A Tribute to Harper Lee: Her Impact Upon Humanity

I hold profound respect for Harper Lee. The ideas that leaked from her mind and her morals onto the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird leave me bamboozled every time at the exactness of the essence of human kindness that they capture. Written in this legacy are scores upon scores of essential quotes that, if taken seriously and by enough people, could mean an abrupt and drastic change for the better in our world of jealousy, pride, and anger.

This beloved author passed away at age 89 on Friday, February 19th in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. My sorrow over her passing is lessened by the hope of a Michael Jackson-esque revival in reading and immortalizing her prose.

I feel there is no better way to tribute the author than by contemplating on the power of her own words, and how applicable they still are towards humanity.

First off, my favorite quote from To Kill a Mockingbird:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.

– Atticus Finch”

 I believe sincerely in the power of peace. I believe that it is more effective to listen than to talk, and to whisper rather than shout. I believe these things, because I believe them to cut to the core of the aggressor. Atticus Finch is one of my heroes, because his tactics for dealing with aggressive people is so effective that it goes to the extent of not just dealing with the aggressor, but also inspiring others. Essentially, this quote is valuing perseverance and integrity above the use of something other than yourself.

“I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year.

— Scout”

I very much wanted to be Scout the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird; I loved her ferocious spirit, and her distaste of being socially confined to what is appropriate. It wasn’t that she was a die-hard tomboy, she was simply undefinable and therefore infinite. Scout as a character had an extensive personality and impeccable individualism.

“Atticus told me to delete the adjectives and I’d have the facts.”

I wish that I could make a t-shirt of this quote to wear every day of the year. So often we go through life causing pain toward each other simply by misinformation and misunderstanding. Actually, I wish that I could tattoo this quote to the inside of my eyelids, so that I could remember constantly how the truth and embellishment contradict each other.

“People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

 This is a harder one to grasp, I’ll admit, mostly because in our society, pride is analogous to confidence and both are considered acceptable–nay, encouraged. But there is so much truth to this quote. Why should we take pride in our talents? First off, most likely we did nothing but simply inherit them, which in that case is more on our parents for having the good graces to reproduce and create a great kid. Secondly, we undermine and cut down the potential of our talents to influence the rest of humanity when we use part of the potential to brag about ourselves and raise ourselves up. If our talent is as good as we think it is, then it will do the raising. Ultimately, talents exist to benefit the world around us, and not to benefit ourselves. What is the good of going through life self-centeredly, only to arrive at the end with a list of achievements and no one to share in the departure?

There are many, many more stellar Harper Lee quotes from not only To Kill a Mockingbird, but also from her “new” novel Go Set a Watchman that I would be honored to share with you. But, for the sake of space and your own mental attention, I’ll end with this one:

“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.”

 Can you imagine? Being so well-respected and so valued for your justice that people who society deems as “lesser” and who have been oppressed for so many years and so many bad reasons exhibits this kind of respect toward you? I feel like that is the height of what it looks like to be kind to others. You know that you have become a kind contributor to humanity when people afford respect like this to you.

I hope that the memory of Harper Lee provokes desires in you to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird or to go pick up a copy of Go Set a Watchman. Or that you spend just a smidgeon of your time thinking about the effects of your kindness and your own personal legacy.


Always remember that humanity flourishes when watered with kindness.


Peace and Blessings,



Keeping the Boat Afloat: Three Practical Rules for Sanity

I am a person who enjoys pretending that I am not, in fact, a human, but some kind of Herculean Alien from a planet where multitasking is actually possible and the days exist in 43 hour segments. I am sure many of you can relate to this, especially with the piles upon piles of exams to study for, social lives to maintain and the care of the poor little martyr we call Sleep.

Essentially, we are in the same U.S.S Life steamboat, friends, and some days it feels like it takes all of our strength just to bail out the water.

With this in mind, I would like to share with you a few rules that I live by in order to prevent the capsize. I say rules, as opposed to guidelines because I really do mean rules. I believe that we all need a little self-inflicted structure in our lives in order to keep track of ourselves, so these are rules that I follow every day whether I’m feeling the mood or not.

1. Make the Bed
This might seem trivial, but the first thing I do every morning after I swagger out of the beautiful enticement of my Calypso-covers is pull my duvet taunt and re-stack the pillows. This is a mental game. My room could be a disaster– there could be piles of laundry strewn across the carpet, or orange peels scattered haphazardly, or The Great Wall of Dishes littering the sink– but if I can make the bed, then no task is too small. (Plus the fact that it isn’t cluttered with bundled up covers, I can move the laundry from the floor onto the bed, and therefore free up the floor).

So making the bed every morning helps set the tone for the day. Furthermore, when one’s environment is clean and tidy (relative to one’s own standards, no worries) one’s mind is free to be clean and tidy.

2. Move Every Day
In some way, whether it be a good early morning run, a bike ride, a stroll around the campus, a session of either Group Fitness yoga or YouTube Yoga (I recommend Yoga with Adrienne), I move. Every day. I would love to make it every hour but those 90 minute classes–what can you do, you know? Movement is so… beautiful. There is no other way for me to describe how I feel about it. One of my favorite parts of my day is the first movement. After my swagger from the covers and my taunten-ing of the duvet, I set the kettle to boil the precious water that will seep into the industrious grinds of my dark roast coffee. While I wait for the water to boil, I lay on the thick carpet and move around. I wish that I could say it was graceful, or that the image of my first movement for the day is somehow what makes it beautiful. I go through some cat-cow combinations to loosen up my back, and swivel my hips around and open up my shoulders. Then I flow from upward-facing dog, to child’s pose and hit up some hamstring stretching. While this all sounds relatively structured and potentially organized, it’s mostly me flopping clumsily and unpredictably through these movements in a way that would make any yogi convert to a corporate career. But despite what it looks like, I can’t express how good it feels to move. I find that the days when I am confined to a chair are the days when I am the least happy. My body wants to move, it yearns to move. It’s like an ADHD child whining, “Mommy, mommy! Let’s go swimming! Watch me run!” over and over again in my ear. It tends to happen that when we treat our body to what it wants, it treats us back to an influx of endorphins and other pleasant neurotransmitters.

Again, this serves to just slow the sinking of the U.S.S Life that much further and maintain a little sanity.

3. Puzzle All Day Every Day
I love puzzles. Oh gosh, the satisfaction of the little pieces snapping together and creating something beautiful… After classes get out, the last thing I want to do is plow into my homework. I’m tired from having my mind opened for so long, and overwhelmed by the information that I need to transcribe into homework and studying. My instincts are to pull up some Lost while I dip carrots in crunchy peanut butter, or take a good half-hour power nap before hitting the books. But here is the dilemma: I just spent so long opening up my mind with classes and learning, that when I settle into some Netflix or collapse into a Power Nap, my mind closes right back up. And then I have to spend an enormously inefficient amount of time re-opening my mind in order to do homework.

That’s where puzzles come in!

