“God is the ultimate Rorschach test.”
Carter Phipps

Low Down Yoga Sutra – Chapter1: Clarity

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What is Yoga?

  1. Now begins the teaching of how everything comes together
  2. It’s all about the ability to focus steadily on one thing without any distractions
  3. Then that thing appears for what it truly is
  4. Instead of what you want to make it out to be

Activities of the Mind

  1. There are five activities through which you relate to the world around you – each can support or obstruct you
  2. They are:
    • correct understanding (based on what is before you)
    • misunderstanding (based on what you think is before you)
    • imagination (based on what you think with little regard to what is actually there),
    • deep (dreamless) sleep
    • memory (recalling what was once before you)
  3. Correct understanding is based on:
    • what the senses report directly  to you
    • mental processes which you use to make sense of what the senses report
    • what other (trustworthy) people (sources) tell you

    Where you get your understanding is up to you – there are times when direct experience is best and there are times when asking or pausing to think are better.

  4. Misunderstanding is a temporary understanding that expires when it is replaced by a better understanding. You can live your entire life in a satisfying misunderstanding or you can stay open to new experiences in which cases misunderstanding may be a seed that grows into learning.
  5. Imagination is a mental process that sprouts from understanding and goes beyond it – it can stay imaginary and it can evolve into correct understanding – associated with reality. Imagination is a seed from which both  insanity and creativity can grow.
  6. Deep sleep is  a heaviness that overcomes the mind and brings it to rest. Heaviness is great when it helps you to sleep, it can be irritating when you are trying to focus.
  7. Memory is an impression left by experience – ideally it is a clear and true impression, but often it’s not. Memory is tricky because once its there – you have no way of telling where it came from – you can’t tell apart memories of understanding or imagination. Precise memory helps you move forward and build upon past experience – otherwise gaps between what you remember and what actually was, can get in your way.

Practice

  1. There are two things you can do to achieve steadiness and clear perception:
    • Practice, practice and then practice some more
    • Distance yourself from dogmatic opposites such as likes and dislikes, good and bad… this will come to you almost naturally if you practice.
  2. Practice should be something you can sustain consistently and over a long period of time. A teacher can help you find a correct practice.
  3. A practice will be effective if you can really get into, if you are passionate and eager about it.
  4. Such a practice will moderate cravings that lead you away from practice, it will pull you in.

Clarity & Focus

  1. Until eventually you will understand your true nature and will no longer get caught and distracted by it’s constant shifting and changing.
  2. Then when you focus on one thing – you totally get it, you will gain a new and deep perspective that goes beyond anything you’ve known before.  You will feel at one with the object – so much that nothing around you distracts you.
  3. But even then you carry with you your memories – beware,  they can arise and affect you at any time.

Faith & God

  1. Some people are born with the gift of clarity – they don’t need to practice for it.
  2. The rest of us need to have faith that this is possible – and though it may be against the odds it is possible. It takes time.
  3. Intense faith will propel you closer to clarity.
  4. Intensity of faith is different for people. It also changes over time – this change is in our nature. These variations and changes are reflected in the practice.
  5. If you don’t have faith – praying to God, if you are so inclined, may help.
  6. God is not some idealized religious symbol – it is simply that which never misunderstands, is not bound by suffering and therefore always acts based on clear & correct understanding.
  7. This concept of God represents something that is all knowing. Connecting with it is connecting with that knowledge.
  8. God is timeless – an eternal (past, present and future) source of spiritual guidance.
  9. Call God whatever works best for you, just make sure that you can relate to it with respect.
  10. When you do find this timeless, spiritual quality – try to connect with it as often as possible – spend time in its presence.
  11. This will be your practice, and eventually you will find clarity.

Handling Interruptions

  1. You may encounter 9 distracting interruptions on your path to clarity: sickness, lethargy (“stuckness”), doubt, careless action, fatigue, overindulgence, delusions, low motivation and regression.
  2. You can tell that you have been interrupted if you experience any of these symptoms:  disturbed thoughts, negative thoughts, disturbed body (can’t find ease and comfort), and difficult & unsteady breathing.
  3. Practice one thing, just one thing that supports you, practice it regularly.
  4. Practice calming social attitudes(instead of disturbing ones):
    • Be happy (instead of envious) when you encounter happiness in others.
    • Be compassionate (instead of gloating) when you encounter unhappiness in others
    • Be joyful (instead of critical) when you encounter virtue in others.
    • Be calm (instead of angered) when you encounter evil in others.
  5. Practice breathing with an emphasis on holding the breath and long exhalations.
  6. Inquire about the senses. They are your window to the world – control them so that they don’t control you.
  7. Inquire about the nature of life. Is there a bigger picture before me – something that goes beyond me and the things occupying my mind?
  8. Find inspiration. When you can’t find your own way, try to be in the presence of someone who has. Sometimes, just thinking of such an individual can help.
  9. Rest in sleep. Inquire into dreams that may occupy your sleep
  10. Meditate on something that shimmers for you – something you care about.

Clear Perception

  1. Infinity is revealed when clarity is attained – your will have mastery over the infinitesimally small and infinitely vast – everything will submit to your will.
  2. When there are no distractions, your mind can focus completely on one thing. Then gradually, as you sustain this thing in your mind you become totally immersed in it. Your mind becomes like a clear diamond – filled with nothing but reflections of this one thing. This is a gradual process – it doesn’t happen all at once.
  3. At first, your perception is clouded with echoes of past experiences. Their reflections mix together with the reflections of whatever it is you are trying to hold in your mind.
  4. As you sustain your focus, your past experiences will settle down and the mind will become clear. Then it is as if you are not there – there is only clear perception.
  5. This kind of perception can be achieved with anything you choose – gross or subtle.
  6. There is only one thing the mind cannot comprehend – and that is the source of perception. That is the one place the mind cannot go.
  7. Whatever you choose to focus on – that will be the seed – the starting point for this process of evolving perception. You have to have an object that interests you for this to happen. Your interest in it will help you get over any initial distractions you may encounter. Without interest you will not get past them.
  8. When you have experienced such total immersion and pure perception you will experience not only the object of your perception but yourself as well.
  9. Now your experience of knowledge is the absolute truth.
  10. It will be a spontaneous and immediate knowledge. This knowledge is different from anything you have been told or anything your reasoning may have uncovered.
  11. As you practice this kind of immediate and direct perception – it will become a natural experience. It will keep you from reverting to your old habits. It is like a one way train – once you get on, there’s no getting off or turning back.
  12. Eventually the mind reaches a state where there are no more distractions. It remains open, clear and transparent.

