Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Overachiever's Prayer

The following prayer (given in part) comes from Carol Osborne’s book ‘How would Confucius ask for a raise?’ It contains the essence of a Taoist approach to success or more particularly, the correct attitude to adopt when faced with the frustration and disappointment that arises when, despite our overly-anxious, pushing, striving best efforts, we fail.
Read it and feel your boiling temperature immediately descend to a simmer. Rinse and repeat. I used this prayer often and it helped me a lot. In fact Carol’s book, a gift from a colleague, is one of the most useful books I know to help you understand the principles of Taoism and how you can apply them to your career and daily life.

The Overachievers Anonymous Prayer

Help me to give up pushing, demanding, and desiring specific rewards from my work.
I trust that however confused and convoluted it feels at the time, I am always being led to my greater purpose the fastest, most direct way possible.
If it seems long and difficult at times, it is because I am a beginner and there is so much more to learn…
When I am disappointed along the way, without anger, self-hatred, or judgment, I simply make whatever corrections I can. If I can’t find anything to correct, or
if I have reached the point where to give more will sacrifice my overall vitality and well-being, I have the patience to wait.
I ask you to help me love myself, wherever I am in the process, trusting that given who I am, where I’ve come from, and the circumstances I face, I am always doing my best…

Notice that here again (my italics) we find the proviso of not letting competing priorities get in the way of health. Health comes first, before success, before career, before everything. We must remember there is no fortitude like patience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Health quotations

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. Buddha

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor worry about the future, nor anticipate troubles, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly. Buddha

The groundwork of all happiness is health. Leigh Hunt

Health is the vital principle of bliss, and exercise, of health. James Thomson

Take care of your body with steadfast fidelity. The soul must see through these eyes alone, and if they are dim, the whole world is clouded. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

The body is like a piano, and happiness is like music. It is needful to have the instrument in good order. Henry Ward Beecher

A feeble body weakens the mind. Jean Jacques Rousseau

Keeping your body healthy is an expression of gratitude to the whole cosmos - the trees, the clouds, everything. Thich Nhat Hanh

To get rich never risk your health. For it is the truth that health is the wealth of wealth. Richard Baker

The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness. Arthur Schopenhauer

Health is worth more than learning. Thomas Jefferson

Money may buy the husk of things, but not the kernel. It brings you food but not appetite, medicine but not health, acquaintances but not friends, servants but not faithfulness, days of joy but not peace or happiness. Henrik Ibsen

Health and good estate of body are above all gold. Ecclesiasticus XXX, 15

Gold that buys health can never be ill-spent. Thomas Dekker

As I see it every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself. Adelle Davis

Confidence and hope do more good than physic. Galen

Health is not a condition of matter, but of mind. Mary Baker Eddy

A quiet mind cureth all. Robert Burton

After these two, Dr. Diet and Dr. Quiet, Dr. Merriman is requisite to preserve health. James Howell

He who sings frightens away his ills. Cervantes

Nature, time and patience are three great physicians. H.G. Bohn

To insure good health: eat lightly, breathe deeply, live moderately, cultivate cheerfulness, and maintain an interest in life. William Londen

Good health! Whenever you go out of doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of your head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp. Do not fear being misunderstood and never waste a minute thinking about your enemies. Elbert Hubbard

The higher your energy level, the more efficient your body. The more efficient your body, the better you feel and the more you will use your talent to produce outstanding results. Anthony Robbins

Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but in the ability to start over. Unknown

The sovereign invigorator of the body is exercise, and of all the exercises walking is the best. Thomas Jefferson

He knows little of himself or of the world, who does not think it sufficient happiness to be free from sorrow: therefore, give a wise man health, and he will give himself every other thing. Charles Caleb Colton

A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses. Hippocrates

Health and intellect are the two blessings of life. Menander

Your prayer must be for a sound mind in a sound body. Juvenal

One of the most sublime experiences we can ever have to wake up feeling healthy after we have been sick. Rabbi Harold Kushner

A hospital is no place to be sick. Samuel Goldwyn

From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health. Catalan Proverb

He who has health, has hope. And he who has hope, has everything. Arabian proverb

Cheerfulness is the very flower of health. Japanese proverb

By the time a man is 40 he is either his own doctor or a fool. Chinese proverb

Sickness comes on horseback but departs on foot. Dutch Proverb

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. Irish Proverb

Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint. Mark Twain

In nothing do men approach so nearly to the Gods, as in giving health to men. Cicero

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Moral hazard

It is a sad day when recklessness is rewarded and prudence punished. The US government bailout of reckless financial institutions is a hard decision to take. The aim is to protect ordinary people from worse consequences if no action is taken. But it goes against the grain.

