Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Yoga with Toulouse

Here by popular demand is an 8-pose Yoga Exercise for Christmas given by my good friend, Toulouse LeTrek:

While Nina is busy doing Christmas things (probably eating and drinking herself silly), I thought I’d provide a public service to those of you indulging in the holiday festivities. Here is my 8-pose Christmas Yoga Exercise to help you gear up for all that Christmas cheer. It’s just the thing for a body bloated on Christmas pudding, turkey and baking.

Did you know that the word yoga means “union”. Yoga creates harmony by controlling your breath and holding your body in steady poses called “asanas”. Five key elements include proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. Yoga should be supervised by a qualified teacher. Don’t worry. That’s me.

So, first off, choose a pleasant, peaceful and spacious setting for your exercises. You might like to turn the lights down and light some candles and put on your favorite Christmas music (so long as it isn’t “I am Santa Claus” by Bob Rivers or “Takin’ Care of Christmas” by Randy Bachman). You can use a mat for extra comfort and give yourself lots of room. Then you need to do some stretching exercises …

The purpose of the Headstand is to rest the heart, which usually has to work against gravity and will likely do some extra laps this Christmas with all the cholesterol coursing through you from figgy pudding, turkey stuffing and eggnog. Some people think headstands heal everything. Well, it sure gives you a different perspective on things! And that’s gotta be good for you.

The Dolphin pose strengthens the arms and shoulders. It kind of prepares you for the headstand. I’m doing a great job, aren’t I?

The Plough pose increases overall flexibility, but it’s particularly effective for relieving tension in the upper back and shoulders; especially after you’ve been with the relatives for over two days...

Here’s the Cobra, one of my favorite positions. It does tons of good things like toning and strengthening the superficial and deep muscles of the back and abdominal regions. It also increases backward bending flexibility—something a cat like me does lots—and it relieves tension, especially in the lower back. Good for after you’ve been shoveling the driveway…

The Locust is a backward bending exercise that increases flexibility of the upper back and strengthens the lower back muscles. Holding the pose also massages the internal organs and makes them frisky—which you will be too; good for combating the “big meal” doldrums.

The Camel pose I’m doing here…well, I might have gotten carried away… lets you exercise all your back muscles and extends your spinal column by bending your back fully. It’s useful for increasing spinal and hip flexibility.

Here I am doing the Spinal Twist, which stretches the spine and helps the vertebrae regain their mobility. The roots of the spinal nerves and the nervous system get toned and provided with increased blood supply.

You need a lot of strength, flexibility and concentration to do the Peacock. As you can see, I have a lot of it! When the pose is held, your elbows press into the abdominal region, drawing fresh blood to the area and nourishing your internal organs.

Last but certainly not least, is the Final Relaxation, my favorite part and I do it well, as you can see… Relaxation is important because it leaves you with a calm mind and relaxed muscles. It allows the body to absorb the energy released by the asanas. You need to relax this way for at least five minutes. I’m so good at it that I do it for … well, hours.

Have a safe, joyous and meaningful “giving season”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

You can find more Toulouse adventures on the site Toulouse on the Loose. Read about his great travels across the globe to France, Switzerland, Romania, Thailand, Australia, Canada, USA, Sweden, Mexico, Costa Maya, Belize and so many more places... There Toulouse finds the best places to go, eat, drink and relax. Somehow, he also finds the best places for adventure and discovery along the way. Learn from this consummate traveller, sommelier and purveyor of great food: Toulouse LeTrek. Go find him on Trip Advisor or on Facebook...

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sensual Writing and Why I Love the Smell of Smoke

Last week, as I was driving down a winding country road on my way to Bridgewater from Lunenburg, I caught sight of the billowing smoke of a small fire. Someone was obviously doing some roadside autumn clearing.

