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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9926 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... thank you!



Mantra - Attention, Attention, Attention

Attention
  Attention
    Attention

... in Philip Kapleau's The Three Pillars of Zen:

One day a man of the people said to Zen Master Ikkyu: 'Master, will you please write for me some maxims of the highest wisdom?' Ikkyu immediately took his brush and wrote the word 'Attention.' 'Is that all?' asked the man. "Will you not add something more?' Ikkyu then wrote twice running: 'Attention. Attention.' 'Well,' remarked the man rather irritably, 'I really don't see much depth or subtlety in what you have just written.' Then Ikkyu wrote the same word three times running: 'Attention. Attention. Attention.' Half-angered, the man demanded: 'What does that word "attention" mean anyway?' And Ikkyu answered gently: 'Attention means attention.'

... and note the "gently" in that answer ...

(cf. Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Mantra - Notice and Return (2014-11-30), Attention (2015-03-03), Just Zazen (2017-01-29), ...)

- Saturday, May 27, 2017 at 06:46:27 (EDT)


Quiet Spaces of the Mind

From a eulogy-essay for climberRoyal Robbins (1935-2017), "On the Rock, Looking Inward and Outward" by Katie Ives:

The stories of adventurers, Robbins believed, should be about more than just entertainment or escapism; the forms of their narratives become natural metaphors for how humans interact with the wild. Much of modern Western society remains enthralled by tales of human dominion over nature and dreams of endless technological expansion. In contrast, Robbins embraced a philosophy of limits and absences: the holes that climbers didn't drill into the stone; the traces they didn't leave behind; the quiet spaces of the mind they explored in airy solitude. If an excess piton could symbolize a misplaced word in a poem, the silences between the lines represent his proudest work, gaps that reflect an inexpressible mystery he ... sensed within the world.

(cf. California Sherpa (2000-05-27), The Belay (2004-04-10), Touching the Void (2004-06-02), Mount Dana and Mono Lake (2004-09-03), Eastern Yosemite Mountains (2006-06-02), Mount Whitney (2007-06-16), John Muir (2008-07-27), Between (2009-12-10), Gap Between the Worlds (2013-01-12), Space Between (2013-10-13), Betwixt (2015-07-04), Work the Whitespace (2017-05-07), ...)

- Friday, May 26, 2017 at 04:54:01 (EDT)


Become Softer

From Chapter 19 ("You Can't Get Off the Train") of No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen by Jakusho Kwong:

... Think of all the people who have the same feeling you have—maybe of failure or of anger at someone. Sometimes when we become very angry, we can do something about it in the situation, and sometimes we can't. So who do you beat up? Guess. You know the answer; the closest one to you is yourself. And you do it even though you may not be aware that you are doing it. This is why we have to become softer. We just need to be kinder to ourselves because we deserve it. Why beat ourselves up? Isn't it better to just let go of the dialogue? Let it go completely? We've been doing this for thirty, forty, fifty years. It's very strong conditioning. And our compassion is the practice of unconditioning. We already have the discipline, and we already have the strength, so all we have to do is to let it go. Little by little allow the old story line to dissolve. ...

- Thursday, May 25, 2017 at 04:47:41 (EDT)


Anna of All the Russias

He loved three things alone:
White peacocks, evensong,
Old maps of America.

He hated children crying,
And raspberry jam with his tea,
And womanish hysteria.

... And he married me.

Born in 1889, died in 1966: poet Anna Akhmatova late in life "... was praised on every side. To the mass reader, her simplicity made her poems easy to understand and memorise. The liberals saw her as an opponent of Stalinism, religious people recognised her love of God, patriots saw she was deeply Russian. Even Communists observed that she had never been outspokenly anti-Soviet."

So reads biographer Elaine Feinstein's verdict near the end of Anna of All the Russias: A Life of Anna Akhmatova. Along the way, though, are decades of narcissistic genius, financial foolishness, heavy drinking, irrational haste, chronic health issues, and embarrassing long-term rivalries with the wives or husbands of many with whom she had passionate affairs. Akhmatova — a pen name chosen in youth — grew up beautiful and brilliant, lived a life of chaos, fought authority, and somehow survived thanks to the charity of friends and admirers and lovers.

