“Our scientific description of nature is always culturally derived. Nature tells us only what our culture predisposes us to hear.”
Robert Pirsig

Lila

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-11-06

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Asthma: When I Can’t Breathe

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When I was 3 years old, so I was told, I suddenly developed a severe case of asthma. I grew up with a variety of inhalers and other preventative medication. My asthma looked. to an untrained eye, like I was suffocating (which I was), there was a trumpet like sound when air was drawn in with great effort, I would get itchy all over my body. It was a very unpleasant experience but I grew used to it and knew to take my medication and wait it out. That was until my late teens / early twenties when my asthma disappeared … all it once, as if it never existed. Breathing difficulty would surface now and again, though rarely, with nothing close to the intensity of my early-life symptoms. My breathing remains to this day sensitive to disruptions such as dust and though I have never developed aerobic endurance, my breath developed and supported me excellently in my Yoga practices.

This was all true until a few months ago. We had just acquired our land Bhudeva and were beginning to make trips out to it to prepare to move out. Out of nowhere severe asthma resurfaced – whining trumpets and all. I faced it this time without any medication. I turned my attention inward and by radiating softness and light from my consciousness out to my body I managed to get through it, numerous times. It usually appeared in the evening or night time. Then, one time, it appeared in the morning, just as we were packing the car for another excursion out to Bhudeva. It was in the car, driving with constricted and unpleasant breathing, that a realization came to me about my asthma.

I feel that it needs to be said that I believe that illness (of any kind – physical, emotional and spiritual) is a kind of indicator that some deep awareness is trying to reach surface awareness – that there is a deep intuitive understanding that is not yet present at a conscious level. Though it can be difficult to do I have applied this belief to myself in recent (10+) years. This means that if possible I do not try to make the symptoms go away (I don’t  visit doctors) but try to patiently wait them out. My experience has been that the illness itself does not carry much wisdom or insight, but that patience and observation with which I meet it do seem to point me in the right direction. There is rarely an immediate reward, insight may surface in my consciousness long after symptoms of illness have gone (in this case 20 years).

So here I am, pursuing my wishes and life values, preparing to finally settle in a place I will be able to call home and I can’t breathe – this biological machine I call my body will not let me take air in. I ask myself “Why?” and a few minutes later a simple answer appears – “I am scared”. I am, scared shit-less, we just spent a large part of the last of our financial resources (what used to be my pension), I am in a foreign land, our house project has come to a sudden stop (lack of money), I am beginning to realize we are going to be living the next few years (at least) in what was at the time a dump of a house (at the time, when we visited our land, we slept in a tent) and the list goes on. I am completely out of my element … nothing is familiar, everything is new, there are so many questions marks and we are pretty much on our own in this adventure. So yeah, I am scared. So scared that I can’t breathe. So scared that something in my biology has decided to fold … I can’t breathe.

But that was not the end of it … I am still driving, still breathing with difficulty when I suddenly realized what it was that “cured” my asthma almost 20 years ago. The headlines of that period would probably go something like: Disturbed teenager developed suicidal thoughts, discharged from army for psychological issues and bailed from university for complete lack of interest – leaving me in a hopeless state. I was scared shitless of living the life that appeared in my mind to be unfolding before me and I got depressed … really bad … clinically … psychologist, psychiatrist … medication … the whole nine yards.

But, and I can’t help but smile as I write these words, nobody seemed to notice or make a connection between my depression and my asthma … or to be precise my lack of asthma. My depression led me to a fortified and isolate experience of surrender and freedom. When I was depressed I was no longer scared of life, I wasn’t occupied with life at all so there was nothing to fear. I could breathe with ease, my body approved, heck it embraced this so called depression … breathing, it seemed, had become a good idea. It seems that asthma has the makings of a simulated-suicide … it feels like dying but without the undesirable consequence of actual death.

My breathing and I are going through a challenging and sensitive period. There are physical difficulties – hard physical work, dust, dirt, smoke … things that directly effect my breathing. There are emotional challenges – fears come and go, there is tension that sometimes accumulates. There are spiritual challenges – bringing our life to where it is, embracing it and continuing to pursue it (together with the physical and emotional challenges) is a huge leap of faith – it is an intense spiritual practice. My breathing reflects all of these movements faithfully. Sometimes it is outright asthma, sometimes difficult breathing … but now I know to meet it with a soft respect. I don’t fear it, I can contain it, I can be patient with it and I can get through it (heck, I recently even played Shakuhachi – a wind instrument – with it!). Asthma, of all things, seems to have become an enlightening experience.

