Monthly Archives: October 2005

FInally – a fish with a bicycle!

we make money not art: Vehicle piloted by a fish

Seith Weiner has created a vehicle piloted by a fish and propelled by 2 drive wheels, each driven by its own servomotor. The fish steers the vessel by its movements. A camera above the cockpit tracks the movements of the Terranaut (that’s the name of the fish-pilot). Its location is then wirelessly transmitted to a remote processing station where the data is converted into motion commands and transmitted back to the motion controller of the vehicle.

Its about time!

Sitting


Renoir, Seated Bather

Cat sits in the sun.
Dog sits in the grass.
Turtle sits on the rock.
Frog sits on the lily pad.
Why aren’t people so smart?

Those who follow Tao are fond of pointing out the wisdom of animals. When they see a cat sitting motionless in the sun or a turtle who stretches her head upward in a still pose, they say that these animals are meditating. They know how to be still and conserve their internal energy. They do not dissipate themselves in useless activity but instead withdraw into themselves to recharge.

It is only people who label meditation as some sort of odd religious activity. This is not the actual case. Something like meditation happens when we sleep, or when we are absorbed in reading a book, or when we “daydream” and become so lost in a thought or an image that we do not notice what is going on around us.

There is no reason to think of meditation as something out of the ordinary. Quite the opposite. Meditation is the purest and most natural expression we can have. When you next look at a cat or a dog sitting still, and admire the naturalness of their actions, think then of your own life. Don’t meditate because it is a part of your schedule or is demanded by your particular philosophy. Meditate because this is natural.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Nan-yueh Huai-jang (677-744)

There’s a great story in Wu’s Golden Age of Zen of how Huai-jang, who had been a disciple of Hui-neng, paid a visit to the young Ma-tsu:

“Before he [Ma-tsu] was twenty, he was already a professed monk. After his profession, he went to the Nan-yueh Mountain, where he practiced by himself sitting-in-meditation. At that time Huai-jang was the Abbot of the Prajna Temple on Nan-yueh Mountain. Seeing Ma-tsu, he recognized him by intuition as a vessel of the Dharma. So he visited him in his cell, asking, ‘In practicing sitting-in-meditation, what does Your Reverence aspire to attain?’ ‘To attain Buddhahood!’ was the answer. Huai-jang then took up a piece of brick and began to grind it against a rock in front of Ma-tsu’s cell. After some moments Ma-tsu became curious and asked, ‘What are you grinding it for?’ ‘I want to grind it into a mirror,’ Huai-jang replied. Greatly amused, Ma-tsu said, ‘How can you hope to grind a piece of brick into a mirror?’ Huai-jang fired back, ‘Since a piece of brick cannot be ground into a mirror, how then can you sit yourself into a Buddha?’

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion” — Henry David Thoreau

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

“If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently.” — Bill Watterson

“We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things… but there are times when we stop. We sit sill. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.” — James Carroll

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams. Yet we are movers and the shakers of the world forever it seems.” — Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”
— Blaise Pascal

“We dance around the ring and suppose, but the secret sits in the middle and knows”
— Robert Frost

“Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.”
— T.S. Eliot

“Sit in reverie, and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I sit a lot, of course — in front of my computer. I am rarely able to just sit and do nothing at all. I think it is part of being an American – we are always supposed to be busy people, always doing something. People will usually ask, after who you are, “And what do you do?” We are not allowed to simply be in our society. We must be productive, useful people or we are made to feel we are nothing at all.

I think this is a major sickness in our society. Even when people have nothing to do, they have to be entertained – watching television or listening to their ipods on the train or bus, instead of just being content to observe the world around them. I am always struck when I walk into someone’s house and the only thing of any interest in a room is the gigantic television screen – like something right out of 1984.

My animals are quite smart about sitting. The cats love to sit in the window and soak up sunshine, or in my lap to soak up my warmth. The dogs usually prefer lying down to sitting, but they do their own meditation while lying around my feet. My own meditations are typically sitting in the garden, staring at the flowers or hummingbirds or just enjoying the warmth of the sun, when it is out, which it certainly isn’t today.

Today I think I shall do my sitting at Panera, enjoying some soup for lunch. I’ll probably take a book along so I don’t look like I’m just staring at people, but the real fun is watching other people.

I have to admit, meditation is difficult for me. And I don’t think it should be. It should be easy and natural, but it isn’t. So, I enjoy the Tao in my own way. Because, really, sitting isn’t the point. The point is to feel your inner self connected with the Tao. If sitting and meditating is what helps you feel connected, then great. If it isn’t, then find what does help. And then try the meditation again, and see how different it feels.

Balance


Bill Dan Rock Balancing

Summer withered grass to flaxen yellow,
Scorched leaves to brittle paper,
Dried lakes to cracked clay.
Chill autumn brought little relief —
Only frosted the devastation.
But with the early gentle rains,
The earth’s fissures softened
And desiccated plants began to dissolve.
Slowly, balance comes once again.

Many cultures describe old people as having seen many winters. Those elders have seen many cycles come and go, and their wisdom comes from long observation of life’s rising and falling.

If we have a long-range view, then we realize that equilibrium comes in the course of nature’s progression. Nature does not achieve balance by keeping to one level. Rather, elements and seasons alternate with one another in succession. Balance, as defined by Tao, is not stasis but a dynamic process of many overlapping alternations; even if some phases seem wildly excessive, they are balanced by others.

Everything has its place. Everything has its season. As events turn, balance is to know what is here, what is coming, and how to be in perfect harmony with it. Then one attains a state of sublimity that cannot be challenged.

“The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us. If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise man.” — Euripides

“There’s no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves” — Frank Herbert

“The universe, they said, depended for its operation on the balance of four forces which they identified as charm, persuasion, uncertainty and bloody-mindedness.”
— Terry Pratchett

“True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed.” — Tom Robbins

We enjoyed a beautiful October rain here in San Diego. The hills around us are now starting to turn from a parched brown to their lovely sage green. My garden is sproting a number of rose blooms. and the grass is a lovely dark green. Summer’s over.

I look for balance in everything – my personal life, the garden, the world around me, the political scene. I see a lot of instability right now, so many things that are unsustainable in the way we deal with environmental issues and politics. Right now, the strongest hurricane ever measured in the Atlantic ocean is churning near Cuba. Right now, our political administration awaits possible indictments for outing a CIA agent. Right now, we teeter on an economic edge, waiting for any blow that could sink us into a recession or depression. Right now, the wealthiest among us are doing great, while the poorest struggle to survive in an ever more out of balance economic system. This is why I’m following politics and the economy — so I know what is ahead, even though people tell me it doesn’t matter who is in office, it doesn’t matter what is happening in the economy. These things do matter.

Change is in the air. The seasons are changing, the cold of winter is ahead. It will most likely be a very wet, rainy season here. Time to get ready. My street is being slurry-sealed today, so at least I know our roads here will be in good shape. Soon I’ll get my garden cleaned up, ready for winter. My new doors are in, the last of the big inside home projects complete. We still need to do the rain gutters and fix the block wall outside. I seem to be trying to add my winter layer of fat, so I’ve got to watch that! Our bodies know what’s ahead, even as we remain unaware that balance returns.

Transformation

M.C. Escher, Butterfly

You hurt me years ago;
My wounds bled for years.
Now you are back,
But I am not the same.

In the past, warriors fought by striking the same points that acupuncturists use. One famous swordsman nearly died in a duel in which his opponent attacked him in such a way. After that, the swordsman became a wanderer and tried to renounce the martial life. Years later, his enemy found him and challenged him to duel again. They fought. In the first flurry of blows, the aggressor stepped back in surprise. The swordsman smiled and said, “I trained for twenty years to move my vulnerable spots.” With that, he was finally able to triumph.

