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Category Archives: Animals

Thank You LinkedIn –NOT!

LinkedOut

Well they have finally outdone themselves.

I thought all the crashes and “try later” warnings were bad.   Just like the “your contact list is currently not available.”

Then we had to deal with the totally random attacks on keyword stuffing by the LinkedIn Trust & Safety team.  If you look up any keyword on LinkedIn, I guarantee you that the first 4 or 5 pages of results will be keyword stuffed in the projects section. So you do the same thing, or you can’t compete.  I explained this and the fact that they could write a pretty simple algorithm to detect this, not anything like Google, but they never made an effort.

Now, just as I am getting used to my profile supposedly among the top 1% viewed in 2012, we get a total new look:  They have changed all the tabs, removed all the applications, stopped supporting blogs altogether, and cannot tell anyone when they will have the “new application” that will allow you to put up your experiences now supposedly in your summary section -all without any kind of announcement or warning.

WTF?   I make my living (in part) as a LinkedIn coach.  I have spent the better part of a complete day scrambling to read what little documentation they have, and emailing back and forth to other supposed LinkedIn Guru’s (like anyone can figure out what they are likely to do next) to figure out how to work around this latest “improvement.”

Could this have anything to do with their attempts to monetize LinkedIn?  To this point it hasn’t really made any sense to upgrade.  Keep your eyes and ears open for some sort of suggestion that there are plug-ins and gizmos available to Premium users, like video upload etc.

I’ll keep you posted as I sort this out (another day or two I didn’t have to re-invent the wheel) as it is excruciatingly apparent that they won’t.

 

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The Magnitude of Small Things What I’ve learned From Dogs, Part Two

By Antsy McLain 

It had been a rough couple of weeks.

I had just buried my father, and began joylessly exploring the prospects of life as an orphan. Mom had passed away the year before. I recalled Dad’s last days and the final, numb march of his funeral as if looking through thick, gray gauze. Pieces of that day still hung around me like stale air freshener. I could hear the voice of the pastor from the little country church Dad called home, his words blank and void of passion until the eulogy turned abruptly to an alter call. My blood still rises a good twenty degrees hotter when I think about it, especially after he mispronounced Dad’s name. Twice.

“How long do you have to be a sheep around here before the shepherd remembers your name,” I whispered to my wife as he plowed carelessly through my father’s identity.

I can still hear the three distinct gun blasts of his military send off, the triggers pulled by two middle aged reservists in uniforms three sizes past snug. The blasts rang in the air, followed by a flutter of birds and a burst of sobs from my uncle Sonny. He had held up well until then, laying to rest the brother with whom he had climbed these trees, plowed this farmland, chased girls, raced cars, and buried loved ones of their own together. When a person dies, they take a part of you with them, a part of you no one else on earth knows. Sonny was letting it go with all that gunpowder.

All of this kept flooding into my heart and washing back out, taking grains of me with the tide, and bringing back untold questions from the mysterious deep. I was caught up in a tide of discovery, of new and old being swept away and washed back up on my empty shores until I didn’t know what was me, what was God, what was real or what was counterfeit.

As they say in times like this, when it rains it pours. Life had decided, for whatever reason, to make me its student in an intense crash course that would change me forever.

When I had come home late from work around 10 PM one night, the last thing I needed to see was the lifeless body of our family pet, Moo Moo, in the cul de sac in front of our house.

I knew it was her immediately. I stopped the car in the middle of the road with the lights on, and ran to her. As perfect a dog as she was — and she was a gem — she had one fatal flaw: she chased cars. She had apparently caught one.

Moo Moo was named by our kids because she had spots akin to a Holstein cow. Black and white, part Jack Russell, part Blue Heeler, Moo Moo was a herding dog. If you’ve had a herder, you’ll know that often equates to the dangerous practice of chasing things, including cars. Two years of training did nothing to curtail the deep, innate urgings of her DNA. This was who she was.

Moo Moo and I were soul mates. She swooned when she saw me. When I would come home from work, no one else existed. She would hop up on the back of our sofa, where she could be closer to eye level, and she would wag and whine until I acknowledged her shameless treatise for attention. When we hugged, all was well with the world. Every shirt I owned at the time was speckled with short, wiry white dog hair. I did nothing special to woo her. One day as a wiggly puppy, she just looked me in the eye and latched on, as if to say, “I choose you.” We were buddies from that day forth. The kids had picked her out, had fed her, even named her, but it was clear to everyone, Moo Moo was Dad’s dog.

