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What is Ananda?

(une version française de cet article est disponible ici)

[UPDATE: the app is now available on the iphone app store. You can get it here.]

Ok, I’m super excited! It’s time to talk to you about my latest project…

I may already have talked about it with some of you. Actually the facebook page and the website have been online for a couple of weeks now, so if you saw them you probably know already. And since many of you are interested and asked me questions, I’ve decided to go a little more in details before the project goes live.

For starters, Ananda is the first iphone app I’ve conceived and distributed by myself… And this is just the starting point to many evolutions around this concept.

This project comes from an issue I’m having every day: I’m always looking for the calm I need to work, focus or even sleep efficiently. And it’s not always easy: I’m always interrupted by some exterior stimuli when I’m working in a café or even at home when my neighbours decide to listen to an extra loud track from Skrillex. I also spend a good amount of time in public transportation and it seems like a lot of wasted time I could use to relax or meditate. And I’m not even talking about social media… I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one in this case, right?

Actually I need serenity whatever my environment is. The answer is Ananda, my personal sound sanctuary that helps me to reach this serenity where and when I want. And I sure hope Ananda will become your sanctuary too!

Every time you use it, Ananda generates a fresh soundtrack made of natural sounds, mantras, zen gongs and much more… And on top of that a binaural program of your choice helps you to reach the state of mind you wish, whether focused or meditative mood (and much more other ones…).

If you wonder what a binaural program is: it’s a group of sound artifacts which train your brain to reach a desired state of mind. These sounds are actually made of two distinct frequencies played in each of your ears. The difference between these frequencies helps your brain to reach a desired working frequency. For example if a 200Hz frequency is played in one ear and a 205Hz frequency is played in your other ear, the perceived “beat” would be 5Hz and your brain will try to synchronize with this particular frequency which is associated with a meditative state.

Ananda has a new approach: it generates tailor-made binaural tones depending on the duration of your session and the program you choose. The background sounds are selected randomly so you never hear the exact same session twice. Every time you use Ananda you’ll hear something new and fresh.

I worked hard to make this app as efficient as possible. It’s as simple as this : plug in your earphones, choose your program and enter your personal sanctuary wherever you are: in the metro, in a café, at the office or at home.

But here you go, an example is better than a long description. Here is a small excerpt of what Ananda sounds like:

Ananda will be soon released on the Apple App Store (the app has been sent to Apple and is being reviewed). The full version will be sold for 2,99$ (2,39€). Seriously, this is the price a cup of coffee and you will be able to access the app when you want from your iphone for as long as you want.

New sounds will be added to subsequent updates so you can get even more original sound backgrounds in the future (of course, updates come at no cost).

I’m also working on a free version if you want to test the app before buying it (and trust me, so far all the early testers loved it).

If you want more information, visit the Ananda website and like the facebook page.

And talk about it around you, it really helps… Thanks a lot, really!

If you still have questions, leave a comment or send me an email. I’ll be happy to answer you 🙂

ps: for all of you who helped me, supported me, gave me ideas during the programming of this app, for all the testers who helped me find the bugs in the app: I can’t thank you enough! Without you this project would never have worked out… And special thanks to Julien from Appartement 303 who particularly helped me to make the interface smooth and simple to use. Seriously the app looks awesome!

ps2: Best wishes for a peaceful and successful new year to all of you!

[UPDATE: the app is now available on the iphone app store. You can get it here.]

I can’t take this shit anymore

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Last week, one of my facebook friend (whom I could call an acquaintance more than a friend) posted a racist meme on his wall. This day when I opened my news feed I saw this image saying that basically Muslims are all terrorists in disguise (and it was trying to be funny and clever but it was really not). It’s not the first time this guy posts shit like this but usually I see it and I don’t do anything except this time I couldn’t take it and I surprised myself : I told him he was a fucking jackass.

Most people usually don’t do anything in this case . They probably disagree with this kind of statement but they just take it in and it stays somewhere inside them until they start to think it’s normal. It’s probably what happened to this guy: he got used to certain situations and thinks that it’s funny to discriminate a whole culture because he has simply become a douchebag. And most people don’t react because they think it’s ok to express yourself like this about others because … I don’t know… just take a look at how TV and movies depict other cultures: they’re either evil or cute and innocent poor bastards.