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Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga Sutra, Yoga Texts | You are welcome to read 2 comments and to add yours

For a Warm Winter

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Yesterday our order of  burning wood for the winter months arrived. It’s a first for me. When the truck left this huge pile was left on the street near our house.

wood01_arriving

Shortly after I started tossing pieces down to our house some kids from across the street came and asked if they could help – which was a great help. Soon other kids appeared and it turned out to be quite a celebration.

wood02_kidsarriving

wood3_tossing

I arranged some bricks that are lying around into a small, closed storage space which I will cover once it’s filled.

wood04_filling

wood05_filling

There is still some work left to place everything inside.

wood06_filling

… and this is Tree!

tree

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

What is there now?

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Here I am, writing instead of practicing… writing as a practice…

In the book “Cave in the SnowTenzin Palmo (I don’t have the book with me to offer a precise quote) says that you shouldn’t be on the mat unless you are present on the mat. Preoccupations prevent us from being present. The mat is special, it’s a space dedicated to a practice of presence. So if you’re not there – you may as well be somewhere else.

My days that begin with a Yoga practice are different then days that don’t – they are better.  In a similar way, the first asana of a Yoga practice affects the rest of the practice.  Tonight I chose to not get on the mat. The first “asana” in my practice is choice. I did not want to get on the mat. Recognition of that choice triggered an internal dialogue – second guessing myself with a diversity of less & more convincing arguments.

The original choice remained… and I chose to act on it. I feel that had I gone on the mat I would not have been present on it – and the practice would have distracted and agitating – I have tried this many times in the past.

I am now present – writing this with a movie playing in the background. I am present with  my impatience, self doubt & disturbed-energy. Getting on the mat would have been an attempt to escape from this – it probably would have failed. Instead I am:

  1. Doing what I felt like doing – sinking towards sleep with the help of a movie.
  2. Doing something I didn’t expect to do – writing this post.
  3. Looking forward to a fresh morning practice.
  4. Thinking back on the day, trying to see if there is something I would like to try doing differently tomorrow.
  5. … and awaiting an unplanned visit of a friend seeking help with neck pains.

On the mat, off the mat … in the end it all comes together… nicely!

Posted in Yoga, Yoga & I | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

My Eggs

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I live in a small village who’s residents work in agriculture – specifically fruits and eggs. If you approach the village in the late evening hours – when it’s getting dark – you will be greeted by hills covered with stripes of light – these are the chicken coops (the lights are kept on to keep the chickens feeding – which increases egg production).

One of the “perks” of living here is free eggs (and fruits in season)! Whenever I need eggs I help one of the coop-owners collect the eggs (its a daily chore) and in return I get a tray of 30 eggs. They would give them to me anyways – but I prefer this exchange. But “free” has a high price – and I am not at peace with my choice. The chickens are kept in terrible conditions – they are kept 3 or 4 in a small cage with barely enough room to move, industrialized food is supplied automatically – and they live that way for 2 years after which they are replaced and processed for their meat.

But here’s the thing. If I were to setup a small protective coop with two or three free-to-range chickens in it – they would supply enough eggs for two or three families. They are very low maintenance and the cost is practically nothing (you do need to feed them and collect the eggs). I know it’s a naive question – but it’s been with me for some time now – why doesn’t this scale up? Why does this process, when scaled up, compromise so many qualities – which are naturally there in it’s basic nature?

I really do not have the knowledge to answer this. I realize that cities are not planned with space and conditions to have free-ranging chickens. Maybe the problem is the cities? We had 5 or 6 consecutive days of rain in Israel. I live in the north, where it rains much more then in the center area, where my parents live. My parents reported floods and power failures. Here there were no such problems – the land is now a rich dark brown – saturated with water, the plants all seem grateful – the air is cool and clean.

I wonder…

Posted in AltEco, Expanding, inside, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Contents of Yoga Practice in Phases of Life

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This model offers a perspective on how the contents of a Yoga practice change as a function of age – from a practice that is dominated by asana (physical practice) at a young age to a practice that is dominated by meditation at an older age.

contentsofpractice_age01

contentsofpractice_age02

In childhood and adolescence the practice is made up mostly of asana. This makes sense – if you think about children and young teenagers – it’s not practical to expect them to sit through elaborate and subtle Pranayama (breathing) and meditative practices. They need to be kept involved otherwise their attention gets pulled away. Asana is the primary tool used to keep them engaged.

Adult life is about creating a life – family, career, etc. There are many distractions and preoccupations. The body is not a supple as it used to be, and there is typically much less space and time for practice. Asana is a shorter practice and used mostly to prepare for Pranayama and meditation, which in turn provide a counter-balance to the business of life.

Old age is typically another major shift – from business to contemplation. As responsibilities take up less space, there is room for exploration. Departure and death become a more substantial part of life. This phase  of life leans towards a meditation.

This model depicts Pranayama as a key ingredient of Yoga practice. It is introduced early in life and maintained throughout. It evolves from a goal (of Asana practice) to a means of preparation and support for meditative practices. It also demonstrates that Yoga practice moves together with the cycle of life from gross to subtle.

