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October 2009

Post image for The Easiest Way to Suffer

Since I left on my trip, I’ve had quite a few deadlines to hit. Bus at 07:50. Ferry at 15:45. Plane at 14:30. Pick up the key after 5:00 and before 6:00. Meet so-and-so here at 7:30.

I’m also constantly checking to see if I still have my crucial items: passport, laptop, wallet and tickets. Occasionally I’ve had a moment of panic, but I haven’t run into any catastrophes yet.

It almost seems like I’m going to have to keep my luck going and continue hitting all of these targets as they arise, lest my trip grind to a halt. Sure I can deal with a setback here and there, but there are certain mishaps that I feel are just completely unacceptable.

I can’t lose my passport.

I can’t miss my flight.

I can’t let my laptop get stolen.

I can’t let myself run out of money.

Whenever I sit down, I hook my laptop bag and backpack straps around my feet. When I stand up I check to see if my wallet is still where it should be. I feel for my passport whenever I think of it. I’m extremely careful with these things, but I deep down I do know that absolute security is impossible, and there is always a risk of something bad happening. Read More

an idea

Yesterday I came across a familiar quote on Twitter:

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

~ Thomas Edison

Then today I came across an equally interesting quote from another historical figure:

“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

~ Ben Franklin


With the information age in full swing, I see a lot of this nowadays. Two versions of the truth emerge, each as unassuming as the other.

So are we to just pick one? I guess. Which one do you believe, that’s the real question. And once you pick a belief, are you going to call it knowledge? Read More

Post image for Hello From the West Coast

Earlier today I wrote a draft of a rather negative article about my initial impressions about Hollyhock, the spiritual/educational retreat I’m at right now. My expectations were completely wrong (aside from the astonishing food here) and I was resentful. I deleted my little rant. It was what I was feeling at the time, but since this morning I’ve changed my outlook.

Due to my own misunderstanding of Google Docs Offline, I saved over the article I was going to publish Monday and will have to write it again. I was very proud of the article, and that fact that I got it written successfully on the road. It was tremendously important to me not to let my trip upset my posting schedule, and I missed the very first post! Argh!

For what it’s worth, I also have not been able to upload photos because I didn’t bring the little cord. No I didn’t take the above photo. So I haven’t updated David Goes Kiwi yet. Time! I need some damn time to myself!

I was shocked to find that the course I’m taking here (today is the first of five days) keeps me busy from 7am to 10pm, with a few short breaks, and that made me quite upset. I do not have free time to write, or even hike the beautiful cedar woods around here. My dreams of solitary beach-walks and writing on the patio a few hours each evening were shattered.

I found out quickly that Hollyhock is not a resort. It is not where you go to have fun, and apparently not a place where you go to do your own thing. My first full day (which is one session away from being over) has been a 50/50 mix between grueling and delightful. It consists of looong (for me) sessions of sitting meditation, interspersed with walking meditation. Forty-five minutes a stretch — certainly longer than the 20 minutes I attempted in experiment No. 1. At least three of the sessions were hellish, and I was fighting sleep throughout them all.

Earlier today I was seriously considering leaving. But after a fantastic lecture from the instructor, I feel much better about this particular retreat and what it can do for me. Precisely the problems I was having (attachment to expectations, resentment, worry) were addressed in a very insightful talk. I can deal.

I made a lot of progress just today, after having spent the whole day in what’s called “noble silence.” That means no chatting, no unnecessary speech. Now that I think of it I’ve only uttered about two sentences all day, and that’s when a microphone was handed to me and I was asked to speak. I’ll spend the next four days in silence too.

I hate that I let Monday morning go by without a post. This will not be typical, though I’ll have precious little time over the next four days to write, and that makes me sad. I’m being challenged to keep my mind clear of unnecessary mental dialogue, but transcribing unnecessary mental dialogue onto the internet happens to be on of my favorite things to do.

Today was mostly rough, but I see now that it will be okay. The thought of Raptitude going stagnant is enough to give me nightmares. When I get back to Victoria I’m going to barricade myself in a library and do what I yearn so badly to do: write. I love doing that and I love that you’re here to read it.

