Thursday, August 28, 2014

Photo art made simple with Photoshop

Doctoring images with Photoshop is probably sometimes viewed with suspicion or even contempt by purist photographers, considering what can be done to less than ideal images, although avoiding PS completely is surely rare. I have fairly recently discovered how easy it is to create some fun "photo-art".



Dream-night in Table Bay

This image was taken on board the sailing ship Europa when she was visiting Cape Town and I was lucky enough to spend time sailing in Table Bay. The night-time effect adds a dreamlike quality.



Greenland Anchorage

The image at right was taken while on a cruise around Greenland aboard a small expedition ship, the Grigoriy Mikheev, which is seen anchored in a fiord while we went ashore for a walk in nature.




Etheric Zebra


This image was taken in the Kruger National Park.











Bird in Tree

The black-headed oriole was photographed in our garden at Keurboomstrand near Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.











Charlotte and Annabelle

My twin grandchildren.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My first time on a big tree planting site

The coral trees arrive on the building site.
I am on a big landscaping site on a very expensive piece of real estate where a very large and expensive holiday house is being built for a very wealthy owner, overlooking Robberg Beach in Plettenberg Bay. Three large coastal coral trees, two slightly smaller than the other, are being offloaded for strategic placement on the site. This requires a large crane truck which is costing a large amount per hour.

The conference.
I think it’s the first time I have had to wear a hard-hat, put in my hands by Charles Reitz, so this is obviously an important job on a big building site (there are about 20 bricklayers alone) and Charles, his landscape designer Wendy Sanderson-Smith and site manager Michael Strickland are all wearing looks which show a combination of excitement and concern. They have been planning and working very hard from an early hour in a demanding business.

Kasey leads the operation.





One of the big concerns is the maximum reach of the crane, which is going to be needed in order to hoist the big coral tree into position across the edge of the building under construction.

The strain is showing. Wendy lights a cigarette and Michael lights his pipe. Then quick as a flash Wendy is up on a vantage point, offering advice which obviously comes from years of study and experience. Later, she takes me on a quick tour of the site office and the building drawings all over the walls. She obviously knows what she’s looking at and tells me without a hint of irritation that her entire apartment, apart from one chair, is covered with similar drawings. She is dedicated, as are Charles and Michael. 

The three trees have to be located in exactly the right positions, marrying their natural prerequisite with the soil profile, and for the exact needs of the client. Kasey Voges, the expert from Trees South Africa – a remarkable company which supplies full grown trees – who has supervised the offloading by the crane truck, is huddled with Charles and Michael near the spot where a very tall tree has to be put in the ground, but it’s an impossibly steep spot, and, remember, this is all dune sand (with a lot of thick bush which will hopefully bolster the tree).

When asked if all this is sustainable, (his landscape division is called SustainaScapes) Charles replies: “If this area received more rainfall, this is a highly probable type of vegetation that would be found here.”  

Ideas are bounced around, compared and combined, doubted and then reinstated. Eventually it’s time to go – until the big moment comes…

Charles and Wendy.
A few days later… The crane truck is back and the largest of the three coral trees is being manoeuvred into its hole, thanks to Kasey’s unwavering supervision, the crane operator’s skill and a team of alert men from TSA cleverly erecting a slipway of timber and steel while an RTC man operates a winch which moves the tree towards its destination centimetre by centimetre. Charles and Wendy have again jumped up onto their vantage point, while Michael is down with the men.

Eventually it’s time to leave the site again, but I’m going to be right back, so I walk off with one of the builder’s stock hard-hats with the word Visitor across the front still on my head. One of his men, who looks as though he carries some rank, stops me before I can start my car. “Are you coming back?” he inquires somewhat sternly. Of course, I reassure him, I wouldn’t fail to come back. OK, he’s happy with that, so I can go.

When I return the trees are in place. What a miracle. Not only the coral trees, but a nine-metre tall strelitzia has been placed at the spot where the earnest conference took place, in a neat sandbagged hole, no problem.

These guys are good, hey, very good.




Thursday, June 5, 2014

A charming wedding in the Natal Midlands


Pippa and Alex (fourth and fifth from left) with bridesmaids and groomsmen.
There is surely no better excuse for an unscheduled holiday than a wedding in the family, in this case my son Alex marrying Pippa, daughter of Andrew and Lynda Smythe of Pietermartzburg, at a charming occasion in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. It all happened at a dedicated wedding venue called Orchards which provides accommodation (for close family and friends) in comfortable thatched lodgings, a chapel and entertainment facilities.
The bride and groom of course looked gorgeous and left me misty-eyed as they took their vows with Reverend Jacques Pretorius, Pippa’s uncle.
Anna (top) and Charley (above) stole
the hearts of the congregation.
All wedding photos courtesy Ian Thomas
My daughter Melissa read the lesson with her baby son Adam on her hip, charming the congregation with his cuteness. Master of ceremonies and musician James Hendry joined Alex and his co-groomsmen Boyd Varty and Renias Mhlongo in the church and all of them looked superb in their matching outfits. The two families produced almost the entire line-up of the six lovely bridesmaids and flower girls.


The speeches in the dining hall by James, with his infectious sense of humour, Alex, his father-in-law Andrew, Boyd and Renias - speaking in English and Shangaan (translated by James) - were all outstanding. Boyd has had international speaking experience around the recent publication of his memoir Cathedral of the Wild which deals with extraordinary experiences at Londolozi and elsewhere; and Alex too, with his motivational talk with Renias called The Power of Relationships, based on their experiences together, also at Londolozi and elsewhere. In fact the whole event had a strong Londolozi element with the presence of Dave Varty, CEO of the famous private game reserve, his wife Shan, their daughter Bronwyn and her husband Richard. Alex and Pippa are closely associated with Londolozi and are resident there.

After the wedding Estelle and I joined my brother and sister-in-law Philip and Cathy, and sister and brother-in-law Diana and Duncan at Champagne Valley, a beautiful Drakensberg resort, thanks to Di and Duncan, with sorties to places of interest in the area, including the local polling station. On the way there we spent a night at Nottingham Road, with dinner at the famous pub at Rawdon’s Hotel. My chicken salad was the tastiest meal I have had for a long time and the craft beer a welcome relief from the lites we had somehow stocked ourselves up with for the trip. The next morning we met Simon and Cheryl Blackburn at their lodge Three Trees at Spioenkop, where Phil and I had stayed some time back and were keen to revisit.

Duncan and Diana at Champagne Valley
These days Simon does the battlefield guiding himself, starting with a lesson in the lounge of the lodge on the historical background, followed by an audio description of the build-up to the Boer War in the shuttle vehicle, and then a presentation on location of the actual battle on top of the mountain – a vicious event which lasted all night and all day on 23 and 24 January 1900, leaving hundreds on both sides dead and wounded. The British soldiers who took the full force of the Boer cannons and rifle fire were left in mass graves, today covered by white stones at the edge of the mountain. Simon’s delivery of the story is nuanced and dramatic, sounding familiarly Churchillian at times!
On our outings in the Berg we saw a breathtaking display of the raptors at Falcon Ridge birds of prey centre run by proprietors Greg and Alison. They showed their magnificent birds, including a black eagle, fish eagle and giant spotted eagle owl flying into the blue yonder and returning with impressive landings after a loud call skyward from Greg or Alison. The black eagle did his landing right towards us, reminding me of a jet fighter, lowering his substantial curved flaps and feet like wheels at just the right altitude, before landing gracefully.

This was followed by a marvellous lunch at Champagne Castle Hotel with its wonderful views of the Drakensberg from close up, compliments of our friend and owner of the hotel, Stanley Cohen of Constantia in Cape Town.

The view from the Champagne Castle Hotel in the Drakensberg.


 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Camping in Kruger: lots of lovely lessons


