Saturday, September 10, 2016

Inspirational Quote for September 10, 2016

“Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

This reminds me of friends we had who, although they were English and resident in the UK, preferred living in the house they had bought in Florida. However, due to immigration rules they were restricted to spending 3 months in Florida then the UK for 3 months, so they made two 3 month trips every year. However, when they were in the UK they marked the days off one by one on a calendar, and lived very frugally, preferring to save every penny for their return to Florida. This used to really “get” to me, the fact they weren’t “living” life to the full because, you and I know, that nothing is certain in life especially as regards health especially when we get a bit older. They didn’t care. I gave up pointing out that they wouldn’t get back the days they were so eager to cross off. They had their way of life and that was it. They have been doing it for a several years now and plan to do it for several more. I will never ever understand, never!


A Special Kind of Grace: The Remarkable Story of the Devadosses

He is a writer and an artist whose captivating pen-and-ink drawings, books and greeting cards reflect the beauty of southern India. His wife helped compose his work. What makes their story extraordinary? Manohar Devadoss is near blind. His art is produced through a painstaking process of extraordinary will-power and dedication. His wife Mahema was paralyzed below the shoulders, the result of a car accident when they were in their early thirties. Despite the odds, this couple crafted a life together of tremendous beauty, joy and generosity touching many hearts along the way. This piece shares a glimpse of their journey, their art and inspiration.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Debunking Myths about Awe

By Maria Polonchek

What inspires awe? Who experiences it the most? Dacher Keltner discusses common misconceptions about an elusive emotion.

