Tag Archives: meditation

JKZ’s Challenge

Wanted to throw this quote down…try picking one question per week to focus on. And the main idea behind it is how does your body feelnot just the action:

“On the other hand, you might also be mindful of positive thoughts and feelings as they occur. How does your body fell when you see obstacles as challenges? How does it feel when you are experiencing joy? When you are trusting others? When you are generous and showing kindness? When you are loving? What are the effects of these inner experiences of yours on others? Can you see the immediate consequences of your positive emotional states and of your optimistic perspective at those times? Do these influence other people’s anxiety and pain? Is there a sense of greater peace within yourself at these times?”

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Filed under creativity research, meditation, science

Kiting Kale

Research Update: 

Totally killing it. Or not. So far we’re still having issues with downloading the data and using FreeSurfer to adjust the images, so for now I play with sticky notes and read the amusing answers our small sample size (8?) have written for the TTCT.

Brief explanation: TTCT (Torrance Test’s of Creative Thinking) was a test created about 30 years ago by Ellis P. Torrance. There are figural and verbal components, where the figural requires the subject to draw some sort of picture with a foundational doodle/pattern provided and the verbal requires the subject to practice divergent thinking, which is essentially a form of brainstorming. I’m administering these tests pre- and post- the Mindfulness Meditation program (MBSR) and checking out what neurological correlations there might be between meditation and creativity (a long shot, I know. It’s just silly and fun).

Check out this article from Newsweek for a more thorough explanation of the figural component of the TTCT and to see how it’s graded: “How Creative Are You?”

I had a few favorites from categorizing the verbal components of the tests today. My favorite responses to the question “Just suppose everyone had 6 fingers instead of 5, what would happen?” were: “A reassuring pat on the butt would feel that much larger” “People who used to be able to put their fist in their mouths might not be able to do it anymore”. One person wrote a passionate essay on environmental issues, a couple senators, and the destruction created by supporting small businesses (“That’s great guys. It’s fine. Really.”)

Ah, science.

To be a little more serious (wait, this wasn’t serious enough?), I came across a study published recently in Frontiers of Psychology called “Meditate to Create: the impact of focused-attention and open-monitoring training on convergent and divergent thinking”.

The study addressed the idea that different types of meditation can lead to different brain states. This is an extremely good approach as everyone likes to ask 1) can you be good at meditation? 2) what is it? Well, there is no short answer to either, as there are hundreds of types of meditation. To quote Patanjali from the yoga sutras (aka sort of yoga bible?): “I.39 Or [the steadiness of the mind is attained] from meditation upon anything of one’s inclination”. He states this after listing about 10 types of possible meditations.

In the study, they predict that focused attention meditation (inhalation to a specific body part, exhalation from there) leads to higher abilities to perform tasks related to convergent thinking (one correct answer, i.e. remote association task – three words are given like time, hair, and stretch, and participants are asked to come up with one answer – long). For divergent thinking (they use the verbal part of the TTCT), the authors predicted that open monitoring meditation (breath is used to “set the mind free” and allow any thoughts or emotions to arise naturally and be nonjudgementally observed, very similar to mindfulness meditation).

The results (in short summary mode) by conducting the experiment on a group of 16 people with a lot of OM and FA experience:

1. There was no difference in performance on the RAT in either group.

2. OM meditators significantly outperformed FA meditators in the TTCT verbal tests.

3. Both types of meditation elevated mood

4. Potential self-selection and demand characteristics may have biased the results somewhat

5. Check out other types of meditation in other religions? Oooh fun future project?

Anyways, glad I came across this as it is a good article to go off of for my thesis. And there’s a great chunk of it that I really appreciate in the intro:

However, the methodological diversity across these studies with regard to sample characteristics and type of meditation is considerable, which renders it question- able whether they were actually assessing the same construct and processes. Moreover, there is still no mechanistic model explaining how creative processes operate and how different type of medita- tions might affect these operations, which in view of the lack of conceptual clarity may not be surprising. To address this issue, we tried to avoid addressing meditation and creativity as a whole but, rather, focused on particular, relatively well-defined meditation techniques and specific subcomponents of creative performance. 

Daily Nutritional Facts

During my first week at Clover I tried a couple of the coffees – Stumptown (Indo) and Terroir (Colombia). Ayr had us trial taste and see if we could match the hot coffees to the cold. I guessed correctly, but when I tried to explain the flavor differences, I ended up describing these shapes instead (doodle time!):

The way Ayr described it was that the George Howell Coffee was that it was more acidic and fruity, while the Stumptown (the local coffee) was more well-rounded, dirty, earthy and complex. The Terroir was easily identifiable when hot because it still had a fruity, stringy taste and texture, while the Stumptown transformed from a complex, leveled cold to a buttery, smooth hot.

