My iPad and the No Mind State

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Images/Editing/Text: Aline LaPierre     Additional Editing: Victor Osaka

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At times, I like to step out of mindfulness and into mindlessness—or, as the Japanese call it, no mind state.

My favorite doorway into no mind state is my iPad touchscreen. I love to immerse myself in the immediacy of shape and color as they emerge from the movement of my fingers on the screen.

I think of it as a present-day version of Japanese calligraphy.

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Faced with a blank paper, the calligrapher has but one chance to lay down a perfect stroke. The brush stoke reflects the calligrapher’s internal state at the moment it touches the paper’s surface. To execute Japanese calligraphy with mastery, one must clear one’s mind so that the feeling of the moment flows out effortlessly. It is a practice to uncover one’s original self, the hidden essence within.

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On the touchscreen, the gesture of my finger is recorded as immediately as the calligrapher’s brush stroke on paper. But on the touchscreen, something more happens, a stunning new dimension is set in motion. Threads of light in a fluid electronic medium spread and grow like dendrites in a nervous system. Not only is the gesture recorded, but its impulse, now imprinted onto a responsive surface, continues to spread, overlap, and curl upon itself. The electronic medium gives the brain the experience of observing its essential self in motion.

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Have You Heard of the Swans of Ulm?

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Photo/Text: Aline LaPierre    Photo Editing: Victor Osaka

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Have you heard of the swans of Ulm? Until a few months ago, I had not.

Then through unusual circumstances, I found myself alone with my camera, wandering the streets of the medieval city of Ulm in the Baden-Würtenberg region of southern Germany. I had nothing to do on that sunny winter afternoon but enjoy the charms of this quiet town reputed for being the birthplace of Albert Einstein.

Founded in 854 on the banks of the beautiful blue Danube, the juxtaposition of past and present, old and new is strikingly well balanced in Ulm. From the spire of the cathedral which is the tallest in the world, to the gleaming avant-garde town hall by architect Richard Meier, Ulm has embraced the present to mend a troubled past, healing the scars of war with elegance and dignity.

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But beyond its stunning architecture, a stroll along the south bank of the lazy Danube revealed what turned out to be Ulm’s greatest charm: SWANS. For the animal lover that I am, this was a moment of heaven on earth.

Feast your eyes, as I did, on the swans of Ulm. Nothing more need be said.

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