Without thinking, I slid the window open and inhaled deeply as I passed through the billows. I was preparing to experience the exquisite “taste of home”. As I breathed in the aroma of burning vegetation, memories of outdoor campfires and old wood-burning stoves flooded in from my childhood. A goofy smile slid across my face as I bathed in the joyful innocence of adventure, wonder and the comfort of the hearth. I’d had a wonderful childhood and the smell of smoke brought it back to me in its full glory.

What does this have to do with sensual writing? Everything. That’s because writing is metaphoric. That is what storytelling is: sharing universal truth through metaphor, delivered from the heart, where these lie. Sensual writing doesn’t just involve making sure to include at least a few senses like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in your narrative--though this is a good writing mantra. To write sensually involves much more than the simple description of a sense, though this is certainly the first step (and something all too often neglected by novice writers).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Toulouse!... A Cat is a Cat is a Cat…Or is it?

To celebrate his birthday today, I treated Toulouse to lunch at The Knot Pub in Lunenburg. The Knot is a friendly pub where locals go to eat homemade food and tell stories. According to the staff, “the person sitting next to you could be a scallop fisherman, Christmas tree farmer, Norwegian sailor, world famous actor, musician, painter, or scholar – you never know who you’re going to meet at The Knot! The outside looks a bit like a quaint little seafaring shack complete with port hole in the front door. Inside the pub exudes sea-shanty charm, with lots of local boat building oak, nautical brass fittings, copper pennies on the ceiling, flags and other nautical things. The place even has its resident ghost, a lady who apparently glides by, especially when you’ve had a few too many pints.

Sarah recommended the Knot's Ale, made by the Propeller Brewery, a lovely nut-brown ale rich in complicated flavors that quench your thirst.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Galactic Party at the Lord Nelson Hotel!

Imagine a royal palace on an alien planet in a galaxy far far away…add hundreds of bizarre and wonderfully costumed aliens from all over the universe and you have Hal-Con at the Lord Nelson Hotel.

Hal-Con at the Lord Nelson Hotel was out of this world!

Toulouse and I attended Hal-Con last weekend, where I launched my latest SF thriller Angel of Chaos and gave several workshops. Hal-Con is the prime science fiction / fantasy / comic & gaming convention in Halifax; after an over-decade hiatus, it returned this year to a sell-out crowd of enthusiastic fans. Over 1,200 fans poured into the splendid lobby of this historic hotel on Halloween Friday and formed a moving sea of elaborately costumed SF and Fantasy characters beneath its sparkling chandeliers. Aliens, characters, and robots from Doctor Who, Star Wars, Star Trek, Iron Man, and many more universes milled about, entertaining hotel guests in the elevators, hallways, lobbies and Victoria Arms restaurant pub all weekend.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nina Munteanu Launches Angel of Chaos at Hal-Con and the Hero's Journey

Angel of Chaos is ... a gripping blend of big scientific ideas, cutthroat politics and complex yet sympathetic characters that will engage readers from its thrilling opening to its surprising and satisfying conclusion —Hayden Trenholm, Aurora-winning author of The Steele Chronicles

I'm looking forward to attending Hal-Con, the premiere science fiction convention this weekend (October 29-31, 2010) at the luxurious Lord Nelson Hotel in downtown Halifax. I'll be launching my latest book, the eco-thriller Angel of Chaos (Dragon Moon Press) on Saturday morning at 10:30, with reception following, where you can eat and drink and ask me silly questions to which I will give you silly answers. You may also get an autographed copy of the book, which you can then sell on Ebay for a bazillion dollars.

The day before (on Friday at 4 pm) I'll be giving my popular writer's workshop in which I discuss common and effective plot approaches for compelling storytelling and expound on the "Hero's Journey" myth and the importance of metaphor that encompass heroic adventure in all writing.

The hero's journey encompasses 1. archetypes the hero encounters [or embodies] in the various stages of her adventure; and 2. the various stages of the actual journey itself. The kind of hero also defines the quality and form of journey depicted, based on the story/myth/message intended.

To write a truly compelling story is to resonate with the universal truths of metaphor within the consciousness of humanity. According to scholar and mythologist Joseph Campbell this involves an open mind and a certain amount of humility; and giving oneself to the story...not unlike the hero who gives her life to something larger than herself.

