Showing posts with label mind. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mind. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


Reed boat on Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca
Every five years or so even the best laptop will die, and when it does, you might want to check out this video. 

It's not necessarily the content of this article, but the intense searing emotion behind it. If words could scream, this is what they would sound like. I live in California, and I don't hold Silicon Valley in any particular esteem, but there is a mythology that some people like to build around that area, and this article rips that right down the center.

There is something calming about this article, it is the concept of minimalism mixed with pleasure. The two concepts don't often associate, you don't often think that simplifying can also be blissful, that is, until this. 

Did you want to learn a language? This is still being developed, but supposedly there is a formula to do this effectively. Apart from Rosetta Stone. Currently only French is available, but I would watch to see if more interesting languages come up.

The art of concentration is a lot one, and that is sad as someone who loves books, because what is reading but not the complete immersion of the self into this other fictional world, where hours can be spent playing in the endless fissures of your imagination? 

These are from Etsy, and they're made by hand. I hold a special esteem for cobblers. 

You can chase happiness, and you can find it. There is a way. 

I like the ideas expressed in their blog, often a complex concept presented with concise precision. So it wouldn't hurt to check out a few books from this list as well.  

Are you looking for unusual places to travel? Here's an idea, and it's a good one. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Shoes from Garance Dore via this post

My shoes are my friends. Of course, the shoes above are not my shoes, because mine are in a worse state and she has better floors. 

Part of the minimalist thought process is to value what you have. There are articles of clothing that I have worn for years. I trust them, I know how they will stretch. I know what will happen when I have worn them for an entire 24 hours, and then the next day when I am too lazy to put together another outfit. Because I don't want to expend valuable mental energy thinking about what to wear anymore. Or because I want to adopt a European lifestyle - whichever rationale sounds more sophisticated. 

Have you ever gone into a dressing room to realize that what you're already wearing is better than the shiny new thing you're trying on? It makes no sense.

There's a certain anxiety I carry with me when shopping, because I have realized that new clothes, particularly new shoes, will f*** you. They will ride up, they will make you look like sausage, they will pinch. There is never a convenient time for any of these things to happen. The clothes you have, the ones waiting faithfully in your closet, they are like friends. You have broken them in properly. They are trained. They will treat you well. 

Every time I think about some new purchase, I think about it in terms of friendship. Do I already have a good friend that I can rely upon - then I should refrain. However, if there is a gap, a death in the family, then there will be a transition period that cannot be rushed, where I will have to carefully sort and vet this newcomer. As I would any new relationship.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


At first glance, this seems to be a nice saying, set against a calming background. But the more I think about it, the more it grates. There is a minor nuclear war taking place inside the left hemisphere of my brain. It is slowly breaking down and sub-analyzing on subatomic levels the choices I have made in the course of my life, and trying to determine if these were "good" or "bad." No one can sit in judgment of you, better than you. By the way, this is a destructive practice. I am in no way advocating that anyone do this if you can help it. The past is called the past because it has passed.

Then I came across this poster, and it seemed to reduce the inherent power that choices have into something pretty and quaint. There was a Daily Show segment where John Oliver asked a man what the statistical probability was of an event happening, and the man said 50%. When Oliver asked the man to explain his reasoning, the man said, the event would either happen or it wouldn't, so the statistical probability was 50%. Oliver may have mentioned then that the man did not understand statistical analysis. It is this kind of over-simplification that will occasionally grate on me like sandpaper on soft parts.

I've been thinking about choices lately, and the power they have in shaping you into the person you become. When you filter out judgment, you can see a pattern. You can see identify the choices which were truly significant and see how they changed you. What I've noticed over time, is that I've become more aware of my recent choices. Before, I was running on instinct, a gut feeling, this "felt right" whereas the other "felt wrong." Or I "felt nothing" and just sat around. I couldn't put my reasoning into words; it felt somewhat like that part of childhood before you became verbal, and your two choices were to cry/scream or save your tantrum for later.

What's changed is that my choices now are active and conscious. There are many changes I've implemented within the past 5 years, and each change has had a ripple effect.  I decided a little over a year ago, that I was going to spend more time outdoors, every weekend if possible (and since I live in California during a drought, this is entirely possible), and the results have been startling. I've traveled to countries it would never have occurred to me to visit previously. My imagination never stretched that far. You meet new people, and they put ideas into your head. You see the world with new eyes, with wider and strangely younger eyes, because the world has become a new place, a strange place, filled with the potential for adventure. Suddenly, you look into a mirror, and you have changed, and this new person is someone you etched out in your mind and then shaped into the person you have become.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Il mattino ha l'oro e l'argento in  ......goccia!
The year's almost over, and I have accomplished about 30% of the goals I set out for myself, and that cup, 30% full, is sweetness itself. 

