What I Need To Give Up

My excellent meditation ap, Daily Calm ($80 annual), asked on the first day of Autumn, “What do you want to give up?” Seemed like a fair question. My five-year-old daily meditation practice plus daily prayers of gratitude, seems to have helped with the process.

I want to give up grudges and resentment. I come from a long line of grudge holders on both sides of my family. I saw the toxic effects. I’m trying to break free. It took me a half-century to accumulate this baggage; it may take a while to unpack it. In the meantime, I thank God daily for grace and mercy, and for my multitude of blessings. I wake up every morning filled with gratitude, joy and love, which I am trying to spread.

I am not working on this alone. People from my past and present (you know who you are) are working with me. Also, some great psychotherapists. Brain Spotting. Crystal Bowl Music. Soul Retrieval. All part of the process.

And of course, my friends, going all the way back to college, when they threw out my ridiculous wardrobe and taught me how to disguise my roots as a working-class nerd from the sticks. And, the woman who ignored my desperate efforts to attract her attention, and the other woman, who said “We could have a shitty six-month affair and never see each other again, or we could not sleep together, and be friends for the rest of our lives.” We’re still friends.

You Can’t Change History But…

Gratitude is a choice. You can’t change history, but you can change the way you feel about the people and events in your past.

I was angry and hurt that, after 20 years of loyal service, the Brits laid me off from CMP on Oct. 2, 2001. I ran an annual item in my blog complaining about the layoff for almost as long as I was employed, then stopped running it.

[By the way, I never once indicated empathy for the hundreds of others laid off that year in the Dot.Bust―now I do feel empathy.]

I realized the layoff was a golden opportunity to take up the family tradition of teaching. There are 1,000 students out there whose lives I changed (slightly) by doing a good job of teaching them 8th grade U.S. History. In decades of journalism, no one ever said to me, “You’re doing God’s work,” but now, even a decade after I retired, parents and students still stop me on the street and say that.

I am now grateful to CMP for laying me off.

As a result of some spiritual experiences, I re-examined all the people and events in my life that I had hated, and realized they were actually good for me. It’s true: hating someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. Shoveling all that hatred and anger out of my heart improved my cardiac, mental and physical health.

Empathy and Compassion

It’s amazing what you find if you actually read your LinkedIn feed. Derik Timmerman of Sparrow Nonprofit Solutions linked to this video: A cancer patient visits her hairdresser and he does the unexpected and noted that it was Level 5 on his list of ways to show empathy and compassion.

Saying something genuine to affirm the sufferer's enduring worth.

Supplying helpful goods, services, or money for the sufferer's use.

A tender gesture to inhabit the same physical space as the sufferer.

A permanent exchange from giver to sufferer (e.g., organ donation).

Voluntarily joining the sufferer to share the experience of their pain.


When we are kind, it is like dropping pebbles in a lake; the waves spread and affect many plants and animals. I have been nice to the staff at Tangelo Yogurt for years. So when I arrived at five past closing, they opened up because people pay it forward and back. People don’t remember what you say to them, but how you make them feel. Apparently, I made my 1,000 middle school students feel pretty good, because every time I meet one they are sweet.

Then there’s the teacher who used to say, “I know you can, but may you?” It probably attenuated my interest in grammar for years. Pebbles in the lake.


A fantastic story of small kindness.

Profound and Spiritual

On Jan 16, 2021, David Paul Kirkpatrick wrote an essay about Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It includes this missive from her:

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Or as we say in Christianity (of which I am a nominal member) treat others as you would be treated, or “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Heart Chakra Opening Day

My heart chakra opened on Saturday January 18, 2020. This is what I wrote in my journal that day: “Wow! I woke up this morning to another amazing moment. Treatment and prayer work! There was love in my heart, for those who I once felt "wronged" me. We are all children of God, and share one soul; I forget at my peril that we’re not going to Heaven because we never left it, and that this physical life is an illusion.”

A Christmas Miracle

It was four years ago that I experienced a Christmas miracle, an act of loving kindness that left me breathless.

It changed everything for this old Episcopalian, who had just enjoyed a Christmas service.

I re-examined all the bitterness in my life. Then one morning I woke up and felt only love for everyone I ever thought badly of. And I felt samadhi in line that day at Safeway. I started meditating daily.

The journey of the last four years has flabbergasted me. My heart chakra opened, I underwent a soul retrieval that gave me back 1977 Paul (I didn’t know how much I missed him), Vicki treated me for mild emotional PTSD, I began a gratitude practice, I live to spread loving kindness, and my entire spiritual life changed. It spilled over into my secular life as I wrote poetry for the first time in my life, and love songs for my wife. I have never felt more creative. I now feel, for the first time, I know my purpose in life—spreading loving kindness. I did it as an amateur for the 1,000 kids I taught in 10 years, but now I feel like a pro.

As I look back my whole life seems different, better and brighter. All the dark spots turn out to be light spots.

I am trying to lead a virtuous life. I was a pretty good man before but now I strive to be very good man for whatever time I have left.

I Got Everything I Wanted

Not many people can say, “I got exactly what I wanted in life.” I can.

One of the inside jokes in my marriage is that when I express extreme joy and/or happiness (which happens daily: this is the best moment of my life, now this is…) my wife says, in a sweet way, “You’re certainly easy to please.”

When I was 13 years old, I decided there were two things I wanted in this life, closely related: “No physical labor, and working in a clean, dry, air-conditioned room.”

I made it! I’m 70 now, and I achieved both of these goals without exception. I’m not likely to blow them between now and my departure, many years from now.

The last two years have added one more-generic goal. Since some miraculous events already described here, I have decided that what I want in life is to spread loving kindness to everyone I know and meet. Jesus and Buddha would be proud of me, if pride were not a sin and it didn’t prolong suffering via attachment.

This additional goal is lofty, less selfish and difficult. But so far, so good. You know what? It doesn’t cost any extra and it turns out to work both ways. The smiles, the hugs (Covid permitting), the dried tears, the laughter, the occasional “You just made my day,” are fringe benefits. However, being nice to everyone, having empathy for those around me, and spreading joy have given me something to do in retirement.

Much of it is unknown to the recipients. Every morning, I thank everyone who helped construct me, living or dead. Because I handle my wife’s medical billing, I spend a fair amount of time on the phone with customer service. I make them laugh. I write to their supervisors to praise them.

On the road, I don’t curse those whose actions seem to me to be impolite, inconsiderate or dangerous. I take a moment to say, “I’m sorry you’re in such a hurry. I hope you get where you’re going safely.” I slow down for people trying to turn into traffic. I don’t race people trying to merge onto the freeway; it’s just as easy to let them come in ahead of me.

When retail clerks ask me about my day, I ask them about theirs.

I actually take those “at the end of this conversation” surveys conducted by robots, so I can give the person who just helped me a bunch of perfect scores. Ditto for those emails that ask me to rank my customer service experience. Because if you go into every transaction wishing to a) accomplish something and b )spread loving kindness, that’s what you do.

I overtip (slightly) and sometimes tip people who aren’t used to being tipped. You’d be surprised how happy that makes people in service businesses.

Robin Williams was right: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind.”