Wednesday, December 25, 2013


The word compassion is derived from the Latin roots com- "together" or “with”+ pati "to suffer" or “endure”. To endure or to suffer with another is something that comes from the heart.

One would think that experience begets compassion and that those who have experienced similar situations would inherently find compassion for others who follow the same path, but this isn’t always so. I have observed the opposite in both myself and others; the scenario in which those who have walked in the same shoes turn their back on those currently in similar situations. I once naively thought that circumstances of the same caliber were created equal. They are not. We have a different capacity for that which we can personally handle and for the compassion we have for others. For these reasons, all experiences are not created equal nor do equivalent circumstances beget commensurate amounts of compassion. However, it all balances out in the end. Fortunately, the world is blessed with souls who find compassion less the experience to obtain it.

I began writing this piece several months ago and kept running into fallacies in my thinking. I was troubled with how we could possibly create a more compassionate world when it is necessary to distance oneself from situations for the sake of self-preservation. My mind took twists and turns down a maze of thoughts as to where the balance was between compassion and self-preservation.  I had a moment of clarity while driving and quickly sketched out this train of thought in The Power of Intention.

This moment of clarity resulted in classifying different forms of compassion such that all people can be compassionate to one another always. It is all in one's intention. This in and of itself a difficult thing to understand and often misunderstood.

Branch to bough, with an open heart, compassion is always available for both the receiver and the giver.

Distant Compassion  

  • To endure or suffer with another from a distance in a detached state. In this state of compassion one can offer his hand to another through prayer, good thoughts and actions.

Indirect Compassion 

  • To endure or suffer with another while maintaining boundaries. An example of this may be to be directly involved in someone’s life, but choosing to abstain from conversation about that which they may be suffering. While I have no empirical evidence, my instinct tells me that albeit an extremely beneficial form of compassion to practice, indirect compassion is likely to be the least practiced. I find that people often go for outliers when it comes to unknown situations such as one where practicing a form of compassion is appropriate. It is easier to go all in or do nothing.

Direct Compassion

  • To endure or suffer with another directly. One might say this is a gentler form of empathy. When one has direct compassion for another she is involved in someone's life on a regular basis, understands the sufferings and endures them with him/her. This is not to say that she takes on the feelings of the sufferer. That would be moving into a position of empathy. We can have direct compassion for each other at all points in life, both good and troubled. Although, during the latter it is often beneficial for most to take positions of distant or indirect compassion. This form of compassion usually falls on caretakers, family members, spouses, lovers, etc

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Power of Intention...

I have been writing a piece on compassion for several weeks now and I have had a major breakthrough on a fallacy in the development of this piece that I didn’t know how to address. I found myself effortlessly typing through this fallacy and desired to reference another one of my writings regarding our words and thoughts and their intentions. I quickly looked through the documents saved on my desktop and lo and behold, I have not written this piece! I have spoken these ideas and referenced the quote mentioned below, but I have not put ink to paper or finger to keypad.

It was in 2005 around the time of Pope John Paul II’s death that I remember really thinking intensely about prayer and about how so many people in the world were actively in prayer together. I thought that although it was a beautiful thing that so many people were gathered in prayer together at this particular time, it would be nice if it happened more frequently. It was somewhere around that time that a St. Francis of Assisi quote found its way into my favorite quote book.

"Pray without ceasing. If necessary, use words."

How does one do this? Oh, how I love this catholic (in the lower-case sense of the word) quote! I interpret this to mean that all of our actions, interactions, thoughts, deeds, and words are all forms of prayer. Practicing mindfulness; being aware of the energy we put forth into the world and that we are all one and have the ability to impact others in both a positive and negative way. We are always praying whether we realize it or not. The true power comes from applying discernment, awareness and love to our daily life. No mala beads, rosaries or kneeling required.

Monday, September 23, 2013


September 12

The train of thought that I will now take that any reader that so chooses to follow me down began yesterday. However, I opted not to put fingers to keyboard until today in order not to diminish the gravity of tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001 by the parallel that I will soon draw.

