Friday, April 27, 2007

** Don't Know Much About Mythology by Kenneth Davis

This a great overview of 5000 years of myths and legends that have helped to shape our current beliefs and culture. You're bound to learn something. One thing that is clear is that each culture had its own gods to essentially describe the same basic questions: Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? What should we do while we're alive? Where did we come from? Where we will end up? You get the idea. Nothing new under the sun - um, sun god that is. The other thing you'll be struck with, is that our current pantheon of gods and beliefs is relatively young and definitely not unique. You may think that people have shared your faith for eons, but alas, that is not true. Also, you may believe that your god is unique and the prophecies and legends are unique to your faithful, but again, you'll find that alot religions recycle beliefs and stories from their predecessors. One day in the future, what you believe will also become a 'dead' religion, and people will think your practices were as bizarre or questionable or inspired as those from the ancients you're reading about in this book. Keep these thoughts in mind as you encounter something that seems strange or silly or revolting when reading about these other religions.

The Egyptian word, Deshret, meaning red lands, for hot sandy wastelands is the source of the word desert. P64

There may have been between 1 to 4 million people living in ancient Egypt at various times. P66 An astonishing number for 4000 to 5000 years ago. Today there are nearly 90M in that region!

Most scholars believe that the Greeks translated the Egyptian word Hewet-ka-Ptah, which literally means ‘Temple of the spirit Ptah’ as Aeguptos. This eventually became the word we use now for – Egypt. P76

The image of Isis suckling the infant Horus, one of the most familiar themes in ancient Egyptian art, was later adopted by the early Christians to represent the Virgin Mary. The traditional blue dress of the Virgin, the reference of Mother of God, and the symbol of the crescent moon associated with Mary were all borrowed from the cult of Isis. P88

Unlike the slaves who quarried the stones for the pyramids, the laborers who built the pyramids were paid, conscripted to work 3 months of the year in service to the state… The period of flooding was the time when most Egyptian farmers were unable to work their land, and provided a large, available work force. P103

Are the Moses stories and legends just that - stories and not fact?
Extensive Egyptian records contain no reference to Moses – an Egyptian name. There is also no reference to ‘the children of Israel’ working as slaves and then escaping en masse. There is only a single reference to a battle with the Hebrews in a victory column… This lack of historical evidence has led many scholars to doubt the existence of Moses… Some think that the miraculous cross of the Red Sea was a mistranslation of the Hebrew words for “Sea of Reeds”. P109

We're all Babylonians after all
The Mesopotamians invented the 7 day week, beer, astrology, 60 minute hour, world’s first writing system, the wheel, 360 degree circle, formulas to predict eclipses, fractions, square roots, the list goes on and on… p122

The idea of sex as immoral was not widely held in ancient civilizations, including Egpytian and Greek worlds. In many cultures sex was viewed as part of the natural order, and was routinely madepart of the fertility rites that were celebrated openly. Many of the restrictive codes about sexual conduct began with the institution of Mosaic Law in Israel, which is one reason Babylon gained such a sinful reputation. P152

Does that make Noah a plagerist by not citing prior references?
The flood story of Utnapishtim from Gilgamesh is not the only deluge account in Mesopotamian myth. There are actually 2 others that predate the biblical Noah. P154

Those crazy Hebrew punners!
The tower of Babel is believed to be Nebuchadrezzar’s ziggurat which was clearly awesome, involving 17M bricks. It was designed to signify Babylon’s victory over its enemies – including the Jews. After defeating the Jews in 586BC, Nebuchadrezzar took Judah’s king and 1000’s of elite as captive to Babylon and destroyed the Jewish temple. During this time many of the books of the old testament were written. The captive Israelites would have heard many languages in Babylon – Sumerian, Akkadian, Egyptian, and Persian just mention a few. Clearly the story of the tower of Babel had great significance to the exiled Israelites. In Babylonian, babel means the gate of the gods, but in Hebrew, the word babel means to confuse. The author of the biblical tower was essentially using a bilingual pun to disparage the people who captured the Israelites. P162

