Science of the Spirit


Why do you work so hard to participate in the rat race?

© DonkeyHotey
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "A man in debt is so far a slave." Money has no intrinsic value yet we spend our days damaging our health and spirit in order to obtain it. Why do we sacrifice our well-being for it? Is it the cliché that "we just want to provide a better life for our kids than we had?" Is it just way of the civilized world? The most important question to ask, however, is what power do we have to change this way of thinking and living? The reality is simple: money is a vehicle for social control. Debt makes us good, obedient workers and citizens.

The traditional workweek started in 1908 at The New England Cotton Mill in order to allow followers of the Jewish religion to adhere to Sabbath. With the passage of The Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, the 40-hour workweek became the norm. Data from the 2013 American Community Surveyshowed that the average commute time in America is about 26 minutes each way. According to a Gallup poll, the average workweek in America is 34.4 hours, however, when only taking into account full time workers, that average shoots up to 47, or 9.4 hours per day during a 5-day workweek. Keeping averages in mind then, between commuting, working and figuring in an hour for lunch (usually less), that puts us at approximately 11 hours and 40 minutes for the average full time worker. If you have a family with young kids, just add in another few hours for homework, baths, etc.

Treasure Chest

The value of a mess: Kids become competent at household chores when they learn from their mistakes

You should let your kids totally botch household chores from an early age.

Excerpted from The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey. Out now from HarperCollins Publishers.

A friend told me recently after she'd had a car accident that left her unscathed but chastened that in the midst of the crash, she'd realized she needed to make lists of all the small details her family would need to know if she was not there to take care of them. Her son needed to know that his soccer clothes had to go into the laundry Sunday so he'd have what he needed for Monday's practice. Her daughter needed to know which fabrics can go in the dryer and which cannot and what happens when wool sweaters sneak into the dryer by mistake. The kids should know how to fix the toilet when it clogs, and reset the water pressure tank after a power outage, and change a fuse, and winterize the lawn mower, and the million other things she'd taken care of herself rather than burden her kids with.

Snakes in Suits

Corporate mindfulness is B.S.

Mindfulness has become a household word. Time magazine's cover of a youthful blond woman peacefully blissing out anchors the feature story, 'Mindful Revolution.' From endorsements by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Goldie Hawn, to monks, neuroscientists, and meditation coaches rubbing shoulders with CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it is clear that mindfulness has gone mainstream.

But is the mindfulness boom really a revolution? If it is, what exactly has been overturned or radically transformed to garner such grand status?

Wall Street and corporations are still conducting business as usual, special interests and political corruption goes unchallenged, public schools are still suffering from massive underfunding and neglect, the concentration of wealth and inequality has reached record levels, mass incarceration and prison overcrowding has become the new social plague, indiscriminate shooting of Blacks by police and the demonizing of the poor remains commonplace, America's militaristic imperialism continues to spread, and the impending disasters of global warming are already rearing their ugly heads.

To consider only the corporate sector: with over $300 billion in losses due to stress-related absences, and nearly $550 billion in losses due to a lack of "employee engagement," it is unsurprising why it has jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. Such losses in production and efficiency threaten the logic of profit-making. For capitalism to survive, as Nicole Ashoff points out in The New Prophets of Capital, "people must willingly participate in and reproduce its structures and norms," and in times of crisis, "capitalism must draw upon cultural ideas that exist outside of the circuits of profit-making." Mindfulness is one such new cultural idea serving this purpose.

However, those celebrating the mindfulness boom have avoided any serious consideration of why stress is so pervasive in corporations and society. According to New York Times business reporter David Gelles, author of Mindful Work, "Stress isn't something imposed on us. It's something we impose on ourselves." The New York Times recently featured an exposé on the toxic, sociopathic work culture at Amazon. A former employee was quoted as saying that he saw nearly everyone he worked with cry at their desk. Would Gelles offer his advice with a straight face to these employees of Amazon, telling them that they have imposed stress on themselves, that they could have chosen not to cry?

Comment: Corporate mindfulness is just a current rehashing of the 'positive thinking' found in business enterprises of yesteryear. A 'mindfulness' that doesn't utilize an application of discovery of the core sources of our stressors is purposeless and reinforces denial of reality rather than helping us face it. There is a distinction between further exploiting people with navel gazing practices and purposeful means of reducing stress in order to see and deal with the world. One such way is Éiriú Eolas.

Arrow Down

Long-term harm results from early academic training for pre-schoolers

Many preschool and kindergarten teachers have told me that they are extremely upset—some to the point of being ready to resign—by the increased pressure on them to teach academic skills to little children and regularly test them on such skills. They can see firsthand the unhappiness generated, and they suspect that the children would be learning much more useful lessons through playing, exploring, and socializing, as they did in traditional nursery schools and kindergartens. Their suspicions are well validated by research studies.

A number of well-controlled studies have compared the effects of academically oriented early education classrooms with those of play-based classrooms (some of which are reviewed here(link is external), in an article by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn McLaughlin,and Joan Almon).[1] The results are quite consistent from study to study: Early academic training somewhat increases children's immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed. Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.

Comment: The decline of play in preschoolers — and the rise in sensory issues
If children were given ample opportunities to play outdoors every day with peers, there would be no need for specialized exercises or meditation techniques for the youngest of our society. They would simply develop these skills through play. That's it. Something that doesn't need to cost a lot of money or require much thought. Children just need the time, the space, and the permission to be kids.

Let the adult-directed learning experiences come later. Preschool children need to play!


Understanding controlling people and how to protect yourself

© Shutterstock
The need to control others may not make a lot of sense to you. If you're a live-and-let-live person, you'd never want to control someone else. Even if you're a perfectionist, you stay on your own case all day, not necessarily someone else's.

But controllers are out there. They want to micromanage what you say, how you act, even what you think quietly in your own mind. It could be your boss, your spouse, or even your parent. You can't be yourself around them. They insist on being your top priority and want undue influence over your life. They might push your buttons to get an emotional reaction out of you because they want to exploit it as weakness. They have no respect for you or your boundaries.

Comment: Often controlling people will instinctively prey on those who are vulnerable because they have not learned what healthy boundaries are and how to set limits on these toxic people:

Alarm Clock

Study confirms dreams occur even if they aren't remembered

© Shutterstock
The man hasn't recalled any dreams for 26 years, but his sleep is unquiet. Sometimes he speaks in French and Spanish or starts swearing; he has also been known to point and kick and punch. Once, his movements propelled him right out of bed. Though the fall woke him and he needed stitches, the man could not remember any dream.

But just because he couldn't recall any dreams doesn't mean that he isn't having them, indicates a study of this man and others. People like him, who have a rare sleep disorder and do not lie still when asleep, are giving researchers a rare window into the dreaming mind.

Comment: See also: Brain Chemicals That Cause Sleep Paralysis Discovered


What it's like to have schizophrenia

© Alan Ajifo (Creative Commons)
Stuart Baker-Brown's first experiences with paranoid schizophrenia seemed, on their surface, not unreasonable at all. In 1991, Baker-Brown, a Briton, was in Russia, witnessing the fall of communism and marching in protests against communist hard-liners.

One night, the phone rang in Baker-Brown's hotel room. An angry stranger was on the other end, yelling in Russian. Baker-Brown became convinced that he was being stalked by the KGB, Russia's spy agency.

Magic Wand

Research Says: Meditation can improve heart health, manage stress and relieve pain

Don't get it twisted. Meditation isn't magic mumbo-jumbo. The practice has been probed, prodded, and scrutinized by some of the world's best scientists. Their findings reveal evidence that behind a meditator's feelings of calm and openness lie measurable physiological changes in the brain and bodily systems.

Here are a few thought-provoking studies that address some of the seemingly mystical effects of meditation through the rigorous lens of scientific examination.

Comment: There is one proven technique that can assist you with managing pain, reducing stress, calming and focusing your mind, creating better links between body and mind and thus improving quality of life, increasing sense of connection with others in your community. It will help you to have improved overall health, a stronger immune system, better impulse control, reduced inflammation, etc. It will also help you to heal emotional wounds; anything that may hinder or prevent you from leading a healthy and fulfilling life.

There is a myriad of relaxation techniques out there, but not many of them can attest to having not only immediate effects, but also having a highly practical application. With Éiriú Eolas, there is no need to sit in special postures, or be present in a carefully prepared relaxing atmosphere. The strength of the program comes from its high adaptability to stressful conditions of the modern world. Anyone can do it, be it a student, sitting outside of a lecture hall before the exam, a mechanic needing a break from tackling problems all day, a businessman just before signing an important deal, a mother having to raise three children and worrying if she will have enough money to pay the mortgage, etc.

Visit the Éiriú Eolas site to learn more about the scientific background of this program and then try it out for yourselves, free of charge.

Heart - Black

Dark thoughts could be a sign of healthy functioning

When we get stronger we're more capable of exploring our fears
The irony of human existence is that we are the highest forms of life on earth and yet ineffably sad because we are the only ones who know that we are going to die (Delillo, 1985).
My clients are often surprised when their progress in terms of health and functioning is accompanied by more frequent thoughts of death. One client in particular, who has started facing up to her own profound sense of self-doubt and who has stopped self-medicating almost nightly with marijuana or alcohol, has had moments she describes as full of "existential terror." To me, this supports my perception that she's doing much better, and is more able to let in more challenging forms of self-awareness.

Comment: Feeling intense emotions doesn't mean you're crazy, it means you're human

2 + 2 = 4

Why growing up is hard to do (But why the world still needs adults)

When I explain the Art of Manliness to other people, I often describe it as a site about growing up well, aimed at men. Our mission is to help young men mature into well-rounded adults, and to aid older men in improving areas of their lives they still feel are lacking.

Yet despite this focus, we labor under no delusions that growing up is an easy task. In fact, while maturing has always been a challenge, we'd posit that it's never been as hard to do as it is in our modern world. Consequently, many young people seem stuck in limbo - no longer a child, but not fully an adult.