Integration + Biomimicry

April 19, 2013

This is why most technology (esp medical technology) is not sustainable or healthy in the long run – it is not integrated.

If it’s not integrated and holistic, it will have unintended consequences, negative side effects that are equal and opposite counterbalances to the gains attempting to be made.

“Natural ecosystems do not forget about anything; they embody integration. Everything has a specific role, and this diversity of function must be maintained to keep the healthy equilibrium of the biosphere. Unlike linear problem solving, nature always comes up with complex and integrated solutions. These solutions do not rely on simply one organism or function, but rather a network of many that are prepared to adapt. Linear problem solving creates a solution for one problem, whereas in biology, nature is anticipating many. That is why an understanding of biology can play a crucial role in the process of design science. By injecting biological understanding into the preliminary phases of the design process, the designer’s foundation for problem solving can be more integrated, and hopefully it will be easier for them to create a whole systems solution.”

by Griffin Goldsmith, from the Buckminster Fuller Institute

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Advice on how to find more happiness in my life, from my 110-year-old self, who is colorfully dressed, quirky, lives in an adorable house, has traveled the world and created joy and beauty and has a wonderfully smile-creased face. She also still does yoga and is quite limber.

31*-year-old Michelle, here is my advice to you:

Don’t worry so much. Don’t be so scared. Everything works out perfectly.

Live your own truth – protect your body and your mind – they’re the only things that will stay with you your whole life. Well, your mind might go, but you’re stuck in this body. Nothing else stays – not your spouse, children, clothing or friends, not your house or your money or your pets. Don’t drink. Don’t eat toxic crap. Don’t burn your neurons up on drugs that aren’t even that much fun.

Listen to yourself. You already know all the answers. You don’t even have to ask anyone else.

Stop sleeping with guys. It won’t give you the connection you’re looking for. Only you can give that to yourself. Save your emotional, sexual, and mental energy for someone who will reflect it back to you evenly and is committed to co-creating more of it with you. Otherwise it’s a slow leak. You’re never gonna fill your hot air balloon enough to lift you to your highest heights unless you conserve all of that precious, lovely energy you create. Look at all that emotional energy that’s been drained out of you by boys. Not their fault, they were (mostly) sweethearts, but you know you don’t need it.

Feel your feelings, mourn your sadness, and don’t be afraid of pain. You’re strong. You can take any amount of pain, and you are so wonderful and creative that you know how to catalyze that pain into growth and learning and ultimately, more happiness. So rejoice in pain. When you feel pain you know you’ve got a golden opportunity for heart and soul growth. You’re one lucky bitch.

You ARE one lucky bitch. Everything always works out in your favor. And I mean everything. The universe truly smiles on us. You are sooo lucky that you got this beautiful charmed life. Enjoy it, trust it. You are loved and supported always.

Live beyond your fears. Squeeze every last bit of love and joy out of this sucker. What’s there to be afraid of? You’re immortal. Your fears are just psychological constructs, remnants of the lizard brain that thinks that if you make a wrong move, you’re caput. Well guess what – #1. You won’t die of ANY of the things you’re afraid of, like honesty and karaoke and vulnerability and having messy feelings and looking like an idiot fool, and #2. There are no wrong choices. So go ahead and follow your impulses – do whatever the hell it is that you want to do. It’s your life, there are no wrong choices, and NONE of the choices you make are gonna kill you.

Love more. Love more. Love more. ESPECIALLY yourself. You are gorgeous, sweet, talented, kind, intelligent, caring, trustworthy, dependable, strong, loyal. ANY person is lucky to have you in their lives, and you are lucky to have a great travelling partner like yourself. So love yourself more, every day, as much as your huge heart can.

Create. Creation is your intellect combined with attention combined with love combined with divine spirit. The things you create are as beautiful as you are, because you have a beautiful soul. So you are creating beauty and sharing it with the world – what better gift could you possibly give? Your creation is your love made manifest. And you’ve got a lot of it. The only thing that stops creation is fear. Don’t let fear win. Don’t listen to it. NONE of it is real.