Upon leaving mass yesterday, the thought occurred to me of the date. The common thing you hear on 9/11 is, “I remember where I was on 9/11”.  My mind wandered to where I was when I received a call. “Is your TV on?” I was sitting on the edge of my bed in my apartment in rural Murfreesboro, TN when I took that call. This image of me on the edge of my bed sparked the thought of another time I sat in the very spot on the edge of my bed and had a realization that has carried me over the past 12 years…

No matter what is taken from you; material possessions, your reputation, relationships, etc. The two things that no one can take from you are your ability to forgive and your ability to love. They are wellsprings.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Morning Walk, A Blue Top & A Chinese Proverb

A morning smile crept across my face as my 12 pound, bossy little lady gave her doggy version of a little girl putting her hand on her hips, tossing her head to one side as her pig-tails set high upon either side of her head follow and said, “Come on mom. I want to go outside. This is soooooo boring!” I was being selfish and was already busy at work before taking her for her morning walk. I sometimes forget that I enjoy these walks equally as much as she does.

This morning’s walk was filled with the oscillating cadences of nature’s song. It’s hard to place all of the sounds. This morning I was curious as to what controlled the different rate at which crickets and other insects chirp and learned there is a correlative effect to temperature and this relationship is known as Dolbear’s Law.

Anyhow, during this perfect, peaceful morning walk down a tree-lined verdant street; I noticed an electric blue, round plastic top, which measured about 3 inches in diameter. The lid had slits in it, which were in the form of pinwheels. I may have past it once or twice before. Actually, I am pretty sure I have, but I tend to daydream on my walks, so I have never given it much thought. However, yesterday, I saw this very same top on my godson’s snack holder. It is a brilliant invention!!! It is designed so that the little tyke can get his hand into the snack holder and the snacks don’t easily fall out!

The point to this morning’s rambling is that we often see things in life, pass by them, listen to them (songs), read them etc. But after we experience them, they take on meaning and we recognize them for what they are.

I had no idea when I began writing this that I would get to share one of my all-time favorite quotes!! Yay :)

Tell me, I’ll forget.

 Show me, I’ll remember.

 Involve me. I’ll understand.

Chinese Proverb

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Finding Faith....

I have a very strong belief system albeit one mixed with a mosaic of the world’s religions. My belief system comes from my heart and I have learned throughout life that when I can trust nothing else, I can trust my heart. I start here because during meditation this morning it was weighing on my heart that I have unevenly misrepresented my belief system. Although my blog is in its early stages, there is not one quote from Catholicism or any mention to it when in fact the first place I turn in times of trouble is prayer and to mass. A few months back when I found myself unable to understand what was happening, living in a state of disbelief despite reality staring directly at me that I found myself feeling hopeless and lost. I went to mass daily and prayed and took communion. I went back daily and waited to be relieved from the pain that my mind could not really conceive because it wouldn’t even accept the reality of the situation. This entry is not the full story to when I finally accepted the reality and let go, but rather a few other tid-bits that I have failed to share along the way.

One day, I was running a few minutes late to the 12:10 mass, so I scurried in and took my place near the back of the cathedral and listened to the priest as he continued with is homily. In all of my years of attending mass I had never heard a homily quite like this. Sure I have heard the Catholic Church speak about homosexuality and abortion, but not the entire homily speaking down on someone who has an abortion or is attracted to the same sex. I began to “go down a tunnel” aka have a panic attack. Have a panic attack in mass??? This was ridiculous. This was supposed to be my sanctuary, my oasis in the middle of the desert. My mind began to race. “How could I take communion from this man? I don’t agree with him. I don’t feel it is my choice to place judgment on any other person. Although a decision is not right for me, who am I to say what is right for someone else? Does the bible not say that charity (aka love) is above all else? What if god gave us all of these other differences to make us realize the most important thing is love? How can I take communion from this man?”

That was the moment I realized I had began putting faith in man and that my faith and relationship with God has nothing to do with man.

So, now that I have introduced a rather jolting experience that strengthened my relationship with God, but would likely be seen as blasphemy by a more traditional and non "Cafeteria-Catholic" such as myself, I have a little more food for thought. Below I have provided the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, something I have used as my centering “mantra” for many years now to ground me. It is actually on a placard in my favorite city in the United States, Saint Augustine. St. Augustine is lovely and charming. It is the oldest city in the States and has a tiny little chapel. It has never been hit by a hurricane and is said to be protected by the prayers of the nuns who originally came over. My family and I vacationed in St. Augustine when we were children. The photos here are from a mother/daughter trip in December of 2008

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."

