Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Peaceful Terms

This young woman, Malala Yousafzai, sends chills of inspiration down my spine.

Check out how she comes to terms with death as she awaits her assassin from the Taliban: "Malala, just take a shoe and hit him. But then I said, if you hit a Talib with your shoe, then there would be no difference between you and the Talib."

Learn more about her:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

endless opportunities / finite time

Readers, I've neglected Gentlelift.

I've neglected my life passion--connecting to the world via writing.

Sad because there's something personally therapeutic about exposing the innermost thoughts of my conscious. Pulling out the ideas from the bottom of my soul and sharing them with whoever dares to care.  

To some it may seem voyeuristic. To me, it feels like I'm just bringing to light something we've all thought once before or might be turning over already in the backs of our mind.

Some people say it's better to leave things unsaid...

But now, based on personal experience at work, transparency is truly the fasted method toward progress. 

Two heads are better than one, right? 

And what if even more?

Just imagine the possibilities when brilliant minds unite.

OK, so I feel I owe an explanation as to my whereabouts: work, love, distractions, attachments, etc. etc.  

I can make valid excuses.

The main (classic) excuse being that there's only so much time in the day.

Yes, we have a finite amount of time. Which means the decision as to how to spend that finite amount of time becomes immensely important.

So important, that sometimes people shut down and avoid it altogether.

Why else would people waste so much time arguing, worrying, running around in circles...? When there are miracles to behold and endless opportunities to pursue. Or maybe there's no pursuit at all because you've already attained what you've always had from the start.

So fast forward, 
and at the end we might reflect on how we spent this time.

Maybe it was time spent writing, or running, or watching sunsets, or looking deeply into someone's eyes, or striving for perfection, or writing blogs?

But at least it was time spent together, 
with me writing these words and you reading them. 

As long as it was also spent smiling, 
and living life to whatever you deem to be the fullest. 

And digging down deep into one's soul and pulling out whatever might need to be pulled out. 

Hopefully it was spent loving all life's creatures, and feeling grateful for being alive!

was it spent...

was it spent well....

was it spent willfully well... ?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What if You Had a Stroke of Insight?

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the daily grind that we forget what could or might be.

Sometimes, we get so jaded that we forget to ask, "What's my life purpose?"

Sometimes, we get so burnt out... we lose touch with each other, thus losing touch with ourselves.

What matters most?

What's the bigger picture?

What's the shared human experience?

I love this TedTalk by brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor.

Check it out and share in her experience of having a stroke. And listen to the revelations it brought about.

Does such a traumatic event have to occur in order to wake up to what truly matters?

Hopefully not, or else it might be too late.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brain Reflections

Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote:

Sparknotes translates Dickinson's poem as:
“[It's about] the mind’s capacity to absorb, interpret, and subsume perception and experience. 
The brain is wider than the sky despite the sky’s awesome size 
because the brain is able to incorporate the universe into itself,  
and thereby even to absorb the ocean. 
The source of this capacity, in this poem, is God.”

This poem makes me think about how the human brain is so complex...its capacity for understanding is so impressive.

Over the course of hundreds of millions of years, it evolved tailored by the environment, and we developed handy tools like feelings, learning, and memory. 

Then after humans evolved a questioning brain, they naturally began searching for answers to the  mysteries around them. But to what end?

In a book called Chess Metaphors, author Diego Rasskin-Gutman says,
"During the last 30 thousand years (at least), the human species has incessantly questioned its own nature and it's position within the universean overwhelmingly empty enterprise because of the paucity of valid answers and always led by a search for religious meaning.   
Little by little, this search has been stripped of its divine sense as attitudes evolved through the influence of the scientific community and by the transformation of societies in modern nation-states. 
Thus, a huge role has been played by scientists:
  •  Copernicus and Galileo showed that we are not the center of the universe, 
  • Darwin recognized the animal with our being,
  • Freud placed consciousness at the center of the scientific quest,
  •  and Einstein equated matter with energy and showed nature's dependence on point of view."