Did you know that Abraham and Moses have much in common. Yes, no factual evidence for either person's existence.
There is no specific proof outside of the Bible and Koran that such Abraham ever existed. His name and exploits appear nowhere in Mesopotamia’s surviving tablets… It is generally believed that he was a legendary figure… Of course to believers the historical accuracy of Abraham doesn’t matter as much as what he represents – the pioneer of faith… That faith is underscored in a crucial biblical event heavy with mythic overtones – the story Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son… The aborted sacrifice and substitution of an animal is in the view of scholars the symbolic moment in which the ancient Jewish people rejected human sacrifice. P164

So what does 'Israel' mean?
The natives of Canaan who were present before the Israelites appeared worshipped El – their chief deity, which simply meant god in ancient semitic… At some point in history the Canaanite El was merged with Yahweh, who then in turn supposedly gave Moses 2 tablets. The significance of El is apparent from the Hebrew words that contain it – Bethel which means house of god, and Israel – which means he strives with god. P166

Did you know that Jesus was not really born on December 25th? And that the first X-mas on that date wasn't observed until 350 years after he may have been born?
Zoroastrianism (derived from Zoraster who lived perhaps as long as 3400 years ago or 1400BC) held a belief in one god – Mazda… Magi were his followers and held a belief that they were to keep watch upon a Mount of the Lord until a great star appeared that would signal the coming of a savior. In other words, centuries before Jesus was on the scene, an earlier faith flourished in the same region with only one god, a battle of good and evil, a judgement day, and resurrection. The connection between ancient Persia and Christmas doesn’t end there. Mithra was an ancient sun god of the Aryan tribes (Zoaster was a Persian Aryan as well by the way). Mithra was an ally of Mazda in early Persian faiths, and fought evil. This faith spread throughout Asia Minor (Turkey today) when the Persian dominated the region prior to Alexander the Great. This faith eventually became popular among Roman soldiers who slayed a bull as a rite that symbolized immortality on worshippers (a handy thing to wish for before battle). During Roman times, Mitraism ranked as a principal religion competing with Christianity well into the 4th century AD. Among the similarities that Christianity shares with this older religion are include resurrection, judgment day, a Satan like figure, guardian spirits like angels, and a holy day celebrated on Dec 25th, which was not officially celebrated as Christmas until 350AD when Pope Julius chose the day. P170

The similarities between Christmas and the Roman holiday of Saturnalia are no accident. Dec 25th was already a very popular pagan holiday. By moving Christ’s birthday to the same date by papal decree in 350AD, he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans to convert to Christianity since they could continue to have their feasts and parties. P260

Is Zoraster the origin of bull fighting in Spain?
The spread of Mitraism under Rome extended into Spain and some authorities suggest that the killing of a bull was part of a Mithraist ritual that gradually evolved into the practice of bullfighting. P170

The local farmers, who inhabited Greece before the hostile takeover by the chariot driving, war loving Mycenaens (Aryans) in 1600BC from the Caucus region. The indigenous proto-Greeks worshipped an ancient Earth Mother who eventually became Hera the wife of Zeus – the Mycenaen’s most powerful god. This may actually symbolize the merger of these 2 ancient mythologies. P185

Greek religion was starkly different from the state religions of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Israel. The Greeks had their public and private rituals, but no Greek ruler ever tried to elevate himself to a pharaoh or to introduce a single deity. Nor were the Greek gods believed to be in complete control of the universe or human destiny. “They never pretended that their gods were always benevolent or omnipotent in human affairs, and so bad fortune could be rationalized as a natural element of existence.” This concept of ‘natural element’ would soon be viewed by Greeks as far more important and interesting. Judging from their extraordinary achievements in science, math, philosophy, literature, etc. – they clearly prized a way of life that stressed the individual, encouraged creative thought, and elevated the power of observation. By seeking logic to explain what is happening in the natural world, the gods were not a source of truth, justice and laws. Quite the contrary, the Greeks invented ethics, a way to tell right from wrong without divine authority and secular law, which together make up humanism. P190

