Sunday, February 28, 2010

First Training Ride

DHS 109

Started my training rides this afternoon because it doesn't look like it is ever going to quit snowing here so there is no reason to put it off any longer. There is a chance of snow a couple of times this coming week. Sighhhh...

Did one of my lazy 16 mile lunch runs — 8 miles east to my favorite forest preserve, had lunch of 2 onigiri (rice balls with salmon seasoning and wrapped in nori seaweed), a banana, and a cup of yoghurt. Washed down with a thermos of green tea. Then 8 miles back home.

The shoulders of the road are still covered in snow, but the roads themselves are clear. Wet, but clear. I had to ride in about 3 in. (5 cm) of snow to got to the picnic tables once in the forest preserve, but they are covered so it is clear and dry once you get to them. The temperature was about 37°F (3°C) but i was plenty warm with my light tights and rain pants on the bottom and 2 coolmax shirts, light fleece jacket, and windbreaker on the top. Plus gloves and beanie, of course.

Didn't carry anything more than i usually do. The handlebar bag never comes off the bike because i carry my wallet, phone, keys, gum, etc. in that. Usually i carry my cheap-o "in town" panniers because no one is ever going to want to steal them. Today, and from now on, i used the Ortlieb rear panniers. I threw my tent and the thermos in one side, my rain jacket, food, and tools in the other side.

Felt good to be back on the bike again. It's been a long winter.

More proof that we live in a very small world: I called REI tonight (out in Washington State) to order my freeze-dried food. Was going to do it online, but a lot of the entrees are out of stock so i called to verify when they'd be in if i back-ordered them (March 10th). Then the REI web site crashed while i was on the phone with customer service, so we went ahead and placed the order over the phone. Long story short, the woman who was assisting me...... used to live here in Lockport and her husband worked just down the road.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

DHS 108

Success? What's success?
Twenty-five gazillion more.
Glimpses into it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Setting Your Sail

"In the process of living, the winds of circumstances blow on us all in an unending flow that touches each of our lives. What guides us to different destinations in life is determined by the way we have chosen to set our sail. The way that each of us thinks makes the major difference in where each of us arrive. The major difference is the set of the sail.

"The same circumstances happen to us all. We have disappointments and challenges. We all have reversals and those moments when, in spite of our best plans and efforts, things just seem to fall apart. In the final analysis, it is not what happens that determines the quality of our lives, it is what we choose to do when we have struggled to set the sail and then discover, after all of our efforts, that the wind has changed directions.

"When the winds change, we must change. We must struggle to our feet once more and reset the sail in the manner that will steer us toward the destination of our own deliberate choosing. The set of the sail, how we think and how we respond, has a far greater capacity to destroy our lives than any challenges we face. How quickly and responsibly we react to adversity is far more important than the adversity itself. Once we discipline ourselves to understand this, we will finally and willingly conclude that the great challenge of life is to control the process of our thinking.

"Learning to reset the sail with the changing winds rather than permitting ourselves to be blown in a direction we did not purposely choose requires the development of a whole new discipline. It involves going to work on establishing a powerful, personal philosophy that will help to influence in a positive way all that we do and that we think and decide. If we can succeed in this worthy endeavor, the result will be a change in the course of our income, lifestyle and relationships, and in how we feel about the things of value as well as the times of challenge. If we can alter the way we perceive, judge and decide upon the main issues of life, then we can dramatically change our lives."

Jim Rohn

If we alter the way we perceive, judge, and decide, we can change our lives. Amazing.

DHS 105

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wishing To Be Blind

DHS 104

An interesting quote from Charles Robert Richet in An Autobiography of A Yogi by Yogananda Paramhansa.

"It is assumed that the phenomena which we now accept without surprise, do not excite our astonishment because they are understood. But this is not the case. If they do not surprise us it is not because they are understood, it is because they are familiar; for if that which is not understood ought to surprise us, we should be surprised at everything — the fall of a stone thrown into the air, the acorn which becomes an oak, mercury which expands when it is heated, iron attracted by a magnet, phosphorus which burns when it is rubbed...

"The science of today is a light matter; the revolutions and evolutions which it will experience in a hundred thousand years will far exceed the most daring anticipations. The truths — those surprising, amazing, unforeseen truths — which our descendants will discover, are even now all around us, staring us in the eyes, so to speak, and yet we do not see them. But it is not enough to say that we do not see them; we do not wish to see them; for as soon as an unexpected and unfamiliar fact appears, we try to fit it into the framework of the commonplaces of acquired knowledge, and we are indignant that anyone should dare to experiment further."

Granted this was written a long, long time ago, but it is still very much to the point and makes an interesting distinction between understood and familiar. Not only true in science, as he points out, it's true in the larger world as well. Why don't people get upset with all the violence, bigotry, racism, hatred, other bizarre evils out there in the world? Not because anyone understands them, no, it's because we have become familiar with them and have simply come to accept them as acceptable attributes of life. That's complete and utter nonsense, but that's what familiarity has done to us.

" soon as an unexpected and unfamiliar fact appears, we try to fit it into the framework of the commonplaces of acquired knowledge, and we are indignant that anyone should dare to experiment further."

