Exploring the Misleading Mind

By Karuna Cayton

According to the ancient and time-tested theories of Buddhist psychology, we have an inalienable right to be happy. Yet we have very little understanding of what actually makes us happy. We look for happiness in all the wrong places — outside of our own consciousness.

Contrary to what we might think, our happiness is not determined by whether we have a large house or a tent, a BMW or a moped, abundant wealth or very little money, or even whether we’re married or single. Howard Hughes was extremely wealthy but was also, seemingly, a pathetically unhappy man. On the other hand, Mother Teresa seemed pretty happy living on very little, helping the destitute and dying in Calcutta. Of course, certain conditions, such as living in freedom or poverty, can have a bearing on our well-being. But they do not determine our ability to attain ongoing, stable, enduring happiness. This can only be achieved with a balanced mind.

Problems arise from a misperception of reality. We misapprehend our self — our identity and personality — and we misapprehend the rest of reality, whether it’s other people, cars, houses, or trees. As Anais Nin says, “We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” We are constantly coating what we perceive with our own interpretations, projections, judgments, and past experiences. However, if I do not experience things as they truly are, then my reactions to those things will be in error. This is a simple way of explaining how problems arise. The problem is not in the problem; it’s in the misperception.

For example, when my wife says to me, “Why do you always leave your dirty dishes on the counter?” I immediately project onto her words. An “I,” a self, an experiencer reacts with “I am offended. I don’t always leave my dirty dishes out. I am tired. I work hard. I am entitled to sit and watch TV.” And so on. The moment I’m accused of being a slacker, all kinds of self-identities arise. But are these “selves” really who I am? They are who I think I am, which is the problem. At the moment of being accused, I think I am only the person who is feeling accused. This is a false perception, a trick of the mind. But if I believe I am, truly and solidly, an accused person, then I will respond as an accused person. Accused persons respond defensively. Or aggressively. Or they get depressed. Or…

So, what are we to do? The only long-term solution, is to get ahold of this wild mind that flirts around from emotion to emotion like a hummingbird flying from flower to flower. To get ahold of the mind is to train the mind. If we are overweight, we don’t become thin just by recognizing that we’re overweight. We have to retrain ourselves in the way we deal with eating. And, so, it is the same with our untamed, untrained mind and its disturbing emotions. Success demands a slow, consistent application of mind training techniques such as contemplation, mindfulness, discriminating wisdom, and self-care. No one can do it for us, but even a little effort will pay off.

There are four steps we can initiate that, when applied consistently, can create real change in our lives:

Step One is to realize we have a choice to take control of our mind and, thus, control of our happiness. In other words, we can be conscious, mindful, and aware. While this awareness is a choice, it is an unexercised mental muscle that needs constant retraining.

Step Two is to settle the mind, now. In brief, just connect with your breath. Gently close your eyes and with alertness watch the inhalation and exhalation through the nostrils or the rising and falling of your stomach. Watch it like a swan floating across a pond. Count each inhalation and exhalation as one breath. Count through five and then backward to one. Relax with focus.

Step Three. With the mind gently focused on the breath, become aware of what emotion is arising. To keep it simple, just acknowledge one of the three primary emotions: (1) agitation or anxiety, (2) longing, wanting, or desiring, (3) confusion, dullness, or ignorance. Just acknowledge the emotion without getting involved.

In Step Four, allow the emotion to dissolve into space. Emotions aren’t static. They are moving phenomena, so don’t get in the way of allowing an emotion to evaporate. Typically, we freeze this movement like a moving waterfall freezes in the winter. Just let it naturally dissolve with a sense of gentle control. Your control here is merely watching what really is happening and letting go. Control by not controlling, not holding. The emotion just arises, abides, and falls away.

It is odd that we can describe our hands or our face but if we’re asked to describe our mind we can only offer vague, nebulous descriptions. That’s because, not examining the mind, we don’t know the mind. Knowing how our mind really functions is the first step to mental balance and health and, yes, greater happiness. We need to become explorers – curious about our idea of self, our mind, our emotions, how they function and how we can master them. As such, we’ll seek the knowledge, contemplation, and wisdom to become our own best therapist. Our discoveries become the pathway to solving our problems and revealing a happier and healthier way of being.

About Karuna Cayton:
Karuna Cayton, psychotherapist and author of “The Misleading Mind”, spent twelve years working with Tibetan refugees in Nepal and studying with Buddhist masters. His Karuna Group practice applies Buddhist psychology to individual and organizational clients. He lives in Northern California. Visit him online at www.thekarunagroup.com.

