Tuesday, January 31, 2017

7 'Alone Time' Tips for Well-Being

C. Coimbra photo

Dump the cell phone says the author of this piece on Alone Time from the Chopra Center newsletter. We have edited it for space, but you can click the link above for the full article. 

... incorporating some quality “me-time” into your busy schedule can have plenty of benefits.

It is possible and beneficial to be alone without feeling lonely. Here are four reasons to embrace alone time:

1. Enhance Creativity
Being alone can create a powerful space for creativity to flourish. According to a 2015 article in Harvard Business Review, when you let your mind wander freely (something that is more likely to occur when you’re alone versus surrounded by people), you activate the brain’s default mode network, which is responsible for most of your original thoughts and ideas.

2. Recharge Your Brain
In order to function properly, the brain needs to rest and recharge. Think about a time when you had to be “on” for an extended period of time—perhaps at a work event or family function. You probably felt exhausted afterward, an indication that the brain needed a break. (Introverts can especially relate to this as they require more downtime to recharge). Fortunately, time spent alone allows the brain to slow down and replenish itself, making space for clearer thinking and the ability to be more present with others.

3. Increase Self-Sufficiency
Alone time gives you the opportunity to self-reflect and become more comfortable with who you are and what you value. It encourages you to form your own opinions, independent of the judgment and criticism of others. Spending time alone also forces you to solve problems on your own—problems you may be surprised to learn you can work through without the help of others.

4. Improve Relationships
When you are comfortable being alone and believe that you can take care of yourself, you are less likely to be overly dependent on others. Plus, alone time can breed self-awareness and empathy, two traits found in healthy relationships. By becoming comfortable in your own skin, you can also better meet people where they are without judgement.


Making time for a little solitude is essential, whether it’s going to a movie by yourself or living alone, it is a need that has increased over time. According to a 2014 article published in the Washington Post, more Americans are living alone than ever before, with a rate of single-person households rising from about 5 percent in the 1920s to 27 percent in 2013.

While not everyone will experience living alone, there are still many ways to enjoy alone time. Try these suggestions:

5. Schedule Quiet Time
Whether it’s carving out time to journal, meditate, or stop for a coffee, jotting it down in a calendar will increase the odds of following through. Choose a window when you have a break in your schedule—such as before or after work or during your lunch hour—for some quiet time. It’s easier to break away for some alone time when things are calm and you aren’t surrounded by a lot of people.

6. Start Small
As previously mentioned, some people naturally enjoy alone time more than others. If you find it difficult to be alone or haven’t disconnected from others in a while, start with a just a few minutes of alone time each day until you feel more comfortable. Spending time alone, while uncomfortable at first for some, shouldn’t be a dreadful obligation.

7. Choose One Enjoyable Activity
Select one activity you can do by yourself that you know you will enjoy, like:

  • Meditating
  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Swimming
  • Going to a movie
  • Reading a book
  • Choose an activity you genuinely enjoy and have benefited from in the past, whether it was physically, mentally, or emotionally.

Hint: Think back to an activity you enjoyed during your childhood—a time perhaps when it was easier to entertain yourself.

Monday, January 30, 2017

"Let's build a bigger table, not a higher wall"

Public Domain photo

The following is a letter written by the Mayor of San Luis Obispo in California in regards to a local protest against a political pundit scheduled to speak at the local university.  Her idea to build a bigger table instead of higher walls is right at the center of putting compassion into action.

Let's build a bigger table, not a higher wall!


This Tuesday let's spend an evening across our community uniting with our neighbors, making friends with strangers, sharing space and breaking bread. 

As we look to Tuesday with Milo Yinnopoulous speaking at Cal Poly, many of our community members have been seeking alternative ways to connect with each other and to stand together. Milo is known for misogynistic, racist, hateful speech and his goal is to divide people and communities. But we know that unity and showing up for each other is more powerful. By coming together in our neighborhoods with friends and strangers we can stand against division by standing together. 

We invite the community to participate in the evening of coming together. We are asking residents community wide to host potlucks with neighbors, coworkers, friends, and strangers too! If you're willing to host consider creating an event on social media, and inviting your network or reaching out to folks personally. Please consider reaching out to someone you don't know, or someone who could use an extra support and solidarity right now. 

