Friday, July 21, 2017

Baltimore Program for Students Makes a Difference

Thread photo
Thread engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. We foster students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens.

Compelling Student Success
Thread engages students in the bottom 25% of their freshman class and radically and permanently reconfigures their social support structure. Each student is matched with a group of volunteers and provided individualized support for ten years while working toward realizing his or her potential.

  • 87% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have graduated high school
  • 84% of students who have been in Thread for 5 years have been accepted to college
  • 86% of student alumni have completed a 4 or 2 year degree or certificate program
--From the Thread website






Thursday, July 20, 2017

Study Show Connection Between Generosity and Happiness


...a  study published in Nature Communications suggests we should treat others—or just think about being generous—if we want to feel happier.

Researchers from the University of Zurich in Switzerland told 50 participants they would receive $100 over the course of a few weeks. Half of these people were told to spend the money on themselves while the other half were told to spend it on a friend. Before they received the money, participants were asked to think about who they would spend the money on and how much they’d likely spend. The researchers then scanned regions of participants’ brains associated with “social behavior, generosity, happiness and decision-making” using MRI machines  ... While their brains were being scanned, participants also completed a decision-making task where they could "behave more or less generously," according to the study.

Previous studies have shown that being generous can lead to physical and mental perks, but the goal of this study was to see if simply committing to future generosity could yield similar benefits.

... The researchers found that depending on how they'd been directed to spend the money, participants’ brain activity and decisions changed: those who were told to spend the money on someone else were more likely to make generous decisions on the tasks throughout the experiment compared to the “treat yourself” group. 

The generous group also showed more interaction between the brain regions linked to altruism and happiness ... Plus, generous participants reported being happier once the experiment was over ...

... It's important to note that the researchers aren’t sure if these results hold true if your only motivation is to make yourself happier. Meaning just thinking about doing something nice for another person could make you feel good, but it’s in your best interest to actually follow through on that thought .

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Intentions: A Positive Starting Point


While the original intention of The Daily Prism was/is to focus on the good that occurs daily, helping each other grow in good, advice from leaders in the positive movement does fit into this blog's intention. It's a natural growth as we ride out this cycle of time.

The following is a lightly edited (for space) post by Deepak Chopra, MD, "5 Steps to Setting Powerful Intentions."

Intention is the starting point of every dream. It is the creative power that fulfills all of our needs, whether for money, relationships, spiritual awakening, or love.

Everything that happens in the universe begins with intention. When I decide to buy a birthday present, wiggle my toes, or call a friend, it all starts with intention.

In my book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, the Law of Intention and Desire lays out the five steps for harnessing the power of intention to create anything you desire.

1. Slip into the Gap
Most of the time our mind is caught up in thoughts, emotions, and memories. Beyond this noisy internal dialogue is a state of pure awareness that is sometimes referred to as “the gap.” One of the most effective tools we have for entering the gap is meditation. Meditation takes you beyond the ego-mind into the silence and stillness of pure consciousness. This is the ideal state in which to plant your seeds of intention

2. Release Your Intentions and Desires
Once you’re established in a state of restful awareness, release your intentions and desires. The best time to plant your intentions is during the period after meditation, while your awareness remains centered in the quiet field of all possibilities. After you set an intention, let it go—simply stop thinking about it. Continue this process for a few minutes after your meditation period each day.

3. Remain Centered in a State of Restful Awareness
Intention is much more powerful when it comes from a place of contentment than if it arises from a sense of lack or need. Stay centered and refuse to be influenced by other people’s doubts or criticisms. Your higher self knows that everything is all right and will be all right, even without knowing the timing or the details of what will happen.

4. Detach from the Outcome
Relinquish your rigid attachment to a specific result and live in the wisdom of uncertainty. Attachment is based on fear and insecurity, while detachment is based on the unquestioning belief in the power of your true Self. Intend for everything to work out as it should, then let go and allow opportunities and openings to come your way.

