Retirement Planning: 4 Simple Steps

For many, nearing retirement age can get frustrating and confusing. Many fail to properly get their finances in order to be able to enjoy retired life and thus, frustration takes root and tolls heavily on the person. being forty-five or fifty-five, very few people are satisfied with what they have saved for their retirement days. The list of regrets may not end there. Without getting an early start, many things can go wrong. Those that well into their forties and fifties are bound to lag behind. So, here are some practical and simple steps to getting really into retirement planning if you’re a professional, business owner or just someone who cares about the future!

Firstly, the lessons of life are learned by personal experience or by the experience of others. Smart people learn from the latter in order to never experience bad situations after retirement. The very first lesson to learn about retirement planning is to start saving sooner rather than later. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t require you to be a finance guru either. With some willpower, guidelines, and knowledge, planning your retirement can be easy, convenient and above all, blissful.


Every paycheck should have about fifteen percent invested into retirement. It can be a savings account or a small side business that, if managed properly, can become something to rely on later on. Retirement saving goals are great but enjoying less of your income today would enable you to afford expenses tomorrow! Forget about your employer’s retirement plan, your own gross income must have this percent stashed away in any form for the golden years ahead.

Recognize Spending Requirements

Being realistic about post-retirement expenditures will drastically help in acquiring a truer picture of what kind of retirement portfolio to adopt. For instance, most people would argue that their expenses after retirement would amount to seventy or eighty percent of what have been spending previously. Assumptions can prove untrue or unrealistic especially if mortgages have not been paid off or if medical emergencies occur. So, to better manage retirement plans, it’s vital to have a firm understanding of what to expect, expense-wise!

Don’t Keep All the Eggs in One Basket

This is the single biggest risk to take that there is for a retiree. Putting all money into one place can be disastrous for obvious reasons and it’s almost never recommended, for instance, in single stock investments. If it hits, it hits. If it doesn’t, it may never be back. However, mutual funds in large and easily recognizable new brands may be worth if potential growth or aggressive growth, growth, and income is seen. Smart investment is key here.

Stick to the Plan

Nothing is risk-free. Mutual funds or stocks, everything has its ups and downs so it will have ups and downs. But when you leave it and add more to it, it’s bound to grow in the long term. After the 2008-09 stock market crash, studies have shown that the retirement plans in the workplace were balanced with an average set of above two-hundred thousand. The grown by average annual rate was fifteen percent between 2004 and 2014.

How to Bend Wood Handrails

I've been getting a lot of calls still keeping in mind, "How do I bend a wood handrail?" Bending handrails, even for some of the most experienced carpenters causes fear and trepidation. Well, fear not!

Here are some beginning base tips:

If the net length on the rail you are bending is 12-ft, a 14-ft bender rail is best to insure that the ends are dropped around the desired radius in order to hold its form when removing rail from its clamps. If you have 13 "steps or treads", you are safe with a 14-foot bender for an inside radius. If an outside radius goes up a stair, figure 2-foot per step. Bending rail is understood when imagining a standard handrail profile cut into thin strips and keyed together (tongue and groove bead to create alignment). Bending mold should also be included as it is molded to the outside profile of the handrail and is used to sandwich the handrail and allow clamping without damage to the handrail itself.

Weldwood's Plastic Resin Glue (a DAP product) is possibly the most ideal glue for bending handrails. It has a curing time of 24 hours, allowing for ample time for one to bend rails without feeling rushed. It also sands easily once dried and works with stains. The best place to find this product is a True Value Ace Hardware Store. I understand that they bought the rights to sell this product, which pushed it off of the shelves at all Home Depot and Lowes. It comes in a one pound plastic container and is mixed with water until soupy. Apply it to both sides of the bending rail keys, tape or shrink wrap the rails together, and you can start bending!

When considering steam bending, Weldwood is best applied once the handrail has been steamed and bent on the forms. Remove it from the forms once dried, apply the Weldwood, and reattach to the forms. Steaming handrail, for most styles, is not an option unless your bending rail is less than an 18-inch radius. For some handrail styles the minimum before steam may be a 24-inch radius.

One key to keeping the stress points on the rail's shoulder from cracking or breaking is to apply vinegar on the stress areas of the wood. Vinegar responds with the woods fibers to relieve stress. Do not use bleach! It will permanently stain some hardwoods black.

Once a handrail is bent, use an orbital or belt sander to finish the job. Make sure all glue is properly sanded, otherwise one will have blotches where the stain can not penetrate since glue acts as a sealer.

C-Clamps or bar clamps are the best two tool choices for bending handrail.

Also, as a helpful hint, there is a book out there call "The Stair Builder's Guide", by Coffman stairs that has an entire chapter on bending handsrails (with pictures!) The book is no longer in print but there are copies out there to be had through

Useful Tips on How to Build Deck Railings

The deck on a house is a floored area that extends from the house and is normally roofless. It can be located at the back, the front or to the side of the house. Deck railings provide a deck it's style and distinctiveness and are very crucial in keeping people safe in that, they are both functional and decorative. In being decorative, they are attractive components adding design to a house and are practical as they enhance protection. It is usually required for decks that are higher than thirty inches above the ground and also for stairs that comprise of five or over steps. The height of a deck railing normally ranges between thirty and forty inches even though specific areas have particular constraints. Standard 'builder deck' railings are the simplest types to make and install.

Deck railings contain a top rail and a bottom rail, side rails and may also contain bulging posts, balusters and hand rails. They come in a variety of styles and can be made from different materials including iron, aluminum, natural timber, wood composite materials and also transparent glass. They are readily accessible, but believe it or not, you can make a deck railing by yourself. Are you curious? Here's how:

Materials Required:
2 x 2 inches wood
Carriage bolts
2 x 4 inches wood
2 x 6 inches wood
Galvanized screws
1 can varnish stain

Tools Required:
Wood saw
Electric drill

1. Get rid of any wood or material that is connected to the deck so that you will locate the rim joist which is the outermost part of the flooring.
2. Use 2 x 6 inches wood to create the upper railing and attach it for the time being to the deck by using a screwdriver and galvanized screws.
3. Using your wood saw cut the 2 x 2 inches wood to the relevant height for the spindles.
4. Use the electric drill and make two holes into every spindle. One hole must be drilled approximately 1 1/2 inches from the base of the deck. The other hole should be made 1 in inches from the top and the outside of the deck. These holes must be smaller than the carriage bolts.
5. For strength and firmness, bolt the spindles into position with the carriage bolts.
6. Cut the 2 x 4 inches wood with the saw to the correct lengths to make spindles. Ensure that they are the same lengths as any mistake will be obvious.
7. Using your screwdriver, join the sections you cut to each spindle using the galvanized screws.
8. Permanently screw the railings to the deck at this stage. Screw through the bottom to raise the railing.
9. Use knife to pry open the can of varnish stain.
10. Take paintbrush and slightly dip it into the can of varnish stain to soak up a little.
11. Paint the rains by applying level strokes with the paintbrush and continue until the total railing is finished.

