Friday, August 13, 2010

Where's Jon? At the ID Project's New Website!

Hi, gang. Just FYI, the ID Project Blog has been moved. The new location is:

My latest posts can be found here:

Come visit!

Jon *

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You can find me at One City

Hi there,

If you're here looking for the latest Adventures in Compassion, my apologies. I've been writing for The ID Project's One City every week, and I just haven't kept up with Adventures. I'll be back at some point but in the mean time, check out One City!


Jon *

Thursday, December 10, 2009

New Post on One City - The Buddha at Work - "The Urban Dharma of High School Musical"

Just can't get enough HSM!! *

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Baby we were born... to HELP!

Jackson told me about a great piece by Nicholas Wade in Monday's New York Times, about how we're born with an urge to help each other!

Here's Wade:
"The somewhat surprising answer at which some biologists have arrived is that babies are innately sociable and helpful to others. Of course every animal must to some extent be selfish to survive. But the biologists also see in humans a natural willingness to help...Dr. Tomasello concludes that helping is a natural inclination, not something imposed by parents or culture."
Well, that's pretty cool. Sounds familiar! Here's Daniel Goleman:
"The new thinking about compassion from social neuroscience is that our default wiring is to help, that is to say, if we attend the other person we automatically empathize, we automatically feel with them. They're these newly identified neurons, mirror neurons, that act like a neural WiFi, activating in our brain exactly the areas activated in theirs. We feel with automatically. And if that person is in need, if that person is suffering, we're automatically prepared to help.... "
And where does this lead us? Jackson points out:

"Since we are not warlike, destructive, or evil by nature, we can overcome our interpersonal strife, and that means that all wars can end. We humans are good inside, and naturally inclined to care for one another. We can all live lives of peaceful creation. Now we have the tools and skills it takes to take care of our fellow humans and by extension conserve the natural world. Since we have the tools, the talent, and apparently the natural inclination, we set forth to create peace, justice, and an equitable existence for all Earth’s creatures, plant, animal, insect, and man alike.

In short: Humans are awesome, and can do and make anything they like, including turning the whole planet into a cool techno-garden where everyone gets to spend their lives dancing, making art, and visiting their wild animal friends in the forest with their silver flying jetpacks, and living for a long time. Why the heck not?"

Why the heck not indeed, Jackson? Why the heck not?


The latest Buddha at Work - Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Here's the latest posting on One City - about the Sixth Paramita, praj├▒a, and how a little wisdom can make a whole lotta difference in your workplace.

Enjoy! *

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thanksgiving Contemplation: Helping Others Makes You Happy! Harvard Business School tells us it's so...

A recent paper from Harvard Business School tell us something that Adventures in Compassion readers already know: Helping others makes us happy!

The paper, by Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin, Michael I. Norton, and Elizabeth W. Dunn, shows us how:
  • Happy people give more.
  • Giving is "inherently rewarding."
  • "...students who engaged in random acts of kindness were significantly happier than controls."
  • "...spending money on others leads to higher happiness than spending money on oneself."
  • "...prosocial spending and happiness fuel each other in a circular fashion," meaning, helping others makes you happier, and when you're happier, you're more likely to help others.
This holiday season, consider making a difference for others in whatever way you can. It'll make you happy, and when you're happy, you'll be more likely to help others. Then you'll be happier. And you'll help others even more. And then you'll be happier... *

The latest Buddha at Work on One City - "Take Your Cushion to Work Day"

Here's the latest Buddha at Work:

Happy Thanksgiving! *

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Apologies for my disappearance

Hi there,

Sorry I've been away from this site. I've been writing regularly for One City, but don't think I've given up on Adventures in Compassion! Expect new posts soon.

In the meantime, please read my One City posts here:

I've been talking about the Six Paramitas over there, most recently Effort and Patience... look for a new posting on Meditative Concentration this week!

Jon *

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Charter for Compassion Launches!! Hooray Hooray!

