Science of the Spirit
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Heart - Black

The pain of modern life: Loneliness and isolation

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© iStockphoto.com
Humanity is a group. As Mohandas Gandhi famously said: "All humanity is one undivided and indivisible family." This is not a sycophantic religious concept, but the fact of our inherent nature; a nature that the current World socio-economic order systematically works against, forcing us to live in unnatural, unhealthy, un-fulfilling, and unjust ways.

The negative inter-related consequences of living under such a perverse system are many and varied - painful all: disharmony, depression, anxiety, and loneliness are some of the effects of the resulting dis-connect - with ourselves, with others, and with the natural environment.

Footprints

Feeling down? Take a hike - walking in nature lowers depression

Study finds that walking in nature yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression
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© Shutterstock
Feeling down? Take a hike.

A new study finds quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.

Specifically, the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.

"These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world," said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them."

More than half of the world's population lives in urban settings, and that is forecast to rise to 70 percent within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.

In fact, city dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.

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Family

Hugs stimulate a myriad of neurotransmitters helping people deal effectively with emotions

© preventdisease
Hugs make you feel good for a reason and it's not just the loving embrace that gives us that warm feeling in our hearts. It's much more. It affects the entire body to such an extent that many scientists claim it is equivalent to the effect of many different drugs operating on the body simultaneously. Even seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch can help people deal with their emotions with clarity and more effectively.

1. REDUCE WORRY OF MORTALITY

In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging — even if it was just an inanimate object like a teddy bear — helps soothe individuals' existential fears. "Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance," lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study.

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Wolf

Dogs and humans process speech the same way

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© Will Hunt
He is listening and paying attention.
It seems that dogs understand much more than we think. According to a new study, dogs don't simply respond to what we say, but they also pay attention to the way we say something. The most curious thing about this finding is that humans process speech in an extremely similar way.

In the process of listening, the human brain responds to a number of elements apart from the spoken words. These elements include different auditory and visual stimuli, such as emotional tone and certain information about the speaker - gender, age, identity, etc. The human brain is capable of perceiving these stimuli thanks to distinguishing and processing separately various components of human speech.

Now, researchers of the School of Psychology at the University of Sussex have found that dog brains have a similar ability, which allows them to process different speech components in different areas and thus to respond both to verbal and non-verbal information.

Comment: Besides listening and paying attention, dogs seem to be able to provide unconditional love in that they also feel emotion.
Here is an excellent article of the effects of staring into your beloved dog's eyes:

Tail-waggers and their people share hormonal bond through mutual gazing


Heart - Black

New proof that our emotions cause physical pain

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© upnaway.com
In the ancient arts of Chinese Medicine, Yoga, and Ayurveda, there was no doubt among practitioners that anger could cause a heart attack, or chronic sadness could cause dementia. It was not unusual for a master to exterminate chronic pain in different joints and muscles, or even to cure liver, kidney, or stomach diseases by addressing deeply held emotions like fear, frustration, jealousy, and anxiety. These feats have been dismissed by modern medicine as placebo, or simply glazed over with the latest pharmaceutical prescription at most doctors' offices, but new evidence has emerged that proves our emotions directly affect our physical health.

Comment: The idea that,the body's response to years of taking on more than you should - literally bearing others' burden, can greatly affect overall human health has been studied in detail by Dr. Gabor Mate. Watch the following video and learn more about the excellent book: When the Body Says No: Caring for ourselves while caring for others - Dr. Gabor Maté

Also read this excellent interview: When the Body Says No: How Emotions Can Cause or Prevent Deadly Disease
DR. GABOR MATÉ: You know, the traditional medicines of China for 3,000 years, the ayurvedic medicine of India, and the tribal shamanic medicines of all cultures around the world have always taken for granted that mind and body can't be separated. Now, Western medicine has cleaved the two apart for, really, 2,000 years. Socrates already criticized the doctors of his day for separating the mind from the body. And the irony - in fact, the tragedy - is that now we have the Western science that shows, incontrovertibly and in great detail, that mind and body can't be separated, and so that any attempt to do so leaves the medical practitioner short of many tools to help clients. And, of course, it leaves patients short of what they need for their own healing.

The point now is that the emotional centers of the brain, which regulate our behaviors and our responses and our reactions, are physiologically connected with - and we know exactly how they're connected - with the immune system, the nervous system and the hormonal apparatus. In fact, it's no longer possible, scientifically, to speak of these as separate systems, as if immunity was separate from emotions, as if the nervous system was separate from the hormonal apparatus. There's one system, and they're wired together by the nervous system itself and joined together by chemical messengers that they all secrete, and so that whatever happens emotionally has an impact immunologically, and vice versa. So, for example, we know now that the white cells in the circulation of our - of the blood can manufacture every hormone that the brain can manufacture, and vice versa, so that the brain and the immune system are always talking to one another.



