Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Emotional Health, Empowerment, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness, Spirituality and Health

Is the Dalai Lama the Pied Piper Out of Misery?

There is a lot of misery in the world. If misery didn’t exist, the news outlets would have nothing to report. Could it be that our psyches would feel incomplete without misery? They do say that we can’t have one thing without its opposite, so are they saying we can’t have happiness without misery?

In a post last week I shared the story of Stephen Sutton, the teen who died at the age of 19 after a four-year battle with bowel cancer. Out what some might say was his personal misery emerged the Teenage Cancer Trust ( A little over a year ago I shared the story of Zach Sobiech whose song “Clouds”, caught the attention of millions on YouTube, expressing joy in the time he was given on this earth. How can we judge another’s misery? Do we project our experience of misery onto others?

The Dalai Lama has a prayer, “For as long as space exists and sentiment endures, may I, too, remain to dispel misery in the world.” When I first read this prayer I felt a deep connection to the Dalai Lama’s mission.

I’ve spent my entire adult life working with those facing chronic and life-threatening illnesses. It’s not always easy. I remember one day when four of my clients died on the same day. It was heart wrenching. I had never experienced that much loss simultaneously. I would share information like this with my mother and she would ask why did I stay in this field of work. Her big question was always, “Why can’t you just work with people who shop too much?”

I’m no Dalai Lama, prophet, or diviner. I’m simply a guy who knows in his heart of hearts that I was born to diminish the suffering or challenges faced by those diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness. I’ve been on this path since I was a child when I held my first Ronald McDonald Muscular Dystrophy Carnival in the backyard of the apartment building where we lived.

There is a saying that pain is unavoidable but misery is optional. I often wonder if that was someone who hadn’t tapped into his or her own pain and misery. How we frame things is key to our experience. How we frame things is based on our personal histories; the experiences that give us a context or provide meaning.

I’ll continue on this journey to end misery not because it’s noble, but because it’s coded in my DNA. I’ll seek out avenues for those facing challenges to emerge with dignity. I’m determined to provide opportunities for anyone facing a challenge to reframe their experience, if they so desire. I hope you’ll join me as I engage the prayer by the Dalai Lama as part of my life’s mission!

Looking for education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness? Visit

Interested in Art and Healing? Join me at

Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Illness Narrative, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

Do You Celebrate Life or Just Birthdays?

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for two people close to me who were brother and sister. The mass was held at the church where they grew up giving those who still live in the town the opportunity to attend. The mass was your typical mass, but an important ritual. The tribute to both of these magnificent souls would take place at the luncheon following the mass.

The eulogies were given at the luncheon. We celebrated the lives of these dynamic individuals and then I started thinking about how we celebrate lives once their gone. There is an irony to celebrating one’s life after it no longer exists, and yet we all have a birthday every year we’re alive.

This got me thinking about something I read by the Dalai Lama. At one of his many, highly attended, speaking engagements, someone asked the Dalai Lama his age. He was a bit perplexed because the person asking the question was used to numbers that are, in most cases, under a hundred. He made reference to the fact that he had over 21,000 birthdays. You may be asking, “How can this be?” It simple, the Dalai Lama shared that he has 365 birthdays a year. He celebrates not just his “life”, but live, being alive, every day he opens his eyes and breathes another breath.

Having spent the past twenty-five years working with individuals and families facing life-threatening illnesses, I’ve attended many funerals and read countless obituaries. Did you ever read an obituary and say to yourself, “I didn’t know that about them! I can’t believe how accomplished they were, and yet they never shared this part of themselves.” We often find out about individual’s greatest accomplishments after they’ve died. What if we transformed that and shared those parts of ourselves all along the journey?

Aside from your birthday, when was the last time you celebrated your life? How did you celebrate your life? What does it mean to celebrate your life? What is it that you’d like the world to know right now, before we read it in your obituary? How would this knowing change how you show up in the world?

Have you ever noticed that we’re more inclined to take someone’s advice after they’ve died than while they were living? What is it about their death that elevates their advice to “wisdom” status? It’s as if we have a knowing all along about the importance of the advice, but not ready to assimilate into our being. The death of the individual elevates the advice to being holy or prophetic.

Having time to sit with the memorial experience I want to encourage each of us to celebrate not just birthdays, but life! I want each of us to understand that not everyone gets to live to a ripe old age and if you’re waiting to celebrate life till the end, what have you missed along the way?

If you celebrated your life every day, would it mean more to you? Would you have a higher degree of appreciation for the gift of life? Would you utilize your day differently if you celebrated every day as a birthday?

I’d love to hear how you celebrate life so we can learn from each other. Feel free to share in the comments section below or you can email me at

For education, support, and inspiration when facing a chronic or life-threatening illness visit,

Interested in art and healing? Visit