The Snake and immortality. Get used to it. It will happen in history all over the world, again and again.
The snake’s ability to shed its skin was seen as a sign of immortality by the ancient Greeks. The staff with the 2 snakes for the American Medical Association is derived from the Greek god Asclepius, the inventor of medicine, who was represented by a snake. P228

The Chinese dragon probably evolved from the serpent, an early royal symbol deemed immortal, since it was able to renew itself when it shed its skin. P377

In many African traditions a mixed up message brings death into the world, usually when an animal courier fails to deliver an important message from the gods to mankind. An example is the story of a bird sent by the creator to tell people that when they get old they should just peel off their skins. On the way to deliver the message, the bird sees a snake eating some meat. The bird tells the snake the secret in exchange for the meat. So the snake gains immortality by shedding its skin, and people remain mortal. As punishment for this failure, birds cry in pain from a disease given to them by the creator. P411

The god Janus stood watch at doors and gates, and as such he looked both ways and controlled beginnings, which is how his name got connected with January – the first month of the year. P253

What's the deal with mistletoe?
Mistletoe was considered so sacred by the Celts that even enemies who happened to meet beneath it in the forest would lay down their arms, exchange a friendly greeting, and keep a truce until the following day. From this old custom grew the practice of suspending mistletoe over a doorway as a token of peace. P279

The celtic god Frigg, had a son who was immortal unless he consumed mistletoe, which of course he promptly does. Frigg’s tears over her son’s death become the berries of mistletoe. When Figg learns that her son can be brought back to life, she hangs mistletoe and promises to kiss all those who walk beneath it, which was a sign of goodwill. Frigg is from the earlier Germanic god known as Frea, and her name is the source of Friday. P302

What do London and Leprechauns have in common?
The aborigines of Ireland from the last ice age were overrun by the invading Celts, and became the legendary ‘little people’ – Lugh (pronounced loo). The word for a particular crafty one was Lugh Chromain – meaning little stooping Lugh. This name was later anglicized in the word ‘leprechaun’… Another vestige of the Lugh is found on the British Isles. Can you guess where? Well the fortress of Lugh was called Lugh Dunum. The Romans Latinized this to Londinium. You know it as London. P 284 But you can now feel free to call it Fort Leprechaun if you wish.

October 31 marked the end of Summer to the Celtic Irish. During this time between Summer and Winter, the worlds of the living and dead commingled. On the night of October 31, the spirits of the dead caused mischief and damaged crops, but they also made predictions for the upcoming year. During this festival, huge fires were lit for feasting and animal sacrifice. Some Celts wore masks and costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other’s fortunes. P290

The King Arthur legend first appears in 1100AD in a Welsh tale called ‘Culwhe and Olwen’. Among the references are those for a sword called Caledvwlch – meaning battle breach, later identified as Excalibur, Arthur’s father Uthyr (anglicized to Arthur) Pendragon, and his wife Gwenhwyfar – anglicized to Guinevere. These references probably emerged from earlier legends and myths. Some believe that the legend stems from withdrawal of the Romans in 410AD. P294

Odin, the chief Norse god, was derived from an earlier German god called Woden. Woden is the source of Wednesday. P305

Kong Fu Zi, born in 551BC, is the man you know as Confucius... There is no evidence that he ever wrote anything himself. One of his disciples (not direct) was Mencius (371 BC-289BC) who believed that people were born good and simply needed to preserve the natural compassion of the heart… Confucianism began as a code of conduct that has no organization or clergy. Nor does it teach belief in a deity or in the existence of life after death. Instead it stresses moral and political ideas, putting an emphasis on respect for ancestors and government authority while insisting that women belong at home… He further argued that tradition and order have to be respected to maintain the equilibrium of the universe. P380

