WTF is Crypto?

A dollar picked up in the road is more satisfaction to us than the 99 which we had to work for, and the money won at gambling or in the stock market snuggles into our hearts in the same way.Mark Twain

Have you heard about the $2,000,000,000,000 cryptocurrency fueled economic revolution sweeping around the world? For a couple decades, since the Internet first entered people’s homes, there has been talk of electronic payments leading to digital money. That time has come. In 2008, the digital currency bitcoin was created by people using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The use of digital money has exploded this year. And if you don’t want to be left behind, you need to start learning some new terms such as: HODL – Holding On for Dear Life; and FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. Let’s take a little look at our global crypto-future.

If you are a person who focuses on FUD (see above) you are referred to as having paper hands. If you are someone who adheres to the HODL philosophy you are said to have diamond hands. The comparison between the two types of crypto-traders illustrates the differences between success and failure in the nanosecond cryptocurrency world where prices are measured down to the millionth of a dollar. And the rapid movement of numbers between the millionths and thousandths decimal point mesmerizes the mind like a strobe light flashing directly into our reptilian brain stem.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of new digital technology behind this Cryptoworld. Just as with past technological revolutions (Stone, Bronze, Iron, Steam, Computer, Information -Ages), decentralized economics are built atop the foundations of the previous Age. There’s another term that needs to be defined DeFi. DeFi (Decentralized Finance) does not rely on traditional centralized “middlemen” like: banks, brokers or exchanges. It is built on blockchain technology to issue “smart contracts” for such things as: loans, speculation, trading cryptocurrency and a whole lot more. Unless you never read a newspaper or watch the news, you have probably heard of blockchain technology.

A blockchain is a database that stores information in blocks. When the block is full, the block is locked and chained onto the previous block in chronological order. Once this is done, the information in the block cannot be changed. A traditional database stores data in tables and block chains store data in what? – Yes. Blocks. See you are getting the hang of this already. Blockchains are a form of Digital Ledger Technology (DLT). Digital Ledgers are distributed across linked nodes and protected using cryptographic keys. Hence the name “Cryptocurrency”. Since Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, others are called “altcoins” (alternative to bitcoin), and there are over 10,000.

This is just a very brief introduction to the world of Crypto. Many mainstream media outlets are dismissive of cryptocurrencies saying they are phony, unreal pipe dreams. If that is so, then why are so many giant traditional financial institutions investing hundreds of billions of dollars into the two trillion dollar (and growing rapidly) Crypto? What does the future hold? This is an earth-shaking global economic tsunami. For example, there are games where players earn cryptocurrency “tokens” and those tokens can be redeemed at local markets, pay bills or saved in DeFi banks – where they earn interest. Get out there and get your hands on some cryptocurrency. May you have diamond hands, start mooning and not get rekt. See you out there in the cryptosphere

What is Enough?

I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough? – Vincent Van Gogh

We live in a time of great material abundance. But the haves and the have nots stand on opposite sides of a deep chasm of inequality. Many people focus on the holes in their lives because they internalize commercial media’s portrayals of glittering lifestyles which impoverish their spirits. Snobbish mass media intentionally affects contempt for the seemingly threadbare fabric of day-to-day life in order to push products and relentlessly fuel consumption. But money won’t nourish the soul. What is enough? There are paths which lead away this hurtful social separation and towards a unity of spirit. Nature, Art and Poetry offer us transcendent realms to explore far beyond the reach of base consumerism.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn. John Muir

We, my distant cousins, are all children of this earth. Nurtured by mother nature, our common ancestors strode together across vast primeval swathes of grasslands and forests. Crossing mountains and fording rivers, our common grandparents caught the scent of pure, raw abundance. By reading the great book of nature, physically fragile but mentally agile early humans prospered. Nature, the great creator/destroyer, gently raised humanity’s eyes to the horizon and urged their feet to follow. Those primal trails course through our veins like life-giving currents back to the cosmic ocean from which we came.

What keeps my heart awake is colorful silence. – Claude Monet

While there is no agreed upon definition of art, it calls to our souls. Art is the human spirit made manifest. The desire to create lies within us all. Paint, pen and paper capture the will-o-the-wisps of the imagination in order to share our dreams with one another. Whether lofty music or an improvised whistle, art fills the soul with grandeur. From imaginative re-purposing to great masterworks, creativity accompanies our daily lives like a guardian against dark oblivion.