Feinstein is meticulous, unblinking in detailing Akhmatova's history. Her personal translations of excerpts from Akhmatova's work are, however, brief and unmusical. Read the poems elsewhere! (The D M Thomas translation above is from Sevenling.)

- Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at 05:16:58 (EDT)


2017-04-24 - Baby Whisperer

~6.1 miles @ ~13.3 min/mi

"They call her the Baby Whisperer!" The new job of a Dawn Patrol daughter is taking care of twin 3-month-olds. So far all's well, if rather intense! Light drizzle on a cool morning bedews beautiful tulips and azaleas in Pimmit Hills. Jinx the cat continues to earn the name, as further problems require yet another vet visit. Cait reports on yesterday's GW Parkway Classic 10 miler, which turned out great. Kristin recommends cross-training by stacking cords of wood for the fireplace; Kerry did heavy gardening over the weekend. A damp rabbit scampers across the road in front of us.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 23, 2017 at 04:46:56 (EDT)


100-and-Crazy Percent

The short-lived comedy TV series Better Off Ted featured a flock of fine over-the-top exaggerated characters who work together at a dysfunctional high-tech company. Best of all, perhaps, is the senior manager Veronica Palmer, played by Portia de Rossi. Sample dialogue between her and minion Linda [1]:

Veronica: A female mentor would have been very valuable for a young Veronica, bursting with potential, yet vulnerable, like a fawn in the woods, but tough, like a fawn in the woods with a machine gun.

Linda: So you're saying you, or this terrifying, murderous fawn, could have used some guidance?

Veronica: Yes, we would have liked that. We're going to raise more money for this charity than it ever has before. The forest will run red with the blood of woodland creatures who doubted little Veronica and will now pay with their furry little lives.

Linda: There's really no middle ground with you. Either you don't care at all, or you care 100-and-crazy-percent.

Veronica: What else is there? Now saddle up Linda, and say goodbye to common sense.

- Monday, May 22, 2017 at 04:55:58 (EDT)


2017-04-23 - RCT Wordplay with Stephanie

~10.3 miles @ ~14.6 min/mi

"It's not the end of the world until it's the end of the world!" Dr Stephanie leads a run northward, with digressions to snag iced coffee and to explore a twisty maze of hitherto unknown natural-surface trails in Rock Creek Regional Park. We encounter a mysterious woodsman who directs us in precisely the wrong direction, discover a secret community garden, loop, branch, backtrack, and eventually find our way to terra cognita.

"Just playing anagrams!" we explain to a passing dog-walker, as we stand on various letters of the words "DANGER - INTERSECTION AHEAD" painted on the path. Big books are analyzed and critiqued: The Sympathizer meets The Master and Margarita versus The Girl on the Train, along with less-literary self-improvement tomes that are still worth skimming. Fast ultrarunner Enrique Rubio greets us as he pauses on a cycling expedition. Lovely flowers provide springtime selfie opportunities.

(trackfile)

- Sunday, May 21, 2017 at 06:03:39 (EDT)


Mantra - Hear the Happy Birds

Hear
  the
    Happy
      Birds!

... a reminder from a dear friend to pay attention, always — and to notice the music, everywhere ...

... especially after a long, hard, sad, dark night — when dawn is about to begin, and the world begins to smile ...

- Saturday, May 20, 2017 at 05:55:04 (EDT)


2017-04-22 - Zoo Ramble with Gayatri

~19.8 miles @ ~13.4 min/mi

"Ghora dekhle khora!" Gayatri teaches me a Bengali proverb. It rhymes and loosely means, "See a horse, and suddenly you can't walk!" For us today, though, it's "See a loo, and suddenly you need to ...!" We're running down Rock Creek to the National Zoo early on a hyper-humid Saturday morning. At ~0535 I set off to the rendezvous point; when we meet at ~0600 Gayatri discovers that she accidentally has her husband Atin's wallet. Oops! After a quick drive back to quietly drop it off, we're ready to start.

"We'll spread a rumor that you're creating gigantic apes!" At the Zoo we explore a side road, apparently toward a restricted area, and are sternly told to turn back. A staffer says that there's a genetics lab hidden in the woods there. Conspiracy, anyone?

"Naach na jaane aangan tehra!" Gayatri quotes a Hindi saying, "Can't dance, says the floor is tilted" - akin to "A poor workman blames the tools." Outbound at Peirce Mill we chat with John and his ultramarathon comrade, David Fink. A colleague from the office running upstream says, "Hi, Mark!" As we return we meet Barry. Small world!

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 19, 2017 at 04:22:26 (EDT)


2017-04-22 - Candy Cane Rendezvous

~2.2 miles @ ~12.5 min/mi

"Good morning, Gayatri!" — "Good morning, Mark!" At 6am we arrive at the Candy Cane City playground on Rock Creek simultaneously, driving and on foot respectively. But suddenly Gayatri discovers that her husband Atin's wallet is somehow in the car with her. Oops! After a quick trip back to drop it off at her home, we're ready to start running ...

(trackfile)

- Friday, May 19, 2017 at 04:19:08 (EDT)


Nothing Lasts Forever

From Chapter 12 ("Taking It Home") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

... Everything changes. Nothing lasts forever—not even these things that we may think are so true. A dogmatic attitude about these matters, about one's beliefs and opinions, is against the true nature of things. It doesn't fit. Sitting on the cushion, we understand this. We come to understand these changes. We are experiencing the subtle changes in our attitude, in our body and its condition, in the way we taste our food in the way our feet feel the floor, in the way we hear everything. Everything changes. This moment is what we have: nothing else. That's it. So open up to it more and more. No intolerant and self-righteous attitudes, please. Just find out for yourselves, in a calm and reasonable way, what this wonderful practice is about. Let us accept and work with whatever our present condition has brought us. And in doing this, even a hard life can become a joyful one. Sitting on the cushion, we are tuning in to the first principle of the universe, sensing what an amazing and marvelous opportunity this life as a human being is.

- Thursday, May 18, 2017 at 04:41:40 (EDT)


2017-04-21 - Jinx Returns

~7.0 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"She's got a cone around her neck, her tail is half-shaved, and she's just happy to be home!" Jinx, a family cat, is back after several weeks at an undisclosed location. The Dawn Patrol sympathizes. Low clouds tickle the tops of Tysons Corner office buildings; heavy traffic makes for long pauses at crosswalks. Kristin, Kerry, and Cait catch up on news and share ideas for better communication. Sometimes polishing a message to perfection isn't as valuable as a faster good-enough response.

"Take everybody out shopping together!" - "Assign someone to bake goodies for the next meeting!" - "Teach them to pull their hair back into a Power Bun!" We brainstorm how to help some senior manager-colleagues escape their usual comfort zones. Hmmmmm ... that last suggestion might not work for the follicly-challenged!

(trackfile)

- Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 04:41:36 (EDT)


Compassion_Breath

From Chapter 19 ("You Can't Get Off the Train") of No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen by Jakusho Kwong:

... I think it's pretty true to say that we're all on a train. The scenery is going by quickly, and you can't hold on to anything; you have to stay and keep going down the track. It's when you hold on to something, or even try to hold on, that you are not on the train anymore. But our way tells us to release what we are holding so that we can keep going and stay on track. What it really comes down to is the wisdom and compassion of non-avoidance. You just keep going, and as you do, working with the practice called the compassion breath, you know how to transmute what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and think every day. And the truth is that, with practice, this process helps you learn to be kind to yourself and to all beings as well.