Prioritize. This life is long and it is short. Spend it doing what makes you happy. Figure out what those things are and build a map for your life based on that. Otherwise you’ll end up living someone else’s version of happiness (or fear). That’s a waste of your beautiful life.

Accept the now. Be grateful for the good (and there’s a lot). Release your fears. And trust that everything will work out perfectly. It always did.

*I am now 33; I wrote this back in 2010 or 2011 while while on retreat at the Metta Forest Monastery near San Diego, CA. Apparently I meant to post it to my other blog, www.amicamore.com, but never did. I’m so glad I found it, and I’m glad to report I have taken my own advice – I stopped sleeping around and drinking since this writing.

Sugar + Honey + Frank

February 19, 2012

I’ve been refined sugar-free for six days now!

I’m feeling happier. I think there are two reasons: 1. Sugar causes mood swings and 2. I’m not hating on myself for sugar binging or not acting in integrity with what I want to be: healthy.

The cravings haven’t been too bad. I did eat a lot of dried fruit and nuts the first few days, and I’m eating more dairy than I usually do (which is barely any). But I’m ok with that!

Yesterday I bought some freshly-made organic yogurt and honey from the El Galpon Farmer’s Market in the Chacarita neighborhood of Buenos Aires (the only place I know of where you can get organic stuff in BA…). The yogurt comes in a big beautiful bottle and was delish with the super-dark grainy honey:

Argentine Yogurt and Honey, fresh from the farm.

Yes, honey’s technically a sugar but, unlike refined sugar, honey’s not toxic to your system, doesn’t cause dramatic blood sugar spikes (it may actually IMPROVE blood sugar control)  and has an insane number of health benefits: it’s anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. You can use it to help heal burns and wounds, you can use it on your face to clear up acne (which I do occassionally). It can help with sore throats, allergies, even weight loss! As I’m reading more about honey the list is getting way too long (athletic performance, free radicals, cholesterol, immune system, anti-cancer…jeez!) so for more info check it here and here and here. (I’m pretty sure all of these are from raw honey, not the honey you by in a regular store, which is probably counterfeit honey from China.*)

Unfortunately, according to one of those honey sites, the answer to the question “How much honey can I eat every day?” is NOT “Eat as much as you can.” Damn.

Even the Bible mentions honey, according to the editors of Wikipedia. Funny honey quote:

“While Jonathan was passing through the woods during the war against the Philistines, he found honey dripping on the ground; he plunged his spear into it, and ate enough to restore his lost strength. He was, however, sentenced to death because he ate honey on a day of abstinence”.

D’oh!!!

 

So, this next part has nothing to do with sugar or honey, but… Well, actually, it does, in a roundabout way.

I was reading The Daily Love and came across this awesome blog by Mollie Angelhearthttp://thedailylove.com/always-come-back-to-love/

Some of my favorite bits:

“All those paths lead to one answer “we are all one and our only job is to be unconditional love and remember”.

It’s all in the remembering… From broken and alone to whole and complete and part of the whole that is The Uni-verse…

I am broken when I forget and whole and complete when I remember.”

Mollie’s bio led me to google the documentary she produced, May I be Frank, a documentary “exploring the transformations possible through healthy eating and positive thinking”:

Which looks AMAZING.

So, to tie this all together – I’m pretty sure Frank was eating way too much sugar. I haven’t seen the entire movie yet, so maybe honey even played a roll in his transformation.

I think we’d all do a little better with less sugar, more honey!

 

*If you are getting your honey from Walmart, Target, Cost Plus, Sam’s Club, Walgreen’s, Rite Aid, CVS, or individual packets from Smucker’s, McDonalds or KFC, there is a 70-100% chance that it’s not actually honey, as defined by the food industry (containing pollen), and could be watered down with high fructose corn syrup. Trader Joe’s honey, thank goodness, is legit.

