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Tue, 24 May 2016
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Science of the Spirit

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Emotional self-abuse: How we can be our own worst enemies

He is a multimillionaire client of mine. Handsome. Accomplished. Respected. Gentle. Reflective. Kind.

And I was examining every angle of why he was allowing a clearly destructive woman (borderline personality disorder) out of his life. He agreed over and over again that she was bad for him, that she felt no remorse, that suddenly abandoning partners was her longtime modus operandi, and yet, he couldn't let go.

With enough digging, a story emerged.

"I was small as a kid. I was the last guy picked for all the teams. I guess I'm afraid nobody will pick me again if I can't get her back."

So he was telling himself, "You're not good enough! Why would anybody ever pick you?" He was his own best emotional abuser.

Stories of emotional abuse fill magazines and newspapers (and Lifetime movies), but little is said about how we often do the job on ourselves first. It's easy to see how partners abuse each other — we can hear the insults and witness the behaviors — but what happens when the denigrating talk, shaming, threatening and behavioral choices happen inside one's own head?

What happens is that the behavior — unspotted by those who care — persists.

Comment: Critical self-talk destroys the spirit, but we can train ourselves to replace those ugly messages with a more balanced perspective. Listening and identifying the critic by slowing down and paying more attention to our unconscious thought processes is the first step. With more awareness, we can then take steps to distance ourselves by refusing to listen, and then begin to grow a stronger inner voice that can respond with statements that are supportive and we know to be true.


Why are we so bored? We live in a world of constant entertainment - but is too much stimulation boring?

© Sportsphoto/Allstar
Nothing to do: the 1985 film The Breakfast Club, in which five students endure a day’s detention
It amazes me when people proclaim that they are bored. Actually, it amazes me that I am ever bored, or that any of us are. With so much to occupy us these days, boredom should be a relic of a bygone age - an age devoid of the internet, social media, multi-channel TV, 24-hour shopping, multiplex cinemas, game consoles, texting and whatever other myriad possibilities are available these days to entertain us.

Yet despite the plethora of high-intensity entertainment constantly at our disposal, we are still bored. Up to half of us are "often bored" at home or at school, while more than two- thirds of us are chronically bored at work. We are bored by paperwork, by the commute and by dull meetings. TV is boring, as is Facebook and other social media. We spend our weekends at dull parties, watching tedious films or listening to our spouses drone on about their day. Our kids are bored - bored of school, of homework and even of school holidays.

Comment: 'I'm bored!' -- Research on attention sheds light on the unengaged mind


The Japanese tea ceremony: Chado, "the way of tea"

Like so many traditional Japanese arts, the formal tea ceremony called chado, or "the Way of Tea," is an ode to harmony—in this case, the harmony between tea, art, nature, organic materials, and people. Highly influenced by Zen Buddhism, chado has been used as a sacred and meditative ritual in Japan throughout the ages. From the processing of the tea to the way it is served, all aspects of the ceremony demand mindfulness and care. While chado is typically a privileged experience of the elite, you certainly don't need attend a formal ceremony to infuse its spirit into your everyday tea drinking rituals. The powdered green tea present in the ceremony, matcha, can be purchased in specialty stores, and we sell the more common leafed green tea as a primary ingredient in our certified organic line of Fair Trade, blended green teas.

Comment: See also: Dandelion root: Immune system builder & anti-cancer properties


Can't see images in your mind? You may have aphantasia

© Jordan Isip
Certain people, researchers have discovered, can't summon up mental images - it's as if their mind's eye is blind. This month in the journal Cortex, the condition received a name: aphantasia, based on the Greek word phantasia, which Aristotle used to
describe the power that presents visual imagery to our minds. I find research like this irresistible. It coaxes me to think about ways to experience life that are radically different from my own, and it offers clues to how the mind works. And in this instance, I played a small part in the discovery.

In 2005, a 65-year-old retired building inspector paid a visit to the neurologist Dr Adam Zeman at the University of Exeter Medical School. After a minor surgical procedure, the man - whom Adam and his colleagues refer to as MX suddenly realised he could no longer conjure images in his mind. Adam couldn't find any description of such a condition in medical literature. But he found MX's case intriguing. For decades, scientists had debated how the mind's eye works, and how much we rely on it to store memories and to make plans for the future. MX agreed to a series of examinations. He proved to have a good memory for a man of his age, and he performed well on problem-solving tests. His only unusual mental feature was an inability to see mental images.