Perhaps the most pernicious part of this bailout, however, is the way it punishes the innocent to reward the guilty for taking on excess risks they couldn't handle. The moral hazard involved is outrageous. Successful financial institutions like Wells Fargo and US Bancorp, which didn't make all those bad loans, should've been able to start cleaning up by now. Instead, their reward for following prudent financial practices is to see new life breathed into their competition by governmental mandate.
On the flip side, failures like Washington Mutual now get what may amount to a "get out of bankruptcy free" card. As the credit-and-housing bubble formed, Washington Mutual and its excessive risks outperformed the more conservatively managed Wells Fargo in the 2001-2005 housing cycle.
Chuck Saletta, at Motley Fool

But there is no escaping karma. The people and hence the government will demand a reckoning. The bailed-out institutions will suffer in their reputation and hence in their business. The prudent institutions will stand out like the tree on the mountain, even more dignified and virtuous by contrast. And we shall all remember these dark days as a dawning of a new age, an age of heightened awareness of the importance of integrity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Integrity - the lesson of the swamp plant

The playing out of the underlying truths to be found in the I Ching are everywhere to be seen. But today we are witnessing a playing out of global proportions. In the US and elsewhere, financial institutions, some of them hundreds of years old, are awash in red ink, either filing for bankruptcy, being bought, or shopping themselves around for infusions of cash from abroad. They succumbed to the lure of easy gains today, lending money to unqualified homebuyers and then packaging and trading ‘securities’ backed by these high-risk mortgages. Now it is karmic payback time as house prices fall, homebuyers default and those institutions find themselves holding worthless paper.

53. Chien/Development (Gradual Progress)

On the mountain, a tree:
The image of DEVELOPMENT.
Thus the superior man abides in dignity and virtue,
In order to improve the mores.

The tree on the mountain is visible from afar, and its development influences the landscape of the entire region. It does not shoot up like a swamp plant; its growth proceeds gradually.

(From the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of the I Ching)

The swamp plant may grow prodigiously in a short period of time. But there is no inherent strength in it, it is based on muddy ground, its only goal is to outgrow those around it. It is here today, gone tomorrow. The tree on the other hand grows slowly, much more slowly. It is based on firmer ground.

A tree on the mountain develops slowly, according to the law of its being and consequently stands firmly rooted…within is tranquillity, which guards against precipitate action, and without is penetration, which makes development and progress possible.

Relationships that are not built on a basis of right and wrong, of integrity, are on muddy ground and cannot endure. Relationships built on integrity are on firm ground and will grow strong. They will endure and ‘influence the entire landscape’ long after the swamp plants have rotted away in the mud.
Photo by Joakim Buchwald

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Songs from a world apart - Lévon Minassian (a review)

As soon as I heard the first song from this album, I immediately said to myself it is surely ‘that fellow’ (Djivan Gasparian) who plays the duduk (wild flute) so masterfully in the soundtrack of ‘Gladiator’. I have listened to this soundtrack literally hundreds of times, the powerful music of that living genius Hans Zimmer. I heard the same poignant notes of suffering and courage. I immediately bought the album with total confidence, unheard.
Well, in fact it was not Djivan Gasparian I heard but Lévon Minassian. But it is all the same, for I discovered that Minassian was a student of Gasparian, and I find that the student has become the master.
Words are inadequate for describing any music, since music has a direct electrical contact to the soul, whereas words are filtered and interpreted by the mind. Yet I will try to describe the indescribable.
Hearing each song for the first time, our bruised and blistered soul seems to recognise an old refrain and flows readily, willingly along with the music as if it has always known it. The music takes up its rightful place in our memory, as if this place were reserved for it.
Minassian plays with utter mastery, the duduk speaks with a voice as subtle and expressive as any violin, any human.
Armand Amar, the composer and arranger of these traditional Armenian folk songs, is to be highly praised. Often the voice of the duduk is placed in high relief on the background of a dark, ominous, ambient base but the often-expected digression into trendy ‘techno’ rhythms never comes. The music remains firmly rooted in the timeless and the authentic.
The music speaks of suffering certainly, but it is the beautiful suffering of the brave heart. As we listen effortlessly, feeling our suffering being expressed fully and beautifully, we find strength in the music as we realise that our suffering is not unique but is the suffering of our condition, the suffering of every man, past and present and future. We realise that it is simply ‘Suffering’. And suffering is not all bad: for what is suffering except a manifestation of love? Love lost, love that cannot be, love sought and not found, loved-ones missed? There can be no suffering without love.
This is all understood wordlessly through the music of this masterpiece, for it is nothing less. It is a sure, wide-open gateway to the Spirit, in the world apart.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Health - the only true wealth