I can’t help but wonder with awe what it was that happened when I was just 3 years old, what deviation from dharma, caused such a young body to choose not to breathe.

Posted in Expanding, inside, Romania, Shakuhachi | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Good Design?

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One of the last software design projects I partook in was with telecom company who wanted/needed to overhaul their product line. They had new hardware in place and needed new software on top of it – which was the purpose of this project.

The software they already had was tragic in every possible way. It was mashed together by their development team without any design intention, with an outdated user interface software framework and with no understanding at all of market needs and positioning.

The first phase of the project was an analysis of what they had, what they had going for them, what competition had and where the market was. They were lagging behind the market, they had poor branding. Had we tried to catch up with the market we would have lost the game … the gap was just too big. However we did manage to identify numerous opportunities for unique positioning – there were recurring weak spots in most of the competitive products and we went after those.

The project was unpleasant. They felt like an old and tired government organization. We had marketing pretty much on our side but the development team who was very technically oriented (and outdated) were skeptical and constantly challenging or ignoring our approach to their product – this despite many attempts to bring them into the game. I remember the head of development was also very petty … claiming that we were paid to much for what little donation we had to the project.

At one point in the project we were all sitting in a fairly large meeting and I openly said to them that I don’t think they understand the position they are in. I poingantly said that unless they find a way to reinvent their product they would all be out of jobs in a few years (this was a very old and well established hi-tech company in Israel). In my mind it wasn’t about pixels or colors or even features – it was a question of life and death for them as a company.

I somehow managed to bring the project to completion with OK design artifacts … but overall I felt that the project was a failure. That was until this morning I found (as usual a little late as I am fairly out of touch with happenings in the world) that about a year ago, after numerous acquisitions and attempts to save it, the company folded … and in a bad way.

Sadly, I now feel that the project was a success. I called it the way I saw it and I did everything I can to communicate my perspective and help them from that understanding. I also truly felt that product-wise there was hope – and we aptly demonstrated it (I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the opportunities we identified are still there, unclaimed in the market place). As they were at the time I left them, there was no justification for them to continue to exist … and now they don’t.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-30

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  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: sunshine, flour, sheep-wool, barrel, more compote, plans and life 🙂 #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: milk, horse & carriage, hay, hay, hay, hay & sanding #
  • boy have I got some insights about asthma … looking back at almost 40 years of living with it … hope to find time to write about it soon #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-23

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  • gray & potentially rainy day, we r cleaning and arranging inside, 1st time using washing machine, hot wood-boiler water, music – home-ish 🙂 #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: collecting hay, 3 new chickens, insulating for winter, sealing the rocket stove, hot water & shaving 🙂 #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-16

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  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: fire, wood, surprise, cardboard, wine & milk #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: fire and water 🙂 basic elements no? #
  • daily http://t.co/xHAaJZ9k report: running water (as in inside the house) and wood #
  • Flowers in the Guns – check out some Internet driven karma http://t.co/iQBFAO8X #
  • daily http://t.co/IgVtKdkd report: tehini, a chimney and a home-birth #
  • Breaking Bad continues to be the all time best TV series I've ever seen … and if there is a runner up its nowhere near it! #
  • principles gotta lovem – terrorists have a "negotiation guide" on how2 negotiate with Israel which asuknow doesn't negotiate with terrorists #
  • Andreea was both doula & midwife to her 1st home-birth in Romania and I finished 1st layer of bricks mortared in place 4 rocket stove #
  • I am enjoying hearing about the uprising movement of occupy[name ur place] BUT I feel that an "us and them" mentality is an illusion #
  • such an illusion is most likely to further debilitate the "risers" and further strengthen the "risen" #
  • my gamble was 2 check out of the game… start from scratch (as much as possible) and see what I can do about it with my bare hands #
  • 3 levels of bricks of the rocket stove are built, its freaking cold and drizzling outside, taking a break to warm up and eat #
  • @raymondpirouz indeed "we" not "us and them" … placing blame is easy and comforting … and blinding #

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Flowers in the Guns Revisited

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A while back I wrote a post about a childhood event where I drew a picture of flowers coming out of guns. Then a few months ago, out of the chaotic workings of the internet I got a surprising and pleasant email appeared in my inbox from a fellow human named Stu Martin. Stu is a song writer and performer who’s 2006 released album Love & Peace opens with a song called “Flowers in the Guns” (written in 2002).

