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 = 0.9916 ... 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 ...
"Groundhog Day!" At mile ~6 a big brown-black Marmota monax — aka woodchuck or whistle-pig, according to Wikipedia — lumbers across the street in front of DD Gray and me, then vanishes into the grass. We're finishing up a neighborhood walk that includes adventurous natural-surface digressions off the official trail on both sides of Sligo Creek, plus a bonus stop in a newly-reopened local ice cream parlor.
- Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 05:16:45 (EDT)
"Don't tell me how much time I have left!" Mary insists, in an effort to preempt any temptation to slow down. Today's goal is a 5k in under 40 minutes. A cool front has just come through, making the late morning air relatively comfy in spite of a bright sun. We walk ~1.9 miles to the crest of a hill and blast off from there: mile splits are roughly 11 + 13 + 13 plus a final fraction, for a total of ~38.5 minutes. Good job, Mary! I confess to adding ~1% to the distance, in case of GPS error. Tykes on bikes wobble by us and cute dogs tug at leashes.
- Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 05:14:00 (EDT)
"I can do half of a chin-up — the downward half!" I tell the three powerfully-built young hunks. They cruise by Amy and me as we approach the Ken-Gar playground, pause for bonus upper-body exercise on the bars and other equipment there, then run onward passing us again. We're doing a loop around Stephanie's neighborhood without ultra-tough Stephanie, who took a bad fall yesterday during a solo trek and then drove herself to get repairs ("only 6 stitches!"). A bunny scampers off the trail at our approach. At Randolph Rd we branch west, past RnJ Sports which reminds us that we both need new shoes.
- Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 05:12:13 (EDT)
... an especially nice thing to say if a dear friend has just proposed a crazy adventure — or to hear from a dear friend no matter what you need, or want, to try to do!
(adapted from original Twitter post by dad_on_the_run (2015-10-10); cf. Yes, and... (2012-11-14), ...)
- Monday, October 12, 2015 at 04:27:15 (EDT)
"The song is 'Lean Back' - it's by Fat Joe!" Kristin tells me at the end of our trek. On busy Balls Hill Road sidewalks are scant; we have to stand against the guard rail and lean way back at mile 2 this morning, as cars speed by in the dark. Our dawn meander is in search of new cut-through paths. No luck, alas. But Kristin does see one rabbit flee at our approach, and a low layer of fog over the McLean High School football field is awesome as the sun rises and we silently circle the track.
- Sunday, October 11, 2015 at 07:33:26 (EDT)
Near the end of Chapter 8 ("Awakening Compassion for Ourselves") of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance:
When we understand our pain as an intrinsic gateway to compassion, we begin to awaken from the imprisoning story of a suffering self. In the moments when we tenderly hold our anger, for instance, we cut through our identity as an angry self. The anger no longer feels like a personal flaw or an oppressive burden. We begin to see its universal nature—it's not our anger, it is not our pain. Everyone lives with anger, with fear, with grief.
Understanding that the pain in our life is an expression of universal suffering opens us to the fullness of Radical Acceptance. Rather than being a problem, our depression, fear and anger are "entrusted to us," and can be dedicated to our awakening. When we carry our pain with the kindness of acceptance instead of the bitterness of resistance, our hearts become an edgeless sea of compassion. We, like the Mother of the World, become the compassionate presence that can hold, with tenderness, the rising and passing waves of suffering.
- Saturday, October 10, 2015 at 04:33:50 (EDT)
"It looked better in the dark!" Today is trash day in Pimmit Hills, and my explanation for picking up a slightly soggy stained "Where the Shops Are" bag makes Kristin laugh out loud. Kerry spies two rabbits within the first mile by the glow of her cellphone. Her son's first weeks in college have gone well, thanks in part to his little sister's helpful fashion advice. Stars swim overhead: Betelgeuse, Rigel, Sirius, the Pleiades. "But those are just words for their names!"
We loop back and at 7am rendezvous with Beth to run a concentric loop, crude GPS cave art. She describes her volunteer work at last weekend's half-marathon, timing runners at the 10k point. Long shadows dance the path ahead of us.
- Friday, October 09, 2015 at 05:30:52 (EDT)
A scene in the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, just before the climax, where arch-enemy Gideon is taunting protagonist Scott about motive:
Gideon: Scott Pilgrim! Hey, buddy!
Scott: Save it! You're pretentious. This club sucks. I've got beef. Let's do it.
Gideon: Wa-wa-wait! You wanna fight me ... for her?
Scott: No. I wanna fight you for me.
Then, like a video game voice-over, the narrator announces, "Scott earned the Power of Self-Respect!" as the hero pulls a physically-impossible cartoonish flaming sword out of his chest and the battle begins.
Doesn't sound like zen — but maybe it is? Self-sacrifice begins with Self, a nobility on center-stage display, a look-at-how-great-I-am act for The Others to admire. Scott tried that, in an earlier encounter, and failed. If self goes away and all are one ... — perhaps the self in self-respect can transcend.
And the same throughout the smaller encounters in life. After a family argument, trouble at work, a relationship breakdown, instead of forgiving or apologizing for The Others, maybe the atonement is for ...
(cf. Unselfing (2009-01-14), Clinging Is Optional (2013-08-21), 0-1 (2014-08-29), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), No-Self (2014-12-25), Self and No-Self (2015-03-11), ...)
- Thursday, October 08, 2015 at 05:23:08 (EDT)
"Back-to-School Run!" Kristin names today's trek, a venture that starts in the dark on a cool crisp fall-like morning. Kerry has just returned from Italy, and on her internal clock it's 10am. After a warm-up lap around McLean HS track we head east toward Venus. On Franklin Park Rd a weird creche, occupied by two human-sized statues of crows, stands beside a spooky-looking house that we all agree looks like it belongs in the wilderness, guarded by a shotgun-totin' tobacco-chewin' squint-eyed mountain man. At Tuckahoe Park a water fountain beckons, as does playground equipment including a giant rope-spiderweb, bouncy-spring stools, and a mega-xylophone. Our return trip intersects rush hour at the high school where cars of last-minute arrivals jam the parking lot. Rabbit Count = 1, in the final mile.
- Wednesday, October 07, 2015 at 04:17:50 (EDT)
... a sweet photo of DW from a few years ago!
- Tuesday, October 06, 2015 at 05:14:48 (EDT)
"You're a big fat liar!" says Mary the third time I promise that we've reached the crest of the hill. After a brisk neighborhood walkabout with DD Gray, Mary and I go to Wheaton Regional Park, where traffic is heavy and fields are full with late-summer baseball games. We run 1.5 miles at ~12 min/mi pace in three laps around the paved loop at the southwest corner of the park, watched by a ~10 point buck in the woods nearby. Then after a recovery walk we do a mile in ~13 minutes. The Runkeeper track files and split data are suspiciously identical, in spite of the differences in our phone hardware. Does the system somehow merge information from multiple people who are running together?
- Monday, October 05, 2015 at 04:45:37 (EDT)
"We will look for you at Mile 10!" I tell Amy Couch, when she texts me to report that she has just passed Mile 8 of the Parks Half Marathon. We last met at dawn: I was a volunteer course marshal, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes at mile ~0.6 and happily surprised to see Amy dash past. DD Gray and I are doing a walk that includes the one-lane Grace Church Rd bridge. After a couple of miles we join Mary Ewell, who accompanies us on the trek to Rock Creek. Perfect timing: Amy appears just as we arrive! After a quick pause for photos Mary, Gray, and I continue up the long Mormon Temple hill, then return home via a woodsy path near Forest Glen.
- Monday, October 05, 2015 at 04:44:00 (EDT)
If you are super-sad and suffering:
Yes, and especially good: all of the above — getting out with friends to sweat, share, drink, think ...
(adapted from a recent note to a dear sad friend; cf. Don't Panic (2010-11-17), When Someone You Love Is Unhappy (2011-05-29), Friendship and Meditation (2012-11-06), Thirty Things (2013-10-01), Happiness Buffer (2013-12-02), Habits of Unhappy People (2014-03-11), ...)
- Sunday, October 04, 2015 at 11:42:14 (EDT)
A big doe stands nervously in the mud, then flips up her white tail and flees into the thickets. Heavy rains midday leave puddles on the path and high roiling waters in the stream. Race officials are installing big signs along the course of tomorrow's half marathon. At the barbecue shack on Old Georgetown Rd two guys are starting the charcoal fires to cook meats. Sidewalks in downtown Bethesda are crowded with shoppers.
Back home, the scale shows just under 150 lbs for a loss of ~2% from dehydration, in spite of three water stops at fountains en route. No wonder the final miles included so many involuntary walk breaks! Will a slice of cheesecake baked a few hours ago neutralize all the spartan goodness of this run?
- Saturday, October 03, 2015 at 05:18:43 (EDT)
"We have to run under the rainbow!" An awesome arc spans the highway on the way to Cara Marie's 'hood this morning, with fainter double bow visible in segments. In the east sunrise glints kumquat-pumpkin-hued on the underside of clouds. Intervals of running and walking average more than 1 minute/mile faster pace than just a week ago. Dialogue passing CM's favorite grocery store:
"Let's stop — I need to get a watermelon."
"Won't that slow you down?"
"You can carry it!"
- Saturday, October 03, 2015 at 05:14:06 (EDT)
|There Are No Secrets|
... well, ok, maybe that's a secret — but there are no other secrets!
(cf. TwoGreatSecrets (2001-11-09), KeyToTheTreasure (2004-04-23), BigSecret (2005-07-05), There Are No Secrets (2014-02-26), ...)
