Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Most (and Least) Empathic States of America

By Tom Jacobs 

New research finds levels of empathy vary considerably from state to state — and living among empathetic neighbors improves quality of life.

A few months ago, a first-of-its-kind study ranked 63 nations of the world in terms of empathy, and the United States came in at an enviable seventh place. If those results didn’t ring true to you, perhaps you’re just not aware of how caring your friends and neighbors really are.
Or you live in Alabama, Delaware, or Kentucky.
Rhode Island, empathy capital of the United StatesRhode Island, empathy capital of the United States
In a newly published study that breaks down levels of empathy on a state-by-state basis, those three states ranked at the bottom. At the top were Rhode Island, Montana, and Vermont.
This is more than just an answer to a trivia question. A research team led by psychologists Rachel Bach of Beloit College and William Chopik of Michigan State University report more empathetic states also tend to have lower rates of violent crime, and higher levels of overall well-being.
The researchers analyzed data from 79,563 American adults who volunteered to complete an online survey on the website of another co-author, Sara Konrath. While not scientifically selected to represent the population, participants were from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
They responded to seven statements reflecting empathic concern, such as “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.” Another seven statements referred to the ability to imagine others’ points of view, such as “I sometimes try to understand my friends better by imagining how things look from their perspective.”
For each statement, participants reported their level of agreement on a scale of one (“does not describe me well”) to five (“describes me very well”). Scores on the emotional and intellectual components of empathy were combined to create a “total empathy” rating.
According to this data, the states with the most empathetic citizens are Rhode Island, Montana, Vermont, Maine, Oregon, Illinois, North Carolina, Utah, and California. Washington, D.C.—not technically a state, but included in the data—tied with Oregon for fifth place.
The states with the least-empathetic residents are Alabama, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Indiana, Kansas and Idaho (tied), Iowa, Alaska, and Pennsylvania.
The researchers also examined rates of pro-social and anti-social behavior in each state, utilizing such factors as the crime rate, the percentage of the population that engages in volunteer work, and how much the average resident gives to charity.
They found levels of total empathy “were positively related to state-level volunteering and higher well-being,” along with “lower rates of violent crime, aggravated assault, and robbery.”

While careful to note their findings do not prove causality, the researchers argue they provide evidence that “between-state differences in important outcomes like crime, economics, and health may be attributable to psychological characteristics of people living in those places.”
Why certain states or regions show more or less empathy isn’t clear, but the researchers note that social influence may play a role. “Those living in more charitable areas may have become more empathetic after witnessing the generous behavior in that area,” they write.
So if you’re living in a compassionate state, and taking advantage of the benefits of such a culture, be careful not to gloat. The people of Alabama don’t deserve disdain.
In fact, they could use some empathy.

Are Your Happiness Goals Too High?

By James Baraz

On the road to well-being, says James Baraz, embrace all your diverse feelings.

In our competitive culture, we usually think “more is better.” Being Number One, winning at all costs, and “having the most” is deeply ingrained in our psyche as real success. This model of going for the max is often erroneously applied to our own well-being. People mistakenly think intense delight is a sign that their attempt at awakening joy is truly successful.
However, when we look for bells and whistles as indications of true happiness we’re misunderstanding a very important principle: Setting a high bar of intense happiness works against true well-being. Although I’m all for enjoying peak experiences when they arise, measuring that ideal against a moderate level of okayness can easily render this moment as “not good enough.”
We find what we look for. Science calls this phenomenon the brain’s “confirmation bias.” Your brain tends to see what it believes to be true and misses whatever doesn’t confirm its hypothesis. If you don’t think you experience much true happiness because you’re holding an image that it should be a peak experience of ecstasy, you probably will keep confirming that belief.
What’s the alternative? Aim for noticing how you really feel right at that moment—and embrace all your diverse feelings.

