High Hippy Season on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
I bought some empanadas from a couple of young girls wandering around selling them to foreigners. I asked to take a photo of them in their beautiful clothes, and they said I could do so only if I would buy them a box of sugary, corn-flavored western cereal, something like Corn Pops. I asked why they wanted it, and the older girl said, “We want to be fat.”
Lake Atitlan! This is one of the jewels of Guatemala, no one will deny, but if you don’t have much time, you could make the mistake of spending it in Panajachel, the transport hub. It’s not ugly, but the main drag is turning into a wannabe Khao San Road full of tchotchke crap, overpriced shops, dozens and dozens of market stalls selling the same thing, and most emblematic, a restaurant called Maya-Vietnam Fusion. Need I say more? More…
Why Mindful Breathing Works
Giving feedback is a whole lot easier than receiving it, especially about writing. So today, when I got an earful about what how to improve my blogs on mindfulness, I felt stressed. But then I remembered to practice what I preach. Put simply, I took a conscious breath, and then another, and so on.
As a result, I gained two insights. First, I can and should strive to write better, as I hope this post will demonstrate. Second, when I follow my own advice (and that of many, many others who promote these techniques), I become increasingly confident that mindfulness really does work if only we choose to practice.
In sum, my critic commented that my ubiquitous advice “to breathe” is simply too vague, and (cringe, cringe) too New Agey. He said, “I want to know why it works in order to believe that it really is useful.” He’s got a point. So here’s my rational response, and it begins with understanding stress and the brain.
We experience “stress” when a specific stressor triggers the sympathetic nervous system, causing the more primitive part of the brain to launch a series of automatic physiological changes known as the fight or flight response. These changes include increased heart rate, muscle tone, blood pressure and concentration/focus. We maintain this heightened state of arousal until the parasympathetic system returns both body and mind to resting state. More…
Happy Birthday, Jimi Hendrix!
Jimi Hendrix would have been 70 today. He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on Nov. 27, 1942 in Seattle. He died in London just 27 years later. But in that short time, he established himself as one of the most important figures in rock & roll history.
Hendrix’ legacy isn’t something that can be quantified, though he has sold more than 80 million records worldwide. His true legacy lies in the limitless influence of his guitar playing and in the enduring appeal of his music. There’s hardly a guitarist alive who doesn’t cite Hendrix as an inspiration, just as there’s hardly a college dorm in America where his songs don’t echo through the halls once in a while. He’s an artist revered by both teacher and student, one that both parents and their children can dig without a shred of irony or embarrassment. His reach extends across generations and continues to yield admirers and imitators. More…