Archive for March 2012 | Monthly archive page

Meditation has always been a wonderful way to calm, center, and focus the mind and spirit.  Evidence out of UCLA suggests that this kind of quiet, directed introspection could also strengthen the connections between neurons and increase the amount of folding in the layers of the brain.  A study by the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging shows that long-term meditators have a higher rate of gyrification, (or the amount of folding found in the cortex), which may allow practitioners to process information faster and integrate emotional and rational intelligence more efficiently.

Furthermore, there was a direct correlation between the amount of years spent in a variety of meditative disciplines, including Zen, Samatha, and Vipassana, and the total folding of the cortex.  After scanning thousands of points across the brain, the researchers also noted pronounced increases in gyrification in specific regions of the brain, most interestingly within the insular regions.  This might suggest a relationship between the area’s autonomic, affective, and integrative aspects and mediation’s goals of self-control, awareness, and introspection.

Following a form of meditation can also help manage physical pain.  A study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal, Emotion, reported that research out of the of University Montreal discovered that Zen meditators had more grey matter than non-mediators.  This meant that through thickening certain areas of their cortex, particularly the anterior cingulate which regulates pain, they were able to reduce their levels of sensitivity.  Even their perceptions of physical discomfort were less pronounced, as their emotional reactions were more controlled and they experienced less anticipation an anxiety.  Zen thought can even help re -focus someone back to their task at hand after being interrupted by distraction much more quickly.

With such amazing results, why not take a quiet moment or two to recite a mantra, do some yoga, or take a deep breath and ponder the mysteries of the universe?  Your brain may fold in on itself with joy!

 

The earth’s endangered species have a fierce, compassionate, and savvy representative in Gabby Wild.  An aspiring veterinarian and intrepid traveler, this graduate from Cornell University divides her time between studying molecular biology and animal medicine and conducting her own welfare work.

Wild’s lasted project, dubbed “12 in 12 for 12” focuses on harnessing the glitz and glamor of the fashion industry to bring attention to the plight of the planet’s vanishing biodiversity.  For the next 12 months, Wild will be sporting 12 originally designed outfits inspired by a different animal in peril.  Many of the ensembles were created by contestants from the hit show, Project Runway, lending a little couture and and star appeal to Wild’s wardrobe.

In addition to the “12 in 12 for 12” campaign, Wild’s charity is currently selling t-shits made in the USA and composed of 50% organic cotton and 50% recycled plastic water bottles, each featuring images of animals in desperate need of preservation.  Every garment represents 12 water bottles that will be worn instead of relegated to a landfill, and all proceeds go directly to charity.  Wild is hoping to publicize the dwindling numbers of Bactrian Camels (less than 1,000 left in the wild) and Amur Leopards (only 35 remaining) through the shirts.

With such a charismatic and tenacious advocate, some of the most critically threatened organisms in the animal kingdom may have a fighting chance.

 

Bill Holloway and Mauro Hernandez of Masterworks Wood and Design in San Jose, CA are not only producers of beautiful works of art and utility, but responsible stewards of the environment as well.  For an example of their commitment to sustainability and technique, look no further than their reclaimed wood bicycles.

As with all of their projects, the materials are sourced from “urban” wood sources such as dismantled homes and buildings, scrap lumber, waste sites, and tree removal services.  Seals and varnishes are VOC-free, and both animal and human friendly.  Each of their six models of bicycle are made by hand from start to finish and are truly testimonials to the talent of these enormously talented individuals.  The bikes start at $5,000, which covers the cost of building materials and labor.  To visit their showroom, stop by Peninsula Building Materials in nearby Mountain View.

For a more lightweight ride, Renovo Bicycle company based out of Portland, Oregon creates custom frames from sustainable hardwoods and bamboo that are as strong and stiff as carbon.  Sealed to withstand moisture and elemental damage with VOC- free epoxy and linear polyurethane, the bicycle is sleek and durable.  Renovo demonstrates that wood can be a high-performance material, and its fatigue life rivals that of its metallic equivalents.  Each bike is made entirely in their workshop with a combination of old-fashioned human effort and high-tech computer modeling.  Built by airplane engineers, they will send you flying down the street and around mountain trails like a pro.

Return to the roots of bicycling with frames made of wood!

With the amount of lady’s yoga wear and equipment on the market, you might assume the practice in the United States was a bit of a girl’s club.  However, yoga was originally brought to the west from India by a line of male instructors, and it has only been within this generation that women have been adopting more influential and powerful roles.  This influx of female energy has transformed the way in which yoga is currently being taught by focusing more on intuition, connection, family flow, community, and activism.

HopeDance, in conjunction with Bambu Batu, presents the film YOGAWOMAN this March 21 at the Palm Theater from 7pm-10pm.  The documentary, narrated by Annette Benning,  interviews many of the world’s leading female yoga practitioners and teachers, including Patricia Walden, Sharon Gannon, Shiva Rea, Angela Farmer, Cyndi Lee, and Seine Corn.  With additional testimony from progressive medical professionals such as Dr. Sara Gottfried and Dr. Shirley Tells, YOGAWOMAN is the first feature to bring together these amazing women and their message of peace and self-empowerment.  To view the trailer or find showtimes in your area, visit the HopeDance website for more details.

HopeDance, a project headed by Central Coast local Bob Banner, seeks to exhibit films and hold workshops that feature pioneers and exceptional individuals that are committed to creating a new world.  HopeDance also publishes material that encourage sustainable ecological practices, community-building, holistic healing, and work designed to inspire hope and stimulate meaningful dialogue.  Come and join your fellow curious minds and open hearts for YOGAWOMAN!

There are certain actions that as a decent human being, you would never consider doing.  You wouldn’t hit a someone with glasses, steal candy from a baby, or sue a guy who promotes kale on a t-shirt.  Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont artist and supporter of local agriculture, has for more than 10 years created shirts that encourage the world at large to “Eat More Kale”.

  Somehow, the people at Chick-fil-A, a company that the New York Times points out is a business large enough to sell over 530 sandwiches a minute, got wind of the shirts and decided to send a cease-and-desist letter to Muller-Moore.  They assert that his t-shirt tagline infringes on their ads that feature the motto “Eat mor chickn”, words written by cows looking to direct attention away from beef and sell more nuggets.  The fast food giant stated that the kudos for kale “is likely to cause confusion of the public and dilutes the distinctiveness of Chick-fil-A’s intellectual property.” Yet, Chick-fil-A has no stores in Vermont, Muller-Moore’s shirts predate the chicken campaign, and only someone who has difficulty differentiating a vegetable from an animal would have trouble with telling the two businesses apart.

Luckily, Muller-Moore has a lot of grassroots support.  Labeled by admirer as a “Vermont institution”, his legal support has been provided for free, a petition on Change.org set up for him by a local soup company, and he is being assisted with publicity by a former aide to governor Jim Douglas.  Peter Shumlin, the current governor, has also offered to appear with him at a news conference in order to back his cause.  In a state where community, artisanal food, and local businesses are taken very seriously, “Eat More Kale” has become a rallying cry to those who value quality, the environment, and the social implications of what people consume.

Currently, Muller-Moore is are planning to trademark his merchandise.  True to his green and proclivities, each shirt is printed on a Comfort Colors garment, dyed in Vermont by an environmentally-minded shop using a process that takes 2/3 less water than conventional methods and recycles liquid runoff.  The shirts are then hand-screened, one at a time, in a garage over Muller-Moore’s home that his wife helped him to build.  All of his stencils are cut individually, and the water-soluble ink is heat set for a flexible, durable design.  For stickers or clothing, visit the EMK site to wear your love for the earth, craft, and the people who work to make community happen where they live.

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