The science of emotional diversity

There are studies that show over-pursuing happiness actually may be detrimental to your mental and physical health. People who have “emodiversity”—meaning they express a full range of emotions including anger, worry and sadness—are actually healthier than those whose range tends to be mostly on the positive side.
In a study of over 35,000 people, researchers found that “people high in emodiversity were less likely to be depressed than people high in positive emotion alone.” In another study of 1,300 Belgians, those with greater emodiversity used fewer medications, didn’t go to the doctor as often, exercised more, ate better, and had all-around better health than those with more limited emotional range.
Too much intense happiness can affect our creative juices too. In one study measuring mood and creativity, Mark Alan Davis found that when we experience extreme or intense happiness we tend not to tap into our creativity as much. In extreme cases we can get manic and lose our connection to creativity. Not that you need to be melodramatic to be creative. Happy people are creative too. But at some point only going for the gusto can be counter-productive if you’re trying to access your muse.
Another study found that those who are consistently on the high end of happiness curve tend to be less flexible in adapting to challenging situations. It becomes harder to adjust when things go south. What’s more, those who are in constant pursuit of positive experiences are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like sexual promiscuity and substance abuse. This extreme happiness/risky behavior syndrome was also confirmed in a 1993 study. Children who were regarded as “highly cheerful” tended to have a higher probability of mortality as adults probably due to riskier behavior.
Indeed, when we try too hard to attain happiness we may be setting ourselves up for its opposite. Researcher Iris Mauss and colleagues have shown that sometimes people chase happiness to an unrealistic degree, which can actually end up leading to major disappointment. It can turn into a vicious cycle where the harder you try for happiness the more elusive it becomes.
So perhaps it’s better not to try so hard to be happy.

It’s OK to feel OK

When people do my online Awakening Joy course, they often come with ideas of what joy is supposed to look like. A complaint I sometimes hear is, “I’m trying really hard to be joyful and it’s not working.” As the science suggests, that’s not surprising. Instead, I recommend that one simply begin noticing moments of feeling okay. If you tend to have a life filled with intense drama, I often suggest being aware of moments when you’re not miserable. That’s a good start.
However, if you see moments of “okayness”—moments where you’re not suffering—as moments worthy of appreciation, you open the channel to true well-being. And the more you notice and take them in, the stronger that flow of well-being naturally grows—not through force but through wise attention. As neuroscience expert Rick Hanson says: “The brain is like Teflon for positive experiences and Velcro for negative ones.” We need to train ourselves to appreciate and take in those simple moments of life where things are actually okay.
When you let go of looking for ecstatic states, you can find joy in the most commonplace moments. Edith, a student in Germany, had somehow equated joy with intense positive experiences. But when she stopped looking for those and simply opened up to a simple feeling of well-being she started to experience things very differently. She put it this way:
“I noticed how much joy there already is and how I had somehow looked for a kind of super-mundane, “spiritual” joy, more profound and lasting than our ordinary joy, that I would only reach if I practiced hard and in the right way. By having this concept, and by looking for this other kind of joy, I had missed out on a lot of “ordinary joy” moments. As I focused on them, appreciated them and felt them more fully, I was so happy and sometimes almost overwhelmed at all the joy and blessings in my life.”
I remember many years ago hearing a wise teacher give instructions on the heart practice called “Loving-kindness” meditation. He said that sometimes the word “loving-kindness” can seem so lofty and noble that we imagine it’s beyond our reach. He suggested connecting with the simple feeling of “kindness” or “friendliness” towards oneself or others. That’s so much more accessible and it will start the gentle flow of good-heartedness we’re looking for. It really worked. As I let go of getting a gold-star in my loving-kindness practice I simply enjoyed extending good will and let myself be touched by my kind heart.
In some Eastern philosophical models of happiness, refined states of well-being are considered ultimately more sustainable and more satisfying. As wonderful as it is, rapture is considered a courser level of happiness that, after awhile, becomes jangling to the system. Going up the ladder of refined states, gladness, happiness, and contentment are considered qualities that are much more developed and fulfilling. Ultimately, deep peace is the most satisfying state of all and is said to be the pre-cursor to true enlightenment.
So if you’re trying to cultivate genuine happiness within yourself, you might consider letting go of trying to experience a gusher of intensity. Awakening joy comes naturally from truly appreciating the simple moments of well-being in our lives. Don’t miss them! Once you start having your radar out for them you’ll see them everywhere.
Calvin on HappinessCalvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson

Inspirational Quote – January 18, 2017

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

I love nature! The different flowers and plants, their colors, scents, the intricate patterns that can also be seen on some species of animals and winged creatures; the fish and mammals in the oceans and rivers. So much to see and wonder at. None of which has man’s hand it its creation but comes into being perfect and individual. Marvelous seems a very mundane word for it all but then what word or words could sum up something as wondrous as nature?


Generation Waking Up

Kosmos: "You have been working with young people for a number of years now, Joshua. How is this generation different?" Josh Gorman: "There's a new generation of young people waking up and coming of age all across the planet, a generation rising between an old world dying and a new world being born. We are the make-it-or-break-it generation. The all-or-nothing generation." Gorman is the founder of Generation Waking Up, an Oakland based non-profit whose mission is to ignite a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, and sustainable world. He shares more in this interview.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An Easy Way to Detach

by Cindy Attar
Detachment is a valuable practice. Detaching from other people's energy can free you to move forward in life. Since the word detachment can be confusing, let me explain what detachment is and provide an easy way to detach from someone.
We all know what attachment is. In love relationships, two people are attached, connected, bonded. When that relationship ends, the two people naturally detach. They move away from each other, disconnect, and separate mentally and physically. The problem comes when one person chooses to end the relationship but can't seem to get away from the other person mentally and/or emotionally. They have physically removed themselves from the other person, but on a mental level, that person is still very much present in their experience. (For more on this, see the article Becoming Aware of Thought Energy.)
If you desire to detach or mentally separate yourself from another person, there are a few techniques that well work for most people. If the connection is light, Sifting can be a great tool. (See Sifting: A Means to Cleanse Yourself of Another's Energy.) If the connection is very strong, however, Sifting may not do the trick. In these cases, there is another technique of detaching that works very well. The technique described below is loosely taken from a similar Huna practice.
Sit where you won't be disturbed for about 20 minutes. Relax, close your eyes, and imagine that you are sitting in the audience of an empty theater, facing toward the stage. Imagine the person you want to detach from right there on the stage. Imagine the presence of this person clearly, either by visually seeing them, noticing an outline of them, sensing their energy footprint, hearing their voice, or whatever works best for you in terms of becoming aware of the person up on that stage.
As they face you, notice that there is a cord attached from your body to theirs. (It may be stomach chakra to stomach chakra, or heart chakra to heart chakra.) Notice the thickness and strength of the cord. Is it a small string? Is it a thick cable? Just notice the first thing that comes to your mind. As you are connected with this person through the cord, make a bold statement in earnest desire of forgiveness. This may be something as simple as: I forgive you, do you forgive me? Or it may be as elaborate as: I appreciate the connection we have had. I love you. This connection now must end, and you must soon detach and leave the stage. For all those times I have felt hurt or discomfort from you, I forgive you. For all those times I have caused you pain or discomfort, I apologize and ask for your forgiveness. Do you forgive me?
Notice the reaction of the person on stage. Most will say yes right away, while some will hesitate. Regardless of what they say or how they react, you are choosing to disconnect. Take out your big pair of scissors and proceed to cut the cord near your body. Watch as the cord from the other person leaves your body and gets sucked back into them. The cord is now cut: you are now detached from this person. The person MUST now walk off stage. Watch them do so. If they resist walking off stage, then it's time for you to stand up and go. See yourself walking out of that theater. Let the door swing closed behind you. See yourself walking out into the bright sunlight and happily moving on with your life. (Note: Any time you detach from another, you can reconnect if you so desire. In fact, this will happen naturally; you don't have to do anything to reconnect. The reconnection will be on a new level without the baggage of the past connection.)
This is a powerful process and can be done with anyone. If a friendship is stagnant, you can put your friend on stage, ask forgiveness, cut the cord, and move on. If desired, a new cord can be established on a higher level, but this time, you will be enjoying a different play than the one you left behind, in a new and different theater. If you are trying to sell a pet, this is a great way to detach from the pet and allow for new people and a new home to come into that pet's life.

