About Mark

Technical report writing was the only type of writing I used during the early years of my career. After completing an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering my first job was at an aircraft manufacturing corporation. The presentations I prepared and reports that I wrote were filled with science, math, fact, test results, proofs, and truth. The hard sciences do not provide nor require the author to express a personality and emotions.

A few years later my career took me into a different roll where communication required more human interaction. Shortly after completing my graduate degree in mathematics, my work was more educational focussed. I was leading the supplier development team at a large automobile manufacturing corporation. Though the core focus of effort still required engineering and mathematics, the face to face communication and correspondence with the company’s suppliers required me to learn people skills.

The last twenty-five years of my career I worked in the advertising industry. I was surrounded by very creative coworkers with degrees in the arts. Their backgrounds and interests were very different than mine and it helped me to learn how to more comfortably move from my right brain to my left brain. I was in senior and executive leadership roles in advertising agencies creating and developing cutting edge techniques for using analytics and data management in advertising. The research, reports, and presentations required very creative style while at the same time they had to convey the scientific truths and proofs.

Today, after retiring from a 42 year career, I’m writing for my own personal blog. Most of the topics featured on my blog are familiar to me. Those topics are a mix of using technology to help make retirement more fun and enjoyable and staying focused on people using the technology not the technology itself. The section I call, “The Balance”, is where I will focus my personal buddhist based philosophy points of view.

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Author Archives: Mark

About Mark

Technical report writing was the only type of writing I used during the early years of my career. After completing an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering my first job was at an aircraft manufacturing corporation. The presentations I prepared and reports that I wrote were filled with science, math, fact, test results, proofs, and truth. The hard sciences do not provide nor require the author to express a personality and emotions. A few years later my career took me into a different roll where communication required more human interaction. Shortly after completing my graduate degree in mathematics, my work was more educational focussed. I was leading the supplier development team at a large automobile manufacturing corporation. Though the core focus of effort still required engineering and mathematics, the face to face communication and correspondence with the company’s suppliers required me to learn people skills. The last twenty-five years of my career I worked in the advertising industry. I was surrounded by very creative coworkers with degrees in the arts. Their backgrounds and interests were very different than mine and it helped me to learn how to more comfortably move from my right brain to my left brain. I was in senior and executive leadership roles in advertising agencies creating and developing cutting edge techniques for using analytics and data management in advertising. The research, reports, and presentations required very creative style while at the same time they had to convey the scientific truths and proofs. Today, after retiring from a 42 year career, I’m writing for my own personal blog. Most of the topics featured on my blog are familiar to me. Those topics are a mix of using technology to help make retirement more fun and enjoyable and staying focused on people using the technology not the technology itself. The section I call, “The Balance”, is where I will focus my personal buddhist based philosophy points of view.

I love Cuban cigars

I love Cuban cigars

Malaga city for new years eve was a lot of fun even without the fireworks. The adventure was almost uneventful and methodical. Usually when Kimber and I go on a trip or have an event there are so many unexpected and unplanned activities around that we rarely just have the actual event itself. This time though, neither of us was sick, we got on the right bus, got off the bus at the right stop, remembered our luggage, no traffic jams, no interesting encounters with people or animals, no history making weather, and well, rather a simple holiday really. OK so that’s it. Thanks for reading. Take care, and all our best to you and the family.

We lucked out with the hotel at Don Curro. The desk man said to Kimber, “If you aren’t in a rush for a room and you can wait about 15 minutes I have a really great room almost ready.” Kimber tells him we are in no rush. The hotel is amazing architecture and located in the old town section of Malaga. Pronounced; Mul-Ah-Gaw if you’re English and Mal-a-ga (a is silent in all 3 syllables) if you’re Spanish. The check-in desk area is decked out with marble floor, travertine walls, mirrors, and perfectly polished, glossy finished, spanish cypress check in counter. Just inside the front door is a staircase to the right. The steps are coco travertine, and the risers are carmel marble, with a handrail of brass. To the left is the check-in counter and marble path to the elevators.

Don Curro Hotel

The wait was well worth it. The room is on the top floor with a view over the old town and the massive cathedral just two blocks away. The scenery captured my attention several times during our three day stay. As I stood in the open window gazing out at the ancient city, mountains, trees, and sky I thought of all my friends, and most of my family. I can hear the people below, on the streets of the town. I’m impressed with the surroundings and the experience. It’s New Year’s Eve, the last day of 2019, the last day of the second decade of the second millenia. I wonder if I can come back here in 2221 for New Years Eve. No, no I didn’t wonder that. Just kidding, really. I’d be too old to stand in the window by then.

It’s the sound of people that makes us most excited and anxious to get settled in the room so we can head out to explore the streets. We truly enjoy people and humanity. We humans are an amazing miracle of the universe. While you may think the formation of a sun, or a supernova is an incredible manifestation of the universe’s power, humans are, every one of us, holy and all powerful. The chance to walk with, mingle with, bump into, speak with, listen to, and just the opportunity to be here with so many holy beings all at once, is truly a miracle. Kimber and I are unpacking the backpacks and getting ready for the explorations of the Malaga pueblo. Meanwhile we are discussing the four highest qualities of humanity. It’s not the equanimity, not the mindfulness, not even the loving kindness of those four treasures that has caught my attention here but the rare case, the first of the four highest qualities of humans: Sympathetic  joy. 

German culture shares the wisdom that says bad news shared with friends and loved ones is only half as bad and good news not shared is only half as good. The more I think about that sage, old wisdom the more I realize it’s a perfect definition of Sympathetic Joy. 

Just a Drunken Sailor

When I first arrived in Spain, I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions and senses. Selling everything we owned, throwing away everything we couldn’t sell, giving away a few of our loved treasures to the few people we cared enough to burden with our junk, and coming to a country brand new to us with just five suitcases (and a load of cash didn’t hurt) was like a supernova event. I snapped photos on my phone like a drunken sailor in a nudist camp. I shared thoughts, ideas, pictures and happiness with everyone in my contacts and across the internet. At times I felt like all of my friends and family were sitting back rolling their eyes and murmuring, “oh gawd here he goes again!” I wasn’t bragging nor trying to do anything except share the joy I was experiencing. That’s just Sympathetic Joy.

Finally, we are out of the room, out of the hotel and into the streets of the city. We’re after the Indian food or maybe Mexican food. There are supposed to be three “authentic” Mexican restaurants in the old town (old pueblo) area. Google maps is guiding us through the bario, the maze of narrow streets and tall buildings. We’re strolling through holiday crowds where half the people are going in the same direction as we are. Some faster, some slower and occasionally, without warning, some people stop to have a more intense conversation for a few minutes before they continue on. The other half of the people are going in the other direction than what we are. Then there’s the half that is going across to the right and the half that are crossing to the left. Finally, the last half are the people who are window shopping from one side of the narrow street to the other side, back and forth they come and go. Stopping in the middle to express their excitement for what they saw over there, and over there while their friends are telling them the same thing about their experience over there and over there. Everyone is talking, a few are listening, and we’re all enjoying being here together — just this.

Oh, and then there is the occasional car, what!, yes-in-deed sometimes a car drives along these narrow pueblo streets filled and lined with hundreds of holiday festive joyful holy beings. We are loving the whole scene.

Mexican or Indian it’s all the same

We did locate all three of the Mexican restaurants in the area. We’ve walked for nearly an hour and a half criss-crossed the myriad of streets only to discover they are all three closed for the holiday. We are so happy they took time off to be with their friends and share some holiday time with family. We did see a combination, Indian and Mexican restaurant on our trek and Kimber spoke with the waitress. They were having a New Years Eve special for just 80 euros a piece. The selection was all they had for the evening. We moved on, and eventually we chose a nice Indian restaurant a block off of the main street. 

I could see the people on the main street from our sidewalk table. Can you even imagine how much information is streaming through the fiber optic tubes around the planet on New Years Eve? I’m seeing everyone snapping photos with their phones, shooting videos, and many with those selfie-sticks capturing themselves while enjoying the night’s event. They post these across Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and hundreds of other apps to share their joy. That’s more examples of Sympathetic Joy. Absolute planned happiness, I say to my wife. She barely looks up because she has become all-too-familiar with my suddenly saying something totally off the wall. Finally, after a moment or two she replies, yes it certainly is. 

collage of malaga on new years 2020

If you want to invite happiness & joy, into your life you have to plan it in. It doesn’t very often just show up all by itself. Life isn’t a natural fit for love and all of the elements that are included in the aggregate of love. Life is, instead a natural state of fear, greed, lust, anger, and delusion. Being here as the holy and perfect being that you are is an effort for you have to learn how to overcome these five karmas. You overcome them with love. I can almost hear all those eyeball rolls now. Using the four highest qualities of a human, you can overcome all the bad karma in your life. Start today. Right now. Plan it out. Invite happiness in by simply doing something you typically never do. Share the good news and the bad news with everyone in your family, all of your friends, and even with people you don’t personally know. Who cares what they think or say. This is about you not them.

Planning for happiness

Kimber pretending to ignore me

Sure you might feel a little embarrassed at first. What if nobody cares, what if they laugh, what if they ignore my silly sharing of personal thoughts, ideas, experiences? Yes, you might feel like it’s too beneath you to share your cleverness and your perfect intellect that provided you with this personal experience of misery or deep happiness.  Or maybe you feel it opens you to a sense of vulnerability that someone, somewhere, may someday exploit to get an upper advantage over you. Just trust yourself and share your bad and good as often as you can it’s the Sympathetic Joy that can spark a revolution in your life and countless others too. Stop keeping everything to yourself and being so selfish and aloof! Open up and reach out to the planet of miraculous and marvelous holy beings around you. 

Okay, stop the eye rolling or at least grab the selfie stick and your phone to capture and share.

Second day in Malaga we walked the pier and envied the yachts. Then we argued and stressed about taking a city buss across the city and to a distant pueblo of Benalmadena. I know… I know. It’s ben-al-ma-deeeena if you’re english, and ben-ala-ma-dayna if you’re spanish. It means, children of the mines. We typically get cross with each other when we’re about to do something stressful. When we’re not exactly sure how or what to do or not sure what the consequence may be, we get a tad testy with each other. Kimber more so than I, for sure! (wink wink) But, there is a monument in Benalmadena we have wanted to visit and we’ve talked about visiting long before we moved here. The time was right and off to the adventure we went. 