I’m probably dumb for realizing this now: all of us are genuinely good persons but we absorb so many tensions that we’re becoming someone else. People are not really happy but they don’t know why and in fact it’s simple: they are just dealing with too many tensions! There is nothing new here, reacting is normal… you probably think you act when in fact you react to something (I’m hungry –> I need food –> I need money –> I’m working). So why not extending this and get cleared of all tensions?

  • Someone post a racist meme, I clearly comment back to tell him that he’s a fucking racist and I block him… I don’t want see more of this shit.
  • Yesterday I’ve been yelled at by a driver who thought it was appropriate to tell “I’m going to kill you fucker!” because I was in front of him with my bike and he couldn’t pass me. So I answered to him… in the same tone. I think he will remember it.
  • I see people asking for change, I give them some change. 

Every of these actions have an incredible impact on my well-being. I thought my journey to self-realization or whatever was to be quiet but in fact I was not being quiet I was being passive. I was just accumulating tensions in silence. I don’t find any peace in this. Peace comes from rebalancing your tensions. And yes this is extremely selfish. That means that ultimately you help others because you feel uneasy seeing them suffering (and you don’t want to feel uneasy). Or you’re being really strong with someone because he’s being an asshole and it makes you feel bad. Yes, it’s extremely selfish but any kind of action is ultimately really selfish, you have to accept it.

My quest is to find and work on who I truly am and accumulating more tensions is just making it more difficult. I can’t take that shit anymore.

What tensions are you getting used to? How do you compensate for them?

What are the ones you have to deal with?

 

Adventures in raw veganism

Raw vegan lasagna is, I think, my favorite raw vegan meal

Raw vegan lasagna is, I think, my favorite raw vegan meal

I was supposed to post this one earlier. It has been almost a month since I have started to eat “normal” food again. Eight weeks ago I started a 4 week raw vegan experiment. This was a suggestion of some friends who do the yoga teacher training session with me. So, I did it because I wanted to see how it was and also because some people told me it would be impossible. At first I thought it was a diet but it was more like a detox. Anyway, I like to think of it as “an experiment” because I don’t really believe everything that is not raw vegan is toxic. I believe in moderation and I think it works, at least for me.

The rules

They were pretty simple:

  • only raw fruits and vegetables (with the exceptions of 30% of cooked or warm vegetables for supper if needed)
  • no processed food
  • no cereals
  • no alcohol
  • no coffee, no tea, no sugar, no milk, no honey…

It was a little more complicated than that and there was food proportions to respect for each meal but I did not respect it. I tried to make it “easy” and it was already good enough like that.

The cheats and the fails

Ok… I can’t really say I have succeeded since I have cheated a couple times. Nothing big but I just want to be honest.

  • I ate one bowl of granola during the first week. I actually did not pay to much attention to the cereal part of the deal and ended up eating some. 
  • I drank 2-3 glasses of wine at the end of the third week with friends in a restaurant
  • I ate two spoons of rice in a raw vegan restaurant… They are supposed to have no cereal on their menu but apparently they had some during winter because, well… because it’s winter.

I think that’s it. So it’s not too bad. I just feel bad about the wine. I could have controlled myself on this one.

If you don’t eat meat and cereals you get all weak

That’s how I have been raised. Actually, for along time I thought vegetables were just giving you more fibers to digest easily. I didn’t think they were actually giving you nutrients. Nobody really told me. So the big surprise was that I was not so hungry during the detox. I never had this sensation of having a full stomach either though. But my energy level was pretty much “normal”. The thing is I had to eat more often to keep my energy constant. After a while I was more satisfied to have energy than having a full stomach. This shift in my energy perception is the real goal of the diet according to me.

Also you spend less energy digesting when you just eat vegetables and fruits. This helps too: you don’t get as much energy but you don’t consume as much. I found myself being really “light”. This was particularly a good time for yoga practice.

I thought I would miss caffeine but it was actually easy to live without it. I was a big coffee drinker but I’m better at it now. Sometime I like to get caffeinated but most of the time I’m happy with tea. So it was not too bad to just drink decaffeinated herbal tea.

