Archive for the ‘Best of Times’ Category

Dear Body

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

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Washington Post — Casey Seidenberg writes a letter for her body as a model for her children as they begin the new year. …

Dear Body,

Thank you for being my home. For loving me no matter what I do. For keeping me in one piece and recovering quickly even when I challenge you with trips, slips, falls, collisions, tackles, concussions, late nights of studying, too much sugar, and the germs that I encounter everywhere.

Thank you for protecting me from the many harsh and damaging chemicals, pollutants and substances in our world. For ditching the bad stuff you are given and employing the good.

Thank you for helping me to grow and get stronger every year. Thank you for balancing and righting me when I become sad, scared or discouraged. You never ask questions, and you are always there for me.

So to say thank you this New Year I will try my hardest to make more choices that benefit you.

I will try to sleep well so that you can rebuild the pieces that get broken or weary during a typical day. I will stretch and I will exercise to help you transport blood efficiently. I will eat lots of vegetables so you don’t have to work so hard to filter the pollution in the air I breathe or the chemicals in the candy I eat. I will drink many glasses of water so my spine and joints stay hydrated, my blood travels efficiently, and my nerves function correctly. I will eat protein to give me long-lasting energy, and healthful fats to help my brain function at its highest capacity. I will take lots of deep breaths so all of my cells receive the oxygen they need to do their jobs.

I will try to listen when you talk to me. When I yawn, I will recognize that you want me to sleep. When I ache, I will stop pushing you so vigorously. When I feel anxious, I will breathe deeply and slow down. When I feel angry, I will pause, acknowledge and respect my feelings. When I lack energy, I will drink water, eat healthful food and get some fresh air.

And since you love and take care of me no matter what, perhaps this year I could decide to love you back no matter what shape or size you are, no matter how much muscle or fat or bone you build, no matter how coordinated you are or are not, no matter how many pimples you produce, or how many bad hair days you have. I will love you and take care of you as much as you love and take care of me.

(02/03/2016)

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Greatest Poems Ever Written

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Robert Frost

Epoch Times — Evan Mantyk reports:For your education, enjoyment, and (perhaps) excitement, this is a list of the greatest poems originally written in the English language. It is presented from least greatest (10) to greatest greatest (1) and each poem is followed by a brief analysis of each poem.

The poems in the list were selected by the Society of Classical Poets to inspire and educate new poets, but can also inspire and educate all people with their timeless wisdom and universal themes.

Many good poems and poets had to be left out of this list because of the list’s necessary shortness (a mere 10 among many thousands) as well as the Society’s emphasis on classical poetry.

What is classical poetry? It means poems that follow perennial forms, like meter and rhyme, and that are infused with a classical flavor—that is, with humanity’s quintessential quest for virtue over vice, epic over ephemeral, and beauty over baseness.

Additionally, I note that long poems, such as epics and plays, and excerpts of such works have not been considered for this list. (01/23/2016)

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10. ‘The Road Not Taken’

By Robert Frost (1874–1963)

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Kenny’s Window: A Book Review

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

Book Cover

brainpickings — Maria Popova writes: “I don’t write for children,” Maurice Sendak (June 10, 1928–May 8, 2012) told Stephen Colbert in his last on-camera appearance. “I write — and somebody says, ‘That’s for children!’” Having fallen in love with his work as an adult myself — none of it made it past the Iron Curtain and into the Bulgaria of my childhood — I’ve come to appreciate this sentiment all the more deeply. Sendak was indeed a storyteller who, while enchanting children, very much embodied E.B. White’s dictum that “anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time” — instead, he wrote up to them and made an art of naming what is dark and difficult, then enveloping it in hope.

It’s a craft he began honing in the largely forgotten 1956 masterpiece Kenny’s Window (public library) — his first and, in many ways, most directly philosophical children’s book, written and illustrated when Sendak was only twenty-eight.

Published seven years before Where the Wild Things Are turned him into a cultural icon, this was Sendak’s debut as a storyteller. He was yet to encounter William Blake, who would become his greatest influence. Although he had previously illustrated children’s books by other authors — including the immeasurably wonderful Open House for Butterflies and I’ll Be You and You Be Me by Ruth Krauss, one of the finest children’s storytellers of all time — this was Sendak’s serenade to his own becoming, a creative homecoming into his own voice as an artist of word and image. (01-10-2016)

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What Does a Grateful Brain Look Like?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016

f MRI

The Daily Good — Adam Hoffman writes: Evidence is mounting that a team at the University of Southern California has shed light on the neural nuts and bolts of gratitude in a new study, offering insights into the complexity of this social emotion and how it relates to other cognitive processes.

