Be the empty boat – philosophising

Rather than finding one website that captures ALL my attention, I keep finding great articles that further entrench my previous interweb finding which is, let go of the internet!  Ironic, I know.

I find the best material via – my twitter account, other people that I have respect for read articles and then post the same if they are worthy of any attention.  It’s great, it’s like a list of good things to read or a community noticeboard for everything that sparks my interest in the world.  But this isn’t about shameless self promotion.

I discovered a great ‘how to’ article about taking your life back from the evil digital forces, it’s here and it was first posted on the Harvard Business Review blog.  Easy read and sits perfectly in that meditative tradition of training your attention, focusing your mind and noticing your every move.  No more time wasters.

So once I remove myself from the internet, amongst other things, I meditate to remind me to keep life simple.  Take each moment as it comes and notice my reactions as they happen, accept what is.  Eventually, I will understand what sensations arise in my body before I react and I may be able to breath instead of reacting or jumping without any thought.  The lesson I keep finding solace in to help me remember to ‘keep it simple’ is a poem by Chuang Tzu, The Empty Boat.  It’s below – take from it what you will.  If you are as into this poem and it’s ancient teaching as I am there is a whole discourse that you can immerse yourself in to help clarify the message – check out Chapter 1, “The Toast is Burned“.

He who rules men, lives in confusion;
he who is ruled by men lives in sorrow.
Tao therefore desired
neither to influence others
nor be influenced by them.
The way to get clear of confusion and free of sorrow
is to live with tao in the land of the void.
If a man is crossing a river
and an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
even though he be a bad-tempered man
he will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
he will shout to him to steer clear.
And if the shout is not heard he will shout
again and yet again, and begin cursing –
and all because there is somebody in that boat.
Yet if the boat were empty, he would not be shouting,
and he would not be angry.
If you can empty your own boat
crossing the river of the world,
no one will oppose you,
no one will seek to harm you.
The straight tree is the first to be cut down,
the spring of clear water is the first to be drained dry.
If you wish to improve your wisdom
and shame the ignorant,
to cultivate your character and outshine others,
a light will shine around you
as if you had swallowed the sun and the moon –
and you will not avoid calamity.
A wise man has said:
”he who is content with himself
has done worthless work.
Achievement is the beginning of failure,
fame is the beginning of disgrace.”
Who can free himself of achievement and fame
then descend and be lost
amid the masses of men?
He will flow like tao, unseen,
he will go about like life itself
with no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, he has no reputation.
Since he judges no one,
no one judges him.
Such is the perfect man –
his boat is empty.

Go forth and click and consciously breath.

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Whoa yeah – give HECS the finger

Whoa and yeah are how you pronounce the last 2 letters of the Arabic language. I know because BBC offers a free language learning program that you can download or stream to get your started. Ultimately, you can learn a new language online for free, even something as technical as HTML. Forever I have been trying to retain some knowledge of Japanese, French and Spanish from my travels to each but without practice and a good memory I have no foreign language skills to spruik. I learnt the entire Russian alphabet, pronunciation and phonetics, before traveling to Russia and Ukraine. It helped read some signs, communicate with locals and generally feel more a local part.  

I know I could have continued my Russian practice upon returning to Melbourne but by that stage I had picked up pieces of Italian, Turkish, Arabic, Hindu and Thai. My memory served me well to make a jumbled mess of the aforementioned global tongues. 

So, upon further research, I noticed that there are a million free courses online for any faculty of learning, including classes from MIT, Berkeley, Harvard, Stanford, etc. A whole range of subjects from master studies such as Biology, Psychology, Geography, Chemistry, Philosophy and more. Lifehacker recently shared a post on Spring 2012 courses from American universities, it’s incredible to think that if you want to learn about planets and stars you just have to go forth and click. There are also more practical courses available like Money 101 – it’s not about making money, it’s about managing dosh to suit your goals and budget. 

I’m a little inspired, using my brain seems to be the key.

Go forth and click.

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Clean theme – Wednesday Website Wack

Do you know this man? Read on regardless.

If you thought I had gone missing forever you were completely mistaken.  I was just off thinking and it was one week.  Thinking that I don’t always need a theme for this, it doesn’t always need to be heavy on the words with myriad links, it usually turns out that way once I start typing anyway. The great thing about WWW is I don’t need to follow suit but I can and this week is no different.
Last weekend a friend told me about her silent protest with her domestic cleaner over ‘green’ friendly cleaning products.  She bought all the ‘safe’ items for the cleaner to use and then comes home to the smell of bleach and a bottle of Domestos under the sink, clean house though.  She knows a confrontation is inevitable.  It comes as popular theory that the good shit is also the worst for the environment.  Is that really true and do I care so little about the environment that a little extra elbow grease in the bathroom will kill me more than I care about polluting my otherwise semi-clean beach with nasty ingredients? I doubt it. Even with a trendy camera filter, Windex still looks toxic.

Yesterday, I was flicking between a few thousand digital pages and I discovered the ecoholic.  I am always, always on the hunt for new green worthy websites.  They are a dime a dozen and there are only a small handful that make any sense, are well written and inspire the environmental soul to take some action, in the home and out of the home.  Ecoholic had a link to world renowned green activist, David Suzuki, I felt that this is exactly what was required, cut out the middle man, go straight to the scientific source. DS also has a blog link, which multiple people contribute to and has a good balance of humour and greenie knowledge and activism.  I signed up for his newsletter too as a way to remind me to stay on path when it comes to putting the environment first. I figure that’s the way it has to be, especially for our clean future.
I buy green household items from here.  Here is a make your own household items website for the $$ conscious and environmental consumer.
I researched and wrote this week’s WWW to the mixtape soundtrack by Steph Lund, my all time favourite musicologist.  I can’t beat this April mix, it’s download worthy.
Go forth and click.
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Prince and prints

Great news today.  For anyone digging the Prince return to Oz, turns out that he is being supported by none other than unofficial performing protege, Janelle Monae.  She is a young talent who has exceeded audience expectations with her live performance and she is something to rock up for early.

Did you know that Prince released 6 albums by the time he was 23, including Prince, Controversy & Purple Rain.  His talent blows my mind.  30 years on, he is still touring the world and making records.  Prince appreciation station right here.

Back to the Wednesday Website Wack purpose, to introduce websites of note, Prince has inspired the search for quality prints.

Art is in the eyes of the beholder as ever and most importantly it doesn’t require over intellectualising, it is about the feelings evoked when we are engaged with creativity, whether our own or someone else’s. I go to galleries to engage with texture and originality wherever possible and I buy prints because I find original art pieces completely unaffordable (for the most part).  I buy prints to support artists and causes in line with my means and ultimately to colour my rented walls.  Prints of notable and emerging artists have been dotting the net for sometime but the last few years has seen a real push for online galleries that support artists and offer a percentage of sale proceeds to a charitable organisation of the artist’s choice.  I think this is a perfect synergy and I have purchased many pieces recognising that I my numbered piece is contributing to creativity and a good cause.

Tiny Showcase was my first foray into this style of gallery and they have introduced me to so many great works.  They release one work per week and continue publicity in their gallery until the piece is sold out. I have my very own Jen Corace (which raised over $11K for the Gulf Restoration Network following the BP spill) and Sarajo Frieden pieces, now framed and ready for the nursery wall.

In a very similar vein, Working Proof cojoins the works of artists with charities, creating art that intrinsically holds what they call, ‘social value’.  Both these stores will set you back less than a $50 unless you are after large scale.

So not all the print suppliers are do-gooders and I haven’t found an Australian version of these websites yet, but this post would not be complete without championing the dedication to creativity executed by Abi Crompton at Third Drawer Down.  She has been printing original works on pillowcases, a(rt)prons and tea-towels for almost a decade.  Third Drawer Down is part gallery, museum, newsletter and wholesaler for all things incredible and best of all, it’s located in downtown Fitzroy while anything in store can be shipped anywhere.  I was gifted a David Wlazlo (sold out) artpron that sits above my bed with perfect geometric hang.

Mike Mills designed pillowcases – yep, the film maker.





I wish I was finished and yes, I am close but when I get on a roll with affordable art, I can’t help but keep spruiking.  So, please find below a few more pics with direct links to the incredible art makers, you might notice I have a penchant for collage and colour, Joachim Knill followed by Russian artist, Irina Polin.

Apartment Therapy has a post titled, 10 Affordable Print Shops for First Time Art Buyers, worth checking out their tips but note they don’t leave the USA.

Go forth and click and buy a print.

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My cooking mission

It started with a cup of tea. The No Worries Koala Tea is a great flavoursome herbal tea made up of lemon grass, lemon balm, roasted chicory root and mint. The koala on the packet is surfing, no hands, on a big fluffy wave. So relaxed. Makes me feel like I could productively meditate through a whole day.

It was a bit late in the day to start a cooking mission but I hadn’t checked the time. We had run out of the homemade supply of Granola. Jill Dupleix in her cookbook, Lighten Up, makes a fantastic version of granola that has had us coming back for more time and again. I have a massive bag of oats to get through so I will just keep making it until they are gone. Plus I have a massive soft spot for Jalna Biodynamic yogurt, it’s seriously the best. Together with the granola it’s a match made in heaven. I have been trying to add a bit more raw fruit to the mix before eating too and apples this week are us.

Before I knew it I wasn’t making lunch until nearly 3pm. Shit. I have really got to watch this blaze fasting, I was feeling really dizzy when I finally sat down to my vegie gluten free pasta with fresh corn, broccoli and ricotta. It was pretty good actually, I have leftovers, that’s always handy.

In my search for a lunch dish I realised the Mister had leftover plain rice from a stirfry the night before. I have always wanted to try my hand at rice pudding. The recipes I have always been in search of have asked for cooked rice. Turns out that Stephanie Alexander actually makes it with uncooked rice. I had to use a little bit of creative licence with amounts. Try finding how much rice you will get from 2tbsp of uncooked rice? That information is nowhere on the net. I went with Stephanie’s Jenny’s Rice Pudding. It’s currently in the oven, in a bain marie set up, in 2 separate souffle dishes. It cooks for 45 mins, can hardly wait. I am hanging for the outcome. I pretty much get it all. The Mister is out and he doesn’t eat wobbly food. MINE! Kitchen is a small disaster.

If you want any recipes, comment below.  Otherwise, just come over and eat with me, anytime.

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Glossy Goodness – WednesdayWebsiteWack

I am a sucker for a page turner, especially when it comes in the form of a glossy mag with pretty pictures, fashion to revere and cultural reviews.  Any mag that comes under $10 these days consists of mostly B grade banter of which i can catch up on in any doctor’s surgery.  My feminist tendencies also steer me well clear of the body image centric stapled rubbish.

