Prophet

Soulmates

 

John Van Auken

Past Lives, Present Relationships: How

Karma Affects Your Relationships

 

Please understand that this is only a small sampling of the vast amount of literature available on rebirth/ reincarnation topic. I invite you to do your own research on the subjects. I hope this helps.

Blessings to All!

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It seems the Buddhist concept of reincarnation differs from others in that there is no eternal "soul", "spirit" or "self" but only a "stream of consciousness" that links life with life. The process of change from one life to the next is called punarbhava in Sanskrit. In Tibetan the word "bardo" means "intermediate state" or "transitional state" or "in-between state". Some English-speaking Buddhists prefer the term "rebirth".

 

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In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the six realms of existence are:


1) beings born by the force of hatred in hell
2) being born by the force of miserliness as hungry ghosts
3) being born by the force of stupidity as animals
4) being born by the force of attachment as humans
5) being born by the force of jealousy as demi-gods
6) being born by the force of pride as gods

 

 

Only Love can Conquer Hate

Today is inauguration day, the day a new president takes office in this country and it is with some trepidation that I look ahead. If I let my mind wander, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what damage a Trump presidency could bring. He has already filled his cabinet with war hawks, Wall Street insiders, and corporate energy CEO’s.
We might see unthinkable ideas ranging from rounding up the Muslims, nationwide stop-and-frisk policies and the like. The social and environmental horrors likely to be committed under a President Trump are likely to incite civil disobedience or worse.
 For his supporters, the initial celebration will collide with the reality when Trump proves unable or unwilling to challenge the entrenched systems that continually degrade their lives.
When the driving force behind these new ideas is hate or fear, all manner of fascist or fanatical extremes can ensue.
That is why, as we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different paradigm. I would call it love but how does one practically bring love into the world, in the realm of politics? Let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in this together. What are we in together? For starters, we are in this uncertainty together.
What would it take to embody love and compassion? You can see its contours in those practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?
It is time now to bring this question and the empathy it arouses into our political discourse as a new reality. If you are appalled at the election outcome and feel the call of hate or fear, perhaps try asking yourself, “What is it like to be a Trump supporter?” Ask it not with a patronizing condescension, but for real, looking underneath the caricature, to find the real person.
Even if the person you face is a bigot, ask, “Is this who they are, really?” Ask what confluence of circumstances, social, economic, and biographical, may have brought them there. You may still not know how to engage them, but at least you will not be on the warpath, automatically. We hate what we fear, and we fear what we do not know. So let’s stop making our opponents invisible, behind a caricature of evil. We’ve got to stop acting out hate.
Truly, only love can conquer hate.
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“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend”
Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Knowing When to offer Assistance

Every now and again something comes along that “demands your attention”. This happened to me a few days ago. I have a younger brother who has been absent from the family for over 7 years. No one knew where he was. Thanks to a very compassionate police officer from a small town in Minnesota, who took the time and effort to do some research, we found the answer.
After receiving a text, I immediately called to find out details. As it turns out, he has been in this little town for about 2 months. He was homeless, in and out of shelters, and the officer was concerned because of the upcoming cold winter months ahead. The officer arranged for us (my 3 sisters & I) to call his private phone at a certain time to talk with him. We called and had a nice conversation. My sister invited him to come live with her in Las Vegas. I told him I would buy a ticket so he could leave the next day and I sent him some money for food. It was all agreed. We also found out that 2 years earlier, somewhere near Milwaukee, he got frost bite on his two feet. Gangrene had set in and both of his feet had to be amputated. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to endure all that, without any support from any family member. Poor guy.
Yesterday, an hour before the bus was scheduled to leave, the officer called. My brother was having second thoughts about going and they thought if he talked to me, it might help. I talked with him but it was evident he didn’t want to go. He went into a paranoid rant for about 5 minutes then said “I don’t want anyone’s help, leave me alone”.  I thanked the officer for trying then called my sisters. We were all devastated! About an hour after the departure time, I got a text from the kind officer. My brother did not get on the bus and did not pick up the money I sent him. A few hours later, one of my sisters called the officer, asking if she could pay for a motel room for our brother. The officer drove to find him but he refused the offer with a final “leave me alone”.
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As hard as it is, sometimes you just have to realize that there is nothing more you can do. As sad as it is, if the person doesn’t want your aid, you can’t force them to accept it. At that point, you have to realize that you’ve done all you can and be satisfied with your efforts. It doesn’t mean I will stop praying for him, in fact, he needs prayers now more than ever.
I learned another valuable lesson, too. I have been closely watching the Standing Rock activities and the heavy handed, brutal tactics used by the Morton County Sheriff’s department, the rise of young black men being shot and killed by police, etc. This latest event makes me realize that there are other compassionate police men and women out there who are not at all like that.
Cheers to you!
 