So, there I was, awash in the white, hot light of my car’s headlamps, sobbing over Moo Moo’s lifeless body. “No, no, no, no, no,” I said, over and over, wanting to turn back time, not only 30 minutes or an hour where she could be on the back of the sofa to greet me, but a year, or two years before when I had parents, when I had a tangible guiding force in my life, a voice on the other end of the phone that could tell me I was doing the right thing, or that I was screwing up – anything at all. This was just too hard to endure on my own, without those familiar, comforting voices. And now, it would be harder without the unconditional hug of this beautiful dog.

I carried her past the flower garden behind the house, past the swing set, past the tall elm tree where I had built a crude but functional fort with my kids. I set her gently down on the ground behind the shed. And then I went inside to tell the family. Their moans and cries broke my heart, and made me cry even harder. We held each other, pulled ourselves together and buried her together under the moonlight.

My wife took the kids inside and tucked them in, and stayed with them until they fell off to sleep. I finished the burial duties, cleaned up, and went to move my neglected car. It had shined its lights as long as it could, and now sat dark and still in the cul de sac out front. I groaned a “now what,” and went to the garage where I had a new battery. Rather than deal with it in the morning, I decided to do it then, before I went to bed. Sleep probably wasn’t going to come for hours anyway.

I took a flashlight, the battery, and the tools I’d need, and walked back to the car. I took the old battery out and installed the new one, making sure all the connections were tight. I tried to start it. Nothing. Not even a spark. I checked the connections. Nothing. I went into the house, got the keys to my wife’s car, and drove it to the front, and hooked up jumper cables. Still nothing. I checked the connections a third time. It was now around midnight, and my patience, historically short anyway, was wearing very thin.

After checking the connections a fourth and fifth time, I got in the driver’s seat, shut the door, made sure the windows were rolled up tight, and I turned the key over.

Nothing.

The sounds that came out of my mouth over the next 5 minutes were unlike anything I have ever heard before or since, and I’ve seen a lot of Martin Scorsese movies. I cussed myself out, calling me every name in the book; I cussed God, telling him where he could shove this life, and this earth and everything on it; I cussed out my father for leaving, and my mother for dying, and anyone else I could think of who had a hand in my immediate misery. I pounded the dashboard, slammed the steering wheel, and screamed until my voice was a raspy whisper.

Then, as the last echo of my screaming faded away, I quietly, resolutely shut the door of my car, and drove my wife’s car back into the driveway. I left the hood up to my car with the cables still attached, and went inside. I checked on the kids, who were fitful but sleeping. I collapsed next to my wife and whispered a gravelly “Goodnight,” as we held each other under a blanket still speckled with Moo Moo’s hair.

I called a tow truck to haul my car to the garage, telling them “It’s a brand new battery, and it wasn’t turning over at all, so it must be the alternator.” I expected to hear from them later that day with an invoice I couldn’t afford.

I was barely at work 20 minutes when the garage called. “Your car’s ready.”

I was dumfounded. “Already?” I asked.

“Yep. You can pick it up anytime.”

“But, I mean, I – what was wrong?”

“Who installed your battery?” the mechanic asked drily.

I weighed my options. I could blame this on someone else. I could tell this was not going to put me in a good light. “Me,” I said, flinching, waiting.

“Well, you know those little plastic caps that come on the posts of new batteries?”

“Yeah,” I lied.

Well, you have to take those off before you hook up the cables or you won’t get a charge.”

“Oh.”

“We won’t charge you for anything,” said the mechanic, fighting a chuckle, “We found it right away. Just come by the office before 6 to get your keys.”

I thanked him numbly, and gently set the phone down on its cradle. I leaned forward and placed my head in my hands. I sat that way for a long time before I moved again.

How often I do this: blame the world around me – anything else around me – for what I have done to myself out of ignorance or pride, or simply by just being in the dark. We’re all in the dark sometimes, trying with whatever tools we have to fix something better left for the light of another day.

