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Inyo Mountains, Mazourka Canyon Ride, May 25th, 2012

This is another one of those retrospective blog posts. Since I’ve been writing up trip reports on a few recent outings, it seems like a shame to not have one for some of our more noteworthy trips in the past.  Plus, I wanted this blog to partly be…

Protein Quinoa Bowl and Chia Seed Cereal

I’ve been regularly eating a couple breakfast meals that now rank amongst my favorites since starting to eat a bit healthier.  These are the Protein Quinoa Bowl and Chia Seed Cereal.  They’re both Julie Morris recipes, albeit with perhaps a few small modifications here and there.  She rightly calls the Protein Quinoa Bowl the ugly-duckling of breakfast bowls.  That, however, must make the Chia Seed Cereal the fugly-duckling of breakfast bowls.  The unappetizing green color is mostly caused by the Hemp Protein Powder found in both cereals.

Surprisingly enough, they are both delicious and very satisfying.  I like them both a bit before, or after, a good workout, because they are easy to digest and leave you with a light feeling, even though they provide energy for hours.  No doubt, you have probably heard the Chia Seed Cereal mentioned before if you have read some of my other blog posts.  I often take it with me on my trips for an early morning energy source, before a good hike or ride.

First, let’s start with the Protein Quinoa Bowl.  This is a hot meal and best during the cooler months.  Like I said above, it doesn’t look super appetizing.  But, don’t let looks fool you!  If you like the taste of almond butter and maple syrup, topped with a little banana and cinnamon flavor,well you’re probably going to like this hot cereal.  Let’s start with the ingredients.

  • 1 cup Hemp (or Almond) Milk
  • ⅓ cup Quinoa Flakes
  • 1 heaping tablespoon Almond Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder
  • 1 tablespoon Maca Powder
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Maple Syrup
  • 1 Banana
  • Cinnamon Powder

Bring the Hemp Milk to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Then, stir in the Quinoa Flakes and turn off the heat and let sit for about three minutes, allowing the Quinoa to cook through.

Next, add in the remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.  Dish into your favorite bowl and add sliced banana and Cinnamon Powder to your liking.

Next, prepare to be amazed how yummy this ugly-duckling of breakfast bowls can taste.  Don’t forget to go for a work-out and feel the endurance!

I should also note that Maca can also provide a bit of energy.  At the same time, it’s also a powerful adaptogen, making for a “calming” energy while regulating stress, if that makes any sense.  Incan warriors used to eat Maca before going into battle to increase both strength and stamina during long battles.  However, given it’s libido enhancing effects, the women of the tribes demanded the men not be allowed to eat it during times of peace, so they could have some piece and quiet.

Protein Quinoa Bowl

Next up – Chia Seed Cereal.  This is best cold, or even at room temperature, which I actually prefer.  Also, if you need more fiber in your diet this is the cereal for you.  The 3 tablespoons of Chia Seed Cereal contains 15 grams of fiber alone!  Hemp Protein is a fairly rich fiber source, too.  So, it may be best to start out with 2 tablespoons of Chia Seeds and see how you handle it.  Either way, you probably don’t need a whole lot of fiber for the rest of the day.  As mentioned, I find the Chia Seed Cereal very easy to digest, despite the fact that other high-fiber meals may be a bit more of a challenge.

In addition, since the Chia Seed absorbs the Hemp Milk and becomes “gelatinous”, it’s also helps detoxify your system.  I’ve also read that Chia Seeds can help with extended hydration during exercise, due to this moisture absorbing property.  To be honest, I haven’t really noticed a difference here, myself.

Lets start out with the ingredient list again.

  • 1 cup Hemp (or Almond) Milk
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of Chia Seed
  • 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Hemp Seed
  • 2 tablespoons Hemp Protein Powder
  • 1 scoop Amazing Grass Chocolate Infusion Greens Powder
  • 1 small handful Goji Berries
  • 1 small handful White Turkish Mulberries
  • 1 Banana
  • Cinnamon Powder

I also like to add dried dragon fruit when we have it around.

Start out by adding everything but the Hemp (or Almond) Milk into a large bowl.

All the Dry Ingredients For Chia Seed Cereal

Then, pour in the Hemp Milk and stir well.  Let this sit for about 15-20 mins.  It doesn’t hurt to occasionally stir during this period, but it’s not necessary, either.  When ready, give it a final stir and add some banana slices and Cinnamon Powder to your liking and enjoy.

Easy Peasy!

Once again, it doesn’t look very appetizing, but I personally think it’s pretty yummy.  I gotta admit though, when Rebecca first introduced me to this one, I was a bit frightened to try it.  I think it took a few times to acquire a taste for it, as well.  Who knew it would turn into a fairly regular meal!

Chia Seed Cereal

I’ll also sometimes have a small glass of “chocolate” milk with these breakfasts.  It’s as simple as adding one scoop of Amazing Grass Chocolate Infusion Greens Powder to an appropriate amount of Hemp (or Almond) Milk.  The powder is made from Cacao, which is an unprocessed, unsweetened and healthier form of “chocolate”.  In fact, it is one of the most anti-oxidant rich foods known.  If you need a little more protein you can throw in 1 tablespoon of Hemp Protein, but this does alter the taste quite a bit.

Here’s to starting the day off right!  😉

Morris, Julie; Superfood Kitchen, Navitas Naturals, 2011

Wolfe, David, Superfoods, North Atlantic Books, 2009

Faith

I wanted to share my view on faith, which was partly summed up so well in a series of Alan Watts quotes.

“Faith is a state of openness or trust.”

“And the attitude of faith is the very opposite of clinging to belief, of holding on.”

“But the attitude of faith is to let go, and become open to truth, whatever it might turn out to be.”

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don’t grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.”

“In other words, a person who is fanatic in matters of religion, and clings to certain ideas about the nature of God and the universe, becomes a person who has no faith at all.”

~All quotes by Alan Watts

Living in a predominantly Christian society, it seems most folks equate faith to simply believing in Jesus.  Don’t get me wrong, I ultimately consider myself a Christian.  However, I think this view has a tendency to forget that Jesus also taught inner transformation and self-knowing, as all religions do.  Also, it is a mutually exclusive view, which seems sort of hard to reconcile these days, since fields like comparative mythology and psychology have shown that all religions are saying the same thing.  It’s also very hard to reconcile with what comes out of the Near Death Experience and the Mystical Experience, as they are reported out of all cultures and religions around the world with the same consistent, universal and inclusive themes and messages.

I view faith as a stepping stone to experience, meaning we’re not talking about a “blind faith” here.  Faith is an opening of the mind to a deeper reality that one can eventually come to directly experience, here and now.  I know this might sound strange, as most of us aren’t familiar with the idea, or the possibility, of a direct experience of God, or the ground of all being, while still alive.  But, this is what ultimately comes out of the teachings of religions worldwide.  In reference to all the literature and scripture discussing the nature of this transcendent, yet immanent, experience, Aldus Huxley called it the “perennial philosophy” and Alan Watts called it “a single philosophical consensus of universal extent”.  One can also simply call it a spiritual awakening, which typically requires first being open to the possibility of having a spiritual awakening.

In the Gospel of St Thomas we hear, “The Kingdom of Heaven is spread out upon the Earth, but men do not see it”.  The good news, which is the meaning of “gospel”, is that we can learn how.  It all starts with faith!

If you would like to read more on my views on God, religion, and the nature of reality, you may also want to check out: 

The Middle Way – Part I, Introductory Ideas

The Middle Way – Part II, Interdependent Co-Arising

If you’re interested in more Alan watts, here’s a lecture by him  on Christianity I really enjoyed.

Lee Flat, Darwin Plateau Exploration, October 12th, 2013

”’Be ye warned, ‘dem Flats be haunted with the restless, angry ghosts of old-time Death Valley miners”.   That’s along the lines of what some enigmatic Internet personality named Dingus Milktoast once dramatically told me about Lee Flat – a …

Lookout Peak (11,902′), July 20th, 2013

I wasn’t originally planning on writing up a blog post on this particular trip, but since this will probably be my last Sierra trip of the season, it’s looking like my last chance to write up any others.The original plan was to hike/climb up Little Lak…

Flatworms Lose Their Heads But Not Their Memories

We often walk around with ideas we regard as facts, which in actuality are false.  Recently, an article was published showing that two thirds of Americans mistakenly believe we only use 10% of our brains, which is now known to be false.  A significant number of people still regard as fact that creative folks are right-brained and analytical folks are left-brained, which has also been shown to be false, starting with a study done at the University of Utah.  These ideas are both “myths” in the simplest sense of that term.  Their continuing presence is, however, quite natural and expected.  As science progresses, it either refines or negates existing theories, eventually replacing them with more accurate ones.  In the meantime, old ideas do linger for a while.

However, there is an even more subtle source of mistaken notions.  This source is our worldviews, which are images of reality we form as a culture that enable us to operate in the world.  This corresponds to the broader meaning of “myth” as it is used in comparative mythology and similar fields.  Rather than showing up as one simple incorrect fact, these manifest as paradigms under which the whole of society operates, including science.  The paradigms influence not only how we view a problem, but what we think the form of the potential solution must come in.  Worldviews are always self-limiting, but we do not let go of them easily.

The dominant worldview, or myth, within Western society is materialism, which typically holds to some basic assumptions, such as physicalism (‘everything is physical’), reductionism (‘sum of its parts’) and objectivism (‘reality exists independent of consciousness’), as far as science goes, but ultimately even leads to other ideals like consumerism and the accumulation of wealth.  This isn’t too say materialism is inherently wrong, but rather self-limiting and incomplete like all worldviews have historically been.  Being under the influence of this materialistic worldview, many of us would immediately assume that the brain must be the source of consciousness.  As Richard Dawkins so bluntly stated, “We are all biological meat robots“, or as AI pioneer Marvin Minsky said, “The brain is just a computer made of meat“.  However, since we have no idea how consciousness actually works, these are assumptions, not facts.