- St. Francis of Assisi 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Eleanor Roosevelt Once Said......

“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This quote has stayed with me for many, many years. I am not even sure when I catalogued it in my mental Rolodex of favorite quotes. I interpret this quote as such: When we are young, our physical appearance is largely determined by genetics. Some can be altered through diet, exercise, grooming, etc. However, the “fairest” faces are pre-determined. After a lifetime of either smiling and laughing or alternatively giving dirty looks behind someone’s back and frowning, the face becomes a canvas and tells the story of that person; a story that cannot be hidden.

Take a moment to think about the elderly people you see; the old man with the twinkle in his eyes and the sunshine wrinkles that frame them. Some people call these wrinkles "crows feet"…I am not sure why. This evokes something dark and foreboding; something unwelcoming, but they come from intense smiling! The man with the sunshine wrinkles was that guy who always did random acts of kindness. Not because it was on his “to-do” list as part of a new trend to find the path to enlightenment (not that there is anything wrong with this… whatever works!), but because it is just who he is. He waved at his neighbors in the morning and smiled at strangers. You knew instantly that this man was approachable and kind by the aged canvas, his face. Now think about the woman who was a stunning beauty; a kept woman who sat with her girlfriends smoking cigarettes and gossiping. Now, the skin around her lips is wrinkled. Her eyes dull and the skin on her face looks ashen despite the attempts to give it color with rouge. She can no longer hide the disdain she has for those around her with an instant, albeit insincere smile. Her canvas tells the story of her life. Painted in oil, it once glimmered brightly for all to admire. New layers painted many times over the years have dried rigidly and cracked.

I am not sure if my interpretation is what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said these words, nor have I taken the time to research this quote, but that is the great thing about a quote or a song lyric; it speaks in many different ways to an array of people at different points in time.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Practicing What We Preach...

The thought occurred to me that if anyone is reading this, it is likely a friend or acquaintance of mine. If not, the thought that will follow would never even enter your mind. What I write is not meant to place judgement on any person other than myself. My blogs are simply a collection of thoughts and introspection, funny stories and reflection. If any of them apply to you and you like my view-point/way of thinking about it, than consider it yours!

I decided to start writing a blog because I think constantly and I learn from my mistakes. What could possibly be better than to learn from one's experiences than to share and possibly be the catalyst for change in another person's life. This is not because I am arrogant or think my way of thinking is right. To the contrary, I am quite self-conscious about sharing my point of view, especially on a forum such as the "world wide web"! However, my point of view and opinions are just a few more to add to the billions out there. ALL points of view (in my opinion) should not be taken at face value, but considered, digested, deconstructed and reconstructed with adjustments if necessary.

So, a thought that has been rolling around in my head for a few weeks now that seems appropriate to interject into this blog is....

"If we hold others to high standards, then practicing what we preach becomes a labor of life."

....The reason I have not yet shared this is because the thought is a work in progress. It is not quite right. Practicing what we preach is actually a joy, not a labor (again, in my opinion). It can be tough sometimes, but it is satisfying. On that note, I add one of my favorite Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) quotes:

"Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Lesson to Learning Life's Lessons....

July 18, 2013

Life’s lessons cannot be learned in a minute, an hour or even a lifetime. Do not despair, a sufficient number of life’s lessons can be learned if one brings awareness to his/her actions, interactions, adventures and misadventures.

This morning’s sequences of actions and misadventures gave birth to quite a few of life’s lessons…

Pappy, Sweetie and Buddy, the 3 dogs my sister rescued, live at my brother’s house (because he has a large backyard). I recently moved back to Nashville and reside here as well with my dog Abigail. She is the inside dog. So, this morning’s life lessons began with the thought of cleaning out my car from my recent beach trip. I had a camping chair in the backseat of my car that had to be removed. With my beach chair over one shoulder and my gym bag over the other, I started down the driveway toward the gated fence. Just yesterday, I came through the back gate carrying only my small computer bag and there was just enough space for little Houdini, aka Pappy, to slide by my legs and take off like a little muscly, black rocket bolting across the manicured front lawn, rows of monkey grass, around the large shrubs that frame either side of the driveway and out of sight. Even with this recent experience, I mindlessly entered the gate toting as much as I could, for efficiency’s-sake. Needless to say, an escape artist made his way around my feet. Surprised that it was the caramel colored rescue Buddy and not Pappy, I turned around; at which point all three dogs made a break for it. I hurried in the back door and up the stairs, grabbed the leashes and headed out the front door while I thought, “Gees, it would’ve been so much easier to come through the front door…. Do I take my car like Phil did yesterday when Pappy escaped? Nah, I don’t want to get dog smell in my car.” After making my way down the street on foot, I realized why my amazing, Eagle Scout stepbrother took his truck. Dogs are quicker than humans, at least those dogs and this human! I returned to the house for my car and prayed the dogs did no get out of sight before I could catch up with them. Or worse, make their way to the main roads. I caught up with them and the games began.

