Thursday, March 29, 2012

Torn Shoulder -- Oweee!

I took a bad spill skiing on Feb. 4, 2012 at Squaw Valley in Tahoe. It had been a pretty terrible season, weather-wise, and there was very little snow on the ground. What snow there was had clearly melted, frozen, and melted again, so everything was hard, bare, rutted out and shiny.  Coming into a lift line I went over a small thumb-size tree stump and flew in the air, coming down on my right armpit with my arm extended. I tore tendons in my shoulder, tore the labrum 3/4 off, broke the top of the humerus, contused several ribs, broke a bone in my hand and sprained my thumb. Ouch!

I've probably never hurt myself so badly and taken so long to recover. For the first three months afterwards I had trouble sleeping.  Breathing when lying on my side was hard because of the ribs contusions, and my throbbing shoulder would wake me up in the middle of the night.

Day after day, though, things got better.  As soon as I started doing Yoga again, even though I couldn't do anywhere everything I wanted, I felt better. I slept better, I was actually getting exercise and tension relief, and my mood improved. I then turned things into a game to see what positions and stretches I could get away with, or how I might alter them to protect my injuries but push as far as possible.

Years later, it feels like I'm still recovering, and many care practitioners have told me that shoulder injuries are very tricky and can flare up in unexpected ways for years.

The time while injured allowed me to get more reading done, and to pray and reflect more, to be more still, to be more grateful for the things I normally take for granted (like ribs, free breathing, being able to hang up a shirt, pull on socks, wipe, etc.).

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Garden of Love

I was scheduled to do a performance on a Sunday night in May 2012, and called my regular gig partner to see if he could do the date.  Oops, should have checked with him first before saying "yes"! After making calls to others I've worked with, it began to look like I was going to have to do this one solo, which means using pre-recorded tracks, of my own making, for accompaniment.

And what tunes? I have started many songs, but have not finished most of them. I have a vast collection of riffs, choruses, entire song arcs with intros, verses, choruses, bridges, solo sections and outros, lots of grooves, good ideas, not so good ideas, and on and on.

I also have backing tracks that I've made from various popular songs I've found useful to do at these kinds of gigs -- "Why Can't We Live Together?", "Fragile", "What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding", etc. But I don't really like singing to canned tracks, both as a performer and as someone who has to listen to that. It's hard to duplicate the original tracks, karaoke style, especially with certain genres. A rocker like WSFAPLandU mentioned above sounds limp and lifeless and sad when done without guitar, even with the best MIDI gear, samples, and production capabilities.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I was forced to look at what I had that might be fit to the purpose.  I have a lot of those unfinished grooves of mine on my iPod in their own playlist, so I can (and do) take them with me and work on them in the car, while working around the house, hitting balls, etc.  (For another post, another time: how to capture and sweep forward your songs in progress, what to do with them while in gestation, using modern technology or not-modern technology or not technology while birthing them, etc., etc., etc.)

I grabbed one of my snippets in progress and began working up an idea for the lyrics. Once I had a title to the song I had the chorus and then I worked back from that to have verses, a solo, an intro and an outro, and then polished the heck out of it as quickly as I could in time for the gig.

, then performed it live with just the lead vocals out of the mix so I could sing it on top of the tracks. I'm happy with the way it came out!  Maybe needs a little solo in the middle to finish it off, but it's close to done -- (yaaaay, from someone who does not always finish things he starts).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cyclists, Flip Your Feet

I see so many cyclists pedaling with their legs in a fixed, locked position, so that their ankles never move up and down, and their quads and hams are doing all the work. Pedaling this way this is guaranteeing that you'll only be able to crank at 80% of your potential.

Instead, free up your ankles to "flip" through the through the pedal stroke as well, flipping your toes down from the top on the downstrokes and pulling your toes back up from the bottom through the upstroke. You'll immediately see that you have a second set of pulleys on your legs to do the work of moving you down the road. This is what the crank was really designed for, this double-action of the ankle rotation combined with the larger leg rotation.