We have the capacity to take in an enormous amount of negativity and to let it go its way. We don't avoid anything because we know we can work with it. Most people don't know what to do when they notice unwanted thoughts and feelings within themselves, or see a dead animal on the road, or killing on television shows or in the news, or the many homeless and starving people right beside them as they walk down the street. And then there's drugs, alcohol, AIDS, and cancer. People feel overwhelmed, and the result is that often their hearts turn hard and cold. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. The normal response to these things would be that everyone should be crying—this is the awakening of compassion—but the ignorance of sentient beings causes us to continue to enhance samsara. The practice of compassion breath allows our hearts to remain soft and open while our spirit and life-force are replenished. And our tears are part of this replenishment, an important part. You do not have to be a Buddhist to do this; it is meant to be used by all human beings, everywhere, even while standing on a train. ...

- Tuesday, May 16, 2017 at 05:40:05 (EDT)


2017-04-19 - Wet Wandering

~7.3 miles @ ~13.3 min/mi

"Projectile vomiting!" - "Diaper overflow!" - "Three-month-old twins!" - "In the car!" - "At the store!" The Dawn Patrol is full strength this morning, and conversation turns to topics not unrelated to things that happen during ultramarathons, as well as to parents of young kids. Big raindrops fall, pause, then start again as we meander through Langley. Cait and Kerry are back from long road trips to visit family; Kristin updates them on local news. We reverse our usual route and take the Heather Brook - Mackall cut-through in a new direction. Birds chirp and tulips glow. Dogwood and cherry blossom trees drop petals to blanket the sidewalks.

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 15, 2017 at 05:19:24 (EDT)


Peripheral

William Gibson's 2014 novel The Peripheral is a romp, a techno-sf story much in the spirit of his 1984 first book Neuromancer, with nano-scale assemblers, artificial intelligence, robot-body telepresence, vast wealth, ninja-style hyperviolence, cross-time many-worlds communications, mysterious über-powerful characters, and various flavors of dystopia — shuffled together in an alternate chapter structure with near-present-day small-town trailer-park poverty, personal/family loyalty, fast food carry-out, and semi-rural megamarts.

There's not a lot of wrestling with deep philosophical questions, nor radical new scientific concepts. Set aside titanic challenges, like how to power and control nanobots as they break-and-build countless chemical bonds to let characters walk through walls or dissolve enemy bodies. Ignore issues of all-powerful conspiracies that nonetheless require single-person heroics to solve cosmic problems. The language is good, the imagery poetic, the atmosphere and characters engaging, and the story comes together nicely. The Peripheral is a first-class roller-coaster ride.

(cf. Data Space (2005-12-31), Situational Strategy (2007-06-11), ...)

- Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 06:55:29 (EDT)


2017-04-17 - Happy Birds

~7.2 miles @ ~12.1 min/mi

"Don't say that out loud!" Today's trail talk addresses how to listen better to somebody who needs validation and affirmation, not conversation or communication. Big raindrops fall, pause, then start again. Kristin sets a fast pace as we re-explore the under-construction zone between Hwy 123 and the Beltway, then loop east through McLean. From in front of Starbucks we send a GPS push-pin, "Free iced coffee if your name is Kerry!", but get no response from Dr K who has been away on travel for the past week.

"Hear the Happy Birds!" My boss Joe from 15 years ago drives past and waves. Clouds part for sunbeams to cast long shadows in front of us. What a lovely way to start the week!

(trackfile)

- Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 07:43:23 (EDT)


Category Theory for Programmers

Some comments from from a discussion last month about the book Category Theory for Programmers by Bartosz Milewski:

(cf. Greatest Inventions (2011-06-09), Cakes, Custard, and Category Theory (2016-02-14), Category Theory Concepts (2016-04-25), Bird's-Eye View (2016-07-20), ...)

- Friday, May 12, 2017 at 04:54:06 (EDT)


2017-04-15 - Zoo Run

~18.4 miles @ ~12.9 min/mi

"Bhattacharyya!" Gayatri patiently pronounces, spells, and describes the name of her Father. "It's actually a formal title," she explains. We're running down Rock Creek to the National Zoo and back. Four deer cross the road and pause to eye us, well-camouflaged against the brown leaf-covered hillside. A family sets up for a picnic-party in the meadow near Peirce Mill. Construction barriers force slight detours where Beach Drive is being rebuilt.

