Category Archives: Uncategorized

We’ve Got Rhythm

At the Near Future Summit 2017, I organized and moderated a capsule on Cycles and Rhythms.  After years of studying the psychophysiology of our relationship to technology (how our attention, emotions, and physiology (breathing, etc.) are impacted by the way we use technology today), I realized that, at a deeper level, this all relates to the rhythms of the body.  And the body is all about rhythm!

For starters: our gait, pulse, respiration, heart rate variability, organs, cranial rhythms, and our circadian rhythms, play a significant role in our health.  Just as our bodies are all about rhythm, our planet, too, is all about cycles and rhythms.

Here’s my blog post from Medium.com on the session.

A few more words (and links!) on the Near Future Summit…

The World Positive area on Medium covered a number of the capsules at the Near Future Summit 

For me, attending this event, was one of the most uplifting and optimistic experiences ever.  Presenter after presenter shared break through technologies  from CleanTech  and urban farming to medicine, and from the treatment of PTSD to anti-recidivism.

If you have a moment to look up any of the following speakers, you’re likely to discover some extraordinary projects and startups:

Medicine:  Dean Kamen, Osman Kibar, Nina Tandon

Food/Urban Farming:  Tobias Peggs

CleanTech:  Ben Bronfman, Etosha Cave, Ilan Gur, Molly Morse

Social Responsibility and Community Building:  Cameron Sinclair, Yosef Ayele, Lindsay Holden

Cycles and Rhythms:  Satchin Panda, Marko Ahtisaari, Dave Gallo, Li-Huei Tsai

PSTD:  Rick Doblin

Criminal Justice Reform:  Valerie Jarrett, Scott Budnick, Catherine Hoke, Lynn Overmann

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

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Thinking about Metrics

Our lust for analytics sometimes divorces us from our humanity.

We have “superpowers” that are  mysterious and challenging to quantify, and, that are at the heart of who we are as human beings.

Only with mutual respect for both the metrics and the mysteries will we thrive as a species.

This is all top of mind for me, at the moment, as I engage with the education non-profits I work with, and also with a few health projects.

In education, how do we “measure” (or even document) curiosity, engagement, passion?   These are qualities that strongly contribute to success.

For health, what are the qualities that contribute to being able to maintain a positive attitude and persist toward positive behavior change as needed?

Please feel free to offer your own thoughts and experiences.

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What’s Interesting?

A young woman  was quite burned out after many years in a job to which she had given her heart and soul.   A colleague described the work as, “Throwing toothpicks at dragons.”

I began to mentor her as she stepped into her transition out of the job and into, she knew not what.  She could hardly imagine what she wanted to do next.

I gave her an assignment:

Every day, text me about something you notice or learn that is interesting to you.  Write as much as you like.

She sent me daily texts and she started to notice a few things.  She noticed that she was most likely to notice human behavior.  When she realized that, she made a point of working to notice design, objects, and how things worked.  She went from noticing people’s attitudes and behavior around Zika in Miami, to how escalators worked.  She realized that, after a few days, she shifted from worrying about her future, to being in the present, curious about the world around her, and curious about the sentient beings in that world.

To give credit where credit is due, I first learned about this exercise from friends who required each of their children, every night at dinner, to share something interesting.  The penalty for not doing so?  A quarter in the jar.

What are you noticing?

 

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What Would You Do?

Note from a Second Grader

scan

Between 1978-1986, I was a teacher and, later, a children’s librarian.  I wrote the children notes and they wrote back to me.

A devastating fire wiped out most everything in my apartment in January 2016.  I’ve been working through smoky documents that were salvaged, and found notes from the children that I had saved.

Bullying today seems nastier and more viral due, in part, to social media.  When I discovered this note, I asked a few people, if Karla had taken their pencil, what would they have done?  What would they recommend to Rachel, the sweet second grader who wrote this note.

What would you have done (as a second grader)?  What would you suggest to Rachel?

 

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The Genius of Attention: Making Peace with Bossy Mind

I am at the airport, in conversation with a man who is deaf. He is speaking, and I’m struggling to understand his speech. I’m distracted. My flight will board soon, and I’ve injured my knee, so I’ll need extra time to board and don’t want to miss the announcement.

He is telling me that he is going to see his 95 year old mother. I notice my distraction and make a decision to shift into paying full attention to this man who seems so interested in social contact. Over the years, I’ve come up with a simple tool to help me tune in to a conversation when I might otherwise be distracted.

I look at the man, noticing his eyes, his facial expressions, his gestures, and his strong desire to connect. I start noticing what I like about this man. As I do this, everything in the background falls away, and I see and hear him. He is an acupuncturist. He loves his mother who is very frail. He struggles with back pain and will also be boarding early.

Before I started using this tool of noticing what I like about a person with whom I’m in conversation, when I felt distracted, my Bossy Mind would direct my distracted mind to FOCUS! This process didn’t bring me into the moment, and into connection, in the same sweet way as noticing what I liked. Bossy Mind nearly always made me feel more anxious and more distracted.

Have you noticed that Bossy Mind is directing the current conversation about attention? “I’m distracted! I’ll never get it all done! I’m addicted to my phone!” This is Bossy Mind talk. Those newspaper headlines announcing: Addicted to Distraction; that’s Global Bossy Mind talking.

Attention, emotion, and breathing are very strongly related. When Bossy Mind owns the conversation and takes us into fear: “I’ll never get it done;” and distraction: “Why have you started ten emails and finished NO emails?!,” our breathing often becomes much shallower. When Bossy Mind revs up its internal dialog, the negativity and judgment often prompts negative emotions, making it more challenging for us focus and attend.