So, so, true. Depending on where you live, of course, but if you were to approach an average person on the street and try to strike up a conversation about consciousness, what it would mean for the world if we all tried to understand what consciousness was, what it would mean to be fully conscious, what we could accomplish as a People if we were aware of the interrelationship of all consciousness, and topics like enlightenment, most people would tune you out, or worse, and say, "you don't know what you're talking about. Scientific experiments have been done on the brain and ..." In other words, scientists already have the answers on the brain, mind, and consciousness, so don't start with these new age gobbledy-gook theories and Buddhism.

Fundamentalism and closed-mindedness accepts no revisions of their version of the facts. They get indignant when people even try.

But anyone who is honest has to admit that we don't know all the answers. We have stories, theories, and hypotheses that explain life to the best of our abilities, using today's knowledge, but it is impossible to have any idea what knowledge is out there and right around the corner waiting to be discovered, waiting for that one open mind to stumble in it's path and accept it.

And that's all it takes to grow and expand. An open mind. A willingness to observe and to accept that we don't know it all — and never will.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Merging Traffic

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.

In A Book Of Luminous Things

How about a modern version in honor of my coming TransAm ride?

Between the states of coming and going,
there runs a road. Riders merge there.

When the ego settles into the saddle on that road,
there is no time to pass.
Ideas, language, even the phrase bike rider
has no meaning.

Lao Bendan

DHS 102

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Finding Your Groove

"Nisargadatta: No university can teach you to be yourself. The only way to learn is by practice. Right away begin to be yourself. Discard all you are not and go ever deeper. Just as a man digging a well discards what is not water, until he reaches the water-bearing strata, so must you discard what is not your own, till nothing is left which you can disown. You will find that what is left is nothing which the mind can hook on to. You are not even a human being. You just are -- a point of awareness, co-extensive with time and space and beyond both, the ultimate cause, itself uncaused. If you ask me: 'Who are you?' My answer would be: 'Nothing in particular. Yet, I am.'

"Questioner: If you are nothing in particular, then you must be the universal.

"Nisargadatta: What is to be universal -- not as a concept, but as a way of life? Not to separate, not to oppose, but to understand and love whatever contacts you, is living universally. To be able to say truly: I am the world., the world is me, I am at home in the world, the world is my own.

"Every existence is my existence, every consciousness is my consciousness, every sorrow is my sorrow and every joy is my joy -- this is universal life. Yet, my real being, and yours too, is beyond the universe and, therefore, beyond the categories of the particular and the universal. It is what it is, totally self-contained and independent.

"Questioner: I find it hard to understand.

"Nisargadatta: You must give yourself time to brood over these things. The old grooves must be erased in your brain, without forming new ones. You must realise yourself as the immovable, behind and beyond the movable, the silent witness of all that happens.

"Questioner: Does it mean that I must give up all idea of an active life?

"Nisargadatta: Not at all. There will be marriage, there will be children, there will be earning money to maintain a family; all this will happen in the natural course of events, for destiny must fulfil itself; you will go through it without resistance, facing tasks as they come, attentive and thorough, both in small things and big. But the general attitude will be of affectionate detachment, enormous goodwill, without expectation of return, constant giving without asking. In marriage you are neither the husband nor the wife; you are the love between the two. You are the clarity and kindness that makes everything orderly and happy.

"It may seem vague to you, but if you think a little, you will find that the mystical is most practical, for it makes your life creatively happy. Your consciousness is raised to a higher dimension, from which you see everything much clearer and with greater intensity. You realise that the person you became at birth and will cease to be at death is temporary and false. You are not the sensual, emotional and intellectual person, gripped by desires and fears.

"Find out your real being. What am l? is the fundamental question of all philosophy and psychology. Go into it deeply."

I Am That
Nisargadatta Maharaj

DHS 101

Friday, February 19, 2010

100 Possibilities

DHS 100/100

100 days, 100 sutras. Now what?

There are many books on my shelves that i pick up from time to time each year in order to reread certain chapters. There are only two books that i can think of, though, that i read once every year from cover to cover. Every year, with no exceptions. One of them for several decades.

The first is Arthur Gordon's A Touch Of Wonder, in which i first learned of that dreaded disease The Deadly Art of Non Living back in the '70s. I think i may know some of the chapters in this short book by heart, but every time i read it, it is like another breath of fresh air. He is a gifted storyteller and has a way of rubbing my nose in those obvious lessons i should have learned, but forget from time to time, without making me cry in pain. In fact, making me thank him for roughing me up again.

I went to the book shelves this morning to grab a DVD, and for some reason, my fingers instead grabbed the second book, Pure Heart, Enlightened Mind: The Zen Journal and Letters of Maura "Soshin" O'Halloran. It turned out to be a much better choice than the DVD would have been so i'll go ahead and reread it now and move something else back a week. Maura goes to Japan, takes vows as a Buddhist, wonders what the heck she got herself into, and her journal and letters home tell the story of her development and change over three years. I can't recommend this highly enough. Here's a short extract from later in the book:

Of late i feel ridiculously happy. No reason. Just bursting with joy. I remember when I was young, deciding to commit suicide at 26. Once one hit 30 one was over the hill, so 26 was far enough to live. I reckoned that if I hadn't got done by then whatever there was to be done, I never would, so I might as well end it. Now I'm 26, and I feel as if I've lived my life. Strange sensation. Almost as if I'm close to death. Any desires, ambitions, hopes I many have had have either been fulfilled or spontaneously dissipated. I'm totally content. Of course, I want to get deeper, see clearer, but even if I could only have this paltry, shallow awakening, I'd be quite satisfied. Facing into a long, cold winter is not only fine, but I know I'll enjoy it. Everything seems wonderful. Even undesirable, painful conditions have a poignant beauty and exaltation. So in a sense I feel I have died; for myself there is nothing else to strive after, nothing more to make my life worthwhile or to justify it. At 26, a living corpse and such a life!

