Archive for August 2012

What is Success?

Have you ever watched any of the TED Talks? Search out TED Talks online (or on Netflix) and you’ll find a wide assortment of videos of talks on a wide range of topics by amazing speakers. They run from 10-25 minutes long and I think are worth a regular visit to see what you can learn about, be inspired for, and change your perception.

I’m going to run a series of reviews and recommendations for TED Talks and will start with one from John Wooden. Because you might like to learn why you he’s a good person to listen to, here’s a clip from his bio:

Born in 1910, Coach John Wooden was the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and coach, while ESPN ranks him as the greatest coach of all time, across all sports. In his 40 years at UCLA, he mentored legends such as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He has created a model, the Pyramid of Success, and authored several books to impart his insight on achievement to others.

John wrote his definition of happiness in 1934:
“Peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.”

This was based on lessons he learned from his dad, which included:

  • Never try to be better than someone else
  • Always learn from others
  • Try to be the best you can—this is something you can control
  • If you get to engrossed in the things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect those things over which you do have control


I think it’s amazing that as a “successful” coach–with record wins still unmatched in basketball–winning was not actually his focus. His focus was on getting individuals to do their best.

This is so different from a commonly held definition of success as an accumulation of material possessions or attainment of position of power and prestige.

I also love that he reminds us that:

Reputation is what you are perceived to be. Character is what you really are. Character is more important and may not be the same as reputation, though you would hope that they are both positive.

His lessons:

  1. Never be late
  2. Be neat and clean
  3. Not one word of profanity
  4. Never criticize a teammate


Top of his pyramid for success:

Faith and patience: Believe that things will work out as they should, providing we do as we should.

And, finally, he shared a poem by umpire George Moriarty as follows (I’ve highlighted my favourite lines):

Sometimes I think the fates must grin as we denounce them and insist,

The only reason we can’t win is the fates themselves have missed.

Yet, there lives on the ancient claim – we win or lose within ourselves,

The shining trophies on our shelves can never win tomorrow’s game.

So you and I know deeper down there is a chance to win the crown,

But when we fail to give our best, we simply haven’t met the test

Of giving all and saving none until the game is really won.

Of showing what is meant by grit, of fighting on when others quit,

Of playing through not letting up, it’s bearing down that wins the cup.

Of taking it and taking more until we gain the winning score,

Of dreaming there’s a goal ahead, of hoping when our dreams are dead,

Of praying when our hopes have fled.

Yet, losing, not afraid to fall,

If bravely we have given all, for who can ask more of a man
than giving all, it seems to me, is not so far from – Victory.

And so the fates are seldom wrong, no matter how they twist and wind,

It’s you and I who make our fates, we open up or close the gates, 

On the Road Ahead or the Road Behind.

To watch the whole talk:
John Wooden: the difference between winning and succeeding


If I can do it, you can too

If you know me, then you likely know that I don’t like to cook. I often say “I can’t cook.” Of course I can, but when I’m hungry, I’m hungry NOW! I love to eat, and I’m not fond of waiting to eat. 

For the last three weeks my husband–who is normally my dinner-maker–was away. That meant I was responsible for prepping all of my own meals. I decided a few things:

1. I would not use this as an excuse to eat out a lot. I would make almost all of my meals. As it turned out, I think I only bought one pre-prepped one.

2.  I would try to eat a gluten-reduced diet. I’m already on a non-dairy routine as I feel better without that. I was curious to see if less gluten would make a difference.

3. I would use this as a chance to actually cook. To use some of the many recipes that I have collected, rather than opt for just stir fries and oatmeal.

Here’s a listing of some of the foods I ate, including pictures (sorry, not a food photographer; in many cases the food tasted MUCH better than it looks here) and recipes.

Grilled Portobello Burger

I just mashed that avocado on and could barely wait to dig in!

1 medium portobello mushroom cap
1 Tbsp vinegar (called for sherry vinegar, but I used balsamic as it’s what I had)
1/2 Tbsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried thyme
1 slice gluten-free bread
1/2 avocado
salt and pepper 

Mix  thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and Dijon mustard in a bowl. Add in salt and pepper to your taste. Dip the top of the Portobello into the mix. Place the mushroom onto a grill (I have the equivalent of a Foreman grill). Grill for a few minutes, making sure not to burn it. Top with avocado or your choice of toppings. I have tried beets in the past as well as the recipe called for that and it was delicious. You might also like tomatoes, sprouts, lettuce, etc.

