“I began with love and prayer, I changed to anger and rebellion. I was transformed into what yo see before you.”
Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune

One Wholesome Thing at a Time

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“Each process does something – just one thing – which is important, practical and creates good feeling. Then it does another. Then it does another. There is no manipulation and distortion of the structure, trying to predict where it is going, trying to make sure everything is OK. There is a sublime confidence, and practicality and simplicity.

If we do one thing at a time, and if what we do is wholesome and sound, then whatever comes next will work. We do not have to tie it down ahead of time for fear of some imaginary potential catastrophe of “design”. Instead, we just go step by step, doing what is required as well as what we are able, with confidence that the next thing, too, will work out somehow when its time comes, but that it need not be worked out now.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Saudis to Sue Twitter User

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I found a link to this article in my twitter feed this morning:

“Saudi Arabia’s justice ministry plans to sue a Twitter user who compared the death sentence handed down on Friday to a Palestinian poet to the punishments meted out by Islamic State … The justice ministry will sue the person who described… the sentencing of a man to death for apostasy as being `ISIS-like’ … Questioning the fairness of the courts is to question the justice of the Kingdom and its judicial system based on Islamic law, which guarantees rights and ensures human dignity”

and it was presented with a commentary that said “try it” … which I would like to re-iterate with sincerity and empathy … “please do try” … so that we can have a much needed cultural conversation where you will have to deal with questions such as:

  • How can there be a legal process which goes beyond the domains of your laws and culture?
  • How can your laws and culture interact with people from other cultures?
  • What if you discover that your interpretation of “human dignity” is different from others’? Are you willing to have a sincere conversation in which you may find that your understanding has been limited and your opinions may change?
  • How sincere are you aout the implications of a legal decision … if Saudi Arabia sues a twitter user and loses in court … should Saudi Arabai be sentenced to something akin to execution (such as being banned from the world energy markets?)
  • Will you be able to recognize when you are clinging blindly to beliefs that are obsolete? when you do, how will you integrate that experience?

If only we could have such a conversation in a non-combative setting maybe we will be able to come and evolve together?

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Christopher Alexander on Creativity

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“In a living system what is to be always grows out of what is, supports it, extends its structure smoothly and continuously, elaborates new form – sometimes startling new form – but without ever violating the structure which exists.

… Creativity comes about when we discover the new within a structure already latent in the present. It is our respect for what is that leads us to the most beautiful discoveries.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Christopher Alexander: Fifteen Transformations

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” … the fifteen properties are not merey observable end-products of structure-preserving transformations. They provide the base transformations from which, in practice, all structure preserving transformations are made. The world of nature – what we think of as nature, and what we think of as natural (whether it is brought into being by the innocent operations of nature, or made carefully by the thoughts and hands of men and women) is that world which is brought into being by repeated application of these fifteen transformations, applied again and again, to enlarge, and deepen, and evolve, and magnify the beauty of the world whcih exists.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Unfolding Wholeness and Structure Preserving Transformations

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“Any part of the world we build will have life if it is ceated by structure preserving transformations [ {where} centers will always tend to form in such a way as to preserve and enhance previous structure – and this means, in such a way as to help sustain other existing and emerging centers ], and will not have life if it is not created by structure preserving transformations.

This apparently simple statement, if true … has enormous repercussions. The modern world we build, because its construction is driven by out attitudes about money, production, design, building, and planning, breaks from smooth unfolding at almost every stage. As a result, the processes which we presently have make it very difficult to create life in the world …

The absence of life … does not come about merely because modernistic design was ignorant of … structural principles … It comes about, far more profoundly, because the processes which create objects, artifacts, forests, towns, roads, bridges – nearly all fail to have the character of unfolding wholeness …

Thus the issue of process is  immense … it is more important than the static structure of the designs”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

As I read this I was thinking of Annelieke and her (and many others’) efforts in Transition to do things … to create life structures. Many times a lot of (especially precious and dedicated volunteer) effort goes into creating something (forming a group, organizing a space, creating a garden) … and in many cases this results in short-lived and fragile structures. Reading this text I wonder how much of that is a result of 1) a mechanistic default approach to process we have inherited and 2) a lack of established practice in natural processes … of unfolding wholeness. As I understand it this challenge is the domain of Inner Transition … the art of 1) recognizing established patterns that inhibit unfolding wholeness and 2) practicing and establishing “structure preserving transformations” which are more likely to yield living structures.

