Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How I've grown in 2013

This quote surfaced several years ago when my Fortune 500 company employer put all of our jobs at risk by downsizing the regional office: "Hard times don't build character, they reveal it."

The  thought has recently occurred to me that the challenges we face - if they don't destroy us - might possibly do both: reveal and simultaneously build our character, and that might be a good lens through which to review this passing year.

Rather than asking myself what I accomplished in 2013, I'm asking myself this New Year's Eve, how have I grown? That's a much more difficult question. My answer: It's much easier for me now to ask for help when I need it. Whether it's reaching out to someone to assist me across an icy pavement - I use a cane - or seeking guidance during a conflict in my community from a neighbor who happens to be a Benedictine nun. We easily connected with one another despite the differences in our religious beliefs, and she proved to be a wonderful source of support and wise advice.

So I'm looking forward to a neighborhood New Year's Eve party this evening while focusing on further development in 2014 of personal characteristics of compassion and loving-kindness.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Spreading compassion throughout your community and beyond

Charter for Compassion email banner
Your Opportunity to Spread Compassion Throughout Your Community and Beyond

December 24, 2013
Dear Friend,
It is with a profound sense of gratitude that I write to you today to extend an invitation to join with me in supporting the Charter for Compassion at this holiday season of 2013. 
The Charter for Compassion has grown into a truly global movement.  Thanks to your efforts, compassion has touched the lives of thousands of people in countries, cities, business and other organizations, schools, and faith communities around the world.  Here are some highlights:
  • Our friends in Pakistan have now introduced compassion curricula and mindfulness training for teachers in over 50 schools with a goal of 500 more by 2015.
  • In the wake of my visit to Indonesia last summer, four major cities in that country now host thriving public compassion campaigns.
  • The Islamic Society of North America has made the Charter for Compassion a principal platform for engaging young Muslims.
  • The Vision Council of Botswana has endorsed the global compassion movement and the Botho Movement trained over 250 government employees, social service providers and educators.
  • Over 1,000 educational institutions worldwide have signed our Charter for Compassionate Schools since September of this year.
From Amsterdam to Saint Augustine, from Zagreb to Johannesburg, groups of citizens in over 200 cities are springing into action to help bring the principles of the Charter for Compassion to life in a myriad of practical, measurable ways.  
Since the Charter was launched in 2009, we’ve understood more deeply that every resilient, innovative community, institution or partnership in the world is stitched together with the thread of compassion. In our dangerously polarised world, compassion is the only route to a safe, just, peaceful and viable world.
Your gift this December is essential to realizing the transformative potential of the Charter for Compassion. Won’t you please step forward today with a significant gift? Thank you again for your support of the Charter for Compassion and the important work that lies ahead. 

Karen Armstrong
London, UK
Charter for Compassion International (www.charterforcompassion.org) 
PS: Contribute $250 or more, and we’ll send you a signed copy of my book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Also, a generous donor has volunteered to match every donation to the Charter in December with her own donation of up to $25,000, so you can double your impact! Thanks again for your help.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed New Year

Good morning, Katalusis readers and Facebook friends,

I was up very early to make the dressing and stuff the turkey for Christmas dinner today for my son and his wife. After spending last Christmas in the hospital recovering from surgery, I feel so blessed and yes, celebratory on this special occasion.

Reading the news, my heart goes out on this day of all days to the people without power during this frigid weather. I hope they will soon experience relief.

I'm also thinking of all the suffering people around the world this morning, whatever the cause, and send them prayers and positive energy.

Someday, one can only hope, the central message of major religions to care for the poor and practice the golden rule toward even our "enemies" will become the ethical standard for each of us and for every nation.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a blessed New Year to all.


My turkey is now in the oven, and I've cleaned up my kitchen.:)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Give the gift of compassion this year!

I just finished reading Karen Armstrong's inspirational memoir, The Spiral Staircase. Armstrong is a noted author of books on comparative religion and was instrumental in creating the Charter for Compassion, shown below:
The best idea humanity has ever had…
The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world.

The Charter for Compassion is a cooperative effort to restore not only compassionate thinking but, more importantly, compassionate action to the center of religious, moral and political life. Compassion is the principled determination to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, and lies at the heart of all religious and ethical systems.

The text of the Charter for Compassion:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. 

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensable to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

To sign the charter, go here: https://charterforcompassion.org/node/6371

Saturday, December 21, 2013

95 % of economic gains go to the wealthiest 1% of Americans

How many Americans are left out in the cold this holiday season?
Christmas is near, and I'm looking forward to having family over for dinner. I've got all the necessities on hand for our traditional holiday meal, my decorations are in place, and gifts for my guests are wrapped and under the tree.