I would get out of the car and edge closer to the dogs while calling for them, being mindful not to shut the door all of the way in case the doors decided to automatically lock and leave my running car locked in the middle of the street with the extra set of keys in the center console. (Lesson 1:  Do not keep extra set of keys in your car.) I was able to get little Houdini on the first round and coaxed him to hop into the backseat of my car. I then attempted to catch the other two creatures and they bolted once I was within arm’s length. I quickly hopped back in the car and made my way to the end of the block. We were now only two blocks from a main road. Feeling a mild anxiety growing, my mind started to race, “Would I ever be able to catch these dogs?” At the time, I couldn’t remember their names, so I couldn’t call for them with anything other than a sweet voice and terms of endearment.

As they approached the end of the street, I felt my anxiety grow. I drove down to the end of the street and parked horizontally to produce a mental barrier for the dogs. It seemed to work, they turned around and started heading the other way. They made there way down the block at which point I returned to the car and removed it from blocking the path of any mid-morning drivers. Pappy sat in the backseat awaiting the reunion with his friends who he could undoubtedly hear frolicking in the streets. Success! Hearing the whines of his caged friend, the furry black dog that looks like a small grizzly bear approached the front passenger door. Throwing my vehicle into park, I leaned over to open the front door. She jumped into the car and I pulled the door shut. She then climbed over the middle console, pulling with her front paws, clicking her nails and kicking her back paws as she struggled to gain traction to join her friend in the back seat. All I could think was “Oh gees, my leather.”

Returning my focus to the task at hand, I slowly edged down the street. An idea popped into my head, “I could use one of these dogs to coax Buddy into the car. I put the car in park, grabbed a leash and took the tiny grizzly from the back seat. As I shut the door, Sweetie was tugging on her leash. The tugging stopped and I realized I had a leash connected to a collar minus a small grizzly bear. Sweetie trotted back to meet her friend and I watched as the two escapees happily cantered away.

Ever the optimist, I decided to herd the dogs like sheep. I skillfully maneuvered my compact car, driving the escape artists around the corner and down my brother’s street. It worked! As they caught sight of the house, they darted towards the back fence. Momentarily leaving the 3rd dog in the car, I quickly opened the gate and let the dogs in. I returned to the car and grabbed Pappy, returned him to his friends and chuckled about my inefficient morning as I climbed the back stairs and entered the cool house. All’s well, ends well.

Not so fast, the fiasco continued. “Ahhhhh!!!” I scream as the black bullet, Pappy, darts past my feet into the house. “What the …???” Startled and offended by the encroachment of her territory, my Baby Sprockets, Queen of Mommy’s Frontier (aka Abigail, my 12 year old, 12 lb Pekingese), begins to ferociously bark, as ferociously as a dog with a mouth the size of a walnut can. I know my protective little dog[1] and I knew this was not going anywhere good. She then began to snap at the feet of this dog that is three times her size. The growl in Pappy’s bark grew as he began to fight back. I firmly pushed Abigail out of harm’s way as she slid across the wooden floors and came to rest abruptly and rather forcefully against the piano bench. I grabbed Pappy by the collar and guided her out of the house and out the back door. When I returned to the room where the fight took place, Abigail was still crouched up in the spot where she came to rest with a look of a bruised ego in her eyes. I scooped her up and we cuddled while I reminisced on the morning. (Lesson 2: Sometimes it is necessary to push those away that we love in order to keep them from harm. They often do not understand at the time, but time and love heals most things.) After a few minutes of cuddling, Abigail was ready to play! 

