Friday, October 19, 2007

An interesting way of thinking....

How an “X” Written on Your Hand Can Equal An Act of Kindness... and Improve Lives

By Brian Vaszily, Founder of

Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind. – Henry James

If someone you know reasonably well has written an “X” on the back of their hand, you’re naturally curious what it means. Especially if it is an adult who penned that “X,” as writing on the skin is a far more common pastime of kids and teens.

I am routinely one of those Xing adults.

Perhaps once or twice a month, and despite the fact that my cell phone, computer, watch and probably other gadgets all have audio reminder capability, I’ll find myself scribbling an “X” in the canvas between the back of my thumb and forefinger to remind myself of something particularly important.

Peacock Leaf
”Peacock Leaf,” by Deanna Leonard.

Inevitably anyone who knows me and who sees this has to ask, “What’s that for?” And usually my reason is mundane; the other day I did it to make sure to get my ex-wife a birthday card, for example. “Oh” is all people usually have to say when you give them such boring truths.

But the time before that, about a month ago, the “X” I had scribbled in black on my hand had a more interesting purpose behind it.

Nice Teeth, Brian

That morning, I awoke in one of those super blah moods where I knew that, if I allowed it to, the world and everyone in it was going to grate on my nerves. I realized why I was in this bad mood – not enough sleep several nights in a row, consuming fast food for the first time in a very long time the day before – and I also realized I had better go through certain motions to release those negative emotions before I faced the day.

I went through those motions, but this time – perhaps because I chose to supersize the %$^#& fast food the day before – enough of the blahs still lingered that I had to do something more.

So I decided to try something different.

With a black pen, I created an X on the back of my left hand that was double the size of my normal X. Then I outlined it with a red pen. Now, discounting the voice of an old schoolteacher who warned her students that the ink would surely leach into the skin and poison us, and accepting that my left hand wasn’t the world’s most professional-looking left hand but that was a small price to pay, I felt prepared to face the world.

That’s because that black X in red outline stood for a commitment I made to myself so as not to let my chemical mood get the best of me and ruin my and other people’s day (or worse), and in fact to possibly transform it: no matter who I encountered, the X said, I would pay them a big, honest compliment. Two or three if necessary.

Kindness at all costs, even if I encountered the very devil or the very ex-girlfriend from long ago who stole my entire cassette tape collection.

Since I was the first person I met that day, I looked at my X and then stared into the mirror. “Wow Brian,” I complimented me, “kudos to you for so vigilantly trying not to let your toxic emotions control you.” I also added, “Nice teeth,” because after brushing they looked particularly bright and shiny.

The next person I encountered was my wife. Now, anyone who is married knows that, when you’re in the throes of the blahs, the one other person most likely to pay for it is your spouse. Especially if she’s running late for something and doesn’t like her hair that day. So I looked long and hard at that X on my hand – I would’ve even licked it if necessary – and then paid her a series of important compliments.

And she left the house beaming.

I did the same with my kids and, although both seemed to have awakened on the same side of their beds as me that morning, after my compliments their stomping turned to happier, buoyant steps out the door.

I won’t give you a chronological history of everyone I encountered that day in person, on the phone, and via email or the compliments and kindnesses my X made sure I handed them. But I will share with you two important points:

Three Ghosts Not Required for this Scrooge

First, one of the people I encountered earlier in that day was someone who, in a different, younger life, I would have called a complete and total jackass (in a moment of contemporary weakness I still might use this designation). This person, being full of anger and therefore vindictive, and also being in a position of power, had stabbed me and many others in the back over the years.

I only still dealt with him periodically because business demanded it of me.

The call he was placing to me was not to chat about old times or make amends… on the contrary. Momentarily I wondered if I would fail my X, if I should’ve carved it deep into my flesh versus merely using ink, but I pressed forward. As he launched into the nature of his call, negative tone intact, I dual processed, considering the biggest compliment I could hand him.

