In this late November edition of Align Center we have two superb articles to spark self-reflection, a revealing look at an app company named Dopamine Labs, and vegan fast food. Listen in on an interview with the “mother of mindfulness” that’s free of new age talk, and the book recommendation is an award-winning collection of short stories for those looking for a travel read. Finally, we’re digging three new releases: a controversial short movie, a MOOC for those jaded by political vitriol, and an album release from French-Cuban twins.
◦ selected words
We all have a shadow-side. It’s the resistance that whispers “it’s better to be small and inauthentic than emotionally crushed.” It shows up on the brink of a breakthrough, keeping you paralyzed in fear and preventing you from reaching your full potential. Look deeply into the shadow to reveal the dark aspects of your personality, a necessary step in a path to greater self-knowledge.
onbeing.org (4min read)
“True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to not build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do. It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.” Real talk for introspection.
thoughtcatalog.com (3min read)
Smartphones have hijacked our minds, to deny it by saying “it’s just new technology”, or “we’ll adapt” is dismissing the power it holds and commands over us, and we’re still in the early stages. The difference between this and previous technologies like television are the 100 engineers and behavioral psychologists behind the screen, working to keep your eyes on the black mirror longer than the next app developer, all for the bottom line. CBC Marketplace travelled to California’s Dopamine Labs to interview the co-founder, revealing the strategies behind the business of designing our minds.
cbc.ca (4min read)
“In August this year, a former Burger King restaurant in Encinitas, California, was taken over by another company which continued to serve burgers, fries and shakes via the drive-thru window. There was one major difference though: the items on the menu are all vegan.” This is the concept behind Plant Power Fast Food, a San Diego-based company challenging the fast food heavyweights with convenient food that’s free of GMOs, artificial colorings, flavorings and preservatives. I am looking forward to the day I can drive down Highway 1 and not be relegated to choosing between Subway, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, and that one Western Chinese restaurant in every town.
forbes.com (9min read)
Kelly Slater, the world’s best known and most successful surfer is on a quest for the perfect wave, on land. A record 11-time World Surf League Champion, he’s also the youngest (20) and oldest (39) to have won the title. In 2006, with an interest in artificial waves, he sought out a fluid mechanics specialist at the University of Southern California, who would become the chief scientist for Kelly Slater Wave Company. Ten years later, Slater would invite some of the world’s best surfers to the Surf Ranch, a 640m (2,100ft) long rectangular pool located 150km from the ocean in Leemore, California, where one of his pro friends caught a 30 second barrel in the artificially generated wave. A fascinating look at the science behind sculpting the perfect wave.
sciencemag.org (9min read + 3min video)
◦ listen in
Dubbed “the mother of mindfulness”, Ellen Langer isn’t what you’d expect — she won’t convince you to start yoga or meditation, or try to sell you on a course or retreat. The professor of psychology at Harvard has studied mindfulness for over 35 years and offers practical advice, backed by unique research. By contrasting it with mindlessness and by changing the language around it, Langer makes the practice more approachable, defining mindfulness as “the simple act of actively noticing things.” Her illuminating discussion about the placebo effect is an exciting development in science, and in this straight-talking yet amusing interview, she shares with us her knowledge on this growing field.
OnBeing.org (52min podcast)
◦ eat well
Before you run out in your PJ’s to buy that bottle of Prego or Ragu, try this simple classic marina sauce from the New York Times. All you need is a big can of tomatoes, garlic and basil. I added some sugar and used my leftovers as pizza sauce. Never buy store-bought sauce again.
◦ read slow
Van life is going through a renaissance, but not for everyone. Living out of your car has been glamourized by the clothing companies and surf brands, and van conversions are riding the tiny home wave, with photos of impossibly decked out vans all over Instagram, featuring a pair of stylish 20-something’s feet dangling out over a background of ocean cliffs. But for many, living out of a car isn’t a choice — it’s a necessity in the struggle with unaffordable housing and challenging social situations. A photo essay interviewing ten residents of the wealthiest regions in the U.S., living out of their vehicle.
topic.com 18min read
◦ current read
While looking for books to bring on a trip to Colombia, this relatively unknown collection of eight short stories caught my eye not just for the stories, but the background of the author. Ben Fountain started writing at age 30, quitting his day job as a real estate lawyer with only a few college creative writing classes as a foundation. But he had discipline — Fountain wrote every day from 7:30am until lunchtime. His first story was sixty pages long and took three months to write. It would take eighteen years of consistent writing before his first book published, resulting in rave reviews, and the PEN/Hemingway award for Brief Encounters. The ex-lawyer would later be featured in an essay in the New Yorker about late bloomers by Malcolm Gladwell. Skillfully paced, with an international theme of ex-pats traveling to primarily Latin American countries during tumultuous times and finding themselves in complex circumstances. I highly recommend read for your next trip to the other Americas.
Brief Encounters with Che Guevara: Stories by Ben Fountain (272p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- Ibeyi – Ash – The French-Cuban twins were born into music, singing in French, Spanish, English and Yoruba, where Ibeyi means “twins”. Their new album Ash continues with their unique soulful, jazzy, harmonies. They are touring now, and played in Vancouver last week!
- Why You Can’t Say the N Word – Ta-Nehisi Coates on how words don’t belong to everyone, in fact, they’re nothing without context. (5min YouTube).
- Intellectual Humility Course – A new MOOC on Coursera on handling disagreement and bridging the divide in our polarized world (+1min trailer — yes, courses have trailers now).
- In Shadow – As beautiful as it is dark, this animated social commentary covers many of the problems of our time. It’s like a 13min version of that haunting Chipotle Scarecrow commercial that’s not for kids.
◦ humble thought
“To light a candle is to cast a shadow.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
This issue had an unintended “shadow” theme, and I was going to go with it, but commitments with clients forces me to save that for a future newsletter. I’m back in work mode after a wonderful time in San Diego’s coastal North County (second time in Encinitas, still in love) and a short stint in Los Angeles. But I did get to spend my first days back in Vancouver at my very first physical workshop. I signed up for a three-day AcroYogo intensive just days before it started, securing the last spot. And I learned so much.
I was the only student out of thirty nerding out with a pen and a notepad, recording as many cues and techniques as I could get down. This may seem obvious, but training is key to physical practice. Too often I’m focused on the end product — landing that washing machine (an AcroYoga term for a flow-y move that starts and ends in the same position), or sticking that standing balance. But it’s about the process — you should be able to pause at any moment, moving with control. I have the words “work that negative!” drilled in my head, which means, for example, if you’re doing a push-up, slowly lowering yourself down to work both parts of the motion, not just the upwards push. Or if you’re doing a handstand against the wall, use your core to stabilize and land softly on the ground. It’s a reminder to use every moment to train (within reason). So much of this carries over to other parts of life.
And I also learned how incredible the human body is and how much we’re held back by our negative self-talk. So many times during the weekend I’d see someone, including myself, giving up at what seemed like an impossible posture. The resignation was audible:
“I’m not strong enough.”
“It’s OK, I’m not feeling it.”
“I’m not good at that.”
“I can’t do it.”
But with encouragement from a super supportive community and three fantastic, skilled teachers sharing their knowledge and expertise, we all learned we’re capable of much more than we think. AcroYoga, a varying mix of acrobatics, yoga and massage, is basically a group of people getting together to play and connect in a safe space. And this is the main reason I love this practice and why I’ve dedicated so much time to it of late — it gives me so many lessons I can apply outside of the studio. And it’s not a bad workout, either.