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 peoples 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!
 

 

 

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

Realize your good fortune and pass it on.

 

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!

Fantasy Sunset

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.

 

In Appreciation of Memorial Days

For me, the beauty of the celebration of Memorial Day, 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. 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.
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.
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
 
 
 

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.



Karma & Rebirth - why they matter

I have recently come to read a great book written by the late Traleg Kyabgon Rinpoche called “Karma – What it is, What it isn’t and Why it matters”. Rinpoche was one of the early Dharma teachers to go to the West. He possessed an extensive training in traditional Buddhist philosophy combined with knowledge of western philosophy and psychology and the study of comparative religion. Able to communicate in fluent English, he was aware of the misappropriations of Buddhist terms in popular culture and was always concerned with the purity of his teachings. In this, Rinpoche’s last book, his thorough examination of karma, rebirth and related topics is of great benefit.
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Like these excerpts on character: “The Buddha’s great emphasis on character can be seen in the traditional Buddhist devotion to matters of virtue. Virtue is explained in terms of the supports, or pillars, necessary for it to stand. Morality and ethics constitute the first pillar, the performance of wholesome deeds – being patient, understanding and exercising moral restraint. The second pillar is that of meditation or learning to focus our mind and develop mindfulness. The third pillar is that of generosity. The overall idea here is based on an economy of means: instead of thinking about all kinds of virtuous qualities, that we should develop this and that and make a very long list, we should instead simplify things and focus on developing the three supporting qualities of virtue.  From there everything will flourish of its own accord.”
 “It is not just the action performed that is important but also the character formation that goes with it. Of course character has to do with the accumulation of so called karmic disposition, a long standing part of Buddhist philosophy. What is not so explicitly stated though, but rather is implied in the sutras (prayers), is that in trying to develop certain character traits, an individual does in fact, as a consequence of his or her effort, becomes a different person.”
 “The notion of character is very important due to Buddhism’s insistence that we do not have a stable, fixed kind of self-identity. What we have left to think about then hinges on the character we have built for ourselves in the course of our many lives. That character constitutes the sum total of what we are as human beings; it represents our person-hood. So the kind of person we have become, the sort of individual we are, is more important than the actions we perform.”
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Or these excerpts on the subject of rebirth/ reincarnation: “The Buddhist concept of rebirth needs to be clearly delineated from ideas with which it is sometimes confused, especially the reincarnation idea frequently associated with Hinduism, whereby one returns in a different body but with the same soul. Buddhist rebirth also needs to be distinguished from the ancient Greek idea of immortality and the Christian idea of resurrection, both of which refer to an immortal soul. Nevertheless, an unchanging psychic principal that survives death and continues from one life to some other sort of life is inherent in all these ideas.”
“In Buddhism, that which “reincarnates”, to use that term, is not an unchanging self but a collection of psychic materials. It is not the same soul reincarnating. It is a rebirth. It is the same individual that has come back or takes a new life, but that individual is totally different because everything about him or her has changed.”
Or these excerpts on Karma: “Subscribing to Karmic theory does not entail denying the inspiration some people have gained from their belief in God and the good works they have undertaken because of it. A person’s ethical inspirations may well come from such a source and it is sometimes looked upon very favorably from a Buddhist perspective. We can certainly ground our ethical and moral values in beliefs other than karma and lead a morally edifying life. Nevertheless, karmic theory offers an alternative perspective.”
“At a fundamental level, the correct approach to karma, to cause and effect, is not to think of it too mechanically. We should not think that when we do something, we promptly and automatically experience the consequences. Rather we need to look at the different aspects of our lives as it interweaves with the warp and weft of action. It does not evolve in isolation but in a dynamic context. Nor is it a form of fatalism or determinism or an ideological vehicle for accepting one’s lot in life. Karmic theory is actually meant to give the opposite message, to encourage us to become even more determined to improve ourselves and move forward. Motivation is critical to the whole idea.”
This is a great, well written, easy to understand book. At an individual level, this book provides helpful advice and practical suggestions emphasizing how a correct understanding of karma can open up opportunities for transformation and help us live our lives more meaningful. It is my hope that by sharing this some people will be drawn to read this fine book.

