“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses -- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” ― Leonardo da Vinci
Arguably the hippest trend of 2015, gradients are everywhere. iPhone wallpapers, backgrounds or sidebars of every other (modern) website I visit, print advertisements at the muni stop. I'm into it, I am, but I keep wondering why this soft digital rainbow came into vogue.
I have some theories. Obviously.
1) Seeing a gradient feels like a sigh. Look at one. Then inhale, exhale and sigh. Doesn't that feel good? Mmmm.
2) Sunsets are nature's dynamic gradients. Everybody loves sunsets. Case in point.
3) People generally don't like change (I'm weird). Gradients are change, BUT are such a soft, gradual version of it that they invoke comfort and confidence and relaxation and creativity. Bonus points for changing the internal dialogue where people often feel anxious or stressed or scared.
4) Curiosity of the unknown. Where does each color begin or end or exist?!? Nobody knows, but that's half the fun.
5) People see what they want to see. Do you love cerulean but hate sky blue? Doubtful, but you probably like one more than the other, and seeing them both (and a bunch of other blues) allows you to subconsciously focus on what you like, making you happier to be seeing what you're seeing (read: buying what they're selling).
Theories, that's all. Any other ideas?
Do you ever imagine yourself with the perfect job. Something you could do day in and out and enjoy every second. Like, I want to be-a-professional-baseball-player-so-I-can-play-sports-all-day. Or open-a-yoga-studio-because-I-love-tree-pose-that-much job. Maybe become-a-flight-attendant-so-I-can-fly-anywhere-in-the-world-for-free.
We’ve all done it. Imagined exactly what we want to be doing on a daily basis and try to match that to a career. Picked up The 4 Hour Work Week and vowed never to have another traditional 9-5. Yup. I did it. Back in 2011.
And 3 years later I finally understand why. Freedom.
You see, do you really want to be serving-gin-and-tonics-to-overdressed-and-overstressed-executives-in-first-class? God no. You want the freedom to travel anywhere you want, the excitement of seeing new places and interacting with all walks of life. How about run-a-small-business-that-struggles-to-pay-its-bills-every-month? Uh, yeah right. You crave the freedom to do yoga whenever you want and the ability to live a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. Sure, this may be a little simplistic. But maybe it’s spot-on.
I recently changed careers. Research scientist > software engineer. When I was considering positions in this brand spanking new field, I reflected quite a bit about the core components of what I was searching for, what I was creating. I decided that freedom, in terms of a career, had 3 criteria: financial, physical, and inspirational. Essentially, the ability to support my lifestyle, work remotely, and inspire daily. If a position didn’t have 2 of these 3, I didn’t consider it.
Does this mean that you can’t be a professional baseball player and still have freedom? Of course not. It’s just a reflection on the why instead of the what. Maybe instead of dreaming up the ‘perfect job’ (read: actually another average job in a field that we think we like), consider the underlying desire. Is that freedom? What are your criteria?
It's cool if you don't know yet. There are some great Costa Rican beaches that I can recommend for some soul-searching.
Let's save our debate over the merits of this viral trend and allow me to humbly offer 12 ideas of conscious actions you can take that will absolutely impact the world.
I nominate all of you.
- Avoid red meat for a week. Save acres of pasture (like rainforest), thousands of gallons of water and keep our planet from spiraling into sauna oblivion! Seriously, that's from ONE lb of beef. Thousands of gallons and acres of land. Wow. Also, 8 lbs of grain from grain-fed beef.
- Donate that grain and feed a person for an entire week. (See work below.)
- Lend a $25 microloan to an agricultural entrepreneur around the world and provide a community with grain for life.
- Take it to the next level. Eat 100% plant-based for a week. Reduce blood cholesterol levels AND your risk of heart disease. That's a win, or 2. AND the suffering of animals AND the earth. (-win-win. Yes, that was 4 wins with 1 week of conscious meal choices.)
