A year ago I had lunch with one of the first geneticists to come out against GMOs in the ’90s, a little spitfire of a woman named Dr. Mae-Won Ho. After releasing a  report criticizing GMOs, her funding was revoked, her lab was shut down, and she was removed from her position.

Unfortunately this sort of thing happens much more frequently than you’d think would be possible in what is supposed to be an ‘objective’ discipline.

I was reminded of this today while watching climate scientist’s James Hansen’s TED talk today:

“[White House] Energy Policies continued to focus on finding more fossil fuels… I decided to give a public talk criticizing the lack of an appropriate energy policy. This led to calls from the White House to NASA headquarters and I was told that I could not give any talks or speak to the media without prior explicit approval by NASA headquarters.”

‘Science’ is not necessarily objective. It is political, and above all, it is commercial, paid for by people motivated by profit. Though I suppose it’s silly to separate the political from the commercial anymore.

Those scientists who speak out against the general consensus and status quo are often censored or alienated; in that way today is not much different from Galileo’s age, were it not for the existence of a free internet (for now) through which people can much more quickly share and access the truth. Ok well that and the fact that it’s no longer legal to set someone aflame for heresy. 🙂

Why am I writing about this? I generally espouse the belief that we create our own realities through our focus, and that it is pointless to waste energy on negativity.

So maybe it’s pride, I-told-you-so, yet another story that illustrates the views I’ve presented on this blog, on Facebook, and in conversations over the last few years.

Maybe it’s awareness – if you are aware of what’s behind the illusions and lies of this material world, you can choose something different. The contrast between what is and what you want can give you the power/energy/motivation to get active in creating what you want.

Where I take issue is with focusing on all of the negativity in the world, posting articles and rants and missives, but not DOING anything about it in one’s own life.

I am trying to live in a way that is aligned with my values, and the strongest of which is living in alignment with the natural world, both for selfish and altruistic reasons. I decided a few weeks ago that I would prefer to live somewhere without cars. At first I was researching intentionally or historically car-free cities; and then the opportunity to live on a ranch in Patagonia popped up, so I took it.

If health and beauty and nature and the environment are important to you, as they are to me, what actions can you take, wherever you’re at, to live in ways that align with your beliefs? Can you ride your bike somewhere instead of driving? Can you make an adventure out of navigating the public transportation system in your city? Can you begin to minimize your consumption of products in general, ALL of which indirectly consume oil via plastic and shipping, and contribute to the destruction of our planet?

I suppose that my reason for focusing on the discouraging yet inspiring stories of people like Dr. Mae-Won Ho and James Hansen is to see what exists now, clarify what I want for myself and my world, and begin to take action that will move me in that direction.

So: What do you want your world to be like? And what choices can you start making that will take you there?

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Now What To Write?

January 17, 2012

After posting my most vulnerable and honest blog ever, and getting the most feedback ever, I was left with the question… Now what do I write about? 🙂

One thing that came up repeatedly in response to the post was people – many of them friends I’ve known for years – saying: “It’s amazing how similar our stories/our fathers are.” That was one of the reasons I felt compelled to share my (I thought) unusual reaction to my father’s death – while I know I was risking seeming insensitive to the death of a family member by admitting I was relieved, and it made me uncomfortable sharing so much, I figured there had to be others who had the same experience that I did.

Actually, after he died and I downloaded a bunch of Motown music, I started googling around to see if it was ‘normal’ to have conflicting feelings at the death of an alcoholic parent. I didn’t really find anything that described what I was going through. The next morning, when I woke up at 6am, I started typing the blog post on my Droid. It was one of those pieces that just writes itself, that flows out of you intact.

The experience reminded me of the Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk, in which she brilliantly explains writing, creativity and our skewed take on genius.

The Greeks and Romans used to believe that creativity, rather than coming from humans, was actually a spirit that came to people from a “distant and unknowable source.” Some called it a daemon, some called it a genius. A person wasn’t a genius; they had a genius who would come and help them out with their work. To me, sounds like tapping into the collective unconscious. Anyways, Elizabeth points out that this takes the pressure off of artists. And, that the artist’s only job is to show up and work. It’s the genius’s job to make it good.

Ole, Allah, a glimpse of god. A glimpse, a remembrance of the truth we are each connected to.

“Just do your job, continue to show up for your piece of it… Ole to you nonetheless…just for having  to have the sheer human love and stubborness to keep showing up.”

“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!

Spring Sprung-ing

May 15, 2010

I love taking walks around my new neighborhood.

My new ‘hood is Beverly Hills, and it’s gorgeous. When I lived in Italy, I realized how much my surroundings affected my happiness. It’s important to my happiness to live in an area that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Roses the size of your head!

And when I house-sat for a rich friend who lived off Montana Ave in Santa Monica a few years ago, I figured out why I liked rich areas – because the front yards had beautiful gardens & the streets were lined with massive trees. These people had the resources to invest into making their surroundings beautiful.

When I moved into my new ‘hood in January, my street had huge, bare oak trees arching overhead. January turned into February, and I wondered when the leaves would start to come in. Finally, in mid-March, I saw the first tiny green leaves appearing. By the first week of April, the leaves were bigger, and there were tons more of them. It’s amazing to see the leaves appear, suddenly, all together, out of nowhere. It’s amazing how they all know to sprout together. First there were none, and then every tree had about 40 baby leaves.

My street.


(mid-April)

I can’t wait for June, when the leaves will form a thick, lush tunnel over the street. The sun will shine dapples through the green, the air will seem cleaner.

Echoing what I realized years ago, recent studies are showing that greenery makes people happier and healthier. Just five minutes of wandering through some green per day will improve your overall quality of life.

Another natural thing that, weirdly, makes us healthier – birdsong. People who listen to birdsong in an open-floor-plan-office are 33% more productive. Why? Back in the day, our limbic systems evolved to know that if we could hear the birds singing, we were safe from predators. And, like being somewhere with a lot of greenery, it signaled that we were in a place with lots of resources to support us.

I love how we’re wired for nature.

Here’s the TED talk where I heard about the birdsong thing; if you’ve never watched TED, I HIGHLY recommend it. They are fascinating!
http://www.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_the_4_ways_sound_affects_us.html