As I write these words I am also thinking of the abundant flow Andreea and Mihaela are experiencing and generating. If an “objective observer” could have witnessed the process that gave birth to the living structure that is their life and work … it would have, most likely, been either missed or dismissed (as a messy coincidence). It was (and continues to be) a long unfolding wholeness that was “allowed” more than “engineered”. Attempts to conceptualize and guide the process resulted in heaviness … which in retrospect was a natural response prohibiting misguided growth and movement. Most of the “key” centers that led to what currently is were subtly hidden and softly emerged … and mostly in retrospect came to be recognized as powerful centers. I recognize so many of the 15 principles in Alexander’s work … borders, roughness, good shape, voids, gradiants, levels of scale, alternating repetition, strong centers, positive space, contrast, non-separatenss, echoes, simplicity … an inspiring example of unfolding wholeness.

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Fall 2015 – Back on the Mat

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Though I’ve written extensively about my practice during these past months I did want to note some current observations as part of my focusing for a review of my practices tomorrow with my teacher.

Getting on the mat after being away for over a month was easier and smoother then I remember it in the past. Once I settled back at Bhudeva (after staying with Annelieke in Portugal) … within a couple of days I found myself back on the mat with a fairly fluent practice.

Body

  • Despite the break(s) in the practice there is an established familiarity in my body on the mat.
  • Being away, dealing with un-health and then returning to the mat (numerous times) seems to have refined my relationship to my body and my presence within it.
  • It took my shoulders about a week to soften and expand.
  • It took my hips about two weeks … overall I feel that my hip mobility has improved greatly since I’ve been with this practice (almost two years now).
  • I feel vital, strong and confident in my spine.
  • I feel that my center, abdominal muscles have a deeper quality … I feel both stronger and softer.
  • My neck still has stiffness.

Breath

  • My breath is stronger in asana … it is extended and stable. Asana that once took my breath away do not … I am able to work them with extended breath and deeper exploration.
  • I am once again at ease with BK in asana.
  • I am comfortably settled in my Pranayama practice … having completed the sequence I started with in February
  • Though I feel that the unsteady practice had diminished the quality of my relationship with breath in Pranayama … I am able to hold it … but it doesn’t yet hold me.

Mind

  • Like with Pranayama I feel that the lack of stability had diminishes my sense of stability. Only now, after ~3 weeks of continuous practice I am starting to feel my mind settled as I knwo it can eb (from past experience).
  • The quality of my presence diminishes (relatively) during the day … if I don’t practice in the first part of the day it is difficult for me get on the mat … and if I do it is with a lesser quality of presence.

Sound

  • This is something that has been with me a lot but escaped my previous notes. Before spring allergy set in and opened the disturbed period of summer practice I frequently heard the inner sound I first became acquainted with satmuki mudra. It was with me during my asana practice. It was very much with me in sitting after pranayama. I lost touch with it during this summer … but it has begun to subtly resurface.

 

 

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Christopher Alexander on Ornament

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“As the whole emerges, the universe becomes ornamented by it … In this understanding a flower, or a river, or a person, or a building all have the same potential role. Each of them may be judged by the extent to which this pure blissful structure comes into being, and by the extent to which the light of the universe shines through as a result of this creation”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order Book 1: The Phenomenon of Life

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Late Breakfast

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No Bird

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The Rise and Fall of .Ly

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When virtual worlds and physical worlds collide – funky top level domains depend on funky (another kind) countries:

“In 2012, the US imposed sanctions on Syria, for, among other things, their occupation of Lebanon, their apparent support for terrorist groups, and an intent to pursue weapons of mass destruction …

Artsy — a social platform for sharing and purchasing art — occupied the domain Art.sy. The “.sy” in the URL is the country code for Syria. .Sy domains are ultimately registered with and purchased from a Syrian Internet authority. Although Artsy had registered Art.sy in 2011, before sanctions were imposed, Artsy’s annual payments to maintain the domain meant they were breaking sanctions …

Art.sy changed its url to Artsy.net (a change that cost them “under $50,000.”)”

source

 

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Sending Women Away

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I am writing this primarily with Annelieke in heart and mind.