Buddhist Stupa in Benalmadena

We had a few bus changes to get to the destination and back again, but we made it to the Stupa. These stupas are supposed to have some actual relic from the Buddha, Shakyamuni, underneath the golden dome. It maybe a hair, a finger nail, a bone, or a tooth. Not that this makes the Stupa some sort of magical place or a place where great miracles happen. That’s ridiculous. You have to build your own karma and karmic powers before that can happen. Though Kimber did read on the internet that if you walk around the stupa in a clockwise (always clockwise in everything you do) direction, three times then your dreams will come true. That’s just utter nonsense; everyone’s dreams come true — just not right now, today, in this lifetime, on this planet, but certainly with all your karma accumulated they do/will.

Buddhists Holy Beings it’s all the same

Everyone of us feels ashamed of our feelings, man. It sucks to be so encompassed by our thinking minds. Do you know how many memes you can find on facebook that stress the self ridicule, self deprecating, and the number of memes posted that express contempt for people? It’s out of control how casual people find it to share a ready made image with a snappy caption that either communicates self hate or hate for humankind. Stop it! Yes, some of you do this and it’s alarming. Post something amazing about your day, not your spouse, pets, scenery. Something fantastic about you. “I cleaned my toilet today. Under the rim, behind the back on the floor, under the bolt covers that hold the seat in place, inside the bowl where the water is stored between flushes, and the underneath side of the tank lid. I’m feeling accomplished for the day,and like I deserve this hot buttered rum that I just made from scratch.” Now there’s some sympathetic joy that can raise cheerful smiles and laughter across the planet. Embody that karma!

Some of us feel like we are missing out on life or that there is only so much happiness to go around and everyone is using it up. Sure you might not have everything you want and maybe you feel envy when you see or read about someone else’s happiness. Kimber and I see this when we’re out walking around. I remember a time when I was shopping at the Friday open market which are always packed with too many people and not enough room between vendors. People going in all directions, just like New Years Eve in Malaga. And every now and again there’s that one person with anger, rage, and condemning judgement coming through the crowd. Elbowing people, pushing and snarling as they thrust in disgust, pass the shoppers. I hear them and many people say it, “I hate people.” My step-father was frequently proud to announce his hate for mankind too. It shocked me as a child and still does as a senior citizen today.

Have a great year, everyday

All you need to do to stop hating is to stop judging. Stop comparing what others are doing to your strict guidelines to what they should be doing. Stop judging, stop thinking the world is wrong because of everyone else or that the troubles in life are because of others. In its place, share your sadness, share your happiness, share your accomplishments, share your failures. Fix yourself and you’ll quickly realize how holy you and everyone is.

My messy table

Kimber scored a new pair of walking shoes on our last day, shopping in Malaga. They were made in Brazil and they look pretty sweet. She told me they make her want to walk. I’m very sad by this because we are already walking 40 to 50 kilometers a week (25 to 30 miles), and my feet hurt. I have drop foot and my left leg always fights with me as we walk. It makes me happy too because we need to stay active as we age and do not go quietly into the night. I scored some Cuban cigars that are priced something like 99.9% less than you can get them in the USA. That makes me happy because I enjoy cigars with my whisky and Kimber doesn’t give me grief about the costs. OK I’ve beaten this theme of Sympathetic Joy to the edge of examples and reasoning, but before you take an oath to never go online again just to avoid having to read anything else I’ve written — that’s called self deprecation or what the Canadian’s have perfected called ‘passive aggressive’ — remember that you are always in my thoughts and I wish you every happiness!

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Born Again and Again

Though I am not very skilled at writing in first-person yet, here’s another short story. It’s not that I’m an unskilled writer, so I write. It’s more accurate to state that I want to be a better first-person writer so I write. Like everything human influenced in this existence we get better with practice. To help me learn in a guided and skillful way I have been taking a course from Wesleyan University in first-person writing. Hang in there, dear reader, improvement is on the way.

Buddhism and reincarnation

Last Wednesday I was hiking over the small hills to the east of my apartment with Sarva. The hills are steep in ascent and decent but they are fairly small. Perhaps just 60 or 70 meters in elevation. The first hill separates Tesorillo beach and Bahia beach while the second hill separates Bahia beach from the nudist beach. The vistas along the path are amazing. The sounds of the waves and the almost constant onshore breeze make the physical effort of these steep climbs more enjoyable than strenuous. 

These two hills and the three beaches are part of a park called Parque Mediterraneo. The path is fairly maintained by the city and it’s path provides sure footedness. Sarva is anxious for the workout and I can sense there’s a lot on his mind this morning. His pace all along the boardwalk has been slightly quicker than our usual, and he’s quiet. Too quiet.

Park entrance
Parque Mediterraneo

As we reach the entry to the park, passing below the welcome sign Sarva breaks the silence. “When most people in the Americas think of Buddhism, the first thing that they question is reincarnation. Even though the concept of rebirth or multiple exitstence is more generally accepted by Hinduism then it is for a Buddhist. People may think this reincarnation is impossible or false and I have had conversations on a few occasions with people who have said it is devil talk. While the concept may seem unbelievable mainly based on individual memories. That is, if I had lived before why would I have no memory of my previous life or lives?

