Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Falling Asleep

"Why contracting? Is it stable? Were you able to stay on projects all of that time?"

It was a question from an employee to me, a contractor... and for a moment, I felt the draw into the question, waking up to see myself starting to babble, in time to gracefully put myself back on track.

The question itself is purely innocuous, nothing more than a spring breeze or an itch, but friends and followers may understand how the question may have hit me differently. All of the sudden, I am there again. The mind is in overdrive rationalizing, filling in the details; my tongue is starting to wag and words are rolling out.

I'm putting things in a good light. I'm justifying my choices. I'm stringing the words together ever so eloquently, just so...

... but for whom? This fellow has no idea of my history, nor--however interesting it may be--did he ask for it.

Who was talking? Who was listening?

I fell asleep and suddenly I woke up.

And quite simply, that's how it happens.

Zen practice--and koan practice in particular--cuts to the root of situations like these. Am I on autopilot, at the whim of everything that happens to me? Do I have no choice in how to respond? It's a matter of staying awake--and maybe graceful recoveries when you realize you've slipped.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Please Mind the Gap"

("Please mind the gap between the train and the platform")

Taking the train around the city, the Cantonese made no sense to me, but the British-accented translation always followed: "Please mind the gap..." It echoes still today.

In a foreign land, there is where you are, standing still. There before you is where you need to be, a moving target. In between, there is the gap.

After a day or two navigating the system, the announcement recedes into station's ambient rush hour noise and the gap has long since disappeared.

In my visits, I never did hear screams of people falling through the cracks--perhaps a testament to the unending announcements. Instead, I saw hundreds or thousands of people stepping from the platform onto the train at one station and stepping from the train onto the platform at another station. In time, there was no gap.

How do you get from the platform to the train? When you are on the train, are you no longer on the platform? When you step onto the platform, do you leave the train behind? The family man steps out of apartment and suddenly the office worker is seated at his desk. Where was the gap?

Having an idea that your life could be different? That is a gap. Wondering how to leap forward from your current situation to new circumstances or waiting for your current circumstances to catch up to your desired situation? That is minding the gap. How can you ever cross it?

When I see the all of the others going about their business, I am reminded that it really is much simpler than this. I lose myself in the rush hour flow and now the gap is not even a memory.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

News from Inside the Cave

Sword Mountain Aikido and Zen is admittedly a selfish pursuit: it absolutely reflects my current state and direction of practice. Since the objective is always an integrated practice and life, sometimes that means less practice in favor of more life.

New job responsibilities and changing family schedules since March have taken priority over the long-standing daytime homeschool classes, which in turn put formal Aikido practice on hold and have raised Zen practice into prominence. The Zen practice is public, it's true, but it just so happens that far more of the formal interaction occurs over the internet than in face-to-face encounters.

So, if you didn't know where to look, you may not have found me; and, if you've inquired about Aikido practice while things have been in flux, it's likely you've seen no response. My apologies to you if you are in that crew.

I'm hopeful that we'll be resuming formal Aikido and Zen practices locally (Columbia, MD 21045) and possibly with the Baltimore Zen Center (Severn, MD 21144). I feel my primary focus shifting toward working with experienced martial artists---not necessarily aikidoists exclusively---using Aikido as a vehicle to convey Zen principles into their own arts so that they can do the same. It is not a radical shift in perspective, but it is important: It's not looking to build a particular flavor of Aikido, but rather to work inclusively with interested martial artists to find the Zen principles within their own practice---just as I find them where I am within my Aikido practice.

I don't need to create an Aikidoka. I use Aikido to convey Zen. Does that make sense?

For the inexperienced and less experienced martial artists, I am interested in you too. If you study with me you will learn Aikido--at least one flavor of Aikido--and I will encourage you to explore the martial context with other teachers as well, finding your own way.

Nothing is set in stone, no times, no locations, no prices. If there's interest, though, we can begin. Let me know. Start with the new Contact Box in the right column.