Sifting: A Means to Cleanse Yourself of Another’s Energy

by Cindy Attar
Many times we run across people who have negative energy, are angry, or are harboring hatred. I suppose if people want to be this way, it is okay. However, their negative energy often rubs off on those of us who don't want it! If you are a highly sensitive person like I am, I'm sure you've noticed that once you've been around someone who is angry, you get a bit irritable yourself, and then you may pass that along to the next person you are in contact with, who passes it along to someone else, and so on.
Once you become aware of this cycle, there is something you can do to get other people's gunk out of you. Following is a great technique I call Sifting. It isn't necessary to get into a hypnotic state for this to work effectively. The beauty of Sifting is that Sifting can be done at work, in public, at home, or anywhere in just a couple of seconds. (Note: On occasion when the personal connection is ultra strong, this technique may not work as well as it does with those you are not as emotionally invested in. However, Sifting will successfully clear you about 90% of the time.)
Pretend, visualize, or imagine there is a fine mesh screen, rectangular in size. This screen is the width and depth of your body, around three feet wide by two feet in depth. It has a wood frame around the perimeter with two handles, one on each end. The exact vision of the screen is not too important, as long as it is big enough to encompass your body. Now, take hold of the side handles of the screen, and imagine putting it down below your feet. Then take the screen and sift (move side to side), sifting each body part through this fine mesh screen.
Starting with your feet, sift your feet through the screen. Note any black spots (imagination is an important tool!) that you find in your body. These are indicators of other people's stuff within you. As you sift your energy, all the black spots will collect onto the screen.
Next, move the screen up through your legs, sifting all the while. Continue this sifting all the way up through your torso. Go back and forth with the screen and accumulate onto the screen all the black spots within. Continue up your body and through your head. When you have sifted your whole being, fling all the black spots off the screen and send them up to the universe to be transmuted, changed, or just taken away from you. Now repeat the process. While you should notice a lot less of the black spots this time, you may also note that you need to sift a particular area of your body a couple of extra times. (Gunk seems to collect in my head, so I have to sift a couple times in that area.)
Once you sift your entire body a few times, you then can shorten up the process until it only takes about five seconds to sift your entire body, get out the black spots, and send them up to the universe. I like to actually use my hands in a physical back and forth sifting motion. Although I don't bend down as far as my feet, I imagine my screen starting at my feet while my hands physically only go as far down as my thighs. Then, as I move upwards in my body, I physically move my hands left and right very quickly as I travel up my torso, my chest, and through my head, throwing all the black spots up to the universe. On the final sift-through, go ahead and send the entire screen up to the universe.
In my experience, a more positive effect is achieved when you actually move your arms and hands back and forth appropriately while sifting. This could simply be a result of my own beliefs and expectations, but it's worth giving it a try to see if it works best for you that way as well. I'm sure if you simply imagine the entire process, it will work great for you - if you believe it will. Within a minute or two of performing this sifting process, you should feel a vast difference in your energy. You will forget the emotions you were experiencing, if they were from another. (If the emotions are from you, Sifting may not get rid of them.) Sifting is an incredible tool to help you from being influenced by others.
You can use Sifting to remove any gunk from a chair, a room, any inanimate object, a building, a car, or even a neighborhood. Sifting can be used in DIY healing to remove unwanted gunk from any injury, illness, or ailment. Use your imagination to come up with other ways that Sifting can be helpful. Now you have a dynamite and very effective means to help yourself whenever someone's negative energy has rubbed off on you.
To promote even more positive energy, please share this work with others.

Becoming Conscious of Thought Energy

by Cindy Attar
Quite often in a reading, all sorts of thoughts, feelings, and pictures will come to me that I don't have time to communicate or explain during that particular live chat session. Most of this is best labeled thought energy. Let me explain what thought energy is, how we all experience it, and how understanding it can help us align with peace, love and healing.
If you have a connection with someone, whether it's a casual friendship, a deeply loving relationship, or something in between, there is always an overhead cloud of the thoughts and feelings you exchange that encompasses the two of you. Let's say you're a woman, and we're talking about your relationship with your husband. Your thoughts/feelings about him he gets on some level, whether he is conscious of that or not. Similarly, on some level, you can feel his thoughts and feelings about you. What you are sensing is what I call thought energy.
While each person is both a sender and receiver of thought energy, most people are stronger at either sending or receiving. Which do you feel you are stronger at, sending or receiving? Being empathic, I definitely am a strong and sensitive receiver. I'm so sensitive, in fact, that if the other party has a prominent presence (is a strong sender), his thought energy can hit me like a basketball on the head. I also have known people who have such a light presence that I didn't even know they were there! As a born empath, I've been aware of this ability all my life. I know how/what a person is thinking by tapping into their thought energy. This skill is what makes me a great intuitive reader for others.
Thought energy in the cloud - his and yours - can feel like it ALL originated within you. The unaware sensitive receiver (you) can easily mistake his thought energy for your own thoughts/feelings towards him. This is the source of a lot of the confusion that arises in relationships. How you feel about someone may be how they actually feel about YOU; you aren't so much feeling that way, as picking it up.
How do you know if the thought energy is yours or his? One way is to just use logic. Ask yourself if how you feel about someone makes sense given all the dynamics of the relationship. If it doesn't make sense, or it feels confusing, you may want to look more deeply. If you're left puzzled as to why you feel the way you do, take a closer look, and consider the possibility that what you feel for him is actually what HE feels for you, and you are simply picking up his thought energy.
If you are a strong, sensitive receiver in the relationship, and you want to split up and move on, but you just can't seem to detach, you may mistakenly conclude you are meant to be together. In reality, it may be that he is keeping the connection alive and preventing you from leaving by drawing you in with his thought energy toward you.
On the other hand, if you are a strong, sensitive receiver, and you have lost some of the closeness you used to have, it most likely is because he isn't as present as he was before: his thought energy is going elsewhere. Don't automatically jump to the conclusion that he has another woman. There could be all sorts of reasons he is sending his energy elsewhere. He could be focused on work or some pressing problem or issue, so it's best to just ask him what's going on.
If you are a strong sender and someone you don't want to be with keeps bothering you, you may be subconsciously keeping that connection alive by thinking about that person, either out of fear that they will keep bothering you, fear that you will hurt their feelings, fear that you will regret pushing them away when you're alone, or all sorts of other reasons. By thinking about that person, you draw them toward you.
Whenever you find yourself unable to change a pattern or end a relationship, detachment is needed. If, for example, your husband isn't as present for the relationship as he was before, then detaching will give him much needed mental space to work on whatever is troubling him, or your absence might just make his heart grow fonder and get his attention and energy to return to you. I often counsel my clients to detach, to go on with your life, or to withdraw your energy. For more information how to detach, see An Easy Way to Detach.
In summary, it's important to keep in mind that what you're thinking and feeling about someone may be mixed up with what they're thinking and feeling about you. By becoming conscious of what is happening, you can take the energetic reins and steer your course toward whatever you are desiring to create in your life.

Inspirational Quote – January 17, 2017

“Do not look for sanctuary in anyone except yourself.”

In times of crisis or feeling vulnerable it’s tempting to unload our concerns onto a family member or a close friend and, indeed, their advice can be helpful. However, nobody else will ever know us as completely as we know ourselves so we need to be our own place of sanctuary and use this sacred space to seek peace and resolution. Nobody else can do this for us.


The Robin Hood Army

The Robin Hood Army wields a double edged sword fighting food wastage and hunger with one mighty strike. The initiative in Pakistan began in 2015 with volunteer Robin Hoods filling 100 empty tummies in a week. One year later, the army has mobilized and they plan on reaching 500,000 individuals across seven different countries. This is a simple and truly inspiring concept that is confronting two major global issues. May they march on and serve the world.