Note the words he has carefully chosen in the following quote:

"Anyone writing a creative work knows that you open, you yield yourself, and the book talks to you and builds become the carrier of something that is given to you from what have been called the Muses--or, in biblical language, "God." This is no fancy, it is a fact. Since the inspiration comes from the unconscious, and since the unconscious minds of the people of any single small society have much in common, what the shaman or seer [or artist] brings forth is something that is waiting to be brought forth in everyone. So when one hears the [artist's] story, one responds, "Aha! This is my story. This is something that I had always wanted to say but wasn't able to say." There has to be dialogue, and interaction between the [artist]and the community." This I call tapping into the universal truth where metaphor lives. A story comes alive when these two resonate (see my two previous articles on resonance).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Do The Planet Earth, the Human Brain and Schumann Resonance Have in Common?

Everything in life is vibration—Albert Einstein

“All vibrating things in this world have their own, ‘natural’ frequency which they are most comfortable with,” writes Sanjay Aqrawal in an Ezine article entitled “Brain Entrainment and Schumann Resonance”. When a thing is subjected to an external force that makes it vibrate at a frequency it vibes with the most, the thing responds “joyfully”, by vibrating at the maximum amplitude (energy). The natural frequency of that [object] is known as its ‘resonating’ or ‘resonant’ frequency, and the phenomenon is known as ‘Resonance’. Physicists describe resonance as the tendency of a system to oscillate with greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others, using its stored vibrational energy.

Schumann Resonance (SR) is the global electromagnetic resonance that occurs as a set of peaks in the extremely low frequency (ELF) portion of the Earth’s electromagnetic field spectrum between 3 and 69 Hz, with distinct peaks at 7.83, 14.3, 20.8, 27.3 and 33.8 Hz. Lightning discharges excite SR in the cavity formed by the Earth’s conducting surface and the ionosphere.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nikola Tesla and Resonating Earth Frequencies

Science is but a perversion of itself unless it has as its goal the betterment of humanity--Nikola Tesla
His name is not generally celebrated or well known, but this intense man basically invented the Twentieth Century. “Like all great magicians, he has all but disappeared,” says Sidian M.S. Jones in her blog. Nikola Tesla is, however, responsible for so many things we often take for granted or think someone else invented: things like alternating current, wireless communication, the electric motor, lasers and radar, x-rays, neon, robotics, remote control, the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics, cellular technology, and even tactical space-warfare. Yet, he died alone, destitute, in a New York hotel room, ridiculed and vilified as a “mad scientist” – even a buffoon. How did this come to be?

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Face of a Hero: Hero Meme

In a previous post about “A Portrait of the Artist as a Real Hero” I defined a real altruist as Nature’s Real Hero and described the Vervet Monkey as an example. In literature and in the “hero’s journey”, the hero is defined as the altruist, willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of the greater good.

I've written several posts on altruism, the altruist (the true definition of the hero) and the hero, including:

Altruism at the Heart of True Happiness
Gaia vs. Medea: A Case for Altruism
What Altruism in Animals Can Teach Us About Ourselves
The Samaritan Paradox Revisited: The Karma Ran Over the Dogma
Our Obsession with Ownership
Is James Bond an Altruist? – part 2
A Hero’s Journey: the Journey
The Hero’s Journey: Archetypes

The altruist is often not noticed or recognized. The real altruist is undervalued or mistaken for something else. The Real Hero is often misunderstood, feared, and ridiculed or exiled for being different. S/he must often walk a lonely path. Yet the hero shines in the dark face of adversity. They are a bright beacon of hope, leading us through the dark forest of evil or confusion toward a better life and a better world. Not only does the hero reflect our very best selves in times of crises, but they are our catalysts for change and evolution, our inspirational sources. While we may ridicule them in one breath as brazen, foolish or impetuous, or even threatening, we strive to be them, to emulate their qualities and follow in their noble footsteps. Heroes can be mentors, catalysts, and heralds of change. They educate us, challenge us—particularly our complacency and apathy—and they ultimately inspire us. Heroes bring us back to our humanity and show us what we can be.

