In Praise of Teachers

Education is everything. In recent years, I’ve attended global conferences with leading figures–from Melinda Gates to Bill Clinton, Martha Stewart to Mark Zuckerberg, and Bono to Warren Buffett–who all declared that education is the cure to our nation’s, and indeed our world’s, greatest ills.  I couldn’t agree more.

Growing up, I had my share of challenges, as I discussed in my book Living Wabi Sabi, but I always had the good fortune to attend great schools. Through some of my most difficult circumstances growing up, I don’t know what I would have done if it weren’t for my teachers who instilled in me the idea that it isn’t where you come from, it’s where you’re going that matters.  They taught me that to become a truly capable person, one must develop a broad intellect and wide range of talents. To be a great “student of life,” one must strive to master a variety of fields–for therein greatness is developed, as one who strives to know something about everything, and everything about something, will excel in any endeavor.

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I spent much time pondering this concept as I walked the beach near my home (above) and surfed with my friends each day. The waves we rode reminded me that, like a wave in the ocean, we are each individual expressions of a greater Universal force, of God, of love, of Mother Nature. I decided that I would aim to channel my God-given talents, to harness the creative power of the Universe, for my own growth and to always serve others. Despite (or perhaps because) of the problems I faced, I wanted to live a purposeful life, and I decided I would become a modern Renaissance man.

Thanks to the support of some stellar educators, I grew into a curious mix of equal parts computer nerd, athlete, book worm, and artist. By the time I was in junior high, I programmed and operated a local computer service from a server in my bedroom. By the end of high school, I had been class president, a Rotary Scholar, and an exchange student to Australia. I had also enjoyed success in the entertainment industry, performing in commercials and Broadway musicals, earning the same income as adults around me.  Somehow I still kept grounded and sane!  Totally unimaginable without the solid foundation my family and my teachers provided for me each step of the way.

Although my family faced major economic hardship while I was in high school, my grades were high enough to earn me scholarships that allowed me the freedom to pursue my higher education.  After graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Soka University of Tokyo, I worked as a volunteer children’s counselor, English tutor, model, real estate broker’s assistant, and newspaper writer. I later returned to school for my Master of Fine Arts at UCLA, aiming to join friends at Lucasfilm inventing special effects, but instead ended up starting an internet company, eVoice. Starting with just me and my co-founder, I’m proud to say we built a thriving company with nearly 250 happy employees, and went on to be acquired by AOL.

Tapping the range of business experiences I gained at eVoice, I enjoyed working with several other successful start-ups as well. To keep a healthy balance during my time in Silicon Valley, as my teachers always encouraged me, I painted and wrote as often as I could. It was during this time that I created my first best-selling book Open Your Mind, Open Your Life, an instant bestseller that has now been published in eight languages. I’ve accomplished many challenging and fulfilling endeavors, and I felt I owed every success to my incredible teachers. I let them know it too.

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Such thoughts of gratitude for my education came to me recently as I discussed with the presidents of Sony Publishing and EMI/Virgin of Japan our plans for a multimedia Taro Gold project in Asia, including licensing more of my music for video games.

For the small army of angels, the many talented teachers and coaches, who guided me along my way, who helped my life manifest its inner treasures in myriad beautiful ways, I feel blessed. I owe so much to them, to the gifts their lessons brought out in me, and that is why I do as much as I can to support teachers and student scholarships and educational foundations today. I firmly believe that any child, given the proper learning tools, can excel.  The topic of supporting our teachers and improving schools is always timely, yet now our nation faces a crisis. There may never have been a more urgent time to give thanks to our teachers and support our local schools than now. I recommend viewing the emotional documentary Waiting for Superman. Then learn more about how you can help right now by clicking here.

When we give thanks to the people who taught us well by giving back to teachers and schools now, we plant seeds of gratitude that will grow into mighty trees of knowledge and bear fruit for countless generations to come.

