HAPPY THANKSGIVING…AND THOUGHTS

I wish you nothing but good thoughts this time of year, and came across this quote. It sets off sparks, don’t you think?

Stay strong. Reach far. Rise above the fray.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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FICTION AND NON-FICTION

Luminaries - Search for Meaning
The Luminaries and Man’s Search for Meaning
Fiction: The Luminaries
Yes, the Booker prize winner of 2013. How boring! How uncreative! Why don’t I just name drop whatever book Jonathan Franzen’s just written? But here’s the thing: it’s a 700 page long gripper of a novel. I took it on flight with me and couldn’t keep my hands off it. The language has a strong regional texture, and at 700 pages, it actually manages to stop your attention from wandering off into the distance. That is rare for me. I haven’t had that kind of experience since Gone Girl. I don’t expect Booker Prize winners to be gripping. I expect something more intellectual, a little lesson in structure and technique. Not that these weren’t there, it’s just so much more.
A sexist aside: I read a lot of male authors, and this is a shameful fact. So when I see a female author who has so much richness on offer, even at a slightly daunting 700 or so pages, I want to spread the word.
Non-Fiction: Man’s Search for Meaning
I read this once, a long time ago when I was feeling a little lost and looking for signs from the universe, or how to read them. I wouldn’t say this changed my life, that would be slightly dramatic and a lie. It’s more a humble read from a humble man. It resets the mind and puts matters back into perspective where they belong. This is one of a few books that I would read again, to make sure that, as the title suggests, I look over at where I am, and that there is purpose and meaning built into the process. 
If you have excess time over Thanksgiving, and trust me not to mislead you, have a look at these. 

MEDITATION THROUGH PEER PRESSURE

Sky stupa
Buddhist Stupa
My idea of discipline is eating half a bar of chocolate, waiting half an hour, and then eating the other half. It is of no surprise to anyone that I have been trying and failing to develop a meditation practice for the better part of a year now. 
There’s a lot of information out there right now about how to turn your home into a temple, steps you can take to help you develop your home practice, and if you’re looking for something of that nature, then this post is not for you. Because that kind of self-practice takes a degree of discipline that is in severely short supply.  I need to hold some discipline in reserve for my many other vices.
What I think is the easiest way to cultivate a practice is to go out of your home and find a meditation center* or a group of people who meditate together. What I look for is the meditative energy that can be found there, that I can draw into my own practice. I would otherwise hate to mention “energies” or “crystals” or, God forbid, “auras” but sometimes, the term just applies. I find it infinitely easier to drag myself to a separate place to meditate in the company of strangers than in my home. 
When doing something difficult, there is always that initial hump that has to be overcome before you can build sufficient momentum to get going. Going to a separate location is the equivalent of getting over that hump. 
Here is a concept that was explained to me by someone much wiser to demonstrate what meditation can do for you:

Your thoughts are key. Your thoughts are the bridge between your internal and external self. Thoughts are the messenger of what is not right in the mind.   

Externally, your thoughts lead to words, which lead to actions, leading to your habits, and eventually to your character, nature, and personality.  Thoughts –> actions –> habits –> character, nature, personality

Internally, thoughts lead to your awareness, which creates your experiences, and then your emotions and feelings.  Thoughts –> awareness –> experiences –> emotions and feelings 

Through meditation, you become aware of the content of your thoughts, and can eventually learn to direct which thoughts you want to grow, and which you want to fade away.  Whatever you pay attention to will grow, and what you ignore will fade away.

*Yes, these things exist. 

WEEKEND NOTES: EAST FORK CARSON RIVER

wandering in the desert
Walking towards the East Fork river
If you navigate your way through miles of desert, via foot or car, you will eventually reach the river, and just a ways beside the river, there is a stream blowing steam. When water from the spring mixes with water from the river, the temperature becomes perfect. Absolutely perfect. 
east fork carson river
East Fork Carson River

hot spring tributary
Hot spring tributary at sunrise

ON REVOLUTION

“Revolutions have two phases: first comes a struggle for freedom, then a struggle for power. The first makes the human spirit soar and brings out the best in people. The second unleashes the worst: envy, intrigue, greed, suspicion and the urge for revenge.”

– Adam Michik, Historian

FUN LINKS

Nepal yellow flowers

Oh, this is good. You see a man and a woman, together, in a bar. He’s average height/weight and she’s above average. In weight. You assume they’re not together. How could they be? They’re not in the same league. God forbid a man be attracted to this type of woman. God made women – to be thin. Or so the underlying rationale goes. I’m guilty of judging. I admit it. It’s hard to stop. Call me out!   
Damn and Blast! I am too late! This kickstarter has been completely funded. The idea, however, is still a good one. I admit from the name I initially thought this had to be sex related. But then I realized I was being an idiot, and that this dress is a valid solution to that weird practice of changing out of sweaty workout clothes.
A variety of topics addressed here: how do you portray yourself online? People tend to image manage under the guise of aesthetics and curating and personal branding. At what point does this become inauthentic? And what happens when you lose that spark, that initial driving passion for blogging, and for being an online presence? What do you do then? 
You’re welcome.
Marie Kondo is the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up. Which I am going to read. I myself am an ardent believer in minimalist living. There is something freeing about having less choices for the brain to process, so it can shift gears to dealing with more significant matters, perhaps?
In my humble opinion, every once in awhile, it’s good to scare people by putting on a mud mask. I’m going to try this one in the privacy of my home. 

