Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Stories of You - To the Best of Our Knowledge

From NPR's To the Best of Our Knowledge, this is an encore presentation (on their part and mine) of a show that aired on February 3rd, 2013, and originally aired on February 19th, 2012. This show offers 5 interviews on the nature of identity and how our stories (our narratives) shape our sense of self.

Stories of You

Who are you?
A man? A woman?
Are you a success? A failure?
A parent? An athlete? A wallflower?
A Christian? A Buddhist? A baker?
If we are only a collection of stories about ourselves... what's the truth of who "we" are?


Jonathan Adler Image: Amy Dykens
So if our identities are just stories... what does that mean for our lives, our memories, our mental health? Jonathan Adler is a psychologist who studies narrative identity. He tells Jim Fleming that his research found that our sense of well-being is based on the tone of our internal narratives rather than the stories themselves.

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Forget Your Self
Sara Nics

Sara Nics explains the impetus behind this show... a lifetime of attempting to make peace with the stories we tell ourselves.
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You & Your Brain

Julian Keenan
Press your thumb to the bridge of your nose. Now draw it slowly over the crown of your head to about where you might have a ponytail. That area under your skull is where "you" are. Research suggests that region houses the web of neurons that holding our narrative identities.
Neuroscientist Julian Keenan takes Anne Strainchamps on a tour of our selves, thinking about our selves, thinking about our selves thinking about our selves, thinking about one another thinking about ourselves...
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Contemplating Our Selves

Gangaji Image: Michael Waha

Antoinetter Varner - also known as Gangaji - says she spent decades wrestling with and reshaping her narrative identity. But when she met her true spiritual teacher - a Hindu man vaguely aligned with the nondualist tradition - he told her to stop all stories. Gangaji says that's when she was finally able to connect with the "I" that underlies our selves.

Steve Paulson asked Gangaji about her story, and the end of stories.

Listen to the UNCUT version of this interview here.

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Stories of Us

Jonathan Harris

Jonathan Harris is the creator behind “We Feel Fine”, “I Want You to Want Me”, and other projects using new media to reflect human experience. In his latest work, he’s bringing together a community of storytellers in the hopes that combining individual stories might reveal the ecstatic truth of human life.

Harris talked with Anne Strainchamps about learning from our common stories, myths, and sagas.
The storytellers included in the Cowbird audio medley are Annie Correal, Bianca Giaever, Geoffrey Gevalt, Jordan Bower, Lily Virginia, Molly Adams, Paul Louis Archer, Paulo Martins, Scott Thrift, and Jonathan Harris.
Listen in on the UNCUT interview here
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Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

From NPR's Shots column, here is an excellent overview of some new research into how emotions are mapped on the body. The article is based on a study by Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen and published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Association for Science.

By asking subjects which areas of the body become activated and deactivated during specific emotions, the researchers were able to construct the sensation maps below. Pretty cool stuff.

Mapping Emotions On The Body: Love Makes Us Warm All Over

by Michaeleen Doucleff
December 30, 2013

People drew maps of body locations where they feel basic emotions (top row) and more complex ones (bottom row). Hot colors show regions that people say are stimulated during the emotion. Cool colors indicate deactivated areas. Image courtesy of Lauri Nummenmaa, Enrico Glerean, Riitta Hari, and Jari Hietanen.

Close your eyes and imagine the last time you fell in love. Maybe you were walking next to your sweetheart in a park or staring into each other's eyes over a latte.

Where did you feel the love? Perhaps you got "butterflies in your stomach" or you're heart raced with excitement.

When a team of scientists in Finland asked people to map out where they felt different emotions on their bodies, it found that the results were surprisingly consistent, even across cultures.

People reported that happiness and love sparked activity across nearly the entire body, while depression had the opposite effect: It dampened feelings in the arms, legs and head. Danger and fear triggered strong sensations in the chest area, the volunteers said. And anger was one of the few emotions that activated the arms.

The scientists hope that these body emoticons may one day help psychologists diagnose or treat mood disorders.

"Our emotional system in the brain sends signals to the body so we can deal with our situation," says Lauri Nummenmaa, a psychologist at Aalto University who lead the study.

"Say you see a snake and you feel fear," Nummenmaa says. "Your nervous system increases oxygen to your muscles and raises your heart rate so you can deal with the threat. It's an automated system. We don't have to think about it."

That idea has been known for centuries. But scientists still don't agree on whether these bodily changes are distinct for each emotion and whether this pattern serves as a way for the mind to consciously identify emotions.

Basic emotions, such as happiness, sadness and fear, form the building blocks for more complex feelings. Toddatkins/Wikimedia.org

To try and figure out that out, Nummenmaa and his team ran a simple computer experiment with about 700 volunteers from Finland, Sweden and Taiwan.

The team showed the volunteers two blank silhouettes of person on a screen and then told the subjects to think about one of 14 emotions: love, disgust, anger, pride, etc. The volunteers then painted areas of the body that felt stimulated by that emotion. On the second silhouette, they painted areas of the body that get deactivated during that emotion.

"People find the experiment quite amusing. It's quite fun," Nummenmaa tells Shots. "We kept the questions online so you try the experiment yourself." (You can try it here.)

Not everybody painted each emotion in the same way. But when the team averaged the maps together, signature patterns emerged for each emotion. The team published these sensation maps Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The team still doesn't know how these self-reported sensations match with the physiological responses that occur with emotion.

But previous studies have found marked changes in bodily sensations in mood disorders, Nummenmaa says. "For instance, with depression sometimes people have pain in their chest."

And there's even some evidence that when you change your own body language — like your posture or stance — you can alter your mind.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, who was not involved in this study, says he's "delighted" by Nummenmaa's findings because they offer more support for what he's been suggesting for years: Each emotion activates a distinct set of body parts, he thinks, and the mind's recognition of those patterns helps us consciously identify that emotion.

