You were a presence long
before I knew you as a man and then a spirit.
a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with
gladness; come before his presence with singing.
To live in the Worcester, Mass. area in the 1980s was to
know you. By then, you were a 60s icon; friend of rock stars, body guard
to his His Holiness The Dalai Lama, and just about anyone else who
crossed your path. Yes, your full name was Paul Stacy, but everyone in
the city and surrounding countryside simply called you "Tiny."
I was a journalist in central and eastern Massachusetts for
more than a decade before I finally called you up for an interview, but
I knew all along I was postponing the inevitable; that one day we would
experience a "cataclyde" of emotions and spirits as you downloaded your
heart and soul to me so I could help you reach the world with the
message of Buddhism and its teachings of love and compassion.
It was my long ago editor at
Worcester Magazine, Jay Whearley, who actually initiated the encounter in 1989 that would change
my life. I don’t recall there being any overarching reason to profile
you at that exact moment except that the publication had been remiss in
not granting you a cover story. Of course, we know the circumstances
were far more complicated than that. You had reached a level of
enlightenment where you were ready to share your message with the world.
And you had spiritual and temporal backers who were urging you
behind-the-scenes to make more of a public name for yourself so you
could bring your spirit to a larger audience than the one-on-one
encounters that moved so many of us every day.
For all that you were a showman, I don’t think you would
have gone public without the encouragement of Dan Goleman and Bill
Moyers. I think we talked about that, though I can’t remember the exact
words, but we both knew you were a shy and private man for all your
outward warmth and gregariousness. I think it must have taken a huge
reserve of strength to sit down that day in the Blue Plate and tell me
the story of your addiction and redemption. Of course, you had a great
supporting cast: Robert Thurman the Buddhist scholar, Richard Gere, Jon
Kabitt-Zinn, Bill Murray, and friends like Steven Rodman who backed your
coming clean and sober, not to mention your family. And, yes, the
incentive was high. How many people come clean and sober so they can
attend to the needs of His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
Your Story Created A Wall of Pain . . .
All I remember was experiencing this wall of pain as you
talked about your downhill slide into addiction and the rowdy life you
led during those many, seemingly wasted years. In those days I didn’t
have a laptop and I took the whole story down long hand on a clip board
with pages of white paper to flip as you talked. The place was dark and
lifeless, a far cry from what it became at night when it was filled with
people or on those amazing occasions when you lured the likes of
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Wavy Gravy or Allen Ginsberg to speak along with
many 60s folk and rock stars. I remember white light seeping through the
window slats like something out of Rembrandt. And I recall being
exhausted as we wrapped up this short facsimile of such an enormous life
and headed up the road to Barre where you took me to the Insight
Meditation Society for the first time for a meal and to introduce me to
Once away from the Blue Plate it was as if your spirit lifted and you
became the Tiny I have loved for almost 20 years. Your mood soared as
you detached from your 60s happenings, quieted your mind, and centered
on the basic tenets of Buddhism that had saved your soul. I knew
innately that I was communing with someone who lived outside the realm
of earthly consciousness. I can’t remember the exact moment when our
souls connected, but I found it was okay to share my pain and sorrows;
my story of family disturbances, divorces and abandonment. And as I
revealed myself you enveloped me in your warmth.
The "Tiny Hug . . ."
At first it was a warm
energy seeping out and surrounding me, but as we parted that day I
experienced the first of what I call the “Tiny hug.” You opened your
arms and pulled me into you and surrounded me with caring, with love and
compassion. For those few moments I was a little child experiencing the
unconditional love of my parents again; a love that was no longer
accessible except in fleeting moments. But you, Tiny, you knew that love
and compassion were the keys to calming my jagged nerves.
As we worked further on the
magazine story you invited me deeper into your life in Holden where I
met your mother Rosemond, who sadly passed away in the spring of 2006.
She became very dear to me over the years that I stopped by for my
visits that grew into a joint spiritual adventure. For the Worcester
Magazine story was just the kick off of something far more precious – a
chance to learn from you how to calm my thoughts through mindfulness
meditation and begin my own recovery as a victim of abuse. You took me
to meditation sessions and to AA and Alanon meetings, to New York to
visit with documentary film maker Dan Schechter and to experience real
Tibetan food, not to mention real Tibetans.
Setting Up the Interview
with HH The Dalai Lama . . .