5. Let the Universe Handle the Details
Your focused intentions set the infinite organizing power of the universe in motion. Trust that infinite organizing power to orchestrate the complete fulfillment of your desires. Don’t listen to the voice that says that you have to be in charge, that obsessive vigilance is the only way to get anything done. The outcome that you try so hard to force may not be as good for you as the one that comes naturally. You have released your intentions into the fertile ground of pure potentiality, and they will bloom when the season is right.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Four Thoughts About the Art of Kindness


With a concerted effort of living with kindness, it is possible that this current flood of discontent would subside.

The following four thoughts of developing and living with more kindness is an edited version (for space) of the original post "A Bouquet of Kindness Practices."

Visualize Loving Kindness

"Practice these two visualization exercises daily. Wake up each morning and stand in front of a mirror, seeing your body as the incarnate Name of God. As you go about your day, see everyone and everything as the Name as well. Listen for your angel announcing your true nature, and listen for the angels of others doing the same. In time you will break up the hard-packed soil of the narrow mind and plant in it the seeds of lovingkindness that will soon grow and awaken in you the spacious mind that is your holy and most true self."

Serve Others with Kindness

"A rabbi I know devotes one day a week to simply being of service. She gets up in the morning and dedicates the day to God. She then leaves her home for the city close by and wanders about looking for ways to be of service to others. 'I have no plan for the day, other than to be present to what needs doing and to do those things I can without pride or prejudice. Sometimes I will find myself helping someone move into or out of an apartment, or sitting with the homeless, or walking tourists to their destination. The idea is to be free of any idea other than to serve, to befriend, to be kind."

Be Kind in Speech

"Avoiding hurtful speech has as much to do with how you say something as it does with what you wish to say: Keep it simple; stick to what you know to be true; and move on."


Preserve Kindness

"How do we preserve kindness? We preserve kindness the way we preserve any other value we cherish — we tell stories about it. Preserving kindness means telling stories of loving kindness from your past, but not only your personal past. Working this attribute means exploring your family history to find stories of loving kindness. Talk with relatives and explore your collective memories to sift out these tales. They may be small incidents of kindness that were largely unnoticed at the time, but which, in hindsight, are the stuff of kindness tales. When you find these stories, share them. The more you tell them, the more kindness will take root.

"One of the best ways to practice preserving kindness is to create a ethical will. Writing an ethical will is a centuries-old Jewish practice that is making a comeback among Jews and others. Originally an oral tradition, with parents passing on their values, blessings, life lessons, and forgiveness to their children, ethical wills have been committed to writing for the past one thousand years."

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Loving while Hating Your Partner -- 7 Relationship Survival Steps



It's true, we can't always love the one with are with all the time. Sometimes partners just get on your nerves.  But if we can't always love the one we are with, what steps can we take to make sure those moments of not loving, are pastuerised to remove any lingering toxins?  The following is a severely reduced take of a post from the Greater Good Magazine,  "What to Do When You Hate the One You Love."

Have you ever hated your partner?

You are not alone: It turns out that almost all of us have times when we strongly dislike the people we love the most—although some of us may not even realize it.

In a series of studies, Vivian Zayas and Yuichi Shoda found that people don’t just love or hate significant others. They love and hate them—and that’s normal. The key to getting through the inevitable hard times, as my own research suggests, is to never stop trying to understand where your partner is coming from.

So how do you increase understanding during conflict? Here are seven suggestions for how to think and act to do so.

  1. Instead of asserting your own point of view, try to take your partner’s perspective. Make it your goal to understand why your partner feels the way they do.
  2. Avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
  3. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Assume that their intentions are not malicious.
  4. Take a moment to reflect on your partner’s positive traits. You can even try some gratitude-inducing techniques.
  5. Think of you and your partner as a team, rather than opponents. Your goal is to figure out together why you do not see eye-to-eye and find a solution; it is not to win the fight and prove your partner wrong.
  6. Recognize that it won’t always be easy to follow these suggestions, especially if your partner isn’t playing by the same rules.
  7. Give yourself a mantra to repeat when you start feeling angry to help you remember your goal—even something as simple as “be understanding.”