If athletes had a steady stream of Bossy Mind telling them they were distracted, needed to go faster, needed to focus, they would lose the race, drop the ball, and lose the game.

It turns out that with positive emotions, liking and loving, our breathing slows and can become deeper. Further, feelings of gratitude, felt in the whole body — embodied gratitude – can also slow and deepen our breathing, and bring our attention back to the present moment.

I used to think Bossy Mind, the wizard of distraction and overwhelm in my head, needed to be killed, or, at least silenced. Instead of raising a sword to slay Bossy Mind — because I guarantee you, Bossy Mind has a much bigger sword than you have – just, graciously, give Bossy Mind a seat at the table, then gently turn your attention in the direction of the noticing exercise below.

There is a Bossy Mind in every one of us. It needs a seat at the table and it will demand a seat whether you like it or not. But it does not need to be dancing ON the table, stealing the show. Making peace with Bossy Mind is a step toward being an “Attention Genius.”

Here are some things to notice when Bossy Mind is trying to take over:

  • Notice what you like about another person, about your day, or about where you are.
  • Notice beauty around you.
  • Notice how you are safe.
  • Notice the way your feet feel on the floor, the way the chair supporting you feels.

This might take 10 seconds. It might take a minute.

Bossy Mind is the Frito Bandito, the Hamburglar of our Attention. Bossy Mind is also part of who we are, and in accepting that graciously, and turning toward our liking, loving, appreciating, safe selves, our attention is ours to channel as we choose.

Panel on the Genius of Attention, 92nd Street Y, NYC Stone, Kaplan, Nusbaum, Gallagher

Panel on the Genius of Attention, 92nd Street Y, NYC
Stone, Kaplan, Nusbaum, Gallagher

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Email Apnea on CBS

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 12.14.20 PM

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/12/08/expert-warns-doing-this-while-checking-your-messages-can-cause-email-apnea/

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January 8, 2015 · 1:07 pm

Are You Breathing? Do You Have Email Apnea?

It’s believed that many of us spend seven hours or more in front of screens each day. In 2011, researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, found that “…even those who exercise can’t overcome the detrimental effects of too much screen time,”   More here.

Ergonomists offer helpful suggestions regarding desk/computer setup and posture tips. Is that enough? How might screen time be affecting us and what else can we do to support health in our technology saturated lives?

In 2007, I was struggling with chronic respiratory infections and my MD suggested I study Buteyko breathing.

The Buteyko technique has been well-researched in Australia, the UK, and Russia, and has been shown to be very effective for people with asthma. Every day, I would do my Buteyko exercises before heading to my desk to work on email, research, and writing.

I noticed, almost immediately, that once I started to work on email, I was either shallow breathing or holding my breath. I paid attention and noticed that, day after day, this was the case. When I would get up and walk around, my breathing was completely different than it was when I was working on my computer.

I spent seven months observing and talking with others, and even tested friends at my dining room table, using a simple device that tracked pulse and heart rate variability (HRV). I also spoke with researchers, clinicians, psychologists, and neuroscientists to get a sense of what happens to our physiology on cumulative shallow breathing and breath holding.

I gave this a name: email apnea or screen apnea, which means, temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while working (or playing!) in front of screens.

I also noticed that only about 80% of the people I observed and tested had email apnea. Twenty percent did not have it. I became very interested in the 20%! The people who didn’t have email apnea were:

Dancers

Musicians

An IronMan triathlete, and other high performance athletes

A Test Pilot

When I questioned these people, I learned that they had been taught breathing techniques to manage their energy and emotions.

What happens to the body on email apnea?

There are very few studies that look specifically at HRV and physiological changes when we’re working at a screen.

Here they are:

  1. In 2009, Dr. Eric Peper, a researcher and Professor at UCSF, noted “sympathetic arousal” in college students texting messages on mobile devices. http://bit.ly/1tdF0BZ
  1. Researchers, Gloria Mark, Stephen Voida, and Anthony Cardello, made headway formally validating the impact of email, using heart rate variability (HRV) testing. http://huff.to/1pvbzYZ

In other research that looks at cumulative shallow breathing and breath-holding, here’s what I learned:

Drs. Margaret Chesney and David Anderson, formerly of NIH, demonstrated that cumulative breath holding contributes to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to re-absorb sodium, and as the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide becomes compromised, our biochemistry is thrown off.

Nitric Oxide (not to be confused with nitrous oxide, the “laughing gas” used in the dentist’s office) has been implicated in immune function, learning, memory and cognition, sleeping, weight, feeling pain, and inflammation.

With email apnea, or compromised breathing, we tend to go into a “fight or flight” or stressed state. Consider: when we’re afraid, we inhale and hold our breath. We become hyper alert to noises and motion. The body resources itself to run from danger.

In a fight or flight state, the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight nervous system, is activated and causes the liver to dump glucose and cholesterol and the heart rate increases. We crave sugar and carbohydrates.

If you notice that you have email apnea, what can you do?

1.  Awareness

The next time you look something up on your smartphone, or catch yourself responding to a text or email, notice: Are you breathing or holding your breath? Are you aware of your whole body? Or are you mostly aware of the keyboard, your fingers (and your typos!)? Are you holding yourself stiffly or does your body feel relaxed?

2.  Take a break!

Get up once an hour for at least 5-10 minutes. Walk around and take a break. In Finland, students take a break every 45 minutes for 15 minutes and this has been shown to be effective.

3.  Dance

Dancing is a terrific exercise. It can help with breathing, posture, and moving to rhythm.

4.  Sing

Singing is a great way to learn breathing techniques and to improve lung capacity.

Earlier posts on email apnea:

Email Apnea; first posted 2/2008

From Email Apnea to Conscious Computing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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