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Mon, 24 Oct 2016
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Science of the Spirit


Have you lost touch with your intuition?

Honor Your Intuition. Here's How...

There's a lot of buzz about the benefits of tuning into your intuition. We know that intuition helps us make spiritually-aligned decisions, protects us from danger, acts as our inner doctor, gives us the heads-up when we are needed by our loved ones, and serves as the unseen world's secret gateway to the human world, helping us live our best lives.

But how do you know if you're tuned in or not? We all have the capacity to listen to our intuition, but sometimes we're at the mercy of forces that block our ability to interpret our intuition clearly.

Here are eight signs that your intuition may be blocked, plus ten tips to help you tap into it.

Comment: The science of intuition: How to measure 'hunches' and 'gut feelings'


Soul-making and the inherent human need for an interior life

"We are dreaming a symbolic world, only briefly waking to what is real." ~Arthur Deikman, M.D.

"He not busy being born, is busy dying." ~Bob Dylan
Something is not quite right...you feel it...you may have experienced this feeling, this nagging, for a long time. So you most probably just try to ignore it and hope that it goes away; but sooner or later the persistent nagging finally brings an idea to your mind - there's something very odd about the way the world is. Maybe you feel like you are at the cinema watching a film and yet you sense there must be something wrong about the film you are seeing. The images are all there, but there's a feeling that something is out of sequence, or the frames are running out of 'normal' time. However, after a while you get used to the style of the film, and your senses adjust to its rhythm and you lose the sense of strangeness and you get pulled into the show and you go along with the ride...

...the film tells you that the world has no grand meaning, that human life is an accidental anomaly - but as you walk down the street, engage with friends, fall in love, follow your dreams, you experience meaning and significance...wait, there's that glitch in the film again - something about its 'randomness' and 'meaninglessness' doesn't make sense...your personal experience has shown you something different...and then there's that nagging feeling again...somewhere - wasn't there?

Comment: For more on the concept of working towards growing a soul in everyday social life see: Kindling the divine spark within you
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.


WTF! What swearing reveals about language and ourselves

© Peter Opaskar
Cursing is cool. It just is. Ask anyone.

In his new book What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, Benjamin Bergen—a linguist in the Cognitive Science Department at UC San Diego—tries to explain exactly why cussing is so amazing. His self-described "book-length love letter to profanity" defines what makes a swearword and why using one feels so great.

Although What the F has its share of silliness, it's full of cute tidbits you can drop at cocktail parties, like how all Samoan babies' first words are "eat s#!t" and how Japanese completely lacks curse words. Japanese people with Tourette's syndrome blurt out insults and childlike words for genitalia that are generally considered impolite and inappropriate, but not profane.

Across unrelated languages—Bergen mentions Cantonese, Russian, Finnish, American and British Sign Languages, Hebrew, Arabic, Italian, German, and Quebecois French in addition to English—curses largely fall into four categories. There are words that deal with prayer, the divine, and the supernatural (the word "profane," after all, is the counterpoint to the word "sacred"). There are also words that deal with sex, various sex acts, the people who perform them, and the body parts involved. Other words cover the act of excreting, as well as the excretions themselves.

Finally, there are slurs, which are the only swears that have been demonstrated to cause harm to those who use and hear them. The others, despite the protestations of the FCC and generations of conservative parents, have not been found to have ill effects on anyone.

Curse words are different from the rest of language, as evidenced by how they seem to be exempt from regular rules of grammar and instead can engender their own. But the most interesting aspect of their distinction is that they are processed in the brain differently from regular speech.


Parasocial relationships: The make-believe bonds with celebrities

Jaye Derrick has a special relationship with the television sitcom Friends. Years ago, she began to notice a recurring pattern: whenever she had a fight with her boyfriend she would turn on her television and watch reruns of the popular sitcom. From her sofa in Buffalo, New York, Derrick noticed that Ross, Rachel, Joey, Chandler, Monica and Phoebe were beginning to feel like an extended group of friends.

Following the group's zany dramas and misunderstandings with one another—and seeing how they propped each other up—provided Derrick with a sense of support when her own personal life was on the rocks. The show's theme song "I'll be there for you" rung true for her. She soon purchased a DVD box set of the show.