It's all about perspective.

And the evolution of not only our brains, but of our shared experience.

How one defines God is a very personal journey, but the collective pursuit of that definition influences our relationship with the world and our relationships with each other.

Any path taken is both personal and shared. Am I open and feel awe? Am I closed and feel fear? Am I confused?

So then why is Western society so "mum's the word" about the discovery of a higher truth in the secular context?

I very much respect Dickinson for expressing her inner reflections via poetry, like past poets Rumi and 寒山.

In Dickinson's opinion, the mind is a manifestation of God, or the individual is an instrument of God. 

[here's a little poem response dedicated to her]


hey, brain. 

you may be wider than the sky...

swallowing endlessly 

for total absorption

but why

resist the ocean's deafening roar

participate with silence

Then witness 

the love within 

-also boundless-

our own reflection(s).

simple reflection.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Optical Delusions

An optical delusion is when you see things as you want them to be, not as they truly are. 

Humans make excuses, overlook things that shouldn't be overlooked, hold onto optimism or pessimism, fall into complacency, make assumptions, etc. etc. etc. 

It's so easy to do. 

What's not easy is looking beyond the immediate.  

Is it even possible to fully see if we come pre-programmed with years of conditioning, biases, and opinions?

After all, personal history directly impacts world view. My interpretation of the world is no one else's truth but my own. And of course, your interpretation is uniquely yours.

When we come together, it's so much easier if we work from a compassionate, loving, open, and communicative playbook. Then at least we can help each other draw—if not the right conclusion—then at least a pretty decent one. Because 2 (and more) heads are better than one.

Here's some insight from the brilliant Albert Einstein:

"A human being is part of the whole called by us 'the universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the resta kind of optical delusion of consciousness.

This delusion is kind of a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us. 

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of understanding and compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Ultimate Release

What if you could instantly free yourself from all personal hang ups? In other words...

With one finger snap, you could instantly undo any past mistakes. Melt away any regret, any pain.

What would you gain? What might you lose?

Would you hit that reset button?

What an opportunity! First, my mind raced to all the amazing things I could do free from anxiety and defense mechanisms. I'd have fresh eyes for any situation, try everything, and master anything.

Sounds perfect!

But...wait. There's a catch.

If I deleted all my past mistakes and the grief that went along with it, who would I be?

Life unfurls as a series of continuous moments. There wasn't a huge leap from childhood to now. That includes every single moment... both the happy and the sad.

Looking back, the biggest challenges I've faced have been the most rewarding gateways for personal growth. If I hit that reset button, I would be a shadow of who I am today.

That's when I realized the truest “ultimate release” can't come from erasing (or denying) the past.

A real release comes from tearing down the walls that have been built up and embracing our toughest moments. It means visiting the darkest corners of our soul to examine what we've learned. And celebrating the resilience, strength and wisdom that goes along with it.

When we see our true nature clearly, then we realize that we are perfect just the way we are. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Radical Acceptance

Over the past 6 months, the media machines dominated our psyches with finger pointing and petty drama. And then election day came and went...leaving  behind the bitter sting of rivalry.

Now people (among both parties) are frustrated and feeling all the more divided.

Once in motion, the blame game is hard to unwind.

But our country is still facing plenty of serious systemic issues: job growth, education, environment, public health, and global diplomacy.

Sadly, there isn't a magic wand or fairy godmother to fix it. How will we ever mature enough to swallow our pride and move on for new solutions?

The only cure is a strong dose of radical acceptance.

No, don't worry—I'm not straight up saying accept Barack Obama as president and get over it. My call for acceptance is a call to meet in the middle. It means striking balance. It means transcending political agendas to create new game-changing strategies.

In the ideal scenario, we'd learn from setbacks, survey the situation as it changes, take a different approach if necessary, and evolve. No, this isn't easy. It's complex and can only be done via collaboration (with clear thinking and sans judgement).

