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Howdy, pilgrim! No ads — you're in the ^zhurnal (that's Russian for "journal") — see ZhurnalyWiki for a Wiki edition of individual items; see Zhurnal and Zhurnaly for quick clues as to what this is all about; see Random for a random page. Briefly, this is the diary of ^z = Mark Zimmermann ... previous volume = 0.9924 ... complete list at bottom of page ... send comments & suggestions to "z (at) his (dot) com" ... click on a title link to go to that item in the ZhurnalyWiki where you can edit or comment on it ... thank you!

Student ID Cards

Identification cards from ^z's
final year as an undergraduate
at Rice University and from
subsequent years of grad school
at Caltech ...

(cf. College Collage 1 (2000-09-29), College Collage 2 (2000-10-03), College Collage 3 (2001-09-29), ...)

- Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 06:44:35 (EST)

2016-12-26 - Boxing Day 10x800m Speedwork

~6.6 miles @ ~9.0 min/mi

"Hello, Speedwork, my old friend / I've come to run with you again / And soon the quads are softly crying / And the lungs and heart are dying ...". Lane 2 at the local middle school track is wide open. A Latina girl in bright orange shoes and green college hoodie practices high-kick martial arts moves. Two soccer players zig-zag around puddles that dot the infield. A father and young son try to get a quadcopter to take off without success.

Ten 800m intervals flow nicely by, with half-lap 2 minute recovery walks. Split times = 3:57 + 3:57 + 3:54 + 3:53 + 3:53 + 3:56 + 3:50 + 3:52 + 3:49 + 3:42 (a final banzai!) ...


- Friday, January 20, 2017 at 04:30:47 (EST)

Mantra - Don't Be the Fixer

Don't Be
  the Fixer!

... you can't heal every broken bird, you can't protect people from themselves, you can't solve the world's problems, and you can't make everybody happy all the time (if ever!) — so, as Toni Bernhard advises (Sublime States), when tempted to "fix" try instead to think something like:

... and since we can't even fix our self (and "Unselfing" is so hard!) maybe just say "Forgiven, Forgiven, Forgiven" to oneself more often — and more sincerely!

- Thursday, January 19, 2017 at 04:51:09 (EST)

2016-12-24 - Mormon Temple Lights

~10.0 miles @ ~14.3 min/mi

"I'm off duty — if you break a leg you'll have to call 9-1-1 yourself!" says Wheaton Rescue Squad member Sakurako, as we run along Kensington sidewalks in rapidly deepening gloom. When we begin our evening circuit it's too bright for Christmas lights to be lit at the Mormon Temple. When we return the traffic jam of cars waiting to see them stretches more than a quarter mile down the hill. A bright red Santa cap catches the eyes of children and adults.

"Have a Klondike Bar!" offers Robin Zimmermann. We accept, with gratitude. Construction work and trail maintenance block our path through Wheaton Regional Park, so ice cream is the midcourse reward. Neighborhood houses feature crawling red-green laser light-show decorations. Sako's first marathon is only two weeks away, so we navigate cautiously by headlamp light. "Don't fall down!".


- Wednesday, January 18, 2017 at 04:29:22 (EST)

Carrying Our Own Stuff

From Chapter 2 ("Ordinary Mind") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on letting-go and not being The Fixer:

... we must each carry our own stuff, and grow and learn from it, and ripen. When we are sitting at the gate, if we are ripe, we will know when to offer help and when to allow the person to carry his or her own burden, do his or her own work. We are here to help one another, to support one another, but not to interfere, and not to take on someone else's pain or burden. We feel one another's pain, since we are of one body, one mind, but we must allow each other our own experience, and contribute in our own way.

(cf. Functional Thinking versus Ego Thinking (2014-11-01), Simple Mind (2015-09-16), Holding Space (2016-07-22), Sublime States (2017-01-05), ...)

- Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 04:55:44 (EST)

2016-12-23 - Soft Sunrise Xmas Eve Eve

~11.6 miles @ ~14.8 min/mi

"We run these streets!" The Dawn Patrol takes dominion over McLean, striding down the middle of the roads. Cars hesitate to threaten Santa Claus & Co. on Christmas Eve's Eve: a long white beard and red cap with white trim instead provoke thumbs-up salutes by passing drivers. In McLean Central Park we meet runners with half a dozen dogs on leash, eyes glowing in pairs of green, orange, red, white — different colors each.

