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Sat, 07 Dec 2019
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Science of the Spirit

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Ikigai: The Japanese secret to living a long and more fulfilling life

For Japanese workers in big cities, a typical work day begins with a state called sushi-zume, a term which likens commuters squeezed into a crowded train car to tightly packed grains of rice in sushi.

The stress doesn't stop there. The country's notorious work culture ensures most people put in long hours at the office, governed by strict hierarchical rules. Overwork is not uncommon and the last trains home on weekdays around midnight are filled with people in suits. How do they manage?

The secret may have to do with what Japanese call ikigai. There is no direct English translation, but it's a term that embodies the idea of happiness in living. Essentially, ikigai is the reason why you get up in the morning.

To those in the West who are more familiar with the concept of ikigai, it's often associated with a Venn diagram with four overlapping qualities: what you love, what you are good at, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for.

This balance is found at the intersection where your passions and talents converge with the things that the world needs and is willing to pay for.

Comment: Another way to look at it,
"Don't underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, "He whose life has a why can bear almost any how." ~ Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Brick Wall

A surefire cure for despair

quit scrabble pieces
© www.aboblist.com
"I can't go on. I'll go on."
~ Samuel Beckett

Sometimes it just gets to be too goddamn much. You just finished a soul-draining argument with a family member who insists that Putin controls all major world events because that's what the TV said so it must be true, then you check the poll numbers for the upcoming elections in the US and UK and you see your favorite candidates just don't have the kind of numbers they're going to need, the latest revelation that the US and its allies deceived the world about what's happening in Syria has been completely swept under the rug by the establishment news churn, Bolivia has been taken over by US-backed Christian fascists, and now you're watching Mike Pompeo's stupid asshole face spouting some made-up bullshit about Iran that you know the news media will never hold him accountable for.

And it's just too goddamn much.


Psychologists Explain How To Stop Overthinking Everything

stop over thinking
Thinking about something in endless circles — is exhausting.

While everyone overthinks a few things once in a while, chronic over-thinkers spend most of their waking time ruminating, which puts pressure on themselves. They then mistake that pressure to be stress.

"There are people who have levels of overthinking that are just pathological," says clinical psychologist Catherine Pittman, an associate professor in the psychology department at Saint Mary's College in Notre Dame, Indiana.

"But the average person also just tends to overthink things." Pittman is also the author of "Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry."

Overthinking can take many forms: endlessly deliberating when making a decision (and then questioning the decision), attempting to read minds, trying to predict the future, reading into the smallest of details, etc.

People who overthink consistently run commentaries in their heads, criticising and picking apart what they said and did yesterday, terrified that they look bad — and fretting about a terrible future that might await them

'What ifs' and 'shoulds' dominate their thinking, as if an invisible jury is sitting in judgement on their lives. And they also agonise over what to post online because they are deeply concerned about how other people will interpret their posts and updates.


If memory serves, can it be trained? A new study offers hope

The age of information is reshaping our recall capacities, but does delegating mental responsibilities to devices work for us, or against us? Researchers say the answer is both
memory training
If there is one thing that all human beings seem to have in common, it is the fear of losing their memories. After all, memory shapes our personality, determines how we see ourselves, and contributes to shared experiences on multiple levels. Losing one's memory is akin to losing an entire life history.

The 21st century offers various technologies that keep us from forgetting the little things, such as phone numbers, which are now a touch away on our smartphones. But could mobile phones actually contribute to one's forgetfulness? Is age to blame for memory loss? Genetics? Or maybe a combination of all of the above?

Recently, a team of scientists working under Prof. Rafi Malach of the Department of Neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science published the findings of a breakthrough study on this topic, in collaboration with neurosurgeon Ashesh D. Mehta and his team at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in the United States.

Comment: See also,

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MindMatters: Finding Meaning through Mythological Representations: Delving Further into Jordan Peterson's Maps of Meaning

chaos demon
Why have many ancient - and even contemporary stories - just stuck with us and seem etched into the psyche of civilization? What is it about particular narratives that appear to hold something so essential to our existence, and that have become reference points for our own narratives? And how can a story, or a mythology, serve us as we navigate life's many day to day travails, and unexpected twists and turns? Jordan Peterson writes: "A good theory lets you use things — things that once appeared useless — for desirable ends. In consequence, such a theory has a general sense of excitement and hope about it. A good theory about the structure of myth should let you see how a story you couldn't even understand previously might shed new and useful light on the meaning of your life."

Join us this week on MindMatters as we continue our discussion of Jordan Peterson's deeply insightful Maps of Meaning and dive into the treasures of 'Mythological Representation: The Constituent Elements of Experience' - where we'll be taking a look at how the archetypes of many myths are, in fact, all around us - and whether we realize it or not, make up the firmament for the stories we tell ourselves about our own exploratory journeys into both the known and the unknown.