And who cares if a solution comes from a democrat, a republican, a 15 year old, or a transient? What matters is: what works and how can we implement it?

Clearly, the world has changed drastically, and the institutions of yester year out of touch. Here's a great article by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times describing just how out of sync our politicians are.

Our bureacratic systems need to hurry to pick up the pace. There's no crystal ball and we're guaranteed to hit bumps along the way. But that's okay because growth hurts.

An example of good government. Seattle Mayor McGinn hosts town halls around the community (including the poorest) to learn about issues affecting the people. And actually does something about it.  

Our definition of radical acceptance should be to give the basic respect for other points of view, and not dismiss them simply because they go against the grain. We need to recognize that there are issues we will never agree on, but we each have a right to autonomy and the right to an opinion (but not all opinions are smart opinions).

On this fundamental foundation of respect, we can bring down walls to bring out the best in each other.  And by doing that, then we can discover the third way which isn't my way  or your way... it's the BEST way.

Even with our differences, we're still one huge dysfunctional family. As my Uncle Jim says, “You can pick your nose, but you can't pick your relatives.” Well, at least we can agree on that!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Traces Left Behind / Finding the Right Track

A happy "little" at Big Brothers Big Sisters' annual picnic

We pass down so much more to our children than just genetic makeup like eye or hair color. We also pass on habits, modes of being, and even ways of viewing the world.

The term “transgenerational inheritance” means we literally pass on our burdens biologically. Studies show that a trauma survivor (like a Holocaust survivor for example) has a greater probability of passing on a gene mutation that inhibits serotonin production. Serotonin is a hormone popularly associated with happiness, and an imbalance could lead to depression. It may be hard to believe, but even symptoms of PTSD are inheritable.

Children are so impressionable. Character traits are inheritable too. Ever notice how children are sponges to glances, gestures, and words? They most likely don't understand the complex reasons behind it, but they still mimic the behavior because it's the status quo.

Volunteering with Big Brothers BigSisters has opened my eyes to the impact adults have on children. There's a little boy in the program whose father was incarcerated. Before joining Big Brothers Big Sisters, Adam thought he was destined for the same fate. Like father, like son, so to speak. But after bonding with a positive mentor in the program, Adam now has a new lease on life! His Big Brother showed him that he is in command of charting his own destiny. And Adam wants to repay the favor by becoming a big brother too one day.

Children in Big Brothers Big Sisters were at one time labeled by the school system as “at-risk.” Were they inherently destined for failure? Not at all. They just needed a helping hand.

It takes a lot of strength to build resilience. I guess after a lot of doors closing shut, it's hard to believe that there's an open door waiting somewhere. In order to muster up the courage needed to find it, you have to first realize that it even exists.

Natural philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said,

"Treat people as if they were
what they ought to be
and you help them to become
what they are capable of being."

In other words, never lower your expectations of people. That's why I'm dedicated to holding myself and our society to a higher standard. In order for our society to advance in a positive direction, we need to ask tough questions: How to break the cycle of poverty? How to end abuse? How to empower at-risk children? Is it possible to decrease the amount of suffering in the world?

Many people blow these questions off. They think they aren't worth asking because the answers are impossible. But I bet no one in the 17th century ever thought it would be possible to go to the moon.

One of my favorite songs is John Lennon's Imagine:

“Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one”

In this song, Lennon reveals an ultimate truth: the first step toward greatness is first imagining that greatness is possible. I can see a future world where we encourage sharing, giving, and cooperation. I can feel a world where every child is taught to believe in themselves.

I started this blog talking about inheriting pain, but I'll end it by trying to pass on a little beauty. A better way is possible. It starts with each of us. When we hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard, we give a great gift to the next generation.