 

 

Keep Your Energy Level High

In this present climate of “in your face” politics, where people who disagree are demonized, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to “sink to that level”.  With all the name calling and divisive rhetoric out there, it may seem “normal” to respond in kind but you would be doing yourself a disservice. Instead, maybe realize your individuality and uniqueness. You have a bright mind and can choose to respond in any way you want. Make your responses meaningful!

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Another good way to counteract the hatred and racism that is so rampant today is to offer hope to your friends, family and everyone. It occurs to me how beneficial and important it is to offer hope. Whether in everyday life situations or in personal, intimate conversations, hope can be a powerful, driving energy force! Why not capitalize on this energy and make good use out of it.

On a personal level, having hope and being hopeful can be a positive force in helping people to achieve their goals and aspirations. People facing crises of all varieties have a much better chance of success and being happy in the face of hope.

Not only does providing hope have an effect on the receiver, it has an equal and even stronger effect on the giver. 

For me, a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism whose main practice is “compassion towards everyone”, this divisive diatribe occupying the media now is a distraction. Sadly, I think peacefully resolution and “talking one’s issues out” may be harder in the future. Why talk and compromise when it’s so easy to call your opponent names. I pray that I’m wrong. Anyway, it definitely takes extra alertness to stay focused on what really matters.

I challenge you to keep your energy level high and not give in to the haters and their rhetoric. It’s too important.

Blessings and prayers in your efforts.

 

Your Compassionate Nature

Helping out, in any way you can, always makes people more aware of their compassionate nature. By helping other people, you are thinking of WE and not I. You are sharing some of yourself.
In any way you can – it doesn’t have to be a special occasion. After being with Jesus earlier this morning, I realized how important it was for him to bring “something meaningful” to his current living situation. We talked about his options and he decided that bringing some groceries would be the best way he could help. We went to the nearest Food 4 Less store. We talked about what foods he should choose. With every item, I made him explain to me “why that was a good choice”. It was a great exercise for him. When I dropped Jesus off with the groceries, you could see a change in his demeanor. I was happy that he got to share in the experience of helping out. (For context, see my previous blogs, “All Life is Sacred”, “Other People’s Lives”, “My Eventful Day”, “Recognizing and Appreciating Life’s Small Accomplishments”, “The Importance of Having Fun and Being Happy“ & “On Being Hopeful and Hope-filled”, ”Jesus Javier Sanchez”, etc.)
                                                       Jesus Javier Sanchez

                                                       Jesus Javier Sanchez

I have on-going projects, in which I get to help people connect. In one, I am trying to identify Native dancers. The photos were taken beginning with the Taos pow-wow in 1988, then going thru 1999, many at larger Bay area pow-wow’s. I recently got the photos digitized so I could post them, there are about 400 photos. I have created a page called “Native Dancers” on my web site to facilitate this. If you know anyone, in any of the photos, please let them know of their existence. I would love for them all to have their photos. 
In another project, I am trying to connect some Maori with photos I took at the annual Treaty of Waitangi celebration in 2001. I had the privilege of living in New Zealand for a year and I got to spend time in some Maori communities.
I’m happy to say that there is some success in connecting Native dancers with their photos. I realized how silly it is to have all these photos gathering dust in photo albums. Thus my effort in trying to get these photos out there so people can enjoy them. 