Last Friday was my friend’s fundraiser for her non-profit in Guatemala, Unmarked Streets. They seek to create a network of women who go through an entrepreneurial program, as well as distribute technologies that increase public health, protect the environment, and further education. Asides from teaching a class with the theme “Gratitude” (I referred to Roy Horan’s speech on how the key to creativity is gratitude), I made a random assortment of desserts ranging from vegan, gluten-free peanut butter cookies to the raw cacao cookies and a terrible attempt at the brownie bites (that ended up being the flattest thing ever because I made such a small portion).

Also created the love of my life – raw kale salad with miso ginger dressing. For some reason I felt like calling this dish Kale Kites. I have no idea what it means, but I felt like going with it. I didn’t realize after up to 5 days of storing kale, it largely becomes inedible because it starts going really bitter. (also there was an interesting study done by the owner of Harvest Coop that when kale is shipped across the country, the 2 week shipment – though the kale looks fresh – makes kale lose up to 70% of it’s nutrients, especially the vitamin C)

So what you need…

  • kale of choice
  • cooked quinoa (preferably chilled, unless it’s a cold day) – for regular, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 11/4 cups of water
  • tempeh 
  • soy sauce
  • black sesame seeds
  • any additional veggies you want (in this salad I had tomatoes)
  • sauce: miso ginger dressing and vegannaise

1) Tear up the kale, leaving the stalks behind (munch on it like celery sticks!)

2) Meanwhile, you should be sauteeing the tempeh on medium heat with some olive/coconut oil and soy sauce on it. It depends how much you want to use. I like mind to be cooked fairly crisp and moderately soy sauced up.

3) When finished, cut tempeh into pieces and toss into the salad. Add a cup or two of cooked quinoa. Sprinkle lots of black sesame seeds onto it (be more risky and sprinkle poppy seeds if they’re around!)

4) Add any more veggies you’d like to the mix, then make the sauce – I like to have a ratio of one tablespoon of vegannaise to an equal amount of miso ginger. Alter the ratio to your preference. For kicks, I tend to throw in Frank’s Finest Spirulina Gomasio, a delicious spice blend of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Incan Spirulina, Himalayan Crystal Salt, and Onion Granules. It’s like sea in a basket. If this isn’t accessible to you, I’d go for something with umami/savory tastes like seaweed.

5) Mix, mix, mix by really massaging the kale with everything else to soften it and bring out more peppery flavors –> done!

Random last note – this isn’t so much a recipe as something I just randomly came up with. My mom introduced me to eating avocados with lemon and salt, which is absolutely delicious and I could probably consume for all three meals. Alas, I found myself the other night with no lemon in sight, but found a jar of poppyseeds instead (it took me a while to figure out that poppyseeds DO NOT equal lemon, they’re usually just paired)…so with a dollop of vegannaise, a generous handful of poppyseeds, and a sprinkle of salt, my avocado dinner was served.

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Filed under creativity, meditation, neuronerd adventuretime, science

David Chang: Vegetarian Korean Dishes

This is a short one…

Korean nuns + yogic sun salutations + 26 banchan 반찬 + humbled pork-celebrity chef = joy…Did a random google search on Korean vegan food and came across this article, and now have decided summer goal #1 = making a full on veggie/vegan Korean meal.

http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/david-chang-vegetarian-korean-dishes

Here’s some random fun yoga flows that I learned this week and wanted to share so you can experiment:

Speaking of experiments…I’m reading up on mindfulness meditation by reading the most foundational book on it by Jon Kabat-Zinn, written in 1990 (“Full Catastrophe Living”). He speaks of how our minds and bodies are vehicles for experiments, and how approaching mindfulness meditation should be like an experiment. I love that philosophy because it’s in line with my experiences in neuroscience, in cooking, in yoga (the yogis who sat around for years testing out poses/mudras/chants), now Clover Fast Foods, where I’m interning. They like to call their restaurants/food trucks more of a Food Lab, inspired by Ayr Muir (founder) and his scientific/engineering background. Experiments are awesome. So don’t follow a strict yoga schedule and sequence all the time – experiment, mess around, break out of the routine and suddenly go into a ragey dance mode. It’s all yoga, really. [check sources where I’m slowlyyyyyyy updating on mindfulness.]

