Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Stroke of Insight

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realized she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.

Or, if you'd prefer, you can read the transcript here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Yin Yang Furniture

Here's something cool and in keeping with our current yin yang theme. It's beautiful sculpted wicker furniture by Dedon. Nifty huh?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yin Yang Beans?

Are these for real? Yes! Similar in flavor but milder than the black bean, Calypso beans are a hybrid with dramatic black and white coloring that resembles an Asian yin yang symbol, complete with black dot.

Cooking Instructions:

Because these are dried beans, you will need to sort, rinse and soak them before cooking.

Sort the beans by spreading them out on a clean kitchen towel or shallow baking pan. Discard any shriveled or broken beans along with stones or debris and rinse in cold water.

To soak beans, add 3 to 4 cups of water for every cup of beans or bring the water level in the pot to 2 or 3 inches above the beans. (In extremely warm weather, soak the beans in the refrigerator to avoid fermentation.) Then use one of these two methods: quick soak them by bringing to a boil and boiling briskly for 2 to 3 minutes, then cover and set aside for 4 hours; or, long soak the beans at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight. The quick soak method can remove up to 80% of the indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. The long soak method does not remove as much of the indigestible sugars but the beans retain their shape better. Do not add salt to the soaking water and always discard the soaking water before cooking.

Stovetop Cooking
Regardless of which soaking method you used, drain and discard the soaking water. Add fresh water or broth to a level about 2" higher than the beans. Bring to a boil slowly, skimming off any foam that may appear on the surface. When the liquid is at full boil, reduce the heat, partially cover, and simmer until the beans are tender. Stir occasionally and add more water if necessary. The beans are done when they can be easily mashed with a fork or easily pierced with the tip of a knife.

Many bean recipes say "cook until done." This is because bean cooking times can vary greatly depending on such factors as variety, size, density, and age of the bean. As a general rule, most bean varieties require 60 to 90 minutes of cooking time. Bean varieties that cook faster include Anasazi, Calypso, Fava, Baby Lima, and Trout.

Pressure Cooking
Put soaked and drained beans in the pressure cooker, taking care to fill the cooker no more than 1/3 full to allow for expansion. Add water to cover along with 1 Tbsp of oil to reduce foaming. Cover and cook at 10 lbs. pressure for 25 to 30 minutes. Pressure cookers can vary, so be sure to follow manufacturer's directions. Beans with skins, such as Fava, Lima and Lupini, are not recommended for pressure cookers since the skins can plug the pressure vent with potentially explosive results.

Microwave cooking
Combine 1 cup soaked beans and 3 cups water in a 4 quart microwaveable dish. Cover and cook on HIGH for 10 to 15 minutes or until boiling. Stir and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until tender.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Within light there is darkness

Within light there is darkness,
but do not try to understand that darkness.
Within darkness there is light,
but do not look for that light.
Light and darkness are a pair,
like the foot before and the foot behind in walking.
Each thing has its own intrinsic value
and is related to everything else in function and position.
Ordinary life fits the absolute as a box and its lid.
The absolute works together with the relative,
like two arrows meeting in mid-air.


Monday, March 10, 2008

A Yin Yang Story

Here's a story by Alan Cohen, it seemed appropriate considering our current fascination with yin and yang. Enjoy!

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One morning, Eve decided it was time to clean her fishbowl. Unable to find a container in which to put her two goldfish, Yin and Yang, while the bowl was being cleaned, Eve let about two inches of water into her bathtub and lovingly placed the little creatures there.

when she finished scrubbing the bowl and putting the ceramic deep sea diver in a new position, Eve returned to find Yin and Yang engaged in a very thought-provoking behavior: the two goldfish were swimming around in one little corner of the bathtub, in a circle no bigger than the fishbowl!

In many ways, we humans are like the goldfish. We develop our patterns, our habits, our taught lifestyles (which we have adopted from families, friends, and television commercials), and then, when we have the chance to go beyond them to discover a new and freer dimension, we prefer to remain in our tiny corner of the world, though it offers us little joy, a lot of anxiety, and no expansiveness.

~From The Dragon Doesn't Live Here Anymore
by Alan Cohen

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Yin-Yang Symbol & Taoist Cosmology

I found this really interesting article at She talks about the meaning of the symbol and I thought I'd share part of it here:

What is the meaning of the Taiji symbol?
In terms of Taoist cosmology, the circle represents Tao - the undifferentiated Unity out of which all of existence arises. The black and white halves within the circle represent Yin-qi and Yang-qi - the primordial feminine and masculine energies whose interplay gives birth to the manifest world: to the five elements and "ten-thousand things."

I had never realized how much inherent movement there was in the yin yang symbol until I saw the image posted here on the right. Elizabeth goes on to talk about that movement:

Yin & Yang are Co-Arising and Interdependent:
The curves and circles of the Yin-Yang symbol imply a kaleidoscope-like movement. This implied movement represents the ways in which Yin and Yang are mutually-arising, interdependent, and continuously transforming, one into the other. One could not exist without the other, for each contains the essence of the other. Night becomes day, and day becomes night. Birth becomes death, and death becomes birth (think: composting). Friends become enemies, and enemies become friends. Such is the nature - Taoism teaches - of everything in the relative world.

I also liked what she said about circles within circles, and the interdependence of opposites:

Smaller Circles Within The Larger Circle:
What's great about the Yin-Yang symbol is that the smaller circles nested within each half of the symbol serve as a constant reminder of the interdependent nature of the black/white "opposites." It reminds the Taoist practitioner that all of relative existence is in constant flux and change. And while the creation of pairs-of-opposites would seem to be an aspect of our human software, we can maintain a relaxed attitude around this, knowing that each side always contains the other, as night contains day, or as a mother “contains" the infant that she will, in time, give birth to.

Article by: Elizabeth Reninger

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mind is like the sky

Look hither at the mind that introduces the distinctions. Mind is like the sky, independent of all affirmation and negation; clouds may appear and disappear in the sky, but the sky's magic remains pure. So also it is with primordial Buddhahood, spotless initeslf. It is uncreated, spontaneously present meaningfulness.

~longchenpa, 1308-1363,tibet

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Attributes of Yin and Yang

Attributes of Yin and Yang
Yin is the female
passive intuitive receiving force
Yang is the male
strong creative force
Associated with the earthAssociated with heaven
The earth is the source of all physical lifeThe heavens are in motion and bring about change
Yin is associated with the following propertiesYang is associated with the following properties
Odd NumbersEven Numbers
The MoonThe Sun
CurveStraight Line
Kidneys Heart Liver LungsBladder Intestines Skin
North side of a hillSouth side of a hill
Away from the sunToward the sun

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What is dark

What is dark clings to what is light and so enhances the brightness of the latter. A luminous thing giving out light must have within itself something that perseveres; otherwise it will in time burn itself out. Everything that gives light is dependent on something to which it clings, in order that it may continue to shine.

Thus the sun and moon cling to heaven, and grain, grass, and trees cling to the earth. So too the twofold clarity of the dedicated man clings to what is right and thereby can shape the world. Human life on earth is conditioned and unfree, and when man recognizes this limitation and makes himself dependent upon the harmonious and beneficent forces of the cosmos, he achieves success.

~I Ching

Monday, March 03, 2008

Yin Yang Mandalas

Until I went looking for yin yang mandalas, I had no idea how many different ways there are to express this simple symbol. Here is a small selection.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Origin of the Yin Yang Symbol

This well known Chinese Yin Yang, sometimes called the Tai-Chi symbol, is actually from the I Ching. The I Ching is more than a simple divination tool, it is also the greatest foundation of Chinese philosophy. It’s development is from the natural phenomena of our universe.

The original Chinese character of is a symbol combining the sun (top) and moon (bottom). It's easy for people to understand the philosophy by talking about the sun (Yang), moon (Yin) and universe. The ancient Chinese studied the universe and the world around them. They took note of the seasonal and annual cycles.

By observing the sky, and recording the position of the Big Dipper and watching the shadow of the Sun from an 8-foot (Chinese measurement) pole, ancient Chinese determined the four directions. The direction of sunrise is the East; the direction of sunset is the West; the direction of the shortest shadow is the South and the direction of the longest shadow is the North. At night, the direction of the Polaris star is the North.

They noticed the seasonal changes. When the Dipper points to the East, it's spring; when the Dipper points to the South, it's summer; when the Dipper points to the West, it's fall; when the Dipper points to the North, it's winter.

When observing the cycle of the Sun, ancient Chinese simply used a pole about 8 feet long, posted at right angles to the ground and recorded positions of the shadow. Then they found the length of a year is around 365.25 days. They even divided the year's cycle into 24 Segments, including the Vernal Equinox, Autumnal Equinox, Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, using the sunrise and Dipper positions.

They used six concentric circles, marked the 24-Segment points, divided the circles into 24 sectors and recorded the length of shadow every day. The shortest shadow is found on the day of Summer Solstice. The longest shadow is found on the day of Winter Solstice. After connecting each lines and dimming Yin Part from Summer Solstice to Winter Solstice, the Sun chart looks like below. The ecliptic angle 23 26' 19'' of the Earth can be seen in this chart.

The Ecliptic is the Sun's apparent path around the Earth. It's tilted relative to the Earth's equator. The value of obliquity of the Ecliptic is around 23 26' 19'' in year 2000.

By rotating the Sun chart and positioning the Winter Solstice at the bottom, it will look like this . The light color area which indicates more sunlight is called Yang (Sun). The dark color area has less sunlight (more moonlight) and is called Yin (Moon).

Yang is masculine. Yin is feminine. Yang wouldn't grow without Yin. Yin couldn't give birth without Yang. Yin is born (begins) at Summer Solstice and Yang is born (begins) at Winter Solstice. Therefore one little circle Yin is marked on the Summer Solstice position. Another little circle Yang is marked on the Winter Solstice position.

In general, the Yin Yang symbol is a Chinese representation of the entire celestial phenomenon. It contains the cycle of Sun, four seasons, 24-Segment Chi, the foundation of the I Ching and the Chinese calendar.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Yin Yang

The Essential Nature of Yin and Yang

yin yang symbolThese visual attributes of the Taiqi (Yin Yang) Symbol are meant to remind the Daoist practitioner of the essential nature of Yin and Yang -- and, by extension, of all pairs of opposites. Rather than being distinct, fixed and/or rigid categories, Yin and Yang are mutually-supportive, mutually-arising, inter-dependent, and in constant motion. Each contains the essence of the other, and they are continuously transforming one-into-the-other. So, for instance: friends become enemies, and enemies become friends; summer becomes winter, and winter becomes summer; from the lowest of plains pushes up the highest of mountains, and the highest of mountains, over time, recede once again to flat plains; external action, taken to its extreme, transforms into quietude; and from the depths of stillness, movement quite naturally emerges.

Relaxing Into the Dance

To train in this kind of perception, Daoism teaches, is to become a bit more relaxed in relation to our conceptual frameworks, with the potential for not getting “stuck” in them. We come to know the manifest world as a kaleidoscope of patterns of change -- in constant motion -- and ourselves (also constantly changing) as part of this. So we can allow the pairs of opposites to appear, and to dance, without having an egoic investment in their particular shape or form.


If we are practitioners of Internal Alchemy, we invite an increasing intimacy between these pairs of opposites; finally allowing their interpenetration to be so complete that they dissolve one into the other: this is the “copulation” of Yin and Yang (or, in the language of Inner Alchemy, of the White Tiger and the Green Dragon) which – by dissolving the polarity of “self” and “other” – takes the practitioner back into the Mind of Dao, that primordial and ever-present Unity out of which the play of Yin and Yang originally emerges.

by Elizabeth Reninger
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