Tips and warnings:
Always construct your deck railroads in compliance with rules regarding them in your area.
Spindles should be spaced no more than nine inches apart for security.
Carefully measure at every step to get a look that is as filled as possible.
Painting or staining the wood seals it to make it more durable.
The railing should be about 4 inches high but allow added length so that it flushes with the bottom outside section of the deck.
The stairs leading to the deck must be in position to give easy access to the deck.
Select a railing style that suits is within your means and blends with the model of your house.

Sustainable Holidays in Faro Portugal

Perfectly located on the southern Atlantic Coast of Portugal, Faro has a rich, diverse history and a culture that is unmatched anywhere on the iberian peninsula. The weather in Faro is ideal for a holiday at any time of the year, while there is a special impetus on environmentally responsible tourism all over the region. Faro also sits in a region rich in the legacy of many cultures.

Historians have had much to discover and document as the area around Faro has been associated since Palaeolithic times. Settled by the Moors and Romans, examples of these older civilizations as well as more modern ones, are evident all over Faro. Much of this history can be seen today in the buildings in the area, and through the various art galleries and museums. Faro holidays let visitors explore this diverse and rich heritage at a leisurely pace and with little impact on their environment.

Frequently referred to as the gateway city to the Algarve region, the city of Faro is worth a visit for its quiet charm and great local restaurants. The impressive facade of Carmo Church with its twin bell towers and yellow balustrade is worth visiting, while inside ornate gilded woodwork is a fine example of craftsmanship in the region. Containing an excellent example of a Roman mosaic, and housed in a 16th Century convent, the archaeological museum is also a good place to learn about the fascinating history of Faro.

Boutique shops and small independent retailers are a common sight on the streets of Faro. The hustle and bustle of the city is an authentic Portuguese experience, with some excellent places to buy often produced and locally made gifts.

One of the main ecological attractions of Faro is the Rio Formosa lagoon. This stretches along the Eastern Algarve from Faro city to the village Cacela Velha. The movement of the tides here is forever changing the structure of the lagoon and many archaeological sites in the area of ​​Roman and pre-Roman origin can be seen. The Rio Formosa lagoon is now a protected nature reserve. There are plenty of things to do and see on the lagoon, with cycle and walking tours as well as ferry trips between the islands. Some of the beaches are ideal for a quiet escape, while there is a range of wildlife and flora and fauna to be discovered in the area.

Faro is also home to many traditional industries. There are pockets of minor industry in the Rio Formosa lagoon, such as salt harvesting and shellfish farming. The waters here are extremely clean, and many visitors are impressed with the nature of the traditional methods used in these local industries that safeguard the area's natural beauty and maintain ecological balance.

A stya in the exciting city of Faro is bound to be an interesting one, and with many villas in Faro featuring a delicate balance of style, luxury, and green facilities and amenities, the area that can be the ideal base for exploring the natural beauty of the Algarve. With unspoilt beaches and coastlines, a massive range of sports both on land and in the water and plenty of other activities to choose from, Faro's weather ensures that a holiday can be enjoyed here at any time of the year.

From the turquoise waters of the Rio Formosa lagoon, to the colorful rural landscape and villages of Faro's countryside, a visit to this part of the Algarve is recommended. Getting to Faro is easy, with the regions main airport located near Faro city, and regular flights to and from the UK.

How to Clean Moncler Down Jackets

As the weather becomes colder and colder, more and more people choose Moncler down jackets to protect them from bitterly cold weather. However, most people must have problems in washing the down jackets. As we know, Moncler jackets are very expensive, if they are not properly cleaned, you would suffer great loss. In the following, I am going to teach you some tips in washing down jackets.

Tip 1: Hand wash

Every down jacket has a label, which shows how to wash and maintain it. If you are careful enough, it is not difficult for you to find that 90% down jackets need hand washing instead of dry-cleaning. Because the washing lotion has ill effects on its ability of keeping warm and makes the Moncler jackets aging. If you use washing machine, machine wash and dryer spin would change the down jackets' shape, and the downs will distributes asymmetrically.

Tip 2: Water temperature

We should use 30 centigrade water. First, we should soak the clothes in cold water for 20 minutes, making it wet. Then put the washing lotion into 30 centigrade water, and soak it for 5 minutes. In the next step, scrub the jackets with banister brush and wash it with warm water too. Because warm water can make the lotion dissolve adequately, which can make Moncler jackets clean.

Tip 3: Do not use too much washing powder

If you use washing powder, generally 4 to 5 spoon washing powder is enough. Too much washing powder would make it difficult to make it clean. What is more, the remaining washing powder will affect the filling power.

Tip 4: you had better use neutral detergent

Neutral detergent do less harm to down jackets. If you use alkaline detergent and do not clean it completely, the downs will be damaged. So you had better put some vinegar in the warm water before washing if you use alkaline detergent. Because the vinegar can neutralize the alkaline detergent.

Tip 5: Do not wring the Moncler jackets
After washing the Moncler jackets, you can not wring them. Squeeze out the water and then hang-up and try. No ironing or solarization. After drying, you can beat it softly to recover their filling power.

Sports Illustrated Magazine

Although Sports Illustrated is an extremely popular magazine (primarily with a male readership) these days, there were similar magazines called Sports Illustrated which failed before the current incarnation of the magazine that arrives on news stands and in mailboxes across the country. Hard as it may be to believe, sports journalism was once considered benefit other forms of writing. That was before writers like Frank Deford, Robert Creamer and others came along and proved that writing about sports could grab readers and have them debating the pros and cons of various aspects of basketball, football and..yes .. even swimsuit models. Reporting on the Olympic Games was also in demand and some of those covers featuring Olympic athletes have become collector's issues.

Ironically, an early publisher of the magazine, Henry Luce, was not even an avid sports fan. He could probably be called lukewarm (at best). Still, he managed to ignore those who scoffed at the idea of ​​a magazine focused only on sports reporting and photos. His instincts served him in good stead and Sports Illustrated was ready to take off.

Of course, timing is everything. It did not hurt that television was about to help Americans sit in the comfort of their dens or living or family rooms and watch a baseball or other game. It was a natural move to buy a magazine to read during the commercials and Sports Illustrated filled the bill. If there was any question about a particular batting average, the magazine could be consulted. Beside, it was just plain fun to read – and it only became better through the years.

Sports Illustrated was responsible for many innovations in sports reporting. Their note "Sportsman of the Year" was popular from the start. Everyone loves a good competition so readers were eager to see who'd grace the cover each year – and why. Winners have accomplished such feats as breaking the four minute mile (Roger Bannister) or some other athletic feat. If the covers are representative of the popularity of specific sports, then Major League Baseball looks to be the most popular sport, followed by Pro Football and Pro Basketball.

It would be impossible to mention the magazine without mentioning the infamous and sometimes controversial swimsuit issue. The first one was published in 1964 and men found photos of supermodels posing in often very skimpy, barely there swimsuits impossible to resist (a fair share of women bought the swimsuit issues, too, sometimes to see how they measured up in comparison with the models ). While the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated flies off the magazine shelves, there are some readers who write protest letter or even cancel their subscriptions yearly – all because of this issue.

It is not only athletes or swimsuit models who have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. Famous celebrities have been used to promote sports. These include Ed Sullivan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Big Bird. Sports Illustrated has even spun off a special edition of the magazine for children, Sports Illustrated Kids.