When faced with a choice, always choose love. Choose to inherit love, and choose to pass it on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Why People Act the Way They Do

me: Why do you dress up as a scary clown? him: Why do you find me scary?
We're all guilty of it...At some point or another, we've questioned/analyzed/scrutinized someone else's behavior. Probably because that person's behavior seemed (at the time), well...totally irrational.

So we ask ourselves, "What were they thinking?" or “Why did they do that?" or "How could they have done that?"

The reality is...we'll never reeeally know, because those questions are unanswerable. How could we possibly ever understand another human's motivations when so few of us even understand our own?

To even begin to scratch the surface, there are so many factors at play:

  • Upbringing
  • Handling change 
  • Conflict resolution
  • Cultural background 
  • Neurons firing (or misfiring) 
  • Levels of advertising/media consumption 

To make things even more complicated, there are pieces of our identities that lie deep within, maybe even hidden away from the conscious self.

Someone recently told me a good example of how this plays out. He said, “If you ask me why I bought a Mercedes Benz, I won't say it's because my ego demanded it. I won't say it because I'm probably not even aware that my ego is driving me. The logical part of my brain will step in and make me buy a used one, and that will make me feel better about the decision and distract me.”

There's also the rich tapestry of personal experience, from which springs varying interpretations of reality.  It all comes down to that fact that human experience greatly differs from person to person.

Man, are we complicated! Fully figuring each other out doesn't seem possible anytime soon (unless we learn the Vulcan Mind Meld).

But depsite all of these intricate innerworkings, what blows my mind most is how well humans get along.

We live in cities and work in corporations. We communicate, live in harmony, and create masterpieces. Humans come together for mastery and fulfillment. It seems like achieving harmonic balance in relationships enables people to do more, whereas misalignment holds us back.

I guess, in the end, we don't really need answers to those unanswerable “why” questions, because that's just the way things are. What's more important is valuing healthy relationships and working toward healthier interactions between people.

That's the sweet spot because that's where inspiration lives.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Watch Samsara and Baraka

I just watched the non-narrative film Samsara directed by Ron Fricke.

There is no plot, no storyline, no actors.

I can only describe it as a visual journey that inspires the imagination and thinking.  And it's absolutely stunning.

Watch it, and you'll be shown the world in a new way...a way that might even reinvigorate your perception of it. 

While waiting for it to arrive at a theater near you, check out Fricke's first documentary Baraka online for free. It has a slightly different theme, but I'll leave it up to you to make the comparison. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Why I Write

Someone asked me recently why I write this blog.

Drawn by Lesley Speed Willcockson with inspiration from Pinterest

Because it reminds me to stop and think. It's a public pledge—to remember the promises I've laid out.

Like a personal memory bank of the thoughts I have about myself and toward the world.

And there's a certain kind of freedom that comes from trusting oneself and bowing to self expression.

Many Gentle Lift posts focus on exploring the inner world. That's because I think it's critical to understand the self in order to understand other people.

It does take time: to cultivate the inspiration, to find the resources, to deliver the goods. But it's not a chore or a burden, because it's a way for me to get in touch with me, and hopefully a way to reach out to you.

yup, that's me

Gentle Lift dives into some deep topics, but I hope that my "straight arrow" writing style is at the very least a breath of fresh air in this seemingly dog-eat-dog world.

If by writing this blog, I get to know myself better—well, that makes the extra effort taste all the more sweeter.

Or maybe even inspire some readers to take a timeout... I think that would be a great thing.

Life is too short not to try.

Someone once told me, "Live in the moment, that is perhaps what the meaning of life is." I like the "perhaps" in this statement because it depends on the person. The person has to care enough to find out. Care enough to pause for a timeout. To avoid autopilot. To seize the moment.

I have a lot of respect for the kiwi in this video. Putting forth all that energy because to him, it's worth it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Glimpse of Matt Ridley's Genome

Genome by Matt Ridley is a fascinating read explaining our twenty-three pairs of chromosome and their whats, hows, if sos and so whats. Each chapter offers an in depth look at how the human genome affects our history, fate, intelligence, self-interest, disease, stress, personality, sex, death, and so on, and so forth.  

