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Wed, 10 Feb 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Book 2

Healing your mind and body: How writing helps us let go of stress and sorrow

The benefits of writing extend beyond the way it creatively engages the intellect. Writing can be an emotionally rewarding way of letting go of pent up stress and sorrow. It's good to control and override stressful emotional impulses but it serves no benefit if we keep them inside of us. Exercise or talking to loved ones about how you feel can help in this regard, but you may find yourself in a situation where you might not have a voice to hear you or you prefer to keep how you feel to yourself but still need a way to release your emotions. Writing in this case can be very helpful.

Writing helps you enter a flow state in which all the built up emotions rush out of your heart and mind and onto the paper. When you write vividly and honestly about your experiences and how you feel, a gradual collection of emotional experiences will be documented throughout your life. Looking back at the journal, you will be able to see patterns of how certain emotional conflicts arise, giving you insight into the source and nature of your malfunctions, and the environment you are putting yourself in that is increasing those conflicts. You'll be in a position to make a better decision about whether certain behavior patterns are serving you or not, as well as determine which people and things are causing those problems in your life.

Comment: For more information on Dr. Pennebaker's four-day writing exercise, see:

Take 2

Amazed by the media: The importance of awe and why it's manipulated

© Alamy
We are in a season of mass media consumption. Super Bowl 50 occurs this Sunday, and is coming off the heels of the most watched Super Bowl (and television event) in American history. The most recent Star Wars release (The Force Awakens) grossed over $1 billion in a record 12 days, and is on pace to become the highest grossing film of all-time.

What explains why so many individuals are drawn to major productions such as these? Surely, there are many factors, which vary across events and people. One often overlooked explanation is the emotion of awe.

Psychologists refer to awe as an intense emotional experience that overwhelms individuals with a sense of vastness or greatness. It often transforms individuals' sense of what is possible.

Comment: For more, check out SOTT's Earth Changes videos. They're much better than Star Wars or the Super Bowl for inspiring awe - they're the real deal!

Check out: SOTT Earth Changes Summary - December 2015: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs


A new vision for dreams of the dying

© Jonathon Rosen
One evening in the late fall, Lucien Majors, 84, sat at his kitchen table, his wife Jan by his side, as he described a recent dream.

Mr. Majors had end-stage bladder cancer and was in renal failure. As he spoke with a doctor from Hospice Buffalo , he was alert but faltering.

In the dream, he said, he was in his car with his great pal, Carmen. His three sons, teenagers, were in the back seat, joking around.

"We're driving down Clinton Street," said Mr. Majors, his watery, pale blue eyes widening with delight at the thought of the road trip.



Break the cycle of procrastination by helping your neocortex defeat your recalcitrant limbic system

Your brain has a neocortex and a limbic system, and sometimes they fight. Here's how to get them to play nice.

Think about all the stuff you've been putting off—really, go ahead. Chances are you've been putting off thinking about the stuff you've been putting off, right? It's not that you don't think those things are important, or even that you believe they'll go away if you ignore them. So why are you procrastinating, and how can you stop that?

It Isn't As Bad As You Think

For starters, you probably procrastinate far less than you think. If we stop to think about it, there are lots of things that need to get done that almost always do get done, some way or another: eating when we're hungry, drinking when we're thirsty, going to sleep when we're tired—you get the idea.

No one has to nag us to eat, drink, or nap. These are all things that are good for us in the long run. But so are turning that report in on time and changing the oil in the car. In other words, not every beneficial behavior causes us to procrastinate.

There's only one factor that seems to separate the good behaviors that we do easily from those we routinely put off doing: how good they feel. In other words, we seem to have no problem doing things that are in our our long-term interest as long as they feel good in the here and now. It's only once those behaviors impose upfront effort or unpleasantness that the jig is up. It's as if all our brains care about is whether something feels good right this moment than whether it will turn out to be good for us later.



Want to raise creative kids? Encourage them to think for themselves and support their intrinsic motivation

They learn to read at age 2, play Bach at 4, breeze through calculus at 6, and speak foreign languages fluently by 8. Their classmates shudder with envy; their parents rejoice at winning the lottery. But to paraphrase T. S. Eliot, their careers tend to end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Consider the nation's most prestigious award for scientifically gifted high school students, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, called the Super Bowl of science by one American president. From its inception in 1942 until 1994, the search recognized more than 2000 precocious teenagers as finalists. But just 1 percent ended up making the National Academy of Sciences, and just eight have won Nobel Prizes. For every Lisa Randall who revolutionizes theoretical physics, there are many dozens who fall far short of their potential.

Child prodigies rarely become adult geniuses who change the world. We assume that they must lack the social and emotional skills to function in society. When you look at the evidence, though, this explanation doesn't suffice: Less than a quarter of gifted children suffer from social and emotional problems. A vast majority are well adjusted — as winning at a cocktail party as in the spelling bee.