Based on the book “The Misleading Mind: How We Create Our Own Problems and How Buddhist Psychology Can Help Us Solve Them” 2012 by Karuna Cayton. Printed with permission from New World Library.

FortuneKeeper

Not too long ago I received an email promoting several products, one of which immediately caught my eye. After visiting the company’s website I was convinced that this product’s creator was a freakin’ genius. Maybe not whoever first thought to put spiced rum in ginger beer level of genius, but still, pretty high up on the list.

I’m talking about FortuneKeeper. What is a FortuneKeeper you ask? Let me ask you this. How many of you have gone out to eat Chinese food, or had Chinese take-out or delivery, and after having your fortune cookie have found yourself with a fortune that you really liked and wanted to keep? And how many of you soon after, despite your best intentions, have lost those fortunes, or had them mangled in your pockets or purses? Yep, that would be me. Well FortuneKeepers are these fantastic looking necklaces, keychains, and zipper pulls designed to hold a fortune from a fortune cookie in a manner where it’s protected and you can read it! Genius!

Better still is the variety of designs. The looks range from feminine to masculine, elegant to casual, the kind of Asian designs you’d expect to street graffiti styles. Most of them cost $20 to $24. If anyone wanted to go shopping for me….

Blue Buddha Keychain
Enjoying Life's Blossoms Necklace
Graffiti Heart Zipper Pull

To get an idea of how the fortune is kept and displayed, they have this handy “how to” video on their website.

I just thought these were totally clever and really beautiful and/or cute depending on design so I thought I’d take moment to mention them to you guys and see what you thought. To learn more about FortuneKeeper you can visit their website.

10 Questions with Margaret Pearson Ph.D.

1. When did you first develop an interest in the study of Chinese history?
I first studied Chinese history in the eighth grade, when my teacher convinced the Seattle School Board that her students needed world history up to the Romans more than a second round of Washington State History. In high school, I devoured Lao-tzu (Laozi) and Li Po (LiBai). When I took Chinese language the summer of 1963, I found it MUCH easier than German, and felt I had found the field of study which suited me. (Later I realized that reading and writing come a lot slower without an alphabet.)

However, I wanted to be more practical, so my first career was designing computer systems for a large corporation in New York City. But after four years of that, I decided to try graduate study of Chinese history.

2. How did that lead to your interest in the I Ching?
I first read and studied the “Changes” as an undergraduate at Smith. I liked many of the words in it. Later, during a sabbatical at Cambridge University, I consulted the book each morning, partly as a way of procrastinating. As I compared Chinese and English texts. I found so many differences between them that I wondered whether a new translation was needed. A friend trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich told me some of the ways she felt the text was being misused by some Jungian therapists. I could not bear to think that some women, at their most vulnerable moments of indecision, being told that some of the concepts in the “I ching” translations were ‘universal truths.’ I published a short note on how far the usual translation of hexagram 44 is from its original topic, the honors given to a royal bride.

3. For readers who may not be familiar with it, what is the I Ching?
That is a very hard question! Actually, what I have translated in just part of the I ching (Yijing, Book of Changes). The core text, the Zhouyi (Chou Dynasty Changes), was assembled between about 1050 and 700 BCE, although it contains nuggets of text which are earlier. The full I ching includes this core plus all the commentaries ever written about it. This much longer work is the product of many authors over many centuries, and reflects quite a diversity of points of view. The Zhouyi (Chou Changes) is a bit like the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch or Torah. The I ching is like every commentary written on these books, including the entire Talmud.

4. How does your book “The Original I Ching: An Authentic Translation of the Book of Changes” differ from other books on the subject?
Probably the most important difference is that I have clearly separated the core text from later commentaries. I have added some historical background, but this is clearly separated from the text itself, in paragraphs after the Images. I wanted to let readers be able to select their own interpretations freely, based on knowledge of what the original says. I have included page references to three other translations reflecting other views, one with a full translation of the earliest surviving commentary, written around 240 CE, and one done between 1913 and 1923, and reflecting late imperial thought. (This latter is the familiar Wilhelm/Baynes translation.)

Secondly, my translation recognizes that women as well as men used the Changes. We know this from many references in historical texts like the Tso chuan (Zuozhuan) and from the discovery of a copy of the book in the tomb complex of a Duchess who died around 165 BCE. (Buried near Mawangdui.)Chinese pronouns are usually gender neutral or absent altogether. So I suppose they ought to be translated as “s/he or it or they.” But most translators have said “he.” I think that is misleading. I have used “you” instead. It’s a bit less awkward than “s/he or it” and it’s one of the few gender neutral English pronouns.