Posted in Breath, Models & Metaphors, Yoga, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-11-01

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  • @ronenk אני הולך יותר בכיוון של לא לעבוד בכלל ושאשתי תעבוד… וזה גם נושא אחר 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • Shakuhachi music notation – it's not science it's art – so conceptually different from western notation: http://twurl.nl/4gl1o4 #
  • does someone know of a GOOD substitute for iTunes for XP & Ubuntu? #
  • @ronenk לנהל את אוסף המוזיקה שלי בצורה נוחה ובתקווה גם לסנכרן אותו – אולי אפילו לאיזה איפוד…. בעקרון מעדיף אופן סורס in reply to ronenk #
  • @lindenitzan yes I have tried SongBird (with great expectations) – ran into errors and I walked away, maybe I'll try it again… in reply to lindenitzan #
  • Not only does Apple lock me into iTunes (if I want to use an iPod), but also into Microsoft…sheesh…open is the only way to go! #
  • not having iTunes for Ubuntu may keep me away from iPod , dat's just plain dumb. Apple took from Linux, now they should give back! #
  • @ronenk באסה שאופן סורס לא רק לא נוח… אבל הם גם לא נותנים לעזור להם להפוף את זה לנוח… ממש מבאס in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk הכלתי חזרתי והוצפתי… אין לי איפוד – זה העניין… כמעט היה לי… ונראה לי שלא יהיה in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk ובכלל זה משהו אקולוגי – רוצה להיפטר ממאות דיסקים – כדי שאוכל לנוע, ללכת בקלות… ועכשיו שאין כסף אני בכלל גונב מוזיקה in reply to ronenk #
  • @iamronen ואני לא רוצה להיות גנב, מוכן לוותר על נוח ולהיות צנוע, להיות איפה שאני, לא איפה שביל וסטיב רוצים שאני אהיה in reply to iamronen #
  • @iamronen ובעוד אני מעביר דיסקים למחשב… בכלל שואל בשביל מה… יש עוד רכושנות בי… שילמתי אז לא אשמור… איזה מצחיק in reply to iamronen #
  • @ronenk ופתאום אני קולט שאני שולח הודעות לעצמי במקום אלייך… אני דפוק – או הטכנולוגיה? למה שאעשה ריפליי לעצמי, היפי לא סכיזו in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk בוא לטייל… יפה ונעים פה כל כך עכשיו in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk הכל מחובר, תודה שגם אתה, זה תומך in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk המכשיר הכי טוב!! שולח אותי לתהות שוב על קנקנו של טוב… ואני לא בטוח שהוא באמת כזה… לפעמים הדפוקים יותר טובים יותר… זה דורש מאמץ in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk good is not nice http://www.inkupakor.com/nice/ in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk חופשי להיות זה טוב in reply to ronenk #
  • heard this on the last episode of Sopranos season 2! ♫ http://blip.fm/~fdkue #
  • @ronenk אין לי ניסיון בדרופל, לפי מה שאני יודע מג'נטו זה בכלל מסחר אלקטרוני וחנויות וכאלה… ואכן רוב הניסיון שלי בוורדפרס in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk ממה שבדקתי מג'נטו נראים רציניים, היה לי ניסיון בינוני עם זנקרט in reply to ronenk #
  • @ronenk couldn't find tracks online. taste Oren Marshall – Tuba & Electronics: http://twurl.nl/2t036v I'll play it 4u when u visit 🙂 in reply to ronenk #
  • RT very busy guy – so only serious buyers please 🙂 @adambn: I'm selling a samsung galaxy brand new in the box. Contact me if you want it. #
  • @ronenk yesss… I found a place you can listen to Oren Marshall – BRILLIANT stuff: http://twurl.nl/56ea3w in reply to ronenk #
  • RT so much fun in one instrument woah!! @ronenk: @iamronen There she is http://twurl.nl/50ngwc #
  • @ronenk אני שמח שהתחברת – תתחדש ותהנה – הוא עובר טוב בווליום מוגזם 🙂 יצאתי מתרגול ואני הולך לסמבוסק בחורפיש in reply to ronenk #
  • can anyone recommend a simple and free application to convert/compress "MOD" movie files (from a camera) to FLV or MPEG for web? #
  • "you gotta have a dream, cause if you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?" Daniel Johnston #
  • @kfirpravda PC please 🙂 Thank u ! in reply to kfirpravda #
  • heart brings together, mind takes apart #
  • RT great utility @davewiner: Printliminator Quickly, Easily Makes Any Page Printer Friendly. http://r2.ly/vj64 #
  • קניתי בטעות את הביסקוויטים הגדולים, פחומתאימים לתה, יש יותר ביסקוויטים בתחתית הכוס מאשר בבטן שלי, צריך לפתח הרגלי טבילה חדשים.. איזה מתיש! #
  • Exciting vibrations from Mozilla's Raindrop project: http://bit.ly/2wbnZz #
  • another day… good night all! ♫ http://blip.fm/~fhtz4 #
  • @SaraJChipps the hate can get better if you work on it (see: heart). as 4 responsibility – i have a feeling that is an illusion #
  • http://tumblr.com/xmt3qd2qe by @raymondpirouz congrats on "holistic", I have a feeling that "thinking" can use some holistic! evolution 🙂 #
  • how would you feel knowing that only 1 of every 100 of your work hours was effective? http://bit.ly/3cAtJ4 #
  • RT amen @raymondpirouz: @iamronen Thanks, it's all an evolutionary work in progress. 😉 #
  • טיול בגבעות, ארוחת בוקר צבעונית – פלפל אדום, אבוקדו ירוק, לימון צהוב, זיתים שחורים, לחם חום… והחתולה מחכה לי בחוץ לקפה בשמש… אחחחח #
  • in performance: http://twurl.nl/l21rs1 #
  • all of a sudden the day became wintery, covered in clouds, rain on and off… welcome change 🙂 #
  • iTunes Genius can only be launched from a single track, I would like to have it start and enrich an existing playlist… not so genius! #
  • recess, progress, excess: http://twurl.nl/bc6czx #
  • @janeforshort 3-hour naps are RE-orienting… question is if thats the orientation you want!? in reply to janeforshort #
  • RT @erangalperin: wall painting + street art = awesome http://bit.ly/2Dqigu #
  • all of a sudden it's winter, long sleeves indoors, cool floor…. #
  • listening to Jeff Buckley – Live at Sine album – what a rare and brilliant performer and performance – so direct, honest and present #
  • @ronenk this 'aint Germany Dorothy 😉 in reply to ronenk #
  • "Reason is merely reflecting an outside order, and that reason knows nothing about that order" http://bit.ly/rKSqu #
  • sometimes I know I missed my opportunity to do whats right for my energy… and its usually done for the day… #
  • open-source and designers need to find a way to work together: http://bit.ly/3mLTVb #
  • started an intimate photography project with no intentions of sharing images… such a great relief #
  • @ronenk אני יכול להסתכל שעות על השעה 02:34 in reply to ronenk #

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Posted in About, Twitter Updates | You are welcome to add your comment

Closed Open Source

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I am a fan of open-source. This started with WordPress and is gradually expanding to cover almost all of my information needs. I am writing this post on an old latpop I resurrected with Ubuntu and purely open-source solutions. In some cases, such as Open Office, I have had to surrender many niceties and make do with simpler and more limited tools. In other cases, such as Firefox, I have found a better overall solution and even some new useful features I didn’t have before.

