Friday, March 31, 2017

Saving Sea Turtles

STF anti-poaching patrol leaders Bernardo Rosales Ordoneez and William Zuniga Aguilar taking data from a clutch of Eastern Pacific Green Turtle eggs before trans locating them to a safe spot. These men have been patrolling now for 6 months straight on Punta Pargos this season -- tirelessly going out every night ( one night off per week) to protect the nesting of our critically endangered turtles. They love their work, and the turtles love their work. THANK-YOU EVERYONE who has supported our patrol team this season, the turtles need us.   --(From a Facebook post.)

Sea Turtles Forever (STF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to the conservation of marine turtles and the protection of their nesting and foraging habitats. Since 2002, STF has led conservation operations in Punta Pargos, a small coastal town in the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica known for its sea turtle nesting beaches (and great surf). By hiring the local residents of Punta Pargos to patrol nesting beaches at night, STF creates jobs in the rural community and educates locals about sea turtle conservation. Together, STF and the Punta Pargos community are able to safely conserve and hatch over 11,000 baby sea turtles every year.

With the rise in global plastic production and the inadequate plastic recycling infrastructure in many parts of the world, many sea turtle nesting beaches have fallen victim to marine plastic debris landfall. Microplastics (small pieces of eroded plastic) are the most toxic of all, absorbing high concentrations of PCBs and other harmful chemicals from the ocean. In response, STF’s Microplastic Removal Team has developed a static charge filtration screen technology to easily remove microplastic debris from sand. With your support, STF is leading a global initiative to clean up beaches worldwide. 

Our mantra, “More Turtles. Less Plastic.,” is a vision we believe will lead to a healthier ecosystem for all marine life. Join us in our effort to revitalize the planet.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Volunteers Save Senior Citizen's Home from Collapse

Storm driven creek during one of California's recent rains

Editor's Note: California's creeks and rivers have taken their toll over the winter. This story featured on local news, KSBY, is about a home on a creek that was deemed unsafe because of damage by the creek it is near. Click the above link for the video.

Creek erosion forced a man and woman from their Atascadero home in February. Now that home, once red-tagged and deemed unfit to live in, has been saved by the Atascadero community.

Seventy-year-old John Shaydak and 86-year old Erna Shaydak have lived in their house on Ensenada Avenue since the 1970s.

Heavy storms this winter caused erosion, putting the home at risk of falling into the creek behind it, but volunteer contractors and numerous other Atascadero residents have been working hard for nearly two months to save it.

"When this hillside first came down, it had undercut the concrete here at the shed and it dropped down 75-feet to the water. This was all gone, every bit of it," described John Shaydak.

Members of the community pulled together to fix the hillside, digging, pumping, and working for free. The volunteers chalk it up to being good neighbors.

"Why'd we do it for free? Because it's the right thing to do," said Leonard Sutherland, Vice President of Michael Frederick Paving Corp.

The Shaydak's have been living in a motel for nearly two months. On Monday, the house was deemed safe.

"Last night, we sat and watched the sun go down realizing we got our home back," Shaydak said tearing up with joy.

"We've got a lot of people who donated, a lot of help from other construction companies. Over 20 people, various companies stepped up to the plate asking what can we do, what can we do?" said Sutherland.

"I got these cards here so I wouldn't forget anybody," said Shaydak as he tried to thank everyone who had done so much for him.

The list of helping hands goes on and on.

"They treated us like we were family. The people of Atascadero are fantastic," said Shaydak.

The Shaydaks hope to move in early next week once the home has been cleaned out.

There are a few minor projects still to be finished up in the next week, such as fixing the fence around the property.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

5 Ways to Exclude Racial Bias in Kids

"Five Ways to Reduce Racial Bias in Your Children," is a recent essay from The Greater Good website of UC Berkeley. The following is an edited (for space purposes) copy of that essay. Click on the above link for the entire post.

Here are some of the ways that parents can help reduce negative bias in their children.

1. Expose kids to more positive images of other racial groups

Kids are immersed in negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media and culture, just as adults are. To counteract that, parents can expose kids through stories, books, and films to more positive, counter-stereotypical images of people from different racial and ethnic groups—including moral exemplars like Martin Luther King Jr. or Dolores Huerta. In studies with adults, this type of intervention has been shown over and over to be one of the most effective ways of decreasing bias.

2. Help your kids develop cross-group friendships

Research suggests that cross-race friendships are an important factor in decreasing prejudice, probably because they help decrease stress and fears of rejection that may occur in cross-group situations. Having a friend from another group may also remove barriers to empathy and caring, which in turn decreases prejudice.

Research shows that having contact with different racial or social groups—especially when that contact is warm and positive—helps to decrease prejudice and to encourage more cross-group friendships. In a study with school kids of various ages, students who had higher levels of cross-race contact—including cross-race friendships—were more likely to see the way race plays a role in social exclusion and to view that behavior negatively.

3. Cultivate cross-group friendships yourself

Parents can help normalize cross-group friendships by role-modeling them for their kids. This may seem superfluous, but research has shown that children’s racial attitudes are less tied to parents’ explicit messages around race than to the racial makeup of the parents’ social network.