Recap of Life’s Lessons Learned Today:

1.     Do not keep your extra set of keys in the car.
2.     Sometimes it is necessary to push those away that we love in order to keep them from harm.
3.    Overarching Theme: Awareness/Mindfulness – If we take the time to slow down just a little and encourage ourselves to be present in our actions and thoughts, we can be more efficient and effective.

[1] Pekingese get their name from the ancient city of Peking, now called Beijing. Pekingese were held sacred in ancient China and could only be owned by royalty. At that time, the punishment for stealing a Pekingese was death. Pekingese came to Europe as a result of war. When the British overtook the Chinese Imperial Palace in 1860, they returned home with several of the dogs. Pekingese are fiercely loyal and protective of their owners.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Quote-Like Thotz

Eventually a social butterfly's wings get tired and it finds a place to rest.” 
 - August 5, 2013

Is the opposite of faith (defined as belief without evidence), disbelief despite reality? 
- August 1, 2013

"There is a thin line between arrogance and confidence." 
- Sometime in 2007
I remember walking the from the main building to the pre-owned sales store in order to attend to my daily duties. I will spare any reader the mind-numbing details of my "big-brother duties" as administrator for the CRM system. Instead, I will jump right ahead to the origin of this piece of food for thought.
There was a man in his late twenties with neatly cut hair, who was usually clean-shaved or sported a light 5 o'clock shadow. He typically dressed in dress slacks, a button down shirt and an argyle sweater vest. If this doesn't paint a clear image, envision a J Crew model; that's him. I was painfully shy around him, not just because of his looks, but because of his intelligence and his confidence; or, was it arrogance? He often sat around with his feet kicked up on a desk while doing a crossword puzzle. He had this sort of freedom because he was a top performer. I will never forget the day his humility shined through and his confidence became apparent. I developed a new found respect for him. 

All of the guys were standing around "ragging" on each other as they often did. I walked in just in time to hear someone say to the argyle-clad guy, "Dude, if your girl told you to jump, you would ask how high?" 

He shrugged his shoulders, smirked ever-so-slightly and with a twinkle in his eye he responded, "So what. I love her."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Thoughts on Karma...

Thoughts on Karma......(began June 30, 2013...developed today)

Our intentions are the clearest way to determine the energy we put out into the world. It was in 2004 that I remember feeling this for the first time. I gave a gift* and it came from a place of obligation. I realized that if I gave a gift from a place of guilt, it lost its full potential. I didn’t feel good about giving it and I was a little resentful. The receiver may have still used it to its fullest functional life, but the act of giving can always be a gift to the giver as well. 

In my opinion, the often overused and under realized idea of Karma is like gift giving. It is our intention we put out into the world with our actions, thoughts and our words. I have often felt guilty for my thoughts. I don't necessarily mean them, but they pop up and I find myself thinking, "Am I really such a terrible person for thinking this? Am I only tricking myself into believing I am kind and compassionate?" This is something I have wrestled with for quite some time and I have come to accept that Thoughts Happen. What we do with them is entirely our choice as is most anything in life. These ideas of choice/free will and whether or not we are predetermined to be good or not-so-good people brings up a a parable that I often cite and draw on. I am not sure where along the way I picked it up or who to credit it to. However, I envision a sage; an old Chinese teacher with round spectacles propped upon his nose. His thick, silver overgrown eyebrows rest on the top of his spectacles as he squints over his pupils who vary in age and size. All of the students sit at their desks with tablets and sticks of chalk as they await the answer to the question posed by a precocious boy about the age of five who struggles to reach the top of his one-size fits all chair-desk combination. 

"Teacher, what determines if a man is good or bad?" The teacher replies, "Student, within each person lies twin dogs. One good, one bad. They fight. Whichever one wins determines the outcome of the person's character." The student quickly perks up and says, "But what determines which dog wins?" The teacher smiles deeply and knowingly, squinting his eyes ever more tightly and says, "Whichever dog practices more." 

The meaning of this to me is that we all have the potential to be better human beings. The flipside of this is we have the potential to be not-so-good people if we are not present in our actions and our thoughts. We cannot control the impact of our thoughts, words and actions, but we can be aware of our intentions behind them.

* A gift can be words of praise, a blender, time, etc.  

Webster’s definition:

1 : a notable capacity, talent, or endowment

2 : something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation

3 : the act, right, or power of giving