Thank You Very Much

The book “Karma – What it is, What it isn’t and Why it Matters” is published by Shambahla Press 2015.
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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

The Beauty of Chants & Chanting

There are beautiful chants in all of the” world’s great religions”. From the beauty of the Sufi chants (early Islamic mystics) to the power of Tibetan Buddhist “Om Mani Peme Hung” to the devotion of the Hindu “Om Namah Shivaya” & “Hare Krishna”. The powerful Peyote prayer songs of the Native American Church, the early Christians had the hauntingly beautiful Gregorian Chants and there are many other examples thru history.
I does not matter so much what you chant, it’s actually doing the chanting, that matters most. Choose a chant that you find attracted to and start there. Chanting is an “experiential” thing. Many different people try to “explain” how it works. At the end, I have enclosed 2 of what I consider the best verbal explanations of “how chanting works”. One is by Ram Das and the other is by author Don Campbell.
I drive about 30 minutes each way to my present, full -time client’s home in Rancho Santa Fe. It’s a perfect opportunity for me to chant as I’m driving. I find I’m much more relaxed and calm. Being more calm means I make better decisions behind the wheel. I’m not so inclined to take another driver’s bad habits and inattention as a “personal affront” and I get to pray all along the way. When I do arrive, I can make more meaningful decisions. It’s an hour well spent.
I feel blessed to be able to chant the many different varieties available in the public domain. If anyone is interested in a list, please feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll respond.
Thanks for reading my blog and please consider chanting as part of a regular schedule, you will be rewarded!
Peace
 

                              Sound and Silence                                   

Chant and Planes of Consciousness

By Ram Das

 

Everybody sings. Every culture in the world has some form of music, of song. But songs have different purposes in countries like India than they have in the west. In the west music is usually an emotional experience or a kind of social interaction. In India, song (kirtan) is a method of spiritual practice, an approach to the Divine.
Different purposes lead to different forms. In kirtan, for example, we often will sing the same phrase over and over and over again, sometimes for hours at a time – a form that just doesn’t exist in western music. We don’t understand the idea that you could take a single phrase and keep repeating it and repeating it, letting it carry us deeper and deeper and deeper into our being. But in kirtan you do just that.
Take a chant, maybe something as simple as a single sound such as “OM”. Try repeating it for a few minutes. You’ll feel how, with just that one sound, you can tune in so deeply. You’re using the sound as a tuning device into the sound itself. And as you listen your way into the sound, you realize that what you’re doing is to tune the dial of your consciousness, to open a door that lets you go more deeply inward.
 

Chant, Mantra & Tone : The transformational power of sound             by Don Campbell

 

The gateways to the soul or spirit are opened with prayer, voice, repetition and sound. The Gregorian chants of the early Catholic religion, the rhythm chants of Africa, the Peyote chants of the Native American church, the repetitive phrases at a pep rally and the mystical words unifying us to God – all are part of the transformational power of sound.
The repetition of a vocal sound modifies the breath, body and mind. Each tone vibrates the bones of the chanter, cantor, the singer and the devotee. The elongation of the vowel sound is remarkably healing to the body and the brain. The brainwaves begin to balance after just 3 minutes or 4 minutes, and the muscle and skin temperature increases. Chanting is a simple and essential way to reduce stress and anxiety levels. The Ancients intuitively knew that the balancing of the body, speech and mind through the voice is a direct path to God consciousness.
A Mantra or chant often starts out up in the head, where you are thinking about it. You think about the word, how to say it or what it means. Then the word begins to go down into the throat, into a physical experience of the sound itself. Next it starts to move down into the heart. And eventually it becomes the engine that is running you. You are not singing the sound, the sound is singing you. It is bringing you closer and close to another plane of consciousness, offering you a way to live simultaneously on more than one plane of reality. It’s allowing you to experience other parts of your identity, to recognize that there’s a lot more to you than what you see or what you think.
 

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 !

 

 

Jesus Javier Sanchez - May You find Peace

In my previous blogs, I find that I am usually writing about issues that are close to my heart. This time is no different. In fact, this is the first part of a four part series - highlighting each of the four Sanchez brothers.
Today I am starting with the youngest brother,
Jesus Javier Sanchez.
                                           Jesus -  September 2012