"Watching these episodes seemed to be taking away some of the feelings of rejection or distracting me long enough that the argument wasn't a problem anymore," says Derrick, a social psychology professor at the University of Houston in Texas, who was inspired by her relationship with Friends to study the phenomenon known as parasocial relationships.

Comment: There is nothing wrong with appreciating a certain performer's work but when you turn off the media and find that you're cultivating a fantasy bubble in which you have a fictional relationship with the performer, there's a problem. If done over long periods of time it becomes a means of avoiding reality.

2 + 2 = 4

Want a successful child? Try homeschooling

Nowadays, many parents choose for their kids to be taught from home instead of enrolling them into the traditional school settings. This decision often comes from the parents that prefer to place the responsibility of quality education on themselves, so if you are one of those parents, keep reading. Even though some people view it as super intense parenting, spending more time with your children is a reasonable decision that can be understood. Several years ago, we did not enjoy such technological progress that allowed us to teach from home, but now that we do, more and more parents choose to use this option, says Mitchell Stevens, a Stanford University professor. According to Mr. Stevens, this method is widely popular in America at the moment due to the availability of resources on the Internet that increase the quality of homeschooling.

There are a lot of reasons parents choose to teach their children from home. For example, issues with convenience, transportation, teaching quality of the local school, or a poor learning environment that does not challenge the child and therefore cannot produce desired outcomes. Also, the child might have special needs that can be met only at home, where the atmosphere is relaxed. Despite the reason, in many cases, homeschooling can be the source of numerous benefits in making the child smart and successful. These benefits were highlighted in the Academic Statistics on Homeschooling that showed that students who were taught at home performed better than the ones educated in the traditional classroom. Let's review some of them below.

Comment: See also:


Do new parenting trends enable children and keep them dependent?

I grew up in the late 80s and I was obsessed with The Babysitter's Club books. My best friend and I started a booming neighborhood business based on this popular young adult series. We each took care of different kids after school, on weekends, and even late nights while neighborhood parents went out to dinner or a movie. We got great reviews from everyone, and we made a lot of money, too. The most "unusual" part? We were 11 years old.

Nobody batted an eye back in 1990 when my friend and I started our business. Besides taking care of other people's kids, I used to stay home from the age of 9 when my parents worked out at a local health club. I also remember sitting in the car while my mom ran errands from about the age of 6. I used to spend long summer days wandering my suburban neighborhood with the directive to "be home before dinner." I was a responsible and confident kid—I had common sense and wasn't afraid to ask for directions or to talk to adults. I felt like I was a part of my community and my parents trusted me to make smart decisions. But in the last decade or so, the concept of "no child left alone" (check out this book by the same title) has become not only the social norm, but a legal one in the United States. There are many reasons for this, but a recent study is shedding light on why these attitudes have changed in recent years.

Comment: See also:

People 2

Turning tide: Young adults switching off social media apps say their lives have improved

© Foto: Pixabay
Our love of social media seems to have grown and grown in the past decade, but recent studies show the tide may be turning for some platforms, with young people in particular ditching Facebook. One study claims that more than 11 million teenagers left Facebook between 2011 and 2014. It's been argued that they are swapping public platforms such as Twitter and Instagram for more private messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat.

We asked the Guardian's younger readers whether they have quit social media and why, as well as what apps they are ditching. Almost all reported a greater sense of happiness after going offline. Here, we share some of their experiences.

Daisy, 23, Manchester: 'I feel less anxious and less like a failure'

After a romance ended with a guy I really liked, I kept trying to avoid Facebook so I wouldn't have to see him. It was after this that I gradually switched off from it, but before that I'd been wanting to quit for a while.

Facebook made me feel anxious, depressed and like a failure. When I went online it seemed like everyone was in Australia or Thailand, and if they weren't travelling they were getting engaged or landing great jobs. I felt like everyone was living the dream and I was still at home with my parents, with debt from my student loan hanging over me.