- Friday, October 02, 2015 at 05:32:00 (EDT)
"It only gets better from here!" the fellow walking into the building greets Kristin and me as we debate which route to run this morning. His comment reminds me of the cheery song by Cedric Gervais & Howard Jones, "Things Can Only Get Better" — though I spend much of today's trek trying to remember Gervais's first name.
Meanwhile Venus glitters like a diamond below the crescent moon. Kristin apologizes to a rabbit that she startles in the gloom; it hunkers down by the sidewalk, ears twitching. Clouds drift in, first just thin high ripples, then thicker, painted from below by the rising sun into a rainbow of tangerine-peach hues. We discuss ill-designed online forms and their associated bureaucracy, 3D printers, achy joints, and not-caring so much about humidity, social media, and other distractions. Kristin points out the color-changing lights around the top edge of a Tysons Corner office building and the bittersweet bushes (or maybe they are firethorn? pyracantha?) by the sidewalk with their brilliant orange berries. We're thankful for the day.
- Thursday, October 01, 2015 at 05:12:59 (EDT)
From Chapter 7 ("Opening Our Heart in the Face of Fear") of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance:
Widening the lens makes a full and accepting presence possible. Imagine the difference between a herd of wild stations enclosed in a small corral and those same horses galloping through wide-open plains. This is the difference between seeing life with a narrow focus and widening the lens to a more spacious view. When our field of awareness is open and last, there is plenty of room for the stallions of fear to kick up dust as they stampede through.
And in the guided meditation "Meeting Fear with an Open and Engaged Presence" at the end of that same chapter:
With each in-breath, feel your willingness to gently connect with the waves of life that are unpleasant and disturbing. Breathing out, let go and feel how the waves of fear belong to a larger world, an ocean of openness. You can surrender your fear into this vast and tender space of healing. Breathing in, you contact the immediate sensations with a kind and clear attention. Breathing out, you realize your belonging to the boundless awareness that has room for all of life's fears.
If you feel defeated or numb, focus on your physical sensations and contact them fully with the in-breath. If you feel as if the fear is "too much," emphasize breathing out—letting go into openness and safety. It can help to begin again by listening to sounds or opening your eyes. You might remember the spaciousness of the world or reflect with compassion on all those who at this moment are also feeling fear. You might bring to mind a person or spiritual figure or place in nature that conveys a sense of safety. Once you feel that you belong to a larger world, again attend to the way that fear expresses through your body and mind. With time, you will discover an artful balancing of touching fear and remembering openness.
(cf. Enso (2012-02-29), Ceaseless Society (2012-05-10), Pause and Breathe (2014-07-25), Perfect Size for Letting Go (2015-09-14), ...)
- Wednesday, September 30, 2015 at 05:27:01 (EDT)
"Wow, a huge Great Blue Heron - I hope it's still there when we get back!" I tell Mary as we run along the C&O Canal towpath. We rendezvous on a sultry-warm morning at Lock 7 and begin by walking a couple of miles upstream. At milepost 9 we turn back and do an 11:43 mile, walk a mile to recover, then trot another mile in 12:32. (Yay! - fist-bump, Dr M!) Big snapping turtles sun themselves on sticks floating in the stagnant water, but upon our return the heron is gone. A scary-gigantic sign by the Potomac River warns "STOP DAM AHEAD DEADLY UNDERTOW GET TO SHORE".
- Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 05:34:52 (EDT)
"Don't do what I just did!" I advise the kids waiting for the crosswalk light to change, after I dash across Jones Mill Rd with a pause in the median for cars to zoom by. Today's mission: meet Mary at Lock 7 on the C&O Canal. The first few miles flow easy, but then reality - aka humidity - kicks in and pace slows. A huge peleton of cyclists cruises up Goldsboro Rd; I stop to take photos and cheer them. The 7-11 at Glen Echo has Crunchy Cheetos on sale so I buy two bags and fill my bottle with ice. GPS glitches in the tunnel under Wisconsin Av and in the store add ~5% to total distance and similarly make the pace seem faster than it really was.
- Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 05:30:07 (EDT)
Mental processes can go off course in many directions. This list is from the office health center, adapted from and credited to an early edition of the book Thoughts & Feelings: The Art of Cognitive Stress Intervention by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning:
Yes, they mostly come down to imbalance, self-focus, over-judging, negativity, and a few other categories of bias ... but they're not bad as a qualitative start!
(cf. Don't Panic (2010-11-17), Worksheets as Training (2013-04-02), NLP (2013-05-06), Oblique Life (2013-08-14), Emotional Intelligence (2015-04-14), Negative Thinking Patterns (2015-08-28), ...)
- Monday, September 28, 2015 at 04:41:01 (EDT)
- Monday, September 28, 2015 at 04:25:21 (EDT)
"Julie Trapp!" After 30 seconds I finally remember the name of long-time Montgomery County Road Runners Club comrade and can properly introduce her to DD Gray. We're on a Sunday morning walkabout, a loop along Sligo Creek Trail and neighborhood streets. Julie gives us a burst-mode update on Patti & Jim Rich, then resumes her run. There's a new little free library at the corner of Crosby & Dale.
- Sunday, September 27, 2015 at 05:15:19 (EDT)
In the final pages of Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg (Chapter 11, "Living Our Love"), a quote from William Butler Yeats:
|We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.|
... from the 1902 essay "Earth, Fire and Water" in The Celtic Twilight.
(cf. Quiet in There (2011-05-31), Mind Like Water (2011-12-24), Mantra - Mind Like Water (2015-05-04), ...)
- Friday, September 25, 2015 at 04:21:48 (EDT)
"Nutella on matzos!" — my explanation for steady weight gain of ~1 pound/month for much of the past year. CM Manlandro and I tour her neighborhood, telling stories, walking hills, and sprinting across busy streets. I make her promise not to mistreat her minions if she gets multiple grants and has to hire students in her lab. Penguin-themed objets d'art at her home remind me of the film Fight Club, which she swears she hasn't yet seen. Total water intake this warm morning is ~80 oz, and when I get home I'm still dehydrated. The scale temporarily shows a number less than 150 lbs — alas, not for long!
- Thursday, September 24, 2015 at 06:15:09 (EDT)
Further suggestions from the flip side of the "Trusted Advisor" summary card, subtitled "Creating Trust Conversations":
And an additional "Four Trust Principles":
... all fine thoughts (though sadly clunky and insufficiently parallel in their expression) — and yet another reminder of how wise Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People was in 1936.
(cf. Trusted Advisor (2012-12-23), Action to Raise Trust (2015-09-05), ...)
- Wednesday, September 23, 2015 at 04:21:28 (EDT)
|"Spandex!" is the Word of the Day for this morning's humid trot along Rock Creek. Stephanie pulls me along at a brisk pace, telling of her most recent 100 miler (last month), sharing stories of new friends, and outlining upcoming race plans, all the while denying that she is now far faster than me. Sandbagger! I kvetch about my weight, groan with groin twinges, and admire young spandex-clad runners on the trail.|
At the bridge over Veirs Mill Rd we remember Amy's selfie from a week ago and pause for photos at the mosaic design. After a blitz 10:15 mile 7, chasing a fast kid in gray, we refill bottles. Stephanie calls my bluff ("Want to run up to Ken-Gar?") and I fold. At the Strathmore Av and Beach Dr traffic light we part ways, Stephanie to do another 7 miles while I take a short-cut back. Spandex ahead isn't enough to pull me up the final hill.
- Monday, September 21, 2015 at 04:10:22 (EDT)
From Chapter 4 ("Coming Home to Our Body") of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance:
As I noticed feelings and thoughts appear and disappear, it became increasingly clear that they were just coming and going on their own. Sensations were appearing out of nowhere and vanishing back into the void. There was no sense of a self owning them: no "me" feeling the vibrating, pulsing, tingling; no "me" being oppressed by unpleasant sensations; no "me" generating thoughts or trying to meditate. Life was just happening, a magical display of appearances. As every passing experience was accepted with the openness of "this too," any sense of boundary or solidity in my body and mind dissolved. Like the weather, sensations, emotions and thoughts were just moving through the open, empty sky of awareness.
When I opened my eyes I was stunned by the beauty of the New England fall, the trees rising tall out of the earth, yellows and reds set against a bright blue sky. The colors felt like a vibrant sensational part of the life playing through my body. The sound of the wind appeared and vanished, leaves fluttered towards the ground, a bird took flight from a nearby branch. The whole world was moving—like the life within me, nothing was fixed, solid, confined. I knew without a doubt that I was part of the world.
When I next felt a cramping in my stomach, I could recognize it as simply another part of the natural world. As I continued paying attention I could feel the arising and passing aches and pressures inside me as no different from the firmness of earth, the falling leaves. There was just pain — and it was the earth's pain.
When we are free of mental concepts and our senses are awake, the sounds, smells, images and vibrations we experience connect us with all life everywhere. It is not my pain, it is the earth's pain. It is not my aliveness but simply life—unfolding and intense, mysterious and beautiful. By meeting the changing dance of sensations with Radical Acceptance, we discover our intrinsic belonging to this world. We are "no thing"—not limited to any passing experience—and "everything," belonging to the whole.
(cf. 0-1 (2014-08-29), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), No-Self (2014-12-25), ...)
- Sunday, September 20, 2015 at 05:19:39 (EDT)
No, it was a LIE!" We trot along Ed's Loop, debating the nature of Truth and the sometimes not-so-fine lines between oblique disclosure, subtle implication, over-simplification, misleading omission, and outright falsehood. (cf. "Lying" by Sissala Bok (1978)) One of us notes that it's easy sometimes to speak truth to power: "The worst they can do is throw me off the project, which would be great!"