Berg en Dal camping site in Kruger National Park.
Camping is not something you simply go and do; you need to know what you’re doing. And comfort lovers like me usually don’t because they have never considered pursuing the knowledge gained through selecting camping equipment, trying it out on site and then adding to it or changing it, according to the more refined needs out there under the stars.
   Why I mention this is because Estelle and I recently received an invitation on an all-expenses-paid trip from my generous brother Philip and his wife Cathy, to spend time with them in Johannesburg and three days camping in the Kruger National Park. We accepted with great excitement, if a little concern about the actual camping part.
Our tent and living area.
But not to worry, Phil and Cath had the Land Rover, the portable fridge, the trailer, the tent, the chairs, the table, the stretchers and a large basket full of goodies, including Lindt chocolates and Johnny Walker Scotch. All we had to do was help put up the fairly large, but lightweight tent. This simply required a nominal amount of connecting, lifting, pulling and sliding, tying and hammering – nothing for four fit young semi-retirees. But I think I must have had doubts about getting the thing to stand, and took my concerns out on the tent pegs. The sandy ground was quite hard and some heavy hammering with the mallet by yours trulyrendered at least two of the pegs stukkend.
In a short time, however, she was up, offering accommodation for the two women at the back, on the other side of a zip-up partition (a bit like business class – you envied the privilege of those on that side of the curtain). Phil and I took the front portion, which was really the stoep, and allowed a fair amount of fresh air through the gauze, which was nice for getting the full atmosphere and hearing more clearly the lions and other creatures in the night.
But the big challenge, we discovered, when camping in a place like Kruger, is getting used to the fact that there are a lot of people around you doing the same thing, and they come in a variety of camping outfits, from pup tents and blow-up mattresses to luxury self-propelled camping vehicles. Other accommodation includes normal caravans, from small to very large, and the all-in-one camping trailers, which I fancied most. With them, it’s just a matter of slit-slot and you’ve got a fold-down instant kitchen with its own lighting, or slot-slat and you have a comfortable double bed. Most outfits have some sort of awning and some campers are masters at finding real a strategic spot near an isolated power connection post around which they manoeuver their caravan, with awning, plus vehicle of course, and then hang towels on washing lines in between for complete privacy. I even stopped and congratulated one chap whose setup near the ablution block was a masterpiece.
The trouble is, there are only a limited number of trees in the camp and everyone tries to take full advantage of what’s available. And this is where brother Phil, with his strong sense of order and decency, started drawing lines in the sand. He had hoped for undisturbed tranquillity and a decent level of privacy at his campsite, but now you have Piet Poephol from Potgietersrus (and other names, allocated largely according to registration plates) reversing his Gypsy into our space, eventually placing it with a clear view of our entire campsite from his caravan’s veranda with its neat fucking table and chairs. We all agreed about feelings of exposure, but we and my brother particularly, eventually had to accept the situation in the face of overwhelming odds. All he could do was sit quietly in his folding chair with his Heineken, glowering at Piet reading his Rapport on his veranda.
There was more to learn. Making the evening braai, and for that matter any activity after dark, beyond sitting down in your folding chair with your Heineken, is not easy without adequate lighting. What we didn’t have – and I have since discovered that most veterans would never do without – were those lights you wear suspended on a band around your head which let you see everything in front of you by simply facing it. We had flashlights – powerful ones, granted – but overlooked the fact that in the dark you can’t easily carry a big flashlight, and your beer, and open the provisions basket and search for an item, all at once…
  

Night-time in Kruger Park can bring all sorts of surprises...
That night it was lovely to hear the nocturnal animals calling from the bush, but what we hadn’t counted on were the sounds coming from inside the tent. In spite of the lumps at the bottom of my borrowed sleeping bag, and my rug slipping off the sleeping bag, I fell fast asleep on a belly full of braai and booze. I was only made aware of the drama that unfolded around me in the tent in the middle of the night, the next morning by a sleep-deprived and grumpy brother Phil. I had not been the only one snoring, but mine had apparently started soothingly gently but then built up to a crescendo, which, along with the less noisy back-up of the ladies at the back, became unbearable for poor Phil, lying patiently trying to get to sleep. Fortunately for me, his tight-fitting sleeping bag had acted like a straitjacket, and when he failed to stop me with more than one quiet plea, he eventually resorted to crude curses in Afrikaans and tried throwing things at me - to no avail. Well, when I saw the bags under his eyes the next morning I felt really deep remorse.
   The next thing to learn was how to handle the ablution block, especially at rush-hour, which I tried to avoid by doing my main ablutions in the late afternoon. But if you do that you miss out on the early morning camaraderie. Like the gentleman standing next to me at the shaving mirror who engaged me good-naturedly.
   “Did you hear the lions last night?” he asked excitedly in an Afrikaans accent. “Beautiful, hey?”
   I shook my head sideways in agreement: “Lovely, man, lovely.”
   On another occasion I managed to get a shower cubicle as soon as I arrived. But as I got in it dawned on me that I had left my soap at the campsite. I dashed naked to the hand-soap dispenser over at the basins and tried to stuff the slippery stuff into the shower cubicle’s soap holder, but the soap holder had a drainage hole at the bottom and the soap quickly disappeared onto the floor and down the drain. Never mind, the nice hot water would do the trick, I decided. When I emerged from the shower I could tell from his accent that the next guy in line was foreign. And he was determined not to lose the cubicle to some shower-predator - like a lion with a kill looking out for hyenas. Mostly he just stared at me as I dried myself.
  