Mindfulness Meditation #1: Breathing for 3 minutes

To experience the pull of the thinking mind try this experiment. Close your eyes, sit upright, and become aware of your breathing. Don’t worry about how you are breathing but instead let it happen and be aware of it, feeling how it feels, objectively witnessing it as it flows in and out. You can notice how the air feels through your nostrils, or going down your windpipe, or where your body inflates/deflates.

If you start thinking about how bored you are or if you start thinking about what you should really be doing, let the thought/feeling be there and note to yourself what thought/judgement you just had. It’s kind of like keeping a mini diary. Then simply let go of it and bring your attention back to your breathing. Finish after three minutes and reflect on how much your mind wandered or not. Most important: no hating on yourself! It’s just a fun experiment you can practice everyday.

Sad news: no more Sandrine’s. I miss the group dearly, but I decided that I wasn’t interested in working with meat at this time. But I’m definitely not sick of work in the kitchen and learning more about cooking, tasting, and techniques. According to my friend, the onions I diced for our Indian dinner were pro (cut onion in half, then slice parallel but don’t go all the way, cut the onion half into two layers but don’t go all the way either, and then finally chop chop chop perpendicular to the first cuts). I owe my new skillset to Sandrine’s super sweet chef Carlos, who I don’t have a photo of, but looks so similar to Iron Man (but older a la George Clooney) that I think I’ll just use his photo instead. Hope he doesn’t mind.

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Filed under Mindfulness, postures, science, yoga

The Imaginative Neuroscientist

How could reading a book from the Romantic period give headway for a cognitive neuroscientist? How could the an analysis of the line “It was impossible to melt her dream so he melted into hers” be infused into an article published by a neuroscientist? Where does one etch the hard lines in the brain to define imagination?

Alan Richardson, a professor at BC and a Harvard PhD, loves romanticism.

The concepts of perception –> memory –> imagination is so dear to him, so beloved. But then, during a seminar I attended today, a literary modernist cited Henry James and how the facilities of imagination is a feedback system: it isn’t just perception –> memory –> imagination. Our imagination also shapes our perception. And neither person cited scientific papers…yet.

I found this idea interesting because we already know biases shapes our perceptions (regular peeps vs. monks and doing tasks where rationality would be the most effective, but most people’s biases interfere). But the idea that imagination could shape our perception and experience of the world shook me slightly. I reflected on the ideas in Qi Gong and in bioenergetic healings and visual metaphors in meditation and how imagination can alter reality (like actually though. Qi Gong breaks all the rules of regular physics, bioenergetics make you feel completely different in your body [two wins for Mind-Body therapy], and meditation literally changes your brain.)

Anyways, back to Alan. So the main emphasis of his short seminar (unfortunately, I came a bit late and also was on sleep deprivation mode) was that there is a subtle tug that can be felt within the science world that different disciplines are slowly coming to a peak in the brain. Philosophy, quantum physics, religion, and now literature. The idea that a literary historian could give input to a scientific research project seems ludicrous. But I know in my gut that it’s the way to go. But how can we evolve the research lab to involve multiple disciplines? How can we justify it to the science authorities? How will it be applicable and useful? Who’s going to have the balls (to put it frankly) to pursue this?

On my to do list (so guilty, I know) is reading John Lehrer’s book “Proust Was a Neuroscientist”. To quote from a book review written by Dennis Patrick Slattery called “Pathway to a New Mythology” (sorry for the aggressive quoting!):

“What continues to intrigue me about the entire field of neuroscience is how the act of learning continues to transform the brain, creating new neural pathways into memory, perception, understanding, emotional maturation, and speech centers, such that one senses no split between mind and body, but rather that the brain is an embodied entity and that the entirety of a human being is one unified phenomenon.[oh hey Dao of Neuroscience]

… 

Neuroscience and the artists who exposed its secrets earlier are reinventing memory and imagining along new lines of exploration. Studies in psychology, mythology, and the humanities generally cannot afford to ignore the work in this field.

Lehrer draws the analogy of Proust’s discovery that “our memories are not like fiction. They are fiction” (88). What Proust grasped was that memories do not create fabrications of earlier realities; rather, they embody the fictions of earlier events, making of them part historical fact and part fictional cloth. 

One of the most provocative chapters in Lehrer’s study considers the imaginal writing of Virginia Woolf. Her own belief that, as Lehrer paraphrases it, “certain elements of consciousness were constant and universal” suggests her recognition of the archetypal realm and of the patterned propensity of psyche (2008, 193). Coherence and wholeness were what consciousness sought as it gathered the fragments of experience and placed them in an order of formed coherence.  