Comment: Read Blake Ross' Facebook account of his experience with aphantasia here.


The drawing effect: Improve your memory by drawing pictures

A recent study showed that drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information and a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written.

From caffeine to specific herbs, memory can be enhanced in so many ways. However, drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered has been found to be a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory.

The study showed that drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor and semantic information.

Comment: See also:


How to perform a "despacho" ceremony: A portal to the soul of the world

When I stayed in a Q'eros village at 16,000 feet in the Andes last year, I was blessed to participate in several "despacho" blessings performed by the Q'eros shamans. To the Q'eros, the primary spiritual principle is one of "ayni," which refers to a sort of spiritual reciprocity. They believe that "Pachamama" (Mother Earth) is inherently nurturing when all is in balance. When things go awry and this reciprocity is not honored, Pachamama withholds her blessings and may even become hostile. The fields may not yield as many potatoes, and natural disasters may destroy their homes or their people.

No Entry

The importance of saying "No" in a healthy life

© www.annaaparicio.com
In the health and fitness arena, taglines often sell the idea of "accept no limits." After all, we're supposed to believe in ourselves, push through boundaries, improve exponentially and show them all, right? Dramatic images, big numbers and extreme makeovers get the spotlight. And when people work hard for what they achieve, I think it's great. My own primary focus on MDA is helping people live their best life with the least amount of pain, suffering and sacrifice possible. To that end, I offer ample positive advice for what to do. Inherent to the bigger picture, however, (and just as critical in my opinion) is the skill of discerning what not to do. Today I'm talking limits—and how knowing where to draw the line is essential to living an awesome life.

I know we all live in a culture of "more is better." At various points of my life I've been tempted by that siren song. (I am a former Cardio King after all.) And yet the last few decades have affirmed a very different truth for myself and for others I've observed.

Because of the work I do, I meet a lot of people who are motivated to live a healthier life. It's one of the things I love most about what I do in fact. And, yet, as a result I also see the full spectrum of behavior around "healthy" action.

Comment: Dr. Gabor Maté goes into an extensive study on what happens to people when they refuse to say no when they need to: in short, their body says "no" for them through illness and breaking down. Whether a person is pushing themselves too hard or feeling outside pressure to push past their limits and boundaries, eventually the body will say no. Pushing oneself to excel is certainly a good thing overall, but one must respect one's own limits and boundaries and find balance in their lives and their pursuits. For more information:


Remembering and savoring positive memories is a practical and effective way to lift your mood

The study examined how positive emotions can be used in the therapeutic process to aid healing.

Positive memories could be used as a way to help boost mental well-being, new research finds.

Therapists have traditionally focused on addressing negative emotions, as these are most pressing.

However, researchers are now looking at how positive emotions can be used in the therapeutic process to aid healing.


Drawing words or concepts is the best way to remember information

Need help in remembering a difficult concept? A solution may literally be at your fingertips as new research suggests drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered enhances memory.

"We pitted drawing against a number of other known encoding strategies, but drawing always came out on top," said the study's lead author, Jeffrey Wammes, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Waterloo.

"We believe that the benefit arises because drawing helps to create a more cohesive memory trace that better integrates visual, motor, and semantic information."

Comment: Imagery effective way to enhance memory, reduce false memories, study finds

Monkey Wrench

The science of why you're so hard on yourself

Most of us battle with an internal voice of self-criticism. A recent psychotherapy review sheds light on how to listen to your inner critic and respond.

This morning, I accidentally knocked over a can of food that splattered all over the floor. Instantly, a voice in my head rang, "Rina, how could you be so stupid? You've wasted food and time!"

Sound familiar?

This is the voice commonly referred to as our "inner critic." In ancient yoga philosophy the inner critic is considered a manifestation of the ego, or ahamkara. As much as ahamkara is involved with deceptively enjoyable vanity and conceit, it can also be the source of painful self-criticism. Peace of mind and self-love, yoga says, come when none of these "snares" of ego entrap us. According to yoga, it is then that we are truly free.

In research terms, the inner critic is defined as a "well-integrated system of critical and negative thoughts and attitudes of the self that interferes with the individual's organismic experiencing process." In other words, it is the criticism we hear in our minds that gets in the way of life enjoyment.

Comment: 4 crucial steps to silencing toxic self-talk