According to researchers across the country, experiencing awe can lower stress levels, expand our perception of time, and improve social well-being. As a parent, I’m especially intrigued by findings that awe encourages altruism and empathy, discourages entitlement and narcissism, and boosts creativity and academic performance. 
Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley and a founding director of the GGSC, is the guy to talk to about awe. He co-authored a paper on awe in 2003 considered to be foundational, and has been involved in countless other studies since.
A self-described “transcendence junkie,” I know what awe has meant for me, but I was curious about other people. Who experiences awe? What triggers awe? What does it mean for our children? When I met with Dacher to ask him a few questions, I realized I had a lot of mistaken assumptions about awe—assumptions that many people share, and our culture seems to encourage. In the interview below, he debunks many of those assumptions and presents a view of awe as accessible, plannable, and absolutely essential.
Maria Polonchek: How did you get interested in studying awe?
Dacher KeltnerDacher Keltner
Dacher Keltner: I was a tense, anxious kid. I have a genetic predisposition towards anxiety that is the antithesis to awe: closed, obsessive, focused on narrow things. My parents had this disastrous divorce and I was on the road to unhappiness. But my parents also created a family context that encouraged me to push the boundaries and expand my mind. My mom is one of the more open people in the world. So I kept having these awe experiences that changed who I was. Going to Europe as a college student and backpacking and certain kinds of psychedelic drugs and rock-and-roll concerts and political experiences—each one moved my needle towards “This is what I should do in life. It’s right here, it has all this power, and I’ve got to study it.”
MP: When we talk about awe, we often refer to being outside, in nature. If you were ranking ways to experience awe, is nature the most common? 
DK: We’ve studied that question in cities and cultures around the world and the number-one way people experience awe isn’t nature; it’s other people.
When humans were evolving, what was awe about? Mainly, it was other people’s magnanimity, their generosity: “That guy over there gave me some food.” And they get this rush of awe. When I think back to our hunter-gatherer conditions—unstable food sources, kids dying—the ability to share food is fundamental. If you gave me food when my kid was sick, that would be a sacred moment.
In a worldwide survey of awe experiences, people talk about seeing someone die, seeing a child being born, somebody saving their life or helping them out. And the second most common way is through nature.
It’s so interesting to me because I began this work thinking awe was about religious concepts, or scientific ideas, or poetry or art. Actually, awe’s foundations are in people and nature. It’s secular. Before religion was that stuff.
MP: That’s a completely different way to think about awe.
DK: Developmental psychologists are starting to look at awe, too. Kids are awestruck, they’re constantly amazed by stuff, their minds are blown—why? Essentially, their knowledge system is indicating that the dog or the leaves falling from a tree or this person’s generosity is really important. Their mind attaches a value to that: It’s precious and to be honored. It’s basically saying, “This matters. Wow.” So awe is fundamental to what we learn about the world.
In addition to learning, awe also helps with getting you into social collectives. If our ancestors didn’t get into a social collective, they were done; that’s how we survived. So awe is this all-purpose mechanism that says, “Wow, these are the values that matter to this group. This is how we all move together, through dance and rituals that attach me to this group. I’m awestruck by these things.”
MP: You’re saying that awe is fundamental, but what about people living under financial pressure or other difficult conditions? I think there’s a perception that awe is a luxury that’s not accessible to people without money.
Drummers at Meridian Hill ParkDrummers at Meridian Hill ParkElvert Barnes / Flickr / CC BY 2.0
DK: Empirically, from unpublished research coming out of my lab, we know that the less money you make, the more awe you feel. There’s a lot of awe in poor neighborhoods. It’s probably coming from different things, like a Gospel Church, a drumming circle in Oakland, or hip-hop and rap music (the best of it is the best art in the United States).
Awe ultimately is about the sacred and it has no monetary value. You can’t place a dollar amount on Yosemite or a bike ride or singing in a choir or looking at a painting. Money introduces a bunch of calculations and utilities, a mindset that almost counters the experience of awe. Consumerism, spending your day going to Pottery Barn instead of going outdoors, talking to your loved ones about what you can buy together—it’s a waste of time, and that’s what money encourages.
I used to believe that compassion, gratitude, awe—the three big moral sentiments—were for when life’s worked out and you have enough to meet your basic needs. But all of the data suggest that those are fundamental to human society. Thus far, we have data showing the poor are more compassionate, some data showing the poor are more grateful, and now some unpublished data showing the poor are more struck with reverence.
Taking into account the health and social benefits associated with those emotions and with awe, they’re essential to our survival. If kids aren’t feeling awe, their lives will be compromised. If we have a right to happiness, then we should have rights to these emotions. They’re not privileges or luxuries; they’re foundational.
MP: My kids talk to me about the awe they feel, but it’s through these collaborative online games, like building a world together in Minecraft. Is that really legitimate—or are they just trying to get more screen time?
DK: A lot of people feel we’re a little awe-deprived, that new technologies are taking awe out of our lives. I don’t necessarily agree with that.
It’s the “my kid’s rock-and-roll seems dangerous” phenomenon. Everybody knows and kids know that there’s no substitute for the woods and being around great people and having a tactile, palpable personal life.
But most people use technology for a lot of good. My daughters knew about Eric Garner before I did, because their friends said, “Did you see what happened to Eric Garner? Let’s go protest.” That’s awesome. They will know, collectively, about world events faster than I will.
When parents ask me about this, I tell them a few things. First of all, when I was your kid’s age, I spent four hours a day in front of a TV by myself, watching Gilligan’s Island. I didn’t learn anything, but it didn’t damage my brain; I’m going to be an okay human being.
Second of all, kids a generation ago watched TV four or five hours a day. Now they do two hours of gaming and apps. What they’re doing is more participatory. They’re filming and creating stuff. As humans, we like sharing knowledge.

MP: If my kids are experiencing awe in a way that’s so different from me, what can I do to understand their experience and connect with them?
DK: I used to struggle with something similar: How do I get my kids to be compassionate? I love compassion. I think it’s as important as awe.
Kids will have their own specific version of awe, but what you can do is plant the seed. Bring up the idea by talking about awe or pointing out the times you feel awe. Then they’ll know that mom values awe. And that idea will become a frame or organizing node in their minds; when they feel awe, they’ll realize it’s the same feeling you talked about.
Cultures evolve through innovation. It’s their job to be different, to find awe in new ways. We want our kids to value nature and generosity, but they’re going to do different things by design. Parents should honor what their kids find to be awe-inspiring.

MP: Many people these days think of awe as something unexpected, out of the blue. But what I’m hearing you say is that you can actively pursue awe.
DK: There’s an old idea about human passion, that it’s all a mystery; it washes over you like an ocean breeze, it’s unpredictable. But when people start hearing and reading about awe, my hunch is that they’re figuring out slots in their schedule to go get some.
I think it’s provocative and true to challenge people to schedule awe. Hey, you want this? Go schedule it. Most of the time, if I go volunteer at a prison, I feel awe. If I go hiking with my daughter, I’ll have a little piece of it.
Chade-Meng Tan, who cofounded Search Inside Yourself, advocates one minute of mindfulness a day to start. For awe, that means I should take the time to go outside my office and look at a tree and feel a little burst of awe. I didn’t believe in that approach at first, but seeing people respond to Meng convinced me. With one minute a day, you’ll build something. I think that’s true of awe as well.