Kristin and I admire the last quarter moon and Venus rising as we ramble in the darkness to Olney Park, circling back to refill water bottle and pick up Beth at sunrise. Crickets chirp in chorus. We accept the humidity and try not to fret about too many responsibilities that loom on the calendar in weeks ahead. Quibbling abounds. "Is it just me, or do you do that to everybody?" gets the answer, "It's not just you!"
- Saturday, September 19, 2015 at 20:14:12 (EDT)
|At Your Side|
... a reminder of partnership, reliability, protection, loyalty — worthy traits to practice with others and in kindness to oneself!
(and "At Your Side" is the slogan of Brother Industries Ltd, the international corporation founded in Japan in 1908)
- Friday, September 18, 2015 at 04:22:38 (EDT)
"Happy Birthday!" Kerry's daughter turns 16 today. Surprise gift: a come-to-your-home blow-dry hair-do! We trot south in the darkness, gibbous moon glowing through the clouds, humidity high. A family of panda dolls peeks at us from a bamboo grove. At an old mansion we divert to read the sign: Gage House, a historic site (see  ). A fellow is doing Taiji in the new park where the W&OD Trail crosses Rt 7. We talk about international travel plans, the Haskell programming language, and kitchen science experiments: Kristin tells how to make casein plastic out of milk!
- Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 04:54:28 (EDT)
From Charlotte Joko Beck's Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith), in the talk "Simple Mind":
The longer we sit, the more we have periods—at first brief, then longer—when we sense that we don't need to be opposed to others, even when they are difficult. Instead of seeing them as problems, we begin to enjoy their foibles, without having to fix them. For example, we can enjoy the fact that they're too silent, or they talk too much, or they put on too much makeup. To enjoy the world without judgment is what a realized life is like. It takes years and years and years of practice. Even then, I don't mean that every problem can be experienced without reaction; still, as shift occurs, and we move away from a purely reactive life, in which everything that happens can trigger our favorite defense.
A simple mind is not mysterious. In a simple mind, awareness just is. It's open, transparent. There's nothing complicated about it. For most of us most of the time, however, it is largely unavailable. But the more we have contact with a simple mind, the more we sense that everything is ourselves, and the more we feel responsibility for everything. When we sense our connectedness, we have to act differently.
(this talk also appears in Beck's book Nothing Special; cf. Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking (2014-11-01), ...)
- Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 04:23:37 (EDT)
"Sorry — oops!" says Mary when she realizes that she apologized for a third time within the first three miles. We do two laps around the horse trail at Wheaton Regional Park, listening to the birds and stepping carefully around the heaps of manure. The hills are steep but not daunting — and nobody falls!
(trackfile) - ^z
- Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 05:13:49 (EDT)
|"The Calla Lilies are in bloom again," Mary quotes Katherine Hepburn from Stage Door, as we pass the Mormon Temple gardens. Gray's neighborhood walkabout takes us on a pretty loop. The weather is marvelously cool for late August!|
- Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 05:12:08 (EDT)
From Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg, Chapter 9 ("The Gift of Equanimity"):
To have the radiant calm and unswayed balance of mind that we call equanimity is to be like the earth. All kinds of things are cast upon the earth: beautiful and ugly things, frightful and lovable things, common and extraordinary things. The earth receives it all and quietly sustains its own integrity.
It is a state of peace to be able to accept things as they are. This is to be at home in our own lives. We see that this universe is much too big to hold on to, but it is the perfect size for letting go. Our hearts and minds can become that big, and we can actually let it go. This is the gift of equanimity.
(cf. Equanimity (2012-02-01), Let Go (2013-10-18), This Is Equanimity (2015-03-15), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), ...)
- Monday, September 14, 2015 at 04:20:24 (EDT)
"4 Deer, 7 Rabbits!" we text-taunt Nathan as he skips the Dawn Patrol to pack for his western odyssey. Kerry's day is miraculously clear of meetings; to celebrate, she picks Benjamin St. Morning fog hangs low over meadows. We share stories of how the elder son predicted the birth of his baby sister and marvel at the glorious cool sunrise. Kristin resists sprinklers and the temptation to extend the run into double-digit mileage. A lecture (by Guess Whom?) on critical temperature and pressure, eutectics, and the Triple Point is mercifully brief. Kerry treats everybody to iced coffee — yay!
- Sunday, September 13, 2015 at 04:52:28 (EDT)
Jenn Shelton is an elite young ultramarathon trail runner. Christopher McDougall is an unreliable but entertaining narrator, author of Born to Run (2009). In Chapter 22 he shares Shelton's insight:
"I never really discussed this with anyone because it sounds pretentious, but I started running ultras to become a better person," Jenn told me. "I thought if you could run one hundred miles, you'd be in this Zen state. You'd be the fucking Buddha, bringing peace and a smile to the world. It didn't work in my case—I'm the same old punk-ass as before—but there's always that hope that it will turn you into the person you want to be, a better, more peaceful person.
"When I'm out on a long run," she continued, "the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn't going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow, It's just me and the movement and the motion. That's what I love—just being a barbarian, running through the woods."
... a sweet summary of the zen mantra "No Goals!" ...
(cf. Miracles and Wonders (2007-03-31), Running to Stand Still (2008-07-05), Finding the Quiet (2009-12-05), Running to Run (2011-04-11), Quiet in There (2011-05-31), Mantra - Mind Like Water (2015-05-04), ...)
- Saturday, September 12, 2015 at 09:44:59 (EDT)
"Good morning, Ladies!" says the inbound fellow to Kristin and me as we walk out in the dark to the loading dock. It's Nathan's last run before he heads west to grad school in Washington. Beth leads through gloom along the bumpy path under the Toll Toad bypass, with discussion of scientific frauds and irreproducible experiments (organic molecular semiconductors or superconductors? cold fusion? polywater?). Kerry tells of her son's "Nerd Herd" study group and his first days away at college. We admire the McLean High School track and football field, follow Westmoreland to Kerry's cut-through, circle back into Lewinsville Park, wrinkle noses at garbage day morning odors, and loop by an exercise class crab-walking on the company basketball court. A low-hanging branch takes off Nathan's cap and narrowly misses spearing his skull.
- Friday, September 11, 2015 at 05:12:03 (EDT)
From Chapter 4 ("Coming Home to Our Body") of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance:
We experience our lives through our bodies, whether we are aware of it or not. Yet we are usually so mesmerized by our ideas about the world that we miss out on much of our direct sensory experience. Even when we are aware of feeling a strong breeze, the sound of rain on the roof, a fragrance in the air, we rarely remain with the experience long enough to inhabit it fully. In most moments we have an an overlay of inner dialogue that comments on what is happening and plans what we might do next. We might greet a friend with a hug, but our moments of physical contact become blurred by our computations about how long to embrace or what we're going to say when we're done. We rush through the hug, not fully present.
An elderly man at one of my weekend workshops described himself as "living from the neck up." Many people are so accustomed to being out of touch with the body that they live entirely in a mental world. The fact that the body and mind are interconnected might even be hard for them to believe. In a class I led at a women's correction center, an inmate told me that she was aware of her body only when she was in pain or in a rage. Unless feelings are painfully intrusive or, as with sex, extremely pleasant or intense, physical sensations can seem elusive and be difficult to recognize. This is the basic characteristic of being in trance—we are only partially present to our experience of the moment.
I first discovered that my body was alive with a universe of sensations during an introductory yoga class I took during my sophomore year in college. Near the end of the yoga class the teacher asked us to sit quietly with crossed legs on the floor, making sure that our hands were resting easily, comfortably on our laps or legs. She told us to take a few deep breaths, explaining that the breath offers a natural pathway out of our minds and into our bodies.
She then directed us to explore the aliveness of our body. "Let your entire awareness be in your hands," she said. "Relax and soften them, feeling your hands from the inside." She guided us in slowly feeling each finger carefully from within, each palm, the tops of our hands, our wrists. I became aware first of tingling, then of pulsing areas of pressure and heat. As I relaxed into feeling the sensations in my hands, I realized that there was no distinct boundary, no sense of a defined shape to my hand. All I could perceive was a changing field of energy that felt like moving points of light in a night sky. It suddenly occurred to me that this vibrant aliveness was always going on without my conscious awareness. I had been missing out on a lot of life.
(cf. With Dignity (2010-12-04), Fully Present (2011-02-14), Thanks for the Hands (2013-05-17), Running with the Mind of Meditation 2014-12-07), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Mindfulness of the Body (2015-06-14), ...)
- Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 05:14:28 (EDT)
"Walkable for us, not for normal people!" Kerry says, describing the distance between her son Fletcher's new dorm room and the beach. She's back from driving him to college and visiting her family, tubing with a dolphin and horseback riding. Kristin recounts her kids' joys in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum's "Curiosity Room" and at a Japanese drum demo in her local public library. Her ITB is twingy, as are my hip adductors and groin muscles. Pastel sunrise colors ("Child of Morning, rosy-fingered Dawn") paint the eastern sky as we pass Friendship Lane. K&K protect me from a giant orb spider web by taking it in their faces as we cross the footbridge over Pimmit Run.
- Wednesday, September 09, 2015 at 04:17:41 (EDT)
|Remember to Remember|
... before responding (especially with strong emotion, panic, anger, etc.) pop up a level to meta:
(cf. Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01), Present-Moment Reality (2008-11-05), Karma (2009-07-15), Waking Up to What You Do (2010-03-21), Find the Beauty (2011-04-03), Emotional States (2012-04-26), Notice and Return (2013-03-11), Remembering to Remember (2013-08-23), Space Between (2013-10-13), ...)