My rule is that my stress relief from classes comes from doing puzzles. Yes, oftentimes I have Lorelei Gilmore’s quirky narrative voice from Gilmore Girls playing on the side, or I’ll have Nina Simone whispering sweet jazz-nothings into my ears. But mainly, I’m doing a puzzle. I’m figuring out which pieces go where, and using my pre-opened mind to search for it. When I am doing a puzzle, I am using my mind in such a way that is keeping it open. But, at the same time, I’m not doing learning which is really the thing that I needed a break from anyway. In some ways, perhaps, searching for the puzzle pieces is fine tuning my brain and preparing me better to do homework. And with the Netflix or the heavenly Ed Sheeran playing in the background, I am still afforded what instincts desired.

By no means am I suggesting that if you don’t immediately implement these three rules into your life, inevitably your feeble attempts to maintain homeostasis will capsize. I mean, you are welcome to take these suggestions and apply them to your own reservoir of rules. I am merely encouraging you to bring intentionality to your life, especially if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed.

If you have a few of your own rules that work really well for you, please comment and share them! I believe that humanity was intended for co-existance and that we should share constantly what makes us experience happiness and a sense of security.

As always,
Peace and Blessings



“Impact is never about knowing all the steps ahead, but about taking one intentional step after the other.”
~ Bidemi Mark-Mordi


On The Art of Influencing

Want to be an influential teacher? Want to be a productive boss? Want to be followed? Learn how to learn.


I want you to think back, to hold in your mind the teacher that counted, in your eyes, as a meaningful teacher. The Sir or Madam of whom you will not kindly forget; from whom you perhaps accredit a plethora of valuable life lessons learned.


I want you to hold on to that name.


Now I want you to ask yourself a question. How does that name make you feel? What emotions, what feelings are associated with that name? Possibly respect. That name is a name you respect and highly doubt yourself ever doing otherwise. That name moved you in someway, inspired you to strive for unchartered grounds and newfound territories of potential.


I want you to follow up that question with another, another potentially more important question: how does that name make you feel about yourself? Did that person, that stakeholder in your meaningful existence did that person make you feel respected? Does that name bring forth a memory of you yourself inviting yourself to take hold of life with an upper-hand and make something of it?


For me personally, all of these questions provoked answers fairly quickly. I have the name of the brilliant high school English teacher shining stark in my mind. The name of the teacher that inspired me in no small terms, enough to provoke a love of English learning in me and instill a desire to also join the rank of the English teacher. Our Emporia State University is a school known for it’s excellence in Education and there is no shortage of Education majors, most of whom I am privy to understand can also draw forth names that provoked the pursuit of the Education major.


And by no means is this restricted to us Education majors. I am sure that for every Nursing student there is a medical expert that influenced the desire to pursue nursing. For the Business major, I am sure there was the influential businessman or women who proved that business was a worthwhile enough adventure in which to invest life. We are prey to being influenced. We perhaps owe the great bulk of our ambition to the very entity of being influenced. You saw the new Star Wars movie and fell in love with the independent character of Rey? Now you firmly believe you, too, could be a Jedi? That’s grand! That’s influence.


Other people shape us constantly and considerably, whether consciously or subconsciously (hopefully unconscious can be ruled out for the most part here). I realize this is not a novelty idea in any respect.


But have you taken a moment to pause, to reflect over why these characters in the story of your life have had such revelations over you? Yes, your third grade teacher was super nice, she went out of her way to celebrate your birthday when your parents forgot. She influenced you to pursue a degree in Education. Yes, Rey was mostly just a stellar kick-butt strong female character. She influenced you to escape reality and want to become a Jedi.


I think often what influences us is simpler than exceptional kindness, or showing enough gusto to kick Kylo Ren’s butt in a Jedi dual. I sincerely believe that one does not have to possess exceptional character qualities or fantastical superpowers in order to be influential; I believe influence can be a simple and attainable characteristic for any human to attach to his or her resume of abilities.


Simply put, I believe the power to influence lies in the practice of showing often your own willingness to learn.


My high school English teacher was so grand in my eyes because he was willing to be corrected, such as when he mistakenly taught us that Shakespeare wrote Julius Ceasar in the 1600’s instead of in 1599. Yeah, trivial, I know. You can imagine the groans when the know-it-all kid raised his hand with an exasperated, “Actually…” I am sure my teacher was also throwing mental javelin spears at the bossy interrupter who stalled the class to boost his own ego by going the extra trivial mile to correct this insignificant fact. But my teacher didn’t let frustration show. Instead, my teacher asked for the source, and then nodded his head and exclaimed, “You know what, you’re right. I didn’t know that, and now I do, so thank you”. It really didn’t matter. But then again…it really did. Because this one example, alongside many, made me want to be just like him. I want to be so secure in my intellect and personal potential, that I do not dismiss any intellectual updates or knowledge or ideas. I am the first to admit that I do not know everything–why should I let either my pride or my insecurities stand in the way of my personal improvement? And when I am able to show someone that their information is significant, then I am communicating to them that they are significant.


I think that we all want to be lead by someone who makes us feel significant.


I urge you to bear this simple principle in mind if you have the desire to be as influential as your predecessors: if you want to have influence, show often that you are willing to learn.


One final note: I say simple because I do mean simple; this principle is an easy one to trace back and connect. But by simple, in no way do I mean easy. It takes a significant amount of discipline to prevent your ego from standing in the way. It can be difficult–nay, it is difficult–to admit your fault or ignorance. It can be damaging to the pride to stand corrected. This is something that takes humility.


But can’t you see the net gain? The chance to be someone’s name to the initial question? I would say that makes you significant.

What a unique opportunity for Humanity to rotate in such a beautiful cycle of convincing each other that we are significant.




Peace and Blessings,



The Western Tyrant

“In every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism, or religion, or both to deceive and overawe the People.”

(Canton, OH, Anti-War Speech, June 16, 1918)”
― Eugene V. Debs, Voices of a People’s History of the United States



1. the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.2. the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.

I doubt that I would face much opposition by saying freedom is a good thing. In a world of so much political correctness, I feel fairly confident in that statement. Freedom is essential to humanity; it allows us to breath, to stretch our legs, to become our own person.

However, there exists a paradox. Often times, we extrapolate the definition of freedom to include choice. And when we begin to equate freedom in every way with choice, then the paradox reveals itself. Yes, when one has choice, then one has freedom because freedom is exercised to make the choice. But when one has more choice, it happens that one has less freedom.

Allow me to illustrate.

A study in California was performed to illuminate upon the consequences of choice. On the first day, an aesthetic arrangement of 24 jams were set on a table to taste. The shoppers who participated in the tasting were given a coupon to buy any jam of the same brand in the store. On a different day, the sampling was repeated; except with 6 kinds of jam as opposed to the 24 previous. The same coupon was awarded the sampler. Researchers did note that more shoppers stopped at the table when 24 jams were presented. However, when it came to exercising the freedom to choose a discounted jam with the awarded coupon, only 3% of the group faced with the selection of 24 jams went on to purchase a pot. This is contrasted with the full 30% jam purchase rate of those who were faced with only 6 flavors.

Choice often produces paralysis instead of liberation.

An escalation of expectation occurs with the increase in options. The more choices we have the more we expect there to be the “perfect option”, and anything less than perfect is dissatisfying and leads to regret. If I am faced with the need to purchase jam, and there is only one available kind of jam, then I have relatively low expectation of that jam because “I had no choice”. Therefore, if the jam is delicious, I am pleasantly surprised. If the jam is not so tasty, I don’t blame myself; I only had one choice.

