Codex Vitae

Portion of Stocklet Frieze by Gustav Klimt.

"Usually it is a bit of a trick to keep your knowledge from blinding you." - Annie Dillard

This Codex Vitae, or "book of life", is a collection of beliefs and values that inform my decisions and life. It is a living document; as my understanding changes, so might my beliefs. The main purpose of this document is to (1) pull my beliefs into the light where I can questions them more effectively and (2) to share philosophies, concepts, tools, and inspiration that have been helpful to me.


  • How to Use This Codex
  • Meta-beliefs
  • Principles
  • Things I No Longer Believe
  • Fears
  • Self-care

    Material World





    How to Use This Codex

    This is not a prescription for how you should live your own life. But feel free to copy the structure of this page and create your own!

    My own goals with this:

    • Develop a habit of using the Codex as a tool to examine my beliefs and values.

    • Edit as needed. Question everything.

    • Do a yearly review in January of the entire document, editing places where beliefs have changed. Look at how actual actions align or don't alight with values.

    • Expect beliefs and tactics to change--don't hold on to anything too rigidly.

    In General


    Beliefs about beliefs.

    • Don't believe everything you think - The rational brain is a good tool for understanding but it is not the only tool. Intuition, heart, soul, spirit, senses, body: all of these are also good.

    • Human understanding, including my own, is quite limited and always will be - Science offers more questions than answers. To be certain of something is often to be a fool. Beliefs are of limited value.

    • The most valuable thing I can do with my beliefs is to keep questioning whether or not they are true.

    • I will always be limited by my own bias. My bias includes elements of racism, sexism, and other ugliness instilled by my culture. I need to keep striving to become aware of it and eradicate it.

    • I may be able to intellectually agree with a concept but not accept it emotionally or necessarily act accordingly. I have many limitations and I always have room to grow in emotional maturity. I will try to treat myself compassionately around it and do the work to grow.


    Fundamentals that guide my life.

    • Acceptance - If I accept people and situations exactly as they are, I then have freedom to make decisions on how I want to respond to them. I don't get that freedom until I am in acceptance of what-is.

    • Freedom - I am happiest with my decisions when they align with value of freedom for myself and others. In decisions, always try to bias for freedom.

    • Openness to experience - Things go better for me when I watch for opportunities that appear, rather than to define what-I-want. Often what shows up is better than I would have thought of.

    • Interconnectedness - Everything is interconnected. Every action I take has impact and consequences: karma. Connections, or that which is between entities, is as meaningful as the entities themselves (and have a life of their own).

    • Truth - Keep an open, flexible, and curious mind. Don't worry if there's a "reason" to learn something new; if it's interesting, that's enough.

    • Question authority and the status quo.

    Things I No Longer Believe

    These are things I have changed my mind about.

    • The way to fix any problem in my life is to get a book about it. I used to be a self-help book junkie. Anything that was bad in my life triggered a trip to the bookstore. Now I tend to use tools other than books...journaling, dreams and symbols, 12-step...and rely more on my intuition. Is it better? I seem to have fewer problems to work on. Hmmm.

    • I need to own land. I think I used to see land ownership as a path to freedom. I no longer do.

    • It's important for me to buy sustainable/fair trade/organic. The truth is, what I DON'T buy is more important than what I do buy. What right do I have to eat organic food if my sister in [Ghana/Oakland/Toledo] cannot? I'm not saying I don't like organic's just weird that we think we have a right to healthy food only if we are wealthy enough to afford it.

    • We should be helping members of so-called "3rd world" countries rise to our standard of living. I believe we should be adopting more of their lifestyle.

    • I should do and say the right things so that people will like me or behave in ways I want them to. Old old stuff. Wrong.


    This is a list of fears that I am continually working on. I try to understand what's at the root of these fears and what beliefs or practices I can develop to know that things are going to be okay. Because, in a very broad sense, things are going to be okay.