"But he thought things through!" Gayatri compliments a past US President not usually praised for his intellectual depth. We pause for selfies at the Jusserand Memorial and enjoy quiet conversation on a cool morning together.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 05:14:34 (EDT)


Listen to the Sound of the Gong

From Chapter 12 ("Taking It Home") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

In the Surangama Sutra, the Buddha instructs us to enter samadhi, this deep, concentrated state of mind, from listening—starting with listening, being one with listening. Thich Nhat Hanh asks his students just to listen to the sound of the gong. Every so often he stops talking and just does this. (Gong is struck.) When we strike this gong we should let it sing down to its bottom drop, like this. It takes our zazen right down if your mind is with that sound, the whole body and mind with that sound. It's a most wonderful way to enter samadhi. So those of you who strike the gong, take your time. Don't go (gong is run three times in quick succession). No good. It sounds like a fire alarm. (Gong is rung once.) One clear sound. One pure, clear sound. No thoughts about whether that sound is soft or that sound is harsh or why didn't I strike this gong better or whatever. Just do it! Just listen. Just be here with the sound.

- Wednesday, May 10, 2017 at 04:42:14 (EDT)


2017-04-14 - Noughts and Crosses

~7.1 miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

"Like a giant tic-tac-toe board! See, there's an X, the first move!" Kristin points to pink contrails that crisscross the sky as the sun prepares to rise and a gibbous moon sinks in the west. Today's Dawn Patrol is only two strong, one of us puny with a head cold and poison ivy. The other pulls him along at a brisk pace. The fountain on the W&OD Trail at Route 7 leaks a puddle across the path; the Hot Yoga Studio appears to be closed for Good Friday.

"Which way now? Usually we go left here." - "Uh, you do know that whenever I hear the word 'Usually', I have to pick the opposite!" So then, obviously, we head the other way. A fire engine and an ambulance, lights flashing, pull into the Safeway gas station as we sprint past on the final stretch. Rabbit Count = 1, big but scruffy.

"This is so nice - thank you!"

(trackfile)

- Monday, May 08, 2017 at 04:22:52 (EDT)


Work the Whitespace

A colleague recently mentioned the value of "... doing research in the white spaces ..." — attending to the gaps between what others are doing, the holes that need filling, the missing steps where something important might be hiding.

How obvious, and how often overlooked — not just in "research", but in every moment. And, turning that around, what about the "blackspace", the plenum (a wonderful word!) that's full, or seems to be ...

And then: everything in between ...

(cf. Mandatory Inversion (1999-09-02), MarginAlia (2001-03-12), Between (2009-12-10), Space Between (2013-10-13), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), Attention (2015-03-03), Betwixt (2015-07-04), Mantra - Gap (2015-11-11), ...)

- Sunday, May 07, 2017 at 06:17:42 (EDT)


2017-04-12 - Short Long Run

~7.5 miles @ ~12.8 min/mi

"I'm still sick." - "I don't feel so good either." - "Let's only do a few miles." - "OK!" ... and an hour later, as the Dawn Patrol is still trotting along, we all laugh about how the definition of "a few" has evolved. Kristin leads us east toward a papaya-orange sunrise. Cait shares photos of her mother's cookie artistry. Tulips and phlox and spiraea and redbuds blossom in profusion.

"Slam dunk!" A basketball hoop hangs far below regulation height by the road. We visit the Eagle House, the Lavender Cottage, and meander back through quiet neighborhoods. Trail talk includes career advice and sets a record for usage of the F-bomb!

