“I do not pretend to understand his music. I doubt if anyone, including those playing it, really understands it… I feel this music, or rather, as I said, it opens up a part of my self that normally is tightly closed, and seldom recognized feelings, emotions, thoughts well up from the opened door and sear my consciousness.”
Don DeMichael

Coltrane - The Story of a Sound

Christopher Alexander – The Family of Living Systems


“Together, the fifteen properties identify the character of living systems…

The things and systems in the world which are most dead – the most image-laden buildings and artifacts, the most sterile housing projects, the most damaged ecological systems, the most poisoned streams – will have these properties to the least degree.

Thus, although these properties define a vast family of possible placed and objects amd systems, all the member of this family have life in some degree … the fifteen properties define the enormous family of systems, among all possible systems, which have life in them.

The fact that it is possible to characterize this family at all is surprising. The family which is so defined is very complex morphologically…

… It is not too much to say that any building which has life in it, must be a recognizable member of this family. Any doorknow whichhas life, any window, any garden path, which has life in it, must be a recognizable member of this family.”

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

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Christopher Alexander – Fundamental Property 15: Not-Separateness


… this one touched me personally. As I collected  it I sensed a poignant self-critical voice rising up “this so describes, separate from the world” … but I didn’t like or resonate with the “egocentric” implication. As the initial impact passed, I came to realize that “no, this does not describe me” … that my feeling separate is not just about me but about the surroundings in which I reside. There are settings that make me feel separate, but there are settings that make me feel integrated. Granted, there seems to be in my life more of the former than the latter … but that very difference is a testament to non-separateness … there is no “me” without a context.

… I wonder how Christopher Alexander felt when he was trying to work true to his approach in a professional environment that resisted living structures … and what it was like for him to fight for the right to teach this to students … did he experience being separate in these hostile environments?

“… What not-separateness means, quite simply, is that we experience a living whole as being at one with the world, and not separate from it …

In a center which is deeply coherent there is a lack of separation … between that center and the other centers which surround it, so that the various centers melt into one another and become inseparable …

… when a thing lacks life, is not whole, we experience it as being separate from the world and from itself. It stands out … This house is utterly isolated. It is intended to stand out. And it does stand out as an awkward triumph of egocentricity. It fails, thoroughly, to be not-separate.

The “X” house, New York. Not-separateness entirely missing: separate and ego-filled

This is, finally, perhaps the most important property of all. In my experiments with shapes and buildings, I have discovered that the other fourteen ways in which centers come to life will make a center which is compact, beautiful, determined, subtle – but which, without this fifteenth property, can still often somehow be strangely separate, cut off from what lies around it, lonely, awkward in its loneliness, too brittle, too sharp, perhaps too well delineated – above all too egocentric, because it shouts ‘look at me, look at me, look at how beautiful I am.’

Those unusual things which have the power to heal, the depth and inner light of real wholeness, are never like this. They are never separate, always connected. With them, usually, you cannot really tell where one thins breaks off and the next begins, because the thing is smokily drawn into the world around it, and softly draws this world into itself. It connects. It asserts the continuity of space, the continuity of all of us …

Not-separateness in an ancient English wheat barn

… The correct connection to the world will only be made if you are conscious, willing, that the thing you make be indistinguishable from its surroundings, that, truly, you cannot tell where one ends and the next begins, and you do not even want to be able to do so.

The sophisticated version of this rule, which comes about when we apply the rule recursively to its own products … which ties the whole together inside itself, which never allows one part to be too proud, to stand out too sharp against the next, but assures that each part melts into its neighbors, just as the whole melts into its neighbors, too.

A path which is connected to the earth

… This quality, geometrically, depends especially on the state of the boundary. In things which have not-separateness, there is often a fragmented boundary, an incomplete edge, which destroys the hard line … Often, too, there is a gradient at the boundary, a soft edge caused by a gradient in which scale decreases … this is why things get smaller at the edge – it destroys the hard edge. Finally, the actual boundary is sometimes rather careless, deliberately placed to avoid any simple complete sharp cutting off of the thing from its surroundings … “

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

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Yoga Practice Reflection – Sping 2018


It’s been a while since I’ve posted a practice review. I am not much inclined to doing so. I am in a period of relative silence, not inclined to talking too much (especially if not asked to). So this is mostly note-taking for myself.