One of the most powerful ways we can symbolize our unity is by looking each other in the eye, sharing a meal, and listening to the stories of our community.

It’s an exciting and important thing to be a part of a strong community. I look forward to hearing stories about your events in the coming days.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Service creates opportunities to bridge the divides"

Eric Tanenblatt, a Republican and former Senate-confirmed vice chairman of the board of the Corporation for National and Community Service, recently wrote an opinion piece in The Hill about volunteering.  The Daily Prism has excerpted a few quotes from Tenenblatt's opinion "National Service, Not Government, Will Make America Great." The Daily Prism is an apolitical blog, and finds that valid opinion about service to each other is one of the keys to well-being.

Just as past presidents have, Mr. Trump can leverage this turbulent moment by summoning, as President Abraham Lincoln once said, the better angels of our nature in a national call to service.

The values of duty, honor, and country transcend partisanship--just ask the Republicans who served in the administration of President Barack Obama and the Democrats who auditioned for Mr. Trump's--but one need not seek office or military commission to serve.

President John F. Kennedy entered office in 1961 having won the closest presidential election in almost fifty years. The nation had just limped through a recession and would presently barrel its way through the tumult of the civil rights movement.

Yet in spite of the nation's searing divisions, Kennedy used his inaugural address to urge Americans to access individually within us that which sets us collectively apart: the innate American eagerness to serve. "And so, my fellow Americans," he said, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

National service builds better communities by building better, more civically invested citizens. Service creates opportunities to bridge the divides that separate us, to find common ground in the greatness of our people. Government won't make America great, but her people in common cause, in common service, can and will.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Video Series Features Children Expressing Concerns

A current project from We the World, is geared to bring the voices and concerns of children to the world.  From the WeYourChildren.org website:

An Urgent Message From Your Children is a Public Service Video Series featuring children speaking in their own words to adults, expressing their fears, concerns and their hopes for the future of our planet, and making an appeal to all of us to respond with appropriate urgency. We made the video above with an incredible group of kids (all under 13 years old). The videos below are submissions from kids and their parents, teachers or friends. Make your own video and Add Your Voice. - See more at: https://www.weyourchildren.org/#sthash.p4XQDYWi.dpuf

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Study Indicates Empathetic Areas Grow Compassion

 “Those living in more charitable areas may have become more empathetic after witnessing the generous behavior in that area,” surmised researchers in a recent study, Geographic Variation in Empathy, a State-Level Analysis.

From a report, The Most (and Least) Empathic States of America, recently posted in Greater Good in Action,  the study is "a first-of-its-kind study (that) ranked 63 nations of the world in terms of empathy, and the United States came in at an enviable seventh place."

"The researchers analyzed data from 79,563 American adults who volunteered to complete an online survey ... 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.

"...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."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Arkansas Art Museum Widens Diversity

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (founded by Alice Walton and designed by Moshe Sadie) built its foundation on the idea of access for all, and the museum is taking steps to continue living up to the mission this year.

Executive Director Rod Bigelow said the Bentonville-based museum is widening the scope of its diversity and inclusion efforts, some of which will be apparent to museum visitors in a pair of recent acquisitions and the first full-scale bilingual exhibition, which will open next month. Crystal Bridges also has hired additional staff focused on diversity and inclusion and developed more services as part of its community outreach programs.

Bigelow said the extended efforts -- along with the museum's continued work with ongoing programs -- is part of a sharpened focus on diversity and inclusion.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Keeping Elephants Warm in Cold Weather

Elephants in India are sporting colourful woollen jumpers after villagers knitted the super-size garments to protect the animals from near-freezing temperatures.

Women in a village near the Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Centre in the northern city of Mathura reportedly began producing the colourful, pyjama-like garments after staff at the centre warned temperatures were approaching sub-zero at night.

The conservation centre takes in rescued elephants who have previously suffered chronic neglect and beatings from cruel handlers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heirs to our Ocean Take Action

HEIRS TO OUR OCEANS.  That’s who we are, along with your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and newly-spawned zygotes.

Heirs to our oceans are the next generation and the future generations who will inherit this planet and all that comes with it…. after your generation is done with it.