(trackfile)

- Saturday, May 06, 2017 at 04:33:04 (EDT)


Being the Moment

From Chapter 19 ("You Can't Get Off the Train") of No Beginning, No End: The Intimate Heart of Zen by Jakusho Kwong:

... What zazen really is has been explained in many different ways. Suzuki-roshi used to say shikan taza is our zazen, but as I've mentioned, the words and phrases used to express Zen practice can sound pretty abstract, and almost any explanation is conceptual. It can't really touch the experience itself. Suzuki-roshi put it very simply: "Just to be ourselves." Four words, but what they express is so deep and so subtle that we miss it until we begin slowing down. He said our practice is following our breath. But the true meaning of this, the deep meaning, is that you are vividly alive. The method says to follow your breath, but its meaning is that you are invisibly present and alive, just like a spinning top that goes faster and faster until it disappears. Without method, without expectation, without counting your breath, you are alive moment to moment; alive in this space that is nowhere else but right here within yourself. Others have said that zazen or shikan taza means being present in this very moment, but even that's not it. It's being the moment. It's being each moment after moment after moment in zazen, before zazen, and after zazen as well. And of course that's the manifestation or actualization of your original mind. "Just to be ourselves." This is shikan taza. ...

- Friday, May 05, 2017 at 04:12:51 (EDT)


2017-04-10 - Luggage Problem

~5.3 miles @ ~13.0 min/mi

"Your suitcase is smoking!" Cait recounts an airport situation after a carbon dioxide canister abruptly vents, resulting in rapid cooling, a cloud of fog, and a massive underwear freeze. Oops!

Kristin leads the Dawn Patrol on a meander past the McLean Public Library. Tulip buds are opening. We share a lovely sunrise, and spy three rabbits and three big deer.

(trackfile)

- Thursday, May 04, 2017 at 05:40:50 (EDT)


Girl on the Train

Brilliant: the 2015 novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins — with its archetypal unreliable narrator and its explorations of responsibility and consciousness, justice and truth, love and oneness.

Ditto: the 2016 film — dense, dark, and poetic, screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson who also wrote the script for the 2002 Secretary.

Striking: the scene near the end of the movie, as character Megan is told by Dr Abdic:

You don't have to be afraid of being alone.
You're not alone.

Echoes: running solo in the wilderness — deep into the night, surrounded and embraced by the universe, alone and not alone.

(cf. Worst Zen Student That Ever Was (2012-03-10), ...)

- Wednesday, May 03, 2017 at 04:58:03 (EDT)


2017-04-09 - Pizza and Beer

~5.6 miles @ ~14.0 min/mi

"Tic-Tac-Toe?!" Barry accepts the challenge and we play fiercely to a tie on a flip-the-panel 3x3 array of big yellow plastic X's and O's. We're at the Colt Terrace Neighborhood Park, a playground for little kids, stretching the legs and working up appetites for pizza. A young couple busy snoggling occupies the bench where Barry had hoped to do stretches. No matter!

"La Cerveza mas Fina" reads the label on the Corona Extra bottle lying on Inwood Avenue at mile 4, apparently unopened. Finders Keepers! Dr Stephanie texts us from the West Coast, awaiting her flight back after a mountainous trail run. "Barry will be the starting pitcher for the Nats soon," we lie, along with other outrageous tales. "He is a man of many talents, for sure!" she replies.

(trackfile)

- Tuesday, May 02, 2017 at 06:18:15 (EDT)


Enter from Wherever You Are

From Chapter 12 ("Taking It Home") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart:

... What does it mean to study Zen? We often hear, "Where can I enter the way of Zen? How can I study Zen?" When a student asked this of the Zen master Kyosei, the master asked a question in turn: "What is the noise outside?" "That is the voice of the raindrops," the student said. "Enter from there," Kyosei replied.

Right now, enter from wherever you are. It's all open, an open secret. Enter from listening to the birds. Enter from feeling the sunlight in this room. There are any number of wonderful ways to study Zen. There are lots of books about Zen, and some of them are helpful. Some of them are an impediment. What is most important is how you feel it yourself. How does this transform your life? How deeply are you willing to go into the roots of your Self? How willing are you to really know who you are? Many of us are afraid to do that. We just take the soft, pallid approach: "Oh, this makes me feel good. Ah yes, I feel better now." Sometimes I want to say, "I'm sorry about that." I wish you felt something so deeply that then, eventually, you'd have true peace of mind. Then, no matter what comes, it won't knock you about. ...

- Monday, May 01, 2017 at 06:23:41 (EDT)




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