Tofu Triangles

Served here with steamed broccoli and hummus (can't see the hummus)

1 package firm organic tofu
organic coconut oil
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt
1-3 tsp agave or maple syrup

Drain tofu, remove as much water as possible, and cut into triangles.  Heat pan with coconut oil. Add tofu (careful not to splatter!). Add pepper and equal amount of salt to the top of the tofu. Drizzle in agave or maple syrup. When the edges start to brown, flip the tofu. Careful not to burn the tofu as you allow the second side to cook. Flip as needed so that all edges are toasty brown and crisp. I have tried these both hot and cold. When served cold for parties, stick a toothpick in them for easy serving. I have served them with Naam Miso Gravy. Or with hummus. But they are good on their own.

Super Easy Salmon

1 serving of salmon

More steamed broccoli and this time rice that I cooked with a masala spice mix, just for fun

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup agave 
juice from 1 fresh lime
pinch of cinnamon 
1/4 onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place salmon on large piece of tin foil.  Combine olive oil, agave, lime juice, and cinnamon. Pour mixture over salmon. Top with onions and garlic. Place another piece of foil over salmon and fold the edges to create a packet. Bake for about 20 minutes. It is ready when it flakes easily, but is not dry. So easy!


Need Evidence? More Research about TCM

I’ll be honest, I’m not terribly impressed by research in general. I’ve worked as a research assistant. I saw that human need, greed, error, and intention can all sway results and what is published (and how it’s published). However, as someone with a science background and two parents in the field of science (Dad: PhD chemistry; Mom: Nurse), I can’t ignore research. So, here are some links to online publications about my fave topic, TCM:

How does acupuncture work? 

1. Changes in blood flow

2. Changes in the brain

What can it treat?

1. Digestion issues

2. Pain



3. Cardiovascular disease


Lessons from “The Grind”

This morning I did the Grouse Grind. If you live in Vancouver, and possibly if you’ve visited Vancouver, you know about the Grind. Maybe you’ve made the climb. I find the Grind to be somewhat of a meditation for me. Yes, it’s challenging, but step after step after step, breath after breath after breath, becomes alternately a good thinking time and meditation for me. Here’s what I learned today. Lessons on the Grind as lessons in health and in life:

1.  The hardest part of many journeys is making that first step. 

I had planned to do the Grind many times this summer. It’s now nearing the end of August and finally I’ve committed to go despite not being able to find anyone to go with me. Sometimes we need to be our own motivators. If we wait for the perfect timing, the right people, the ideal combination of events to start something we’ve intended to do, too often it never happens. Want to exercise more? Eat healthier? Finally get the help to treat and manage your health issues? Take that first step.

2. Sometimes the better path is the longer one with smaller steps; sometimes it’s the shorter one with bigger steps.

Every now and then I had to chose: to one side where the steps are steeper, but more direct; or way to the other side, leaving the straight line upward for smaller steps? Sometimes I took the harder short path, sometimes the easier long one. Want to make a change in your life? Sometimes jumping both feet in, full gung ho, is the way to go. Cold turkey quit smoking. Start yoga with a 40 day challenge. Enroll in school for your new career. But sometimes dipping your toes in to test the waters is a better start. If you won’t make the big changes (yet) make some small changes. Have one less coffee. Pile more veggies on your plate and less of something else. Call a friend and go out for a bike ride. Either way, you’re on your way—-onward and upward!

3. Trust yourself.

There really isn’t a lot of thinking required when doing the Grind. That’s part of the reason why I find it relaxing. But I did have to decide on each step (hard-direct or easy-roundabout). Each time it depended on how I felt. I didn’t think it over for long at all; I just kept moving. We face many small decisions daily. I like the idea of not sweating the small stuff, but trusting my intuition and knowing that I’ll still make it to where I want to go.

4. Sometimes it’s best to focus on only a few steps out. 

I’ve bungy jumped, parachuted, and rappelled down the side of a building. Usually the lesson is “don’t look down”. I quickly learned, however, that when it comes to climbing the Grind, it is best not to look up. Looking up always meant a view of a challenging incline. If I was looking for a reprieve, I wouldn’t find it. When setting goals, know where you ultimately want to find yourself, but focus on just next few steps so you don’t get overwhelmed. Want to run your first marathon? First, work on healing your injuries. Start with your current fitness state and build slowly. Find out what foods would best support you. Setting many small goals means many mini celebrations, and that is way more motivating than several frustrations that you’re not there yet!

