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Cosmic Care

Elephants: Jenny and Shirley

By body mind spirit, Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence, Environmental Care, Moral Intelligence, Values 15 Comments

Shirley vid clip #1:

Shirley vid clip # 2:

The touching story of Shirley and Jenny, two former circus elephant, who were reunited at The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after a 22-year separation.

The bonding was immediate. Shirley, who was crippled in an attack and traded to a Louisiana zoo, had not seen another elephant in over 20 years. Their reunion is intense and unforgettable.

Please leave a comment below if you are touched by Shirley’s story.

Click here to donate to the Elephant Sanctuary in Shirley’s Honor! 

Shirley (L) and Jenny (R) were reunited after a 22 year separation.

Bernie Glassman~ The Buddhist Way: Being Present to Suffering

By body brilliance, Cosmic Care, Moral Intelligence, Values 4 Comments

Bernie Glassman is the founder of Zen Peacekeepers

by Bernie Glassman Zen master

Doing service for others as a spiritual practice is a way to be in the world without separation. In the Buddhist tradition, we call this recognizing that everything is an expression of emptiness.

The Heart Sutra says:

Form is no other than emptiness, Emptiness no other than form; Form is precisely emptiness, Emptiness precisely form.

Sensation, perception, reaction and consciousness are also like this.

All things are expressions of emptiness.

Form is the world of phenomena: spiritual teachings, individuals and ideas. Emptiness is the oneness of life, which means life as it is, without any distinctions. We get confused when we see others as separate from us, when we take form alone for reality. However, to see that “all things are expressions of emptiness” means to recognize that each one of us is totally affected by every other person. We are mutually interdependent. The part is the whole and the whole is the part. If we see that we are all interconnected, we can break down the barrier between Self and Other and experience that we are all One.

There are many ways to be in the world with separation. If you walk down the street and divert your eyes when a homeless person says hello, this is separation. You may take it further by avoiding the neighborhood with homeless people altogether. You are physically separating yourself from other members of society because they don’t fit your idea of how people should live.

While engaging a homeless person, you can still hold onto a sense of separation. If you enter a soup kitchen, you will see things that you typically do not see: people who haven’t showered for days or men who are drunk and arguing with each other at 6 a.m. If you get wrapped up in thinking, “All men should be clean and sober and polite” or, “Society should offer jobs and rehab for these men,” you will get overwhelmed, drowning in sadness or anger. Your thoughts about how the world should be are separating you from the experience of what is in front of you.

But what happens if you sit down next to one of the men and engage openly in conversation? You may find that the man could help you with your calculus homework because he has a Ph.D. in mathematics. He may offer some valuable insight regarding your interactions with your parents. He may share his happiness about discovering a new Jazz musician or his sadness because a friend just died of AIDS.

Suffering is a part of life

You will certainly encounter suffering. The man’s stories may stick around in your head once you leave the soup kitchen, and you will ruminate on them, reviewing the details worriedly in circles. When you come home, your spouse may get frustrated with you because all you talk about is the stories from the soup kitchen and you don’t pay attention to them. This is not engagement from the standpoint of bearing witness. This is the road to burnout.
Being fully present to another person without clinging is medicine, not poison. Meaningful engagement deepens your heart and helps you be more fully present to any given situation that comes up — at the soup kitchen, with your spouse or in solitude. You can be deeply present to other peoples’ joy and suffering while they are sharing with you. You can let it wash through you to your bones and then let it pass. This way, you can feel deep joy or sadness without the added edge of anxiety.

If you venture out to remember society’s forgotten people, and you do so with a spirit of presence and equanimity, you can experience deep fulfillment and wholeness. If you deepen your practice of moving outside your comfort zone, letting go of fixed ideas and bearing witness to the joy and suffering around you, loving actions will emerge that reduce suffering in the world. There are many ways to cultivate such presence and equanimity. Some compliment their social engagement with meditation or prayer. Cultivating a connection to the Oneness of life or to God means that we can both be perfectly content with the perfection of the world exactly as it is and do loving actions to make it better.

