May 27, 2015

Spreading the Message There's a Gem Inside Us All

Toan Talking to Kent Middle School Students in 2014
If there is only one thing you tell a younger person in your life, it should be “YOU MATTER.” Heck, you should tell that to anyone, at any age, in your life who matters – before it’s too late.

It seems like every week, I hear news via Facebook, the press or through a friend, that yet another young person committed suicide here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I recently asked a group of millennials to introduce themselves, tell us where they’re from and give us a snapshot of an experience that changed their lives forever. One by one, the kids mustered up the courage to tell us gut-wrenching stories of the heart.

One teen told me how depressed he was because his parents didn’t know his truth and how he finally came out as gay to them. Another teen talked about her battle with booze and another talked about the sudden loss of a parent and how she was nearly out in the streets with no family. Each story touched us all. I was shocked to several of them had tried to commit suicide.

Many of them admitted they didn’t feel that who they are, what they’ve been through and even their very existence mattered. I saw the brilliance and potential power of each of them. I wish they only saw themselves through my lens.

No matter what platform I’m on – as a teacher, mentor, motivational speaker, founder of Go Inspire Go – I spread the message that “you are all gems.” Some of you may be dustier than others. Some of you may have been dragged through the dirt and mud more than others, but everyone deserves to shine. It’s my job and every human being’s job to dust off these gems so they shine.

Toan speaking about the power of storytelling with Reel Voices youth in 2014.

Likewise, every youngster should only surround themselves with people who make them shine. If only those kids who took their lives knew how much they matter, how bright their light really is – they – and the world would be a better place. One of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned as an adult is, when you let yourself shine, you reflect it onto others and they shimmer and sparkle too. We – YOU – are all dazzling beings. So let the light in!

My mentor – actor, comedian and humanitarian Michael Pritchard, whose life work is healing people through comedy – reminded me that the moon actually casts no light. Rather, it reflects the light from the sun. The unison and the yin and yang of this story gave me chills. What if we were the moon to all the sunshine we encounter in our daily lives? Wouldn’t the world and all its gems be a warmer, shinier, brighter place?

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May 12, 2015

Comedi-tarian Michael Pritchard: Healing Through Humor (VIDEO)

Photo: Robin Williams and Michael Pritchard
UPDATE: Since the taping of this Tea with Toan & Michael Pritchard interview, Michael suffered a massive heart attack and underwent bypass surgery last week. Thankfully, he's on the mend. A small way to say thank you for all his inspiration and love is to contribute to his medical fund.

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Have you ever met someone who touched you so deeply your soul shifted? For me and the millions who’ve been touched by the gentle giant known as Dr. Michael Pritchard, you know and you feel what I’m talking about.

Many folks know him as an actor, comedian, PBS host, Vietnam medic, life saver and humanitarian who along with his best friend, the late Robin Williams, spent many hours using his power of comedy to heal sick kids, bandage wounded spirits and hold hands with the dying as they crossed over to the other side through hospice. I gave him the name “Comedi-tarian.”

He left the glitz and glamour of Hollywood to heal hearts and wounded spirits. “Pritch” traveled near and far to motivate, facilitate and elevate the hearts and minds of many. Authenticity, kindness, friendship and anti-bullying were just some of the life lessons Pritch preached. I know him as my mentor of life... my spiritual teacher-preacher. Get ready to be inspired, entertained and uplifted.

Even Robin Williams spirit made his way through this interview – you'll have to watch and be amazed!



I met Pritch through Kala Shah, my sister from another mister and co-conspirator of our Go Inspire Go Community Heroes program. She called me on the phone after meeting him for the first time and sounded like she had just won the lottery. “Oh my gawd, you have to meet Michael Pritchard, woo!” I get it now. She won the spiritual lottery and so did I. So did so many of you who’ve met him. And so will many of you who will meet him one day – but until then, you can feel this spiritual superstar through my Tea with Toan interview with Pritch.

When we met, it was love at first hug. The synapses of our souls were felt deeply by both of us. His knack for connecting to a higher source and connecting to all he touches is magical.

“Hey brother, don’t work too hard,” or “Take care of your health, your gut is going through some problems,” he would spout out to people walking on the street. Pritch just knew.

He knew that I was, in his words, a “spiritual teacher of the next generation.” He knew that I was working on a TV pilot and had aspirations to do more motivational speaking, a TED talk, write a book and that I had a flair for compassion and fashion – all before I shared with him my soul’s desires. He knew my deep desire to spread my message of what he calls “mindfulness and kindfulness.”

Michael Pritchard, Robin Williams, Kala Shah & Toan Lam

The last few months have been a spiritual whimsical whirlwind of wisdom. His “Pritchardisms” include, "Don't overstand, understand," "When the student is ready the teacher arrives" and "Build a spiritual wall."

