Category Archives: Musings

What the Dalai Lama Has to Say About Neuroscience

I feel very strongly that the application of science to understanding the consciousness of meditators is very important… if the good effects of quieting the mind and cultivating wholesome mental states can be demonstrated scientifically, this may have beneficial results for others. – Dalai Lama

This is a quote from the book I’m currently reading, Train Your Mind Change Your Brain, which covers the groundbreaking collaboration between neuroscience and buddhism.

The book follows the last ten or so years of the Mind & Life Institute, a group of the top neuroscientists, a few psychologists, and a few philosophers who meet with the Dalai Lama once a year at his home to discuss advancement in neuroscience.

The forward in the book is written by the Dalai Lama himself, who has been supporting the advancement of neuroscience in ways such as convincing highly trained Tibetan Monks to receive fMRI scans.

The book does a great job of helping you understand neuroscience by starting from early studies and unraveling new findings in a somewhat chronological, and very logical order. The book is packed with studies that demonstrate neuroplasticity, the ability of our brain to change physically.

Love Ambigram (reads the same thing upside down) – by Yohei Nakajima

One of the findings mentioned in this book intrigues me especially. People who were shown words associated with compassion, such as love and hugs, compared to people who were shown other words (both neutral and positive), acted more altruistically in the exercise that followed.1

If simply looking at words can affect our actions, then there is no doubt in my mind that we can change who we are over time by being aware of how we grow and change as human beings, even as adults.

As someone who has been promoting and developing cognitive exercises, I’m excited to know that scientists are out there working hard to prove that happiness can be generated through thought.

1 Attachment, Caregiving, and Altruism: Boosting Attachment SecurityIncreases Compassion and Helping

Aromatherapy for Entrepreneurs

Need to focus, concentrate, or memorize things? Surround yourself with Rosemary.

Want to get a room to start thinking creatively? Use Clove Oil, which stimulates the mind, and combine it with citrus aromas, which elevates mood.

While there doesn’t seem to be many large scale studies that “prove” the effectiveness of aromatherapy, we do know a few things about how it might work.

Your nose is part of what’s called the Olfactory system, which translates the activation of receptors in your nose (which happens when you smell things), and converts them into electrical signals.

What we do know is that this system sends these signals to parts of your brain often associated with social interaction and emotional learning (Amygdala), and memory formation, consolidation, and optimization (Entorhinal Cortex).

Regardless of how different aromas might affect the brain, it seems to make sense (based on what we know about how the brain is wired) that the activation of smell receptors in our nose increases activity in parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, which would, during that time, increase our ability to memorize things efficiently. Following this logic, it seems safe to assume that being surrounded by good smells make us better at social interactions.

Since we know Placebo’s are effective, it’s only logical to surround ourselves with great aromas, notice when it’s positively affecting us, and ignoring it when it doesn’t.

Overtime, surrounding yourself with good aromas will both increase your memory and comfort in social interactions.

I rubbed some Bergamot oil on my hands about an hour ago. It smells like tangerines.

It’s Hard to Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt

It sounds like a stereo type to say that as I get older, I find less variety in the types of clothes I want to wear. This makes it increasingly difficult to remember the articles of clothing and accessories that I used to possess.

Sunglasses and watches are the two things I can’t get myself to purchase, unless for $10 on a boardwalk.

My first watch was a Citizen, which my mother had bought me as a high school graduation gift. It was a beautiful gold watch I loved and wore around for about three years.

My dream watch though, was the Movado, which my mother bought me as a college graduation gift. I’d wanted this watch for many years; by the time I went to college, I’d probably tried every watch at the Movado shop in Bellevue Square (I used to dress up and spend time at Movado trying on watches).

That watch decided to move on within about a year of living with me. It broke my heart, and I haven’t been able to purchase a watch since.

I’ve also had to say bye to two pairs of lovely sunglasses I wish I were still friends with. They were both Ray Ban’s. The more recent one was the cockpit, which I bought my sophomore year of college. I don’t remember our relationship lasting more than 6 months.

I’ve recently started falling in love with Shwood, which makes wooden sunglasses, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for a new relationship.

There’s a part of me that tells me to continue rocking $10 sunglasses, but I want to grow up.

Good Advice

Before you act, listen.

Before you react, think.

Before you spend, earn.

Before you criticize, wait.

Before you pray, forgive.

Before you quit, try.

  • Ernest Hemingway

Blind Optimism


What you see as anger, I see as passion,
what you see as sorrow, I see as emotion,
what you see as hunger, I see as incentive,
what you see as envy, I see as a self-learning,
what you see as fights, I see as misunderstandings,
what you see as awkward, I see as funny,
what you see as embarrassing, I see as humbling,
what you see as difficult, I see as challenging,
what you see as too easy, I see as convenient,
what you see as failure, I see as opportunity,
what you see as unfair, I see as motivating,
what you see as death, I see as life,
what you see as stupid, I see as simple,
what you see as complicated, I see as sophisticated,
what you see as blind optimism, I see as lucky.

Photo from Flickr. Thanks Camdiluv!

44 Tips To Live Life Better.

Within a week, most people will start thinking about their new years resolutions. What will you write down? New years resolutions don’t have to be a big change, rather, I suggest having a few easy resolutions that will make a big difference in your life. I’ve listed 44 examples below for you below.

1) Never leave clothes where they’re not supposed to be.
2) Throw out old things you don’t need immediately.
3) Keep your fridge/freezer clean.
4) What you take out today, put away today. Like scissors, brooms, and dishes.
5) When you’re busy, write down everything you need to do.
6) Think of puns in your every day life. Put a smile on your face.
7) Carry around a notepad. Or start using your phone to take notes.
8 ) Stop watching tv while doing other things. Your brain doesn’t work that way.
9) Stop comparing yourself to others.
10) Write down your emotions, like in a diary. It’s healthy.
11) Take your time when you’re in a rush.
12) Keep track of what you eat.
13) Add new vocabulary to the way you talk.
14) When in doubt, choose the riskier option. Be brave.
15) Hang out by yourself in public more often. This will make you more comfortable with yourself.
16) Get appropriate rest.
17) Add some plants to your home.
18) Wake up when the sun rises.
19) Walk more.
20) Give up less easily.
21) Draw more.
22) Sing & dance when you’re sad.
23) Count lucky occurrences.
24) Laugh for 5 minutes in front of the mirror.
25) Keep better posture.
26) Drink more water.
27) Stop eating fast food.
28) Stretch more often.
29) Congratulate yourself more often.
30) Look at your naked self in the mirror more often. Learn to appreciate your body.
31) Chew your food more before you swallow.
32) Compliment strangers more often.
33) Listen better.
34) Be more memorable when meeting people for the first time.
35) Don’t hesitate to say no when you don’t feel like doing something.
36) Make up white lies more often.
37) Keep your house clean enough to invite guests at all times.
38) Be courteous to strangers. Say “please” and “thank you” to store clerks and customer service.
39) Stop pretending like you know more about a subject than you do. You miss out on hearing what others have to say.
40) Keep emails short.
41) Share positive emotions with others more often.
42) Practice putting your emotions into words.
43) Prioritize expressing gratitude. Send thank you letters and emails promptly.
44) Arrive early to meetings.

Many of these tips were borrowed from a Japanese book titled “キッパリ!

A Religion About Religion

There was a long time in world history where religious groups believed they couldn’t live in harmony. We’ve come a long way since then. However, the result is that some people are left out of religious communities, in part due to what’s commonly referred to as the paradox of choice.

The idea is that when we’re presented with too many choices, we don’t choose one at all.

The people who find themselves caught between religions miss out on the benefits of activities and beliefs that come with being a part of a religious community. Even the people who subscribe to a religion will often hesitate from becoming too involved in it’s activities, understandably questioning the practices of a community seemingly so illogical.

The good news is, the benefits of being a part of a religious community is very similar to being part of a successful social community. The regular conversations you have with the people you relate with provides you with direction on what is considered right or wrong, people to watch out for and vice versa, and a sense of belonging. The difficulty with relying on social communities to provide you with direction is that they lack a core set of rules that everybody agrees upon.

This leads me to the idea that it would be beneficial to have a religion about religion, a set of rules and ideas, that every religious and nonreligious person (in the Orthodox sense) can agree upon. For this religion about religions to be most effective, everything has to be presented logically in a way that still “feels right” to people of various backgrounds and religions. The most appropriate name for this religion is Metareligion.

The prefix meta-, translates to about in English, and is often used to describe something that describes itself. For example, meta-data means “data about data” and meta-jokes are “jokes about jokes”. Following this logic, Metareligion is a religion about religions.

As I did a quick search on the term Metareligion, among other interesting ideas, I came across The Baha’i Faith, which one person describes as a Metareligion. The underlying idea for the Baha’i Faith is unity amongst the world. The teachings and rituals are vague enough to adapt appropriately to the existing religions and societal norms of each culture.

The Baha’i Faith model is new and exciting, while I question whether it’s enough to unify the world. In order to unify the world, you must include atheists an agnostics. It’s clearly difficult however, to come up with a set of rules that appeals to all religions and sciences.

Based on my minimal knowledge of existing religions and spiritual beliefs, I whipped together a quick example of some rules I imagine a Metareligion would have.

1) I will appreciate where I’ve been.
2) I will enjoy where I am.
3) I will look forward to where I’m going.
4) I will participate in a community or communities of people I love.
5) I will work hard doing what I love.

That’s basically the philosophy I follow. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Life After College is Like College

Your 20’s is like your Freshmen year. You go into it thinking you know everything, after all, you were just a senior last year. Then, you realize you don’t really know anything. You stress out a little bit because you feel lost, so you rush to find yourself a community. Some of us want to get pulled up the social ladder so we befriend those who are older. Other simply stick to befriending people in our class – people who have generational pride. Neither choice is wrong nor right, just different.

Your 30’s is like your Sophomore year. You’re feeling comfortable with your lifestyle. You know where to find what. This is about the time you might realize that you don’t necessarily want to study what you studied in High School. You’re excited to have a new class of Freshmen you can show around and teach things to. By this time, you’ve probably bounced around a few communities and settled in with one you like. While you feel somewhat equal to people older than you, you know they still think you’re young. If you befriended the oldest people your Freshmen year, they may not be around to hang out with.

Your 40’s is like your Junior year. You have friends who are both older and younger than you, but they’re not really friends with each other. It’s about this time you wonder if you’ve spent your college years wisely, and might decide to take on some extra curricular activities or difficult classes to boost your knowledge and resume. By the end of your Junior year, you’re really thinking about how you should spend your last year in college.

Your 50’s is like your Senior year. You know what’s up. Some younger people look up to you regardless of who you are or what you’ve accomplished. Some people will work really hard because they know it’s almost over, and others will start goofing off for the same reason. While you’re not disappearing yet, you might as well say bye to the people you’re not necessarily fond of.

Being past 60 is like being an Alumni. No rules apply to you. You can do whatever you want. You can chime in on important decisions and have people listen to you without them expecting you to actually do any work. You only have to hang out with people you want to. You talk about your glory days all the time – people only want to listen if you’re a good story teller.

So if you’re still in your Freshmen year, make sure you meet as many people as you can, try taking a variety of classes, and try out some extra curricular activities. Find out all the opportunities this campus called “the real world” offers you, because you don’t want to graduate with regrets.