I'd be embarrassed to tell anyone, it sounds so wishy-washy, but now I have maybe 50 or 60 years (who knows?) of time, of a life, open, blank, ready to offer. I want to live it for other people. What else is there to do with it? Not that I expect to change the world or even a blade of grass, but it's as if to give myself is all I can do, as the flowers have no choice but to blossom. At the moment the best I can see to do is to give to people this freedom, this bliss, and how better than through zazen? So I must go deeper and deeper and work hard, no longer for me but for everyone I can help. And still I can't save anyone. They must work themselves, and not everyone will. Thus I should also work politically, work to make people's surroundings that much more tolerable, work for a society that fosters more spiritual, more human, values. A society for people, not profits. What better way to instill the Bodhisattvic spirit in people? But they should work for each other, not for personal gain, and they shouldn't have to worry about economic muck.

Who knows but God-as-a-person may be tentative. We as people don't exist, nothing exists, yet for ease in conversation and life in general we use names and ascribe a tentative existence to ourselves and things around us. In such a way, perhaps, a personal God could be said to exist, but only in this labelling, not fundamental, degree, but existentially.

In a sense, though not his sense, Descartes was right — I think, therefore I am. It is the reflexive thinking that creates the isolated subject.

Couldn't have said it any better than that. What makes us who we are, what we are, the seemingly individual, isolated, distinct, separate from everything else, beings that we think we are is nothing but what we think we are. Eliminate those thoughts and the "I" disappears as well. Let the "I" slip away and the oneness returns to take its natural place. Or, more accurately, once the fog of "I"-ness clears, nothing is left to block your view of the oneness that has always been here and always will be.

But as Maura said, seeing that takes a lot (a LOT) of hard work and dedication. Perseverance in the face of certain hardships. A willingness to Be when all i want is to Become. A willingness to remain open to unimaginable possibility for as long as it takes for that to become reality. A willingness to accept that what you are is not what you think you are. A willingness to admit that everything you've been taught about yourself is a lie. A willingness to know that when i awaken you will to, and vice versa.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Green Dragon Temple

DHS 99/100

Kūkai wandered far and wide once he returned to Shikoku, seeking out every sacred spot know to the inhabitants of the island. He spent countless hours in meditation, seeking nothing but erasing everything. With out the distractions of all the external teachings he was exposed to while living in the capital, here he was free to focus on the internal, free to focus on the search for who he was, what he was.

By the time he had worked his way to the southeast coast of the island he was ready, he had drained out all the sludge and scrubbed all the walls clean, ready to be filled with a new truth. By the time he got to Cape Muroto he was no longer the person he had been when he left the university. He had walked right up to the gate, put his hand on the latch, and was ready for that last simple nudge that would swing it open.

Once it did open, he was born into a new world. It looked exactly like the world he had inhabited before walking through the gate, yet nothing seemed the same. Nothing seemed to have changed, yet nothing was in any way the same. Where questions had plagued him previously, now there was nothing needing an answer. Where something was missing previously, now nothing was lacking. Where he had doubts previously, now there was nothing to doubt and no one to do the doubting. Everything had changed and nothing had changed.

With that, he packed up his bags and begged and pulled political strings to earn a place on one of the government ships soon to leave for China on a diplomatic mission, where he intended to find a teacher who would confirm what he now knew. After problems they finally arrived and in the capital city of Ch'ang An (now Xian), he met his teacher, Hui Guo.

When i was in China several years ago i told the tour guide that when we got to Xian i was sorry, but i had to leave the tour for a few hours in order to go see that temple. Green Dragon Temple. Qinglong Temple. For a few minutes he tried to tell me that it would be too difficult, but once he understood that i knew about Kūkai he gave up and simply asked me to be back to the hotel in time to join the others for the planned dinner outing. With that, he wrote a note for me to give the taxi driver so that i wouldn't have any problems. Then, with the little Chinese i knew i was on my own. I had to find the temple, visit it, and then find a taxi to get back to the hotel again.

This is the view as you walk through the front gate. I had been reading about this temple for decades, and it was awe inspiring to finally be standing here. I think i just stood there for quite some time, soaking up the atmosphere and experience.

And this is the temple (reconstructed, of course) where Hui Guo taught and Kūkai listened. The temple building may not be the original, but the ground certainly is. The patch of land is the same patch of land where Kūkai received the transmission and was told to take what became Shingon Buddhism back to the Japanese people. This was the ultimate bonus for anyone who has ever walked the Shikoku Henro Trail.

I should add a page to my Shikoku web site someday with the pictures i took while here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dying In The Truth Shop

DHS 98/100

I was doing some planning today for the TransAm ride and comparing the ACA maps that i plan to follow with the guidebook i plan on taking with me. As is usual anytime i think of travel, my mind wandered to Shikoku from time to time during the planning. Maybe because spring is coming and many henro will start their way around the trail in another month and a half, but today's thoughts were again about Kūkai and his wanderings around the island.

Anthony de Mello, in his book The Song Of The Bird, has a story that points to the difference between Kūkai and the monks he was studying with at the university before quitting and going back to Shikoku in search of the truth.