If there are 24 types of jams, however, my chances of regret and dissatisfaction are much higher. If I select the Pimpin’ Pumpkin’  jam and it turns out that pumpkin should never ever be turned into jam, I am experiencing regret because I chose incorrectly and have no one to blame but myself. And whoever decided pumpkin should be a flavor of jam.

With choice, “pleasantly surprised” is virtually eliminated: if one is satisfied with the choice they made, it’s not a surprise at all but a pat on the back for choosing correctly.

There exists the idea of “selecting” vs. “settling”. Faced with the option of purchasing only Creamy or Chunky peanut butter, I decide to select Chunky. I am not overwhelmed by the amount of choices, I am able to envision both spreads and what either spread would serve for my function, and have selected Chunky to be applied to my morning english muffins for the remainder of the week.

If I am tasked with purchasing peanut butter and am met with an enormous array of variety including but not limited to: Reduced Fat, Natural, Smooth, Honey, Recess, Skippy, Planters, Off-Brand, On-Brand, Men’s Health, Omega-3, Woman’s Health, Super Chunky, Chunkreamy, etc…there is no chance that I will be able to envision how each spread will influence my hypothetical english muffin. Therefore, instead of selecting my desired flavor, I settle with one that sounds like it will do, and hope that I’m not disappointed by my choice.

The article, Tyranny of Choice, published in The Economist explains it in this way:”As options multiply, there may be a point at which the effort required to obtain enough information to be able to distinguish sensibly between alternatives outweighs the benefit to the consumer of the extra choice.”

If the excess of choice is actually enslaving us, why does our society operate in this way? Well, psychologist Barry Schwartz, in his book The Paradox of Choice, points to the dogma of affluent Western industrial societies as looking something like this:

“If we are interested in maximizing the welfare of our citizens, the way to do that is to maximize individual freedom. The reason for this is both that freedom is in and of itself good, valuable, worthwhile, essential to being human. And because if people have freedom, then each of us can act on our own to do the things that will maximize our welfare, and no one has to decide on our behalf. The way to maximize freedom is to maximize choice. The more choice people have, the more freedom they have, and the more freedom they have, the more welfare they have”.

It is engrained in the nature of capitalism and our contemporary society. Yes, this idea is beautiful, the idea of unlimited choice so that we as Enlightened individuals can be without boundary or limitation. But this idea fails to consider the characteristics of humanity; we are not multitaskers. We become overwhelmed with choice, overwhelmed with the task of appreciating everything that is presented to us. And we cannot do it, we cannot appreciate so many things at the same time. Unlimited Choice could possibly succeed if we as a species were able to multitask.

The excess of choice is overawe-ing the masses, and as Eugene V. Debs in his anti-war speech claims, this is the intent of a tyrant.


“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of the body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”
― Thomas Jefferson

Peace and Blessings,

Schwartz, B. (2004). The paradox of choice: Why more is less. New York: Ecco
Tyranny of Choice. (2010). Retreived January 31, 2016, from http://www.economist.com

Happy Vegeversary!

“Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.”
― Russell Brand, My Booky Wook

This past week I recently celebrated my vegetarian anniversary along with a wonderful dear pal who also, coincidently, became vegetarian last January as well! It was a grand adventure, we walked to the nearest grocery store and strolled up and down the fresh produce aisles and planned our meal together. We had selected various inspirational movies from the library for a theatrical conclusion to our celebration, among which stood Hidalgo, the Newsies, Unbroken, Good Will Hunting, etc. The pair of us settled down to a delightful dorm-prepared meal of red and orange bell peppers with hummus, steamed sweet potatoes with cinnamon, and vegetarian winter-veggies soup. We enjoyed this with glasses of water and green tea, and then concluded our delightful meal with a Lindt Extra Dark Chocolate truffle.

This morning during my run, I was searching my brain cavities for a good blog post idea. Something that really defined the week. Around when the pain began to really dig in from the run, I settled down to the idea that I should write about my reflections on this last year of being vegetarian-my first year of being vegetarian-because truly I am not the same person.

First, I want to update you on something exciting that I always (used to) get confused on. Vegetarianism, veganism, vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, etc…none of those terms are capitalized in a sentence. It would be like if I capitalized Dog or Hershey Dark Chocolate Bar of Desire and Entrapment in a sentence. Ok, you probably knew all of that. Moving along.

I realized that the way my pal and I celebrated our anniversary is very parallel to what my year of being vegetarian was like. First off, walking to the grocery store. This act made it so that going to the grocery store was a special event, something that we prepared for (extra gloves) and takes a while (hence extra gloves). It’s something we went out of our way for, and we chose not to go the easy way (by driving or teleporting). This is what meal preparation can be. It can sometimes take a little more effort to plan a meal, and the really good vegetarian meals are planned when you get excited for them and when you prepare for them. When one chooses to take the easy way out (nothing by PB&J’s for every meal), then not only will you be slightly malnourished but also you don’t get to appreciate the full jollity of being creative with meals and obtaining all nutrition sources with vegetables. When you walk to the grocery store, the extra calories you burn make you extra hungry making the meal you will consume extra delicious because you’ve got so much extra room. Extra. Yay! It’s incredibly rewarding.

Secondly, strolling up and down the produce aisles. My pal and I took in the sights and smells and colors and variety…there is no variety in a can of tuna. I promise you. Every can will look the same, have pretty much the same quality of food inside. This is completely not true with fresh produce. Each item is slightly different, especially when it’s organic (which I highly recommend, it’s not actually that much more expensive as a whole). You get the power to select your meal, and to touch it, and smell it, and see it, and know where it came from and what it contains. It’s a very meditative process, and very mindful exercise. And indeed, being vegetarian for me, and especially being vegan, has made me a much more mindful and meditative individual. I appreciate food infinitely much more so now than a year ago.

Third, inspirational movies. I must admit that we didn’t actually get the chance to watch one of our selections, namely because we have this unique ability to orchestrate these amazing, deep, and humanity-concerned conversations on the many things about which we share impeccable amounts of passion. And thereby spending 5 hours slowly eating and fast-ly talking. But the idea of watching an inspiration movie was present. My year of being vegetarian has been almost nothing but inspirational. I have met so many amazing people and made so many amazing connections just because of vegetarianism and the fact that people who are vegetarians are truly passionate about the topic. And when we share passions, amazing conversations and friendships almost inevitably ensue. I have seen as many documentaries as I can stomach, listened to podcasts, read books, read blog posts…I have been exposed to so many inspirational people and ideas. People really, really want to save the world. People really want to see animals treated well and our environment cleaned up after. I don’t know about you, but there are some points in my life where I have completely lost faith in humanity. After someone beats up a dog, or treats someone like crap by stabbing them in the back, by tossing bags of trash out on the roads…you get the point. But these vegetarians that I follow, these individuals who really, genuinely want to protect our beautiful gift of nature…they restore my faith in humanity every time. I am so inspired by them. Furthermore, they lead me to believe that I have the chance to make a difference, when so many people like to tell me I’m just “one more person recycling”. We need people in our lives to tell us that we are more than just. 