"There's the garage without a driveway!" Maybe it's for a hovercraft? Front yard holiday decorations range from mega-kitsch-overload to appropriately modest. Animated lights race up tree branches to emulate firework displays. We discuss issues of graceful letting-go of judgments, softening versus increased rigidity with age, mindful challenges in family gatherings. Sunrise glows cerulean and tigerlily along the horizon, as a waning Moon chases Jupiter across the sky. Drs Kristin, Kerry, and Beth wish one another the Happiest of Holidays and the Bestest of New Years!


- Monday, January 16, 2017 at 04:38:46 (EST)

Alternative Paths

The book QBism: The Future of Quantum Physics Hardcover by Hans Christian von Baeyer explores an unconventional interpretation of quantum mechanics: "Quantum Bayesianism". Instead of collapsing wavefunctions or Many Worlds, "QBism" focuses attention on observers and on how to update their subjective probability estimates of quantum events via Bayes Theorem.

Von Baeyer's book is by turns frustratingly vague and fascinatingly inspirational. Perhaps the most important idea, however, is buried near the end, in Chapter 22 ("The Road Ahead"): a summary of some comments by physicist Richard P. Feynman made during his 1965 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Feynman's words are a mere aside — but they're so insightful that they deserve to be highlighted and pondered.

I would like to interrupt here to make a remark. The fact that electrodynamics can be written in so many ways — the differential equations of Maxwell, various minimum principles with fields, minimum principles without fields, all different kinds of ways, was something I knew, but I have never understood. It always seems odd to me that the fundamental laws of physics, when discovered, can appear in so many different forms that are not apparently identical at first, but, with a little mathematical fiddling you can show the relationship. An example of that is the Schrödinger equation and the Heisenberg formulation of quantum mechanics. I don't know why this is — it remains a mystery, but it was something I learned from experience. There is always another way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what the reason for this is. I think it is somehow a representation of the simplicity of nature. A thing like the inverse square law is just right to be represented by the solution of Poisson's equation, which, therefore, is a very different way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before. I don't know what it means, that nature chooses these curious forms, but maybe that is a way of defining simplicity. Perhaps a thing is simple if you can describe it fully in several different ways without immediately knowing that you are describing the same thing.

And at the conclusion of his Nobel lecture, Feynman reprises and expands upon that crucial theme:

Many different physical ideas can describe the same physical reality. Thus, classical electrodynamics can be described by a field view, or an action at a distance view, etc. Originally, Maxwell filled space with idler wheels, and Faraday with fields lines, but somehow the Maxwell equations themselves are pristine and independent of the elaboration of words attempting a physical description. The only true physical description is that describing the experimental meaning of the quantities in the equation — or better, the way the equations are to be used in describing experimental observations. This being the case perhaps the best way to proceed is to try to guess equations, and disregard physical models or descriptions. For example, McCullough guessed the correct equations for light propagation in a crystal long before his colleagues using elastic models could make head or tail of the phenomena, or again, Dirac obtained his equation for the description of the electron by an almost purely mathematical proposition. A simple physical view by which all the contents of this equation can be seen is still lacking.

Therefore, I think equation guessing might be the best method to proceed to obtain the laws for the part of physics which is presently unknown. Yet, when I was much younger, I tried this equation guessing and I have seen many students try this, but it is very easy to go off in wildly incorrect and impossible directions. I think the problem is not to find the best or most efficient method to proceed to a discovery, but to find any method at all. Physical reasoning does help some people to generate suggestions as to how the unknown may be related to the known. Theories of the known, which are described by different physical ideas may be equivalent in all their predictions and are hence scientifically indistinguishable. However, they are not psychologically identical when trying to move from that base into the unknown. For different views suggest different kinds of modifications which might be made and hence are not equivalent in the hypotheses one generates from them in ones attempt to understand what is not yet understood. I, therefore, think that a good theoretical physicist today might find it useful to have a wide range of physical viewpoints and mathematical expressions of the same theory (for example, of quantum electrodynamics) available to him. This may be asking too much of one man. Then new students should as a class have this. If every individual student follows the same current fashion in expressing and thinking about electrodynamics or field theory, then the variety of hypotheses being generated to understand strong interactions, say, is limited. Perhaps rightly so, for possibly the chance is high that the truth lies in the fashionable direction. But, on the off-chance that it is in another direction — a direction obvious from an unfashionable view of field theory — who will find it? Only someone who has sacrificed himself by teaching himself quantum electrodynamics from a peculiar and unusual point of view; one that he may have to invent for himself. I say sacrificed himself because he most likely will get nothing from it, because the truth may lie in another direction, perhaps even the fashionable one.