There are infinite forms that our loving actions can take. Perhaps we help an injured woman walk up the stairs. Perhaps we create jobs and affordable housing for hundreds of people off the streets. The Zen Peacemakers did just that in the 1980s in Yonkers, N.Y. The Zen Peacemakers, along with Jeff Bridges, are currently developing “Let All Eat” Cafés, centers that provide free community meals with love and dignity. Other offerings we made did not achieve their intended goal. Our loving actions can make big contributions to reduce suffering, but we are not attached to those results. After any particular offering, we simply regroup, reevaluate, note lessons for the future and return to the practice of our three tenets: not-knowing, bearing witness and loving actions.

Join Bernie in his upcoming travels: find a workshop near you, bear witness at Auschwitz or participate in a Socially Engaged Pilgrimage to India or the Middle East.


By Cosmic Care, Environmental Care, Fun and Fabulous, Human Rights/Justice, Moral Intelligence, Values, Vision No Comments

What Will You Do?

FOUR YEARS. GO. is a campaign to change the course of history. The next four years will determine the quality of life on this planet for the next 1,000 years. There is still time to act, but no time to waste.

For more information go to | |

Whisper Buddha; Whisper’s Wisdom

By Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence 7 Comments

40 Mile-an-Hour Greyhound, Prize Winning Athlete, and Canine Incarnation of Buddha Himself, Dies in Houston, Texas

By Alan Davidson

Whisper, my fourteen-year-old friend and canine-other for the last nine years, died this morning in my hands (September 2008).

I’m reminded, as I often am when an animal friend dies, of a story by a small town vet:

Belker was a ten year old Blue Heeler, much loved by his owners and their four year old son. Belker had cancer and there was no miracle to save him. The local vet made arrangements to come to their home and euthanize Belker.

The owners wanted Shane, their son, to witness putting Belker to sleep. Maybe he could learn something.

Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that they wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s death without any difficulty or confusion. They sat together for awhile, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.

Shane, who had been listening quietly piped up, “I know why.”

Startled, they all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned them – They’d never heard a more comforting explanation.

Shane said, “Everybody is born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody and being nice, right?” The four-year-old continued, “Well, animals already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Whisper had mastered “Loving everybody and being nice” long before I met him. He was his name sake, quiet as a Whisper. I can count on two hands the times I heard him bark. But he could give a look that spoke a thousand barks, and launched more than one trip to the dog house for me. He was dignity incarnate, a bit timid, and wise beyond knowing. I and everyone who knew him–loved him.

The voice told me to adopt a greyhound. I sometimes get messages inside my head. Shocked at the directive to adopt a dog (at the time I thought of my self as a cat person), I found myself at Greyhound Pets of America Houston looking for a retired racer. I’d already seen several beautiful dogs I liked, when I asked to meet five-year-old Whisper. Immediately out of his cage–he ran lickety-split down the long row of the kennels to throw his lanky black body up to look out a port-hole window. A minute later he turned and ran full speed right at me; hurled his front paws to my shoulders and looked me in the eye. I knew Whisper was a sign from the gods and, that day, we became a family.

During our long walks up and down prestigious North and South Boulevards, people stopped to admire his elegant good looks: dark black fur with a blazing white star on his chest, short white socks on his feet, and a soft white tip to his whipping long tail. In winter we’d tromp through Herman Park, where he strutted-his-stuff in a black fleece jacket and long black leash. Whisper stopped traffic everywhere we went.

He was his most handsome when he met a new dog friend. He’d stand stock still, chest held high. His long ears pointing straight up and his equally long tail arching back and up. What a striking, handsome dog he was.

Whisper was soon going to work with me. He’d curl up on his bed in the corner of my massage room. Some clients came to see him as much as me. He was so serene, still and quiet. I called him my Buddha dog. Peace just seemed to flow from him. When I was agitated, he’d nuzzle me with his cold long snout and remind me to pet him…and to chill.

