The Lama of Crystal Mountain

June 10, 2014

From the Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

The Lama of Crystal Mountain appears to be a very happy man, and yet I wonder how he feels about his isolation in the silences of Tsaking, which he has left for eight years now and, because of his legs, may never leave again.  Since Jang-bu seems uncomfortable with the Lama or with himself or perhaps with us, I tell him not to inquire on this point if it seems to him impertinent, but after a moment Jang-bu does so.  And this holy man of great directness and simplicity, big white teeth shining, laughs out loud in an infectious way at Jang-bu’s question.  Indicating his twisted legs without a trace of self-pity or bitterness, as if they belonged to all of us, he casts his arms wide to the sky and snow mountains, the high sun and dancing sheep, and cries,  “Of course I am happy here! It’s wonderful! Especially when I have no choice”

Additional stories:

This is a link to a Collection of Zen Stories at

“Especially when I have no choice”  

i) Life is as it is.  We can accept it fully and just live it with full awareness.

ii) There can always be opinions arising about what is—like/don’t like; fair/unfair; right wrong. If we not recognize them as opinions, or delude ourselves by considering them to be the reality— then there is attachment and the moment of the ceaseless flow of life is missed.

iii)A teacher replied on the subject of aging:  “Savor the deterioration and decline of your body.” Pretty direct.  Yes, certainly you can take responsible actions to take care of yourself, but decline is inevitable.  What else is there to do but appreciate the moment of life, fully and without attachments.

Home Page–Summary/Guide

July 9, 2010

A quick summary of how to find what you are interested in:

Index Tab: (above):  Links for Specific Articles by title

Categories: (side bar):   Articles by Topic in Chronological Order

Links to Most Searched Articles (opens in a new window):


Dealing with A Bad Performance Review Appraisal

Employee Performance Appraisal Rankings–Lessons about Flaws from “Arrows Paradox”

Office Backstabbing 101

Zen Stories

Two Monks and a Woman

The Tigers and the Strawberry


Zen Teaching Schedule

Advertising Zen

Offering Zen to Students

Problem Solving

Teaching Students Problem Solving-Confusion/Resourcefulness/Confidence

Eliminating Mental Bias Decision Errors

Effective Quantitative Problem Solving Methods

Solving Complex Problems—Put Aside the First Idea


Academic Survival–The First College Semester

Getting Off Academic Probation–Looking Further for Success


Making up a Good New Children’s Story Every Night

Stacking Blocks for the Imagination–A Great Toy not Found in Many Stores


Cold Remedies, Miso Soup and the Influence of Advertising

Healing Ocean Oriental Medicine

Preventing Common Household Accidents–Swiss Cheese Model

Teaching High School Engineering Resource Site

Cause of Common Accidents–Story

February 21, 2010

A master gardener, famous for his skill in climbing and pruning the highest trees, examined his disciple by letting him climb a very high tree. Many people had come to watch. The master gardener stood quietly, carefully following every move but not interfering with one word. Having pruned the top, the disciple climbed down and was only ten feet from the ground when the master suddenly yelled: “Take care, take care!” When the disciple was safely down an old man asked the master gardener: “You did not let out one word when he was aloft in the most dangerous place. Why did you caution him when he was nearly down? Even if he had slipped then, he could not have greatly hurt himself.” “But isn’t it obvious?” replied the master gardener. “Right up at the top he is conscious of the danger, and of himself takes care. But near the end, when one begins to feel safe, this is when accidents occur.”

Comment: It certainly is the case that accidents tend to occur at the end of the working day when people are comfortable with their surroundings, tired, and let their attention down.

A more technical description is in the short article: Preventing Common Household Accidents

Source: Schloeal, Irmgard; The Wisdom of the Zen Masters, New Directions 1975, Pg 52


Additional Stories

This is a link to a Collection of Zen Stories     (

Effective Quantitative Problem Solving Methods

January 5, 2010

Solving applied quantitative problems is both an art and a skill. People often give up early even though they have the ability to solve them. Often, it is because they do not have a clear idea of a few key points of the problem solving method. The three topics below can help you to become more effective with solving these problems.

1. Understand the Problem Solving Process

Expect to be confused and frustrated “I have no idea what to do.”

Confusion and frustration are part of the process of learning. The important point is not to be defeated by them. Everyone in a college course has the ability to do the assigned problems. No exceptions, you have gotten into the college program. The problems may be difficult and require significant effort, but you should be confident that you can do them.

After you work through confusion a few times, confidence (and persistence) will begin to grow.

Experiencing confusion and frustration is similar to weathering a summer storm. The storm often comes on suddenly and strongly, but then it passes and the sunshine returns.

Watching is not doing

Problem solving is a participatory sport, not a spectator sport. Hearing an explanation, or seeing a worked out problem is different from being able to do it. Make the effort to do the problems, not just follow the explanations.