He who draws noble delights from sentiments of poetry is a true poet, though he has never written a line in all his life. George Sand

Condensates of whispers / Flow through the caverns of the mind / Lyrical soul-steps cross the void / Track the prismatic light of infinite color / Share the heaven within / Sow common ground / With the seeds of a brighter future

Consider the beauty of your life. Appreciate those around you. Know that you do not need expensive things to thrive. Live freely without accumulated piles of unnecessary things. Minimize greed and envy. Ignore the so-called “influencers” pushing their commercially sponsored crap. Gaze instead upon our marvelous real world filled with manifested wonder.

Happy Birthday to the WWW

The Internet? We are not interested in it.Bill Gates, 1993

The very first webpage was posted on August 6, 1991. Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee posted the “plain vanilla” web page on the servers at CERN where he worked at the time. The computer wizard developed the protocols for HTML, HTTP and URLs which are still the underlying structures of the Web.

A copy of the first web page is still hosted on the CERN website.

You can view it here:

http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html

Like so many things these days, the “Father of the Web” Berners-Lee recently sold the World Wide Web source code as a NFT (non-fungible token) for $5,400,000.

And like so many things these days, we often have to look up the definitions of new technology. A NFT is a unique digital asset protected by blockchain technology. Blockchain is a “digital ledger” which records information in a way that makes it nearly impossible to change. The information is stored in digital blocks that are chained together using algorithms and then distributed across a blockchain network to prevent hacking or alteration of the data.

MOSAIC, the first web browser, was created at NCSA at UIUC ( University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign). As something of a digital dinosaur, I first used the Internet back in 1979 on the PLATO system at UIUC. PLATO was the world’s first distributed computer aided learning system. And in addition to learning many things, of course, we used it to play games :-). In fact, at UIUC I once got to shake hands with the John Bardeen, the only person to ever win the Nobel prize for physics twice. Professor Bardeen co-invented the transistor – the amazing devices that helped make our technological age possible.

Do you remember the first time you used the Internet? How about the World Wide Web? And if you are truly a dinosaur, like me, do you remember TVs and radios with vacuum tubes? Please leave a comment below about your first time on the Net or Web or old bygone tech, like black and white TV and rotary phones.

Happy Birthday WWW – what would we do without you?

The Oneness of It All

All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything. Swami Vivekananda

In Eastern thought, One has the dual meaning of number or quality. The modern concept of mindfulness flows out of the spiritual traditions from both East and West. Mindfulness emphasizes the non-separation of the self from the Oneness of true reality. To become mindful, is to become aware of how our individual selves are interconnected within the Oneness of it All. But, for most, the all-encompassing unity of existence is obscured by individual perceptions and interpretations of reality. Those who do experience the oceanic feeling of oneness return to the innocent state of a newborn infant before the self separates from the One.

The central concept of Taoism is the oneness of the All is the Tao. At the end of the first chapter of the “Tao Te Ching, the great sage LaoZi (LaoTzu) wrote: The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name./ The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. /The named is the mother of the myriad of things… The Tao cannot be named because there is no re-representation by the mind. This concept echoes throughout modern studies of consciousness. Many researchers have tried to understand the metaphysical roots of consciousness. This concept of consciousness-as-such is called a “Minimal Phenomenal Experience”. Or: Buddha- Nature; Atman-Brahman; being-awareness-bliss; and so many more. Essentially though the Oneness of it All has no distinctions. Distinctions require language and language separates the One into Many.

My Chinese name, given to me by my mother-in-law, is Zhuang Dao Bai. Zhuang for ZhuangZi my favorite ancient sage. Dao – for the Dao (Tao). and Bai – for Li Bai the ancient poet.

Division is the same as creation; creation is the same as destruction. There is no such thing as creation or destruction, for these conditions are again leveled together into One. Only the truly intelligent understand this principle of the leveling of all things into One. They discard the distinctions and take refuge in the common and ordinary things. The common and ordinary things serve certain functions and therefore retain the wholeness of nature. From this wholeness, one comprehends, and from comprehension, one comes near to Tao. There it stops. To stop without knowing how it stops – this is Tao.Zhuangzi, “On Leveling All Things” (tr. Lin Yutang).

Taoist thinkers connect the meaning of “Heaven” with the concepts of: ziran – self-so/self-affirm; xing – nature; and de – potency. In Zhuangzi’s writing we see that it is our human consciousness which separates us from the Tao – the One. To be truly natural one must be mindful of their own “I/Me/Mine” consciousness creating the distinctions from Heaven / Oneness. Nature offers us a gateway back into the Heaven on Earth into which we were born. Researchers have named this state as “consciousness-as-such. In Eastern traditions there are two views of this state. In one, there is a state of being which is fully absorbed into the One, like a dreamless sleep. In the other, although there is no conscious thought, there is an awareness of being within the One.