30-Day No Sugar Challenge

February 13, 2012

Photo by Lauri Andler from Wiki

 

I am addicted to sugar. I never felt truly addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs – none of which I put in my body anymore – but sugar still kicks my ass. Anyone who’s followed my blog these last few years has read about my trails and tribulations with sugar many, many times.

I am also allergic to sugar. It makes my system acidic, causing inflammation, which makes me break out (little tiny pimples all over my face) and contributes to flare-ups of psoriasis. I’ve had psoriasis consistently for almost two years now.

I’ve given up sugar a few times in the past, but never made it longer than a few weeks. I tried again at the beginning of 2012, but after 6 days (during which I felt amazing) I caved and went back to my cycle of sugar binging.

So this time, I’ve decided to place a wager. I’ve bet my friend China Brooks that I can go 30 days without eating refined sugar, starting today. She also is going sugar-free, and if either of us give into temptation during the 30 days, we have to Paypal the other $25. I don’t generally make bets but I’m pretty sure I’m too proud and stubborn to lose one. 😉

Many people are unaware of the truth about sugar – how addictive it is, how toxic it is, and how prevalent it is in processed foods. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual gains that come with giving it up. I’ll be exploring these over the next 30 days as I share my experiences and struggles and, hopefully, win my bet.

 

 

Guess where it is?

I’m surprise it wasn’t in India… but the next most logical spot: San Francisco.

Photo by Bay Cities News

I remember how delighted I was to see a sign for a “Meditation Room” in the Albuquerque airport; a yoga room is even better! I’ve been tempted to do yoga in airports before, especially with all the traveling I’ve done in the last year, but I never managed to summon up the cojones to do a downward dog in the passenger waiting area.

Photo by Bay Cities News

How did this happen? The director of SFO has been practicing yoga for 18 years, and after hearing someone make an offhand remark that they had everything but a place to do yoga, he made it happen.

And, it’s free to use! They even provide mats.

The world is a-changin’!!! I look forward to the day when it’s normal for everyone to meditate and do yoga, just like everyone brushes their teeth and showers.

LAX has gotta be next.

Official Yoga Pictogram - Photo by Bay Cities News

 

*Thanks to Mariana for sending me the article!

Dr. Chimp Prescribes…Plants

December 13, 2011

Well well well, look who else knows how to use plants as medicine. Chimps!

An extensive look at what chimpanzees consume each day reveals that many of the plants they consume aren’t for nutrition but are likely ingested for medicinal purpose.

The findings, published in the journal Physiology & Behavior, indicate that the origins of medicine go way back, beyond the human species.

From an article in Discovery News

I first read this article, and was rather irritated by the closing lines: “That’s one reason medical research is so important. Scientists can isolate the effective medicinal compounds of such plants while removing their more dangerous agents.”

Pure hubris. Isolating compounds destroys or greatly diminishes their effects. Just say no to Reductionism! Nature is not a machine that can be disassembled!

And what’s this claim about ‘removing dangerous agents’ when every single drug produced by man has negative side effects? But of course, pharmaceutical companies don’t want you eating plants – they’re free (or very cheap)! Do you realize that the pharmaceutical industry is the MOST PROFITABLE INDUSTRY in the United States? More than Wall Street… Check out this infograph on how doctors get paid off to push pills (I don’t even want to know how much money they give to politicians).

And did you know that Americans spend more than $200 Billion every year on prescription drugs – BILLION, that’s $200,000,000,000.00 (I think?!) – when the vast majority of what’s being medicated could be treated with diet and exercise? The top-selling (and heavily advertised) prescription medications treat with heart disease, depression, and diabetes, all treatable with diet and exercise. Which, again, are free, or very cheap.

But I digress.

Chimps know what plants to eat in order to medicate themselves. That’s pretty cool.

If Chimps are eating anti-tumor plants…why aren’t we?!

As Bill Mahr said: “Someone has to stand up and say that the answer isn’t another pill. The answer is spinach.”