Running Time: 01:07:04

Download: MP3 — 61.4 MB

Snow Globe Xmas

New dream study reveals nightmares help brain prepare for real anxiety-provoking situation

Woman waking from a nightmare
© Prostock Studio adobe.com
Nightmares are no fun, but a new international study finds all that nighttime fear may actually be serving a greater purpose. Researchers from both Switzerland and the United States identified the areas of the brain that were activated while a group of participants experienced fear in their dreams. Interestingly, they discovered that after the participants woke up, those same emotion-regulating brain areas responded to scary situations much more efficiently.

All in all, the research team believe their findings lend credence to the theory that dreams actually help our brains prepare to tackle real world stressful situations. Consequently, this research opens the door for a multitude of new dream-based therapeutic methods for treating anxiety.

Dreams have become a popular topic of research in neuroscience circles, more specifically the areas of the brain that activate as we doze off. Just recently it was discovered that certain brain areas are responsible for the formation of dreams. Furthermore, different brain regions are only activated depending on the type of dream one is experiencing. For example, the thoughts, emotions, and perceptions that a singular dream may incite.


How dancing gives your brain and mood a big boost

It doesn't matter if you are a professional dancer or if you just like to move on the dance floor on Saturday night. It doesn't matter if you like to tango or break dance. Dancing, of any kind, combines physical exercise with the positive power of music and social engagement. Together, these yield major mental health and brain benefits.

In fact, it has such beneficial effects on the brain that dancing is increasingly used as therapy for developmental disorders like Down's syndrome, mood disorders such as depression, and neurological disorders as in the case of schizophrenia, Parkinson's, and dementia. Here is why it's so good for your brain.

Comment: See also:


Marcus Aurelius's utterly practical Stoic guide to inner freedom

Marcus Aurelius statue
Marcus Aurelius's Meditations instructs us in practices to restore our power of free will.

In The Princess Bride, Westley disguised as the Dread Pirate Roberts delivers one of writer William Goldman's classic lines: "Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

The Stoic philosophers weren't trying to sell us anything. If you believe Stoicism is a superficial idea that encourages us to suck up our pain and get on with it, you are missing their point.

The Stoics didn't promise freedom from disturbing emotions and hardships. They promised the freedom to have emotional well-being despite our problems. The Stoics didn't teach us to resist our feelings or pretend they don't exist. To the Stoics, sucking it up was a waste of a learning opportunity.

In previous essays, I have considered the ideas of Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca.

In this essay, I'm taking a deep dive into Meditations by Marcus Aurelius via classics professor Gregory Hays's magnificent translation. Aurelius did not expect that anyone but himself would ever read his aphorisms. He wrote for himself a guide to living a life consistent with his highest values.

To get the most out of reading Meditations, do as Aurelius did: Examine your reactions to your day-to-day experiences. Challenge your reactions, not other people, to uproot your conditioned responses.


Ben Shapiro interviews David Berlinski on his new book, Human Nature

david berlinski
Wow, this is an amazing, hour-long conversation between Ben Shapiro and our Discovery Institute colleague David Berlinski. It's today's Sunday Special on the Ben Shapiro Show and you can watch it here on YouTube:

Berlinski is wise and hilarious, and Shapiro a very fitting interlocutor. David's new book, which forms the spine of the interview, is Human Nature, out now.

I'll have more to say on their interaction later. But in the spirit of the Fast Track program of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hastening needed prescription medicine ahead of otherwise routine burdensome drug trial requirements, here are David and Ben right NOW, covering the philosophical and political attack on essentialism, why evolution is fundamentally at odds with a fixed nature to human beings (or dogs, or anything else living), whether the problems with evolutionary science are more a matter of science or social consequences, whether the Nazis would have been satisfied by wiping out the Jews or whether they would have turned their evolutionary testing on Germans themselves in the end, and much more. You will enjoy this.


Medical scientists take Near Death Experiences seriously now

Today, we know much more about what happens to people when they die — and what we are learning does not support materialism
Near-death experiences
In a continuing discussion, Robert J. Marks and Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named, looked at near-death experiences (NDEs). Here's the podcast: "Walter Bradley: Don't go towards the light?"


01:55 | Definition of a near-death experience

Walter Bradley: A near-death experience is a term that describes what today has become quite common in emergency rooms across the country as well as in highway accidents and so forth in which a person has a complete loss of heartbeat and brainwaves... And if they are resuscitated, what can they tell us about that intervening period where they were so-called clinically dead and yet, in many cases, they have remarkable experiences during that interval of time? So it's called a near-death experience in that it wasn't permanent.

But at least in the time period that we are interested in, they were clinically dead in the sense that their physical body was medically dead. But it didn't mean that they ceased to exist. So I think that some of the most interesting empirical data that's been accumulating over the past thirty to forty years about this mind-body question has come through these so-called near-death experiences, which provide what I think of as remarkable evidence for what happens after we die — as told to us by people who actually did die and were subsequently resuscitated — and come back with these amazing stories.