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Live Your Truth

Countless people each day wage their own beautiful, often secret, battle to live true to their heart.  I witness this magnificent process of inner liberation everywhere I go, through the ordinary miracles of everyday life, and in heartwarming messages from fans.  This planet we inhabit, I believe, is a boarding school for our souls.  We are here to polish ourselves into diamonds as we move through each new life experience, gradually improving, on our way to graduation.  Let’s learn our lessons well and graduate with flying colors!

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(Gay pride flag in NYC)

As the world moves forward enacting legislation to include gay people in equal marriage rights, I have been contemplating the deeper significance of “living one’s truth.”  The early gay rights pioneers, like all who have fought for civil rights, courageously lived their truth and stood up to create a brighter future for us all.  I believe everyone in their unique way has at one time or another felt like an outsider.  Everyone can relate to the struggle of expressing one’s inner reality in a world that often tells us our inner reality isn’t good enough.  From birth, we are painted in other people’s images, judged by other people’s expectations of us, who we should become, how we should live.  Whoever we are, wherever we grew up, the messages we are brainwashed with are often far from our inner truth. I wish someone in every child’s life would tell them simply: “Live Your Truth.”

Billy Elliot
(Broadway musical “Billy Elliot”)

Visiting New York City recently, I had the pleasure of seeing the musical “Billy Elliot,” based on the Oscar-winning film.  It is the funny and dramatic story of a boy in the UK named Billy who triumphantly lives true to himself no matter what his circumstances — in his case, growing up in an impoverished coal mining town to become a world-class ballet dancer.  (Now that’s a real black swan!)  Billy rejects the life others expect of him, and seeks the life of his heart’s dreams.  He follows his truth, no matter how impossible it seems, no matter how he feels like a unicorn.  In doing so, he finds his true happiness and a whole new world opens up for him.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull in Punta Mita
(Jonathan Livingston Seagull in Punta Mita, MX)

I think if everyone lived true to their heart, we would all feel like unicorns.  Ironically, it seems the reason many people fail to live as the oddball unicorn they feel inside is because they’re afraid of being lonely.  That’s the trick about being a unicorn.  When you hide your true identity, and pretend to be a donkey, then other unicorns can’t see who you really are.  Only when you are strong enough to become the person you were born to be, a unicorn, then you shine so bright you naturally attract other unicorns to you, and inspire others to do the same.  When you live your truth, your deepest energy is set free to create the life of your best self, your highest potential.  Everything becomes a teachable moment, every experience enriches your soul.  By living your truth, every negative can be transformed into a positive, and all darkness can be illuminated by light.

Mt Charleston
(Spring Mountains National Park, NV)

We are here to reveal our greatest self, to fulfill our noblest aspirations, and create glory in our daily life, no matter how common our lives may appear.  The very fact we are here is enough reason to rejoice, for our souls have won the celestial lottery and made it to this floating orb in space for a chance to gain the spiritual wisdom hidden in this physical realm.  This Earth is like a speed course for soul learning.  Our human society is a master class in spiritual evolution.  Please don’t waste your precious time here!  The very fact you made it to this planet means you are worthy.  Live up to yourself, your true self — live up to your admission in this school of the spirit by becoming the diamond you were born to be.  How can you start forging your life into a shining jewel, when you sometimes feel it is nothing more than coal?  The answer is simple: Live Your Truth.

Fireworks Carlsbad
(Fireworks at Park Hyatt Aviara, Carlsbad, CA)

The process of starting to live one’s truth is often difficult, depending on how far from your truth the surface of your life is.  However, the rewards you will gain by living a true life are far greater than any pain in letting go of a false life.  Opening your heart to your true self is the Independence Day of your soul.  As you peel away layers of falsehoods that have piled upon your heart since childhood, and let go of the past, be prepared for inner battles between your false self and your true self.  Be brave, and remember that falsehoods are weak.  Be strong, and you will win over any obstacle.  If there are days when you feel like you are swimming in a sea of suffering, just keep heading toward the lighthouse in your heart.  There is a peaceful cove of happiness waiting for you, with armies of other unicorns like you who made it safely to shore.  Never give up!  Be yourself!  Live Your Truth!