                                           Jesus -  September 2012

 For the past 5 years, I have been involved as a mentor/ advocate for a family of 4 young men, the Sanchez brothers. Caesar is the oldest at 23, Miguel is 22, Manuel is 21 and Jesus is 19. The brothers have all been in the foster care system for most of their lives. I first got involved with the family thru the oldest boy, Cesar. I allowed him to live at my house for about 1 year. In fact, I have allowed all four of the Sanchez brothers to live with me, for about 1 year each, usually when they got out of the foster care system at age 18. I have helped them get their first jobs, taken them each on their first plane rides, helped Manuel & Miguel get their driver’s licenses and generally focused on “quickly learning important life lessons”. Lessons such as the importance of saying “Thank You” each and every time it’s due. Or trying to get them to understand and appreciate their “uniqueness and individuality”. On any given day, I may help two or more of the brothers, depending on what’s happening that particular day. I feel blessed to be of service in this way!
                                    Jesus with Honey - March 2013

                                    Jesus with Honey - March 2013

 Now let me tell you about the Jesus I know. At 19, he is the youngest of the four Sanchez brothers. The Jesus I know can be kind, generous and caring. He likes to share whatever he has with the people around him. While he was living with me, we would chant together. His favorites were Native American peyote prayer chants but he also joined me in chanting some Tibetan Buddhist prayers. It was such an amazing transformation to behold – Calm, Peaceful & Energized. For his first plane trip he chose Denver. We went in November so he got to experience cold and snow first hand. It was wonderful to share the experience with him.
         Jesus in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,000 ft.- November 2012

         Jesus in Leadville, Colorado, elevation 10,000 ft.- November 2012

We took a camping trip to Bryce National Park in summer. I am interested in seeing wildlife in its natural habitat. Jesus loved being in the wilderness. One of his favorite times was watching a nesting pair of Ospreys. They brought fish back to the nest. He insisted we make a list of all our wildlife sightings. At the end of the trip we were surprised at the quantity and variety of creatures we were able to observe.
                           Jesus with Ellen at Bryce NP, Utah - June 2013

                           Jesus with Ellen at Bryce NP, Utah - June 2013

 A little history might help. I first met Jesus thru his older brothers in 2011. On holidays, I would invite all brothers interested, to be together over at my house. When Manuel moved out of my house to go to Phoenix in June 2012, I got a call from Jesus’ social worker, David. Jesus had run away from his foster family and was at the Polinski Center. David was having trouble placing Jesus because of his age, 17, at that time. He asked me if I would consider being his foster dad. I did all the required paperwork and he came to live with me in early July 2012. I enrolled him in school. Unfortunately, a by-product of his experience in the foster system is under achievement and low expectations in school. His basic skills are terrible. When he was living with me, I made him read for 15 minutes every day, even though it was hard for him. That was part of our deal. I paid attention to many different interests of his: researching his Native heritage – we went to Pow Wows and other cultural events. Then his attitude got bad. He began missing school and lying about it, not coming home as expected and other disrespectful things.
   Jesus with Doug & Josette & family - Pow Wow at Morango - August 2012

   Jesus with Doug & Josette & family - Pow Wow at Morango - August 2012

 In early December 2012, two months before his 18th birthday, I decided to take the unusual step of placing him back into the foster system, for the last 2 months before he turned 18, “to get his attention”. I told him when I did it, when he turns 18, he can come back and stay with me, again. As it turned out it was a good thing.
                                   Jesus on PB boardwalk - July 2012

                                   Jesus on PB boardwalk - July 2012

It gave him time to think about it. The day he turned 18, he came back with a whole new attitude. Also at 18, because he was a foster youth, he was entitled to be on a program, AB-12. If they meet certain criteria (school or work) they received about $800 per month. I made Jesus save half that amount every month in an account that needed my signature to withdraw. He saved up enough to pay his half of a trip to Florida. It was a great experience for him and he appreciated being able to pay his half of the plane fare.
                                           Jesus with Mannie - April 2014

                                           Jesus with Mannie - April 2014

Jesus has always looked up to his brother, Manuel, so when Mannie offered Jesus to come live in Phoenix, he said yes. I drove him there on Sept 1, 2013. It was a tough 45 days for him. In that short amount of time in Arizona, he managed to put his right fist and arm through a glass window. He almost bled to death as he cut an artery. He was mad at Manuel for not opening the door fast enough. Jesus has a temper and often has a hard time controlling it. That incident got both of them kicked out. Jesus ended up in the hospital for 8 days. Fortunately for him the doctors did a great job putting the nerves back in place. Jesus was living in a homeless shelter for 2 weeks before coming back to San Diego. Jesus called me on October 15th and asked if I would send him a bus ticket home. I did.
                                          Jesus at home - June 2013