Open source generally suffers from a poor user-experience. This is an issue for most software tools and developers, but commercial solutions have an upper-hand in this domain. They can afford to make design efforts to either make their products better or at least make them look cosmetically better.

Open-source is rooted in a passion for developers to express themselves – to create software the way they think it should be (technically -and morally). Open source is therefore dominated by developers. Most of “open-source” is hidden from end-users – it is a highly technical environment and social process in which developers in remote locations work together to create software – it’s a pretty amazing process. Though it’s called “open” it’s actually a very private party – you need to have a developer state-of-mind and technical capabilities to participate. This pretty much closes the door on many other disciplines that are essential to making good software.

For some time I’ve been wanting to partake and contribute to open-source products. I have some experience in product design and user experience which I believe are greatly missing from open-source. So far, all of my attempts to help have failed. Actually they haven’t actually failed – I never even got through the door. Actually, it feels like there isn’t even a door for me to knock on.

WordPress

WordPress is a wonderful tool. I’d like to see it evolve into my one and only home on-line. I’d like everyone to be able to get a WordPress website as an alternative to Facebook (and I think BuddyPress is the wrong way to do it). I think that one of the greatest obstacles to moving in this direction is the complexity of the administration interface (which is one of the best in the open-source world) – which is way more then what many non-technical people can handle. WordPress has actually been able to bring graphic designers into an open-source development process – but I don’t think that nice icons or a color palette are enough to make WordPress more accessible.

In this video (3:38) Matt speaks about what he feels is the greatest misconception about WordPress – and he points out that people think it’s only for professional bloggers – when actually much work has been done to make it accessible to everyone. If a lot of people are thinking it, maybe it’s not a “misconception”?

https://videopress.com/v/creB0kaV

I don’t know what the solution is – but I have some ideas. I’d like to be able to present those ideas and discuss them with others. I’d like the WordPress developer community to be open to product, graphic and user experience designers. But even that is something I don’t know how to do – it’s a great challenge.

I care, I want to contribute, I want to participate, I want there to be a dialogue. I’d like to have an opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas. I don’t know of a place for me to do this, and all my attempts to reach-out so far have met thin air.

Mozilla Raindrop

This recent initiative from Mozilla Labs is exciting. I have been wishing for something like it for a long time and it’s even a part of my vision for WordPress. After reading what information was available about it – my mind begin churning and I began looking for a place a discussion can take place. The Raindrop Community page offers several options:

  • Design is a collection of screen-shot images on Flickr – which I really can’t see as a place to converse and innovate.
  • On Get Satisfaction I asked where I should post my thoughts
  • I was referred to the Ideas section (all the rest are technical/developer oriented spaces) – where the most popular suggestion is about a missing icon.

So again I was left scratching my head. I continued to collect my thoughts and reflections but I don’t know where to share them with the community – which has left with me a feeling that maybe the community doesn’t even want to hear about it.

It’s a frustrating experience –  I haven’t given up yet. I’ve been thinking about this post for some time – a post I read today at Weblog Tools Collection finally prompted me to write it.

Posted in Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 6 comments and to add yours

Recess, Progress, Excess

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A part of me wishes I could tell you (and myself) that over the years I have practiced Yoga (on the mat) consistently. But that is not the truth. I’ve been through periods of consistent & intense practice, periods of erratic practice, and periods of no practice.

I have observed numerous patterns in the development of my practice:

  • Recess leads to Progress. Almost every time I came out of recess and resumed practice – I experienced substantial progress. I found I could do things with my body and breath that I couldn’t do before. It felt as though recesses enabled my  body to assimilate things I had learned and practiced. My body not only remembered what it had known but found it’s way into new places.
  • Progress usually leads to Excess. Progress leads to a sense of achievement and satisfaction. It enables me to do more, to intensify my practice. Being able to do more makes me curious and curiosity motivates me to push my limits. If I am not attentive I over-do and push my system into excess. Alas, progress is a temporary experience – it is quickly assimilated and then it’s gone. When progress ceases, motivation wavers. So I cannot maintain excess for long, and my practice breaks.
  • Excess leads to Recess. When my practice breaks, it usually wavers and eventually I find myself in a period of no practice. And the cycle repeats itself.

I am currently in a period of consistent and focused practice. My focus and exploration now is on correct effort. I try to approach every practice session, every practice sequence, every asana and every breath with an awareness of correct effort in intentions, breath and body. I have a feeling that I am doing something different this time. I know where the trap to excess awaits me, I am practicing near it and I have not yet fallen into it.

I think that my Shakuhachi practice is tempering me. I am a beginner in Shakuhachi playing so I am revisiting a phase of learning that is slow, unsatisfying and requires persistence, patience and much repetition.

I am curious to see what happens in the coming months.

Posted in inside, Shakuhachi, Yoga, Yoga & I, Yoga & Life | You are welcome to add your comment

In Performance

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This is a rare glimpse into a rare session of Shahar & I playing around together with musicians from The Meeting. The images that are projected in the background are being broadcast live from my camera.

… a few images from that session:

[slidepress gallery=’shahar-at-tel-aviv-meeting’]

Posted in Photography | You are welcome to add your comment

One Percent

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Imagine that of every 100 hours of work that you do, 99 hours would be spent on lunches & coffee breaks and only 1 hour would actually be spent on work that is actually productive. If this sounds ridiculous, think about it next time you get into a car.