I picked up my keys, and the mechanic showed me the little black plastic cover, like a top hat for a little bird, and I took it from his grease-creased hands. I held the little culprit – this source of my great and horrible frustration the night before – and couldn’t believe how such a small, lightweight thing could cause so much trouble. But then again, I knew it wasn’t the cap. It was me. I put the cap in my pocket, and drove home. It sat on my dashboard for months, an amulet of sorts to remind me of the magnitude of little things. It now sits on some bookshelves in my studio at just about eye level. Beside it is a little jewelry box holding a black and white collar once worn by a herder who chose me to be her soul mate.

I apologized to God by the way, for all the things I called him. I haven’t heard back, necessarily, but I reckon he had a good laugh over it.

 

 

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The toys we have on our iPhones

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Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I have always enjoyed technology but find something new every day. In writing my grocery list I noticed that my notepad on my iPhone has speech recognition software. Thinking myself very clever I composed a short note on my notepad and cut it and pasted it into a text message to send to my wife. Having thought this absolutely wonderful are you then cut a note and started to pasted into my WordPress blog. Much to my surprise I found that the blog site also house Word recognition software. Our iPhones grand.

You have to go through and edit some of the translations but generally this saves an immense amount of time. Especially if you are trying to type on an iPhone, I am no where as good as my kids are at that.

I always enjoyed writing blogs, but sometimes the act of typing takes longer than it takes for a thought to get out of my mouth.

With my new discovery I can speak as quickly as the thoughts enter my head and record them at the same time. People sitting next to me on the train might think I am talking into a robotic device but then after all I guess I am. This entire blog was my first attempt and written entirely on speech recognition software from an iPhone 4 ain’t excuse me. There have been no editing at all so excuse some of the grammar and misspellings but all in all I think this is a very valuable tool.

 

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Plastic Card Alternatives

Last time, I wrote something about how wood pulps can be used to make biodegradable plastic cards for retailer and business promos. Of course, we all know that this will definitely require an expensive machine, or an equally huge fund, in order to pull off. This virtually renders smaller businesses unable to make these eco-friendly cards. These cards are very helpful with promoting your business, and you can’t just stop using them for your promos, memberships, and gift cards. If you’re one of those businesses who are looking for a cheap, eco-friendly alternative to plastic cards, then you are in luck. I’ve listed down a couple of alternative media and materials that you can use to market your business the same way as how you use your standard Plastic cards!

PaperPaper is the obvious choice if you’re looking for the cheapest alternative. It’s easier and cheaper to produce paper cards than their plastic counterparts. They are made of resources such as wood or used paper, which are quite renewable. The card itself is biodegradable and easily disposable. This card is the perfect choice for one-time use cards such as discount vouchers or gift cards. The only flaw with paper cards is that it is not practical to use them for data cards with magnetic strips – but you can definitely add QR and Bar codes in it, just as long as customers make sure these paper cards won’t get wet.

E-Mails – E-mails are the fastest and easiest way to get in touch with a potential client or customer. However, using e-mails for marketing will also require you to make a decent-looking webpage. There are also unwritten, ethical rules regarding the use of e-mails for marketing. Rememember that people do not want spam, so don’t send it to just anyone! You’ll want to post a “news feed” subscription in your site so that you’ll be able to have an e-mail list where you can send e-mails without worry. You should also mention that you’ll be randomly giving away discount promos via e-mail to encourage folks to subscribe.

Mobile Gadgets – I was planning to list “alternative” to your typical plastic cards but this one is more of like the plastic card’s “next step in evolution”. The invention of smartphone innovated how common folks gain access to resources that you can’t usually get from outside your home, such as electronic cash and Internet. Your business shouldn’t get left behind by this technology, so start taking advantage of it! Electronic credit is already accessible via smartphones so folks can pay for your products or services on the dot. A lot of freeware sites provide ways for clients and customers to scan QR and Bar codes with their smartphone’s cameras. The image above is a great example for using these scanners: Koreans placed a virtual grocery store for customers to scan. Each item for sale has its own QR code to be added to your shopping cart. With electronic money, customers can pay for the item and have it delivered to their home while they’re still in the train. Of course not every business can afford electronic billboards like that. For a cheaper alternative, use posters, stickers, or tarpaulin banners.