Spirituality is a process of inner healing. The wounds of the past can be the greatest obstacles for self-cultivation unless we find them all and heal them. This task can take years, but we must accomplish it.

In many cases, our wounds were inflicted by other people — enemies. This is subtle. Our enemies can be others on the street, or people much more intimate with us : parents, teachers, siblings, lovers, friends.

If we move away from such people and succeed in our practice, they will have no chance to come back in our lives. How can they? We change whatever made us vulnerable in the first place.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
— Joseph Campbell

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.” — Cherrie Moraga

“Whoever undertakes to create soon finds himself engaged in creating himself. Self-transformation and the transformation of others have constituted the radical interest of our century, whether in painting, psychiatry, or political action.” — Harold Rosenberg

“Politics in the United States consists of the struggle between those whose change has been arrested by success or failure, on one side, and those who are still engaged in changing themselves, on the other. Agitators of arrested metamorphosis versus agitators of continued metamorphosis. The former have the advantage of numbers (since most people accept themselves as successes or failures quite early), the latter of vitality and visibility (since self-transformation, though it begins from within, with ideology, religion, drugs, tends to express itself publicly through costume and jargon).”
— Harold Rosenberg

After a bitter quarrel, some resentment must remain.
What can one do about it?
Therefore the sage keeps his half of the bargain but does not exact his due.
A man of Virtue performs his part;
But a man without Virtue requires others to fulfil their obligations.
The Tao of heaven is impartial.
It stays with good men all the time.

Tao Te Ching, 79

Ah, this one hits deep today… probably to the very heart of what first led me to the Tao.

I have been hurt three times by good friends stepping out of my life. Two were male friends I had fallen in love with, and was involved way too deeply with for friendship, so I suppose it is understandable that they walked away, although it hurt very much. One was a female friend who walked away after I called her on her gossipping behavior about me and one of the male friends. That was actually the deepest blow. I have few female friends in my life and to lose one was devastating. Plus, with the way I had acted and the way people responded to me, it was simply a very difficult period of life for me. I pretty much fell apart.

The good news when that happens is, you may get a chance to rebuild, and become someone who is put together slightly differently. I wouldn’t say I have really changed, I would say that what is vulnerable about me has changed. I certainly am not vulnerable in the same places. For one thing, medication controls what I discovered was actually a chemical imbalance problem that led to my obsessive behavior about love and friendship. For another, my own personality has integrated to a more complete whole that simply doesn’t need the level of friendship that is important to most people. I don’t need daily involvement with other people to feel I’m a good person, I simply know that I am, and my own company is almost always sufficient. Other people have become a bonus in my life, not a necessity.

I don’t expect those people will ever be in my life again- which was one of my deepest regrets for so long. But then, I realized what I loved about them will always be with me, since in reality, what I loved in them was what they brought out in me and led me to feel. And that, they could never take away. The best things that we love in others are really a part of ourselves, that we hold forever in our hearts and minds. And what we discover is that we have no need to fear others or interacting with them, since what we actually feared was our own fears, not anything they did to us or we did to them. They may still have their fears of people like me, but I’ve moved beyond fear. And that is a wonderful place to be.

Update: This post keeps growing, but I had to add this:

“When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

For as long as you remember me, I am never entirely lost. When I’m feeling most ghost-like, it is your remembering me that helps remind me that I actually exist. When I’m feeling sad, it’s my consolation. When I’m feeling happy, it’s part of why I feel that way.