This is what its all about..
But after all, what we had come to see, the wildlife, was certainly there during our game drives. Over two days driving out of Berg en Dal we made contact with plenty of animals, though no cats, among them 28 different sightings of rhino. We came across two who were lying on the ground, apparently napping. They staggered to their feet and made their way past the front of the vehicle, sniffing the grille disconsolately. They looked stoned and we wondered what they had been grazing. Only later were we made to understand that we had disturbed them at the sleepiest time of their day!
   On the way back to Johannesburg we decided to spend the night somewhere comfortable. Cathy did the accommodation research on her cell phone while I drove, Estelle back-seat drove (tapping on my shoulder meant I was out of control of this large vehicle and trailer) and Phil supervised. Cathy came up with a place called Misty Mountain between Sabie and Lydenburg on the Long Tom Pass. Phil took over the phone to negotiate, charming the bookings lady into the lowest possible rate for the night. But there remained the question of breakfast. “OK,” he says to the bookings lady, “that’s a good deal … but … my wife, she also wants breakfast…
   As it happened, Misty Mountain turned out to be a good choice. The accommodation is so spacious and comfortable, it has spectacular views over the valley below, trout fishing, walks, and the breakfast was great; mine a smoked trout omelette.
Misty Mountain is a good place to stop over on the way back to Johannesburg.
 
 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Simple spirituality is like the African bush


My son Alex was telling me about academics doing field work in the African bush, and all the data gathering and analytical work they do with tracking devices and other hard and software. He is now a veteran wildlife tracker who learned the basics years ago from his Shangaan mentor and life-long friend Renias Mhlongo. He laughed about it, saying Renias could probably get the same results as the scientists in just a day in the bush. That may have been an exaggeration, but the message was there: true, but simple, understanding comes from a long period of dedication to and passion for whatever pursuit one engages in.

Spirituality is no different. Getting to the core of life and loving it, is perhaps one way of putting it. Any discovery along the path which brings another building block of experience or realisation feeds our growth towards maturity in our understanding. It is an ongoing process which brings clearer vision and greater contentment in everyday life.

The great teachers including Lao Tsu, Buddha and Jesus have all expressed deep understanding in simple terms because that is what they were drawn to do by the suffering they witnessed around them and tried to explain to those who came to them that the answers to difficult questions are often simple. Jeshua ben Joseph, the soul of Jesus of Nazareth and author of the channeled works A Course in Miracles and The Way of Mastery says we are often confused by the smorgasbord of apparently enticing ideas while the deepest truth is often simple, so simple that most people might pass it by.

 Popular writers who have influenced my understanding, Deepak Chopra (who attended an English church school in India), Eckhart Tolle (who transcended an almost suicidal state of mind to become what has been called a modern mystic) and Thomas Moore (who became a Christian monk in his youth and later migrated to finding beauty and truth in art and music, and as a therapist gleaning his understanding from the everyday woes of modern life) all embrace the same liberating view that we do not live life; Life lives us, something which Jeshua also emphasises over and over, “You are that One”, meaning you are one with God and that he (Jeshua) is not a saviour from hellfire, but an elder brother, a teacher and saviour from delusion.

When we grasp the full implications of the fresh idea that our highest selves are animated only by the creative spirit of the universe (even the highest selves of tax collectors and prostitutes, corrupt politicians and criminals) and that we are not captives in an insane world, any more than a bird or the rising sun is, we have room to begin to relearn our purpose on this planet, not to accomplish comfort and security, power and influence, but through learning from our experiences and finding, not through “rationality and control”, as I remember Thomas Moore putting it in one of his “soul” books, but through the “gifts of the soul”. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Karoo paradise and historical treasure trove


 

Top and above: Samara provides every comfort
in its natural Karoo setting

The enchantment of Samara private game reserve, not far south of Graaff-Reinet, comes in a combination of factors: the location amid imposing mountains, the wide open plains viewed from those mountains and, of course, the wildlife - all enhanced by the lush green veld after a prolonged period if good rains. The acacia leaves are soft and succulent and their thorns gleaming white, and sharp as needles. At night you feel the stars are so close you could pluck them from the sky, and the mornings so fresh you could bathe in them.