                                          Jesus at home - June 2013

 When he got back here in San Diego, he met his friend, Steven, who offered him a place to stay. I got him enrolled back into school and found him a doctor. We were in family court on October 29, 2013 for the AB 12 hearing. Jesus was first arrested as we walked out of that courtroom.
 Fast forward to now. Over the past 14 months, Jesus has been released from jail and picked up for probation violations on 4 separate occasions, usually for not checking in weekly with the probation department. It seems like he just doesn’t care anymore and that’s sad. Life hasn’t been easy for him since his first arrest. With a felony conviction on his record it is near impossible to get a job, we’ve tried. When he’s not in jail, he is homeless (he stays with a group of people who sleep in parks and abandon garages). Unfortunately, I have a small place and his brother Miguel is staying with me now, it’s his turn. Jesus comes over when he’s hungry, needs a shower and clean clothes or just a place to be with his brother(s).
          My most recent photo of all four Sanchez brothers. Jesus (2nd left)

          My most recent photo of all four Sanchez brothers. Jesus (2nd left)

I’m happy to be able to do this for him, I wish I could do more. It’s especially sad (for me) when I give him a ride back “home” to the park. I try to keep positive in front of him but when he gets out of the car and walks away, I sometimes feel like crying. Then I say a prayer for him and realize I'm doing all I can.
    Jesus with friend Steven (getting a tattoo) on his birthday - February 2014

    Jesus with friend Steven (getting a tattoo) on his birthday - February 2014

 I just left a court hearing for Jesus. He was in jail on his fourth probation violation. I contacted his public defender and he seems like a compassionate man but he is so overwhelmed with his caseload that he can only spend a couple of minutes with each inmate and usually just before their hearing . I wrote a letter to the judge that I doubt he ever got. It really draws into sharp contrast how the legal system is stacked against people without means and money. It breaks my heart, there’s nothing more I can do. I’ve done all I can and I wasn’t able to keep Jesus from going to state prison.
Will I stop caring for him? Absolutely not. All his life he has had people walk away from him when things get tough. I will visit him occasionally, bringing one or more of his brothers along. He likes to read about native peoples and his heritage – the Yaqui. I can send him new books thru Amazon – that will make his time more productive.
                       Jesus in Las Vegas (we saw this show) - March 2013

                       Jesus in Las Vegas (we saw this show) - March 2013

My New Year’s wish for you, Jesus Javier Sanchez – May you find Peace in your heart. You are a beautiful human being deserving of all of life’s goodness and bounty. May you realize this, my friend!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

This is a copy of the letter I wrote to the judge, hoping it might help. Unfortunately the judge never got to see it. 
 

