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Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Frost Garden

The frost garden blooms once a year.  If you camp in it, tell me the sounds these ice ribbons must make at the moment of formation.   I was lazy and missed the magic event, but I did get up early enough to see the results in the moon light. 

For you, the best I can do for a night shot is to use the flash.  Pictures after dawn will be better.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Last Days of Fall in the Garden

Fall signals its last days with blankets of leaves on the water
Row row row your boat, gently down the stream ... merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream.   Life is like a dream, and it is much less scary if one can perceive the whole situation from outside their little canoe.   My head seems like a little canoe.   I'm on the river and I can't see around the next bend.  I can sometimes hear the rapids coming but I never know if these are the ones that are going to do me in or not.  One glimpse from outside the dream is all I needed to be comforted about the river, the scary bends, and this dream I am living.   No matter what happens, everything is going to be OK.  I have full permission to relax and enjoy the ride because that's the best way to go down the river.

Life was meant to be enjoyed, but sometimes I ride down the rapids like a child who is terrified on a roller coaster.   Yet, all I have to do to enjoy life is relax and have fun.  There is no reason to be afraid of anything because we all have the ability to see the river from outside the boat anytime we want.  It's as simple as letting go of the perspective from inside the boat for a little while.  Well, that is harder for some than others.  Seeing that there is more to existence than this dream we call life is worth the effort for all to be comforted.  

One puffy north wind will soon unveil the Christmas decorations
There is no real effort required other than to let go of the thoughts that normally occupy our attention.   Those thoughts are the only perspective of awareness that make the dream of life seem real.  Those logical thoughts make us afraid of living because they make us think that the end of the ride is the end.  There is no end.   No one needs to believe that.  One only must relax for a bit and let go of all thoughts altogether for a few minutes.   This task is quite difficult for some, but it is doable.   When the human brain is finally "really" silent, one's normal sense of awareness will begin to comprehend that its reference point has always been from inside the canoe.   Only when the mind is quiet, one can experience for themselves that their normal perspective is but a small component of their whole self.   I wish for everyone to invest the time and effort it takes to learn to perceive one's human experience from the perspective of their whole being.   

It doesn't matter if someone is an atheist and they want to label what they will find as "multiple personalities".  Nor does it matter if someone is a religious person and chooses to label what they will find as their soul.   Everyone will find a great reward and comfort in their life if they take the time to get to know the whole of their own being.  The gardens are beautiful and not much effort to tend what one will enjoy most.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Good Feeling Cold

  James is wishing for wizardry with words to better describe his experience this morning.  As he drifted off from his normally meaningless musing of the morning, he took a moment to contemplate:  "I actually like the cold.  I just like to be busy in the cold.  Don't ask me to sit still in a room that is at 68 degrees fahrenheit; that is like the dead of a hungry winter to me!  Why it could be 25 degrees outside and then it is a 'Good Feeling Cold'".   
And then he drifted off into a little trance.  He experienced what he meant by a good feeling cold.   He felt what it was like when last he experienced 25 degrees, riding up the ski-lift for the first snowboard run of the day.   That's a good feeling cold when you are so excited that you don't even feel it.   You unbutton your jacket in the wind to experience all that good feeling cold swash around your body, and your soul soaks it up and enjoys that cold air just as eagerly as it does the sun on the first day of spring.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Forget learning about how to be a good human...

...that's an advanced study course, and you're still in pre-school.  Your job is to remember how to be a good animal before you can be a good human.  Yesterday, you learned how to pick a tree to climb, how to climb it, how to lay on its branch and take a nap.  Today you will learn to eat a fruit.
When a hungry animal tears into a succulent piece of fruit, he doesn't devour it instantly to satisfy his hunger.  He takes the time to appreciate the perfect union of hunger and bounty.   He licks the inside of the fruit so gently that only his saliva is mixing with the tasty sugars inside.  And on the next lick he has a little more sugar and a little more sugar.   He doesn't have to worry about the seeds or the thorns because he is just tasting it for now.  

Hunger was meant to be savored.  As a wise parent will teach a child, eat slowly and give your tummy time to know when it is full.  It takes about 20 minutes for your tummy to tell your brain that it is full.  The lesson should go further, even for those of us who have healthy weight.  Eating can be a spiritual experience.  Eating fruit with the Creator is like eating a meal with a gourmet chef who is sitting there explaining to you exactly how best to enjoy his creation.  You can taste the juicy inside as it was meant to be enjoyed, in the perfect way, at the perfect moment.  And, as you lick the inside of the fruit, your physical body will experience the perfect flavor, and even the perfect texture.