This is what my current practice looks like this (this is a short-hand anotation that presumes familiarity with this style of practice):

It’s built around the same skeleten is has been for ~3 years. A couple of new ideas were introduced last year when I met with Paul face-to-face. It has been through continuous unfolding.

Last year was a hectic year and felt very disruptful to my practice: my trip to Hawaii, my yearly allergy, Iulia injuring herself, my attempt to be involved in Ceptr/Holochain … and other “life happenings”. Whenin fall, I felt settled into practice I felt like I had a long journey of recovery ahead of me. I chose to skip my yearly visit to Israel to meet my teachers, preferring to enter a prolonged period of undisturbed practice. Sometime in early January I felt that I “caught up with myself” – that I reconnected with an experience of stable containment and vitality.

Gradually I felt I was able to inhabit a full practice (as described above) and it too has been continuously unfolding. In the initial phase (first half of winter) I felt a return to presence-in-body. Then I felt a return to a beath-development cycle. When I felt vitality returning I re-introduced back-bends. I then gradually extended seated forward bends to include stays in maha-mudra (initially staying for 2 breaths, then 4) until maha-mudra became its own place.

The last piece added to the puzzle was the seated-twist. Though I already had a relationship with it last year, I felt that I did not have the vitality to hold it, that it drained me. When I finally felt welcome to bring it in, the meeting was soft and welcoming.

During this time I also did a 1-on-1 training with Paul around chanting. I’ve been familiar with chanting from my years of training with Paul, but I never studied it officially. Now I have, and I feel drawn in. I feel softness and spaciousness at the notion of softening my grip on my physical body and acquainting myself with my vibrational body. In chanting Paul has invited me to focus less on the meaning of the words and more on an experience of sustained vibration generated through subtle aspects of sounded-sanskrit.

The practice is now about two hours long. It occupies the first part of my day (unless life diverts my attention elsewhere).


When I met Paul 14 months ago I received 4 practice variations:

  1. x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x4br ujjayi
  2. x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x4br ujjayi
  3. x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x4br ujjayi
  4. x16br pratiloma ujjayi x8br pratiloma ujjayi x4br ujjayi

I explored almost the entire set last winter/early spring. After settling back into practice I started over. I started with variant 3 and then moved to variant 2. By mid-January I felt that I was ready to move onto variant 1, but then experienced blockage coming and going mostly in my right nostril. I was able to hold variant 2, but not to move on. I feel I’ve learned something about my blocked nasal passages (its subtle and I may try to go into more detail in a separate post). I am now transitioning to variant 1. It is my default practice, though on days where I feel blocked, I may still revert to variant 2.

I feel that I have an increased breathing capacity (that I could softly transition also to variant 4), but that the nasal blockage is holding me back.


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Christopher Alexander – Fundamental Property 14: Simplicity and Inner Calm


“Wholeness, life, has a way of being always simple …

It has to do with a certain slowness, majesty, quietness, which I think of as inner calm. It is present in this Shaker cabinet … but is almost totally missing from the peculir stylized Italian chairs from the 1920’s.

The quality comes about when everything unnecessary is removed. All centers that are not actively supporting other centers are stripped out, cut out, excised. What is left, when boiled away, is the structuer in a state of inner calm. It is essential that the great beauty and intricacy of ornament go only just far enough to bring this calm into being, and not so far that it destroys it …

Simplicity and inner calm is not only to be produced by simplicity … the wild Norwegian dragon … has inner calm even though it is so complex … So it is not true that outward simplicity creates inner calm; it is only inner simplicity, true simplicity of heart, which creates it.”

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

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Christopher Alexander – Fundamental Property 13: The Void


The rug pictured below is “similar” (not identical) to the one shown in the book … I chose it for its void quality over some of the other finer qualities in the sample shown in the book.

“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 …

In the Ghiordes prayer rug … this takes the form of the deep blue emptiness at the center. It connects with the infinite void, and also the the center of oneself.

… the altar in a church … it is the silence, at the heart

To understand the quality of the void clearly, a contrast between two examples is helpful once again: the plan of the mosque of Baybard in Cairo, contrasted with the plan of a typical American office building  of the 1970s. In the center of the mosque we experience the void. In the office building, there is merely an endless clutter and buzz. Nothing is still …

the Cairo Mosque of Baybars


Typical office building

This emptiness is needed, in some form, by every center … It is the quiet that draws the center’s energy of itself, gives it the basis of its strength …

A living structure can’t be all detail. The buzz finally diffuses itself, and destroys its own structure.”

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

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