If you forget me, one of the ways I remember who I am will be gone. If you forget, part of who I am will be gone. When you remember me, it means that you have carried something of who I am with you, that I have left some mark of who I am on who you are. It means that you can summon me back to your mind even though countless years and miles may stand between us. It means that if we meet again, you will know me. It means that even after I die, you can still see my face and hear my voice and speak to me in your heart.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” the good thief said from his cross (Luke 23:42). There are perhaps no more human words in all of Scripture, no prayer we can pray so well. ”

Frederick Buechner

Another update: Adding a poem from Personal Tao:

Fire Juggling

Risking everything that I am
to become myself

Juggling balls of fire
where the fire is my own spirit

Transformation is never easy
Watching who you are crumble
While growing into the wonder of something new

— Casey Kochmer

Merging


Kate McCavitt, Merge

Take the sun. Put it in your heart.
Take the moon. Pull it to your belly.
Draw down the Big Dipper.
Merge with the Northern Star.

We have gone from distant views of gods to a more inner-oriented one. In the past, our relationship was viewed vertically : People were in a subordinate position and the gods were supreme. Without much effort, we can see that this point of view was a reflection of feudalistic definitions and childlike emotions.

By contrast, those who follow Tao declare that gods do not exist.

To think this blasphemous is to miss the point. Rather, those who follow Tao seek a relationship with the divine in which there is no division. They are seeking a state of oneness.

If people are one with their god, then it stands to reason that there is no division between them. If there is no division between them, then they are god and god is them. This doesn’t mean that a person can do all the things that gods are supposedly able to do. Instead, they attain a state of being and understanding where there are no distinctions, fears, or uncertainties about what is divine.

That is why we sometimes contemplate bringing the stars into our very being. We want to merge with Tao. In essence, we become Tao and Tao becomes us.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

Tao Te Ching, 16

Have you ever had one of those days when everything goes your way, your work feels effortless, you know what is coming next and things flow smoothly all day? That is the experience of being with the Tao. When you feel yourself as a part of everything around you and stop trying to fight with the world, you move to a state of being at peace with everything. The feeling of oneness can be overwhelming, as if you have stopped existing as a separate entity at all.

When we are separated from the Tao, we feel out of sorts, cranky, angry and exhausted. Everything requires effort, everything is a burden. When I feel this way, I like to get out in the garden and reconnect, or just go someplace quiet and regain my focus.

For today, though, there is painting to do…. and not the fun kind, but the work kind. Off to paint doors!

Horizon

Single line drawn from one ocular corner to the other.
White clouds firmly tethered to shadows.
What is close at hand must first appear on the horizon.
What is cast upon us always has a source.

Life need not be the travesty of confusion and disorganization that it seems to be for so many people. When one feels this way, it is nearly always due to two things : Either one isn’t even looking, or one’s vantage point is too low.

Those who follow Tao position themselves on high vantage points. Life never surprises them. Whatever is in their lives today, they foresaw many days before. Whatever is on the horizon, they take the time to prepare for. Such people are called wise, not because they have special abilities but because they take the care to view things from a high place.

Those who follow Tao also realize that all phenomena have a source. Just as shadows on the ground are cast because clouds float between the earth and the sun, so too are the events outside of ourselves cast into our minds. A reaction in our minds is like a shadow cast by an external event.

We can understand such phenomena clearly if we stand at a place where we can see them coming. We need to remember to deal with them not simply by how we feel, but also by looking at their external form, and even checking to see their source. If we take care to do this, then we shall never be deterred.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

“No matter how far a person can go the horizon is still way beyond you.” — Zora Neale Hurston

“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” — Dale Carnegie

“We should, all of us, be filled with gratitude and humility for our present progress and prosperity. We should be filled with awe and joy at what lies over the horizon. And we should be filled with absolute determination to make the most of it.” — Bill Clinton

“October is the fallen leaf, but it is also a wider horizon more clearly seen. It is the distant hills once more in sight, and the enduring constellations above them once again.” — Hal Borland

There are far too many of us who don’t even bother to look for what’s ahead of us. So many people seem to just live their lives as if it is a series of events that simply happen to them unexpectedly. But if you look for the patterns in their lives, you can see them repeated over and over.

