A buddhism critic goes on a silent retreat, the disconnect on how others view your vulnerability, online dating, common sense farming and the vanilla bean are some of the best reads from the past month (the extra break was much needed). Then listen to four mini episodes from my favorite podcast asking deep questions, followed by the art, movement and music links I’m digging of late in this 34th issue of Align Center.
◦ selected words
A skeptical science writer, fresh off a critical review of the recent book “Why Buddhism is True”, succumbs to peer pressure from pro-Buddhism friends and takes part in a week-long retreat at the Dzogchen Center, an hour from New York. Open to all religious backgrounds, the contemplative center’s purpose is to “communicate the possibility and practice of such a spiritual awakening”. A light-hearted read on a life-changing experience.
Scientific American (11min read)
Why is it that we so fear opening up to others, when often when we do, we’re rewarded with warmth, empathy and kindness? And how many times has your vulnerability sparked a deeper connection, giving permission for the once listener to respond by sharing their previously hidden thoughts and aspirations? Inspired in part by Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, researchers at the University of Mannheim in Germany published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, investigating this contrast in what they call “the beautiful mess effect”.
The British Psychological Society – Research Digest (3min read)
Still early in this cultural experiment we call online dating, researchers have found that marriages in America between people who meet online are likely to last longer and are happier than those who met offline. A third of American marriages started online, and for those with specific requirements, it’s even more popular, with 70% of gay people in America meeting online. To some it’s a boon, but to others, the disparity in selectiveness and the greater choice results in a subset of people who will never find a match. For instance, in TanTan, a Chinese app, men swipe right on 60% of women through the app, while women only like 6% of the men. With romance bubbling down to algorithms designed by engineers and psychologists employed by the tech elite, it’s important to take a step back and see how these apps affect us.
The Economist (5min read)
In a changing technological and environmental landscape, critics of our industrial food system have presented solutions designed to blow up the existing establishment. Navin Ramankutty, professor of Global Food Security and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, argues for an evolution of the global food system through common sense practices and policies, rather than a revolution that faces extreme resistance.
Navin Ramankutty on Medium (4min read)
◦ listen in
The tables are turned on the host of the deeply intelligent “On Being”, an NPR program that has, since 2001, consistently opened dialog on the most challenging questions of our times, years before the word “podcast” entered the vernacular. In these mini episodes, Krista Tippett takes four listener questions and responds in her always eloquent, candid style, managing a light yet engaged perspective on often polarizing subjects. I continuously find myself immersed in her descriptive language and in the profundity of her responses, which demand a worthy level reflection. The four episodes so far:
- How can we be present to what’s happening in the world without giving in to despair and hopelessness?
- How can we help young people feel like they have a voice in the world?
- What is the value of boredom in our lives?
- How can we embrace vulnerability in ourselves and in our culture?
◦ eat well
Somewhere between a potato pancake and a shredded hash brown lies the latke, common in Jewish cultures, with variations popular in Germany and also the national dish of Belarus. A lovely friend made these for breakfast, topped with nourishments you’d find in an omelet.
Yellow Bliss Road – Vegan Potato Latkes
◦ read slow
Less than 1% of the world’s vanilla flavor comes from real beans, some if it created from coal, tar, rice bran, wood pulp and even cow manure. But there’s been a recent shift as consumers demand natural ingredients, putting pressure on corporations like Hershey and Nestle. This has sent prices skyrocketing twenty-five fold over the past five years, sparking deforestation of parks and creating a black market for beans, peaking at $700US/kg this summer. Follow BBC’s photojournalist as they visit Ambanizana, a roadless village on the edge of a national park in Madagascar, the world’s largest producer of vanilla (Mexico was my guess), to get an on the ground glimpse of the interconnectedness of our world.
BBC (17min read)
◦ current read
Having visited both France and Portugal recently, I’ve been searching for this book in English on a recommendation from a friend who is really into graphic novels. It wasn’t easy to find, but when it popped up online at the Vancouver Public Library, I took full advantage of the awesome inter-library hold / loan system. Written by artist and writer Cyril Pedrosa, who began his career as an animator for movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, this semi-autobiographical story of a writer who makes the difficult decision to return to his ancestral homeland without knowing the language during a period of relationship turmoil and lost passion for his craft. Beautifully illustrated with moving themes of family history, travel and lost ties, this story sends the protagonist on a journey, albeit slightly cliché, that unearths old family patterns and leads to inspiration and self discovery.
Portugal, a graphic novel by Cyril Pedrosa (261p book)
◦ dig this
What I’m digging lately:
- I Was Broken – Witness the personal struggle of Katelyn Ohashi, once on top of the gymnastics world, and how it returned to a fun practice (via The Real Athlete on FB, 6min video).
- Flip Flop Art – Ocean Sole, a Kenyan ocean conversation group, turns discarded flip flops into art. Via 60 Second Docs on YouTube (1m10s)
- Apple’s Rights to a Climate Change Doc – Apple buys the rights to this month’s climate change article that took up an entire issue of The New York Times Magazine.
- Langhorne Slim – I first saw the Pennsylvanian Americana singer/songwriter at the intimate, and now defunct Electric Owl on Main Street. I’ll never forget when he walked into the audience of 100 and sang in his raspy, sweaty, roots style. he’s teamed up with Spotify to release two fun new singles, Life is Confusing and Be Kind to Me.
◦ humble thought
“The journey was a surreal dream. This world was about knowing the person you’d always wanted to be and setting your foot down to it, remembering the person you’d thought you were as a child and rejoicing in its living, breathing actuality.”
― Christopher Hawke, Unnatural Truth
Enjoy the process. It’s the journey, not the destination. We’ve all heard this, but I was given another reminder to practice it. This week during a movement workshop, I was expecting one thing (more AcroYoga), but the 2.5hr class was something different entirely. So, what do you do? Resist? Storm out? When I realized the whole class was at this pace I was not used to, I took the instructor’s advice, to notice the little discoveries. Once I changed my mindset, there were lessons to be learned. My two biggest takeaways:
- Don’t hold onto your discoveries, share them. If they benefited you, chances are they might mean something to someone else.
- Everyone is so different. Some people like cilantro or lamb or black licorice. I like two of three and can’t stand the last, no matter how salty and British it is. Naturally we gravitate to those similar to us and I’m choosier with whom I spend time with, but for some reason I’m constantly receiving reminders of our differences and to embrace them rather than to judge or avoid. And in this shared movement practice, instead of getting to a destination, or wanting to do things “your way”, we were gently reminded of how we could support another person in their full expression. To let go of right and wrong, and instead look for ways in which you can reinforce and even amplify others creates a better practice for all those involved. Learn and move and learn some more.