We live just near the Pacific Ocean.  We have learned about and seen the atrocities to our ocean.  We have studied what is happening to know why action is needed to end the human impact on our planet’s oceans.

We are sad.  We are mad.  We are motivated.  We are inspired.  We are hopeful.  We are tenacious.  And together we are taking action.

We are committing this next year, summer 2016 through summer 2017, to diving further into learning about the issues we and our oceans face.  We will take you along in our voyage so that you too might learn and be inspired to join us in our efforts to ensure that the oceans and the magnificent and necessary life within them are on this planet, alive and well, for our generation and our children’s.

And, we are making a movie.  No not a dull drab documentary.  A movie.  One that will move you, make you laugh, make you cry, make you excited, make you concerned, make you want to change, make you want to encourage others to change, make you want to join us.

We are the Heirs To Our Oceans, and we have a job to do.

Hop in and ride this wild wave with us.
--from the Heirs to Our Oceans website

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

8 Tips to Create Positive Social Media

We've shortened for posting length, 8 Way to Express Your Highest Self on Social Media, from the Chopra Center.

1. Share positivity. When people visit a social media page or app, it’s unlikely that they do so seeking negativity, rants, tirades, or comments that make them feel bad. Therefore, make the choice to be an uplifter while online.

2. Reflect before you post. This is simply a reminder to consider the consequences of what you say online. The Law of Karma reminds us that every action (uploaded content or post) creates a force of energy that returns to us in like kind, so it’s vital that you carefully consider the effects you are setting in motion when making a comment or posting a meme.

3. Commit to sharing the truth (accurate information). ... Social media is a great environment to communicate ... information; however, real danger exists in the spread of misinformation or false news. Consequently, you should strive to be vigilant in verifying the accuracy of the stories you share as well as being sure to not present a heavily biased or one-sided depiction of an event.

4. Reel in your ego. When posting, remember to consider how you can help serve the larger world conversation regarding the issues you share or comment on.

5. Commit to peaceful interactions with others. It’s important to understand that social media is a community of individuals expressing widely varied ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. Those views will not always be in agreement with your own and when that happens, you must remain true to peaceful and compassionate exchanges with others.

6. Share life’s most precious gifts. Social media presents you with a wonderful forum to share gifts that you find so rewarding to receive: attention, affection, appreciation, and love.

  • Give attention by liking posts, sharing content you think a friend would enjoy, or acknowledging what they have shared.
  • Give affection with a personalized greeting, a photo, or some way to ‘touch’ a friend and let them know you were thinking of them.
  • Appreciate another by giving a shout out to let them know you are grateful for something they did or who they are.
  • Love others with regular acts of kindness, sweetness, and support.
  • These simple acts carry great weight for the recipient and can open the door for receiving more of what you give.

7. Share quality, not quantity. We all have busy lives and no one likes being inundated with an endless stream of posts and Tweets that perpetually distract us from our daily responsibilities. Therefore, keep the quality of what you post high, while keeping the quantity of posts low. A few words, an inspirational quote, a thought-provoking article, or a beautiful picture can have a far greater impact on your social network than dumping tons of content on your followers they don’t have time to read.

8. Practice the five Yamas. The first of the eight limbs of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is known as the Yamas, commonly translated as the “rules of social behavior.” When applied to social media, these guidelines provide an ideal framework for all our online interactions ... As they relate to social media, the Yamas are:

  • Practicing non-violence: Speaking, posting, and sharing peaceful, non-hurtful content.
  • Speaking truthfully: Distinguishing observations from interpretations and communicating in a genuine and truthful manner at all times.
  • Appropriate energy management: Maintaining control over your passions, remaining balanced, creating moderation in all your activities, and avoiding the temptation to become addicted to an illusory online life.
  • Not stealing: Giving due credit to the owner of shared content, not taking what hasn’t been given (such as photos or personal content), and not engaging in online activity that fuels exploitation, social injustice, or oppression.
  • Non-coveting: Letting go of the need for material or ego possessions, being a detached participant of the online world, and remembering your true nature as spirit.
  • These suggestions can go a long way in transforming your social media interactions from ego-based to spirit-based. Use them to come from the level of your soul as you play the fascinating role of a virtual being in an online world. But remember, social media can never replace the quality, intimacy, or soul-bonding possibilities of living and breathing real-time relationships. Know its limitations, have fun with it, and enjoy the dance.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Journey Through the Black Experience

