Medley

Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 20

Leo Babauta – USA

Single-tasking and productivity

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“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand.
The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

Alexander Graham Bell

Many of us grew up in the age of multi-tasking, where you couldn’t call yourself productive if you weren’t a good multi-tasker. We learned to always have several balls in the air at once – while writing something on the computer, we had a phone call going, we were writing something on a notepad or paper form, we were reviewing documents, sometimes even holding a meeting at the same time. That’s the productive worker, the effective executive.

When email and Instant Messaging and blogs and the rest of the Internet came along, multi-tasking went haywire. Now we’re expected to do 10 things on the computer at once, still with the paper, phone, and meetings going, along with texting and Blackberry Messaging. Multi-tasking is no longer about being productive – it’s a way of living.

Read more: Focus – A simplicity manifesto in the Age of Distraction: Part 20

How to be a Complete Success at Failure: An Esoteric Perspective

Tim Wyatt – England

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Mistakenly, a lot of people who embark on some kind of accelerated spiritual development think it’s going to make life easier. The complete opposite is the case. When you step on to the path you find that the road gets narrower, steeper, more difficult and much more dangerous.

Rather than problems suddenly disappearing, they actually proliferate and intensify. And that’s why any self-conscious expansion of consciousness requires great courage. Embarking on the spiritual path effectively means being prepared to deal with higher quality – i.e. more challenging – problems. Because solving problems is what life’s all about. It’s why we’re here. It’s how we learn.

When you talk to people about their spiritual development one thing nearly always arises and this is that a lot of deeply negative from your unconscious mind gets dredged to the conscious surface. It’s sometimes referred to as The Dweller on the Threshold, a term coined by the English Victorian novelist Bulwer Lytton in his novel Zanone. It refers to all the accumulated negativities from many previous lives. A lot of this is profoundly unpleasant and disturbing – repressed memories, trauma, pain, conflict and other less than positive stuff. But you have to deal with it because that’s what you’ve chosen to do. The spiritual path means taking control of your own life as much as is possible.

Read more: How to be a Complete Success at Failure: An Esoteric Perspective

Spiritual retreats change feel-good chemical systems in the brain

[Changes may prime the brain for spiritual experiences]

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More Americans than ever are turning to spiritual, meditative and religious retreats as a way to reset their daily life and enhance wellbeing. Now, researchers at The Marcus Institute of Integrative Health at Thomas Jefferson University show there are changes in the dopamine and serotonin systems in the brains of retreat participants. The team published their results in Religion, Brain & Behavior.

“Since serotonin and dopamine are part of the reward and emotional systems of the brain, it helps us understand why these practices result in powerful, positive emotional experiences,” said Andrew Newberg, M.D., Director of Research in the Marcus Institute of Integrative Health. “Our study showed significant changes in dopamine and serotonin transporters after the seven-day retreat, which could help prime participants for the spiritual experiences that they reported.”

Read more: Spiritual retreats change feel-good chemical systems in the brain

It is really about ME, not YOU

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People often use the word ‘you’ rather than ‘I’ to cope with negative experiences

Researchers say it may seem contradictory that a means of generalizing to people at large is used when reflecting on one’s most personal and idiosyncratic experiences. To cope with negative experiences or to share an insight, people often use the word “you” rather than “I.”

“You” is an overlooked word that people use to express norms and rules, new University of Michigan research found.

Researchers conducted nine experiments with 2,489 people to understand why people curiously use “you” not only to refer to specific others, but also to reflect on their own experiences.
“It’s something we all do as a way to explain how things work and to find meaning in our lives,” said Ariana Orvell, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and the study's lead author.

“When people use “you" to make meaning from negative experiences, it allows them to ‘normalize’ the experience and reflect on it from a distance,” said Orvell.

Read more: It is really about ME, not YOU

Understanding Nature

Victor Peñaranda – The Philippines

Act of Naming

 

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The melodious singing of a bird woke me up one morning. I quickly got up to survey the garden hoping to spot the singer. It was a Pied Fantail (Maria Kapra) perched on top of the tall trunk of a dying Ilang-ilang tree that was hit by lightning several months ago.

I proceeded to take a morning walk around the neighborhood and noticed that the Bee-eaters have returned. A small flock of Chestnut Munia (Mayang Pula) was feeding on grass seeds. Egrets and Terns were probing the freshly-plowed fields. Two farmers were reinforcing with mud the elevated pathways in between paddies. With rain showers pouring almost regularly in the afternoon, the farmers might start planting the rice seedlings in a week or so.

 I grew up in places where I learned to name birds, trees, rivers and streams. It was an unspoken tradition among the farming and fishing families to name the life forms in their natural environment. I lived near the neighborhood of these families in my childhood. During one dry season, my childhood friends and I strolled along the banks of a stream near our home. We went exploring and, like most children, searching for the unexpected. Someone in the group said that the stream had no name. Another companion remarked, “It’s but right that we give it a name.” We finally agreed to call it “Sapang Bayawak” since it was here we once saw a large monitor lizard sunning on a boulder near the waters.  

Naming is an act of recognition.  I consider it important and respectful to know the names of particular trees, flowers, birds, mountains or streams, especially when you live among them. Knowing their names establishes their identity. It means taking time to learn more about the surrounding natural environment. I would search from google or pore over reference books. In the process, a closer relationship emerges between me and the source of interest. When I address a Champaca flower, fragrance accompanies its name. A sense of familiarity is kindled as I quietly approach Mount Malindang. It looms like legend to my eyes while crossing Panguil Bay in a ferry.

Once the relationship is established -- my attention awakens. I become aware of it. And with frequent encounters with the subject of attention, awareness grows. You don’t only see white Jasmine blooming, you can easily tell its distinct scent. You know the presence of the bright-yellow Oriole simply by hearing its distinctive call at particular times of the day; the Banaba tree with its bright, purple flowers in the heat of dry season. With each living encounter with nature, my affinity with it is like friendship made memorable.

Read more: Understanding Nature

UN pressure grows on Myanmar human rights conditions

Rene Wadlow – USA

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Mae La camp for Burmese refugees, Tak, Thailand. (Photo by Mikhail Esteves)

On Friday 24 March 2017, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution without a vote (a consensus-type procedure) to create an international independent commission to study the human rights situation in Myanmar (Burma). The representatives of the Russian Federation and China, who do not like independent investigations anywhere, indicated that had there been a vote they would have voted against but that they would not block a consensus motion. The Ambassador of Myanmar, Hlin Lynn, indicated before the adoption that such a commission was not necessary and that his government would not cooperate. The resolution had been proposed by the members of the Council from the European Union who often have difficulty in reaching agreement among themselves. The fact of their joint action indicates that awareness of the dangerous situation in Myanmar has been growing in the past months.

The creation of an independent commission is the strongest form of pressure that the Human Rights Council has and is rarely used. The most noteworthy commission created concerned the armed conflict and resulting human rights violations in Darfur, Sudan. The government of Sudan did not let the members of the commission into Sudan, but interviews with refugees in Ethiopia and Geneva confirmed the information which representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) had been providing the Commission on Human Rights, the ancestor of the Human Rights Council. As I had been the first NGO representative to raise the Darfur situation in 2004 in the Commission on the basis of information from sources that I trusted but without myself having been on the ground, it was a satisfaction to have the Darfur Commission confirm what I had been saying.

Read more: UN pressure grows on Myanmar human rights conditions

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