Saturday, April 30, 2022



During the peak of the Boat People, who were escaped Vietnam seeking for freedom and opportunity. A very tiny boat, with more than 15 fragile lives, old and young, drifting in the midst of South China Sea. Its small engine broke down; food and water were gone; nothing left. Amidst in the immense sea, the boat was drifting for its 3rd days. After another long dark night. Tý woke up in a panic mode.

“Tèo, where are you?” A weak voice frantically shouted out to the lifeless boat full of people in the mean blue ocean.  “Tèo, where are you?” No one answered.

Then, a skinny old pale lady, with all her energy, pulled his stinky shirt and said: “Sorry, your brother was dead, and the men decided to throw his body overboard”.

“No, no, no. Tèo, oh, my poor Tèo.” Tý continued to cry… and no one on the boat had the energy and/or gut to offer any condolences or sympathy. In a split-second, Tý said, “Tèo, wait for me, I can’t leave you alone, I am going… with you”, and just like that he jumped into the deep blue ocean. Tèo, dead; Tý, dead. Die. Dead. Death.

Almost 40 years later, here I am at 37000 feet, flying from Sacramento to St. Louis, MO then to Tampa Bay, FL to teach mindfulness and leadership. The haunting image of a young dad from South America drowned along with his daughter in the Rio Grande River. Her arm was underneath his shirt, holding on to her dear life, across his shoulder, dead together, an image that perhaps makes American society, over the last decade, more shameful. Both of them died, facedown, trying to find an opportunity in the unknown land called America. It reminded me of a story of my two long-lost cousins, the Kham Bach brothers, which I will never forget. They died like the boat people, on their way to finding freedom and opportunity in the unknown land, in the late 70’s.

At the ILC 2019 Summer conference, my dear friend R., recalled the story of her ancestors, the Native Americans, who cared for and nurtured the newcomers, the Angelos Americans, in their native land in order for the settlers to survive the harsh winters. They survived and excelled in many ways. Like their ancestors, they cared for the young and respected the elders. They never separated children, and much less imprisoned them in harsh camps like the Japanese internment. Keep in mind that we are one human race, our bloods are all red and our tears are all salty.

In our current political situation, it is not right, it is immoral and inhumane, to incarcerate humans who are only seeking a better life (particularly when our actions lead to the destabilization of their home countries). Not to mention the hypocritical nature of any non-Native American claiming dominion over lands we stole and which have been occupied by refugees and of whom we are almost all descendants of. Meaning, if these policies were in place when my Italian and Irish families migrated here, would I even exist? If Phe's family hadn't been given refuge after the war, where would he and his family be? If your opinion leads to a belief that it is right, then you are not practicing mindfulness and you should absolutely be confronted, particularly when your beliefs expand and prolong suffering.

Immigration is a sensitive subject, yet we have to continue to bring awareness and solutions to this crisis. Turning away from difficult conversations is not mindful. There is a right and wrong regardless of one's opinion. People were under the opinion that it was right to kill millions of Jewish and Polish people. People were under the opinion that it was right to murder millions of Cambodians. People are under the opinion that it is right to deny climate science, that it is right to subjugate and rape women, that honor killings are appropriate. Silence has always been a tool for those in power. Neutrality is a lie we used to assuage our own guilt. “Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly.” – Mahatma Gandhi        

We need to recognize that we are inter-are. We are interdependent on each other. Whatever happens in Asia affects us here in the USA; whatever happens in South America affects us here, and whatever is happening in our country affects everyone in the world, directly and/or indirectly. We ought to acknowledge that your success is my success, your failure is my failure. We ought to make Americans more compassionate again. What makes America great is its true spirit: the warmth, compassion, individualism, inclusiveness, hope, and liberty of its people and their freedom, opportunities and reverence for the land and its history.

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

April, 2019.

Phe Bach, Ed.D.
Educator and C. Mindfulness Founder 
and AnnieMarie Rossi, Be Mindful Founder

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