Love and Light to you Always,
Taro

My Wish For You

I have a list of diamond-hearted friends around the world to whom I send energy every day so that they may activate their wisdom and true happiness. I also pray for the happiness of everyone in my community, region, nation, and the world. I consciously expand my sense of love every day.  Now, I want to share with you some messages of love that came to me in my dreams, interspersed here with photos of people, places and things that over the past few months have helped me increase joy, love and friendship in my life.  Enjoy!

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(Sunrise in Punta Mita, Mexico)

I want you to know that I believe in your limitless potential as a human being, and I hope you will likewise always believe in yourself.  I believe your life is even more precious and important on this Earth than you realize now. You have a great mission to fulfill that is uniquely yours. Thank you for being you.

Please have patience with yourself, have patience with your life, there is no need to worry about your future, no need to run or jump. Just keep moving forward, little by little, at your own pace. No matter how difficult things may appear, everything is exactly as it should be right now. Trust your life. Love yourself. Everything is happening for a deeper reason, to move you into the orbit of your true happiness. Take a deep breath. Relax. You are perfect just as you are right now, perfectly imperfect, as we all are. Just be. Be you. Be the best you that you can be.

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(Sunrise in Park City, Utah)

I hope these 8 guiding questions as a lighthouse for making wise decisions in life:

Is this action causing me to grow up and evolve, or to stagnate?
Is this behavior adding to my life force, or robbing me of energy?
Is this choice bringing long-term fulfillment, or short-term gratification?
Is this decision rooted in my wisdom, or my delusion?
Is this action one of self-love, or one of self-sabotage?
Is this behavior coming from my personal flow of power, or from my fear of going against the flow of others?
Is this choice propelling me forward to create a new and better future, or pulling me backward to relive the past?
Is this decision based in confidence and independence, or insecurity and loneliness?

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(Night lights in Park City, Utah)

As you ask yourself these questions, and continue to grow your happiness, you will go to every exciting place you want to go, you will create the healthy relationships you wish for, and you will be able to obtain every valuable thing you desire, because the ingredients for everything you want in life are already inside your own heart – you simply have to open it up. When you do, you will magnetize yourself and attract immense good fortune with ease.

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(With friends in Park City, UT)

Life is a clear mirror. Life perfectly reflects back to you all that you reveal from inside yourself. You decide. You decide everything, and life responds. You are only limited by the progress you make in loving yourself, mastering your mind, and opening your heart. You don’t ever have to worry about anything outside yourself controlling your destiny. Nothing and no one outside yourself holds anything you need for you to be truly happy. Everything you need is within you. What joyful truth! Absolute freedom.

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(Sunset in Punta Mita, Mexico)

Now I guarantee you that if you continue to polish your diamond self every day, you will grow to become a pillar of society, greatly respected by all, and you will shine with such bright light that you will naturally cause countless other people to activate their own wisdom and true happiness. You will become a great inspiration and compassionate leader of humanity. This is my daily wish for you.

May blessings rain down upon you like fragrant flower petals gently falling from the sky.

Love,
Taro

Global Life

I’m happy to announce that my music is now available in the US on iTunes as well as on Amazon, CD Baby, and most digital music retailers.  The cover image for my music release in North America is different from the original CD in Japan.  The US version sports a shot of me at sunrise in the El Mirage dry lake bed of California, which was one of the most popular images from my photo book in Tokyo.

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From the hot desert sands of California, I arrived in Beijing to find a city covered in a beautiful white blanket of snow.  My hotel room featured a breathtaking view of the Forbidden City, and the snowy palace was even more spectacular in person than the many photos I’ve seen of it before.  My party and I enjoyed a private tour of the imperial complex as light snow continued to gently fall around us, and our guide emphasized that in her career this was the first time she had witnessed snow at the Forbidden City.  She said that in ancient Chinese legend, falling snow on the day a guest arrives at the Forbidden City is the greatest of good omens, and blessings galore will enrich the lives of all who share in the occasion.  What a treat for my first visit!   Although, it felt much more like a homecoming to me, perfectly familiar and comfortable.  Below are some photos we took, my favorite is the one with me walking in the snow along the Imperial mote with our guide up ahead and if you look closely you’ll see two soldiers walking in the far distance.  They were the only two other people we encountered!