Friday, July 14, 2017

10 Positive Statements for a Better World


Regardless of one's belief-system, these 10 statements spoken within or aloud, may help lessen the daily challenges and bring a more positive attitude to brighten the world.  The following was written by Jean Houston, Ph.D., a scholar, philosopher and researcher in Human Capacities.

Say aloud and in your heart’s mind (and mind’s heart) the following:

  1. I live in the present moment. I will not obsess about the past or worry about the future. I know that with quantum practice I have access to entering and making whatever changes I wish in the worlds of past and future, for I live in the eternal present.
  2.  I cultivate the art of making connections—cosmic connections, local connections. I pay attention to how my life is intimately related to all life. I become the friend of nature and preserve her beauty and harmony wherever and whenever I can.
  3.  I am thankful for all the blessings in my life. I spell out my days with the grammar of gratitude. I speak forth my gratitude: “Thank you for this food and all who worked to bring it forth. Thank you, Grandma, wherever you are, for teaching me how to cook.”
  4. I practice hospitality in a world where too often strangers are feared, enemies are hated, and the other is shunned. I see no one as other. I welcome guests and even people with very different ideas from mine with graciousness, with deep seeing of the fullness and wonder of the other.
  5.  I seek liberty and justice for all. I will work for a free and a fair world, a world that works for everyone.
  6.  I add to the planet’s fund of goodwill by practicing little acts of kindness, brief words of encouragement, and manifold expressions of courtesy.
  7.  I cultivate the skills of deep listening. I will cross the great divide of otherness. I remember that all things in the world want to be heard, as do the many voices inside of me.
  8. I practice reverence for life by seeing the sacred in, with, and under all things of the world. Everything exists within the field of the sacred.
  9.  I give up trying to hide, deny, or escape from my imperfections. I listen to what my shadow side says, but I will not just live there. I know that I am releasing many of these old forms, these old shadows, and I am bringing in light to banish shadow and to bring me into luminous light and life.
  10. I am willing to learn from the spiritual teachers all around me, however unlikely or unlike me they may be.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

First Step to Happiness: Gratitude





The following is an excerpt from "Three Things I Learned from Teaching Happiness" by
Emiliana Simon-Thomas 

Whenever I teach the science of happiness, I try to leave people with something they can do right after they walk out of the room. Often the simplest, most accessible message is gratitude. Feeling grateful fosters a more accurate understanding of happiness, strengthening our social connections and motivating us to engage and give back to others. Gratitude is often a theme of mindfulness practices, and is squarely focused on the role that others play in our own life’s goodness. Reflecting upon and expressing gratitude is an exercise in capitalizing on enjoyment, building trust, and softening self-focus; we acknowledge what is good and attribute the source of that goodness to others, and this can help anyone avoid the common pitfalls of pursuing happiness.

How can we get better at expressing gratitude? Try this: when thanking someone,
1) say what they did that you are thankful for,
2) acknowledge the effort it took for them to do this, and
3) describe how it was good for you.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Morning Prayer


Cholla Garden Sunrise

Prayer for the Morning

by Audette Fulbright Fulson


Did you rise this morning,
broken and hung over
with weariness and pain
and rage tattered from waiting to lawn in a brutal wind?
Get up, child.
Pull your bones upright
gather your skin and muscle into a patch of sun,
Draw breath deep into your lungs;
you will need it
for another day calls to you.
I know you ache.
I know you wish the work were done
and you
with everyone you have ever loved
were on a distant shore
safe, and unafraid.
But remember this,
tired as you are:
you are not alone.
Here
and here
and here also
there are others weeping
and rising
and gathering their courage.
You belong to them
and they you
and together,
we will break through
and bend the art of justice
ll the way down
into their lives.


By Audette Fulson, an ordained Unitarian minister in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Solace for Sidney. Fighting Childhood Cancer

Sidney, an 11-year-old fighting childhood cancer 


There are days when we are so caught up in the world's hoopla of politics and crazy-humanity, that we don't always capture the moments when humanity takes charge and people walk away from political discourse, name calling, war-zones, and all that stuff that is truly temporary and nothing more than humans behaving badly. Today is one of those days. The news is grim and the players and their puppets take the spotlight when they should be reduced to nothing more than dust.  Today, real people with real world issues have stepped up to ask for help and support for the children and the families of children dealing with childhood cancer.

