All items from Spiritually Bankrupt

volcanoA lawyer friend and I were talking the other day, and during the conversation he said, “For me anger is like a volcano burning inside and something that I have to deal with constantly.” I was instantly sympathetic because I have struggled with anger for years.  I have always thought of anger as a poison in me that I am liable to spit out at any time.  Anger can be a useful emotion in some ways, as I have written previously here, but it can also be very destructive, not only to others, but to yourself, burning you up inside.  For several years, I have worked on my anger, and I have come up with some techniques that I shared with my friend and that work for me—at least most of the time.

Posted 6 weeks 6 days ago

No one grows up dreaming of becoming a bankruptcy lawyer. When I was a little boy, I wanted to be an astronomer or an astronaut.  Even by the time I got to law school, bankruptcy was not on my radar: I was hoping to become a professor.  But here I am embarking on my 12th year as a bankruptcy lawyer (and 4th as a trustee), and I am so grateful for the experience.  Here are five spiritual lessons I’ve learned from my practice:

Posted 35 weeks 18 hours ago

I just received this excellent e-mail from Lisa Tatum, the president of the State Bar of Texas and wanted to share.
With Our Network, Everybody Can Win
“You need to be aware of what others are doing, applaud their efforts, acknowledge their successes, and encourage them in their pursuits. When we all help one another, everybody wins.”
— Jim Stovall

Posted 46 weeks 5 days ago

Vince - Copy
One of my sports idols, Vince Young, filed bankruptcy a week or so ago.  You can click here to see some video of him leading the University of Texas to its first national championship in 35 years.  I watch this video at least once a year to relive the joy of that moment.  Vince went on to play pro football and was quite successful at it – click here – but is now out of the league and has hit a rough patch.  Here is a news(-ish) report on the filing.
Hearing this news caused me to reflect on how circumstances can change so drastically in life and reminded me of another quote I heard recently from someone even more famous and accomplished than Vince Young.

Posted 46 weeks 6 days ago

When I started practicing law, I was anxious, petrified, depressed, terrified, you name it.  After a couple of years, I decided I needed some help, so I sought out a business coach.  She taught me to improve my performance, but more than that she taught me to eat right, exercise, meditate, and take care of myself for the long haul of a career.  I plunged back into law practice, working on eating better, losing weight, exercising, and meditating, and somehow, I managed to survive it.  After a couple more years, the work really started to click.  Issues began to be more familiar, cases became more routine.  I didn’t have to think so hard for each document or appearance.
It was the pain and fear I felt from law practice that opened me up to a path of self-care.  This, in turn, opened me up to other benefits.  I have more energy and more focus than ever before, and I am more present in my life than I was previously.  In work, this manifests in networking, mentoring younger lawyers, giving presentations, taking on pro-bono work, and it gives me the perspective to provide my clients guidance and wisdom.  In life, I am happier, fitter, a better family member, a more helpful person, and I can better appreciate the wonder of the world.

Posted 1 year 10 weeks ago


Yamaoka Tesshu, as a young student of Zen, visited one master after another. He called upon Dokuon of Shokoku.
Desiring to show his attainment, he said: “The mind, Buddha, and sentient beings, after all, do not exist. The true nature of phenomena is emptiness. There is no realization, no delusion, no sage, no mediocrity. There is no giving and nothing to be received.”
Dokuon, who was smoking quietly, said nothing. Suddenly he whacked Yamaoka with his bamboo pipe. This made the youth quite angry.
“If nothing exists,” inquired Dokuon, “where did this anger come from?”
- Zen koan

Posted 1 year 13 weeks ago

A couple of weeks ago, I finally saw the 2010 animated film Despicable Me.  I am not, as you might guess from reading this, three years behind the times when it comes to movies.  I am actually more like 8 years behind.  However, I am relatively current on kids’ movies (I took the kids to see Despicable Me 2 the next day, during opening weekend).  So take what I am about to say with a grain of salt, since I don’t see many movies and I have forgotten what I have seen.
Anyway, I think Despicable Me is one of the best movies about fatherhood ever made.  The premise is that a super-villian, in the course of one of his villainous plots, winds up adopting three cute little girls who turn his life upside down.  Here’s the trailer:
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Here are five lessons on fatherhood I took from the movie:
5. Don’t tell the kids not to do something, because they’ll straightaway do it.  (Notice in the trailer when Gru says no noises, and Agnes makes a funny noise.)  If you mess this one up, the best response is to have a sense of humor about it.

Posted 1 year 21 weeks ago

Johnny Rotten
My title is a line from a great Public Image Limited song called “Rise” from back in 1986. I’ve put some links down at the bottom of this post so you can check it out. (Caution is advised: it may not be your thing.)
I have an anger problem. This is the main reason I gave up caffeine (the subject of a previous post, here). I have had less of a hair trigger since then, but I still can get quite angry. My number one priority right now, is not to get carried away by anger. My resolution had been not to get angry at all, but a friend pointed out (and I’ve subsequently read similar views) that anger is just an emotion like any other emotion, and that it’s not possible or healthy to entirely try to eradicate it, as it would not be possible or healthy to eradicate any other emotion, like happiness or sadness. So my goal is to respond in a more measured way to things that piss me off rather than reacting too strongly or letting the anger fester.

Posted 1 year 26 weeks ago

PemaChodron(click image for larger version)
After many years of periodically trying meditation, it finally clicked for me the other day.  Pema Chodron, my meditation instructor (who doesn’t yet know that she’s my meditation instructor) was retelling a story her teacher, Chogyam Trungpa, told her.  He said life is like a series of big waves that come crashing in and knock you down, over and over again.  Each time you get up, a face full of sand, mouth and nose full of water, and another one hits you.  She waited for him to say something like, “and after a while, it gets better,” but he didn’t.  Disheartened, she asked, “is that all there is?”  And he responded, “well, maybe after a while, the waves seem smaller.”
In basic Buddhist meditation practice, the instruction is that you sit, eyes open, and observe your breath.  If your mind wanders, you should bring your mind gently back to your breath.

Posted 1 year 28 weeks ago

Summer Posts
With summer getting underway and occasioning some upheaval in my schedule, I’ve decided to do short but more frequent posts during the month of June. I hope you enjoy!

Posted 1 year 28 weeks ago