Since sports has its share of controversies and a wide mixture of athletes, there have been some who have been featured in the magazine for sad reasons. Sports Illustrated even has had memorial covers. Ted Williams was featured after he died of a heart attack. Pat Tillman, who played for the Arizona Cardinals, appeared on the cover after he died in Afghanistan.

Even with the advent of sports television stations like ESPN, Sports Illustrated remains popular. Close to 20 percent of American males read it. Articles from the magazine form the basis for spirited debts at parties, work and home. It seems to have become a part of American life.

5 Strategies to Avoid Negative Effects of Prolonged Sitting at Work

I started working in an office 5 years ago, and during the past two years I have started to suffer a few consequences of bad habits that could have formed while sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

The reality is that a large amount of people work office jobs these days, and a lot of them do not correlate their type of work with their health condition. It is hard to change the way society works and avoid working office jobs altogether, as we often do not have that choice. However, we do have the choice of making a few adjustment at work that will allow us to prevent illnesses and health issues caused by sitting at your job for long hours each day.

In my case, I exercise very regularity, and always have made a decent effort to eat healthy. However the past two years a few health issues have started to manifest, and it took some digging to find out the root causes. I started to develop a lot of gastrointestinal problems, and inability to breathe properly. I had to make a conscious effort to take enough oxygen, as I often felt as if I was choking.

I also noticed that I started to hunch over when I walked and even after doing yoga I had a hard time standing straight without effort. My spine started to feel weak, and I experienced a lot of back pain.

When I visited a chiropractor, I discovered that a bad post when sitting at my desk, plus not breathing properly had compressed some vertebrae in my spine, and had shifted my stomach in a way that impeded proper emptying into the small intestine. A series of chiropractic sessions and dietary adjustment made a lot of improvement, and now I make a conscious effort to breathe deeply through the day and to have a correct posture while sitting at my desk, so that the problem does not come back.

A very well researched article by Dr. Mercola discusses part of the controversies about the negative effects of sitting for prolonged hours and whether or not standing at your desk is better that sitting. The article also mentions several studies that point at a variety of negative health effects that can result from sitting more than 7 hours a day.

I will not discuss the details of those studies, but I will share with you the most important piece of information.

The bottom line as the article suggests is that the overall lack of movement might be the most detrimental issue for health, whether it is from standing or sitting; that said, it is important to mention that when you stand at your desk you are likely to get a lot more movement that when sitting, and I can attest to that because I tried standing at my desk for a while, and I did naturally move a lot more; I took some steps to reach things, I moved from leg to leg, and I changed my post several times while standing, which increases the amount of overall movement in a day. I also felt more alert and less tired during the day. Standing is also a weight bearing post which is beneficial for musculature and bone density.

Neverheadless, while standing might have fewer disadvantages that sitting, I agree with Dr. James Levine author of the book Get Up !: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It in that the emphasis should be on increasing movement of the body through the day rather than simply switching from sitting to standing.

That said, if you decide to try standing at your desk I strongly recommend that you position your screen, and keyboard at the right level to avoid developing issues, as a bad standing post can be as harming as a sitting posture.

As someone who works a full time office job, but who is also committed to improve my health and prevent future health issues, for the past year I have tried several strategies in order to reduce sitting time, and more importantly to increase the amount of movement of my body on any given day at the office, which has also helped me in my weight loss efforts.

Today I want to share with you some of the strategies I have implemented, and that have made a big difference in improving and relieving neck and back pain, indigestion, muscle soreness, and general energy levels.

1. Change positions several times throughout the day. For this, I Set a timer on my phone or computer to go off every 25 minutes, because it is very easy to get carried away with work, and before you know it 2 hours have gone by.

Dr. Mercola recommends to not sit for more than 20 minutes at a time. This might be a big compromise for a lot of people, depending on where you work. If you are lucky and have your own office like me, this will be feasible if you are determined. I change positions every 25 minutes most of the time, and move for 2 minutes every time.

If you share office space or have a time of job where it is impossible to stand every 20 minutes, do not worry! The point is to increase movement in general, so you will still benefit from changing positions in longer intervals.

How changing positions looks like? When your alarm goes off, stand up, walk around your own office, walk to the printer, walk to the water dispenser, walk around the hallway, do stretches, squats, walk in place, and roll your wrists, your ankles, do some standing yoga poses, anything that moves your body will benefit you.

If you are not able to stand up and move around, you can practice extending your legs while listed, do the rolling of the wrists, ankles, stretch your neck, etc.

You can also try sitting on an exercise ball and switch between that and your regular chair, like I do.

Trust me, I understand this is challenging in today's world, but if you are serious about your health and understand that you are your first priority, you will make it happen!

2. Take deep breaths through the day. Breathe into your diaphragm, expand your chest, and ribcage to ensure adequate oxygen intake. This can also help you improve your posture, because it is hard to breathe deeply when you are slouching at your chair. Breathing deeply will also force you to keep your back straight.

3. Take a walk during your lunch break and / or coffee breaks. Your breaks are the best opportunity to get more movement in. Make a conscious effort to go out for a walk instead of staying in your office to read news or sitting in the lunch room. This is also extremely beneficial to give your brain a break, sometimes we come back with a much clearer mind and new ideas on how to solve problems.

Even if you walk only 20 minutes a day every day you work, and you work about 20 days a week like most people, you will put in 400 minutes of walking every month! That is 6.6 hours! That your body will thank you for.

Do not underestimate the power of walking. It is a great weight-bearing exercise that the body was built to do!

4. Mindful Eating

Usually, People who work office jobs, myself included, have much more opportunities to eat through the day, than say, constructors workers, and yet us office workers move a lot less and therefore require less energy. You see the problem?

Food is comforting when we are stressed out, and even entertaining when we are bored, but eating under those circumstances can potentially lead us towards making bad eating choices or eating more than needed.

We must be aware of our emotional state before reaching for a snack. It takes awareness of your body to know how you feel and understanding your choices. However, as a rule of thumb it is better not to eat when you are under stress. Take a few minutes to calm down and ask your body: what will really nourish me right now? Sometimes a few deep breaths or a walk are much more relieving in the long term than food.

Recognizing when we are bored is important to avoid eating out of boredom. This happened to me a lot, when work started to be a bit daunting, I used to go to the nearest bakery as a way of having some distraction, and I would buy a pastry even though I was not really craving it. Occasionally, I noticed some weight gain after a few trips to the bakery!

Now I recognize when I am bored, or tired and I pay attention to my choices. I try to read an article instead or just go for the walk, pass by the bakery but do not stop by. Usually after a walk I will have a better idea whether I am hungry or not.

Bottom line: Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored, stressed or tired.

5. Proper Posture. Whether you sit or stand at your desk, ensuring that you have the correct posture will prevent a lot of pain and discomfort. There are several resources on the internet that you can use as a guide.

Some suggestions to always keep in mind are: Avoid slouching, sitting cross legged, cradling the phone, and shaving your shoulders.

Remember that when it comes to avoiding health problems from working at a desk, the key is to improve posture, and increase movement throughout the day.