More to come.

Photo by Vic Fan


When I was taking French classes a few months ago, we were each asked to write a composition in French and pass it to another classmate to read. It struck me then that I very seldom write more than a Post-It note’s worth these days. By the end of a paragraph, my hand is cramped and sore.

And what an ugly paragraph I created. My letters were inconsistent and strangled. To this day, after nearly twenty-five years of handwriting experience, I suck. With considerable shame, I passed my composition, which demonstrated both the penmanship and language skills of a six-year-old French boy, to another classmate.

As if to redeem me, I received an even uglier paragraph from the student to my left.

My generation is lost for handwriting. I’m a computer person. I write thousands of words a week, almost entirely by pushing buttons. My penmanship skills are rarely called upon, and I know I’m not the only one.

After a few weeks of class, I had a chance to see everyone’s penmanship at least once. It ranged from virtually indecipherable to pretty good, but none approached the elegant cursive one might see in a Christmas card from an aunt born before the war. Read More


Back in June when I announced I was taking a big trip to New Zealand, I mentioned I would be opening up a new section of the site, called David Goes Kiwi.

Well, with my trip only days away, it’s finally here! You can find it at the easy-to-remember URL kiwi.raptitude.com. I’ll be posting my verbal and photographic accounts of the trip there, on a frequent but irregular basis. As far as I can foresee I will continue my twice-weekly articles here at Raptitude.

To get you acquainted with this new baby of mine, today’s post is on David Goes Kiwi. Enjoy.

Photo by Sh0dan

Storefronts in the Bronx

In the 1980s, New York City’s crime rate was soaring. Total crime had more than doubled over the previous two decades; violent crimes tripled. It peaked in 1990 and then began a sudden, nationwide decline as the dismal economy began to show new life.

But New York’s economy did not follow the national trend. It remained flat. Yet crime plummeted to a third of its peak rate, surpassing the drop in the national average. New Yorkers say they feel the safest they have in years, and the city’s notorious subway system is no longer the fearsome dungeon it once was.

Exactly what they did differently is the subject of some debate. The authorities tried all sorts of things, but there is one measure that is widely credited for being the catalyst that made the other approaches effective:  Read More

light meal

Another experiment has come to an end, but as usual, I’m not going right back to what I was doing beforehand. Just like my last experiment, 30 Days Without Drugs, one of the habits in my life has been permanently renegotiated.

To recap, a month ago I decided I’d go thirty days eating defensively. That means no indiscriminate eating. I defined four rules to govern my eating during that month:

1) Eat whatever you like. There are no foods to be avoided outright, except foods that make you feel sick. Listen to your body.

2) Never eat until you are full. Always stop at a moment when you still want to eat a bit more. This is the most important part of the diet. Again, listen to what the body says, not the mind.

3) Eat only when you are hungry. Never out of comfort or boredom. Do not eat within sixty minutes of the last time you stopped eating.

4) Water is the only drink. You may still consume any liquids you want, but they are to be treated like food.

These rules served me well, and prevented a lot of needless and excessive eating, but each had its loopholes and grey areas. Read More

Spilled milk

Recently I knocked from my fridgetop an adorable little bottle of Spanish balsamic vinegar my mom brought from Barcelona. I was feeling especially grounded that day and somehow, before it even struck the floor, I was over it.

On a different day I might have sworn and fretted about it, cursed myself as I picked up its pieces, felt bad about wrecking a thoughtful gift from my mom, and pondered my chronic failure to keep my belongings organized and in good condition. One thought may have led to another until I decided I was in too bad a mood to write than night, watched nature shows and ate Ben & Jerry’s, and went to bed disappointed with myself.

Sour moods are like that — infectious and self-sustaining — and they’re born in the moments when we feel resigned, disappointed or incompetent.

Normally, when something breaks like that, there’s a rather strong reaction. The body tenses, gasps, swears, maybe groans like Homer Simpson. The mind sulks, scowls or scorns itself.

It doesn’t feel good. We feel run over, shameful, wasteful, distinctly worse off than we were before this (latest) minor tragedy. A little cloud forms over one’s head: loss. Read More

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