But, if my own experience is any guide, the sacrifice is really not great because if the peculiar viewpoint taken is truly experimentally equivalent to the usual in the realm of the known there is always a range of applications and problems in this realm for which the special viewpoint gives one a special power and clarity of thought, which is valuable in itself. Furthermore, in the search for new laws, you always have the psychological excitement of feeling that possibly nobody has yet thought of the crazy possibility you are looking at right now.

So what happened to the old theory that I fell in love with as a youth? Well, I would say it's become an old lady, that has very little attractive left in her and the young today will not have their hearts pound anymore when they look at her. But, we can say the best we can for any old woman, that she has been a very good mother and she has given birth to some very good children. And, I thank the Swedish Academy of Sciences for complimenting one of them. Thank you.

Hmmmm, arguably a sexist/ageist metaphor at the end — but the punch line remains: "... I don't know what it means, that nature chooses these curious forms, but maybe that is a way of defining simplicity. Perhaps a thing is simple if you can describe it fully in several different ways without immediately knowing that you are describing the same thing."

And best of all to remember:


(cf. The Mysterians (1999-08-02), Many Worlds Demystified (1999-10-24), QuantumNondemolition (2000-02-05), Hans Bethe (2004-11-29), Schrodinger's Catastrophe (2008-01-26), John Archibald Wheeler (2008-04-15), Introduction to Bayesian Statistics (2010-11-20), ...)

- Sunday, January 15, 2017 at 06:28:28 (EST)

2016-12-21 - Soften and Breathe

~5.6 miles @ ~15.9 min/mi

"A Gnarly Ball of Personality Disorders!" Dawn Patrol this morning enjoys a beautiful baby-blanket-hued sunrise, electric pinks and pacific blues, as we meander the streets of Pimmit Hills and listen to each other mindfully. Frustrations fade. "Cheaper than therapy!" — and likely far more effective for some. A toppled front-yard flamingo tries to bury its head in the lawn. Inflatable Christmas decorations lie collapsed in flaccid heaps, their air compressors off. Drs Beth & Kerry & Kristin laugh at the world together. "This is what friends are for!"


- Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 06:07:22 (EST)

Death Practices

Chapter 12 ("Death Awareness Practice") of How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard describes four ways to reflect upon the ultimate destiny of all life:

Bernhard concludes:

Finally, living with conscious awareness of death is making each day more meaningful to me. I feel as if I'm living more purposefully and that I'm more open to my moment-to-moment experience—awake to life as it is. Just this moment. Just this.

(cf. Bennett on Stoicism (1999-04-24), Nothing There in the First Place (2015-05-31), ...)

- Friday, January 13, 2017 at 05:10:07 (EST)

2016-12-19 - Coconut Run

~3.4 miles @ ~13.6 min/mi

"Hot Cocoa?" suggests Kristin. We're brainstorming a codename for another upcoming 100 mile ultramarathon race, a euphemism to use in order to avoid jinxing the performance (see Wikipedia re "The Scottish Play"). Perhaps it should be called "The Coconut Run" — after the Marx Brothers film "The Cocoanuts", coconut oil, and other usages that include the letters "C" & "O"?

Weather has again turned brisk, temps in the lower 30s. Brilliant Christmas lights shift through the spectrum on a Hunting Avenue tree. Dr K reports on the long lines at Children's Hospital on Sunday, kids all with stomach-virus woes. The other 99% of the "conversation" is a recap of weekend fun in Prince William Forest Park, including unmentionable details ("trail talk") that can't appear in the official race report!


- Thursday, January 12, 2017 at 05:14:10 (EST)

Stand by You

"Stand by You" is a pop song from 2015, with lovely lyrics about loyalty:

Hands, put your empty hands in mine
And scars, show me all the scars you hide
And hey, if your wings are broken
Please take mine so yours can open, too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Oh, tears make kaleidoscopes in your eyes
And hurt, I know you're hurting, but so am I
And, Love, if your wings are broken
Borrow mine 'til yours can open, too
'Cause I'm gonna stand by you

Even if we're breaking down, we can find a way to break through
Even if we can't find heaven, I'll walk through Hell with you
Love, you're not alone, 'cause I'm gonna stand by you

It's by Rachel Platten and colleagues; the associated music video is likewise uplifting ...

(cf. At Your Side (2009-05-11), ...)