    • Not having enough money

    • Getting old, being alone, and not being able to take care of myself

    • Becoming disabled

    • Becoming homeless

    • Losing my recovery

    • What other people think; judgment

    • Ridicule

    • Being unliked

    • Becoming unemployed

    • Having debt

    • Failing at work or business ventures

    • Feeling obligated to take care of others

    • Car problems

    • Being asked to take responsibility for things I don't want to

    • Being found guilty of being less than perfect; making mistakes

    • Expressing my thoughts and feelings fully when it seems risky

    • Vulnerability; being "seen" by others fully

    • The chance that I might be "used" and not see it

    • Having my heart broken (even though it's always been worth it)

    • Making bad decisions

    • Making legal commitments




    • It's easier to keep momentum than produce it. Well, duh, that's why it's called momentum! But consciousness around this helps me buckle down and get to work sometimes when I don't really feel like it.
    • Most productivity systems don't matter. I've been around for a while and tried them all. Daytimer, Franklin Planner, Franklin-Covey, GTD, etc. etc. etc. I'm convinced that my fascination with productivity systems was related to a penchant for trying to create a version of the was almost a supra-rational art piece.
    • The productivity system that DOES matter is the one that works in context. If I'm going to town later, my shopping and to-dos can be jotted down on an index card. If I'm launching a business, an index card won't work!
    • In problem-solving, it helps to pretend to be shipwrecked. This is my postive self-talk hack for not giving up too soon; it comes from years of doing technical support-related work. Here it is: before asking for help, try thinking about the problem as if there is literally no one else to go to (I'm stranded on a desert island. There is no other help.) What would I try next? Okay, try that, and keep asking the question. Usually I can either get a solution without bothering anyone else, OR I'm better prepared to ask for help when I do hit a real wall.


    • Always leave project work at a point where the next step is clear. This is the Ernest Hemingway hack: "The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck."
    • I have one to three priorities for my work day. At, we have a practice of stating what we did yesterday, what we plan to do today, and what is blocking us. This gives me a good practice of stating my priorities and I keep them simple.
    • I take a walk in the afternoon. Imposed to some extent by my dog, this also ensures that I move around a little and gives my brain a chance to refresh.
    • work is collected and recorded in Trello. We're using this as a group, so this is nicely pre-decided for me. This is the work productivity system for work context.


    • Have a better system for recording ideas and optional/personal to-dos. Too many interesting ideas float through my head and away. I'd like to get a little more organized about noting them. (I have a little notebook, Evernote, Ulysses, Mac Reminders, etc. It's too scattered



    • Diets ultimately lead to weight gain.
    • It's best to avoid processed foods, especially anything my great grandmother wouldn't recognize.
    • What other people eat or don't eat isn't my concern.
    • The industrial food system is evil. Yet complete freedom from it is a privilege for the wealthy. I do what I reasonably can and accept that others can do even less.


    • I don't eat sugar, other sweeteners, fruit juices. These are not my foods. An occasional diet soda is OK.
    • I plan my meals the night before. But I'm free to change my plan.
    • I record what I eat and the amounts but I don't obsess over these.
    • I don't diet.


    • Stay abstinent.
    • To get really good at making cheap food delicious.
    • Participate in food justice activism.

    Physical Fitness


    • Experiences which drop me into my body/heart are critically important. - My tendency is to live too much in my head and this causes problems and dissatisfaction. Cultivating habits or experiences that force me into the body are almost always a good idea.


    • Minimum: go for a walk every day.
    • I don't weigh myself. It's okay to know my weight if at the doctor, etc. And I measure myself once a month to check in on my physical recovery from disordered eating.


    • Do more yoga.
    • Look for opportunities to improve balance and coordination.

    Intoxicants (Drugs, Alcohol, etc.)


  • Drug use is a personal decision and should be decriminalized.
  • Pre-Decisions

    Based on self-care, not morality.

    • I don't drink alcohol.
    • I don't take recreational drugs.
    • I don't smoke cigarettes.


    • Stay sober.

    Mental and Emotional Wellness


    • I need time away from man-made environments I need to remember to get out into nature regularly or I become restless, irritable, discontent.
    • Travel is a route to happiness; moving through the landscape on foot or via wheels is good therapy.
    • Quiet time alone is a necessary recharge - But I have to be careful not to succumb to my tendency to isolate.
    • Writing and art are important tools - I can learn much, and often get profound relief from anxiety, by writing about situations which create high emotional states for me.
    • Good sex is an important component of good overall health.


    • I end each day by considering what I should ask for help with; what I am grateful for; and if I've made any mistakes I should clean up.
    • 12-Step - Daily 12-step work, related to life in general and specifically around alcohol and food behaviors.