Other people do plan ahead, but still fail to prepare for things that seem obvious in retrospect. I remeber walking through Washington D.C. a few weeks before the 9/11 attacks, and seeing the large concrete barriers around many of the buildings. My husband and I talked about them, and my comment was, “Well, if someone wanted to attack them, why wouldn’t they just simply fly a plane into the building? It’s not like anyone else couldn’t have noted the same thing, and in fact, many people in the government had planned and prepared to handle just such an attack, but they were ignored by those in charge.

It isn’t as if we can’t see things coming, if we are looking for them. Sailing ships always had their crow’s nest, where someone was posted to keep a watchful eye on the horizon. We don’t have crow’s nests, and may not live in a high vantage point, but mentally, we can try to have our inner eye looking for what is ahead of us, and preparing us to deal with it.

Some things in life are simply inevitable – our eventual death, for instance. After my mother’s death, and the resulting frustration for me of dealing with so many things like clearing out her house, finding all the assets, planning for the care of my sister and nephew, and a still unssettled estate, my husband and I had our own wills and trust set up, to make sure whoever has to handle things when we are gone has an easier time. We talked about getting rid of all the household goods and just moving into a furnished apartment when we get older. I don’t know that we will go that extreme, but it sure seemed like a good idea when clearing out so many decades of mom’s stuff.

Hopefullly dealing with those issues will be a long way out past the horizon for the moment. Other things can be planned for now, though. Cutting back on spending, keeping some extra cash on hand, planning for emergencies, knowing what to do if one happens, being trained in CPR and first aid are all examples of things people can do to plan ahead. It’s easy to just say, “Oh, no one could have expected this”. Easy, but foolish. And in many cases, unture. People do expect and prepare for many unfortunate events.

But what about fortunate events? How many people plan for love to come into their lives, especially inconvenient love? How many plan for their jobs and careers, instead of simply reacting to whatever comes along? I always knew I would be married with two children one day. I don’t know how I knew that, but I always did. I have usually been able to predict the course of any relationship I was in. I enjoyed them anyway, even the ones I knew would fail. The one lost friendship I didn’t predict was the one that devastated me completely. yet even then, I knew it was coming, but simply supressed my own realization of it. And in every case of lost friendships, and even of death, I knew well in advance that they would occur, even if I wouldn’t acknowledge it.

We supress so much of what we can really know, if we are really careful to listen to the clues life provides us. But so many times, we don’t really want to know.

We talk about those who have good luck in their lives, but what we don’t recognize is, maybe they just planned well.

And some things should be surprises. Even if you have to plan them.

Shauna at TBOP: What's a Little Solfeggio Between Friends?

The Blogging of the President

The poem which gives Japan its alphabetic, or more properly syllabic, order is known as the Iroha, after its first three syllables. The poem is a pangram–it makes use of all of the kana, and uses each one only once.

Iro wa nioedo
Chirinuru o
Wa ga yo tare zo
Tsune naran
Ui no okuyama
Kyō koete
Asaki yume miji
Ei mo sezu.

Translation: As flowers are brilliant but [inevitably] fall, / who could remain constant in our world? [No one could] / Today let us transcend the high mountain of transience, / and there will be no more shallow dreaming, no more drunkenness.

Santa Monica's Psychic Cat

I met Santa Monica’s psychic cats last night and got my fortune told by Wizard, a very cute brown tabby. Wizard says:

Without a doubt, you send such magnetizing waves that everybody admires you. Make use of that. Act in the direction you want, dare, don’t be afraid., don’t worry about financial decision.

Thy cycle of frustration (in work and health) is finished. Many of your problems are behind you. Have no regrets. Be demanding, persistent, reach out and grab it. Very truly yours,

Psychic cat, Los Angeles

Wizard also added a charm:

Don’t be confused, and a lot of merriment you’ll get instead. Don’t be despondent; gladness will come to your fine personality. Creative ideas will come to you more easily now.

Psychic cat, Los Angeles

Heh. Not bad, for a cat! If you run across the psychic cat, be sure to have your fortune told. He and his partner cat, Mystic, are very sweet!