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Delicious vs. Tasty & Cardamom Calm

July 27, 2012

I work at a computer.  Too much.

It stresses me out.  And I run the Calming Technology Lab at Stanford.  Ironic?  Well, I started the lab for a reason; I am my #1 client (my students are #2).

I want the productivity and efficiency of technology but I don’t want the stress usually associated with it.  And I am not alone.

I’m trying to figure out how to live sustainably in an always-on world.  One foot in the browser, the other on the grass. But which one is supporting the bulk of my weight?  It varies hour to hour.

When my wife and I decided to travel for several months, starting in India, I was more explicit in my desire to “unplug”: surely I’d be able to disconnect if I leave the country… right?

Wrong.  It’s really hard to unplug these days, even when you travel, go on holiday, are abroad etc.  You may have an intention to unplug but face it – many, many of us in the “always on” world are simply addicted (see Newsweek’s recent cover story below).

We recently stayed at Cardamom County (CC) in Thekkady, Kerala, South India.  It sits near Periyar National Park and is the kind of place where, when you arrive, you are greeted with a glass of refreshing cardamom infused lemonade, sandalwood paste on your forehead, monkeys watching from the canopy, and jackfruits bulging off the tree next to your room.

So, was I able to unplug?

It turns out that I found it’s not really about unplugging per se – it’s about creating calm.  If you have calm in your body, mind, and heart, you don’t have to be so strict about unplugging.  You can feel when enough is enough.  You find the physical world more appealing.  Your life is less about rules and more about connection.

We found CC a solid place to deliver that calm.  How?  The resort is not just tasty, it’s delicious.  Let me explain.

When the mind is calm, it has the clarity to make distinctions that the frayed mind cannot.  For example, the difference between “tasty” and “delicious” food.  I distinguish tasty foods as food that seems on the surface to be good. It indulges us, makes us want more, but in the end isn’t good for our bodies, our teeth, etc. Delicious foods, on the other hand, taste good but are also good for us.  They nourish our bodies and make us healthier.

We can apply “delicious” to things beyond food.  For example, Cardamom County.

CC doesn’t just taste good, it’s good for you.  Yes, it’s beautiful.  Yes, the food is good.  Yes, the service is good.  Yes, there’s warm water.  But you can go to many resorts for that.  CC is actually good for you.  It’s a “whole-person” resort.  I.e., it doesn’t just serve to entertain you – it aims to nourish you.

You don’t have to feel guilty at CC.  It feels like a community.  It doesn’t feel like a “resort” that you sign up for just to fill up your vacation days.  People know who you are (from the wait staff to the management).  The interns tell you about the solar panel projects and how they are trying to make our world a better place.  The Ayurvedic doctor tells the chef what ingredients to exclude from your meals.  The management staff funds local social entrepreneurs to improve local community.  They reduce the use of wasteful products.  They support sustainable practices at the park.

By enjoying yourself at CC, you feel like you are being a good samaritan without giving up the pampering and fun of a resort.  Which is how it should be: being good should be the most fun option!  Delicious actually tastes better than tasty!

CC aims to eventually hold TEDx-like talks, share guest stories on their website, and create a cross-continent community that uses market forces to put tourist dollars to the best use possible: to save this beautiful planet we call home.

Connecting with nature can be more calming than vegging out or watching TV. Why?  Because it reminds us of who we are, our role on the earth, and our fellow species here on earth. This is more deeply calming than the physical rest one may get lounging around – but of course, there’s nothing wrong with that either!

We leave Cardamom County tonight on an overnight bus.  We feel we’ve done our part here – we had our fun but also, by staying here, contributed to a greater, human purpose: to create community, protect nature, empower those with the will to serve, reinvent consumer culture — and to see wild elephants (which we did!).

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