When you reach out and offer your help, you are making a difference, not only to the person helped but even more noticeably, to your compassionate nature. And that can only be good. 

 

Verdell Primeaux

The joy that comes from being able to make a positive difference in someone’s life, sometimes by a simple act of compassion, is an amazing feeling. Once in a while this opportunity comes along.
With just a few kindly placed, meaningful words on a FaceBook post, I was able to make legendary Native American singer Verdell Primeaux feel better and at the same time recognize his great accomplishments in Native American Church music in his 30 plus years. This comes at an opportune time because he is faced with the obstacles of cancer and diabetes. I will show the letter and his reply in a little bit but here’s a brief recap of all his great accomplishments.
 Verdell is of Ogalla/ Yankton Sioux and Ponca heritage. By the time he was 5 he began singing and learning Lakota culture and traditions. At 13 Verdell recorded four albums with his father and at the age of 16 began composing lyrics and rhythms. With his partner Johnny Mike, Dine, they have created many award winning recordings over a 30 plus year span. I invite anyone interested to do their own research on Verdell. Listen to and chant along with the beautiful Peyote  prayer chants. Most all of their recording are still available on Canyon Records, Phoenix or thru YouTube.
 Here is the letter:
Hi Verdell Primeaux
My name is Michael Suess. I know you have had some pain and suffering lately and I’m truly sorry for that. May you be free from suffering and whatever causes suffering.
I have been listening to your beautiful prayer music for about 25 years now, thanks in part to Canyon Records in Phoenix (earlier) and YouTube (later). For me, you and Johnny Mike are the “gold standard”. I think I’ve listened to most everything you guys have released, and I like it all. You were innovative in your approach. I like Sacred Path with its electronic background, to your collaboration with Xavier Yxayoti and the beautiful flute music, your collaboration with Robbie Robertson, the “Lost & Lonely” collection and too many others to list.. If you were to ride in my car, you would hear one of my favorite CD’s “Bless the People” on endless loop.
It is very sad to see people disrespectfully recording live prayer songs or the pirating of NAC music. All of those are totally unacceptable. Unfortunately, there are unsavory people of all colors.
When I read one of the past comments that “you feel somewhat responsible” I would like to offer you another perspective. Imagine the thousands of people (if not more) that have heard your beautiful prayer music over the 30 plus years you’ve been doing this. By recording and putting your prayer music in the public domain, you have allowed many, many people who would never have the opportunity to hear it, a chance to experience it. That’s pretty powerful!
I know it’s a very complex issue so “Thank You” for listening to my take. And please keep on using your voice to help people heal.
Respectfully
Michael Suess
 
Verdell Primeaux -  Ahoka!! Well now my friend,,.gm there.. Finally!  Here is someone who understands something about what I was talking about,,,perhaps the situation may see some resolve but for now my friend…,thank you for the research,,& may the spirit of music,,continue,,unwavering,,,your comrade,,
Chief Verdell Chaske Primeaux
When you see that an effort like this returns such a disproportionately larger result, you can’t help but wonder why we don’t do it more often. I challenge you to make a positive difference in your own and other people’s lives, everyone will the better for it!

 

 

Compassionate New Year's Eve Resolution

It seems like New Year’s resolutions are quite popular this time of year. It’s a fine idea to think ahead and make goals, resolutions and promises. After all, goals are important in propelling oneself to achieve “greater heights”.  I think it is equally important to look back and see what you have accomplished, to “take stock” if you will. And evaluate toward the positive. Maybe there were times that you didn’t follow thru on what you had planned. To dwell on that would be counter-productive and a waste of one’s time. Instead focus on what you did right.
What did you do this past year that made a positive influence on another person? It may be someone related or not. If there were times, and I’m sure there were, that you made someone feel better, then put that down on your "scorecard". How many of those times can you list? If your card reads many - well then Congratulate yourself! Be thankful that you had many opportunities and resolve to add even more check marks to next year’s scorecard.
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When you put the focus on how many opportunities you have to help other people, then opportunities just naturally arise. Of course, you need to be discriminating or you would be overwhelmed. Maybe let your scale lean towards how can you do the greatest good for everyone involved, including yourself.
Looking ahead to next year, when you make those resolutions, why not include one - to make everyone around you feel better just by your presence.