It’s funny how many people thought it was not technically possible to this detox. A couple people were even concerned for my health. So I think that what I believed before is still what most people believe. I don’t know why we are not more educated about food actually, but this is another debate.

Grocery shopping, cooking and going out

This was actually the part that took a lot of time and energy! First you think you can just eat salads, sprouts and fruits but it gets annoying pretty quick. So I’ve tried to add a little variety. My wife gave me a raw vegan recipe book which helped a lot. But it required to spend a lot of time shopping. The good thing is I discovered a lot of new ingredients I never heard of before. Also you can’t buy something and expect it to last more than a couple of days so you have to shop again.

My regimen had much more nuts than usual and these are quite expensive. Overall the whole thing is more expensive. I did a little calculation and it seems that I’ve spent around 25% more in groceries during the detox.

Preparing food took much more time too. Since I wanted it to be original, it was not unusual to spend more than one hour getting a meal together. Most of the time it was fun because I spent more time in the kitchen with my wife working on our little experiments.

Now the  real pain was to go out. There is only one good raw vegan place that I know of in Montreal (Crudessence). Otherwise you can still order salads in other places but usually you have to remove things. It’s hard to find a salad in a “normal” restaurant without having them throwing chicken or bacon in it. And also you pay for the full salad even if you don’t have all the ingredients inside. I tried a couple vegetarian restaurants and I found them to be a complete rip-off (15$ for a lettuce-cucumber-avocado salad on a small plate for example). It’s probably because vegetarian also means hipster (at least in Montreal). So if you find a vegetarian place you also pay for the hype.

Back to “normal”

I think my body got accustomed to this diet pretty fast. But I honestly wanted a good glass of beer more than anything else. I’m not a big drinker but I like beer and wine with moderation. And when my diet was finished the first thingI had was a beer .

During the first days after the diet, cereals felt really heavy so eating just a little was enough. That’s where you realize how much energy you spend eating cereals.

The thing is I felt weaker after the diet than during the diet. Actually I lost this sensation of being “light”. I also hurt my back pretty bad one week after the end of the diet (and that’s why it took me so long to write this, simply because I couldn’t stay in front of computer for more than 15 minutes straight, I feel better now, thank you). My osteopath tells me it’s not just a back problem but that my digestive system was the origin of the problem. So I believe my body was in shock when I went back to “normal”.

If I had to do this experiment again (and I think I will one day), I would do it during the summer. Eating mostly cold food during winter is not that easy and I think it would be easier with warm weather. Also it’s easier if somebody does it with you. My wife played the game and ate the same food as I was for every meal we shared. She was a great help. I can’t really imagine myself eating salad if she had been eating pizza next to me…

But the whole thing didn’t make me want to turn vegan. I include much more fruits and vegetables in my meals but I like meat. I like cheese. And I like cereals. All with moderation.

If you have tried a similar diet/detox or if you have any question about this experiment, drop a line in the comment section. If you were/are vegan, I’m interested also in your opinion. Did you turn vegan for health reason, moral reason, hype…? I don’t know, I just need to understand it a little better…

Avoiding the news (and feeling good about it)

Ignore the newsI don’t know if you’ve read or watched the news these days? I know I haven’t… This is a little resolution for 2013 and I feel good about it. Actually I feel that the world is getting better when I don’t try to know what is going on.

Let me explain: from my point of view everything is fine. I don’t worry because taxes may perhaps go up, because “the economical crisis is not over”or because people are pro or against gay marriages. I hear what happens because some people talk about it but I try to not worry more about it if I can’t do anything about it. I’ve actually filled a journal every night before going to bed since October. One of the question I’ve answered everyday in the journal was: what made you angry today? Well, Listening to the news was always coming back. It made me angry, worried. And when I worry I don’t perform well in any activity. I don’t know about you but I don’t like feeling like that, so I’ve decided that it would be easy to just cut the news out of my life.

And since I feel more optimistic because I’m not getting influenced my negative news, I believe I also bring a little more optimism to the world. My impact may be minimal but I don’t care, it’s still a little something.