Taoism rejected the social obligations of Confucianism, and urged the individual to lead a simple, spontaneous, and meditative life close to nature, and to see change as the way of the universe. The word tao originally meant ‘path’ or ‘way’. P383

Shinto probably existed before the arrival of Buddhism and Confucian teachings, but it is really an Asian fusion religion. Shinto means the ‘way of the gods’. It seems to have combined the ancient practices of the Ainu, aboriginal Japanese, with those of the prehistoric people who migrated to Japan from other parts of Asia including Mongolian people from Siberia. What resulted is a religion centered on nature – mountains, rivers, rocks, and trees. The force of the gods is known as Kami in such processes as creativity, disease, growth and healing. Emphasizing rituals over philosophy, Shinto pays little mind to life after death. P386

Japan’s rising sun flag – Nipon, which means rising sun - (the one from WWII) is a vestige of the old connection between Japan and the sun goddess. P391

The Native Americans and Africans have many tricksters gods, myths and legends. My theory on this is that these convey mores and taboo behaviors to emphasize that people should control their desire to steal, rape, be selfish, etc. The moral of the trickster is to show that doing these things leads to a karmic punishment. So even if you're not caught by others, because you're so smart, fate will catch you in the end.

From Ghana: When a drought dries up the earth, all of the animals assemble in a council and all agree to cut off a piece of their ears and extract the fat, which they will sell to buy a hoe to dig a well. All do as they promise except for Hare, the trickster who reneges. The other animals are surprised, but still manage to buy the hoe and dig the well. Hare jumps into the well and enjoys a bath, and muddies the water in the well. When the other animals realize that Hare has ruined their water, they hatch a plan that involves covering a small statue with bird lime (something very sticky). Hare comes along and speaks to this dummy, which of course doesn’t answer. Angrily, Hare hits the statue and gets one paw stuck to it, then the other. Next, he kicks at the sticky statue, but only succeeds in getting both feet stuck as well. The other animals finally come out, and give Hare a beating before letting him go. From that day on, Hare never leaves the safety of the grass. This story is told in many other versions. It is also familiar as the origin of the figure of the ‘Tar Baby’ in the Uncle Remus stories… The Hare stories made the transatlantic crossing with the many Africans taken as slaves to the Americas. Mingling with many similar Native American tales of trickster rabbits, the Hare stories became best known as the Br’er (short for brother) Rabbit stories. Many of these stories were collected in a book called Uncle Remus in 1881. The character of Remus is a former slave who tells his southern plantation family tales about clever animals. More than just a trickster, Br’er Rabbit represents the clever slave who could outwit his master. P414, 426

Some of the ancient Indian tricksters were inspiration for 2 modern American cartoon icons – Wile E Coyote and Bugs Bunny, whose animated antics are far less malicious and X-rated than those of their ancient ancestors… Summarizing Native American tricksters, ‘They’re always hungry for another meal swiped from someone else’s kitchen, always ready to lure someone else’s wife into bed, always trying to get something for nothing, ever scheming and never remorseful. They’re clever and foolish at the same time, smartasses who outsmart themselves.’ P451

Voodoo traces its roots to the West African tradition of Vodun, meaning spirit. Vodun has many traditions based on Yoruban religion including a shared pantheon of gods… Santeria originated in Cuba as a combination of West African Yoruban religion and Catholicism. Slaves were forced to practice Catholic practices, which contradicted their native beliefs. But finding parallels between their own religion and Catholicism, and to please their masters while disguising their worship of their old gods, they created a secret religion. Santeria uses Saints as fronts for the traditional African gods... Santeria by the way has 11 commandments, roughly equivalent to the 10 you know, plus an additional prohibition on cannibalism. P429

Did your totem win last night's game?
What’s a totem? A totem guards the tribe and is usually an animal species. Totemism binds a human tribe to an animal in a common life. The totem animal guards the tribe, which in return respects it and refuses to injure it, for they are of one flesh, this may include laws against killing or eating the totem animal. Sounds hokey you say? Well do you have a Jesus fish on car? Do you have Tiger, or Lion, or Cardinal on your cap? Do you pledge allegiance to flag with an Eagle on top of the flag pole. Totem, totem, totem. So there. P453

The low man on the totem pole is actually upside down. Turns out the most skilled craftsman was given the honor of the lowest carving on the pole to show off his artistic since that position was obviously the most visible. P453

The Mayan Popol Vuh is a book of creation, a list of divinely ordered rules and rituals which gives the Mayan kings a heavenly mandate. The Popol Vuh was believed to be the word of god. The Bible is a book creation, contains list of divinely ordered rules and rituals and includes a list of ancient Israel’s many legendary and real kings. The bible is believed to be the word of God. Most people have never heard of the Popol Vuh. The book is a well kept secret. For that we have the Spanish to thank for their 16th century ‘culturecide’ campaign. P455

The Mayan god Huracan who causes floods and storms was appropriated by the Spanish and transformed over the centuries into hurricane. P456

Most histories of the conquest of Aztecs state that the Aztecs believed that Cortes represented the returning god Quetzalcoatl. There are some issues with that belief. First, Cortes himself never mentioned this story in his own writings. Historians today believe that such stories sprang up later – perhaps 20 years after the Spanish arrived. Whether or not they believed Cortes to be a god or not, 4 months after the Spaniards arrival an epidemic of small pox broke out, decimating the Aztecs while sparing all of the Spanish. Such partiality could only be explained supernaturally, and there could be no doubt which side of the struggle enjoyed divine favor. P469

American Indians and their horses are indelible icons. But as late as the 1700s many tribes had no horses. The horse didn’t arrive until the Spanish, who jealously guarded them carefully, not wanting to surrender the great military advantage the possessed. It would only be in the middle of the 18th century that horses would almost totally transform the cultures of the Plains and Southwest tribes, producing some of the finest light calvary history has ever known. P483

Friday, April 20, 2007

*** Coincidences, Chaos and All that Math Jazz by Edward Burger

An entertaining book on complicated topics that most of us slept through during high school and college. The authors do a great job of making the mathematically abstract graspable by our limited brains. Perhaps you'll gain a new appreciation of math from this book. Too bad these guys weren't around to teach us math.

Next time you find yourself in a room with at least 45 people, brag about your power to predict amazing coincidences and announce that in this small group at least 2 people share the same birthday…Why is that you can be so confident?... It turns out that there is a 95% chance of a birthday overlap… To compute the chance that all 45 don’t have the same birthday, we multiply together the individual chances of 365/366 x 364/366 x… 323/366 x 322/366. Notice that each of these numbers is a fraction less than 1, and if we multiply a list of fractions less than 1, the product is extremely small… Roughly speaking the average of these fractions is around .935, so an estimate of this product is .935 to the 44th power, which is approximately 5%. So there’s about a 5% chance that all the birthdays are different. P17-8

On average, what percentage of Americans have 1 testicle and 1 ovary?
Surprise, the average American, has 1 of each since ½ the population has either 2 testicles or 2 ovaries. The average of this population is 1 of each. P 43

Over the past decade, on average, there have been 183 deaths per year in commercial airline accidents (in the US), which is about 1 death every 2 days or one death per 3.4 billion passenger air miles… Auto deaths are 34 times more frequent per passenger air mile. P56 I have to disagree with this reasoning. There’s a major fallacy in this argument. Let’s normalize these statistics by looking at vehicle operation by hour instead of passenger air mile Let’s say that the average plane carries about 110 people, and that average car carries 1.1 people (most trips are solo). Let’s also say that the avg speed of the auto trip is only 35 miles per hour, while the plane’s avg speed is 350 mph. And assuming that if the plane has a fatal crash, only ½ of the passengers die and if the car has a fatal accident, all 1.1 passengers die. So to convert the bogus statistic of fatalities per passenger air miles to vehicle hours, we must factor that plane goes 10 times as fast, and has 100 times as many passengers multiplied by 1/2 for the passengers that die in the plane crash, so each hour it’s passenger air mile figure is 500 times higher than the car. So the fatality rate per hourly vehicle operation is actually 34/500 for the car. Each hour in the car is actually 16 times safer than an hour in the plane. Hour for hour planes are 16 times deadlier – not safer. If you had a 16 hour drive, and the plane trip would cover that distance in 1 hour, it is a push. Shorter distances should be driven, not flown!