Happy Resolution Making.

Here’s wishing everyone

Peace and Happiness

 

 

 

 

 

Broaden your World View - Travel

Traveling to another country and immersing yourself in its culture is a great way to get an appreciation of how other people live. You transcend your own situation for a broader view. That in turn makes you more sympathetic to their national identities and uniqueness’s.
       Colosseum in Rome. This amazing structure is almost 2,000 years old

       Colosseum in Rome. This amazing structure is almost 2,000 years old

Recently I had the privilege to share a trip to Italy & Switzerland with Mannie. I have been mentoring the young man and I promised him a trip upon successful completion of his college graduation. He is the first in his family to graduate and I thought it important to make a positive example of his success. He held his end of the bargain and I got to plan a trip. Mannie had never been out of this country so it was an eye opener.
                                         Ancient Rome at its finest .

                                         Ancient Rome at its finest.

We planned an ambitious 9-day Italian adventure, starting in Milano, then onto Roma for 3 days. We toured the Vatican Museum, enjoyed the sights of ancient Rome and took a day trip to Napoli & Pompeii. You get a real sense of history touring thru ruins that are over 2,000 years old. From there we went to Pisa for a day. The “Field of Miracles” includes the Leaning Tower, the old Cathedral and an awesome Mausoleum with ancient tombs.
                                           Trevi Fountain, Rome

                                           Trevi Fountain, Rome

After Pisa, we went to visit my friends in Switzerland. We walked the beautiful city of Solothurn near Biel. Mannie had a taste of absinthe made in that region. From there we went to Thun, Neiderstoken & Gurzelen, all in the canton of Bern. My friends were amazingly generous and prepared cuisine from those regions. We got a first rate sample of that beautiful country!
                            Roschti - traditional Swiss dish from the area

                            Roschti - traditional Swiss dish from the area

Our trip continued back to Venice, Italy for 2 nights. Venezia is a water lovers paradise. We took the Grand Canal tour and walked many of the back streets. Most all dead end at one of the 45 canals in that city. Mannie took a tour of the earliest Jewish ghetto, dating back hundreds of years. We spent our last day in Milano touring the Domo. We walked up to the top of the church among all the arches and statues.
                                One of the many side canals in Venice

                                One of the many side canals in Venice

It was a pleasure to be able to share this learning experience with Mannie. I know it opened his eyes to the larger world out there. Need to expand a loved ones horizons? Think about sharing a travel experience to an international destination. You will not only increase their awareness of the world around them but you just might have some fun, too.
Happy Travels.



A Gift for Me

My ability to help the Sanchez brothers, with their myriad of different issues, is such a great gift. I get to make a noticeable difference in four distinctly different lives. These are young men who didn’t have many opportunities at an earlier stage in their lives, now are realizing that there are decisions and choices to be made. And they get to make them!
 In earlier, recent blogs, I have highlighted the four Sanchez brothers and the year they each spent living with me. I liked writing about each of them. It reminded me of how far they have come and how far they still need to go. At this stage, now that they are living on their own (with different degrees of success) I see my role changing slightly. While I will always be their advocate/ mentor, I (they) need to think longer term strategic goals. What can I do to help them into the future?
Keeping in mind that each brother is a “uniquely special entity” has to be the first guideline. What’s helpful for Cesar would definitely not be right for Mannie, etc. Equally important in the equation is “What is actually doable?”  I’m the first one to be the brother’s cheerleader for “the sky is the limit” & “You can do whatever you put your mind to” & other positive affirmations. Unfortunately the “facts on the ground” sometimes limit what is actually possible. As an example, take Jesus, the youngest at 20. He will very soon be released from a one year confinement. Helping him with immediate needs like “where to stay” and helping him get signed up for dental and healthcare, etc. Those are the issues most pressing for Jesus. Of course, I still emphasize positive, affirming ideals whenever I have a chance.   