This week I heard that a colleague at work was seriously ill. So ill that, if he survived, his life would be forever changed. This made me reflect. I remember reading in a health magazine a quote from the director of the Mayo Clinic. He said something along the lines that one should set goals and priorities in the various areas of one’s life – family, finances, career etc. - but that ‘one should not let competing priorities get in the way of health’. Let’s repeat that:

One should not let competing priorities get in the way of health.

And then after reading it, I promptly forgot about it (almost) and put my name down to work all the extra hours God sends, in order to give more priority to my financial goals. I admit this in order to include myself in the ranks of the guilty and to underline that I do understand that it is very hard to give priority to health. Our hopes and our desires drive us all the time. We find it hard to admit that we really don’t earn enough to live the life the advertisers say we deserve… so we work harder. We work harder, to buy things we don’t really want, with money we don’t really have, to impress people we don’t really know.
Health - we so often take it for granted until it deserts us. But without it we cannot accomplish much in the other areas of our life. And we cannot fully appreciate them if we don’t have our health. And in the extreme case, we can no longer accomplish or appreciate anything at all.

When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied. Herophilus

I have been working quite a lot lately, but even quite a lot is less than what I worked last year. I actually take a couple of days off now and then. My body told me to. My body talks to me a lot more these days. I must only have the intelligence to listen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Blogger 3-column Minima template and Favicon

A little detour into form here: after looking around vainly for some time for help in adding a third column to this site, I finally struck gold in the least likely of places (isn’t that always the way?) The worthy food site Wandering Chopsticks had a post on the subject pointing me to The Beginning Blogger’s Guide. Here I found the only complete, easy-to-follow guide for converting to a Three column Minima layout that I felt I could trust. Still, I did test it out on a test blog first. But it worked perfectly. The result is this 3-column minima layout you see before you. (I did alter the widths of the columns in Julian’s code in order to keep the same widths for my post and original sidebar columns). I also followed Julian’s guide to How to add a favicon to your Blogger blog using Google Sites to host the favicon image. You can convert your own logo or image to a favicon or find ready-made favicons at So, a big thank you to Wandering Chopsticks and Julian at Beginner’s Blogging Guide and I hope you are encouraged to make these changes to your own blog.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Patience - for everything there is a season

For everything there is a season,
And a time for every matter under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to throw away;
A time to tear, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate,
A time for war, and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

There are some terrible things among this list which there is unfortunately a time for, (killing, hating and war, for example). This is hard to understand. Perhaps the author is speaking of the inevitable, unfortunate cycles in the life of man in his ignorance, rather than espousing any wise ideal. Even so, some things are not mentioned that could have been. With this in mind, here is my list of what there is no time for:

There is no time for hate (here I had to disagree!), but always a time for forgiveness;
No time for anger, always a time for patience;
No time for pride, always a time for humility;
No time to despise, always a time to understand;
No time to throw stones, always a time to correct one’s own faults;
No time to ignore, always a time to listen;
No time to take, always a time to give;
No time to expect, always a time to be grateful;
No time to divide, always a time to unite;
No time to conquer, always a time to lead;
No time to cause fear, always a time to smile;
No time to worry, always a time to act;
No time to despair, always a time to hope;
No time to be afraid, always a time to help oneself.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ship's log - September 2008

Well shipmates, we have left the familiar waters of my most memorable philosophical haunts. Whuch is not to say there will not be more as and when I think of them. We are far from land, and I have made some surprising discoveries in the anger and patience line, recently. Where before I would not hesitate to revolt and utter a pretty warm expletive over a nothing, now my conscience jerks me back to some of the posts I have written, to some of the striking quotations I have read:
If a small thing has the power to make you angry, does that not indicate something about your size? Sydney J. Harris
The casual reader must not get the impression that I am some kind of guru (my regular readers know I am not): the only reason I know something about this stuff is because I need it. I searched for it and I am sharing it with you, so you don’t have to. Welcome aboard.

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond