Why are we born? Why must we die? What value can we create from this fleeting existence? What do the teachings of the dharma, of mindfulness and compassion, have to offer in a time of tragedy? It was from the search for answers to these questions that Buddhism was born, questions that are as vital for us today in this time of geopolitical instability, war, and personal loss as they were thousands of years ago.
Our InsightLA community has been mourning the tragic death of one of our teachers, Michael Stroud. On March 2nd, a few hours before he passed away, I spoke to Michael by Zoom into the ICU, offering him Buddhist refuges and reminding him of the love of his community. His family was present and we could tell he was listening. His beloved partner Frances, who shares the Buddhist practices he loved, chanted for him non-stop during his illness with complications of pneumonia.
Michael created lasting value from his existence on this earth. He used his personal life challenges and clinical skills to help countless people, many with both addictions and underlying mental health conditions. He always acknowledged that his work “was born of my own experience of healing from depression using principles of mindfulness, self-compassion, and cognitive behavioral therapy. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to help others experience healing in their own lives.”
There has been an outpouring of love and appreciation for Michael from our teaching community. Ron Ames wrote from New Zealand: “My heart is broken. Images of Michael flash through my mind. Retreats, talks, dinners…His funny goofy nature. Michael was a beautiful being. Unique, incredibly loving and kind.” Suzanne Smith added, “We remember how Michael touched our lives, and feel sorrow for the loss of such a beautiful being. May he live on in each of our hearts and as a reminder of the dharma and the preciousness of each moment.”
Michael learned to see with eyes of wisdom and compassion and so can you. May his life and death be a reminder of the inner nobility and steadiness that is called for in this time of personal and collective tragedy, from Ukraine to Ethiopia and Darfur, from the Middle East and Afghanistan to Myanmar.
May you respond with a peaceful heart in whatever way is right for you. May you and I express the goodness and love that humanity needs through our practices of generosity, friendship and kinship with all life.
And for some joy and laughter in the midst of it all, please call the PEPTOC hotline 707-873-7862 (707-8PEPTOC) for uplifting kid dharma from kindergarten to sixth graders in Healdsburg, CA. I tried it – it works!