Vivian Recommends September 2020

September marks the end of summer and the start of fall, a time of transition. In years past, I’ve seen people get more serious about their fitness at this time. Things seem different this year, so it is a good idea to work on the habit being active any time of the year. It’s not necessary to be serious, just get moving more regularly.

I’ve continued reading for fun and always for learning and last weekend I read an article where Warren Buffet highly endorses this habit as a way of going to bed smarter each day. Here are some books I recommend:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-a fantastic read that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set in a not so distant future, which seems quite plausible at this time. Many thanks to my friend K who gave me this book years ago

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth-a serious and interesting book that gives insight on the assumptions made in the economic models that drive our society and self interest. We can all do our part to regenerate the earth and care for others.

Chaos Point 2012 and Beyond by Ernest Lazlo-this book was on my list for some time and the themes very much echoed those in Doughnut Economics in how we must consider our impact on the environment and our consciousness.

I’ve recommended the Centre of Humane Technology podcast and this month there was a film that featured Tristan Harris, which shows the impact of technology on our well being, the Social Dilemma is a must watch film:

https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224

Last week, a client recommended blue light glasses to use while on the computer. These glasses (available online and at Staples) have made such a difference in making computer work easier on my eyes. It’s kind of amazing to purchase a device that ‘protects’ me from technology, go figure.

Making Life Good Recommends August 2020

It has been lovely to enjoy the Canadian summer weather even although things are so different than summers past. Outdoor reading is best at this time.

Here are some books I enjoyed and recommend this month:

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan. Another fun and frivolous novel by the author of Crazy Rich Asians. Quite perfect escapism while travel is limited

Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza. This book was a truly inspiring read that combines technical understanding of what happens during deep meditation and real life stories of healing. Great reminder to meditate and open your mind daily.

Stand Out of Our Light by James Williams. Great quick read that shows us some ways technology affects our attention and our lives along with some philosophy

In relation to technology I have enjoyed many episodes of this podcast, this is of particular interest since I do not appreciate the auto recommendations on you tube or spotify. This podcast explains what is behind the autoplay:

https://www.humanetech.com/podcast/4-down-the-rabbit-hole-by-design

Being in the field of natural health, I have observed some a disturbing trend of adamant misinformation along with a lack of critical thinking. I’ve been following the Conspirituality podcast and it brings great discussion:

Making Life Good Recommends July 2020

This month marks 20 years of being a fitness trainer for me. With a worldwide pandemic, life certainly is very different, which requires adaptation and at the same time maintaining our health and fitness is more important than ever. Traditional chinese medicine acupuncture will soon be an additional service I offer. Fitness remains my first love and I very much hope to get back to teaching classes again soon.

It has been my habit to read every book that inspires me or comes highly recommended for many years now. I started keeping track of what I read over a decade ago when a friend asked how many books I read in a year. My answer was 20 and when I actually checked to be sure I was telling the truth…it was the truth and the number of books has only increased over the years. What is measured, improves-

Here are my book recommendations for this month:

Atomic Habits by James Clear-great book that breaks down how we can make effective small changes that add up to be consistent new habits that vastly improve our live.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg-I cannot recommend Atomic Habits without also recommending this book, as it was also an excellent perhaps slightly more entertaining book. I very much appreciated learning about the ways our habits are shaped without our knowing.

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols-this book came to by attention based on this clip: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts In this current environment of rampant misinformation, I found this book to be helpful in comprehending how we came to this sad state of affairs. I laughed a few times and also realized the gravity of having large groups of people be led by their feelings and bypassing any form of reasoning. One of the recommendations Tom Nichols had for having a more functional democracy is for the American population to be more engaged in civics and understand their political system. Interestingly, just before finishing the book, I learned of A Starting Point platform which Captain America (Chris Evans) launched for the purpose of educating and engaging more of the population https://www.astartingpoint.com

Being in the field of health and fitness, it has been so disheartening to find so much misinformation being shared on social media. This podcast was incredibly informative in understanding the forces behind the phenomenon: https://rebelwisdom.podbean.com/e/can-truth-survive-big-tech-tristan-harris/

This TED talk is shorter: https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_how_a_handful_of_tech_companies_control_billions_of_minds_every_day?language=en

So we really must be mindful of where we place our attention, plus sanity doesn’t sell

Vivian Recommends June 2020

This has been a challenging time, as gyms are still closed and I have been unable to engage with my pretend cult of fitness, a joke I like to tell at my classes. I thought about writing a rant or at least a strong statement for what I stand for and then realized I have had this blog for 8 years. I have held myself to the standard of speaking lasting truths and share positive energy, so this body of work can grow…I better stick with that and here are some recommendations I have:

I read a few books this month and I highly recommend:

Defending Jacob by William Landay. I watched the Apple Tv show of the same name first and found the emotional story along with the character’s perception of reality to be very engaging. Both the book and the show are great.

Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. This is a fantastic book that goes into the neuroscience of how emotions are held in the body and how we can rewire our minds to build a better version of ourselves.

Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff. This is a book that Mr Rogers bought many copies of to give away and he lived by the principle himself in his shows of delivering a message that was deep and simple. Great book on important philosophies to adopt in life

These articles:

It has been my experience lately and it has also been building up in the past few years that it has become more challenging to have a civil discussion, where both sides are actually heard. It seems more and more people are experts of their own right with no education in addition to feeling entitled to impose their opinions.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts

Looking deeper into the Buddhist philosophy I came across this article:

It’s a long one and such a great reminder in what a mindfulness practice actually involves.

Here is a hilarious album by Chromeo, a Canadian band my brother and I discovered at a Canadian music week many years ago. The name Quarantine Casanova says it all and my fave track is Roni’s Got me Stressed Out:

This meditation I have managed to do a few times this month and have found it to be so helpful, building on the practice of the concepts Joe Dispenza teaches:

https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/dr-joe-dispenza-guided-space-meditation/id955266444?i=1000335916470

Hope you find these recommendations helpful in making life good-

Recipe: Banana Mousse

I like a little dessert, and I was looking into making chocolate mousse with the whipping cream I had on hand. Semi cooked egg yolks didn’t appeal to me, so I considered banana mousse since I also had some ripe bananas on hand. I would never order this anywhere without a taste test first, as banana desserts are only appealing to me when it is made with fresh banana. Here is the very simple and tasty recipe:

1 ripe banana mashed

1 tablespoon rum

2 tablespoons maple syrup

dash of vanilla extract to taste

1 cup whipping cream

In small bowl, mash banana and mix with rum, maple syrup and vanilla extract. In a chilled bowl, whip cream until stiff with electric mixer. Add banana mixture to cream and mix until blended. Chill and serve topped with chopped nuts for crunch. Makes 3-4 servings

Note: This can easily be adapted to coconut milk. The coconut milk needs to be full fat and chilled in order to create a whipped cream like texture

Cooperation Kindness and Peace

It has been an entire month of staying home for me. Major unexpected life change. Surprisingly, I have been okay, but I wouldn’t call it fun. Seems we’re all searching for a new normal, and the answer is not forthcoming with much uncertainty still on the horizon.

I will use my voice here to encourage cooperation, kindness and peace. In my limited interactions with people this month, I’ve seen plenty of the unpleasant side of humanity. In the age of information, we now have a culture of armchair critics and experts who feel their knowledge gained from social media or the news is enough to warrant their incessant judgement of others. Believing that you know better than everyone else is a sign of ego leading the way. No one has any experience in handling a global pandemic, caused by a virus with some semblance to the common cold with potential lethal effects, so logically, people with education in this field, doctors and scientists need to be the leaders to interpret the situation. Of course there will be differing opinions with the ideal being discussion and collaboration.

I’m about to enter practice in traditional chinese medicine, which is considered as alternative health. I will declare that I believe in integrated medicine that would be the purpose of advancement of human knowledge-to learn and create innovative solutions, with collaboration being most effective. We all have a choice every moment to take a step towards being peaceful.

Mindful isolation living

Our daily in life in Canada changed very suddenly a couple weeks ago with the closing of schools and businesses. Having seen the lockdown that happened in China a couple months ago, it seemed implausible that we would see such restriction of freedom here in North America with our cultural norms being so different. When I saw the news of lockdown for friends in Italy, I learned there is no discrimination for a virus. This is a global issue that will be resolved most effectively with the collective cooperation of humanity as a whole.

The field of health and wellness involves connecting with and being around groups of people. Traditional chinese medicine which I’m about to start practicing involves physical touch for diagnosis. It has been a real adjustment to learn and accept that work I know as essential to being healthy is considered a health risk at the moment. All human contact is viewed as a potential health risk for now. How will this affect our psyche in the long term?

How do we cope with our world being so suddenly disrupted? Surely, we will be distracted on some level and we need to find a way to bring ourselves back to balance. The best way to optimize emotional, mental, physical balance and health is to focus on what is within our control. Top priority being how we utilize our time. Depending on our field of work and family situation, we may be busier than usual, adjusting to working from home or completely out of work with time on our hands. For all situations, we need to own our time and cultivate acceptance for the present moment.

