Archive for the ‘The Internet’ Category

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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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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Were Joseph and Mary Refugees?

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Joseph and Mary

The Huffington Post — Andy Campbell writes: Away in a manger was really, really far away.

As we celebrate Christmas amid the biggest mass migration of people since World War II, it’s worth noting how the plight of refugees fleeing turmoil in the Middle East echoes the holiday’s origins.

While the story of Christmas is one of triumph — of angels and wise men celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ — it’s also about Mary and Joseph’s dangerous journey, some 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, to register for a census. In a town too full to house them. With a baby who didn’t exactly have his paperwork in order.

There’s plenty to debate about whether Jesus, Mary and Joseph were actual refugees — but history shows that they certainly followed an arduous path, under government rule, to a place where their child would not be welcome. …

And their hardships were far from over once Jesus was born. King Herod, worried that Jesus threatened his crown, had all of Bethlehem’s children 2 years old and younger slaughtered. Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt, by foot and on a donkey, where they lived in exile for years.

What does it feel like to be forced out of your home under threat of death, travel across nations through unwelcome terrain, only to arrive at your destination feeling helpless, unprotected and vulnerable?

Syrian refugees know, because they’ve made the same journey. (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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November 2015: Earth’s Warmest November

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Source: NOAA

WeatherUnderground — Dr. Jeff Masters writes: November 2015 was Earth’s warmest November on record by a huge margin, according to data released by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Thursday.

November 2015 also had the second largest positive departure of temperature from average of any month among all 1631 months in the historical record that began in January 1880; only last month (October 2015) was more extreme. …

NASA also rated November 2015 as the warmest November in the historical record. November 2015’s warmth makes the year-to-date period (January – November) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA.

November 2015 was the seventh consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set in NOAA’s database, and the ninth month of the eleven months so far in 2015.

The potent El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific that crossed the threshold into the “strong” category in early July continued to intensify into mid-November, and is now slowly waning. Strong El Niño events release a large amount of heat to the atmosphere, typically boosting global temperatures by at least 0.1°C.

This extra bump in temperature, when combined with the long-term warming of the planet due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, makes it virtually certain that 2015 will be Earth’s second consecutive warmest year on record. The lingering warmth from El Niño is likely to make 2016 a good bet to exceed even 2015’s warmth. (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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How Ravers Became the New Flower Children

Monday, July 28th, 2014

New Republic — The 400,000-odd people who flocked to Las Vegas last month for the Electric Daisy electronic dance music (EDM) festival probably didn’t make much of its name. Clad in sparkly tutus, neon spandex, glittery bikinis, and enormous furry boots, they came to dance, to gaze starry-eyed at the LED graphics, and to enjoy the warmth and communal spirit of the crowdnot to question the unlikely juxtaposition of electricity and daisies.

But the tension at the heart of the growing electronic music movement is manifest in the festival’s name. Electronic music festivals like Electric Daisy, Electric Forest, and Electric Zoo celebrate a culture of warmth, geniality, and flowers on the one hand, and a musical tradition of impersonal digitization on the other. The Raver’s Manifesto, an anonymous document that outlines the electronic music movement’s core tenets, epitomizes this apparent inconsistency: “the thunderous, muffled, echoing beat was comparable to a mother’s heart soothing a child in her womb of concrete, steel, and electrical wiring,” it proclaims. The music that gave rise to P.L.U.R.“peace, love, unity, and respect,” a doctrine that underlies much of the American EDM sceneis at once tenderly maternal and brutally mechanical.

Why is it this musicwhich has seen an unprecedented surge in attendance in recent years, with the Ultra Music Festival in Miami boasting between 50,000 and 60,000 attendees each daythat has occasioned such an explicit celebration of human connection and community? “Rave culture, despite all the negative attention it receives about its ties to club drugs, is really about togetherness,” a raver gushed to me.  (07/28/2014)

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Unsung Hero

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

This three minute video has been viewed 15+ million times since April 2014.

mm

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(06/21/2014

The Healing Intention Experiment

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Quantum University — Lynne McTaggart and Quantum University want to thank everyone who participated in the first ever Healing Intention Experiment on April 26, 2014, which was broadcast live worldwide on QuantumWorld.TV.

The Intention Experiment was the largest mind-over-matter experiment in history. Lynne invited her audience to take part in well-controlled laboratory experiments with scientists in universities and laboratories, testing the power of intention to affect specific targets.

Thus far, Lynne McTaggart’s global laboratory has completed some 25 experiments, 22 of which have demonstrated significant, measurable effects. Lynne and her team have measured the effects of the power of group intention to make plants grow faster, purify water, and lower violence. These global experiments have attracted participants from 90 countries around the globe. All four of her Peace Intention Experiments have demonstrated powerful effects in lowering violence in violent or war-torn areas around the world.

The Healing Intention Experiment has now concluded. but you can still learn about the results of the experiment, by signing up to the Post Experiment Panel Discussion on May 27th, 2014. (04/28/2014)

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