What holds them back is that they don't learn to be original. They strive to earn the approval of their parents and the admiration of their teachers. But as they perform in Carnegie Hall and become chess champions, something unexpected happens: Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make new.

Comment: Rather than fostering creative genius, overbearing parents may actually do great harm by instilling a fear of failure and potentially creating psychological problems that manifest later in life.


Spacing out and goofing off can open the door to creativity

© Washington Post
We believe that the opposite of focus— daydreaming, goofing off, spacing out— is to be avoided. Worse yet, having problems focusing is seen as an obstacle to overcome and even as pathological. Self-help books and productivity bloggers strive to keep us on task with advice and hacks.

When we fail to come up with the results we were hoping for, we wonder whether we just aren't working or concentrating hard enough. We've come to consider focus and being on as "good," and idleness— especially if it goes on for too long— as "bad" and unproductive. We feel guilty if we spend too much time doing nothing.

But in thinking this way, we make a fundamental mistake.

Truly successful people don't come up with great ideas through focus alone. They are successful because they make time to not concentrate and to engage in a broad array of activities like playing golf. As a consequence, they think inventively and are profoundly creative: they develop innovative solutions to problems and connect dots in brilliant ways. Dwight Eisenhower logged more hours on the golf course than any other U.S. president yet is also regarded as one of the best presidents this country has ever had.

In a time and age when everyone is over-scheduled and over-focused, creativity is more and more prized— it's the key to your effectiveness and success, in life and in business. It can also be a never- ending source of joy and happiness.

Here are three ways to "unfocus" for heightened creativity:

Comment: The Eiriu Eolas meditation program is an excellent way to use these principles. The exercises can be done any time anywhere, providing instant stress relief, and heightened creativity.


Expand your world by facing your fears

© Kool Cat's Photography/Flickr
Some fear is rational, keeping us appropriately cautious in the face of dangerous animals, hot stoves and contagions that could make us ill. But rational caution can turn to irrational panic about imagined terrors that are unlikely to occur or cause much actual damage if they did.

While we all face fears, phobias are intense fears that have become irrational. Common phobias include fears of falling, injections, animals, blood and flying, and social phobia.

Suma Chand, Ph.D., associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Saint Louis University and a clinical psychologist, helps patients with phobias that have begun to overtake their lives.

2 + 2 = 4

Stoking the motivational fire: Neuroscience guides the way

As dawn breaks, Rob Young quietly ties the laces of his favorite running shoes, dons his distinctive kilt and hits the road to complete a marathon. Specifically, his 370th marathon in 365 days. Besides the mind-boggling 10,178 miles raced, thousands of dollars earned for charities, and shattering the world record for most finished marathons, Rob Young is exceptional in one simple regard: He doesn't give up. What drives him daily to push his body towards another 26.2-mile finish?

As an avid marathon runner myself and neuroscientist, I am compelled to understand how motivational fire is ignited and critically, which elements sustain it. Especially at the start of the new year, my thoughts turn to various resolutions. Whether your goal is to work out more or spend more time with family, chances are distractions and obligations will silently snuff the January motivation. Yet as it turns out, you only need to stoke two factors: attention and effort.

Comment: Groups motivated toward benefiting others perform better and are more cooperative


Cognitive Bias: How it shapes our reality

Four in-built mechanisms that shape the way we perceive the world
Cognitive bias is the biggest self-imposed obstacle to progress, not only for oneself but in the end, for all mankind. - Unknown
On a beautiful Pittsburgh morning in 1995, McArthur Wheeler decided to rob a bank. Not just one bank, but two. McArthur had a secret plan, one that he thought would make him exceptionally successful. It involved something very sour, a lemon.

McArthur had just recently discovered the "invisible ink," a substance commonly used in elementary science class. Lemon juice, when used as ink on paper and dried, only appears visible when heated. Unfortunately for McArthur, his ingenious plan involved covering his face in lemon juice and then robbing two banks.

Comment: Read more about confirmation bias and why it is hard to change your mind:


Secrets of genius: 7 key insights into creating a culture of innovation

© agsandrew/Shutterstock
Genius, as much as the word is overused today, can be held to mean the ability to make leaps of innovation.

Rejecting older theories that said genius is a product of genetics alone, author Eric Weiner explains why living in a place and time that encourages the flourishing of genius is necessary too.

Weiner, a former foreign correspondent for NPR, wrote The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley, to satisfy his curiosity as to why certain places and historical eras were more likely to produce large clusters of geniuses. And, of course, to learn what we, today, might do to make our own places more genius-friendly.

Comment: Further reading: Creative minds are wired differently than the rest of us