Why does having cross-race friendships have such a strong impact on bias? Mendoza-Denton says ...
“It’s so much more organic to reduce bias by developing intergroup friendships, because it changes your attitudes through a very human mechanism, which is the interpersonal.” ... Once friendship grows, empathy develops organically, says Mendoza-Denton.

4. Talk explicitly about race and the effects of racism

Many black parents give explicit instructions to their kids about the importance of race in society and what they can do to mitigate any bias they encounter. But well-meaning white parents are less likely to bring up race with their children, perhaps fearing that doing so would mean they don’t value egalitarianism or believe in a “post-race” society. The problem with that approach is that not talking about race can create a vacuum of information, which leads children to absorb biases around them—often in ways that are counter to parents’ own held values.

In one study, researchers had white parents read books depicting racial issues to their preschool-aged children (under the guise of studying the effects of literature on learning) while being videotaped. Racial attitudes were measured and compared afterwards in both parents and their children.

In fact, research suggests that parents need to be much more explicit about racism and its effects. When white parents were asked to have race-related discussions with their kids—either with or without watching educational videos about race—their children showed more favorable attitudes toward racial outgroup members only if their parents discussed race directly. Interestingly, though, the researchers had trouble getting the parents to have these discussions—even when instructed to do so as part of the study. Apparently, there are psychological barriers to discussing race among many Caucasian parents.

5. Work to combat biases in yourself

Research clearly shows that the impact of parent bias on kids shouldn’t be underestimated. Although explicit biases have negative effects on kids, implicit bias can also impact children.

In one study, researchers found that very young children exhibited more explicit negative bias if their mothers held implicit biases—regardless of their explicit messaging. There can be a mismatch between what parents say and their unconscious reactions toward minority groups—and children seem to pick up on this.

... Research suggests that automatic biases can be countered by deliberate attempts to counter them, exposure to moral exemplars, or positive cross-race interactions. In other words, much of what influences children may also influence you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ride and 'Round Up & Donate'

(Lyft will offer) a new program that lets riders top off their fare to the nearest dollar, and donate the difference to one of a group of selected charities.

The new feature is reminiscent of another recent ‘light side ridesharing alternative’ move by Lyft, namely its decision to commit $1 million in donations to the ACLU over the next four years, as a response to Donald Trump’s initial Muslim immigration ban. Lyft’s new program is in line with its founding principles, the company says, and not tied to any behavior by the competition, but it’s definitely a contrasting image given the circumstances.

Lyft will be rolling out the program, which it calls ‘Round Up & Donate’ as a test at first, gradually making its way to users over the next few weeks. The feature works with an opt-in for those who are selected to participate, and it’ll then automatically round up the fare for your current trip to the nearest whole dollar, with the excess going to charity. So if your ride costs $9.67, for instance, the additional 33 cents will go to the chosen charity.

--From TechCrunch

Monday, March 27, 2017

Conflict Resolution and the Law of Three

Editor's note:  Grumble and grouse. Point fingers and blame. Or consider the Law of Three for challenge resolution? This mini-essay written for meditation, seems to be a perfect way to begin a new week. Click the link below for the entire series of applying the Law of Three toward resolutions.

The political and religious culture wars of our era could be eased by the simple courtesy of the Law of Three:* (1) the enemy is never the problem but the opportunity; (2) the problem will never be solved through eliminating or silencing the opposition but only through creating a new field of possibility large enough to hold the tension of the opposites and launch them in a new direction.

A good part of the initial learning curve with the Law of Three is around developing a capacity to look directly at a situation and assign the forces (affirming, denying) according to the role they are actually playing, not according to pre-formed judgments or expectations.

A new arising is not always a solution. Sometimes it is simply the infusion of a more subtle quality of aliveness in whose light the real meaning of the situation is transfigured (or at least made clearer).

Third force is best accessed (or midwifed) through presence that can hold the tension of opposites.

Third force contains transformative power because it does not take sides. Could it be said to be compassionately indifferent?

According to the Law of Three, once an impasse is reached, it can never be solved by going backward but only forward, into that new arising that honors all the players and brings them into a new relationship. (Einstein seems to have been on to this insight in his famous dictum that a problem can never be solved at the level at which it is created.) The three forces are like three strands in a braid; all three are required for the weaving.

---by Cynthia Bourgault Center for Action and Contemplation

* From Wikipedia:  The Law of Three is described by Gurdjieff as "the second fundamental cosmic law". This law states that every whole phenomenon is composed of three separate sources, which are Active, Passive and Reconciling or Neutral. This law applies to everything in the universe and humanity, as well as all the structures and processes. The Three Centers in a human, which Gurdjieff said were the Intellectual Centre, the Emotional Centre and the Moving Centre, are an expression of the law of three. Gurdjieff taught his students to think of the law of three forces as essential to transforming the energy of the human being. The process of transformation requires the three actions of affirmation, denial and reconciliation.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SMILE! 7 Reasons Why Smiling is Good

Editor's Note: Life moments are not always perfect. But why dwell on those moments of imperfection that bring grimacing to our faces? Be forward, and smile instead. The following is slightly edited for space content.