Let's dump the divisiveness and work for our greater good, which includes our children, as exampled in this recent Go Fund Me project, Solace for Sidney.

From the Go Fund Me page:

Solace means to provide comfort in a time of distress or sadness. Imagine being 11 years old and having to face cancer not once, not twice, but three times in your life? Sidney is an AMAZING 11 year old girl who beat Leukemia twice, but has tragically just learned that she has two inoperable brain tumors. Despite all of her challenges, Sidney has remained a light in the world. As the family is forced to once again make heart wrenching decisions, they want to continue to give Sidney opportunities and experiences that will bring joy to her life. Sidney is legally blind from treatments, but that does not keep her from attending music and theater events and amusement parks. We are hoping that through this fundraising, it can help provide financial relief for the family so they can plan special events that they will treasure and remember forever. 

Sidney was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in June of 2007 and completed treatment in August of 2009. After a great year of getting to be a normal kid, she relapsed in August of 2010.  She had a leukemic tumor in her brain that was wrapping itself around her optic nerve, and small leukemic masses all around the outside of her brain and spine.   After several treatments, her end result was limited vision in her left eye (3/200) and her right eye was totally blind. Anything further than 2-3 feet from her face she cannot see. Sidney was getting adapted to her new life with blindness.  Now after seven years, Sidney is back in the cancer world for the third time with tumors that are high-grade, aggressive gliomas. Radiation will begin after the July 4th holiday and go for 6-7 weeks. After that it will be up to her family to determine next steps.  

Help us relieve the financial burden from Sidney’s family so they can focus on what matters most: providing solace for Sidney during this time of distress.

Please see Sidney's CaringBridge site for updates: 
Sidney's CaringBridge Site Updates 

From the page by Sidney's mother:

From Sidney's CaringBridge: 
I’m sorry I’ve been silent for the past 3 weeks. I don’t know what to say. My thoughts are a constant stream of 
“Is this real?” 
“What are we going to do?” 
“Am I doing right by Sidney?”
“How am I supposed to make these decisions?
“Try to be positive Jackie”
“Screw ‘positive’, this sucks”
“How do I DO this?”
“It’s worse this time than ever before”
“What if…”
But in person I’m a constant stream of
“Sidney is feeling good today!”
“She had some good moments today”
“We’re all good on our end today, thank you!”
“Sid is going to kick cancer’s ass!”
“We’re focusing on the good times!”

Because what am I supposed to say? I know I can say whatever I’m feeling…but what I’m feeling is pretty negative and I just refuse to live my life negatively every day. And I refuse to teach Sidney to live negatively…even though she has every right at this moment to live that way! So…I think fearfully every single day but I live positively each day (well, most days I try to! Just ask my fiancĂ© Jared, I’m not perfect at this but I do try!). Because it’s a choice. And I’m hoping it rubs off on Sid so she can get through as much of this with a smile as she can.

Sidney starts 30 rounds of targeted radiation today. She will go to the hospital every week day for the next 6 weeks for radiation and take an oral chemotherapy at night. Doctors tell us this course of action will slow down the growth of the tumors but will not eradicate them. We are told the tumors will never be eradicated and that more tumor growth is likely. We aren’t just sitting around accepting that diagnosis but it’s still a tough one to hear.

At this moment, Sidney is struggling emotionally more than anything. She is 11-years-old and she isn’t stupid. We’ve told her she has brain tumors and that she had surgery so the doctors could look at the tumors and remove some of it. We’ve told her that she is doing radiation to shrink the tumors. We’ve told her that the tumors are pushing on parts of her brain that cause her vision to get fuzzy, that cause her speech to get slurred, that cause her to run into walls when she walks, that caused the facial seizures, that cause her to feel wonky. We’ve told her that all the medication she is taking is to help the swelling in her brain and to help her not have seizures anymore. She understands all of that.

