Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

These posts required a lot more thought and reflection than the shallow category.

I Love Me

Ohayu (Oh, Hai, You!)

It’s February 28th, 2018 and I made a promise to myself that I would publish something today. Anything. Just write and post it. Why? Because I have a lot of ideas and questions swirling around in my head and Barbara She claims, “isolation is the dream killer, not your lousy attitude.” It’s pretty easy to isolate yourself when you live in a country far away from friends and family, can’t speak the language, and are feeling completely out of sorts (social media’s idiotic timelines are partly to blame). See, lousy attitude.

Perhaps you’ve been asked this question, “if you could do it all over again, would you do it differently?” I despise it because I’m only half-way through this life and no way am I starting over. I’m good with what I’ve done with my time and where I am now (Ohayu, I live in Tokyo!).

And yet, something is missing. It’s like there’s this muffled voice inside of me and I can’t understand what it’s saying, but I know it’s important.

I’ve been a passenger parasite in this vessel that gets me around without having a real heart-to-heart with the Captain steering it. I’ve shouted, “land!” a few times and she diligently heads there, until I realize it’s not the port I was looking for. Her Captain’s log would probably read, “No matter how many times I tell our solo passenger that we need to head toward our true destination, she finds an excuse to head towards a popular port that’s quite out of our way. I oblige, but this ship’s getting on in years and it’s time we trimmed our sails a bit and got on with it.”

In order to clear up the communication between me and the Captain, I’ve been working through a set of exercises in a book called “Designing Your Life. How To Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” and there’s a section about building your compass and finding your True North*.

Dysfunctional Belief: I should know where I’m going!

Reframing:  (With my compass) I won’t always know where I’m going but I can always know whether I’m going in the right direction.

I know my direction is heading straight into the wild. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do when I get there, but I have lots of ideas and it’s time to roll up my sleeves and see where the dirt falls.

Something I want to explore with others: If a person with (mild) depression performs a daily practice of mindful meditation and yoga under a 1000-year-old sacred pine tree that grows on the slope of a mountain, then that person’s depression will be cured. OK, my working hypothesis needs a little work.

Just like I have been tracking my sleep patterns using my Apple Watch and iPhone, I want to track depression against time in nature. If a person hears a songbird sing and pauses to listen, does that actually make them happier? If they breather in air free of fine particulates, while performing ujjayi breathing, will their body perform better? Will they feel emotionally better? I’ve been taking a course from UC Berkeley called “The Science of Happiness” to get a better sense of the psychology behind happiness and I’m anxious to apply that learning to time spent in nature.

I’ve been tracking my moods, meditating every day, getting exercise, completing all of my daily challenges. Anecdotally I can say I feel a bit better emotionally. My husband thinks that I’m more even-keeled. And yet, I want actual scientific proof. I want to know what is systemically helping me and how to get more of it. Hence this exploratory journey.

More on all of this in upcoming coherent posts. I’ll also post about life in Tokyo after living here for 6+ months.

Step 1. De-isolate myself.

*True North is your orienting point – your fixed point in a spinning world – that helps you stay on track as a leader. It is derived from your most deeply held beliefs, values, and the principles you lead by. It is your internal compass, unique to you, representing who you are at your deepest level.

Luz Rivas and Tara Tiger Brown at White House

KitHub Turns Two

Today is the day after Trump was elected as President. Not the easiest day to celebrate a birthday.

Two years ago today, Luz Rivas and I launched KitHub. We attribute our collaboration to President Obama, because it was at an Town Hall with Obama in October, 2014 that we ran into each other and the idea was sparked.

I thought about delaying the celebration because of the results of the election, but then I thought about what I can do to fight, and my fight is to bring STEM education to kids, awareness about the environment and climate change and support of women in tech.

Obama has done a lot in his past 8 years as President to support STEM education and climate change efforts:

– Under the Obama administration, we established Computer Science for All, Educate to Innovate, the Nation of Makers and more.

– Obama’s climate change efforts include the Paris Agreement on climate, the Clean Power Plan, expanded the Clean Energy economy, established national limits for mercury, arsenic, and other toxic air pollutants emitted by power plants, the Better Buildings Challenge, permanently protected more than 260 million acres of America’s public lands and waters.

