Thursday, February 14, 2013

All You Need is Love

Happy Valentine's Day!

I remember my father telling me years ago that there are many Sanskrit words that mean "love." In a personal quest, I searched the internet for Sanskrit databases and was amazed to find over 600 entries for words whose definitions included love. After grouping words by root to narrow down the list, 278 seemingly unique words remain. Every aspect of love is defined... attachment (anuraga), love for one's children (apatyasneha), devotion (bhakti), passion (madana), love of worldly existence (bhavabhava), desire/longing (pranaya), abundance (premakara), self-knowledge (sammati)... 

Today, we can take extra time to celebrate that love is more than we can define and far more than romance, chocolates, flowers, or balloons. Love has many names, shapes, and emotions. In celebration, here are some of my recent findings related to love: 

-The electrical activity of monks' brains were recorded by EEG's. A remarkable finding: 

                          "The EEG recorded record-high gamma wave activity because the 
                           practitioners entered a state of unconditional kindness.
                          In other words, their neural activity changed when they 
                          experienced love."

-Romantic love as explained by neuroscience, whose author eloquently says:

                         " No matter what we learn about love, it will continue to be 
                         one of the most meaningful and powerful forces on the 
                         planet, as it should be."

-Scientific American published an article about oxytocin. Oxytocin, which has recently been dubbed the "cuddle hormone," is not only involved in affection but could determine the longevity of relationships. Additionally, new genetic understanding shows that certain people have less or different oxytocin transporters that affect the ways they engage in romantic relationships.  

-A New York Times article from 1908 made me laugh. It's always good when you can incorporate bacon into a poem:

- Beautiful photos of older couples on ABC News made my heart feel happy, especially this quote:

                          Every day my wife expresses her love for me. She says, “Did I tell you how          
                           much I love you today?” Every day — every day she says that.”
                          –Moe Rubenstein, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, New York.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Response to the Arguments against Yoga

This morning, I watched a video on Fox News and have a response to Larry Winget's arguments against yoga

Dear Sir,  

I personally invite you to my city (or any of my other favorite cities) to try some amazing yoga classes and maybe even an acro event at Project Yoga Richmond? You can learn about how yoga is not singular and about how life is much more than "winning and losing." Perhaps exploring the philosophy and roots of the practice would be beneficial for your complete understanding. 

Yes, life is tough. Competition surrounds us. However, you don't have to degrade the benefits of yoga to promote sports and competitive activities, What if people engaged in an activity that cultivates self-awareness, strength, focus, and compassion so that they can perform well and fair in competition? Just as you don't want kids to be "cheated" of playing sports, they shouldn't be cheated of learning more about themselves through yoga, especially with the false claim that no "real life" lessons exist with yoga. 

Debate yoga as a "sport" all you want, but please don't claim that some of the strongest (physically and emotionally) and kindest people I know are wusses. Professional athletes and soldiers have engaged in the practice, and they might not appreciate that sentiment either. 

With gratitude.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Maybe I'm amazed...

Just as I am reflecting on how quickly this week/month/year/life are flying by, I learn that we can slow down time. Well, our perception of time can slow down. Researchers at Stanford University and the University of Minnesota found that being in awe enhances our lives by slowing down our perception of time and by positively affecting our ability to make decisions! 

You can read more about the study at Science Daily

I guess I should start meditating in awe-inspiring places. Suggestions welcome. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hey! Remember that time you had a blog?

It was a long, deep slumber away from the blogging world. I have enjoyed abundant happiness, seemingly insurmountable struggles, fruitful endeavors, revelations, etc., but I just found myself "too busy" to blog. The reality is that life is never too busy for that which you prioritize. I am glad that the thrill of technology and the idea that anyone actually reads this ("What is a horseshoe? What does a horseshoe do? Are there any horse socks? Is anybody listening to me?") finally pulled me back.

I promise to share the laughter, light, and love that seems to be joining me consistently these days. For today, happiness is creativity... creativity and a juicer. My mother gave me an old juicer we had back in the 1990's. Being the frugal and nutrition-savvy nerd that I am, throwing away the pulp is not an option. I have finally perfected a muffin recipe using the carrot/apple/ginger goodness that is leftover from juicing. Wish me luck as I enter it in Ellwood Thompson's Half-Baked contest!

[Follow up: I won!]

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dance Your Cares Away

I fell in love with Zumba a few weeks ago. Considering myself a decent dancer who knows a beat, I was surprised at my lack of coordination and difficulty keeping up with the steps... and that's exactly how I became addicted. Because the class was not about being good, it was about feeling good. It was about being in the moment and paying attention to your every move.

My two favorite things, body-mind connection and music, intertwine in a fun and sweaty workout. You listen, you watch, you dance, and you laugh. What is it about dancing that makes us healthy and happy? The endorphin surge is obvious. The laughter as well. The transcending feeling of enjoying the music and forgetting space and time. Here are some fantastic thoughts about dance:

Shiva Rea discusses a long history of suppressing freeform movement and what she believes is a revival of what we were all born to do:

Mallika Sarabhai discusses how art, specifically dance, is a universal language to breakdown barriers. The ultimate theme is how entertainment education can change the world for better:

 The title here says it all: "Ananda Shankar Jayant fights cancer with dance."

Gabrielle Roth discusses how dance brings you closer to yourself and the truth:

I still don't know how she turned her shirt inside out, but Lady Gaga was onto something:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Vegetarian Creativity

BBQ Tempeh "Wings"
Mashed Cauliflower
Collard Greens

Delicious and took less than 45 minutes to make!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Food, Visualization, and Choices

A recent study conducted at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, concluded that children are more likely to choose healthier food if exposed to images of that food. Photographs of vegetables were placed on lunch trays, and the students choices were tracked. Consumption of green beans and carrots increased significantly (two-fold increase for green beans; three fold increase for carrots) compared to the control day without photographs. 
The findings are not surprising, especially in the context of visualization. This is more than just whimsical musing of "The Secret." There is actual science behind the concept of just thinking and visualizing something (a task, general success, or, in this case, food) and then successfully seeking and obtaining it. 

Food could be considered an ultimate visualization factor because our digestive system anticipates food before it even enters our bodies. The cephalic, or anticipatory, phase of digestion occurs at the thought, sight, or smell of food. A neural reflex, involving the activation of the vagus nerve, sends excitatory signals to the enteric nervous system (part of the nervous system that controls gastrointestinal function). The signals cause the release of digestive hormones in the stomach. Our bodies are ready and willing to eat what's coming. 

Imagine if billboards and television advertisements were filled more often with photographs of healthy foods. Instead of denying sugary cereals of their cartoon mascots, advertisements could focus more on glorifying grains, fruit, vegetables, etc. Instead of magazine covers and billboards focusing on the outcome of a strong and fit body, focus on the source. 

A cursory Google image search for fast food billboards does not demonstrate any of the healthy options (e.g. apple slices for a side substitution at McDonald's or Wendy's, salads, etc.). Also try to recall the last time you saw a savory plate of a healthy homecooked meal on your television screen. 

Could this be a part of the equation for people to start making healthier choices? Just daily visual exposure of healthy food. It's so simple that it might just work.