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My View On Meditation

You don’t need anything but your present moment, after all thats all there is. A “need” is an aggression towards yourself and your present moment. A need to improve is an aggression toward yourself hindering your ability to improve. A need to make more use of your time is a thief that robs you of the here and now. It is easy to grasp, but to master it, you must first master yourself. When I got started I realized that it as hard to handle a prolonged session. For example when I started it was impossible to gain relaxation of the facial muscles, especially eyes muscles. Over time it helped me quite a bit just noticing how the eye movements would change and decrease after a while, and when they finally stop it’s a very good feeling. If I had had one piece of advice given to me back when I first started I think that it would have been to start small. When people talk with me about it, I suggest very short snippets of time in every kind of situation. Like that you do not need to sped long stretches of time meditating and becoming frustrated when it feels like you are not making progress. Even 20 seconds or even 5 secs at a time, but the key here is doing it many times. This isn’t a real substitute for longer meditation sessions but it helps quite a bit to get a hang on starting, and above all it helps a lot to develop “presence” of mind. It’s definitely helpful especially if you work in front of a screen all day long. The reason is because that can produce a nasty state of mind, one which almost erases the effects of meditation. I use it during the day while I am at work in short bursts to refocus. When I am getting drained I will do it. Sometimes without even realizing it. Basically I don’t have any excuse how to do it, I need to practice not to do it. At least all of the time. Especially during my commute. Some preach long sessions only, they see them as the only way to go but then again, start small. Its better being consistent than pushing for long seshions and ending up being unmotivated to sit for 30 min each time. My bottomline view is that it is important to do shorter sessions. Even if you don’t get the full benefit. Sit 5 minutes, even less if that is too much. Start from there and as you progress you might wanna do longer periods.
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Geo What?

It’s called Geocaching. And as you might have guessed it is a website, you can find it under http://www.geocaching.com/. My friends and I play it sometimes. The idea is sort of like treasure hunting. For me the added bonus is that I get to spend time with my friends doing something fun. On top of that I have gotten to see a lot of places that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. The gist is that people create and hide varying size “caches” and then upload the GPS coordinates to a website. Others than download the coordinates onto a handheld GPS like you phone you don’t need much. Just some time to go out and find it. Sometimes there’s just a log you sign, other times people will leave stuff to take. You can also log your finds on the same website. To date my favorite find was a Backstreet Boys album and a picture of MacGuyver.
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When in Chicago Do As the Chicagoans Do

Urbs in Horto

I moved away from our lovely city of gardens when I went to college. It was a big adjustment at first and I missed my city deeply, but it was one of growth as well. Because of that I feel like I lived up to our/your city’s motto fairly well. But it is always a little bit bittersweet when I visit and I have to return “home.” Which is really home? I often encourage people to visit. For one, it is cheaper that some of the other big cities, and it has a lot to offer. A trip to Starved Rock state park is about an hour and a half outside of the city, but feels very remote. Do you get that when you travel to NYC? If you enjoy hiking, Midwest hiking (there is a distinction), it is a nice experience. You will be treated to some lovely canyons and waterfalls there. And check out Matthiessen State Park as well. It is smaller, it amounts to about a a mile long canyon, but it is a fun experience when walk through it. One thing that I have begun to notice when I got back is that you will encounter many European tourists. They enjoy traveling the Old Route 66 from Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, making it sort of a day trip. Some of the bigger towns along the way make a special effort to welcome them. There are several organizations that provide information. But that is far from everything. If you like history, you can go to the Cahokia Mounds in Colinsville and on the return trip stop in Springfield, IL to see some sites where President Lincoln lived. Another fun trip is going to Galena, Il which has lots of history and great architecture. But be warned, the downtown has turned into pretty much of a tourist trap with all the “ye olde” stores there.

Outside of Chicago?