I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the name of the shop: THE TRUTH SHOP.

The salesgirl was very polite: What type of truth did I wish to purchase, partial or whole? The whole truth, of course. No deceptions for me, no defences, no rationalizations. I wanted my truth plain and unadulterated. She waved me on to another side of the store.

The salesman there pointed to the price tag. "The price is very high, sir," he said. "What is it?" I asked, determined to get the whole truth, no matter what it cost. "Your security, sir," he answered.

I came away with a heavy heart. I still need the safety of my unquestioned beliefs.

A great many people claim to be in search of truth. A great many people claim to be doing everything required for the search. They want the whole truth — nothing less will do. So they leave home, go to a university, a teacher, or a monastery. The give up all their personal possessions, take vows of poverty and chastity, and cut their ties with everyone they knew in the outside world. And then they wait.... and study... and wait.... and study... and wait... and study... certain that by having given up so much the truth is certain to pay them a visit.

Yet, it isn't the knowledge gained by studying or the freedom from attachments to the outside world and it's pleasures that open the door to that truth. The path up to that door isn't found by following a teacher or the doctrines found in their books, no matter how well written. The path to that door is found on the inside and no matter what you give up on the outside, it isn't until you give up the security of your beliefs on the inside that the path can be seen.

We all know what reality is, there just aren't any questions about that. Reality is what we can see. What we can hear. What we can smell, taste, and touch. Reality is our perceptions. But it's that certainty that has to be given up, and i think that's what Kūkai accomplished as he worked his way along the paths and mountain trails on Shikoku. He left the university with a clean slate, an empty mind, nothing certain and all potential. Everything and anything was possible. He didn't go to Shikoku looking for a truth he thought he already understood, he went fully prepared to let truth come to him and make itself known. Mao, the son of the Saeki clan and student at the university training to be a government bureaucrat, was willing to die in order that Kūkai, the enlightened visionary, could be born.

And die he did. Kūkai spent his time on Shikoku forgetting everything he knew, forgetting everything he was, forgetting everything he wanted to be, forgetting everything he was supposed to do, and simply made himself available, like a book with blank pages, presenting himself to reality with only one plea — write what you will on these pages. Instead of telling reality what it was supposed to look like, what it was supposed to be, he opened himself to be shown whatever was to be shown.

Do we have any idea what reality is anyhow? Anthony de Mello has one more story that speaks to that as well.


A fisherman and his wife got a son after many years of marriage. The boy was his parents pride and Joy. Then, one day, he became seriously ill and, though a fortune was spent on medicines, he died.

The mother was broken-hearted. There wasn’t a tear in the father’s eyes. When his wife reproached him for his lack of sorrow, the fisherman said, "Let me tell you why I do not weep. Last night I dreamt I was a king and the father of eight sturdy boys. Then suddenly I woke up. Now I am greatly puzzled: Should I weep for those boys or for this one?"

Are we wiling to die in the Truth Shop? Which should we mourn? Chuang Tsu's butterfly? Or the man? Or ourselves for thinking there is a difference?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lessons In Leadership

DHS 97/100

When i got my MBA, long ago, no one was ever quite this savvy in defining leadership and making sense of what it is all about.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Piles Of Stuff

DHS 96/100

I spent the morning inventorying all the equipment & clothing i plan to take on my TransAm trip. Notes and a picture are on the Pre-Ride Notes page of my TransAm web site.

The picture doesn't show all the food because i'm holding off to the first of March, and a new paycheck, to buy it. I did buy seven of the dinners already because Wal-Mart was discontinuing one variety and selling them for $2 less than what i'll pay at REI. The rest i'll get at REI because they offer a 10% discount when i buy it, and another 10% will be refunded to me with my annual membership refund check next spring, which i can use to buy part of a new pair of cycling shorts or more food to stash at home for future GIT rides.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The End Is Near!

DHS 95/100

As hard as it is to believe, this coming week will bring an end to my Daily Heart Sutras. Unbelievable! Where, oh where, did 95 days go? I remember way back somewhere in the 20's asking myself how on earth i had convinced myself to commit to 100 consecutive days. I'm still completely unsatisfied with what i produce with each writing, and have yet to finish one and think "good job." My guess is that to get to the point where i actually liked one of them i'd have to continue for another 100 days, at least.

I wonder if the TransAm ride is going to pass by just as quickly. Probably will. Plus, at what point will i wake up and say "What were you thinking?" And, how long will it take after that to settle into the daily routine that gets you through these long trips. In the end, i'm willing to bet that by the time i return to Chicago in late July it will have felt like i was only on the road for a few weeks.

Going back to the Heart Sutra, i suppose i should stop thinking about whether i like what i write or not. It might be better to take the advice of my yoga teacher who is constantly harping "Don't judge yourself. Do what you can, to the best of your abilities, and just accept where you are." And when i say "Yeah, but..." her hands shoot up with her fingers pointing at me like she is going to poke out both of my eyes and  she cuts me off with "No buts! No judging. Let it come."

I admit that is difficult for me to do as i have always pushed myself to do more and be better at whatever i do. It's like a mild disease for some people, and i'm one of those. But, in the back of my mind, i can picture a beautifully written Heart Sutra. I can close my eyes right now and see it. Easily. It's one of those i would hang on the wall. It's there, i see it, it just refuses to come out.