The explanation is the first step, but you must go beyond it. For exams, you will be asked to solve problems yourself and demonstrate that you can do that. You will not be asked if you can understand the explanation given in class.

2. Effective Thinking

Identify a Known Starting Point–The First Step to Ending Frustration

Suppose that you fall down a steep hill. First you grab on something to stop the    fall. Then, you pull yourself back up a step at a time using rocks, trees or whatever is within reach to grab on and use. Getting started on a problem is like that.

Read the problem with the intent to understand the words and content, not to solve it. If you are not clear how to begin, take a step back and find a fact that you do know. The important point is to find a foothold to begin.

Example Starting Points:

A worked out example.

A definition of a key word that is in the problem.

A diagram.

A short conversation with a classmate or a teacher.

It is important that you look and find a starting point to progress, rather than allowing time to go by.

Understand by DOING the worked out examples.

If you have worked examples available, COVER the solution and work it out yourself. If the examples are not understood, it is usually a waste of time to spend much effort on the new problem before understanding this. Go back to the earlier step and find a new starting point.

After doing the example yourself, read the new problem slowly, understand what it is stating and what it is asking. See how the information in the new problem relates to the earlier examples. The examples will show you which formulas or equations are needed. Formulas are the key that turns the words of a problem into symbols. It may help to draw a diagram.

3. Doing the Math

Stay organized so that it is easy to retrace your logic when you make a mistake.

Write slowly and neatly. Sloppy writing leads to errors. Leave plenty of blank space to make it easier to follow. There is the temptation to just write things down and hope for the best. This approach takes more time in the long run. Errors are part of the process and it is much faster to find them when the work can be easily traced back.

Make the units work for you.

Know the units of the final answer to the problem. Keep these in mind so that your solution is consistent.

Every time you write a number or symbol down, include the unit right after it in clear writing. Keep track of the units throughout. Inconsistent units can alert you to logical errors.

When a spicy meal is prepared, the spices are added during the cooking process. They are part of the food. If spices are added when the meal is served, the taste is not nearly as good. Units are like that. Make them an integral part of cooking the problem.

Do the calculations last–after the set up is right.

Get the logic right before you do the math. Then, substitute the numbers for the symbols of the equation. Set up all of the numbers and units before you do the calculation.

Doing the calculations at the end makes it easier to distinguish between errors in the logic applied to the problem and math errors.

Check for reasonableness and unit consistency.

Remember that all of these problems relate to the physical world. In some cases, you may have an idea or estimate of the range that the numerical answer should be. If it is far off, then, you can begin to check.

Keep these points in mind, when you find yourself “losing it” working on a problem. You can surprise yourself by the difference they can make.

Strategies for Difficult Exams may be useful when it comes time for the test.

An Index

August 22, 2006

Academic Survival–The First College Semester

Always looking for a teacher. Sometimes asking for a boss.

Another Lousy Presentation at Work

Baby Sitters and an Emergency–Guiding the Response

Balancing Management and Technical Priorities-Recognize Problems before Projects Fail

The Blue Sky Bird–Story

The Boat Story

The Centipede Story

Chasing the Ball into the Street

Child Sleeping Problems–3 Parent Activities to Reduce Frustration

Dealing with Contractors–“Working Theories”

Deciding to Let a Child Travel Alone

Digging Deeper for Ideas–Stealing from Hegel

Disrupting the Cycle of Inefficient Meetings

Elephants, Blind Men, and the Vision of a Manager (Story)

Employee Performance Appraisal Ranking Methods–Lessons about Flaws from “Arrows Paradox”

Finding Things–Lost Your Flash Drive

Frog School of Management

Get a Better Deal–Quantitative Decisionmaking

Getting and Giving Directions–Listening for Consequences

Getting Ideas into the Discussion

Getting Off Academic Probation–Looking Further for Success

Great Ideas Going Nowhere–Getting Projects Launched

Independent Yet Connected–Story

Intuitive Decisions–Allowing a child more responsibility

Office Backstabbing 101

Prepared by Not Ready–Story

Preventing Common Household Accidents-Swiss Cheese Model

Put Aside the First Idea–Increase Perception by Learning from the Oulipians

Slacking Off Without Consequences–Practical Risk Management
Stuck at the Airport

Stacking Cups for Imagination–A Great Baby Toy Not Found at (Many) Stores

Teaching Problem Solving to Students–Tools and Resources

Teaching Problem Solving to Students–Goals and Strategy

Teaching Problem Solving to Students–Cycle of Confusion/Resourcefulness/Confidence

The Tigers and the Strawberry

Using Micromanagers to Sharpen Skills–Prepare to Implement Solutions@Lowest Valued Added Cost


What was I Thinking? I Knew That! Reduce Mental Errors

When Things Go Wrong–Initial Responses