Third, I am a historian of China, and have taught Chinese history and thought for over thirty years. I have added relevant historical background which includes references to recent discoveries which have transformed our understanding of earliest Chinese culture and society. For example, we now know that some elite women ruled their own walled cities and had many subordinates, male and female. One queen led multiple successful military campaigns. And probably men and women were of nearly the same height at this time. All of this challenges stereotypes which we now know are anachronistic.

5. When discussing your translation in the book, you focus on the positive and ungendered meaning of yin. Can you explain the significance of this for my readers?
Alison Black, Vitali Rubin, Lisa Raphals and I have found much evidence that the paired concepts of yin and yang were not gendered for about a thousand years. So the idea that they refer to people at all came later. By the time of Wang Bi (d 249), many assumed that they referred to the genders. The line by line analysis, also later, assumes this. But original analysis was far more concrete. As I read through the entire Zhouyi, I discovered that about 90% of the derogatory comments about women disappeared, since most of them were in later commentaries, not in the core text itself.

Only once is the character yin used in the Zhouyi, at nine in the second place for hexagram 61: The crane cries from yin. Here yin has its original topographic meaning of the southern bank of a body of water. This is the usual meaning in other early Chinese texts such as “Mencius” and the “Classic of Poetry (Shijing)”.

Changing lines (sixes and nines) are emphasized; static ones (sevens and eights) are not discussed. The original book is, after all, about Change! Compare hexagrams 11 and 12: Peace (11) exists when earth is above sky; stagnation (12) when each is stuck where it usually belongs.

When I first discussed this discovery at Cambridge University, I noticed that the faces of Asian women changed, apparently as they realized that the concepts of yin and yang have evolved and that the gendered meanings are not truly universal or primordial. These interpretations were added by societies which could not imagine what early China was like, where nature was seen more clearly, and many elite women were honored and authoritative.

6. In reading the section on societal structure in “The Original I Ching” I was struck by the revelation that many royal and noble women outranked men, and that at least one Shang queen governed and led military campaigns as her husband’s second in command. That’s not the common perception people have when considering ancient China, how is it that it’s taken so long to discover this side of their society?
Part of the problem is that the British arrived in China when footbinding was nearly universal, in the mid nineteenth century. For most of Chinese history, women had natural feet, but most Westerners do not know this.

The excavations of the tombs of Fu Hao and at Mawangdui happened towards the end of the twentieth century. It has taken time for these discoveries to be studied and added to literature about China. In the meantime, old stereotypes have persisted.

Also, people have confused norms with realities, and forgotten that class and age trumped gender for most of Chinese history.

Finally, until recently almost every trained Sinologist was male. Many of them did not think gender issues were very important.

7. What do you feel is the biggest misconception about the I Ching?
That everyone thought it meant the same thing for thousands of years. But it is like any other great text: how it is understood has changed as the people reading it have changed.

8. Are you familiar with the assorted I Ching apps that are available for downloading onto mobile phones? Any thoughts on the phenomena?
I have used a few of those on the web, and one writer of phone apps has contacted me about using my translation.

For me, there is something about the physical process of writing down a question, tossing the coins with my own hands, and reading changing lines and images with long term attention, over several hours, not just minutes, that makes the experience more meaningful. I suspect that nuances are lost in shorter versions. But to each his/her own! Using the phone versions may lead people to deeper study eventually, so I’m not categorically against them.

9. Now that “The Original I Ching” has been published, what will you be focusing on next?
First I will be writing up the information on what yin meant in early China, because I think more folks need to understand how this term has evolved. I have also started a short article on one time the Changes were consulted, in 133, and the life of the person who used it then, before and after the consult. (which was about when to retire from a frustrating job). I want to do another book as well, though it usually takes me thirteen or fourteen years to complete a book, and I’m not sure I have that much time left.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What would you like my next book to be about? Explaining more examples of how it’s been used (and misused) in the past? Giving more explanations of more of the lines, something I cut out of this translation?

Also: what other question would you like to ask, of me or the Changes? Have you used it and found it helpful or not? I’d love to hear those stories.

I would definitely be interested in a book explaining the evolution of the term yin. Also, more stories of the empowered women from Chinese history would be a fascinating good time.

I’ve used the I Ching a few times and have found it to be a satisfying experience. I’m not sure I would describe any of the times as helpful, but they weren’t disastrous, or horrible, or unhelpful.

About Margaret Pearson Ph.D.:
Margaret Pearson Ph.D. studied Chinese literature with Hellmut Wilhelm, and history with Jack Dull and Chan Hok-lam. Her doctoral dissertation was the first English translation of the political sections of Wang Fu’s “Qianfulun”. In 1997 she was elected a Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and was elected to life membership there the following years. Since 1980, she has taught Chinese and Japanese history at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Readers can contact Pearson via responses to the ‘interview’ on this website, or at her new website, originaliching.org, or by email at originaliching@me.com.

