You Can Train Your Brain

petals blowing in breeze

Have you read the recent Washington Post article about how meditation changes your brain? It’s quite interesting. As someone who believes in the benefits of meditation and practices regularly, I certainly believe it. Below is an excerpt from the article.

We found differences in brain volume after eight weeks in five different regions in the brains of the two groups. In the group that learned meditation, we found thickening in four regions:

1. The primary difference, we found in the posterior cingulate, which is involved in mind wandering, and self relevance.

2. The left hippocampus, which assists in learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation.

3.  The temporo parietal junction, or TPJ, which is associated with perspective taking, empathy and compassion.

4. An area of the brain stem called the Pons, where a lot of regulatory neurotransmitters are produced.

The amygdala, the fight or flight part of the brain which is important for anxiety, fear and stress in general. That area got smaller in the group that went through the mindfulness-based stress reduction program.

I’ve been meditating on a regular basis for about three years now and have noticed a real difference. It’s easier for me to detach from a situation and calm myself down when stressed by taking deep breaths.

It seems that there are even more benefits than I was aware of before, which is definitely a good thing.

Enjoy your Sunday! Namaste.

Memorial Day 2015

American Flags symbolic of Memorial DayHopefully you’re enjoying your long Memorial Day weekend. It’s nice to have a day off.

It’s also interesting to think about the meaning of Memorial Day and how it has changed over the years.

For many people in my generation and most of those who are younger, we think of it as a time for going to the beach. Picnics and barbecues. The first long weekend kicking of the unofficial start of summer.

For my parents and those older, it’s more solemn. Often considered a time to remember those who have passed and to visit their graves.

Traditionally it’s a time to remember the war dead. This is why we see American flags everywhere. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website gives some Memorial Day history.

Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.  In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries.  A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

The 3:00 moment of remembrance is news to me, but is a nice idea and something that I may take part in today. We Americans like to talk about how much we support our troops, but sometimes that talk seems to ring rather hollow. That sentiment was reiterated in an article that I read on Stars and Stripes.

The military-civilian divide is not marked by particular animosity or resentment on the civilian side. In airports and restaurants, civilians thank men and women in uniform for their service. They cheer veterans at ballgames and car races.

What most don’t realize is how frequently such gestures ring hollow.

“So many people give you lip service and offer fake sympathy. Their sons and daughters aren’t in the military, so it’s not their war. It’s something that happens to other people,” said Phillip Ruiz, 46, a former Army staff sergeant in Tennessee who was wounded twice during three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Douglas Pearce, a former Army lieutenant who fought in Afghanistan and is now a marriage and family counselor in Nashville, said civilians seem to think they “can assuage their guilt with five seconds in the airport.”

 “What they’re saying is, ‘I’m glad you served so that I didn’t have to, and my kids won’t have to.'”
 The article discusses the large divide between between those in the military and their families and civilians.

Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them.

The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states — California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

My father has talked about many things in his life with me. One of the things that he is most proud of is his military service in the Air Force. While he never saw combat, he spent eight years working all over this country and the world. Increasingly he talks about his friends from that time in his life and wonders what happened to them. I wonder too.

Good Morning Boston!

south station exitSince I’m not a huge fan of the morning, recently I’ve been trying to make the best of them with Instagram.

south station through flowersAs I make my way into the city for work, I try and catch the sights from an interesting angle.

Lined up for coffeeIt actually does make the day start out on a much nicer note. So wherever you are, good morning to you from Boston!

Beard Papa’s in Boston

Beard Papa's in Boston's ChinatownBack in 2006, when I was a wee baby blogger, I read an article about a place in San Francisco that sold the most amazing cream puffs called Beard Papa’s.

It was was one of my first blog posts about food and when I noticed a trend with food and lawyers. In the article, an attorney named Jordan Goldstein, gave one of my favorite quotes ever about food.

It was one of the best days of my life, said Goldstein, who returned with his friend 24 hours later to procure six more pastries. “These are like eating air.

I never forgot that quote and always remembered thinking about the cream puffs that inspired it.

cream puffs being filled collageSo last week I was at work and we were talking about food. Like always. We were saying how bringing food to employees, inspires so much goodwill and that we would all like a sweet snack. By the way, we have been bringing in snacks to share just about every week.

Then one of our supervising attorneys, who was not in the room while we were talking about wanting gifts of food, brought us some mini cream puffs. We were so happy!

smiling baker with cream puffsCome to find out, he got them from Beard Papa’s! They just recently opened in Chinatown, which is just around the corner from my current office.

After work last night, I decided to stop by and see the place for myself. There was a line of people and a bit of a wait for the cream puffs. By the way, the scent inside was thrilling and intoxicating.

The bakers fill each cream puff as you wait. I got two regular sized puffs so that I could share one with G.

We both inhaled them! The cream squishes out all over the place and the puff is delicate and crunchy. They are messy. But messy in such a playful way that you will need to lick your fingers and juggle keeping the puff together. Then you realize that you have eaten the whole thing in 5 seconds!

Ha! It’s wonderful. Now I know what Jordan was talking about.

Is He Back? The Modern Day Milkman.

milkman in milk truckJust before arriving at work one day last week, I saw this milk truck from Thatcher Farm. With a modern day milkman.

It wasn’t until editing this picture that I noticed he had been looking my way. I was too busy with my phone and he must have been wondering why I was taking a picture. I’ve heard of their farm before and learned that they have a dairy delivery service in the Boston area. Pretty cool.

My parents and their contemporaries talk about the milkman, the rag man and others who delivered or picked up items to and from homes on a regular basis when they were young. Sometimes in a cart with a horse.

Most people don’t have their milk delivered anymore. Many like me don’t drink dairy milk. Usually it’s almond milk, but I drink coconut milk, hemp milk and other milks sometimes too. Not that I’m against dairy. I eat cheese and yogurt all the time. I love ice cream and eggnog as well.

Getting a dairy delivery fresh from the farm seems to happen a lot more nowadays. A recent CNBC article says the milkman may be returning to modern day life. But it looks like he is already here.