Since the mid-19th century, Black Americans have sought to ensure their culture's history is understood, celebrated, and incorporated into the larger narrative of American history.  Inspire 365: A Journey through the Black Experience builds on the foundation of presenting and celebrating the legacy of Black Americans in America.  Through introducing and discussing the historical concepts, Inspire 365 seeks to become a catalyst in motivating all people to recognize their power as leaders and use their gifts to impact society despite all barriers.  The series is being offered by the Fayetteville Library and will be streamed at 5 P.M.. CT.

This 4-week program utilizes the biographies of important yet little known figures in the Black Experience to connect the audience to larger historical concepts and practices such as: double consciousness, segregation, integration, slavery and resistance. For more information about the series visit the Foundations: Black History Education link at http://rncook02.wixsite.com/foundationsrc. The series moderator is Raven Cook.  Raven will be offering a special session for the Charter for Compassion, sponsored with by our Education Institute on February 13, 8 A.M.. PT.  Register here  There is no need for you to have seen Raven's previous sessions, though it would be helpful.

January 10: The Peculiar Institution - The discussion will explore the beginnings of slavery, examine where America began to make distinctions, and look at resistance methods to bondage.

January 17: Is Freedom Really Free? - The discussion will explore slavery and the Civil War, as well as post-Civil War challenges for Black Americans.

January 24: The Problem of the nth Century: The Color Line - The discussion will examine the beginnings of Jim Crow, Harlem Heaven, Double V, and the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement.

January 31: Black Lives Have Mattered and Always Will - The discussion will explore the the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power and it's legacy, and the current issues facing America.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Drum Major for Justice, Peace, Righteousness

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. "

--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

NOAA Lists 13 Good Things for the Seas in 2016

C. Coimbra photo

  1. We are days away from formally proposing the first two national marine sanctuary designations in nearly 20 years– Wisconsin-Lake Michigan and Mallows Bay – Potomac River.
  2. We approved two new national marine sanctuary nominations for the inventory: Lake Erie Quadrangle and Chumash Heritage.
  3. We also have received four new nominations for national marine sanctuaries: Mariana Trench, Baltimore Canyon Urban, Hudson Canyon, and St. George Unangan Heritage.
  4. Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, we announced a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional critical Gulf of Mexico habitat.
  5. We proposed the expansion of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary to include additional WWII heritage sites.
  6. Using cutting-edge technologies, including manned submersibles, 3D laser scans and photogrammetry, we conducted research to document and preserve an important World War II battlefield found off the North Carolina coast near the shipwreck site of the USS Monitor.
  7. On March 23, we joined the U.S. Navy to announce the discovery of the USS Conestoga, a Navy tugboat, in Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, 95 years after it sank with a 56-man crew aboard.
  8. We published the inaugural issue of “Earth is Blue: Magazine of the National Marine Sanctuaries.”
  9. Focusing in on diversity and inclusion, we formed the ONMS People’s Committee and provided funding for six projects designed to enhance our diversity and inclusion.
  10. On June 25-26, sanctuaries across the system welcomed the public to the second national “Get into Your Sanctuary” celebration under the unifying theme of building awareness of these iconic destinations and encouraging responsible enjoyment of their natural and cultural resources. More than 8,000 visitors took part in sanctuary activities that included guided kayak, maritime history and eco-tours.
  11. On August 26, President Obama signed a proclamation expanding Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Previously the largest contiguous fully-protected conservation area in the United States at 139,797 square miles, the expanded boundaries made (for a short while) it once again the biggest protected area on the planet at 582,578 square miles, nearly the size of the Gulf of Mexico.
  12. In September we hosted 10,000 people from 192 different countries around the world at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. Our team put national marine sanctuaries, marine national monuments, and marine protected areas on world stage and a very positive light.
  13. In December, we held our first ever Sanctuary System Recreational Fishing Summit with members from advisory councils to continue to improve our efforts to support and improve recreational experiences in sanctuaries.