But what I love most is Ridley's prose. He elegantly transforms complex, abstract concepts into  easy-to-understand metaphors. 

It's been years since I've read it, but Ridley's words left a powerful visual imprint on my mind. Today, I'll illustrate a few of my favorite passages: 

"Imagine that the genome is a book.

There are twenty-three chapters, called Chromosomes.
Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called Genes.
Each story is made up of paragraphs, called Exons,
which are interrupted by advertisements called Introns.
Each paragraph is made up of words, called Codons.
Each word is written in letters called Bases."

"In the beginning was the word.

The word
proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever.

The word
discovered how to rearrange chemicals

so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live.

"The word
transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise.

The word
eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious
to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain...

that could  discover and be aware of the word itself."

"My porridgy contraption boggles every time I think this thought. In four thousand million years of earth history, I am lucky enough to be alive today. In five million species, I was fortunate enough to be born a conscious human being. Among six thousand million people on the planet, I was privileged enough to be born in the country where the word was discovered.

In all of earth's history, biology and geography, I was born just five years after the moment when, and just two hundred miles from the the place where, two members of my own specifies discovered the structure of DNA...

and hence uncovered the greatest, simplest, most surprising secret in the universe."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lessons from Our Grandparents

Recently for the first time, I saw records documenting my great grandfather's emmigration from Italy.

A million questions sprang forth: What was he like? How did he feel?

Was he outgoing and funny?

Ecccentric? Or dark and brooding?

I can picture him setting off to sea, eager for a fresh start. In my mind's eye, I see him landing in his new world and trying hard to fit in.

Eventually came his daughter, my grandmother, on the left.

This picture is—of course—worth a thousand words. But I'm more intrigued by the words that were never said.

What was she thinking at this very moment?

What was her inner world like?

Who was her friend? How did they influence each other?

And were they open to desire?

Did their society present opportunities and hope...or constraints and limitations?

My grandmother recently passed away, so she can't answer these questions now. But at the very least (in an effort to better understand the situation) I can try to re-trace her steps.


History is the link from her past to my present. Her generation faced the aftermath of WW1 and the great depression. A failed economy, mass migration, extensive unemployment, and increased poverty. Gloom that spread across the globe.

And I can only imagine how much more difficult it may have been for first and second generation immigrants...


That was a much different time. Society has changed... and the rules of the game have changed as well.

Our world is an entirely different world to make sense of. It's kinda hard to “follow in their footsteps” or “walk a mile in their shoes” when that road has long been paved into a highway. 

Think about it... today, there are more than one billion internet users. The internet represents choice and possibility.

It reminds me of the printing press from history class. Around 1440, it displaced the old way of doing things—laboriously transcribing texts—and allowed for the mass distribution of knowledge. Sometimes, technology doesn't just make our daily life easier. It also changes the way we communicate, how we obtain knowledge, and deepens our understanding of the world. It changes the fabric of who we are.

By Alte Bilder
With the passing of the older generation, my generation finds itself at an interesting crossroads.

With all that we know now about neuroscience and how influential we are on young minds, we have a moral imperative to leverage this societal shift to promote the good aspects of human nature and minimize the bad.

Sure, in 500 years perhaps anything I do in this life will be long forgotten, but any small impact I had by merely being a good person could leave some faint imprint on future people.

A radio program recently broadcast great words of wisdom from a centenarian. When asked for the most important piece of advice he'd like to pass on, he said:

“Be open to change.

Because it will happen no matter what."

Before the invention of the radio, we would have never dreamed it possible, and when it came out, a lot of people were suspicious of it. Then the same thing happened again with television—it upset a lot of people because they didn't like the direction the world was headed. But eventually people got used to it.