“There seems to be a thread that runs through subtle acts of gratitude, such as holding a door for someone, all the way up to the big powerful stuff like when someone gives you a kidney,” says Glenn Fox, a postdoctoral researcher at USC and lead author of the study. “I designed this experiment to see what aspects of brain function are common to both these small feelings of appreciation and large feelings of gratitude.”

In their experiment—which was partially funded by a grant from the Greater Good Science Center’s Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude project—Fox and his team planned to scan participants’ brains while they were feeling grateful to see where gratitude showed up.

But first, they had to induce gratitude. At USC’s Shoah Foundation, which houses the world’s largest collection of Holocaust testimonies, they poured over hundreds of hours of footage to identify compelling stories of survivors receiving aid from others.

“Many of the survivors talked about receiving life-saving help from other people—from being hidden by strangers during the middle of the Nazi manhunt to being given a new pair of shoes during a wintertime march,” says Fox. “And they also talked about less significant gifts, such as bread or a bed at night.”

These stories were turned into 48 brief vignettes, which the 23 experiment participants read while lying in a brain scanner. For example, one said, “A woman at the immigration agency stamps your passport so you can flee to England.” For each one, participants were asked to immerse themselves in the context of the Holocaust, imagine how they would feel if they were in the same situation, and then rate how grateful they felt—all while the fMRI machine recorded their brain activity.

The researchers found that grateful brains showed enhanced activity in two primary regions: the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These areas have been previously associated with emotional processing, interpersonal bonding and rewarding social interactions, moral judgment, and the ability to understand the mental states of others. (01/02/2016)

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“Go be reconciled with thy Brother”

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Sermon on the Mount

Future Positive — Timothy Wilken writes: In his sermon on the mount, Jesus of Nazareth taught:

“Love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, bless them that curse us, and pray for them that despitefully use us, I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgement. Go be reconciled with thy brother.”

Jesus of Nazareth may have been the first human to embrace synergy. His words seem to capture the very essence of synergic morality.

Synergic morality is more than not hurting other, it requires helping other. Jesus was the first human to state the fundamental law of synergic relationship. It is known as the Golden Rule:  “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law.”

What would you have others do to you? The best one word answer I can find for this question is help. “Help others as you would have them help you.”

Whether you believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ foretold in the Old testament, or just a man, his words bring wisdom to all humanity. (12/26/2015)

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The Gift: Living a Life of Purpose and Meaning

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Stephen Cope

The Huffington Post — Stephen Cope writes: Here is a question I’d like you to ponder: Do you have a clear sense of your purpose in life?

I’m asking all of my friends this question these days. I guess I’m preoccupied with this question because I’m going through a phase — at midlife — of wondering about my own life.

I pose the question in a variety of ways. Perhaps I’ll ask: “What is it you are Up To — capital U, capital T?” Or, “Is your life driven by some intentionality — some deep meaning and purpose?” And then, of course, the all-important follow-up question: “Do you think this purpose is being fulfilled?”

You’d be surprised at the answers I get. Many of us, it seems, are a little vague about what it is we are Up To. Or even utterly confused.

Okay, I’m obsessed with finding the answer to this question. Perhaps this is because I am currently directing something called the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL). I mean, really: If I’m going to direct an institute with such a name, perhaps I should be living an extraordinary life. What if people found out that my life is as ordinary as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

Can we look a little deeper? What, really, is an extraordinary life? And how does it differ from an ordinary one? After looking closely at these questions for a couple of years with my colleagues here at the IEL, I am more confused than ever. I’ve been struck by the ordinariness of most of the so-called extraordinary lives we’ve studied. And the closer we look at “ordinary lives,” well, the more extraordinary they appear. It’s tough being a human being — and I’m impressed by the courage I see in every single life I encounter.

But I persist: What about extraordinary living? Full living? I think that the yoga tradition can help us understand the possibilities. There is one piece of yogic lore in particular that I find very helpful. Yogis believed that every human being is born with a special gift. This gift, for each of us, is the doorway to a fulfilled life. It is the doorway to our own particular path, our vocation, our calling — our sacred duty. Yogis called this vocation our dharma. All of life is seen as an opportunity to realize and manifest this unique calling — this unique dharma.

Early yogis had a beautiful way of thinking about the importance of the gift. For these yogis, the whole world was seen as a vast net woven together in space and time — not unlike our notion of the quantum field. This was called Indra’s Net, and at the intersection of each warp strand and woof strand of this net is a jewel that represents an individual human soul. And it is that soul’s duty — sacred calling — to hold together its particular part of the web by being its own unique jewel-like self. In this way, the whole universe holds together as one great interlocking field, but only if each one of us plays our particular role, enacts our unique dharma. (12/26/2015)

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Eight Steps Towards Forgiveness

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

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The Daily Good — Robert Enright writes: When another person hurts us, it can upend our lives.