Inspirational Quote for September 9, 2016

“Sometimes good things fall apart, so better things can fall together.”

Now I know this to be true because, looking back, I can see where and when it happened for me. We have all experienced times when we rail against Fate, the Universe, etc., because we feel we have been selected, from all the billions of people on Earth, to suffer a particular hardship, experience a troubling situation, or deal with grief. However, think about when this happened to you in the past. Now, can you recollect the days, weeks or even months that followed? Yes? Did you consequently find yourself in a better place either emotionally, physically or financially? Well then, hopefully, instead of going “into one” the next time things don’t go your way, you’ll wait to see how things actually turn out first…..


A Fun Way to Stop Buying Things You Don't Need

"A few years ago, illustrator and editorial cartoonist Sarah Lazarovic felt like she was buying too much junk. So she stopped shopping for a year, then documented her withdrawals and, eventually, all the lessons and tips and tricks she learned about not buying things. Instead of buying the items she coveted, she made paintings of them.  During that time, instead of buying the items she coveted, she made paintings of them. That led to the illustrated book called 'A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy'. It also led to doing that same "covet counseling" for others. She calls her project the "Office of Divestment." She will draw the thing you want to buy. You get the painting, and you won't have to buy the thing. A deal."

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Animal Lovers Rejoice! There’s Now a Wine For Your Furry Friends

After you’ve had a long day at the office and all you want to do is crack open a bottle of red in order to properly relax and close out the evening, you now no longer have to worry about finding a drinking partner to accompany your habits.

This 100% organic, non-alcoholic wine is created in the foothills of the Colorado mountains by a pet pampering company known as Apollo Peak.

Whether you’re a cat owner who can’t find the right companionship in humans anymore, or a dog owner who just wants to have some fun with their pooch, anyone can empathize with this company’s motto: why drink alone when you can drink with the special somebody that has always understood you?

The two feline flavors, Pinot Meow and MosCATo, are infused with salmon oil, organically grown beets, and catnip, making for a sweet treat for any pussycat in your home.

The dog wines, CharDOGnay and Zinfantail, are not just tasty – the natural concoction of ingredients can also help your dog relax and sooth digestion.

White Racism May Hurt the Health of Both Whites and Blacks

By Yasmin Anwar

According to a new study, there are more heart-disease-related deaths in overtly racist communities.

Living in unabashedly racist communities can shorten the lives of both blacks and whites, according to new research published in Psychological Science.
Researchers compared the racial biases of nearly 1.4 million people nationwide to death rates in more than 1,700 US counties. Their findings suggest that blacks and, to a lesser degree, whites who reside in overtly racist communities are more prone to dying from heart disease and other circulatory diseases.
“This suggests that living in a racially hostile environment might be detrimental to both the group targeted by this bias, in this case blacks, as well as the group that harbors the bias, in this case whites,” said study lead author Jordan Leitner, a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at UC Berkeley.
Researchers also found a racial gap in perceived access to affordable health care. The study found that blacks living in more bigoted communities reported having less access to affordable health care. Meanwhile, whites reported relatively high access to affordable health care, regardless of the racial bias of their community.
The study controlled for age, education, income, population, rural vs. urban environments, and other factors that might influence health.
While previous studies have connected perceived discrimination to negative health outcomes, this is the first to take large data sets, which were not previously available, and measure relationships between whites’ racial bias and the health of whites and blacks in their community, Leitner said.
To conduct the study, researchers compared death rates from circulatory diseases from 2003 to 2013—collected by the Centers for Disease Control—with racial bias data from Project Implicit, a website that provides tests to measure explicit and implicit biases related to gender, religion, and race. Explicit bias refers to more conscious biases, while implicit bias reflects more nuanced automatic biases.
To assess implicit racial bias, study participants viewed a series of faces on a computer screen and pressed certain keys to categorize the faces as black or white. Next, they viewed a series of positive and negative words such as “nasty,” “agony,” “joy,” and “peace,” and used keys to categorize these words as “good” or “bad.”
The same key was sometimes used to identify a black or white face, and to identify a positive or negative attribute. Participants who were faster at hitting the key associated with, say, a black face and with a negative attribute scored higher in implicit bias because they were quicker to make the association between black people and negative attributes.
To measure overt racial attitudes, participants rated on a scale of 0 to 10 the warmth of their feelings about whites and blacks. Overt racism was defined as greater warmth towards whites, as compared to blacks. Although the data depend on self-reported feelings about race, the sheer volume of responses (nearly 1.4 million) offers insight into the racial attitudes of a community, Leitner said.
Analysis of the data showed that counties in which people reported higher levels of racial bias also had higher rates of heart-disease-related deaths, and that blacks were most negatively impacted by this trend.
“We found that whites’ explicit bias was more powerful than their implicit bias at predicting negative health outcomes for blacks,” Leitner said.
As for the link between whites’ explicit racial bias and death rates, Leitner said, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania suggests that whites in highly biased communities are less likely to trust and bond with others in their community, and this lack of social connectedness may have negative health implications.
Circulatory disorders, which include heart attacks, angina, and coronary heart disease, are the leading cause of death in the United States. While the study cannot make a causal link between racism and circulatory disease deaths, researchers speculate that the environmental stress of racial hostility combined with discrimination in health care may create or exacerbate circulatory problems for blacks.
“One possibility is that blacks in racially hostile communities experience lower-quality health care, or may avoid seeking health care, even if it is available, because they feel like they won’t be treated fairly,” Leitner said.
Overall, Leitner said, the study reinforces the enduring power of overt racism, discussion of which has been eclipsed in recent years by a growing awareness of unconscious biases.
“It’s become more normative over the past 40 years to be egalitarian, and being labeled a racist is stigmatizing in many communities,” Leitner said.
But while explicit racism has decreased on a national scale, he said, “it’s still a powerful predictor of how whites and blacks fare health-wise in a community.”
Next, Leitner plans to look into long-term trends to see if racial biases are actually causing health disparities. He also intends to explore how blacks’ racial attitudes affect health outcomes.