Given that there are about 500,000 HIV positive people in the US population (280M), what is the probability that a person who has a positive test result is actually HIV positive when the test is 99% accurate – that is a false positive or negative occurs only 1% of the time? Again if you tested positive, would you guess that you’re odds of actually HIV were 99%? Well, you’d be relieved that your actual chance is only a meager 17.7%! Here’s why…
Number of people who don’t have HIV= 280M -500K=279.5M
Of the 500K HIV victims, 1% or 5000 will test negative, and 495K will test positive.
Of the 279.5M who are negative, 1% will test positive, or a whopping 2.795M.
The total number of positive cases will be 2.8M. Of these only 495K actually the disease, The odds having HIV after the test are therefore 495k/2.8M or 17.7%. p59

Take an ordinary piece of copier paper. Fold it in half. Now do that again, and again. You’ll probably have to stop after 7 folds. But let’s imagine if you could keep folding it roughly 50 times. How thick is that folded sheet? An inch? A foot? A yard?
The folded paper you imagined would extend past sun and would be over 128M miles!... Here’s how. After 9 folds you’re sheet would have 512 ( 2 to the 9th ) layers. 500 is the number of sheets in a 2 inch thick ream. Bear in mind that each fold doubles the size. The 10th fold now goes to 4 inches. The 11th, to 8 inches. The 15th becomes 11 feet. The 20 is 350 feet. If you keep doing this 51 times, you’ll get to 128,000,000 miles. P87

Offer someone million dollars in $1 bills on this condition. That they alone – without mechanical aid – must carry them away all at once. Are you at serious risk of losing your money, even if you offer it to Arnold Schwarzenegger? … Remember our ream of paper which had 500 sheets? Well each ream weighs about 4 pounds. And each sheet could fit 5 $1 bills. So a 4 pound ream equates to $2500. $1M divided by $2500 equals 400. So we’d need 400 reams of paper each weighing 4 pounds each. The total would be 1600 pounds! No one is going anywhere with your dough! P83

I can’t go into the entire details of this section, but you have to read pages 90-99 to see how it is possible to stack cards without glue or tape so that they can be extend beyond the edge of a table without falling. Yes, you can stack 4 cards, and have the last card completely extend beyond the table. But we’re talking about extending the cards 1 mile beyond the edge of the table, and then having you sit on the last card, and still not having the cards fall off. It sounds impossible… but read the section if you have doubts (I have my doubts about you if you don’t doubt this!). It is possible.

Say we throw 10 ping pong balls into a barrel; then we pull one out. Now we throw 10 more in and pull only 1 out. We all agree that there are now 18 balls in the barrel. Do it again, and we are left with 27; again, and we have 36; again, and see 45; and so forth. What if you did this forever (infinitely). How many balls would be in the barrel? Did you say infinitely many? Well couldn’t be more wrong I’m afraid. The barrel would be empty… How the heck can that be? To help us understand this, let’s modify the scenario just a touch. Suppose we start with all of the balls in the barrel instead, and they are all numbered. Let’s say you remove a ball each time you have ½ of your remaining time. So if you have a minute. The first one is removed, then you wait 30s, and remove the 2nd. 15s later, the 3rd. 7.5s after that the 4th. Pretty soon you’ll be moving faster than the speed of sound. And soon after that, faster than the speed of light. We’ll ignore these limits, since this is the world of pure math – not the real universe. When the 60s are done, and infinitely many ½ life intervals are performed, the barrel will be empty. Our intuition on comparative sizes of collections – especially infinite ones – must be based soley on 1 to 1 pairings. Here each halftime interval is paired with a numbered ball. The first ball with the 1st halftime. The 37th ball with the 37th halftime. P243 The fact that we put in 10 balls when we take one out is just a trick to throw you off. When you deal with infinity, nothing is intuitive anymore. Because you’ll say when you get to the next to last ball, you’ll have to put in 10 more, so how can the number ever go down? Well just stop thinking like that OK!? That’s not how infinity works. But is how your finite brain works I’m afraid.

