What is the best medicine?


I made this journal entry yesterday:

Today I went to bible study as the weight of my depression seemed to be lifting. I missed last week’s session and everybody had been concerned. And this is the thing. I had sent an email to our group coordinator and group leader but did not mention the depression. I thought, who wants to hear about depression anyway? And, man, was I wrong!

Anyway, I got to bible study and we began with sharing concerns and anything. This morning we received, via email, a pastoral notification from the rector that a long-time member of the congregation went home to be with the Lord last night. We spent some time sharing memories of this most amazing individual who, even as he was going through treatment for cancer, he remained very active in the theater group he was part of, kept up with his hobbies of water rafting and wind surfing, all of this as if nothing at all – including chemotherapy – had any effect on him. A man who enjoyed life to the fullest under all circumstances.

We also reflected over the wonderful time we shared with a 60+ years member of the congregation who also went to be with the Lord and whose life we’ll celebrate  on Friday. A very active member of the church in various ministries, including leadership of our bible study group some years ago. The first day I came to bible study I happened to sit next to her as we went around the table with introductions. At 96 she told me she had hearing difficulty in her left ear and wanted me to make sure I spoke to her right ear. She and I shared the prayer book and the text we had for that day though when it was her turn to read, she passed it on to me.

She was the first person I knew by name on my first day of bible study; she ensured that I felt welcome and from then on she left no doubt whatsoever that everyday I knew I was part of the group.

Then our group leader turned to me. The response of the email I copied to him last week showed  someone who really cared. “Joel”, he wrote, “please let me know that you’re O.K”. It touched my heard especially as I knew he was expressing not only his own sentiments, but also the love and care of the whole group. So, I shared the story I wrote about in the last blog.

I even opened up about something very strange that happened to me during my bereavement. As I mentioned, for a couple of weeks I could not do anything – I was blank. Strangely though, I remembered a documentary I saw some years ago about history’s worst aviation disaster at Tenerife airport in the Canary islands on 27 March, 1977. For some still unknown reason, I found myself obsessed with the documentary and I watched the video over and over and over. It was the only thing I could do and it would not release me from its grip.

I saw everybody staring at me with shock – literally, wide eyed. “Alright”, I said to myself, “they must be saying, he is a nut; let’s get out of here!” But nobody ran out. Instead I got possible explanation connecting my grief to the disaster.

At the end of bible study, I can only thank God for connection, thank God for community, thank god for vulnerability.





How do you overcome the stigma of depression?


Recently I have found myself deep in depression after my sister died of cancer. I know there was nothing I could have done – yet, knowing is far from believing. I keep reminding myself that I need to accept the fact, still I am unable to let go and forgive myself. A few years ago, I suggested 7 tips on how to deal with depression, but here I am trying to motivate myself to visit the 7 tips.

Lest you think I am on a lost cause or course, not actually, because here I am writing this blog after a two-week blankness. I am actually coming out of the doldrums. What has helped me is the very first point on my 7 tips: Positive influence, or surrounding oneself with positive people, or positive connections.

I begin every week with volunteer work at a local church, teaming up with other volunteers to prepare and serve breakfast to our neighbors in need. Yes, Monday morning at 5:30 we are in aprons, in the kitchen, being creative about making the best breakfast. We serve, we sit down with our guests, share a devotion, then we clean up. The experience is totally uplifting, fabulous, and propels us through the week. And we look forward to teaming up again.

The fundamental and overriding principle here is that, as Brene Brown puts it in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, as human beings, we are wired for connection. Whatever situation we may be in, good or bad, afflicted or thriving, we are meant to be connected. We draw strength from one another. Connection is the primary resource in all situations and circumstances.

Most of us know this, yet, often times there is the temptation to go it alone. As with all “how-to” strategies, knowing how does not always translate into success because – again as Brene Brown points out – there are things that get in the way, for example, trust issues, shame, vulnerability, and so on.

I am personally blessed, in this regard, with a PCP who is more than just my physician. It’s just one example. I am able to talk to her about my depression, and she is empathic with a listening ear and sharing encouragement. Connections come in many different ways if you are open to seize the opportunity.




Why is balance so important?


Have you experienced a disconnect between your body and your mind and emotions – or your thinking process? I am a type 2 diabetic and on insulin. I shared, in my book, how that is not necessarily a weakness but, in many ways, a strength, especially in relating to others in situations of adversity.

Because I take insulin, there have been a few times when I have experienced what is known as hypoglycemia, when blood sugar levels fall too low. It is not a good situation to be in.