I talked to Andreea today. I was curious to hear about the Fairy Godmothers weekend. She was curious to hear about Portugal.

During the last part of the conversation Andreea brought up the subject of my relationship with Annelieke and my relationships in general. The context, she made direct and clear at the end of the conversation, was my well being, her wanting to see me happy. She drew a picture in which I sent Annelieke to make a home for herself, that I did not choose to go there and make a life with her … to create a home together. As I understand it, Andreea is coming from a story in which we are creators of our world … in this case … I am creating a world in which I end up alone (to simplify: I sent Andreea away, and now I am sending Annelieke away).

I shared with her, what I also shared with Annelieke and Iulia … that right now the existence that most resonates with me is that which lives inside you. I don’t mean that as an escape. That is my current experience. I don’t feel there is a place for me in the world. I feel I have tried to introduce myself to the world and to make myself available in many ways … and that hasn’t yielded fruits (yet). I don’t feel that I have the ability/energy to carve out a place in the world for myself. I haven’t encountered a space / place / context that inspired me to challenge these perceptions. What I do have is these few intimate relationships where I am me, I am welcomed as I am, I am cared for, I am listened to, I become a part of something … and that is further amplified when the people in these relationships, you, reach out into the world and touch others.

But … I agreed with her … kind of. Saying I sent Annelieke away to make a home for herself in Portugal is technically correct, but not a complete picture. For me, it would be like saying I threw salt away … without pointing out that I did that into a pot of cooking soup to bring out its flavors. However, having cleared that up, I am not dismissing what Andreea is trying to communicate to me. The thing is that she wasn’t able to help me through to make it relevant or actionable. She boiled it down to simplistic questions like (and I’m recalling them … so certainly not precisely) “Do I want Annelieke as a life partner?” or “What do I want for myself in life?”.

The first question I can’t answer. I don’t know what life-partner is. I don’t think Andreea assumes it as a simplistic and obvious term. I am assuming that she is asking it from her own current experience with Mihaela (I chose not to inquire too deeply because that was not what Andreea was trying to give me … I felt that approaching the conversation with an analytical knife would have undermined her gift to me). It did become clear as we were talking that she isn’t hinting at one person that can fulfill everything. It could, for example, be a non-sexual, purpose related relationship. So I don’t know. I DO know that I am interested in definitions. I do know that I am interested in tasting and choosing, tasting and choosing again and again … and allowing myself to arrive at something that I want. I understand that if one believes in, for example, psychology, that one could argue that in “allowing experience to unfold” I am actually allowing unconscious fears and inhibitions to shape / limit my life. I’m not going there.

The second question was more penetrating. It, had a clear answer … well two clear answers. The first answer was that I cannot see into “life” … one day at a time is a capacity that currently works for me. So in that context what I know RIGHT NOW is the last “formula” that led me to a peaceful existence (I have been out of touch with it for a month … so I have yet to confirm that it is still relevant): getting up in the morning, reading with a tea, practicing and having a late breakfast … and hopefully with something meaningful to engage after that for whatever remains of the day. Andreea insisted I look further … and I did … and there was the second clear answer. I don’t want to be … BUT … I don’t want to get into that. So the question isn’t very useful for me.

The context was Andreea caring for me. She said that saying those things to me is progress … that in the past she wasn’t able to do so without echoing her own fears … that she is glad she can finally share this with me. I am grateful for this potential and for what she shared with me. However it left me feeling heavy and disassociated. I had to take some silent time to settle.

Mostly I wanted to communicate this to Annelieke: it may look like I am throwing salt … but I AM trying to cook a good soup.