In a typical combustion engine car about 80% of the energy created by the engine becomes heat, only the remaining 20% is actually transformed into locomotion. Those 20% are used to move the combined weight of you and the car itself – your weight is only about 5% of that. So only 5% of the locmotive energy is used to move you from place to place – that equals 1% of the total energy created by the car engine. Terribly inefficient.

This information comes from a book titled “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution” (which is also available as downloadable PDF’s). I have only started reading it and am currently in the second chapter which is about the automotive industry. I am enjoying it.

Yet as I read it I can’t  help but thinking that there is a very basic perspective missing altogether, not just from this book, but from many so called “ecological” endeavors. How much energy can be conserved through personal awareness and lifestyle changes – such as driving less? One of the deeply planted hooks that the industrial revolution has left in greater society is consumerism. Would the automotive industry continue to evolve as is amazingly outlined in the book knowing that the number of cars sold worldwide would drop drastically? Would they actively work and support such a reduction?

What is the vision/motivation that drives the automotive industry? Is it about “creating efficient transportation for the greater needs of society” or “making a profit by selling vehicles”? Though some (mostly business stakeholders) claim that two such motivations can live in harmony, I believe that they are very different points of origin and that they lead into very different journeys.

Posted in AltEco, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Welcome Mozilla Raindrop

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Mozilla has just revealed Raindrop – a new messaging project from the Thunderbird (email client) team. I am happy about this project. I have been thinking about it quite a bit since I heard about it last week. It’s not clear to me yet what Raindrop is. I like that it is an exploration.

I view Raindrop as a key piece in a bigger puzzle. The bigger picture I see is that of an online personal space that is mine. A place where my information is stored and shared with others, a place that I can access from any computer or mobile device, a place where I can meet people and people can meet me. Naturally this involves much sending, receiving and processing of communication. This website (based on WordPress) is in some ways that home, but there are still some pieces missing in it. Raindrop is can be one of those pieces.

“A central principle behind Raindrop is that messaging should be personal”
(Mozilla Labs – Introducing Raindrop)

Email is no longer a means of communication with the outside world – it IS the outside world. Email, whether you have surrendered to it (and it contains tons of information accumulated over many years) or constantly fight it (by working to keep it clean and empty), is not just a highway – it’s a storage place.  The “Inbox” is a very impersonal experience – it contains everything the world wants me to have. “Personal” is the context in which I view the Inbox and the choices I make in dealing with it. The information that makes an Inbox personal cannot be found in the Inbox. I believe this is a gap that Raindrop is trying to fill. To do this I feel it’s going to have to perform a magic trick – it is going to have to disappear! Raindrop should sit on the shelf  closer to HTML then Thunderbird.

If Raindrop wants to help me and truly become personal it is going to need help. It needs to become a parasite and hook into existing services in which I already “exist”, that already know me fairly well. For me this would be my website, for others it may be their accounts on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. Imagine, for example, how differently a communication can be treated if it comes from a known or unknown associate/source? Or how it should be treated if it comes from an associate with whom I communicate frequently?

If you think about it there is  an irony in this process. Much incoming communication (especially the kind that Raindrop is trying to identify, filter & organize) is generated in systems in which there is a known context. Context gets lost when communications are funneled into an email Inbox. A direct message on twitter is a communication with specific context (it’s on twitter, it’s from someone I am/not following, it is a reply, a retweet, contains a reference to another twitter account, is part of a sequence of messages, is in a different timezone, etc.) – but when it’s passed into an Inbox as an email it loses much of that context and becomes another incoming message for me to figure out.

I’d like to see Raindrop become a technological infrastructure that:

  • Can hook onto and listen to on-line resources in which I have a presence.
  • Can collect and store communications (and payloads) that are dispatched from these resources.
  • Can be taught to extract from stored communications (and payloads) contextual information.
  • Can automatically extract from stored communications (and payloads) contextual information.
  • Can dispatch outgoing communications using various communication protocols/infrastructures
  • Can operate on standard open-source web technologies.
  • Can be easily deployed in a self-sustained package.
  • Has building blocks that designers & developers can use to create front-end applications.

Specifically I’d love to see Raindrop offered as (for example) a WordPress Plugin that will:

  • Enable millions of non-developers (including me) to experience it directly and provide feedback as it grows and develops.
  • Benefit from an easy and seamless installation/update process.
  • Enable the WordPress Developer Community to bind it’s capabilities into WordPress (developing contextual capabilities and user interfaces).
  • Provide owners of hosted WordPress installation an alternative self-owned email hosting service tightly bound with their websites.
  • Provide a built in mail server which can relay raw or processed communication into email clients such as Thunderbird (which may act as a native interim client GUI for Raindrop).
  • Free the Raindrop developers to focus on the core/infrastructure technology (while other developers can experiment with and maintain front-end applications).
Posted in Open Source, outside, Tech Stuff | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Eigenharp

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Pretty amazing technological instrument:

And a guided demonstration of what it can do:

Thank you @ronenk for sending this my wa.

Posted in Enjoy, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Shakuhachi Notation

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Yesterday I had my first official Shakuhachi lesson (though it is our second time communicating). When I first purchased a Shakuhachi I also ordered a guide (book and CD) that includes instruction on reading notation. I couldn’t figure it out – and it was rather disappointing – especially because I was told it’s fairly easy!

Now I know better. There is no one Shakuhachi music  notation – there are numerous notations, each representing different schools, traditions and eras of Shakuhachi. Therefore, Shakuhachi notation is best learned with a teacher… and it is fairly simple. A teacher will choose a notation for you – and that choice carries with it hundreds of years of evolving tradition. Each notation is a doorway to musical pieces that come from that same tradition. There are even some well-known pieces that are written and played differently in each tradition. I am guessing that in time a teacher may present more then one notation to a student.

