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Thu, 11 Feb 2016
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Kindling the divine spark within you


Blessed is he who has a soul, blessed is he who has none, but woe and grief to him who has it in embryo.1

- G.I. Gurdjieff
The United States Declaration of Independence proudly proclaims the mystical truth that "all men are created equal." What happens after that, though, is anybody's guess. Once we've been created equally, does that mean all our lives are the same? Do the essential differences between us come from genetics, environment, free will, the soul? Do we all end up in the same place again when we die? These questions have excited the myth-making faculties of humankind from antiquity down through to the present day.

Working for a Soul

The esoteric teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff, in many ways, fly in the face of traditional Western religious thought. Whereas it is accepted as a given within Judeo-Christian tradition that each human is born with a soul, Gurdjieff does not let us off so easy. Active in the early part of the 20th century, this Greek-Armenian mystic travelled the world, synthesising spiritual disciplines into a unique path called The Fourth Way. He taught that human existence is a kind of waking sleep, in which we live more or less automatically, unconscious and unaware of ourselves. He even went to the extreme of suggesting that humans are not born with souls at all, and that we can only create one while alive through intense personal suffering and what he called "work." If we are not successful in this venture, he taught that our identities would not survive the shock of death, that we would "die like dogs" and that the ever-hungry Moon would gobble up our energy as part of its own evolution of consciousness.

It's a teaching which sounds strange to most people today, but which was perhaps more common to the ancient world. Consider the words of the Gospel of Philip, an ancient Gnostic codex recovered at Nag Hammadi in 1945:
Those who say they will die first and then rise are in error. If they do not first receive the resurrection while they live, when they die they will receive nothing.2

Blackbox

The 7 signs that you may be dealing with a 'covert narcissist'

© Unknown
Narcissus

Narcissism is often associated with its many external manifestations, including attention seeking, grandstanding, superficial charm, lack of reliability, boundary violation, manipulation, and many other traits.

However, not all narcissists are openly grandiose and outwardly intrusive. Various researchers and authors have written about the introverted narcissist, variously identified as the covert narcissist, the hypersensitive narcissist, the closet narcissist, and the vulnerable narcissist (1)(2)(3)(4). This subtype of narcissism is more hidden, and yet can carry the same self-conceit and negative contagion as their extroverted counterpart.

It's important to point out that many introverts are not narcissistic. The ones who are, however, may have a way of influencing others around them to feel off-balance and/or insecure.

What both extrovert and introvert narcissists have in common is their employment of an outer veneer of superiority, to disguise their inner sense of vulnerability. While the extroverted narcissist will say, in so many ways, that "I'm better than you", the introverted narcissist will strongly hint at it.*

Comment: Also see:
Take a look at some of the items on a scale to measure covert narcissism, designed by psychologist Jonathan Cheek:
  • I easily become wrapped up in my own interests and forget the existence of others.
  • I feel that I am temperamentally different from most people.
  • When I enter a room, I often become self-conscious and feel that the eyes of others are upon me.
Of that last one, Cheek quipped to me: "Who are you, who everybody's looking at you? That's a narcissistic fantasy. It's assuming that the world is paying a lot of attention to you." (Scroll down to the bottom of this post, by the way, if you'd like to see how you rank on Cheek's quiz.) Taken together, many of the items on Cheek's scale sound an awful lot like the way most people understand introversion, and that's no coincidence. Covert narcissism correlates strongly with introversion, Cheek explained — if you have one, you're more likely to have the other, though there are plenty of introverts who don't also have narcissistic tendencies. "Covert narcissism is sort of a dark side of introversion," he said. "Just like overt narcissism is kind of a dark side of extroversion." Put another way: Not all introverts are covert narcissists — but covert narcissists are almost certainly introverts.

Are you an introvert or just a covert narcissist?



Coffee

Understanding the inner workings of your brain can improve your productivity and quality of life

The human being is the only animal that has a reflective brain, yet most of us sabotage it every day, and in doing so, we limit our productivity and well-being. Dr. Theo Compernolle is a Belgian physician with about three decades-worth of experience in clinical psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, and neurology.

His book, "Brain Chains: Discover Your Brain, to Unleash Its Full Potential In a Hyperconnected, Multitasking World," reveals how to distinguish between the reflexive and the reflective brain, and how understanding the inner workings of your brain can dramatically improve your productivity and quality of life.

In the last year, I've read about 150 books or so, and "Brain Chains" is clearly one of the top 10 books I've read. It has my strong endorsement and recommendation, because it provides so many useful tips, and it's so well written.

Comment:


Family

The "Science of a Meaningful Life": Top ten findings for 2015

More than a decade after Greater Good first started reporting on the science of compassion, generosity, happiness—what we call "the science of a meaningful life"—the research in our field is acquiring ever more nuance and sophistication. New studies build on and even re-interpret findings from previous years, particularly as their authors use more exacting methods, with bigger and broader data sets, and consider additional factors to explain prior results.

These nuances are clearly reflected in this year's list of our Top 10 Insights from the Science of a Meaningful Life—the fourth such list compiled by Greater Good's editors. Indeed, many of this year's entries could be described as "Yes, but" insights: Yes, as prior findings suggest, being wealthy seems to make people less generous, but only when they reside in places with high inequality. Yes, pursuing happiness makes you unhappy, but only if you live in an individualistic culture. Yes, Americans are less happy than they used to be, but only if they're over the age of 30. The caveats and qualifications abound.