In any case, it got me thinking about who my heroes are and who your heroes are. So, I created this meme in honor of our heroes:

The Hero Meme:

Here’s how it’s played: those of you who have been tagged are encouraged to name FIVE HEROES in your life with a brief explanation of why they deserve this recognition. Then you need to tag five to ten other bloggers to name their heroes. You and anyone you tag should 1) link to the source post (this one) and 2) to the blog or the person that tagged you (if it’s me then you only need to link here once).

First I’ll give you my personal hero picks. Then I’ll give you my choice of 10 blog-heroes that I’ve tagged to further this worthwhile meme. Even if I haven’t tagged you, I’d love to hear from you. Who are YOUR heroes?

Here are eight of my heroes; each demonstrates to me several important aspects of heroism and altruism:

The Vervet Monkey: Commonly living in groups or “troops” of 20 or more, the Vervet possesses the “rudiments of language”. Altruistic Vervets give alarm calls to warn their group of invading leopards, snakes, and eagles. In doing so, they attract attention to themselves, increasing their chance of being attacked. Because of their being known to destroy crops in Kenya, they have been classified as vermin in South Africa and were shot without a permit until 2003. I honor these courageous and noble creatures. They are the ultimate altruist and ultimate hero: prepared to risk their life for others.

Doctor Lynn Margulis: This scientist had the courage to challenge the current scientific hegemony, based on what she felt and knew was true, and persisted with her theory of endosymbiosis despite being ridiculed by the “ruling” scientific community. She endured two decades of censure only to see her theory finally accepted and reported in every text book on biology. Certain “greats” were compelled to retract their censure, which she accepted with grace and forgiveness. I draw inspiration from this courageous and persevering scientist in pursuit of the truth.

Victor Frankl: Gentle spirit, psychologist and founder of existential logo-therapy, Frankl endured and survived the atrocities of Auschwitz with incredible grace and equanimity. He wrote the profound book “Man’s Search for Meaning” which contained these stirring words: That which is to give light must first endure burning. Frankl referenced Nietzsche, "he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how," when he argued that what made the difference between those who survived and those who did not was not the intensity of their suffering, but whether or not they retained meaning and purpose in their lives. Amid the degradation and abject misery of a concentration camp, Frankl was able to exercise the most important freedom of all—the freedom to determine one's own attitude and spiritual well-being. Said Frankl, “love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire…The salvation of man is through love and in love.” I honor his deep courage and his merciful compassion for those who tormented him with undue cruelty.

A.E. Whittall: My high school English teacher, who had the courage to be different and led a new movement in English instruction that challenged students like no other teacher had before. He “pushed” me and every other student toward achievements previously unimagined. He did this through his passionate treatment of writing and literature and by creating an even-playing field of mutual respect. He challenged us to think and to challenge him back by courageously offering his own vulnerability and passion. He inspired, cajoled and compelled, openly sharing his heart, his mind, and his spirit. I admire his courageous devotion to opening our minds and hearts toward ultimate expression.

Nikola Tesla:  Tesla was a humble genius, intense mystic and gentle spirit whose indomitable faith against all odds carried him through the many hardships and actions of betrayal and brutal jealousy that he endured with grace throughout his career as scientist and inventor (he insisted that he was not so much an inventor as a discoverer of ideas gifted to him in flashes of light). His many achievements include alternating current, wireless communication, the electric motor, lasers and radar, x-rays, neon, robotics, remote control, the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics, cellular technology, and even tactical space-warfare. Tesla was a rare breed of scientist/engineer, one who intuited his discoveries and inventions. And one who was also a poet, a philosopher, an appreciator of fine music, a linguist [he was fluent in eight languages], and a connoisseur of food and drink. He was also a humanitarian and loved animals.