- Monday, September 07, 2015 at 05:38:31 (EDT)
A figure-8 course takes us across the trestle high above Rock Creek and then beneath it as DD Gray and I trek upstream. According to  it was "... initially 1400 feet long, 67 feet high and reputed to be the largest of its type in the B&O system ... In 1904, much of the span was replaced by fill, reducing its length to 281 feet, and a single steel deck plate girder span inserted over Rock Creek. The trestle was rebuilt in 1928, and again in 1972 following extensive damage done by Tropical Storm Agnes. ...". Experimenting with a panorama photo effect makes it apparently swoop like part of a roller coaster ride!
- Sunday, September 06, 2015 at 06:32:56 (EDT)
An office buddy who took a "Trusted Advisor" class not long ago shared a wallet-card that summarizes key points on how to "Raise Trust". It's a cute list — not orthogonal, quite debatable in places, but perhaps worth pondering:
Good thoughts on learning (1, 2), communicating (2, 3, 8, 9, 10), empathy (3, 7), selflessness (4, 6, 7, 10), persuading (5, 11), efficiency (5, 8, 9, 10), honesty (4, 11), etc. But maybe How to Win Friends and Influence People is even better on many of these themes.
And the classic "Optimist Creed"? Best of all, especially its coda:
|To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.|
That's Big Mind!
(cf. http://trustedadvisor.com, ...)
- Saturday, September 05, 2015 at 06:00:45 (EDT)
"That won't go into the report," I promise Mary as we jog along Difficult Run and she describes some of her recent injuries and issues. Then, "That definitely won't go into the report!" We ramble downstream from Colvin Run Mill, chatting and greeting hikers, dog walkers, and the occasional cyclist. Stepping stones across the water are tricky in places, as are mud wallows and rocky-rooty hills. More details to follow ... or maybe not!
- Friday, September 04, 2015 at 04:21:31 (EDT)
From Charlotte Joko Beck's Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith), in the talk titled simply "Joy":
Joy isn't something we have to find. Joy is who we are if we're not too preoccupied with something else. When we try to find joy, we are simply adding a thought—and an unhelpful one, at that—onto the basic fact of what we are. We don't need to go looking for joy. But we do need to do something. The question is, what? ...
Until we know that joy is exactly what's happening, minus our opinion of it, we're going to have only a small amount of joy. When we stay with perception rather than getting lost in evaluation, however, joy can be the person who didn't do the job while we were gone. It can be the interesting encounter on the phone with all of the people we have to call, no matter what they want. Joy can be having a sore throat; it can be getting laid off; it can be unexpectedly having to work overtime. It can be having to take a math exam or dealing with one's former spouse who wants more money. Usually we don't think that these things are joy.
In practice, we return over and over again to perception, to just sitting. Practice is just hearing, just seeing, just feeling. This is what Christians call the face of God: simply taking in this world as it manifests. We feel our body; we hear the cars and birds. That's all there is. But we are unwilling to stay in that space for more than a few seconds. We go shooting off, remembering what happened to us last week or thinking about what's gong to happen next week. We obsess about persons that we're having trouble with or about our work or whatever. There's nothing wrong with these ideas popping up, but if we get stuck in them, we're into the world of evaluation from our self-centered viewpoint. Most of us spend most of our lives in this viewpoint.
... If we stop ourselves and find out what we're really feeling or thinking, we'll notice—even if we're working hard—a thin veil of self-concern over our activity. Enlightenment is simply not doing this. Enlightenment is simply doing what we're doing totally, responding to things as they come up. The modern term is "being in the flow." Joy is just this: something comes up; I perceive it. Something is needed, and I do it, and then the next thing, and the next. I take some time out for a walk or to talk to my friends. There is no problem in a life lived in this way.
(this talk also appears in Beck's book Nothing Special; cf. Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking (2014-11-01), Happiness Is (2015-07-28), ...)
- Thursday, September 03, 2015 at 05:13:06 (EDT)
"... somewhere on the spectrum between Jerk and Saint!" says Nathan, describing a response to a stressful situation as we cross North Spring St on the W&OD Trail. (OK, he used a different word than "Saint", but the author of these run reports, like the Congressional Record, reserves the right to extend and amend remarks, and to edit for artistic impact.) Discussion topics today include grad school exams, toilet seat protocols, existential theology, and the fine distinctions between chivalry and chauvinism, belief and bigotry, tolerance and resignation, etc. We spy a gap in the fence and divert to run a lap around the track at George Mason High School, then pause for photos in front of the bronze rearing mustang statue. Twinginess moves from groin into right hip adductor. "Oooh, let's run on the gravel path next time!" one of us suggests, as a young lady cruises by. Movie recommendations: the classic Chariots of Fire, the inspirational Without Limits, and the eye-opening Personal Best.
- Wednesday, September 02, 2015 at 04:38:40 (EDT)
Metta — primary subject of the book Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg — is described beautifully in Chapter 2 ("Relearning Lovliness"):
No external condition can prevent love; no one and no thing can stop it. The awakening of love is not bound up in things being a certain way. Metta, like the true nature of the mind, is not dependent; it is not conditioned. When we practice meditation and perceive this quality of mind, we also contact the essence of metta. This produces a tremendous change in perspective. At first it is as if we were sitting on the shore and watching waves dance on the surface of the ocean. Later in meditation it is as if we are under water, in the calm, still depths, watching the waves above us moving and playing. Still later we perceive that, in fact, we are the water, not apart or separate, and that waving is happening. This is also how metta embraces all.
(cf. Steadiness of Heart (2011-07-13), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), ...)
- Tuesday, September 01, 2015 at 06:38:27 (EDT)
"And near here is where ...", say I, repeatedly, during this morning's ramble around the 'hood with DD Gray. She politely tolerates my nonstop reminisce plus historical monologue about the origins of Ireland Dr, Rock Creek Trail, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the spring where George Washington drank, the Capital Crescent Trail, etc. As usual my distance estimate, "... about 3 miles ...", is more than 25% low. Sorry about that!
- Monday, August 31, 2015 at 05:04:30 (EDT)
... the shortest way to say Agreed! — and a cute code for "We Are One!" — magnify the wee double-quote and see it as 11 aka "Two Ones" — and remember, "We're All In This Together!" ...
(cf. 01 (2013-11-05), ...)
- Sunday, August 30, 2015 at 05:38:33 (EDT)
"Jalapeño cheddar poppers and onion rings," I observe, "are not the optimal bedtime meal!" But acid reflux recedes, and at sunrise I explore neighborhood trails before temperatures in Austin Texas rise to the 104°F that they reached yesterday and are aiming for again today. Two jackrabbits race into the brush at a playground. Limestone and tree roots along the creek make for gnarly slow trekking. Dragonflies dance about my ears and quail flutter away from my ankles. The front-yard tree trunk carved into a giant "Hook 'em Horns!" statue is tempting, but the light isn't good enough to make a selfie stop worthwhile.
- Saturday, August 29, 2015 at 06:27:41 (EDT)
A recent article in The Atlantic ("The Coddling of the American Mind") by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt concluded with a list of "Common Cognitive Distortions" credited to Robert L. Leahy et al. (2012). It seems to be a subset of a longer list by the same author in 2010 titled "How Depressed People Think: 17 thought distortions you can avoid". The list is fascinating, maybe important:
Perhaps somewhat redundant or non-orthogonal (overlapping) — but definitely good to self-observe, notice, and at times try to apply countermeasures!
cf. Don't Panic (2010-11-17), Big Biases (2014-01-09), ...)
- Friday, August 28, 2015 at 04:34:29 (EDT)
"Kicks just keep getting harder to find," says Barry at mile ~5, when I suggest that Emaad and Ken start their sprints to the finish line. Earlier another runner asks us to check our watches. "Does anybody really know what time it is?" I ask. "Does anybody really care?"
Crude banter abounds on the Capital Crescent Trail as the Boys compare injuries and feign sympathy. Fast runners pull us along, then leave us in their wake. The Nike logo is fetchingly displayed on one young passer-by. Speed Coach Evan catches us during a walk break and mocks accordingly. Conversational topics include beer carbonation, Oxford colleges, and superhero movies.
- Thursday, August 27, 2015 at 03:57:57 (EDT)
In Radical Acceptance Chapter 2 ("Awakening from the Trance: The Path of Radical Acceptance") Tara Brach distinguishes "acceptance" from resignation, withdrawal, self-indulgence, or passivity. She explains how, even after a crippling accident:
... Radical Acceptance also means not overlooking another important truth: the endless creativity and possibility that exist in living. By accepting the truth of change, accepting that we don't know how our life will unfold, we open ourselves to hope so that we can move forward with vitality and will. ... By meeting our actual experience with the clarity and kindness of Radical Acceptance, we discover that whatever our circumstances, we remain free to live creatively, to love fully.
Think Possibility, not Expectation ... and Jon Kabat-Zinn's remarks in Mindfulness for Beginners on "Taking Care of This Moment" ...
- Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 04:17:40 (EDT)
"Teenage boys watched The Richard Simmons Show for other reasons!" I confess to Kerry. She remembers getting up at 4am to finish her high school homework, when his exercise program was the only thing on TV, and how he taught her to say "Thank you!" in response to compliments. I quote mindfulness essays that similarly counsel, "Let others be generous" (cf. Let Others Be Right). We spy a rabbit scampering away at a Route 7 Beltway offramp, and debate whether a front porch statue of a loincloth-clad torch-bearer is African or Roman. My right quad tightens up about mile 6, after too-brisk downhill sprints. Kerry's son's birthday was yesterday, and her husband's is today. She plans to give him a salt bagel with sausage and bacon for breakfast. Happy Birthday! (^_^).
- Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 04:08:53 (EDT)
Trudy Walsh wrote in the 13 June 2006 online Government Leader Staff about (retired) Gen Dale Meyerrose's visit to an automobile company when he was CIO for part of the US Federal Government:
Too often, the IT department sets itself up as different and apart from the rest of the organization. "I think that hurts IT," Meyerrose said. "The things that drive and control our business are no different than what drives and controls other organizations. Technology is the least of it, in my view."