1. Smiling can make you happy (even when you're not).
... the simple act of smiling sends a message to your brain that you're happy. And when you're happy, your body pumps out all kinds of feel-good endorphins. This reaction has been studied since the 1980s and has been proven a number of times.

... the research goes both ways. When the people in the one study frowned, they felt less happy, and in a German study, people who held a pen in their protruding lips, imitating a pout, felt unhappy. So the next time you feel sad or upset, try smiling. It just might make your body—and therefore you—feel better.

2. Smiling can make others happy. 
"When you're smilin', the whole world smiles with you," ...a song, made famous by Louis Armstrong? ... Research shows that smiling is contagious. Ever been around someone who just had something fantastic happen to him or her? Isn't it almost impossible not to feel good, too? Studies show that something as simple as seeing a friend smile can activate the muscles in your face to make that same expression, without you even being aware that you are doing it. Crazy, right?

But remember that this, too, can be for better or for worse. You know the expression "misery loves company"? Frowns act just like smiles, just with a negative reaction, so choose to smile and watch the world smile back!

3. Smiling makes you more attractive. 
Ever wonder why are we always asked to smile in photos? Because people usually look their best—and happiest—when smiling. According to the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, 96 percent of American adults believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to members of the opposite sex. So the next time you are about to ask someone on a date, smile. It'll make them feel happier (see No. 2), and you'll already be more attractive in his or her eyes!

4. Smiling can help you de-stress. 
The next time you're stressed about work or realize that your favorite jeans feel a little snug, don't freak out. Take a few deep breaths and smile! Smiling may help to reduce symptoms associated with anxiety. When that smile signals to your brain that you're feeling happy (even though you're not really feeling happy...yet), your body will usually slow its breathing and heart rate.

Reducing stress is so important for health, too, as it can lower blood pressure, improve digestion and regulate blood sugar. Note that this works during workouts, too! If you're having a hard time getting through that last rep or getting those final 5 minutes in on the treadmill, smiling can do wonders!

5. Smiling can help you land a job. 
If you're about to go on a job interview, you may think that your appearance is just about wearing nice clothes. Wrong! You can't just wear that suit; you have to wear it with a smile. In a study published in the December 2009 issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people looked at full-body photographs of 123 people they had never met. The people in the photos had one of two expressions: neutral (think your passport photo) or a smile. And guess what? When observers saw the photos of smiling people, they were more likely to think that the person in the photo was likeable, confident, conscientious and stable.

6. Smiling can lead to laughter. 
Have you ever laughed without smiling? It's pretty impossible to do. And it's funny how a smile here and a smile there with friends can turn into a whole fit of hysterical laughter. Numerous studies have been done on the health benefits of laughing, including how it acts like a mini workout that burns calories and works the abs. Laughter also helps blood flow, lowers blood sugar levels, reduces stress and improves sleep. It may also raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body, which helps boost your immune system. So the moral of this story is smile—and laugh—often!

7. Smiling just feels good. 
Have you ever found that smiling just feels good? Go ahead, smile now. Doesn't it feel natural? Make you feel happy to be alive? It sure does beat the heck out of a frown.

---Article created on:  8/3/2010 by Spark People

Friday, March 24, 2017

3 Ways to a More Productive Day

This is an excerpt from a post "3 Things To-Do to be More Productive Today." Imagine having more time to do something special and good today!

  1. Go to your email inbox. Delete or Archive any email that is over 40 days old. The person that sent that email has long forgotten about it and you’ve been dodging it for so long it’s become a cement hurdle in your productivity. If it’s important it will come back up and maybe at a level of urgency that you’ll act on it promptly. NOW EXIT EMAIL.
  2. Identify the thing you’ll say you did at dinner tonight. Take 3 deep inhales and exhales right now and imagine telling your family or your cat or Facebook about the thing you did while at work today. Sometimes, we don’t take action because we can’t imagine it being done. But once you trigger your brain to see it as done your brain finds many routes to get you to that destination. Quite literally: Begin the task with the end in mind.
  3. Set a timer, turn on Do Not Disturb, shut down messenger, skype, Facebook, Twitter, email notifications and do the work. Sometimes people hear this piece of advice and they get really anxious. How long do I have to put on the timer? What if something NEEDS me? But what about Facebook? Set the timer for 20 minutes and see what you can get done. Just try it out. Repeat your successes. At the end of the 20 minutes get out of your chair — reach to the sky, touch your toes — grab a glass of water and see if the mood strikes you to go on another 20 minute speed-date with your work.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

8 Tips to Make Good Deeds Day a Hit!

On April 2, Good Deeds Day 2017 can happen in any office, anywhere – all it needs is you! This year Points of Light is celebrating our 11th year doing good, and we’ve more than got you covered with ideas, tools, guides and resources to make your Good Deeds Day a golden one.

1. Have the desire to do good. We have a feeling you’re reading this right now because you’re a good person who aspires to be even better. Having the drive to do good is all that it takes to join in the largest celebration of the year devoted to good deeds.

2. Save the date. And this one is a special one as we are celebrating our 11 years doing good deeds worldwide. Last year, more than 1.5 million people took part, and hopefully many more will join this year. You, along with at least 1,499,999 other awesome humans, will unite as one philanthropic force on April 2, 2017, to do good and create large scale positive impact. Go you!