My favorite part of the article:

Neurons are distributed all across the brain, and their firing unfolds over time. [Fourth dimension ahhhh] This means “the mind is not a place: it is a process” (Lehrer 2008, 177). After a certain point of exploring the organ of the brain and its firings, it becomes impossible to identify and hold the brain’s processing as mind. [This is how I feel about my creativity research – so jaded. More on this later.] As such, the brain is able to be both matter and energy at the same time. The excitement of neuroscientific discoveries is that what the brain is and how it functions is continually being reframed along different story lines; its plot continues to unfold with further episodes that change its narrative structure as it exposes patterned grooves that were invisible earlier: “Modern neuroscience is now confirming the self Woolf believed in. We invent ourselves out of our own sensations” (Lehrer 2008, 182). “

In other news: had a work interview yesterday @ Clover Food Labs. I love the place and their food and had a blast during the one hour I was there making chickpea sandwiches. I got accepted to work there so I’m super pumped. This is me pre-work when we held a Clover Workshop at a Mindfulness/Wellbeing Conference I put on last weekend (“Brain Break 2.0”). As you can see, my eagerness to chop beets confirms the foodie addict still lies within me. She was just dormant for a while:

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Filed under food, food trucks, mind-body therapy, neuroscience

raw sugar raw thought

A random thought splurge on meditation & chocolate…

RECENT CHOCOLATES TO RAVE AND RATE:

Ah, yes. The chocolatier has returned. Don’t worry, I’ve been doing the dirty deed undercover at Harvard.

Harvard also hosted a mindfulness meditation program called “Wake Up” last weekend. Unfortunately, I was too tired to participate in the entire day’s activities (deep relaxation meditation = invitation to sleep), but I enjoyed hearing about the five pillars of meditation at their initial lecture.

What they’re about (taken from their website):

Wake Up – Young Buddhists and non-Buddhists for a Healthy and Compassionate Society, is a world-wide network of young people practising the living art of mindfulness. We share a determination to live in an awakened way, taking a 21st Century version of the 5 Mindfulness Trainings as our path and guiding light.
The Wake Up network has grown out of Plum Village meditation centrein SW France, under the guidance of Venerable Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Plum Village has been offering retreats to young people for over two decades, and the Wake Up movement was formally launched in Summer 2008.

第一:Confidence

We know that our minds race all the time, worrying or regretting about the past, predicting or practicing the future. It’s hard to have the confidence to let go of thinking and to be fully in the present moment. What a weird thought, right?

One monk said the simplest thing to do was to begin with three breaths that you paid full attention to. The moment your mind wanders off about something else, start again. It helps to breathe in and out on focus words if it helps. My personal favorite is breathe in on trust, and breathe out on doubt (as if I was breathing out any emotions of doubt). It helps a lot when I’m worrying about the outcome of something, and I just do that simple 3-breath trick to remind myself to trust that at that moment, the right words/actions will come along with emotional calmness.

Confidence is awesome for promoting a product as well. Take the founders of Komforte Chockolates, who acknowledge in their about section  that “they debated the intelligence of starting a new small business in the midst of the worst recession of our lifetimes. It didn’t occur to us that we had a huge learning curve ahead of us. We took to the kitchen and began often times frightening rounds of experimentation mixing our favorite snacks with premium chocolate until we hit upon something undeniably good.” 

But hey, look how they didn’t obsess ahead to the potential “huge learning curve” they were to face. They were instead trusting their passion and desire to mix their favorite tastes to guide them forward in the competitive world of chocolates.

I tried their Tortilla Lime & Salt Chocolate Bar – I have to say, one of the best bars I’ve had since I’ve been back at school. Although I am not a huge milk chocolate fan, I was pleasantly delighted by the spin of the lime and the crunch of tortilla. And obviously the salt was bomb with chocolate – can’t resist that sweet and salty combo. Whenever I handed out samples of Sriracha Chili chocolate for Socola Chocolatier, I always promoted it as “an adventure in your mouth”. Well, I’d probably describe this bar as “a trip in your mouth”, what with the zangy crispy lime waiting to burst in an explosion of lucid green on your palette, followed by a soothing, curved sensation of the milk chocolate (great quality too, fyi).

第二:Right Diligence

Okay so I’ll admit the first thing I thought of when I heard this one was Asian Tiger mom. Obviously that wasn’t quite what they were going for.

