“Do not waste time idling or thinking after you have set your goals.”
Miyamoto Musashi translated by Stephen F. Kaufman

The Martial Artist’s Book of Five Rings

Dan Carlin on Mind Control


In Dan Carlin’s recent Common Sense episode The War on Bad Thoughts he, once again, explores the subject of terrorism and the dilemma of a (prevalent) short term view that leads to narrow-minded responses vs. a long term view in which the root of this problem (and potentially many other problems) is “bad thoughts” … and he starts to delve into a potentially interesting domain of changing minds. However this creative opening led to what was in my mind, a narrow and limited exploration … of “weapons of thought control”.

What follows are some reflections in the spirit of the challenging direction that the show touched on … nothing nearly as coherent as the show itself!

A general “scientific” assumption behind “mind control” seems to be that the mind itself is a kind of storage device for thoughts which implies that if we could somehow get into it, remove some thoughts, add some new ones, etc … we would have a technology with great potential. Well … what if that core assumption “the mind as a storage device” is unfounded. Rupert Sheldrake may have something to say on that.

Changing minds and hearts” is also a phrase that came up … and I wonder if it too opens a door to an interesting path of exploration. Why are we so focused on changing minds …. what if our hearts turn out to be more responsive to change … what would changing our hearts look like? How quickly can a man with anger in his heart from, say, work  transform into a soft, loving father when he comes home and embraces his little girl?

I am a practitioner of Yoga. Though its popular image is that of a physical practice, I was taught and trained in a tradition that views Yoga as a science of the mind. It therefore has A LOT to say about how mind works and how to go about changing it … though much of what this view has to offer would likely be rejected in a modern / mechanistic / supposedly scientific conversation.

Dan also talked about what happens when we come together as a herd … how we tend to revert to more basic, animalistic, responses. What if there too is a potential exploration … what if we could come together and instead of reverting to somethign primitive we could become something more advanced … a intellectual / social construct that would not only harness our potential in a better way but also nourish us in such a way that our minds would change in some that we could not as individuals?

I would say that there are plenty of ongoing experiments of mind-control that we may not appreciate for their mind-control aspects:

  • An obvious one would be mainstream media and how its continuous flow has altered now just what we think, but how we think.
  • Another obvious example would be social media and how it has had effects on both what and how we think.
  • A less obvious example though may be viewed as belonging to the “chemical weapons” realm. I believe that the typical American diet has effected the way American’s can and do think. I believe it has both short term and long term accumulating effects … a form of self-inflicted chemical warfare the USA has been waging with itself. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food may be a good start on that subject.
  • An even more subtle example would be capitalism itself – not judging it, just pointing out its effects on thoughts and thinking. Consider for example: the “herd dynamic” Dan speaks of, how is that phenomenon shaped by capitalist (individuals seeking personal gain in a zero sum game = at the expense of one another) thought. Are we just naturally fearful or have our social-technologies given rise to almost rational fears? What do we fear more, our hunters or our other herd members?

If I were to continue this list it would seem that many of our typical day-to-day technologies are in fact altering how we think and what we think about. What if what we need is not a radical”weaponized” change but a subtle change in underlying attitudes and intentions. Could it be that because of their obviousness we overlook them and are tempted by the drama of “weapons of thought control”?

Finally … what if the underlying attitude of war and weaponry limits our view on this subject? What if mind-control is a process that is too variable for control and direction? Maybe the fact that it failed in the 60’s or 70’s wasn’t because of immature technolgies (that have now, 40 years later, matured) … but an immature understanding of the mind and thought itself (which is still immature in mainstream society, though there are many more small pockets on the fringes of society with developed insights)? What if mind-control is a natural organic process that we can tap into and partake in better than we have been doing so far?

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Christopher Alexander – Illuminated by Existence


“I am not trying to be clever. I am not trying to follow any special archetype, ancient or modern. I am just trying to make that thing, which, when its centers have been created, will most honestly make me feel a tremor, make me feel that my life is (even if only slightly) illuminated by the existence of this thing.

And at each step … I had to keep asking myself this: Is it going in such a direction? Does it start to make me feel that life can be worthwhile? Does it make me tremble, and feel on the edge of the chasm of life, so that all the uncertainty and fear of everyday life, is wrapped up, made worth something, summarized and justified, by the existence of this thing?

Most often the answer is, No. Ten times the answer comes back, No. But sometimes, if I feel even a little tiny bit of yes, I can move … more towards the yes. And if I keep on looking for that direction, gradually it does come into existence.

But I haven’t done anything until, because of the existence of the center emerging in my care, my life is more worthwhile than it was before, and my knowledge of the meaning of existence has become more real.

That is a tall order. It is a great demand. Perhaps too great a demand. But that is the demand, anyway, that I must make of things, while I am making them.”

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

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Christopher Alexander on The Void


This is out of reading sequence. In thinking about Annelieke in the very present moment, the Void came back to me from Book One:

“In the most profound centers which have perfect wholeness, there is at the heart a void which is like water, infinite in depth, surrounded by and contrasted with the clutter of the stuff and fabric all around it …

This emptiness is needed, in some form, by every center, large or small. It is the quiet that draws the center’s energy to itself, gives it the basis of its strength. The fact that the void does not exist so often now … is the result of a general disturbance in our capacity to make wholeness …

The need for the void arises in all centers. A cup or a bowl rests, as living structure, on the quiet of the space in the bowl itself, its stillness …

The void corresponds to the fact that differentiation of minor systems almost always occurs in relation to the “quiet” of some larger and more stable system.”

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

“Part of the process of structure preserving requires cleaning out from time to time … When a situation appears where there are too many centers, too crowded together, in a confusion of structure, a structure preserving process must be applied … the process must act to discern the deep structure, the most important structure beneath the confusion …

… a crowded complex structure often ends up living at the edge of a much larger homogenous void, and that the contrast between the intricate structure and the vast emptiness is needed to maintain the structure of the intricacy.”

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

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Christopher Alexander – Move with Certainty


“As the living process goes forward, repeating the fundamental process again and again … one feature is built up at a time …

How do you determine these steps which must be taken, and their sequence? … The most basic instruction I can give you as a guide for a living process, is that you move with certainty. That means, you take small steps, one at a time, deciding only what you know. You try never to take a step which is a guess or a “why don’t we try this?” …

As far as the scale of the decisions is concerned – that, on the contrary, should be rather large. At the beginning, especially, you need to work mainly with the largest questions. Many of the issues you need to settle, in the early stages of your work, have to do with the whole, the global quality of the design.

… A numerical comparison is useful. Suppose, for example, that at a given stage in a process there are a hundred possible next steps … more of these possible next steps are likely to be bad than good … 90 or 95 next steps which will make the thing worse … 5 or 10 next steps which wil make it better … How, then, do we find the few good ones? There is no special reason that we should be lucky enough to hit one of the small number of good steps …

If we reason this out, we may then draw the following conclusion. It is more likely that the first possibilities that present themselves to our minds will be bad ones … We should therefore be extremely skeptical about the first possibilities …. we should run through the possibilities very fast and reject most of them … If we do accept one … [it should be] only when we finally encounter something for which no good reason presents itself to reject it, which appears genuinely wonderful to us, and which demonstrably makes the feeling of the whole become more profound.

The vital point is that this is an empirical matter. It can be discovered by experiment … But it will not be discovered unless the experiment is done … The one exception occurs when the designer is deeply in touch with the wholeness that is there and can summon up, very rapidly, a genuine structure preserving transformation as an intuitive response which springs directly from the wholeness, in the designer’s mind.”

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

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Christopher Alexander on First Steps and Ripples in Design


“… As any designer will tell you, it is the first steps in a design process which count for most. The first few strokes which create the form, carry within them the destiny of the rest.

How then, in a living process, do we take the first steps of design so that a beautiful, coherent whole begins to take shape?

In the early stage we must concentrate, of course, on broad structure, on the emergent structure of the whole… The notation that architects traditionally use is a language of drawing or computer representation … But such a sketch aways includes too much information, too early, so that the sketch (or computer drawing) is invariably over-specific … if only 20% of the information in a sketch is based on real decisions that have been taken by a living process in the designer’s mind, and the remaining 80% is arbitrary stuff entered into the drawing only because the notation (sketching) requires it, trouble inevitably follows.

We therefore need a notation … which stays closer to what is actually known at each moment. Here I wish to introduce the idea of morphological “ripples” … a partially generated form … not yet clearly located, or dimensioned, or even characterized … which, though fuzzy … plays a decisive role in giving character and feeling to the end result.