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The next day we visited the Great Wall of China, and again were treated to a majestic sight of this great wonder of the world covered in white.  It is much more of a hike along the Great Wall’s path than it appears in photos, and it made for quite a workout, especially with slippery ice underfoot.  After a day-long adventure at the Great Wall, we made our way back to the Hyatt hotel and enjoyed one of the best vegan dinners I’ve ever had, this time at the Loving Hut restaurant Beijing.

It was Friday night, and the car from the hotel could not stay with us, but I thought it was no problem – we’ll just take a taxi back. We soon learned, however, there are zero taxis available on Friday night in Beijing. One of the restaurant guys stood out in the cold night for 20 minutes trying to hail a car for us while the chef kept bringing us free desserts. Finally, the restaurant owner herself said “okay, let’s go!” and she drove us to the Hyatt herself.  I love the people of Beijing.

The next night, we discovered Pure Lotus restaurant Beijing, which is by far the most incredible dining experience ever.  Operated by Mongolian monks, it is Shangrila heaven, with guardsmen dressed in elaborate pink, gold, blue and red robes with Siberian hats who usher us with lanterns through the darkness from the bustling street outside, down cobblestone paths lined with candle-holding Buddhist statues to the massive golden Mongolian tent with towering wood door.

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The doorknob is a giant golden Buddha hand, which pivots the door open to an incense-filled restaurant lit with hudreds of candles among pools of lotus flowers and video images illuminated on the floors and walls of modern and ancient spiritual imagery. The music is eclectic mix of 1930s and 40s from around the world. Our private dinner tent is gold and red with a table of wood and silk gauze cloth, seashells for plates and fine handblown glass of vibrant colors blue, white, black, yellow, red… each waiter wears a unique Mongolian robe, and each dish they bring is served in a unique vessel, one in a hollowed-out log, another in a white porcelain swan, another in a silver bucket on misty dry ice. Magic! Some of the best vegan food I’ve had in the world combined with the most dream-like atmosphere, it defies description. The menus at Pure Lotus are three feet long in the rectangular shape of ancient Buddhist scrolls with high-gloss cardboard pages that used artistic photos as backgrounds for each of the 30 or 40 pages of food listings. Incredible.

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That night, I enjoyed the best foot massage (and the most painful foot massage) of my life.  It was Chinese reflexology, and absolutely brilliant. My neck even cracked from pressure my masseur applied to my feet. Now that’s a foot massage! I felt like a new man from just 45 minutes of intense foot manipulation. With snow on the streets of Beijing we were 3 levels below the Hyatt hotel in a tropical oasis, hot and humid like Tahiti! This huge underground facility looks like an ancient Polynesian ocean temple and on the skyscape-painted ceiling are tiny lighted stars. Deeply relaxing.

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From the latest Spring snowfall that Beijing has seen in years, to the warm beaches of my beloved Punta Mita, I enjoyed another great visit with friends in Mexico and then once again headed half way back across the Pacific to Kauai to begin work on my new book.  The incredible staff at the Grand Hyatt Kauai took such good care of me, providing me one of the most beautiful rooms on the property to inspire and help me write the most inspirational work possible.  I can’t wait to go back again!

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While on my way to Tokyo again, I was delighted to learn that one of my songs, Itsuka, is featured in a new Sony PSP game called VIBES.  My song plays during the level in which players fly through Japanese-themed scenes and push their controller to the beat of the music and grab vibes in the air to gain points.  The game developers sent me some screen shots, one of which highlights a flight through Tokyo and then Kyoto and Sumo wrestlers surrounded by Japanese temples, trees and a rainbow.  I can’t wait to play it.

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Back in Tokyo, I enjoyed reuniting with friends both old and new at Golden Week celebrations and a wonderful meeting with my favorite teacher, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. Our meeting was held at my beloved alma mater in the lush hills just outside of Tokyo, at Soka University. One of my best friends from San Francisco who also attended Soka University, Akiko, came for the festivities as well and we left refreshed by the perfect weather, good times with friends from all around the globe, and renewed determinations to contribute more to peace, culture and education now and in the future.