Someday....... when the gods are willing, my heart is open,  and my fingers are listening.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

TransAm Map

(Click to enlarge)

This is a very rough map of the TransAm Ride. I found a good map online and used GIMP to add an approximation of the route i'll be following.

You can see that after dipping my back tire in the Atlantic in Yorktown, VA, i'll head north to a little north of Richmond, VA, then drop back south again to the North Carolina border (without actually entering the state).

From there you head north again to just below Lexington, KY, and from there ride just about straight west until you get to Carbondale, IL. From Carbondale you head west to the IL/MO border then head south to the MO/Arkansas border. Then it is a west/northwest climb through Missouri and Kansas and into Colorado, with a stop at Pueblo, CO, which is the half way point of the trip.

From Pueblo, you begin a northwest climb through Colorado, Wyoming, and up to the northwest corner of Wyoming where you enter Yellowstone Park.

After touring Yellowstone, it's a continued northwest climb to the northern-most point of the trip in Missoula, MT, the home of Adventure Cycling Association, the people who make the maps i'm following.

From Missoula, it is southwest through Idaho until you get to about the middle of Oregon (north to south), where you cross the border and ride west through OR to the coast, stopping at the Pacific in the town of Florence.

That's it. All in 78 days.

Happy New Year

DHS 94/100

Well, life was nice while it lasted........ :-(

Tomorrow is the start of the new New Year (Chinese style) and for us snakes, it seems that it is going to be a year of waist high doggie doodoo all year. One site online says we snakes are going to have 10 bad months and 2 good months, and i certainly hope my two good months come in May and June. I wonder if i can pre-order those as the good ones?

Another online site says i'm a weak wood snake — apparently being born in mid-afternoon, at the end of the week, in the middle of an Iowa summer isn't conducive to strength in snakes? Anyway, that site went on to say that for us weak wood snakes this year is going to be the worst of the worst, the bottom of the pit, worse than life under the center hole of the three-holer behind the kitchen on my long past grandfather's farm in Nevada, Iowa.

The site also said the worst color for us is red. RED! If you saw the picture i posted of my bicycle the other day you'll see that i bought all red panniers and bags. My shirts will all be red. My bandanna is red. My helmet is red. My aim was to be extremely visible on the side of the road while riding the TransAm, but now i wonder if i was only marking myself as a target.

Not that i'm panicking or anything, but 10 bad vs. 2 good? How can anyone call that fair? They said that in general i'm screwed; my career possibilities are generally screwed, but if i jump at the correct time and opportunity it could work, maybe, possibly; and my love life is screwed unless i want to marry a dog, a real one, not the sign. Oi, oi, oi. Aigo, aigo, aigo.....

So, it was nice knowing all of you. It was truly fun and interesting while it lasted. If anyone knows some good cure-alls, or has any good luck amulets for sale let me know. Not that i'm superstitious or anything, i am most definitely not, and don't believe a word of that nonsense, but... just in case, let me know.

Don't bend over now
Stand tall and keep those cheeks clinched
Hold on for twelve months

Friday, February 12, 2010

Computing While On The Run

DHS 93/100
(Terrible. Big mistake...)

As i explained in a response to a comment yesterday, while riding the TransAm this summer my plan is to stop at public libraries along the road in order to upload to my TransAm website some pictures and whatever comments come to mind..

Because i don't know what applications i will find installed on computers in the smaller, out of the way, towns, i have put all the applications i will need on a USB drive that i'll carry with me. I'm doing this, with one exception, with the applications found at This allows me to walk into any library, plug in my USB drive, and run these applications just as if they were installed on the computer itself.

Specifically, i have loaded:

  • 7-Zip (File Zip/Unzip)
  • ClamWin (Anti-virus so my USB doesn't get infected))
  • FileZilla (FTP client)
  • Firefox
  • FoxIt Reader (pdf viewer)
  • FSResizer (Very basic photo editor)
  • GIMP (Complete photo editor)
  • Google Chrome
  • KeePass (Password vault)
  • NotePad++ (Text editor)
All of these apps, a directory with my TransAm web pages, and a few miscellaneous pdf documents (some user manuals) all total about 250MB, leaving 3.6GB of free space on the USB drive. Coupled with the two 4GB cards i'm taking for the camera, i should have ~a gazillion times more space than i need to store the pictures i take. Unfortunately, taking pictures, and good ones to boot, is not my forte.

I have known for a while that all of these USB applications work on my Win XP laptop (i've been testing it for a few weeks), but didn't know if they would work anywhere else, so in response to yesterday's comment, while at the library today i gave it a try.

The computers at my library are all Win 2000, and i found that everything worked except Chrome, KeePass, and GIMP. I want to use Chrome because it runs with a smaller footprint (as i understand it) so should run better on even the cheapest machines. Once i found that Chrome doesn't work on Win 2000, i installed Firefox to get around this issue and can now use it when necessary. I don't really need KeePass, but want it just in case i need to log in and take care of any financial issues while on the road. In worst case, i could live without it. I installed FSResizer as a basic replacement for those times when GIMP doesn't work. I can't do as much, but it allows me to resize, crop, rotate, and all of those other basic functions so i can live with it.

I asked at the reference desk and found that the library does have one XP machine and they let me log into that to test all the applications again. Sure enough, on XP everything worked just as well there as they do at home. This should mean that no matter what i find installed (or not installed, as the case may be) on any computer i run across during the ride, i should be able to edit the web pages, add journal entries, edit photos, and upload everything to the server that hosts my web pages.

It looks like i'm set. Now all i have to do is remember from day to day what i do and see (not as easy as it sounds, i'm afraid) and force myself to stop and take pictures. And, force myself to find a library at the end of the day even though i just want to eat dinner and relax with a book and/or some music. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tired, Loaded, & Ready To Go

DHS 92/100

I finally installed the front rack on my bicycle and added the below picture to my TransAm Bike Ride web page  showing the bike with the panniers, rack pack, & handlebar bag mounted and ready to go. (Click on it to enlarge it)

Of course, it snowed about 8 inches earlier in the week so it will still be awhile before i can actually get the bike out on the road and see how it handles with them, but i'm not expecting any issues.

As i have explained on the TransAm web page, my tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and bike cover will go in the rack pack, sitting sideways across the top of the two rear panniers. Food and cooking stuff will go in front panniers. Everything else will go in the back panniers. The hydration pack will sit on the rack under the rack pack and between the rear panniers. The Solio solar charger will be attached to a handle on top of the rack pack and just sit there in the sun all day to collect what sunlight it can. At least these are my plans now. I'll load them some day and then weigh them, changing the distribution as needed to adjust the weight.

I bought a pair of new Continental Touring Plus tires for the bike a few days ago but won't install them until just before leaving in late April. I'll train on the tires already on the bike and then change over to the new ones in time to ride about 100 miles just to break them in before leaving. When i make the change i'll roll up and carry one of these old tires as a spare. I bought these particular Continental tires because their PR blurb says they are "extremely puncture proof." That sounds like a good thing to me. A very good thing. What are the odds of me riding the entire 4,300 miles and having zero flats??

I'm still boiling water with my camp stove to get a feel for how many times i can boil 2-3 cups of water on one propane canister. I need two cups for one dinner entree, a cup and a half in the morning for oatmeal, and a cup and a half in the morning for tea. Once i know this, i can go to REI and buy what i need for the 11 weeks i'll be on the road. Right now i'm thinking that 2 canisters per week will be more than enough but we'll see by the end of the weekend.

Excitement continues to build.........

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dead Men Walking

DHS 91/100

"[I]t happens fairly often that essence dies in a man while his personality and his body are still alive. A considerable percentage of the people we meet on the street are people who are empty inside, that is, they are actually already dead. It is fortunate for us that we do not see and do not know it. If we knew what a number of people are actually dead and what a number of these dead people govern our lives, we should go mad with horror."

G.I. Gurdjieff
In In Search Of The Miraculous: Fragments Of An Unknown Teaching
by P.D.Oupensky

When you think about that, it is incredibly frightening how true this is, and much more so now than when Gurdjieff said it back in the first half of the 20th century. While a certain portion of these shells do know and understand that they are walking dead but don't see how to cure themselves, what moves this from the frightening column to the sad column in the ledger of Life is the fact that a vastly larger percentage of these people have no clue. Not only are they empty shells, but they neither see this nor would accept it if it were pointed out to them.

All too often today, at least in the modern "Westernized" parts of the world, people have come to believe that what really matters in the world are things like the current status of Brangelina's relationship and whether he'll ever get back together with Jen, the current plot line of the the popular hit TV programs, who is leading the polls for American Idol or Britain's Got Talent, and who's hot in Hollywood this year.

Taking the time to disconnect and to contemplate what it means to be a human being, what it means to be a member of society, what it means to be a country, and what it means to be alive is a rare occurrence. Or, a little more accurately, the individuals who take the time to contemplate these issues are very rare.

And the people who probably top the list of walking dead, those who are empty inside even though they don't know it, are the politicians that rule the world. Whatever happened to the concept of truth and justice? When did partisanship and lies acquire more value than compromise and honesty. When did special interests and cronyism become more important than "We the people?"

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish political action committees and politically connected think tanks, seek to establish laws that favor one religion or wealth class over all others, coddle the rich and screw the poor, and seek to impose our wishes on the world's population. ...

I didn't mean to side track into politics again, but ....  my original thought as i started to write was the unwillingness of most people to really take a look at their lives and what it means to Live. If more people would do that, this world would be so much better off, so many more people could live happy and productive lives.

All it would take is a few minutes each day. A few minutes focused on the simple question of "What one thing could i do or say today that would benefit someone else, even though i derive no benefit at all?" If everyone did that once a day, day in and day out, they would find that not only would they become better (and happier) people over time, but the world as a whole would follow suit.

Look inside. Are you hollow? Know that that emptiness can be filled. And should be filled. And believe it or not, you'll be happier when you do so.

Oh, and speaking of Gurdjieff, here's an interesting old movie on YouTube.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meaning Of Life

DHS 90/100

I love the Dalai Lama's teachings, don't get me wrong. I own a lot of his books a great many of his CDs, and a half dozen videos of him teaching. In addition, i have been working, albeit very slowly, through the FPMT correspondence course on Tibetan Buddhism called Discovering Buddhism to learn how the Tibetan flavor differs from the Zen flavor i typically keep stocked in the cupboards here at home. I think he is perhaps one of the worlds greatest role models and the world would be a vastly better place if more people modeled their attitudes and approach to life on his.

However, having said that, i have always been a little put off by his assertion that the meaning and purpose of life is simply to be happy. At a gut level i have never been able to accept that. I can't say exactly why i think it's wrong, but fundamentally i think there needs to be more. I ran across this quote online and it's nice to see that others agree with me. I wish i could have said it as well as Mr. Rosten:

I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be “happy”. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, above all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.

Leo C. Rosten

Reminds me of that quote so often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (although some disagree). In it, he offers his definition of Success:

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.

Either of these two quotes is definitely something i can agree with and accept as a meaningful way to live my life. Now all i have to do is figure out how get myself to implement them.

This is not success
This is only who you are
Give up on half truths

Monday, February 8, 2010

Giving Birth To Oneself

DHS 89/100

I was filing something in my desk when i ran across a stamp i had made for myself a couple of years ago when i was in Xian, China. You can see it in today's DHS, it's that little red thing in the bottom left corner. The character on the right is "Lao," on the top left "Ben," and the bottom left "Dan," or, my name in family name, first name order, Lao Bendan. Forgot that i had this or i would have been stamping all my DHS's.

Spent a little time with Rumi this afternoon looking for inspiration and once again he didn't let me down. Here are two snippets from two different sections of The Essential Rumi where he reminds us that patience, dedication, and perseverance are the keys to that door we seek.

Work. Keep digging your well.
Don't think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.

Submit to daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.

Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who's there.


A new moon teaches gradualness
and deliberation and how one gives birth
to oneself slowly. Patience with small details
makes perfect a large work, like the universe.

What nine months of attention does for an embryo
forty early mornings will do
for your gradually growing wholeness.

I like the metaphor of "giving birth to oneself." It's not something that can be rushed. Or forced. It will happen when the time is right, when the proper time has come. When the birth takes place it can be incredibly beautiful and bring everyone in the room to tears. What has been given birth to isn't unexpected, it has been there for a long time; out of sight, but more and more obvious as the days and weeks passed and as you nurtured its growth.

It all begins with the idea that there is more to us than meets the eye. It all begins with the realization that we are not who we think we are. It all begins with the complete and unequivocal acceptance of the simple truth of I Am. It all begins with those first tentative steps towards that gateless gate, that brickless wall, that glassless window. It all begins with the simple step of surrendering to Life, to Being, to that one thing that we are, Awareness, and the complete unshackling from everything that we are not.

Rumi says it can be done in forty days. Forty early mornings dedicated to doing nothing, going nowhere, attempting nothing, all for the sole purpose of allowing one thing —your continued growth into wholeness. Your continued growth into nothing. Because when you become whole, when you see "form is emptiness and emptiness is form," when the shackles and cheap trinkets of who you thought you were drop away, you will know that I Am encompasses everyone and everything and therefore by being everything you are nothing.

Submit to daily practice. Reach for that ring on the door. And when beckoned, stride confidently through the gate and find the love waiting on the other side.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Number 88

DHS 88/100

On what seems like the first sunny day of the year, it was a perfect afternoon to write this DHS. As you can see by the picture (click on it to enlarge it), the sun was streaming in through the windows as i wrote it. In addition, it was warm enough today that the furnace wasn't running as often as it usually does, and since i live in a smallish older house, when the furnace is running, you can hear it everywhere. Today, it was sunny and quiet in the house.

Why do i point that out? Unless you have ever written with a calligraphy brush, it may be hard to understand, but two of the thrills for me when i'm writing are when i can hear the brush scratch across the paper as i write and when i can see the ink shining brightly as it makes contact with the paper and then quickly fade to a dull black as it is absorbed. Because of the weather and the furnace, these are a rarity of late.

When it is very quiet, both outside, in the room, and inside, in my head, you can hear the brush very, very quietly scratch across the paper, almost like the very quiet sound you might get if you very lightly scratched one of your palms with the finger nails of the other hand. Unless you're paying attention you might not hear it. Certainly other people won't hear it. But if you listen carefully it's there. On these quiet days it seems as if the brush is talking to me as i write. There is this one sound that tells me when i'm writing with the tip of the brush, a little heavier sound when the brush is telling me that i'm using too much pressure, and almost a light chattering sound when i'm not using enough pressure and the tip is coming off the paper in the middle of some strokes.

It has been rare this winter when i write on days when it is sunny or at the right time of the day when the sun might be coming in through the window. But on those days, if you pay careful attention you can see the ink flow off the tip of the brush and onto the paper as you write, leaving a dark shiny black character, only to fade in less than a second as the paper absorbs the ink and it then diffuses. But for that split partial second, the ink seems to be trying to catch your eye, with each character shouting "free at last," as it breaks free from the brush's bristles and adds it's meaning to the page.

I'll never be a very good calligrapher, but on these perfect days, i have to tell you, the pleasure of sitting down and writing is almost indescribable. The peace of mind, the calm, collected effort, the focused energy, the wordless connection between your mind and your fingertips, and, on special occasions, those days when the brush simply writes the characters by itself, as if i wasn't even there, or, as if i was nothing but an impartial observer, oooh'ing and aaah'ing over characters particularly well or poorly written. Those are magical days.

So, as i come to the magical number eighty-eight (as in Shikoku's 88 temples), i have to start looking forward to the end of the week after next when i reach number one hundred. What do i do then?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Light of Consciousness

I noticed this evening that the magazine Light of Consciousness: Journey of Spiritual Awakening is offering a free one-year subscription to the online digital edition. I find it quite interesting. See their web site @

Swimming in silence
No words can help us to see
Stars float on the pond

DHS 87/100

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reality? Who's?

