Sunday, May 21, 2006

Retreat to Whidbey

This weekend, I drove up to Whidbey Island for a personal retreat. Leslie suggested this as it has helped her on numerous occasions to get away and focus inward. She’s spent a couple of weeks at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon but since they were full this weekend (as were all of the other ones I've tried) I instead booked a room at the Boatyard Inn in Langley on Whidbey Island. The weekend is still going strong since I don't head back home until tomorrow but I figured I would share a few thoughts.

First, I made a pact to not do many of the things I usually do to pass a weekend. No Warcraft, no TV, no checking work email, no talking to anyone I already know and no outstanding projects from home (in other words, I can't move my mailserver to a different provider or update my websites).

Instead, I read a lot, went for walks around the town and on the beach and spent a lot of time staring out at the water and the Cascades, which are just outside of my room (the water is the close one).

I read Blink from cover to cover. It is really a fascinating book about that instant when you see something or someone and you make unconscious decisions about it which informs your conscious decision making but we have no idea how. Really it is about how we make decisions and I would recommend it for anyone who does.

As I've been driving around I've been listening to The Gnostic Gospels which covers Gnosticism, an early form of Christianity which mixed other religious traditions of the time into the Christian teaching and is described in a set of "heretical texts" discovered in Egypt last century. I have to admit that I am lost from time to time in the detailed dissection of the New Testament and the secret books of the apostles. I am also only a third of the way through the book but it is interesting to read how similar the politics of the day and their influence on the church sound so familiar to modern discussions of the same - particular with the recent discovery of the book of Judas.

Now I am reading Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chodron which contains 108 short chapters each covering Buddhist teachings from her other books. A quick read though each chapter needs to be savored to get the most from it. One chapter is on the proper way to mediate so I figured I would try it out. At first I tried sitting in my chair but that didn't seem right so I opened the window facing Puget Sound and sat on a pillow as I followed the steps in the book. Sitting just so, breathing slowly and labeling stray thoughts as thinking. It is insanely difficult to sit there and not think of things or do things. Whenever a stray thought comes into your mind, you are supposed to acknowledge it as "thinking" then send it on it's way and get back to meditating. For me it went something like this.

Sitting there...
Itch on my arm - scratched it - thought about having just scratched it - thinking...
Ooh bird! - thinking...
My butt hurts, I'll get a pillow - got a pillow - thought about pillow - thinking...
Those mountains are cool! - thinking...
I should raise the blinds so I can see better - raised blinds - thought about it - thinking....
Another bird! I think it's the same bird - thinking...
<time passes>
I don't think I was just thinking about anything - oh crap - thinking...
My back is a little sore. I wonder if you can meditate when lying on your side - lie on my side - I bet this is frowned upon - thinking...

I woke up 20 minutes later when my Mom called. I think I need to work on this some more. The book is really good though. I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a different way to think about life and how we try to find happiness in it.

Before I wandered up to town to get dinner, I played around with Garage Band for a bit and wrote a song. I kind of go back and forth as to whether arranging loops in an application like Garage Band or Acid counts as writing music but part of my discovery this weekend is that it absolutely does count. I'm sure that many classical music aficionados thought that Jazz or Rock songs didn't count as writing music and many Rockers from the 60s and 70s doubted that Hip Hop or Electronica were writing music but they all are and this is just a new instrument that still requires the creative process to turn the raw sounds into a musical expression so bring it on!

So right now, I'm sitting on my little back deck as the sun has gone down with my laptop, listening to the water lapping against the shore and writing this up to capture some of the events of the weekend. Tomorrow I'll catch the ferry back down to the mainland and drive to work before I go home and I'm hoping that all of the frenetic activity at work will seem a little more balanced and that I will be a little more mindful of how it all fits into the bigger picture.

Thanks, Leslie, for suggesting I do this!

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Grand Illusion

For some reason, this Styx song is really resonating with me today. Zachary put it on a playlist on my iPod over the weekend (ok technically he put The Grand Finale on it, but it is mostly a reprise of the same song) and it has been sticking with me.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wednesday - Blog night

Finally catching up on my blog posts. I'm sitting outside of Tully's because they close at 8pm. I have no idea how people in the Southgate area will stay awake to see the Idol results but at least the WiFi works outside.

Reaching a new low (high?) in geekiness, I created a new blog tonight that aspires to chronicle my future adventures in World of Warcraft. If you are interested, feel free to visit Adventures in Warcraft -- but don't you have anything better to do?

Street Signs:

This is the second installment in a series on street signs I have seen. This was in the village of Alken in Germany and seemed a bit odd for the sign but whatever it was trying to say was definitely reinforced by the car behind it. Let's try to figure out what this one means.

1) Don't levitate cars while children are playing
2) No suburbs allowed
3) Do not drop cars on children

Hmmm... Now if the ball was black and not white, perhaps one could be led to believe that black holes sucking in people, cars and homes were forbidden (excuse me... verboten) but the color is clearly white so that can't be it.

I guess we can come to the less interesting conclusion that it means that cars should not drive here because there are children playing. Looking at the nearby car, though, I hope the children will have a speedy recovery.