Today was the first day that I've experienced eating a piece of fruit in this way ever before in my life.  It was awesome!  I never would have guessed that prickly pear fruit could taste so perfect.  One lesson is this:  focus less on eating the fruit and more on enjoying it.

Monday, October 6, 2014

New blooms popping up everywhere!

I've oddly decided to renovate a section of the secret garden.  I'm not sure if the area I have chosen is historically part of the secret garden or adjacent to it, but this section was in particular need.  The exhaust from one of those 'artificial' water retention ponds was washing a trench into this spot.   I've only recently, and still tentatively, volunteered myself as a steward to this area.  
This area, along the bend of an often dry creek, has a new and deeper feeling for me.  It seems as if some significant historical event happened here.  I'd be so curious to know.

This garden has become the most beautiful place on earth to me as I've taken the time to notice each new flower.  And even more exciting are the beautiful insects, like a pair of red dragon flies I saw flying in formation as miniature red barons.  Unfortunately, my personal camera skills where not sufficient to capture the airshow.  Shown above are flowers similar in color to the dragon flies, minus some cool black pent stripping.  The flowers will sit still for a photo op, and so we can all appreciate their patience!

What garden would be complete without a snake?  I met the owner of this on the trail this afternoon. 

He was there on the trail, enjoying the sun and warming up after shedding his skin in the water.  That is until I came up and scared him into a natural silt screen.

Well now I'm a bit reluctant to sit in that cool stone chair that sits just under the brush piles that the snake likes to hang out in.  I'm glad I noticed him before he slithered past me while I'm sitting down there.

Remember there was a television sitcom where the plot was about a flower fanatic?  The neighbor was growing a flower that will only bloom in the middle of the night, do you remember?  Maybe it was Mr. Wilson?  One must stay up all night to see the flower.  So it is that this secret garden has a flower like that.  It's called frost weed and it blooms on the first "cold as shit" night of winter.  One must stay up all night to actually see it bloom because the ice usually pops out of the plant as the temperature drops far below freezing in the middle of a Texas winter's night.  This 'ice' flower is a beautiful ribbon of frost.  If you miss the moment of violent creation, you must at least get your lazy butt down to the garden before the winter sun (in Texas) melts the ribbons.

Here, what looks a bit like a weed, I've highlighted some of them with rocks.  Hopefully when it blooms this winter in a dazzling display of ice, I will have a nice picture with a neat rocky background.  For now, the honey bees are enjoying the frost-weeds summertime foliage. 

Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy the flowers that are currently in full bloom also.

Next time you eat a perfectly ripened fruit, imagine that you are a hungry young monkey discovering the taste of sweet fruit for the first time.  This is how eagerly we should enjoy every moment of life.  Here in the garden, beauty-berry bushes grow wild.

While the fruit is not sweet, it is edible.  I've never eaten anything as bright of purple as this beauty-berry in all my life.   Best of all, the leaves make a natural mosquito repellent that actually works better than "DeepWoods Off".  Although, there is a strange side effect that the juice from the leaves also seems to attract flies.   At least the flies don't bite, and you have a second mosquito repelling mechanism at work for you ... your hands swatting at the flies also keeps the mosquitoes away.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Mind - Body Connection

This post is for anyone who believes that all new age mumbo-jumbo about the "Mind / Body" connection is bull-corn.  This is a non-mumbo-jumbo presentation based on common medical data about how the human body works.  I will frame all points in a context where anyone can experiment for themselves.

To start, you will need two pairs of extremely comfortable socks.  Go buy some new fancy socks now if you don't have a pair that just feel awesome.  In one pair, cut out a dime sized hole in the toe, right where your big toe goes.   Now, put the "holed" sock on and then shoes.  Go about the rest of your day and keep a little journal of your mood.  If that hole doesn't annoy you, please stop reading immediately and consult Jeff Foxworthy, because you might be a redneck.  At the very least, that dime sized hole will catch your attention more than a little too often!

So, at risk of being too dumb, I want to point out simply that discomfort in the body does get communicated all the way up to our brains, and that can absolutely affect our mood.  Clearly there are obvious channels of communication that go from mind to body (clinching one's fist) and from body to mind (feeling annoyed by a hole in one's sock).