This sort of questioning, from a Buddhist perspective, is a waste of time. It’s wrong. Not that there isn’t an answer, or that we are wasting our time looking for an answer. The purpose of Buddhism is to free your consciousness from this cyclic existence. The human experience or rather the human existence is the only level of consciousness where this freedom can be realized. Thinking, therefore must be perfected. Our efforts to enhance the mental clarity for optimal usefulness of the mind requires a Kung-fu like effort. The question of reincarnation isn’t the cause of suffering, it is the ambiguousness, difficulty, and unknowing of death and birth that cause suffering.

The Truth About Living

There may be a simple answer to a simple question. It’s not a question of — is reincarnation real? We can see and experience reincarnation in any of the thousands of examples all around us. Within the cosmos and on this very planet, we have perfect illustrations and reminders for the natural cyclic existence of everything. The more precise question about reincarnation that causes people suffering (stress) is — why can I not recall my previous lives? There are three possible answers. The first is rather simple but may also seem like an evasive response. 

From my apartment in Velilla
Sunrise over Salabrina

The easiest way for each of us to discover why we are not keenly aware of our previous lives is to ask what did you have for dinner last night two years ago? What television show did you watch six months ago. The answers to these simple questions for many people is — I don’t remember. For some people, where the daily routine is constant the answer maybe a little more substantial. It’s basic generalizations for most people, but answers with not much precision or clarity. Similarly, karma carries forward from one lifetime to the next. Your previous life may have been on a battlefield in 7th century Egypt as a foot soldier, and you may have been a homeless peasant suffering the plague in north Africa. You can’t know that level of detail. The way you act, the character of your behaviour, the basic personality has not changed much.

Comparing life from one to the next is truly wasting precious time. Though it is often a necessary step in the practice. Some people need to untie the mental knot, so-to-speak. They truly need to get a more substantial answer to reincarnation. They seek an answer that runs deeper than a simple lapse of memory. Then, for those who need a more substantial answer, let’s use karma, the duality principle of the universe.

The Evolution of a Universe

Climbing to La Herradura
Stairs to La Herradura

All life forms are different and even within the same species there are varying degrees of differences. Consciousness, for example. Some life forms are more conscious than others. A bird is more conscious than a butterfly, a fish is more conscious than a barnacle and on and on the comparisons are endless. We can know for certain that humans are more conscious than any other forms of life on earth. Yet, even among the human species consciousness is less for some than for others. There are some people who are not conscious at all. When we sleep for instance.

Natural evolution has increased the levels of consciousness in all species, and more so for humans. Biologically the human body has increased the ability to convert the food we eat into more energy. The increased energy means more amperage which provide faster muscle responses and cognition. At some point in evolution, thinking began. Humans emerged from animal behaviours based on instinct alone. Thinking provided reasoning, and creativity developed. The imagination, or the voice in the mind grew powerful — magically. The thinking itself is magic. Truly it is. 

Everything in our lives today that improves the quality of life began as a thought. From the coffee cup you start the day with, to the mattress you lay on to end the day and everything in between is the result of a simple creative thought.

As we continue to evolve, the brain is becoming more aware, more conscious. Nutrition improves and our body can generate more energy. More energy means higher voltage which then provides faster mental ability, more thoughts, more creativity. In your previous lives, you may not have even been human. Perhaps this is your first lucky break. Even if you were human in the last conscious life, or even in the past four, five, etc. lives, it is unlikely your level of consciousness was aware.

Barely Conscious Now

Moon Rising over Salabrina
Moon rise over Salabrina

The conscious ability to be aware isn’t the biggest challenge to remembering your previous lives. It’s the creative energy of the mind. The universe itself is 100% creative energy. Every molecule, and atom that make up the body and mind comes from the universe. As Carl Sagan once said, “the basic atomic energy within each of us that causes us to be human came about as the result of an exploding supernova somewhere in space. When we look up at the night sky in wonder of the cosmos we are truly looking for our origin.” This so called consciousness is little else beside creative energy.

The trail has come to the last beach on the path. This is one of the smallest beaches in Almunecar and it’s also a designated nudist beach. There’s a lot of sand and patches of pebbles. The pebble areas hold a lot of sea glass and sea polished stones. It’s quite beautiful to see.” 

How Quick Minds Wander

Sea glass beachcombing
Pebble Beach

Kimber found the sea glass to be very pretty. She took home a few pieces following a visit several weeks ago. Since then, and over the last three weeks she’s become very  interested in sea glass. She researched it on the internet to find where it is coming from. Turns out there is a lot of information available on sea glass including the origins, colors, depth of etching, clarity, jewelry making, value, how to find it, when to look for it, etc. Last week she found a special vase for her growing collection of glass. Beachcombing for sea glass is an obsession.

Sarva continues the conversation. “The creative consciousness is always looking for adventure and is quickly bored. If it isn’t a sea glass distraction, it’s rumination of the past, or the favorite past-time of the mind — those makebelieve what-if scenarios. Anyone who has ever tried to stop thinking for more than half a minute knows just how pervasive and overpowering consciousness is. Imagine, therefore, how this creative and imaginative powerful thinking mind will run wild when the body dies. When there is no more distraction from the five karmas, dreams will become vivid realities and deeply complex. The karma of fears, greed, lust, anger and delusions will surface and take root. 