Something in Wisconsin might interest you. In fact it is where Chicagoans go to escape the concrete jungle. It’s a two day trip but it is where you go to see the great outdoors. For example, if you are looking for a true hike, you will want to explore Devil’s Lake State Park. There are some pleasant trails there. and some awesome rock formations that are usually occupied by true climbers. Definitely worth a trip, and you can hike from 5 miles to 20 miles before heading back to the city in the same day. It’s about a 3 hour drive, and you could stop in Madison for the night (it’s the capital city of Wisconsin). The area has plenty to offer.
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I Learned Woodworking

My dad was in construction his whole life. He still is. But when I state “whole” I really mean it. His father had construction business building house on-site. And from an early age my dad was expected to help. It wasn’t in his blood but he took over the family business when my grandfather retired. I have respected him because of the pride and effort he puts into making each job a success. But I never had any aspirations to take over the “family business”. He never had any expectations either. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy being a little bit like a country girl and working with wood. It helps me be creative and build something with my own hands. You would be surprised how rewarding it is for me. I don’t need to live in a cabin in the woods like Ana White to enjoy myself. Though it might make clean up easier. She has some nice easy projects with tool and resource list if you want to get a good idea of what it is like. Heed all safety warning, almost every tool you use to make furniture can hurt you – some gravely – so along the way learn how to work in a safe manner as well. Still, what you need and read very much depends on the kind of furniture you are drawn to create. For basic skills often your local adult education programs are a good place to start. They will have the basic power tools so you can get some hands on training. I owned a woodworking business for many years and had several younger workers come in green and learn what they did and did not wan to do. For instance you may prefer to only work with hand tools once the major dimensioning of the material is done. Others might prefer the power tool approach. Some may like a modern look and others want to make rustic furniture. If you want to make classic, heirloom quality furniture be prepared to kiss your time goodbye and buy yourself a copy of “Tage Freid teaches woodworking”. It will teach you how to cut all the classic joints, thickness a board by hand, make sure your stock is straight, do glue-ups, etc. If you want to make cheaper stuff fast, look into “Popular Woodworking” back issues at your local library and buy yourself a doweling jig or a pocket hole jig. Then grab some plywood and edge banding and get cracking. I general Tage Freid is a good start when you are learning to work with wood. My dad had a collection of his books that fascinated me as a child.
Tage Frid (30 May 1915 – 6 May 2004) was a Danish-born woodworker, educator and author who influenced the development of the studio furniture movement in the United States. His design work was often in the Danish-modern style, best known for his three legged stool and his publications.
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The Price of Knowledge

Knowledge is free, all one needs to do is make the effort to read it. I read and write a lot, which brings me a lot of enjoyment – when I read, I both enjoy the book, and analyze it for “tips” on how to improve the way I write. It can really eat up your time. <- Pun I was eating dinner with some friends the other day, and we kind of agreed that everyone else in our lives just didn’t get why we were spending so much time on our hobbies. They will not stop asking us to do things with them because they knew we’d be busy with things we enjoy. Even when we spend time with each other on regular basis. So is life. Learn, love, live!
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I Guess You Plan Big

My dad is a big MLB fan. He can tell you statistics until you go insane, but that is beside the point, not until he runs out. He never runs out. The other day he shared Shohei Otani’s career plan with me. It is more like a life’s worth of aspiration. He found it on facebook or one of his usual hangouts. It was a snapshot of a TV screen with some notes. They read:
  • Age 18: Join a MLB team
  • Age 19: Master English and reach AAA
  • Age 20: Called up to the majors, make 1.5 billion JPY (~13 million USD)
  • Age 21: Starting rotation, 16 wins
  • Age 22: Win the Cy Young award
  • Age 23: Member of Japan WBC team
  • Age 24: Throw a no-hitter and 25 wins
  • Age 25: Throw fastest pitch in the world 175 kph (~108mph)
  • Age 26: Win the World Series and get married
  • Age 27: Member of Japan WBC team & MVP
  • Age 28: 1st son is born
  • Age 29: Throw 2nd no-hitter
  • Age 30: Get most wins by a Japanese pitcher (in 1 MLB season?)
  • Age 31: 1st daughter is born
  • Age 32: Win 2nd World Series
  • Age 33: 2nd son is born
  • Age 34: Win 3rd World Series
  • Age 35: Member of Japan WBC team
  • Age 36: Break the strike out record?
  • Age 37: 1st son starts baseball
  • Age 38: Stats drop, start to think about retirement
  • Age 39: Decide to retire at end of next season
  • Age 40: Throw no-hitter in my very last game
  • Age 41: Return to Japan
  • Age 42: Introduce the American system to Japan?
I guess when you dream big you might as well dream really BIG. But he even had it planned when he was going to be having his sons. Seriously, I guess you could say 2nd child, but when you even plan the gender there is way too much though and effort going into this whole setting goals business. My dad will just have to take things as they come. But my life goal is to be happy, I am pretty flexible how that actually materializes.
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Floppies