To the Court, Judge                                 December 28, 2014

 Hi. My name is Mike Suess. I am the advocate/ mentor for Jesus Sanchez. I want to tell you about Jesus and his situation but it will take some set up. This is a long, detailed letter but if you want to really understand Jesus, it’s all necessary.
Jesus is the youngest of 4 brothers. All 4 of the boys, (Caesar, Miguel, Manuel & Jesus) have been in the foster care system for most of their lives. Jesus has been in there the longest, at 14 years. I first got involved with the family thru the oldest boy, Caesar. He didn’t have any place to go so I invited him to stay with me to “figure out what he wanted to do with his life”. In fact, I have allowed all 4 of the Sanchez boys to live with me, for about 1 year each, usually when they got out of the foster care system at age 18. I have helped them get jobs, took them on their first plane rides, helped Manuel & Miguel get their driver’s license, etc.
 Back to Jesus. I had known him thru his brothers. When Manuel moved out of my house to go to Phoenix in June 2012, I got a call from Jesus’ social worker, David Salinas. Jesus had run away from his foster family and was at Polinski. David was having trouble placing Jesus because of his age, 17 at that time. He asked me if I would consider being his foster dad. I did all the required paperwork and he came here in July 2012. I enrolled him in school. A by-product of his experience in the foster system is his under achievement in school. His basic skills are terrible. When he was living with me, I made him read for 15 minutes every day even though it was hard for him. That was part of our deal. I paid attention to many different interests of his: checking into his Native heritage – we went to Pow Wows and other cultural events; modeling – he joined an agency and other nice things. Then his attitude got bad.
In early December 2012, two months before his 18th birthday, I decided to take the unusual step of placing him back into the foster system, for the last 2 months before he turned 18, “to get his attention”. I told him when I did it, when he turns 18, he can come back and stay with me, again. As it turned out it was the best thing I ever did for him. It gave him time to think about it. The day he turned 18, he came back with a whole new attitude. Also at 18, because he was a foster youth, he was entitled to be on a program, AB-12. If they meet certain criteria (school or work) they received about $800 per month. I made Jesus save half that amount every month in an account that needed my signature to withdraw. He saved up enough to pay his half of a trip to Florida. It was a great experience for him and he appreciated being able to pay half for himself.
Jesus has always looked up to his brother Manuel so when he offered Jesus to come live in Phoenix, he said yes. I drove him there on Sept 1st. It was a tough 45 days for him. In that short amount of time in Arizona, he managed to put his right fist and arm through a glass window. He almost bled to death as he cut an artery. He was mad at Manuel for not opening the door. Jesus has a temper and often has a hard time controlling it. That incident got both of them kicked out. Jesus ended up in the hospital for 8 days. Fortunately for him the doctors did a great job putting the nerves back in place. Jesus was living in a homeless shelter for 2 weeks before coming back to San Diego. In their time in Phoenix, both of the boys were out of compliance with the AB 12 program due to getting kicked out. Jesus called me on October 15, 2013 and asked if I would send him a bus ticket home. I did.
When he got back here he met his friend, Steven, who offered him a place to stay. I got him enrolled back into school, found him a doctor. We were in family court on October 29th for the AB 12 hearing Jesus was originally arrested as we walked out of that courtroom.
I have visited Jesus at George Bailey detention facility in Otay Mesa. Once in a while I manage to get one of his brothers to go along. He needs to know that someone is out there thinking about him. I have sent him books thru Amazon (It’s the only way they can receive books). I want him to make productive use of his time
Jesus has been picked up on probation violation charges several different times since his original arrest. Up to now Jesus just hasn’t cared. What’s different now is that Jesus is a father and he has not been able to see the baby yet. A complicated situation, the baby’s mother is a minor. They have a restraining order against Jesus. I think what might get Jesus’ attention - the hope that he may one day be able to see his son. I’m sure the probation department will require him to successfully remain in compliance of his probation. The visit will probably have to be a supervised visit with his probation officer in attendance. At least it will give him a positive goal to work towards. 
Jesus and I have been talking about a strategy when he gets out. He needs to get back on the AB 12 program. (The AB12 program was meant for exactly these kinds of kids, foster youth who through no fault of their own, have been in the system for most of their lives). It will mean he has to go back to school. For me it would be good if he got his skills level high enough to get his GED. He is way behind in credits.
Jesus has a tough climb ahead for himself. He needs to get into the transitional housing program and make a life for himself. Poor kid, he's seems to be making it hard for himself. I'll try to be there, as often as I can, to make sure he gets as fair a shake in life, as is possible.
 Feel free to contact me if you need additional information. Thanks
 Sincerely

Michael Suess

 

 

Realizing Your Good Fortune

In the course of everyday life, it’s not uncommon to hear people complain about most everything. From the weather, other people’s issues and shortcomings, the direction of the government, and so on. While it is good to take an interest in our neighbors and friends lives, it is also equally important to maintain a positive, peaceful atmosphere for ourselves. It’s ok to listen to other people complaints, you listen because you care for them and you want them to know that. There is also a line that you should draw for yourself. When does this complaining infringe on you and your “peaceful atmosphere”? I will usually let them talk for a few minutes then offer some suggestion of how they might deal with it. Often times it’s tough. People who complain lots are usually “heavily invested” in their complaints.  The antidote, as I see it, is to realize how very fortunate we really are.
Let’s start off with the basic fortune of being able to breath. The Karmapa expanded on this idea recently in a teaching. When we stop breathing, we die, he said. Turn off a person’s life support machine, and they die. We take breathing for granted, breathing in and out, day after day, year after year, and we forget how amazing it is. Even one single breath is based on thousands of steps and on many other factors such as the plants which make the oxygen we need. If we had to buy the air we breathe, we wouldn’t be able to afford it. We might think we do not have much, but when we consider it, to be able to breathe is a great fortune.
This precious human body that we have, with its freedoms and endowments, is obtained with difficulty and destroyed with ease. Thus it should be used with purpose now. We are fortunate to have been endowed with this “creative mind” and 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. You have a powerful, creative mind so you might as well use it to help others. Realize your good fortune and pass it on.
Use your creative visualizations to bring healing energy to everyone you meet