Alex and students after their graduation.
But that’s not all. This beautiful location happens to be associated with places of learning which are closely related to it in their function: the hospitality training at the College for Tourism in Graaff-Reinet and its affiliated Tracker Academy whose students learn their skills partly in the soil of the Samara reserve. Through our son Alex, who was instrumental in establishing the academy, my wife and I had been invited to the year-end dinner and graduation ceremony of the students at the college on Magazine Hill in the historic town.
I have not attended many such functions, but the ceremony made a deep impression on many of us in the audience. It was not just the sight of these bright young black people in their academic gowns about to receive the rewards of their studies - many far from their homes - but their beautiful singing at intervals during the ceremony and as they filed out of the venue, all of which left us a little misty-eyed. Also impressive was the obvious commitment of the staff, officials and the executive director Andre Kilian and chairperson Gaynor Rupert, wife of prominent businessman Johann Rupert. Three of the top students had already landed plum jobs overseas even before their graduation.

Samara is about 30 minutes’ drive from Graaff-Reinet via the Tantjiesberg mountain, so named for the tooth-shaped outcrops along its ridge. As a Boer War history enthusiast, the Camdeboo region has long fascinated me, after extensive reading about the dramatic events during the “invasion” of Cape Colony by Boer guerrillas after the fall of the Transvaal and Orange Free State republics to the British in the war of 1899 to 1902. Graaff-Reinet is rich in the history of this conflict.

Karoo Lodge is the central building on the 18 000 ha property, with three stand-alone suites across the way past the swimming pool and other accommodation located elsewhere. Viewed from across the extensive lawn at the back (with resident tortoises) its rear elevation is beautifully symmetrical Karoo farmhouse with neat twin chimneys, exactly as it must have looked on the restoration drawing board.


Meals can be taken under the trees.
The lodge provides luxurious colonial-style accommodation, fine d├ęcor and, due to its limited size, excellent service from locally-recruited staff, some of whom were still there from our previous visit two years before, spoiling us with the same friendly desire to keep us comfortable, especially after a walk or drive in the veld. General manager Marnus Ochse and his wife Anneke were regularly on hand for information or a chat. The three meals a day (plus two tea-time spreads) were all outstanding and served in different locations either indoors; out on the lawn under a shady tree, or on the spacious veranda, where dinner is lit by an attractive arrangement of paraffin lamps at the table.

Cheetah cubs in the bush at Samara
The wildlife experience came with two sources of expertise: the Tracker Academy about 10 minutes’ drive down the road, and Samara’s tall young Zimbabwean head ranger with a marvellous smile, named Test Malunga – affable, humorous and, above all an excellent teacher with a wide knowledge, some self-taught and some from academic studies. On a late afternoon game drive with four other guests we walked with a journey of giraffe and approached a cheetah and her two cubs to within a few metres. The mother lay in the grass hardly taking any notice of us, her elegant tail swinging to and fro occasionally as the cubs played nearby. Although the cubs seemed quite relaxed, Test pointed out the erect hair on their backs.

“They are being very brave,” he laughed, “but they are not really comfortable.”
On a walk in the bush the next afternoon, Test turned our attention to the flora, explaining how acacia trees protect and renew themselves with strategic deployment of thorns, providing browsing animals only with a regulated supply of food. As he explained, elephants have overcome this trickery by breaking off whole branches, or uprooting the whole tree in order to circumvent the natural chemical process. We also watched as a trap-door spider worked his own trickery, his thick legs neatly folded just inside his hole, waiting for prey. With the veld blooming with spring flowers, we observed the function of the Karoo anchor-bush in binding the soil, and learned some of the names of the many beautiful species of ground cover. We crossed a stream twice, wobbling on the stepping stones over the bubbling, sparkling, pollution-free water.



Cape mountain zebra on the mountains around Samara.
We also took a very rugged drive up onto a mountain location with dramatic views of the Plains of Camdeboo, made famous by the book of the same name by Eve Palmer. Up on the mountain we viewed large groups of quizzical mountain zebra and stately gemsbok.

Observing nature is one thing; tracking wild animals and other creatures is another. To learn more about this skill we joined Alex, Tracker Academy trainers Pokkie and Janetta Benade and the eight students carefully chosen from all over South Africa. Pokkie is an officially recognised master tracker who grew up in the area which is now the Karoo National Park, where he worked for many years, and Alex is a senior tracker and general manager of the academy. Janetta is progressing through the ranks, studying, teaching and acting as house mother to the students who are invariably far from home and accommodated in dormitories. They were fascinated to meet Alex’s parents and we felt like visiting celebrities as they lined up, smiling broadly, to shake our hands.