How Stress Generators Affect Learning and the ADD Brain, Part I

Ever notice what happens to you or your child when you or they are already emotionally stressed and then drink a cup of coffee or eat a candy bar? Initially you feel a little bit better; and then you crash. From my reading of the medical literature and from my experience working with clients, I believe stress exacerbates ADD and so does sugar and / or caffeine since both can act as stressors. ADD, attention deficit disorder, and ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, have long been associated with an imbalance in dopamine levels in the pre-frontal cortex, the front region of the brain involved in filtering out stimuli and controlling responses as it helps with general decision making, and judgment calls about your environment.

With diminished filtering capacity, the pre-frontal cortex of the ADD brain, treats all incoming stimuli as equal in importance. For example a school-age child with ADD, pays equal attention to the teacher, the kid next to him ruffling through his backpack, kids outside the classroom in the hallway, and the sound of the air conditioner coming through the ventilation shaft. Additionally, the imbalance in the prefrontal cortex of the brain will lead to difficulty inhibiting behaviors like speaking out of turn or getting out of a seat.

These actions are typically restrained or curtailed when there is balanced brain chemistry and ADD is absent. An individual with ADD will already exhibit all the classic signs of inattentiveness, hyperactivity, and impulsivity; then add sugar to the mix. The addition of the sugar related stressor overwhelms the brain. As a result of one too many stimuli, the brain shuts down to protect itself. The prefrontal cortex is not the only brain area that interferes with learning in response to stress. The amygdala, the seat of our emotions, plays a role and will be discussed in Part II of this article series.

Ways To Get a Building Lot For Your Home

There are several ways you can get a lot for your new home. Most of these methods do not require you to buy a vacant lot that's already been subdivided. For instance, you could purchase:

1. A portion of someone's property.

Once you had a signed purchase contract with the owner, you'd have to subdivide the land off from their property before you could take title to the lot. But finding a property owner willing to sell you a portion of their land could be difficult, and getting the land at a reasonable price might be even tougher. Your offer should specify that you would be responsible for paying the costs associated with the subdivision because then you have more control over the work being done, time frames, and the expenses charged.

2. An existing house on its lot.

You would destroy the house and then build new. However, what you do not want to do is overpay for improvements (ie, existing house) that are going to be torn down. Since your offer price for the property should take into account the cost of demotion, you should get estimations for removal of the existing house before submitting your offer.

3. A land parcel (vacant or not).

The parcel would have to have sufficient frontage and area to produce 2 or 3 separate lots with all of the lots fronting on the existing street. The objective is to avoid construction of a new street. You want to create a "turn-key" scenario: subdivide the original property, record the plan, and sell off whatever lots you do not keep for your new home. With the lots fronting on the existing street, your target market would not be limited to builders. It could also include people interested in buying just one lot for either investment or the future construction of their homes. If the original parcel included an existing house, so much the better, as long as the house had some value and its location within the land parcel would not mess up an efficient subdivision of the entire property.

The following examples illustrate the difference in land cost between buying one lot and buying a parcel that could be subdivided.

Example A:

2 acre vacant land parcel zoned for single-family detached housing on 30,000 sq. ft. lots; public water and sewer; asking price is $ 200,000; assumed yield: 2 lots

Your cost for the property is reduced by the price that you can get in selling off the second lot. So, for instance, if you sell the second lot for $ 150,000, your total cost for the land portion of your new home project is $ 50,000 (plus subdivision expenses).

Purchase price: $ 200,000 ($ 100,000 per lot)

Less sale of second lot: $ 150,000

Effective land cost: $ 50,000 (plus subdivision expenses)

Gross savings: $ 150,000

Example B:

2 acre parcel zoned for single-family detached housing on 30,000 sq. ft. lots; public water and sewer; the existing house on a lot is worth $ 250,000; asking price is $ 300,000; assumed yield: 1 building lot + existing house on its own lot

Purchase price: $ 300,000 ($ 150,000 per lot)

Less sale of existing house on its lot: $ 250,000

Effective land cost: $ 50,000 (plus subdivision expenses)

Gross savings: $ 250,000

Example C:

2 acre vacant land parcel zoned for single-family detached housing on 80,000 sq. ft. lots (can not be further subdivided); public water and sewer; asking price is $ 200,000

Your land cost is the highest in Example C ($ 200,000) because you're buying one vacant lot that can not be subdivided. The subdivision necessary in the other examples is not going to run $ 150,000-250,000 (the amount of your gross savings). To get a good idea of ​​what the expense would be, contact civil engineers in your area. Ask them what they'd charge to do a small (2 or 3 parcel residential subdivision). This type of subdivision may be considered by some municipalities as a "simple" or "minor" subdivision based on the total number of lots and the fact that no new street would have to be constructed. Make sure you consult a real estate attorney for advice and to see that your purchase contract covers your flank.

Critical Thinking: Are Borders More Important Than Ever Before?

In recent years, a lot has been said about borders and whether or not the time has come for them to be removed. And, when it comes to what someone's views are on this topic, it can all depend on what side of the political line they are drawn to.

If someone is drawn towards the left of the line, they can believe that having open borders is the best option; whereas if someone is drawn to the right of the line, they can believe that this would be a terrible idea. This is then something that can create a fair amount of conflict between people.

Another Scenario

Along with this, even if someone is not all that interested in politics, they could still be all for open borders. There are at least two reasons as to why someone would have this position even though they are not overly political.

What it could show that they have done some research on this topic and come to the conclusion that this is the right option. Or, it may be a sign that they are someone who has simply absorbed what the mainstream media and education system has come out with.

One Purpose

These two sources are supposedly to be there to inform and to educate, but this is basically a facade. The education system takes people from a young age and indoctrinates them and, once their time there is done, the mainstream media carries on from where they left off.

So, if someone has spent a lot of time in the former and spends a lot of time consumer the latter, it is not going to be a surprise for them to be all for open borders. These two sources of information often present openorders as though they are essential in today's world.

Another Influence

Along with these two sources, one may also have heard pretty much the same thing come out of the mouths of their favorite singers and actors / actresses. This all helps to create the impression that this view is the 'right' view.

It's almost as if most of the people in this profession have the same brain, lacking the ability to form their own conclusions. Perhaps there are some actors / actresses whose whole life is just one big performance, with them not knowing who they really are beyond the roles that they play.

An Easy Target

Yet, even if an actor / actress is simply repeating something that they have been told to say in regards to open borders, it does not mean that someone will be able to see this. Through putting this person on a pedestal and believing that they are more-than human, one can simply swallow everything that comes out of their mouth.

This is one of the benefits of having celebrities go along with the accepted narrative; it becomes a lot easier to influence the masses. Having said that, despite certain actors / actresses were told that in order for them to reach the top and to become living gods, they would need to preach certain views.

Another Reason

They would then have gained the world, so to speak, but they would have lost themselves in the process. Someone like this can then seem to have it all; when in reality, they have lost the most important thing – themselves.

Then again, an actor / actress could say one thing in public and another thing to their closest friends. They will then realize that if they want to continue to do what they love, it will be vital for them to pretend that they are on board with the accepted view, and, what is ironic here, is that Hollywood is somewhere that is constantly harping on about 'tolerance' and 'diversity'.