Want to learn a little more? Here’s a video about Pearson and her book.

Mastering Meditation: Three Steps to Peace, Health, and Inner Joy

By Tobin Blake

One day, a great prince living in ancient India experienced a life-changing revelation. He looked out across the land—his land, his people, his world—and realized that he was an alien there. This was not his land; these were not his people; this was not his world. Despite the prince’s wealth and worldly power, a deep emptiness stirred within him, and he wondered who he really was beyond his earthly role as a royal. Where had he come from? Who was he in truth? Was happiness really possible in this world?

The prince’s name was Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as the Buddha, or the awakened one. Historically, Buddha is the most well-known advocate of meditation, but you do not have to be Buddhist in order to meditate. In fact, Buddha himself lived twenty-five hundred years ago, but meditative practice was not new even during his time. It had already been a part of human existence for at least a thousand years, and probably far longer. The practice is fundamentally nondenominational. At its core, it is a universal spiritual exercise that has been cherished by many millions of people from every major spiritual tradition.

There is a reason meditation has been treasured through the ages by so many people. During meditative practice, you switch your focus from the world outside you, to the world within you, from a state of activity and thought, to a state of stillness and inner silence—toward your core self, which is your highest spiritual self and essence of your soul. Your core self is the part of you that existed before your physical body was born, and which will continue to exist after your body dies. It is the essential life force at the center of your being that is independent of your body, personality, and even the passage of time itself. Your core self does not age. It requires no food or sustenance, and it is impervious to sickness and attack of any kind.

Meditation is a tool that gently liberates you from all the thought stuff in your psyche that conceals your core self. This is what makes the practice such a powerful and healing experience. As you open up to your spiritual self, remarkable things begin to happen because you are aligning with the natural creative Energy of the entire universe, which is sometimes referred to as Source Energy. It is the same Energy that creates and sustains all life across the physical cosmos, and the benefits of connecting with it are easy to see. People who meditate regularly experience huge drops in the incidence of heart disease, cancer, depression, and many other physical and psychological illnesses. There is also an indescribable natural joy that comes from regular meditation, as well as boosts in creativity and self-confidence. Yet these are mere surface effects of something much more profound: when you become still, silent, and so at peace that you are able to go beyond the constant clamor of your thoughts, just like Buddha you will gradually begin to awaken to the timeless, immortal self that is locked within you. This experience is the true gift of meditation, and it is just as assessable today as it was twenty-five hundred years ago when Buddha walked the earth.

To master meditation, the most important thing is to relax. Do not try too hard. Instead, simply focus on letting go and relaxing into peace. The more at peace you become, the deeper your meditations will be. This is what makes the practice so easy. It does not require effort; it requires the opposite of effort—stillness, silence, and rest. You don’t have to shut off your thoughts and focus perfectly. You don’t need to struggle to make something special happen. Just relax deeply, and allow the sensation of inner peace to fill your mind. In this sense, all you really need to learn is the gentle art of letting go. As you quiet down, your mind will naturally turn inward.

To begin, try the following exercise once or twice a day for five to ten minutes. As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the amount of time to twenty minutes or longer.

Step One: Relax. Find a quiet space and adopt a comfortable, seated position. Sit up straight and try to relax. Take a few deep breaths and feel all sense of tension and stress begin slipping away. This should be considered a quiet, sacred time for reconnecting to your core self and its natural abundance of Source Energy. The more peaceful you are able to become, the more healing Source Energy you will absorb.

Step Two: Peace out. After you sense the beginning stages of relaxation, start thinking the word “peace” every time you exhale. For example, breathe in, breathe out, think peace. Breathe in, breathe out, peace, and so on. Concurrently, relax your body just a little more with each out-breath, and feel as if you are sinking deeply into yourself, beyond your body and thoughts, and toward your core.

Step Three: Concentrate. Many random thoughts will pass through your mind as you attempt to meditate. Try not to get caught up in them. When you do, however, don’t kick yourself. Gently but firmly return to relaxing deeply and repeating the word peace.


About Tobin Blake:Tobin Blake is the author of Everyday Meditation: 100 Daily Meditations for Health, Stress Relief, and Everyday Joy. He has taught meditation and spiritual awakening at Unity centers, private schools, and colleges. Visit him online at www.TobinBlake.com.