Whisper’s greatest gift to me was his knack for just being. When I took the time to study him I was impressed by how easy it was for him to BE his true self. A dog that walked, ran, and slept when he wanted to; a friend who showed kindness and care when I needed it most; a being who demanded I tear my focus away from my selfish-self and pay attention to something, anything else—HIM, usually. He taught me responsibility—the basic art of doing what needed to be done. Walk him. Feed him. Love him. Even when my ego preferred to indulge my self-absorption, Whisper taught me, “It’s not all about me. It’s about all of us, other people, our animal friends, and the sky/earth song around us.”

My first Koan, the Japanese Zen cosmic riddle, asks, “Does a dog have Buddha nature?”  My mind will never grasp the answer. But my Big Heart just has to remember Whisper, a master of being his true/unique self, to know, “Yes!” Dogs, as all things, have Buddha nature. Being (Wu) is being. It’s everywhere I am conscious. Every time I’m BEING my true self, I’m Whisper, I’m Big Mind, I’m Buddha nature.

Whisper’s legs had gotten shaky and his hips pretty weak these last few years. He’d already lived a couple of years past the life expectancy for a big dog and a retired racer. I like to think all those years of sleeping at the foot of my massage table, or curled up next to me while we meditated, kept him healthy and whole.

Yesterday he slipped in the kitchen and he couldn’t get up. His back legs wouldn’t hold him. Jim, my husband, and I had to carry him outside.  He’d walk a few tottering steps, stop, and cautiously move on, or fall down…there was no way to know. I spent a lot of the night (and morning) on the floor next to him. I held him, petted him, and thanked him for all the many gifts of friendship he’d given me.

At the vet’s Whisper seemed serene to his fate. There was nothing else to be done for him. Leg shaved and the port in place he rested, alert, head up, ears at attention, eyes wise and comforting. I held his long snout in my palms as Dr. Michelle pumped the gentle death into his vein. He gave us each a last look, closed his eyes, and died. Moments later I let his head rest on the pallet. In death he looked elegant, as always; he had a gorgeous way of curling up, his long body a graceful line, his ears surprisingly still at attention.

Whisper had one more gift for me. I felt the shell I’ve carefully constructed to protect my Big Heart, breaking open—wide open. As I surrendered to the immensity of our friendship together, I cried. I trusted the pain I felt just as I trusted my opening heart.

He was true and giving, as always, up to his very end. Thank you, Whisper, my teacher, my Buddha friend.

Ellen DeGeneres:A Sapphic Victory, but Pyrrhic

By body brilliance, body mind spirit, Conscious Living, Cosmic Care, Emotional Intelligence, Human Rights/Justice, Moral Intelligence, Passion 3 Comments

BEFORE millions of television viewers, under the dewy and beneficent gaze of Oprah Winfrey, the two of them traded moony glances. They held hands. They spoke the language of sonnets and torch songs.

“It was like an arrow was shot through my heart,” one said, describing an early meeting. “I felt weak at the knees.”

“I’m going to be with her until the day I die,” responded the other. Then their wedding video was played. It showed them in white — both of these brides.

In what may have been the most public display of gushingly romantic affection between two gay or lesbian celebrities, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi professed their love in the secular chapel of Oprah Winfrey’s daytime talk show on Monday.

The moment came less than a week after voters in Maine, like those in 30 states before it, rejected same-sex marriage, and just a day before New York legislators would again postpone consideration of a bill to legalize such weddings, conceding inadequate support.

And it underscored what a fascinating example Ms. DeGeneres is setting, not to mention how tough it is to figure out precisely where Americans stand on an issue so fiercely contested that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said last week that it would scale back social service programs if the district legalized same-sex marriage.

In the handful of states where same-sex marriage is legal, legislatures and courts — not voters — have made it so. A few polls in recent months have suggested that while a majority of Americans believe that gay couples should be able to enter into unions with some of the legal protections of marriage, a minority believe that gays and lesbians should be permitted to “marry,” per se. Same-sex marriage doesn’t fit into the kind of family that many Americans believe should be idealized; it offends many others’ deeply felt religious principles.

