Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hope. Show all posts

Monday, March 10, 2014


Dalai Lama ticket
There were no cameras allowed at the Dalai Lama talk. No computers. No cell phones. No photographic instruments of any kind. What was allowed? Babies. The kind that scream. There were a few of those, and then there I was at the very back of the balcony, with a notebook and a pen.

I just want to give a little background to what I am about to share, so you can add a little salt to this post, in place of an absolute truth.  

The Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of compassion. His topic was a good one: How to Achieve Happiness. Happiness is a buzz word: it grabs most people's attention, and if you attach "how to" anywhere near it, you pretty much have a captive audience. 

He had about one hour to answer this elusive question, and to also fit in a brief audience Q & A. So what he provided were his conclusions, and then some supporting stories.

My notes follow below in red, but before I write down what he said, I want to take a moment to describe the Dalai Lama, just the visual impression, because if you just sit and observe, and watch him as he speaks, there is a lightness in him. He's joyful. He has a really good sense of humor. When he talks about happiness, he also happens to embody it.

Here are my notes: 

Focus on others and oneness, rather than self:

"A self-centered attitude is contrary to happiness… mentally, emotionally, spiritually, we are the same."  
"We are social animals, we need to work together in a oneness of humanity."  
"If there is too much emphasis on the self, you make yourself a prisoner.  The oneness of humanity is very essential."
"We all come from the same God. Everyone has the spark of God. If you do good, you get the benefit."  

Money does not lead to happiness:

"Money leads to physical comfort, but not happiness of the mind. Happiness depends on internal values." 
He then told the story about his friend who lived in a small house by the side of a mountain. This man ate only bread and water. He spent his days in meditation.  However, when you looked into his eyes, you saw that his eyes overflowed with happiness.

How do you reconcile the first notion that humans are social animals with this man's isolated happiness? I thought about this. It may be that meditation is a form of socialization. Through meditation, you connect to a universal truth, or oneness, and this connection is a social connection.  

On Faith:
"The purpose of faith is to be more compassionate."
"It shows a lack of firm convictions if you want more edicts."

On Death:
"Death is changing old clothes. Change of body, not self. Self remains."  
"When you liberate from ignorance and destructive emotion, that is salvation." 
In the aftermath, I read my notes out loud to someone, who disagreed with pretty much every statement here. It didn't occur to me that these statements were controversial. I thought they sounded very simple, and wondered how I could apply while I was commuting to work or making dinner.*     

What do you think? Is this useful?

*As an aside here, there was also a huge protest outside the building where the talk took place. People were chanting for the Dalai Lama to give and stop lying. I can't help thinking that there are better ways to spend your Saturday morning. 

Monday, February 3, 2014


Plant Theft

How much does a succulent go for nowadays? $3? $7 at most? Did someone descend under cover of darkness with a spade and a bag to steal $7 worth of succulent from a complete stranger? Is this really the best investment of your time?

And no, it was not my plant, but as a member of the human race, I am appalled. There were some other working titles I had for this post - they all involved profanities - and then I thought better of it. There is no need to add to the negativity out there.

My new my working theory is the current title. Let me explain. I had a job in retail at one point, where we were told over and over again not to give the customer a bad experience (ironically, the job was a bad experience for me) because a customer will remember a single bad experience for a year and they will tell all their friends, and bad news travels fast, etc. What I took from this, was that people naturally hoard their bad experiences, and it will color their outlook for a long time. All the little things can pile up over time, until the problems are no longer small, and the world can become a very dark place. There is possibly some evolutionary basis for this: remembering that eating certain plants caused diarrhea probably ensured that your genes made it into the Cenozoic era. But now that we have Imodium, it may be time to rethink that tendency.

What to do? My theory is this: I'm a believer in small gestures. Small acts of consideration done consistently will travel a long way. It's a concept taken from the school of Karma. Small gestures, to counteract the nighttime succulent stealers of the world.

What is a small gesture? I think that ca be as simple as listening when someone is talking to you. Being present. When the cashier asks if you want your receipt in the bag, you look that person in the eye and say "yes." Did you read a good article? Leave a positive comment. I have a friend who writes popular short stories. She can tell that 2000 people have looked at the story. Out of those 2000, 100 "like" it. Then maybe 7 people leave a comment. This is a very aggravating statistic. So, leave a comment.* Little things make a big difference. Be creative and see what you come up with.

*By "my friend" I mean a real separate friend. I'm not talking about myself. Reading this over, I realized how this could be misinterpreted, but I'm past the point of passive-aggressive mixed messages. I've moved on. Seriously.