In fact, this type of diligence is the opposite. It’s tender and gentle. The example given was cultivating a garden and showing love to the good seeds as well as the bad seeds. For the good seeds, you show love by cultivating them and focusing on them. For the bad seeds, instead of hating on them and trying to either ignore or destroy, you simply invite them to gently go to sleep.

I hope by now you’ve figured out seeds are your thoughts (surprise). The very foundation of mindfulness meditation is to sit, focus on your breath, and notice what thoughts arise. Rather than push any of them away, simply observe and stay detached. Almost as if you’re watching a television screen, or clouds, or a river.

The diligence required isn’t hardcore meditating 10 hours a day. It is simply being mindful of the thoughts that arise in your mind throughout the day – when you brush your teeth, eat, take a walk…cultivate the good thoughts and gently watch the bad ones rise and fall (a la Craig David).

第三:Awareness

This plays into the previous pillar – being aware of what sort of thoughts arise. My mind-body therapist (more on that later) helped me with this by asking me to notice that the thoughts that arise in my head belong to a “part of me”, and are not “all of me” nor are they not part of me at all. We’ve already distinguished things like the judger, the baby Kelly, the worrier, the hoper, the protector, the achiever.

It helps to distinguish the voices and also to use my right brain to visualize where in my body or presence they are (i.e. I always feel like the judger is to my left side and slightly behind me, while baby Kelly is nestled in my lower right ribcage). It’s kind of cool, because now I can distinguish how I become engulfed by different emotions via my thoughts in situations. Kind of like watching a bunch of TV screens.

Anyways, like I said before about bad/good seeds – you gotta show some love to all your parts. There’s a reason that these “thought voices” are neurologically built into your body. In order to alter set patterns, you have to be your own mother/father and embrace the inner child or whatever is going on in there. Smile to it, nourish it with positive thinking, focus on it. Also notice the relationships of the constitutive parts (baby Kelly is terrified right now and the judger is berating her for being so weak).

On the topic of parts, I have to bring up Vosges Chocolate. Her diversity in bars is overwhelmingly awesome, and her strength is bringing in distinct parts together to create a wholesome experience. Some of my personal faves (with her descriptions because I love them):

Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar: “Inhale warming ginger as menthol-nuanced wasabi cools. Sense the evolution of flavors in the mouth. Commence with ginger, followed by earthy cacao notes, mellow wasabi reminiscent of coriander, finishing with black sesame seeds, rich in nutty texture.” 


Gingerbread Toffee Bar: “The scent of classic gingerbread spices will have you dreaming of snow dusted pine trees in no time. We begin with the same melt-in-your-mouth, burnt sugar and butter toffee and add a touch of ginger, Ceylon cinnamon, Grenadian nutmeg and Jamaican allspice to put you in a holiday frame of mind. A generous coating of dark chocolate completes the affair on your palate. “

第四:Right Concentration

This one is simple. The right concentration brings you happiness and joy by being aware of the present moment, while false concentration is focusing hard as well, but brings you dissatisfaction and false perceptions (i.e. looking at a magazine filled with photoshopped models and drowning oneself in it).

What else has the right concentration? Chuao Chocolatier Earl Grey Milk Chocolate Bar. Granted, another milk chocolate friend (not as high quality as Komforte Chockolates). I would have preferred dark, but for what it was I approve. The concentration of Earl Grey was just right – not too overpowering and allowed room for imagination (yes I am staring directly into an Englishman’s eyes sipping some tea and chewing on crumpets), but had enough swirl to make a profound statement.

第五:Insight

This last one was both surprising and interesting to me, since creativity is part of my neuroscience research (the hypothesis that meditation lends the mind to a brainset that allows for easier connections be made –> insight!!).

The monk who opened up about his thoughts on insight reviewed the garden concept. He talked about how once someone cultivates a good garden, he or she develops a vital skillset that leads to insight. In understanding our condition and how to transforming suffering into peace, calm, and happiness, one can create a space for insight to come about. Well hello senior thesis.

I love that New Tree operates their mailing list on the basis that we want to hear more about their chocolate innovations. That’s just too cute. Oh, stop it.

Two flavors that I nearly died when I tried them were ginger (#intriguing) and thyme (#ohmygodwhatisthisbecausethisisbrilliant). I’ve always loved ginger in stuff, but the fact that they combined thyme, a little bit of flax seeds, and dark chocolate = WIN WIN WIN. What a lush creation that I couldn’t stop eating.

Ginger is sexy, apparently.

Okay the meditating chocolatier is out.