---From NOAA

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

22 Reasons to Love Trees

C. Coimbra photo

From the Tree People:

Trees combat climate change

Excess carbon dioxide (CO2) caused by many factors is a building up in our atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Trees absorb CO2, removing and storing the carbon while releasing the oxygen back into the air. In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles.

Trees clean the air

Trees absorb odors and pollutant gases (nitrogen oxides, ammonia, sulfur dioxide and ozone) and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark.

Trees provide oxygen

In one year an acre of mature trees can provide enough oxygen for 18 people.

Trees cool the streets and the city

Average temperatures in Los Angeles have risen 6°F in the last 50 years as tree coverage has declined and the number of heat-absorbing roads and buildings has increased.
Trees cool the city by up to 10°F, by shading our homes and streets, breaking up urban “heat islands” and releasing water vapor into the air through their leaves.

Trees conserve energy

Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.

Trees save water

Shade from trees slows water evaporation from thirsty lawns. Most newly planted trees need only fifteen gallons of water a week. As trees transpire, they increase atmospheric moisture.

Trees help prevent water pollution

Trees reduce runoff by breaking rainfall thus allowing the water to flow down the trunk and into the earth below the tree. This prevents stormwater from carrying pollutants to the ocean. When mulched, trees act like a sponge that filters this water naturally and uses it to recharge groundwater supplies.

Trees help prevent soil erosion

On hillsides or stream slopes, trees slow runoff and hold soil in place.

Trees shield children from ultra-violet rays

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Trees reduce UV-B exposure by about 50 percent, thus providing protection to children on school campuses and playgrounds - where children spend hours outdoors.

Trees provide food

An apple tree can yield up to 15-20 bushels of fruit per year and can be planted on the tiniest urban lot. Aside from fruit for humans, trees provide food for birds and wildlife.

Trees heal

Studies have shown that patients with views of trees out their windows heal faster and with less complications. Children with ADHD show fewer symptoms when they have access to nature. Exposure to trees and nature aids concentration by reducing mental fatigue.

Trees reduce violence

Neighborhoods and homes that are barren have shown to have a greater incidence of violence in and out of the home than their greener counterparts. Trees and landscaping help to reduce the level of fear.

Trees mark the seasons

Is it winter, spring, summer or fall? Look at the trees.

Trees create economic opportunities

Fruit harvested from community orchards can be sold, thus providing income. Small business opportunities in green waste management and landscaping arise when cities value mulching and its water-saving qualities. Vocational training for youth interested in green jobs is also a great way to develop economic opportunities from trees.

Trees are teachers and playmates

Whether as houses for children or creative and spiritual inspiration for adults, trees have provided the space for human retreat throughout the ages.

Trees bring diverse groups of people together

Tree plantings provide an opportunity for community involvement and empowerment that improves the quality of life in our neighborhoods. All cultures, ages, and genders have an important role to play at a tree planting or tree care event.

Trees add unity

Trees as landmarks can give a neighborhood a new identity and encourage civic pride.

Trees provide a canopy and habitat for wildlife

Sycamore and oak are among the many urban species that provide excellent urban homes for birds, bees, possums and squirrels.

Trees block things

Trees can mask concrete walls or parking lots, and unsightly views. They muffle sound from nearby streets and freeways, and create an eye-soothing canopy of green. Trees absorb dust and wind and reduce glare.

Trees provide wood

In suburban and rural areas, trees can be selectively harvested for fuel and craft wood.

Trees increase property values

The beauty of a well-planted property and its surrounding street and neighborhood can raise property values by as much as 15 percent.

Trees increase business traffic

Studies show that the more trees and landscaping a business district has, the more business will flow in. A tree-lined street will also slow traffic – enough to allow the drivers to look at the store fronts instead of whizzing by.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Inspiration from Positive Actions in 2016

The following 10 Inspiring Moments from 2016 are an edited (for length) version of a post in the Greater Good in Action 

Veterans ask Native Americans for forgiveness
The Standing Rock pipeline battle pitted Native-American tribes against corporations, law enforcement, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. One of the little-noticed dimensions of the conflict is that many U.S. veterans joined the effort to halt the Dakota Access Pipeline construction. In December, a group of veterans formally apologized for military violence against Native Americans. The statement read by Wes Clark Jr.—son of U.S. Army general and former supreme commander at NATO, Wesley Clark Sr. In the ceremony, Chief Leonard Crow Dog offered the veterans forgiveness.