He told me that he wanted to pass the baton to me and Kala because he was getting tired. “You are the enlightened reinforcers,” he said last week at his home in Marin, as we talked about the debut of our TV pilot and the folks to whom he wanted to connect us.

“Toan you know my soul more than most. Through your work and this show, you are carrying on Robin Williams’ legacy of compassion and joy,” he said excitedly.

Perhaps the most special (and there are so many things that make him special) is not what he says, but how he makes you feel. He makes everybody feel like they matter. They are special. And he is right. I matter. You matter. We all matter.

Tea with Toan interview

For some reason, I left his home that day feeling heavy after our light but deep conversation. Little did I know that my feeling of “something isn’t OK with him” was right. Last week, I got a call and found out he had suffered a heart attack. As he undergoes triple bypass surgery and heals, I ask all of you in the “unity of community” to pray for a speedy recovery.

It’s ironic that the man with the biggest heart is getting it repaired as I type. As I process what has happened, I thought, “What could I do to help? What can I do to show the gratitude of the biggest gift of all – his time and love?”

I wrote this poem, titled: BearClown for Pritch to read while he was in the ICU:

A big teddy bear. Oh where did you come from? Bigger than life. A happy clown who once drowned and frown thanks to the glitz, glare of fame and fortune. A heart that is the epitome of care and share and dare to find your authenticity. Synchronicity. A noble job he embarked on...using his life, power and many hours to heal with laughter, saving lives day by day, spending hour by hour helping soul brothers and sisters cross over, moreover seeing the love, laughter, light in all. Sending love to everyone he touches. My teacher-preacher bestows wisdom from above... he exhalts “don’t overstand, understand,” “when the student is ready the teacher arrives,” “build a spiritual wall.” Still sometimes I stall. Afraid of my power. But no more. The hour. My power is ready. So join me. Step up. Join the circus of love. Balancing act. Lots of work dropping the act we were taught. That falseness that we fought. Search for your real you. Robin and robins and hummingbirds teach us the legacy of happy. Who cares what haters say? Blessed be the day that me becomes we. That we see the gem in thee. The true community. Keep laughing and lets send our healing vibes to our bearclown...

Michael Pritchard, Barbara Ocampo, Kala Shah & Toan Lam #Selfie

Here are a few other ideas:

Reflect & Act...

1. I don’t know how else to repay him for his support and love but to use my power of connecting with people and storytelling to say, “I love you back and thank you for being you.” I called my editor and good friend Barbara Ocampo, videographer of my recent “Tea with Toan” segment, a conversation of the heart and soul with Pritch from his backyard. I asked her to meet with me ASAP to finalize this video as a gift to him and you. Again, please contribute to Michael's medical fund.

2. Share this blog/video with loved ones and in the blog’s comments section, share how meeting Pritch changed you and/or your fave Pritch moment.

3. In the spirit of Pritch’s teachings, do a kind thing for someone and let us know about it using #PayItForwardPritchard and #GoInspireGo – we’ll share on our social media channels.

4. Laugh at a challenge you're going through.

5. Make someone laugh today.

And don’t forget, be mindful and kindful.

Love you guys,
Toan

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May 4, 2015

Too Blessed to be Stressed

As I count my blessings before bed every night, on the top of my list are loved ones. Peeps who make life’s bumps smoother and life lighter.

From divorces to uncertain times at the workplace, I’ve recently had many friends confide in me about physical, mental and spiritual problems they’re blessed with. While the issues and life lessons are different – there is an underlying theme here: these problems are making them stronger. There are life lessons to be learned and ultimately I’ve told them we are are too blessed to be stressed.

Here’s an email I sent to one of my friends who is going through personal and professional tribulations as I processed a recent call:

1. Write down five things you're grateful for every night. It will rewire your brain to pay attention to the lovely little things in life that really matter. Start with Bella's gaze into your eyes and excitement when she sees you after a long day of work.

2. It's YOU time. Do something nice for yourself every day. Phenomenal, fabulous, stylish -- lovely you. I believe friends are like mirrors that shine the light you emanate back at you. Every time I think of you, I think, "She's got mad style, sexy, fabulous, classy lady, good heart and wicked smart. Anyone who is lucky enough to be in your life and heart space is better for it, blessed for it."

3. You are blessed with breath. Listen to your breath when you get stressed to bring you in the now. If you live in the past you’re filled with regret. Live in the future and you are anxious. We have no choice but to live in the now. Try it and it will calm those crazy nerves.


This too shall pass. I wish I could take a bit of the pain and hurt away -- but like the little butterfly, you need to sit with these challenges as they are teaching you invaluable life lessons about yourself, the light and shadows.

Be well my fabulous friend.

Big hug,
Toan

P.S. Please share with someone in need and let us know in the comments section how a challenging time has blessed your life.

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