Sometime in the spring or
summer of 1990 you asked whether I would like to interview His Holiness
The Dalai Lama for Worcester Magazine where I was then the associate
editor. HH was appearing at a weekend symposium on the environment to be
held in September at Middlebury College. Of course, you would be
attending as HH’s body guard and would be there to guide me. I was
overwhelmed with the offer, but eager. I was 36 by this time and had
interviewed many famous people from presidents to celebrities and Nobel
laureates, but never someone of this spiritual and world stature who was
so admired. I was awed at the thought of meeting His Holiness, even a
bit intimidated, but you sold me on HH’s humanity and the need to spread
his message of love and compassion as well as HH’s fight to free Tibet –
a cause you fully embraced. Of course, I never intended to turn down
this offer. My real fear was that I wasn’t up to the challenge, having
no formal training in Buddhism, and that the magazine – really an
alternative weekly newspaper – didn’t offer HH the platform he deserved.
You pooh-poohed both
concerns and we moved ahead with the process of gaining approval for the
interview. I remember writing to one of HH’s top aides in Dharamsala,
India – the center of the Tibetan government in exile – and the
wondrous day when I received my acceptance. Mary Trainor, a colleague
from the magazine, agreed to drive with me and shoot pictures for the
story. She was great company and had prepped far more than I did. Okay, I
admit it, I can be a bit blasé about prepping an interview, preferring
to rely on instincts. I was just planning to waltz into an interview
with one of the world’s foremost spiritual leaders and talk from my
heart, but Mary would have nothing of it. She had brought a book that
summarized HH’s philosophy and made me bone up before I would enter his
presence. And I did, at least for half an hour.
Your Role as Bodyguard and
HH at Middlebury . . .
That was the first and last
time I was able to see you in action as HH’s bodyguard in your black
secret service-type suit and white buttoned-down shirt, tempered by a
flowered hippie tie. As we all know, for a large man you were very quick
on your feet – almost cat like – and very professional. Although you
knew I was there and acknowledged my presence with a wink, in truth you
were at Middlebury for one person and one only – HH the Dalai Lama. I
was very impressed and also very worried because you spent the whole
weekend hobbling around Middlebury’s hilly campus with a bandaged foot.
Oh, Tiny, that was the beginning of the end, but of course neither of us
could know the injury you sustained while changing a tire in a New York
City tunnel earlier in the week (while ferrying Bobby Weir of the
Grateful Dead to HH) was sowing the seeds of your demise.
Had I known I don’t think I
could have gone through with the interview. But, of course, I was
blissfully ignorant of the dangers of diabetes, which you suffered so
stoically that I had no idea you were battling a chronic disease. I
won’t bore you with the details of my glorious and life-changing
encounter with HH, as it’s well documented in my writing and the tape I
made. In fact, this was the only interview I ever saved. All these years
I’ve preferred to take notes and spare myself the effort of
transcribing, but I knew I had to keep this conversation for perpetuity.
And, listening again after 17 years, I can’t believe how current the
issues are we addressed about the world – from Iraq and Iran to the
problems between men and women – HH’s advice was timeless.
Were you present at the
interview? I don’t recall you sitting all the way through, but I do
believe you dipped in an out. Bizarre as it now seems, I don’t recall
you commenting on the interview or the story. I do know that HH found it
poignant because he hugged me close at the end and then sent his aide to
apologize to me in the anteroom afterwards for not being able to help me
when it came to answering my earnest questions about how to heal
relationships between men and women. Being a monk he felt inadequate to
answer, which remains one of his most endearing qualities – his
humility.And come to think of it,
male/female relationships weren’t exactly your strong point either,
though you did have a special love towards the end. Janet was young,
blond, beautiful and full of life. I was so glad you enjoyed
that beautiful love for as long as time allowed. As for me, I always
loved you, but as a sister, a fellow spirit and time traveler. And you
led me down a path that aided me in the creation of my daughter, Julia,
for which I can never thank you enough.
And Now We Must Save
Tibetan Culture . . .
In fact, Julia wouldn’t be
here today if you hadn’t roped me into one of your schemes. Okay, schemes
may be a bit harsh – let’s call it a strategy? You and HH had developed
a plan to help save Tibetan culture by assisting a group of Tibetan
refugees immigrate to the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts. I was
dubious that this plan would save Tibetan culture given the fact that
America, the great melting pot, had a way of washing away native
cultures – at least in the second generation. I knew. Here I was a
Jewish Buddhist with Christian values – a religious pluralist
ecumenicalist – who was hardly upholding the Jewish faith. Why, I
demanded of you, did you expect it to be any different for Tibetans?
You overrode my concerns
(as usual, I may note) and enlisted me to help with fundraising and
marketing for the newly formed Amherst Tibetan community. I attended a
few meetings and remember hearing Sonam Lama, a stone mason, speak and
others. I was moved by their cause, but then I’m moved by many causes.
