Your Most Important Task

November 1, 2014
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happiness“In our daily life, we breathe, but we forget we’re breathing. The foundation of all mindfulness practice is to bring our attention to our in-breath and out-breath. This is called mindfulness of breathing, or conscious breathing. It’s very simple, but the effect can be very great. In our daily life, although our body is in one place, our mind is often in another. Paying attention to our in-breath and out-breath brings our mind back to our body. And suddenly we are there, fully present in the here and now…

…I’d like to offer you a practice poem you can recite from time to time, while breathing and smiling:

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.

As my in-breath grows deep,
My out-breath grows slow.

Breathing in, I calm my body,
Breathing out, I feel at ease.

Breathing in, I smile,
Breathing out, I release.

Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

You can shorten this to the words below, one word or phrase per breath:

In, Out.
Deep, Slow.
Calm, Ease.
Smile, Release.
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.

The present moment is the only moment that is real. Your most important task is to be here and now and enjoy the present moment.”

From Happiness: Essential Mindfulness Practices by Thích Nhất Hạnh, a comprehensive guide to living your daily life with full awareness, whether working, walking, eating, talking, simply sitting or brushing your teeth!


October 30, 2014
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Hotei is an Asian folkloric figure originating in China where he is called Budai. His name 布袋 basically means cloth bag, and refers to the sack he always carries with him. In Japan he is one of the Seven Lucky Gods (七福神) and one tradition is that rubbing his belly will bring you good luck.

Traditionally, Hotei is depicted as fat, bald, wearing a simple robe and carrying a cloth bag. He is poor, carrying his few possessions in his sack, but always happy and content. When he meets Zen practioners he immediately demands of them a coin, but all the money he gains he uses to buy candies for children.

Kōan: Hotei would wander through the marketplace handing out candies to children. Once Hotei was confronted on the street by a Zen scholar who challenged him with the question: “What is the meaning of Zen?”
Hotei’s reply was to stop in his tracks, throw down his sack and remain motionless.
Dissatisfied with this response the scholar questioned him further: “What is the expression of Zen?”
Hotei immediately picked up his sack and carried on his way, laughing and handing out candies to the children that swarmed about him.

The Hotei sculpture above is part of an extensive collection belonging to Randy Channell and can be found at his cafe, Ran Hotei.

Oddly enough on the day that I visited the Ran Hotei cafe a large party of costumed children came in trick or treating for Halloween, and there in the midst of them all was Randy, for all the world just like Hotei, with a big smile on his face, handing out his candies.

A First Moment of Mindfulness

October 30, 2014
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moments-of-mindfulnessThe mind can go
in a thousand directions,
but on this beautiful path,
I walk in peace.
With each step,
a gentle wind blows.
With each step,
a flower blooms.

– Thích Nhất Hạnh

This is the first meditation in a book of 52 daily inspirations entitled Moments of Mindfulness by Thích Nhất Hạnh. “This book is designed so you can focus on one meditation as your practice for the week. You can carry this meditation with you throughout the whole week… The saying can help you to remain more mindful, aware, and happy even under difficult circumstances. You can read this meditation each morning right after waking up and again before you go to sleep. There are fifty-two meditations, so you can begin at any point in the year and continue with a different meditation each week for a full year.”

If you want the rainbow, you must have the rain

October 28, 2014
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Farewell Boardwalk Empire

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy — I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it —
Came out with a fortune last fall,
Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn’t all...
The Spell of the Yukon by Robert W. Service


Five seasons of finely crafted storytelling, immaculately presented and produced, with some of the best actors giving top performances, Boardwalk Empire finally came to a close on Sunday October 26th 2014. I just watched the final scene. I’ll miss Nucky Thompson. Damn, I’ll even miss that theme tune. That’s definitely a show I could go back to. If you haven’t seen it, well worth your time.