Sometimes the hurt is very deep, such as when a spouse or a parent betrays our trust, or when we are victims of crime, or when we’ve been harshly bullied. Anyone who has suffered a grievous hurt knows that when our inner world is badly disrupted, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than our turmoil or pain. When we hold on to hurt, we are emotionally and cognitively hobbled, and our relationships suffer.

Forgiveness is strong medicine for this. When life hits us hard, there is nothing as effective as forgiveness for healing deep wounds. I would not have spent the last 30 years of my life studying forgiveness if I were not convinced of this.

Many people have misconceptions about what forgiveness really means—and they may eschew it. Others may want to forgive, but wonder whether or not they truly can. Forgiveness does not necessarily come easily; but it is possible for many of us to achieve, if we have the right tools and are willing to put in the effort.

Below is an outline of the basic steps involved in following a path of forgiveness, adapted from my new book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness. As you read through these steps, think about how you might adapt them to your own life. (12/26/2015)

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Synergic Containment: Protecting Humanity

Friday, December 18th, 2015
Timothy_Nov_2015

Timothy Wilken, MD

Future PositiveTimothy Wilken, MD writes: This is not a criticism of the federal officers who were involved in the adversary containment at the Branch Davidian Church. Clearly the members of that church were heavily armed and dangerous. But as a thought experiment, how would synergic containment work differently than adversary containment? …

Those within the compound would then be ordered to put down their weapons and move out to the perimeter to voluntarily enter into protective custody. Those being contained would have a short time to voluntarily surrender. If there was no response, or a hostile response, the Synergic Containment Force would begin Containment Isolation of  the compound. Once Containment Isolation is implemented, nothing goes in. Access to electricity, television, telephone, water, food and all outside supplies are a privilege to members of community in good standing. That privilege is suspended.

Nothing goes in. Every thing would stop! Then the Containment Force would sit back and wait for them to come out. Any unarmed member of the church could leave anytime by simply presenting to the rescue corridor for safe escort to the perimeter where they could voluntarily enter protective custody. Once out, no one goes back in unless and until Synergic Containment is lifted. The compound would not be stormed or attacked in anyway. No barrage of noise, loud music, or teargas. They would be left to themselves without phones, television, newspapers, mail, electricity, water, etc.etc..

They are not being punished. The benefits of community are being suspended until they cease all adversity. I expect that most of the members would have come out and surrendered. Perhaps not all. Once each day, the containment force would explicitly communicate with the contained adversaries, reminding them that safety, food, water, shelter and medical care wait for them at the perimeter. It would be made clear that to exit the containment zone, they need only put down their weapons and present to the rescue corridor, or perimeter. Any individual–adult or child–that did so would be given protection, water, food, medical care and shelter. (12/18/2015)

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Understanding Climate Change

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

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BBC Science — The average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about 0.85°C (1.4F) in the last 100 years. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years were recorded in the 21st Century, with 2015 on course to set another record.

Scientists believe that gases released from industry and agriculture (known as emissions) are adding to the natural greenhouse effect, the way the Earth’s atmosphere traps some of the energy from the Sun.

Human activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Carbon-absorbing forests are also being cut down.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years and reached a record high in May this year.

Higher temperatures, extreme weather events and higher sea levels are all linked to a warming climate and could have a drastic effect on the world’s regions.

Since 1900, sea levels have risen by on average about 19cm globally. The rate of sea-level rise has accelerated in recent decades, placing a number of islands and low-lying countries at risk.

The retreat of polar ice sheets is an important contributor to this rise.

Arctic sea ice is also shrinking because of higher temperatures, though it makes little contribution to raised sea levels.

An area of sea ice roughly 10 times the size of the UK has been lost when the current day is compared with average levels from the early 1980s. (12/09/2015)

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Time to Grow Up?

Monday, November 30th, 2015
Apples with the Paris 2015 logo (Image: UNFCCC)

Organisers hope the Paris talks will be a vintage year and will bear fruit. (UNFCCC)

BBC News — Reports: Negotiators from 195 countries will try to reach a deal within two weeks aimed at reducing global carbon emissions and limiting global warming to 2C (3.6F).

Leaders from 147 nations have been addressing the meeting, known as COP21.

President Obama urged negotiators to deliver a meaningful deal, because the “next generation is watching”.

He told delegates: “Climate change could define the contours of this century more than any other (challenge).

“I came here personally to say the United States not only recognises the problem but is committed to do something about it.” He added that recent years had shown that the global economy had grown while emissions had remained flat, breaking the old arguments for inaction “that economic growth and environmental protection were in conflict”. (11/30/2015)

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