Here are some mindful habits I recommend to feel more at peace at this uncertain time:

  • Practice meditation daily, any form for any length of time. I’ve made it a habit to start and end the day with meditation with additional short pieces at sunset and 3 minutes at 9pm daily to join in a collective meditation with friends around the world.
  • Prioritize sleep. With a pandemic illness circulating around the world and no treatment available, the defence is to be as strong and healthy as you can. Sleep is crucial to having optimal health and wellness.
  • Limit the amount of news or social media you consume as it can affect your emotional/mental well being and focus. I decided to stay away from one form of social media and notice feeling much better.
  • Get into a consistent hand washing habit and sanitize your smart phone and computer keyboard with alcohol frequently
  • Maintain healthy eating habits-drinking water, eating veggies and fruit daily, minimizing caffeine intake, and moderate alcohol intake
  • Get fresh air and physical activity daily. We have limited access to fitness facilities at the moment and we’ll need to be creative with the resources and space we have for now. A yoga mat is sufficient to practice yoga, some weights, gliders, tubing, anything that works in your space for strength training.
  • Be creative, try something new! Cook, dance, draw, garden, sing, write, anything that inspires you. Take the opportunity to work on something you’ve always meant to.
  • Most importantly connect with family and friends any way we can, practice gratitude together and reflect on how fortunate we are to be Canadian and we are all in this together with the world.

Healthy Eating On Holiday

It’s been a week of fun in the sun with my good friend and fellow fitness professional K here in Jamaica. We taught fitness classes and enjoyed some amazing food…all included! Being fitness professionals we need to stay in shape, so I’ll share my strategies for eating all you can within reason for the sake of being healthy:

-The buffet is your friend for healthy eating with the most choice of healthy foods- prepared vegetables and fruit. Take the great variety of food as a visual meditation to see which foods you will most enjoy for that meal.

-Make it your plan to have one plate of food with an additional plate for dessert or extra food you like.

-Your main plate, start with your choices for veggies first, then add your choices of carbs and protein to create your own custom meal.

-Take time to thoroughly enjoy your meal, then check in to see if you are still hungry. If so, get some more food, otherwise take a breather and enjoy another course.

-I love desserts, so that is always on my list at a buffet. Depending on the size of the treats, I choose one or two pieces and enjoy with some fruit at the end of a meal. Papaya and pineapple contain digestive enzymes to help digest food.

-Be sure to get some exercise in between enjoying all the delicious food

Exercise Intensity: the cult of sweat

Teaching more group classes I notice January can bring more people into the gym in developing a new habit of exercise. Exercise is a lifelong habit I believe in wholeheartedly. Last week I came to the conclusion I have a passion for exercise and physical education that can be humorously described as belonging to the ‘cult of sweat’.

There seems to be a general trend to ‘high intensity’ exercise which led me to look further at the research and various programs that are widely available. It seems the concept that short, high intensity interval workouts produced more ‘results’ of fat loss has been accepted as a most effective workout to achieve an ideal body composition and overall fitness.

‘High intensity’ exercises require you to utilize most major muscle groups of your body and some of the movements can be complex compound movements. For example, a ‘burpee’ requires a pushup, squat, moving into a plank, jump to a squat and vertical jump. Many new and seasoned exercisers need work to improve any of the above mentioned movements and the emphasis on ‘intensity’ allows for poorly executed movements.

There is no magic bullet to being fit and healthy. It requires commitment and regular practice to have exercise as a part of your lifestyle. Being fit, which I will define as being able to perform a variety of physical activities and movements requires BOTH cardio vascular and strength training. HIIT workouts can only be performed well once you have the fitness to sustain physical activity at a higher heart rate AND have developed the basic strength movement skills of squats, planks, pushups, lunges, etc.

Make it your goal to keep yourself healthy and moving well with a variety of exercise you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy exercise, you still need to move regularly to be healthy and maybe one day you will enjoy it.

Acceptance, gratitude, love, reflection and intention

As 2019 comes to a close it is natural to take some time to reflect on all that has happened this year and decade in the movie of your life. In order to grow and evolve, acceptance of the present moment is necessary. In that acceptance we can find gratitude and love for all that we have. With reflection we may find there are things to change and let go of: the end of a year is the perfect time to clean up and let go. In preparation for a new year, we can come to a state of intention which is loving, kind, beautiful, creative, expansive, infinitely abundant and receptive (to quote Wayne Dyer The Power of Intention)

Best wishes for a fresh start to a new decade of making life good-