3. Get approval from above. It should be pretty easy if you share all the benefits you get, personally and professionally, from volunteering. From health benefits for employees to increased job satisfaction and productivity at work, this opportunity is a win-win-win for all parties involved. And just in case, send your HR head or manager this kit for companies to explain it all.

4. Decide how you can help. There are countless ways in which you could be of service in your community, especially if you’re bringing the whole office along! Browse our how to guides to doing good, brimming with various ideas and activities to suit everyone in your office. Reach out to your coworkers to vote, or see if someone has a special cause to rally around to build office rapport.

We’re also happy to work with you to brainstorm a volunteer program for your community, so get in touch!

5. Rally the team. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with your co-workers, do something fun, and create better bonds with the people you may not get the chance to chat with in your office. Get everyone on board by emailing them this fact sheet, sharing all the added value benefits for doing good.

6. Register your group. Fill in a short form and join close to two million people in over 75 countries in sharing your Good Deeds Day tales. Tell us about your project and ideas by registering. Want to match? Make sure to mention you want to order t-shirts with your logo!

7. Promote your event. Now that we know you’re doing good, you should share it with the rest of the world! Not only will this benefit your team, but it’s also good business. Use our ready-to-go media kit to handle any communications you need, and update your social media channels with our cover photo and sweet social media graphics.

8. Get excited! You should be proud of yourself, friend. You and your office are contributing to a global celebration of goodness! Good Deeds Day 2017 is a dedicated day which proves that millions of small changes can do a world of good. Thank you for joining in our efforts, for believing in good, and for helping to change the world – one good deed at a time!

You can get the complete tool kit on how to participate, scour worldwide projects you’re interested in, or sign up here!

---From Points of Light

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Archangels of the Ancient Trees

A Michigan based nonprofit is all about saving the trees.  It's called The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive.

The mission is to:

Muslim Immigrants Give $15 Million to University of Notre Dame

Rafat and Zoreen Ansari. UND photo

Rafat and Zoreen Ansari and their three grown children donated $15 million to create an institute at Notre Dame dedicated to the study of religions around the world.

Mr. and Ms. Ansari are medical doctors who were born in Pakistan and raised their family in South Bend, Ind., the home of the university. They are Muslim and said in a news release that they hope the new center will encourage partnerships among religions to solve problems like violence and poverty.

“The need for people of faith to focus on what unites us rather than on what divides us has never been more urgent,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “This extraordinary gift from an esteemed local Muslim family, longtime friends of Notre Dame, will allow us to bring together scholars of the first order to foster dialogue and deepen understanding. We are immensely grateful to the Ansaris for making this aspiration a reality.”

Notre Dame parents, Rafat and Zoreen Ansari moved in 1980 to South Bend, where they raised their three children – Sarah, Adam and Sonya. Their passion for the Ansari Institute is a reflection of their hope that it will help foster partnerships globally and locally, and that communities large and small – from South Bend to Jerusalem – can be brought together through a shared understanding of certain guiding principles inherent in all the world’s religions.

Faculty at the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement With Religion will study how religious teachings, traditions, history, practice, and thought inform today’s shifting patterns of global migration, conflict, peace building, political culture, and human development.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

7 Ways to Boost Your Mental Strength

C. Coimbra photo

Editor's note: The Daily Prism is well aware of the ongoing frustration by people from around the world with the changing conditions and circumstances to be faced most every day.  The following (edited for space concerns) piece was written for "the busy entrepreneur."  That seems exclusive. But, in fact, every individual is his or her own business (the business of living) and is the entrepreneur of his or her own well-being. 

From 7 Powerful Morning Routines That Will Make You Mentally Strong

... It all starts with waking up mentally tough. Skills can only take you so far without the grit, determination, and mental willpower to tackle anything life throws at you.

Thankfully, there are some pretty simple techniques that everyone from Navy SEALs to U.S.
Olympians use to stay mentally strong. Start adopting these powerful habits in the morning to become just as mentally resilient:

1. They practice positive self-talk

Studies estimate that we say 300 to 1,000 words to ourselves every single minute. That’s why none other than the U.S. Navy SEALs swear by positive self-talk as a way to take on a strenuous day.
When their oxygen flow is suddenly cut off underwater, SEALs are able to tough it out by telling themselves that everything is fine and thinking positively. So you can probably also use this tip to get through a day at the office.

To start, tell yourself how great your day is going to be as you’re riding the subway or driving down the freeway. If you start encountering a rough morning, go outside for a few minutes and repeat some more positive affirmations to yourself.

2. They visualize tackling tasks

Champion U.S. Olympians use visualization as an effective way to stay tough when they’re running a marathon or endlessly swimming.

Rather than just picturing themselves at the finish line, they visualize themselves going through the motions of the race. It’s a scientifically proven way to boost your mental willpower — whether you’re jumping over a hurdle or filing paperwork.

By visualizing how you’ll get through a task in the morning, you’ll not only give yourself the self-confidence to do it, you’ll also come up with unexpected solutions along the way.