                                            Jesus with Honey

Mannie at 21, is on a different trajectory. Soon he will be the first person in his family, including his parents, to graduate from a technical college. He will have earned a Certificate in Telecommunications. This will allow him to get a job most anywhere. In Mannie’s case, I can be most helpful by encouraging him, making him realize that every week spent at school is a week closer to graduation. Every Friday, I make it a point to send Mannie a text saying “Congrats on another week of school under your belt”. I added a “sweetener” when he started school. I told him upon successful completion we would take a trip, somewhere in the world where a passport is required. We will start the application process for the passport in two weeks (2/3’s completion of school).
Mannie is definitely the taller of the two of us. On Angel's Landing  hike at Zion National Park

Mannie is definitely the taller of the two of us. On Angel's Landing  hike at Zion National Park

While none of us can predict the future. With a spiritual grounding, a positive outlook and practical “hands on” effort, I know without a doubt that I am making a difference. I feel Blessed to have this gift!
        At Karma Choeling Buddhist Monastery near Auckland, New Zealand

        At Karma Choeling Buddhist Monastery near Auckland, New Zealand

Miguel Arturo Sanchez

This is the final installment in a four-part series about the Sanchez brothers. Today it is my pleasure to write about Miguel Arturo Sanchez, AKA Miggs  (for context see previous blogs). Miguel is the second born in the Sanchez brother’s clan. He has been living under my roof for the past 13 months (as of today’s writing) and is about to embark on a journey of his own.
Miguel at the Bellagio hotel, Las Vegas

Miguel at the Bellagio hotel, Las Vegas

Miguel has chosen to relocate to the Tuscon area. It will be quite a change for Miguel as he has always lived within the San Diego surrounding communities, thus far in his life.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington

Olympic Peninsula, Washington

While Miguel was living here, he has been employed as a server/ host at a local hotel resort community. I remember the first time he went there for the job interview. He had never been a waiter before but he was determined to apply for the job. He gave a good impression and was offered the job. That was 10 months ago and the rest is history. Miguel is a quick learner when he wants to be.
Daytime waiter outfit

Daytime waiter outfit

For Miguel’s first flight he wanted to visit Seattle, Washington and surrounding areas. We flew there this past summer. We were fortunate to also visit Olympia, the capital, and the Olympic Peninsula. It was a wonderful trip and it was especially nice to share this with him.
Olympia, Washington state capital

Olympia, Washington state capital

Bubble gum wall near Pike Place in Seattle

Bubble gum wall near Pike Place in Seattle

Miguel’s time here with me was productive. He wrote a blog for this site shortly after he moved in. He posted his first blog on March 10, 2014, and submitted one about every 2 -3 weeks, until January 2015. At the height of his blog posts, he had a following of people interested in reading his stories and observations.
Largest spruce tree near Quinault Lake, Olympic Peninsula

Largest spruce tree near Quinault Lake, Olympic Peninsula

 He got frustrated with the written part of the driver’s test and “put it down” for about 6 months.  Then he studied seriously and passed both his written and his driver’s license test. It was a proud and instructive moment when he passed. We celebrated his accomplishment.

I know that Miguel can be successful at anything he puts his mind to.

As in much of life, follow thru is the key.

         Miguel dancing with Ellen. Read Ellen's blog on this site, also.

         Miguel dancing with Ellen. Read Ellen's blog on this site, also.

My wish for you Miguel Arturo Sanchez is that you may realize this secret and follow thru with everything you start. 

Spread your wings and take flight, my friend

I know That you will do well !