There are several signs of hypoglycemia and they vary from individual to individual. For me, typically I begin to experience physical weakness, feeling shaky, then sweating, confusion and anxiety.

Confusion: I know what I need to do, like – “reach for hard candy or orange juice”. But in this state, it is sometimes a struggle to coordinate “what I must do” with actually doing it. This leads to anxiety (another sign of hypoglycemia) and frustration, and the cycle continues.

From this unusual physical experience I often wonder how to maintain the balance between body, mind, and spirit. How do I get life in alignment with the soul? I don’t like the experience of hypoglycemia which is an illustration of physical imbalance, Yet, I wonder, is everything else in balance?

I invite comments and suggestions.


3 core values of wholesome living


In the course of the past few weeks I have posted a few blogs about humility. There will be more to come. I wanted to pause briefly to look at two close relatives of humility: honesty, and self-awareness.

Being humble is not fake nor pretense. It is being honest with and about oneself. It is about realizing your abilities and weaknesses. It is not self-aggrandizement but understanding your true value. Actually, all this is another way of talking about honesty and self-awareness.

Any dictionary will show synonyms of honesty to include integrity, honor, principles, trust, righteousness, right-mindedness while antonyms include false, counterfeit and fraudulent.

At a social justice/social service center in Washington DC, a longtime case manager drew up a Better Life Pyramid as a guide to wholeness. At the base of the pyramid where one must begin are the three attributes of Honesty, Humility, and Self-Awareness. Without this base any attempts to wholeness crumble.

Stay tuned for more, and in the meantime share your views here or on facebook or by email


What are your challenges? Bring in humility.


Who does not have something they’re contending with? Poor health? Anger, or pride, or lack of trust? I believe we all have something in our lives we don’t like and would be happy to be rid of. May be we have even tried or we are still trying but it is still there. In my book, Paths As Yet Untrodden, I point out a few of my own struggles. I also cite the example of Ron, an example of gaining authority position and how anger takes from him the opportunity for happiness and joy.

As I am writing a friend from our bible study group lies in a rehab facility after she fell and broke her arm. At 92 years young she has known independent living, not relying on somebody else for everyday life, even driving to the store or to doctor appointments. Now she finds herself confined to a room in a rehab center, unsure as to how long she will be there and even more worrisome, what the future will look like after this?

I believe this would challenge any of us.

Amy Cuddy published a book with the title: Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges. 

Even if none of these examples are in your battleground,  may be you have known or have a relative struggling with substance abuse or in recovery. It is a challenge that confronts not only the afflicted but even more so those who are closest. The challenges of a dear one could very well be your challenges.

Whatever the case a version of Bob Marley’s quote says: “You never realize how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have”. Being strong may itself turn out to be a challenge when it means giving up or losing control; accepting that I am not in control in this situation. In other words, humility turns out to be our strongest self when facing challenges.

Now, giving up does not mean not doing anything, as in despair. Stay tuned for more on this. In the meantime share your thoughts below or email me: joelmlay@gmail.com.



Seek humility and all these will be added


In my last blog I shared that happiness should not and cannot be pursued. Happiness is not a future achievement following some preparations and successes. For example, many people who think they will be happy after they find their dream job, or have made so much money, or have sent the last kid off to college and so on, may very well discover that at the end of their quest, happiness is even more elusive than when they began.

It is possible to find and enjoy happiness right now, where you are. Humility brings that about. You see, the humble are generally occupied with things bigger than themselves. That mindset deflects self-absorption, a major misery contributing factor.

I have cited specific examples in my book, Paths As Yet Untrodden, of how just a few hours a week volunteering at a homeless shelter or doing outreach ministry with neighbors living on the precipice contribute to satisfaction and fulfillment, the centerpiece of joy and happiness. As such, happiness for the humble is part of the journey, not a destination or a milestone in the future.

It is no wonder then that humility molds good leaders since they do not harbor competition or self-promotion in leadership but promote cooperation and relationship building, or what the American Psychological Association refers to as  “we-ness” or the Social Bonds Hypothesis.

And from good leaders to good employees, as an anonymous quote says, “great leaders inspire greatness in others”.

Let me know what you think. You can post a comment below or send me an e-mail: joelmlay@gmail.com


How humility wins over the pursuit of happiness


Kid Cudi in 2010 released as a single from his debut studio album, Man on the Moon,  a song he titled, Pursuit of Happiness (Nightmare). The pursuit of happiness – minus the nightmare – is one of the three unalienable rights endowed to humankind by the Creator, according to the U. S Declaration of Independence, the other two being life and liberty. Now we know that pursuing happiness may indeed end up being a nightmare. In fact, happiness is not something you pursue or work to achieve. Just imagine doing everything necessary, laying the foundation for happiness to be attained sometime in the future after you complete whatever tasks are necessary.

