Sunday, 31 March 2019

Good Song: Make America Great Again

As far as I can tell David's a Christian, so I was surprised to hear a call-out to us in this song. But he's a powerful writer and performer, with a Dylanesque melancholy that bypasses the discursive mind, so on behalf of all of us I'll acknowledge his high-five, in the hope that we live up to it.

What with all the talk in the States these days about the need to "make America great again" (every word of which is a mu-calibre koan) it's refreshing to hear someone contemplate what that might actually look like. I.e., the difference between great and shabby, between America and not-America.

Supposing those things exist.

Any road, here's a good song and a timely. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

WW: Burrowing sea cucumber

(Leptosynapta clarki)

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Three Meditation Timer Apps

Time on the Beach I've used a lot of meditation timers since I started doing this. First was a CD of surf sounds. Two half-hour tracks, Atlantic first, then Pacific. "K-tel's Saltwater Super Hits."

As my zazen turned toward the orthodox I started using my refrigerator, sitting through the end of the cycle, or the beginning, then deciding if I wanted to sit through the next.

During my first sesshin I used a VCR: fast forward to the end of a cassette, rewind back 30 minutes, and reset counter. Then push "play" and the machine runs to the end of the spool, then auto-rewinds back to zero with a whirr and a "ka-klunk". Replay as necessary.

Eventually I got a pager-like timer I wear on the belt of my robe. I still use it sometimes. Also my watch, the timer on my iPod, an old-fashioned beaded mala, and, when I can, nothing at all; I just sit till I'm done.

But all of these solutions, while effective, lack a certain charm. And sometimes you just want a little atmosphere. Which is why it finally occurred to me to check out meditation timers for iOS.

Naturally I mean free ones.

Here are three that a not-very-long survey of the iTunes App library turned up. I don't know if they're available for other platforms, but if not, something else must be. Also, I've resolutely not updated the system on my iPod for five years, so I couldn't run some of the fancier apps I encountered. YMMV.

But each is effective and competitively priced.

WCCM App 2 is a gift from the World Community for Christian Meditation. It doesn't seem to have been updated in some time, but works well on my iPod. The welcome menu is a list of hotlinks to WCCM news boards, teachings, and devotionals – no doubt valuable for WCCM meditators. If you check the lower righthand corner of your screen you'll also see a stopwatch labelled "Meditation Tools". That takes you to a beautifully simple meditation timer that seekers of all traditions can use. You get your choice of one tone (a very nice singing bowl), customisable preparation interval, and session, which starts with one chime and ends with three. All in all, an elegant, effective resource.

Zenso is somewhat more complex, but intuitive and easy to use, offering in addition to a preparation interval the possibly of programming mindfulness bells during the session proper. You also get 7 traditional Zen tones, from chimes of various sizes to moktak to One Hand Clapping (aka Jack). You can select the number of reps too, from 1 to 3, though you'll have to take their word on that last one. There's also a vibrate option if your tech can do that.

And finally, Enso is a purchase-in-app alternative whose free default mode is well worthwhile. It offers the same timing options as Zenso, with a graphic interface that allows you literally to dial up the number of minutes you want. You only get one tone – a vaguely sci-fi-sounding synthesised chime that's oddly satisfying, given the Star Trek technology you're using – but you can buy any or all of 11 other bells for not much if you'd like. The app also includes some attainment-oriented functions that teach the wrong path, as far as I'm concerned, but, you know… off-switch, 'n'all.

To find these meditation aids search their titles at the iTunes app store, using your mobile device. While you're at it you might simply browse "meditation timer" as well; chances are your device is more current than mine, and your choices correspondingly broader.

And remember not to get attached to your new app. If the time or circumstance comes when you can't use it, temporarily or at all, that's got nothing to do with the quality of your sitting.

That's all on you.

(Photo courtesy of Liam Ferguson and Wikimedia Commons.)

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

WW: Schooner

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Mindfulness Kyôsaku


"A watched mind never boils."

Gil Fronsdal

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

WW: Old brewery, again

(Here it is again: the old Olympia Brewery, aka the most photogenic structure in Thurston County. I believe this sole fact has protected it from being torn down for a century. It has nevertheless begun to crumble on its own, having been unmaintained for nearly a hundred years now, and one wonders how much longer it can survive.

No filtres or Photoshop were used on this shot, by the way. Just a straightforward black and white exposure on a late winter day.)

Thursday, 7 March 2019


I was difficult when I was younger.

Part of me would like to go back and face some of those challenges and circumstances again, except... not be a jerk this time. Think it might help?

"Not making a bad situation worse." Right up there with "being grateful for your blessings", and "cherishing other people just because they're in the boat with you."

Lessons it took me longer than most to learn.

(Photo courtesy of Jonny Keicher and

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

WW: Spring counter-punches

(Genus Crocus.)