Alternatively, watch for updates and catch up if you can.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Apple + Christmas = Fail

I've purchased three iPhones. Of these, two have been defective out-of-the-box.

The first was my first, a first generation iPhone. It was DOA -- no charge, no taking a charge. I turned around and headed back to the Apple Store and made the exchange -- no problem. Next was my wife's phone, another first generation. No problem. Now this one, an iPhone 3GS for my daughter -- a teen's first phone, and for Christmas, no less. It wasn't DOA; it was just dead by the end of the day. It won't sync with a computer. It blinks and beeps as if just plugged in over and over again when attached to the USB charger. We'll be back at the AT&T store tomorrow, presumably to make an exchange.

I'm typing this note as it is on a recently purchased Mac Mini. We bought it to off-load data from an unusable family iMac G5. A few serial numbers before our own was the cut-off for iMac recalls with a monitor problems. Naturally, that wasn't the cut-off for the problem itself. With a tightly integrated design, there's nothing to do but toss it.

The PowerBook G4 is sitting upstairs. It's on its third $130 battery and its second power cord after the first melted down. There was the issue of losing 50 GB of my life to a File Vault (encrypted user directory) issue as well as one more random failure requiring a complete reinstall. The wireless Mighty Mouse I use with it is pretty cool -- when the scroll wheel doesn't decide to just scroll up, not scroll down... It was a tremendous improvement over the USB mouse that came with the iMac -- that one had the odd habit of deciding to race down to the lower right-hand corner of the screen at random times...

But why go there now. After all, tonight is just about my teenager's new dead phone, right? An isolated, independent event, right? Nothing to do with the times we've lost data, lost purchased music, or anything else, right?

I don't believe that any other brand is necessarily better or worse than Apple. It's just frustration that we've come to accept. Two out of three new phones in this house from Apple fail within a day. People tout on-line how convenient the exchange will be, but very few will complain about the failure in the first place. We're accustomed to a particularly high level of bullshit for items costing hundreds and thousands of dollars, some with two-year contracts attached. How did that come to be?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Coming & Going

There's something undeniably nice having a home that is a hub of activity: People coming and going, tea and coffee, classes, conversation, kids playing, ... and in time the house quiets and the family regroups, ready for another round tomorrow.

It's part of our own reality that getting out as a family becomes more difficult with time. There's a natural pull to bring our social circle home into our space to stay connected. Moreover, there's also the sense that working from home in some capacity is how I'll want to live. There's a lot to consider, though even without much thought it's the direction we seem to move. It will be interesting to see how life changes. I suspect it will be for the better.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Expand & Contract

Close & Open.

It's been a while since I've written, but that is not for lack of anything to say. Work, family, friends, hobbies, studies, practices, likes, dislikes, life in general---everything is in constant flux, very fluid.

And sometimes I'm very open with everything, and sometimes I'm reserved. Sometimes I take what I see on the outside, and go inside for a while to consider it for a while before reappearing---maybe with new understanding.

It's no big deal. It's not contrived. It's just life.

With some income restored---and with particular focus on letting my son's social circle expand---we've made a long overdue update to a computer, we'll probably refresh the old phones, and we're setting up all of the ways for everyone to stay in touch as best we can. Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, video conferencing, Skype, voice and text chat, and now I'm even playing with my old Google Voice (formerly Grand Central) account so that people can find me wherever I am. And more often than not these days, I'm looking forward to seeing friends join me in person for conversation once the coffee spot of the day is chosen.

See the new widget on the right? "Wanting Contact?" That's the Google Voice widget. Click it if you like. It should ring back to you and then search for me. If I'm not there, leave a message---then I can find you.

Because it's not just for them; it's for me too. It's time to rebalance, to open and connect.

I'm looking forward to playing with the technology here in general and especially in Zen practices.

Watch for updates. Stay in touch :-)