We've all heard about comfort foods.  My favorite is Skinner macaroni noodles smothered with a whole loaf of molten Velveeta.  The next time you feel stressed, try this experiment:  Cook up a whole bag of noodles and drench them with cheese.  Fill up a full sized plate and stack it with as much as you can get on there.   Sit at the table and spend 5 minutes writing about your mood before you eat.  Then enjoy the food, and after you finish that plate, take a moment to savor how you feel.  You are home, you are in a shelter, you are safe for the moment, your belly feels good, and you are just about to go eat another whole plate full of cheese smothered noodles.  Just take a moment to notice how different your situation feels, and if its not any better ... I'm sorry, if that plate of mac-n-cheese doesn't make you feel better, then your problem is way serious.  You have my condolences.  Here's my point though:  Our bodies, in response to what we eat, do send messages to our brains that affect our mood and how we experience life.   And, even though we are often oblivious, there are rich streams of data that flow from our bodies to our minds all the time.

Our normal daily thoughts would be completely overwhelmed if every part of our bodies kept in touch as loudly as a big toe in the hole of a sock, and we would be beyond "annoyed" 24/7 if we noticed every part of our body that much and that often.   Our minds naturally train themselves to grow accustomed to those signals, but the signals are still being sent 24/7 and we are capable tuning our senses to any one signal.  Like anything else, with practice, we can get better and better at detecting all the subtle little messages that our bodies constantly report to our minds.

We should also remember that much information within the body is transmitted via chemical reactions ... like the release of adrenaline as an obvious example.  Chemical reactions take longer to propagate through the body to be processed by our brains.   So, the importance of that is to understand that there may be a long delay between the time when you punished your body doing something stupid, and the moment when you realize that you hurt yourself, like a hangover for example.  Many signals are more subtle than a hang over.  Some signals from body to mind are more difficult to detect, harder to know what is the proper corrective action, and easier to lead to chronic harm.  These are the bad habits which we refuse to quit, in part because we fail to comprehend the connection between:

     1.  a barrage of, "Help me, this makes me hurt!" signals coming from our bodies after we eat an Ultimate Cheeseburger at 2 AM


     2.  how that can affect our mind and/or mood in a negative way at 10 AM the next day

Try and open your mind to confusion.  Sometimes an Ultimate Cheeseburger "IS" just what you needed at 2 AM ... so your body sends you "Happy" signals ... but then other times the same food will illicit "Not-so-Happy" signals after you eat it.   How does one sort all of this out?

This is where meditation comes in.  For starters, when you shut off the mindless chatter inside your head, it is easier to notice the more subtle signals being transmitted around in your body.  Try putting your favorite pair of socks back on, the ones without a hole.  Take the time to notice exactly how the tip of your toe feels with a good sock.  Seriously, spend 15 minutes just focusing on the tip of your toe with the good sock on.  Probably normally you would never give it a thought.  Give it a try because this is good practice for your mind, and it is a form of meditation.  The purpose is to exercise your mind so that you get better at recognizing the signals that your body constantly transmits, good or bad.  When you learn to detect more of these signals, you will become more aware of the condition that your body is really in.  You will become more aware of foods that you need to eat and activities that you need to do in order to make your body "feel" better.  You will also become more "body aware" in general, and in some cases you will notice posture or other habits that adversely affect your health.  You will also understand better about what you need to do to get the results that you want.  

It's simple advice really; take a moment to notice all the little details, the subtleties about the way everything feels.  It doesn't hurt to apply the same technique to data that streams in from outside as well.  There is a wealth of information constantly available to our conscious minds all around us all the time.  There is nothing spooky about it.  All we have to do to make use of that information is slow down and take the time to notice it.  To get better, practice noticing those subtle streams of information.  That's all meditation is ... time spent noticing data that you are normally oblivious to.

Now, I believe it is without argument that data communication between mind and body is "two-way".   Obviously we can send electrical signals down to our hands to form fists.  Probably you have noticed that when you get stressed out, your mental situation alone makes your stomach hurt.  My only suggestion is that you have the ability to communicate with more parts of your body than you've ever previously taken the time to notice.  Again, remember that when communications span over longer distances, it happens at a slower pace than the speed of thought.  Sometimes the communication of data is not complete until a long chain of chemical reactions occur and diffuse throughout.  Awareness is not an instant event in the body; it happens more slowly.  This is why it is helpful to slow down, clear the mind, give the body time to process, and learn to focus on the subtleties of how we feel ... "inward reflection" as they say in mumbo-jumbo-ese.   There is nothing magical or superstitious about it.  The simple fact is that the streams of information available to our minds have more depth and complexity than we can handle all at once.  When we shut down the normal dialog that we have in our head, close our eyes, and find a quiet place, then we will have more attention for noticing the less obvious mind/body connections that we all have.