Nebula

Exploring higher dimensions: The power of active consciousness

© in5d.com
Our conscious choices dictate our universe.
At each moment of time—the Now—you stand at the gateway to an infinite number of possible futures in higher dimensional space. This gateway is the Choice Point.

Some of these futures are more likely to occur than others. If you do nothing, one of these probable futures will play itself out in a fairly predictable, even mechanistic way.

But as a conscious being, you also have the ability to affect how the future unfolds. Your experience of this ability is the sensation of free will.

One of the ways you can exert a force upon this unfolding is to use explicit action. Another way is through the subtle force of Active Consciousness, which allows you to enable unlikely unfoldings to occur.

According to the Columbia Encyclopedia, a field is a "region throughout which a force may be exerted." Back in the 1800s, chemist and physicist Michael Faraday developed this concept in order to explain the mysterious properties of magnets. People at the time were perplexed by the way magnets could exert instantaneous forces upon metal objects when nothing seemed to be transmitted between them. Faraday hypothesized that magnets are always emanating an influence or force; we just can't see it. And because a magnet's sphere of influence—its magnetic field—is ever-present, it seems to exert a force instantaneously, without any form of physical contact or obvious mode of transmission.

Comment: Without a doubt our choices frame our lives, and as we more consciously live on a daily basis, our reality changes to accommodate those choices. We, as a species and as cosmic members of the great beyond, have a lot to learn! May the "C"-force be with you!


Bullseye

Countering the excuses that prevent us from making life changes

The mind is a wonderful thing.

It's also a complete liar that constantly tries to convince us not to take actions we know are good for us, and stops many great changes in our lives.

Scumbag mind.

I've had to learn to watch these rationalizations and excuses very carefully, in order to make the changes I've made in my life: a healthier diet, regular exercise, meditation, minimalism, writing daily, getting out of debt, quitting smoking, and so on.

If I hadn't learned these excuses, and how to counter them, I would never have stuck to these changes. In fact, I failed many times before 2005 (when I started changing my life), because these excuses had complete power over me.

Let's expose the cowardly mind's excuses and rationalizations once and for all.

First, the main principle: the mind wants comfort, and is afraid of discomfort and change. The mind is used to its comfort cocoon, and anytime we try to push beyond that comfort zone very far or for very long, the mind tries desperately to get back into the cocoon. At any cost, including our long-term health and happiness.

Heart

The common regrets of the terminally ill

Priorities become crystal clear when people know their days are numbered, Bronnie Ware realised while working with terminally ill patients. She shares the five most common regrets the dying have.
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them

Fish

Defining intelligence: What Killer Whales can teach us

The following is an adapted excerpt from Dave Neiwert's new book, Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us (Overlook Press, 2015).

© Unkown
Orcas live a dream of man. They soar effortlessly, free of gravity, like birds or fairies through the air, gliding above the landscape and observing it from far above. Men have had this dream for as long as they have dreamed. It is why one of their greatest inventions is a machine that lets them fly. It is why, when we create a mythological ideal of a human and call him Superman, one of his chief attributes is that he can fly with grace and ease, as though gravity does not exist for him.

That describes the ethereal daily life of killer whales: gliding sylphlike through their element, their large pectoral fins spread like wings, soaring above the canyons and cliffs of the ocean floor, swooping and diving weightlessly at their leisure, with intelligent minds that rule over all they survey.

Magnify

Consciousness is far less powerful than previously thought: New study reveals

© Waking Times
Associate Professor of Psychology Ezequiel Morsella's "Passive Frame Theory" suggests that the conscious mind is like an interpreter helping speakers of different languages communicate.

"The interpreter presents the information but is not the one making any arguments or acting upon the knowledge that is shared," Morsella said. "Similarly, the information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious processes, nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man, and it doesn't do as much work as you think."

Morsella and his coauthors' groundbreaking theory, published online on June 22 by the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, contradicts intuitive beliefs about human consciousness and the notion of self.

Consciousness, per Morsella's theory, is more reflexive and less purposeful than conventional wisdom would dictate. Because the human mind experiences its own consciousness as sifting through urges, thoughts, feelings and physical actions, people understand their consciousness to be in control of these myriad impulses. But in reality, Morsella argues, consciousness does the same simple task over and over, giving the impression that it is doing more than it actually is.

Comment: Suggested readings: