Generally I am a person of fairly even temperament but quite often various stresses and problems get under my skin and the news of the world leaves me filled with disgust. It's good to go outside at such times and put things into perspective. It's refreshing to stand in the quiet, amid the smells and sights and stop to consider that I am part of an unbroken chain of life that stretches back all the way to the point where the first proto-DNA molecule duplicated itself. Regardless of whether our consciousness is immortal or not, in all of the billions of years that the universe has existed, or will exist, everyone of us alive has an unambiguous existence in their own corner of space-time. Regardless of how short or long the span of that existence, nothing can or will ever change the fact that we exist now, in this particular chunk of space-time, forever, whatever that may be. That's actually an inspiring and empowering thing to contemplate, although I suspect that this fact would be harder to apprehend for people coming from a different philosophical perspective than I do. I couldn't say for sure. It is good to have a back yard for making such reflections.
I've had a lot on my mind lately. Work has been pretty busy since about the last week of December. I've been trying to build two-language versions of a piece of software that was never designed to support any language other than English. It's also a rush, in high demand by an important customer in Quebec who needs our software to speak French. The customer is king. We've accommodated these guys though to the point where we have modified our own procedures and rules for how software gets produced. Fortunately, I have enough eyes on this thing so that I can be fairly sure that our quality hasn't been endangered but nevertheless, it's pushing my comfort limit. It's been a roller-coaster ride. Things weren't working, and for the longest time I couldn't get at the problem no matter what I tried. Finally, after talking to the guy in charge of our in-house tools, I discovered what was causing the problem and fortunately it was simple to fix it. I told the application engineer who was dealing with the customer that we'd have it by yesterday noon, but yesterday we found out that there was a problem in the build for the install package — this after the guy who handles the build of the install package told me that everything was ready to go with that. Ah well, we got to the bottom of that as well and shipped the stuff to the people needing it this morning, so I'm feeling a quite a bit proud of myself and celebratory, anyway. For the past two evenings I haven't left this place before seven thirty in the evening. It will be good to pull out closer to five today. Later on I've got to start attacking all of the release procedures and paperwork, but I tend to be pretty good about that, given that I've had a large hand in creating the process and documentation adjustments over the years here.
On other fronts, an on line/meatspace friend of mine is beset by some thorny and worrisome problems. I'm hoping that she's okay, but she's been kind of incommunicado lately. Is it really any of my business? Sometimes I wonder about that, but then I reflect that I wouldn't have even known about the problems at all if she hadn't told me about them herself. That puts an itch in the back of my brain and it can't be scratched. Patience is always the last recourse but frequently we are driven to it of necessity.
Last week my favorite skyline vista was teasing me again. On the commute to work there is a place on 880 N. just before the Fruitvale exit where I like to catch a fleeting glimpse of the San Francisco skyline. Last Wednesday morning the sky over the East Bay was completely overcast with purple clouds. When I got to the point where I like to look across the bay I saw that the sky over San Francisco was completely clear and the sun was streaming down on the city, illuminating it beautifully. The last time I caught this phenomenon I was tempted to play hooky from work and go shoot some pictures. I didn't succumb to the temptation this time, either, but the view sure was nice. One of these days I'm going to snag a picture when that condition obtains no matter what I have to do to get it.
Back in November, while noodling around on the Psychology Today website while reading an interesting article on the reason children do not like school, I serendipitously ran across a link to the website of Dr. Marsha Lucas, a neuropsychologist who thinks that meditation promotes beneficial neurological changes in the brain and as a bonus, thinks that it does not require a crash course in the contemplation of irrational mysticism to accomplish. I've always had a curiosity about things like meditation and bio-feedback.
So, barring some missed days, every morning since then I've been waking up and sitting in my bed concentrating (ideally) on nothing but my breathing for twenty minutes. I set the alarm in my cell phone and close my eyes. I picked an alarm ring tone that is quiet and sounds vaguely Oriental — an amusing conceit. So, the trick is to concentrate only on your breathing. That sounds pretty easy to do but of course it isn't. One's brain is aways thinking and contemplating and bringing all sorts of stuff to the attention. As a habitual ruminator not afraid of my own interrior landscape though, I am well acquainted with this phenomenon. I know my brain is always busy with something or other.
- planning — what am I doing today, tomorrow, next week
- somatosensory and kinesthetic — my nose itches, my shoulder has an ache, I need to scratch the sole of my foot
- random image — some woman sleeping peacefully in the middle of a crosswalk (What? Where did THAT come from?)
- music — internal DJ spins a tune — wanna hear Moody Blues: "Timothy Leary Legend of a Mind" this morning?
- random realizations and observations — so-and-so never uses superlatives when she's lying
- environmental distraction — the room got brighter, the sun must have come out from behind a cloud
Apparently, the whole purpose of the exercise is the distractions. Being conscious of the interruptions and distractions and wanderings, and then re-focusing your attention back on the breathing thing is supposed to "re-wire your brain" by building some new neural pathways, similar to memorizing a phone number or the Declaration of Independence. Okay. That sounds interesting. Lucas claims that there is a distinct difference in the brain activity of people who have done this sort of thing on a regular basis. Of course, the sixty-four thousand dollar bottom-line question is, does it work?
Well, Lucas claims, while reluctant to give hard numbers for an experience so subjective, that one can conceivably start to notice a difference in about two weeks. Notice what? I've not managed to levitate, and the idea of things like pushing pins through my nostrils still causes me to cringe. Nevertheless, to Lucas's credit, there may be some difference going on upon which I cannot quite put my finger. The thing is that it is really subtle and I can't consciously identify it (yet?). I wonder if it is all in my head *snerk* I mean my imagination. Is it a placebo effect? Is it anything at all? I don't honestly know. The thing I do know is that the exercise itself seems kind of fun, or at least relaxing, so I plan to keep doing it. If I ever shave my head or start affecting a preference for saffron robes though, I do hope someone shoots me. Heh.