These 3 tips are both eco-friendly and cheap for small businesses to use. You can even do most of these things on your own! Hopefully, this can help your small business to stay afloat and compete with bigger business rivals.

 

Therese Shaw is an advocate of recycling through turning clutter into art and other practical items. When not doing arts and crafts, she does freelance writing occasionally for companies like Cardprinting.us, a print service that uses environmental friendly plastic cards and offers keytagprinting.

 

Offline Still Works in Marketing

Since the internet explosion, everyone is now “googling” and “facebooking” and buying online.  In the world of internet marketing, people tend to forget all about offline which helps to increase the brand awareness of a product or service.  There are lots of different elements of offline, print advertising, flyer promotion and business cards.

Print advertising

People still read newspapers and content off line. Not everyone uses a kindle or an iPad.  Print advertising promotes a company’s product and service. People take note especially if there is a certain offer or if there is a new store opening with a 15% discount to the first customers through the door. If you have a local business and you have just moved to a new area, it may be worth just targeting the smaller newspapers in your area.  This way you know the people in the local community will be see your ad.

Business cards

Business cards are fundamental in business especially if you network.  It contains all information about your company on just one small piece of card which you can easily carry around with you.  It is important that you have good quality business cards, one that is at least 300gsm and has a finish, either a matt laminated or a gloss finish which helps protect it against stains and wear and tear.  It is embarrassing to hand over a dog-earred business card where the white has faded into an off yellow because you have just gone for the cheapest ones.

Flyers

If your company is promoting a particular product or service, then promotional material in the form of flyers are a great way to gain exposure especially if distributed to the right people.  In shops where there are discounts offered on the flyers, people will be keen to accept the card and show it in store when they purchase a product. There are a number of different printing options for flyers and the one you choose will be dependant on your brand and product/service.

Posters

The amount of posters advertising products at bus stops, on the roadside, even in public toilets shows that offline is an important part of the marketing mix.  Posters have a wide audience but you can choose who will see your advert depending on it location. For example advertisements in toilets can be for a male or female audience.  Adverts at the airport in the arrivals section will have different promotions, perhaps new shops that are in the city, compare with adverts within the departure lounge that will be advertising duty free products.

There are a number of different printing companies in Australia that offer competitive rates. For all your printing in Perth services, check out the best prices and quotes at your local printing centre.

 

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A Dog’s Purpose? (from a 6-year-old)

from my good friend Scott Fornaciari

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife Lisa , and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.    I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker ‘s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s Death, 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, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said,”People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The Six-year-old continued,

”Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy.

Take naps.

Stretch before rising.

Run, romp, and play daily.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

Be loyal.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

 

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Screw Technology, Give me a Horse and a Dog!

That was my dads philosophy, and it did pretty well for him.  He was the son of a Chicago industrialist brought up on a Montana cattle ranch, and preferred spending his summers as a fire spotter for the forest service to the hustle and bustle of the big city.  An accomplished chemist with his own business, he was still more comfortable in a pair of button fly Levis than one of his three piece brooks brothers suits.

Recently my wife decided that we needed a blue ray player to stream our Netflix movies.  Im not quite sure why the little red envelopes we get in the mail twice a week aren’t good enough, but it might have something to do with the scratched ones we get every now and then that we can’t watch.  I prefer sports and with our Comcast deluxe pimp package I get just about every channel and game there is.

I decided to order an LG entry level player($89) for her Christmas present.  Getting around to hooking it up I noticed that it is a hardwire only version.  I ask tech support at LG what to do, and they tell me to get a router.  I asked Comcast what to do and they told me the same.  I told the girl at Radio Shack exactly what I needed and she sold me a router for another $84.  Coming home I tried to set all of this up and although there was internet connectivity at my desk, and my computer recognized the router, it kept saying “no internet connectivity.”  Being an internet marketer, and social media buff, I knew it was not anything to do with my internet setup.  This is where the real fun begins.