Futility is the right term for such an endeavor. Happiness is a state of being, not a feat to be achieved. Joy and happiness are now, in the present, not waiting in the future.

Think of what we have touched on so far regarding humility. Humility focusses on others, not oneself. Humility espouses generosity and charity. Being humble makes it possible to accept rather than resist whatever is. As a result, humility makes gratitude possible.

That’s all that is needed for happiness right now, in this moment. Focus energy from self to others. As C. S Lewis put it, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less”. Add to that acting with compassion, charity and generosity and be grateful for every moment of life. With that way of life you won’t need to pursue happiness. You will experience happiness everyday.

Examples of humility


In yesterday’s blog I referred to extraordinarily humble people who would have been listed in a previous blog. actually those individuals are listed in chapter 2 of my revised book, Paths as Yet Untrodden. My intention was to share some highlights from that chapter, and, I guess, I went ahead of myself. In any case, I was referring to statesmen like Julius Nyerere, the late former president of Tanzania, who the New York Times described as, “an uncharacteristically humble and modest national leader”, Nelson Mandela, described in biography.com as a writer, president, civil rights activist, and “a symbol of global peace-keeping”.

I have also listed icons of non-violence, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, as well as religious leaders like Pope Francis, archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama and advocates of social justice like Mother Teresa. There are also billionaires on the list of individuals of exemplary humility, such as Warren Buffett, Ingvar Kamprad, Amancio Ortega, Karl Albrecht, Chuck Feeney, Alexander Lebedev, Christy Walton and Tim Cook and many, many others.

Look at any of them and you will see the 4 humility traits I referred to:

1. They focus their energy on others.

2. They are driven by compassion and charity.

3. They are guided by moral compass in making decisions, and a life of acceptance and gratitude.

4. They are strong in their convictions, not weak nor self-assertive.

Now that I have corrected the record – or rather, updated the record – we will then move on to the other qualities in the next blog. By the way, I invite you to share your comments below, including, especially, any disagreements or different points of view.


4 examples that you and your life are all-sufficient


If you and your life are all-sufficient, it means you are not lacking, you are not and need not be in competition with anyone, you can and have enough to give. A quick look at the examples of extraordinarily humble people in the last blog reveals some common character traits shared by them.

First, none of them can be described as weak. On the contrary they are and were very strong in their convictions. Remember Nelson Mandela’s speech from the dock during his trial for treason? “…I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

Second, from this same example, we see the readiness to sacrifice one’s life because humility focusses on others not on oneself. Self-assertion for one’s aggrandizement is not the way of humility. Connected to this character trait is a third quality – charity and compassion towards others.

A fourth quality is that of moral compass in decision-making. This is grounded in the nature of humility for acceptance and gratitude. We’ll examine this further, along with more character traits of humility in the next blog, but we are humble when we can accept with grace what life gives.

More to come.


What is real and authentic greatness?


Muhammad Ali is reported to have remarked, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am”. Many people have a wrong perception that humility is weakness; that self-promotion and assertiveness, even pride and arrogance or being brash are the means to achievement and success. It is true that today’s society, if the U.S president is an example, seems to denigrate the virtue of humility and promotes self-absorption.

A few months ago I posted 8 Pillars of Joy in this blog where humility is listed as one of the 4 attributes of mind that contribute to a full life of joy and peace, and in my book, my very last reflection also briefly touches on humility if we are to live with hope.  Chapter two of my revised version of the book begins with the significance of this virtue, not only for individual happiness and fulfillment, but also for leadership and public life.

In his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin, America’s premier success story as an inventor, genius of building relationships and connecting people and hence, a diplomat and scientist, listed 12 areas of attitude and action he wanted to improve. Seeking input, he showed the list to a friend who, wrote Franklin in his autobiography, “kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my pride showed itself frequently in conversation”. Because of the comment, Franklin listed humility as number 13 area of improvement.

I wonder how many of us would want to list humility as a character trait we would seek. Yet, as we will see in subsequent blogs, from the highest office holder like the president of the United States, to an alcoholic or drug peddler struggling through recovery and sobriety, humility, as Confucius noted, is the solid foundation of all virtues.

You can read more about my personal experience with humility in Kindle Direct or get a copy of my book both available from amazon.com.