Dead Conscious

Mark on his birthday in 2019
Birthday 2019

Imagine what would happen if we never took the time and never made the effort to train and perfect our thinking mind. Without the practice that perfects consciousness with kung-fu precision death would provide unobstructed and insane mental instability. Fear, greed, anger, lust, and delusion would generate consciousness of hellish torments. Once the body dies and consciousness is free (no longer influenced by the five senses) in the bardo insanity would be certain. There, the mind, would grasp at any opportunity to escape the torment. Even if it meant birth as a cockroach.

Consciousness is the natural evolution of the universe. Though as a human it is easy to become deluded by self awareness, consciousness isn’t a part of human evolution. Humans, like consciousness are a part of the universe evolution. Quite likely, we are developing artificial super intelligence not to improve our lives as we think. Rather, artificial super intelligence is a next step in the evolution of the universe. 

My previous life and previous lives are very memorable. All it takes to remember aging, sickness, and death that are the life of every birth is a well trained mind to know it’s true. The practice is all there is of any great importance for this existence.”

view from the office
View from the office

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Ninety-five minutes to Horseshoe.

The Mediterranean Sea’s coast provides a series of small cities and many small fishing towns, vacation and tourist resort towns, and a few larger cities. Taking day trips from the small city of Almunecar (means: surrounded by mountains), where I live, to visit other places is a once a month adventure for Kim and I. The destination for today is the town of La Herradura (means: horseshoe).

The city of Almunecar

The local bus station is a 2.9 kilometers from the apartment, and it takes about 35 minutes for me to walk there. Granted there is a local city bus that runs past the apartment once per hour, but we prefer to walk. We are both determined to stay in good physical condition for as long as our body can endure. I worked for 46 years before retiring and all those years of corporate life added a lot of excess weight to this frame I’m using. My weight peaked in late 2016 when I hit the scale at 245 pounds. That’s a mega 85 pounds over my preferred weight. Kimber isn’t at all happy with her weight either. I’m not allowed to expound further on her weight.

We diet in seven week sprints, and then take a week off. Our technique includes fasting twice a week and a lot of walking and yoga. I use a calorie counter too. You can read more about the app in my article I’m Losing It. We worked our way up to log just over 40 kilometers (25 miles) a week these days. Sunday dinner is usually over around 20:00 when we begin the first fast day for the week. We don’t eat again until 10:00 Tuesday morning. That’s about 38 hours, plus or minus 30 minutes, with no food. We can have as much coffee, tea, and water as desired. 

Never hungry

Monday is not just fasting it’s also our “big walk” day, as we call it. We walk the entire coast line from our apartment all the way from east to west as far as you can go, and back again. It’s just over 15.8 kilometers or 9.7 miles. Our legs are a bit stiff on Tuesdays following the big walk, so we’ll typically do yoga to give our legs a recovery day. Not this week though, we’re going to La Herradura and it’s on a Tuesday.

The walk to town was a lot less of a struggle than what I had expected. My hips were a little sore and tight, but after a kilometer or so the effort eased up. We arrived in town to find the bus depot is busy at 10:00 and the smell of food from nearby restaurants is in the air. I broke the fast before leaving the apartment. A toasted baguette and two eggs. 

Staying in Shape All Day

Staying in shape isn’t easy to state the obvious. At age 52, I had plantar fasciitis in my left foot. It took nearly 3 months to heal well enough for me to get back to my usual daily jog. A few months later, when I had just worked my fitness levels back to doing 3 miles a day, my right foot took a turn with plantar fasciitis. At age 56, my left calf seized up while I was out jogging. The cramp lasted nearly an hour and my left leg has never been quite right ever since. Today I suffer from drop foot on my left leg.

While most of my life I did practice at staying physically fit, I imagine that had it been otherwise this drop-foot condition would have me housebound today. My weight and health would not be very good at all either. It’s likely I would be on prescription medications as well. I’m fortunate to have only a very few physical problems. Keeping the body fit and physically able to stay active doesn’t just happen when I’m at the gym, or out for a run. Staying fit is a practice that carries on — everyday, all day. 

When I’m not out for a run, for example, I still have to be mindful of what I’m eating. The nutritional needs for jogging and marathons are crucial to the bodies ability to perform. This includes getting adequate water throughout the day so the blood can be clean and of adequate quantity to fuel the muscles. Getting enough sound sleep is necessary so that my lungs and heart can properly function in and out of the gym. Through the day, in and out of the gym, on and off of the track, the lifestyle requires constant focus.

There’s a point I’m making for maintaining a lifestyle of physical activity requires dedication. There is no difference to physical conditioning the body and conditioning to perfect the mind. I cannot expect to perfect mindfulness if I only practice while I’m sitting on the meditation pillow. Training the mind requires an all day awareness, healthy life choices, and learning how to stay mindful everywhere. 

All Aboard

We have our boarding passes in our cell phones and I’m looking at the pass while we stand and wait for the bus. Kimber is telling me there are two buses that go to La Herradura at this time of day. The first one makes several stops on the way over and takes about 1 and a half hours to get there. The second bus is direct and takes just 15 or 20 minutes. Our boarding passes are designated for the second bus. Just as she was telling me this a bus pulls into the station. 