    • Meditation - Daily zazen is the goal.
    • Try to always have a trip or outing planned to look forward to (small is fine).
    • See a mountain lion in the wild.
    • Continue to develop a zen practice.
    • Hubba hubba

    Relationships and People

    Beliefs - General

    • Acceptance is the answer (See "Principles", above)
    • We are in relationship with everything - with every person we encounter, every animal, every plant, every rock, every landscape. (Everything in this section applies to all of these types of relationships, not just to couplings.)
    • No one is responsible for my feelings - feelings are feelings. They are not something we control, in ourselves or others.
    • I am not responsible for the feelings of others - others are entitled to their own thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Even if they are about me. I cannot try to manipulate those and also stay true to myself.
    • Truth will set you free. - honest self expression is critical to my well-being in any relationship. This includes initiating difficult conversations when appropriate.
    • Everyone is doing the best they can do. - No one intends to be a jerk. If they are, accept the situation as it is and decide how to move on from there.
    • Love is a better thing to do rather than talk about. It is not a commodity to be bartered for. It is not a finite resource nor a zero-sum game.


    • Financial Independence - I earn my own living. Also, I don't go into debt in attempts to keep up with wealthier family, friends, etc.
    • Avoid legal entanglements. Everybody gets to pick up their toys and walk away at any time.


    • Honesty - with self and others.
    • Compassion - strive to assume the best of others; accept their faults and mistakes as their own to make.
    • Self Care - be willing to set, discuss, and maintain boundaries, and to walk away from toxic situations.
    • Avoid resentment - as soon as I feel resentment creeping in, do some work to get to the root of my part in it as quickly as possible.
    • Strive to be a good listener - try to refrain from giving advice unless requested.
    • Show up - make an effort to be present for milestone events and special occasions for loved ones.
    • Loving Kindness - be kind, warm, and compassionate - even with difficult people who I love anyway.
    • Call Parents Once a Week - keep in touch with them.
    • Be a great Aunt - be available to my nieces and nephews as a supportive, open-minded adult who is worthy of their trust and loves them unconditionally.
    • Intimate relationships: intimacy as radical truth + acceptance + shared experience + connection + affection + great sex
    • Honesty - open communication. Accept conflict, don't run. Speak up about my thoughts and feelings as I aspire to show up fully for others to do so as well.
    • Supportiveness - I want to support others in their personal growth as well as feel supported in mine.

    Material World



    • Possessions don't make me happy. The anxiety of having to eventually move things makes it better to limit how much I own.
    • Cleanliness is contextual There may be times when I will be a slob. I may get into shared living situations where I will have to accept more chaos than is ideal for my serenity. I don't have a lot of pre-defined beliefs about this.


    • I do the dishes at least once a day.
    • No more pets. This just isn't a good thing at this point in my life.


    • Guests will feel welcome, comfortable, and care for when visiting my home.
    • My home will be as ecologically healthy as possible. (No rodenticides, limited/natural insecticides, harmless cleaning products - not dogmatically but consciously.)
    • To live somewhere I can do more walking/biking/public transit/lot less driving, that has better access to cultural and community resources I care about, and easier access to activism I believe in.

    Money and Consumerism


    • Buying stuff doesn't make me happy I have to keep re-learning this. Money in the bank is much better.
    • Money's worth is really in it's power to give me freedom Money for money's sake is no good.
    • Buying things carries deep karma Slavery is responsible for many goods for sale.


    • I am not a billboard I strive to remove branding on my clothing and things I carry.
    • Bias for not buying Try to improvise or repair before buying.
    • If buying, bias for used instead of new
    • Don't get a credit card. Don't take on consumer debt. Recent exception for a car payment.
    • I treat cash with respect, facing bills and putting them in my wallet neatly. A lesson from my grandfather.
    • I track my spending


    • Don't buy any more new clothing - used is okay. Underwear/socks excepted.
    • Continue to reduce expenses and build savings.
    • Become better educated about consumer privacy. Loyalty cards wtf; using cash vs. using debit cards. Etc.




    • My career has mainly been a matter of luck and privilege - I do a good job, but I've been very, very lucky to work with good people and for good companies. My Gratitude Resume outlines some of those experiences and the people who influenced my own thinking about work.
    • Things that happen in the workplace are often as much my responsibility as anyone else's.


    • Don't engage in employment that obviously conflicts with my values.
    • Be conscious of situations where employment might conflict with my values.


    • Do good work that benefits the wellbeing and freedom of others.



    Learning is important at any age. Ossification is death.


    Can't think of any.


    • Always have a new-ish skill to be learning. Things I'd like to learn next: lock picking, motorcycle driving, massage, welding. Maybe belly dancing if I am ever brave enough.
    • Get better at birding and bird ID, esp. raptors, and other nature learning in general (botany, mycology, geology, etc.).
    • Learn more about plants and fungi, particularly wild foods and healing with plants.