Fourth, the meal itself. The peppers and hummus and sweet potato and cinnamon. These types of foods, the types of food that are make up the bulk of a vegetarian diet, energize me in so many more ways than meat or dairy ever has. Ever. I rarely feel lethargic or sleepy after a meal now, eating a meal motivates me to productivity and gives me energy immediately after. Isn’t that what a meal should do? Energize? When I ate meat, this was not my experience after a meal. So that’s proof for me enough that my body has been applauding for the year.

Then, the sipping of green tea and the slow, mindful eating of dark chocolate. I touched on this in point one I believe, but vegetarianism has turned me into a mindful eater. I, for the most part, no longer “scarf” down food because it’s a meal time, I no longer grab whatever is convenient for me to eat. Now, I select what I really want to eat. I select what would make my body feel good and energized. I think about what I’m eating, and I savor it. If I am not hungry? I don’t eat. Because if I eat when I’m not hungry, then I’m never going to be hungry, and being hungry is the most satisfying time to eat something. So I would have lost out on the joy of eating when I’m hungry. Part of this new “being selective” comes from yes, having to be a little more conscious of meal balancing. Meat contains a large quantity of protein from the muscle fibers and dairy contains easily accessible quantities of calcium and other nutrients. I do have to eat more broccoli and kale to reach the same levels of Vitamin K. But that has shaped me into a more conscious person, so I welcome the “challenge” (it’s really not that hard to get all nutrients, I promise) because I know that I am now a more mindful individual as a whole.

Lastly and finally, the sharing of the celebration. Vegetarianism is a movement, it’s something to be a part of, to share with others and to build each other up in something we all mutually believe in. It’s a beautiful thing to feel like you are making a difference, perhaps that’s the single greatest take-away I have gotten from my one year of being vegetarian.


On that long note, Happy Vegeversery to me, and to whomever that would also apply. Raise your cup of organic Guatemalan coffee with me to many, many more years to come.


Peace and Blessings,



“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.”
― Franz Kafka


I’m Against Moral Relativism…But That’s Just Me

“One of the most courageous things you can do is identify yourself, know who you are, what you believe in and where you want to go.”

– Sheila Murray Bethel

Moral Relativism, as defined by the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is “is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”

Extreme Example: For me personally, it’s pretty immoral to kill someone. For you, though, it might not be immoral, because it’s relative to your own set of morals. So for me to kill someone is immoral but for you to kill someone is perfectly in tune with the morals. “You do You”.

This is an extreme example of Moral Relativity, and those who identify as Relativists probably would claim this to be an extrapolation of definition, but it functions to explain the concept well enough.

Engaged in a discussion on the topic with a dear pal yesterday, she stated that it was her belief that Moral Relativism is single handedly the cause of humanity’s demise. Honestly, I had never thought about this before. She went on to say that morality cannot be relative, because with that idea leading humanity, there is very little incentive to do good. Why go out of your way to do good–usually at the expense of yourself and for very little personal gain–when there are no consequences to do “bad” (serve yourself at the expense of others)? If selfishness is relatively moral, and I choose for it to be moral for me, than nobody can punish me for it and I am not in the wrong simply because I choose to believe it moral.

We live in a wishy-washy world; we are terrified of being portrayed as “narrow-minded” or judgmental. We want everyone to know that we are extremely accepting of everyone, so that we will not be identified as hypocritical. Instead of stating our beliefs as if they were the right beliefs, we shrug our shoulders and add qualifying words such as “I think that…” and “but I don’t really know” or “but I could be wrong”.

I am among the most guilty of this, folks.

As a serious Vegan, I am very passionate about the Environmental and the footprints of humanity upon our world. I am very passionate about protecting animals and protecting natural resources. I am inflamed by animal agricultural practices that are destroying not only our ecosystems and natural landscapes, but also our morality and our sense of what is and what isn’t humane. I believe whole-heartedly that if we all consumed less meat, we would eradicate world hunger by allowing the grains and oats that would go toward feeding the animals to go toward feeding the hungry humans. I believe firmly that if we cut down on mass commercialized animal agriculture, we could protect Amazon rain forests from being deforested in favor of more agricultural land. I believe we could protect our water sources from toxic, large scale animal manure run-offs.

Ultimately, I believe that my opinions are the correct opinions. I know this sounds arrogant, but if I didn’t believe they were correct, I wouldn’t have them, right? So everybody believes that their opinions are the right ones.

The reason I am a Vegan is to do my personal part in minimizing cruelty. No, I really don’t think that everyone should become vegan or vegetarian, and I don’t hate meat-eaters. I believe that everyone should do their part in some way to minimize cruelty, and being passionate about preserving animals and ecosystems are not the only ways to do this. But at the same time, I believe that everyone should do their part; there isn’t anything passive about this, hanging out and watching Netflix doesn’t count as minimizing cruelty.

When people ask me why I am Vegan, too often do I shrug my shoulders and add the  qualifying words. I tack on “but that’s just me” and “you do you” and “no judgments!” to the end.

I know that we don’t appreciate anyone thrusting opinions and beliefs on us and getting “all up in our face”. So don’t misinterpret me: I don’t want to answer every Vegan question as if I am trying to “convert” the meat-eater, because that’s not helpful and ultimately I’ll lose a lot of friends that way. But I want to be less wishy-washy in my opinions. I want to be less, much less of a Relativist. I want to answer the question in a way that isn’t pushy or forceful, but reveals exactly my levels of passion on the subject. I want to have the courage to stick to my beliefs no matter who is asking, and have the self-confidence to listen with an open mind to alternative beliefs in the way that I have asked them to listen to mine.

So going back to Moral Relativism. The phrase “you do you” is dangerous. It implies that humanity’s only concern should be to live for itself, and that ultimately your sense of authority and ownership should just be you. Do you see how dangerous this is? If we are our own moral compass? I’m not sure about you, but I am far from perfect. I have so many areas of growth to work on, and convincing myself otherwise hinders my own potential to succeed as a human.

Moral Relativism is kind of like communism; it works in theory. It is a beautiful idea that we can accept each other at our entirety and love each other despite our differences. It is a beautiful idea that we should all strive to be as open-minded and accepting as possible. But it doesn’t work, because we need each other to sharpen us. I need people to call me out on my flaws and love me enough to help me improve and develop morally. And that can’t happen if people let “me do me”. Communism is also a beautiful idea; that we can share with each other, and rise to meet each other’s needs. But it also doesn’t work, because we are inherently selfish creatures, and have little innate drive to help random strangers at the expense of ourselves.

So, wrapping this up. We need to find the balance. We need to learn how to deliver our beliefs and morals without wavering in confidence in them, while at the same time, allowing for others to call us out on our flaws and to improve us. We need to learn strength and courage and also humility. We have to stop believing that people should just be able to do whatever they want, because that’s depressurizing humanity’s potential as a species.


Let’s spend a bit of time this week in love; self-love and also love for others.



Sorry not sorry for the vegan rants.

Peace & Blessings,



“What is Decided in the Head is Done”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

One of my recent posts, “The Art of the Good Conversation”, tacked on to this idea of Agents vs. Objects; when we view people as objects, we treat them as if they are the result of something instead of as if they have the power to cause the something. When we allow for people to be agents, we are able to  step back and observe how quickly intrinsic motivation replaces extrinsic, and how much better the job is done.