These are really big commercial buses,not just the local city bus size, but the cross country tall and long tour buses. I’m awed at the driver’s skill as they pull these large buses into the small city bus depot here. The drivers pull into the depot and then have to back these mega sized buses into the designated and very narrow loading zone. A placard in the front window of each bus shows the list of towns the bus travels to. The bus backs into the loading zone, I look at the placard and see this bus services: Granada, Nerja, Granada. That’s not our bus.

A few minutes go past and the second bus arrives and is backing into the loading zone. This bus is apparently a more popular bus as the crowd of people at the depot began to swarm into its loading zone. I took a quick look at the placard and I see La Herradura on the list. Climbing the few steps up I’m met by the driver. I’m showing him my boarding pass but he hardly seems interested. He’s saying something to everyone as we enter. He’s speaking Spanish. I make out the words — La Herradura, going, and the word return. I quickly decide he must be telling everyone this is a bus to and from La Herradura and yes we have return tickets so I reply Si, and then head toward the back of the bus to find a seat.

With everyone on the bus the driver starts down the road. When we get to the small two-lane coastal highway, about 1 minute into the journey, the driver turns to go east. That’s odd, I’m thinking, because La Herradura is to the west. It takes me less than 10 seconds to analyse and then to realize this was the second bus into the depot, but it’s the first bus for La Herradura. We’re on the wrong bus. 

Making Mistakes: Life’s Opportunities

We are supposed to have boarded the second La Herradura bus. We’re taking the long way to our destination. I’m wondering next, how long it will be before Kimber realizes we are on the wrong bus? After thinking about it, and considering a few different ways to tease her, I eventually decide it’s better to just tell her. “We are on the way to Motril, Kim.”

Kimber and I have a serious conversation about how certain I am that we are going to Motril. Once I convince her that we are certainly heading to Motril, a moment of silence passes. We then have a more serious conversation about why we are not paying better attention and must be more careful. 

The bus arrives at the Motril (means: it’s just Motril no meaning) depot and the driver leaves the bus. He’s heading into the station. I decided to get off the bus and stratech my legs. I walk to the front of the bus to get a better look at the placard. It reads — Motril, La Herradura, Motril. Ten minutes later the driver is coming back to the bus with several people following behind. Shortly thereafter everyone is aboard and down the road we go. 

The Sickness of My Mind

Consequences of being born or the human condition isn’t the cause of our inherent mental sickness. Existence is limited by just five senses or the five aggregates as I learned to call them. The sickness of my mind isn’t the aggregates themselves, but the way the mind chases after the senses. Day to day life can mask the illness and disguise it. The many different labels for the untrained mind such as “I’m just stressed out,” make it seem as if it was just a passing phase and a normal part of living. Thinking isn’t a passing phase. Left unchecked the mind untrained becomes addicted to endless varieties of craving. 

The sense of smell for example: when I smell the cypress smoke from the sardine smokers where they burn the logs throughout the day at some of the restaurants. My mind immediately runs after the smell. Labels the smell — sardine smoker. Defines the label — cypress wood burning. The mind won’t stop there though. Now the creative powers of the untrained mind will give rise to an entire ten or thirty minute dialogue and make believe world triggered by this single instance of just a smell. 

The mind rambles on — I’m not in favor of the smoke smell and it pollutes our planet, needlessly destroys otherwise beneficial vegetation, and they burn dozens of logs everyday in each of thirty or more restaurants in just this small city alone. For what? Maybe three or four people a day will order espetos (smoked sardines).

The untrained mind continuously creates these imaginary worlds around us. Thinking is a magical power which provide humans with amazing creative ability, and drive us to be incessant explorers. Humans are constant problem solvers and by the very nature of this human condition, the karma of birth — we crave, desire, want. The mind chases after whatever the sense detect, and when left unchecked or unbalanced a person can seldom discern between the imaginary world the mind has thought up and the real world where we actually exist. The karma of thinking give rise to greed, lust, fear, anger, and delusion.

Give it All The Time it Needs. We Will Get There.

Five more stops. That’s right, the bus makes five stops here and there as it criss crosses and travels through the small city. The last stop is just outside of the hospital. The hospital in Motril is the only major medical facility for this region along the Mediterranean. It’s a large hospital and the bus nearly empties out. I can see the driver in the large rearview mirror and he’s staring at me for several moments. He got up after a few moments and he walks back to me and Kimber. He asks, where are you going? He’s obviously confused why we are still on the bus since he’s made all of the stops. 

I tell him we’re going to La Herradura. “LA HERRADURA!” he exclaims. He’s speaking in Spanish but much more clearly and slowly now than he was when we first came onboard. I tell him, in Spanish, “Yes. La Herradura. I have two tickets for La Herradura.” I begin to pull up the boarding passes on my cell phone. “You have to be more concerned with what you are doing.” He says to me. I’m maintaining eye contact with him as he speaks. It’s respectful, and I want to be certain of what he is saying to me. His furrowed brow and steady eyes never once blinking conveys he is perhaps a bit miffed. “I might be going all the way to Madrid for all you know.” As he finishes scolding, he turns to go back to the head of the bus. 

Kimber and I sat there quietly for several minutes. To break the silence I told her, “If we could get to Madrid on a pair of tickets for three euros  I’d have gone for sure.” We laugh a bit and settle back to enjoy the scenery of Mortil and the return to Almunecar. 