The internet is once again the saviour in filling the void of that part of my brain that the glossies (now often matte) once nourished. The ever amazing thing about the net, is that it is already like a magazine shop in the way that it caters to the distinct tastes of anyone willing to do a search.  I gravitate towards the broad cultural sources, that’s what magazines mean to me, sections of quality photography with information and hopefully some well resourced and edited cultural journalism that includes some great interviews or opinions.  A cultural magazine should cover all the old faves of music, art, film, literature, events, food and then some….[insert your own preference here].  I note that sometimes the online magazine is a blog, really it’s the same thing but if it’s a blog culture mag it probably didn’t evolve from a physical format, such as Juxtapoz which is actually available online (reduced content) or as a digital version (ipad, see below) or a tangible copy for a little bit extra.
There is a online magazine for every city in the world, I am sure of it.  Flavorpill takes care of most of the big cities in the U.S. and is like the online version of what Time Out magazine used to publish.  Then there are Aussie versions, Broadsheet The Thousands and The Colour whose competition of each other keeps everyone on their toes and off the couch eating out, they are both online but you can also subscribe to their weekly newsletters for a hit of their ‘best of’ from that week. You will not find opinion pieces or long reads here, you will find social pages, gallery launch info and cultural reviews.
Here’s a quick list of my current actual online magazine favourites to get you clicking, follow the links of the pages you like.  Suss out the style of writing that appeals to you or the featured art and follow those contributors/authors to wherever they go, that’s how I discovered most of this list:
The Fox Is Black – where this whole post started really
Lost At E Minor – brothers Zavros are consistently updating this website with new global finds, one bros lives in Austin, TX and the other Newcastle, what a mix.
Rookie Mag – for teenage girls
Faux Magazine – good mixtape and lost and found sections
Flavorwire – the non-localised version of Flavorpill
M-A-G-A-Z-I-N-E-S —– SO GOOD.  Must say I still like a hard copy of Frankie and Another Mag.
Go forth and click.
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Wednesday Website Wack – Focus. Can you?

There’s been talk, so much talk – some might say, “too much talking.”
It’s no secret to anyone that I am a practicing yogi, I try and attend at least one class per week.  I am in an out of schools as often as a kid with a Dad in the Navy but my level of enthusiasm for the flexibility, focus, stamina and stillness that yoga brings into my life never waivers, I am committed to the cause not the teacher or the class.  Each week I afford myself some time to recollect my thoughts, stretch my muscles, sit still and consciously breath.
Almost a decade ago, I took breathing to a whole new level.  I took the meditative principle out of the yoga classroom and into my everyday life.  It’s called meditation. I knew that there was something special in sitting still for a time and focusing on just one thing, whether I could achieve that goal, even for a minute, only practice and time would tell.  I couldn’t do it alone and instead I enrolled in a 10 day intensive Vipassana course.   Vipassana is a technique of self-observation, it’s one way to meditate.  The course provides guided, detailed instruction on how to travel through the conscious mind to the unconscious mind to gain control of our thoughts, our actions and our reactions in the face of any and every situation that arises, it is for EVERYONE.  It took me 10 years of deliberation to enrol and since my initial instruction I have returned once to re-align my meditation practice.
Is this a Wednesday Website Wack? Yes, it is.  This week on Lifehacker they posted A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us.  Lifehacker is an all round ‘how to’ kind of website, helping anyone get through life more easily through simple instruction.  Their posts are often technical (especially finding the best apps for Blah) but they also travel to other genres of day to day such as how to be fiscally responsible, reduce your credit card debt, practice creativity or solve your procrastination issues (ironic, especially if you are in the midst of a deadline and check Lifehacker to assist with the distractions).  It’s an extremely valuable resource for the most part and they have a great Guide on Meditation here.
As it states, you will require nothing.  Start with a 2 minute practice.  There will always be a distraction so it doesn’t really matter when/where you start but you need to be non-contactable and comfortable.  Meditation is free medicine for anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation, anger, depression and it is a way to start or continue a self-discovery of who we are and accepting whatever we find, without judgement.
Everyday I intend to meditate – some days I do and some days I forget or get distracted or feel alienated by the daunting process of focusing my attention on this one small thing when I have so many other things to do.  If I remember that meditation is a tool for awareness, above anything else, it often brings me back to the cause which is self-awareness and compassion which ultimately helps me with everyday occurrences such as Road Rage and Judgement on anyone and everyone! If only you knew me before I discovered Yoga.
Go forth and click.

note: this is from a Tiny Newsletter publication, Wednesday Website Wack.  You can sign up here if you want regular updates on what’s right about the internet!

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