"People look at emotions as something in relation to other people," Damasio, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, says. "But emotions also have to do with how we deal with the environment — threats and opportunities." For those, Damasio says, you need your body as well as your mind.

Joan Halifax on Compassion's Edge States and Caring Better (On Being)

This is an encore presentation of a January 2013 episode of NPR's On Being with Joan Halifax Roshi as the guest. She speaks on Zen, Buddhism, compassion, and caring for others. It's well worth a 2nd listen or, if you have never heard it, a much-deserved first listen.

Joan Halifax on Compassion's Edge States and Caring Better
December 26, 2013
Previous Versions

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by all the bad news and horrific pictures in the world. This is a form of empathy, Joan Halifax says, that works against us. The Zen abbot and medical anthropologist has bracing, nourishing thoughts on finding buoyancy rather than burnout in how we work, live, and care.

Radio Show/Podcast - (mp3, 51:06)
Unedited Interview - Joan Halifax  (mp3, 91:36)

Voices on the Radio

Joan Halifax is the Founding Abbot of Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and director of the Project on Being with Dying.

Recommended Reading

Selected Readings

Inside Compassion: Edge States, Contemplative Interventions, Neuroscience
Joan Halifax speaks about the challenge of caregivers who care for those who are seriously ill. Learn about basic research in neuroscience and psychology on mindfulness, compassion, and the effects of stress on the body.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

Encountering Grief: A 10-Minute Guided Meditation with Joan Halifax
The Zen abbot walks a live audience through this guided meditation on encountering grief. Download and share with your friends and family.

Andrew Solomon on Horizontal Identities, Extreme Difference and Connectedness, and Sexuality
Five questions with the author of Far from the Tree on how families with extreme difference find connectedness in their "horizontal" identities.

Roshi Joan Halifax Discusses the Painful Truths of Death and the Impermanence of Life (video)
“Another level of your life opens up when you recognize that you have a life that is inside.” ~ Roshi Joan Halifax

The Zen Buddhist monk and medical anthropologist talks to Krista Tippett about her life, Buddhist faith, inspirations, and the vast concepts of death, compassion, grief — and neuroscience.

A Little Bit of Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce a Lot of Pain
Even novice meditators are able to curb their pain after a few training sessions in mindfulness meditation.

End of Life Zen Care
The first Buddhist chaplaincy training program in the U.S. is featured in this beautiful short film about end of life care.

The Happy Paradox of Photography and Meditation
"Creating a photograph is like meditation, full of paradoxes that coexist happily." -a guest post from listener Monica Biswas with one of her lovely photos.

Connecting with the Universe through the Distilled Quiet
A guest contributor reflects on how being still with life's deaths and resurrections connects her to the universe.

The Little Monk and the Samurai: A Zen Parable
A powerful Zen parable teaching us about compassion and gratitude in the face of death.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Rick Hanson - No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally


From Dharma Seed, this is a cool 5-part talk by Dr. Rick Hanson (author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence (2013), Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time (2011), and Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom (2009), on No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally. The talks were given at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, where Hanson is a frequent teacher.


No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally- #1 Present moment awareness of endings and beginings 17:51
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No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally #2 The two truths: Futility and fullness
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No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally- # 3 - Cultivation, craving, self-ing 1:47:55
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No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally- #4 - Self in the brain, allocentric networks, opening into allness 1:26:00
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No-Self in the Brain: Insights from Neuroscience about Not Taking Life Personally- #5 - Feeding the hungry heart relaxes self-ing 68:42
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The Year in Fitness and Nutrition

A lot of blogs and websites are doing their year in review pieces as we approach the beginning of 2014. Here are a few that have popped up on my radar.

From Pop Sugar:

The Headlines That Helped Us Drop Pounds in 2013

by Leta Shy December 26, 2013

Another year, another 365 days to unlock the secrets to sustainable weight loss — and in 2013, researchers did not disappoint. From finding the best time to eat a big meal to finding yet another reason to chow down on chocolate, here are the most interesting weight-loss news stories of the year!

1. More Sleep Decreases Junk-Food Cravings

We've been learning more and more about just how important sleep is for our waistlines; this year, researchers showed that lack of sleep can actually change how we respond to junk food. When sleep-deprived participants were shown photos of fatty foods like pizza and doughnuts, the reward centers in their brains lit up much more than those who had gotten enough sleep — proving that when you're sleep deprived, you're more likely to make less-than-optimal diet choices than when you're well rested.

2. Dark Chocolate Blocks Fat

Last year, it was red wine, and this year it's even more good news: a new study found that dark-chocolate eaters who ate more calories than non dark chocolate eaters still had lower BMIs. The study suggests that an antioxidant found in dark chocolate, epicatechin, may block your body's absorption of fats and sugars.

3. Eat More Protein, Lose More Weight

A small study published in September found that the optimal amount of protein for those trying to lose weight may be more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) set by the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers put patients on specific diets that differed in protein — groups either ate the RDA of protein, double that amount, or triple that amount. Those who ate double the RDA of protein lost more fat than muscle, which is important for keeping metabolism levels up when you are trying to lose weight.

4. A Well-Timed Big Lunch Is Key

If you find it hard to schedule a midday meal break during your hectic work day, listen up: a recent study found that late lunchers (those who ate after 3 p.m.) ended up weighing more than those who ate a big lunch earlier. The study also found that late lunchers were more likely to skip breakfast — also a no-no if you're trying to drop pounds. Since the Spanish participants ate their biggest meal at lunch, the study also suggests that front-loading your filling meals during the day can be beneficial for your waistline.