Too often we treat ourselves like objects, too, especially dealing with the power of the mind.

The mind to me is fascinating; the imagination, the self-talk, the “metaphysics” of it all…none of it is tangible or physically observable. Yet it is something humanity shares in common while at the same time being entirely and completely individualized.

We assume that we can’t change our mind, our mind changes us. We view the mind as the fundamental level of our being, the level that changes everything and nothing is below it to change it.

Here, let me diagram this assumption in a better way:

If I wanted to learn German and become smarter, this is the process I would take. First, my mind chooses that I want to learn German. So my mind directs me to selecting a German audiobook. Then physical Josie takes over, and she physically inserts the disc into her car CD player for the drive home. Then brain Josie listens and interprets the German speaking and learns new vocabulary and grammatical structures.

So in this example, the mind is the agent. The mind is the fundamental basis of change. There exists nothing before the mind, the mind starts it all.

But we are more than a mind. We are a soul, too. So where does that come in to play? If we treat the mind as the sole Agent, the big capital “A”, then does that objectify ourselves? If the definition of an “Object” in the scheme of Agent vs. Object is a being that is a result of something, rather than a cause of something, we are a result of our mind and therefore we begin to view ourselves as the object.

If I chose to view myself as an Agent, a “causer” of change, then the situation would be diagrammed this way:

I am going to decide that I want to learn German. My inner being, my soul/mind/metaphysical combination (whatever you would like to refer to it as) decides that I want to learn. So therefore, because I am motivated from that level, I chose my outputs. My mind is going to work on convincing myself that learning German is worth sacrificing time and worth the effort. My physical being is going to work on securing the tangible objects needed to learn a language. My brain is going to work on plasticity and interpreting.

Perhaps this a slightly confusing idea. I hope that you get it, because there really is a difference between the two, and success is far more likely when approaching goals with the second perspective.

Ultimately, what I’m getting at, is that what is decided in the head is done. This plays around with Deepak Chopra’s idea of Epigenetics, where our genes are not actually set at birth. Instead, they are a series of “on and off” switches attached to a massive amount of possible genes, and nurture and nature take turns activating some genes and deactivating others.

Chopra goes further to claim that not only are our genes not set for us, but they are able to be set by us. Fundamentally: what if our own nurture plays into the influence of nurture vs. nature on our genes? And therefore we are indeed a small master of our own gene expressions?

This kind of nurture begins with awareness. If I had the goal of becoming less selfish, first I would draw awareness to my selfish tendencies. I have a greater chance of overcoming selfishness if I don’t just ignore those instances where I express selfishness. I need to be hyperaware of my fault in this area, so as to establish a routine of trying to avoid emitting selfishness. Perhaps consciously working to replace selfish tendencies with selflessness. And in this way, my own nurturing of my tendencies will provide an influence on my gene expression (selfishness).

The genes to which epigenetics refers to transforming are not the ones such as eye color, height, hair color, skin tone, etc…those gene expressions are indeed fixed at birth. The genes that can be “turn on” and “deactivated” are the ones such as how we think, how we react, our patience levels, certain levels of intelligence, attitude, etc.

I believe that this also applies to any kinds of change. If I want to change my gene expression of only knowing fluently one language to incorporating German fluency into the mix, then I would nurture that gene of language learning. I would do this by drawing awareness to it and then consciously working to activate it.

And thus, what is decided in the head is done.

I hope this sparks something, some motivation and encouragement for change.

Peace and Blessings as always,



“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Dr. Seuss





“Sleep is good, he said, but books are better.”

He that loves reading has everything within his reach.

William Godwin


If you are teetering on whether or not to create a New Years’ Resolution for yourself, or are interested in the idea of a resolution but don’t have any brillant ideas, let me urge you with the possibility of this resolution:

To read 6 books purely for pleasure in 12 months.

That’s only 1 book every 2 months, or 1 book every 60.83333 days or 1 books every 1447.2 hours.

According to the Huffington Post, the average page length of a book in 2015 is 240 pages. So reading 6 240-paged books in 12 months is also the equivalent of reading about 4 pages of a book per day. Only 4! That’s nothing!

I literally believe in you.

A study was done of the most influential leaders of our time (leaders including Nelson Mandela, MLKJr., Churchill, Lincoln, etc.) on what made them so grand and so intelligent. A correlational factor was that all of them read before bed. It ranged from the most trivial of reading children’s bedtime stories to the kiddos before tucking them into bed to the Philosophies of Thoreau and Emerson with a cigar and brandy.

You see, reading empowers your mind. It shapes it and molds it and turns it from play-dough to an intellectual structure of some kind. It’s so incredibly beneficial neurologically. And not to mention, literature is the doorway to the world. It is perspective. It is culture. It is humanity in it’s truest form.

So this post is about encouraging the masses to add reading as a resolution this year by purposefully finishing 6 books in 12 months. And my top 6 book recommendations for you I have posted. (Note: it was incredibly hard to narrow my long list of great literature down to merely 6 wonderful reads. Also these novels are not in any specific order.)

{Summaries and Pictures provided by the http://www.goodreads.com}

  1. The Alchemist- Paulo Coehlo                                  865
    “Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.” 
    Paperback, 197 pages
    Published May 1st 1993 by HarperCollins (first published 1988)
  2. The Kite Runner – Khalad Hosseini                        77203

    “Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

    The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

    A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.”

    Paperback, 371 pages
    Published April 27th 2004 by Penguin Berkley Publishing Group Riverhead Books
  3. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne 21082694
    “The story begins when a mysterious sea monster, theorized by some to be a giant narwhal, is sighted by ships of several nations; an ocean liner is also damaged by the creature. The United States government assembles an expedition to track down and destroy the menace. Professor Pierre Aronnax is a noted French marine biologist and narrator of the story; as he happens to be in America at the time and is a recognized expert in his field, he is issued a last-minute invitation to join the expedition, and he accepts. Canadian master harpoonist Ned Land and Aronnax’s faithful assistant Conseil are also brought along. The expedition sets sail and after much fruitless searching, the monster is found. The ship charges into battle. During the fight, the ship’s steering is damaged, and the three protagonists are thrown overboard. They find themselves stranded on the hide of the creature, only to discover to their surprise that it is a large metal construct. They are quickly captured and brought inside the vessel, where they meet its enigmatic creator and commander, Captain Nemo. It is here the adventure truly begins! This edition is lavishly illustrated with twelve illustrations by James Zimmerman.”
    Kindle Edition, 432 pages
  4. The Maze Runner – James Dashner6186357.jpg 

    “If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

    When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

    Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

    Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

    Everything is going to change.

    Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

    Remember. Survive. Run.”

    Hardcover, First Edition, 384 pages
  5. 1984 – George Orwell                                                    5470 
    “The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia” -a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions -a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time.”
    Mass Market Paperback, Signet Classics, 268 pages

6. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens        


“‘Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; — the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!’

After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.

This edition uses the text as it appeared in its serial publication in 1859 to convey the full scope of Dickens’s vision, and includes the original illustrations by H. K. Browne (‘Phiz’). Richard Maxwell’s introduction discusses the intricate interweaving of epic drama with personal tragedy.”

