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Mon, 26 Sep 2016
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Science of the Spirit


Holding space for ourselves expands our capacity to be there for others

The Importance of 'Being There' for Yourself

Most people would say they are good at supporting their friends and family, but why are we so bad at being there for ourselves?

When my second eldest daughter was a few months old, she developed colic. She would wake every night, crying for several hours, utterly inconsolable. Nothing I did helped her, not breastfeeding, holding her, rocking her, or my attempts to soothe her. Sometimes her cries pierced me so deeply I felt like giving up and leaving her alone. I felt so powerless.

Though it was difficult, my daughter taught me something vital and precious. As I watched her healing journey, I realised I cannot take away someone else's pain or rescue them. I cannot change what they are feeling, patch it up and move along. All I could do was witness, be there and be present for her. Yes I got frustrated, angry, and distraught that I couldn't do more, but eventually I found a place of calm as I sang mantras and focussed on staying peaceful in my own body. In learning to hold space for her, I learned to hold space for myself. In fact, I couldn't be present for her, without being present for myself. Her pain triggered my own deep pain, and I had to allow myself to move through it if I was going to help her.

It took the crumbling of a 13 year relationship to make me see how much of my energy goes into holding space for others; my four children, ex-partner, and those I work with in my teaching and healing practice. While I can hold space well for others, am sensitive and empathic, I recently realised again that there was a ceiling to this ability. In order to expand my capacity to be there for others, I needed to truly learn how to be there for myself. I was so focussed outwards, that I was neglecting the very thing that makes me solid and potent as a healing force for others: My own wellbeing.

Light Sabers

Road rage: Why normal people become harmful on the roads

© Ben Murray/Flickr, CC BY-SA
The roads are a common place to feel angry, but the most dangerous.
Anger can be very quick, powerful, reactive, and can make us do things we typically wouldn't do. There is nothing inherently wrong with anger as an emotion, but nowhere is anger less helpful, more common, and potentially more dangerous than when we are behind the wheel of a car.

Most of us are familiar with "road rage". There are, of course, extreme examples of violence and assaults on the roads that end up in the courts, hospitals, and the media. But every day, drivers get angry and aggressive, and the evidence is mounting that this can put themselves and others at great risk.

The science of road rage

Usually road rage is triggered by a specific event. These events will often involve the actions of another driver, such as a slow driver, a driver changing lanes without indicating, or other behaviours that we interpret as a threat or an obstacle.

Comment: The above tips are all excellent suggestions. And they don't just apply to driving, but by removing the word 'driver' from the listed items, would serve as great notes to live one's life by, moment to moment, in a more mindful, considerate and less egotistic way.

Stress and anger are a real part of life on planet Earth. If you'd like to gain more emotional balance, then take a few minutes to visit our website: eiriu-eolas.org. There you will find our free breathing and meditation programme scientifically designed to reduce stress and process past emotional trauma.


Narcissists steal their children's self-esteem

He watched his mother talk—about her hair, her friends, her car—for twenty minutes. When she paused for breath, he said: "I got promoted at work. They're sending me to—"

"Hey," she said. "Have you seen that new TV series about Brahms?"

"No," he sighed. "By the way, my friend Jed is going blind."

"That reminds me," she said. "I need new glasses."

He wanted to punch himself, but he did not know why.

Hearing the stories of those who were raised by narcissistic parents, knowing some such parents in the flesh, has sparked some of the fiercest loathing I have ever felt.

Comment: If you suspect that your parent is a narcissist it's best to research and know what you're dealing with and take steps to set very firm boundaries.


Musical training accelerates children's cognitive, social and emotional development

© woodleywonderworks, CC BY
How does music training in early childhood help the developing brain?
Observing a pianist at a recital - converting musical notations into precisely timed finger movements on a piano - can be a powerful emotional experience.

As a researcher of neuroscience and a pianist myself, I understand that the mastering of this skill not only takes practice, but also requires complex coordination of many different brain regions.

Brain regions - that are responsible for our hearing, sight and movement abilities - engage in an amazing symphony to produce music. It takes coordinating both hands and communicating emotionally with other players and listeners to produce the magical effect. The combination of such demands is likely to influence brain structures and their functions.

In our lab, we want to understand whether music training during childhood improves brain functions for processing sound more generally. These functions are important for the development of language and reading skills.

Music training and brain

Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behavior of musicians compared to nonmusicians.

Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Also, differences between musicians and nonmusicians have been found in areas of the brain related to hearing and movement, among others.

Comment: Read more about the powerful effects of music on our health and well-being :

Christmas Tree

Why it's illegal: Study finds marijuana diminishes aggressiveness while alcohol increases it

If anyone needs a reminder on the absurdity of the U.S. approach to drugs, consider the fact that cannabis is classified as a Schedule 1 drug with "no currently accepted medical use" and a "high potential for abuse," while alcohol is not even included in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

Of course, alcohol is a drug, as any psychologist will tell you, with a high potential for abuse; and it's not used as a treatment for medical conditions. Moderate alcohol use may have some health benefits, but heavy use can bring a host of negative health impacts.