The Current State of the World

Now, while there can be a number of reasons as to why someone can believe that having open borders is a good idea, what can not be overlooked is what has taken place in certain parts of the world over the past few decades. For one thing, certain parts of the Middle East have been torn apart and along with the physical damage that has occurred, there is also the effect that this has had on the psyches of so many people who live in this part of the world.

So, to only think about the freedom that comes with open borders and the benefit this would have on people who generally need help, for instance, would be an oversight. What also needs to be taken into account is the other side of this; only focusing on one side will result in a lot of information being overlooked.

An Analogy

And, when it comes to making an informed decision, it is clear that the big picture needs to be looked at. One way get an idea of ​​what has taken place in the Middle East would be to imagine that a hornets' nest has been stirred up.

Through disrupting this nest, there are naturally going to be a lot of hornets' that are extremely angry about what has taken place, hornets' that are not as angry, and other hornets' that will not have gotten worked up. And while some of these hornets' that will soon pass through this experience, there will be others that will not.

The Sensible Approach

Taking this into account, would it really be wise for the western world to open its borders bearing in mind the carnage that has been caused in this part of the world? Clearly, not everyone who lives there is going to want to seek revenge for what has happened to their country, but there will be plenty of people who will.

And, even though most of the people in the western world played no part in what has taken place in the Middle East over the years, there are still going to be people in Middle East that have this outlook. To these people, the people who live in the western world will be seen as having played a part in what has happened to their homeland.

One Hell Of A Mess

If the leaders of the past and the present had not gotten involved in the Middle East, the world would probably be a lot safer. For a country to bomb another and then to open its borders to that country would be the height of insanity.

To just take any one in from a country like this would be tantamount to someone eating food that had been laced with a small amount poison. This will not be enough to kill them, but it will be enough to cause their body a fair amount of harm.


When it comes to an issue like this, it is essential for someone to not only use their heart but to also use their head. Their heart can cause them to focus on the people who please need help, while overlooking the people who want to cause harm.

Empathy is important, that is clear, but when it comes to making sensible decisions, being able to think rationally is imperative. The heart only focuses on the here and the now and is idealistic, while the head is able to think about the future and is realistic.

When the heart is elevated to a high position and the head is lowered and cast aside, it is inevitable that poor decisions are going to be made. And in this case, poor decisions will lead to even more harm being done.

Should You Solder Your Wedding Bands and Engagement Rings Together?

After the wedding is all said and done, the question is how you will wear your wedding rings and your engagement ring in the future. Deciding on the best way to wear your wedding and engagement rings together will ensure that you show them off in comfort and in style for many years.

Many women like to show off both the engagement ring and the band by wearing them next to each other on their ring finger. Usually wedding bands are placed on the finger first because it is the closest to your heart. However, sometimes these rings can rub against each other awkwardly or spin around the wrong way so so that they do not look right. Some women choose to have their wedding ring and engagement ring soldered together to prevent this from happening and to make them more comfortable to wear.

Advantages of Soldering

Soldering wedding bands to engagement rings essentially turns the two rings into one. It is not a very expensive thing to have done and it has some advantages such as preventing the rings from twisting in different directions while they are on your finger. It is a popular option for wedding sets which are designed to fit inside each other, such as a solitaire enhancer band or a wrap.

Soldering the rings together also prevails them from rubbing up against each other, which can cause excessive wear and tear on the sides of the rings.
If you decide to have the rings unsoldered in the future so that you can resize them or upgrade them, a jeweler will be able to take them apart again and polish each ring so that it looks like new.

Disadvantage of Soldering

However, the disadvantage of soldering wedding bands and engagement rings together means that you will never again be able to wear them separately. If you think that there might be an occasion when you just want to wear your wedding band, you might want to think of other non-permanent methods of holding these rings together.

Adjust the Size

Your rings might be spinning around on your finger because they do not fit properly. Take them to the jeweler to have them resized so that they fit your finger perfectly and they should not move or rub against each other.

Use a Ring Guard

You can also use a wire ring guard inside the two rings. Use a pair of pliers to fold the metal tabs up around both of the rings to hold them together. The ring guard should be invisible if you wear it on the inside of your hand.

Whether or not you sold your wedding bands and engagement rings together or use a more temporary method of attachment is up to personal preference. Take a look at the different options and decide which one will be more comfortable for you.

Fishing the Jig For Steelhead

One reason jigs have become so popular is their ease of use. You find a place you want to fish. You determine the depth of the hole your fishing. Then adjust your float to that depth and you are fishing.

It is a good idea to use a longer steelhead rod then you may normally. I like rods in the eight to ten foot range. The longer rod allows me to keep the line from my float to my rod tip out of the current and presents a more natural drift. You can use the shorter rods though I use shorter rods in the smaller steams that I fish. They are easier for me to control especially when the bank is grown over with willows and other shrubs. I also like to use a swivel and a lighter leader so if I do hang up I do not lose my float along with my jig.

Say the hole has long seam where fast and slow currents come together. You estimated the water to be five feet deep. Then adjust your float so that your jig is four feet below your float when it hits the bobber stop and you are ready. Cast your line up-steam out where the seam of the faster current mingles with the slower current and simply let the current drift your jig down through the hole. Keep an eye on your float if it is stopping or bouncing as it drifts you will need to reduce the depth at which you are fishing. If you see this happening, you should reel in and make this adjustment before you snag up. Jigs like to find a rock and I am sure that they crawl under them just so you will not be able to cast them back out again. Make sure you adjust them so they do not get a chance to hang or you will be tying on a new jig.

Most of the time when jig fishing you don’t need to be right on the bottom. Steelhead will move up quite a distance to take a jig. If you feel that, you are drifting over the top of the steelhead and not getting strikes. You can lengthen the distance between you float and jig a little with each cast. Once you see your float bouncing and stopping again reel in, shorten the distance between your float, and jig by about a foot. You are now drift the hole it what I call the strike zone.

Once you have, the depth set you can start fishing in earnest. Make sure you cover the entire drift buy make three or four cast in the same location. Then Cast out a foot or two farther for three or four cast. You will want to continue this until you are sure that you have covered all of the fishable water. It is important that you make a cast in the same location four three or four times. Steelhead will often just ignore your jig the first time that it passes them. When it keeps floating by, they are likely to hit it just because it is bothering them.

Steelhead fishing has a complex quantity of rules and you will learn that many of them work. However, you will find that not all of them work all the time. It is a good idea if you are fish a drift that you know has steelhead in it and you have not gotten any strikes that you change things up. You may want to try some type of attractant. Try adding a small spawn sack, maybe a small piece of shrimp, or even one of the many scents that are available today. Change colors and the size of your jigs if your old faithful jig is not working.

There will be times where for what ever reason the steelhead are suspend in the river and not hanging on the bottom like normal show do not be afraid of raising your jig off the bottom if you are not having any luck fishing deep.

As with any new technique, it may take you a while to master it. Be persistent and give this technique an honest try it works and works well for many Steelhead anglers. Once you realize how productive fishing a jig is you too will be hooked.

Interior Design Ideas For Connecting Spaces

The arteries of your home, connecting spaces should be awarded all the respect normally given to individual rooms. They not only greet you but also serve to lure you into the rooms beyond. The hall, stairs, landings and corridors of a house have a pivotal role to play and it is through the framework they form that you will view all the other rooms. Often characterized by their mean proportions, irregular shape and lack of light, these areas require very careful attention if they are to become the convenient welcoming spaces they should be.

The designer's first consideration should be the actual structure enclosing the space. By highlighting any features that are perfectly proportioned or well balanced, you can bring a sense of symmetry to what else is often a rather disorganized area.

Perhaps the floor has a regular outline: this could be emphasized by giving the chosen floor treatment a border in a contrasting color. Alternatively, if the ceiling height is auspicious, an attractive cornice or border could be introduced to enhance the line where ceiling meets wall.

A bold treatment at a good looking window has a similar effect. You can disguise features that are less pleasant by reducing their details or painting them out (that is, in the same color as their background). If the area is totally lacking any redeeming features, you might consider creating a 'blank canvas' of the same color on all surfaces and then applying points of interest specifically on the walls (with pictures) or on the floor (with area rugs) or by introducing interesting loose furnishings.

It is important to establish a focal point in each area – something pleasing for the eye to rest upon. It might be a handsomely surrounded fireplace, an impact-making picture, a well-proportioned window or a stunning carpet. Whatever it is, be sure that it is well positioned and given real star treatment with the help of some thoughtfully designed lighting.

When it comes to selecting color schemes for these transitional spaces, people have a tendency to veer towards bland mid-range colors and, because of sometimes restricted space, strong patterns are avoided. But the opposite approach often produces the most successful results. A boldly patterned carpet, for instance, can add an awful amount of drama and excitement to what else might be a very characterless area, and because people are generally only passing through the room there is little danger of tiring of such a strong statement.

Because these spaces impinge upon one another – the hall leading to the stairs and the stairs then leading on to a landing and so on – it is important to establish strong links between the schemes in each. Laying the same carpet through these connecting areas is an excellent way to give your house a sense of unity.

The only limitations to bear in mind are the effect of heavy traffic on your chosen colors and the possibility of clashes with individual room schemes.

Where light is restricted you have two choices: either to fight for light (by using reflective surfaces, light colors and mirrors) or, more unconventionally, to accept the darkness and play up to it. By painting such an area a wonderful rich dark color and incorporating some clever lighting effects, you can sometimes produce a magical effect.

Because there may be less to distract the eye in these connecting spaces, attention to details becomes paramount. Door handles and paneling, architraves and cornices, light switches and socket plates – these all deserve your special attention.

3 Modern Barriers to Zen's Gateless Barrier

The initial experience that the classic Zen masters call "seeing ones own true nature" (Japanese: kensho) or "casting of body and mind" is considered to be essential for authentic practice and enlightenment on the path of Zen. This awakening experience, referred to with a multitude of terms – breaking through the gateless barrier, completing the task of a lifetime, the bottom of the bucket falling out, resolving the great matter, and many others – offers some unique challenges. Moreover, there are a number of barriers that have proven to hinder modern Zen students, sometimes blocking their opportunities for even getting to Zen's authentic Gatless Barrier.
This article seeks to highlight the most common of those barriers and provide modern Zen students with the knowledge they need to identify and avoid them. Examining this weighty subject in an article, we will not attempt to treat it intensively , but we will attempt to treat it intensively . That is, our approach will be wide, not deep. At the same time, our goal is to provide readers with all the essential information they need to discover the clear path to the authentic Gateless Barrier of Zen.

Many contemporary books on Zen that are directed toward beginning students / practitioners fail to address some common pitfalls faced by modern day Zen students. Every generation in Zen's history has had to meet and deal with its own unique challenges and difficulties, and the present generation is no exception. While some objective observers have sounded the alarm about some of the more flagrant discrepancies between the classic Zen teachings and those being propagated by some modern Zen teachers, few insiders have been willing to acknowledge, much less announce that the "Roshi has no clothes."

At this point, we take the opportunity to advise all students, if the Roshi is naked and invites you to sit in his or her lap, be very careful .

Moving right along; the three major pitfalls modern students should be aware of are, various forms of idolatry (not of "images" but of verbal, textual, or formulaic teachings), distorted teachings concerning the Zen tradition of Transmission, and finally, of cultural, or superstitious doctrines about the nature of practice and enlightenment.

Idolatry, while often acknowledged (at least implicitly) in many scholarly studies of Zen, is usually overlooked or ignored by teachers and authors of popular Zen books. When it is addressed in popular books, it is usually given short shrift and its most serious dangers are not acknowledged.

Scholars, by definition are familiar with the limitations of the various modes of language, image, and symbol since, they usually understand how to use language without being used by language. On the other hand, many non-scholars are unaware of the characteristics of metaphor, simile, and analogy, or differences between connotation and denotation, symbol and sign, etc. Moreover, concerning various styles of language, such as hyperbole, irony, satire, and propaganda, understanding among many non-scholars is often haphazard and vague.

While being unfamiliar with the linguistic abilities and limitations of verbal and written language does not in itself pose any problem, it can (and does) lead to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. In the case of modern Zen, this can enhance the kind of "interpretations" that lead to unhealthy dependencies (on teachers and "fellow" members), and even financial and sexual exploitation.

The language of Zen is vulnerable to this because many genuine Zen masters use language at the very cliff-edge of its limits-and beyond. Koans, for example, which form the basic texts of Zen Buddhism, are one of the most misunderstood forms of language in the world. This is evidenced by the definitions of koans found in most English language dictionaries. These definitions do not define koans , they define their effect on people that do not know how to read them ; puzzles, riddles, irrational sayings, etc. Using these to define koans is like defining Sanskrit as, "often shaped lines and squiggles."

Because Zen teachings (which is not to say "Zen" itself), like all teachings, are absolutely and necessarily verbal, they are vulnerable to misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Fortunately, the very thing that makes Zen teachings vulnerable to misuse (their dynamism), also makes them subject to evaluation. Being verbal, they are (by extension) subject to literary inscription . Because Zen teachings have been recorded, studied, tested, refined, and developed for centuries we have access to a wealth of wisdom expressed many of the classic Zen masters with which we can examine in comparison to modern teachings.

This is not meant to suggest that the actual experience Zen teachings refer to are verbal . The actual experiences described by Zen teachings are, like all experiences , beyond the limitations of language to convey. If words could convey the actuality , we could eliminate world hunger with a sentence. It is simply not the function of words to convey experience; the function of words in Zen is to describe, instruct, and lead to experience. Everyone understands that talking about baseball is not baseball itself. Everyone also understands that the verbal instructions given by coaches are one of the essential components to great baseball.