It is of course best to learn notation by learning to play a piece. As we started studying a piece and the notation required to read and play it, I encountered some symbols, such as the length of a note, which were not precise – as I had come to expect from western music notation. I asked my teacher “so this isn’t like rocket science?” to which he replied “no, it’s art”. What a relief… I was scared of notation because I had an unpleasant experience learning to play guitar some years ago – I was overwhelmed by the complexity of the theoretical aspects. Shakuhachi notation feels so different and so right for me. There is so much space for exploration, personal expression… so much space.

Aside from Shakuhachi playing I am reconnecting with the experience of having a teacher present. It is inspiring, supportive and already greatly affected my playing.

I am learning a well known piece called Take Shirabe in a variation & style that is typical of the Fudaiji temple. I have learned the first 6 breaths. This is an excellent rendition of it:

It is, for beginner Shakuhachi players kind of like Pink Floyd’s “Is there anybody out there?” for guitar players. It’s a great starting point – accessible and beautiful.

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

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-10-25

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  • if u r a WordPress (but not only) dev working with people who don't know much about tech – maybe this can help u: http://bit.ly/309h0y #
  • I get a recurring feeling something is not right with WordPress Community… maybe compassion? #
  • RT 10:10 @ronenk: @iamronen 10:08. #
  • RT @ronenk: איזה אפקט מגניב זה למזוג משהו לכוס צמודה לקיר כשרואים את הצל של הכוס והמשקה שנשפל על הקיר, מרגיש כאילו זה נשפך. #
  • YO Twitter engineers: Following 666, Followers 2, Updates 1 = SPAM #
  • Little waste to Zero Waste: http://twurl.nl/xl3z77 #
  • an old blog of mine is gathering great spam jokes: What do you get if you cross a giant and a vampire? A BIG pain in the neck! #
  • I saw an albino eating carrots, it seemed like the right thing to do #
  • listening to Leonard Cohen – Live at Isle of Wight 1970 – beautiful and delicate #
  • "It's a large nation, but still weak, very weak, needs to get a lot stronger before it can claim a right to land" Leonard Cohen 1970 #
  • some things you can try to practice pranayama with blocked nostrils: http://bit.ly/45lqpf #
  • Will you miss me? http://bit.ly/3Oq7bm #
  • RT @KathySierra: inspiring-yet-practical advice from Online Photographer (but helpful for all): http://idek.net/awN (via @Jeff_Bailey) #
  • I wish someone (Peter Jackson!?) would finally make good Dune movie #
  • @ronenk כחחחח כחחחחח in reply to ronenk #
  • had my 1st full Shakuhachi lesson, how wonderful that words like meditation,friendship,understanding are part of the notation and teaching #
  • @andreea_hl 's website http://www.feminitate.org has served over 100k pages of feminine knowledge to over 23k Romanian women #
  • fears are on the move, feeling like a failure, going to have dinner #

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Pranayama with Blocked Nasal Passages

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Many people, myself included, frequently experience difficulties in Pranayama (breathing) practices that involve nostril control. The problem is usually due to some kind of obstacles that block or disturb the flow of air through the nostrils. This can be frustrating for people who want to pursue and develop a Pranayama practice. Fortunately there are some things you can do.

Choose an Appropriate Technique

Blocked nostrils usually inhibit inhaling more then they do exhaling. In Pranayama we are practicing lengthening the breath. When practicing with nostril control, in exhaling we use our fingers to partially block the nasal passages to control the outward flow of the breath. Blocked nasal passages work in the same direction – so in a way they are supporting the practice. The problem is usually on the inhale when we want to bring air in and blocked passages prevent us from bringing in enough. This creates physical, mental and emotional pressures and disturbance in the system. This usually leads to short and unsteady breathing.

In this series about Pranayama I have listed techniques in an order in which they are taught and should usually be practiced . The more advanced practices like Nadi Sodhana are subtle and require preparation – it is difficult to practice effectively with blocked nostrils. Alternately, a basic practice like Anuloma Ujjayi is more accessible and can be practiced even when the nostrils are partly blocked (and therefore also partly open).

Anuloma Ujjayi works within the limitations of blocked nostrils. Inhaling through both nostrils (using Ujjayi as a control) circumvents the difficulty of inhaling through one nostril. Exhaling through alternating nostrils gives us a chance to experience the more subtle qualities of nostril control. Exhaling also works in a direction that may push out mucus that may be causing blockage.

If Anuloma Ujjayi is not accessible then take up a breathing practice based on Ujjayi breathing without any nostril control.

Practice Asana before Pranayama

It is useful to remember the bigger picture of what we are trying to achieve in our practice. Pranayama is intended to regulate the flow of Prana. To do that effectively Prana must first be stirred and moved – this is what Asana (physical) does. An effective Asana practice will awaken Prana inside the body, generate heat, prepare your body for comfortable sitting and by practicing with Ujjayi it will gradually prepare your breathing. Often, I find that my nasal passages are more open after Asana practice. My experience is that after Asana practice there is generally less resistance in the body and a more fluid movement of breath.

Cleansing Breath

Kapalabhati and Bhastrika breathing techniques can also be used as a preparation for Pranayama. They can be very effective but they need to be taught and practiced under the guidance of a teacher. I am careful about prescribing them here because in addition to their cleansing effect they also have a potential for a strong energetic effect for which the body needs to be prepared. If not applied with care they can cause a disturbance that outweighs any beneficial effects. If you have access to a good Yoga teacher then you may consult with them on learning and using these techniques.

Give it Time

Pranayama is a subtle practice. It takes time to realize and appreciate it. My teachers have suggested that it takes 3 to 6 months of consistent & quality practice. Get yourself comfortable if you want to sustain yourself through this journey. If you constantly push beyond your limits you will experience constant friction and failure. Find a recipe that works for you (good preparation and an appropriate technique) and it will sustain you in your practice.

Pranayama is a practice of never ending cycles that go deeper into subtle aspects of breath and energy. There is no point in rushing, there is no finish line to reach.

A Little Trick

One day, not too long ago, I sat to practice Nadi Sodhana, event though my nostrils were slightly blocked. I felt I could sustain a quality practice despite the blockage. During the practice I found that I could actually use nostril control to bypass the blockage and create a better passage. I found that if I applied slight pressure on the nostril AND slightly pull it out (away from my body) – I was able to form a more open path for the breath to flow. I realized that my fingers can be used not only for closing and opening the passage, but also for slightly changing its shape.