Now… it’s fucking difficult to avoid the news. Perhaps it’s because I’m living in the city. You don’t get that much exposure in the country. Here are what I’m trying to not pay attention to:

  • TV and radio: This is pretty easy, I just change the station if I start to hear the news. I don’t really listen to the radio and I don’t watch much TV and usually it’s just for video streaming or to watch a DVD.
  • Newspapers: I never buy newspapers (ha!). We have 2 free newspapers in Montreal. They are distributed at bus stations or in the metro. I don’t take them. The trick is to not peak at what others are reading in the subway. It’s kind of difficult when you have dozens of people around displaying the front page of the paper. So, I generally try to read something on my kindle app or I just close my eyes and listen to my ipod or, better, I meditate.
  • Magazines and blogs: well, this is the only thing I read. Actually the only magazine I read is Wired. In some ways, they talk about the news but it’s really different from the everyday news. Blogs are also some kind of news and the line between some blogs and news websites is really blurry. I try to focus on personal blogs or sites that may evoque global issues but don’t just talk what is on the front page of newspapers. I like to read articles about technology (because this is my field, I would look dumb as an app developer if I did not know what the new OS is bringing)
  • TV screens (everywhere): Montreal in known for its underground city. Well, it’s a little nightmare if you try to avoid the news. Basically the underground city is like big malls connected together by tunnels and metro stations. And the underground city is nice when it’s minus 40 outside  (and by the way… yes, minus 40 degrees Celsius is the same as minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit and it’s also called “Are you kidding me? I’m staying inside”). So when you walk in the underground city, you basically walk through food courts and there are TVs everywhere, because people can’t focus on eating. Even worse, in the metro, they have these screens telling you when the next train is coming and also displaying news in a loop. Just try to look the minutes on the top-right corner of the screen and not watch videos of war right under…
  • People: you can’t really avoid them. So when they talk about the news I try to talk about why I don’t watch the news to change the subject. But sometimes I just ask them because it’s this awkward moment in the conversation when you don’t know what to say. The advantage is that the news are filtered this way and you can know what is going in 2 minutes instead of spending hours following news flash. That’s how I know about gun debates in US, gay mariages in France, war in Mali and Lance Armstrong. I also see some news that friends share on facebook or twitter. This is tricky because I don’t know if it comes from a newspaper or a blog… So I have this rule: I consider that if somebody I know points me to the news, I’m allowed to read it. That’s how I read an article about how the trend of eating quinoa in the western world was actually bad for South America. This kind of article is not really what you usually hear in the news anyway. This is more like an little investigation like the ones you can find in magazines. Well, this one happened to be from the Guardian… I suppose, I’ll call that the “gray zone”.

The fun thing (well… I don’t know if it really fun or if I should be worried about it) is that it’s really strange to see people jump on the news like junkies on crack. Yu know like it’s really important for them. perhaps it’s really important for some people because they need to be aware of what is going on in the world. I imagine traders need it for example. But I don’t think the everyday guy really needs to know what happened 10000 miles from him.

And finally when you don’t read the news but still have some involuntary glimpses of news, you realize how much bullshit this all is. So I sound like an ignorant bastard when I say I didn’t really paid a lot attention to what happened in this school in Connecticut. Of course, what happened is awful…  It’s awful every time a kid dies but there are thousand of kids dying of hunger around the world everyday. And this is actually something we could change if we cared a little but apparently it’s more important to have endless debates about guns (which by the way make people more worried about violence and more inclined to buy guns to defend themselves). Also, I’m pretty sure there would not be so many massacres if we stopped talking about them… The news make it some kind of sick trend… I don’t really know who is to blame: guns or news about guns? That’s why I believe watching the news really doesn’t help the world getting better. It’s just a certain point of view anyway, a certain kind of knowledge. Who said it was the “right” knowledge?

So I’m asking you: Do you watch/read the news? Does it make you a better person?

 

Invest in yourself (or be doomed)

It might sound dumb but I’m really amazed at how much time we can put into distracting ourselves. I don’t mean that mindless distraction is always bad. I watch some TV everyday and I feel good about it. Modern Family is one of my favorite… It does not make more clever, but it’s nice. Now just one show, perhaps two is enough distraction. I don’t need to stay infront of the TV for 3 hours everyday either (except if it’s a really good movie – and it has to be really good, not average good). And TV is just one distraction, it’s the easy one that comes to mind but how much distraction do we have a twork? You know your colleague who want to show this lipsync youtube video. Or this one-hour phone call that was just about complaining that “life is hard”. We spend so much time distracting ourselves and yet nothing about investing in ourselves.