WOULD YOU DITCH YOUR SMARTPHONE?

Phones
My Samsung phone, because I’m too cheap for an iPhone
Let me complete that thought – would you ever ditch your smartphone and go back to just a flip phone? 
No constant online access. No email checking, instagraming, facebook check-in. None of that, gone forever. I’m not saying to ditch the phone entirely, because you never know when you might need to call or text, but that’s all you get to do. 
A few years ago, I got a smartphone, and it was a glorious. It encompassed a whole new set of skills, a different technological vocabulary. I watched endless youtube videos to see if I could figure out how to root it. It was the small start of a minor revolution. 
Jump forward a few years, and smart phones are no longer de rigueur, but the norm. Everyone has one. Everyone’s mom* has one. Most people have an iPhone. People gather in the dark, camping overnight, for a phone. Whenever I ride bus, I’m one of the few people looking around. Everyone else is riding on digital waves, cocooned between headphones, fingers gaming, eyes fixed to screens. Lately, I’ve seen people with an entire laptop, clicking away like they’re alone at home. Except for the small fact that it’s rush hour and they’re on a bus. Next to me. That corporate logo looks great, BTW.    
Is this a bad thing?
That’s the obvious question. Good or bad? Well, I’m not going to talk about whether throwing your smartphone in the eTrash is good or bad. If you want a straightforward case study, that’s better handled by this article. There, that should scare some sense into you. 
No, what appeals to me is the idea of keeping a part of you, to you. Of being free. Smartphones, while providing endless fun and enjoyment, are also a personal anvil. I know it weighs less than a pound. That’s not what I’m talking about. Here are all the ways I’ve compromised my life for my phone: Sprint offers pissy, piss-poor reception, and I have wasted countless hours of my sanity waiting for lame images to load. I always have to think about keeping my phone charged. I have an external battery that I carry around “just in case,” which happens to mean every single day. There are only three major phone plan providers out there: Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Most of the other carriers run on the network of one of the big three. I will always be beholden** to one of these three corporate giants. Even if I get a flip phone. There’s no avoiding it. However, there is an associated mentality that goes along with being beholden, the belief that a phone, particularly a smart phone, is a “necessity.” Electricity, a flushing toilet, and a roof are necessities. A smart phone need not be. 
What I’ve also noticed with the advent of the Age of the iPhone is that I know too much about most people. It’s human nature to be inquisitive. There was at one point an evolutionary imperative to be nosy. Now, however, we are drowning in personal information. It almost makes every individual piece of information, every picture, less valuable if you know another picture is soon to be coming down the pike. There are no room left for mystery. i guess the proper question here is: how well do you want others to know you? How about complete strangers? I know we live in a world of personal branding. You put your name next to your product, and you stand by it. I personally want only a small group of people to know me, and that’s all. I’ve never wanted to know more about the author of the book I was reading. I respected them too much.
The third point, is to ditch your smart phone as an act of social defiance. That’s all. Everyone else is doing this, so why should I follow where countless others have gone before? It’s the path of the creative mind to move outside of established patterns, sometimes to move backward when others are charging forward, and to question in the face of overriding truth. 
My phone contract’s not up yet. But I’m thinking hard about this idea. I’m not sure if I have the strength.***
* Except mine. It’s a point of pride.
** Beholden, AKA paying a monthly fee
** So I will read this one more time: The Coolest Girl You Know Probably Uses a Flip Phone

LI NA’S RETIREMENT LETTER

Li Na, tennis champion

“When I started playing tennis, I was just a neighborhood kid with an after-school hobby, not realizing what magical journey lay ahead of me. If I only knew what a vehicle the sport of tennis, along with my success, would become for my beloved China. While my journey hasn’t been easy, it has been rewarding. I’ve seen change happening in front of my eyes, young girls picking up tennis racquets, setting goals, following their hearts and believing in themselves. I hope that I’ve had the opportunity to inspire young women all over China to believe in themselves, to set their goals high and pursue them with vengeance and self-belief.

Whether you want to be a tennis player, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher or a business leader, I urge you to believe in yourself and follow your dream. If I could do it, you can too! Be the bird that sticks out. With hard work, your dreams will come true.”


– Li Na, reigning Australian Open winner