So today I will celebrate the past two years of KitHub, the past 8 years of President Obama, and continue my work over the next four years to do everything I can to ensure that our next President doesn’t ruin everything Obama has done during his Presidency.

“One of the things that I’ve been focused on as President is how we create an all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math… We need to make this a priority to train an army of new teachers in these subject areas, and to make sure that all of us as a country are lifting up these subjects for the respect that they deserve.”

President Barack Obama
Third Annual White House Science Fair, April 2013

“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

— U.S. President Barack Obama, State of the Union, January 28, 2014

31 Days To Feeling Physically And Emotionally Lighter

I wrote this article on my Forbes Blog.

Like most of you, I have attempted to participate in all sorts of 21 day, 3 month, 8 week-long programs in order to lose my muffin top, build muscles, increase memory, detox…you name it. I have never completed a single challenge. I get about half way through and then just get bored or can’t keep up with the complicated daily routine or it’s tailored to an eating program or workout that doesn’t fit my lifestyle.

In December of last year I got to thinking: why do I have to follow someone else’s program? We are all unique so why are there so many one-size fits all programs? Why don’t I figure out what I WANT to do and customize it to me. Crazy, I know.

My motivation stemmed from last year, 2013 was a really tough year for me and I felt burnt out for most of it. 2014 is my year to focus on mental health and balance. I wanted to figure out how to be more in the present instead of always thinking ahead and all the many things I needed to get done, reduce stress that was causing shoulder and neck pain and be the easy going person that I preferred.

Requirements

  1. The mind and body are connected so I wanted to develop a program that combined the two.
  2. One month seemed to be just enough time to get into a routine, but not too much time to become miserable if the program wasn’t working well for me. Allowing for adjustments seemed critical to success if I planned to continue after the first month.
  3. I needed a routine that was flexible time-wise, could travel with me and didn’t require a lot of equipment.

Daily Program

  • Yoga – at least 15 minutes
  • Meditation – at least 10 minutes
  • Vitamins – multi-vitamin, B6, B12, Zinc, Biotin, 5-HTP, Flaxseed oil, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, liquid iron, magnesium, calcium.
  • Water 8x/day (wake-up, before breakfast, before shower, enroute to work, before lunch, enroute home, before dinner, before bed)

And to top it all off, I went on a sugar detox and didn’t allow myself to eat anything with the following ingredients: refined sugar, maple syrup, agave, honey. Many people asked me about fruit, and the answer is yes, I ate fruit, lots of it. We are a vegan household and eliminating fruit is not an option. Note that I never drank juice.

Guidance

I relied on a lot of mobile apps or YouTube…basically anything I could access via my iPhone or iPad.

Mindfulness Meditation – There are a variety of apps and classes to support you in pursuing a calm mind. My personal experience dictated that I was most successful and felt the best when I meditated first thing in the morning before checking my phone and the rest of  my family was awake.

Headspace
I finished the free 10 day program. I liked it because it helped train me to always go back to my breath when my mind wandered. They offer  subscription to continue on for another 355 days.
Calm.com
If I really want to focus on something for the day, this app has all sorts of great topics including focus, gratitude, reduce stress and more. The free apps comes with a handful of sessions and you can subscribe to download additional sessions.
Mindfulness Meditation App
This is a no fuss app. The free version comes with a timer so if you don’t want any guidance, you can just set your alarm to the amount of time you want to practice.
Walking Meditation by Meditation Oasis
Once a week I walk to the train station at 7am and so I am able to combine walking and meditation. I started listening to Meditation Oasis podcasts years ago and really like how easy going the guide’s voice is so was OK paying 99 cents for the app.

Yoga – I’ve been practicing ashtanga yoga off and on for about 20 years but have never been consistent past a few months. I think part of the reason was having to make my way to a studio and they tend to be on the expensive side. Thankfully now there are tons of YouTube videos and apps to follow along to and so if I don’t have the time or inclination to head to class I can do it at home.

Do You Yoga
There was a 30 day challenge last year and all of the videos are available online. The instructor, Erin Motz, is adorable and easy to follow.