Inspirational Quote for September 8, 2016

“What you do today can improve all your tomorrows.”

Definitely! 100% spot on! That’s why I personally try to give every day the best of me I can. Not always easy, not always possible but at least I try my best. I always appreciate my life, my family, my friends and my passion for what I do. Every night, when I put my head on my pillow and reflect on the day that will soon morph into tomorrow, I give thanks and feel happy, content and satisfied that what I’ve accomplished today will, hopefully, be carried forward into all my tomorrows. I hope you can say the same?


The Fine Art of Taking Time

"When I tell people I'm an artist they usually tell me they can't draw. I'm not sure when art became conflated with realistically representing things by making marks on surfaces, but I bet it was before cameras and copy machines. I carved this rickshaw for my friend to print onto fabric so she could have a rickshaw skirt. The lack of perfection is part of the art. However, transferring information from your eyes through your hands is a fascinating activity, and has much more to do with seeing than drawing. Actually seeing is pretty intense..." So begins this lovely, meandering reflection by artist Ellie Cross that includes among a slew of other intriguing elements, a former street cat, the festival of Holi, sundry artistic endeavors in India, and the fine art of taking time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

How to Avoid Picking Up Prejudice from the Media

By Amanda Sharples, Elizabeth Page-Gould

News, entertainment, and social media shape how we behave toward different groups of people. How can we limit negative influences?

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, killing more than a thousand people and leaving tens of thousands homeless.
A woman begs for help in the wake of Hurricane KatrinaA woman begs for help in the wake of Hurricane KatrinaTed Jackson, New Orleans Times-Picayune
That was terrible. But news media may have turned this natural disaster into a disaster for American race relations by repeatedly broadcasting images of black people who were often described as “looting” in the catastrophic wake of the storm. According to a study by James Johnson and colleagues, these types of images may lead white people to endorse harsh treatment of black evacuees (by, for example, not allowing them to seek refuge in another parish). Participants were not any less likely to help white evacuees, suggesting that racial stereotypes of blacks as criminals may have played a role.
News media aren’t the only problem. In another study, the researchers found that exposure to hyper-sexualized rap music (as compared to non-sexualized rap music or no music) led participants to feel less empathy for a young black woman who was pregnant and in need of assistance—which was not the case for a young white woman in a similar situation. Why? Because exposure to the hyper-sexualized rap music seemed to have activated a stereotype that black women are more sexually promiscuous.
Other minority groups—“out-groups” in relation to the majority—are portrayed negatively in media as well. Research shows that Latinos are often depicted as low status, criminal, and as sexual objects, while East Asians and Native American characters are rarely seen in the media. When they are, East Asian characters are commonly depicted as devious villains and Native American characters tend to be depicted as animalistic and savage. Middle Easterners are often portrayed as terrorists in both news and entertainment media. These stereotypic depictions can lead us to feel and behave more negatively toward these groups.
Yes, media have historically shown minority groups in a negative light, and these portrayals can exacerbate prejudice and discriminatory behaviors. But sometimes media are our only way of connecting with minority groups at all. Indeed, media may be the only contact some people have with minority groups, especially those living in homogenous communities.
Here are steps we can all take to limit the negative impact of stereotypes in the media—and maximize the positive benefits media may have on our attitudes toward out-groups.