When he paused, I inhaled deeply and began: “Before we go on, I just always meant to tell you something despite our history together.” And I proceeded to tell him how much I admired his tenacity in the face of adversity (leaving out his part in the adversity) and several other compliments. (Everyone – and I mean everyone – has some good qualities, something you can learn from or appreciate in them.)

When I finished, and though admittedly I expected him to proclaim my compliments nonsense, an amazing thing happened. His entire tone changed, as did the intent of his call. I could feel him backtracking – still preserving his ego of course – on his intent as he spoke. By the call’s end, he had basically talked himself out of the negativity he had meant to pursue.

I realize kindness is not always this immediately “magic,” and that my compliments to him likely didn’t change the man permanently.

But I also strongly suspect that if I and others more vigilantly responded to his anger with kindness, that act alone really would “magically” help heal his heart and transform his character. His anger had typically been met with more anger and fear – and negative emotions only breed more negative emotions – but what if it had been met with unrelenting kindness? What if it could be?

Though it is perhaps the hardest medicine of all for people to administer, kindness cures where nothing else can.

In Which the X is Transferred to My Heart

The second important point I want to share is that, even before the near-miraculous transformation of Scrooge earlier in the day as noted above, and certainly thereafter, several amazing things happened as I presented compliments and kindness to everyone I encountered:

dB Drag Racing
”Veined Splendor,” by Deanna Leonard.

1) My day brightened… intensely. It is a beautiful thing, and it should be an obvious thing though all too often it is obvious only in retrospect, how shining light upon someone returns light. Simple kind words – to business associates, friends, the man behind the counter at the gas station and other strangers – can transform a day (or more), transforming yours right back.

2) After a certain point, I no longer needed to look and listen to the X on my hand at all. Around midday was the last time I recall needing to look at it, in fact. After that point, the compliments and kindness to friends, associates and strangers just came naturally and easily. It was now penned on my heart (which would make my old schoolteacher really nervous about the ink leaching through if she knew.)

Now, I would love to conclude this piece by noting that since that day I have been committed to constantly practicing kindness, including kindness in the face of adversity.

But that wouldn’t be true.

I don’t always pay sincere compliments to those I encounter, though I have seen the power of it and know doing so would be best. Due to negative emotions or lack of sleep or a headache or any number of other excuses I can muster, I am not always kind … though I have seen how being so can transform people, including me, like nothing else in this world.

I have not been 100% kind and complimentary since then, and I also know I will never be 100% so. But I thoroughly intend to try to be so -- and to kindly forgive myself when I fail and keep trying again – because everything that needs to be said and done can be said and done far more effectively in a kind way.

There is nothing more that we or the world around us needs more than that knowledge, and that commitment.

As J.M. Barrie, author of perhaps the greatest children’s story ever told, Peter Pan, noted, ”Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others, cannot keep it from themselves.”

That is worth remembering, even when it takes a black X outlined in red on the back of your hand to do so

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Daily OM for October 17, 2007

In The Presence Of Difficulty


Compassion is the ability to see the deep connectedness between ourselves and others. Moreover, true compassion recognizes that all the boundaries we perceive between ourselves and others are an illusion. When we first begin to practice compassion, this very deep level of understanding may elude us, but we can have faith that if we start where we are, we will eventually feel our way toward it. We move closer to it every time we see past our own self-concern to accommodate concern for others. And, as with any skill, our compassion grows most in the presence of difficulty.

We practice small acts of compassion every day, when our loved ones are short-tempered or another driver cuts us off in traffic. We extend our forgiveness by trying to understand their point of view; we know how it is to feel stressed out or irritable. The practice of compassion becomes more difficult when we find ourselves unable to understand the actions of the person who offends us. These are the situations that ask us to look more deeply into ourselves, into parts of our psyches that we may want to deny, parts that we have repressed because society has labeled them bad or wrong. For example, acts of violence are often well beyond anything we ourselves have perpetuated, so when we are on the receiving end of such acts, we are often at a loss. This is where the real potential for growth begins, because we are called to shine a light inside ourselves and take responsibility for what we have disowned. It is at this juncture that we have the opportunity to transform from with! in.