Posted in Breath, Pranayama, Yoga | You are welcome to read 3 comments and to add yours

Will You Miss Me?

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This is my second morning waking up to a new day in a house without Andreea. Andreea has gone to Romania for 11 weeks to promote her work and hopefully bring us closer home. She asked me numerous times if I’ll miss her when she’s gone.On the day she left I recalled something I read by Robert Pirsig, and it moved in me the entire day. This morning I looked it up. It is in the afterword of the 25th edition copy I have of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

“This book has a lot to say about ancient Greek perspectives and their meaning but there is one perspective it misses. That is their view of time. They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.

The receding Ancient Greeks perspective of the past ten years has a very dark side: Chris [Pirsig’s son] is dead.

I tend to become taken with philosophic questions, going over them and over them and over them again in loops that go round and round and round until they either produce an answer or become so repetitively locked on they become psychiatrically dangerous, and now the question became obsessive: “Where did he go?”

Where did Chris go?… Did he go up the stack at the crematorium? Was he in the little box of bones they handed back? Was he strumming a harp of gold on some overhead cloud? None of these answers made any sense.

It had to be asked: What was it I was so attached to? Is its just something in the imagination? When you have done time in a mental hospital, that is never a trivial question. If he wasn’t just imaginary, then where did he go? Do real things just disappear like that? If they do, then the conservation laws of physics are in trouble. But what if we stay with the laws of physics, then the Chris that disappeared was unreal. Round and round and round…

The loops eventually stopped at the realization that before it could be asked “Where did he go?” it must be asked “What is the ‘he’ that is gone?”. There is an old cultural habit of thinking of people as primarily something material, as flesh and blood. As long as this idea held, there was no solution. The oxides of Chris’s flesh and blood did, of course, go up the stack at the crematorium. But they weren’t Chris.

What had to be seen was that the Chris I missed so badly was not an object but a pattern, and that although the pattern included the flesh and blood of Chris, that was not all there was to it. The pattern was larger than Chris and myself, and related us in ways that neither of us understood completely and neither of is was in complete control of.

Now Chris’s body, which was a part of that larger pattern, was gone. But the larger pattern remained. A huge hole had been torn out of the center of it, and that was what caused all the heart-ache. The pattern was looking for something to attach to and couldn’t find anything… The pattern is trying to hang on to it’s own existence by finding some new material thing to center itself upon.

Some time later it became clearer that these thoughts were something very close to statements found in many “primitive” cultures. If you take that part of the pattern that is not the flesh and bones of Chris and call it the “spirit” of Chris or the “ghost” of Chris, then you can say without further translation that the spirit or ghost of Chris is looking for a new body to enter. When we hear accounts of “primitives” talking this way, we dismiss them as superstition because we interpret ghost or spirit as some sort of material ectoplasm, when in fact they may not mean any such thing at all.

In any event, it was not many months later that my wife conceived, unexpectedly. After careful discussion we decided it was not something that should continue… So we came to our conclusion and made the necessary medical appointment.

Then something very strange happened. I’ll never forget it. As we went over the whole decision in details one last time, there was a kind of disassociation, as though my wife started to recede while we sat there talking… You think  you’re together and then suddenly you see that you’re not together anymore.

… It was a really frightening thing, which has since become clearer. It was the larger pattern of Chris, making itself known at last. We reversed our decision, and now realize what a catastrophe it would have been for us if we hadn’t.

… This time he’s a little girl names Nell and our life is back in perspective again. The hole in the pattern is being mended. A thousand memories of Chris will always be at hand, of course, but not a destructive clinging to some material entity that can never be here again.”

  • Andreea and I have described this recent period of our life as a process of dying, where old patterns are making way for new ones
  • I sense that we are, as individuals, in many ways already dead… yet there are powerful patterns of living still awake and moving within us
  • I miss having a life where those patterns can attach to real & material people & objects, and I know Andreea misses it even more then I do
  • There is fear in me that those patterns may not find things to attach themselves to again
  • I now realize that as a couple,together, we are alive and vibrant and reaching out
  • Andreea’s visit to Romania is an effort to make new connections which we intend to expand and follow to a new home
  • I’ll probably miss, at some point, Andreea’s physical presence and nearness.
  • I am looking forward to life that will bloom from Andreea’s visit, and I expect those hopes will outshine any short term pains I may experience from not having her near me.
Posted in Expanding, inside | You are welcome to add your comment

Little Waste to Zero Waste

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At Yellowstone National Park, the clear soda cups and white utensils are not your typical cafe-counter garbage. Made of plant-based plastics, they dissolve magically when heated for more than a few minutes.

At Ecco, a popular restaurant in Atlanta, waiters no longer scrape food scraps into the trash bin. Uneaten morsels are dumped into five-gallon pails and taken to a compost heap out back.

And at eight of its North American plants, Honda is recycling so diligently that the factories have gotten rid of their trash Dumpsters altogether.

It’s possible, and people are doing it – taken from Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None

Posted in AltEco, outside | You are welcome to add your comment

Introduction to Getting Started with WordPress

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Some of the WordPress projects I create are with people who have never heard of blogging or websites, though most people I encounter have basic computer literacy – some have just that. Yet they have something to say – and my intentions are to help them say it. This creates some challenges for me – since there is some basic knowledge that they need to learn and assimilate in order to make some decisions and get started with WordPress- and I take on the responsibility of providing them with it.

I am currently involved in a project where these issues are again coming up and this time I started off by searching for some “getting started” guides to which I could refer my client as we progressed in the project. I couldn’t find any. So I hooked onto this projects and it’s needs and as we progressed I put in writing the things I wanted to say to my client. I used these posts in communicating with my client – and it really helped –  instead of having to repeat myself – the client could refer back to the posts at any time.

Getting Started with WordPress

I wrote (and  hope to continue) this series in the hope that other people in the WordPress community will benefit from it as they work to help other people create their wordpress websites.

Posted in Open Source, outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

What are WordPress Themes?