Do you ever like to do an personal evaluation just take a look back at the year? Not with a eye towards self-criticism, but picking and choosing out all the good parts to take with you moving forward. I prefer to self-evaluate that way. There are mistakes of course, but a painful lesson will stay with you regardless, while those little happier moments may pale by comparison. Those moments, small and fine, have to be forcefully recalled into your consciousness. 

On another front, I've been slowly adding to my blogroll, as part of a subversive plan to promote calm and that elusive sense of zen that like to brag about at parties. So, you might want to check out Zen Habits and The Minimalists, two blogs that I can only describe through plagiarism, to quote a woman describing The Little Prince, a post has everything you need and nothing you do not. 

I hope you are good to yourself and others this holiday season! I have nothing but good thoughts and wishes for all of you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


I wish you nothing but good thoughts this time of year, and came across this quote. It sets off sparks, don't you think?

Stay strong. Reach far. Rise above the fray.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Sky stupa
Buddhist Stupa
My idea of discipline is eating half a bar of chocolate, waiting half an hour, and then eating the other half. It is of no surprise to anyone that I have been trying and failing to develop a meditation practice for the better part of a year now. 

There's a lot of information out there right now about how to turn your home into a temple, steps you can take to help you develop your home practice, and if you're looking for something of that nature, then this post is not for you. Because that kind of self-practice takes a degree of discipline that is in severely short supply.  I need to hold some discipline in reserve for my many other vices.

What I think is the easiest way to cultivate a practice is to go out of your home and find a meditation center* or a group of people who meditate together. What I look for is the meditative energy that can be found there, that I can draw into my own practice. I would otherwise hate to mention "energies" or "crystals" or, God forbid, "auras" but sometimes, the term just applies. I find it infinitely easier to drag myself to a separate place to meditate in the company of strangers than in my home. 

When doing something difficult, there is always that initial hump that has to be overcome before you can build sufficient momentum to get going. Going to a separate location is the equivalent of getting over that hump. 

Here is a concept that was explained to me by someone much wiser to demonstrate what meditation can do for you:
Your thoughts are key. Your thoughts are the bridge between your internal and external self. Thoughts are the messenger of what is not right in the mind.   
Externally, your thoughts lead to words, which lead to actions, leading to your habits, and eventually to your character, nature, and personality.  Thoughts --> actions --> habits --> character, nature, personality
Internally, thoughts lead to your awareness, which creates your experiences, and then your emotions and feelings.  Thoughts --> awareness --> experiences --> emotions and feelings 
Through meditation, you become aware of the content of your thoughts, and can eventually learn to direct which thoughts you want to grow, and which you want to fade away.  Whatever you pay attention to will grow, and what you ignore will fade away.

*Yes, these things exist. 

Monday, September 1, 2014


China Garden2
China Garden, Zurich
In the true spirit of Labor Day, I am working, albeit at a "relaxed" pace. In my stead, is a reflection in water. If I were not working, a one day holiday would be ideal time for self reflection, which is both a rich world indulgence and absolutely necessary. 

There is usually so little time available in the set routine of the week, that you may find yourself subconsciously biding your time for a holiday, an extra day that isn't long enough to plan an full fledged vacation, but short enough that you suddenly have time to take a breath and take look around. Take stock of where you are. Make changes. 

I've been thinking about my own summer so far, and I can say without sarcasm that I'm pretty well satisfied with it. I've spent a lot of time outdoors, lost track of what's happening on TV, and I've somehow managed that small miracle of forging new friendships, which I've heard is nearly impossible to do as an adult. 

I hope when you take a look at where you are, you feel a sweet indulgent swell of pride. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


Calm Down Now
So. How's your day going? Bad? Good? Good but could be improved? All of the above? If you answered all of the above, and don't realize the inherent contradiction involved, here's an app you may want to try: Calm Down Now. This should be available for both apple and android. 

It's $1.99, so it's not free, but it costs less than a Starbucks latte, so that puts the price in perspective. I've been poking around for app's with guided meditation, which is a step above some apps that only make noise with gongs or bells. Depending on your personal preferences, this may be a good thing. Here to help!  

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


The idea is simple, yet profound. However, if you need more concrete steps on the matter, feel free to consult here.

I myself, find that this is a mindset that needs changing. It's the attitude of scarcity at it again. Somehow, whenever we take into account what we have, the perception is that it isn't enough, when you could instead evaluate it as the perfect amount. And get creative.

On the more superficial side of things, I could perhaps spend less time mindlessly browsing. Spend more time on what would enrich my life, rather than deprives me of riches. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014



So this is my private, not so secret obsession: creativity, and how to nurture it. Or, to put it more bluntly, how can I get my muse to appear when I need her? 

Creativity comes in many forms. You can see it expressed most obviously in the arts, but also in novel scientific approaches, inventions, or the kind of thinking that diverges from the norm. What if you were to study this process, steadily over time, in people who have been able to channel their creativity to achieve great levels of success? Would a pattern emerge? 