What she doesn’t understand is why everyone is making such a big deal of it. She says, “Why are people so worried about me? People make such a big deal of me being sick. It’s not a big deal, especially for someone like me. I’ll just get better, I always do.” And she’s right. She always has. This time there is just so much uncertainty and there is just not a reason right now to burden Sidney with that uncertainty. After all, she’s only 11. But she has had so many visitors, so many phone calls, so many gifts that she is confused about why she’s getting all that attention. (I am so thankful and humbled by all that attention, it’s honestly wonderful!) We are just trying to figure out how to balance that line between telling Sidney enough so that she understands, but not so much to scare her. So far we’re just doing the best we can.

So that’s where we are at the moment. I’ll end this by saying thank you to all who are praying. I have been struggling to pray because I just don’t know what to pray for. I want to pray for His will but I get so distracted and I just can’t finish one single prayer. He is a constant in my thoughts, but I continue to struggle to put my thoughts into prayer. So, those of you who are praying, thank you.
Jackie

https://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sidney/journal



Friday, July 7, 2017

4 Steps to Increase Your Altruism (& a Quiz too!)



Want to discover new ways to boost your habits of helping? Here are some tips and exercises:


  • Fill a day with kindness. According to research, acts of kindness have a bigger impact on our happiness when we perform them all at once, rather than sporadically. Pack one day a week with five acts of kindness, such as feeding a stranger's parking meter, donating blood, helping a friend with a chore, or providing a meal to a person in need.
  • Get connected.We’re more likely to behave altruistically when we feel close and connected to others. To bolster those feelings, try the Feeling Connected practice, where you reflect and write about a moment when you feel very connected to someone. Also consider adding reminders of connectedness to your home or work space.
  • Feel good about giving. Not all giving is creating equal. When we give in ways that not only help others but also make us feel good, we’re more likely to make giving a habit. Research has found that the most happiness-inducing acts of giving don’t feel like an obligation, and they allow us to connect with others and see the impact of our help. So consider choosing activities where you get to spend time with recipients—like helping a friend move or volunteering at a soup kitchen—or donate to charities that clearly explain where your money is going.
  • Visualize and reflect on giving. According to Stephen Post, we can expand our everyday habits of generosity with a few simple exercises, including journaling about the ways we give to others and receive gifts from them, and visualizing how we could help people we encounter on a daily basis.

TAKE AN ALTRUISM QUIZ AND DISCOVER WHERE YOU STAND WHEN IT COMES TO HELPING OTHERS:    ALTRUISM QUIZ


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Transform Your Words



The Daily Prism has extracted a few paragraphs on words from an essay, Transform Your Words in 4 Steps written by Tony Robbins:


  • If somebody asks you, “How’s it going?” instead of saying, “Okay,” what would be a word that might put a smile on your face to even say, that would break your own pattern? Like, “You wouldn’t even believe how I’m feeling!” with a smile, to be playful with yourself. Or a simple response like “I’m committed” or “I’m lucky” or “I’m grateful.” And then take a moment to think about what you are grateful for. We often lose sight of what’s beautiful in our life because of a few things that are out of line with our expectations.
  • Write down three words you currently use on a regular basis that intensify your negative feelings or emotions. Maybe you use words like “I’m frustrated,” “I’m depressed,” or “I’m humiliated.” Come up with alternative words that will lower the intensity of those negative emotions. Maybe instead of “depressed” you say you are “a little bit down.”
  • What would happen if instead of saying you feel “humiliated” you say you are “uncomfortable” with how the situation was dealt with? You can soften emotional intensity even further by using modifiers like “I’m just a bit peeved,” or, “I’m feeling a tad out of sorts.”
  • Write down three words that you use to describe your experience that is somewhat positive. When someone says, “how’s it going?” come up with three alternative words that will amplify and intensify the positive feelings and inspire you. Instead of talking about how things are “all right,” replace those words with “incredible,” “outrageous,” and “spectacular.” What’s a positive word that if you really thought about your whole life, you could say and own congruently?
  • By carefully and consciously selecting the words you are attaching to your experiences and doing it for a ten-day period, you’ll find an immediate change in how you feel and this becomes positively addictive. I can tell you for those who have lived this ten-day plan,