Paperback, 489 pages


I really hope you take my advice and try making reading a resolution for the year. These are a group of 6 of my personal favorite books (ranging from true Dickens classics to Dystopian novels to Young Adult Fiction to novels about the essence of humanity) that have done me personally a world of good. If you need more recommendations…hit me up.


Peace and Blessings and Happy Holidays!





When Humanity Becomes Objectified

“For it was authority that turned men suspicious and stern-faced. Authority and responsibility which made them not themselves, but a sort of corporate body that tried to think as a corporate body rather than a person.”
Clifford D. Simak, Time Is the Simplest Thing


I truly believe I have one of the greatest part-time jobs in the entire world. I am an eccentric barista at a local Bakehouse; a classy, beautiful, coffee shop that expels the bewitching aroma of baking bread and fresh-brewed coffee.


The windows are plenty and the ceilings are tall with the walls a deep, maroon and blue allowing for plenty of natural light to infiltrate. Classy jazz greats the inner ear, and thus are all senses exemplified. What makes my job so marvelous is not only the location of origin, but also the people with whom I work.


They are a crew of the most Enlightened and wonderful people who are so ready to serve and who are so ready to encourage. They fill me with insurmountable joy whenever I get the pleasure of seeing them, and they teach me so much about life.


Sometimes, though, the days get long. The shifts become double. The machines breakdown. Time becomes unending. All I want to do is lay on the ground and plant my feet up a wall to let all the blood de-coagulate from my ankles.


And in these moments do I truly realize how I treat customers. How I treat those whom I serve.


I have a bad habit of dehumanizing the customer, and I think this is a trend that is rising amongst customer service jobs. Perhaps it’s been like this forever and I just never realized it. But I definitely realize it now.


It’s so easy to get frustrated at this customer. It’s not even a person, it’s a consumerist machine with money that they know your boss wants. The sooner you get them what they want the sooner they will leave and you can get back to doing something meaningful. 


When I take this approach, I miss out on something really beautiful, though. I miss out on getting to know this person as a person and not as an object. Because objects have no stories, no possibilities for enhancing humanity, no perspective. People have perspective and people have ideas.


Where would we be as a society if we started treating more people like people?

At the end of the shift, when I get to punch in those four magical numbers to clock out, ultimately I feel satisfaction almost exclusively if I spent my shift taking meaningful time to get to know other peoples’ perspectives. If I didn’t care to humanize the customer, I leave the shift fixated on all the frustrating moments that happened during the day, or all of the times I was interrupted to go serve the consumer. 


Yeah, usually engaging in a short but meaningful conversation about “So what have you been up to today?” or “Have you had a busy day so far?” with some customers may make the shift take an extra half hour to close, but isn’t a half-an-hour worth that feeling of immense mutual satisfaction?


I think it is.


I have one specific co-barista who is truly excellent at humanizing the customer. He offers genuine compliments, he makes good observations, he engaged the customer in things the person is passionate about. He makes jokes. He laughs with the customer. He essentially invites the person to a friendship.


When I get the pleasure to make drinks while my co-barista runs the register, I have a vastly more meaningful shift that when I am busy oscillating around performing closing duties disengaged from any bothersome customer.

So this leads me to meditate on two things:

  1. I strongly support the Dalai Lama when he says that, “there is no need for temples. No need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness”. The only way that humanity can function optimally is through kindness. This is a universal truth. Love is expressed relative to a culture; religon and spiritual connection are also relative. Kindness and compassion are universal.

2. We were not made to simply get things done. There is a reason why vacations and “me-time” are so necessary; because getting stuff done does not satisfy us. It doesn’t satisfy us because it wasn’t what we were made to do or made to be.

Of course there is no satisfaction that comes from sacrificing a meaningful conversation for the purpose of completing a task. And of course there is no satisfaction that comes from treating a customer as a task to be completed as opposed to a human.

So I leave you with this musing.

What ways, what simple, attainable ways can you humanize the people you pass in the streets? In what way can you treat people like agents and not objects? And what would this mean for us?

What might this do for humanity if we all treated each other like people?


Rather than looking for explanations for why all people deserve to be treated with compassion and respect, we ought to be working at creating a world in which people are treated with compassion and respect. Human rights aren’t lying around waiting to be discovered. They’re made, not found.”
David Livingstone Smith


Happy Old New Year!

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful”

Margaret J. Wheatley

The New Year is a beautiful, symbolic holiday. We use the New Year to kickstart healthy, life-changing habits. To form new friendships. To celebrate the upcoming year and the hope that next year will yield fruit and prosperity in some way. In all of our anticipation for the New Year and the fresh start–planning resolutions, buying gym memberships, cleaning attics–I think that we miss something vital.

Did we ever take the chance to reflect on the past year?

What is the good of setting goals and resolutions when we don’t take the time to enjoy the discipline we put ourselves under? When we don’t take time to appreciate the fruit of our labor for the year and the yield of our efforts? I promise you, this past year was great. In some, maybe tiny tiny way, there was greatness from the year.

Sometimes as a society we are so fixated on changing ourselves and constantly improving, that we forget to slow down and love ourselves and each other. We forget to slow down and be thankful. Slow down and reflect.

Gratitude. Bam. Full circle. (If you read my last post, you would get this reference).

In Russia, there is a tradition of celebrating January 14th (more technically, the lead in to January 14th) as the Old New Year. A day when Russians get together as a family or with friends and celebrate the yield of the previous year, and the accomplishments of the previous year. A time for reflection and gratitude.

I think this holiday is just as important as New Years. Reflection should always follow goals.

So I urge you this year, join me and our Russian friends in celebrating Old New Years with the New Years.

“There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge…observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination”.

Denis Diderot

Peace and Blessings,




A Secret to Happiness

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie


Ultimately, happiness is relative. For me, happiness is sitting with my chescas (authentic handwoven Turkmenistan house-slippers that were gifted to me by a dear pal) propped up on a footrest in the lobby of our floor with my beautiful residents who for some reason have decided to unconditionally show love to me always. Happiness is writing this blog while sipping Mint Rose tea from my dark blue handmade ceramic mug with ABC family playing softly in the background. Happiness is waking up early naturally this morning without the assist of the demonic alarm, and going for a 9.8 mile run in the brisk, uninterrupted December morning air. Listening to podcasts on How Chili Peppers Work and The Time The Nazis Invaded Florida narrated so masterfully by the team on Stuff You Should Know (http://www.stuffyoushouldknow.com/, I highly recommend it). Happiness is being surrounded by people who share the same passion of worshipping God as I do as we fellowship and lift each other up. Happiness is the breathing in the aftermath of deep cleaning my room; scrubbing the floor with Clorox Bleach wipes, doing all of the dishes, wiping down surfaces that don’t get attention, finishing all the loads of laundry that I have neglected to attempt to start this past week. Oh my gosh, happiness is vacuuming the carpet and then slipping off my socks. 