My boyfriend likes to collect comics. Sure it is seen as childish by some, who cares, it is his hobby. And it meant a lot to him to share that with me. But like a little kid he is collecting the newest issues when they come out. He calls them floppies. When he finds some that he likes he will end up getting them as trade paper back. I prefer hardcovers. When I learned that they also came out in hardback collections I stopped collecting the TPBs. For one thing hardbacks look better on the shelf. They are also easier to read, and they’re more durable and long-lasting. The down side? The wait is bad enough if you collect TPBs, but it’s even worse with hardcovers. Especially with Marvel. They often take way longer than they have to. Take the current Deadpool run, for example. The TPB of volume 4 (issues #20-25) was published June 2014. They could have printed the volume 2 oversized hardcover (with issues #13-25) at the exact same time. They delay the hardcover printing so that you’ll double dip. It’s a year later, and the volume 2 OHC is only just now getting published in a few weeks. Another point is that I find them more collectible. The more of something you have available, the less “in demand” it will become. While this may not b entirely true. Fewer copies of every isse are being printed. This has been going on since the late 90s in fact – there are also fewer copies of books printed – than just about any time since comic books became a thing. More comics are being sold however. In general once an item is seen/deemed a collectors item by the general public and they are easily obtainable the collect-ability of the item for profit goes down. There are exceptions to the rule of course but mass production and the general public saturation most will not hold any value. For the floppies that I do collect I bag, board, and put them in binder sheets. I place them in a 3 ring binder and stand them vertically.
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Guided Meditations

I’ve tried numerous guided meditations and the majority are rubbish. Hemi-sync is fine. Well, I tell myself that since I have the entire set. However, it is more for attempting out-of-body experiences than real meditation. Many years ago I did try one guided meditation CD, it was in a group setting, that simply talked the listener into a deeply relaxed state and it was very effective. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the name of the CD but I am mentioning it to let you know that good guided meditations do exist, but at least in my experience, they are few and far between. What I think we need to consider is that the idea that guided meditations are untested Western inventions, and perhaps have little to do with a proper meditation practice. Guided meditations are a recent invention. They are a useful device, and certainly help maintain interest in meditation, but they are training wheels at best. On the one hand, modern experimentation is great and to be encouraged – biofeedback, apps, online teachings and the like. On the other, it’s important to be on the lookout for sham meditation – often via CDs and mp3s – being used to make money for people who have very little interest in our long term well being. Meditate without any guide as soon as possible. At some point you had to learn walking without someone holding your hand too.
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What Gives: Buddhist Meditation and Hinduism