This is precisely what Nancy Andreasen has done, in her article Secrets of the Creative Brain. She monitored participants' REST: Random Episodic Silent Thoughts, which are periods of free association. In doing so, she found that 
"almost all of my subjects confirmed that when eureka moments occur, they tend to be precipitated by long periods of preparation and incubation, and to strike when the mind is relaxed - during that state we called REST."

What is it that the mind is doing during REST? Andreasen's theory is that the mind is making subconscious connections, knitting together random bits of information into a comprehensive whole. The creative mind, as opposed to the non-creative, is exceptionally good at this process. Andreasen theorizes that  
"creative people are better at recognizing relationships, making associations and connections, and seeing things in an original way - seeing things that others cannot see."

However, as a caveat, "not all of these connections actually exist." 

In practice, the characteristic that a successful creative needs to truly thrive, is persistence. When you create something that is entirely novel, you are going against the grain of what has gone before, and this will be met automatically with skepticism. To succeed, you need to have an inherent belief in your work. You need to continue to push forward in the face of contention, and to meet resistance with perseverance. 

I'm paraphrasing, of course. The article goes into far greater depth than what I've written. I just picked out some titillating items, but you can read the full piece Here. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, July 11, 2014


Happy Friday! Here are some thoughts you might want to take with you into the weekend...

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


One Branch

So this happened. 

I was trying to get a shot of trees - the ones in the background - and that highly unphotogenic branch made it into every shot, at every angle, at every twist and turn. At some point, I decided to just go with it and see what happened. Well, this happened. 

Now let's talk about my arm. Because when I see this shot now, that branch makes me think of my arm. About a week ago, my bike slipped on a wet patch and I hit the ground hard. The force divided pretty much equally between my arm and my hip, injuring both. 

I can now say, with conviction, that injury proceeds in three distinct stages.

  1. shock and awe* 
  2. numbness, and
  3. interpretation.

Let me focus in on this second stage, the numb stage. It's probably the shortest, or ostensibly the least interesting, the least emotional stage, but it's a critical stage, because this is when the mind starts to tell you a story. The mind naturally gravitates towards storytelling. It wants to find explanations, to impart significance, even when there are none to be had.

While I was waiting for feeling to come back into my arm and leg, so I could basically use them again as appendages and pedal home, my mind began trying out various explanations. Here are some of the more obvious ones: 

  1. I was never meant to ride a bike, it wasn't meant to be. 
  2. The universe is sending me a sign, and it involves never getting near a bike ever again, and also it prevented me from an even worse fate just around the corner.
  3. This is a punishment. For what? I don't know. TBD 
  4. And so on.
Most of these fall towards the dramatic end of the rationale spectrum and completely ignore the more mundane explanations: that this was just the natural consequence of the water on a metal surface causing a lack of traction, sufficient to make the wheel glide, and then for me to hit hard ground, etc. I should wet metal surfaces in future. Boring.  

In the middle of these explanations, I realized, that these were all options that I could decide to believe. Or not. The bad part is, I do gravitate towards explanations that involve universal meaning. I don't know if it's human nature or my nature, but it is more emotionally exciting to pick option 2. But that might stop me from getting on a bike ever again. 

So I decided to think of this as an accident without meaning, and to get back on the bike. I have to constantly remind myself of this decision, because again, it's not where my mind naturally goes. 

What I find intriguing is that this is a decision that you can make, while lying semi-prone waiting for feeing in your limbs to return - you can decide how to interpret trauma. 

*lying on the ground until feeling comes back into your extremities

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Watching the Sky

Hey, what's that over there? Maybe I should open another tab and find out...well stop. Find out tomorrow. No more tabs.

Just a friendly reminder to try practicing using only one tab today. 

Then check your focus, and check your anxiety levels. How do you feel?

Monday, June 23, 2014


Single-tasking Is the New Multitasking from The Atlantic on Vimeo.

Let's start a trend.

First, listen to the pitch: press play. I have zero resources, so here is someone else's video about single tasking, but what I got out of it was the concept of Tabless Thursday.

If you take a look at a typical week, there is clearly a gap:
Meatless Monday
Taco Tuesday
Womething Wednesday
_________ Thursday
Funning* Friday
So now, just for fun's sake,** this coming Thursday, practice tab monogamy. What is that? It's simple: only use one tab on your browser at a time. If you need something else, close the one tab, and open another. Then work on that ONE tab for the entire time until you have completed whatever it is you're doing. 

Only once a week, a small commitment of your time. Let's see what that does for you. 

* I meant to put something else here, but then thought that was too easy. 
** It helps sometimes to just think of change as fun, improvement as fun, and fun as something you want in your life. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


"Shame is: I am a bad person. 
Guilt is: I did a bad thing."