I called Comcast because they are my internet provider, and TV cable provider.  One might assume that they could help me with this issue.  Being that the router I bought was at their suggestion (if I understood the barely intelligible tech support non-english speaking person) and I was not familiar with setup steps.  After explaining that I was following their direction to several other not native English speakers, it was related that my issue would require being transferred to the “extended tech support service” that was offered by Xfinity.  This is now a half hour into my third call. Xfinity has a menu stating that if you wish to discuss a plan with a sales person press 2….  I did not wish a sales person so I did not and my call was dropped after a half hours wait.  On the next call it was obvious that the sales person was the only route available, so #2 was pressed.  The line was answered by an obviously bored but seemingly intelligent person that actually was able to communicate in the language of the country that I was calling from. That seemed nice so I explained again (for the fifth time) what it was that I was trying to get accomplished.  She understood and assured me that if I bought a service plan from them a tech support specialist would get on my computer and effortlessly correct all of my mistakes miraculously rendering my blue ray television stream operational.

After one minute the little badger was making noises like they had misunderstood my requirement and could not really help me, but he kept asking questions and extending his time like he was attempting to justify charging me for his time.  After a half hour of bull, he had me out in the livingroom looking at screens and configurations, the wonderful line I have on my iPhone from ATT went dead and I lost him.

Having left him my phone number (God forbid the spam calls I will be getting now) I waited for his callback.  AT&T was not cooperating and it was 3 minutes before I got a signal back at my home (near downtown of a major city).  I called back and finally got an older gentleman who had some actual knowledge of the technology and to whom English was his native language.  He listened for about 30 seconds and said “you can’t do that.”  So after 8 phone calls, one router, one service contract and Blue Ray that  wont work, I’m back to square one.  I get to spend the whole next day trying to get all of my money back.

Moving forward, I noticed on my Netgear swag that they have a “Wireless solution tho make your tv a smart one.  Wanting still to get my wife her movies, I order the damn thing only to read the reviews and find out it doesn’t have a great reputation on for linking to Net.flix.  On further review, it also doesnt have an interface that will hook up to my older (6 whole years) television.  Now I get to try to cancel or return that freeking thing too.

I am now ready to yank the freeking home entertainment center out of the living room and replace it with a fire circle.  We have room for a few granite boulders and some sand, and I can take the furniture out and replace it with larger granite boulders to sit on.  Id have to cut a large vent in the ceiling, which might be problematic during the rainstorms we apparently are not going to have this year, but what the heck.

How did we ever manage to entertain ourselves without constant input from electronic devices.  Did we actually have to talk with each other rather than texting across the table?  When I went camping with my kids for some 20 years we often didn’t even bring a boom box.  What happened to sitting around the dinner table with the family and talking? Being an internet marketer and social media “expert”  I spend 9 hours a day staring into this freeking screen, but when my girls are over we talk for a couple of hours and they are off to the next spot to text from.

Give me a horse and a dog.

 

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Tips for Remembering Peoples Names

We meet a lot of people over the course our lives. Depending on where we work and how we socialize, that number may be tenfold. Do you often find yourself in a room full of people that you have met before but you are struggling to remember their names? There are some tips you can use when meeting people that will help their names stick in your memory.

Be Interested

Pay attention when you are being introduced. Don’t be thinking of what you plan to say next or how you plan to make small talk once the introductions are made. Listen attentively and be interested in the name of the person you are meeting. Too many of us are wondering if we left something on at home or how we look or what someone across the room thinks of us. Be mindful of the introduction and give your attention to the person across from you.

Repeat

When you are first introduced to someone, repeat their name. Repeat it often. You are imprinting it on your brain. Ask them by name how they are doing. Ask them by name what they do for a living. Use their name in the sentence. This helps you to verify that the name you heard is their real name.

Picture It

Some names are easier to picture than others. Picture their full name and study their face while you are talking with them. Some people actually imagine the name of the person written across their face. That means they have learned the name and the face and are able to associate both correctly. Again, this works best when you are focused on the person across from you and not the one hundred things left on your to do list. Be in the moment and take the time to associate the name with the face.

Word Association

Another tip to help remember someone’s name is to associate a word or words with the person. If the person has characteristics that remind you of someone use those to help you remember the name. Associate the name of the person with what they do for a living if that helps you, or with where you met them. Anything that helps you associate the name with the person is what you are looking for– no matter how silly it may seem.

Record Name

If you meet this new person in a business setting and it is possible you are going to have future dealings with them, it is best to keep a file of new contacts. As soon as you can write down the names of the people you have met and even a note or two from the context in which you met the person. This will help you trigger your memory as well and will also provide you with valuable information should you need it in the future.