Based on the book Everyday Meditation ©2012 by Tobin Blake. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

The Happy Couple from the Haunted Wood

The holiday gift giving season is well and truly behind us, so I feel totally safe in talking about this. Readers may remember that back in October 2011 Jim and I did a TON of shopping at Celebrate Samhain, and one of the things I bought was a small, beautiful Hanged Man from Mike Dolan at Haunted Wood Crafts. What I didn’t mention at the time is that Jim and I liked it so much that we decided to get tarot cards done for the bulk of our friends for the holidays!

It took a lot of time on our part. We made a list of everyone we wanted to give them to and then went through the Universal Waite Tarot (or Rider-Waite Tarot, or Smith-Waite Tarot, however you prefer) and “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” by Arthur Edward Waite doing our best to attempt to pick out cards we felt best suited each person. It was difficult, but fun.

Of course things were simple when we contacted Mike through his online retail website, The Haunted Wood Online. The next thing we knew we had a big ol’ box of beautiful, framed pieces of wooden tarot art!

To complete the gift we made a small card to go with each frame that included keywords associated with the card, or a quote from “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” that hopefully expressed why we thought that card suited the recipient. I think most everyone really enjoyed the gift.

Now Jim and I couldn’t get all those awesome looking cards done without getting some for ourselves too. What’s funny is, neither of us put any thought at all into the cards we chose. For some reason I’ve always like the Hanged Man, so I picked that one. I asked Jim what his favorite card was and he said The Magician, so I ordered that one for him. I didn’t ask him why, and I suspect, like me, he doesn’t have a specific reason for it. So here we are, the Hanged Man and The Magician. The happy couple.

The Hanged Man and The Magician

Perhaps any of my readers who are good with the tarot can tell me if there is any significance to a Magician and a Hanged Man hooking up. All I can tell you is, it seems to be working out pretty well.

If you’re interested in beautiful woodcrafts, I really can’t recommend Mike Dolan enough. You can check out his showcase of custom work at The Haunted Wood, and you can visit his online retail site at The Haunted Wood Online. (FYI, he has these adorable stick figure tarot coins that I love! That may be the next time I’m at an event he’s vending at.)

The Sexy….Vegan?

I’ve been particularly lucky I guess when it comes to vegans. Generally you hear what I can only presume are stereotypes of horror stories of interactions with vegans; that they’re preachy, that they make it impossible for you to feed them or take them out to a restaurant, that they’ll spend all their time and energy trying to “convert” you. I’ve hung out with two different vegans in my adult life, once involving a wedding weekend, and I had none of those experiences. Both vegans accepted that the world around them was filled with those who ate meat and made no fuss about it, the one that was part of the wedding weekend ate two meals out that I was there for and skillfully navigated the menus causing no drama for the restaurant or her fellow diners, and both were a lot of fun to be around and in no way let being vegan be the thing that defined them. I liked them both a lot, (I shouldn’t use the past tense, it’s not like they’re dead or something. I like them both a lot, we should totally hang out sometime.) and I find myself liking Brian Patton too.

There’s really a lot for me to like. Patton is the author of “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude”. In the introduction he chronicles how he kind of stumbled into becoming a cook and then sort of tripped into becoming vegan. It’s a story that I think most of us, or at least certainly I, could empathize with. Although now a vegan, Patton never gets preachy or lays on a big sales pitch for the vegan life style. Part of that may be because if you’re holding a book called “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook” a presumption is made, but regardless, as a non-vegan, I appreciated not being given the full on Bermuda time share sales pitch. But much like my vegan friends I discussed at the introduction to this article, what I like best about Patton is that the fact that he, and his cookbook, is that vegan is not what defines them.

So if Patton, aka The Sexy Vegan, isn’t just a vegan, what the heck is there? Well, he’s very funny, obviously a geek, prone to swearing, loves food, is a fan of Sailor Jerry rum…..honestly, if the guy could just cook me a steak from time to time my marriage could have been in trouble. I mean he has a recipe, Sailor’s Oatmeal with Glazed Walnuts. This is oatmeal featuring a syrup made from Sailor Jerry rum. Oatmeal with rum! Rum in a breakfast food. ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE! Cough, cough, ahem….where was I?

“The Sexy Vegan Cookbook” is loaded with laugh out loud recipe titles and/or notes. How about the salad recipe called, The Girlfriend’s Favorite Salad that She Constantly Asks Me to Make and Won’t Shut the Hell Up About? Or the notes for his recipe for Minestrone are “This is my favorite soup on the planet. The key to this one is the cabbage. You may be like, ‘Waahhh, waahhh, waahhh, I don’t like cabbage! I’m a big baby! Waaaahhhh!’ Well, I don’t give a shit! You’ll use it, and you’ll like it.”?

