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According to the Tibetans, today is Buddha’s birthday. A prince with everything in the world, he set off on a quest to discover the truth of life. I’m remembering a mindfulness adventure I had this week, fifteen years ago:

borneo buddha by A.Ashman

Bornean Buddha by A.Ashman

In Borneo, I felt bored and restless at a luxe, manicured Shangri-La resort favored by fugitive rogue traders. Wandering past the watersports shack I asked to go to an outlying island in the South China Sea. No notice to the people I was traveling with, no drinking water, food or cellphone.

The white-uniformed sailor dropped me at the random spot I’d picked from his laminated map. A decrepit picnic bench sagged in the shade of a steep cliff carpeted in greenery, where faceless monkeys screeched. No facilities, no stand selling lunch, no people. Just plastic flotsam and slithery tracks lacing the sand. The hotel boat fishtailed away.

Did they write down where they left me? Lawsuit waiting to happen. Already thirsty. Wait, six-inch wide tracks. From what scaly beasts?

No way I’d approach the trees where those squiggly trails led. I was frying in the tropical sun. Unnerved to cool off in the translucent green water. What if I suddenly ‘had trouble’ swimming, or a shark came? Maybe I could flag down a passing boat to take me back. But these were pirate-infested waters.

Silly overreaching hotel guest, I was going to die on this wild island.

I picked up a 5-liter water jug and started filling it with cones and olive shells glinting among seaweed and garbage. Good stuff. My best vacations were spent shell-collecting in the Gulf of Mexico…Sanibel Island in Florida.

Heavenly new finds here. A true Shangri-La paradise. Zebra-striped scallops. Glossy limpets. Spiky orange coral.

That day as I ringed the tiny island — is that a chickpea cowrie? – I turned the corner on my own nature’s bitter edge.

On this birthday week of Buddha can you name a mindfulness experience you’ve had?

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I’m on vacation/in post-TED Global recovery this August. Taking social networking easy as well, I posted a chocolate cake recipe on Facebook. You can whip up the quickie soufflé-like treat in a coffee mug with the help of a microwave.

The indulgent little formula emailed by my Sacramento sister comes from a world I haven’t lived in for years. Microwave cooking. White sugar and vegetable oil. It’s so mainstream retro — and a crowd pleaser.

The instant mug cake drew twenty times more reaction than an ultra-topical link to TED Fellow Evgeny Morozov’s explanation of the Russian state-sponsored censorship of a Georgian blogger which caused massive outages at Facebook and Twitter last week. Morozov, a Belorussian Internet scientist I met in Oxford, studies how the online world influences global affairs. He might have had better luck framing the issue this way: cyberwarfare trend = blocked access to future cake recipes.

Even so, the spontaneous manifestation of cupcake-community activism was cheering. Friends from Alaska to Florida, Malaysia to India to Germany engaged and collaborated. They experimented and shared results from pudding and “the perfect soufflé” to admitting a skimped-on-the-oil need “to compensate by eating it with some vanilla ice cream”. Others predicted child-friendliness or posted the instructions to their own walls.

Dog days of summer may not be the best time to come together to solve the world’s weighty problems but apparently it’s a good time to master soufflé-for-one.

Ever experience a heavy-to-soufflé moment that shifts your sync point?

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