5. Keep moving!

I remember doing the Grind with a good friend of mine. We stopped a lot. A LOT! After that I didn’t do the Grind for several years. I hated it. In my mind, it was painfully boring and I was completely demotivated to try again. Luckily I later went with another friend and because we kept a fairly continuous pace with short breaks, I’ve since learned I like doing the Grind. When setting out to accomplish a goal, I’ve found it best not to let that goal sit idle too long. Other things are likely to get in the way of continuing to pursue the path if you leave it too long. I know many people who’ve set health goals to start next month or in a couple of months. How often have a seen those goals forgotten, abandoned? Too often. See #2 here and take small steps, but keep it moving, if the big steps are too daunting.

6. Pause for reflection. 

Yes, keep yourself motivated for movement. But also pause occasionally to celebrate your victories along the way. I find the first half of the Grind much harder than the second half. When I reach the halfway point mark, I like to take a short moment to celebrate, “Look how far I’ve come!” Celebrate your successes!

7. Create your own journey.

I’m always surprised at the variety of people doing the Grind. Some have clearly done this many times before. They run up with babies strapped on their backs. Some appear to have arrived with no idea of what they are getting themselves into. We each choose our own pace. We move aside when someone faster approaches. We pick up the pace to pass those who are slower. I’m competitive, but I know that I would injure myself if I tried to keep up with the experienced climbers. You are on a different journey, though the path may be the same. Your friend and you may decide you will both lose weight. Your friend may drop 5 pounds that first week, while you fluctuate up and down a couple of pounds. What gives? You’re doing the same thing! Recognize you are different from each other. Find what works for you. You are on a different journey, though your path may be the same.

8. Learn from your experience

From past experience with the Grind I learned that I do best with a slow steady pace. Completed the Grind in 57 minutes this time. I had no idea how long it would take me as I had never timed myself before, but I set my goal to beat the “average” time listed on the Grouse Grind website of an 1 1/2 hours. This time I learned to check my iPod battery before setting out. Though the coincidence of the song that was my last one will be written in a separate post soon enough. In health and in life, what have you learned that you can take into your next experience?



The other day I broke not one, but two glasses on the same day in two separate incidents. The first glass I broke I kind of saw happening even before it happened. I knew I shouldn’t have placed the glass where I did. I knew I was risking knocking it over. And sure enough, I did.

When I dropped that second glass, I felt even worse.

But then one of the receptionists at my clinic came in with a broom and she told me that breaking a glass in her culture (East Indian) means that someone is thinking of you or that someone unexpected will come to visit. That made me feel a lot better!

I had no visitors and I don’t know if someone was thinking of me at those two times, but it didn’t really matter. Her comment made me get out of my “oh that sucks!” mind frame.

Sometimes we get sick or injured or are suffering from some unwelcomed symptom. It’s easy to dwell in that misery and feeling of misfortune. Is there something else you can learn from your state of feeling unwell?

From the glass breaking I learned that I should listen to my internal voice. I knew I should not have left that glass where I did. Sometimes my internal voice tells me to eat more of one food and less of another. I enjoy one little piece of dark chocolate every night after dinner. But not more. After four separate tries of eating quinoa, I came to the final realization that my body does not like it. I must eat breakfast. I need to eat small frequent meals. And so on. If I ignore these things that I know work for me, I sometimes suffer the consequences.

The same happens with exercise. The right exercises with the right balance of challenge and easing off makes the difference between fitness and injury. If I don’t stay focused when doing yoga; if my mind is off wandering while I do the movements; if I don’t listen to my body and push too hard; then I find I’m more likely to hurt myself. With the second glass, I was very distracted and not paying attention to what I was doing.

Aside from sudden injuries like those from car accidents or sports injuries, we often have at least one warning that the things we are doing may be harming our health.

So, think about this now…is your body or mind telling you something that you would be best to change in order to prevent your glass from breaking? Is there something that you could do or not do to keep your body healthy and strong or improve your current health challenges? Use the negatives as a way to prompt yourself to make the changes that will bring you to more positives.

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