Monday, January 27, 2014


“In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less. Whatever you have to do. If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you.” 
From Navating Stuckness, by Jonathan Harris
This is one of the parting quotes from a very strong article about one man's roundabout way of coming back to doing what he loves. It's one of those stories to tuck away somewhere, so you can find and reread it when you're feeling like you've lost your way. I'm going to go write now.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Happy new year! I hope 2014 is good to you! 

For some, a new year is a time for new resolutions. For me, it simply means change. Neither good nor bad, just different, with a little bit of hope. So I'm going to mix things up a bit and attach some pics from my instagram account, because I forgot my actual camera and decided to see how the world would look from my phone. If you can't tell, I really really want to go snorkeling off the great barrier reef in New Zealand. It probably didn't help that I saw the second Hobbit movie, and every time I see dwarves being chased across a grassy knoll into a haunted forest (you know that scene, right?), it makes me want to go to New Zealand. 

What would you like to do this year? 

Monday, November 18, 2013


Image via Cinema Fanpage
Wow, when you dream - dream big! Miles Scott asked to be BatKid as his wish for MakeAWish Foundation. And he got it. I am in awe of this kid.

Batkid from San Francisco Chronicle on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


I contributed to the Kickstarter campaign to fund Jihae's album. She has one of those deep textured singing voices. It's not exactly pretty, but the kind of voice that pulls its own weight, the box that houses her soul. When she sings, she releases a little bit of soul out into the universe. It's my kind of voice. 

It was probably listening to the pitch that did it for me. Sometimes, when people talk about their passion, you pick up on their enthusiasm, you feel happy that they're happy, and their success becomes yours. That is the essence of a good pitch.  

She included this song on her kickstarter page. I looked up some of her previous music and they're not as good. There's a promise here that better is coming. I believe it. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday, July 8, 2013


Our charity evaluation process

*       *       *

Since I posted about fake charities, I thought I would post about ways to figure out effective charities.  The above is straight from the website.

What is GiveWell?

Givewell is an American non-profit charity evaluator started in 2007 by two former Bridgewater Associates* investment analysts, Holden Karnofsky and Elie Hassenfeld. The goal of Givewell is to promote giving to charities that are effective and transparent.

Where does GiveWell get its funding?

GiveWell is supported by foundations, such as the Hewlett Foundation, and individual supporters.  They do not solicit donations from the general public. Look here.

Interesting GiveWell Articles:

Some juicy bits from their blog (at least for me): Celebrated Charities That We Don't Recommend, which names Kiva, Smile Train and UNICEF.

  • Kiva: Well, damn. I've given money to Kiva - I honestly thought I was giving money directly to women to help finance their businesses, when it seems the money was given to micro-finance institutions, and that the creation of this direct relationship between you as a donor and a businesswoman on the other end is illusory. Kiva promises to give you updates so you see how your contribution is having an effect.  I gave some time ago and have since received one really generic update.  
    • In regards to micro-finance institutions, GiveWell has put together an article suggesting that microfinancing (making small loans to people to help them start their business!), while a good idea in theory, may suck in practice.
  • Smile Train: You've seen those pictures of children with cleft lips - what kind of bastard are you that you could resist that? Well, you are not alone.  No one could resist that, and Smile Train has been so successful that they are out of room for more funding. 
  • UNICEF: UNICEF it would have never occurred to me to question,'s UNICEF.  Speaking ill of UNICEF is like peeing on a church.  You just don't do that. Well, UNICEF isn't exactly forthcoming about what they do with their funds, so I'm putting my reverence on hold. 

Also interesting is their article on Mega-Charities: those large institutional charities (think $250+ Million budgets) that are well known.  This includes UNICEF (again), Oxfam, Mercy Corps, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children, World Vision, and CARE.  This article points out that these organizations don't provide a lot of data on where your money goes, and you can probably have a stronger impact donating to smaller organizations, possibly the one recommended on GiveWell (seems self-promoting, I know). Exception: Oxfam and Doctors Without Borders.  Interesting...

Useful Links:

  • Here is the their list of top charities and the international charities they considered. 
  • Here is their Giving 101 guide showing you how you can make sure your donation has a positive impact.
  • Here is a link to their charity evaluation process

So the question now is - do you trust GiveWell?  Willing to give them a chance? 

* Bridewater Associates: an American investment management firm, or hedge fund. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


One of the few times I wish I had actually gone to medical school is when I hear about events like the attack in Boston, so that I would actually have the skills to help heal people.  I wish I could have a direct hand in helping.

But I live in California, and Boston is far away.  The way I try to think about traumatic events is: Now what positive thing can I do for those close to me, to counteract the negative?  My sphere of influence is small, but it's there.  I can always try to make the world better for those around me.  I don't need to make grand gestures, a series of small, positive gestures will do just fine. 
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