Meditation in the West tends to come from the Buddhist, not Hindi traditions and as such has a much more focused spirituality. When I started I was clumsily referring to ‘yoga’ as practiced in the west losing its spirituality there rather than meditation, and meditation in the context of traditional Hindu yoga practice being a part of yoga that the west largely ignores. I don’t know Hinduism in any great detail, though even buddhism in the west has been popularly co-opted by materialist secularism as the mindfulness movement – not necessarily a bad thing, but I think we have a lot to discover that our skeptical, over-rational minds have long dismissed. Some systems of Buddhism are more focused on logic and things that are more easily provable. That can make it easier to remove the spirituality from Buddhist meditation and turn it into generic “mindfulness”. Yoga is the cessation of the mind fluctuations. What people call yoga in the west isn’t even technically yoga. When we say we are going to do yoga, usually what we mean is that we are going to practice asanas. Exercise. Asanas is the physical conditioning aspect in the Yoga system. Yoga is generally focused on methods, not ideologies. That’s why hatha (“gym”) yoga works whether you understand it or not. The theories that yoga is based on have nothing to do with Western science, yet studies show that yoga is very effective. From Patanjali’s sutras. This is the de facto definition of yoga but of course it’s up to interpretation because a sutra is a thread of a thought designed to be passed down in an oral tradition. Yoga meditation tends to have less accessible spirituality for many westerners because it focuses more on esoteric methods such as pranayama and chakras to generate spiritual experiences. The experiences generated are then their own “proof”. By the technical definition of yoga, yoga is meditation. Yoga is union. It’s goal is to bring about union/harmony in the mind, in a literal sense, typically referring to the skill/cohesiveness of ones concentration. Hinduism is what the British empire labeled the myriad of spiritual practices they found in India. I have heard there are millions of god’s and goddesses in India because originally you could create a god from anything you chose to worship. People miss the point that everything contains the ultimate source. It’s the Western world that needs to label the world around them. There is a lot of spirituality found in India but you won’t find a central definition or establishment like other religions of the world. What is more apt to call Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma which is Sanskrit for Eternal Natural Way. It’s not a label is a vague definition because there isn’t one right or wrong way to reach an enlightened state. Ancient Hinduism originally known as Sanatana Dharma is the oldest religion on Earth.
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In Yoga Terms

I didn’t realize how much a desk job would take out of me. My dad worked his whole life in construction. When I say whole life I mean it. His father owned a company and so he was right there in the thick of it from a young age on. He had aches and pains. And yet it never occurred to me that I would also ache after work. My legs feel a little fatigued sometimes right after sitting. I’ve gotten into the habit of doing a few poses of yoga to help aide in getting the blood flowing going when this happens. But the same can happen if I meditate, too long. It was because for a long time I wasn’t really practicing meditation or yoga. What we westerners call yoga is mere the 3rd step out of the 8 steps in classical yoga — asana or posture. Asanas (physical postures) traditionally is to make the body healthy and stable for meditation, wherein the yogi would have the experiences of the higher states of consciousness and eventually become enlightened. Even though westerners don’t actually believe in enlightenment, they found that the yoga poses – based on the yoga system of body energy – gives excellent results in terms of creating peace and health in the human body. For excample, studies have proven that yoga is more beneficial in reducing anxiety than other forms of exercise. The term yoga has meant union or yoking the individual consciousness with the experience of the entire universe. A yogi was one who had accomplished this union or at the very least was aspiring to it and using a systematic method of accomplishing his aim. A yogi named Paramahansa Yogananda came to the West in 1920 and wrote the Autobiography of a Yogi which became quite well known and inspired the careers of many well known yoga teachers. Classical yoga has spirituality as its base, which many of us are allergic to. I was pretty skeptical myself in the beginning, but through the yoga methods they taught I learned to prove to myself the value of these systems in a step-by-step systematic way. The organization he started explains the classical purpose of yoga here and goes deeper into explaining the eight steps of yoga. A good yoga set will get you closer a meditative state. You can meditate during yoga. But when you practice yoga first, it warms up the spine and quiets the mind. Stillness includes movement and movement includes stillness. The stillness of meditation requires a certain kind of circulation, an ease of body-and-mind. It can be quite difficult to focus on meditation while also doing yoga. I found it took me about 4 months of practice (doing yoga every other day) before I was physically adapted enough to be able to perform the poses without getting flustered, out-of-breath, etc. and I was then able to focus more on ujjayi breathing and drishti and be able to have a good meditation session while doing yoga postures. Classically, yoga is primarily focused on meditation, and asana is just a good preparation for that.