- Wednesday, January 11, 2017 at 04:32:41 (EST)

2016-12-17 - Devil Dog 100 Miler DNF

~42 miles @ ~18 min/mi + ~20 miles @ ~24 min/mi

In freezing rain, the start of the Devil Dog 100 - Stephanie Fonda in orange jacket, ^z following in white windbreaker - photo by David Potts"Mark, will you come with me?" quietly asks Stephanie, standing by me in the dark.

It's 0540 on Sunday morning. She's at mile 81.5 of a 101 mile race. Her legs are worn out from slipping on sheets of ice and layers of mud, clambering over roots and rocks, falling down and standing up again, tip-toeing across streams, scrambling up hills and descending into valleys. She's racing the clock and has just made the crucial 24-hour cutoff — but only by 30 minutes. No sleep since 3am the day before. Tummy trouble from chugging energy drinks to stay awake. Dashing through Aid Station checkpoints, constantly pushing the pace. No time to waste if she's going to finish within the final 32 hour limit.

"Of course!" I reply. "Give me five minutes to get ready. And — thank you for asking."

Saturday evening I drop out of the race after taking ~12.5 hours to cover 42 miles, the first two laps of five. I hang around to help at an aid station, applaud runners as they head out, and commiserate with those who, like me, DNF (Did Not Finish). At ~1am on Sunday I give ultra-buddy John Hord a ride homeward, and return at ~3am to nap in front of the fire for a few fitful hours. Dr Stephanie arrives at 0530, speedily changes into dry gear, refills bottles, and prepares to head out.

"Let's go!"

The "Devil Dog Ultras" include 100k and 100M runs on the trails of Prince William Forest Park. It all turns out ok, in spite of crazy-wild weather. As King Lear says, "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow! ... Smite flat the thick rotundity o' the world!" The elements do their best, but nonetheless ~70% of the 100k runners and ~40% of the 100 milers finish.

In a midnight conversation Race Director Toni Aurelio explains the title "Devil Dog" (her husband is a Marine — "Not a retired Marine", I correct her — "he's always a Marine!") and the Aid Station names: "Toofy" is the nickname of her family's "Teufel Hund" ("Devil Dog" in German), "Gunny" is Toofy's brother (and the nickname of every Marine gunnery sergeant), and "Remi" was the mother of both, who sadly died a year ago. Oh, and there are "Devil Dog" creme-filled devils-food cakes at the aid stations. Yummy!

How did we get here? The evening before, Stephanie's daughter teaches me how to make an omelette, and Stephanie teaches me how to tape my feet to prevent blisters. At ~4am on race morning ultra-buddy John Hord meets us. We load gear into Stephanie's van. During the hour-long drive to the race, I take a Vow of Silence. It lasts for only 5 minutes, but my companions find it strangely disturbing. Hmmmmm ... must try this again!

Trying not to slip on the ice, ^z coming into the Aid Station at mile 16 - photo by Hai Nguyen
Stephanie Fonda, proud finisher, Devil Dog 100 Miler, 17-18 Dec 2016Initiate ^z Lockdown Mode! Stephanie's orders: for me to have a chance to finish a 100 miler, it's got to be all business. No chasing Pokémon in the woods. No lollygagging at Aid Stations. No selfies by the stream. No stopping to chat with tourists.

"You've got One Job!" Stephanie admonishes. And perhaps I'll finish that job another year. The ice storm that begins before dawn slows everybody down. Some are strong and brave enough to keep moving fast enough to make the cutoffs. Many are not. Trails are slick; falls and injuries abound. Park roads become sheets of black ice. Runners get down on all fours to crawl across. Cars can't get in to set up at least one aid station.

"Like a billion jewels on all the twigs!" The sun comes out mid-afternoon and glitters off the forest canopy. Ice melts from the trees and drips onto runners. Narrow trails turn to slippery mud.

Speed-walking together, Stephanie and I talk. A lot. A pacer becomes a metaphor for a life-friend, a helper-guide and fellow-traveler, a Buddha-Buddy on the quest for awakening. The silly Magical Unicorn Oracle card drawn a day before the event, as weather forecasts become increasingly grim, gives the not-so-silly advice, "Wait Until Morning". The random card picked for the race itself reads simply: "Love".

Happy ending: Stephanie finishes the inaugural Devil Dog Ultra, all 101 miles of it, in less than 31 hours. Brava! It is my deep honor and joy to accompany her for a part of that awesome journey.