- Walk or bike to work today >> greenhouse gas emissions reduced = cleaner air to breathe for all + strong, sexy legs for you
- Buy a glass water bottle and ever more reduce your use of plastic. Fill said water bottle and research what's in your tap water. Tweet to your city (Chicago: @chipublichealth) and tell them just how you feel about that.
- Spend 5 minutes per day educating yourself on something totally new. This is an apt infographic with which to start.
- Watch The Normal Heart. Feel deeply. Then watch Ryan Murphy's Emmy acceptance speech and google something worthwhile afterward.
- Love a little more. Anyone. Anything. (Then everyone, everything.) Start with yourself.
- Be grateful. Express gratitude. Reflect on the abundance of our time. Reflect the emptiness of our time. Spend 10 minutes writing about this or anything else.
- Breathe. Notice your breath. Notice you're alive without ice water being thrown over your head. Be grateful for that. Every day.
- Listen to Leo. 'Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses -- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.'
You ARE the universe. Act like it.
I've read everywhere from 7 to 17 lbs of grain necessary for 1 lb of beef production. I'm going to go with 8, because that's a low-end estimate and the math turns out really pretty.
400 lbs of grain per year is recommended for food storage per person
8 lbs of grain saved / 400 lbs of grain per person per year * 365 days per year = 7.3 days
Disclosure: more questions than answers. Actually, all questions, no answers. Just some recent thoughts.
We live in 3D. That is, 3 spacial dimensions. Length, width, height. The addition of time gives us spacetime, and a 4th dimension. M-theory, or string theory, posits multiple dimensions, up to 11. 10 spacial and 1 temporal.
If time is the 4th dimension, and there are multiple spatial dimensions of which we are unaware, could there be multiple times? A sort of cosmic layering of times, but we are only aware of ours?
If my eyes are adjusted to the light of my computer screen, everything around me is black. When I glance up, and my eyes adjust their focus, I can perceive objects in my room. Similarly we see the world in the daytime, and when night falls, we can then see the stars. From our nighttime observation, we infer they are always present, but we cannot see them in the daytime. It is only with the perceptive veil of light removed that they enter our awareness. It’s interesting, that light sometimes illuminates and other times it hides. (Or, perhaps, it's always doing both.) But, of course, we only see the stars because they emit light. What would happen if the stars ceased to shine? If we could remove their veil of light. Would something else remain? Of course this is just light and dark, the two sides to our reality of only one of our senses (albeit one we seem to trust more than others), sight, but what other layers of other senses remain that we have yet to dig deeper within? And moreso, what exists beyond the senses?
It’s consciousness. Reality exists when we bring it into our consciousness. So the world exists as a continuum of each being's consciousness. An intricate web of awareness.
What would happen if every person in the world were to go to sleep at the same time? Meditated? Focused their consciousness on a single entity? What would be created?
In what dimension?
I wrote the words below one rainy afternoon for my site onebreath, as a means to convey my take on the power that can be found in mindful breathing. I wrote them based on experience, an amalgamation of my own mindfulness journey… but they are so much more than that.
A conscious breath can be as simple as a breath noticed.
Noticing our breath brings us into the present moment.
It allows for depth in the human experience.
It allows this moment to become reality.
Quantum mechanics suggest it actually creates reality. That nothing truly exists until it is noticed -- until it is conscious -- and before we noticed it, it ceased to exist as a breath, but was only a probability distribution.
While that wasn't a whole lot of words, it's a relatively deep rabbit hole into which we've stepped. (Jumped? Did I nudge you?)
Let’s look at the double-slit experiment. A very famous experiment, indeed, that forever changed our understanding of the dual nature of light. Upon further inquiry (i.e. further experiments and an understanding of the photoelectric effect), it was elucidated that the photons of light behaved like waves when measured (and thus consciously noticed) on a screen located a short distance away from the slits and light source; they behaved like particles when detected (and thus consciously noticed) at the slits. The only difference in the experiments was the location (in space and time) of the measurement. Thus, conscious awareness of the light was the key variable. (See this lecture by Dr. Thomas Campbell for more detail on these concepts and experiments.)