Still, alcohol is left to the states to regulate, untouched by the fateful 1970 CSA that began Nixon's War on Drugs and spawned the DEA. As we have reported, this war against freedom was targeted at blacks and "hippies" who drove the counter-culture force demanding an end to militarism.

That 60s mindset of peace and love was a threat to the establishment, as the movement was growing for a principle of non-aggression, in contrast to the rise of U.S. hegemony underscored by the Vietnam War tragedy.

People 2

Overcome relationship conflicts by focusing on the future

© Shutterstock.com
Thinking about the future helps overcome conflicts, according to a new study.

The findings have potential implications for understanding how prospection, or future-thinking, can be a beneficial strategy for a variety of conflicts people experience in their everyday lives.

Alex Huynh, a doctoral candidate in psychology and lead author of the study, said:
"When romantic partners argue over things like finances, jealousy, or other interpersonal issues, they tend to employ their current feelings as fuel for a heated argument. By envisioning their relationship in the future, people can shift the focus away from their current feelings and mitigate conflicts."
Huynh published the paper with Igor Grossmann from the University of Waterloo, and Daniel Yang from Yale University.

Christmas Tree

Spending time in nature boosts body appreciation

© Ben Seidelman/Flickr
Nature is good for us - surely nobody has missed that fact. These days, both scientists and policymakers agree about the importance of offering everyone access to green spaces, regardless of social background.

That's because easy access to nature encourages physical activity, which in turn has positive health effects. For instance, English populations with the most green space in their surroundings also have the lowest levels of mortality. The simple fact is that people tend to be healthier and live longer when they have easy access to nature.

Accessible green space is also good for our psychological well-being. For example, large-scale surveys in the Netherlands and UK have shown that individuals living in urban areas with more green space have lower rates of mental health distress and are more satisfied with life than those living in areas with less green space.

Comment: For more on the benefits of nature see:


Knowledge protects: How to tell if your co-worker is a psychopath

Bullying isn't just for school kids on the playground.

Andrew Faas, a former senior executive with Canada's two largest retail organizations, found this out the hard way when he blew the whistle on a corrupt colleague, and subsequently had his phone and email hacked and even received an anonymous death threat.

To help others, Faas says in his new book, " The Bully's Trap," any worker being hired or promoted in a supervisory position should be required to take a psychological test.

What would it test for? The 20 signs listed in the Hare Psychopathy Checklist, as developed by renowned psychologist Robert Hare.

A psychopath may not show all the signs, but they will likely demonstrate at least some of them, Faas says.

Here are 13 sign that one of your coworkers may be a psychopath, from Hare's checklist, Faas, and articles we found on Psychology Today:

Comment: Trying to work in an environment where you are victimized by one of these predators can literally ruin your health and well-being. Yet, normal people often cannot imagine that there are people who are intentionally malevolent, and will often rationalize the predator's behavior, until their work-life becomes unbearable. The best form of protection is to educate yourself about the nature of these inter-species predators, as the odds are increasing that you or someone you know will encounter one at some point.


Spending time in nature calms and re-grounds us providing a sense of renewal

Nature provides people 'a sense of renewal' which lowers anxiety, new research finds.

People who feel connected to nature have lower levels of anxiety, recent research finds.

Nature seems to provide people an escape from busy urban environments — a way to let their minds recover.

It may be that it is not even necessary to be in nature to get the benefit, as long as one feels connected to it.

For the research people were asked about what nature meant to them.

Here are six of the themes that emerged when people talked about what nature gave to them:

Comment: Spending time in natural settings helps us regulate our moods and has also been shown to improve our natural immunity and cognitive function:


The root of healing from addiction is connection

© Ultra Kulture
Do Stronger Human Connections Immunise Us Against Emotional Distress?

Right now an exciting new perspective on addiction is emerging. Johann Harri, author of Chasing The Scream, recently captured widespread public interest with his Ted talk Everything You Know About Addiction Is Wrong, where he concluded with this powerful statement:
"The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection."
- Johann Harri

These sentiments are augmented by a growing number of experts, including addiction specialist Dr Gabor Maté, who cites 'emotional loss and trauma' as the core of addiction. Compare this 'emotional loss' to Johan Harri's idea about lack of connection and it is clear they're talking about a similar emotional condition.

Limbic Resonance

If connection is the opposite of addiction, then an examination of the neuroscience of human connection is in order. Published in 2000, A General Theory Of Love is a collaboration between three professors of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. A General Theory Of Love reveals that humans require social connection for optimal brain development, and that babies cared for in a loving environment are psychological and neurologically 'immunised' by love. When things get difficult in adult life, the neural wiring developed from a love-filled childhood leads to increased emotional resilience in adult life. Conversely, those who grow up in an environment where loving care is unstable or absent are less likely to be resilient in the face of emotional distress.

Comment: See also: Social connections and bonding: Everything we think we know about addiction is wrong