And yet Ms. DeGeneres, who exchanged vows with Ms. de Rossi during a span last year when same-sex marriage was legal in California, seems more popular than ever — and among audiences squarely in the mainstream.

A decade ago, she had trouble getting work, a development that she and many observers chalked up to her being “the most famous lesbian in the world,” as Ms. de Rossi described her on “Oprah.”

But now she’s on the cover of the current issue of O magazine, exclusive real estate usually inhabited by Ms. Winfrey alone. She’s a pitchwoman not only for American Express but also for Cover Girl makeup, a heartland product if ever there was one.

Come January, she’ll join the other judges on “American Idol,” the highest-rated prime-time television program in America, one that Middle American moms, dads and kids watch together.

And the audience for her own daytime talk show — designed less to challenge viewers than to tickle and warm them, like a fuzzy blanket — hasn’t diminished since Ms. de Rossi began popping up frequently in Ms. DeGeneres’s remarks, according to Nielsen figures.

Several gay and lesbian leaders speculated that Ms. DeGeneres’s good fortune was a harbinger of where same-sex marriage is headed, and said it exemplified the way issues involving gays and lesbians often play out. Culture leads politics, and support for familiar, respected individuals precedes support for a larger, more abstract idea.

“The story of Ellen is, in a way, a sort of metaphor for the story of the movement,” said Toni Broaddus, the executive director of the Equality Federation, an alliance of state-based gay-rights groups.

Then again, Ms. DeGeneres isn’t exactly the lesbian next door. She lives in that exotic galaxy called Hollywood, whose brightest stars are seldom asked to conform to the same rules as others. That’s the fun and wonder of them: the way they color so vividly outside the lines.

What’s more, she’s a comedian, cushioning much of what she does and says in the social Bubble Wrap of laughter.

“She’s dancing in her sneakers and making everybody else get up and dance, too,” observed Rachel Maddow, the openly lesbian host of an evening political talk show, on MSNBC. “She’s unthreatening by the nature of her comedic gift.”

Perhaps by dint of her gender, too. The lengthening list of prominent “out” lesbians on the small screen — Ms. DeGeneres, Ms. Maddow, Suze Orman, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Wanda Sykes — isn’t quite mirrored by a comparable list of openly gay men.

Ms. Maddow and others said that may be because some of the most damaging, off-putting parts of the persistent stereotype for gay men — that they’re promiscuous, even predatory — don’t extend to gay women, who are generally seen in less sexual terms.

“When you press people on their opposition to gay marriage and gay rights, very often it reverts to anal sex,” said Dan Savage, the openly gay editorial director of The Stranger, a Seattle newsweekly, and the author of “The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage and My Family.”

They look at gay men and that’s all they see, Mr. Savage said, adding: “They look at Ellen and they don’t know what she does with Portia.”

Ms. Maddow said that it may also make a difference that Ms. DeGeneres never winked and crowed about going on hot dates but instead rhapsodized about being in love and tying the knot.

Perhaps everything is a matter of delivery, context and timing. When Ms. DeGeneres came out as a lesbian in 1997, and her well-established, prime-time situation-comedy alter ego came out with her, there was a bluntness to the revelation (“Yep, I’m Gay” were the words with her picture on the cover of Time) and her sexual orientation took center stage. She was gay first, funny second.

Now she’s funny first, and as apt to refer to animal welfare or her vegan diet as to having a wife. Ms. de Rossi has appeared only once on Ms. DeGeneres’s talk show, where references to gay political issues have been fleeting, with some exceptions. Ms. DeGeneres did grill John McCain about same-sex marriage, and she jokingly asked Laura Bush and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager if she could use the Bush ranch in Texas, as Ms. Hager had, for her own wedding.

More recently she has been saying and sharing more, including the “Oprah” wedding video, on which she and Ms. de Rossi feed each other bites of cake. They look like countless other newlyweds. Then again, not.

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Alan Davidson is the founder of and the author Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences, the #1 bestselling Health & Welness book and winner of two National Book-of-the-Year awards.

Alan is also the author of the Free report “Body Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a Sensational Life” available at

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