I also felt that if I wasn't tagging myself at restaurants or uploading photos from nights out, people would assume I wasn't living. I remember a friend from uni said to me once, "Yeah, but you're still going out having fun, I've seen on Facebook." I tried to present myself as always having a great time. If my status didn't get more than five likes, I'd delete it.



Have humans forgotten the basic tenets of empathy?

According to Wikipedia, empathy is defined as: the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position.

In my recent research on animals, I've come across interesting concepts and theories. The most notable, the concept of empathy among other animal species.

Scientists used to believe that only humans were capable of experiencing any emotions, most of all, empathy.

However, we now know that elephants, dolphins, whales, chimpanzees, and a handful of other animals also demonstrate emotional reactions that appear to be "empathy" and a type of self-awareness. They are able to recognize themselves in the mirror, mourn the death of their young, and experience a wide range of emotions.

Additionally, several species of animals have areas of their brains that are analogous to our emotional epicenters, the limbic and paralimbic systems.

In fact, it seems as though some nonhuman animals may experience a wider range of emotions, and/or have a larger neocortex and capacity for empathy, than even we do.

Comment: The Greatest Epidemic Sickness Known to Humanity

We, as a species, are in the midst of a massive psychic epidemic, a virulent collective psychosis that has been brewing in humanity's psyche from the beginning of time. Indigenous people have been tracking this 'psychic' virus calling it "wetiko," a Cree term which refers to a diabolically wicked person or spirit who terrorizes others.

Wetiko is a disease of industrial civilization - its unsustainable nature is based on, and increasingly requires violence to maintain itself. Modern civilization suffers from the overly one-sided dominance of the rational, intellectual mind that disconnects us from nature, from empathy, and from ourselves. Due to its disassociation from the whole, wetiko is a disturber of the peace of humanity and the natural world, a sickness which spawns aggression and is capable of inciting violence amongst living beings. Those afflicted with wetiko, like a cannibal, consume the life-force of others -- human and nonhuman -- for private purpose or profit, and do so without giving back something from their own lives.

Cell Phone

Addiction to being online could signal other mental health issues

Excessive internet use may signal other mental health problems in college students, researchers say
Internet addiction may signal other mental health issues among college students, according to a new study.

Canadian researchers say their findings could affect how psychiatrists approach people who spend a significant amount of time online​.

For the study, the researchers evaluated the internet use of 254 freshmen at McMaster University in Ontario. The researchers used a tool called the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), developed in 1998, as well as their own scale based on more recent criteria.

"Internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc. We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use​, or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the internet rather than being over-reliant on it," said chief researcher Dr. Michael Van Ameringen. He is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster.

With the new screening tool, 33 students met criteria for internet addiction, and 107 for problematic internet use.


Melancholy melodies trigger emotional response in empathetic listeners

© Bina80
Have you ever felt particularly moved by a melancholy melody? Recent research published in Frontiers in Psychology suggests that it just might be a sign of your extraordinary empathy.

Finnish researchers conducted a quirky sort of experiment with 102 volunteers. They had them listen to an unfamiliar piece of sad instrumental music and then evaluated their emotional responses in different ways, including measuring the variation between heartbeats. The researchers categorized three broad types of response — a relaxed, peaceful sadness; an anxious, nervous sadness; and an intense, almost transcendental sadness. They also discovered a pattern: Those who had higher levels of empathy were more likely to experience the intense type of sadness, while there were no clear relationship with the other types.

"It has previously been known that people experience paradoxical pleasure when engaging with tragic art, but this seems to be more pronounced in those who have a heightened ability to engage with other people's emotions,"said the study's lead author Dr. Tuomas Eerola, currently a professor of music cognition at Durham University in England, in a statement. "Conversely, people with low empathy do not report feeling moved after listening to sad music."

Eerola and his colleagues took pains to eliminate any other causes for the volunteers' reactions by measuring their baseline heartbeats, blood pressure, and other factors that could influence their heart's reaction to the music.

"By using unfamiliar, instrumental sad music in our experiment, we were able to rule out most other possible sources of emotion such as specific memories and lyrics." explained study co-author Jonna Vuoskoski from the University of Oxford. "Thus, participants' emotional responses must have been brought about by the music itself."

Comment: See also: Musical preferences linked to cognitive processes