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Shining World

Whistler, Canada reminds me of the Swiss Alps.  Breathtaking beauty all around, and for some reason I was mistaken for Olympic skater Apolo Ohno twice during my visit.  Ha!  I took it as a compliment.

Funky Winker Pub in Vancouver, Canada

While in Vancouver, I discovered my all-time favorite pub name:  Funky Winker Bean’s!  Who could come up with a more unique and fun name for a pub?  Leave it to Vancouverites.  And finally, beyond belief, I found that KFC in Canada offers vegan soy-chicken sandwiches.  They were so delicious I actually started craving them by the end of my trip, and still miss them!  Thanks to PETA and the lovely Canadian animal rights activist Pamela Anderson for negotiating the introduction of that item to the market in Canada.

Open Your Mind, Open Your Life in French for Canadians

And now, to my great joy, I can add another reason why I love Canada:  A publishing house in Montreal, Quebec, released the French edition of my book “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life.”  Now available in both Quebec and in France.  I was delighted to receive some copies of it and, although my French skills are not what they once were, it was fun to read.  My friends in Paris tell me it is excellent, and being well-received in France.  My gratitude to everyone who worked on this French edition, especially to the brilliant Québecoise translator Josée Guévin.  Vive le Québec! Vive le Canada!

Thus I Heard

The past 6 months have been a whirlwind of activity – I’ve visited 3 continents, 5 countries, 11 states, and 44 cities.  On more than one occasion this year I’ve woken up and wondered “what city am I in?”  In fact, I experience this just last week, only the answer that time was “home.”  Now, you know you’ve been traveling a lot when you wake up in your own home and can’t remember what city you’re in!   Perhaps another reason for my disorientation is that, on a deep level, I’ve actually felt completely at home wherever I’ve been this year.

Thankfully, most of my travels have been a good mix of pleasure and business, and a nice combination of new sights as well as familiar places.  With my visits to Paris and London, although I’ve visited those cities often since childhood, this year’s visits were my favorite ever.

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New places, like Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota were also a welcome treat this year.  I stood by the cornfields in Davenport, Iowa soaking in the quiet, natural majesty of the heartland and was enriched by it.  I sat in the Neptune gardens of Versailles palace of France and marveled at the fireworks spectacular that welcomed autumn, my favorite of seasons.  By the way, the French edition of my book “Open Your Mind, Open Your Life” is scheduled to be published soon – can’t wait!

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Maybe it was the evident French influence in Iowa, with Des Moines exhibiting reminder after reminder that it was once the capital of the French colonies, I’m not sure what it was but somehow the transition between the farmlands of the Midwest and the palaces of Europe was seamless for me.  I felt completely at home in both.  London also welcomed me with open arms, and I enjoyed the amazing musical Billy Elliot as well as a marvelous dinner at one of the Whole Foods markets in London, the biggest in the world actually, and I was in pure vegan heaven.  It was the best meal I’ve ever had in London.   Then to Oxford, and the Pink Giraffe vegan Chinese restaurant, and another of the best meals of my life!  Who knew they fixed the bad food problem in UK?  They should send out a press release to let everyone in the world know.  Love it.

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Most recently, I visited my beloved Soka University in Aliso Viejo, CA for a scholarship fundraising gala.  I enjoyed bidding on all kinds of wild auction items and mostly left with lots of golf-related items.   My new friend Howard Jones from the UK came too.  Soon I’m planning to visit Soka University in Tokyo for the first time in much too long, and I’m looking forward to it.  Hopefully when the cherry blossoms bloom and the campus is covered in pink petals with majestic Mt. Fuji in the background.

Throughout all my travels this year, I’ve kept a journal of thoughts and I’d like to share a few of my favorites with you.  As they have done for me, may each of these simple thoughts promote lasting happiness and ways of thinking that truly open your life now and always:

  • You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.
  • There is no sunbeam that is separate from the sun, and so there is no person who is separate from the Source.
  • What is your purpose in life? If you had all the time and money in the world, how would you express yourself? The answer to that, is your purpose.

