Posts tagged psychology
Social Dominance and the Psychology of Climate Change

There is a studied link between mindfulness and pro-environmental behaviors, but that is not the point here. Mindfulness is the art of directing awareness with openness, curiosity and flexibility. One is guided in this practice to be present with what is by paying attention to different aspects of experience, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and responding wisely. The point, according to most contemplative traditions, is to look deeper into and understand the nature of our suffering - both individually and collectively.

In the wake of wildfires, earthquakes, flooding and other storms - by now, most of us probably know someone who has been significantly impacted, perhaps even displaced, by weather. So, what is the right balance of attention with respect to awareness of the alarming trends and moral responsibility within our sphere of influence and meeting all the other demands of modern life? Especially in a society where more than 75% live paycheck to paycheck and more than half do not have enough savings to manage an unexpected $400 expense, it can be overwhelming and lead us to tune out and become unmindful.

Poverty, mental illness, addiction, and divorce are examples of common real-life challenges that may feel like and actually be more of an existential threat to one's family than global warming and certainly less abstract. But, how might the psychology be different if we could see CO2 gas in the sky or even in our home? Because everywhere, the parts per million has invisibly risen above 400 for the first time in 800,000 years, which has long been thought to be a safety threshold. This increase may begin to have negative effects on human cognition and decision-making in addition to dangerously warming the planet.

It gets more complicated with all the mixed messages, limitations in communicating science, denial, guilt and blame with respect to the multi-dimensional nature of the problem of pollution - from individual and industrial to political and spiritual.

There is one insight that is so fundamental and largely overlooked altogether. Upon knowing, one could hypothesize that global warming due to human activity is not the core problem but a symptom of something much more insidious. Still, I think there is some hope for a solution and a great turning. It is unlikely to begin with individuals extraordinarily repairing their relationship with the Earth but rather with each other.

(Episode design by Dove Dahlia)

Travel with a Lantern and a Star

Image by Dove Dahlia

Travel to new places, especially abroad, changes you forever and can reshape the mind in many positive ways.

To immerse oneself in a new culture is like turning back the clock and recapturing the child-like magic of wonder where, once again, everything feels like the first time. Words and images along with sensations and experiences can be totally fresh. This can lead to spontaneous mindfulness as abstract thought about the past and future loses its allure when our routine and its spell is totally broken.

A recent study revealed that even the anticipation of such a trip makes a person happier. The moods of subjects waiting in line for an experience were much more elevated than those waiting in line for things.

New environments help the brain to grow and remain sharp. Evidence suggests that creativity and problem-solving skills are enhanced by a whopping 50% by foreign travel, because the brain adapts and forms new connections that lead to cognitive flexibility and integration of thought.

More importantly, cross cultural experiences foster a deeper sense of self. Venturing beyond our social comfort zones and engaging in a meaningful way with people of totally different backgrounds and perspectives allows for the shedding of limiting beliefs about who we really are.

Symbol on the Psyche

The lotus flower grows in murky ponds which is a metaphor for making life beautiful regardless of the circumstances. And its leaf sits on top of the water but does not get wet. I was amazed when I took a lotus leaf and dunked it in water and watched all the drops roll right off like little balls of mercury. So it grows in that water but is unaffected by it.

This episode explores the deeper meaning of significant symbols from cultures around the world and various spiritual traditions and how to find symbols in daily life to guide our mindfulness practice.

"A symbol is an important thing. That is why we chose an Aztec eagle. It gives pride...When people see it they know it means dignity." -Cesar Chavez

(Image by Dove Dahlia)

Epic Philosophy of Epictetus
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Many people may think of stoicism as putting on a strong face during adversity and forcing oneself to endure without complaining. 

But stoicism is also a system of philosophy with a set of mindful principles that were carefully studied and practiced by big thinkers of ancient Greece. When a seeker deeply contemplates and scientifically experiments with these precepts, the inner resources to pass life's seemingly harshest tests will manifest even before they are needed and one can experience more mental balance like a calm mountain during a storm.

This episode explores a few of the stoic insights from a 2,000 year old text known as "The Manual" to see how this ancient wisdom can apply to modern living. Excerpts rendered into contemporary English by Sam Torode.

(Episode image by Dove Dahlia)

Putting The Awe Back In Awesome

We use the word "awesome" very loosely in conventional speech - typically to describe someone, something or a situation that's agreeable or favorable in any way. But the genuine feeling or experience of awe is rarer, much deeper and less understood when compared with other emotions. However, emerging research, such as that conducted by psychologists Keltner and Haidt, is helping to unravel this mysterious state of consciousness and it's evolutionary potential.

Awe may best be defined as a blurring of the emotional boundaries between admiration and fear. Therefore, some psychologists hypothesize that it is felt in the autonomic nervous system when both the fight-flight and relaxation responses are turned "on" - to some extent - at the same time.

This feeling can be triggered by encounters with vastness or in the presence of unfathomable qualities in nature, art, technology and people. MRI studies point to a reduction of activity in the parietal lobe of the brain. This region is involved with our sense of self as distinct in space, and inactivity in that part of the cortex may account for or correlate to self-transcendence and a sense of oneness. These brain and perceptual changes have also been observed in studies of meditation, sensory deprivation, and psychedelic drugs.

Awe is not nearly as inaccessible as it sounds. It is uncommon because it is subtle. Thus, mindfulness may be our most practical tool to safely explore this state and derive it's unique benefits.

(Episode artwork by Dove Dahlia)

Clarity: Cutting Through The Clouds

Beyond the clouds, the sky is always clear. Similarly, most diamonds have flaws known as cloud inclusions, which reduce the clarity of the otherwise precious crystal and limit its brilliance or shine. A diamond is the most concentrated form of pure carbon on Earth, and the flaws are often hard to detect with the naked eye. 

The human mind also has subtle clouds that obstruct mental clarity. In psychology, these are known as cognitive biases or heuristics - patterns of flawed shortcuts in the brain.

This episode explores some of the most interesting distortions that block clear thinking. By cutting through these clouds, we can naturally illuminate the mind and let the light of knowledge shine through us.

(Episode artwork by Dove Dahlia)

Silence Is The Musician's Canvas
silence

Is silence really silent? Ordinarily, we have minimal access to and even avoid silence until it's time to retire for sleep. This episode explores the deeper significance of silence as evidenced in the work of two legendary musician philosophers of the 20th century - one trained in Western Classical music and the other in Eastern Classical music.

(Music "Through The Prism" courtesy of and written by Chris Russell)

Bouncing Back: New perspectives on resilience
Resilience

Psychological resilience typically refers to the ability to regain emotional balance and stability after encountering stressful or traumatic events.  This talk explores how emotional maturity, positive attitude, and creativity influence this life skill.   Also included are recent studies and scientific evidence that expand our conventional understanding of resilience and demonstrate the need for mindful strategies for changing our relationship with problems.

(Music by Christopher Lloyd Clarke, licensed from Enlightened Audio)