Tesla was a selfless, giving and nonjudgmental spirit of incredible integrity who practiced altruism in his constant attempts to better the world. Despite the cynical and greedy actions of others around him, Tesla prevailed in his faith in humanity until he passed away, a pauper and generally unrecognized by the scientific community. This distinguished, sincere and modest altruist demonstrated great generosity in continually bestowing his gifts of genius to the world.


My Brother: When we were children, he protected me without dominating me, loved me unconditionally (for who and what I was), believed in me, respected me and knew just how to tease me (to get my goat!). At ease with himself, he is quietly assertive, has a wonderful sense of humor, and remains a strong advocate for justice and fairness. I forgive him for calling me an alien (well, that’s what I am, after all…) and “runt”... well, I was that too…

His Holiness the Dalai Lama:  His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama embodies harmony, ethics and happiness among all peoples. This past April, I participated in a conference in Zurich, Switzerland, on altruism and compassion in economics with His Holiness. I watched in awe as he guided each of the scientists and economists with a humble wisdom toward a common resolution. Delivered with his signature smile and laughter, the Dalai Lama disarmed conflict and promoted the joining of spirits toward true altruistic thought. His belief in and devotion to kindness, compassion and love on the planet is inspirational.

Karen Mason: Publisher, advocate, advisor, mystic and so much more, Karen is a gentle spirit who delivered me a dream by showing me an unfailing faith to achieve it. Karen’s undying optimism and indomitable faith against all odds has carried her through much that would have beaten others into defeat—and each time she prevailed with grace and compassion. Karen is a humanitarian and healer with an empathic gift with animals, a Kabbalist, accomplished musician, gifted cryptologist and linguist [she is fluent in six languages including Ancient Hebrew), and connoisseur of food and drink. Intelligent, wise and incredibly accomplished in art, communications and technology, she has demonstrated in all her actions a heroic quality that most of us can only strive to achieve: a truly selfless, giving and nonjudgmental spirit of incredible integrity who practices altruism in its most pure form. She is my ultimate inspiration for living a life of faith, genuine kindness, joy and continued wonder. Karen is a beautiful spirit who I am honored to call my friend and mentor.

Here are the blog heroes I’ve tagged:

Kathleen Maher, the Diary of a Heretic
Bob Kingsley, Somerset Bob's Place
Jean Luc Picard, Captain Picard's Journal
Heather Dugan, Footsteps
Princess Haiku, Princess Haiku
Dcr, DCR Blogs
Manchild, When Least Expected
Jennifer Rahn, Random Synaptic Transfers
Lynda Williams, Reality Skimming
Toulouse LeTrek, Toulouse LeTrek

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Power of the Mind and the Phantom Hand

Such stuff as dreams are made on—William Shakespeare

Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran at the Center for Brain and Cognition at the University of California in San Diego conducted an incredibly illuminating experiment on mind and perception (reported in the Premiere issue of Scientific American Mind, Feb 2005).

Briefly, the experiment involved a subject whose right hand was concealed from her while a fake plastic right hand was placed in full view. The experimenter repeatedly tapped or stroked the person’s concealed hand, while simultaneously doing the same to the plastic hand. After half a minute the person whose concealed hand was being stroked began to feel the fake hand being stroked! “The sensations seem to emerge directly from the plastic rather than from [the person’s] actual hidden flesh,” reported Ramachandran and Rogers-Ramachandran. This illusion was first reported by Matthew Botvinick and Jonothan Cohen at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998; they suggested that look and proximity of the fake hand to the hidden real hand was enough to fool the brain.

But there’s more.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Hero’s Journey in Darwin's Paradox: The Iroquios Locks

Toulouse and I recently embarked on another road trip from Nova Scotia west through Toronto and beyond. Somewhere between Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha!, New Brunswick, and Montreal, I had a eureka moment: why not follow Julie’s momentous trek across the future Ontario heath toward Icaria-5 (Toronto), as she follows her “hero’s journey” toward redemption and securing safety for her threatened family.

Julie Crane is the hero in my SF thriller Darwin’s Paradox. She’s a uniquely gifted veemeld (someone able to communicate directly with the AIs of the city through a device), and was the first recipient (at age 5) of the artificial virus, Proteus (before it mutated), which allowed her, alone of all veemelds, to talk to her AI “in her head” whenever and wherever she pleased. She could also “hear” and eventually “speak” to the sentient virus through her mind-link with SAM, her AI.

Exiled to the wilderness by the enclosed city (Toronto) for a murder she didn’t commit and a plague she didn’t spread, Julie forges a life near present-day Cornwall with her mate, Daniel, and bears a child, Angel. Serendipitously, Aard, a scruffy hermit, joins them and teaches them how to survive and make a good life in the heath. Julie never loses her inexplicable longing to return to Icaria-5 and twelve years later, when assassins (government subversives) threaten her family, she journeys to the city to lure her attackers from her family and to purchase their safety. Meanwhile Icaria-5’s current mayor, Gaia, has orchestrated Julie’s abduction. She plans to exploit Julie’s unique talent for hearing machines in her head through the artificial intelligent virus (Proteus) inside her. Violent dissidents (the assassins after her) fear Julie as the carrier of the once-deadly version of the virus, Darwin Disease, and simply want her dead. With both parties chasing her, Julie embarks on a perilous quest and full-throttle collision course with her past (see the prequel, Angel of Chaos, scheduled for release later this year with Dragon Moon Press).

On the second day she reached the great Saint Lawrence River at the remnants of the small village of Iroquois. Julie made out the seaway locks and the dam as she waded through the hummocky wetland of sedges and purple loosestrife. Overgrown and crumbling from disuse, the locks used to control the river’s fluctuating levels and linked the northern shore, once a part of Ontario, Canada, to the south shore that used to belong to New York State in the United States of America. Now it was all simply Icaria’s North Am.

The Iroquois Locks formed part of an extensive navigation system of dams, powerhouses, locks, channels and dikes that made up the St. Lawrence Seaway, linking the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Julie imagined the deep-voiced grinding of those locks a hundred years ago, serving the constant traffic of heavy cargo ships and pleasure boats. Now these monoliths languished under a thick mantle of moss and scrub in a quiet breeze, ghosts of a bygone age.
Toulouse and I reached Iroquois just ahead of a looming thunderstorm. We watched a large freighter pass through the lock in the brief sunshine to a dark charcoal colored sky. Lightning blazed and thundered behind us as the ship lumbered along, barely competing with Nature’s power. It was nonetheless impressive. I thought of Julie standing there in the awesome quiet of the place, hearing ghosts…

The Iroquios lock, operated round the clock seven days a week, allows ships to bypass the dam, which controls the level of Lake Ontario. The Iroquios lock is just one part of the extensive Saint Lawrence Seaway system of locks, canals and channels that let ocean-going vessels travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes (as far as Lake Superior) and jointly managed by Canada and the U.S. Started as early as 1783, this series of navigation aids consists of a Montréal to Lake Ontario section, which includes the 33 km South Shore Canal that bypasses the Lachine Rapids (providing a lift of 13.7 m to the level of Lake St. Louis; the 25.9 km Beauharnois Canal with two locks that provide a 25 m lift around the Beauharnois hydroelectric power dam. Another 46.7 km of canal stretches to Cornwall. This is followed by a 70+ km of canals from Cornwall to Prescott and then on to the Iroquios lock on Lake St. Lawrence, which joins to Lake Ontario. Together all the locks between Montréal and Lake Ontario and lift a westbound vessel about 69 m.

The Welland Canal diverts vessels around Niagara Falls, joining Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The St. Mary’s Canal links Lake Huron to Lake Superior, four parallel locks on the US side that lift westbound vessels 6.4 m to bypass the St. Mary’s rapids.

Next in Julie's journey, the bridge to the United States…

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit Visit for more about her writing.