In the 1920s, Erwin Schrödinger postulated a further explanation for these interesting observations. He claimed that the light did not exist before measurement except as a probability distribution. (As Dr. Campbell stresses, this does not mean that the photon exists somewhere and we don't know where, but that it does not exist as a particle, only as a probability distribution.) Before it exists, it behaves like a wave with a probability distribution. After is exists, it behaves like a particle with a direct path. Its existence is dependent upon it being measured. This concept became foundational for quantum mechanics.
Let's reiterate in other words one more time: the implications of these experiments show that photons of light do not exist as particles until consciously observed. Before this, they exist only as probability distributions (i.e. they could exist, but do not yet).
So is it possible that never noticing your life -- your breath -- means that you never truly live? Not in the 'live-everyday-to-the-fullest'/carpe diem/YOLO mentality, but in the literal, scientific, quantum mechanic sense. Are you not alive if you fail to notice it? Is a conscious breath the only kind of real breath? Does a reality not exist until you create it? I would argue yes.
Create wisely. Begin by noticing.
It's easy to look back at a time in history and think, 'What the hell was everyone doing back then?'
This past weekend I watched The Normal Heart, Ryan Murphy's HBO film adaptation of Larry Kramer's Broadway play, set in the early 80s in NYC during the AIDS crisis. It's hard to put into words the effect the film had on me. I cried, a lot. I was speechless. Then I spoke, mumbled is more like it. Fragments of thoughts. Words strung together, likely not coherently. (A prime example of which you're reading. Now.)
I sat outside that night. I lay in a hammock, the middle of downtown Chicago calm and quiet (my perception at least), and stared at the full, giant, honey, Friday the 13th moon. I breathed. I noticed my breath. And I thought.
So much of the film moved me. I don't even want to go into detail... see it, please, have your own experience, and then let's discuss. But the heart-wrenching, I-am-bigger-than-me, genius art in storytelling of this particular piece of history begets the question that has been on my mind since: what is the crisis of today? Can I play a role in alleviating it?
I'm not Larry Kramer. I'm not Mother Theresa. Gandhi. Nelson Mandela. I won't win a Nobel Peace Prize. But I also won't be ignorant. I don't want to watch a film in 2047 and think, 'What the hell was I doing back then?'
So, 2014, what is our story?
The Big Bang Theory is quite the hit these days.
What’s not to love? Intellectual humor speckled with scientific banter dispersed by oh-so-lovable characters. A show 'about extraordinary people'. It’s changing the way the world (read: sitcom-watching America) views science. And scientists. I’ve been trying to do this for decades. (Err, decade.) Anyway, I do love when the show ends and one of Chuck Lorre’s vanity cards hits the screen. Sometimes it’s a crude joke or an ‘I have no idea what to write today’ message. It happens. But sometimes it really is a gem.
Today’s rerun of TBBT ended with CLP Vanity Card #400. Go ahead, read it.
'In other words, it is entirely our choice as to what kind of world we live in. With a simple decision, we can suffer in the darkness or play in the light. We can be angry, frightened and enslaved, or loving, joyous and free.'
In other other words, it's not about what actually happens, but about your relationship with said happenings. How you perceive these events and create your reality around it. You can choose to be happy. You can choose to see us as 'conscious aspects of a perfect universe'. Yes, ugly things happen, life can be stressful, but do you choose to accept love and compassion during those times? Do you choose to use the situation to allow for a deeper connection to people? To life? For change or growth or the opportunity to gaze at the mystery of the universe(/s)? That's a beautiful thing. That's you choosing the kind of world you live in. That's you seeing God in drag.
THP: Vanity Card #1
I have no idea what to write today.
Grad school saved my life. Whoa. It did. It completely upended my thought process, spun me around a few hundred times, threw a whole slew of new information at my brain and said, "Now go. Change the world."
It certainly changed mine.
Back in college, when I was applying for one of my more exciting educational endeavors known as study abroad (read: adventures that gave me never-ending wanderlust), I remember using the quote “I find the pursuit of knowledge fascinating.” (It’s actually the “learning new stuff” part that gets me, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?) Which is probably why I find myself a continual student of something. Always. Most recently it’s been yoga, German, and now coding. And everything in grad school, of course. But “learning this stuff” didn’t save my life.
And anyway, the world is filled with tools that make this pursuit possible outside of the brick-and-mortar we know as universities. Wikipedia, Kahn Academy, TED. You can find just about anything on YouTube. But the subject matter of my program was very specialized (with a lot of questionable Internet content), and for that I am eternally grateful to each and every one of my teachers — faculty and peers.
Speaking of peers. You guys are seriously incredible.
Speaking of faculty, instructors, guest lecturers. You guys are seriously inspiring.
You are all blazing trails left and right. Breaking down walls. Abolishing convention. Blowing minds. (Blowing mine, at least.) Integrating. Subtle, but somehow super intense. (Like the integration I was in pursuit of in Rome and Cape Town those oh-so-educational winter breaks.)
Networking is fantastic, and these people make it fun. But they didn’t save my life.
The secret to grad school is kind of like the secret (I’m learning) to coding. It teaches you how to think. It taught me how to think. How to keep an open mind, but be a skeptic. To look at the facts, hard and long. Then, realize there is a horizon beyond them. Allow space for paradigm-shifting content. It will happen at some point, it always does. Then all of the sudden the world is no longer flat. Who would have thought?
This quote by Steve Jobs about his life-changing encounter with LSD pretty much sums it up: “Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there’s another side to the coin, and you can’t remember it when it wears off, but you know it.”
That’s what grad school did for me. Psychedelic insight. It opened my eyes and illuminated my mind. It said, “Hey! There’s a million other ways to do this thing that we’ve until now only done this one way. It might be better, it might be worse, but it exists. Let’s consider it. At the very least, recognize that it exists.” There is an alternative treatment option. There are other places to live in the world. There are many spiritual practices that provide meaning to people. There are other planets, galaxies, perhaps universes.
There is another side to the coin.
And that, my friend, has made all the difference.
As I write this I’m realizing that’s exactly what spending time in other cultures does. It flips the coin. So when you’re back at home ordering Greek takeout and dreaming of warmer weather, you might not remember how many goats crossed the road on your trek to lunch or what ridiculously fantastic cuisine you ate at that electricity-less restaurant by the sea or why exactly your rental car mirror was taped on (working hypothesis: rocky, rocky roads), but you do remember that experience. You acknowledge that existence. And maybe it helps you think a little more deeply about the world.
So I guess that wanderlust isn’t ceasing anytime soon…
black + white. light + darkness. consonance + dissonance. creation + destruction.
These may seem more like balance, or counterbalance, and maybe they are. But today, for me, in this moment, they are unity.
Everyone is always talking about resolutions and intentions this time of year. What should I give up? What in my life needs to change? This can actually be a very therapeutic practice, and for that I am grateful, but often the hype far outshines the willpower for many. In a yoga class during my recent trip to NYC, the instructor prompted us to set an intention for 2014. What came to mind? Unity. Why? At the moment, I had no idea.
I suppose I still have no clue as I have sat here for the past 15 minutes staring at my computer screen. But it's been on my mind. A lot.
3 months pass. (Coincidence?) I thought I had deleted this post due to my writer's block, but here it is. And yes, I have goosebumps. I love everything about these videos: science, spirituality, meditation, consciousness.
It's life. At it's amazing, abstract core.
"Everything in the universe has a common source. So if we look at things at the deepest possible level, we ultimately discover one unified universal reality. Of which you're a wave. Of which I'm a wave. We're all just the different vibrational frequencies. The natural reverberant frequencies of this one universal unified field. Our whole universe is just a symphony. The various harmonics and fundamentals and overtones of one universal field, one universal ocean, of consciousness in motion." - John Hagelin, PhD
So much more to come on this. I just have to (consciously) learn it first.