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A WordPress Theme is like an outfit for your WordPress blog – it contains information that tells WordPress how your website should appear and function for visitors. Besides your content, your Theme is what makes your blog unique and special.

Technically speaking you have to have a theme – without it your blog would be invisible. When WordPress is installed it comes with a standard built in Theme. You can add more Themes to your WordPress installation and decide “which one you want to wear”.

What’s in a Theme?

A WordPress Theme usually contains: (1)  Templates that that say what content should be displayed on your web-pages; (2) CSS files that indicate how that information should be visually presented together with Images that may be needed/used to decorate your web-pages.

There can be numerous templates in a theme – each one describes a different usage. For example:

  • What should be displayed when a list of recent posts is displayed? For example – for each post display: Title, Date & Time published, Excerpt, A link to a page where the entire post is displayed..
  • What should be displayed when a single post is displayed? For example: Title, Date & Time published, Categories, Content (the body of the post), A comment entry form, Existing comments, Links to previous and next posts.
  • What should be displayed when a category archive list is displayed? For example: Title, Date & time published.

These are just examples. But they go to show that there are plenty of options available in deciding what information is displayed in different situations. There are many standard templates so you don’t have to make all these choices – but you can.

CSS files are used to describe the looks of your website. They can be used to affect how things are arranged on the screen, colors, typography, etc. Images can be used to build and decorate your web-pages. Some images are used in an obvious way – such as your logo or header (at the top of every page). Other images are used by designers to achieve graphic affects for backgrounds or filling large areas.

Template building requires some programming skills and a familiarity with the internals of WordPress. CSS files & Images are usually created by designers who specialize in web-design. Creating a WordPress Theme requires a combination of programming & design skills.

Ready-made WordPress Themes

The most straightforward and inviting way to get a WordPress theme is by adding  ready-made themes to your WordPress installation. You will find a large and growing repository of themes on the WordPress.ORG website. You can also find many other themes & repositories by searching google for “WordPress Themes” but I would recommend you only use themes from the WordPress repository. Themes that are submitted to the WordPress.ORG repository meet certain technical and ethical standards which are there to protect you.

I started my way with WordPress using ready-made themes and I learned the hard way that this is not a quality solution:

  • My experience shows that many (if not most) of the ready-made themes are poorly built. They may look appealing, but under the hood they are poorly built and this will inhibit you and your blog in the short and long term.
  • You (and most people) probably do not know how to tell apart the poorly built themes from the properly built themes.
  • Inevitably most people turn to ready-made themes when they are just getting started – before they know what they want for their blog. As a result they end up settling for what their chosen ready-made theme does instead of exploring their possibilities.
  • If you do know what you want for your blog you will be hard pressed to find a theme that meets your expectations (form and function).

If you don’t have a better option and you have no choice but to settle for a ready-made theme, then I would suggest you invest in one of the commercially supported themes in the WordPress.ORG repository. These themes are usually backed by developers who offer commercial support services, including customization services, which may be a good option for you.

Custom Built WordPress Themes

If your intentions are clear and serious about expressing yourself online through a blog then, in my opinion, this is the only way to go. You can either take the long-way around and try all kinds of other solutions and then have a theme custom built for you, or you can skip directly to what needs to be done. I am tempted to say that if you are not yet sure about your intentions – then you may want to play around with the ready-made themes – but to be honest I am not even sure that is true. Your experience and exploration of WordPress will be completely different with professional guidance and a custom theme – in more ways then you can probably imagine.

If you do choose to have a custom theme built for you then your challenge is now finding someone who can help you do this. Here are some ideas on how to do this:

  1. Find a professional to help you at:
  2. Ask candidates to send you references to themes they have built – see if you like and can relate to their work.
  3. If you can, contact some of the people who have worked with candidates, ask them how the process was for them.

Theme Frameworks – Don’t start from Scratch

Imagine, just for a few seconds, you were going to order a custom made car. What are the things that come to your mind? It is most likely cosmetic stuff – like it’s shape & color. Of course it needs to have a good engine, gear-shift, air conditioning – but that kind of goes without saying. Building a WordPress theme is kind of like that, and if you want to be able to focus on the cosmetic aspects, you need to make sure they are built around a good engine. Your choice to use WordPress is already a step in the right direction, now you need to do the same for your Theme.

Building WordPress themes from scratch can be a tedious task (remember, there’s more then meets the eye). Fortunately some talented and caring WordPress professionals have done some great work to address this challenge. They have developed “Theme Frameworks”. Theme Frameworks are essentially naked themes – they provide most of the things a good theme needs to have under the hood and they are easy to customize. This is great for theme designers because they don’t need to start from scratch. For you this promises that your custom made theme is not only appealing but also well built.

There are, to the best of my knowledge, three quality WordPress theme frameworks: ThematicCarrington & ThemeHybrid. If your theme developer uses one of these frameworks it is a good sign. It indicates she values quality, recognizes the value of these frameworks, and is probably efficient (because it is much faster to build a theme based on a framework then from scratch). It means you are probably in good hands.

The Business of Themes

Theme framework developers are prominent and active members in the WordPress community and embody some of it’s special qualities. Their theme frameworks are offered freely to the WordPress community, some also offer free themes that are built on their own theme-frameworks. To the best of my knowledge, they all have successful businesses based on commercial support and customization services.

This is the Karma of the WordPress community. Almost everything is made available for you to use free of charge, if you enjoy and benefit from it you can send a nice thank you, make a donation or pass it on and help other enjoy it as you do. There are some commercial services which can address your special and personalized needs. BUT – the best commercial services are usually provided by people who are also contributors of free solutions to the WordPress community.

As in any community there are people who abuse the system and bend it to their needs. Please be warned – it you encounter Theme developers who only offer paid themes (or poor quality free themes intended to lure you in to buying the more luxurious paid themes) – stay away. Not only does this go against the nature of the WordPress community, but in my experience their solutions are technologically inefrior to what you can get for free.

Next up – some tips on how to work with Theme developers.

http://jobs.WordPress.net/
Posted in outside, Wordpress | You are welcome to read 1 comment and to add yours

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-10-18

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