Sometimes, your bread does not rise.

After you mill the rye berries into fine flour in a hand-powered mill until your arms are tired; after you feed the sourdough starter fresh rye flour and water, and let it ferment overnight; after you get up in the morning and mix the tangy-smelling starter with white flour, water, caraway seed, and sea salt in a 40-quart bowl, enough dough for 24 or 36 loaves; after kneading this mass by hand until you're tired and sweating; after waiting for the dough to rise, forming it into loaves, and waiting for them to rise again; after baking the loaves, sometimes, nothing happens.

They did not rise. They're dense, gummy, inedible. Sometimes, you try this whole process several times, changing different variables, and still it fails. Dozens of loaves go to compost, or to feed pigs. You check and re-check the recipe. You call the baker who gave you the recipe for advice. You pray. And still, nothing.

And then you give up.

You learn, that sometimes to progress you must stop, give up your assumptions, 'empty your cup', throw the recipe out of the window. You create an empty space, and see a new way emerge from nothing. You find a new recipe that uses the same ingredients but with a different process. You try it, and the dough rises, and the bread is good, and then you understand what you did wrong in the first place. You understand that time is an ingredient, that progress is not always a straight line, and that perseverance is not stubbornness. To persevere is to gladly accept obstacles in the way as a gift.

(J. Jones is a former student of Brooklyn Aikikai, a baker, and now lives in Vermont.)

Elevator by N. Calonge

In 1859, the Cooper Union Foundation Building was opened with the mission to promote social mobility through subsidized education in arts and engineering. The building itself was an example of foresight and massive inventiveness, having been the first 'skyscraper' of its time (it was five stories), and was designed with an elevator shaft before the elevator was even invented.

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Psychodynamic Irimi- A. Rodriguez

On my way out from work, about to exit the lobby, I heard someone call out, “Hey, doctor!” I turned around, and this tall man came up to me.

“Hey, you the doctor that discharged me with no meds, man!”


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Thoughts on Japan and Shugyo, by M. Croes

You would think that a 13-hour flight might have you sleeping through most of it—but not when you’re heading to Japan!

One of the greatest experiences in my life was the opportunity to travel and train in Japan. There, at Ichikukai Dojo, we trained intensely in Misogi, a purification practice through chanting and breathing. The training was hard, rigorous, and painful, though I can’t say much about the specifics of it (you have to experience it for yourself to really understand it).

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a bull in a china shop - by martine baruch

That’s what my behavior was when I first began cleaning sensei’s office - but rightfully so! Anyone who enters his office can agree that there is some serious energy contained in that small room - an energy that both comforted and intimidated me. As I began to pick up and dust the many items, I came to a horrifying realization: everything was precious and delicate and fragile and important. I found myself shaking when I had to pick up an inscripted zippo lighter and after I dusted off a couple of seashells I placed them back down as if they were fine china. Two hours later I had finally finished cleaning the office. 

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The Importance of Cleaning

My apartment had taken on an interesting smell. It wasn't unpleasant, it was just noticeably different. I set out to find the source but there was nothing out of the ordinary. No moldy food in the pantry, no forgotten piles of doggy accidents. In fact, my apartment seemed clean. I try to take time every day to clean the big messes in my apartment. No dishes go unwashed, my counters are cleaned a few times a day and I pick up all the cardboard Jet (my dog) has torn and tossed around.

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The Duck or the Dog?

In the changing room, after the 2nd kyu test we had just sat through, Diego asked me, “So what did you think of the test?” It was December, my third month in the dojo. By then, I had discovered that class often left me at a loss for words.  Watching the examination,  the martial nature of our training was apparent to me for the first time.  I felt that in a substantial way, Aikido was a way into matters of life and death, of living and dying. Not that the practice itself was dangerous; but that the techniques were about something much deeper than form alone.  And I must confess that my initial reaction to that 2nd kyu test was a feeling of fear. 

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If You are Not Sitting...

If you're not sitting, the Sensei said, you're wasting your life.

That, more than dying and death, the pupil feared most of all. Too easily he imagined himself old and dried up on a bed worn out and sad under a threadbare blanket looking back--as the light dimmed and the warmth faded--searching through all the spent years and finding nothing of more value than a broken promise, a forgotten dream.

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It's All About You, But It's Not All About You

I've always been uncomfortable with money, especially asking for it. I come from a hard-working immigrant family and there wasn't a lot of extra income when I was young. And asking other people for money? Forget it. Every time the band fundraiser came around, I would go to the two neighbors who I knew would buy a tin of cookies without fail. The prizes for the student who raised the most never motivated me. In this area of my life, I had no problem coming in last place.

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