When media impact is positive

In a study we conducted at the University of Toronto, people reported on how much they saw different social groups (like Latin Americans, the elderly, and gays and lesbians) in the media each day for 10 days. We also asked them report on all the direct social interactions they had with these groups each day, and their attitudes toward them.
We found that media contact consistently predicted more positive attitudes toward social out-groups. Importantly, seeing groups in the media was a stronger and more reliable predictor of positive intergroup attitudes than directly interacting with these groups.
This is likely because people were not having direct social interactions with many different out-group members very often, but they were frequently seeing a wide range of out-groups in the media. Even in Toronto, one of the most diverse cities in the world, people report few direct social interactions with out-group members. This demonstrates just how important media is for providing opportunities for cross-group contact.
Our findings echo the results of other experiments. In a series of studies, Edward Schippa and colleagues found that watching media interactions with gay and transgender characters were related to more positive attitudes toward gay men and transgender people in general. They call this dynamic the parasocial contact hypothesis, which states that we can have one-sided interactions with media characters, perceiving them as real people and feeling like we could know them in real life. When we have these interactions with out-group media characters, we may feel better about the out-group as a whole.
But we’re not just being exposed to different groups through media—we’re also being exposed to interactions between members of different social groups. When we watch other members of our group have positive interactions with out-group members, we learn that positive interaction is possible. This appears to reduce our own concerns about interacting with the out-group.
Indeed, studies have found that when people consume media that include positive interactions between in-group and out-group characters, they seem to feel more positively toward those groups, and they show more interest in interacting with members of those groups.

How to minimize the impact of negative stereotypes

It is clear that seeing groups presented in a positive way is important for improving intergroup attitudes—and, clearly, if journalists and media-makers want to have a positive impact on society, they should think carefully about how they portray minorities.
However, if we as individuals are not able to avoid seeing negative depictions of minority groups, then it’s important to find ways to buffer ourselves—and our children—against their effects.
The first step is to recognize negative stereotypes in the media when you see them, label them as stereotypes, and resist their influence on how you respond to the group. There is some evidence that actively challenging stereotypic responses when they occur is an important tool in combating our explicit and implicit prejudices.
Moreover, you can deliberately expose yourself to more diverse representations of other groups.
Studies have found that people who have had more social interaction with minority group members are less likely to be affected by negative media depictions of these groups. This may be explained by the fact that they have more varied representations of what members of this groups are like, and therefore do not allow a single, negative representation to shape how they treat people from that group. Even if you are not able to do this by directly interacting with minority group members, you can consume media with counter-stereotypical depictions of these groups. Doing this repeatedly over time may reduce the extent to which you rely on stereotypes to shape your attitudes and behavior toward these groups, similar to the way direct social interaction does.
We can use these same strategies with our children in order to minimize the negative impact of stereotypes. First, we need to explain to our children what stereotypes are and why they are harmful. When you consume media with your child, you can point out stereotypes when you see them and explain to your child why that stereotype is not representative of the group. You should also encourage your child to consume media with counter-stereotypic examples of out-group members and positive interactions between members of diverse groups.
While some news coverage during and after Hurricane Katrina activated and reinforced stereotypes, much of it had the opposite effect, raising awareness about racial inequality. For example, several articles discussed how race influenced the response of the US government and the media to this horrible tragedy. This hopefully created greater awareness of racial inequality and issues facing the black community for those who read these articles.
Although stereotypes are still broadcast to us through media, we can resist their influence when we acknowledge that they exist and that they are a problem. Moreover, we can use media as a tool to come into contact with different social groups that we may otherwise not have contact with and to learn about their experiences. In doing so, we may reduce our prejudices and foster more egalitarian attitudes in ourselves and our children.