I mean, they asked him to do a book trailer and this is what he came up with……

Okay Rebecca we get it, the dude is funny, he makes oatmeal with rum syrup (OATMEAL WITH RUM!), he’s you’re new BFF, but we’re not vegans, we don’t intend on becoming vegans, why on earth should we pick up this book? If you like food, and trying different kinds of food, picking up the occasional vegetarian and/or vegan cookbook is a great way to try new ingredients and methods that you may have never thought of before. Remember back to the Cranberry Solstice Cookies, we picked that recipe because we had never tried using tofu in a cookie before. Of course even those who claim to despise anything vegetable, probably could have interest in the awesome looking salsa, pico de gallo, or homemade refried beans recipes in here. Did I also mention there was this oatmeal recipe that had a rum syrup? Also, don’t tell Brian Patton, but you can also substitute non-vegan things into the recipes. For instance, he’s got an Avocado Toast recipe that calls for Tempeh Bacon…….I might consider using turkey bacon. And that’s why he’s got the girlfriend nagging him for the salad, and I’ve the husband I nag about playing more Saint’s Row the Third. (Which by the way, who’s with on it not being as good as Saint’s Row 2?)

Now if you’re a vegan, I suspect you’ve got to find a way to fill that meat void, nutritionally and flavor wise. Thusly you end up with many recipes that have things trying to be meat-like, and that’s cool with me. However, I’m not a vegan, I’m not even a vegetarian, so I tend to appreciate a good vegan recipe that doesn’t try to pretend to meaty, it just uses vegetables to their best purposes. To that end, Patton’s Shepherd’s Pie recipe really stood out. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but New World Library was nice enough to give me permission to share it with all of you! I hope you guys like it! If any of you try it, let me know how it turned out!

Shepherd’s Pie

This is for those blustery winter eves, when you come in from the cold, kick off your snow boots, and have your dinner while warming your feet by the crackling fire. I don’t have winter in Southern California, so I just sit at my table as usual. If I could figure out how to turn on my gas fireplace with the fake logs, I’d at least do that…but that has proven difficult thus far.

Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup diced fennel
2 cups roughly chopped cremini mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
w cup green lentils
2 cup vegan dark beer
12 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons vegan Worcestershire sauce**
4 cup frozen peas
Mashed Taters (see recipe below)
2 pinches paprika

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large pot or pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, mushrooms, garlic, and a healthy pinch of salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the veggies are soft. Next, stir in the lentils, add the beer, and let simmer for about 3 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock and Worcestershire, bring to a simmer, and cover. Let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Check it from time to time to make sure that the liquid hasn’t evaporated. If, when you check it, the lentils are no longer covered by liquid, add a little more stock.

When the lentils are soft, you’re good to go. Turn off the heat, and with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, mash the lentil mixture a little bit. Not into complete mush, just until the liquid thickens. Finally, stir in the peas, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the stew to a large casserole dish, and evenly spread the mashed taters over the top. Cover with foil, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the taters are warmed through. Remove the foil, sprinkle the top with the paprika, and broil on high for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the potatoes are browned. Let stand 5 minutes, then serve.

**WTF is not vegan about Worcestershire sauce? Believe it or not, it’s made with anchovies. There are, however, a few fantastic vegan versions out there. You can find vegan Worcestershire sauce at a natural foods market or on the interwebs.

New World Library Editorial Director Georgia Hughes w/ Shepherd's Pie!

Mashed Taters

Serves 4

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
w cup unsweetened nondairy milk
4 cup vegan margarine, melted
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Turn the heat to high, and boil until the potatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander, shake them dry, and return them to the hot pot. Place the pot back on the stove over low heat for 1 minute (this will help further dry out the potatoes).

Excerpted from the book The Sexy Vegan Cookbook: Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude ©2012 by Brian Patton. Published with permission of New World Library

Simply Deep Tarot, Simply Wonderful

Yes, it is tarot time again folks! This time we’ve got the “Simply Deep Tarot” by Chanel Bayless and James Battersby from Schiffer Publishing.

First, since the deck is from Schiffer I’ve got to give it up again for their fantastic packaging. When you think about it, if I’m taking the time to gush about a publisher’s packaging methodology for their tarot decks, it’s got to be pretty freakin’ special. And it is. A very sturdy, rigid cardboard box that has a lift up top and features a magnetic closure. The magnet is so strong you can turn the box upside down with the deck inside and it doesn’t fall open. Add to that the book that comes with it fits in the box perfectly, is nearly a 100 pages, and has a full color cover, and well, you know why I tend to go on about Schiffer’s packaging when it comes to tarot decks. But enough about Schiffer, let’s talk about Bayless and Battersby’s work.