 

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Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits And Activists

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The title is misleading … Facebook is throttling all traffic … nonprofits and activits just happened to be there too … yet further evidence that building social capital on Facebook may be a poor investment:

“… Put simply, “organic reach” is the number of people who potentially could see any given Facebook post in their newsfeed. Long gone are the days when Facebook would simply show you everything that happened in your network in strict chronological order. Instead, algorithms filter the flood of updates, posts, photos, and stories down to the few that they calculate you would be most interested in … This means that even if I have, say, 400 friends, only a dozen or so might actually see any given thing I post … the ratio that Facebook has more-or-less publicly admitted it is ramping down to a target range of 1-2% for Pages.”

I continue to be amazed and entertained by the naivity and delusion of phrases like this:

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists …”

It tells me that the author (like many people) still don’t understand the nature of Facebook. The fact that social organizing has been possible on Facebook is a side-effect they tolerate not something that is aligned with their objectives (harvesting people’s attention and converting it into money).

 

 

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D.A. Wallach

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A fresh and sweet gift via Alexander Ebert:

And the overwhelming poignancy in the contrast of the lyrics and this video clip:

And his debut album:

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Christopher Alexander – It Is the Process …

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” … Look at this Hispano-Moresque tile of the 15th century. When we first look at it, we see a beautiful design, harmonious, orderly, well conceived, beautiful space and color. In contemporary terms, all this would appear to be part of the design of the tile, since it is the geometry of the finished tile, it seems to us, that causes this. We think of beauty as a result of design.

But when I handled this tile … and started to ask myself how I would make a tile like this, the thing took on quite a different character …

I believe the design was made by laying thick rope into the soft clay. It is the rope which allowed the maker form such complex shapes … In my studio my assistant went further to understand how it had been done, and made a clay impression of the tile’s surface in reverse. This reverse – a raised embossed impression taken in modeling clay – was even more impressive, and more beautiful than the tile itself. I realized that this – the negative impression – must have been the actual thing which the maker made, and that the tile was then cast from it in clay.

The further I went to understand the actual process which had been used to make the tile, the more I realized that it was this process, more than anything, which governs the beauty of the design. Perhaps nine-tenths of its character, its beauty, comes simply from the process that the maker followed. The design, what we nowadays think of as the design, followed. It as almost a residue from the all important process. The design is indeed beautiful, yes. But it can only be made as beautiful as it is within the technique, or process, used to make it. And once one uses this technique, the design … follows almost without thinking, just as a result of following the process.

… An attempt to follow the same drawing, but with different techniques, will fall flat on its face. And if I change the technique (process), the the design must change too. This design follows almost without effort from this technique. It is the process, not the design, that is doing all the hard work, and which is even paving the way for the design.

Thus the making, the physical process of shaping, carving, crying, glazing, ad firing tile are the ways in which this tile gets its form, its life, even its design …

This gradual rubbing together of phenomena to get the right result, the slow process of getting things right, is almost unknown to us today.”

Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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Yanis Varoufakis at the University of Coimbra

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I am relieved to encounter this kind of intellectual and political discourse … a gift from the Greeks in their time of crisis to the rest of Europe.

… and yet I don’t feel that this goes to the heart of the transition we are facing.

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Portugal – Porto Covo

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Annelieke’s father has joined us for a couple of days and a combination of spontaneity, alcohol and misguided navigation sent us on a long day that started in Vila Novo de Milfontes, continued to Porto Covo and Odemira.

The screen on my Panasonic LX3 camera died (I’m already in the process of ordering spare parts to fix it) so these images were taken with Annelieke’s Canon DSLR … which I am grateful is around, is way more bulky to carry and using it for a while has reaffirmed my preference for Nikon DSLRs (in terms of user experience, not necessarily image quality).

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Placenta and Curing Cancer

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Could it be that placenta, that which nourishes life, may inspire a cure for cancer?

“The hunt for a vaccine against malaria in pregnant women has provided an unexpected side benefit …

… the malaria parasite attaches itself to in the placenta in pregnant women is identical to a carbohydrate found in cancer cells. In the laboratory, scientists have created the protein that the malaria parasite uses to adhere to the placenta and added a toxin. This combination of malaria protein and toxin seeks out the cancer cells, is absorbed, the toxin released inside, and then the cancer cells die.