“Buddhism needs to be recognized as a source of wisdom, a long tradition of practice of understanding and love and not just of devotion. The spirit of Dharma is very close to the spirit of Science; both help us cultivate an open an non-discriminating mind. You can join the Wake up Movement as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, an agonist or an atheist. The practice of maitri, of loving kindness, the practice of sisterhood and brotherhood, is at the foundation of the Dharma.”

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Filed under chocolate, creativity, food, harvard, senses, spiritual

night tripper

“That was terrifying.”

When the teacher’s benign, charming eyes rested upon me after class, and he asked me how my first Kundalini Yoga class went, that was the first thing I could think of saying.

I mean, it was seriously terrifying.

Before I move on: Kundalini yoga is a more aesthetic form of yoga, attempting to awaken the Kundalini energy within the body (an energy that shoots up from your root chakra in the coccyx all the way to the crown chakra in the top of your head).

Think Hercules, or something of the sort, when all the planets align and the titans pop out of the ground. But this is in your own body. When this happens, you hit some unspeakable realm of creative energy and your life is transformed forever.

Kundalini Yoga 101:

During the 1960’s, Yogi Bhajan was in California at the pinnacle of the hippie movement and witnessed the whirlwind of drugs. He realized the youth of America was unknowingly trying to reach for something more holistic and beautiful, some connection with other people and humanity that had never been sought out before in American history.

His response? What the hell are you guys doing.

That was when Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini Yoga to the US. His intention was to introduce a much safer practice without side effects to the American youth. The website claims “busloads of people” joined his movement. I don’t know how legitimate that is. But what I do believe is the claim that yoga, or at least awakening Kundalini energy within the body, can achieve the exact same mental effect as drugs.

Why do I believe this? Well, 1) after marginally studying the brain, I am convinced on several levels (quantum physics, molecular biology, psychological, philosophical) of the power of intention and willpower to shape something more than we could have originally thought to conceive of 2) Richard Alpert (who’s yogi name is Ram Daas and is buddies with notorious LSD-experimenter and ex-Harvard professor Timothy Leary) traveled to India, gave yogis LSD and watched with amazement at how they were totally unaffected by the drugs. He picked up on their skills and brought it back to the states. At the ripe old age of 32, he tried LSD again to compare how it felt to a deep meditative state. Alas, both felt the same. But he could control the meditative state, whereas he lost complete control with the drug.

If we truly have this potential to control the body and produce an experience (whether it be emulating the experience of LSD or the placebo effect), we can harness this skill and implement it into medical practice to help the effects of or maybe even partially substitute pharmaceutical drugs (sorry for the HUGE divergence here).

I’m taking a class on the comparison of Eastern and Western medicine in history. Professor Kuriyama proposed that modern Western medicine has alienated itself from its classical medicinal history and its remedies, and in fact is more closely linked to the preclassical ages (before the publication of the Hippocratic corpus, 450-350 BCE). The link? Modern Western doctors emphasize how microbes and bacteria are totally in charge of our susceptibility to illness (check out a hospital’s guide to avoiding the cold – it focuses only on avoiding crowded spaces and washing hands), and during the preclassical ages, Gods were completely in charge of a person’s susceptibility to illness.

Kuriyama asked of us: What ever happened to the Western classical age of treatment – listening to our own bodies? Why have we turned back to assigning total responsibility to something beyond our sensual perception? (obviously, viruses and microbes do cause the common cold, but that’s not the point). Classical remedies involved things like keeping your feet warm, or eating certain foods – basically, listening to your body. We can also alter the effect of these simple remedies via the power of belief and intuition. We have more control than we think we do, and that’s thanks to the power of the human mind. 

See why I’m obsessed with the brain?

Acupuncture: in the mind, in the experience of the body, or both?

So, back to the class.

Kundalini is totally different than anything I’ve experimented with. I came across an article in the midst of my neuro research on meditation that talked about creativity and Kundalini Yoga. I bought this book, Art and Yoga, and got a background debrief to the practice:

The author’s daughter actually teaches at this studio. Hunting her down, obvis.

It was a lot of breathing and repetitive movements, and was actually really hard. I really liked the chants, which were beautifully lead by the teacher, Ek Ong Kar, with overlapping, rippling syllables (the leading chant: “ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO”, as well as inwardly chanting “SAT NAM”).

After an hour of exhausting our bodies, we lay down in corpose pose (Savasana) and began to fully relax our minds. That was when the part that scared the hell out of me began.