Chanel Bayless did the writing and created the deck and James Battersby did the artwork. Instead of viewing the tarot as a divinatory tool, Bayless prefers to consider it a tool for looking into your soul. To that end she created “Simply Deep Tarot” with the idea of “a tarot deck that would allow the reader to connect easily with the most simplistic meanings of each card, while paving a way to climb safely into the deeper meaning behind the card. In order to achieve this I started with a simplistic design, then I added little nuances to help the reader’s mind be open to exploration.”

Bayless doesn’t leave you alone on your journey of self discovery either, the book includes exercises for anchoring your energy and she even takes you through her journey of interpreting The Emperor card with regards to her love of the ocean.

“Simply Deep Tarot” is a 78 card deck utilizing Major and Minor Arcana and Battersby’s artwork for it is wonderful. I’m not sure how much of the art was directed by Bayless, but the results are outstanding.

Here is a delightful interpretation of The Fool:

The Fool

The real stand out for me for this deck was the Chariot card. Normally I’m pretty neutral on the artistic interpretation of Chariot, but I found this interpretation truly stellar.

Chariot

I don’t believe I’ve ever been excited about a Chariot card before now. This one really resonates with me and as far as I’m concerned leaves all other Chariots in the dust. See what I did there? They’re chariots, with wheels, that can kick up dust…..sometimes I’m just too darn clever.

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Guess what folks? You won’t believe the luck, but I just happen to have ended up with an extra copy of “Simply Deep Tarot” thanks to the kind folks at Schiffer Publishing. What to do, what to do. I thought we’d see about giving it away to one of The Magical Buffet’s loyal followers on Twitter. Why Twitter? Well, I’ve been under the weather as of late, so a contest in 140 characters or less seems just about the right speed for me.

So how do you enter? Just tweet me why you’d like the deck. Points will be given for creativity, amusement, and/or sincerity. Be sure to use @MagicalBuffet in your tweet so I see it! The contest will run from now until midnight eastern on Friday March 9, 2012. I’ll notify the winner via direct message on Saturday March 10, 2012 whenever I wake up, get my head on straight, and pick a winner.

Geek Month in Review: February 2012

By JB Sanders

Is winter over yet?

Nightingales and Bombers
BBC sound technicians were doing an outdoor recording of nightingales in 1942, when they noticed a slight drone noise. It gradually got louder. Then 197 bombers flew overhead on their way to Mannheim, Germany. Oops. Hear the recording.

Also, if you’re into old stuff, the site where that recording can be found has a truckload of other interesting items:

A Past That Never Was
Lithographs from a history that isn’t ours.

Everything You Know About Learning is Wrong
According to this renown professor guy, who studies memory for a living. So he might know what he’s talking about.

First Science Fiction Film, Now In Color
The French are restoring a copy of Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip To the Moon) by director Georges Melies. This is a film from 1902. Although you might have seen it before, or at least clips of it, the version where the director hand-colored every frame has never been widely released, certainly not in decades. Now they’re not only restoring the rare color version, but they got the French duo Air to do an all-new soundtrack for it. It’s all very surreal. It looks like a vaudeville act, with no sound other than the very modern music playing over it. Neat!

A Swarm of Nano Quadrotors
Look upon the robot future and despair! Or, you know, cackle gleefully. Quadrotors flying in swarm formation, in and around obstacles.

Plastic-Eating Fungus Found
Which is either a lead-in for a scifi disaster flick of epic proportions, or the headline in an eco-green newspaper. However, the fungus just eats polyurethane, not every plastic out there.

Next Generation Space Suits
Or how to get all Forbidden Planet.

Great Science Visualizations of 2011
Some really cool shots in here — carbon nanotubes, cucumber skin at 800-times magnification, and more.

Antarctic Scientists Lose Contact
I’m sure there’s nothing to worry about. Russian scientists drilling into a lake buried beneath 2 miles of antarctic ice haven’t been in contact with their American colleagues in over 5 days. And it’s going from the comparatively warm summer season in Antarctica to the “cold” season there (temperatures dropping to -40 C). I’m sure it’s all fine, and not the prologue scene to:

1. A remake of The Thing.
2. A Dr Who episode.
3. An armageddon flick where some Super Disease locked for millions of years below the ice shoots around the globe and kills 99% of humans.

UPDATE: Ok, the Russians finally called back. Apparently they broke through into the lake, but because of the approaching “cold season”, they’re flying away, and will return to do the analysis when the weather is better.

Ten-year-old Discovers Energy-Storing Molecule by Accident
Yeah, the bar keeps going up on these grade-school geniuses. Last time it was a teenager who used the Fibonacci sequence to create a more efficient photovoltaic array.