What is investing?

Think of yourself as a company. Let’s say you are a cool company like Samsung Apple (I talked about Apple with a friend and I know she’s going to read this – you know who you are, ha!). You are making phones and computers. It’s fun, and this is what you are supposed to do. Investing in yourself is all the things we never think about you. For example: accounting, cleaning your stores, shipping your products, etc… If you don’t do it you have a problem. For us humans, basic investment is eating, drinking, sleeping, brushing our teeth…

And like a company, if your shipping department is a mess, then a bad reputation starts. Back to humans, if you eat at Burger King every day it will keep you alive but you willalso start to look like  a mess. And you don’t want that, don’t you? No, you want to have an optimal health. You want to feel good about yourself. Well it means that you have to work on yourself and not just on doing what you usually do. That means, invest in your mojo.

You can’t escape yourself

I know it sounds silly but we don’t really think about it, right? You are stuck in yourself until you die. So if your body can’t run a mile and if your brain can’t process more than an episode of Wipe Out, you are doomed. Sorry… I’m a computer guy and I know what I am talking about. Two years ago, my body looked like the body of the average computer guy (i.e. really thin everywhere with some pounds around my belly). I did not feel good. I used to be good at running for miles but at that point going to the grocery store was tiring. I got back problems all the time caused by stupid stuff like an uncomfortable chair or because somebody pushed me in the metro (I still have back problems, by the way. Apparently it is something that runs in my family, I don’t really understand why. But now my body fixes itself  way faster if I hurt myself).  Doing yoga every day helped a lot and now I feel good and I look good (and I think any kind of physical activiy would have been good, I’m not here to praise yoga) (“but you should do yoga! it’s awesome” aaahh shut up!)
And yet how many people don’t exercise, don’t read or try to educate themselves because they don’t have time. If they die at 45 because they are in bad shape when a cancer strikes (sorry to be pessimistic, but it happens),they will feel sorry of “not having time” when they were 30. Maybe I’m getting old or it’s just that I don’t want my life to suck, but I have a lot of awesome stuff planned in my future and I don’t want my body to be a constraint.

Schedule your investment

I’ve started to set up schedules for what I have to do during the week (thanks to this post form Johnny B. Truant). And instead of just scheduling important things, I also put some time to take naps, meditate, read, listen to music, walk outside, etc… I’m a big fan of naps. This is one of my favorite way to recharge my batteries, relieve stress accumulated during the day and clear my thoughts. I also like to take a lot of time to get ready in the morning, it takes me more than an hour. And this involves meditating, making a fresh smoothie, stretching, reading, flossing… all the things that I thought I did not have time to do but make me feel like I’m really ready to start the day and not just barely awake.

Having a walk, going to a museum, etc… All these are also really good for your personal investment. Walking in a park in the middle of the day, watching squirrels, this also helps to boos your creativity better than a Red Bull. I’m serious. (and it’s free too).

Don’t feel guilty

You are working on making yourself better, there is absolutely no reason to feel that it’s wrong. When I started practicing yoga everyday, I had this feeling that I was not putting efforts in my other commitments. I did not work as much for example. And the first thing that came to mind was guiltiness. But actually, I was still putting some efforts in what I had to do, I was just faster. I  started to be more efficient in my work because I was more focused and less tired.

Similar thing: 5 years ago, I used to live right next to my work. So I had the habit of coming home for every lunch break to take a 10 minute nap. Sometime I even took some more time to have a shower. So of course, it’s not really seen as productive to take naps in the middle of your work day and people start to think you are lazy. But in the other hand, they started wondering when they saw I was kicking ass like Steve Jobs on steroids ( I realize I’m more of an Apple nerd than I thought I was). Case in point.

So the question is: do you really need all that time to “do what you have to do” or could you be more efficient if you were in top shape? (hint: second option. Did you understand this post or what?)

Now, go have a nap or a walk outside.