3. They work on their hardest tasks first

... It’s been scientifically shown that motivation and willpower is a finite resource that dwindles throughout the day, so frying your biggest fish first ensures you’ll have the energy to complete the task at hand. Plus, everything that comes after that will feel like a piece of cake.

4. They don’t give up their power

How many times have you thought something along the lines of “my mother-in-law drives me crazy”?

... motivation expert Amy Morin says thinking like this “gives away your power.” Instead of thinking that your in-law is driving you mad (or that your workday is stressful), Morin recommends a powerful alternative: knowing “your world is what you make it.”

... start thinking about (the task at hand) as an opportunity to change your success and have an impact on the world. By believing you’re in control, you’ll start to be in control.

5. They avoid comparisons (and Twitter)

If your morning routine involves checking Facebook or scrolling through Instagram, you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Morin also spoke about how seeing her “perfect” friends on Facebook in the a.m. dragged down her whole day. Quite simply, you’re seeing someone’s highlight reel, not his or her life story, so it will do nothing but make you feel inferior if you feel the need to keep up.

6. They exercise and prioritize their health

It’s been scientifically proven that being physically strong is an integral part of being mentally strong. Doing aerobic exercises has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress and have other amazing benefits. It’s no wonder that ultra-successful people channel that energy into exercise before they go to work in the morning.

7. They connect with loved ones before work

... the busiest people in the world know that a part of staying mentally strong means cultivating a meaningful life for yourself outside of work.

... Whether it’s a friend or family member, connecting with someone important to you at the start of your day helps maintain healthy relationships, and it can also give your day perspective, while keeping your spirits up while you work.

Friday, March 17, 2017

One Farm at a Time -- A Program in Africa

By Denver Frederick
Seventy per cent of the world’s poor are farmers, many of them concentrated in parts of eastern and southern Africa. In those regions, one in 10 farm-family children dies before the age of 5, with hunger as the primarily underlying cause, notes Matt Forti, managing director of the One Acre Fund. "Agriculture has become so much more productive everywhere else in the world over the past few decades," he says. "We said, ‘Why not Africa? What’s driving this? Can we do something about it?’ "

In ... the Business of Giving, Mr. Forti talks about the nonprofit social enterprise’s market-based model for attacking poverty and hunger in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda, and Malawi. Key to the effort is bringing advanced agricultural products and techniques to small rural farms and treating them as clients instead of beneficiaries. They receive loans, not donations, of "farm inputs" like hybrid seeds and fertilizer, as well as training in effective planting techniques.

The result is far greater crop yields, which enable farmers to repay the loans, which helps fund One Acre and keeps it growing. A decade after launching with 40 farmers, the organization now has 450,000 clients and aims to reach 1 million by 2020. The nonprofit is expanding in other ways, branching into crop insurance to protect farmers from calamities like drought and helping them switch from kerosene and candles to cleaner, safer solar energy.

One Acre’s model empowers farmers as well; they become investors in a viable enterprise, one they can pass on to their children and generations beyond. "We’re trying to alleviate hunger, but the long-term goal is intergenerationally," Mr. Forti says. "We’re trying to get families to be able to educate their children, and those children to be able to pull the whole family out of poverty."

Click this link to listen to the podcast, the Business of Giving.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Positive Side of Social Media

C.Coimbra photo
The following is part of an essay, "Vulnerability in the Age of Social Media," highlighting the positive side of social media:

In the 21st century, we live in little boxes and drive little boxes and work in little boxes within little boxes. It is more important than ever that we find new ways to connect — even if that means using the little boxes we hold in our hands all day to do it. We can continue to stumble through our lives using social media as a mask to pretend our lives are perfect. Or to troll the Internet underbelly. To carefully craft personas. To be someone that we’re not. Or we can use it as its name declares: social media.

A synonym for “social” is “community,” itself defined by Google as “A feeling of fellowship with others.”

We cannot feel genuine fellowship if we aren’t real. Being real means vulnerability, sharing the parts of ourselves of which we are most ashamed. Shame is an emotion that comes from doing or thinking something we fear is unacceptable and will result in being shunned by the community. When someone accepts unacceptable parts of us, it brings us, all of us, ever closer.

I find tremendous hope in social media. On a macro level, in its ability to help us organize. On a micro level, in the elation we feel collectively when stories of survival go viral. In the pain we experience together when a beloved figure dies, or when grave injustices are committed. For all our differences, we are so much the same. And we cannot truly connect with each other if we aren’t vulnerable. Now more than ever, that connection is imperative. I believe it’s the secret to overcoming everything that lies ahead. In your life. In mine. In the country. And the world.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Science of Gratitude: It's Good for You.

Yes, “thank you” is an essential, everyday part of family dinners, trips to the store, business deals, and political negotiations. That might be why so many people have dismissed gratitude as simple, obvious, and unworthy of serious attention.