He used a regular gong that looked like this…

…to produce the most intense experience I have ever had thus far in my life. It was so powerful, so mesmerizing, so disturbing. He described it to me after class: “Your body paradoxically hates it but also finds it irrisistable.” The sounds of it can’t be recorded to the same effect, because one’s body has to be in the room in order to feel the vibrations.


The sounds overlapped, creating arcs and waves of constructive and destructive interference that shook my body. My eyes were uncontrollably twitching under my closed eyelids, and there was a steady buildup of bright light. I think it would be a bit of an understatement that I was freaking out a little bit.

At the same time, I knew what this was. If I just let go, I would be in an ultimate state of relaxation. But I couldn’t let go.

I talked to myself, especially during the most intense parts of sound permeating my body, and found myself saying: “This too shall pass.” (Kind of like what people say when they can’t handle too big of a hit or too strong of a drug). I was so fearful of letting myself go and relaxing. I was scared of seeing what was ‘on the other side’ of myself and reality. Time distorted, my body was distorting…it was trippy, to say the least.

And then it ended, and it was silent. My heart was racing at God knows what rate.

Chatting with the teacher afterwards helped me a lot. He told me my reaction was natural, and that he had given us beginners a rather intense class. Talking to him kept me sane.

Seeing him dressed in his white turban and robes, I wondered to myself what it must be like to almost always be in touch with infinity. That unfathomable number and concept beyond any known paradigm, any known assumption. It is the hardest concept for the prefrontal cortex to comprehend, so much so that when connected with an EEG, a brain trying to solve a problem involving infinity goes berserk.

It also reminded me of something Professor Roy Horan said: “Einstein transcended assumptions. Creativity transcends paradigms. Yoga transcends these as well.”

One thing I took away today from my Hindu Gods class (that I’m illegally auditing) is that there’s no one right way to approach divinity. Everyone can be a Hindu – it’s a philosophy of reaching the Supreme – and can go to it in their own way. In fact, the word “yoga” simply means to unite. There is no reference to the physical workout at the Harvard Mac Gym.

The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu traditional and philosophical text, brings up three possible ways of moving closer to the One:

Bhakti Yoga: the yoga of devotion (worshipping the transcendent meanings of symbols and shrines)

Jnana Yoga: the yoga of knowledge and retreat (think people who disappear off somewhere)

Karma Yoga: the yoga of action (serving society and helping humanity)

I took that message to heart and realized Kundalini Yoga might not be it for me. Roy told me that in the Yoga Sutras, over 180 classes of meditation are mentioned. Although yoga nowadays is Americanized, it is still yoga, and simply provides a different path for culturally different people. The destination is still the same. Who knows, studying science or social studies at college can even be a form of yoga, as long as it isn’t self-serving the ego.

I’ll go back and try it again, for sure. I just don’t think day tripping is a regular thing for me. 

Daily Nutritional Facts: being back at Harvard makes it hard to actually explore food, thanks to our lovely unlimited supply dining hall food. Although I will be a strong advocate for my new obsession: ginger chocolate. I especially love the one from New Tree.

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ab.ra.ca.dab.ra

In the Aramaic language it means: “to create as I say”. That has pretty big implications in terms of the mind-body link, because what we perceive is all created in the mind, right? Also noteworthy is that Jesus spoke Aramaic during his time. I can bet you he walked around brandishing a Harry Potter-esque wand shouting “abracadabra!” Or maybe something a little more classy.

This is a real book, apparently.

I learned that fun little fact during my crazy day yesterday.

第三天:To start my day off, I got to sit in a short meeting with Susan and her friend Anna, an ex-samba dancer who wants to fully dedicate herself to building up a non-profit dance exchange program in Panama. Anna needed some insight on the world of marketing and websites, both of which I am completely new to.

Susan seriously knows her stuff. The biggest point Susan drove home was commitment. Basically, you can’t toy around with too many ideas and logos for too long. What you end up with is a confusing, unfocused message. The lack of belief in your own design can (incorrectly) imply a lack of belief in your own work.  You have to commit to the image you want to present, and once you commit, you can build on your foundation and develop a great looking marketing campaign. Pretty simple.

There’s also a commitment to your story. When you’re putting yourself out there, you need to be able to explain concisely what drew you to your work and why you think the person should be interested. You also want to genuinely convey your passion for your experiences in under half a minute. Without commitment, you’re going to end up rambling for a good five minutes until you realize you still haven’t actually made a point and you’ve got your listener thinking about the next Kung Fu Panda movie (HEY guess what I’m looking forward to – no shame).

For lunch, Susan drove me to her friend Jenny’s apartment in Berkeley. Jenny is a Blue Bottle Coffee employee by day and a seriously talented artist by night (and day). While eating some oragnic Mac ‘N Cheese and delicious fresh vegetables (which they showed me how to cook – I wasn’t kidding when I said I was hopeless at cooking), I listened to Susan, Jenny, her roommate’s son Walter and his friend brainstorm ideas for a mini telenovela series on Sôcôla’s saucy seasonal flavor: Sriracha Flying Rooster. I won’t give anything away, but expect an enticing love story that’ll spice up your life in the next couple of months.

I’m not known for being quick-witted or for being able to pump out delicious puns on the spot. I’m more of your sit-for-a-while-and-let-things-stew kind of girl. So watching them let their creativity run loose was really energizing, not to mention hilarious.

The creative process in the neurological realm is extremely hard to define (if you’re wondering why the neurological tangent, click here). Shelley Carson likes to break it down into seven different aspects with its own neurological pathway: Connect, Reason, Envision, Absorb, Transform, Evaluate, and Stream. What the brainstorm team was doing largely falls under the Connect brainset. You could define this as thinking divergently rather than convergently.  Basically, your “brain censor” turns off and allows your brain to make unusual, PUNNY associations.

What does this look like?

Copyright 2010 Shelley Carson at Harvard U.

  1. There’s deactivation in your left prefrontal cortex (narrow thinking, also related to inhibition of the right hemisphere) and activation of your right PFC (broad thinking)
  2. Activation of association centers in the left hemisphere’s parietal and temporal lobes

My biggest issue is that my self-consciousness/fear of judgement (amygdala and left PFC activation) inhibits my creative process. When they say let go, they mean let go.

Ok, enough neuroscience. ONE LAST THING: Jenny did make a fascinating comment that made me really excited about my potential research. She told me she’s been feeling “in a funk” the past week and she seriously thinks it has to do with her lack of yoga. She practices regularly but hasn’t gone to a class for a few weeks. Since then she hasn’t been inspired for any of her creative projects. Maybe there is something related to opening the mind and deactivating the judgmental pathways in the brain during yoga and creativity…to be further investigated.

After three hours of observation of the creative process, Susan let me be her sidekick for a port and chocolate taste-pairing meeting downtown. My friends and I are huge wine and cheese fans, but never before have I seriously accosted port. And now I’m hooked. The complexity and depth of ports brings out the flavors of truffles much more intensely than red wine. Something about the heaviness of the dessert wine settling on your palette warmly invites the luxurious dark chocolate and its respective ganache.

My top two faves: 1) a woody, Warre’s Otima port paired with the Jasmine Tea Truffle (I had a ridiculous reaction after trying that one) and 2) a heavier, fruitier vintage port paired with the Sriracha Chili Truffle. I am so pumped for when I get to serve at the tasting event next month. Champagne, organic cheeses, and irresitible slow-drip coffee will also be part of the parade. Surprisingly, they don’t hold a lot of port-chocolate tastings in SF, and they really, really should. To our dear friend red wine: please step aside.

To finish up the day (and this extremely long post – I do apologize), I joined Susan for her weekly hour meditation at the Spiritual Learning Center. Now I’ve tried meditating on my own for ten minutes, and I get really antsy towards the end thanks to the Harvard complex that makes me feel like I always need to be doing something productive.

This time, there was a small tickle of boredom in the beginning, but by breathing and settling into the feeling of boredom it disappeared. I don’t really know how to describe the experience, as my thoughts were pretty random. Sometimes my mind was completely blank, and sometimes thoughts I had always brooded over came up. Random memories returned from freshman spring and my high school graduation. The weirdest moment was when I suddenly thought I was naked, and also when there was a reflection of someone’s face etched in bright red in front of my eyes. I will admit I freaked out a little.

Any revelations from the experience? Not particularly. But there shouldn’t have been or at least there doesn’t have to be. My hour of just “be-ing” rushed by faster than the ten minutes of meditation I’ve tried to do on my own. So that was pretty sweet.

So yesterday, during all the craziness, I got to explore the creation of self-promotion, ideas, tastes, and the mind. Abracadabra, baby.

Daily Nutrition Report:

I had port and chocolate for dinner. Enough said.

Lesson of the Day:

We all need to remind ourselves to notice the little things everyday. Notice the care and detail that goes into a logo, notice how your food mixes and explodes with flavors in your mouth, notice something awesome about someone, notice the fact that you’re walking, breathing, and living, damn it.

*** I WILL START UPLOADING PHOTOS SOON ***

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