Use your creative visualizations to bring healing energy to everyone you meet

A Birthday Tradition

I recently celebrated my birthday. I have always tried to incorporate ideas and traditions that I like, into my life. One of the ideas I really like, is that of sharing of food with friends and loved ones, on your birthday.  This is your birthday, your special day, and you to want to share it with the people you love. This is my gift to you, thanks for sharing my birthday with me!
I have worked in healthcare for many years, that’s where I first learned of this tradition, in the Filipino culture. Sharing of food with friends, family and co-workers, on your birthday is a common practice. I was fortunate to have been invited into these “birthday bashes” on many occasions. I can still “smell” the lumpia and the pancit noodles. 
On my most recent birthday, I continued a tradition I started about 5 years ago, taking all of the interested Sanchez brothers who wanted to go, out to breakfast, lunch or dinner; their restaurant choice. This year, I was able to take Miguel and Jesus to their favorite restaurants (For context, see 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” & “Understanding the Whole Picture”). 
Jesus had never been to IHOP and he wanted to go there, that was his choice. The nice thing about eating at a restaurant is that you get to be with your guest, at the same table, looking directly at each other (at least, that’s how I arranged it). He ordered some decadent waffle dish with loads of sugar. We got to talk about important, life-changing issues that are quickly “coming due” for him. Jesus, at 19, will soon be a dad, ready or not. Being able to “help him look forward” and understand all his future responsibilities, was rewarding. Hopefully I have instilled these ideals in his consciousness, time will tell.
                                         Jesus (R) with brother Mannie

                                         Jesus (R) with brother Mannie

Miguel wanted to eat dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant in the “Little Italy” area in San Diego. He especially likes it for the ambiance. They have hundreds, maybe thousands of Chianti bottles hanging down from the ceiling and according to him, the best pizza around. Miguel is a waiter at a local resort hotel so he likes to visit different restaurants and observe what goes on in with the staffs. We got to connect in a meaningful way, looking directly at each other with no distractions. I am teaching Miguel how to drive and he is doing well. It gives him a sense of accomplishment which in turn helps build his self-esteem.
I feel fortunate to be a part of his growth.
                                        Miguel on Harbor Island

                                        Miguel on Harbor Island

I am thankful for this birthday tradition. It allows me meaningful time with people I really care about. I am blessed!
 

Understanding the Whole Picture

I thought it was odd that Jesus wouldn’t tell me first. I am usually the one he turns to, for help, when things go bad for him. I visit him when he’s in jail which, unfortunately, has been too often. I advocate/ mentor for Jesus and his 3 brothers, (For context, see 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”) so when I heard that Jesus was going to be a dad, I was a little shocked, to say the least. For the year that he was living with me, I was always the one that was giving him condoms before he went out. Having the talk and trying to make sure he always had protection. And Wow, you got a girl pregnant! It’s no wonder he didn’t want to tell me ! I ended up finding out from his brothers.
He was afraid to tell me because of the way he thought I would react. His oldest brother was teasing him, saying stupid things like “I want you to get a blood test to make sure it’s yours” and other similar things so he thought I might react the same way. Of course, I didn’t. I was actually calm when Jesus arrived. We had planned to get him a replacement ID, as he had lost his, so he came over. I greeted him at the front porch and asked him to follow me so we could talk in private, just he and I. I started by telling him how serious and important his future has now become and about his future responsibilities. I reminded him how precious life is and the wonderful opportunity he has before him; I helped him to understand his obligations, if he wants to be an active part of the baby’s life. I also reminded him that if he wanted to get a blood test that it was his business, and his business, only. He made a poignant statement, “I don’t want to be like my dad. I want to be there for the baby’. And I really hope he is!
The baby is due on November 24. The parents have agreed to raise the baby at their house (Thank God). Jesus hasn’t met the parents yet. They know about his reputation for being in and out of jail and they are understandably not impressed. As of this writing, that has yet to be resolved.
                 Jesus (R) with his brother Miguel. Photo taken 3 days ago

                 Jesus (R) with his brother Miguel. Photo taken 3 days ago

I see my role as Jesus’ mentor/ advocate changing. The 2 most important people in this equation now are the baby and the baby’s mom. She needs to be a strong woman and make sure that only good, positive influences are near her baby. I hope that includes Jesus. It is my heartfelt prayer that Jesus can play the good dad part, that he so desperately wants to play. For that to happen, he will have to change his focus from me to we. From past experiences, that may be a tall order but I am eternally hopeful! It’s not just about you anymore, my friend JJ.