 

P.S. Chimps have much, much lower rates of cancer than humans do.

What’s In Your Fish?!

November 14, 2011

I’ve been learning some awful things about seafood lately. For example:

The U.S. inspects only TWO PERCENT of all imported seafood.

What percentage of all seafood in the U.S. is imported?

EIGHTY FIVE PERCENT.

Of that two percent that’s actually tested, FORTY PERCENT of seafood tests “positive for banned drugs that are not safe for human health,” carcinogens like nitrofuran and and malachite green. And there are many, many more chemicals aren’t even tested for.

On top of that, half of the world’s seafood is raised in farms, and antibiotics are liberally dumped into the water of farmed fish.

Most people consider fish to be the healthiest of meats. But considering the carcinogens, chemicals and antibiotics that come along with the fish, it’s looking like this belief is incorrect.

On to the environmental consequences of seafood: did you know that for about 7-8 shrimp caught by commercial fishing, TEN POUNDS of ‘trash fish’ are killed and thrown, dead, as trash, back into the ocean?? I learned that fun fact from this TED talk by Brian Skerry, a man who’s been photographing the seas for the last 30 years.  He’s witnessed the changes that have happened  in that brief timespan, and shares some incredibly beautiful, and incredibly awful, underwater photos.

In this fish-related article, which you should read, since it’s by one of my favorite writers Mark Morford, Morford vacillates between hope and despondency when faced with the reality of running out of tuna. There are a mere 9,000 bluefin tuna left in the Gulf, now surely many fewer after the BP spill and the dispersal chemicals the company dumped into the ocean – which turn out to be even more toxic than the oil itself.

“Destroy them, and we destroy more than just another everyday, “disposable” species. Their destruction will be a profound marker, a signifier of something far larger and more ominous. Like the honeybees, like the drowning polar bears, like the fresh water crisis, the end of tuna will be of those epic fails we look back upon in a few years and say, “There. Right there. That was one of the signs.” We don’t get many more.

My Republican moment came as I was nearing the end of the piece, feeling sickened and increasingly depressed, to the point where a sense of abject fatalism finally struck, a sense of just giving up, that wickedly painful moment where the heart has to step away from the scene before it implodes, and the survivalist/capitalist mind takes over and just powers through the nightmare, greedily gabbing on to whatever bits of gristle it can suckle.”

Our oceans, aside from being poisoned with runoff and heat and acid and chemical pollution and oil spills and dispersals, are being fished to the point of emptiness. From overfishing.org:

Worldwide, about 90% of the stocks of large predatory fish are already gone.

In 1900 our oceans contained at least six times more fish than they do in 2009.

I could go on, but I’m sure you’re already getting depressed.

While I love seafood, I cut way back a few years ago after my Ayurvedic doctor counseled me against consuming it. He says that seafood rots quickly in your digestive system and contributes to acidity; I tend towards acidity anyways, so it’s something I should avoid (this may or may not be true for other people, though the American diet is heavily acidic).

I am planning on attending one last high-end sushi dinner at a closed-door restaurant here in Buenos Aires in December, but after learning all of the above, after that I am considering giving up seafood entirely; for my own health and the health of the planet. We’ve all heard the Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Well, the change I wish to see is the end of the destruction of our oceans, and I definitely wish not to get cancer. So if giving up seafood is a step in those directions, that’s what I choose to do.

Me and my Self

June 1, 2011

“Only by its own roots does a tree stand tall and only by its own light does the sun shine brightly and bring life to our world. So it is with you – only when you’re trusting, loving and rooted in your true Self will the life that is your highest potential begin to manifest. Only when you are walking on the path of your highest potential will you ever be able to shine brightly and bring light to the darkness in others.”                                          – Anonymous

 

That nugget is from www.TheDailyLove.com. Always sharing wisdom and spreading love, that guy.

I’d like to add to the quote: it’s only by shining brightly that you can bring light to the darkness within yourself, your own shadows, and accept them; thus accepting everyone else, and in doing so giving them the space to begin to accept themselves too. It’s a vicious, vicious circle. 🙂

Today I started the day off walking on the path of my highest potential. Well, running it. I woke up at 6am, did some journaling, meditated for 15 minutes, did 40 minutes of yoga, ran for 25 minutes while I listened to a kick-ass mix by Wattie Green (listen and download it for free here), organized some clutter, made some Good Earth Sweet & Spicy tea (it’s my favorite tea ever – super cinnamony, you can buy it at Ralph’s), and now I’m working through some To-Do’s that I’ve been putting off for awhile. Soon I’ll be headed to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market for some vegetables and fruit, and then on to Venice to help a friend in her community garden.

I’ve started employing a tactic I learned from the book I’m currently reading, The Now Habit:  Instead of over-planning, worrying, making lists, and eating my roommates’ cereal or ice cream to put off taking action, I just ask myself: “What needs to be done now?” Turns out the answer is NEVER “Eat your roommate’s ice cream.”

It feels good to be doing what aligns with my highest potential, my highest Self. Though the starting part is hard, once I take the first few steps, life becomes so much EASIER because I’m not avoiding and rationalizing why I don’t need to do yoga right this minute; life’s also so much easier because I don’t have that nagging sense of guilt ALL. THE. TIME. that I didn’t do what I “should” be doing, which is actually what I WANT to be doing, what makes me feel good and clear and happy and healthy.

Enough with the words. Here are some pictures from my neighborhood, which I’ll only be living in for a few more weeks before I “Go Nomad.” I love springtime in LA – jacarandas, jasmine and bougainvillea exploding everywhere. Well, I guess it’s summer now, actually! Woo hoo! Happy June!

 

 

“I had hoped that the USDA would be able to give Americans the clear advice about diet that they deserve,” says Dr. Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and chair of the Dept. of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. “However, the continued failure to highlight the need to cut back on red meat and limit most dairy products suggests that ‘Big Beef’ and ‘Big Dairy’ retain their strong influence within this department. Might it be time for the USDA to recuse itself because of conflicts of interest and get out of the business of dietary advice?”

Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard on the new US Dietary Guidlines.

Check out our iPhone app Livifi for the TRUTH on what to eat, and a way to make that knowledge into a habit!

“One can have no greater or smaller mastery than mastery of oneself.”
The wise, kick-ass Leonardo Da Vinci

The month of May was about breaking old habits and forming new ones. Specifically, around my eating and drinking habits. I’ve started breaking old drinking patterns (coffee and alcohol) and eating patterns (sugar, processed food, dairy, red meat) and am now in the process of choosing how I want to approach these things. I like the idea of threes – three caffeinated drinks per week, three alcoholic drinks per week, three cheat meals/snacks per week. There’s a 90-10 concept that makes sense to me. 90% of the time I eat what’s healthy for me, and 10% I eat whatever I feel like eating. None of these challenges were about giving things up forever (though on certain things, I might some day…) but merely taking charge of my life and my decisions.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle

I’m also proud of blogging almost every day last month! I think I missed about five days of the thirty. And I think I ate more fruits and vegetables and a month than I did during the entire four years of high school. I had enough energy to stay out dancing til 4am only drinking water, and then get up at 7am the following day to do productive stuff like yoga or write. And I’ve cut down on a lot on Facebook and email – I even did an entire (week)day without either. I should try that with my cellphone sometime. Shut it off for a day. Or a weekend. In two weeks I’m going on another retreat at the Buddhist Monastery down near Escondido, so I’ll be unplugged that weekend.

During the month of May I’ve noticed that when I start drinking again after taking time off, it’s always disappointing. I had a margarita on Memorial Day at the Standard Downtown. Not only did it not do anything to me (get me buzzed, make me happier or have more fun), but it made my stomach cramp up. I did get a buzz later from a few redbull & vodkas, but really, drinking again wasn’t as fun as I’d expected it to be.

And yesterday I went out with some girlfriends for a birthday dinner. I figured I’d get a nice (expensive) glass of wine. It wasn’t that great. Looking back on it I should’ve returned that glass (a Pinot) and tried another – I don’t know if it was the wine that was blah, or just that my palette’s not used to wine anymore. I remember after going without drinking during the month of February, the first beer and glass of wine I had both tasted disappointingly gross.

Not only was drinking again rather disappointing, I’m not sure I want to give up on the physical effects of all of this healthy eating and drinking. I’ve been getting compliments left and right, and have had the words “vibrant” and “radiant” applied liberally. And from the pictures I’ve been taking lately, I’d have to agree. 😉

Also, my psoriasis seems to be looking a little better. I’m not sure if the healthy diet/no drinking finally had an effect, or if it was the hot-as-hell mineral hot springs I soaked in on Sunday, or the hours I spent dancing and swimming in the sunshine, or the fish oil capsules I’ve been taking…that’s one problem with experimenting with your life, there are so many variables (and no controls) so it’s hard to keep track of specific cause/effects.

I also feel much more tired the day after drinking – both alcohol AND caffeine. These past two days at work have been the toughest I’ve had in awhile as far as keeping my eyes open and longing for a nap. Even the coffee I had yesterday didn’t seem to help me feel any more awake, now that I think about it…

Oh, I forgot another disappoinment – at work yesterday they were handing out giant oatmeal cookies. I haven’t had a cookie in a whole month. If you know me well enough, you know this is huge for me. I love cookies. In the past I’d rarely go for more than 3 days without having a cookie. I am not exaggerating. Anyways, I got this big lovely oatmeal cookie and…it was disappointing. But I ate it anyways. Which, like the wine, is the entirely wrong decision. IF I’m going to do something that’s not good for me, it better be good. REALLY good. If it doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of drinking the glass of mediocre wine or eating the mediocre cookie (or … doing anything else that’s mediocre – use your imagination 😉 ), I’d rather walk away from it and hold out for something excellent. Ok that’s gonna be my new motto.
Of course, to do this, you have to be aware of the mediocrity in the moment, despite the compulsion to continue doing or eating or drinking whatever it is out of habit or boredom or social pressure.

I think some people are better than this at others. Take movies, for example. I’ve never walked out of a movie. Some people make the decision that the movie’s not living up to their standards, and they’d rather do something better with an hour and a half of their lives than waste it on a mediocre movie. It takes an active decision. I want to live from that authentic, connected place. Do people in our generation even walk out on movies anymore? Or have we been conditioned to accept more and more crap in our lives and just sit there?

Sadly, this morning, I heard that while it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, it actually takes 6-7 months to completely break an old habit. So, as I’m already noticing, it’s gonna take more than a one-month challenge to change some of this stuff.

Anyways, for the month of June, I’m doing the Consumer Fast again! I did it back in January and it was awesome. It really makes you aware of how you spend your money, how much of it is on things that aren’t important, and where you can cut back. I feel like I’m doing really well in most sectors of my life (work, friendships, creative pursuits, health, etc), EXCEPT for finances. I’ve still got some mindless spending habits I need to work on. AND I’m saving money for Burning Man in August and a trip to Australia in November(ish). Thus, Consumer Fast!

Another reason to do the consumer fast and save money for travel instead of buying stuff: experiences are scientifically proven to make you happier than buying and owning things.
Here’s an article on the research paper:
http://unclutterer.com/2010/04/05/stuff-wont-make-you-happy-experiences-will/

When buying consumer goods, people will almost always have at least some doubts afterwards – by selecting one thing, you miss out on something else. It relates to the Paradox of Choice – more choices actually make us LESS happy. Check out this TED talk for more: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

Another thing that the study found was that while our satisfaction with experiences we’ve had go up over time, satisfaction with material goods goes down. All good things to keep in mind for me when I’m faced with a choice between spending money on something or saving it for one of my trips!