Once you get comfortable "flipping" your feet through the pedal stroke, you can then experiment with using different combinations of ankles and large muscles, depending on whether you need to press or rest, pull up or push down, or all you've got all at once. Try riding for a mile with just ankle flips, or taking that next hill with a focus on pulling back at the bottom of the stroke combined with ankle flips at the top. You'll end up with ever-stronger legs, a better workout, a more efficient pedal stroke, and more power in your technique. What's not to love about that?

Cyclists, Sprint with Your Hams

Since my bike commute is so short now, I have to make the most of it by riding it more aggressively, and that means charging all the hills and sprinting out of intersections.

I've found the best way to sprint is not to use the downstroke at all, but rather PULL UP with your legs, letting your large hamstring muscles do all the work. Stand up, grab the top bars, and pull, pull, pull! Not only will you really fly, you'll work your lesser-used hamstrings more AND have the added benefit of still being able to crank fast when you sit down from your sprint, when you can then go to your quadriceps to keep pedaling. Try it and see!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eckhart Tolle 'Present Moment Reminders"

Eckhart Tolle "Present Moment Reminders"

Eckhart Tolle's profound teachings on consciousness, awareness and being present in the moment are thankfully making it into the mainstream (and this is part of his teaching, too, that the rising of awareness itself -- our salvation -- is on the rise amongst humanity). I subscribed to a feed (@ through which he generates these brief "Present Moment Reminders", and will gather and add to them here to share with you.

What a simple and rich treasure it is to have brief teachings that you can carry in your throughts throughout the day to practice being in the present moment!

It's all in you. If a book or any other teaching is powerful, how else do you feel it? There must be something in you that recognizes it because there are others to whom a spiritual book or teaching would be meaningless.

Change is absolutely necessary in this world, and the dissolution of many of the ego-based structures is necessary for humanity to survive. What's happening isn't 'dreadfully bad.' It needs to happen; the intelligence behind phenomena is doing it, so it's a good thing.

The challenge that many people are encountering at this time is actually that which will push them into a new state of consciousness; that is the possibility-the promise whenever you encounter a crisis, whether personal or collective. It's an opening into the new way of being, the new state of consciousness.

Suffering the consequences of unconsciousness is the fire that ultimately burns up the false ego, but that's the long, slow, painful way. The short cut is any spiritual teaching that cuts through the long way, the painful way of waking up.

Take responsibility for your state of consciousness Now. This is what the entire teaching really is about. What is my state of consciousness in this moment?

It's your state of consciousness in the present moment that determines what kind of world you create, because you are humanity. Humanity as an abstract doesn't exist; humanity is the 'human being.'

Is it possible for you to embrace uncertainty, and not demand that you should know what is going to happen to you in your life situation? To embrace uncertainty?

What grace to see that the very thing that looked so heavy in the world of form, the very thing that seemed to be limiting me on all sides, that very thing is the doorway into the formless and into who I am beyond form. What grace to see that ultimately they are one. Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. They are one.

Welcome to the present moment. Here. Now. The only moment there ever is.

There's no need to wait for the next moment or some other bit of information before you can become present, alert, still, and aware in the Now.

A transformation of consciousness is already happening at this moment. How do we know? Because you are here, listening, watching, sensing the power of presence within yourself.

An amazing realization is in the present moment there is only what is, but there are no problems. And if your attention remains in the Now, you no longer inhabit a world of problems. Challenges you may still face, but they come to you in the space of Now.

With whatever spontaneous action arises out of presence, an intelligence is then at work in the situation. Whatever the situation, that intelligence is far greater than the intelligence of the thinking mind.

There's a veil, a density of mind between you and the universe, and that is dissolving now in you. And that is the liberation, the arising of the new consciousness. It's not necessarily a spectacular event with drums and trumpets. It's a very still thing . . .

What people really want is to be fully themselves. They want the sense of aliveness, of being myself fully. But they want it through this, that, or the other. They don't realize that nothing can give it to you because you already have it. And not only do you have it, you are it, you are what you're looking for already. You don't know that because you're always looking somewhere else. You can only know that in the Now by aligning yourself with the Now and with the power that is there within you.

With whatever spontaneous action arises out of presence, an intelligence is then at work in the situation. Whatever the situation, that intelligence is far greater than the intelligence of the thinking mind.

Untouched by any happening or event is the eternal 'I amness' that underlies all the manifestations. You can look at the manifestations and recognize yourself, the one in every manifestation. You recognize the beingness, not through words but through stillness. And in that moment you recognize yourself in the other and the sense of separation goes away that was created by excessive thinking. And there is love.

I was going for a walk near Los Angeles and there was a collapsed building that had burned down 40 years ago. The roof was gone and trees were growing inside the building and it struck me as beautiful, wonderful to see how form returns to the formless. The city council had put up a sign which to me was a sacred sutra. The sign said: 'Danger, all structures are unstable.' To me, that was a holy sign. I said, 'thank you.' 

It is a radical, revolutionary, amazing thing for a human being to discover in him or herself that dimension of consciousness where you can be aware of awareness. You become self-aware. To put it in other words, awareness consciousness becomes conscious of itself. No object in it.  

Invite the opening to the new state of consciousness, instead of waiting for life to do it to you. We can voluntarily invite the opening into our lives through portals into the state of presence. All portals take you, of course, deep into Now. No matter what portal, you will end up in the Now.

Can you wake up out of thought into the aliveness, the alertness that you only have, that is inseparable from present moment? That is ultimately the meaning of now.

When you drop your expectations that a person, a situation, a place, or an object should fulfill you, it's easier to be present in this moment because you're no longer looking to the next one. Most people want to get what they want, whereas the secret is to want what you get at this moment.

If you are aligned with the moment, the kind of action that you take is qualitatively totally different from the kind of action that you take when you deny or dislike the present moment out of the feeling that you want to get somewhere better than this moment.

Instead of creating expectations of what should or should not be happening, cooperate with the form that this moment takes. Bring a 'yes' to the isness, because it's pointless to argue if it already is. A greater intelligence is available to you when you no longer reject, deny, or 'don't want' what is.

 If you are aligned with the moment, the kind of action that you take is qualitatively totally different from the kind of action that you take when you deny or dislike the present moment out of the feeling that you want to get somewhere better than this moment.

If you go into a forest with your mind only, you'll only notice the sounds and the mind will try to interpret them. You might think you're present; but you're not really, you're simply judging what you hear. But if you become aware of the silent dimension underneath the sounds and in between the sounds, then you become present because the moment you become aware of the silence, you also have become silent.

Obstacles come all the time. If you get upset that means the ego is back. When obstacles come if you're not upset and you're still present, you will look at whatever the obstacle is with a penetrating gaze of presence, which is stillness also. You look at whatever obstacle arises, you bring this penetrating stillness to it, and that is like a light that shines on it and dissolves the obstacle or shows you a way around it. That's the power of consciousness.

Some may do great things; others may do things that look less significant on the surface. Ultimately what you do is secondary. But how you do it is primary.

It is from that place of intense aliveness, spacious presence, that you can appreciate the aliveness in all things. It is more than just the sense perception of the chair or the perception of the table or the glass of water. Within the sense perceptions you can sense that there is more than what you are perceiving on the surface; that everything has a presence, an alive presence to it. When you touch that within you, then you don't have to wait for something to happen in your life to feel more alive.

Don't underestimate the power that is in presence. Even if seemingly nothing much is happening yet, there's enormous power that comes through you and flows into this world. Don't even try to understand what it wants; you can only ever get glimpses of what its ultimate purpose is. There's no single human being who knows intellectually what that ultimate purpose of that vast power is that wants to come into this world through you. 

So really what it comes down to, it's God. Wherever you look, it's God appearing as this, that, that…and what you really love and appreciate in each form is the divine formless out of which each form comes. But to be able to sense that you have to sense it in yourself first. And that is seeing the beauty in everything, that's really what it means. 

If you go into a forest with your mind only, you'll only notice the sounds and the mind will try to interpret them. You might think you're present; but you're not really, you're simply judging what you hear. But if you become aware of the silent dimension underneath the sounds and in between the sounds, then you become present because the moment you become aware of the silence, you also have become silent. 

All that we perceive in this world is existence. Underneath existence is being, the formless, timeless dimension within yourself. The sense of lack in so many of us has to do with our inability to sense the being within us, the "I AM" within, the primordial sense of beingness. 

Attention is the vital thing—and there is no tension in attention. It just happens to be a similar word. It's not concentration or straining. Attention has the openness of a young child not yet dominated by the conceptual mind. 

Using your logic means to live in alignment with the universal intelligence. You cannot live in alignment with that if you resist life, if you resist what is, if you complain about life, or have a quarrel with the present moment. 

What determines ultimately whether your life has meaning or not is whether the dimension of depth—the stillness, the spaciousness, the formless essence—whether you realize that within yourself. Or whether your life is consumed completely by the world of form, which includes the thinking mind… 

The perennial philosophy of spiritual truths runs through from the most ancient times to now—the same truths coming in different words, different forms. It's the truth of awakening: living in alignment with the greater intelligence; the truth of surrender to the present moment; the truth of letting go of imposing stories on reality, and waking up to sanity.

It's all in you. If a book or any other teaching is powerful, how else do you feel it? There must be something in you that recognizes it because there are others to whom a spiritual book or teaching would be meaningless.

The power is in you. The answer is in you. And you are the answer to all your searches: you are the goal. You are the answer. It's never outside.

By being present in daily life and in your interactions with others you teach presence. And so that is part of your purpose in life.

Whatever state of consciousness you are in has an effect on the totality of consciousness-human consciousness, planetary consciousness. You cannot not affect others by your state of consciousness.

Underlying the sense - perceived universe there is the un-manifested life: the eternal one consciousness out of which every life form emerges. And you are that.

With awareness there comes choice. And so you are able to say: "I allow this moment to be as it is". And then, suddenly, where before there was irritation, there is now a sense of aliveness and peace. And out of that comes right action.

You are not IN the universe, you ARE the universe, an intrinsic part of it. Ultimately you are not a person, but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself. What an amazing miracle.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Golf and Zen

Last year I shot a one-under 71 at Santa Clara Muni. I was playing with my friend Tim Welch, who was really encouraging the whole time; he's always fun and easy to be with. I don't play that much golf (who has time?), though I practice occasionally. I only played 4 rounds last year but went to the practice area about 15 times. My other 3 rounds were in the 3- to 8-over range.

I think the way I practice is unusual, and this is what helps me score well. You see some guys on the practice range just hitting their drivers, over and over, really trying to pound it and seemingly trying to show others how far and hard they can hit. Either that or they're working out some serious personal issues.

But that's not going to help you score well on the course. It may not even help you drive well on the course.

The teachings of Eckhart Tolle, who is not a PGA pro or a touring player but rather a remarkable person who's published several works on awareness, presence, "enlightenment" and self-realization, are my main influences here. Tolle talks about being Here, Now. The more you are present, the less your mind can get in the way, and one's mind is really often in play in most golfer's heads, so much so that they can't golf through all that thinking and judging and worrying.

While you're hitting the mind says, "Left arm straight, coil back slowly, break wrists at halfway point, don't sway!, hurry back!, spank the ball on impact, follow through high!, you idiot, you're still slicing! etc., etc., etc. These are just a few of the many stored phrases that golfers play in their heads as they remind themselves what to do, and what not to do, while swinging. They might also be saying, "Remember the last time you played this hole and you shanked it into the trees on the right and it took you four more shots to get to the green, and then, oh yeah, three putts, you complete duffer? This is the worst/hardest hole on the course." Your mileage may vary, but the phenomenon of incessant mind-chatter should be familiar to just about anyone, golfer or no.