Today, the Charter for Compassion launched, as the fulfillment of Karen Armstrong's 2008 Ted prize. Here's why it was created:
"The Charter of 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. One of the most urgent tasks of our generation is to build a global community where men and women of all races, nations and ideologies can live together in peace. In our globalized world, everybody has become our neighbor, and the Golden Rule has become an urgent necessity."
And here it is, in its entirety:
"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 indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community."
I'm in! There's lots more info on the website: and you can sign the affirmation below:


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Latest Posts on One City

A couple of new posts you might find interesting. They're not entertainment-related, specifically, which is why they're on One City rather than here:

A Journey into Right Livelihood through Etsy:

The Buddha at Work - Ethics, Shmethics, so Long as I Get Paid:

Enjoy! *

Monday, November 9, 2009

Notes from The Big Sit!

What a great time I had on Friday night! From 11 PM on Friday until 3 AM on Saturday, I sat in one of the windows at ABC Carpet and Home as part of the Interdependence Project's 24 Hour Meditation Marathon. (I'm not in the picture on the left––still haven't found one with my face in it.) And thanks to my amazing supporters, I raised over $1,100 to support the ID Project's programs. (Finally tally isn't done just yet.)

I discovered a few things that really surprised me:

1. I didn't fall asleep. I was worried that I'd fall asleep, that people would come by at 2:30 AM and see me slumped over. But for some reason I didn't. We had breaks every 30-45 minutes, but I never even found myself tired.

2. My legs didn't hurt nearly as much as I'd suspected they would.

3. A lot of people passing by apparently thought that the sheet of glass that separated us was also an impenetrable sound barrier. From time to time I found myself giggling at the comments, or getting angry at them, or both. But I was generally able to come back to my breath without a whole lot of judgment.

4. A lot of people watching us honestly seemed to think we were mannequins and were shocked when one of us would adjust our postures, blink, or breathe.

5. I left ABC at 3 AM feeling energized and excited.

In any case, it was a great, fun experience, and I'd do it again in a second! Thanks so much to all my supporters and to the ID Project for letting me be a part of it.

Jon *

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Charter for Compassion - unveiling November 12th!

Thanks so much to Aimee Mullins who clued me in to the upcoming launch of the Charter for Compassion. The Charter was wished for by religious scholar Karen Armstrong, as her Ted Prize, in 2008. It comes out of Armstrong's observation that every religion, without exception, shares a central tenet:
"The Charter will proclaim a principle embraced by every faith, and by every moral code. It is often referred to as The Golden Rule....The Golden Rule requires that we use empathy -- moral imagination -- to put ourselves in others' shoes. We should act toward them as we would want them to act toward us. We should refuse, under any circumstance, to carry out actions which would cause them harm."
Check out Armstrong's speech wherein she made her wish:

Here are a few highlights from her speech:
'What I've found, across the board, is that religion is about behaving differently. Instead of deciding whether or not you believe in God, first you to do something. You behave in a committed way, And then you begin to understand the truths of religion. And religious doctrines are meant to be summons to action; you only understand them when you put them into practice.

Now, pride of place in this practice is given to compassion. And it is an arresting fact that right across the board, in every single one of the major world faiths, compassion -- the ability to feel with the other in the way we've been thinking about this evening -- is not only the test of any true religiosity, it is also what will bring us into the presence of what Jews, Christians and Muslims call "God" or the "Divine." It is compassion, says the Buddha, which brings you to Nirvana. Why? Because in compassion, when we feel with the other, we dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and we put another person there. And once we get rid of ego, then we're ready to see the Divine.