Rodney Yee
I have had his DVDs for a decade and have always enjoyed his easy going teaching method.

Local Gym
My yoga instructor is also named Tara and she runs 1 and 2 hour classes. This is an affordable option because yoga is included in my monthly membership which is much less than a yoga studio membership.

LA River Walk
There are yoga pose signs along the river and sometimes when I am walking my dog with my young son, we stop at each sign, do the pose and move onto the next one. It’s a fun family activity.

Tracking
Instead of using an app, I marked on my physical calendar when I finished something for the day. There is something about making an X with a pen on paper that bring a feeling of satisfaction that a finger swipe will never bring.

I tracked my weight using the Fitbit Aria scale which I really like. It can detect me versus my husband and son and the online dashboard is comprehensive. My husband happily took my body measurements with an old fashioned tape measure. I’d like a more accurate way to do this because I’m not sure he wrapped the tape around the exact same spot each time. There are some guides online that can help.

Results
Weight: down 5.9 pounds
Size: 2 inches off my waist (my pants fit much better!)
Jiggle test: when I walk and run my belly no longer feels like a bowl of jelly

Mental Health – I am astounded and thrilled about how good I feel. I am one of those people that boils, boils, boils and then explodes. I also tend to hone in on something that is irritating me and let it eat away at me causing me to get stressed. Mindfulness meditation is teaching me to allow thoughts to come in but to gently let them go. This practice is bleeding into my day and I think that I am just more level-headed and don’t let issues eat away at me. I am learning to be more in the present and focusing on the people I’m with and what they are saying and perhaps even interrupt less during a conversation.

Yoga – has helped me build my core, and along with meditation, I have become a better breather. I have been going to a structural body therapist and recently he focused on my ribs and diaphragm and I can breather deeper now. I learned from him that many women like myself that wear underwire bras have shallow breathing because their rib cages are being constricted. (side note: Can someone please design a bra that allows us to breathe unencumbered??). Breathing is one of the most crucial, healthy and FREE things we can do for our body and mind yet so many of us practice shallow breathing.

Vitamins – I was sick a lot last year and I thought maybe it was because I wasn’t taking my vitamins. I didn’t get sick this month, except for on one of the last days of the month I was feeling a bit rotten, but I think I was more tired than anything. I think perhaps my sugar break wasn’t so difficult because I was taking the right vitamins to eliminate any cravings – B, magnesium and zinc.

Water – I believe that because I was drinking probably closer to the amount of water that I should intake than I ever have before, that my body was functioning more smoothly. I’m sorry for the TMI here, but elimination was a heck of a lot easier and regular. I would guess that also helped with weight loss.

Sugar Break – It’s hard to say how I benefited from a sugar fast this month, but I do know that there is a link between mood and blood sugar balance so if I feel more ‘even’ then it may have had an impact in conjunction with the meditation practice. It wasn’t as hard as I thought to reduce my sugar intake. One night about 2 weeks in I had a really crazy craving for hot chocolate which was resolved by making a vegan, sugar free drink. It was delicious.

Verification
As long as I am feeling better, that is good enough for me, but it’s still always nice to see if anyone else noticed a difference. I asked my husband if he noticed any difference in my ‘tude and he said that I seem more positive, happier, I manage my anger better and my sex drive is up. Not too shabby.

Next
If I had to choose one thing to continue with on a daily basis it would be meditation practice. It truly has helped me and I know it’s just the beginning of what I hope becomes a deeper practice. I plan to attend a weekend meditation retreat and look into joining a local mediation center.

I’d like to continue daily yoga but I would like to include bike riding so I may opt to choose either yoga or a bike ride. I continually remind myself that I can’t do it all.  Regardless, I am going to ensure I practice good breathing techniques every day. When I’m feeling anxious or stressed, I pause and take 5 to 10 deep breaths and calm my mind. It really works.

I will continue to watch my sugar in-take, but Saturday is going to be the day I can drink a latte, douse my pancakes in syrup and eat a tasty cupcake. I did notice after allowing myself to eat some sugar on Saturday, Feb. 1st that I felt agitated and even irritated and anxious.