Monday, April 16, 2007

*** Mastery by George Leonard

There are no easy answers to this ageold riddle for those who strive for mastery. Leonard will be only the latest person to break the bad news that you must focus your time and energy on your craft if you seek to master it. And if you don't enjoy such dedication, and the act of practicing, then probably you should reconsider your quest. But be careful to pick something in life, or you'll end up as a jack of all trade, master of none. Or worse, a jackass of all trades, and master of none.

The people we know as masters don’t devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is, they love to practice – and because of this they do get better. And then, to complete the circle, the better they get the more they enjoy performing the basic moves over and over again. P75

Tools for Mastery
1. Maintain physical fitness
If you’re physically not healthy, its hard to do anything, let alone master it.

2. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
Is it possible to be too positive? Only if you deny negative factors that need correcting… Even serious blows in life can give you extra energy by knocking you off dead center, shaking you out of lethargy – but not if you deny the blows are real. Acknowledging the negative doesn’t mean sniveling; it means facing the truth and then moving on. Once you’ve dealt with the negative, you’re free to concentrate on the best in yourself. Whenever possible, avoid people who are highly critical in a negative sense by telling people what they are doing wrong while ignoring what they are doing right. When it’s your turn to teach or supervise or advise try the following approach, “Here’s what I like about what you’re doing, and here’s how you might improve it.”

3.Tell the truth
Truth telling works best when it involves revealing your own feelings, not when used to insult others and get your own way… When people start telling the truth, you see almost immediate reductions in mistakes and increases in productivity… One company reported that 1.5 hour meetings now take 20 minutes. “We just say what we want to say. We don’t spend a lot of time and energy not saying something.” Lies, secrets, and deception are poison to organizations – people’s energy is devoted deceiving and hiding and remembering who it is you don’t want to tell what to.

4. Honor but don’t indulge your dark side
Anger for instance contains a great deal of energy. If we’ve repressed it so effectively that we can’t feel it, we obviously can’t use the energy that goes along with it in any conscious, constructive way. But if we take our anger out simply to indulge it, if we let anger become a knee jerk response, we dissipate its considerable power. There are times when it is appropriate to express anger, but there’s also the possibility of taking fervid energy of indignation, even of rage, and putting it to work for positive purposes. In other words, when you feel your anger rising, you can choose to go and work furiously on a favorite project or to transmute the energy beneath your anger to fuel that you can use on your journey of mastery.

5. Set your priorites
To choose one goal is to forsake a very large number of other possible goals. Today’s consumer culture offers endless possibilities, tempting you to choose none, so you sit staring into an endless wonder. Indecision leads to inaction, low energy and depression. Ultimately, liberation comes from acceptance of limits. You can’t do or have everything, but you can have one thing. And another after that, and another after that. It is better to make a wrong choice than no choice at all.

6. Make commitments and take action.
Set deadlines. The firmer a deadline, the harder it is to break, and the more energy it confers. Tell people who are important in your life about your deadlines, making it public prevents you from backsliding.

7. Get on the path of mastery and stay on it
Practice. Regular practice not only elicits energy, but tames it. Without the firm underpinnings of practice, deadlines can produce violent swings between frantic activity and collapse.