We all experience this reduced conscious awareness every day when we transition to and from sleep. That fugue state of flow is the One – the Tao. The goal of meditation is to bring about this state of awareness without making conscious distinctions. Perhaps you have heard of the concept of Non-Dual Awareness (NDA). NDA is a mirror and objects/actions/distinctions are reflections in that mirror. When a Self-Transcendent person achieves Oneness, they experience the clear light of awareness. To be One with the Universe is to be blissfully content with no sense of a lacking or needing more than what simply and naturally is. May we all seek to experience oneness and become aware of our natural connection to this heaven on earth. Peace.

Poetry: Touch of The Wild

A touch of the wild resides with us all

Our soul-songs resonate with nature’s call

Instincts stirred by nameless scent trails drifting in the wind

Rise from ancient gray-green mind-mud

Nostrils flare and pulse quickens

The net of consciousness far cast into the wild landscape

Subconscious skills engage gathered sensory echoes

Body hairs bristle at imaginary beasties lounging in the undergrowth

The lack of modern life’s artificial structures

Unnerves the urban primate’s sensibilities

But after a few dozen heartbeats

Soothing grasses, and luscious leaves soften the scene

The vivifying tonic of fresh air

And cascades of pure light

Nourish the spirit

Soft fascinations instill the scene with wonder

Wrapped in the primal cloak of creation

Our higher brain submerges

With the first touch of the wild

We are home

New Serialized Stories

Amazon has just launched the new mobile-first Kindle Vella for serialized stories. Stories are published one episode at a time. The first three episodes of every story are FREE! Subsequent episodes can be purchases using “tokens” which readers can buy in bundles.

I am happy to announce I currently have stories available on Amazon Vella. I am working on more. The following are two of my episodic stories.

Up the Rabbithole: A Silkpunk/Cyberpunk dystopian science-fiction story.

To rule society after a devastating plague, fifty families of Elites created the Musa Sapien symbiote. Outside the Elite citadels, the Dregs struggle for survival in dystopian Warrens. Guide by his covertly obtained symbiote, Rabbit uses all the cybernetic tools at his disposal to discover the metaphysical secrets of the old world in order to free the Dregs from Elite domination. Will technology or mystical wisdom be the key that opens the door to freedom? Read the Silkpunk “Up the Rabbithole”.

And my magical realism Young Adult fantasy: The Storybearer. This first story in this series is available: In the Realm of the Flower Phoenix.

Yang Mei, a legendary female artist, who inspired two of the greatest artists of the Tang Dynasty, Li Bai and Wu Daozi, summons into existence a mysterious world of art, poetry and wonder known as the Realm of the Flower Phoenix. Yang Mei becomes the first in a long line of Storybearers. For over twelve centuries the storybearers cultivate and expand upon the realm. Each subsequent generation of female artists adds to the Flower Phoenix handscroll. The keepers of the Flower Phoenix are called Storybearers. When the storybearer tells the story of the Flower Phoenix, the story comes alive and the storybearer brings the listeners into the Realm of the Flower Phoenix. The story opens on the night of storybearer Mabel Tao Yang’s 100th birthday, as she prepares to bequeath the Realm of the Flower Phoenix to the next generation.

The story is written in a magical realism style and includes elements of Chinese storytelling traditions. The settings are: modern day America, early 20th Century America and China, and the mid-8th Century Tang Dynasty.

Read the First three episodes of each for FREE. Please leave a thumbs up, and consider a review if you like the stories. I am excited about this new serialized format from Amazon. The format will be evolving over the next few months. The app is being updated this summer.

The Seed of Self

Nature always wears the color of the spirit.Ralph Waldo Emerson

The world abounds in waves of loving energy, one only needs to open the heart to receive it. Each of us has the capacity to discover the spiritual wealth of the universe. We only have to re-learn how to be natural. The word capacity means the maximum amount something can contain and also the maximum amount that something can produce. I learned while studying linguistics, as infants, we are one with the world around us. There is little distinction between me and “it”.

Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when one contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. Albert Einstein

It is during this time before language creates distinctions we are at our most natural state. Life’s miraculous potential begins to unfold. As babies, our emerging spirits have the innate capacity to embrace the boundless Universe, and our awakening minds have a world-building capacity for curiosity. The power of curiosity animates the seed of self.

Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is. – Albert Camus

Like a flowering seed is rooted in the local soil, our individual self is rooted in our immediate social environment. An individual can be nurtured or negated by their surroundings. Each of us carries numerous artificial characteristics. Many limitations are placed upon a maturing individual. Whether or not these limitations become permanent is up to the nature of the self. Human nature allows us to overcome our circumstances and transform our lives. The capacity for changing our self is a defining attribute of self-awareness.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.Mahatma Gandhi

Humans are not plants, or lower forms of animals. Each of us is capable of sublime and profane actions. Choosing between the extremes of human nature, grows out of the capacity of negativity we carry. There are times when the world around us is tempest tossed. Some days it seems darkness will carry the day and nothing short of annihilation awaits us. During our darkest hours, the tides of loving energy we floated upon as children return us to the innocent shores of our true natural being. We only need to learn to Be Natural.

Lies, deceit, violence, hatred and countless other negative expressions are aspects of human nature. But our capacity for compassion, empathy, and kindness will blossom when we cleanse our souls in the sacred creation all around us. Step into the natural world. Remove the artificial boundaries between your self and the world. Switch off technology. Embrace your unbounded primal nature.

No matter what happens, always keep your childlike innocence. It is the most important thing. – Federico Fellini

(Note: The flowers are from my native wildflower patches I have been creating, in order to bring back some of the former wild beauty of the area. There are well over two dozen varieties. The bees and butterflies love them. They cheer our hearts whenever we visit our garden. Peace)

The Cost of Freedom

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.William Faulkner

My Dad racing after WWII

My Dad passed away at the beginning of July a year ago. Because of the pandemic, I was not able to travel back for his funeral. But I held my own memorial service for him beside the Pacific Ocean he loved. I felt his spirit animated by the bald eagle perched nearby and the roiling surf. Standing in the swirling currents, as the rising sun warmed the cool morning air, I communed with the great spirit I knew my whole life – my warrior/artist father. He taught me many things. In my heart, his heroic service in World War Two will forever be balanced by his artistic nature which I admired just as greatly.

Elegy for My Father

My Dad was a great student in school. He attended a Lutheran high school where he excelled in science and was a cheerleader. His intellect and creativity blossomed as exemplified by a sketch of a jet airplane on his notebook – long before such planes existed. He was the first in his family to graduate high school. But before he could graduate the horrors of war inflamed the world. During his senior year, Pop enlisted in the Navy just after Pearl Harbor. But they delayed his enlistment until after graduation. He was inducted just after his 18th birthday.

My Dad, My Hero

After the war, my Dad and all my uncles struggled to find their way forward. The glow of youth was erased forever from their faces. They consciously pushed away the terrifying images of distant battlefields. But the horrific specters of grisly death stalked them in their restless sleep. Alcohol and cigarettes numbed the pain somewhat but furthered the degradation of their spirits.

When I was a little kid, Pop would stretch out on the floor and hoist us in the air on his knees and hands. He built a brick patio so we could sit outside and enjoy ourselves. One summer we had a small shallow swimming pool on the patio just beyond the clothes lines. The old man dug out his Hawaiian-style wrap around swim trunks and submerged like an alligator making us laugh hysterically. At night we sat under the stars and Pop would sing “Swinging on a Star”: Or would you like to swing on a star / Carry moonbeams home in a jar/ And be better off than you are / Or would you rather be a fish… He would teach me a little about navigating by the stars which his navigator, my namesake, taught him. But the factory, aging body and alcoholism weighed his spirit down more and more each year.

His, sullen, angry side grew along with his beer belly. But there was a shining light in his eyes I continued to see throughout all the turbulent times with my siblings. I would stay up late on Friday nights to say goodnight to Pop when he dragged in from the 4-12 shift at the factory. He smelled of sweat, grime, diesel and beer. He sometimes stopped off for a beer or two on his way home. Pop had bought an old fiat for $100 and fixed it masterfully. His mechanical creativity was amazing. He could diagnose an engine simply by listening. Around 12:30 AM, I would listen for that Fiat turn off the old Route 66 and come roaring through the sleeping neighborhood. I’d pretend to be reading a book when he stuck his head into the tiny room I shared with my brother, and say, “Hey Pop. How was work?” “Same old shit.” was his usual reply. I’d tell him “Goodnight. Sweet dreams.” He’d say, Sweet dreams.” And for a few seconds that beautiful light of his true artistic spirit would return.

During my first two years of college, my Dad and I used to go St. Louis Cardinal baseball games. He would drive down and I would drive back, because he would enjoy a few large beers during the game. I still have the ticket stubs from those games. We had a lot of fun together, and he could tell his buddies about the game the next day. We talked about many things. He told me things he never told my siblings because they rarely talked to him then. I remembered the satisfied look on Pop’s face during those games. He was happy to be able to share the game with his son, and I was proud to be with him. His powerful baritone voice would ring out over the section during the national anthem. I asked him why he liked to sing, in the shower and while he worked. “Keeps my mind off other things.” I’m sure he meant awful memories and the pressure of raising five kids.

During my uncle’s last visit to our house, years later, my Dad stepped into the bathroom and started singing to himself. My uncle leaned over to me and said reverently of his younger brother, “That guy saw some terrible things during the war. He really went through hell.” For our country’s freedom and the freedom of people he would never meet, my Dad sacrificed his youth and inner peace. What price can be put on the bits of his soul that he left behind on those distant islands of the South Pacific during the war?

Later after a terrible divorce, my kids and I made a home of my grandparents old house next door to my Dad. One year a floppy eared rabbit showed up in the backyard. My Dad was ecstatic. I had never seen him act that tenderly before. By days end he had built a pen and two days later he had constructed a beautiful rabbit hutch for Buckminster the bunny. While I was helping him build the hutch, he told me the story of the rabbits he kept as a boy. He loved those rabbits and tended to their every need. But one day my mean as hell uncle left the pen open and all the rabbits ran away. Pop said something broke inside him when he came home and found his beloved rabbits missing. Many time, I would stand in my kitchen window and watch him peacefully stroking the rabbit’s fur. For a few minutes, the old warrior’s youthful innocence returned and his spirit was free. On this Fourth of July, I salute the sacrifices made by so many men and women in uniform and their families. Let their spirits forever soar over the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Street Photography in China II

The photo above was taken by the West Lake. Many couples come from far and wide to have their photos taken at the West Lake. The lake is the location of are several famous romantic tales.

This group of photos were taken during my first few months of my twelve years living in China. I had to take a university bus for over an hour once a week to the outskirts of the city. The once rural area was undergoing massive urbanization. At the same time I became the chief editor and lead writer for a province-wide monthly magazine and weekly newspaper. The offices were in a villa near an ancient Taoist temple to the God of Luck, the National Silk Museum and the world-famous West Lake. The entrance to the office was through an old village.

This is the side of the home of the woman who cooked and cleaned for the magazine. Every day around Noon, she would bring in several larger dishes and a huge rice cooker. She would shout up the stairs “Kai Fen Le” – Come and get it. Tony, my scholarly coworker, would shout down Lai Le – Coming. I got to know the staff very well during our shared meals.

This is one of several village dogs hanging out around the office. I never petted a dog once in China because of the prevalence of rabies.

This is from the window of the university bus. I always caught the 6:30 bus. People would be on their way to work early. This was still before Hangzhou became an economic powerhouse, and so there were fewer cars.

China of the early 21st Century was in a state of flux. There was construction everywhere you looked. Bricks, cement, sand, rebar and corrugated steel were stacked everywhere.

At many main intersections guys on motorcycles sat and waited to do day labor. They also serve as inexpensive taxis from bus stops. You can see the little kid standing on the e-bike in the foreground. Little kids learn how to hang on at an early age.

This is a typical “farmer’s house”. Sometimes the government would give people money for the land they farmed. As farmers moved from the rural area to the outskirts of cities, they would build these multi-storied homes or buy apartments, like these below. Note the giant recycling center next to the farm fields. The cement road is typical of new countryside road construction. Most of the traffic comes from motorcycles, small three-wheeled arts and ever present silver-gray vans.

I took this photo from the university bus. I think it captures the lightning speed of urbanization. The small farmhouse stands at the razor’s edge of progress, as a colossal wall of apartments encroaches on their ancestral grounds.

Hangzhou’s Silk Street has been in the same general area for over one thousand years. The retro mannequins always struck me as a holdover from the former Soviet influence. Hangzhou was one of the starting points for the Silk Road. Silk and textiles are still huge businesses throughout the area. I bought a large bag of silk cocoons once to use for my kids’ classes. Unraveling silk is an art-form. People eat the silk worms after they boil the cocoons. My wife said they taste okay, but I never was brave enough to find out for myself 🙂

This little fairy castle rising from the cramp cityscape caught my eye. It was a façade for a kindergarten (daycare). Kindergartens in every neighborhood. There is one less than 100 meters from my in-laws apartment. Believe me, you do not want to be in the same block as a Chinese kindergarten when the kids go out to play. But the energetic, rambunctious kids are fun to watch when they are playing.