Before long we were on the trail, finding tracks all over the veld. Identifying and following them is an ancient skill whose usefulness is re-emerging after almost being lost, thanks to the few who have dedicated themselves to its preservation.  Today, trackers are being used in tourism, anti-poaching and research, and many of these young men can look forward to exciting careers.

Master tracker Pokkie Benade (third from left)
with students.
But learning the skill is far from easy. A tiny smudge in the sand can be part of the track of a small animal like a mongoose or suricate; the evidence of claws, sometimes visible, sometimes not, for example, can indicate not only the type of animal but whether it was walking or running. Even the hoof tracks of ungulates (hoofed animals) vary in many ways and positively identifying the differences requires a trained eye. Pads and toes also show subtle differences between animals. Some tracks are much more obvious than others, like the large impression of the rhino or giraffe, but other spoor left by obscure animals, reptiles, tortoises, birds and insects - all playing their part in the ecology - are not. Even the big cats’ tracks are all markedly different.

In spite of my recent part-time theoretical studies of tracking, I was mostly left guessing. The students, after only their first six months before moving on to Londolozi game reserve in the Lowveld for the second semester, were asked in turn, secretly, so that the others couldn’t hear, to identify a random track along the trail, and almost invariably got it right.

Graaff-Reinet is an excellent tourist destination.
The town of Graaff-Reinet is an excellent destination in its own right, especially for history and culture buffs. It has scores of prominent historical homes, buildings, churches, monuments, memorials, museums, galleries and a famous stone prison.

In the centre of town, where Parsonage Street and Church Street intersect, the famous Dostdy Hotel (currently being renovated), Reinet House (once the home of Andrew Murray) and the truly magnificent Dutch Reformed Groote Kerk - said to be modelled closely on Salisbury Cathedral in the UK - form a sort of central assembly on which the rest of the town hangs. Across the road from the Groote Kerk, for example, is the elegant low-slung Graaff-Reinet Club where exuberant officers of the Coldstream Guards once danced on the bar counter and fired revolvers into it in celebration of their imminent departure at the end of the Boer War.

A little way down Church Street you find McNaughton’s Bookshop, with many fascinating books, including the comprehensive Graaff-Reinet: An Illustrated Historical Guide by Tony Westby-Nunn, a treasure trove of information and priceless illustrations which shows in detail why Graaff-Reinet is such a special town.

Following the graduation ceremony at the College for Tourism, a group of us were the guests of Gaynor Rupert for lunch at a restaurant called Polka where we enjoyed an excellent cold buffet (and an excellent perfectly chilled Chenin Blanc) in the yard under vapour-irrigated vines. The restaurant, at 52 Somerset Street, is rated No 1 among five in the town.

Useful websites:
http://www.samara.co.za/
http://www.polkacafe.co.za/about/
http://www.graaffreinet.co.za/

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Relinquish your achievements and your failures

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, meditation master and beloved teacher. He had some horrific experiences during the Vietnam War and went on to play his part in the peace talks to end that war. He was nominated by Martin Luther King for the Nobel Peace Prize. Exiled from his native country, he established a retreat in France called Plum Village. He has written many books and travelled widely. One of his best known books is The Miracle of Mindfulness, from which the passage below comes. His teachings are simple yet profound, often inspired by the suffering he has encountered in Western society. Mindfulness is associated with meditiation and is about unconditional engagement with the present moment, with conscious breathing a central practice of everyday life: 

Recall the most significant achievements in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, the convergence of favourable conditions that have led to success. Examine the complacency and the arrogance that have arisen from the feeling that you are the main cause for such success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that the achievement is not really yours but the convergence of conditions beyond your reach. See to it that you will not be bound by these achievements. Only when you relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them.

Recall the bitterest failures in your life and examine each of them. Examine your talent, your virtue, your capacity, and the absence of favourable conditions that led to the failures. Examine to see all the complexes that have arisen within you from the feeling that you are not capable of realising success. Shed the light of interdependence on the whole matter to see that failures cannot be accounted for by your inabilities but rather by the lack of favourable conditions. See that you have no strength to shoulder these failures, that these failures are not your own self. See to it that you are free from them. Only when you relinquish them can you really be free and no longer assailed by them."