Words, doctrines, and texts often become objects of attachment for the spiritually immature in all traditions, and Zen is not immune to this malady. In fact, a vast amount of Zen literature authors of warnings to avoid attachment to texts and doctrines. Such attachment results in what western religions call idolatry. Eihei Dogen, one of the classic Japanese Zen masters, calls this "loving carved dragons (doctrines) more than real dragons (experience)."
Ironically, some of the very doctrines meant to warn Zen students away from idolatry have become idols of worship themselves. The most popular of these is, "Zen is a separate transmission outside of writings, not dependent on words, pointing directly to the mind, and the realization of Buddhahood." This particular "carved dragon" had been idolized so fervently that it posed a serious threat to Zen's intellectual integrity. While many see this dictum merely highlights that Zen "experience," is separate from Zen "teaching," some have asserted it to mean that Zen teachings are valueless or even a hindrance to Zen experience.

In spite of the fallacious logic of this interpretation-this nullifies their "teaching" that "teachings are valueless" – naive students taking it to heart, use this idol to justify their neglect of serious study, often with assertions that Zen is just sitting without goals and understanding that everything just is. When asked where they learned such Zen teachings, they imitate their own teachers and resort to ellogical generalizations. When anyone tries to probe beyond the wonderful layers of dogma and blind faith, up goes the idol, "Zen is a separate transmission outside writings."

Although it is easy to understand how and why this occurs among novitiate students, who by definition are spiritually (and often intellectually) immature, it is difficult to fathom the reasons senior students and teachers remain so adamant. Yet, it is outside the scope of this article to suggest the possible reasons of this phenomenon. We simply point out its existence and some of its common characteristics in an effort to help beginners recognize and avoid this all too common form of idolatry.

The next barrier students should be aware of is related to the first, though it offers its own unique difficulties. This difficulty revolves around propagated distortions concerning the Zen tradition of mind to mind "transmission."

Confusion concerning Zen "transmission" is not relegated to beginners or non-scholars alone; many scholars as well as those within the Zen orthodoxy openly know their own muddled understandings about some of the issues surrounding transmission. One of the reasons for this confusion centers on the fact that the term "transmission" has been accepted by various "Zen Schools," in various times, to validate, clarify, and establish a variety of doctrines, traditions, and rituals. At the risk of oversimplification we might say that "transmission" has different different things, to different people, in different times.
Two major subjects that authentic Zen schools have applied the term "transmission" to are; teaching "styles" (eg Rinzai's teaching, Tozan's teaching, etc.), methods, devices, etc. given to advanced students (which may be misused by beginners and hinder their progress), and as public acknowledgment of a students readiness to teach.

The one subjected to the most misuse is the doctrine of "mind to mind" transmission. The authentic teaching of mind to mind transmission is concerned with the transmission of wisdom (prajna) from the enlightened (Buddha) mind to the (inherent) enlightened mind of students.

While various groups and individuals propagating distorted teachings of transmission often differ regarding the particulars, they do share enough characteristics to allow them to be described in the same general terms.

Common to most of the distorted teachings is the propagation of "transmission" as the conveyance of "Dharma" (essential truth, law, teaching of Buddhism) from one individual human being, to another individual human being, thus "certifying" them as a "Dharma-heir." The human submitter, himself (Egypt, in some schools her self-at least theoretically) was the recipient of the "Dharma" from another individual human being, and so on all the way back to the "historical" Buddha. The new "Dharma-heir" is thus well qualified to teach with "full authority" and empowered to propagate their own Dharma-heirs.

Interestingly, there does not seem to be any limit regarding the quantity of Dharma-heirs that any single Dharma-heir can propagate. Some Dharma-heirs propagate very few or even no Dharma-heirs of their own. Other Dharma-heirs, especially in the modern West, are quite fruitful, propagating Dharma-heirs left and right, and propagating things other than Dharma-heirs as well. Strangely, the charts used by near every orthodox orthodox Zen institution to trace the purity of lineages back to Buddha (similar to those the AKC uses to keep track of canine breeds) fail to acknowledge any women in their own 2500+ year histories. This in spite of the fact that official dogmas of most acknowledge women as equally qualified to become Dharma-heirs. If they are equally qualified, they have certainly beaten the mathematical odds, evidenced by the astonishing fact that not a single one has been recognized.

The distorted versions of "transmission" are often veiled by mysterious and mystical-sounding terms designed to simply that only enlightened beings (such as Dharma-heirs) can understand it. Even in schools that promote milder versions, and clearly deny any supernatural or mystical implications to transmission, the "true" meaning of transmission is often discussed in hushed tones and concealed in a hazy cloud of esoteric innuendo.

Some objective observers have suggested that there may be connections between these teachings and the many cases of shameless exploitation of Zen students. One not so subtle corollary of this subversion of Zen transmission is the fostering of divisions between the "haves" and the "have-nots" (ie the enlightened and the deluded). If Dharma-heirs are illuminated, then everyone else is deluded; since they are always right-they only "appear" wrong to the deluded, who are simply incapable of grasping their profundity. When only Dharma-heirs are qualified to teach with full authority, students may fear failure of pleasing the "master" will bar them from transmission of the true Dharma, thus condemning them forever to the life of ordinary deluded beings. That would be the practice of the fundamental art that William Blake called "Priestcraft."

Since nearly every modern "School," including some that include "authentic" teachers, admit to some "version" of this discrepancy of transmission, how should students avoid being exploited? First, by simply being aware of the fact that it exists. Second, by familiarizing themselves with the basic knowledge of the authentic tradition of transmission issued in the classic Zen texts. Third, apply that knowledge to the evaluation process of considering the qualifications of particular teachers.

Before we move on to the discussion of the distorted teachings concerning the nature of practice and enlightenment, it should be pointed out that the authentic teachings on Zen transmission continues to be an important part of Zen training. Because of the varied subtilities of the authentic function of transmission, its defect import can not be really appreciated until students have advanced through some of the initial experiences of Zen practice and enlightenment, especially the initial experience of true nature. Neverheless, an understanding of the fundamental points regarding the function of transmission is easily within the beginner's ability.
The fundamental truth underlying the authentic teachings of transmission concerns the conveyance of wisdom (prajna) from the Buddha mind of Buddhas and Zen masters to the Buddha mind of practitioners. This is the function that the term "mind to mind transmission" is used to indicate. Eihei Dogen often uses variations of the term "Buddhas together with Buddhas" when speaking of this function.

Zen transmission is implemented by utilizing meditation (Zazen, shikantaza, no-mind, etc.) to illumine the wisdom of "Buddhas" (as presented by teachers, scripture, treatises, practices, etc.) under the "light" (of Buddha nature) inherent in the practitioner's own mind. This inherent "light" is the "Buddha nature" that is wakened from dormancy with the practitioners initial experience of "seeing into their true nature" (kensho). When the wisdom of "Buddhas" is illumined by the light of "Buddha nature" that wisdom is realized (made real) in the practitioner. Thus, the "Dharma" (teaching, law, truth, of Buddhism) is transmitted from Buddha (teachers, doctrines, practices) to Buddha (the inherent Buddha nature of all beings).

This summary is of course an oversimplification and as such is no more the whole "truth" than those previously discussed distortions above. It is, however, closer to the mark than the above distortions, and is less vulnerable to being used as a tool for exploitation.