If all else fails, or if you met a lot of new people on any given day, you can ask someone what their name is. Don’t be afraid to ask. You can even explain that there were so many people at whatever event you were at and that you want to make sure you have remembered it correctly. It shows an interest and will also help start off a conversation.

Written with care by Terry Ford and proofed via Grammarly grammar checker. An online tool designed to help you deliver your best writing.

 

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Cultivating Compassion by Gil Fronsdal

Compassion is inextricably linked to the Buddhist practice of liberation. It can be the motivation for this practice as well as the result.  As one’s inner freedom grows, one’s capacity for compassion increases; as one’s compassion increases, so does the importance of freedom. Liberation supports compassion and compassion supports liberation. They both benefit when they go hand in hand.

Compassion is a form of empathy and care that wishes for the alleviation of someone’s suffering. Known as karuna in Buddhism, this compassion is sometimes referred to as the “jewel in the lotus.” The lotus symbolizes the heart or mind that, with practice, blossoms into freedom, and the jewel represents the compassion appearing in the center of this blossom. The feeling of unfettered compassion is one of the most beautiful feelings a person can experience, providing valuable meaning and purpose to any human life.  Its presence is sometimes celebrated in Buddhism as an inner wealth and source of happiness.

Given its importance, Buddhism doesn’t leave the manifestation of compassion to chance. We don’t have to passively accept how often and how strongly we happen to experience it. Instead, it’s possible to actively develop our feelings of compassion and remove the obstacles for our feeling compassionate.

Because people sometimes confuse compassion with feelings of distress, it is helpful to clearly distinguish these two. Compassion doesn’t make us victims of suffering, whereas feeling distress on another’s behalf often does.  Learning how to see the suffering in the world without taking it on personally is very important; when we take it personally it is easy to become depressed or burdened.  We can avoid taking it as a personal burden or obligation if we learn to feel empathy without it touching our own fears, attachments, and perhaps unresolved grief.

This means that to feel greater compassion for others we need to understand our own suffering. Mindfulness practice is a great help in this.  With mindfulness, we can better see our suffering, its roots within us and the way to freedom from suffering; we can begin to cultivate both equanimity toward our suffering and release from its causes.

In this regard, it’s helpful to appreciate the great value in staying present, open, and mindful of suffering, both our own and that of others. We often need to give ourselves time to process difficult events and experiences and to let difficult emotions move through us.  When immediate action is not required, staying mindful of suffering doesn’t necessarily require a lot of wisdom or special techniques. It mostly takes patience and perseverance.  Relaxed mindfulness of our own suffering increases our ability to feel empathy for others’ difficulty and pain. It gives time for understanding and letting go to occur.  By practicing to be free of habitual reactivity, we take the time to see and feel more deeply what is happening.  This allows empathy to operate and for deeper responses to arise from within.  In this way, compassion is evoked rather than intentionally created.

Some people are reluctant to actively cultivate compassion because they worry that it will be insincerely or artificially contrived. Others fear that it will make them sentimentally naive or prevent them from seeing others clearly or realistically—perhaps out of concern they will be taken advantage of if they are compassionate to others.  Because efforts to be compassionate can be misguided, these concerns are worth keeping in mind.  However, as there are healthy ways to increase our compassion, the concerns don’t have to inhibit our efforts to do so.

One effective way of developing compassion is creating conditions that make it more likely to occur. That is, rather than directly making ourselves more compassionate, we can engage in activities that make it more likely to appear naturally.

A condition for compassion is a sense of safety.  It is easier to feel compassionate if we feel safe and very difficult when we don’t.  Therefore, to develop a confident and compassionate life, it can be helpful to find appropriate ways to feel safe.  Locking ourselves in our home may feel secure, but it’s not conducive to caring more about others. Learning how to be safe while in the world is more useful.  So is using mindfulness practice to address some of the anxieties and self-preoccupations that make us more likely to feel threatened.

It is important not to feel obligated to be compassionate as this often leads to self-criticism and stress that interferes with the arising of a natural compassion. Buddhism doesn’t require us to feel empathy and care for others. It does say, however, that we have the capacity to be compassionate and that doing so is a wonderful asset to ourselves, to others, and to the practice of freedom. The focus can be on how compassion enriches us, not depletes us.