This can seem like a very tall order, but when life presents us with circumstances that require our compassion, no matter how difficult, we can trust that we are ready. We can call upon all the light we have cultivated so far, allowing it to lead the way into the darkest parts of our own hearts, connecting us to the hearts of others in the understanding that is true compassion.

Monday, October 8, 2007


How did we get to this place?
Where we may never again see each other's face...
And if we were face to face,
instead of miles from each other's place...
would this painful tearing of each other's hearts continue on?
or would we find a way...
over/under/around/through, I always believed there was a way...
as we wandered further and further into the pain.
And now, I look up, and I can barely see you over there
the anger and pain between us is thick in the air
keeping us both from one another.

We cannot go back
We cannot go forward
The pain consumes us
I am frozen in place
devoid of the grace
to know what to do, what to say, what to be
that makes you know what you mean to me.

How do I say, I am sorry about that day
Mistakes were made on that day
Mistakes were made days after
Mistakes that hurt and killed your laughter,
when I know that were I to change NOW,
turn around,
say it different,
mean it different,
change anything about it,
it wouldn't be believed anyway.

So if I say it one way, I lose you...
If I say it the other way, I lose you...
there is no way to say that doesn't cost me you.
A price too high to pay, really.
But then, I am not the one with the choice here.
And you have made your choice.
And I am the one who will pay
For the rest of my days.
Without my beloved daughter
in my life anymore.

Friday, October 5, 2007

I was told today...

That I'm not a Christian because I believe that knowing GOD through the Holy Spirit is a mystical thing. I was told that anything mystical is not of GOD. And that if I say the Holy Spirit spoke/speaks to me that I am a liar...

So sad, so truly sad that Christianity has become words on a page and not an EXPERIENCE of the heart/mind/soul.

As if ALL THAT IS GOD can be contained in a book...

Why then even send the Holy Spirit if one cannot experience the Holy Spirit...if one's spirit cannot commune with the Holy Spirit? How does the Holy Spirit indwell one if one can not be spoken to by "spirit"???

Thursday, October 4, 2007

On Mysticism...

Mysticism is not the same to every person that experiences it. So, there are various kinds or types of it.. Various mystics adhere to one of two different theories of The Divine: emanation or immanence. In the emanation view, all things in the universe are originating and flowing from God. In the immanence view, the universe is not projected from God, but is part of God.

Mysticism is usually thought of as being of religious in nature, which can be either monistic or theistic. The objective of monistic mysticism is to seek unity and identity with universal principles; while theistic mysticism seeks unity and oneness, but not identity with God.

Apart from religious mysticism is nonreligious mysticism, different though somewhat connected. This is more of an experiencing mysticism through, or from, the earth and nature, although some have thought to have discovered God through such experiences. An presumed authentic experience of mysticism derived from earth or nature is essentially the uniting of the subject and the object. In other words, the person becomes one with the earth and all in it; all boundaries or separation between the person and nature seem to disappear. The person becomes apart of nature, merged with it, and is not separate from it.

Instinctively every one has done what the Pagan religion openly admits to doing, and that is calling Earth, "Mother Earth." This association of Earth as a "Mother" is explained because we all are dependent on "her" for our survival. Just as a child comes to love it's mother who cares and nurtures it, so too, we love our Mother Earth who we feel loves and nurtures humankind as her children. At the very heart of the matter, this is the true definition of mysticism.

Mystical doctrines typically refer to various religious texts from different sects or cultures. Within particular religions, mystical traditions are by nature controversial, and may be considered a heretical or blasphemous belief in some cases. Most mystical teachers typically have some type of history or connection with a mainstream religion even if such belief is actually against their core religion.

The term mysticism means, in part, a stepping beyond traditional interpretation of the religion or belief and mystical traditions are often considered to be more inclusive and universalist, rejecting particular doctrines associated with traditionalist, fundamentalist, or extremist beliefs.