Finally, we come to the distorted teachings on the nature of practice and enlightenment. Although these manifest in a number of ways, most distortions concerning the nature of practice and enlightenment are based on postulating dualism (rather than duality) between practice and enlightenment, and the fostering of cultural beliefs in the supernatural powers of particular practices.
As in the other discrepancies, the proponents of these aberrant teachings adopt some of the beneficial aspects of authentic Zen doctrine, cook them up with the usual spices of Priestcraft, and present them veiled in a fog of mystical mumbo jumbo. The general outline of the distorted teachings postulating a duality between practice and enlightenment come in two basic flavors. The first flavor posits "practice" as simply a "means" to an "end" which is of course, "enlightenment." The second flavor religions "enlightenment" altogether by making it synonymous with "practice."

In the former of these two distortions, practice and enlightenment are subordinated to the dualism of "real" and "provisional," with the notice that everyone is "originally" enlightened and there is practice can not "create" enlightenment (it is already there). Hence, practice is regarded as an "illusory" provisional tool that can be abandoned when the practitioner indicates the "reality" of enlightenment.

In the latter distortion, the dualism between practice and enlightenment is built in by posing some variation of the notice that "practice" is in itself enlightenment, more specifically, a particular mode (or modes) of practice {typically a specified form of sitting meditation ). This, of course, entails a dualism between practice / enlightenment and all other activities and non-activities. The overall effect is designed to assure a division between the "enlightened" (those who know the "secret" practices) and ordinary deluded beings (everyone else).

While both of these twisted views can effectively bar students from the authentic Zen path of practice and enlightenment, the latter is by far the most pernicious, and has been through the entire history of Zen (and Buddhism for that matter). The former view can be overcome by an appeal to rationality, the observation of fellow students, experiential realization, and other ways. The latter view, however, once adopted in earnest is extremely resistant to intervention. Not only is it difficult to correct once it has become established, its resistance becomes progressively more tenant over time. This is due to the fact that practitioners who really adopt this distortion are adopting a form of what the great Buddhist master Nagarjuna called a "view of emptiness," and described as "incurable." The works of Nagarjuna, and the records of most of the great Zen masters, dedicate a great deal of time and energy in efforts aimed at warning students to avoid the "skull littered field" and the "poisonous cave of inky darkness."

Both of these distorted teachings are sufficient enough authentic Zen teachings to make them difficult to discern (especially for beginners). Rather than trying to describe the many forms that these distortions are propagated as, we shall concede ourselves to outlining some of the major characteristics of true practice and enlightenment according to the classical teachings of Zen.

First, Zenists that practice and enlightenment are methodological designations, that is, teaching devices based on the doctrine of nonduality. It is important to understand that "nonduality" does not mean "oneness." That practice and enlightenment are nondual means that they both one nor two. Buddhist literature uses a number of analogies and similes to illustrate nonduality, one of the most common is "water" and "waves." Water is not "waves" yet not apart from waves; waves are not water, yet not apart from water. Water and waves are the same, yet each maintains its distinction. This relationship is also pointed out by pointing to the nonduality of the "gold" and the "form" in the statement of a golden lion. The "lion" aspect of the statue depends upon the "gold," yet is not the gold itself. The "gold" and the "lion" are the same, yet each maintains its distinct characteristics. Another common example is that of a "valley" and an "echo."

One simile for illustrating the nondual relationship between practice and enlightenment is the activity of reading. Human beings are innately endowed with the "ability" to read, yet until the ability has been developed, or activated, writing remains indiscernible. Once one has developed, or activated their inherent ability to read, one realizes that writings have never been truly indiscernible, one just had not activated the function to discern it.

To apply this to the first distortion; to say realizing our inherent enlightenment is the goal after which "practice" is no longer needed; would be like telling a first grader that just read "The cat sat on the mat" they could dispense with reading. To apply this to the second distortion; to say that practice was itself enlightenment and "awakening" does not exist; would be like telling the first grader that simply staring at the alphabet was good enough.

The practitioner's initial glimpse into true nature (kensho) is like the first grader's activation of the ability to read. The application of reading is like the application of Zen "practice." The knowledge transferred from the book to the reader, is like the wisdom of Zen "enlightenment." Here, reading (practice) and knowledge (enlightenment) at once depend upon one another, yet maintain their individual distinctions.

Of course, the "experience" of practice and enlightenment on the authentic path of Zen transcends all attempts at description. The descriptions offered here are merely intended to give some guidance on the nondual nature of practice and enlightenment which may help students identify and avoid distortions.

According to Zen, our own true nature is the essential nature of reality itself. When we awaken to our true nature, we realize our identity with the essential nature of all things. The realization as to who and what we truly are are identical with our release from false, or deluded views about who and what we are. The realization of the truth is the same experience as liberation from the false. The classic records of Zen insist that liberty is inherent in all beings, that each of us is, as we are equal with the sages of all time. Obviously, we should not put our trust in teachers or teachings ahead of trust in ourselves.

Mistrusting ourselves makes us vulnerable to barriers that are no more than distractions, or worse. Trusting to our inherent wisdom and compassion, we can learn from authentic teachers and teachings, face the gateless barrier, and step through into the certainty of realization.


The Wonderful Feel of Primitive Wallpaper

Primitive Wallpaper continues to be one of the most popular styles of wallpaper in America, Canada, Europe and Australia. There are many patterns and styles that make up the broad category, but all of them adhere to certain requirements. Those requirements, which we will discuss below, all evoke feelings of a rural, bucolic setting and a simple, slower-paced lifestyle. In our modern world, it is no wonder such sentiment is popular.

What qualifies as primitive can be boiled down to four basic factors. These factors include the type of colors used in the pattern and the subject matter of these patterns. We can determine if a wallpaper is primitive if it contains any of the following:

1.) Soft Palette Colors – Traditional patterns such as damasks, plaids and stripes qualify as primitive if the colors fall in the soft palette colors, such as beige, burgundy, sage or olive hues.

2.) Natural Materials – Paper features look or texture of brick, wood, marble or stone.

3.) Country Setting – Paper features country or small-town themes, reminiscent of quieter, simpler times, such as farms, fields or cottages.

4.) Still Life – As in art, the subject matter of traditional still life paintings evoke a cozy, homey, nostalgic feeling and therefore qualify as primitive. This can include farm animals such as chickens and livestock, as well as fruits and vegetables.

All of these categories bring that feel of simple, country life. This is most popular in larger homes that are actually located in the country. But more and more we are seeing customers who live in crowded suburban or urban environments decorating with primitive wallpaper.

Some words that are often associated with the category include rustic, country, heritage and keepsake. When you see these words in the description of the wallpaper pattern you are considering you can be certain that pattern will fall into the primitive family of styles.

It is important to keep in mind that one does not need to dedicate an entourage wall to a mural of a horse farm to get the feel of primitive style. In fact, wallpaper borders in this category are even more popular than traditional wallpaper and murals. Wallpaper borders are perfect for smaller rooms, like the bathroom, or large rooms where walls pace is at a premium, such as the kitchen where kitchens occupy a lot of wall area.

Whatever you choose to decorate with a bold mural, a triple floral pattern or one of the many primitive wallpaper borders you will be rewarded for your effort. Visitors will be grateful to that down-home country feel that we all love, and you will be surrounded by it every day.