Archive for the ‘modern life’ Category

Happy mind, happy body

March 3rd, 2011 No comments

Here’s an article that says that positivity helps longevity.

I think this is the secret, simplistic though it may be: if we want to be healthy, we should take care of the body and take care of the mind as well. The dualists thought that the two were separate, which I interpret as seeing the mind as the driver and the body as the car, but now I hope we see that the two are intertwined — we are the driver and the car. Hey, if thoughts can lead to stress, pain and ulcers, then happiness and calmness can lead to health … and this has been found.

Mind and body. Body and mind.

But here’s the weird thing, on which I shall opine further in the future: we spend so much time trying to protect the self, we forget about protecting the mind, the brain and thus the body. Do chew on that, if you will.

How to clean your desk

February 3rd, 2011 No comments

The title of this clip is Bet you’ll clean your desk after watching this video.

Start watching the video. Then see how long it takes before you start to clean your desk.

It still works on subsequent viewings, but I turn off the sound. Sorry. PJ.

Categories: interdisciplinary, modern life Tags:

“I just wanted to try something different.”

November 15th, 2010 5 comments

Breaking news: The End of Pilates as We Know It?

According to The Globe and Mail, Pilates is no longer on the Hot List of workout routines. To most of us, this isn’t a big deal, as Pilates is just another workout fad to most people … just like Step Aerobics, Jazzercise and Tae Bo.

So what does RnR have to say about this? Let’s use point form, because I’m in a hurry!

  • People who advocate slow, careful, introspective fitness correction are like mechanics who insist that people know how their car works, whereas most folks just want to drive the damn thing. (This analogy has less power in these days of computerized cars, of course) Don’t tell me how to find my center, I just want to feel the burn, baby!
  • The hotness of an exercise routine has less to do with its value than its appeal. In other words, it only has to do enough good to satisfy a basic feel-good factor. After that, it has to give people what they want at that slice in time. If their wants change, they move on.
  • An important factor in making a routine “hot” is how people feel when telling their friends about what they do. Trust me, I don’t tell people I’m doing Yiquan or Mizongyi when they ask what I’m up to — “tai chi” will do, and that’s acceptable only because I’m over forty.
  • Some fads may do a lot of good, while routines viewed as “old school” and “normal” may not be optimal.
  • As long as people have short attention spans, serious “refine and repeat” fitness routines that require patience and introspection will never be popular.


Categories: fitness, modern life, news, physical health Tags:

Pound for pound …

October 30th, 2010 2 comments

The other day, I had the pleasure of the company of one of the most charming babies ever. Apparently, she took a liking to me as well, or at least my hand, which must have looked quite tasty. When little Avery reached for my hand, I felt this strong tug. I knew it was Avery doing the pulling, but I thought I’d try looking the other way and see what this sensation felt like without the visual cues.

It felt very odd, even before the gumming. Sure, the pulling came from a small area, but it felt as if an adult were pulling me in. The pull was insistent and strong, and could have been mistaken for an adult’s pull.

Now we’ve all heard about strong baby grips, but this was quite something. Internal martial artists try to recover that natural, full-body strength, but what if we had maintained that natural strength all through childhood and it only grew as we matured? How naturally strong and healthy would we be? I have to ask …

… at what point in a child’s life does that strength diminish? What went wrong? Are children told they’re small and weak? Do they become self-conscious? Are they told that things are more difficult than they really are? Or does it have something to do with bad physical training, or a complete lack thereof?

… or can little Avery buck the odds and keep her natural, non-self-conscious, strong way of interacting with the world?

“If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.”

September 20th, 2010 No comments

As anyone who has ever done anything around the house knows, it pays to be able to crawl under stuff, lift stuff, step over stuff, get into awkward positions and most importantly, get out of them.

If I want to keep crawling, lifting, stepping and extricating, I have to stay healthy and in shape.

I’m sure Red Green, famous Canadian handyman, would agree.

No more normal?

August 2nd, 2010 No comments

According to this article, we may be heading towards a world, where, at least in the eyes of mental health professionals, nobody is normal: virtually every behavior will be a disorder.

One one hand, imagine the freedom. No pressure to be normal, since none of us are. Whee! But … it’s not quite that simple. If every behavior is a sign of a disorder, then we’re all … abnormal. And we need to take drugs, of course, to treat our pet disorder … so we can be normal.


So few us of us are born normal, now: almost all of us have disorders. But the only way we can become normal is to take drugs to treat the disorders, right? So the only people who will be normal will be those who will be on drugs … generously supplied for a fee, of course.

Of course, there are some genuine situations where a person acts a particular way, and “get over it” or “suck it up” doesn’t help the person. (for example, Asperger’s) However, advice, support, environment changes, physical activity, diet changes can all help a great number of people whose behavior reduces their potential or quality of life in some way …

… but I’m wary of the rush to drugs as a solution, just as I’m wary of rushing to solve any complex problem with a purchase.

Call me crazy.

Categories: modern life Tags:

Garbage in, garbage out

July 29th, 2010 No comments

According to a recent story, the principal at a Wisconsin high school reduced fighting, weapons-carrying, and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the menu.

Here’s the article.

Categories: modern life, nutrition Tags:

Keeping Track

June 8th, 2010 No comments

I recently purchased a pedometer to keep track of distances on runs outside of the gym … once I get out of the gym, of course. Until then, I thought I’d see how many steps I take in a day, possibly approaching the 10,000-step recommendation popular nowadays. Well, it ain’t so easy, either because my normal day is rather slug-like, or 10,000 is a little high.

Monday was a normal day, where the walking about could be divided into six segments: 1) morning shower/breakfast stuff, 2) stopping off at bank, 3) walking about in office, 4) at the gym,  before/during/after five games of squash with stretching, 5) zhan zhuang class, 6) evening wind-down at home. Basically, I walked about 7900 steps that day, with about 5000 at the gym, 2900 outside the gym, give or take, and this happened over a combined span of an hour and 24 minutes. I don’t believe that data for its own sake isn’t very useful (wow! 7900 steps!), but it can give quantitative values where none had existed, and allow comparison to a perceived standard, in this case, 10,000 steps as an indication of appropriate physical activity. To make the comparison:

– Without going to the gym, an average day for me takes about 2900 steps … if I run an errand. I work at a computer.
– Squash and stretching yields only 5000 steps. However, it could be said that a squash step trumps a walking step, since I really sweated during those games. In fact, according to , 25 minutes of squash equals 5000 steps of activity. So, adding whatever steps took place outside the game, maybe it’s more like 6,000. You can see where this kind of calculations would just get rather silly.
– It’s not a good idea to try to rack up steps during a Zhan Zhuang class where you stand for 45 minutes. I kind of expected that.
Apparently a sedentary person may only average 1000 to 3000 steps each day. Now I know what a “sedentary” day feels like.

There must be a lot of ways to improve and measure physical health — this is just one, and I’ve just gotten a taste of it. I don’t expect to monitor my steps with the same rigor as I’ve monitored my weight (more on that later), and it’s said that a weekly tally might be better than a daily one. However, I did get some value from this exercise, and it will encourage me to raise the level of activity on non-squash days by walking more, running more, or biking to work.

Update: I’ve had bad luck with pedometers, and this one’s no exception. It doesn’t take kindly to being dropped, and reacts by shutting down, then resetting everything to zero and erasing all user data. (sigh) But I’m not going to buy one of those $250 GPS things for runners any time soon — I’d just drop it.

Categories: fitness, modern life Tags:


June 7th, 2010 No comments

Busy consultant Peter Bregman thought he’d try a break from multi-tasking. Here’s what he had to say about it.

Categories: modern life Tags:

It’s easier than you think

March 29th, 2010 No comments

Just about every physical-sport-discipline direction I’ve gotten involves some kind of relaxation, letting go, or exhortation to some kind of natural absence of effort. “Relax”, “be soft”, “chill”, “let it drop”, “it’s easy”.

But the thing is, they’re right. It is easy. Once you get it.

Let me elaborate. Each time I’ve “found” something, my reaction has been “oh, is that it?” It feels easy to “get it”. It makes sense. It’s often surprisingly easy, so much so that I feel a temptation to believe it isn’t the right method. Where’s the stress and strain? Where’s the effort?

Do not doubt this: there is effort, but not where we expect it: it lies in the repetition of the simple act. It lies in seeking the extraneous, that which must be removed. The effort also lies in challenging our assumptions and doing the things that we don’t want to do …

… such as “let go”.

I’ve said to my students that Tai Chi is less about “making things happen” and more about “letting things happen”. We have so much baggage associated with making things happen. We want to be in control, we want to show the teacher that we’re making effort, and we want to balance the pleasure of success with the pain of effort, since success without effort just doesn’t feel right. Maybe we feel guilty about it. However, strangely enough, many of us want the success without effort — we want to be given the secret and find success right away. Without doing … what?

… without doing something we don’t want to do.

If you took someone who wanted the success that comes from natural, relaxed non-effort right away, theoretically you could tell them to relax, chill, and let it happen, and they would then achieve natural, non-doing, relaxed success right away. But they don’t, most of the time. Why not?

I think that if they want things right away, they want to be in control. They are afraid of delays that result from being patient. They are nervous and stressed. Impatient. Given that nature has its own pace, being impatient isn’t likely to invite natural results. So, paradoxically, the impatient person delays his own success, by attempting to control the pace of events, by attempting to make things happen.

Anyway, I’ll stick with the idea of “less making things happen, more letting things happen.”