I really hate taking vitamins, so I am going to review the ones I have been taking and decide on which ones I’ll continue with.  There is a wonderful interactive graph that uses scientific data to display the benefits of supplements (or lack thereof) that I have been studying and highly recommend.

Advice
If you learned anything from what I just wrote, you should now go and design your own program that is tailored just for you and what you want to accomplish. I also recommend being kind to yourself. And breathe.

2013: Here’s To Making Things And Friends

It’s New Years Eve and a popular day for reflection. 2012 was a really big year for me personally. I call it My Year of Fitting In. As many transplants to LA can attest, it can take a little while to figure out where you fit in, but once you do, it’s like you finally found home.

I wrote a few blog posts in 2012, two of which impacted my life greatly:

Why Los Angeles Will Outpace the Silicon Valley As The Tech Startup Capital led to the creation of Represent.LA

and

Want: Kid Friendly Hackerspace in LA which led to LA Makerspace

I didn’t know the impact that a crowdsourced map could have on a city or cities (http://representmap.com) and I definitely had no idea if anyone else wanted a hackerspace that woud allow kids. If I learned anything from this year, it’s this, and I quote from my favorite movie Contact:

…we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone!

It wasn’t until just now, reviewing my calendar did I realize how much traveling I did for speaking gigs and pleasure – Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco (thrice), Portland (twice), Dude Ranch in Colorado, Ireland, London (twice), and I’m writing this post from Vienna.

In addition to LA Makerspace and Represent.LA I started new day jobs that pay the bills,  I’m now the Technical Director at the Digital Media Learning Research Hub at UC Irvine to support youth in their passionate interests and I joined the Born This Way Foundation, an organization focused on creating a braver, kinder world.

As with life, there were definitely some difficult times, my dear friend Xeni Jardin spent 2012 undergoing cancer treatment, but I am so happy to report that she is now cancer free. We were kicked out of the house we were renting, but thankfully found a better place, and we lost our beloved Lucky Cat, which there is no replacement for (I’m crying right now just thinking about her).

I would like to thank everyone that reached out to me this year to send me an article, make an introduction, back the LA Makerspace Kickstarter or just to say ‘hey.’ That always helps to backup the whole “we are not alone” philosophy. There are a few other people I would like to make mention of: Alex Benzer, my co-creator of Represent.LA and who allowed me to use Social Engine for workshops, the LA Makerspace BOD: Jeff, Levi, Michael, Michelle, Sharon, Teresa, and Joseph, Kent and Lindsay, my pals at BoingBoing who have posted multiple updates about LA Makerspace, Jeff Sturges at Mt Elliott Makerspace who I consider a mentor, Dale Dougherty and Mark Frauenfelder at MAKE Magazine & Maker Faire who have made so much of the maker community accessible to everyone, Dale and Anne Marie Thomas at Maker Ed who are helping the world realize that you make to learn and learn to make, Nirvan, Harley and Tara of the Imagination Foundation who have shown the world that one kid can make a difference, my husband Sean who inspires me with his thoughtfulness and punk rock approach to life, my Mom who has always been a maker I just didn’t realize it, and my kid, Ripley, for the motivation and inspiration and truly truly the best thing I ever made.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2013 is about making deeper connections in my community and with myself. I want to make more maker friends in LA and around the world, share as many how-to’s for all of the projects I work on as possible, bring lots of brilliant makers into LA Makerspace to share their wisdom with others and make the space accessible to anyone in LA that wants to be there.

2013 is going to be truly a year of making things and friends, because the two go hand-in-hand. Read the resolutions from some of the top Maker Minds…many of them plan to do more how-to’s and ensure making is even easier for everyone to get started and most of them are all very accessible to the community.

Happy Making of Things and Friends to All in 2013!

Hearts and Hugs,
Tara

Photo by Sean Bonner

Video of My Talk at Farmhouse Conf: Mapping the LA Tech Scene

Here’s the video from my talk where we build a low-fi map of the LA Tech Scene. The kid screaming in the background is my two-year old, Ripley. My husband Sean was trying to keep him occupied for 30 whole minutes while I did my talk. Sean did a 5 minute lightning talk so I got off easy. 😀

Stay tuned for a digital version of the map where tech companies, accelerators, incubators, VCs and co-working spaces can add themselves.