Texas man stands up for Muslim neighbors
When armed anti-Muslim protesters gathered outside of the mosque in Irving, Texas. One man did what he could: Justin Normand made a simple sign that started, “You belong,” and stood alone outside of the mosque in a gesture of support. As he later wrote on Facebook:
This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us.

Michigan students form circle to protect Muslim classmates
After November’s election, Muslim students at the University of Michigan received death threats. In response, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff formed a circle around Muslim classmates who gathered to perform one of Islam’s five daily prayers.

Opposing protesters come together for dialogue in Dallas
July 7 gave us one of the most awful moments of 2016, when Micah Xavier Johnson ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. A few days later, Black Lives Matter sponsored a small march in Dallas to protest police violence against unarmed black people. When they encountered counter-protesters waving American and Texas flags, a cop named Sgt. Jeff Hall successfully brought them together for a dialogue that ended in prayer. “

Champion kid soccer players console the losing team
At the Junior Soccer World Challenge in Tokyo, Barcelona’s under-12 team beat local favorites Omiya Ardija 1-0. In a show of good sportsmanship, the Spanish players sincerely and graciously consoled their distraught opponents.

Runners help each cross the finish line at the Olympics
In August, American runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin got tangled up and fell during the 5,000-metre race at the Rio Olympics. Both injured, they helped each other to cross the finish line.

Volunteers fulfill India’s climate promise
At Paris Climate Conference in 2015, India agreed to reforest 12 percent of its land. On one day this summer, 800,000 volunteers took a solid step in the direction of fulfilling that promise, by planting 50 million trees throughout the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Floridians step up to help survivors of Orlando shooting
In June, a man motivated by hatred of gays and lesbians killed 50 people and wounded 53 more in an Orlando nightclub. It was the worst mass shooting in the history of a country where gun massacres are depressingly common. When blood for the survivors ran out, massive lines formed around banks across the city. According to BuzzFeed News, some areas were overloaded with donors.

Construction worker brightens the days of sick kids
Construction worker Jason Haney was helping to build a new section on the Memorial Children’s Hospital of South Bend, Indiana. One day, he noticed the children (who all suffer from debilitating and even terminal conditions) in the wing across the street watching their work. So, he created an eight-foot-tall wooden Waldo that he’d put in a different spot every few days on the construction site. Soon, the kids were racing to the windows to play “Where’s Waldo?”

Judge spends a night in jail with the veteran he sentenced
Green Beret Sgt. Joseph Serna did four combat tours in Afghanistan, where he was almost killed three times. On returning to the United States, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and he was arrested repeatedly on charges related to drugs and drinking, including drunk-driving. On the 25th time he came before North Carolina District Court Judge Lou Olivera, Olivera sentenced Serna to one day in jail—and personally drove him there. “When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling,” Olivera told the Fayetteville Observer. “I decided that I’d spend the night serving with him.”

Monday, January 9, 2017

5 Positive Reflections from 2016 for 2017

This new year's reflection feels so important, for each of us, and for a world that is at a tipping point -- between love, hope and wisdom, and fear, anger and ignorance. Here are 5 points of reflection that might be useful for your reflection this year:

1. Yes, things are serious. A new autocratic world order (60% of Avaazers believe even a second rise of fascism) could threaten everything we love.

2. But this is also a tremendous opportunity. Humanity, like each of us, learns best from mistakes. Much of our greatest progress has been catalyzed by crisis. If we meet this moment right, we can emerge from it stronger and wiser than ever.

3. We need to be strong, and to challenge the forces of regress. But let’s not be twisted by the darkness and act from fear and anger. We are warriors for love and wisdom. We must act from that light.

4. When we do come from love and wisdom, we can see that our ‘enemy’ is not so much any people, as it is unwisdom. Misplaced fear and anger. Lack of awareness and understanding.

5. These are age-old foes of our people. Our grandparents faced far worse with far less, and they won progress. We have every reason to hope, and no excuse for despair.