I can still hear his voice say, "If you accept that change is just another inevitable part of life, you'll be better off and much happier.”

 Accepting change frees our minds to promote progress.

What will our generations' legacy be?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Inner Strength trumps Outer Judgment

Photo: Mauricio Alejo

Putting my thoughts out there via this blog can sometimes feel a little daunting. It makes them real, out on an open platter for criticism or judgment. And I blush when I think about coworkers or boyfriends reading these very words.

Of course I want to put my best face forward.

Of course I want to be accepted by the people I care about.

Humans are taught social norms and expected behaviors; we often put on masks to showcase our ideal selves.

But you know what?

When it comes down to it, I don't really care. I won't let fear stop me from believing what I believe or saying what I think should be said.

Out of 7 billion people, there has got to be at least one person who feels the same way I do. And I find strength thinking about the shared human experience. The shared struggles, as well as the shared joys. When you think about all the humans deceased, living, and yet to be born... it makes my personal moments of insecurity seem like an insignificant tear drop in a vast sea.

Really, now who doesn't have complex issues to deal with? Who doesn't face pressure, expectations, unmet desires, or bumps along the road?

I ask you, reader, how do you live a life full of hope and joy, versus collapsing under the weight of so many expectations? For me, I think if I can accept my own flaws, then I can accept the flaws of others. If I can accept others, then I can accept the situations around us. If I can accept uncertainty, then I can focus on finding stable ground. I can allocate my energy toward being healthy, thinking clearly, and learning from the situation.

This is how I try to ground myself when I find myself being an emotional nutcase...when I start doubting myself or who I am:

  • I write. Writing is what sets my heart on fire. It's how I express my thoughts and is my emotional release. What are your life passions? Is it math or painting or soccer or playing the guitar? Whatever allows you to relax into your own skin is always worth doing again and again. How else will you feel connected to your most passionate desires?
  • I reminisce. I do this best by remembering myself as a child. I distinctly remember the 12 year old me--a hyper, free-spirited bookworm in a sunflower dress. When classmates teased me for being nerdy, my parents told me, “Bianca, one day you won't even remember their names.” By golly, mom and dad were right. I can wear that sunflower dress in a bigger size now.
  • I affirm. That means shower myself with the encouragement I need. I have to believe in myself first, because if I don't... then who will? "You can do it, Bianca!"
  • I remind. It might sound cheesy, but I wrote down my personal mission statement. I re-read it whenever I need to remember my life's purpose.
  • I repeat "what doesn't kill me only makes me stronger." It's a popular adage for good reason.

Emotional strength is a muscle.

We have to nurture resilience so in tumultuous times, when probed and prodded by difficult challenges, we have a strong foundation.

Challenges test us and ask, "Who are you?"

Find strength in the answer.

Our future selves will be very proud for spitting back the answer with tenacity and purpose.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make Healthcare Accessible

YOU have the fundamental right to see a doctor regardless of social or financial standing.

It breaks my heart to hear about single mothers who sacrifice their health to provide for their children:

  • I know an amazing single mother who was struggling to get by. She prayed that she wouldn't get into an accident because healthcare was not an option. She had to take care of her son. That money had to go toward making sure he was covered... nevermind her own health.
  • There's another woman who didn't see a doctor practically her entire adult life because she needed to make ends meet for her kids. In other words, she didn't get a mammogram. She died from breast cancer.
Why are we comfortable buying car insurance, but anti-health insurance? My guess why: because the financial liability is clearer in a car crash, whereas there is no immediate gratification to navigating health plans. 

And the choices we have suck. Self-bought insurance plans are too expensive for "high risk" groups (with prior existing conditions or elders) and too expensive for "healthy" groups (youngins who may not have employer health benefits).

The inequity of access is exacerbated in rural or small town America where clinical care (something as simple as a 24-hour pharmacy) is limited or non existent. Residents in these small towns have health insurance, but they don't have access to the care they need.