 

Manuel Ignacio Sanchez - Mannie Moe

This is the third part in a four-part series about the Sanchez brothers. Today I am writing about Mannie, Manuel Ignacio Sanchez (for context see previous blogs).
 In birth order, he is the third born but in brother pecking order, he is definitely the Alpha male. Mannie, 21 years old at this writing, is active and aggressive. At 6’4”, he is an imposing figure who is always looking for ways to better himself. He recently started a 7 month telecommunications certificate program at a local technical college.  He found the tech school lead on his own. I helped him get the necessary documents together ie: proof of being in foster care system from the court, etc. but it was mainly driven by him. He has been going to school for 3 weeks now and he loves it. It has renewed his passion for learning again. And it really shows! This is the most meaningful part of being able to help the Sanchez brothers.
Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

I first met Mannie thru his oldest brother. Cesar was living with me at the time. He had been living here and was ready to go “out on his own”.  Mannie called me about 1 month before he turned 18. He asked if I had a place for him to stay, when he turned 18. I told him, yes I did. I had always heard nice things about Mannie from Cesar. Growing up, Cesar got teased a lot for being different. Mannie came to his defense/rescue on more than one occasion. 
Mannie moved in with me on his 18th birthday. The first thing he wanted to do was get his driver’s license.  The day after his birthday, he went to the DMV to take the written test. He missed it by one question so he went home and studied. The next day he took it and answered all questions correctly. I think we must have practiced driving almost every day of that month.  He went back to the DMV and he passed his driving test on the first try. I must admit that I am a very demanding drive instructor and I expected a lot of him (driving is so important). There were a couple of times when the lesson was abruptly over, my doing. Still he persevered thru it all and successfully got his license. I was as proud of him and he was of himself!
For his first flight we went to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was during the weekend of the Gathering of Nations, the last full weekend of April, every year. It’s the largest Pow Wow in the country, attracting thousands of dancers and drums from all over North America. It’s was quite a sight and sound experience. We also visited the Skandia Peaks ski area above Albuquerque.  
Skandia Ski area above Albuquerque. NM

Skandia Ski area above Albuquerque. NM

Mannie had tried different professions during his 9 month stay with me including: vacuum cleaners sales, magazine subscriptions, busboy, stadium sales, etc. It has been a valuable learning experience for him.
He met a woman here in San Diego. She was from Phoenix so he decided to move out there, to be closer together. He ended up living in the Phoenix area, for about 2 years.
After his time in Phoenix, Mannie made contact with his dad, Arturo. Mannie ended up living with him in Santa Ana. He got a job there. It was right after that time together that I noticed a subtle change in Mannie. He was more attuned to his gentle nature.
In the past Mannie could be aggressive, sometimes overly. To experience this change to his gentler side is amazing and beautiful to behold !
Honey sitting atop Mannie Moe

Honey sitting atop Mannie Moe

Back to today. Mannie likes to travel. He has flown to and stayed in Atlanta, Georgia and Denver, Colorado. He has an adventurous nature.
Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park, Utah

The offer on the table is a trip, to a country where a passport is required, upon successful completion of his Telecommunications certificate. We will start the application process for a passport 3 months in advance of his expected completion date, Sept 11, 2015. It’s important for him to have goals. If I can add an enticement at the end, all the better.
I know that Mannie will be fine, at whatever he does.
Here is my cheer and my prayer for you.  Always balance your beautiful gentle nature with your aggressive side. Keep the balance.