The Best Things

With the effects of global economic recession being felt everywhere, my heart goes out to everyone struggling around the world.  Yet at the same time I witness enormous charity and goodness springing from folks’ spirits now.

There seems to be a reality check going on in hearts of many, remembering what is really important versus what we’ve been told was important.  Perhaps we can all see now that the shiny veneer of throw-away consumer culture has always been as superficial and unsustainable as the ad campaigns that sold us on it.

A universal and time-honored truth is that when we are challenged by hardships, we appreciate anew the simple and best things in life, those intangible riches that bring us tangible happiness.  The “best things” in life are different for everyone – yet as the old saying goes, almost always free.

Sayulita

These days for me, the best things in life are many – the pure joy in my puppy dog’s face after we play a long game of catch…  the impossibly deep blue of the water and sky off my lazy balcony in Sayulita…  that look from a friend with whom I need not exchange a word to know exactly what we’re both thinking…  the shining double rainbow in the desert on my drive to San Diego…  the buzz of a diligent wild bee through the tiny blue flowers in my backyard.

Double Rainbow

To remind ourselves of the divine in this life, sometimes it takes facing difficulty, an emotional jolt, or a shift in our collective cultural consciousness.  Adversity has the magical ability to snap us out of a living sleep, helping us live more widely awake in the here and now, purely aware of what this moment is and has to offer – what this moment needs of us.  Such an awakened state of life is a gift beyond measure.

So maybe the hard times our country and world are going through are a blessing in disguise.  “There is always a piece of fortune in misfortune,” goes one of my favorite sayings.  I hope we all find pieces of good fortune in any misfortunes we may endure now and in the future, always appreciating the present moment and seeking to find joy within it.  After all, if we can be happy here and now, we will forever be happy, for there is only the here and now.

Bees in the Backyard

As I wrote in my book “Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life:” Appreciate this and every moment, no matter how imperfect, for this moment is your life.  When you reject this moment, you reject your life.  You don’t have to settle for this moment, you are free to steer a different course, but for now, this moment is yours, so be mindful to make the most of it.”

May you make the most of every moment now and forever.  May you appreciate the best things in your life, the smaller the better.

Animal Angels

Lately, I’ve been pondering what causes I can contribute toward, to help create a better world for us all.  My focus this time is on the little angels we call dogs, cats, horses and other animal companions we are blessed to know on this Earth.  The immense joy and unconditional love my heart has received from my animal companions over the years is too great to measure.  I hope you are one of the lucky people who has had your life enriched and enlightened by an animal angel.

With great happiness I now devote my support to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and to the no-kill animal shelter in my local area.  The ASPCA was the first humane society to be established in North America, founded on the belief that animals are entitled to kind and respectful treatment at the hands of humans, and must be protected under the law.  They are a privately funded not-for-profit corporation, so your donations are tax-deductible.  The ASPCA provides local and national leadership in several key areas: caring for animal guardians (that’s us) and animals, providing positive outcomes for at-risk animals, and serving victims of animal cruelty.  They also support efforts to find loving families for shelter animals.

In my experience, animal shelters are run by some of the most compassionate people in the world.  They need help in many ways, from donations of simple items like pens and paper, to blankets and tasty treats for the animals.  They work day and night to care for the most needy animals, while they wait for their new families to find them in the shelters.

Please urge everyone you know to STOP supporting pet stores that use puppy mills, and instead support your local animal shelter.  Please choose to save the life of an orphan animal waiting in a shelter.  They are dreaming of finding you, they just want to join a loving family in a forever home.  Please educate yourself and your friends and family members about the sad reality of puppy mills that stock our nation’s pet stores with animals.

There are countless gentle animals shivering alone in shelters tonight whose only wish is to be saved and adopted into a safe place.  The love, loyalty, and friendship you will receive from rescuing an animal in need will be your eternal reward.  It’s as if there are rooms filled with gold (the spiritual kind) available now to enrich your life, and all you need to do is go get it!  Please join me and stand up for the rights and dignity of animal angels in need today.  Please look up your local animal shelter, and visit the ASPCA website to learn more about how you can help now.