We emailed back and forth very slowly over a few months (Andreea and I had just moved out to Mociu and we were flooded by work and mostly disconnected from the Internet) in an attempt to get the song to me using online means. That didn’t work out so some weeks ago (I think – I don’t really have a sense of time anymore) Stu asked for my address to send me a CD. I forgot about it … very busy these days.

Yesterday on the way back from the village center we stopped at the postoffice and Andreea came out holding an envelope containing a CD – Stu’s CD – it came from Australia. It’s a beautiful CD and I am greatful for the universe’s generosity in bringing us together and granting us this experience of connection around the planet and across time.

Thank you Stu for reaching out and for the CD.

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World Made by Hand

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A few weeks ago a relative (I think he is an uncle … but uncle sounds to generic to me), with whom I’ve connected only in recent years, sent me a book to read. He sent it in a context of a dialogue we were having by email about the direction my life is taking. He had what I presume to be a good-run in business and now travels the world. I would say he is a cross between a realist and a pessimist (he would probably embrace the former and be ambivalent about the latter).

I was happy to receive the book – it was a much appreciated gift that carried over with it care and interest. It’s been a while since I’ve held a new book that wasn’t about some construction or gardening or other life-skill. But, I was tentative about reading it. I am in a new existence … one that comes with an abundance of sometimes hard work that leads to an abundance of fruits. I still feel very much challenged by this new life and am still working on my faith capacity in light of the unrelenting challenges. I expected the book to challenge my faiths and beliefs and I wasn’t sure I needed another challenge.

But I did go ahead and read the book and enjoyed reading it … not so much because of the book (which was OK) but because I could hold a book. I actually rationed the reading out so it would last a while. The book is called World Made by Hand.

It describes a USA which has, through some kind of hinted at disaster, been forced into an old/new existence where there is no electricity, no cars, no government, etc. It uses an unsurprising story line to weave fairly dogmatic characters to draw a picture of this existence. It has a weak quasi-spiritual ending which seems forced upon  a story that wasn’t really going anywhere. I often wonder if this reflected absence of and need for spiritual quality isn’t at the root of many problems. It also amuses me that American culture has a hard time producing anything that doesn’t have a clear and satisfying ending … I see it a lot in movies and now this book too.

Ironically the so called harsh existence of the book is not unlike the real existence of Romanian village life. Here a horse and carriage, though much slower and sometimes bothersome, is often more useful then a gas-guzzling car. It is a difficult thought sustainable lifestyle. We are working to create an improved version of this existence. It isn’t quite a world made by hand because we do rely on electricity and use power tools and sometimes hire a tractor to do some digging for us.  We do use a car to get to the city to acquire things (an infrastructure) we need to create our world … and as we progress our need to visit the city is reduced.

We chose to embrace this existence (that we are just beginning to shape), we weren’t forced into it by financial crisis, war or disease (though I believe that others may be forced into in in the future in what may be a personal drama not necessarily a global one). I do believe the world is undergoing a collapse … but I don’t think it is heading into devastation. I believe that it was heading into devastation and that the collapse we are witnessing (those of us with open eyes) is a natural act of healing … one that despite it’s harsh effects will ultimately prevent devastation.

The book also reflects to me an ignorance of mainstream western society (of which I was until recently a member) on how to make a world by hand. I feel fortunate to live in an age where people (way out from the mainstream) have been making worlds by hand and coming up with better and better ways to do so. People who live sustainable and abundant lives while the mainstream is in a losing effort for achieving a petty existence. People who are passionate about sharing their revelations to the few who are interested in listening.