But that’s starting to change. Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

That’s why the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of California, Davis—launched the multiyear project Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude. The project is supported with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. The general goals of this initiative are to:
  • Expand the scientific database of gratitude, particularly in the key areas of human health, personal and relational well-being, and developmental science;
  • Promote evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational, and organizational settings and in schools, workplaces, homes and communities, and in so doing…
  • Engage the public in a larger cultural conversation about the role of gratitude in civil society.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

5 Steps to "Detachment" for Happiness

It's like an Angst Fair out there. Rightfully so. However, angst will drain our energy. Sometimes it's important to let some things go so that we can maintain the fire of energy to get the real work done.

From the Chopra Center, here's an edited (for space purposes) version  of "Detaching for a Happier Life."

As spiritual author Ron W. Rathbun wrote, “True detachment isn’t a separation from life but the absolute freedom within your mind to explore living.”

Clues You Are Attached
When you are attached to an object, a goal, a dream, or another person, there are feelings that tell you “If I don’t have that, I won’t be whole.” These are feelings like:

  • Anxiety
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Disconnection
  • Pride
  • Vanity

Why Do We Attach?
In an effort to define ourselves, we listen to what others want us to be and make choices about the things we like or dislike. The paradox here is that in our effort to become ourselves, we actually create separation from others.

How to Detach: 5 Steps   

1.    Observe your mind: Become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think. What things or descriptors do you identify with most? Become a student of self and heighten your awareness of where attachment happens more frequently for you. Recognize attachment comes with an emotional charge. Notice where you feel this in your physical body. It’s different for each individual and learning your patterns is a useful tool in creating change.
2.   Distinguish between the voice of your ego and the actual situation: Your ego might tell you that not getting the job you want has ruined your career. The actual situation is: you are disappointed because you don’t have something you never had in the first place. There has been no loss. Nothing has changed except your thoughts about your future potential. The actual situation is the same as it was prior to not getting the job.
3.    Embrace uncertainty: Only a willingness to embrace the unknown provides security. As Deepak Chopra says, “Those who seek security in the exterior world chase it for a lifetime. By letting go of your attachment to the illusion of security, which is really an attachment to the known, you step into the field of all possibilities. This is where you will find true happiness, abundance, and fulfillment.”
4.    Meditate on it: Meditation is a vehicle to help your mind release patterns of thought and action that no longer serve you. Spend some time in meditation each day and watch how the patterns in your life begin to change.
5.    Don’t beat yourself up for falling into old habits: The first step in making change is recognizing what it is you want to change. Instead of getting frustrated or disappointed when you fall back into an old habit, celebrate that you are now noticing when you repeat the pattern of thought or habit. In time, this will allow you to transform your behavior.

When you begin living a life that starts with happiness from an internal place rather than placing your ability to be happy on external conditions, then you have understood detachment. Remember, it’s a practice. Happiness is the journey and not the destination, or as Wayne Dyer said, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”

Monday, March 13, 2017

Uber Driver Serves the Homeless

People who serve their community seem to have a certain sense of well being about them. Recently, I met an Uber driver, Eric, who shared his story about his retirement and how he started volunteering with a homeless shelter and now works there as one who helps counsel and find shelter for Los Angeles based men and women who live on the streets.  He said that his pay is meager, but worth it. First to Serve does not have a website, but here's a comment from one of their clients that I found:

I would like to state that, I've been in addiction for many years and I've learned that by my self I can't get well. That's a fact! There is no perfect place in this world, to get well we as addicts will always complain, about anyplace we go, its what we do. I'm very grateful for First 2 Serve providing a place in this community were I had the opportunity to see my problems, and even though it was challenging to go through there unique way just made me realize that I must learn to deal with life on life's terms. In this world your not always gonna get what you want. I've learn to deal with me n my Patience, termination, conflicts within, with what I had , and I came to First to Serve with nothing to my Name! Broken and loss of everything family..job, and home. I seen what goes on here first hand. And even though I don't agree with a few things I know deep down inside that there intentions are to build you up to become greater than you were before you entered. First to Serve I thank you for giving me the chance to get well, today while still there and soon to be in there sober living  I'm going to school , to get my AA in Culinary Arts, and I have a job in the same Field, and I'm mending my Family's relationships. They contributed to my strength today.. I believe today that all they want is to see us rise up and achieve our essence, as they provide a place were we can do so. Believe when i Say there are way more worst places out there were the managers are doing drugs, allowing drugs, getting bribed,and not having a safe place to get well. This place made it safe, hard, and challenging. Its what I needed... Thanks First to Serve and all the staff...for helping me.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Rabbi Kushner Says to Laugh this Purim

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author of "The Book of Words," says of this Jewish holiday:

"Laughter is so important that Jews have institutionalized it into a holiday. Purim does more than celebrate the foiled attempts of anti-Semites everywhere, it makes us laugh at ourselves. The head of the famous Slabotka Yeshiva, on Purim, would dress up like a horse.

"It is interesting furthermore that we have made Purim, which celebrates the foiling of our enemies, into a time for laughter by dressing up like them. Zalman Shachter-Shalomi used to say that when the Purim play is over, all the actors get applause, but Haman, the villain, gets the most. Access to the most joyous part of ourselves comes through ritualized reminders that we are as bad as our enemies. On Purim we are enjoined to get so drunk we cannot even tell the difference. Indeed, only our ability to laugh at ourselves keeps us sane and from becoming like them."