North Brother Island Photos & History
You might not have heard of it, but this island in the East River near Manhattan has been basically abandoned since 1963 (the same year that Alcatraz was closed). It once housed Typhoid Mary, a small leper colony, a rehab center, a tuberculosis asylum and housing for GIs right after WWII. Now it’s one of the few wilderness areas close to the 20 Million people in the greater NYC area, and one of the few truly forbidden bits of real estate in the US. Tons of creepy photos included in the article.

Rasputin Was My Neighbor, and Other Stories
Sometimes, if people live long enough, history can seem to compress. Civil war widows, people who met Rasputin, this article has all sorts.

32 Megajoule Railgun Delivered to Navy
For testing! Yes, the US Navy now has a railgun. Projected muzzle velocities are estimated to be 4,500 mph to 5,700 mph. I wonder what the waiting period is for one of those?

The Future is Closer: Transparent Aluminum
You heard that right: transparent aluminum, just like in Star Trek IV (subtitle: space whales OR one of the good ones). It’s not metallic aluminum, more of an aluminum / ceramic hybrid, but I think that just makes it cooler.

The Man Who Hears Colors
And not because he has some sort of aphasia. Nope, he has a rare vision disorder which means he can’t see any colors at all — completely color blind. So he made a machine which let him hear the color spectrum.

LED Snowboarder
This is geeky AND weird AND fashion-related (yeah, I know). They put together an LED-embedded snowsuit, put a world-class snowboarder in it and then filmed him at night, using only the light the suit provides. It’s surreal.

Acoustic Stonehenge
A researcher named Waller thinks that Stonehenge might have been constructed based on the interference pattern created from two pipers playing in a field. Yeah, seriously, and he’s got a really intriguing theory to back it up, too. Oh, and get this: “Mr Waller is an expert in “archaeoacoustics””.

Imaginary Nukes
Historian and scholar Alex Wellerstein has created a utility online which lets you pick a spot on the map, and a size of bomb, and then see what the resulting damage would be in lovely concentric circles of nastiness.

DYI Village
I’ve linked to this project before, but it’s so cool I’m linking to it again. The article goes into more detail about the guy who is helping create a foundation with a simple goal: provide free, online instructions for building all the machines that a village would need to be built and survive. Everything. From tractors to windmills, circuit boards to bricks. Oh, and a 3D printer, of course.

Snooper Drones — Not Just for Kids Anymore!
So this animal rights group is trying to breakup an illegal live pigeon shoot. In order to catch the perpetrators in the act, they fly a spy drone over the private land where the shoot is going on — and the hunters shoot down the drone. (You know, allegedly.) Yes, we’re now in a world where we have spy drones and people shooting them down themselves.

Hackerspace Global Grid
On the subject of technology that used to be military-only, a group of hackers are putting together the technology to setup their own satellite GPS system.

Seeds from 30,000-year-old Plant Regenerated
Russian scientists resurrected seeds found buried in a squirrel’s hide-away some 30,000 years ago. The plant flowered! Next on their agenda, pre-historic squirrels and eventually the wooly mammoth.

Is There a Prize for Being Multilingual? Then This Guy Wins
The guy in question is 20, and knows 11 languages. He won a national competition in the UK for the 16 to 22-year-old who knew the most. Yeah, 11 languages. Don’t believe me? See him demonstrate all of them:

The Future is Closer: Space Elevator 2050
A Japanese construction firm has plans to build a space elevator circa 2050.

Blue People
File this under Medical Geeky. Some folks in Kentucky (Appalachia area) had a recessive genetic disorder that made their skin blue. Not kidding. It has to do with blood and hemoglobin and oxygen.

Ocean Depths
Neat info graphic showing the various depths of the ocean, the deepest points and the various inhabitants along the way.

The City of Samba Time-Lapse
Beautiful time-lapse video of Rio around the time of Mardi Gras. I’m not sure why, but whatever they did with the camera makes a lot of this look like (at first glance) some sort of giant model version of Rio with Super Tiny People. It’s not, though, it just looks like that. Highly recommend you use full-screen on this. Come for the samba, stay for the animatronic King Kong (life-sized), the dancing Darth Vader and his many Stormtroopers, the transformers costumes (that REALLY transform) and the velocoraptors (costumes, not animatronics).

Why Do Objects Have Mass? This Guy
Ok, well, “this guy” is Professor Peter Higgs, and it’s not like he’s responsible for objects having mass. However the particle he postulated should exist, the Higgs boson, most certainly (if it exists!) is. And Higgs figured out it should be there — in 1964 (without a computer or even a hand calculator).

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com