Splits (Lap 1 = 22.5 miles, Laps 2-5 = 19.5 miles each):

Lap SF Time SF Pace ^z Time ^z Pace Comments
15.9 hours 15.7 min/mi 6.5 hours 17.3 min/mi mostly ice
25.1 hours 15.7 min/mi 6.0 hours 18.5 min/mi mostly mud
35.9 hours 18.2 min/mi --darkness
46.3 hours 19.4 min/mi --darkness
57.7 hours 23.7 min/mi 7.7 hours 23.7 min/mi together

At Mile 22.5 ultra-friend Janet Choi records a two-minute video interview with me. The transcript:

JC - How's it going? I want to do an interview!
^z - OK, but don't take a picture of me without my shirt on!
JC - Oh, I already did.
^z - Ah!
JC - No, wait. From the neck up! There you go.
^z - Ha, ha, ha!
JC - So, you just did 23. How was it? Icy out there!
^z - All is well!
JC - Did you fall?
^z - A few times, but not horribly.
JC - And you're feeling good?
^z - Bruised, but unbroken!
JC - So you're going to come through here every 23 miles or so?
^z - 19 and a half, actually.
JC - OK.
^z - Are you filming?
JC - I am; it's an interview!
^z - Wow!
JC - You know, I only do this for the elite athletes.
^z - Well, I haven't signed a model release so you're going to have to negotiate with my agent.
JC - Did your beard freeze?
^z - My beard? Yes, there were icicles on it, but they've melted.
JC - You're feeling good? Your feet are good?
^z - Feet are 90% ok, a little rub on the left foot. I've gotta get outta here!
JC - Can I help you with anything?
^z - Thank you so much. If you wouldn't mind, seal up this bag.
JC - I can do that, I can do that.
^z - Now windbreaker, get my gloves, put the pack on, fill the pockets, and I'm outta here!
JC - All right! I'll seal that.
^z - Thank you, thank you, thank you!
JC - You're going good!
^z - May not need the windbreaker, but it might get chilly. Is the wind supposed to pick up?
JC - I don't think so, but it's going to get warmer.
^z - Warmer is good, but, well ...
JC - It was sheets of ice this morning! I don't know how you guys even ran on that.
^z - A lot of people fell; a lot of people went slow. But we're OK.
JC - All right!
^z - Thank you for being here, Janet. And you ... Jeff?
JC - No, it's Sean.
^z - Sean, Sean, Sean. I'm so bad with names, so horrible.
JC - No, you've got a lot going on.
^z - Thank you!
JC - OK, good job! Woo-hoo! Go, Mark!
^z - Bye! <waves>

(for other 100 miler DNFs see 2010-05-15 - Half Massanutten Mountain Trails, 2012-04-07 - Philly 100 Endurance Run, 2013-04-27 - C-and-O Canal 100 DNF, 2013-10-12 - Tesla-Hertz Run - 100 Miler DNF, 2014-04-26 - CO Canal 100 Miler DNF, 2015-03-28 - Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run (75 mile DNF), ...)

- Tuesday, January 10, 2017 at 04:48:53 (EST)

Buddhism and Love

From Chapter 1 ("The Illusion of 'I'") of Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart, on the real meaning of Buddhism:

... Some people think that Buddhism doesn't have much to do with love. It has everything to do with love. It just doesn't sentimentalize it. It doesn't get icky, or gushy, or oozy. It's very practical, this selflessness and love practice. Don't give me a long speech about love, but show me by your action what is in your heart. Don't weep sentimentally about something and the next minute crush an insect.

With deep practice, with more and more understanding, we come to realize that we are not punished for our sins. This is not part of our way of being. We are not punished for our sins, but by them. Whatever we do that is not loving, that is selfish, that is egocentric, that is grabby, comes home to roost. If we are in pain, if we suffer, we need to examine where it comes from. Probably it issues from some activity that is not unselfish, that is selfishly motivated. We suffer because we want so much, because we think that situations should be different from the way they are.

(cf. Steadiness of Heart (2011-07-13), Mindfulness As a Love Affair (2013-08-10), Opening to Love (2013-09-27), 01 (2013-11-05), It is Thou (2014-09-24), Radical Acceptance (2015-05-13), ...)

- Monday, January 09, 2017 at 04:50:40 (EST)

2016-12-09 - Justice and Fairness and Paychecks

~5.0 miles @ ~13.7 min/mi

"... happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance ...". The Dawn Patrol remembers George Washington's 1790 letter "To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island". A college friend, Jewish immigrant from South Africa, is fearful. We hope for peace and safety for all, as did our first President.