And these are not just signs of academic hair splitting. Instead, they demonstrate that researchers are sharpening their understanding of the actual causes, consequences, and current state of humans' social and emotional well-being. And that, in turn, means that Greater Good is able to report on the practical implications and potential applications of this research with greater confidence and detail than ever before.

Battery

Three powerful ways to cleanse and recharge your energetic body

© Unknown
After the holidays, I, like most people, found myself feeling incredibly drained. Whether it was the socializing, the food or the travel, it had all resigned me to the couch in a pseudo-catatonic state. While it's easy to think this is because of all the hustle and bustle, the truth is that it's because my energetic body had been depleted due to the myriad of activities I had been engaged in as a result of not just my traveling, but daily life as well.

In fact, it's incredibly easy for your energetic body to become disturbed and imbalanced due to the intensity and disharmony of our modern way of living. We are constantly bombarded by harmful electromagnetic fields from wifi signals, computers, cell phones, cars, power lines and smart meters, among many other things, which greatly interfere with our energetic body. These can pollute our energetic sheath with disruptive frequencies that cause us to feel stressed out, tired and drained. Also, eating GMO and pesticide-laden, non-organic food interferes with the body's ability to maintain the integrity of our energetic field, also known as our aura. And finally, being around negative people, often called 'energy vampires', also drains us energetically. They feed off of our body's subtle energy, which, as you may have guessed, collects in the energetic body as well.

People

The chameleon effect: Why do we mimic other people?

© shutterstock
As a student, Elena Kurzius often caught herself imitating a conversation partner's accent or way of speaking. "I felt a little awkward and strange when I noticed myself doing that," she says. Curious, she began researching the tendency, which she soon found had a name: the chameleon effect.

First described in 1999, the chameleon effect refers to the unwilling and unconscious ways that we adapt our behaviors to match those of our partner's. "Although it's everywhere and happening all the time, we hardly notice it," Kurzius says. "I wanted to know why we function this way, because I wanted to characterize myself and find out why I do it."

Now a psychologist at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, those questions have motivated Kurzius' research ever since. As she and others have discovered, positive behaviors and those that facilitate cooperation—including smiling, laughing and nodding—are the ones most often mimicked. But the chameleon effect may also extend to posture, foot shaking, accents, speech rhythm and more.

Magic Wand

Lucid dreaming: Unraveling the mystery of consciousness?

© Shutterstock
We spend around six years of our lives dreaming - that's 2,190 days or 52,560 hours. Although we can be aware of the perceptions and emotions we experience in our dreams, we are not conscious in the same way as when we're awake. This explains why we can't recognise that we're in a dream and often mistake these bizarre narratives for reality.

But some people - lucid dreamers - have the ability to experience awareness during their dreams by "re-awakening" some aspects of their waking consciousness. They can even take control and act with intention in the dream world (think Leonardo DiCaprio in the film Inception).

Lucid dreaming is still an understudied subject, but recent advances suggest it's a hybrid state of waking consciousness and sleep.

Comment: Dream-enhancing with wild herbs


Flashlight

Becoming aware of our cognitive distortions is the first step in the process of change

Psychiatrist Aaron Beck, the founder of cognitive-behavioral therapy, laid the foundation for the following cognitive distortions. While we all engage in them from time to time, they become a problem when they bleed into our daily lives, causing depression, isolation, and anxiety.

Pay attention to how many times you employ these distortions on a daily or weekly basis. Once you are aware that you do, you can make the effort to consciously reduce the frequency with which you engage in them.

Overgeneralization

You have one or two negative experiences and think everything in the future will play out that same way. Ironically, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, you will this to happen, confirming your erroneous convictions.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

You live in a "should" world — "I should have done this, so that this wouldn't have happened." Let it go. Things unfolded in a particular way for a reason. Tell yourself you will do better next time.

Comment: Despite assuring ourselves that we are rational and intelligent beings, we often become prey to distorted thinking and emotions of which we are completely unaware:


People 2

Social bonds improve physical and mental well-being at every stage of life

The more social ties people have at an early age, the better their health is at the beginnings and ends of their lives, according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The study is the first to definitively link social relationships with concrete measures of physical well-being such as abdominal obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure, all of which can lead to long-term health problems, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

"Based on these findings, it should be as important to encourage adolescents and young adults to build broad social relationships and social skills for interacting with others as it is to eat healthy and be physically active," said Kathleen Mullan Harris, James Haar Distinguished Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill and faculty fellow at the Carolina Population Center (CPC).

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, builds on previous research that shows that aging adults live longer if they have more social connections. It not only provides new insights into the biological mechanisms that prolong life but also shows how social relationships reduce health risk in each stage of life.

Comment: Other research has highlighted the detrimental effects of loneliness and isolation, and the importance of companionship and the support of others on our mental and physical health:


Hearts

Healing trauma: An Indigenous Australian approach


The Healing Power of Listening in Stillness


People have always experienced pain, and in the vast span of time before the colonial expansion of western culture, indigenous cultures weren't without their methods of dealing with trauma.

For centuries we've largely ignored the wisdom of those among us who are still directly connected to ancestral ways of knowledge. As our modern lifestyle collides with the fact that our Earth is not capable of supporting our current way of life, we are finally starting to look to those who once lived in a state of indefinite sustainability and abundance, for a way forward.
"In order to have sustainable community you have to make sure the people are sustainable. This means healing trauma." -Jarmbi Githabul, Narakwal / Githabul Custodian
What is Dadirri?
"Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call 'contemplation'." -Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann, Ngangiwumirr Elder