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Fri, 29 Jul 2016
The World for People who Think

Science of the Spirit

Christmas Tree

Humans and trees: Intimately connected through the ages

Featured Image: Tree of Life by Judith Shaw
Trees are considered sacred in many cultures. Tree worship, in one form or another, has been practiced almost universally by ancient peoples in every corner of the globe.

Comment: See also: Trees rest their branches at night as if they were sleeping

Heart - Black

Growing up with a narcissist...

We have all met a true narcissist once or twice in our lives. That one person that can make you feel on top of the world one minute and like a pile of dog droppings on the bottom of their shoe the next. That one person whose approval means everything to you, and you bend over backwards to get it, but never ever receive it. Many of you have met a narcissist in the workplace, maybe in the form of a cruel boss or a cocky, know-it-all coworker. Maybe you experienced a narcissist's cruelty in school or college, or maybe you even had the unfortunate experience of dating or being married to one. You probably will never forget this person and the damage they did to you mentally and physically and you swore that you would never let a person like that into your life again.

Comment: For a deeper understanding of this topic read: The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment by Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman and Robert Pressman.
In this compelling book, the authors present an innovative therapeutic model for understanding and treating adults from emotionally abusive or neglectful families - families the authors call narcissistic. Narcissistic families have a parental system that is, for whatever reason (job stress, alcoholism, drug abuse, mental illness, physical disability, lack of parenting skills, self-centered immaturity), primarily involved in getting its own needs met. The children in such narcissistic family systems try to earn love, attention and approval by satisfying their parents' needs, thus never developing the ability to recognize their own needs or create strategies for getting them met. By outlining the theoretical framework of their model and using dozens of illustrative clinical examples, the authors clearly illuminate specific practice guidelines for treating these individuals. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is a therapist, consultant, and trainer. She is known for her work with dysfunctional families, particularly with survivors of incest. Robert M. Pressman is the editor-in-chief and president of the Joint Commission for the Development of the Treatment and Statistical Manual for Behavioral and Mental Disorders.

2 + 2 = 4

New study shows reading stories of struggles improves learning

© lifehacker.com
According to a new study, reading about scientists' struggles can help students who aren't doing so well in science
"Growing Up, Einstein saw his father struggle to provide for the family. Looking for work, Einstein's father moved the family several times for different jobs. This meant that Einstein had to change schools more than once during his childhood. Moving between schools was very difficult. Einstein not only felt out of place, but it was also challenging for him to catch up to what his new class was working on."
This story can't be found in your regular science textbook, but maybe it should be: According to a new study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, reading stories about the struggles of famous scientists is more beneficial for students' grades than reading about their achievements. The way we currently teach science—by focusing on great feats of knowledge by larger-than-life geniuses—may not be the best way to encourage students to pursue scientific careers.

Researchers at Columbia University and the University of Washington recruited just over 400 freshmen and sophomores at a low-income, mostly non-white high school. The students read stories about Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Michael Faraday, just 800 words centering on one of three themes:
  • "The Story of a Successful Scientist." Similar to what you'd find in a regular science textbook, this story talked about the great discoveries the scientist made, like winning Nobel Prizes, publishing papers, or pioneering new fields of study.
  • "Trying Over and Over Again Even When You Fail." This story focused on the scientist's intellectual struggles, as they tried different experiments—and failed.
  • "Overcoming the Challenges in Your Life." This tale focused on the scientist's personal struggles, such as dealing with poverty and discrimination.
After six weeks, the researchers checked in with teachers to see how the students were doing in science class.

As it turned out, the students who had read about scientists' struggles—whether intellectual or personal—now had higher grades than students who had read about achievements. These differences showed up among students who weren't getting good grades to begin with, suggesting that this exercise may benefit those who need help the most.


A philosopher's argument for not loving yourself just as you are

© Wikimedia
Confucius believed we have a strong tendency to get stuck in patterns.
The importance of loving yourself is a common catchphrase among feel-good gurus and the subject of countless self-help books.

But Harvard University's Michael Puett argues that loving yourself—and all your flaws—can actually be quite harmful. Puett, who earlier this year published a book on what Chinese philosophy can teach us about the good life, suggests that ancient Chinese philosophers would strongly disapprove of today's penchant for self-affirmation.

Comment: Read more about Daniel Kahneman's work:

People 2

The unconscious process that helps happy couples stay faithful

People in relationships automatically see tempting others as less attractive, new research finds.

The more satisfied people are with their relationship, the more they downgrade attractive others.

The unconscious process may help couples stay faithful to each other.

Comment: See also: The elite's social engineering endgame: A battle between the sexes where humanity loses


The science of smudging: A powerful antiseptic dating back to prehistoric times

The practice of smudging dates back to prehistoric times, and is still very much in use today worldwide for cleansing everything from dwellings to human spirits. However recent research has shed light on the popularity of this activity, revealing that burning certain plant matter actually clears harmful bacteria.

All Western use of burning herbs and plants for spiritual purposes aside, the activity rests firmly in the sensibilities of ancient cultures in that, historically, smudging was believed to put forth the spirits of various 'allies' to provide ease and balance to an individual or group.

In this way, the practice was used to clear spiritual and emotional negativity that has built up in a body or a space.

Of course, there are skeptics who belittle the practice as unscientific and akin to magic. The practice has a negative association to a form of cultural imperialism, where traditions of dwindling indigenous populations are co-opted by the descendants of those who more-or-less conquered them.

Light Sabers

Sibling rivalry: Study reveals if eldest children are more intelligent - and if it matters

© shutterstock
Are eldest children more intelligent with 'better' personalities? Massive study settles this sibling rivalry

Eldest siblings are more intelligent, a new study of 377,000 high school students finds.

However, the difference is equal to, on average, just one IQ point.

This difference is so small as to be almost meaningless.

There were also consistent differences in personality.

Comment: Interesting that the study came up with the following statement: The message of this study is that birth order probably should not influence your parenting. Another aspect of sibling rivalry that parents should be aware of is shared in the following article: Bully in the next bedroom - are we in denial about sibling aggression?
Sibling relationships can be difficult, and never more so than in childhood. But society often regards the scrapping and squabbling, the play fighting and not-so-playful fighting as a normal part of growing up.

"The public brushes off aggression between siblings as just rivalry," says Corinna Tucker of the University of New Hampshire.

Tucker is the lead author of a new study on the issue for the journal Pediatrics. Almost a third of the 3,600 children questioned said they had been the victim of some sort of sibling aggression in the past 12 months. The included a range of acts from theft and psychological abuse to physical assault, either mild or severe. In comparison, research suggests that up to a quarter of children are victims of schoolyard aggression every year.

Corinna Tucker uses the term "sibling aggression" in her study, but psychologists are increasingly reaching for a familiar label for the bad stuff that goes on between brothers and sisters - bullying. This is defined by experts as intentional acts of aggression, repeated over a period of time, where an individual or group is in a position of power over someone.

So sibling relationships would seem the perfect breeding ground for bullying, since children live together for a long period of time and there is usually an intellectual and physical power imbalance. Although there might not be an outright malevolence, there is often reason for jealousy.


Useful ways to improve your concentration

Concentration is not a dirty word, it is the basis of a stable and healthy mind. Whilst some may find it difficult to concentrate for any length of time, often it's only difficult when concentrating on things that we don't like or don't want to do, but when we are enjoying our activity concentration can come effortlessly.

In the Buddhist tradition of meditation, concentration is a vital tool to be able to explore and penetrate deep into your own psyche. Without an unwavering attention, the realisations and insights from meditation are fleeting and difficult to hold on to.

To truly look deeply into yourself, you need refined attention to experience the extremely subtle phenomena of the mind and awareness. Concentration is the instrument that meditators use to understand themselves.

Comment: Read more about the power of concentration.


Beyond Enlightenment understanding: Honoring the mystical in nature

© Shutterstock
Ability to see the cultural value of wilderness boils down, in the last analysis, to a question of intellectual humility.
Author and conservationist Aldo Leopold wrote these words in 1949, and they are all the more important today.

As we enter the 21st century and today's children look forward to living in the 22nd, this lack of intellectual humility is harming us in a number of ways.

Most notably, humanity is fundamentally and unintentionally changing the shape of the natural world. But the scientists who best understand this shift typically use only the language of science and reason - data and models - to explain it.

This overreliance on science and reason makes it difficult to communicate with the general public. It also blinds us to the full scope of the issues we now face, which can be fully grasped only through the emotional, cultural, ethical and spiritual perspectives on the world.

Leaving room for the mysterious and unexplainable

Geophysicists have proposed that we have entered the Anthropocene, a new geologic epoch defined by humanity's influence on the planet and nature's systems. What we do to adapt to this new reality requires that we augment our scientific ways of studying the natural environment with the wisdom to appreciate our intellectual limitations.

For example, scientific reason relies on data and analysis, and yet there is much in this world that cannot be measured; one cannot provide data that proves that love for another human being, a spiritual connection with the natural world, a sense of calling of vocation or the presence of God all exist. And yet, a great many people believe - or even know - that these exist.

Scientific reason also seeks to understand the natural world by breaking it down into individual parts. But it is the integrity of the whole that matters, what Rachel Carson called the "web of life."

Comment: Why science needs metaphysics: It doesn't make sense without it


Yoga: Good for the brain?

© premayoga.com.au
A weekly routine of yoga and meditation may strengthen thinking skills and help to stave off aging-related mental decline, according to a new study of older adults with early signs of memory problems.

Most of us past the age of 40 are aware that our minds and, in particular, memories begin to sputter as the years pass. Familiar names and words no longer spring readily to mind, and car keys acquire the power to teleport into jacket pockets where we could not possibly have left them.

Comment: Yoga And The Brain: A Possible Explanation For Yoga's Stress-Busting Effects