"Somehow it seemed so much bigger in Paris!" The Eiffel Tower stands in a McLean front yard, lit white near other holiday decorations. Cait declines the opportunity to pose by it; Kerry and Kristin chuckle. We miss a connecting path, explore Hooking Road to its end, then backtrack. Brisk winds and temps in the upper 20s make for a chilly trek.

"Smoke and mirrors!" and "A shell game!" are some semi-cynical assessments of a recent corporate lecture on salary issues. Compensation is a human system, with imprecise and subjective elements but noble goals: fairness and long-term group good. Justice is tough to achieve — we must all keep trying!


- Sunday, January 08, 2017 at 08:39:53 (EST)

Mantra - Be Time


"Me Time" is a popular concept: setting aside a block of minutes to reward one's Self. And sure, that's important, maybe vital.

But in addition/instead, perhaps try to experience a bit of Be Time — to just be, without subject or object, without end or beginning, without future or past, without purpose or goal, ...

Or maybe try to Be Time itself — that strange dimension orthogonal to "... the depth and breadth and height / My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight / For the ends of being and ideal grace ...".

(cf. Power of Now (2011-12-14), Being Zen (2014-05-26), Swiss Cheese (2014-07-04), ...)

- Saturday, January 07, 2017 at 06:16:47 (EST)

2016-12-07 - Guilt Trip

~5.0 miles @ ~13.2 min/mi

"In the middle of the night, if you're thinking about quitting just remember that you are our inspiration!" Drs K&K prepare to apply the three levers of peer pressure, guilt, and shame, in anticipation of a 100 miler scheduled for Prince William Forest Park in 10 days. We'll see how well that works!

"Scrambled Legs" is a new running group at the office, preparing for a springtime half-marathon. Kerry and Kristin discuss possible training with them, perhaps segments of longer Dawn Patrol runs. We loop through McLean, critique a flashing Santa Claus, greet early morning walkers, and enjoy a newly-resurfaced asphalt path. A neighbor friend who grew up with Kerry's daughter awaits the school bus. As we finish a brilliant sunrise begins. Lovely!


- Friday, January 06, 2017 at 04:48:58 (EST)

Sublime States

Chapter 13 ("The Psychological States of Awakened Beings") of How to Wake Up by Toni Bernhard lists four "radiant emotions" — though the middle pair seem to really be just positive and negative aspects of one fundamental concept. Bernhard's catalog, which she explores in further detail in Chapters 15-18:

... and importantly: apply those "divine abidings" to one's self!

- Thursday, January 05, 2017 at 05:05:22 (EST)

2016-12-05 - Self-Compassion Run

~6.0 miles @ ~13.1 min/mi

"All that is old becomes new again!" — or maybe, "Have we been here before? I don't remember!" The Early Xmas McLean Dawn Lawn Decoration Survey rediscovers a Santa with polychromatic-glowing hot-air balloon instead of sleigh, supplemented with drifting red-green laser light-show and giant flickering lollipops.

We meander, loop, and eventually find ourselves. It's cool and damp with puddles left by overnight rain. Kristin reports on a busy-good weekend with minimal soreness after Friday's 30 miler. We share reminders to practice self-compassion — tough as that is given all the confusion, need, and sadness in the world. Sometimes it's so hard to be one's own best friend, and to refrain from trying to "fix" everything. But "it is what it is", and that's ok!


- Wednesday, January 04, 2017 at 04:39:38 (EST)

Subtle Sound

Subtle Sound: The Zen Teachings of Maurine Stuart is a collection of talks by the late Canadian-American Buddhist master, mother, and concert pianist who was sometimes called "Ma Roshi". It's edited by Roko Sherry Chayat. The Foreword by Edward Espy Brown begins:

Reading over these talks by my friend and teacher Maurine Stuart Roshi, I am struck by a simple fact. There are no secrets here. Nothing is revealed. If you are seeking to get an insight or saying that does something for you, you will find nothing in these talks. What is found will be in your yourself, your own treasure. As Dogen Zenji said about a good teacher, "Even if the wood is bent, placed in skilled hands its splendid merits immediately appear." Maurine wants you to know the splendid merits that are yours.