Recently, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision that allows for the new healthcare law to move forward. It will hold insurance companies more accountable, lower health care costs, and improve the quality of care.

There are obviously many supportive and opposing voices around this issue and I respect everyone's opinion. And here's what I think: I fully support The Affordable Care Act because it provides better access to care. While it might not be a perfect piece of legislation, the law will provide coverage for 30 million people who otherwise have no access to insurance.

While observing the political bickering, I can't help but think how making change is not easy; it's a process. At least we're starting somewhere! We can't just stick our head in the sand and pretend like our health problems will fade away on their own.

And since we're already on topic... how about a reality check? The most common diseases today are caused by lifestyle choices and excessive consumption. Diseases which are preventative.

We will save so much money in the long run by promoting wellness and preventative medicine instead of sending people to the ER when it's already too late. And sadly, it becomes a cycle of disease, passed from generation to generation because parents teach their children to make the same poor food choices. The victims of childhood obesity suffer most because they don't know any better. This is a community issue, not just a parenting issue.

How does the community take ownership?

  • By promoting health eating via healthy school lunches.
  • By offering more walkable routes and green spaces in our neighborhoods.
  • By caring about low-income communities where crime and high traffic deter people from physical exercise.

The health status of our country has many complicated factors and offering affordable healthcare is just one aspect (not the silver bullet) to cure our communities' public health burdens.

We have to be proactive about our health.

I assure you healthcare organizations are also doing their part to fight the spiraling costs of care. I work for Swedish the largest healthcare provider in Seattle. For the past 6 years, they have been working diligently to improve quality, reduce costs and increase access to care. Not to mention the large amount of charity care the organization provides. And I'm personally making it my mission to build new efficiencies and broaden our doctors' reach via technology.

Health is not just's mental and emotional too. Which means reducing stress is also important. So I've decided to tune out the conservative versus liberal bruhaha.

Why is our healthcare subject to the whims of controversy-lovers and drama queens?

Additional Resources:

  • Here is an amazing resource from Reddit to learn about the law
  • Or hear it directly from the White House here
  • BTW- I should also mention that there are alternative healthcare resources for eligible low income families in metropolitan areas like Seattle like Neighborcare which is an amazing organization.

[p.s. the views expressed in this blog do not reflect that of my employer]

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Clear Vision

My buds at Rivet & Sway launched their site today. I adore their eyeware, so when they asked me to model glasses for them, I jumped at the chance.

One particular pair (Kairos) has a special place in my heart because of it's description—it's so suitable for Gentle Lift. Let me share it with you:

What a concept – Kairos.

Wikipedia says:
"Kairos was central to the Sophists, who stressed the rhetor's ability to adapt to and take advantage of changing, contingent circumstances. In Panathenaicus, Isocrates writes that educated people are 'those who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action."

Love the concept of rising to the occasion. In my line of work, I encounter complex challenges on a daily basis. As I try to navigate unchartered territory, stress doesn't enter the equation. My mantra is simply "assess the situation as it unfolds." My confidence comes from my team because I know we'll find success if we try our best to understand. Yes, there's learning, yes, there's knowledge. But the most important goal is understanding.

Understand what exactly? To quote author David Wallechinsky, “Behind every scientific discovery, every engineering feat, every movie, every song or work of art, and every historical event are human beings. The human beings, real people just like the ones we see every day, achieved their results by thinking, working, and consulting with others.” I think it's a pretty darn useful to seek to understand other people, as well as our selves. It means understanding the world around us, and the world inside.

How? By opening our eyes and asking the right questions. Sorta like a pair of glasses. Our vision tends to blur over time with age. But we wear corrective lenses. Our trusty glasses can put the world into focus and we then see things we never dreamed possible.

Why the effort? Because, we are faced with so many choices. Clear vision helps gives us the power to select the best course of action given the situation at hand. The the value of clarity is a positive result.