So the traditions also insisted -- and this is an important point, I think -- that you could not and must not confine your compassion to your own group: your own nation, your own co-religionists, your own fellow countrymen. You must have what one of the Chinese sages called "jian ai": concern for everybody. Love your enemies. Honor the stranger. We formed you, says the Qur'an, into tribes and nations so that you may know one another.'
And here's an extraordinary video teaching us about the Charter:


Please go to to learn more about the Charter, and to find out how you can get involved in spreading compassion throughout the world. *

Friday, October 30, 2009

Another post on ONE CITY!

Here's another new post on One City - "Halloween Contemplation! How Dressing Up as Paul Stanley Might Provide Access to Buddha Nature."

Enjoy! *

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New post on One City - "Generosity: What's in it for Me?"

As part of my continuing "The Buddha at Work" series for the ID Project's One City Blog, I just put up a new piece called "Generosity: What's in it for Me?"

Check it out! *

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Big Sit Update!

Hey everyone - just wanted to share the good news that we've blown past our final goal of raising $1000 for the Interdependence Project's 24 Hour Meditation Marathon. My original goal was $480, then I raised it to $720, and then $1000. And we've raised...


Not bad. Thanks to all my sponsors. And if you'd still like to sponsor me, please go to:

Come watch me on November 6th!

Jon *

Kids Watch More than a Day of TV Each Week! New news from Nielsen.

I was pretty shocked to read this article in the LA Times today, telling us that the average 2-5 year old watches thirty-two hours of television per week, and those 6-11 watching 28 hours per week.

From the original Nielsen report the article is sourced on:
"American children aged 2-11 are watching more and more television than they have in years. New findings from The Nielsen Company show kids aged 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen. The older segment of that group (ages 6-11) spend a little less time, about 28 hours per week watching TV, due in part that they are more likely to be attending school for longer hours."

I think this article really makes one thing clear.

As our kids get older, they are clearly watching less TV. So the obvious question is:

How do we put a stop to this?

"They are more likely to be attending school for longer hours." Therein lies the problem.

It seems like we have two options:

1. Cut school days shorter.
2. Somehow incorporate more TV into school.

I think the latter shows some promise; when it rains, my kids occasionally watch a movie in the auditorium instead of having recess. I imagine many schools resort to this, so we know the infrastructure is there.

In fact, schools may want to consider the costs savings available by incorporating more television into their schedules. The average teacher's salary in New York State is over $56,000. But a big, flat screen TV can be had for under $1,000!

If we could cut, say, 100,000 teachers nationwide, and replace them with televisions, think about how much money we could save? Admittedly, my figures are unscientific, but a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows over five billion in savings. Wow! That's like, two weeks of war!

Okay. I know. I'm being cynical and bitter, not to mention judgmental.

Here's something positive to consider. If kids are watching TV over thirty hours a week, do we have some responsibility to create programming that teaches them something?

From the LA Times article:
"I think parents are clueless about how much media their kids are using and what they're watching," said Dr. Vic Strasburger, a professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"The biggest misconception is that it's harmless entertainment," said Strasburger, who has written extensively about the effects of media on children. "Media are one of the most powerful teachers of children that we know of. When we in this society do a bad job of educating kids about sex and drugs, the media pick up the slack."
Just a little something for us to consider as we go about our business, creating entertainment for mass consumption. *

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Post on One City!

Hey everyone, I just posted something new on One City, called "The Buddha at Work: The Six Perfections of Highly Effective People." Come check it out!

Jon *

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"The Buddha at Work" - new posting up on the ID Project's One City Blog

I wrote something for the One City Blog (from the Interdependence Project) called "The Buddha at Work." I'll be writing something for them every week on this topic.

Check it out! *

Monday, October 12, 2009

Lama Marut talks to Adventures in Compassion about "My Name is Earl," violence, compassion, and impermanence

The amazing and inspring Lama Marut very kindly did a video, expressly for Adventures in Compassion (in the Screen Trade), on a few topics that are near and dear to my heart. Lama Marut recently featured this blog in his newsletter, and it was really exciting for me to hear of his approval of this work, but this interview (with his associate Cindy Lee) is particularly thrilling and informative.