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Free Seminar: "Relaxing into Aging"

C. Coimbra photo

Receive liberating insights that open you to a journey of aging that is spiritually fulfilling, joy-filled and infused with love.

Discover how to laugh more, fear less and accept everything as a blessing through the profound teachings of one of America’s most revered spiritual teachers, Ram Dass.

No matter your age, do you find yourself dreading the process of getting older?

Then it’s time to pull up a virtual cushion to receive hard-won insights from Ram Dass, one of America’s most beloved consciousness leaders.

After his stroke in 1997, Ram Dass faced partial paralysis, aphasia and a host of physical challenges — including chronic pain and all manner of inconveniences.

Yet today he considers the stroke an act of “fierce grace” that propelled him to another level of spiritual growth.

Ram Dass shows that it is possible to transform the heaviness that can come with aging into an expanded lightness of being and even joy.

In this special event, you’ll have a chance to harvest many seeds of wisdom to plant in the garden of your own life — blossoming into peace, playfulness and wisdom as you navigate your journey of growing older.

Ram Dass’ goal is to help you flourish as you mature — and shine with the illuminating light of your true essence. Specifically, you’ll:

  • Understand how to make friends with the changes that occur as you age, even ones that seem impossible to embrace
  • Release unnecessary suffering by becoming more mindful and aware of exactly what’s happening, which opens you to direct experience rather than your mental interpretation
  • Shift the way you relate to death
  • Open to a deeper experience of your interconnectedness by recognizing the universals in the changes you’re going through

Sadly, aging is often seen as a pejorative aspect of life in Western culture, with our worth, contribution and respect seemingly diminished with time.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you’d like to dicover how to embrace the gifts of aging and make your later years your “golden years” — the most spiritually meaningful time of your life — there is no wiser guide than Ram Dass.

You CAN make aging into a journey of liberation, laughter and lightness of being if, like Ram Dass, you embrace it as “fierce grace.”

Surely, no one is better equipped to help us do that than Ram Dass, who lives with an effervescent grace, love and beauty... even in a body that has been severely impaired.

We’re honored to partner with him for a soul-expanding hour in which you’ll also learn about a brand new program with him that will explore this essential work in greater depth.

Click the link below for more information.

Seeking Silence

One Square Inch of Silence is very possibly the quietest place in the United States. It is an independent research project located in the Hoh Rain Forest of Olympic National Park, which is one of the most pristine, untouched, and ecologically diverse environments in the United States. If nothing is done to preserve and protect this quiet place from human noise intrusions, natural quiet may be non-existent in our world in the next 10 years. Silence is a part of our human nature, which can no longer be heard by most people. Close your eyes and listen for only a few seconds to the world you live in, and you will hear this lack of true quiet, of silence. Refrigerators, air conditioning systems, and airplanes are a few of the things that have become part of the ambient sound and prevent us from listening to the natural sounds of our environment. It is our birthright to listen, quietly and undisturbed, to the natural environment and take whatever meanings we may from it. By listening to natural silence, we feel connected to the land, to our evolutionary past, and to ourselves. One Square Inch of Silence is in danger, unprotected by policies of the National Park Service, or supported by adequate laws. Our hope is that by listening to natural silence, it will help people to become true listeners to their environment, and help us protect one of the most important and endangered resources on the planet, silence.
--From the website: One Square Inch

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Study Shows Dogs Make People Better Persons

Lucy.  C. Coimbra photo
If you have a dog, you probably know this already, but it seems that besides the fact that dogs do go to heaven, they may also help people get along with each other.

The Greater Good in Action report just released the following which we have excerpted for space purposes.  Click the link above for the complete report.

Researchers at Central Michigan University gave small groups tasks to do with or without a companion dog in the room. In the first experiment, groups generated a 15-second ad and slogan for a fictional project—a task requiring cooperation. In the second experiment, groups played a modified version of the prisoner’s dilemma game, in which individual members decide whether to cooperate with one another or to look out only for themselves. All of these interactions were videotaped.
Afterwards, participants reported on how satisfied they felt with the group and how much they trusted group members. In addition, independent raters analyzed the video recordings, looking for displays of cooperation, verbal and physical signs of bonding or closeness, and expressions of vulnerability that indicated trust.

Regardless of the task, groups with a dog showed more verbal and physical signs of closeness than groups without a dog. Also, raters observed more signs of cooperation during the first task, and group members reported that they trusted each other more during the second task, if a dog was in the room.
These results suggest that there is something about the presence of a dog that increases kind and helpful behavior in groups.

“When people work in teams, the presence of a dog seems to act as a social lubricant,” says lead author Steve Colarelli. “Dogs seem to be beneficial to the social interactions of teams.”

Monday, March 6, 2017

7 Steps Toward Thoughtful Speech

The following is from a recent column in the San Luis Obispo Tribune by Linda Lewis Griffith on Thoughtful Speech.  Here are 7 ways "To Practice Thoughtful Speech."