I lived near the 1700 kilometer Grand Canal for five years. The oldest parts are over 2500 years old, but the various sections started to be connected over 1500 years ago. Near my apartment there was a place where the Emperor would moor his royal barge. The restaurant there was constructed to resemble the Qianlong Emperor’s opulent boat. The city of Hangzhou operates water taxis on the canal, and they are a cheap (fifty cents), fun way to see parts of the city from a new perspective. The canal connects to several large ports near Hangzhou.

Grade school through university students have military training every year. Some students enjoy it because they get to go outside, but it can be very hot. The military sends instructors to teach the students discipline and how to march. At the end of their “training” they have a grand assembly. I have no comments about that. These are a group of my first university students assembled on the basketball courts near my university apartment. For twelve years, I pretty much steered clear of military training. I have no further comments.

The photo below is of the closest McDonald’s to my neighborhood in Hangzhou. I will never forget visiting McDonald’s during my first visit to China back in 2004. I felt compelled to go. From the vantage point of an outdoor table I could see the Chairman Mao portrait hanging on Tiananmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace). I had a Big Mac and pondered the bittersweet juxtaposition of cultures in a rapidly modernizing 21st Century China. McD’s was one of my go to places whenever I needed a fix of American flavor, as were Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut, DQ – but for ninety-nine percent of the time, I ate at home and enjoyed the best cooking in China – my wife’s.

Soft Fascinations

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. – John Muir

Modern life is filled with a myriad of technological connections. Look around your place at night, how many different colors of light do you see from various plugged-in mechanisms? Directly in front of me as I write, the six green lights on my router tell me in an instant I can look through a different window and transport bits of my attention around the world. Perhaps I am a dinosaur of sorts in that I don’t commit chunks of conscious thought towards so-called social media. Because so many of us do fracture and subdivide our attention throughout the day, our focus drifts, and we suffer directed attention fatigue. I want to offer a simple way to regain vital energy and mental focus. According to ART – Attention Restoration Theory, spending time in nature increases our ability to concentrate. Through something called – soft fascination – Nature restores our attention.

Mindfulness shifts our attention away from the past and future and brings into focus on the Here and Now. A search for mindfulness books on Amazon produces 60,000 results with tens of thousands receiving four star or better reviews. A Google search for “mindfulness” brings 93,400,000 results. You do not need a teacher to mindful of the moment. Nature is the only teacher you need. And soft fascination is the key that unlocks the door to being in the moment. Nature abounds with soft fascinations such as rolling waves, drifting clouds, birdsong, and trembling leaves. These fascinations help our minds effortlessly drift away from deliberate attention to spontaneous enjoyment.

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein

Professors Rachel and Stephen Kaplan developed ART (Attention Restoration Theory). They specialize in environmental psychology. Their research on restorative environments has influenced landscape designers for decades. They found that mental fatigue develops when people focus too much of their attention on tasks for too long a period. Their work showed that direct exposure to nature has a powerful curative effect on people. Being in a pleasing natural environment allows the mind to flow along in the default mode network which is the area of the brain active during daydreaming. This is the large-scale brain network which is accessed during: meditation, acupuncture, sleeping, etc. We are animals and as such nature is essentially our ancestral home. That is why in Daoism (Taoism) naturalness is defined by the concept of Ziran – “of its own self”; spontaneous.

The Universe is ever-emerging. But humans try to impose order upon reality. Goal oriented efforts such as: governments, business, work, remove people from the original creative forces of the universe. Returning to nature brings about moments of flow and spontaneous fascination which reconnect our spirits to the fertile grounds of the true reality. To be mindful is to Be Natural. Spending time in nature allows us to remove the layers of artificial importance we place on “likes”, tasks, checklists… In a 1959 essay, the great Japanese scholar, D.T. Suzuki, said: Living is an act of creativity demonstrating itself. Living is a creative process of embracing the unknowable. By letting soft fascinations moderate your directed attention towards mindful serenity, you become the true you. Your “you-ness” is spontaneously boosted.

People do not have to climb mountains, or hike hundreds of miles of wilderness in order to “find themselves”. The path is within your heart, your spirit – right now. The attraction of nature will lead you away from fatigue, fret and frustration, and towards the soft fascinations of your own raw, native humanity. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, Heaven is under our feet, as well as over our heads.