And lastly - all the forces present in our world are present within us. Fear and love. Hope and despair. The choices we make in our personal lives shape our world through billions of acts of kindness or cruelty, wisdom or foolishness. All we can do is our best. Let's hit that mark this year :).

---from an email by Avaaz

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fundraising Gone to the Dogs

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A small California charity rang in the New Year celebrating a fundraising milestone thanks to its most valuable volunteer: a service dog named Ricochet, who is a talented surfer.

On December 31, the lifetime fundraising total for the silky San Diego golden retriever topped $500,000.

"It seems like it’s taken a long time, but it’s also a huge accomplishment," says her owner, Judy Fridono. Ricochet, who turns 9 this month, was not available for comment.

In August 2009, Ricochet went to the Pacific Ocean to ride a wave with a teenage quadriplegic surfer named Patrick Ivison to raise money for Patrick’s therapy and a service dog being trained to live with him.

Each was on a separate board. But then Ricochet decided to jump on Patrick’s board with him, and a star was born.

Ms. Fridono formalized her dog-training program in 2012 by founding the nonprofit Puppy Prodigies. Ms. Fridono started using Ricochet’s social-media star power — her Facebook page with more than 259,000 followers and an Instagram account with more than 104,000 — to raise money for her nonprofit and others. Ricochet has raised money for bout 250 human and animal causes, including rescue groups and shelters and organizations supporting veterans, people with autism, and children with cancer.

Her latest holiday fundraiser, which brought in around $12,000, will support Puppy Prodigies’ own program, which brings together people who have previously surfed with Ricochet to help new veterans who come to surf with her.

---Excerpted from Philanthropy Today

Thursday, January 5, 2017

4 Ways to a Happy Brain

C. Coimbra photo
The following is an edited version of This Week's Neuroscience discovers 5 things that will make you happy.   For condensing sake, we've listed four. Click the above link for the entire article.

So what's going to make you happy? Let's get more specific: What's going to make your brain happy? And let's focus on things that are simple and easy to do instead of stuff like winning the lottery.

Neuroscience has answers...

Alex Korb is a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UCLA and author of The Upward Spiral.

So let's get to it. Alex has some great suggestions for simple things you can do to feel happier every day…

1. Listen to music from the happiest time in your life.
Music affects the brain in an interesting way: it can remind you of places you have listened to it before.

2. Smile — and wear sunglasses.
Sometimes your mind is getting all this random info and it isn't sure how to feel. So it looks around for clues. … You feel happy and that makes you smile. But it works both ways: when you smile, your brain can detect this and say, "I'm smiling. That must mean I'm happy."

Sunglasses kill the squint and can help tell your brain, "Hey, everything is okay." Here's Alex:
When you're looking at bright lights you have this natural reaction to squint. But that often has the unintended effect of you flexing this particular muscle, the "corrugator supercilii." Putting on sunglasses means you don't have to squint and therefore you're not contracting this muscle and it stops making your brain think, "Oh my God, I must be worried about something." It's really just a simple little interruption of that feedback loop.
So smile. And wear those sunglasses.

3. Thinking about goals changes how you see the world.
And I mean, literally. Researchers flashed a bunch of circles on a screen in front of study subjects. One of the circles was always slightly different than the others. It was brighter or smaller, etc.
But when they told people to prepare to point at or try to grab the circles something crazy happened…

If they thought about pointing at the circles, they became better at noticing the brighter circle.
If they were told to think about grabbing a circle, it was easier for them to identify the smaller circle.
What's that mean? Having a goal literally changed how they saw the world.

So when you're feeling stressed or challenged, think about your long-term goals. It gives your brain a sense of control and can release dopamine which will make you feel better and more motivated.

4. Get good sleep.
We all know depression messes up how people sleep. But what's interesting is it's actually a two way street: Bad sleep also causes depression. Here's Alex:
They took all these people with insomnia and followed them for a few years and it turned out that the people with chronic insomnia were much more likely to develop depression. Depression causes sleep problems but sleep problems are also more likely to lead to depression.