With that in mind … I am going to finish my tea and had back into the barn to continue work on the super-simple and super-wood-efficient rocket stove model (built mostly of purchased firebricks that I hope we’ll be able to manufacture on our own next year) we intend to build in our bedroom.

 

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-10-02

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  • I don't trust people (men and women) wearing formal business attire #

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Is Humanity Moving into Adulthood?

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-18

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-09-11

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-21

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  • if we don't know how to let people die can we know how to let them live? #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-21

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  • if we don't know how to let people die can we know how to let them live? #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-06-19

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-06-05

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  • 1st set of power tools have been ordered, first batch of homemade soaps cooked, on other side of Romania small chicks and ducklings await us #
  • we r once again surrounded by boxes and bags … packing … may this be the last time in this lifetime #
  • tomorrow meeting with a local craftsman to consult on how to get the cob renovations we made to stick properly to the old walls #
  • this time staying out for 2 or maybe even 3 nights … still camping conditions #
  • oh and today we finally found a decently priced reliable pump which hopefully will be supplying us with running water next week #

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-29

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  • Romanian village wisdom: tomatoes are planted after May24 because of Hungarian holiday that brings heavy hail storms. anyone wanna bet? 🙂 #
  • digging deeper & deeper into the young fountain of knowledge around forest gardens … wondering if we will be able to start it this year #
  • @raymondpirouz it's a gr8 life not caring at all about Microsoft (or Apple) operating systems … I'm all Ubuntu and open-source 🙂 #
  • @raymondpirouz I am mostly GUI (rarely command line) Ubuntu is beautiful, mature, steady and I believe outperforms both MSWindows & AppleOSX #
  • I'll be giving a short Shakuhachi performance tomorrow night in Cluj: http://bit.ly/lSehr9 #
  • I'm exploring Yoga models 2 assimilate permaculture – starting with modes of practice – cikitsa, raksana, siksana: http://bit.ly/mIYTlG #
  • it's already 8am, we should really get going: http://bit.ly/jAaHRz #

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Her Pace

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We are heading out today to Mociu for another couple of days of work renovating the old house (we are moving out in two weeks). It’s already 08:00am and she is still sleeping.

There is a voice in me that sais “wake her up, we are losing the cool morning hours of work” – it’s an assertive and pushing voice. It’s also a subtle expression of fear and anxiety (that we won’t get things done on time). It’s also a voice that expresses a will to control the outcome of things.

Then, when I wait a little there is another voice that says “let her rest well, this is how she is setting a pace for us” – it’s an embracing voice. It’s also a supportive voice. It’s a trusting voice. It relaxes me and gives me a sense of space. It relieves me of a need to plan and control. It brings me back to the moment (a cup of tea, this short post and reading about grafting trees).

Logical arguments can be made either way – so there isn’t really an intellectual resolution to make. Instead it is simply a choice – and I choose to embrace her pace.

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Permaculture and Yoga: Introduction

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Introduction

This post is potentially (depending mostly on available time, internet connectivity and motivation to write) a first in a series where I will try to call upon some metaphors from the world of Yoga in my attempt to make sense of permaculture. Nothing would please me better then being able to add a link to the word permaculture to a resource that would provide a simple explanation of it – but I haven’t encountered such a resource nor do I believe one exists. My attempt to make sense of permaculture is leading me on a path of learning that is shaping my own personal perspective and understanding of it. I can only recommend that if you too are interested in it you do the same.

There are diverse aspects to permaculture as it is a life-encompassing approach and the one I am most preoccupied with at this point is growing food. Though that can come across as a somewhat primitive term – it is the only one that works for me right now. Agriculture, farming, gardening are all fairly loaded with preconceptions and assumptions that need to be mitigated. So “growing food” is the most precise description I can offer. Specifically I am focusing on plant-based food – since (a) we eat primarily vegetarian food; (b) we are less inclined to growing animals for food; (c) our neighbors are more inclined towards growing animals and we intend to collaborate with them.

There are two key concepts which have completely revolutionized my approach and understanding of working land for food. The first is that the most important long term product grown is fertile soil. Everything that grows from the ground depends on soil fertility so the highest priority is to develop an approach in which soil fertility is constantly maintained and, where possible, improved. The second concept is that short-term plant food yields that we as humans consume are actually just the leftovers that remain after soil fertility is achieved. This is almost in complete opposition to common agricultural strategies where soil fertility is sacrificed for maximized crop yields.