Anyway, this post's call to action is not to buy glasses (although you could do that too). It's to explore the world around us, ask questions, and never lose our childish curiosity. That's why I try to study other religions, cultures, histories. It's the only way to understand this crazy beautiful world and the crazy beautiful people in it.

And yes, I do firmly believe we should all look hella stylish doing it. Check out Rivet & Sway. ;) 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How Free Is Our Will

Sometimes I wonder: am I free to make my own choices, or is my behavior determined by my genetic code? By the chemicals in my brain? By my social environment?  

Philosophers have put forth some interesting food for thought-

Do we have free will? In other words, do we act solely on our own accord? Without being forced to be influenced by others or natural law?

Or is the universe deterministic in nature? That means that every action that has occurred up to this point has its own predictable root cause, so it was all bound to happen. Therefore, our very behavior must also be deterministic.

And then there's compatibilism which argues that the concepts of free will and determinism are not mutually exclusive. Both free will and determinism can co-occur.

I like the explanation of Hume's Fork in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy:

"Either our actions are determined,
in which case we are not responsible for them,

Or they are the result of random events,
in which case we are not responsible for them."

We probably won't land on a definitive answer during our lifetime, but we can at least take solace in our own individual pathway. As Matt Ridley points out in his book Genome, there's at least some comfort in realizing that we are at the very least each able to express our own determinism and not somebody else's.

So while I think long and hard about how I make the choices I do, I will also remind myself to enjoy the cognitive and societal freedom (or perception of freedom) to make them.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What You Could Learn as a Monk

My best friend Aditya Prasad has been studying neuroscience and meditation for a very long time. This is a video he made summarizing his conclusions.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Death Weighs on Seattle

Seattle's been mourning over the tragic loss of our community members. It's difficult to deal with, and the grief has shaken the city. 

The only way I know how to deal with these things is with dialogue. And yes, you guessed it—this post is my platform.

First off, deep sympathies to the friends and families.


If we want to keep Seattle the safe, beautiful city we admire, we can't ignore violent undercurrents.

Questions come to mind: What do we know? What can we learn? And how do we prevent this? What can we do as a community to prevent meaningless hatred?

Crisis is the time to unite and reflect. It's hard when we have complex emotions to deal with, but it's also when it's most dire. It's our opportunity to uncover wisdom. 

As Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz told reporters about Cafe Racer, "In my almost 30 years in this department, I've never seen anything more horrifying and callous and cold. We as a police department, we as a city, we as a community really need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to never allow anything like this to happen again."

I don't have a solution, but I will say this: these events are showing us humanity's dark side. And it's my belief system that there's a ying to that yang.

To spread empathy.

What do I mean by empathy? Caring. As in actually caring.

Caring comes from within, it means relating to people–to one, a few and to all. It also might mean understanding that society's good is up to each individual. It could mean understanding that one's own wants can be transcended for a greater principle. 

And that one person can ultimately benefit all.

If we all can teach that to our children, and if that actually sunk in, would there still be violence over a material possessions? Or violence from fits of rage? Probably, but even the smallest snowflake could snowball.

Realism and optimisim can meet halfway. Let's honor of the victims and their families by passing along peace and kindess.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Perceiving Time

How do we perceive the passage of time?

There's no quantum leap from childhood to adulthood. We experience millisecond after millisecond...even right...


How we visually imagine the continual flow of those seconds can invoke a wide range of emotion. Busy people think time moves too fast. Some people feel time speeding up or slowing down by life stage. And a ticking clock often symbolizes deadlines, due dates, or new beginnings. 

Can we truly define the nature of time? Einstein said, "People like us who believe in physics know that the distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubborn persistent illusion."

Only one thing is certain: how we feel about it, how we interpret it, and how we spend it varies by person and by culture.

Are you ready to explore the illusion?

If yes, then fire up some candles, turn off the lights, get comfortable. Listen to this radio segment called the "Time Kaleidoscope."