As an example, Meyerrose described a tour he took of the robotics area of a car company. His guide was a software engineer with "Coke-bottle glasses and hair like Einstein's," he said.
"He was wearing a hat that said, 'I build trucks.' I asked him what he did and he said, 'I build trucks.' I said, 'I got that, but what do you really do?' He said, 'I build trucks.' All the geeks in the plant were wearing hats or smocks that said 'I build trucks.'"
Although they were software engineers, they identified strongly with the organization's mission.
That's Shared Vision!
(cf. FifthDisciplinarians (2000-09-10), ...)
- Monday, August 24, 2015 at 04:23:23 (EDT)
"We must join them!" I tell Kerry and Kristin, as we climb the hill and see three runners slowly circling the track behind Cooper Middle School. Fog hangs low over the soccer field and our shoes crunch on the gravel. Kristin spots 2 rabbits; her ITB twinges at the right knee. Kerry is cruising on ~4 hours of sleep; her flight home last night was delayed. I'm still kvetching about my pulled groin muscle. The duck-shaped tree is collapsed under the weight of climbing vines.
Outbound we meet the most popular guy of the local school system: the fellow who announces snow closures. Two big brown dogs with feather-duster-fluffy tails are taking their owner out for a walk near Churchill St. We pick up the pace on the return trip to get Kerry back in time for morning meetings.
- Sunday, August 23, 2015 at 05:33:04 (EDT)
In The Philosophers' Magazine issue 69 (2nd Quarter 2015, on the theme of "Teaching philosophy") Emily Esch's essay "Learning to question everything" discusses a goal of teaching philosophy as "developing certain habits of mind" — in particular:
And Esch's punch line: "One can't do philosophy without being willing to question everything."
(cf. QuestionAuthority (2000-01-18), AuthoritarianButtons (2002-06-07), Critical Thinking (2009-12-03), Critical Thinking Defined (2010-02-10), Fallibilism (2013-05-14), Reflective Judgment (2014-04-09), ...)
- Saturday, August 22, 2015 at 06:34:20 (EDT)
"Thank you for your good work!" I tell the fellow pushing a wheelbarrow of rocks along the path through Great Hills Park in northwest Austin. "Thank you for using the trail!" he replies. Texas heat and humidity are already significant in mid-morning. After delivering Mom's Sunday newspaper, take West Cow Path to revisit the cacti and limestone of Yett Creek Park. A small cottontail rabbit races ahead, then dives into the scrub brush. Dragonflies dart by, the same type seen at the "Ran It With Janet" Manassas Battlefield Park 50k on D-Day.
John Darnielle's song "Woke Up New" spins on heavy mental rotation, along with Tara Brach's mantra, "Let Go and Let Be". Zig-zag across streets to optimize the mix of shade plus sidewalk. Work on a scoring system for aesthetics, incorporating four funny Pulchritude Parameters and five silly Sweetness Stats. Pause for selfies in front of "Ö Zen" salon and spa. Discover a Little Free Library (#6309) one street over from Shakespearean Way.
- Friday, August 21, 2015 at 05:14:04 (EDT)
From the talk "Experiences and Experiencing" in Charlotte Joko Beck's Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith):
... The enlightened state is not having an experience; instead, it's an absence of all experience. The enlightened state is pure, unadulterated experiencing. And that is utterly different from "having an enlightenment experience." Enlightenment is the demolition of all experience built of thoughts, fantasies, memories, and hopes. Frankly, we're not interested in demolishing our lives as we have ordinarily known them. We demolish the false structures of our lives by labeling our thoughts, by saying for the five hundredth time, "Having a thought that such-and-such will happen." When we've said it five hundred times, we see it for what it is. It's just empty energy spinning out of our conditioning, with no reality whatsoever. There is no intrinsic truth in it; it's just changing, changing, changing.
(this talk also appears in Beck's book Nothing Special; cf. No Drama (2015-01-16), Moving from Experiences to Experiencing (2015-08-06), ...)
- Thursday, August 20, 2015 at 04:27:48 (EDT)
|"Shaving your legs doesn't save you much in air resistance," my brother the cyclist says, "but it hurts less when you fall and eventually have to yank off the bandages!" Weather in northwest Austin is already warm and humid at sunrise. Dogs bark at deer feeding on front yard foliage. A fork, found in the the road near the corner of Deer Track and West Cow Path, mandates a pause for silly selfie shooting.|
Yett Creek Neighborhood Park trails are tricky with gnarly cedar roots and eroded limestone. Three Texas-sized cottontail rabbits scurry out of my way. Prickly pear cacti, railroad tracks, and NO TRESPASSING signs block exits to side streets until I've finished an entire circuit. A local resident jogger greets me as I emerge and says she never has dated venture inside. The return trip leads through Great Hills Park and past bright graffiti art on a retaining wall.
- Wednesday, August 19, 2015 at 04:39:53 (EDT)
Chapter 2 ("Relearning Loveliness") of Lovingkindness by Sharon Salzberg ends with an exercise devoted to "Phrases of Lovingkindness". It suggests four classical wishes to make for one's self and for others: freedom from danger, and possession of "mental happiness", "physical happiness", and "ease of well-being". Perhaps ill-translated? Definitely a mixed bag of words and clauses, a negative and three positives, requiring much sub-text to explain.
Better for starters, a simple, grammatically consistent, and positive list: safety, happiness, health, and peace. And instead of hoping for happiness, how about striving for insight and the joy that it brings? The resulting set of metta mantras:
... with nicely mnemonic initials: SHIP!
(cf. Come SAIL Away (2011-11-26), ...)
- Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 04:26:19 (EDT)
"How's your groin?" someone asks at Mile 8, then adds, "Hmmm, in another context that question might seem a bit, uh, unprofessional!" Dawn Patrol today is warm and humid in the wake of violent early-morning thunderstorms. Nathan practices his explanations of grad-school statistics in preparation for his oral exams next month. Kerry and Kristin laugh as I play the obnoxious professor, asking Nathan to define elementary terms and clarify pathological cases. An undergrad class in Real Analysis taken 40 years ago comes in handy at last!
Between discussion of advanced math we review raunchy rap song lyrics, play games at the W&OD Trail water fountain, discuss current cinema, and applaud Kerry's daughter's basketball team that so far is doing great in the playoffs. Kristin spies the only rabbit of the day, a patriotic bunny fearlessly munching grass next to a front yard flag by the sidewalk. For half an hour I strive to remember the name of an exotic topological theorem that tells how to cut a ball into pieces, throw some away, and reassemble the rest into the whole ball again. (Hint: some chunks are fractal-dusty.) Finally at mile 9 I stop thinking and start going through the alphabet. At "B" comes epiphany: "Banach-Tarski Paradox"!
- Monday, August 17, 2015 at 04:15:06 (EDT)
|Simplicate and add more lightness!|
Colleague and boss David Siegrist advises me, in a conversation some weeks ago, to "Find things not to do!" He mentions the mantra, "Simplicate, and add lightness". Wikipedia's article about American inventor William Bushnell Stout (1880-1956) credits his designer Gordon Hooton with that sage advice.
( cf. LightMind (2002-08-22), Living Lightly (2015-04-10), ...)
- Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 22:17:29 (EDT)
"Tai Cheetos!" I explain to Ken Swab and Barry Smith, during a swerve off the Matthew Henson Trail to pick up an empty bag of chips that litters the park. A group of elderly Asians warms up for morning exercises. We do an out-and-back of banter, including disquisitions on Fourier analysis and the Gibbs overshoot phenomenon, cricket match Required Run Rate and how Ken correspondingly computes his progress toward monthly mileage goals, Barry's upcoming insane race schedule, and anecdotes re Hilary (Swab) v. Hillary (Clinton) v. Hillary (Sir Edmund).
Barry and I decorate the trackfile with hillwork pre-Ken and distance post-Ken, including an orbit around the ballfield that brings back Barry's memories of youthful spring training. Groin twinges are tolerable, but get worse upon attempting a cool-down pull-up and a platform leap in the Ken-Gar playground. Ouch!
- Saturday, August 15, 2015 at 22:10:26 (EDT)
A selfie taken with alignment aforethought during the 2015-07-12 - North Austin Texas Tour; see 2013-08-25 - Austin Morning Neighborhood Loop for a less-obscured view of the iconic water tower.
- Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 04:08:57 (EDT)
The elderly lady cyclist swerves and emits a stream of unladylike curses at Mary as we turn onto the boardwalk in front of her. Sligo Creek Trail teems with pedestrians, kids on trikes, baby-carriage pushers, and dogs on leashes, in addition to speeding bicycles. Mary and I do one-minute intervals, jogging and strolling as we talk about life and share ideas. I admire a callipygian runner ahead of us. Mary cites the Sir Mix-a-Lot rap song "Baby Got Back"; I counter with Queen lyrics about similar beauties who "... make the rockin' world go 'round". We reminisce about striking sights seen during past runs together and plan potential Appalachian Trail treks. Some day!
- Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 04:05:21 (EDT)
"Over the Top!" explains Nathan, when I notice his baseball cap is now backwards halfway through this morning's run. It's an allusion to a Sylvester Stallone film that I need to see, wherein turning the hat around signifies increased focus. Today is another unseasonably crisp July dawn, and without adult supervision Nathan and I ramble down the Pimmit Run Trail. Graffiti under the Toll Road Bypass is mostly painted over. We brush by poison ivy, take wrong turns, get wet or muddy shoes crossing streams and grassy meadows, and formulate hypotheses about what we may see after we pass by a ladies swimsuit hanging from a bush. (Alas, no such luck!) Conversation includes "theme songs" for colleagues and mathematical anecdotes. Rabbit count = 1.999999...
- Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 04:02:49 (EDT)
From Chapter 3 ("The Sacred Pause") of Tara Brach's Radical Acceptance:
Learning to pause is the first step in the practice of Radical Acceptance. A pause is a suspension of activity, a time of temporary disengagement when we are no longer moving toward any goal. ... The pause can occur in the midst of almost any activity and can last for an instant, for hours or for seasons of our life. We may take a pause from our ongoing responsibilities by sitting down to meditate. We may pause in the midst of meditation to let go of thoughts and reawaken our attention to the breath. We may pause by stepping out of daily life to go on a retreat or to spend time in nature or to take a sabbatical. We may pause in a conversation, letting go of what we're about to say, in order to genuinely listen and be with the other person. We may pause when we feel suddenly moved or delighted or saddened, allowing the feelings to play through our heart. In a pause we simply discontinue whatever we are doing—thinking, talking, walking, writing, planning, worrying, eating—and become wholeheartedly present, attentive and, often, physically still. You might try it now: Stop reading and sit there, doing "no thing," and simply notice what you are experiencing.
A pause is, by nature, time limited. We resume our activities, but we do so with increased presence and more ability to make choices. In the pause before sinking our teeth into a chocolate bar, for instance, we might recognize the excited tingle of anticipation, and perhaps a background cloud of guilt and self-judgment. We may then choose to eat the chocolate, fully savoring the taste sensations, or we might decide to skip the chocolate and instead go out for a run. When we pause, we don't know what will happen next. But by disrupting our habitual behaviors, we open to the possibility of new and creative ways of responding to our wants and fears.
And later in that same chapter:
We can also purposefully pause during regular activities. I often pause before getting out of my car and simply feel what is going on inside me. Sometimes after I hang up the phone, I'll just sit at my desk, breathing, listening, not doing the next thing. Or I might stop cleaning the house for a moment and simply listen to the music I'd put on to keep myself company. We can choose to pause on the top of a mountain or in a subway, while we are with others or meditating alone.
The pauses in our life make our experience full and meaningful. The well-known pianist Arthur Rubinstein was once asked, "How do you handle the notes as well as you do?" His response was immediate and passionate, "I handle notes no better than many others, but the pauses—ah! That is where the art resides." Like a rest note in a musical score, the pure stillness of a pause forms the background that lets the foreground take shape with clarity and freshness. The moment that arises out of the pause can, like the well-sounded note, reflect the genuineness, the wholeness, the truth of who we are.
Those deliberate pauses — moments in which to practice "Remembering to Remember" — make for more skillful living.
And the Space Between, the holes in the Swiss Cheese, the 01 foreground-background complimentarity ...
(cf. Meditation Made Easy (2008-11-01), Waking Up to What You Do (2010-03-21), Come SAIL Away (2011-11-26), Emotional States (2012-04-26), Saying Yes to Life (2014-07-08), ...)
- Monday, August 10, 2015 at 07:07:53 (EDT)
"Number 4!" Nathan spies yet another rabbit on a beautiful-cool morning. He and Kerry discuss humor and the fine lines between edgy and excessive, crude and cruel. We start briskly at sunrise, take the forest path and construction cut-through at McLean High School, then ramble back for a 7am rendezvous where Kerry passes the baton to Beth. Nathan attempts to explain the Metropolis-Hastings Algorithm to two physicists, who eventually get him down to their level: a model consisting of antisocial kittens jumping in and out of boxes. Beth and I compare notes on retina, optic nerve, and visual cortex phenomenology. She recounts a Turkey Trot race, being passed by a pram-pushing mom running with a three-legged dog. Inspiration!
- Sunday, August 09, 2015 at 07:34:38 (EDT)
The purpose of running — and any other worthy activity, perhaps? To create:
| Good Moments|
(cf. Thinking, Fast and Slow (2013-10-24) re the "experiencing self" (moments!) and the "remembering self" (memories!), ...)
- Saturday, August 08, 2015 at 06:36:21 (EDT)
"You do have plenty of life insurance?" I ask Nathan as we dart across busy Route 7 between cars. It's Boy's Day, no moms present to keep us sensible, so we ramble in search of new cut-throughs, byways, stream crossings, or tunnels under freeways to explore. Conversational topics include upcoming cross-country road trips, the Metropolis-Hastings algorithm, amateur baseball, the hot yoga studio picture window, Marathon Maniacs and running injuries, G. Polya's book of heuristics How to Solve It, the film Fight Club, and a flock of other topics. In spite of ridiculous July humidity we manage a decent overall pace. Hip adductor and groin muscles ache less than last week.
- Friday, August 07, 2015 at 04:13:13 (EDT)
From Charlotte Joko Beck's Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith), in the talk "Experiences and Experiencing", thoughts on paying attention, in the present, moment by moment:
At each second, we are at a crossroad: between unawareness and awareness, between being absent and being present—or between experiences and experiencing. Practice is about moving from experiences to experiencing. What is meant by this?
We tend to overwork the word experience, and when we say "Be with your experience," we are speaking carelessly. It may not be helpful to follow this advice. Ordinarily we see our lives as a series of experiences. ...
Is there anything wrong with this? Humans do have memories, fantasies, hopes; that's natural. When we clothe our experience with these associations, however, experience becomes an object; a noun rather than a verb. So our lives become encounters with one object after another: persons, my lunch, my office. Memories and hopes are similar: life becomes a series of "this" and "that." We ordinarily see our lives as encounters with things "out there." Life becomes dualistic: subject and object, me and that.
If having experiences is our ordinary world, what is the other world, the other fork in the road? What is the difference between experiences and experiencing? What is genuine hearing, touching, tasting, seeing, and so on?
When experiencing occurs, in that very moment, experiencing is not in space or time. It can't be; for when it's in space or time, we've made an object of it. As we touch and look and hear, we're creating the world of space and time, but the actual life we lead is not in space or time; it's just experiencing. The world of space and time arises when when experiencing becomes reduced to a series of experiences. In the precise moment of hearing, for example, there is just hearing, hearing, hearing, hearing, which creates the sound of the airplane or whatever. Thup, thup, thup, thup . . . : there's space between each; and each one is absolute hearing, hearing, hearing. That's our life, as we create our world. We're creating with all our senses so quickly that we can't possibly keep track of it. The world of our experiences is being created out of nothing, second by second by second.
(this talk also appears in Beck's book Nothing Special; cf. Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking (2014-11-01), ...)
- Thursday, August 06, 2015 at 04:51:00 (EDT)
"Well, I've resolved to try not to talk so much," I say. "And so now I mostly talk about THAT." Kristin laughs; Nathan has just commented on how quiet the Dawn Patrol is today. We revisit the Windy Hill Rd path to Hooking Rd to Coan St (see 2015-06-10 - Windy Hill Path) and then continue down Old Dominion to meander through quiet neighborhood byways that Kerry knows. No rabbit sightings, but plenty of stone-facade houses and lion statues flanking front doors. Hydrangeas are starting to fade, but Rose-of-Sharon are blossoming. Discussion topics include dry needling, cognitive fallacies, redneck comedy, Bayesian reasoning, and silly movies. Oliver Platt, in Lake Placid, explains how he knows something: "They conceal information like that in books," Near trek's end, as we wait to cross Great Falls Rd at Magarity, a cyclist shouts, "Get a move on, Mark!" Who was that begoggled-and-helmeted man?
- Wednesday, August 05, 2015 at 04:18:58 (EDT)
In the Washington Post "Inspired Life" online section a few weeks ago, Brigid Schulte offered some suggestions (supposedly based on "neuroscience", but that part doesn't matter!) re things to do that might help one be more creative and insightful:
Not bad — especially if one wants to be clean and well-rested while wrestling with a wicked problem!
(cf. Creativity Quotes, ...)
- Tuesday, August 04, 2015 at 07:18:02 (EDT)
|"Sahara Desert dust!" explains a helpful fellow passenger during the hazy final approach into Austin Texas a few evenings ago. At dawn a crescent moon peeks between clouds. Temps in the mid-70s feel warmer at 90% relative humidity. Selfie pauses keep the pace comfortable.|
Bees buzz under blooming bird-of paradise bushes that hang low over the sidewalk. A sign in front of Paco's Tacos asks whether soy milk is really regular milk introducing itself in Spanish. The Texas Rangers park their motorboat in front of a mobile crime lab. A car labeled "Zombie Transport - Level 6 Threat" is up the street from Zein's School of Bellydance and south of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge. By the highway a cross bedecked with flowers and pinwheels commemorates Francis Minter, who passed away a couple of years ago.
Friend Sarah on a long trip with her daughter texts greetings from 1400 miles northwest. All roads are one!
- Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at 04:17:58 (EDT)
Buddha Buddy Sarah Miller Beebe, in an online chat, observed a few weeks ago:
|Happiness is not a product of something, but just a state of being. It just is. So it is always there.|
(cf. Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), ...)
- Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 05:01:53 (EDT)
"Increment the rabbit count!" Nathan shouts back to Beth and me. He and Kristin trot ahead as we loop around neighborhood streets on a warm, humid morning. Nathan shows us a natural-surface path around the north side of McLean High School. A lady in an eye-catching pink running skirt with ruffles dashes across our path within the first mile. A car honks as it pauses for a dog-walker to cross Chain Bridge Road; the pedestrian curses back. "Maybe he was just saying 'Hi!'?" I tell the angry man. Beth starts with us at 7am. She and I compare notes on common running acquaintances, and laugh together at how serious some race training groups are. Not our style! Bunny total = 3.