Some people are hesitant to cultivate compassion because they worry they will have to give up too much of themselves as they help others.  Or they fear they will have to spend time with people they feel uncomfortable with. By knowing we are not obligated to be compassionate it may be easier for us to use our best wisdom and common sense to understand when acting on compassion is appropriate and when it is not.

Having confidence in our skill to respond to others’ suffering can also make it easier to feel compassion.  If we feel helpless, too uncomfortable, or even threatened by the troubles others are facing, awareness of their suffering may add to a sense of personal threat.  Developing skill has a lot to do with slow and patient training in such things as mindfulness, concentration, and letting go.

A way of strengthening compassion is to understand and then release what prevents it from arising.  For example, tension and stress limit compassion. When we’re stressed, we’re usually too preoccupied for empathy to operate. However, when we’re relaxed, our capacity for empathy increases. People who cultivate deep states of calm often find it naturally opens their hearts to great capacities of compassion and love.

Selfishness and self-preoccupation also obstruct compassion by blocking the attention and sensitivity that is needed for compassion to arise.  One benefit of letting go of selfishness is that compassion arises more easily.

We can also increase the amount of compassion we feel in our lives by setting the intention to do so. This can be quite specific, such as intending to be compassionate in a particular situation or toward a particular person—or it can be more general, as intending to be compassionate for this day or this week. When we consciously set this intention, we’re more likely to be reminded of and to think in terms of compassion. We will also notice compassionate thoughts and impulses that occur but which may otherwise be overshadowed by different desires and concerns.

Valuing compassion when it does appear can also strengthen it and make it more apt to arise in the future. We might consider and appreciate the benefits it can bring others as well as ourselves. Knowing the benefits can bring a sense happiness that in turn can make compassion more appealing.  Compassion can be more appealing when we have seen how it can be a source of happiness and how it can be intimately connected with our inner freedom.  Compassion for others can be a relief when we have spent too long pre-occupied with ourselves.

Another supportive condition is to deliberately reflect on compassion, perhaps stimulated by regularly reading and talking to others about it.  Whatever we think about regularly can become an inclination.  If we repeatedly think about love, kindness and caring for others, thoughts related to compassion are likely to appear more often.

Spending time with people who are compassionate can also help us.  The people we see frequently often have an influence on us. Seeing compassion in others can inspire it in ourselves.

Finally, understanding how compassion is a form of love helps us recognize what a jewel it truly is. When it arises from inner freedom it is then connected to other beautiful capacities of our hearts. It can appear together with well-being, calm, clarity, and peace.

There is, in fact, a great deal we can do to make compassion a more central part of our lives. As compassion grows, our self-centeredness and clinging decrease, and liberation becomes easier. As we become freer, compassion becomes more readily available.  To let compassion and liberation support each other is one of the most beautiful ways of training in the Buddhist path.  It can be our gift to the world.

—Gil Fronsdal

 

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An Inspiring American Story – The Last of a Dying Breed of Craftsman?

Authors note:  There is something about this guy that just got to me.  This is real Americana.  His prices are fair, and the quality is great, but you have to hear his story.  If you have any Americans in the family, think about them at http://store.theleatherbeltshop.com/ for Christmas.

Hi, Bill here, Thank you from all of us here at theleatherbeltshop.com.   I started working leather at the age of ten with my grandfather.  I was raised on a dairy farm in Connecticut where my grandfather made all the leather tack, and saddles, not only for the farm, but for all the other farms around us.    After my grandfathers passing, I kept working leather untill i went in the Army.  After my time in the Army, I moved to California where i worked in construction.  I still worked with leather, making tool bags, belts, and holders for other construction workers i worked with.   After having to retire, I found it was hard to find top quality leather products.  I found “so called genuine leather” belts coming in from China, and other places made with a very thin piece of leather on top, and bottom, with cardboard or other things in between.  So I started theleatherbeltshop.com.   I was surprised to find so many looking for real leather belts.  There are now five of us here to serve you.  Our belts are made in the U.S.A. from U.S.A. products by Americans.   Thank you from all of us for keeping American working.    Bill, Allison, Christian, Pat, and Richard.

 

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