In the meantime, I'm anticipating going to the theater this afternoon with a friend.

However, the joy of the season has been dampened for me by this op-ed by Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley: The meaning of a Decent Society. Reich reminds us that our nation is not living up to its pretensions of equality for all:

It's the season to show concern for the less fortunate among us. We should also be concerned about the widening gap between the most fortunate and everyone else.

Although it's still possible to win the lottery (your chance of winning $636 million in the recent Mega Millions sweepstakes was one in 259 million), the biggest lottery of all is what family we're born into. Our life chances are now determined to an unprecedented degree by the wealth of our parents.
That's not always been the case. The faith that anyone could move from rags to riches -- with enough guts and gumption, hard work and nose to the grindstone -- was once at the core of the American Dream.

And equal opportunity was the heart of the American creed. Although imperfectly achieved, that ideal eventually propelled us to overcome legalized segregation by race, and to guarantee civil rights. It fueled efforts to improve all our schools and widen access to higher education. It pushed the nation to help the unemployed, raise the minimum wage, and provide pathways to good jobs. Much of this was financed by taxes on the most fortunate.

But for more than three decades we've been going backwards. It's far more difficult today for a child from a poor family to become a middle-class or wealthy adult. Or even for a middle-class child to become wealthy.

The major reason is widening inequality. The longer the ladder, the harder the climb. America is now more unequal that it's been for eighty or more years, with the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations. Equal opportunity has become a pipe dream.

Read more:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interfaith holiday greetings for 2013

Dr. Barbara Ann Holmes is the recently installed president of my alma mater, United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Dr. B offers a heartwarming, inspiring interfaith message from United this December:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Killing wolves for the sake of killing

For up close wildlife photography, including wolves, check out Dr. Mary Lundeberg's website.

Yellowstone Wolves Still Under the Gun

Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife Wed, Dec 11, 2013 at 6:40 AM
eoy wolves under siege email
The War on Wolves is Far From Over
832F 06 wolf
The shooting of Alpha female 06 was a heartbreaking loss to Yellowstone wolf-watchers and researchers alike.
 save wolves button
Dear Virginia,
Of all of the wolves gunned down after they left the safety of Yellowstone National Park in 2012, none left a legacy quite like the wolf affectionately known by park visitors as “06."
Last week marked the one-year anniversary of 06’s tragic demise. Sadly, the relentless killing continues, with wolves mercilessly gunned down and trapped by the hundreds, victims of reckless killing for killing’s sake.
The alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack, 832F (researchers affectionately dubbed her 06) was truly spectacular – she was killed during a rare foray outside the park over the 2012-2013 hunting season. The tracking collar she wore revealed that she and her pack stayed within Yellowstone’s boundaries 95 percent of the time.
A Nationwide Epidemic
The anniversary of this wolf’s death is a disturbing reminder that she is only one of nearly 2,000 wolves that have been killed by hunters, trappers and lethal control since wolves were delisted in the Northern Rockies.
Mothers, pups and packs continue to fall victim to the extreme hunting and trapping policies and state politics are pulling the trigger. Make no mistake – there is a war on wolves and these magnificent and misunderstood top predators need our help.
We won't let her death be in vain. Will you?
Please remember that our wolves continue to face incredible challenges and threats —  let this tragic anniversary of 06’s death remind us all that the fight to save America’s wolves is far from over – but we can’t finish the fight alone. We need the support of dedicated members like you to help us face them head-on.
Your generous donation will go to work immediately and support our efforts to: 
  • Defeat the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) proposal to delist nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48. If they win, the bloodshed we’re seeing in the Northern Rockies could become even more widespread, and wolf recovery elsewhere will become even more difficult;
  • Protect Yellowstone’s wolves from hunters and trappers by seeking to eliminate quotas in buffer zones around the park; and
  • Continue to fight in federal court the delisting of Wyoming’s wolf population – which gave rise to the tragedy of 06 in the first place.
Defenders has been at the forefront fighting to protect wolves in the Northern Rockies, and your critical support provides us with resources that are essential when responding to emergencies surrounding other vulnerable species.
Thank you in advance for standing up for wildlife.
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
Defenders of Wildlife
P.S. WHAT OUR DONORS ARE SAYING: “Defenders is a beacon in the storm. The flag we can all rally around on the battlefield.” Vicky H., NC