5. Start With Exercise

Losing weight requires dedication to both a healthy diet and a consistent workout routine, but if you can't quite fit both into your schedule, start with exercise first, according to a study published earlier this year. The researchers tracked inactive participants as they either started a new diet and exercise routine at the same time, started a new exercise routine followed by a new diet later on, or started a new diet followed by an exercise routine later on. While the diet-and-exercise group fared the best, the study found that those who established a workout routine first (before dealing with their diet) were more successful at sticking to both a workout routine and healthy eating plan later on — which meant more weight loss in the long run.

Source: Thinkstock
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Here are links to several useful articles from The Daily Beast:

Study: Exercise Could Be The Key to Mitigating the Christmas Weight Damage

Take away: regular exercise can help mitigate the effects of short-term overfeeding and inactivity, regardless of energy balance. Caveat: They studied young men, and the results may be different for women and for older adults (whose metabolism slows as they age).

Wheat Threatens All Humans, New Research Shows

Take away: Wheat is capable of producing 23,000 different proteins, and while 1 in 16 people seem to be intolerant to gluten, it is the other 22,999 proteins that may be the real issue, particularly wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), which is technically a lectin. WGA binds to gut proteins quite readily, which may leave these cells less well protected against the harmful effects of the gut contents.

These Are The 15 Supplements to Keep In Your Medicine Cabinet

By Ari Meisel
December 28th 2013

More Stories by Ari Meisel

As evidence mounts that multivitamins provide no nutritional benefit, it’s time to forget the ‘daily dose.’ Instead, turn to these 15 supplements and think of your medicine cabinet as your toolbox, taking only what you need.

A lot of people start their days by popping a multivitamin.

Unfortunately, there’s more than enough evidence to show that these “multis” provide absolutely no nutritional benefit. There’s even compelling research that shows they can even do harm to your body. It’s also very confusing since every supplement has different ratios of various vitamins which don’t take into account an individual’s diet or biological makeup. They tend to contain fillers like magnesium stearate, which you might think is a form of the mineral magnesium, when in fact it is an industrial lubricant, meant to keep the pills from sticking to machinery (and has been shown to reduce immune function).

Truth it, there are very few supplements that you should be taking every day.

In fact, when you see RDA values for various vitamins and minerals on a package, you might think that stands for Recommended Daily Amounts, when in actuality, its Recommended Dietary Amounts.

So if you want to take supplements, you need to think of your medicine cabinet as a toolbox, where you use what you need, when you need it, and throw out the idea of a daily dose.

These are the 15 “tools” I keep in my cabinet and what I use them for:

1. Probiotics—A lot of diseases of the industrialized worlds (like my personal favorite, Crohn’s Disease) are thought to be a result of our hyperclean environment with hand sanitizer stations around every corner. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that help regulate our digestion, strengthen our immune system and maintain sanity. Unless you are eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, natto, or kefir on a daily basis you should take a probiotic most days and double if you are taking antibiotics.

2. Vitamin D3—Most of you reading this are probably vitamin D deficient if you wear clothes and work indoors. In addition, if you’re diet doesn’t contain adequate amounts of fat then you won’t be able to properly process vitamin D (as well as A, E and K). Most people should be taking around 5,000 IU per day unless you get to spend a good amount of time outside and in the sun. Even those people should take some during the winter months. One more thing, take it in the morning otherwise it can disrupt your sleep since vitamin D and melatonin are inversely related.

3. Krill Oil - Krill Oil, like fish oils can help fight inflammation and lower cholesterol. In tests Krill seems to be better absorbed by the body so you’ll tend to get more bang for your buck and added benefits such as blood sugar regulation and even possible fat loss.

4. Astaxanthin
—The red pigment in salmon and a major skin protectant thought to aid in eye health and inflammation, I take this carotenoid mostly in the winter months when my skin tends to get dryer as the lips in Astaxanthin appear to help maintain elasticity.

5. Phenocane—Nature’s Tylenol, Phenocane’s main ingredient is Curcurmin with a couple added friends that make this an incredibly powerful anti inflammatory and pain killer.

6. Oil of Oregano Capsules—Oil of Oregano (different plant from the stuff on your pizza) contains Carvacrol, an incredibly potent bacteria killer. I take this anytime I travel, am exposed to people I know are sick, or feel a cold coming on.

7. Oil of Oregano Liquid
—in liquid form this stuff is really powerful and will burn a little but a couple drops in a glass of water gargled for a minute will stop a sore throat or sinus infection dead in its tracks.

8. Goat Colostrum—colostrum is the first two or three days of breast milk and contain the building blocks for a strong immune system and health body. Goats milk is the closest equivalent to human breast milk and I always take these in combination with oil of oregano capsules.

9. Xylitol Nasal Spray - xylitol is a sugar alcohol and has antibacterial properties. As a nasal spray it keeps the passages moist and bacteria free, ideal for travel or ducted heating systems.

10. MCT Oil - Medium Chain Triglycerides are the fat transport mechanisms you get when you put coconut oil in a centrifuge. It’s an odorless, tasteless oil that provides an immediate source of ketones (fat energy) to you blood stream and will actually help your cognitive function. I use it in salad dressings or yogurt when I want to up the fat content without adding any taste. If I’ve had a rough night with the kids I’ll add it along with so we grass fed butter to my coffee for a nice cup of Bulletproof Coffee(TM).

11. Digestech—We have different enzymes to help us digest fats, carbs, and protein. Digestech capsules contain those and then some. They help me digest large meals and extract more nutrition from the foods I eat.

12. Activated Charcoal Capsules—sometimes you eat or drink something and wish you Hsn. Don’t panic about the toxins mounting an attack against your body. Just pop a couple capsules of activated charcoal and let natures Brita filter (which actually contains charcoal) trap those toxins and take them out of your body.

13. Alpha Brain - Nootropics are substances which increase cognitive performance. On the pharmaceutical side think Adderall or Modafinil. I’m not one for taking drugs so I turn to Alpha Brain, which contains 11 natural, well studied compounds that will increase focus and memory while offering neuroprotective anti stressors. You can use this daily but I use it when I know I’ve got a big day or meetings or a client engagement ahead of me to help me break through some inner barriers. This won’t turn you into an Einstein, but if you know the answer to the question is inside you somewhere, this might help you find it.

14. Collagen and Whey Protein Powder—Unless you are a bodybuilder or trying to experiment with eating only specific amounts of protein, most people do not need to supplement with protein. Sometimes I’ll do a protein fast for a day or two where I’m limiting protein to 50 grams or less and the easiest way to do that is to eat a whole bunch of veggies and then have a serving of protein power. The two forms are pretty similar but the nice added benefit of collagen powder is that it’s heat stable so you can add it to your coffee if you want.

15. Greens Powder - I try to eat lots of dark leafy greens in my diets but somedays are more difficult than others. A green powder mix like Powerfood from Onnit acts like a dietary insurance policy and gives me things I might never get otherwise like camu for antioxidants or olive leaf for internal cleansing.

That’s what I use—but how about you? Tell me what supplements are in your medicine cabinet in the comments below.

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From the Today Show:

Fitness fails: Workouts you need to stop doing in 2014

Take home: Pole dancing, stiletto workouts, gas mask training, backward running, stability ball stands, and yes, even Tough Mudder and warrior dash all need to go according to this piece. 
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Another article from the Daily Beast:

The Busy Person’s Guide to Becoming a Fitness Minimalist
By DailyBurn
December 27th 2013

by Joe Vennare for Life by DailyBurn

Imagine a workout that can be done anywhere, anytime. This routine doesn’t require any equipment. There’s no instructor and no membership dues. Better still, completing this workout wouldn’t take all day. Heck, it wouldn’t even take up an entire lunch break.

What if this workout existed?

Well, it does. Call it the Rise of the Fitness Minimalist, or the realization that short, high-intensity workouts (even just seven minutes in length) might be better than slogging through longer exercise sessions. In fact, research shows that 20 to 30 minutes of high-intensity interval training can produce the same aerobic and anaerobic benefits as steady-state cardio workouts twice as long. Stripping away the excess and upping the intensity has also been shown to improve cardiovascular endurance and burn fat—not to mention boost the “afterburn effect.”

Do More With Less

Ready to opt for efficiency over exercise machines while saving precious time in the process? Try these simple strategies to skip the false starts and time-sucks, and start connecting with your inner fitness minimalist.

1. Keep it simple. Sometimes all you need is your own bodyweight to get great results. This workout, created by researchers at the Human Performance Institute in Orlando, Florida takes seven minutes to complete and only uses 12 bodyweight exercises, a wall and a chair. The result: a quick, high-intensity form of circuit training focused on building strength while burning maximum calories. (And who doesn’t love push-ups, wall-sits and high knees?)

2. Up the intensity. When it comes to exercise, we all know something is better than nothing. But when you’re short on time, the trick is thinking about exercise in terms of effort. So while another slow jog around the neighborhood might seem pretty tough, it’s by no means the fastest way to make progress, research suggests. Cram as much intensity into brief workouts as possible by supersetting burpees, mountain climbers or jump squats in between exercises. And if you need an extra push, take the Inferno challenge for a high-internsity program that’s available ’round the clock.

3. Set a timer. When time is short supply, rest periods should be, too (ideally kept to 30 seconds or less). Try this: Set a timer to reflect the length of the workout. Let’s pretend that’s 15 minutes. Now, create a circuit of three to five exercises. Then, start the clock and complete the circuit for as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 15 minutes. Of course, never compromise quality over quantity, but by the end of these workouts you should feel sufficiently spent.

4. Watch the clock. Another technique that utilizes the timer is the Tabata protocol. This interval workout only requires four minutes to complete, but can be repeated as part of a 15 or 20-minute routine. Start by selecting an exercise (think burpees, kettlebell swings or thrusters). Then, perform that move for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat that work-rest routine for eight rounds, clocking in at four minutes flat. On paper it might not seem like much, but these short, intense intervals have been shown to improve athletic capacity, conditioning and fat burning in less time than longer, less intense workouts. Need more guidance? Try these Tabata workouts.

5. Go all out. Jogging is a great way to get moving and stay healthy. But, since we’re aiming for greater results in less time, sprinting is better—specifically HIIT workouts, which alternate between periods of all-out effort and brief recovery. So grab that timer we’ve been using and set it for 60 seconds. Then, sprint, swim, bike, or row all-out for that minute. Take 60 to 90 seconds to rest before repeating at max effort again.

Stick with the Essentials

A great workout requires very few bells and whistles (sometimes none at all). But when the time comes to move beyond bodyweight training, mixing in the right tools can help take your training to new heights. Fitness minimalist and trainer Al Kavadlo, CSCS, recommends picking up a few pieces of versatile exercise equipment (check out what he can do with just a pull-up bar), and using movements like pull-ups, push-ups, dips and squats to get stronger before attempting more difficult moves like the muscle-up or pistol squat. Here’s the essential equipment even a fitness minimalist should consider investing in.

TRX. Set up shop in a doorframe and practice the basic moves, like the horizontal row and suspended push-ups, before moving on to single-leg exercises and explosive moves that require more strength and balance. This type of Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX, get it?) is a form of suspension training that targets multiple muscle groups at once, limiting the length of workouts and the need for additional equipment.

Jump Rope. The perfect tool for warming up or working cardio into bodyweight routines, the jump rope is a fitness minimalist’s dream. Try fast-paced skips, single leg jumps, and double-unders to improve conditioning and coordination.

Kettlebells. This versatile training tool is the total package. Do cardio and strength train simultaneously while engaging every major body part. Now that’s efficiency at its finest!

Sandbags or SandBells. Make a DIY sandbag or spend a few bucks on a Hyperwear Sandbell and you’ll never have to worry about being bored with a workout, or going to the gym again. This versatile training tool allows for more creative and functional total-body workouts when the usual tools start feeling stale.

Skip the Time Sucks

So far we’ve managed to pack more work into less time. But before we can become true fitness minimalists, it’s important to steer clear of the time sucks that could derail our best efforts. As fitness authority Alwyn Cosgrove puts it, some equipment is a “nice to have, not a need to have.” Cosgrove goes on to state that, “your gains have nothing to do with what equipment you have access to, but everything to do with the work you put in.” If your current routine isn’t delivering results, take a closer look at how you’re using the following.

Exercise machines. Navigating a maze of machines, waiting in line, and wiping them down after each use takes a whole lot of time—time that could be better spent on a more effective workout routine. Plus, some machines like the leg extension and Smith machine might be doing harm than good. Take a page from Cosgrove’s playbook by sticking to workouts that use less equipment but are, “simple, time efficient and brutally effective.”

Cardio equipment. It’s nice to watch television while gliding effortlessly forward and backward on an elliptical, but it’s not effective, efficient and it’s certainly not necessary. Go for a trail run or bike ride instead.

Exercise balls. Sure, the guy balancing on the BOSU ball looks fancy, but research has shown that training on an unstable surface yields few benefits. Plus, the women performing chest press or shoulder press on the Swiss ball could be spending her time more wisely as well. In one study, the chest press and shoulder press were most effective when executed on a stable surface. Sometimes keeping things simple pays off.

No More Excuses

No time, no money, and no gym membership are no longer a reason not to exercise. Become a fitness minimalist and eliminate the excuses along with the excess. By upping the intensity of workouts and using the right equipment, if any, it’s possible to workout anywhere, anytime—even when you’re short on time.


2013 - The Year in Books (Off the Beaten Path)

This is my annual "best of" list for books in 2013 - accept this year a lot of what I read was not stuff you will see on best-seller lists or on other people's best of lists. I don't have time to write reviews for all of these, so I am including info from the publisher's page about the book, including contents.

Large Image

The first book in my collection of 2013 books you likely did not see reviewed anywhere in the mainstream press, if they have been reviewed at all, is also the best of the year, Trauma and the Soul, his follow-up to the well-loved The Inner World of Trauma.

Kalsched offers a rare interdisciplinary approach to psychotherapy, one that integrates psychoanalysis (the postmodern relational version), Jungian analytical psychology, trauma-focused models, somatic therapies, and even some cognitive approaches.

More than the previous book, this one has more of a spiritual depth and relies on the mytho-poetic realm of the imaginal. This adds depth and relevance to his work with trauma survivors.

Trauma and the Soul: A psycho-spiritual approach to human development and its interruption

by Donald Kalsched
Routledge, 2013

About the Book:

In Trauma and the Soul, Donald Kalsched continues the exploration he began in his first book, The Inner World of Trauma (1996)—this time going further into the mystical or spiritual moments that often occur around the intimacies of psychoanalytic work. Through extended clinical vignettes, including therapeutic dialogue and dreams, he shows how depth psychotherapy with trauma’s survivors can open both analytic partners to "another world" of non-ordinary reality in which daimonic powers reside, both light and dark. This mytho-poetic world, he suggests, is not simply a defensive product of our struggle with the harsh realities of living as Freud suggested, but is an everlasting fact of human experience—a mystery that is often at the very center of the healing process, and yet at other times, strangely resists it.

With these "two worlds" in focus, Kalsched explores a variety of themes as he builds, chapter by chapter, an integrated psycho-spiritual approach to trauma and its treatment including:
  • images of the lost soul-child in dreams and how this "child" represents an essential core of aliveness that is both protected and persecuted by the psyche’s defenses;
  • Dante’s guided descent into the Inferno of Hell as a paradigm for the psychotherapy process and its inevitable struggle with self-destructive energies;
  • childhood innocence and its central role in a person’s spiritual life seen through the story of St. Exupéry’s The Little Prince;
  • how clinical attention to implicit processes in the relational field, as well as discoveries in body-based affective neuroscience are making trauma treatment more effective;
  • the life of C.G. Jung as it portrays his early trauma, his soul’s retreat into an inner sanctuary, and his gradual recovery of wholeness through the integration of his divided self.
This is a book that restores the mystery to psychoanalytic work. It tells stories of ordinary patients and ordinary psychotherapists who, through working together, glimpse the reality of the human soul and the depth of the spirit, and are changed by the experience. Trauma and the Soul will be of particular interest to practicing psychotherapists, psychoanalysts, analytical psychologists, and expressive arts therapists, including those with a "spiritual" orientation.


1. Trauma and Life-Saving Encounters with the Numinous.
2. Loss and Recovery of the Soul-Child.
3. Dissociation and the Dark Side of the Defensive System: Dante's Encounter with "Dis" in the Inferno.
4. Trauma, Transformation and Transcendence: The Case of Mike.
5. Wholeness and Anti-Wholeness Defenses.
6. Psychoanalytic Approaches to the Inner World: Applying Theory to the Cases so Far.
7. Innocence, Its Loss and Recovery: Reflections on St. Exuperey's The Little Prince.
8. C. G. Jung Between the Worlds: Was Jung's Divided Self Pathological?
9. Dismemberment and Re-memberment: Reflections on a Case of Embodied Dream Work in Light of Grimm's Fairy Tale The Woman Without Hands.

* * * * *

This next book is new to me and I found it at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference. The author has been using Allan Schore's Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development (1994) in her graduate classes and wrote this book to bring that material into the clinical setting more easily.

Some of it feels pretty basic, but then I have read all of Allan Schore's books, so the material is not new to me. Where the book shines is in making the connections between brain science and psychological processes that we deal with in the therapy room.

Neurobiology Essentials for Clinicians: What Every Therapist Needs to Know


A primer on brain functionality as it relates to therapeutic work.

This book presents an overview of the latest theories of affect regulation and focuses on how these theories work in clinical settings and how therapists can be taught to implement them. The notion of teaching and learning will be extended by the theories themselves—the author presents methods of education that enact the theories being taught.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each one highlighting a particular structure or related structures of the brain. Suggestions for learning how to clinically apply the neurobiological/neuroanatomical information are offered. What is so unique about this book is that the bulk of the chapters are clinical dialogue, accompanied by neurobiological commentary. Thus, readers can see for themselves, during the course of parts of sessions, just how a “neurobiological outlook” can inform therapeutic understandings of what clients are doing and saying. The result is a very user-friendly learning experience for readers, as they are taken along a journey of understanding various brain systems and how they relate to psychotherapeutic principles.

Elegantly bridging the gap between the academic and clinical domains, this book is essential for anyone interested in the application of neurobiological principles to psychotherapy and wishes to learn about neurobiology without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated.


Part I. Neurobiological Underpinnings of Selected Clinical Experiences
1. Affect Regulation and the Autonomic Nervous System
2. Defense Mechanisms and the Limbic System
3. Threat Management and the Amygdala
4. Therapeutic Engagement Issues and the Vagal System
5. Personality Disorders as Affect Management Strategies

Part II : Special Populations
6. Neurobiological Considerations in Working with Adolescents
7. Working with Groups: How Selected Principles of Regulation Theory can be Applied to Group Work
8. Integrating Selected Neurobiological Concepts into the Supervisory Process

* * * * *

You might be seeing a theme here - many of the books I read this year (the majority of them being much older and not included here) are therapy related, as is this one.

Self and Emotional Life: Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and Neuroscience
by Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou
Columbia University Press, 2013

About the Book:

Adrian Johnston and Catherine Malabou defy theoretical humanities’ deeply-entrenched resistance to engagements with the life sciences. Rather than treat biology and its branches as hopelessly reductive and politically suspect, they view recent advances in neurobiology and its adjacent scientific fields as providing crucial catalysts to a radical rethinking of subjectivity.

Merging three distinct disciplines—European philosophy from Descartes to the present, Freudian-Lacanian psychoanalysis, and affective neuroscience—Johnston and Malabou triangulate the emotional life of affective subjects as conceptualized in philosophy and psychoanalysis with neuroscience. Their experiments yield different outcomes. Johnston finds psychoanalysis and neurobiology have the potential to enrich each other, though affective neuroscience demands a reconsideration of whether affects can be unconscious. Investigating this vexed issue has profound implications for theoretical and practical analysis, as well as philosophical understandings of the emotions.

Malabou believes scientific explorations of the brain seriously problematize established notions of affective subjectivity in Continental philosophy and Freudian-Lacanian analysis. She confronts philosophy and psychoanalysis with something neither field has seriously considered: the concept of wonder and the cold, disturbing visage of those who have been affected by disease or injury, such that they are no longer affected emotionally. At stake in this exchange are some of philosophy’s most important claims concerning the relationship between the subjective mind and the objective body, the structures and dynamics of the unconscious dimensions of mental life, the role emotion plays in making us human, and the functional differences between philosophy and science.

Preface: From Nonfeeling to Misfeeling—Affects Between Trauma and the Unconscious

Part I. Go Wonder: Subjectivity and Affects in Neurobiological Times (Catherine Malabou)

Introduction: From the Passionate Soul to the Emotional Brain
1. What Does “of” Mean in Descartes’s Expression “The Passions of the Soul”?
2. A “Self-Touching You”: Derrida and Descartes
3. The Neural Self: Damasio Meets Descartes
4. Affects Are Always Affects of Essence: Book 3 of Spinoza’s Ethics
5. The Face and the Close-Up: Deleuze’s Spinozist Approach to Descartes
6. Damasio as a Reader of Spinoza
7. On Neural Plasticity, Trauma, and the Loss of Affects: The Two Meanings of Plasticity

Part II. Misfelt Feelings: Unconscious Affect Between Psychoanalysis, Neuroscience, and Philosophy (Adrian Johnston)

8. Guilt and the Feel of Feeling: Toward a New Conception of Affects
9. Feeling Without Feeling: Freud and the Unresolved Problem of Unconscious Guilt
10. Affects, Emotions, and Feelings: Freud's Metapsychologies of Affective Life
11. From Signifiers to Jouis-sens: Lacan’s Senti-ments and Affectuations
12. Emotional Life After Lacan: From Psychoanalysis to the Neurosciences
13. Affects Are Signifiers: The Infinite Judgment of a Lacanian Affective Neuroscience
Postface: The Paradoxes of the Principle of Constancy

* * * * *

This is one has only been out for the last month or two, and it's dated 2014, but I have a pdf review copy of it. It's a good overview of the ethical issues surrounding biotechnology.

Human Nature in an Age of Biotechnology: The Case for Mediated Posthumanism

by Tamar Sharon
Springer, 2014
Content Level: Research

About the Book:
  • Presents a comparison of models via an exploration of key issues, from human enhancement, to eugenics, and new configurations of biopower
  • Offers a new perspective on human-technology relations that evades the dichotomy of “protecting” ourselves from technology vs. embracing technology as progress
  • Includes a special chapter on molecular biomedicine and evolutionary biology links STS and philosophy of technology to current trends in biology
New biotechnologies have propelled the question of what it means to be human – or posthuman – to the forefront of societal and scientific consideration. This volume provides an accessible, critical overview of the main approaches in the debate on posthumanism, and argues that they do not adequately address the question of what it means to be human in an age of biotechnology. Not because they belong to rival political camps, but because they are grounded in a humanist ontology that presupposes a radical separation between human subjects and technological objects.

The volume offers a comprehensive mapping of posthumanist discourse divided into four broad approaches—two humanist-based approaches: dystopic and liberal posthumanism, and two non-humanist approaches: radical and methodological posthumanism. The author compares and contrasts these models via an exploration of key issues, from human enhancement, to eugenics, to new configurations of biopower, questioning what role technology plays in defining the boundaries of the human, the subject and nature for each.

Building on the contributions and limitations of radical and methodological posthumanism, the author develops a novel perspective, mediated posthumanism, that brings together insights in the philosophy of technology, the sociology of biomedicine, and Michel Foucault’s work on ethical subject constitution. In this framework, technology is neither a neutral tool nor a force that alienates humanity from itself, but something that is always already part of the experience of being human, and subjectivity is viewed as an emergent property that is constantly being shaped and transformed by its engagements with biotechnologies. Mediated posthumanism becomes a tool for identifying novel ethical modes of human experience that are richer and more multifaceted than current posthumanist perspectives allow for.

The book will be essential reading for students and scholars working on ethics and technology, philosophy of technology, poststructuralism, technology and the body, and medical ethics.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction.
Chapter 2. A Cartography of the Posthuman.
Chapter 3. The Human Enhancement Debate: For, Against and from Human Nature.
Chapter 4. Towards a Non-Humanist Posthumanism: The Originary Prostheticity of Radical and Methodological Posthumanism.
Chapter 5. From Molar to Molecular Bodies: Posthumanist Frameworks in Contemporary Biology.
Chapter 6. Posthuman Subjectivity: Beyond Modern Metaphysics.
Chapter 7. Technologically Produced Nature: Nature Beyond Schizophrenia and Paranoia.
Chapter 8. New Modes of Ethical Selfhood: Geneticization and Genetically Responsible Subjectivity.
Chapter 9. Conclusion.

 * * * * *

Yes, a book by a Catholic contemplative is one of the best things I have read this year. I began reading his books to vet them for my clients who are Christian and who have never been introduced to nondual thinking or the Perennial Philosophy.

Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self

by Richard Rohr
Jossey-Bass, 2013

About the Book:

Dissolve the distractions of ego to find our authentic selves in God

In his bestselling book Falling Upward, Richard Rohr talked about ego (or the False Self) and how it gets in the way of spiritual maturity. But if there's a False Self, is there also a True Self? What is it? How is it found? Why does it matter? And what does it have to do with the spiritual journey? This book likens True Self to a diamond, buried deep within us, formed under the intense pressure of our lives, that must be searched for, uncovered, separated from all the debris of ego that surrounds it. In a sense True Self must, like Jesus, be resurrected, and that process is not resuscitation but transformation.

  • Shows how to navigate spiritually difficult terrain with clear vision and tools to uncover our True Selves
  • Written by Father Richard Rohr, the bestselling author of Falling Upward
  • Examines the fundamental issues of who we are and helps us on our path of spiritual maturity
Immortal Diamond (whose title is taken from a line in a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem) explores the deepest questions of identity, spirituality, and meaning in Richard Rohr's inimitable style.


Invitation: The Immortal Diamond of the True Self

1 What Is ‘‘The True Self’’? 
2 What Is ‘‘The False Self’’?
3 What Dies and Who Lives?
4 The Knife Edge of Experience
5 Thou Art That
6 If It Is True, It Is True Everywhere
7 Enlightenment at Gunpoint
8 Intimate with Everything
9 Love Is Stronger Than Death

Appendix A The True Self and the False Self
Appendix B A Mosaic of Metaphors
Appendix C Watching at the Tomb: Attitudes for Prayer
Appendix D Head into Heart: ‘‘The Sacred Heart’’
Appendix E Adam’s Breathing: Praying from the Clay
Appendix F Twelve Ways to Practice Resurrection Now

* * * * *

Science has a shadow as well as being the gift that has made our lives much easier - this book, originally published in Italy in 2010, takes a meta-perspective on this topic.

The Tree of Knowledge: The Bright and the Dark Sides of Science

by Claudio Ronchi
Springer, 2014 (original Italian publication was 2010)
Content Level: Popular/general

About the Book:
  • A fascinating long view of science by an author with extensive "insider" knowledge
  • Warns against the assumption that science equates with salvation
  • Paints plausible pictures of different futures, showing how they relate to our use and abuse of science
Whether considered a divine gift or a Promethean conquest, science has indisputably and indelibly marked the course of human history. A product of the intellectual elite, but always nourished by the many fruits of its applications, science appears today to be a perfect system, whose laws and discoveries guide all human activities. Yet the foundations of its authority remain an open question, entailing disquieting aspects that are also to be identified in modern science. Furthermore it is seen to be exerting an increasing power over mankind. Readers are invited to follow an itinerary through the history of science, a voyage which, in the end, enables them to catch a glimpse of two divergent futures: One in which science accelerates the downfall of Homo sapiens, and another in which it helps our species to engage in a new and positive adventure, whose outcome nobody can know.

Table of Contents:

1. Time of Growth
2. Birth and Floruit of Science in the Occident
3. Scientific Research as a Global Enterprise
4. The Crisis of Growth
5. Orthodoxy Versus Heresy
6. The Dissemination of Knowledge
7. Beyond Mankind
8. Artificial Intelligence and Post-Humanity
9. The Beginning and the ‘‘End’’
Appendix A: Glossary
* * * * *

This one is fun, and who doesn't love a superhero? But it's also a bit lame in places - however, it is worth the read.

Edited by Robin S. Rosenberg, PhD
Oxford University Press, 2013

About the Book:
  • Explores why children and adults are captivated by superheroes
  • Brief essays raise fascinating questions about human nature
Superhero fans are everywhere, from the teeming halls of Comic Con to suburban movie theaters, from young children captivated by their first comic books to the die-hard collectors of vintage memorabilia. Why are so many people fascinated by superheroes?

In this thoughtful, engaging, and at times eye-opening volume, Robin Rosenberg--a writer and well-known authority on the psychology of superheroes--offers readers a wealth of insight into superheroes, drawing on the contributions of a top group of psychologists and other scholars. The book ranges widely and tackles many intriguing questions. How do comic characters and stories reflect human nature? Do super powers alone make a hero super? Are superhero stories good for us? Most contributors answer that final question in the affirmative. Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, for instance, argues that we all can learn a lot from superheroes-and what we can learn most of all is the value of wisdom and an ethical stance toward life. On the other hand, restorative justice scholar Mikhail Lyubansky decries the fact that justice in the comic-book world is almost entirely punitive, noting extreme examples such as "Rorschach" in The Watchmen and the aptly named "The Punisher, who embrace a strict eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, delivered instantly and without mercy.

In the end, the appeal of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and legions of others is simple and elemental. Superheroes provide drama, excitement, suspense, and romance and their stories showcase moral dilemmas, villains we love to hate, and protagonists who inspire us. Perhaps as important, their stories allow us to recapture periods of our childhood when our imaginations were cranked up to the maximum--when we really believed we could fly, or knock down the bad guy, or save the city from disaster.

Table of Contents
Part I: Our Relationship with Superheroes
Introduction: Robin Rosenberg
Chapter 1. our fascination with superheroes: Robin Rosenberg
Chapter 2. Superhero comics as Moral Pornography: David Pizarro and Roy Baumeister
Chapter 3. Are Superhero Stories Good for Us?: Reflections from Clinical Practice: Lawrence Rubin
Chapter 4. Emotions in Comics: Why the Silver Age of comics made a difference: Peter Jordan
Chapter 5. The Effects of Superhero Sagas on Our Gendered Selves: Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz and Hillary Pennell

Part II: The Humanity of Superheroes
Chapter 6. Our Superheroes, Our Supervillains: Are They All That Different? Travis Langley
Chapter 7. Are Superheroes Just Supergifted? Robin Rosenberg and Ellen Winner
Chapter 8. The Very Real Work Lives of Superheroes: Illustrations of Work Psychology: Gary Burns
Chapter 9. How super are superheroes? Robert Sternberg
Chapter 10. Superhero Justice: Mikhail Lyubansky

* * * * *

This one is also new (out since October, but listed as 2014). ACT is a cognitive based therapy model developed by Steven C. Hayes (University of Nevada), who strangely does not have a chapter in this book. It adds a mindfulness component (as everything does these days), and this discusses how to use this model with the symptoms of psychosis.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness for Psychosis

Editors: Eric M. J. Morris, Louise C. Johns, Joseph E. Oliver
Wiley-Blackwell, 2013

About the Book:

Emerging from cognitive behavioural traditions, mindfulness and acceptance-based therapies hold promise as new evidence-based approaches for helping people distressed by the symptoms of psychosis. These therapies emphasise changing the relationship with unusual and troublesome experiences through cultivating experiential openness, awareness, and engagement in actions based on personal values. In this volume, leading international researchers and clinicians describe the major treatment models and research background of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Person-Based Cognitive Therapy (PBCT), as well as the use of mindfulness, in individual and group therapeutic contexts. The book contains discrete chapters on developing experiential interventions for voices and paranoia, conducting assessment and case formulation, and a discussion of ways to work with spirituality from a metacognitive standpoint. Further chapters provide details of how clients view their experiences of ACT and PBCT, as well as offering clear protocols based on clinical practice. This practical and informative book will be of use to clinicians and researchers interested in understanding and implementing ACT and mindfulness interventions for people with psychosis. 

Table of Contents

Foreword: Acceptance, Mindfulness and Psychotic Disorders: Creating a New Place to Begin
1. Introduction to Mindfulness and Acceptance-based Therapies for Psychosis: Joseph E. Oliver, Candice Joseph, Majella Byrne, Louise C. Johns and Eric M. J. Morris
2. Theory on Voices: Fran Shawyer, Neil Thomas, Eric M. J. Morris and John Farhall
3. Emotional Processing and Metacognitive Awareness for Persecutory Delusions: Claire Hepworth, Helen Startup and Daniel Freeman
4. Clinical Assessment and Assessment Measures: John Farhall, Fran Shawyer, Neil Thomas and Eric M. J. Morris
5. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Case Formulation: Patty Bach
6. Engaging People with Psychosis in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness: Brandon A. Gaudiano and Andrew M. Busch
7. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Voices: Neil Thomas, Eric M. J. Morris, Fran Shawyer and John Farhall
8. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Delusions: José Manuel García Montes, Marino Pérez Álvarez and Salvador Perona Garcelán
9. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Emotional Dysfunction following Psychosis: Ross White
10. Person-based Cognitive Therapy for Distressing Psychosis: Lyn Ellett
11. Spirituality: A New Way into Understanding Psychosis: Isabel Clarke
12. The Service User Experience of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Person-based Cognitive Therapy: Joseph E. Oliver, Mark Hayward, Helena B. McGuiness and Clara Strauss
13. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for First-episode Psychosis: Joseph E. Oliver and Eric M. J. Morris
14. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Psychosis in Acute Psychiatric Admission Settings
Gordon Mitchell and Amy McArthur
15. Developing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Psychosis as a Group-based Intervention: Amy McArthur, Gordon Mitchell and Louise C. Johns
16. Group Person-based Cognitive Therapy for Distressing Psychosis: Clara Strauss and Mark Hayward

Appendix A: Chessboard Metaphor
Appendix B: Leaves-on-the-Stream Metaphor 
Appendix C: Passengers-on-the-Bus Metaphor
Appendix D: Person-in-the-Hole Metaphor 
Appendix E: Polygraph Metaphor 
Appendix F: See the Wood for the Trees (And Other Helpful Advice for Living Life)
Appendix G: Skiing Metaphor
Appendix H: Tug-of-War-with-the-Monster Metaphor