Best wishes in everything you  do my friend  

 

  

 

 

 

 

Cesar Martin Sanchez

This is the second entry in a four part series - highlighting each of the four Sanchez brothers (for context see previous blogs). Today I am writing about the oldest brother, Cesar Martin Sanchez AKA Marie Heart.
Cesar Martin Sanchez above Hollywood sign

Cesar Martin Sanchez above Hollywood sign

I first got involved with the brothers thru meeting Cesar. We struck up a conversation and I invited him to a free classical music concert later that afternoon. He had never been to one before so he was impressed, even though “it was not his kind of music”. After the concert, we talked about many different things including his past and what he saw as his future. We “ran into each other” about a week later and had another nice conversation. At the time, he was staying with a friend but that was about to end. I invited him to come and stay with me for a week. As it turned out, one week turned into one year.
Cesar washing Honey

Cesar washing Honey

When he was first living here, we mapped out a strategy to help him achieve his goals and ambitions. One of his goals was to get a job so I helped him create a resume. We didn’t have much to work with but we made one anyway. He got a letter of recommendation to go with it. We had an added obstacle. Cesar, bless his heart, has rather severe learning issues.  His understanding and comprehension of written materials are not what they should be. To compensate for this we made a plan. I would help him fill out the job applications. Applying online it was not a problem as I could always help him unseen. When he had to go in to the actual restaurant, it was a little different. He would ask for the application then say he forgot his glasses, come out to the car where I would help him fill it out. He would then go back in to return it, all filled out. All this effort paid off. Cesar landed a food service job at a private university.  It was a long way from our house and required two bus transfers, each way, to get there. To his credit, he did this about four days a week for eight months.
At Seaport Village

At Seaport Village

Cesar knew from an early age, 11 to be exact, that he was gay. Growing up in the foster system has its challenges, especially for someone who is different. According to him, he was always open about the fact that he was gay, and it got him into some trouble. He often relied on his younger brother, Mannie, to keep his tormentors away.
I have always encouraged Cesar to be proud of who he is, I think it’s very important.
At Zion National Park, Utah

At Zion National Park, Utah

One of Cesar’s great attributes is that he is always happy!  It doesn’t matter what’s happening in his life, good times or bad, he is always happy. I use this example to his brothers all the time.
For Cesar’s first plane flight he chose San Francisco. He always wanted to go there and to fly on a plane. We stayed at a nice hotel right under the Trans America tower. We got to do all the touristy things like ride cable cars, walk and eat in Chinatown, Union Square, etc. For Cesar, walking around the Castro area was it.
It was nice to be able to share this with him.
After about a year living with me, Cesar was ready to go out on his own. It was good timing because his brother Mannie was about to turn 18 with no place to go. I helped Cesar find a room to rent near here. It was a “fixer upper” so he painted it with the colors he liked and moved in. That was almost 3 1/2 years ago.
About 2 years ago, Cesar became “fascinated” by cross dressing. He quickly got into the scene and is a popular Drag Queen in the Hillcrest area. At 6’5”, even taller in size 15 high heels, she stands out.
 Another life changing event occurred 8 months ago for Cesar. He was riding as a passenger in a vehicle this past Memorial Day weekend. A speeding drunk driver was hurling his vehicle towards them. He hit 2 parked cars then smashed his vehicle into the car that Cesar was riding in. Meanwhile Cesar was trapped in the car. The “jaws of life” were used to get him out of the wrecked vehicle. He was transported via ambulance to the hospital. There he found out that his C-1 vertebra was badly fractured, his hip was fractured and he had many assorted bruises. The doctors did emergency surgery to fuse some of the vertebrae together. They added a plate in the back of his head with rods running down his spine.
This brings me back to the rehab unit. Cesar was confronted with the daunting task of rehabilitation. It was just too much for him at the time. He refused to participate in any of the rehab activities despite what other people were telling him. He was in such pain that all he wanted to do was sleep. Due to his lack of participation in anything, he developed pneumonia. After I left the hospital, I thought for sure he had completely given up on life. I was resigned to the fact that if that’s what Cesar wanted then there’s nothing more I could do. I was ready to sit with him until he passed.  Fortunately, he snapped out of it and began to participate in life again.
Cesar (l) with his youngest brother Jesus, Dec. 2014

Cesar (l) with his youngest brother Jesus, Dec. 2014

It has been a tough climb but he has embraced it and recovered well. To look at him today you would never know what happened. 

I will always be in Cesar/ Marie’s life as a friend, advocate and mentor.

I wish you Peace and Happiness, always my friend !