I have been very blessed in my life to be afforded many, many opportunities to do things that make me happy. Things such as living in Glasgow, Scotland for a spell or getting to spend my summers program directing and counseling at a bible camp or the chance to be a Resident Assistant and form new relationships. I’m not saying these things to boast about how easy life has been to me and how lucky I’ve gotten. How fate loves me more and how blessed I am. I’m citing these examples to make a point:

Upon reflection of what has actually attributed to my happiness levels, I have found that it isn’t the fact that I’ve been given opportunities or that I’ve taken chances or that I’ve gone out of my comfort zone as much as possible. The events that one can write down in a planner…those aren’t what make me happy.

Happiness has not spawn from people giving me gifts, or from people paying me compliments. Happiness has not come from winning things or being the best at anything.

No, for me, happiness has come from gratitude.

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

Happiness doesn’t come from stuff. Happiness comes from being thankful for the “stuff”. Happiness is produced by mental reflection on our part. If someone handed me a new pair of gloves as a gift, the gloves themselves do not release endorphins or serotonin or dopamine. The emotions come when I reflect upon the gift. I have a couple of options upon reflection, I can chose to ask:

  1. Is the gift useful to me?  (I already have a good pair)
  2. How much do I like the giver personally? (she can sometimes be obnoxious)
  3. What is the quality of the gift (they were obviously second-hand)

or I can change my reflection habits entirely. I can ask better questions. 

  1. How much effort did this giver go through to secure this gift for me? (Even though they might be second-hand, she still wrapped them well and took time to approach me to give them to me)
  2. What else has the giver given to me in this gift? (Even though she is obnoxious to me sometimes, she is also giving me the chance to think about her differently, in a new light)
  3. What makes me so special to have deserved this gift? (Even if I already have a good pair, perhaps she has taken the time to want me to be able to replace my pair if need be)

The idea of gratitude doesn’t have to always apply to gifts. It definitely doesn’t mean posting a thank you card and calling it good. It can apply to life. Ultimately, taking the time to reflect upon gratitude and what one is grateful for is like taking the life you have now and squeezing as much happiness as possible from it.

“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” Willie Nelson

I can tell you from personal experience that gratitude is almost the single-handed reason for my happiness. Every morning, while I savor my cinnamon honey oatmeal and sip on my dark roast, fresh brewed cup of magical coffee, I take the time to journal. I use the beautiful, wonderful Moleskine journals (pronounced Mol-ay-skeen-ay, in case one wondered) that my father has purchased for me every birthday (I go through about one a year), and I take about 10-20 minutes to half-pray, half-write down what I’m thankful for.

It usually begins with being thankful for coffee.

But it’s simple, and it’s positive reflection, and it reminds me of the people who are beautiful and who are around me. And I have found that gratitude doesn’t come from being happy, happiness comes from gratitude.

Gratitude does not spawn from being happy, being happy spawns from being grateful.

“In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Why does the simple act of thinking about who and what I’m grateful for make such a big difference in my life?

One of the best blogs for always inspiring me in some way is Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. I highly recommend it, he focuses on gratitude and also simplicity. The above question comes from his post on “Why a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy” (http://zenhabits.net/why-living-a-life-of-gratitude-can-make-you-happy/), and he provides a four-fold answer that I would like to share with you on the question of why gratitude makes such a big difference.

  1. Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life
  2. Because it turns bad things into good things
  3. Because it reminds you of what is important
  4. Because it reminds you to thank others

Gratitude also works to combat some things that inhibit happiness. Things such as selfishness, discontent, fear, uncertainty, and anxiety.

It combats selfishness because reflection swivels the focus of the reflector onto other people and other things outside of themselves. When I am truly grateful for something, I am so wrapped up in the emotion of it that I want others to share the same feeling.

It combats discontent because it reminds me that I have enough, that I am enough, that I have done enough. I think the tendency to underestimate how fortunate you are is extremely prevelant, and is honestly cured by reflecting. When you reflect upon how actually fortunate you are, you then realize you’ve left out some things.

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

It combats fear because it reminds you that there are people in your life who have your back. You reflect upon these people and the past things they have done for you, and you feel secure because of the support they have offered you in the past and will undoubtably offer to you in future if the need were to arise.

It combats uncertainty because you are able to reflect upon prior periods in your life that were also uncertain, but that you emerged from successfully (I say successfully, because you’re here, aren’t you?).

It combats anxiety because happiness is a stress-reliever. Truly. My anxieties wash away when I flood my stress with the emotion of happiness.

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

So I emplore you. If you are struggling with a lack of happiness, if you are stuck in selfishness, focused on discontent, drowning in fear, lost in uncertainty, consumed with anxiety…try it. Just try it. Try writing down a gratitude list, try reflecting on what you are grateful for.

The more you do it, the more you practice gratitude, the better you are going to get at it. The more naturally it will come. The more gratitude will slip subconsciously through the shadows and be applied to all areas of your life.

Gratitude doesn’t involved comparing yourself to anyone else. Find solace and relief in that, because too much of life seems to involve comparisons.

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” Charles Dickens

What better opportunity to practice gratitude and purposeful reflection than the holidays?


Peace and Blessings,




Equity > Equality


It is a cause of concern for many that some parents raise girls to be self-aware of the consequences of food that they are consuming while at the same time seem to encourage boys to consume as much as they can. This raises gender equality issues and concerns; “Why can’t a girl eat as much as a boy? How fair is that?” or, “I will never discourage my girl from eating to her heart’s content, that’s wrong and unfair”. These concerns are justifiable. There many trends in our society that yield inequalities to women, that every issue seems to be able to be fixed with complete gender equality. With so many issues and so many concerns, a blanket solution has been laid out and is expected to fix the problems.

I understand the feminism movement; I definitely did not used to. I was under the assumption that feminists believed that women had such an amazing potential and are such a deeply complicated and underrepresented member of society and have the ability to be superheroes. Men are men. But women are the true heroes of our day, with their hidden and unappreciated strengths and gifts and talents. Boys will be boys. But women…

And so on.

This is not the feminist movement.

The movement is for gender equality. For equal opportunities for both genders. It is silly and it is petty to not pay either gender the equivocal amount of salary for the same job. It is silly and it is petty to deny either gender opportunities to succeed based purely on the biological or social gender they represent.

The purpose of the feminist movement is to bring to light how ridiculous it is to undermine the talent of any individual and the passion of any individual based on something they had no part in deciding for themselves. We lose as a society when we categorize people and inhibit their potential.

This all being said, there is a substantial however. Now, bear with me. Sometimes, sometimes, gender equality is not a good thing. Because sometimes complete gender equality inhibits the opportunity for gender equity. And ultimately, it’s gender equity that the movement is pushing for. Equal treatment for all to afford equal opportunity.

I am a believer that in some situations, gender equality must be sacrificed in order to pursue equity.

Such situation includes nutrition and diet.

Now, back to the parent example. This situation can be perceived as purposeful inhabitation of gender equality, but I believe it is also a way of parents identifying that metabolisms are different for boys and girls, and this is a way that they are training their female children to be aware of this before they are faced with the consequences of this unequal metabolism.

Gender equity won’t be afforded if gender equality is pursued; because the issue is unequally represented between the genders to begin with. So, naturally, the individual must be addressed instead of lumped together.

Is it actually true that the metabolism is different between the genders?

Short answer: yes. Alright, you can stop reading now.

