Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Unusually Profound Commencement Speech

I watched this video of Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs giving this year's commencement address at Stanford and have found myself repeatedly reflecting back on his words. In just 15 minutes, Jobs explains from personal experience how life's setbacks often contain phenomenal opportunity. And his comments about using our own mortality as the gauge for deciding our life's path bears much wisdom.

This is powerful stuff.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Optimism Reigns!

A new survey of 150,000 adults in 140 countries concludes that 90 percent of people around the world expect the next five years to be as good or better than today.

"These results provide compelling evidence that optimism is a universal phenomenon," said Matthew Gallagher, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Kansas and lead researcher of the study.

Optimism was highest in Ireland, Brazil, Denmark and New Zealand. It was lowest in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Haiti and Bulgaria. The United States ranked 10th among the 140 countries.

In suggesting that humans are optimistic by nature, the new study from the University of Kansas reinforces previous studies that found optimism to be a common human trait. Optimism also tends to increase with age.

Click here for the LiveScience article.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Stroke of Insight

Twenty minutes may be asking a lot, but this talk by brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor offers astounding spiritual insights about who we are.

Click here for a previous post on Dr. Taylor, with more information about her journey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not All Personal Goals Bring Satisfaction

New research shows that personal goals based on materialistic and image concerns, even when achieved, can bring about negative emotions and physical problems.
"Even though our culture puts a strong emphasis on attaining wealth and fame, pursuing these goals does not contribute to having a satisfying life,” says Edward Deci, professor of psychology and the Gowen Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Rochester. “The things that make your life happy are growing as an individual, having loving relationships, and contributing to your community."
Researchers at the University of Rochester tracked 147 alumni from two universities during their second year after graduation. Using in-depth psychological surveys, the researchers assessed participants in key areas, including satisfaction with life, self-esteem, anxiety, physical signs of stress, and the experience of positive and negative emotions.

According to an article on
What's "striking and paradoxical" about this research, Deci says, is that it shows that reaching materialistic and image-related milestones actually contributes to ill-being; despite their accomplishments, individuals experience more negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. 
By contrast, individuals who value personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health are more satisfied as they meet success in those areas. They experience a deeper sense of well-being, more positive feelings toward themselves, richer connections with others, and fewer physical signs of stress.
Click here for the complete ScienceDaily article.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Some Calmer Voices Regarding 2012

Predictions of calamity in 2012 continue to broaden commercially, with more television shows and more new books dedicated to the apocalyptic prognostications rooted in the Mayan Long Count Calendar. After all, fear always has been good for business.

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle did a good job of capturing the controversy, especially interviewing some scholars and historians who tend to disavow the potential of apocalypse:
Most scholars discount the apocalyptic interpretation of the date. Indeed, Mayan prophecy about 2012 is hard to trace because evidence from original sources is limited. It exists in fragments and is often contradictory, said Mark Van Stone, an art history professor at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., and an expert on Mayan hieroglyphics. But Stone is convinced the Mayas did not consider 12/21/12 the end of time. “Nearly everything we read about 2012 is modern people projecting on the Maya their fantasies,” he said.
The date Dec. 21, 2012, is important to the Maya in the way New Year’s Eve might be important to a reveler, said Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies in Florida. “It is not a doomsday; it is a party,” she said.
Of course the doomsday predictors have their say in the article as well ~ as they will for the next three years and seven months.

Click here for the Houston Chronicle article.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Obstruction. The southwest furthers.
The northeast does not further.
It furthers one to see the great man.
Perseverance brings good fortune.

The southwest is the region of retreat, the northeast that of advance. Here an individual is confronted by obstacles that cannot be overcome directly. In such a situation it is wise to pause in view of the danger and to retreat. However, this is merely a preparation for overcoming the obstructions. One must join forces with friends of like mind and put himself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation: then one will succeed in removing the obstacles. This requires the will to persevere just when one apparently must do something that leads away from his goal. This unswerving inner purpose brings good fortune in the end.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

An Astonishing Look at the Near Future

Here's a recent 6-minute video featuring futurist and inventor-par-excellence Ray Kurzweil, who, by the way, will head up the new Google University.

Kurzweil has numerous inventions to his name and a reputation for sold futuristic predictions, and what he explains in this video is, to me, simply mind-blowing. He sees 2045 as the year of the Singularity, when machine intelligence will be capable of merging with the human brain. Then there are the strides in nanotechnology that’ll let you send your friend a toaster … via email.

So, I invite you to spend 6 minutes and be astounded ~ for better or for worse ~ at the near-term possibilities of people and technology.

Click here for a recent feature on Kurzweil in Britain’s Guardian.
Click here for a list of oher Kurzweil videos on YouTube.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

"Multitasking Is a Myth."

“Multitasking is a myth,” behavioral-science writer Winnifred Gallagher told the New York Times this week. “You cannot do two things at once. The mechanism of attention is selection: it’s either this or it’s that.”

It seems her new book, entitled Rapt, is getting some good press because it’s touched a nerve. In a world where we are bombarded with stimuli and demands from more and more sources, she contends that the quality of our lives depends on what we choose to pay attention to and how we choose those things.

Noting that the typical person’s brain can process 173 billion bits of information over the course of a lifetime, she adds:
“People don’t understand that attention is a finite resource, like money. Do you want to invest your cognitive cash on endless Twittering or Net surfing or couch potatoing? You’re constantly making choices, and your choices determine your experience, just as William James said.”
Here’s an interesting tip from the Times article: She recommends starting your work day concentrating on your most important task for 90 minutes. At that point your prefrontal cortex probably needs a rest, and you can answer e-mail, return phone calls and sip caffeine ~ which does help attention ~ before focusing again. But until that first break, don’t get distracted by anything else, because it can take the brain 20 minutes to do the equivalent of rebooting after an interruption.

Click here for the New York Times article.
Go to to check out Rapt.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Judge This Man in 1/10 of a Second!

We’ve all heard how physical appearance is becoming increasingly important in how candidates are elected. Yes, yes, and we’ve all heard how Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t stand a chance in our need-to-be-photogenic age.

It’s all true, folks ~ and to a degree barely imaginable.

A new study at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland found that ~ based on photographs alone ~ the winner in French parliamentary elections could be predicted with uncanny accuracy. And those doing the predicting were Swiss children as young as five!

The impressions required to make the assessment as to who is the more desirable candidate are formed in about one-tenth of a second. 

According to Scientific American Mind:
This finding contributes to a large and growing body of evidence, coming from many research groups, which shows that voters seem to be heavily influenced by a candidate’s appearance, and in particular the kinds of personality traits that a politician’s face projects. This result is strange considering the political stakes. We may agree that one candidate looks more approachable or intelligent than another, but why do we then allow these superficial impressions to guide our political preferences?

The field of cognitive psychology teaches us that, when faced with a data deluge, the human mind tends to simplify the decision-making process by relying on quick and easy strategies, or what many scientists refer to as “heuristics.” Given the complexity of voting—candidates hold many, subtle positions, and voters are bombarded with information—it should come as no surprise that voters take mental shortcuts to arrive at their final decisions. Although some of these strategies, such as voting along party lines, may be reasonable, others are harder to justify, and thus call into question the very notion of the rational voter.

A second study discussed in the article ~ this one conducted at MIT ~ proved that assessing a candidate based solely on appearance occurs most frequently among politically ignorant people and those who watch a lot of television.

Click here for the complete Scientific American Mind article.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dalai Lama Sees East/West Mental Similarities

The Dalai Lama speaking at the Harvard conference.

The Dalai Lama was a star Friday at a Harvard symposium on psychology and mental health, where he responded to questions regarding recent research on mindfulness meditation and related topics.

According to an article on, the Dalai Lama ~ who has spent years in the company of western scientists on mind/body matters ~ accepted Harvard’s invitation “because he wanted a lively debate about the latest science on mental health. He wanted to play. What he got was an audience of earnest academic worshippers. He played anyway.”
When one Harvard psychologist suggested that Western cultures defy the biological imperative to connect with others and make it more challenging to be compassionate, the Dalai Lama paused for 20 seconds before answering. "Firstly," he said, "some people make a distinction between West and East. And there are some lifestyle differences ... but in the mental area, I don't think there are differences ... At the mental level, I don't think there's any sort of demarcation between East and West."
Click here for the complete article.
Click here for a Time photo essay on the Dalai Lama at home.

On Intuition, #2

[Here's another post from my dowsing journal.]

Medical intuitives are people who can diagnose ailments in trances ~ such as the renowned psychic Edgar Cayce and his thousands of medical readings ~ or even over the telephone as is sometimes done by people such as Mona Lisa Schultz, author of Awakening Intuition: Using Your Mind-Body Network for Insight and Healing.

Aside from her psychic abilities, she’s a neuropsychiatrist with a degree from Brown University, and her M.D. and a Ph.D. from Boston University of Science and Medicine. I read Awakening Intuition earlier this year and a few days ago went back to it for her thoughts on intuition in general. (I should mention that the book title is a bit misleading ~ there's a lot about mind/body medicine, but very little on how to awaken one's intuitive abilities.) Here’s one thing she wrote:
Some people are visual intuitives, receiving mental visual images. Some people are auditory intuitives; they hear thoughts, sounds, or message that carry intuitive information. Some people are somatic intuitives, receiving somato-sensory input, or body feelings about themselves or others. When people say to me, “I’m not intuitive. I can’t see things,” I ask them, “Then what do you hear?” or “What do you feel?” It’s important to discover your own particular strength and to use the connections you do have instead of becoming blocked by the thought of the ones you don’t have.

In getting in touch with their intuition network, people have to understand how they’re already using intuition, perhaps in very subtle ways. Once you recognize what you’re already doing without being fully aware of it, you can work to build that muscle by exercising it more.
That's as good a reason as any to keep dowsing … something, anything … every few days or even daily. Got to build up that muscle!

Friday, May 1, 2009

[Lynn Hayes of North Carolina has been a practicing astrologer for 25 years, plus being busy at the keyboard. She writes the frequent Astrological Musings column for and compiles her monthly Skywatch readings for subscribers. From the new Skywatch, here’s part of her astrological overview for May.]

The big news in May is the triple conjunction of Jupiter, Chiron, and Neptune. We have been building up to this for quite some time – this is a tremendous force for healing and for realigning our inner sense of purpose to fit with our outer dharma and destiny. You can read more about this major cycle here. This planetary combination unlocks the longing of the soul to experience a life that has a deeper meaning (Neptune) combining with the necessity to work through any blocks and painful experiences that are standing in our way of that goal (Chiron).

The expansion of this process in a way that can be beneficial or simply more painful is facilitated by Jupiter. Jupiter is usually considered a positive influence, and because it provides an expansive force when combined with Chiron it can be a wonderful aide to the healing process. But that healing process when Chiron is involved requires that we revisit our wounds, and this can be extremely difficult too, depending upon the way that our individual charts are involved.

Click here for Astrological Musings.
Click here for Skywatch.