… For decades, scientists have been searching for similarities between the growth of a placenta and a tumor. The placenta is an organ, which within a few months grows from only few cells into an organ weighing approx. two pounds, and it provides the embryo with oxygen and nourishment in a relatively foreign environment. In a manner of speaking, tumors do much the same, they grow aggressively in a relatively foreign environment …”

… ironically though …

“It would appear that the only snag is the fact that the treatment would not be available for pregnant women.”

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Houshi

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A short movie about a Japanese hotel that was founded and has been run by the same family for over 1300 years. Not much about the hotel in this movie, but so much subtle and less subtle information about Japanese culture.

Houshi (english) from Fritz Schumann on Vimeo.

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Protected: Family Visit September 2015

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Summer 2015 continues Off and On the Yoga Mat

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I arrived with a steady and evolving on-the-mat practice. It came to a sudden stop when a spring allergy suddenly kicked in. It took most of July for me to settle back into a practice … and then a lower back problem started.

It felt like a muscular pain in my left-lower back … so not quite a spine issue. It started gradually but quickly became very disruptive. One morning I got on the mat and I was able to do a delicate (cikitsa version) of a practice. The next day forward bends were no longer possible. Very soon, the only comfortable position was standing up. I continued to do things that didn’t place physical load on my back and didn’t require any twisting … basically standing facing forward. Resting became an issue … I found a sitting position that I could hold for a while … but lying down was uncomfortable and I developed a fear of getting up because that required very careful manipulation and still hurt.

The peak came the morning after Annelieke arrived for a visit. I woke up early, uncomfortable and wanted to get up without disturbing her. I decided to get up in one swift movement … bad choice. It hurt a lot – though I am still not convinced there was a slower path that would have hurt less. I bit my lip to contain the pain and after a few seconds started walking towards the bench where my clothes were. I made it just in time to place a hand on the bench. Then I feinted and fell to the floor … the sound of me hitting the floor woke her up. I came to after a few seconds and was barely able to make my way back to standing. Eventually I did, and I sat on the bench … where I feinted again … this time with Annelieke holding me.

My aching back kept me off the mat for most of August. When September came around I slowly my found way back to the mat. I was surprised by the improvement I felt in my practice every day. within a week I was back to almost full mobility. There was still stiffness in my lower back and shoulders and three weeks into September those were almost gone too.

Then my family arrived for a a first visit in Romania and I was again away from the mat. Annelieke also arrived to be with my family and brough some slight illness with her. It seems I picked it up and shortly after my family left I fell ill. This was the end of September. A week later Annelieke and I traveled to Portugal – where I am now writing this post … just now starting to fell like the sickness is behind me. I may be able to find some practice time here, but I expect a stable practice will resume when I am back in Bhudeva (in about two weeks).

When I look back at these last few months I encounter two perspectives. One is of a period of sickness … too much sickness. I have become familiar with the recurring allergy period … but this continuous cycle has been unpleasant, demanding and disheartening. The other perspective is one of wonder. Though the sickness has kept me off-the-mat is hasn’t kept me from practice … maybe even practice that touches on a deep and subtle place. As always, my “patience” muscles have gotten a good workout. I have also noticed that when I do find my way back to the mat I “heal” quicker than I expect.

I am also finding that my sense of physical being gets subtly refined in every off-on cycle. By being patient with my breath during allergy my breath gets slightly better … softer, more spacious, more steady. By being caring with my back when it is hurt I am able to move it with more depth … more movement in more places, more directional support, more abdominal support. By allowing sickness time to fade and practice time to heal I feel self-trust and acceptance being reinforced. It is as if the periods of sickness-of-the-mat are not obstacles to practice but detours of subtle learning on my practice path.

I have over recent years come to realize that my aspiration is not just to return to the mat when I am away from it. It is to return to a stable and continuous practice. For example, right now I don’t feel a sense of urgency in getting back to the mat because I am here in Portugal in an unknown day-to-day setting. I may get on the mat if I want to and circumstances allow it. However I am just as content waiting to meet-the-mat only when I am back at Bhudeva. I am not interested in a one-off practice … I am interested in resuming a continuous practice. This summer has showed me that I am fairly well established in this pattern.

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