    Passion Projects


    • Writing and art are important in my life.
    • Art that isn't shared with others is only half-done.
    • Self-expression should express my own truth


    • Paintings that I do should be shared with others - Even if I'm insecure about my ability and the outcome, or how I might be judged.


    • Get really free and creative in my writing.
    • Polish writing more before sharing it.
    • Always have a painting in progress or about to get started.
    • Look for opportunities for creative self-expression.


    Things I would like to do or places I'd like to visit...regardless of how unrealistic they might be.




    • Civilization as we know it is inherently unsustainable and will collapse eventually
    • Corporations are NOT people. And should not be granted rights and protections under the law as such.
    • Freedom of speech is imperative and worth fighting
    • I want to live in and support a sex-positive culture.
    • We must end racism and social injustice.
    • The surveillance state is here. It's unavoidable. I'm not sure how to cope, I am deeply entrenched.
    • Arts and culture are deeply important.


    • Voting I keep my voter registration current and I vote in elections. Too many worked too hard to afford me this right. I won't give it up for the sake of avoiding jury duty, etc.


    • Become more involved in activism
    • Become better educated about personal privacy and security.
    • Participate in local arts and culture projects, particularly grassroots events.



    • I believe I hate politics And I believe that this is a tad irresponsible. I should do better.


    • I vote in elections.




    Permaculture - A design for living, ostensibly about how to live in harmony with the landscape but ultimately a spiritual practice in its own right.

    For example, this applies just as well to relationships between people as it does to relationship between place:

    "Transactions at boundaries are a great part of trade and energy changes in life and nature. It seems that differences make trade; that every medium seeks to gather in those things it lacks, and which occur in the other medium. However, we should also look at the translator, which is often of neither medium but a thing in itself, the "connection or path between", created from the media, but with its own unique characteristics." - Bill Mollison, Permaculture: A Designer's Manual.


    • A Language Older Than Words by Derrick Jensen: on our culture's abusive relationship to the environment, and how power structures make it possible for us to stay idle in the face of atrocity.

    • The Snow Leopard by by Peter Matthiessen:

      "A change is taking place, some painful growth, as in a snake during the shedding of its skin - dull, irritable, without appetite, dragging about the stale shreds of a former life, near-blinded by the old dead scale on the new eye. It is difficult to adjust because I do not know who is adjusting; I am no longer that old person and not yet the new."

    • The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard:

      "I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I'd half-awaken. He'd stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I'd wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I'd been painted with roses.

      "It was hot, so hot the mirror felt warm. I washed before the mirror in a daze, my twisted summer sleep still hung about me like sea kelp. What blood was this, and what roses? It could have been the rose of union, the blood of murder, or the rose of beauty bare and the blood of some unspeakable sacrifice or birth. The sign on my body could have been an emblem or a stain, the keys to the kingdom or the mark of Cain. I never knew. I never knew as I washed, and the blood streaked, faded, and finally disappeared, whether I'd purified myself or ruined the blood sign of the passover. We wake, if we ever wake at all, to mystery, rumors of death, beauty, violence.... "Seem like we're just set down here," a woman said to me recently, "and don't nobody know why.""

    • Confessions of a Barbarian from the journals of Edward Abbey. Great stuff, but I especially appreciated his thoughts on his relationships with women. The brutally honest writing disabused me of romantic notions I didn't even realize I had about men and I am grateful for it. Even though it was painful to read the first time.

    • Permaculture Designers Manual by Bill Mollison. (See above, "Concepts".)

    Quotations and Sayings

    • "Shame is a soul-eating emotion." - C.G. Jung

    • "Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire." - Patti Smith

    • "To be joyous is to be a madman in a world of sad ghosts." - Henry Miller

    • "Love does not imply pacifism." - Derrick Jensen

    • "We meet ourselves time and time again in a thousand disguises on the path of life." - C.G. Jung

    • "You can't study the darkness by flooding it with light." - Edward Abbey

    • "Love and compassion always win. Even if you don't mean it." - Jonqui Albin

    • "Love and fear don't live in the same house." - unknown

    • "Don't threaten me with love, baby. Let's just go walking in the rain." - Billie Holiday

    Inspirational Lives

    People who's lives or work inspire me in mine. Often counter-culture figures, masters of self-expression, activists. This list excludes people currently in my life - though I draw considerable inspiration from several of them!

    About Me