Longer and more interesting answer;

Chantal Vella and Len Kravitz, Professors from the University of New Mexico, presented research titled Gender Differences in Fat Metabolism, and essentially supported my hypothesis on metabolic rates being gender dependent.

Vella and Kravitz studied hormones, particuarily sex hormones and the effect they have on lipid storage on various parts of the body. The results yielded that, “Estrogen has been found to inhibit the hormone LPL which is responsible for the breakdown of TG in the blood stream for storage in adipose tissue or fuel for active tissues”.

Because the bodies of women and males have evolutionarily, physiologically, naturally, any kind of “-ally” suffix one might attach, different “purposes” for life (women to carry and support a child and men to do whatever they do), it is only natural that the woman functions gastronomically different than a male in order to support this functioning.

Estrogen, the female-specific hormone, naturally instructs the body to store a higher amount of fat in the female in order to increase the chances of reproductive success in a woman. Estrogen does this by enticing fat storage in the hips and thigh regions of the woman, as opposed to the abdominal regions that are targeted by fat in males.

This is because it is more difficult to burn fat in the hips and thigh regions, and therefore the likelihood of the fat being protected for longevity sake is greater than if the fat were stored in the abdomen such as in males.

One might argue that then this isn’t an issue of metabolism as much as location. However, because the fat that is stored in a woman remains for longer because of location, it is easier to build up.

Therefore, Vella and Kravitz state that “although the mechanisms are unclear, the findings suggest that a lower resting fat metabolism may contribute to the increased fat storage in women as compared with men”.

Summary: they hypothesize that Estrogen and lower fat metabolism rates go hand in hand in order to promote more storage in women than in men. “The bottom Line: There are distinct differences in the mobilization, metabolism, and storage of fat between genders (summarized in Table 1).”

Perhaps we accredit societal influences on the ideal body type for a woman with having the most impact on women consciously not eating as much as men. Perhaps we disregard the fact that the body of a woman is not made to support as much food as the body of a man, and it is hard on the body if the genders were to consume the same amount of food.

I believe that those two concepts go hand-in-hand to influence the food awareness that is more prevalent in females then in men.

Discipline is something to be respected, and discipline can extend to food consumption. There is a greater risk for excess food consumption in females than males due to metabolic rates differing, and because food is something that increases Serotonin levels, it is an engaging experience to consume food. Therefore it takes discipline to eat the correct amounts of food for the body, and deny the promptings of Serotonin.

So instead of solely attributing food-consciousness in females to the societal normatives of the “perfect body type”, it can be positive in that it shows discipline. I do acknowledge that media has a great and profound impact on women body perception; but I am also suggesting that perhaps food-consciousness for females is not entirely a negative concept.


In order to promote this equity over equality, I have formulated a sample 7-day diet plan for a woman and a 7-day diet plan for a male. They both follow vegetarian diets.

First: some basic nutrition.

Carbohydrates: the body’s most efficient way to get everything it needs. It is produced by plants through photosynthesis, and is made of compounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen called sugars. These compounds attach together and create chains of carbohydrates, referred to as “complex carbohydrates”.

They are better known as “starches”. During digestion, enzymes break down the complex chains back to simple sugar, which are then able to pass into the bloodstream through the intestinal wall for distribution to the body. The metabolism kicks in and transforms the simple sugars into energy.

Fiber: suuuuper long chain of complex carbohydrates that do not fully get digested due to the length. They eventually make their way down to the colon. Dietary fiber is present in all plant tissues.

Fats: a major source of long-term energy that do not get metabolized as fast as sugars.

Saturated fats are those that are solid at room temperature and are more commonly located in animal tissues. These are the “bad for you fats”, because they tend to clog arteries and yield no energy advantage.

Unsaturated fats, the “good for you fats”, are liquid at room temperature and are found in plants. I promise this isn’t a ploy to get you to become vegetarian, it’s just fact. Our body is able to synthesize most of the fat it requires form carbohydrates, allotting them the term “nonessential fats” because they don’t need to be eaten to give us what we need.

Proteins: they provide the foundational support for the structural parts of our bodies. They are built by combinations of the 22 animo acids, and are gathered from all foods including both plants and animals. Many of these amino acids our bodies can make from scratch. Only 8 of the 22 are essential amino acids and must be obtained through gastronomic ingestion.

Water: yields no caloric energy, but actively participates in cell formation and is the environment in which the cells live. So…pretty important, yeah.

Vitamins: they are organic compounds that are made useful only by plants and bacteria (excepting vitamin D, which can be metabolized by mammals with the assistance of sunlight).

Minerals: they come from inorganic matter, namely The Earth. Metabolic reactions take place in the thousands to yield these minerals; the most common of which are iron and calcium.

This is a pretty widely-accepted chart for men and women that would effectively deal with the metabolisms on a individual basis:

Screen shot 2015-11-30 at 11.10.31 AM


This is my proposed, samply 7-day plan for a female. The brunt of this comes from https://happydietitian.wordpress.com/category/nutrition/, so take a look there for more information. I used MyFitness Pal to calculate the nutrition values for each food.



This is my proposed plan for the 7-day diet for Males. This plan is based on information gather from the website https://www.eatthismuch.com, which I highly recommend as a good resource for meal planning and diets.



More protein is required for males than for females because of the nature of the male metabolism. The muscular system of the male is more engaged in activities than the system of females, and thus more compromised, and because of such, the foundational protein is needed in a greater quantity for males than for females.

Male metabolism also requires more fat, because the fat storage tends to be in areas of the male body that burn fat easily. Female metabolisms store fat in hard to burn places so as to prepare the body for reproduction and supporting life for two.

Therefore, less fat is necessary for females, because it doesn’t burn as fast as for males. Carbohydrates should make up 70-80% of the diet for both males and females, and is therefore higher for males naturally to compensate for the increased need for fat and protein.

Yes, gender equality is very very important. It leans toward naivety to believe otherwise in our modern society. In the past, when societal duties required more physical labor or riskier tasks, it made sense to divide jobs by gender and allow the more naturally physically inclined male gender to take the brunt of these tasks.

Our society has moved toward the white collar jobs now, the tasks that require more intellectual effort than physical. This is something that can be applied–and should be applied–equally to both genders.

But gender equality at the expense of gender equity? It’s counterproductive. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the task of trying to make everything equal and become offended and defensive when things are not.

Concerning diet and nutrition, it’s going to be very difficult to work against nature and biology. Metabolism is something that cannot be guilt-tripped into changing.

Works Cited: 

“A Balanced Diet for Women.” BBC Good Food. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.
“Calorie Chart, Nutrition Facts, Calories in Food | MyFitnessPal.com.” Calorie Chart, Nutrition Facts, Calories in Food | MyFitnessPal.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.
“Eat This Much, Your Personal Diet Assistant.” Customizable 2500 Calorie Vegan Diet and Meal Plan. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.

“A Lesson in Nutrition.” Dr McDougalls Health Medical Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Nov. 2015.

Berglund, Anders, Angelo Bisazza, and Andrea Pilastro. “Armaments and Ornaments: An Evolutionary Explanation of Traits of Dual Utility.” Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 58.4 (1996): 385-99. Web

Shields, Stephanie. “Functionalism, Darwinism, and the Psychology of Women.” American Psychologist30.7 (1975): 739-54. Web.