05/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Michelle's Way: Lessons In Buddhism From The First Lady

Tonight, for the first time in history, our First Lady will attend a Passover Seder in the white House with her two daughters, as the President honors the Jewish people. For the last week she has been electrifying Europe with her warmth and her fearlessness in showing that she cares. She is adored wherever she goes for one simple reason: She brings hope. The hope that the world can be a caring and compassionate place, and the hope anyone of any color or background can fulfill their dreams.


It brought tears to our eyes when the children at the school Michelle Obama visited in London jumped up and down and hugged and hugged her and she hugged them back. We could see in their faces that, because of her, they too felt they had a chance. Her charisma and confidence make others feel comfortable in her presence. Deb, being English, was delighted to finally see someone arm in arm with the Queen!

A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity. -Buddha

When we read this quote we thought Buddha could have been saying this about Michelle Obama! She is setting an extraordinary example by doing things her own way and being true to herself. From having bare arms, to serving lunch to the homeless in a soup kitchen, to planting a vegetable garden at the White House, she is making us take a fresh look at the role of the First Lady, and at our own prejudices and opinions about what we think is right and wrong.

A person who gives freely is loved by all. It's hard to understand, but it is in giving that we gain strength. But there is a proper time and a proper way to give, and the person who understands this is strong and wise. By giving with a feeling of reverence for life, envy and anger are banished. A path to happiness is found. Like one who plants a sapling and in due course receives back shade, flowers, and fruit, so the results of giving bring joy. Through continuous acts of kindness the heart is strengthened by compassion and giving. -Buddha


Michelle Obama's combination of honesty and kindness is the essence of maitri--a Sanskrit word that means unconditional friendship with oneself, and from there the feeling of unconditional friendship with all others. This is the basis for compassion, the feeling of being at home in your own mind and body so that you are at home with everyone. She expressed this in her interview with Oprah, when she said, "My happiness is tied to how I feel about myself."

A great shift has happened in the U.S., as if we have emerged from a dream (that for some was a nightmare). We all know we are living in trying times, but we also have great karma as we lucked out by electing a First Couple who are showing the world that America is again cool. Between them, the Obama's have brought down the barriers so that we are no longer an isolated nation. "We are now" as our friend Barry says, "a more humane country."

With all that Michelle Obama doing she is not without her critics, however, and dealing with criticism is one of the burdens she will have to bear if she is to stay true to herself, for there will always be those who disagree with her.

When people speak badly of you, you should respond in this way: Keep a steady heart and don't reply with harsh words. Practice letting go of resentment and accept that the other's hostility is the spur to your understanding. Be kind, adopt a generous standpoint, treat your enemy as a friend, and suffuse all your world with affectionate thoughts, far-reaching and widespread, limitless and free from hate. Buddha

Trusting and believing in ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift the First Lady could offer to each of us. When we don't then we belittle our own intelligence. By offering maitri -- compassionate friendship -- to ourselves, then we all get to live in a more caring and friendlier world.

So how do you feel about Michelle Obama? Does she make a difference in your life? Do you appreciate her example of living with compassionate friendship and generosity?

Do let us know how you feel by writing a comment below. You can receive notice of our blogs every Thursday by checking Become a Fan at the top.


Ed and Deb Shapiro's new book, BE THE CHANGE, How Meditation Can Transform You And The World, foreword by the Dalai Lama and an introduction by Robert Thurman, with contributors such as Marianne Williamson, Michael Beckwith, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jane Fonda, Greg Braden, Byron Katie, Ed Begley, Ram Dass, Ellen Burstyn, Dean Ornish, Seane Corn, Russell Bishop, KD and others, will be published in October 2009 by Sterling Ethos. Ed and Deb are the authors of over 15 books, and lead meditation retreats and workshops. Deb is the author of the award-winning book YOUR BODY SPEAKS YOUR MIND. They are corporate consultants, and the creators of Chillout daily inspirational text messages on Sprint cell phones. See their website:

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