This comes from the interview with Brene Brown that I showed earlier, about two weeks ago. Just scroll down a bit. Alright, there it is. 

There were a number of good quotes that came out of that interview. I took notes. This particular quote came from the interviewer summing up Brown's previous work on shame, a book that I have never read and, to be honest, probably never will. 

Even so, the topic of shame fascinates me. Here's Webster's definition:
"A feeling of guilt, regret, or sadness that you have because you know you have done something wrong." 
That makes sense. If you are a serial stabber, then you should feel shame, because serial stabbing is wrong. But...what about all those other times? When you're not doing anything clearly in the wrong, but the shame is there. When that happens, shame becomes your own personal mental albatross. It can inhibit you, it can make you feel awful, but it serves no purpose. It is this predicament that interests me. Because why? Why does this happen?

Let's go back to the stabbing example. I don't stab, but I do feel shame. Like a rational person, I decided to make a list, a personal "shame hall of fame," a "shame highlights" reel, to see if there was a pattern. Maybe I did something in a previous life? This could potentially have been really interesting, but it wasn't. There was no pattern. Shame just...happened. For little things. Things so immaterial they were hard for me to recall afterwards. This was a frustrating realization. When I say frustrating, I mean $#%* frustrating. 

There are probably a mountain of studies that have been done on the topic of shame, none of which I have read. I just have my one theory, which stems from that quote, above. That quote suggests that shame is the result of a mental habit. When there is an instance where guilt is the appropriate response, you interpret guilt as shame. Does that make a difference? It does to me. Hearing that quote felt a bit like the release of a bird out of an internal cage, because in many ways, guilt is a lot easier of a burden to bear. Guilt doesn't make you a worse person. 

I don't know why habits form. But once they form, then it's just a matter of breaking that habit.* I'm not When you feel shame, rebrand that as guilt. See where that takes you. 

* I'm not saying this is easy, by the way. I would just rather feel guilt than shame. Shame is God awful. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Mountainside gradation
Sometimes, when you're out and about, up and down, does it ever just occur to you that - hey, this life - it's not too shabby. This sometimes occurs to me mid-sweat, when I've just plowed up some horrifically steep path, thighs burning, mouth filled with ashes, and then turned to take a look at the view. 

These pictures are from Pinnacles National Monument park. It has a nice retinue of anti-sloth activities: some nice views, clever scenery, a lake, some caves. Then you can go home and mentally congratulate yourself on a job well done.
mountainside Pinnacle National Monument lake Pinnacles National Monument

Monday, April 14, 2014


Sources: Left Top, Left Bottom, Center, Right Top, Right Bottom
James Spader and I are not friends.

It's a shame, really, because I always have that thought in the back of my mind - when I happen to see him - that he's an interesting person. He seems to get put into roles where he plays the person people want him to be. If I had to put labels on it, I'd call it the emotionally-jaded drifter type. Or spoiled, emotionally shallow business-superior. Or even that slightly naive clean-cut upper-crust corporate exec type person.

There seemed to be no way around it - he just looks like that guy. Which doesn't mean that he isn't, but it's no fun being pinned to a type. If I were an actor, I'd like to pretend to be someone that was far away from what I saw in the mirror, but sometimes that doesn't happen. So you hang around, and you wait.

Recently, there seems to have been a shift. I saw an ad for the show The Blacklist, and my eyes almost shot out of my head. The prettiness is gone. The hair is gone. Everything that made him the James Spader of old is...gone. By the way, I don't watch the show. I've seen one episode, and it wasn't my cup of tea. I just wanted to see the new Spader in action, and he is magnificent. Not the way a lion is magnificent, but he gets to use a whole new set of acting muscles that I had assumed had eroded and died from lack of use. He finally gets to play a mysteriously complex criminal mastermind. The kind that authorities would never be able to catch...until he wants to be caught. It's the acting equivalent to watching a lion run free in the wild. I always suspected that he could do a lot more, and this confirms my suspicions.

This brings me to my next point: aging. I've always seen aging as a process of refinement. You cut away the external layers, until you find out who you really are, at your core. I've never thought of Spader as a shallow pretty person. I've always suspected that there was something underneath that bit. It's part of what made him interesting, because at some point, he would reemerge. Except he would have shed that old self, and what would appear next was unknown.

Now here he is again, and he can't be typecast as easily. He no longer looks like Spader, and all that that entailed. You can pretty much put him anywhere. I can't say for certain, since we are clearly not friends, but it looks now like he's having a very good time. He has this knowing quality now that wasn't there before - I'm not sure if anyone else notices this - but just behind his eyes, he seems endlessly amused.

Isn't that the ideal? To just let the pressures fall away and enjoy yourself. Once you have found your core (this may take awhile) - and I think this new Spader is the core that was there all along - you can finally relax and let it flow.
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