It’s Not Pillow Talk

Though it seems like most people have a parenting drive, it never rose in me. Most people seem to have a need to lecture anyone about how they should live or the choices they make. Perhaps because my mind is aware of my own flaws and the sickness that plague me, I’ve never felt as if I had the answers to fix anyone. The more time in meditation the more I have come to understand that telling everyone else how to fix themselves as a cure for the world is highly in error. Truth is, the more time people spend telling everyone else how to live their lives and complaining about the way others are living is the problem with the world.

While the bus driver stood their trying to scold me, thinking himself as the victim of my being on his bus, he should have been looking in the mirror. Everyone comes on the bus and before taking a seat his job is to make sure they are on the right bus, paid the fare for the ride today. Yes, I’m sure most people would not have sat quietly listening to the lecture. I’ve learned we are all suffering and we are all the same. The driver, like me, is a holy sacred-being, worthy of my love.

Meditation makes me aware that there is only one way that humans can make the world a place of peace, love, and understanding. There is just one thing that needs to be fixed. While it may seem easy that there is just one thing that needs to be fixed in order to solve the abortion debate, the wars with all the needless killings, the hate crimes, bigotry, government/mafia, taxes, woman rights, the escalation of the war on white people, and on, and on, the list is endless. The truth is there is only one thing that I, and everyone else needs to do to instantly solve all of the world’s problems. Just this: fix your own mind. Learn the Kung-Fu perfection of healing your own suffering inwardly.

Papa Bertand would say, “it is better to suffer in silence than to blame others for the ills of the world.”

Surrounded by Mountains Once More

We pull into the depot back in Almunecar and everyone gets off the bus, except, of course for the two of us. I catch the driver looking at me once again in his mirror. I’m sure he’s somehow keenly determined I’m a Ph.D with a double master’s and an undergraduate in aeronautical engineering. As we drive to the small coastal highway, we turn to the west. Again, I catch the driver looking back at me in his mirror. Yes, for sure he’s realized I am a genius.

Fifteen minutes later we pull around the roundabout entrance to La Herradura and the bus pulls up to a sidewalk bus stop. There is a crowd of people gathered around two small benches. It’s the bus stop for La Herradura. Apparently the town of 4,000 people is too small for a dedicated bus depot.

Every article I have read about La Herradura over the last two years have made me believe this place must be beautiful and a bit pricey. I’ve been made to believe the rich and the famous come to this area to enjoy quiet seclusion in the best setting and the finest accommodations. Additionally, my research uncovered the location of what is supposed to be an amazing hamburger restaurant, and another highly rated restaurant which features Mexican cuisine. I’m nearly running down the steps to get off the bus to go get a burger.

The Luxury Resort Town of Horseshoe

The streets are narrow and so are the sidewalks. The brickwork of the sidewalk seems blanned and it’s very uneven. We turn down a street so we can get closer to the center of the barrio. The barrio is all residential. There’s no shops, cafes, outdoor bars and restaurants. There are only stacks of apartments and condominiums. We were expecting something similar to what we’ve experienced in the tourist towns and cities we’ve seen elsewhere in Spain. It’s Tuesday and just past noon and there’s hardly a person to be seen.

People in Europe are very much into their dogs. They take them everywhere even when on a vacation they bring their dogs. I like dogs and Kim does too. Before I get to the point for why I mention European’s affinity for the dog, I need to mention another pet peeve of mine; starting sentences with ‘but’ or ‘and.’ Yes, I know it’s acceptable, but I try purposefully to avoid doing so. 

My mother was a major grammar and spelling influence as I grew up. I struggled in school as I found mathematics, science, politics and history to be more important. She likely knew of my struggle from conversations with teachers or maybe from reading my letters. Anyway, I don’t like to start sentences with either of those two coordinating conjunctions. However, be prepared for me to do just that, shortly.

The people of Spain are prolific walkers. They enjoy walking, especially in the evenings. Here too, when out for a walk they bring their dogs with them. There are pet laws in Spain such as no pets on the beach, and pick up the poop when your pup makes a deposit, and sanitize the pee and poop spots. I’ve only seen one person sanitize after their dog pee. I see a lot of dogs on the beach and there are a fair number of people who do not pick up their dog droppings. It’s not like there’s dog piles all over town. A lot of people, the majority of pet owners do bring supplies to cleanup.

If I had to estimate it I would say in Almunecar I can expect to dodge two piles of dog poop for every two kilometers we walk. BUT (butt?) here in La Herradura we’re sidestepping, zig zagging, hopping and leaping over the piles. It’s everywhere! Not only are we having to be watchful of the sunken areas in the brickwork walkways, but the dog crap is clearly out of control. It smells bad too. 

Fixing the World Issues

Kimber and I like to use our walks as a part of our continuing efforts to cure the illness of our mind. Sometimes we pick a particular beach and as we walk across along it we share a blessing with the people we pass by. Sometimes we chant a mantra and focus on accomplishing a boom. Another one of my favorites we practice is — the way of the bodhisattva. This practice is especially helpful at times when I’m struggling to accept the world just as it is. For example, as we are making our way out of the barrio in La Herradura to go down to the beach, I see an elderly woman struggling with her cart.