Bondan Prakoso ~ Ya Sudahlah

October 27, 2014
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On our frequent visits to Balinese restaurant Wayang Bali (oh that tempeh! oh that banana tempura!) I keep hearing this song and I have come to like it. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it sounds pretty positive doesn’t it? Everything’s gonna be okay!

Bondan Prakoso (born May 8, 1982) is an Indonesian singer-songwriter, bass guitarist, and record producer. He is known as the former bassist of rock band Funky Kopral (1999–2003) and the lead singer of the rap rock collaboration band, Bondan Prakoso & Fade 2 Black (2005–present). From Wikipedia.

How I spent my summer…

September 17, 2014
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With the exception of the odd weekend diversion and a four day break in Okinawa, I actually spent the bulk of the summer sat at this desk, trying to re-learn all the stuff I studied (and forgot) ten years ago. That was how I wanted to spend my summer and that is what I did. Summer did come to a bit of a crashing halt on September 1st however, when I suddenly fell sick – with mumps of all things. I have just spent the last two and a half weeks in a sorry kind of limbo where I couldn’t do much else but sleep. I am finally back to normal however, and will be heading back to work tomorrow exactly one week late.

Poor Mewby though, having nursed me kindly through the worst of it, has now taken up the mumps baton…

everything we think or perceive is fiction

September 2, 2014
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Illustration of Borges’ “The Library of Babel”

“Today one could consider Borges the most important writer of the 20th Century,” says Suzanne Jill Levine, translator and general editor of the Penguin Classics five-volume Borges series. Why? “Because he created a new literary continent between North and South America, between Europe and America, between old worlds and modernity. In creating the most original writing of his time, Borges taught us that nothing is new, that creation is recreation, that we are all one contradictory mind, connected amongst each other and through time and space, that human beings are not only fiction makers but are fictions themselves, that everything we think or perceive is fiction, that every corner of knowledge is a fiction.”

From Is Borges the 20th Century’s most important writer? | BBC

One more for the scrapbook

June 30, 2014
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This month’s issue of Kyoto Visitor’s Guide features an interview with me about my ebook, Deep Kyoto: Walks.

…there is something very special about this city, a certain sense of peace and of promise in the air. It really is a pleasure to go for a walk here, for there is so much to see and discover! Not just the famous sites like the great view from the platform of Kiyomizu Temple, or the Zen rock garden of Ryoan-ji, but all those little out-ofthe-way places down the side-streets. Kyoto is packed with craft shops and cafes, galleries and gardens, bakeries, bars and tiny road-side shrines… And you are never far from nature either. The city is encircled on three sides by mountains, which provide wonderful hiking trails, or you can take a gentler stroll along one of the tree-lined rivers and canals that bring cool air deep into the center of the city. Going for a walk here really is a joy.

You can read the full interview online here:

And order Deep Kyoto: Walks here:

One for the Scrapbook

June 23, 2014
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Deep Kyoto: Walks appeared in the Japan Times at the weekend!

Pat McCoy wrote,

“Deep Kyoto Walks” edited by Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor is the perfect guide for anyone who wants to get off Kyoto’s beaten tourist track. With personalized views of what to see and do in Kyoto — by people who have lived there for extended periods of time — it essentially offers a curated guide to one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Essays by a host of Kyoto residents (16 authors in all, including renowned travel writer Pico Iyer), cover various fields such as poetry, pottery, butoh dance, tea ceremony, art, travel writing and food writing…

To read the rest of Pat’s review click here: The Japan Times.
To learn more about the book and read extracts click here: About the Book
To read more reviews click here: Reviews
To order the book click here: Deep Kyoto: Walks

Kamo River Stroll

On Wednesday, I took my own advice and went for a stroll along the Kamo River from Gojo Bridge to Demachiyanagi and back again. The heavy scent of jasmine, a lovely fresh breeze, the lush spring green and the sound of running water all combined to put me in a very mellow mood indeed. Here are some pictures I took with my i-phone along the way.

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