It is important that the first steps – the morphological ripples – should focus only on the broadest, most global features of the emerging design … At each step, another “ripple” inroduces one more feature of the whole. To contain these ripples, I find it best to work … in the mind’s eye, preferably while standing in the real place itself …

More important still, as a first stage in the design process, I usually make a word picture of the building. That is, I spell out, IN WORDS, what the buiding is like, what it is like to arrive to it, what the space in front of it is like, how the building forms the space, what happens as you enter, what happens inside the building, where its main rooms are, what their special beauty is, what is it like to go out, from those rooms, to the outdoors. All in all, a vision of the finished building IN WORDS – as beautiful as I can make it.

… Words and interior visions, when seen with your eyes closed, are more labile, more fluid, transformable and three dimensional … They allow the unfolding to go forward more successfully … If I say that a building towers above me, when I approach it, this says something qualitative about its height, but does not yet describe the exact height … if I make even the most rudimentary drawing … the drawing has an actual height (implied by proportion), and it has many features of shape, width, volume, articulation, which have not in fact been generated by the fundamental process.

… The vision in the mind’s eye contains little that is not actually generated by the living process … what it does add is real, and germane, and flexible … The vision floats in your mind, a hovering clear picture  …

… You start by saying to yourself, and seeing, one thing, the most important thing about the building … the first global holistic aspect of the building which you see, when you close your eyes and imagine the building as the context requires that it should be.”

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

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Iceland’s Fastest Growing Religion


A short story overflowing with the beauty of evolution:

“In Iceland, tax-authorities collect “parish fees” from all residents and remit them to churches based on the stated religious affinities of those residents. … A new church, the Zuists, claim to worship ancient Sumeran gods, and promise to rebate religious fees to anyone who registers … Iceland’s tax authorities say that the Zuist church can do whatever it wants with the money, but that adherents who receive rebates on parish fees will be charged income tax on them.”



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Christopher Alexander on Feedback


“To make the feedback meaningful in a step-by-step process, the process must be open ended, hence partly unpredictable. It must lack a fixed predetermined end-state. This is necessary because adaptation itself means nothing if changes cannot be made in response to the process of adaptation. By definition, such changes cannot be foreseen.

… For a variety of reasons – legal, financial, and procedural – under modern conditions the thing is fixed too exactly, too far ahead, and has far too little freedom to unfold … It thereby shut off, nearly altogether, the possibility that useful testing or adaptation could occur …

This means not only that the end-result of a building project must be unpredictable during design. That is obvious. But to be effective in creating living structure, it cannot help also being unpredictable during construction.”

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

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George Lakoff on Framing and American Politics


This is a good (not great) talk about underlying thought frameworks that shape the way we view the world. The talk is built around American politics – demonstrating how conservatives and progressive are founded on two family prototypes a “strict father” and “nourishing family”. On the one hand I would have liked to hear a more general view on the subject. However, when he did get a it theoretical I felt that his underlying theories (brain structures) were outdated and I suspect would not survive the test of time (they are of little interest to me). The talk is not complete until he answers the first question.

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Christopher Alexander on Vinyasa


“Possibly the most basic and necessary feature of any living process is the fact that it goes gradually. The living structure emerges, slowly, step by step, and as the process goes forward step by step there is continuous feedback which allows the process to guide the system towards greater wholeness, and coherence, and adaptation.”

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


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Generative vs. Descriptive


“Does the DNA contain a full description of the organism to which it will give rise? The answer is no. The genome contains instead a program of instructions for making the organism – a generative program …

A descriptive program, like a blueprint or a plan, describes an object in some detail, whereas a generative program describes how to make an object … consider Origami … by folding a piece of paper in various directions, it is quite easy to make a paper hat or a bird from a single sheet. To describe in any detail the final form of the paper with the complex relationships between its parts is really very difficult, and not of much help in explaining how to achieve it. Much more useful and easier to formulate are instructions on how to fold the paper … a generative program for making a particular structure.”

Lewis Wolpert – Principles of Development
quoted in
Christopher Alexander – The Nature of Order – Book 2: The Process of Creating Life

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One Wholesome Thing at a Time


“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


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


“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


” … the fifteen properties are not merely 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 which exists.”

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

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Unfolding Wholeness and Structure Preserving Transformations


“Any part of the world we build will have life if it is created 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 our 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


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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


“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


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.”)”



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