We have to quiet our minds. Our world depends on it. The first step is to recognize that your mind is doing this to you, and once you recognize this you've created a little bit of space around it to step back and observe it better. The one that's observing the mind is the real you.

Golf is a good place to start this practice of observing and quieting the mind, because the positive results are observable from the very first time you try it. Being right here, right now allows your body to take over the shot and relaxes you in a focused way. Even though you are focused and relaxed, somehow you don't lose accuracy, you don't lose power, you don't lose agility or flexibility, but you gain peacefulness. When you can become that peacefulness and watch yourself play golf from the inside, the fun really begins, and the shots begin to happen. This takes practice, and of course you should practice quieting your mind anyway. If you can practice calming yourself, quieting your mind, being here and now with the shot and letting go of the past (I never do well on this hole/I can't hit my driver) and the future (what if I dump this in the lake?/am I going to shoot another 95 today?), you will find that the golf begins to take care of itself, and you have a great time with it. Trust me: if you can train yourself to get to that stillness and deep concentration that comes with presence every time you step up to the golf ball, you'll have more than any technique or teacher or gear can offer. Practice that, and it will grow inside you. You will of course also see this growth benefit other aspects of your life as you stick with it.

So forget the lessons, the tips, the gadgets, the gear, and practice presence, peacefulness, being HERE, NOW. I hope you will discover what I have: that this is the true way to golf, and the true way to be.

Check out for access to his works and teachings. I highly recommend two of his books in audio format, which he reads, and which rendering adds greatly to the effectiveness of his supremely helpful and transformational message. Peace!

Monday, August 31, 2009

How to Pass a Cyclist

For drivers of automobiles and for other cyclists: HOW TO PASS A CYCLIST!

I spend a lot of time on my bicycle in traffic, and since I don't (always) go as fast as a car I necessarily get passed by lots of cars. From my perspective, on the other side of that white line or squeezed over to the margin, I can tell that some drivers are nervous, anxious, impatient or even angry at my forcing them to steer carefully past me. Believe me, I'm anxious at that moment as well, though in a seasoned, been-there, done-that, here-we-go kinda way..

For those drivers who are nervous passing a bicycle in traffic: Thank you! That shows an appropriate appreciation for the sheer physics happening between your metal vehicle and my body during that exchange. If you follow these simple guidelines, we'll both get through it safely.

How to pass a cyclist? First of all: look ahead. Look waaay ahead. What's in your lane and what's in mine? If there's anything there that's not going as fast as you or me, don't pass. If you try to pass me while I'm passing another cyclist or going around a pedestrian, we're going to come together in a not-so-happy way. And don't underestimate my speed. We cyclists can often cruise on flat terrain at 25 mph or more. Wait until it's safe for everyone and everything involved.

Second, if it's clear, then go on by, but please give me as much space as you possibly can. Even if you're centered in "your" lane, if you pass me at 35 mph. with only three feet between us, that is a scary experience for me. Plus, one of us could blow a tire, or swerve slightly to avoid an obstacle in our paths, and close that three-foot margin in a deadly instant. Animals can run out, and there are always potholes and impediments on the road. So as much as you possibly can, give me a wide berth, even if it means going into the next lane to do so. Be sure to flash your lights at oncoming traffic if you go into their lane.
Also, pass peacefully. Don't suddenly hit the gas. This can be loud and scary to the cyclist and the fumes from "gunning it" are noxious.

Cyclists: All of the above, plus: Before passing, shout out "on your left" and observe the pass-ee before passing. Did they hear you and move over, or are they blissfully rocking to their iPod? (Rrrrrrrrrr) And look behind you first; It's not safe to pass if a car is passing YOU while you're passing another cyclist.