If you would like to give it a try, there are tons of guided meditations that you can follow on YouTube.  I'm too busy for all this new age crap too, but I find that some of the meditations do help me sleep better.  Some of the sound tracks are are just white noise, while others are designed to help you dream more.  There are many choices and no reason not to experiment to see if any of them will help you feel better and/or help you achieve your goals in life and health.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

...a rebuttal to "Ancient Aliens" suggestion that rapid technological advancements started with alien intervention

In legend, credit for the invention of the Samurai sword is somewhat given to spirits.  Even today some people will give credit for a moment of inspiration to a god or prayer.  The show "Ancient Aliens" attempts to give credit for human progress to alien visitors.   I get somewhat offended by that message in general which I hear as: "Your human mind is too weak and feeble to invent these great new technologies.  Of course the humans of ancient civilizations would not have been intelligent enough to do this on their own."  Frankly, the first part of that message pisses me off.  When I hear that message from religious sources, it pisses me off even more.   I want to send this message to the world: "YOUR MIND IS FREAKING AWESOME.  YOUR MIND IS AN INCREDIBLY POWERFUL TOOL.   YOUR MIND IS OPTIMIZED AND READY TO CREATE AMAZING ADVANCEMENTS AND NEW CREATIONS!"

To state my point bluntly to "Ancient Aliens" and those who would believe this way: you don't need no stinkin' aliens, or gods, to explain the advancements of mankind along the way.  We're freaking awesome dudes and dudettes; we have the brain power to do whatever we are motivated to do.

Inspiration is not even particularly remarkable.   We all have moments of inspiration.  We all think: "...dang, if only I had some little dilly-dally that was shaped to fit that thingy there I want..."  and we get a little visual or some impression in our minds of what might solve our little problem.   It happens all the time and yet most of the time we don't give those seeds of an idea a second thought because we are so busy executing our normal routines of meeting daily needs.  Now, we put our-self in the Japanese blacksmith's shoes ... instead of blacksmiths, imagine the task is whatever you are best at ... even if what you are best at is skateboarding.  The point is that the innovation which often happens is in a person's field of expertise; they are already good at it.  If you aren't good at anything, go learn how to do something, anything well --- others do all the time, its not hard if you work at doing anything in particular ... "YOU CAN DO THAT" ... you can learn how to do something well; this is within your human capability.

Next, we want to imagine that we are going through the same process that the blacksmith went through.  What if we lock ourselves in a room and brainstorm for 7 days straight with an equally intelligent partner?  If we did nothing but eat, sleep, and drink "skateboarding", would we not come up with some freaking awesome new ideas to try?   If our game happened to be blacksmith-ing, and we are already well known and respected blacksmiths, would we not have the ability to come up with some ideas on how to make the steel better?   If anyone doesn't understand this, they need to think about their passion.  What would they most love to do?  What would they think is a blessed vacation to be locked away from the rest of the world for a week doing?   Actually, for the blacksmith, it was more like he spent a week "thinking" about what he was going to do for the next month.  This is what we call a brainstorming session and it is not that remarkable.  The only thing remarkable about the invention of the samurai sword is that their society was advanced enough for a tradesman to save up enough resources to dedicate 7 days to "thinking".   Actually, let's be even more realistic, he spent that time with his dedicated assistant, so that's actually 14 days invested in "thinking".   There are countless examples of awesome ideas coming out of such brainstorming sessions.  It is not remarkable and any human is just as capable of such feats if:

1.  You dedicate the time and effort to learn a trade.
2.  You become good enough at your trade and produce enough value such that you have the resources to dedicate 14 days "thinking" with an equally dedicated partner.

Now getting back to the story of the samurai sword.  After the 7 days of "prayer", the blacksmith and his assistant then spent the next 31 days trying the ideas they came up with.  Since he was with his assistant, that represents an investment of 62 days.   How many people can afford to take off "work" for 2 and 1/2 months (counting brainstorm time)  to work on some new invention?   There's nothing remarkable about the invention, what is remarkable is that his society and his part in the society had enabled him to invest so much time and effort into a new invention.  In our modern world this happens all the time.  People work on the trades they work on.  They build up a "shop" around them; they make the tools of their trade a part of their daily life and they are passionate about the work they do.  Our modern inventors frequently get to a point where they have the resources to invest in ideas, and then they make beautiful new things that we all enjoy.

And finally, getting back to my overall reason for picking a fight with "Ancient Aliens", my goal is to make everyone aware of this message that we see all around us:  "You can't do this, you're not smart enough to invent the samurai sword, no humans are capable of such amazing invention; you need a god or an alien for that."   That message is HORSE-SHIT.   Please!!! Stop believing that message, conveying that message, or worse, letting that message get to you and make you believe that you are not capable of amazing creations!  We are all human, we all have incredible minds, there is no excuse for mediocrity.  Be passionate my friends!