In the 1960s, UCLA brain researchers measured the brain wave activity of astronaut candidates practicing a moon landing and also while driving on an LA freeway. As it turned out, driving on the freeway occasioned more activity. P144

During a moment of crisis, just touching yourself lightly at the physical center (a point in abdomen an inch below the navel) can significantly alter your attitude and your ability to deal with whatever situation you face. P154

Try this: stand normally and draw attention to the top of your body by tapping your forehead a couple of times. Then have a partner push you from behind at the shoulder blades just hard enough to make you lose balance and take a step forward. Now repeat this, but this time tap yourself a couple of times an inch below your navel. Have your partner push you exactly the same way and with the same force as before. Most people will find they are more stable with the attention on their centers. P154

Getting centered…
1. Stand with feet slightly farther apart than shoulders, with eyes open, knees not locked or bent, arms by your side.
2. Place right hand an inch below your navel, and press in firmly.
3. Drop right hand to your side and breath normally. Expand your abdomen with an incoming breath.
4. While breathing in a relaxed manner, lift your arms in front of you with limp wrists. Then shake your hands vigorously so that your whole body vibrates.
5. Lower your arms slowly (wrists relaxed, palms down), but as soon as they touch your legs, let them rise again in front of you as if they were buoyantly floating to the surface in warm salt water. While raising your arms, bend your knees slightly.
6. When your arms reach the horizontal, put your palms forward into the position you would use to push a large beach ball on the water’s surface. Now sweep your arms from left to right and right to left.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 again.
8. Drop your hands, leaving them by your side. Close your eyes and make sure knees are not locked. Distribute your weight evenly between your right and left feet. Now check to see if your weight is evenly distributed between the heels and balls of your feet. Now move head forward and back to find the point at which it can be balanced upright on your spine with the least muscular effort.
9. Relax your jaw, tongue, your eye muscles, scalp, neck.
10. Sharply inhale, and tighten your shoulders. As you exhale, let your shoulders drop, as if melting downward (not slumping forward). With each outgoing breath, let them melt a little farther.
11. Let that same melting feeling run down your arms to your hands. Now down your ribs, back and pelvis. And finally down your legs until it reaches and warms your feet. Feel the secure embrace of gravity as it holds you to the earth.
12. Now send a beam of awareness throughout your body seeking out any area that might be tense or rigid or numb. Focus on this area, and relax it.
13. Focus on your breathing, and with an incoming breath, open your eyes. Ask yourself if you feel different after this exercise.

Variation to practice regaining center…
After becoming balanced and centered, open your eyes and spins several times to the left and then to the right – enough to become a bit dizzy. Stop spinning, and touch your center. Return to the balanced and centered state, with increased awareness of the soles of your feet. Does the condition of being centered seem somehow more powerful after having been momentarily lost?

Ki Power
Sit in an armless, strait backed chair with your arms on your knees. Try rising to a standing position several times, noting just how you do it. Now have a partner put his hands on your shoulders and push down. Have your partner push down, making it difficult, but possible, for you to stand up.

Now, get relaxed and centered. Place the palm of your left hand on your abdomen and imagine a ball of energy the size of grapefruit in the center of your abdomen. Imagine that it expands and contracts with each breath. Make this ball the center of your attention while moving your hand back to your knee. Have your partner place his hands on your shoulders again, and place the same amount of pressure on them. Don’t pay attention to pressure on your shoulders, focus on the ball of energy knowing that it will give you the power you need. While focusing, rise to a standing position. Notice the difference.

More Ki Power
Stand and extend one arm to a horizontal position directly in front of you, with fingers spread and the thumb pointing up. Have a partner bend your arm at the elbow pressing up at your wrist and down at your elbow. Don’t bend the arm at shoulder. Do this first w/o any resistance on your part. Now repeat this, but you resist the bending. This shouldn’t become contest in strength, just enough resistance that you must exert yourself a bit to prevent your arm from bending. Now, repeat this again, but this time visualize a beam of energy that extends out past your fingertips, through walls and across the horizon to the ends of the universe. This beam is larger than your arm, and your arm is an integral part of it. Your arm is not rigid, it’s quite relaxed – not limp. If anyone tried to bend your arm, the energy beam would become more powerful and without effort so would your arm. Now have your partner apply the same force as before and see how you feel.