  1. Pause before speaking. Take some deep breaths. Pull together your ideas. If you don’t yet feel prepared to talk, say, “I’ll get back to you later.” 
  2. Avoid hurtful words and phrases. Speech patterns are habitual. Remove name-calling, expletives and put-downs from your verbal arsenal. 
  3. Don’t speak when you’re angry. When you’re hot under the collar, you want to inflict physical and emotional pain on the nearest target. Instead, back away from the situation. Use de-escalating tactics. 
  4. Never spread lies or rumors. The truth may be open to interpretation. But lies and slander are not acceptable. 
  5. Know when to be silent. 
  6. Be kind even in difficult times. Not every conversation centers around a pleasant topic. In those potentially tense moments, it’s even more important to choose your verbiage carefully. A
  7. Quickly correct mistakes. Admit the wrongdoing and express remorse for having misspoken.

The Wisdom of Rushworth M. Kidder Prevails Today

How Good People Make Tough Choices
Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living
By Rushworth M. Kidder

Excerpts from Rushworth Kidder's book on the morality of mindfulness which enables us to think clearly about thorny ethical issues facing us and the country:

"The world, of course, hardly ever presents a truly level playing field. All things are rarely equal. An action that is right in the abstract may, in the push and pull of human interchange, be less right than some other. That's where the tough choices arise.

"By themselves, these four paradigms won't make those choices for us. It's hard to imagine a leader who succeeds simply by staking out one side of a paradigm and doggedly adhering to it no matter what happens. That's not to say people don't try: In a society schooled on quick fixes and educated by sitcoms that solve everything in half an hour, there is an undeniable temptation to find a formula and live by it. Too often, however, these Johnny-one-notes of the values chorus miss the point. Clinging to one value to the exclusion of others, and failing to assess the complexity of the issues surrounding them, they substitute thoughtless moralizing for moral thinking.

"And for that there is no longer any room. More than ever before, our age is making short shrift of those who preach without acts, indulge selfrighteousness without humility, and chastise others' wrongs without understanding their own. A morality of repetition — mouthing unexamined values inherited from a ghostly past — is rapidly giving way to something new.

"What's coming? That will depend in large part on our responses to the world around us. What's coming, unfortunately, may be a resurgent morality of relativism, in which core values fall into cynical disrepute and cold-blooded self-will finally drives out all vestiges of honesty, love, fairness, and respect.

"On the other hand, what's coming may be a new morality of mindfulness, in which the light of ethical reason and intuition dispels shadows, builds firm conclusions, and leads to goodness, worth, and dignity.

"We will not survive the morality of repetition: The twenty-first century's choices are simply too tough. Nor will we survive the morality of relativism: There is too much leverage these days behind even a single unpunished act of evil. We'll survive by a morality of mindfulness. We'll survive where reason moderates the clash of values and intuition schools our decision-making. There's no better way for good people to make touch choices.

---From Spirituality & Practice

Friday, March 3, 2017

4 Ethical Choices for Today

How Good People Make Tough Choices
Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living
By Rushworth M. Kidder

Excerpts from Rushworth Kidder's book  on the morality of mindfulness which enables us to think clearly about thorny ethical issues facing us and the country.

Compelled to choose between truth and loyalty, I would (all things being equal) come down on the side of truth. One reason: The history of this century suggest that those who put loyalty above truth (loyalty to Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, and even Richard Nixon) are capable of doing terrible damage to the world. It's hard to imagine that kind of damage arising when truth is put above loyalty. Having to choose, I feel safer and more comfortable honoring what is true than following human allegiances.

Compelled to choose between the individual and the community, I would (all things being equal) lean toward the community. One reason: Individualism and its emphasis on rights has run to such extremes in this century that it has done serious damage to community and its emphasis on responsibilities. Were I a citizen of a post-Soviet county, I might feel otherwise: Seventy years of oppressive communism might have driven me to support the individual at any cost. But I'm not: My history, and that of my culture, has been different. Another reason: Community includes self, but self does not always embrace community.

Compelled to choose between short term and long term, I would (all things being equal) favor the long term. One reason: The long term always includes the short term, whereas short-term thinking (as the history of greed in the American 1980's demonstrates) does not always provide for the long term.

Compelled to choose between justice and mercy, I would (all things being equal) stick with mercy, which to me speaks of love and compassion. One reason: I can imagine a world so full of love that justice, as we now know it, would no longer be necessary. But I cannot imagine a world so full of justice that there would no longer be any need for love. Given only one choice, I would take love.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

"Big Ideas" to Benefit Humanity

HarvestPlus, a semifinalist for MacArthur’s $100 million grant, has proposed reducing malnutrition in rural Africa by breeding nutrient-rich staple foods such as orange maize, now being grown by hundreds of thousands of farmers in Zambia.  Harvest Plus photo

Proposals by the Carter Center to eliminate river blindness in Nigeria, by Catholic Relief Services to improve the care of children living in orphanages, and by the Human Diagnosis Project to connect underserved patients virtually with medical specialists are among the eight "big ideas" that will compete for a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation.

"These eight ambitious proposals exemplify the passion, range, and creativity of the hundreds of applications," Julia Stasch, the fund’s president, said in a statement Wednesday announcing the semifinalists in its 100&Change contest. "We hope that the competition inspires individuals and organizations to be bold and think big, because solutions are possible."

To read more: