Archive for March, 2008

More on Strokes and why we all need hemisphere time outs

March 29, 2008

I’m writing this tonite, after a week of travel — much to report from the front lines of neuroscience but right now a personal note:  I’ve just learned that one of my dearest friends and colleagues has suffered a massive stroke.  On the heels of Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk, it seems all the more auspicious to bring to your attention the wisdom of entraining your brain toward relaxation and restoration by means of some contemplative practice. Please take note of the followings symptoms of stroke which Dr. Taylor noted in her talk:From the American Stroke Foundation web page,  http://www.americanstroke.org

If you believe you or someone you know is experiencing any of these signs do not hesitate to call 911 for immediate treatment!

 

Suddenly feeling weak in an arm, hand or leg

Cannot feel one side of your face or body

Suddenly cannot see out of one eye

Suddenly have a hard time walking

Cannot understand what someone is saying

Feeling dizzy or losing your balance

Having the worst headache you have ever had

 

 

How to Recognize a Stroke

 

If you think someone is having a stroke, remember the 60 second test:

 

1. Ask the individual to smile.

 

2. Ask him or her to raise both arms.

 

3. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “It is sunny out today.”

 

IF THE INDIVIDUAL HAS TROUBLE WITH ANY OF THESE TASKS, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!

 

 

Reduce your Risk of Stroke

 

Annual physicals

Healthy diet

Be aware of your family history

Maintain a healthy weight for your body type

Quit smoking

Get regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks

Exercise

If diabetic, manage your blood sugar levels

Take your medications accordingly

 

And to this list, may I add: Please give yourself hemisphere balancing opportunities by means of relaxation or contemplative practices like T.M. or Breathing meditation from any number of traditions like Zen, Qi  Gong … or the breathing practices taught by yours truly, SpaceSuit Yoga.

 

May the Breath Be With All of You Tonite! 

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TED 2008: Conference Afterglow: Jill Bolte Taylor and the Brain

March 15, 2008

Who Are We

http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229

In light of the enthusiastic conference response, Jill Bolte Taylor’s talk at TED 2008 has been posted on TED Talks! (see link above.) Sitting in the audience at Aspen, I can attest to the applause and sea of tears that filled the room — matching the wet eyes shown on satellite screen from Monterey.

Moved and excited by Taylor’s “outing” of a whole-brain picture of human experience, I thus find the comments to follow on TED Talks, a fascinating read on the struggle we continue to have in the “descriptive” stage of human experience.

By that I mean Taylor describes her “split-brain” experience during a stroke, distinguishing between right and left brain modes of meaning making. She herself refers to the serial and parallel processing modes which our brains exhibit in perceiving and organizing the stuff of the reality. And… she also distinguishes the experience of the split as a distinction between consciously feeling ourselves as the “life force power” of the universe, connected to everything, and the “‘cognitive … single, solid, separate being” that has identity, “the me” sense of being alive in the world.

My question to everyone: Which “mode” of description appeals to you or resonates more with your sense of the world: the metaphorical language of information processing or the metaphorical language of psychology? The language that speaks to an analytic, sequenced sense of pattern recognition and memory or a language that denotes a synthetic, “webbed” network of pattern recognition and memory?

Here again is the link to Taylor’s TED Talk and the comments that follow: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/229

I’ll be curious to hear your comments regarding your viewing and consideration of how we can speak of the “dual neural processors” of meaning in our world.

May the Breath Be With You!

TED 2008: Conference Afterglow: Pics and Possibilities: Sxip Shirey, iconoclast music-maker

March 13, 2008

Sxip Shirey and member of TED House Band, TED 2008

TED 2008: Conference Afterglow: Pics and Possibilities

March 12, 2008

Last day spoof on TED 2008Last Day of TED closed with the Kids’  Table Collective spoofing conference creative Sxip Shirey!

TED, Neurological Time Outs and A Secular Sabbath

March 7, 2008

I’m working to get images from TED posted onto this blog, in the meantime, a thought about hemispheric time outs: Stroke or Rest?

I mentioned Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED 2008 talk on hemispheric activity and now after a New York Times article on “secular sabbaths,” a brief plug for a hemispheric time out. Rather than wait for the stress of living to force a neurological shut down, NY Times author Mark Bittman confesses to the benefits of a “virtual” out, that is, countering his own OCD addiction to high tech interface with a “secular sabbath.” I don’t think it’s just technology that holds us neurologically and psychologically captive — it’s the need to step off the wheel of “samasara” as the Buddhists call it, the grinding cycle of life that becomes an imprisoning routine when not embodied.

My mentor and Contemplative Movement teacher Barbara Dilley has been talking about “self-retreats,” e.g. a designated time out that gives us a chance to breath and feel our feet on ground, to listen to the sounds of silence, to look up at the stars, free of social obligations and techno-gizmos — laptops, phones or even electron telescopes (revealed at TED and ironically speaking now on the WEB!). Dilley’s suggestion echoes Bittman’s p.o.v.

The benefits? We should ask Dr. Taylor about the effects of stress on stroke victims vs the effects of hemispheric time outs.

Also see Sharon Begley’s discussion on neuroplasticity, meditation and stroke recovery.

Sending breath your way!

M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Dr. G.

TED 2008: After-conference Glow in the Year of the Brain

March 4, 2008

Good Morning all, the glow of TED still emanates from every neural spark, cell and pore — this post begins with a deep exhale and a memory image, one that I hope will stir conversation amongst those who were at TED and those who watch and listen from afar:

TED models the future of whole-brain learning and doing, and with the addition of music and breathing practice, TED included whole-body learning and doing as well! How brilliant to mediate lectures on particle physics and global warming with hemispheric “time-outs” e.g., the wacky and wonderful Sxip Shirey interludes that at one point, reminded us of our primate origins (which the Kid’s Collective ribbed in classic SNL style! And placing Nellie McKay in the same session as the esteemed Al Gore, showed us activism draws on multiple sources of intelligence and manifests in many forms!!!
For those of us in education — what ever milieu — the medium is the message!

TED Day 4: What’s the Point?

March 3, 2008

2302085579_e29b0fc98c_s.jpgNellie McKay, TED 2008 Day 4

Taking a breath…last session, last day of TED…. 

Poverty

Global Meltdown

Moral imbalance

Complaints, Complaints, Complaints

Too much talk and not enough listening

The last day at TED shined a clear, bright light through the 4 day multi-focal lens on BIG QUESTIONS, pointing to obvious political facts: The world is broken. We can fix it. Let’s stop kvetching. “Yes We Can” (TED played the recent YouTube video of DigDive’s musical re-enactment of Obama’s history making speech — the producers are TEDsters who brought the video to Monterey).With the help of economist Paul Collier, activist Al Gore, musicians/activists Nellie McKay and Bob Geldof, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, planetwalker John Francis, and the Kids Table Collective, TEDsters were called to taking first steps:

Collier: Draw from the lessons of post WWII reconstruction to begin the process of saving the “billion bottom” of starving nations.

Gore: Embrace Democracy, Embrace Citizenry; don’t let the “Lucifer effect” of the past 8 years of American governance hypnotize you into fear and political paralysis. (The Lucifer Effect comment refers to the talk given by Philip Zimbardo, mentioned in my recap blog: Day 2: Does Evil Prevail).

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McKay: Protect and Defend the Innocent (dogs and other best friends). Use plenty of catchy, playful satire and remember…”if you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair.”

Geldof: Avoid Cultural Extinction. Salvage every flotsam and jetsam of human meme-making.

Haidt: Escape the warping of the Moral Matrix. Recognize the “ying and yang” of moral non-duality. “If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between ‘for’ and ‘against’ is the mind’s worst disease.” – Jonathan Haidt, quoting Sent-ts’an, from 700CE China.

Francis: Listen more. Question Assumptions. Listen even more.

The Kids Table Collective: Leave no stone, no toilet seat unturned in search for the origins of life!Our work begins.

Begin with a breath. (Breath precedes initiation).

Thank you TED.23ef515.gif     We Love You! M. A. from L. A.

TED Day 3: Recap II: What Stirs Us? Design and Imagine from the Inside Out!

March 3, 2008

For the somanauts, artists and designers logging onto this blog…

There has been much to celebrate and feel inspired by in the way of visionary ideas presented at TED and for thus of us in the arts and design, two of the best speakers on beauty and creativity gave us ever more reason to remember to create from the “inside out.” Especially after witnessing the tired march of patriarch genius artists led by (now former) Guggenheim Museum director Thomas Krens, it was a relief to hear Yves Behar and Amy Tan each speak on what sparks their idiosyncratic lives. I for one felt both Behar and Tan spoke for all artists and inventors, men AND women who can testify to the deep aesthetic satisfaction one receives by drawing from one’s own wellspring of curiosity and confusion with life on Planet Earth. Clearly these two artists understand what it means to rescue ideas and feelings from places deep inside the cells, tissues and neural connections of their body/minds.

Yves Behar, designer, TED 2008: How do we create?

For Behar and Tan, maybe it was the gift of learning how to connect the past to the present, of growing up in homes with utterly different values and aesthetics than those representing a normative, American mainstream habitat filled with emotional repression and bland, lifeless decor. Behar spoke about the childhood influence of a home made beautiful with Turkish furniture and carpets. He pointed to his playful inspection of animals, battle and love scenes that wove tales of conquest and delight. Tan, with tongue planted playfully in cheek, used quantum mechanics theory to discuss her creative process (a riff on the particle physics presentations that had been given on days prior). Pointing to neurotic family influence as one plausible theory for her literary search for “dark matter,” Tan named her narrative process as one that starts with the search for personal meaning.

Amy Tan, author, TED 2008 Day 3: How Do We Create

How refreshing it was to hear two world-class “imagineers” admit to the stuff that is often at the heart of the creative process, despite what young grad students studying po—mo, lit.crit might tell you. Sure, these two have received enough professional recognition to insure the safety of their confessions. But to speak to the importance of placing ones own values into a work of art to touch the user – that takes a perspective large enough to encompass more than one’s own narcissistic point of view. To paraphrase Behar, ‘it’s not just the value of the object that matters, it’s the values you put into the object, of designing the whole experience from the inside out.” Those of us at TED are now lucky to be touched by Behar’s vision. Look for a TEDster sporting Behar’s latest design for Jawbone – a sleek, luminescent Bluetooth prosthetic that will be the envy of every jewelry designer on the block!

Robert Lang, Origami Theorist and Artist

And speaking of creating from the inside out, origami strategist Robert Lang took the art of folding paper to a new level of high math requiring the smarts of a system’s analyst to figure out the self-assembly algorithms of the folds. Model builders rejoice! (or beware!)

May the Breath Be With You!

M. A. from L. A. a.k.a. Dr. G. blogging on TED 2008

TED Day 3: What’s Out There? What Stirs Us? Storytelling and Art!

March 1, 2008

What’s Out There? What Stirs Us? TEDsters clearly have both curiosity and a love for story telling (who doesn’t?) and DAY 3 at TED gave everyone several chances to downshift from high math to the intimacies of personal and collective narrative — from the heartfelt reporting on the great redwoods and mushroom forests by science writer Richard Preston and mycologist Paul Stamets to the recounting of experiences in a Nigerian prison by the soulful, sexy writer and poet Chris Abani.

Chris Abani, author and poet, TED  2008 Day 3: What Stirs Us?

Of course, one can’t forget the boyish charisma of British physicist Brian Cox charming us with the “creation story” of the physical universe and impassioned plea by ocean explorer Robert Ballard, reminding us that in addition to space probes, the stories of the vast ocean deeps await exploration by the curious and video game talented! Ballard is banking only on youth, but surely there are some aging multi-intelligent somanauts out there who could convince Ballard otherwise!Brian Cox, Phyicist (the British Carl Sagan!), TED Day 3: What’s Out There

TED Day 3: Recap: What Stirs Us! Make Music!

March 1, 2008

Good Morning, recapping from yesterday,

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Two recurrent streams of ideas emptying into the vast ocean of TED intelligence: Story Telling and taking technology to unexpected areas of untapped human creativity and innovation. Whether its 1 laptop per child activated in Eucador and Nigeria or bringing high tech musical scoring to men and women challenged by cerebral palsy (c.p.), there have been extraordinary stories of human generosity and vision that has moved TEDsters in Aspen and Monterey to tears. Yesterday’s highlight in this regard was the chance to hear first hand, a new high tech score by Dan Ellsey, a c.p. patient at Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts. Ellsey, living with the same disease that has attacked the illustrious Stephen Hawking, came to TED to play his extraordinary polyphonic electronic score. We have to thank celebrated composer Tod Machover, from MIT Media Lab, telling Ellsey’s story and taking his talent into new domains of musical talent!!!Dan Ellsey, composer, TED 2008

And less we think think machines only couple with yogic athletic bodies, Ellsey’s sharing of his musical talent shows us that no matter what parameters define your body health and movement, creativity is unlimited if coupled with the right technology of enhancement!!!

By the way, we got to see Stephen Hawking joyfully floating in a new anti-gravitational simulator (which was introduced at the 2007 Space Conference that I mentioned back in early 2007 blogs).

Clearly the TED community recognizes the vast biotech possibilities of bodies in space!

Tod Machover, composer, MIT Media Lab, TED 2008

TED Day 3:Artists really do have antennas

March 1, 2008

I’ve been sitting at TED dumbstruck by a consistent pattern of experience: speakers and commercial interludes suggesting “future” ideas already explored by artists e.g. an ad from “drink aware” appropriating Fischli and Weiss’s 1979 work ” The Way Things Go,” Richard Preston describing biological reiteration vis a vis Tim Hawkinson’s spawing self-portrait iterations, and Walter Isaacson’s unknowing outline of “hypertext” — a practice already innovated by a growing league of artists and writers and written about by the marvelous Kate Hayles.

Being at TED — a community of energized, inventive, entrepreneurial futurists leads me to recognize this coincidence of ideas as important confirmation to including artists in pursuing plausible futures.

Stay tuned!

Dr. G.