So how do you improve your sleep? Alex has a number of suggestions:
Get bright sunlight in the middle of the day. At night, try and stay in a dimly lit environment. Having a comfortable place to sleep and having a bedtime ritual so that your brain can prepare to go to sleep are also good. Trying to go to sleep at the same time every night and keeping a gratitude journal can also improve your sleep.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Women's Crisis Care for Bahrain

WCCI Photo

Women’s Crisis Care International (WCCI), in Bahrain,  provides violence crisis response, and training services for the development and implementation of crisis response programs, as well as community education programs. We do so by sharing our passion and expertise for women’s care with hospitals, medical groups and community organizations. Additionally, we provide a safe and loving space for women who have experienced sexual or domestic abuse and are seeking counseling and/or social services. Through this, we seek to reduce the long-term suffering of survivors of violence, as well as increase the overall health and happiness of women, one by one, throughout the larger global community.

Our vision is to be a global leader in the promotion of effective crisis response care for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, as well as in providing counseling for survivors, thereby promoting the overall empowerment of women around the world.

WCCI operates the first and only 24/7 abuse HELPLINE for women in Bahrain. 3844 7588
WCCI operates an office based case work counseling program for medium and long term support.
WCCI works to promote community awareness and education.
--Excerpted from the WCCI website

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

10 Compassionate Resolutions

1. APPRECIATE the contributions, talents, and gifts that others bring to the table.

2. Be accepting of constructive FEEDBACK.

3. READ spiritual texts of another faith with an open mind.

4. Be open and flexible when CHANGE happens in life.

5. Set spiritual GOALS to meditate and pray everyday, even if it’s only for 10 minutes.

6. Contemplate the presence of the SOUL in people of all colors, races, and genders.

7. Treat all ANIMALS — dogs, cows, cats, pigs, and birds — as if they were your pet.

8. Take steps to reducing your CARBON footprint.

9. Reduce your KARMIC footprint by living ethically and compassionately.

10. Aspire to TRANSCEND the cycle of birth and death.

---Excerpted from Huffington Post

Monday, January 2, 2017

Easy Ways to Give in 2017

What are ways we can give to those in need without membership, dues, meetings, committees and landing on the mailing lists of the never-ending mailers thick with dynamic photos of sad-faced children, seniors citizens, dogs and panda bears?

  • Let’s start with the basics, like socks and underwear. According to a post in The Pollination Project, “Out of all the donated items that trickle their way down to the homeless, socks are the most needed yet the least donated.” It stands to reason that brand new undies would be appreciated, too. Check with your favorite homeless support center to find out how to deliver these essentials to them.
  • Project Linus calls for the gift of warmth and comfort for children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.” Visit www.projectlinus.orgto find a collection facility nearest you.
  • A no-kill animal shelter would dearly appreciate your donation of canned and dry food for the animals sheltered there.
  • Dress for Success takes gently used women’s business attire “to help women thrive in work and in life.” This link will help you find a local affiliate: http://bit.ly/1TVZfBy.
  • Online shopping sites such as Amazon Smile, GoodShop and GiveBuy donate a portion of your purchase to your favorite charity. (I call this a twofer!)
  • You might hit the nail on the head by donating basic building supplies to homeless shelters in progress or Habitat for Humanity. Boxes of nails, duct tape, measuring tapes, hammers, screwdrivers, wire cutters and so forth would likely not be declined by the project manager.
  • The magazine Real Simple suggests a really simple way to give: “Get free money for your charitable donations through work — many corporations will match their employees’ donations up to 100 percent, which means double the impact. If your firm offers this, we encourage you to think about taking advantage of it, since it’s a unique opportunity to make your money go twice as far for a cause you believe in.”
  • Clearing snow around an elderly person’s home or clipping that person’s roses for the winter, is a most generous gift when the season forces our elders indoors.
  • I had one friend who purchased a dozen poinsettias and anonymously left them at the doors of those she knew were unable to enjoy this holiday icon. Her card simply said, “With love and holiday blessings.”
  • I’d be remiss by not suggesting the gift of blood to your local Red Cross.
  • It’s a time in history when the greatest gift of all is kindness. Kindness wrapped with smiles warms every heart.

Read more here: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/community/cambrian/cambrian-opinion/article122202414.html#storylink=cpy