This is Maurine's great gift, her genius, her realization—to give you your independence rather than taking it away. This is far more difficult than it sounds. The temptation to which many teachers succumb is to offer insights and understandings, brilliant and articulate words that often leave the student feeling dumb and unworthy, dependent on the teacher for the next spiritual fix, for the right understanding. Maurine is careful to let you stand on your own: "We are working together, sitting together, helping each other, but not in a way that we become dependent on each other's help. . . . We have a clean, clear friendship, without expectations and without demands." (From "The Illusion of 'I'") Maurine was not someone who needed to impress or dazzle anybody with her understanding. She was simply intent on awakening others to what was already theirs.

Editor Sherry Chayat in her Introduction tells of Maurine Stuart's complicated life. Their meeting is charmingly auspicious:

My first encounter with Maurine was at a weekend sesshin at the Zen Studies Society's New York Zendo Shobo-ji. It was in the early part of 1970, soon after I had become a member. During sesshin, we women slept on the carpeted floor of the second-floor library. We would stow our sleeping bags and other belongings in a walk-in closet, where we also kept our meditation robes. That first morning, having been thrust by the shrill tones of the shinrei (wake-up bell) into a mixture of grogginess and panic, I rolled up my sleeping bag, got in line to use the bathroom, then scurried into the closet to change into my robe. Certain I couldn't last through pre-dawn morning service and zazen without something to eat, I pulled a bag of dried fruit from my coat pocket, and sat down among the sleeping bags underneath the coatrack.

An imposing woman with beautiful red hair came in as I was furtively nibbling away. Caught, I held out the bag to her. Picking out one apricot with exquisite grace, she smiled, and suddenly all my ill-defined, stomach-clenching sesshin fears melted away. After sesshin ended, I had a chance to speak with her, and was struck again by her warmth, dignity, and humor.

Excerpts and images to follow ...

(cf. Not Always So (2009-07-04), No Beginning, No End (2013-03-24), Charlotte Joko Beck (2014-08-18), No Expectation (2015-01-02), ...)

- Tuesday, January 03, 2017 at 05:29:36 (EST)

2016-12-04 - NWB Trek with Mary

~9.2 miles @ ~20.0 min/mi

"Some were better!" Dr Mary acknowledges Framer George Mason's great gifts to the early USA, but notes that others did more — and didn't own slaves. We ramble upstream along Northwest Branch Trail, enjoying the crisp morning and greeting cute dogs out walking their masters. Conversation covers psychology and plumbing, politics and sinusitis, whaling and mindfulness.

"Three sugar cubes?" At Wheaton Park Stables a kind equestrian instructor gives us something to boost blood sugar. A girl rides slowly around the indoor dressage arena. The octagonal sign on the road outside says "WHOA" instead of "STOP". We meander past the Brookside Nature Center and return via the left bank of the stream, a much hillier route with more tributary rills to cross, some via stepping-stones and others over small logs.

Finisher rewards: lunch at California Tortilla and grocery shopping at Trader Joe's!


- Monday, January 02, 2017 at 05:20:32 (EST)

Audaz - December 2017 Meditation Retreat

    ... bold
          ... audacious
                ... venturesome
"I love creating beauty, relationships, connections ... discovering hidden places and treasures.""I love harmony, and expansiveness, and sharing — especially sharing joy."
"I love finding refuge, shelter, safety — a solid place to stand, a calm center in the storm."" Thank you —
      I know,
          I love it,
... and I want more!"
"I love ideas, and helping others, and most of all transcending — going beyond.""I love giving and nurturing ... and I need someone to take care of me, to emotionally nurture me ... and I don't have that in the Intimate Space. Now I recognize how important authentic connection is to me — I deserve it, I need it, and I will seek it out."Be generous —
      to your Self!

Audaz — the emergent mantra for the mindfulness meditation workshop led by Patricia Long on 2016-12-11. Half a dozen participants gather in Bethesda Maryland to "polish souls" — to let go, find purpose, and bathe in the luxury of awareness. Some arrive with no goals; others seek strength, or need to recover from injury, or wish to share gratitude, or crave escape from the planning-thinking-worrying that dominates so much of modern lives. We chant, soften, find opportunity. We talk about what we love and share diverse answers.

"Music is the space between the notes," said Claude Debussy. We sit in silence, expanding into the universe — emptiness, in the center, surrounding and embracing ...

(cf. Meditation Retreat (2014-01-28), Meditation - Sound, Music, Silence (2014-10-06), Mindfulness Workshop 2015 (2015-03-19), Meditation Retreat - December 2015 (2015-12-16), Mindfulness Retreat - August 2016 (2016-08-31), ...)