Since memory is an aspect of consciousness, the automatic assumption would be that it too must be sourced somehow by the brain.  Indeed, most theories in neuroscience generally assume that memory is somehow encoded within the structures of the brain.  However, neuroscientists have had a hard time pinning down just how this happens, with some studies indicating that memories are stored across the entire brain, as if stored in a fashion similar to a hologram.  Further, Near Death Experience (NDEs) research and Psi (psychic ability) research seem to indicate that memories are stored external to the brain.  Reputable guys like Rupert Sheldrake have gone as far as coming up with theories like his Morphic Resonance, which is a kind of consciousness-as-a-field theory, where the brain acts more like a filter/transceiver of this field.  Even such noted folks like Roger Penrose are considering ideas where consciousness may be a fundamental and irreducible aspect of reality.

Indeed, the number of individuals starting to look at ideas beyond the typical mainstream, materialistic views is growing, at least in part because explaining consciousness under the materialistic paradigm has made very little progress.  The so-called “hard problem” of consciousness – that is, how does subjective, inner experience (i.e. qualia) arise from unconscious, inanimate matter – remains completely unsolved to this day.

However, more and more studies are coming out of the mainstream that also hint at a potential science beyond materialism.  The point of this blog post was to introduce one of these studies.  For example, one would assume that if memories are really stored in the brain, decapitation would eliminate those memories.  This is rather difficult to test for in humans, but not so difficult with flatworms (planaria), since they can regrow a head!  The results of a recent study (full text below) seem to strongly indicate that memories are not solely stored in the flatworms brain.   It’s possible the memories here are stored in some kind of “cellular memory” within somatic tissue and I am sure they will exhaust what will be considered more pragmatic explanations before jumping to something like Morphic Resonance.  However, when these results are considered alongside the results coming out of Psi research, I think this make it more compelling for us to begin to consider the possibility that memory is not only stored external to the brain, but even the body, thereby allowing non-materialist theories like Morphic Resonance to be considered a valid, competing hypothesis for attempting to explain memory formation/recall.

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(Phys.org) —Tufts University biologists using new, automated training and testing techniques have found that planarian flatworms store memory outside their brains and, if their heads are removed, can apparently imprint these memories on their new brains during regeneration.

The work, published online in the Journal of Experimental Biology, can help unlock the secrets of how memories can be encoded in living tissues, noted Michael Levin, Ph.D., Vannevar Bush professor of biology at Tufts and senior author on the paper.

“As bioengineering and biomedicine advance, there’s a great need to better understand the dynamics of memory and the brain-body interface. For example, what will happen to stored memory if we replace big portions of aging brains with the progeny of fresh stem cells?” said Levin, who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology in Tufts’ School of Arts and Sciences.

Planaria have a remarkable capacity to quickly re-grow new body parts, and decades-old research on planarian learning had suggested that memory can survive brain regeneration. Difficulties inherent in complex and tedious manual worm training experiments contributed to planaria falling out of favor as a model for such research, but the new automated training system developed by the Tufts researchers may reverse that.

“We now have a reliable, state-of-the-art approach that moves beyond past controversies to identify quantitative, objective, high-throughput protocols for studying planarian long-term memory capabilities,” said Tal Shomrat, Ph.D., first author on the paper. A former postdoctoral associate with Levin, Shomrat is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “I believe that investigating this unique animal that displays relatively complex behavior and can regenerate its entire brain in only a few days will provide answers to the enigma of acquisition, storage and retrieval of memories,” he added.

Toward the light

Shomrat and Levin focused their attention on planaria of the species Dugesia japonica. One planarian group lived in containers with a textured floor while the other was housed in smooth-floored Petri dishes. The worms, which naturally avoid light, were then tested to see how readily they would eat liver in an illuminated quadrant on the bottom of a rough-textured dish.

Automated video tracking and subsequent computer analysis of the worms’ movements (image above) showed that the group familiarized to the rough-floored dishes overcame aversion to the light significantly more quickly and spent more time feeding in the illuminated space than did the non-familiarized group.

Off with their heads

Both groups of worms were then decapitated and housed in a smooth-floored environment while their heads regenerated. Two weeks later, the fully regenerated segments were again tested. Worms regenerated from the familiarized group were slightly but not significantly quicker to feed in the lighted part of the container. However, when both groups of worms were given a brief refresher session of feeding in the textured environment, then removed and retested four days later, the planaria generated from familiarized segments were significantly quicker to feed than those regenerated from unfamiliarized worms—showing that they retained recognition of the link between this type of surface and a safe feeding environment.

Exactly how this memory was retained and recalled remains unclear. Shomrat and Levin suggest that traces of memory of the learned behavior were stored outside the brain, and imprinted on the newly-regenerated brain through mechanisms not yet identified. More investigation is needed to determine the basis for these interactions between the regenerating central nervous system and remote somatic tissues, as well as the mechanism by which specific memories are encoded in physical changes within the brain and body.

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PhysOrg Article: Flatworms Lose Their Heads But Not Their Memories: Study Finds Memories Stored Outside the Brain

The Journal of Experimental Biology:  An Automated Training Paradigm Reveals Long-Term Memory in Planarians and Its Persistence Through Head Regeneration