Yoga as a Framework

With these two concepts at hand I find myself flooded by options and information on how to grow food. My challenge is to sift through all the information and bring it into context of our life: our resources, our needs, our climate, etc. But so far I’ve been overwhelmed by the flood of permaculture information. I believe is it due to the fact that I don’t have an existing frame of reference to relate to permaculture: I am not a chemist so nitrogen and PH levels do not mean much to me and I am not a gardener so plant species and names don’t mean much either. What this means is that there is no way for me to organize and retain all the information.

That was until I found that I do have a framework. I have been identifying common modalities that I know from my Yoga studies and that seem to be aligned with permaculture. Since Yoga philosophy is rooted in Samkhya philosophy and Samkhya is a metaphysical description of existence … it makes sense that the two should resonate well. So … what follows is my attempt to make sense of permaculture.

Modes of Practice: Recovery, Preservation and Intensification

The first model that came to me as I was trying to make sense of permaculture was the modes of Yoga practice. This model outlines three modes or applications of practice: recovery, preservation and intensification. It is a teachers responsibility to properly ascertain the mode of practice best suited for a student and then to offer a supporting practice. If a student is, for example, recovering from illness then a therapeutic practice is called for – it would be unwise to introduce a higher intensity practice. If a student is, for example, in great and steady health, then a more challenging and intesifying practice can be applied.

Soil Recovery in Permaculture

A plot of land that has been traditionally farmed in cycles of fertilized, plowing, harvesting for large mono-cultures (large fields where a single crop is grown) is very likely depleted. It will have very little nutrients and biological life in it. It may be able to support (probably with the help of chemical boosters) undemanding crops at best – but not much more. This land needs to be recovered (physically and metaphysically). This soil needs to be rested and then gradually brought back to life, to an increased level of fertility where it can sustain diverse crops.

Soil Preservation in Permaculture

A plot of land that has been respectfully farmed with a spirit of permaculture may be in better shape. If it was used to grow mostly annuals (plants that need to be replanted every year) then it may be sustained with less effort using mulch (ground cover) and natural manures from farm animals. With proper crop rotation (replacing crops that were demanding of soil with crops that nurture soil) the soil can be kept healthy (preserved) and vital year after year.

Soil Intensification in Permaculture

If you’ve ever walked in a forest then you have witnessed first hand the potential of soil intensification. A forest can grow and expand indefinitely without any maintenance at all. Its soil is always naturally mulched by fallen leaves and it is always fertilized by animal droppings (the next time you are in a forest move the leaf ground cover and have a look at the beautiful and rich soil beneath it). It is never plowed or sowed – it is an autonomous ecological system.

Now imagine that your house resides near a small forest and that forest is dominated by plants (trees, bushes, shrubs, roots) that are edible and like wild forests it is a self perpetuating (planted with perennial and self-seeding plants) system that continues to maintain itself and regrow year after year. This is what forest gardens are all about – mimicking the dynamics of a forest to create a sustainable source of food that, once established, continues to grow and proliferate (intensify) year after year … so much so that most of what little maintenance is required involves cutting things back.

Application

We are not eager to do much planting on our newly purchased land. We are grateful that it has been mostly rested (except for animal grazing) for many years – this means that it may need only a little recovery effort. We may be able to preserve it by gradually introducing cover crops and then next season begin establishing a forest garden.

The first step in working land is exactly that – working the land itself, bringing it to a sustainable level of fertility. You have to inquire about the history of the land, observe it’s current situation and then act accordingly. An incorrect assessment can lead to incorrect action and wasted effort.

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Shakuhachi Performance in Cluj

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Tomorrow evening our friend Sabin will be giving his 4th concert in Cluj and has again kindly invited me to partake. I’ll be offering a Shakuhachi meditation. It is a special performance because it is taking place in the same place where we first met Sabin and Ina in January. Then in the beginning of June we (both couples) will be heading out of Cluj to make our village homes – they will be moving to Suncuius and we will be moving to Mociu.

If you happen to be in Cluj do come it promises to be a pleasant evening 🙂

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