Wait a minute. Before I continue to explain the way of the bodhisattva and this woman I need to tell you something more about La Herradura. The town of Horseshoe, La Herradura is built on the side of a mountain. When you’re traveling northward, you’re going uphill. If your traveling southbound you’re traveling down hill. Travel east and west and you’re twisting and turning and make small elevation gains and drops. Except when you get down to the beach where everything gets flattened out.

Okay, back to the practice and the woman. As it happens, the elderly woman is heading east and north. I’m guessing she’s 80 years or older and shes pushing her cart, which is full of groceries, and I can hear her saying to herself, “come on — just a little further. Keep going.”  I decided it was a perfect opportunity to practice the way of the bodhisattva.

I walk up to her and offer my help. She hesitates at first but I persist. She finally conceded and allowed me to push her cart for 200 meters before insisting I let her take over. Kimber and I will sometimes practice this when we are out walking, find some way to lend a hand. Not a handout for the beggars, or the homeless, not visiting the sick in a hospital or volunteering at a shelter, etc. Those are too obvious. The real work of the bodhisattva is to find a way to help where people may not even know they need it.

Bambu Restaurant

After making our way out of the barrio we’re walking down the main street along the beaches. I spot the burger restaurant. It’s on the beach side of the street so we cross over. We take a seat outside and order a couple of beers. As we look over the menu a few dogs come over to sniff at my feet as they wander freely around the restaurant. I spot the burger selection on the menu and I order a black angus burger for Kimber and I to split.

Almost every restaurant in Spain will bring a small plate of food to the table when you order drinks. Even if it’s a bottle of water, they will bring you a plate of food. In the south of spain along the Mediterranean Sea, where we are, the typical first round plate is sardines. Kimber is enjoying the sardines, and I snack on the lettuce garnish. The burger arrives and it looks impressive. 

This is a generous sized burger and the lettuce tomato and a thick cut of goat cheese all look fresh. We dig in. It’s so good! After five months of living in Spain, I have found a good burger bar. The fries too are fresh and tasty. The food is actually hot which is a bit unusual for European’s who enjoy everything at room temperature or slightly below. We’re both very happy to have had a good burger.

It’s time to go find the Mexican food restaurant. Although we split the burger, we are feeling full but we are determined to make the most of our day trip. Besides, even though the burger was good, it’s not likely we’ll be coming back to La Herradura.

The Red Pepper Restaurant

Our next destination is about 2 kilometers (1 mile) west of Bambu. The Red Pepper restaurant is not on the beach nor is it just across the street. The place is located at the end of the block where there are no views of the beach or the mountains. There are a few tables outside and a large dining area indoors. We get seated outside and order a couple of beers. The tapas is chili with beef and it is delicious. Well, for Spain, it’s delicious Mexican. 

The produce in Spain is very different than what I grew up with. For example, a white onion in the United States is both spicy and has a little heat and a red onion is slightly tart with a lot of heat on the tongue. In Spain the white onion is not spicy at all and slightly sweet while the red onion is slightly tart but very little heat.

Given the available produce it is very difficult to produce Mexican food that tastes like the food you get in Mexico or the southwest corner of the United States. There are no hass avocado, tomatillo, red chilis, habanero peppers, and even the jalapenos here in Spain are slightly sweet and mild. 

I order the beef enchilada plate. It looks pretty good as the waitress puts it on the table in front of me. She has also brought three bottles of hot sauce for the table. The enchiladas are covered in globs of shredded cheese and a chunky mango and anaheim pepper salsa. We dig in to eat. The beef is excellent but barely warm in temperature. The enchiladas needed about 20 minutes in the oven to warm completely, melt the cheese, and soften the tortillas. 

Homemade Ice Cream

There are a few hours left for our visit before we catch the return bus to Alumencar. We’ve left the Mexican restaurant and we’re walking down the beach. We spot an ice cream cafe and take aim for it as we continue to stroll through the beach of La Herradura. The town didn’t leave me with the exquisite impression that internet articles portrayed. Though the burger was impressive and delicious, we may not be back. Then again, maybe we’ve missed something about this place. 

We’re at the ice cream cafe and it’s a nice place. We’re at the start of siesta time and the wait staff is busy preparing for the evening rush. They restock and clean up from 14:00 to 18:00. With a few exceptions, such as restaurants and grocery stores, business shut down across Spain for the afternoon. Usually repening at 17:00 to 18:00 to finish the day. Kimber and I evaluate the ice cream selection for at least 10 minutes before deciding it’s not the right choice. We grab two bottles of beer instead and head for a sidewalk table.

After 41 years of working on my mind, practicing with Kung-Fu perfection to gain control of my thinking self, I’m still suffering as if it were day one. The work never ends as long as the karma remains. 

Perhaps I will never gain control for my overuse of commas when I write. Maybe Kimber and I will get on the wrong bus now and again. I’ll no doubt catch myself judging people for the quantity of dog crap piles left decorating the sidewalks and walkways throughout their town. Occasionally too, I’ll catch myself in a fantasy thought world where the USA is not dropping 100 bombs an hour across the planet. BUT, no matter the impermanence of all those, the practice is accomplished perfectly by knowing how to catch the mind running after the senses. As well as learning how to bring it back when it does. We often use the breath as the place to bring it back to. Come back to just the breathing. Just this.

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