Jun 192014
 

IMG_1040It has been a while since I’ve used this space to educate you about the incredibleness of the microbiome and the looming bacterial takeover of the planet. But the mainstream media is fully on board with this, so there has been plenty out there for you to chew on.

Everyone is talking about the microbiome these days. If you’re not taking probiotics, you’re probably eating sauerkraut and swilling kombucha. I know I am. In fact, I have a huge vat of kombucha brewing on my kitchen counter at this very moment.  Did you know the slimy opaque thing growing on top of your kombucha is called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast? Since when does a little non-word like “of” get its very own letter in an acronym? But I digress. Continue reading »

Jun 112014
 

… 0r a walk, this applies to both.

In order of importance:

  1. Because you can. You have two legs and springy Achilles tendons for a reason: humans are built for running. If you don’t believe me, go read Born to Run by Christopher MacDougall. Seriously, a fully functional cardiovascular/respiratory/skeletal system is a friggin’ miracle and you should get off your ass and go celebrate that ASAP. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, why are you reading this post? BTW, we are not built for triathlons, or our genitals wouldn’t be where they are and we’d have webbed feet and hands. Just saying.
  2. Because it gets you outdoors. Notice that my title says “go out and run.” Treadmills are for hamsters. Scared of a little rain? Heat? Lightning? Dark? Come on. It’s not that bad. Too many people live indoor lives — bed-table-car-desk-car-table-couch-bed. Get out there and breathe some real oxygen. Run on a trail or in a park if you can. Connecting with nature is scientifically proven to be good for your mental health. If you have to stay inside, then by all means do yoga.
  3. Because it gets things moving. By this I mean your digestive system. And nothing is better than a well-oiled digestive system, amirite? For this reason you should always scout out toilets and well-concealed bushes on your route. Put a wad of TP in your pocket for emergencies. (Just remember to take it out before you wash them.) There’s nothing quite like the feeling after you’ve relieved yourself mid-run. Okay, TMI.
  4. Because it’s good for creativity. Stuck on a particularly nasty partial differential equation? Can’t find the solution to the twin prime conjecture? Suffering from writer’s block? If you go out for a run and just forget about it, chances are you’ll have a flash of inspiration somewhere around mile three. (Works best if you don’t also listen to music). This is also why running is good for stress relief. Like meditation, it gives you a break from your monkey brain.
  5. Because it makes you feel good. When you engage in high-intensity aerobic exercise your body produces its very own mind-altering substances: endocannibinoids and endorphins.  This is a healthier high than the plant variety and won’t cost you a penny. Unfortunately this doesn’t happen walking, but that’s okay because walking makes you feel good in a different way. It’s more zen.

Honorable mention: Because you’ll sleep better. Why is sleep important? Read this.

Notice that I did not mention weight loss and/or an amazing body. This might pan out for you, and it might not. If what you really care about in life are six-pack abs and a single-digit body fat percentage, you’re probably better off doing HIIT and getting super obsessive about your diet. Good luck having fun with that.

Life is short. Get out and run while you can.  If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, I’m really sorry. Why did you read this whole post again? Maybe you could become a wheelchair athlete. They’re amazing.

Jun 082014
 

IMG_0762Yesterday as I was powering down Sasamat to meet a friend for a walk in the forest, I overtook a man and a small dog. The dog was setting the pace, waddling along and stopping frequently. As I passed them, I joked, “You guys are moving along at mach speed today!”

The man smiled. “It’s senior speed,” he replied. His love for this little fireplug of a dog was palpable in the air as I passed.

Later, in the park, my friend and I were surprised by a huge guy wearing earbuds who flung himself off a wooden walkway at top speed, nearly mowing us down. He pounded into the distance, leaving us gasping in his wake. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:07 pm
Apr 232014
 

inspirationI’ve been doing some mindfulness meditation lately. It’s about the simplest “activity” you can imagine – you just sit on the floor, on a cushion, close your eyes, and breathe.  And I’m not just doing this because I’ve moved to Vancouver and gone all yoga. Okay, it’s partly that. But it’s also been scientifically proven to build you a better brain.

Studies have shown that you can improve blood pressure and anxiety levels, increase cognitive capacity, and stave off aging just by sitting and doing nothing at all. A Harvard prof has done research that shows that it only takes 8 weeks of a meditation practice to rewire your brain. The brains of the meditators actually got thicker in areas involved in attention and sensory processing. It’s like doing pushups for your brain! (And here I thought it was a bad thing to have a thick head…) Continue reading »

Apr 152014
 

Think for a minute: When was your last existential crisis?

Who, me?  you say. Existential crisis? I don’t have existential crises. I’m a rational thinker. I’m practically an engineer.

I think everybody has existential crises, whether we recognize them as such or not. They’re in the high points, in the low points, in the situations that push you over an edge into a new thing. They’re moments in which you get a glimpse of the uncertainty at the very root of everything that is, and wonder about what your place in it could possibly be. You, this little wad of flesh and bone and bacteria. Continue reading »

Mar 132014
 

Last week, while I was writing about the word that is the same in every language, (huh?), Marc was traveling back to Switzerland to confer with his PhD students and check in on our first-born. When he landed, he sent me an e-mail: “In Geneva waiting for the train for Morges…..all the usual emotions of coming back somehow…”

I asked him on skype later if he felt homesick. A little, he admitted. Well, we had lived in Switzerland for almost ten years, three years longer than any other place we’d lived before. I think I made a sympathetic noise. But I can’t really relate, because I’m not really homesick for Switzerland. I’m still enjoying shopping on Sunday and all these yoga classes. Continue reading »

Mar 042014
 

There are so many things that don’t translate between languages. I could list reams of French one-word concepts that cannot be captured quite right in English. Every time I see one of them in a text I’m supposed to be translating I cringe. Vulgarisation. Valorisation. Territoire.

And then there are the turns of phrase. I understood that péter un plomb or péter un cable meant to be really pissed off, but for the longest time I had a really hard time visualizing someone farting out a bit of lead shot or wiring. In French yoga, downward facing dog is chien tête en bas. But I heard chat a tomba. The cat fell. Indeed.

So my interest was piqued when I received EPFL’s weekly Science question for translation last Sunday. There is, apparently, a word – or rather, one syllable – that has the same meaning in every language in the world. Continue reading »

Feb 272014
 

Do you ever find that when you start to pay attention to a thing, all sorts of coincidences line up to help you hone your focus? Keep you from letting it go? It’s almost as if the universe is saying “Finally! I can’t believe it took you so long!” Continue reading »

Feb 122014
 

yoga matI have a favorite website, called Brainpickings, whose curator, Maria Popova, assembles interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring things from all walks of art and literature. I can’t count the times I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of the site and emerged, hours later, thoughts spinning in new directions. You should definitely check it out.

She often posts about writers’ daily routines, and what inspires them. There are so many things that can get in the way of creativity.  All these artists seem to agree on one thing, though. You can’t create if you don’t sit down and just do something.  I think photorealist Chuck Close said it best:

Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.” Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:51 pm
Dec 022013
 

Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour2Hello, December. What happened to November? All of October I was busy with the Yoga Project, happily scribing away my impressions, downward-dogging my way into a new yoga comfort zone. And then it seemed that November just floated right on by.  And then yesterday, December 1, I opened the New York Times (oh joy) and I realized that I had been subconsciously working on a blog post for the entire month. It’s long, but I hope you still read it.

I’ll call it the One Body Problem. Which is this: We only get one body. This is it. You get the body you were born with, like it or not. And then you die. Continue reading »