DHS 86/100

This has been a hard week for these Daily Heart Sutras. I've tripped and slid all the way down into the bottom of a nasty rut and they have become a chore rather than a pleasant half hour. Not exactly sure why that happened, but.....

Hopefully next week i'll be able to claw my way back up the sides of the rut and get a fresh breath of air. In any case, though, it's hard to believe that only 14 remain. Where did 86 days go?

Tomorrow i'm heading out to REI to pick up my camp stove, some propane, 5 or 6 dehydrated meals to test and see which ones i like, a new set of rain pants (i gave my old pair to one of the porters after my trek to Everest Base Camp a year and a half ago and forgot, until this morning when i was ransacking my backpack looking for them), and a few other small things. It difficult for me to shop there because i'm like a kid in a candy store, i want to pick up almost everything i see, and i seem to be able to invent an absolute need for almost everything i put my hands on, whether i really need it or not.

My front panniers are due here on Monday, and my Therm-A-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad is due here on Tuesday. Other than food, that is the last of my purchases. All that is left is figuring out how to get my bike to VA and how to get it back home from OR, figuring out where to drop ship food to for pick up while on the road, buying airplane tickets, and training. A hint on how that last one is going.... it's snowing as i type this and we are expecting another 1-3 inches by morning. Damn that groundhog!

Spent part of the day reading some Dōgen, specifically his Mountains & Rivers and The Ancient Mirror chapters.

From Mountains & Rivers, he pointedly tells us,
"Generally, when we look at mountains and water they are seen in a variety of ways depending upon the circumstances ... Different standpoint, different interpretation. Like this, the view depends on the eye of the beholder. Let us investigate this a little further. Does looking at one object give many different views or does it occur by mistakenly thinking one object possesses various forms? We must consider this carefully."

Does reality actually have many different aspects? Or, do we just see the one reality as having many different aspects because each and every one of us brings a different standpoint, a different interpretation, to our perceptions? What is reality? Who's version do you accept as your own? Once you choose, how do you integrate it into your daily life? Once you integrate it into your daily life, how do you not get angry at those ASSHOLES in Washington and the various state capitals, and the talk show hosts who believe that reality is nothing but money, power for themselves, power for their friends, more money, more power, and the inalienable right to screw the middle and lower classes to get what they want, i.e., money, power for themselves, power for their friends, more money, and more power. I have come to the conclusion that here in the US, the problem is no longer conservatives versus liberals. No, that delineation is no longer accurate. In today's US, the issues are being fought out between fundamentalists on the right and fundamentalists on the left, with the greedy bankers and businesses supporting whichever side will give them the tools to screw everyone else out of their money. The issues are no longer about what's best for Americans, not even about what's best, period. We have become every bit as fundamentalist as many of the middle eastern countries we eviscerate.



Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cleaning House

DHS 85/100

Moon light sweeps the room
A mirage exposed at last
You and I swept out

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


DHS 84/100
(Unfortunately i have to admit this was written while watching TV, and it shows. Yuk)


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Advance Confidently And Pass Beyond

DHS 83/100

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them"

Henry David Throeau

(Underlines are mine)

Bodai satta e hannya hara mita ko
Shin mu ke ge
Mu ke ge ko
Mu u ku fu
On ri issai ten dō mu sō
Kū gyō nehan

Because Bodhisattvas rely on the Perfection of Wisdom
Nothing obstructs their mind
Because obstructions do not exist
They have no fear
And pass completely beyond illusions and imagination 
And attain ultimate enlightenment

Hannya Shingyō
Heart Sutra

Monday, February 1, 2010

Don't Know Matters

"In the Zen tradition the first precept is nonkilling. One way we study the first precept of nonkilling is to consider all the beings that have given up their lives for our lives to continue. At each moment, this life is being created and clothed out of billions of offerings and sacrifices So the first precept becomes a tremendous appreciation for the flow of life.

"As our experience of life increases and deepens, we spontaneously minimize the amount of sacrifice needed for our sustenance and begin to live more simply. An intensified gratitude for this infinite support system moves us to make the best possible use of all that sacrifice. For example, we might become vegetarians rather than meat eaters. ...

"The powerful irony at the heart of Zen practice is that the strongest way to follow the first precept of nonkilling is by "killing the self." If we can kill — that is, truly forget — the self, we are at that moment nurturing and fostering life in the fullest and most genuine manner possible When we kill the self, we eliminate the separation that threatens life and makes killing possible in the first place, because zazen is being there for the wholeness of life, not just for the pieces we like or don't like. It means not experiencing separation, not seeing the other person as different from me.

"Recently I thought of the Buddha's life and I thought of his father trying to isolate him from suffering, from old age and death. That became a metaphor for the denial or separation from those aspects of ourselves or society that we are afraid of or not ready to deal with. In the last five to ten years I've felt a need to bear witness to those aspects of society that i fear or deny.

"For me the importance of bearing witness to what is denied grew out of my zazen, out of bearing witness to life as a whole. When I bear witness, I learn, I open to what is. There is a healing process in that. And the things that we are in denial about teach us. We don't go to them to teach them. They teach us."

Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lesson's in Living a Life That Matters
Bernard Glassman & Rick FIelds

(Underlines are mine)

Who's living your life
Living a life that matters
All starts from Don't Know

DHS 82/100
(Writing until the last drops of ink can be squeezed from the tip)