- Monday, July 27, 2015 at 04:11:40 (EDT)
... just attending to the now, with no purpose, no method, nothing to attain ...
( cf. Being Nobody, Going Nowhere (2008-10-18), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Goals and Failure (2014-12-13), Now and Here (2015-06-07), ...)
- Sunday, July 26, 2015 at 06:51:25 (EDT)
"You had nothing left to live for!" I hypothesize, when Nathan Welch tells of his weight loss during a 3-month experiment with going vegan and giving up alcohol and caffeine. Nathan meets all the requirements for joining the Dawn Patrol: he shows up. Kerry, Kristin, and I entertain him with stories of our recent runs and associated injuries. Humidity is off the charts and we're all soon dripping with sweat. On Great Falls St a new-looking iPhone lies apparently crushed by traffic. But Nathan powers it up and manages to contact the owner, who is thrilled at the news it has been found. I manage not to fall while peering at the Bikram yoga window facing the W&OD Trail at Route 7. Front yard rabbit count = 1.
- Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 09:47:36 (EDT)
In Chapter 2 ("Awakening from the Trance: The Path of Radical Acceptance") of Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach talks about living within pain:
The poet Rumi saw clearly the relationship between our wounds and our awakening. He counseled, "Don't turn away. Keep your gaze on the bandaged place. That's where the light enters you. " When we look directly at the bandaged place without denying or avoiding it, we become tender toward our human vulnerability. Our attention allows the light of wisdom and compassion to enter.
In this way, times of great suffering can become times of profound spiritual insight and opening. Nearly all of us have faced seasons in our life where everything seemed to be falling apart. At these times, all the beliefs upon which we based our life are torn from their moorings; we thought we understood how to live life but now we feel lost in a stormy sea. As the storm quiets, we begin to see our life with freshness and a striking clarity.
- Friday, July 24, 2015 at 04:12:17 (EDT)
"We have to enclose some area!" is my only request for the route around Cara Marie's neighborhood. So we walk and jog, divert past a tiny cemetery, and catch up on gossip. The evening is cool as clouds move in from the south. CM is doing well.
(trackfile) - ^z
- Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 04:54:26 (EDT)
"They worship money!" Mary explains, when I express puzzlement at the lack of Sunday-go-to-Church traffic on the mansion-lined neighborhood streets. We meet at Michael Faraday Dr and begin our trek along the Lake Fairfax Trail, but find it rather muddy. A scrawny doe eyes us and runs away at an old golf course near Hunter Mill Rd. Our return via the W&OD horse trail and bikepath is uneventful. Recovery brunch at Taco Bell — yay!
- Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 04:52:12 (EDT)
In Sharon Salzberg's book Lovingkindness the epigraph at the beginning of Chapter 3 ("Facets of Lovingkindness") is attributed to the Sufi mystic poet Rumi:
| A pearl goes up for auction.|
No one has enough,
So the pearl buys itself.
So strange and resonant! But where is the source of that translation? A version in Mystical Poems of Rumi gives a 1968 rendering by A. J. Arberry, the less-resonant: "The pearl held auction, saying, 'Who will buy this?' None had the price, so the pearl bought itself from itself." Perhaps someone, uncredited, revised that?
- Wednesday, July 22, 2015 at 04:15:45 (EDT)
|Fog hangs low over the Potomac as Kerry, Kristin, Willie, and I set off down the Capital Crescent Trail from Fletchers Boathouse. On the odd Friday Federal 3 July holiday the Park Police fail to close Rock Creek to traffic until 8:30am, so we stick to the shoulder and leap aside as cars zoom past. Willie (age 17) is energetic and runs ahead, does push-ups and chin-ups, and finishes 20 minutes before the rest of us.|
We experiment with nutrition and hydration, wade through puddles, and walk much of the final miles. Trail talk includes tattoos, chafing, and less-mentionable topics. I reminisce about past runs on this route, including donuts found on the ground in Bethesda — yummy!
- Tuesday, July 21, 2015 at 05:18:22 (EDT)
|It's Our Practice|
... no matter how frustrating, boring, or scary: every moment is an opportunity to pay attention, to monitor one's reactions and let them go, and to notice the spaces between ...
... and maybe for short, just: IMP = "It's My Practice" ...
(cf. Try It for a Few Years (2009-05-19), Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expect Nothing (2012-02-20), Honor Your Practice (2013-01-04), ...)
- Monday, July 20, 2015 at 04:14:25 (EDT)
"... if I ever want a 20 mile warm-up before I do a 10k!", says Beth Masimore. It's her criterion for running a marathon. "Hmmmm — we'll see about that!" I think. We loop around the Pimmit Hills 'hood, enjoying the sunrise, comparing notes on local running clubs, and critiquing the architecture of mini-mansions and more modest houses. Early morning thunderstorms have left the streets wet and some parts of the region without electricity. Sharon sees us start and Kristin spies us as we finish. Witnesses: yay!
- Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 06:53:54 (EDT)
A doe and fawn munch grass by the W&OD Trail as cyclists zoom past. Mary Ewell and I do an out-and-back to the church near the Carolina Brothers BBQ place, with great conversation all along the way. Hip adductor twinges tolerably.
- Sunday, July 19, 2015 at 06:50:07 (EDT)
From Charlotte Joko Beck's Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith), at the end of "Beginning Zen Practice":
But sitting is not something that we do for a year or two with the idea of mastering it. Sitting is something we do for a lifetime. There is no end to the opening up that is possible for a human being. Eventually we see that we are the limitless, boundless ground of the universe. Our job for the rest of our life is to open up into that immensity and to express it. Having more and more contact with this reality always brings compassion for others and changes our daily life. We live differently, work differently, relate to people differently. Zen is a lifelong study. It isn't just sitting on a cushion for thirty or forty minutes a day. Our whole life becomes practice, twenty-four hours a day.
(the same talk also appears in Everyday Zen; cf. Juggling Enlightenment (2014-08-07), Giving Up Hope (2014-09-01), No-Self and the Space of Wonder (2014-10-20), No-Self (2014-12-25), No Drama (2015-01-16), No Expectation (2015-01-02), Enlightenment Is Not (2015-07-06), ...)
- Saturday, July 18, 2015 at 09:01:20 (EDT)
A Texas-sized summer solstice sun begins to peek through low clouds during the 8th 800 meter interval. Shoes are still soggy-stinky from Friday's thunderstorm run, in spite of sitting outside for a day and a half. Nothing dries well at 90+ percent humidity. Best throw them away before tomorrow's flight back from Austin to DC, lest they arouse the ire of TSA inspectors!
A raccoon lumbers across Susquehanna St at 6:10am and two cats play in the grass in front of Winn Elementary School. Spiral ramps lead to the pedestrian overpass across US Hwy 183. Duck through a hole in the fence near the corner of Tumbleweed and Purple Sage to reach the LBJ High School track. Commence running pairs of laps with a half-lap recovery walk between each repeat.
Resist the temptation to stop prematurely as hip adductors, psoas, and less-mentionable ligaments in the groin begin to twinge during the fifth interval. Is the achiness due to too much stretching, or too little? Too many core-strengthening planks, or too few? Whatever! Stick to Lane 2 just to make life a wee bit harder. Ponder the analogy, "Speedwork is to Racing as ...?" (cf. RunningVersusTraining for one answer — remember a racier metaphor for "Mathematics is to Physics as ..." often attributed to Richard Feynman)
Finish with a burst of energy, and take pulse to find it in the near-180 zone. Wave at the pair of local residents smoking on their front porch while watching the crazy codger. Limp home with lots of walk breaks, pausing to pick up a corroded cent on the street. Transcribe timing data for pairs of laps from the stopwatch: 3:56 + 3:59 + 4:00 + 3:56 + 3:59 + 3:58 + 3:58 + 4:01 + 3:56 + 3:54 — whee! And the dizziness (BPPV) that develops that night? Perhaps from dehydration?
- Friday, July 17, 2015 at 05:39:36 (EDT)
^z and Dad, aka Werner Zimmermann, on Father's Day of 2015:
- Thursday, July 16, 2015 at 05:12:16 (EDT)
Soggy Selfie! — intermittent drizzle suddenly shifts to wanton deluge and thunder rumbles at the Texas State Capitol. Groundskeepers take refuge, leaving lawnmower engines running. On East 12th near Perez St a free-range front yard rooster and three hens scurry into the bushes to avoid being photographed. Cacti and sunflowers encroach on the sidewalk. Jets on final approach to Austin airport peek through low clouds. In the University of Texas physics library I leave a puddle on the marble floor as a kind student fills my water bottle from the coffee shop sink. I break my vow against Old Codgerdom and tell her "I attended UT in 1971!" <sigh>
- Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at 04:14:45 (EDT)
|"Possibility, not Expectation"|
... or, abbreviated for texting and quick invocation: PnE!
(cf. Without Effort, Analysis, or Expectation (2010-08-04), Expectations vs. Possibilities (2013-08-13), Processes not Goals (2014-02-20), Aspiration, not Expectation (2014-12-12), No Expectation (2015-01-02), ... )
- Tuesday, July 14, 2015 at 05:32:04 (EDT)
"Boys and Toys!" Kristin teases as I play with the air compressor for bicycles while she and Kerry pause to drink from the fountain on the W&OD Trail near Little Falls Rd. A big bunny watches us pass. Later a small one with anomalously short ears sits on the walkway by Magarity Rd and VA-267. Today Kristin's energy level is highest. She pulls Kerry and me up the hills, especially during the final miles.
"Wind chimes for cyclists?" We speculate that it would sound prettier than the bells that some use, and would be safer for the racers who zoom by us with no warning. Humidity is high. The sun peeks between clouds, and a few sprinkles fall just after we finish. On the ground near McLean High School I pick up an unopened "Choco Heim" Korean candy package. It contains Pocky-like chocolate-hazelnut wafers. Woot!
- Monday, July 13, 2015 at 10:23:19 (EDT)
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness suffers, like many modern Buddhist books, from excessive self: author Sharon Salzberg writes with wisdom but too often can't resist first-person storytelling and semi-celebrity name-dropping from ashram encounters. Then there's too-frequent ancient-authority citation, not to mention heavy Pali-ism — unnecessary use of jargon from that dead Indo-Aryan language (chitta, karuma, mudita, upekkha, ...) when less-distracting words would work far better and avoid ineffibility syndrome.
But — and it's a big but! — there's still much magic in Lovingkindness. For starters, beautiful images worth remembering from the end of Chapter 1 ("The Revolutionary Art of Happiness"):
... An enlightened being such as the Buddha symbolizes that quality of health, freedom, love—the highest aspirations of humankind. Whether the Buddha was alone or with people, whether he was teaching and serving or living in solitude, he was effortlessly aware of wholeness. His happiness was not bound to any particular situation, subject to change. The Thai meditation master Ajahn Chah describes this happiness which we can attain through meditation practice: "Your mind will become still in any surroundings, like a clear forest pool. All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool, and you will clearly see the nature of all things. You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go, but you will be still. This is the happiness of the Buddha." The unbounded happiness of the Buddha was founded on the clear seeing and compassion running through his life in all circumstances. This is "suchness."
This happiness transforms us within and revolutionizes our perspective on the world without. In fact, the concept of within and without itself disappears.
Resting fully in the present is the source of this happiness. We open to our own experience, and inevitably that opens us to others. To be truly happy in this world is a revolutionary act because true happiness depends upon a revolution in ourselves. It is a radical change of view that liberates us so that we know who we are most deeply and can acknowledge our enormous ability to love. We are liberated by the truth that every single one of us can take the time and pay attention ...
Further excerpts and observations to follow ...
(cf. Steadiness of Heart (2011-07-13), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), Bodhichitta, Maitri, Shunyata (2014-07-16), 0-1 (2014-08-29), Heartfulness and Mindfulness (2014-12-15), Wisdom, Love, Life (2015-04-08), ...)
- Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 12:26:18 (EDT)
"Watch out for copperheads!" Mary Ewell warns as we circumnavigate Lake Fairfax on the weedy narrow path. Dragonflies flit and ducks dabble. A stream crossing gives us cool toes and soggy socks. Mountain bikers are mostly courteous, but a young fisherman unknowingly threatens those who pass behind her as she whips back her pole to cast. After the warm humid run: a deli lunch, an oenophile shopping expedition, and ongoing great conversation. TY, Dr M!
- Saturday, July 11, 2015 at 16:46:22 (EDT)
"And who is feeling that?" Clair Sullivan poses the archetypal Zen question. She's in town for an intensive data science/analysis course, and so we take an early Sunday morning trek along the Western Ridge Trail starting at Peirce Mill, returning along Rock Creek. Clair pushes mirror shades up onto her forehead as we enter the woods. We pause to admire spiderwebs and sunbeams, a stack of stones in a tributary stream, a picnic bench gone flotsam in the middle of the channel. Conversation is wonderful. Thank you, Prof CJ!
- Saturday, July 11, 2015 at 16:43:35 (EDT)
|Stress - Recover - Improve|
... from Kenny Moore's biography Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, in a speech by coach Bill Bowerman to new students:
... Take a primitive organism ... any weak, pitiful organism. Say a freshman. Make it lift, or jump or run. Let it rest. What happens? A little miracle. It gets a little better. It gets a little stronger or faster or more enduring. That's all training is. Stress. Recover. Improve. ...
... and of course, it applies to far more in life than mere physical activity!
(cf. 2006-08-19 - Shaky Ladder 'Speedwork', ...)
- Friday, July 10, 2015 at 14:51:56 (EDT)
"The coffee machine exploded!" Kerry reports as we trot along Balls Hill Rd. She's running on no caffeine and little sleep, with a long day ahead, so we start/finish in her 'hood and do a hilly natural-surface trail out-and-back into Scott's Run Park. Turnaround is at the Old Homestead, where only a stone chimney remains. We glimpse the Potomac River through the trees. Kristin and I enjoy the car air conditioner for the ride back to the office after a quick cooldown walk.
- Thursday, July 09, 2015 at 04:48:15 (EDT)
"Red rubber ball!" The rising sun behind Dr Kristin and me glints crimson off an office building as we cross the Beltway bridge on Route 7. Our path meanders through Tysons Corner, past a Peter Pan circus tent being raised, by a new Silver Line Metro station, and then along a rough-trimmed hedge where I scrape knuckles against dead branches. Sidewalks lead us under the Toll Road to Lewinsville Rd where one small mansion features an African-style statue by the front door.
The adventure continues when we decide to explore Windy Hill Rd. Just before it dead-ends a runner in a green shirt emerges from a narrow grassy trail in front of us. He gives us directions on how to find our way through, first to Hooking Rd and then via an asphalt path to Coan St, Dulany Dr, and eventually terra cognita at the intersection of Old Dominion and Balls Hill Rd. Kristin spots three rabbits during the final miles of our ramble. Thick woods, blue-and-white hydrangeas, and chirping birds are a beautiful escape from urban traffic.
- Thursday, July 09, 2015 at 04:31:00 (EDT)
Amazing: the terror that many people have about losing things — especially their minds. A local paper featured it on the front page recently, in an article titled "Alzheimer's spurs the fearful to change their lives to delay it". The catalogue of stuff that these people consume or do, in their attempts to fight entropy, is long: fish oil, exercise, vitamins, crossword puzzles, blueberries, foreign language study, ....
How many of these regimes are likely to make any difference? Studies are unreliable: small, uncontrolled, anecdotal, flawed. And how much of now do fretful folks let slip, irretrievably, via denial and worry and running-down-rabbit-holes?
Better: Let Go the fantasy of possessing, forever, the mental state and abilities that one has (or imagines having). Accept the change that comes inevitably with time. Explore the new mind that every morning brings. Enjoy the gift of the present. (groan!)
And, perhaps, Experiment with new ways of thinking. For example, many classic psychology experiments show decreasing performance by older people in speed of recall, accuracy of recognition, or effort required to learn new relationships. Recent research, however, suggests an alternative interpretation, driven by the information-theoretic phenomena of search-and-retrieval complexity as the number of stored concepts grows. Thomas Hills  writing for Psychology Today summarizes a 2014 paper by Michael Ramscar et al. "The Myth of Cognitive Decline: Non-Linear Dynamics of Lifelong Learning".
Maybe, when the statistics and computational complexity are properly understood, people can begin to learn better ways of organizing their memories? Could optimizing hash tables or rebuilding binary trees help? (Or perhaps even better: Sherlock Holmes' solution of learning to forget the irrelevant? cf. Memory Leaks)
For fun, glance over the following list ("The 50 lowest frequency items in the set used to test the models and the older and young adults" in Ramscar's paper) and judge which are words that you've seen before, are which are fake word-like strings:
BLASH - SCHNOOK - LETCH - ZOUNDS - JAPE - SOUSE - WHIG - FILCH - RHEUM - PARCH - CROME - GIBE - LISLE - FLAYS - SPLOTCH - VELDT - SLOE - CONK - FRAPPE - SKULK - TWERP - THWACK - DAUNT - RETCH - GYP - YAWL - FLUB - STANCH - PAUNCH - JOWL - WHELP - SHUCK - MOOCH - JELL - GROUCH - AWN - MANSE - WRACK - HOOCH - FLECK - BLEAT - CHIVE - WHIR - CROON - TAMP - BOSH - RILE - BLANCH - LILT - JEER
Well, as with most psychology exams, there's a trick: they're arguably all legitimate words in a large-vocabulary English-speaker written-language-exposure sense. Moreover, Ramscar et al. point out that even this many items is far too few to be a proper measure of a well-read person's linguistic exposure, given the long tail of the word-frequency distribution curve. Older test subjects may respond more slowly to vocabulary tests because they have seen many more words than younger subjects, and have more data to cross-correlate.
So instead of panic about dementia, isn't it better to let go the past, say "Yes, and..." to now, and leap into the future — with a smile?
- Wednesday, July 08, 2015 at 04:16:31 (EDT)
"So cute!" A tiny fawn stands nervously beside its mommy doe in the waters of Dead Run, just downstream of Benjamin St. Kerry and Kristin and I pause to stare and coo at the dear deer. At the crest of the next hill Kristin spies a wee bunny. It hops into the garden bushes as we approach."So cute!"
We experiment with the reverse of our usual McLean mansion route, adding a digression down Lawton St to an unexpected dead end. In this direction the paths feel new and maybe faster. Kristin leads us in a sprint for the final mile, to get Kerry back in time for morning meetings. A cool breeze feels great on the face!
- Tuesday, July 07, 2015 at 05:07:43 (EDT)
From Charlotte Joko Beck's collection of talks Now Zen (edited by Steve Smith), in "Beginning Zen Practice" (which also appears in her book Everyday Zen):
Enlightenment is not something you achieve. It is the absence of something. All your life you have been going forward after something, pursuing some goal. Enlightenment is dropping all that. But to talk about it is of little use. The practice has to be done by each individual. There is no substitute. We can read about it until we are a thousand years old and it won't do a thing for us. We all have to practice, and we have to practice with all of our might for the rest of our lives.
(cf. Giving Up Hope (2014-09-01), Goals and Failure (2014-12-13), Now and Here (2015-06-07), ...)
- Monday, July 06, 2015 at 04:21:52 (EDT)
For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2015 by Mark Zimmermann.)