If I participated it was by the sheer force of your personality and
because, like so many others, I couldn’t turn you down – at least
easily. I met Julia’s father at a fundraising meeting and we then teamed
up and unmasked some organizers who were milking the process. I reported
this to you and then moved on, figuring there were better things for me
to do than create tempests in teapots. Besides, I was tired of American
Buddhists arguing over who was more enlightened, which to me defied the
entire concept of enlightenment.
Let's Write a Book on
Meditation for Those in Recovery . . .
Sometime around this time,
at the urging of my long-time friend Steven Rodman (who it had turned
out was a mutual friend), you asked me to do the honor of writing a book
with you on meditation for people in recovery. To this day the work we
did together stands as the most important, not to mention beautiful, of
my 32 years in journalism (as of winter '07). I have had the glory of
seeing nine of my books published nationally by big-name presses with
No. 10 on the way – a vision for children of an ecologically sound and
compassionate society. But the writing I did with you, Tiny, stands as
the most precious and the most important.
We spent many hours by your
bedside as your diabetes took it's toll. You channeled your knowledge of
two subjects – recovery and mindfulness meditation to me. I, in turn,
channeled you to the page along with your teachings. My favorite
iteration of Chapter One opened with a day in your life and an actual
meditation class. Dan Goleman graciously played reader and editor, but
in time he and I fretted over whether the book was marketable. You were
a presence, a major spirit, but not what the publishing world calls "a
name." I believe that Dan, along with Jon Kabitt-Zinn, agreed that you
needed to do more in the world before the world would recognize the
power of your teachings. So, for a period when your health picked up a
bit, I remember you working with prisoners in north central
Massachusetts, helping them cope with incarceration by teaching them
Your Illness, Death and
Funeral . . .
But it was one effort too
late for this lifetime. After a while even talking became far too much
of an effort and our writing stopped. I spent my visits holding your
hand and sitting, or sharing thoughts if you were strong enough. In
1994, not long after my beloved Julia was born (another Aquarius just
like you), your body, which had been besieged by illness and pain,
stopped functioning. I received word from Steven that you had passed. I
can’t tell you the anguish I experienced at that news, which was
tempered with relief that your worldly suffering was over. But it was
only the knowledge that your spirit lived within me and so many others
that I could endure your earthly death and rally to organize your public
funeral. In fact, that was a tremendous gift that Rosemond and Steven
gave me because it helped me funnel my grief into usefulness and carry
on your community building.
I’ve always wondered what
you felt about that funeral. We all did our best, I can assure you,
Tiny. I believe I read my
favorite Psalm No. 24 and dedicated it to you: "The earth is the Lord's
and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. For He
hath founded it upon the seas and established it upon the flood. Who
shall ascend the mountain of the Lord and who shall stand in his holy
place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart; who hath not taken My
name in vain, and hath not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a
blessing from the Lord and justice from the God of his salvation . . ."
I know that Steven and Jon
Kabitt-Zinn both gave beautiful eulogies, but I can’t recall anything
they said. I can see both of them standing up and speaking of their love
for you very clearly and in ways that would have both pleased, and
probably embarrassed you, given that you were happier giving than
taking. Joseph Goldstein, founder of IMS sent two representatives and
there must have been Buddhist monks who were your friends, along with
the hundreds who loved you throughout central Massachusetts. For all
these years I have remembered the kindness that Jon showed that day to
you, to me, to Steven, your family . . . He was the epitome of love,
compassion and graciousness.
And Now Your Spirit is
Among Us . . .
Which brings us to now, the
moment, and one more story – the story of your Stupa or shrine and how I
came to write to you after 13 years. But first I need not tell YOU that
you have always been here with me in my heart and mind. Whenever life is
the most difficult, the most cruel or darkest all I need to do is call
you and I can feel you encompass me in your arms and hold me close to
your chest. It’s always the same image from one of our last visits.
You sat up from your
hospital bed situated in your mothers’ den – the place you lived once
your amputations and the illness made it impossible to climb the steep
stairs to your room at the top of the stairs with mementos of your life
on the road, of Buddhism and Tibet. I remember clearly you wearing a
white T-shirt. You covered your lower regions in a sheet out of decency
and humility to hide your near nakedness. I approached and you held me
in a bear hug that has lasted 13 years and will last as long as I have
More to come about Tiny,
his stupa and how his spirit found me, found Steven and Sonam and has
been moving us along to honor his memory . . .
friend, your writer, your biographer, your sister