Here are a few highlights - though you should really watch the video to see him deliver his own responses in the way that only he can. So much of what he teaches here is about intention––what do we intend to communicate when we're creating a piece of entertainment?

Cindy asks him if he thinks entertainment can be "Right Livelihood."
"Of course it could. Totally dependent on the intention. What is the intention of the product? Is the product meant to edify or to titillate? Or to exploit?"

"Of course it's possible to use the media responsibly, and a way of helping people, as a way of teaching people compassion, teaching people how to live better lives... teaching people how to relate to others. The entertainment industry has a great possibility of being able to represent other people's lives... which could result in the viewers of those representations having more and more empathy for other people and their lives, getting themselves out of their own skin and feeling what it would be like to be another person."But he warns us of the danger of the portrayal of characters in movies as two-dimensional, like "action figures... with no real lives, no background, no feelings, no family... just stick figures. And then when their heads are blown off we don't feel anything about it because we don't understand that they're human beings."
"If it's just a fancy version of a cartoon there's no compassion, there's no possibility of compassion, no empathy. You have to have a representation of a real person with all the background that we all have as real people to have any empathy for a character."
Cindy goes on to ask him about impermanence, and if portrayal of impermanence in entertainment is useful.
"To represent change as a source of empathy or compassion, that's one thing. To represent change just as change, is no big deal. How else would there be a narrative? depends on what the purpose of the representation of change is.... what's the intention? What's the purpose of the media representation? Is the purpose to titillate, or is the purpose to bring some compassion to the viewer, to bring some sense that what they're watching is another human being just like them?"
So you might think that Marut's tastes tend toward the serious, the sorrowful, or the morose. Not so!
"We have to keep a sense of humor about things, a sense of lightness, otherwise it's just boring and dull and too serious, and that's not helpful.... it's possible to deliver a very very good message, a compassionate message, an empathetic message, in a package that's entertaining, that's interesting, that's funny..."
So what's your favorite show, Lama Marut?
"I like this television show, My Name is Earl, which all about this guy who's just trying to be a good person, he's trying to make amends for the wrongs that he's committed in his life, and it's very entertaining, it's very funny, it's very light, but every episode has a very very strong kind of moral to the story... very useful to be broadcasting a show like that which is teaching people responsibility... that their actions have consquences, that their actions effect other people... the virtue of forgiveness, the virtue of compassion, the virtue of gratitude. These virtues are all packaged up in a very very entertaining form. That's, I think a model."
Marut goes on to point out that we in entertainment have a tremendous responsibility, that the effects of our work go way beyond what we might imagine:
"The entertainment business is hugely influential and should be responsible... what Jon is suggesting, what he's encouraging people to think about is very very important. How can we entertain responsibly without exploiting, without being inured to the violence... the violence on television is awful. I suggest to the people who are watching this that we would not be able to tolerate six, seven, eight years of war, unbroken, had we not been inured to violence because of television. It's just another TV show for us. The Iraq war... the Afghanistan war.. these are just televison shows for us.... because we have been inured to violence, we have hardened our hearts about the suffering of other people who are on the other side of violence. When we're the subject of violence, then we understand it.... that it's not a pleasant thing, that it's an awful things. But when we're the perpetrator of it, or the viewer of it... we become just inured to it. We don't think about it. We don't think that there's another human being on the other side of our violent actions. So to bring some compassion and some intelligence into... the entertainment business, is very important.
Thank you so much Lama Marut, and thank you Cindy Lee! *

Thursday, October 8, 2009

More Money Please!

Thanks so much to all my amazing sponsors for the upcoming 24 Hour Meditation Marathon on November 6-7, to benefit the Interdependence Project. My original goal was to raise $480, and then I quickly raised it to $720. Well, we're way past that so the new goal is $1,000.

Click here to find out more about the marathon, the Interdependence Project, and why I'm sitting! *