- Sunday, January 01, 2017 at 05:21:10 (EST)

For back issues of the ^zhurnal see Volumes v.01 (April-May 1999), v.02 (May-July 1999), v.03 (July-September 1999), v.04 (September-November 1999), v.05 (November 1999 - January 2000), v.06 (January-March 2000), v.07 (March-May 2000), v.08 (May-June 2000), v.09 (June-July 2000), v.10 (August-October 2000), v.11 (October-December 2000), v.12 (December 2000 - February 2001), v.13 (February-April 2001), v.14 (April-June 2001), 0.15 (June-August 2001), 0.16 (August-September 2001), 0.17 (September-November 2001), 0.18 (November-December 2001), 0.19 (December 2001 - February 2002), 0.20 (February-April 2002), 0.21 (April-May 2002), 0.22 (May-July 2002), 0.23 (July-September 2002), 0.24 (September-October 2002), 0.25 (October-November 2002), 0.26 (November 2002 - January 2003), 0.27 (January-February 2003), 0.28 (February-April 2003), 0.29 (April-June 2003), 0.30 (June-July 2003), 0.31 (July-September 2003), 0.32 (September-October 2003), 0.33 (October-November 2003), 0.34 (November 2003 - January 2004), 0.35 (January-February 2004), 0.36 (February-March 2004), 0.37 (March-April 2004), 0.38 (April-June 2004), 0.39 (June-July 2004), 0.40 (July-August 2004), 0.41 (August-September 2004), 0.42 (September-November 2004), 0.43 (November-December 2004), 0.44 (December 2004 - February 2005), 0.45 (February-March 2005), 0.46 (March-May 2005), 0.47 (May-June 2005), 0.48 (June-August 2005), 0.49 (August-September 2005), 0.50 (September-November 2005), 0.51 (November 2005 - January 2006), 0.52 (January-February 2006), 0.53 (February-April 2006), 0.54 (April-June 2006), 0.55 (June-July 2006), 0.56 (July-September 2006), 0.57 (September-November 2006), 0.58 (November-December 2006), 0.59 (December 2006 - February 2007), 0.60 (February-May 2007), 0.61 (April-May 2007), 0.62 (May-July 2007), 0.63 (July-September 2007), 0.64 (September-November 2007), 0.65 (November 2007 - January 2008), 0.66 (January-March 2008), 0.67 (March-April 2008), 0.68 (April-June 2008), 0.69 (July-August 2008), 0.70 (August-September 2008), 0.71 (September-October 2008), 0.72 (October-November 2008), 0.73 (November 2008 - January 2009), 0.74 (January-February 2009), 0.75 (February-April 2009), 0.76 (April-June 2009), 0.77 (June-August 2009), 0.78 (August-September 2009), 0.79 (September-November 2009), 0.80 (November-December 2009), 0.81 (December 2009 - February 2010), 0.82 (February-April 2010), 0.83 (April-May 2010), 0.84 (May-July 2010), 0.85 (July-September 2010), 0.86 (September-October 2010), 0.87 (October-December 2010), 0.88 (December 2010 - February 2011), 0.89 (February-April 2011), 0.90 (April-June 2011), 0.91 (June-August 2011), 0.92 (August-October 2011), 0.93 (October-December 2011), 0.94 (December 2011-January 2012), 0.95 (January-March 2012), 0.96 (March-April 2012), 0.97 (April-June 2012), 0.98 (June-September 2012), 0.99 (September-November 2012), 0.9901 (November-December 2012), 0.9902 (December 2012-February 2013), 0.9903 (February-March 2013), 0.9904 (March-May 2013), 0.9905 (May-July 2013), 0.9906 (July-September 2013), 0.9907 (September-October 2013), 0.9908 (October-December 2013), 0.9909 (December 2013-February 2014), 0.9910 (February-May 2014), 0.9911 (May-July 2014), 0.9912 (July-August 2014), 0.9913 (August-October 2014), 0.9914 (November 2014-January 2015), 0.9915 (January-April 2015), 0.9916 (April-July 2015), 0.9917 (July-September 2015), 0.9918 (September-November 2015), 0.9919 (November 2015-January 2016), 0.9920 (January-April 2016), 0.9921 (April-June 2016), 0.9922 (June-July 2016), 0.9923 (July-September 2016), 0.9924 (October-December 2016), ... Current Volume. Send comments and suggestions to z (at) his.com. Thank you! (Copyright © 1999-2017 by Mark Zimmermann.)

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