"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Winning the Oscar vs Marital Infidelity

Using Sandra Bullock and her recent professional glory as well as her personal purgatory as an example, New York Times' op-ed columnist David Brooks asks the question whether the reader would "exchange a tremendous professional triumph for a severe personal blow".

The interesting part of the column comes next. Brooks writes:

"Nonetheless, if you had to take more than three seconds to think about this question, you are absolutely crazy. Marital happiness is far more important than anything else in determining personal well-being. If you have a successful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many professional setbacks you endure, you will be reasonably happy. If you have an unsuccessful marriage, it doesn’t matter how many career triumphs you record, you will remain significantly unfulfilled."

"This isn’t just sermonizing. This is the age of research, so there’s data to back this up. Over the past few decades, teams of researchers have been studying happiness. Their work, which seemed flimsy at first, has developed an impressive rigor, and one of the key findings is that, just as the old sages predicted, worldly success has shallow roots while interpersonal bonds permeate through and through."


"If the relationship between money and well-being is complicated, the correspondence between personal relationships and happiness is not. The daily activities most associated with happiness are sex, socializing after work and having dinner with others. The daily activity most injurious to happiness is commuting. According to one study, joining a group that meets even just once a month produces the same happiness gain as doubling your income. According to another, being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year."

[...] "most of us pay attention to the wrong things. Most people vastly overestimate the extent to which more money would improve our lives. Most schools and colleges spend too much time preparing students for careers and not enough preparing them to make social decisions. Most governments release a ton of data on economic trends but not enough on trust and other social conditions. In short, modern societies have developed vast institutions oriented around the things that are easy to count, not around the things that matter most. They have an affinity for material concerns and a primordial fear of moral and social ones."
Read the entire article here

Monday, March 29, 2010

Depression, Nutrition, and Psychiatry

How wonderful that official organisms such as the American Journal of Psychiatry are finally agreeing that diet can influence mental health. In a recent study by Marlene P. Freeman, M.D., a traditional, a western, and a modern diet were compared:

"Obesity has been identified as a priority area by the National Institute of Mental Health, and studies have demonstrated that more healthful eating patterns are associated with better cardiovascular health. We currently lack data from randomized, controlled trials to demonstrate the efficacy of healthful eating on psychiatric disorders. However, a growing body of epidemiologic evidence supports a relationship between nutrition and mental health. Manifestations of nutritional deficiencies include psychiatric symptoms, and single nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and folate have received attention in epidemiologic and treatment studies targeting mental health. Now, new evidence is emerging regarding specific food intake patterns and risk of depression."

"A traditional diet was associated with a lower risk of a diagnosis of depression or anxiety, and a western diet was associated with a higher rate of depressive disorders."

"Two prospective cohort studies from Spain (6) and the United Kingdom also provide information regarding the relationship between depression and patterns of nutritional intake. In the Spanish study, the Mediterranean dietary pattern was found to confer protection against the development of depression. [...] Particular inverse associations with incident depression were noted with higher consumption of fruit, nuts, and legumes, as well as a higher ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fatty acids. In the U.K. study, a dietary pattern containing higher amounts of processed foods was associated with a higher risk of subsequent development of depressive symptoms. Dietary patterns were assessed for "whole foods" (with fruit, vegetables, and fish characteristic of intake) and processed foods (largely represented by processed meat and bread products and high-fat dairy products). After adjustment for confounding variables, persons in the group with the highest intake of whole foods had the lowest rate of depressive symptoms on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale."

"It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health, and research."

Read entire article here

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Brain Series with Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose, an interviewer with depth on Bloomberg TV, has been offering a monthly series on the brain since October 2009 with a wealth of neuroscientists and researchers. Listed below are links to the first six episodes, along with the transcript for each (in a future blog, other approaches in modern neuroscience, with greater emphasis on what happens to the mindful or meditative brain, will be addressed):

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Original Napoleon Hill on Video

For those of you who enjoyed Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (you can also have a totally free - and legal - copy of the book in ebook format by sending me an email and requesting it), here is the man himself in video format. I have embedded part 1 of 13 below, and have included links to the other parts. You will also be able to download the videos, should you wish to have them on your hard drive.

Part 1:

Part 2: Mastermind Principles click here
Part 3: Going the Extra Mile click here
Part 4: Applied Faith click here
Part 5: A Pleasing Personality click here
Part 6: Personal Initiative click here
Part 7: A Positive Mental Attitude click here
Part 8: Enthusiasm click here
Part 9: Self-Discipline click here
Part 10: Overcoming Adversity and Defeat click here
Part 11: Creative Vision click here
Part 12: Accurate Thinking click here
Part 13: Cosmic Habit Force click here

Friday, March 5, 2010

No Limits...For the Blind

Sabriye Tenberken, a young German woman from Cologne, is pictured above in Tibet. She has been blind since age 13. Here is what was written about her in Time Asia:

"She rides horses to crisscross Tibet's forbidding passes and plateaus. When talking, she looks you straight in the eye and describes things by their colors: the yellow mushrooms or the azure lake. And to greet a visitor, she bounds down a flight of steps in her boarding school for visually impaired children in Tibet's capital Lhasa. In the playground Tenberken points to 15-year-old Ngudup, who is playing a song for her on his guitar. "For 11 years," she says, "he was locked up in a dark room."

Tenberken, 34, has brought light into Ngudup's life and into the lives of the other 48 children at her school. She and her staff don't just teach the kids Tibetan, Chinese and English, and practical skills like making beds and operating computers. They also give their charges dignity. Because of its high-altitude exposure to the sun, Tibet has unusually high rates of eye disease, and because of the prevalence of Buddhist beliefs, blindness is often regarded as punishment for misdeeds in a previous life. When Tenberken first went to Tibet seven years ago, she discovered that Tibetans had no idea what to do with their blind children. "It was depressing," she recalls. "We met kids who had been tied to a bed for years so that they didn't hurt themselves. Some couldn't walk, because their parents hadn't taught them."

Blind from a retinal disease by the time she was 13, Tenberken, who is German, studied for a master's degree in Tibetology at Bonn University and created Tibetan braille. She applied to various nongovernmental organizations to do fieldwork, but none would give her a job. So, along with her Dutch partner, Paul Kronenberg, 35, an engineer, Tenberken headed to Lhasa, waded through reams of red tape and was finally granted permission to open her school, raising the seed money by selling her autobiography. Says Tenberken: "We want to show the kids that they don't have to be ashamed. We want them to stand up and say, 'I am blind, not stupid!' They need to be proud of themselves, gather the strength to cope with discrimination and go out there as messengers for what they've learned." Read the entire article here

In the video interview below, Tenberken's partner refers to one of the blind children in the school who wanted to become a taxi driver. A blind taxi driver? No, he soon realized that would not work. But a blind owner of a company that owns a fleet of taxis? Yes!!!

The video embedded below is 17 minutes long. It's an interview of Sebriye Tenberken and her partner about Braille Without Borders. Unfortunately the image quality is not good, but if you can just listen (and the sound also leaves a bit to be desired), you will be inspired by this courageous young woman who chose not only not to give up, but to help others who had no one else to help them!

If you have any diffculty viewing this video, please click here to go to youtube in order to see it there

Below is Tenberkens' autobiography, as well as a link to the DVD of the movie Blindsight, which filmed an ascent of the Hamalayas by a group of blind teens. By seeing such courage in the face of adversity, we are inspired in our own lives.  Also read Language Affects Our Thinking to see how another exceptional young woman - Aimee Mullin - encourages us to emulate her valour.

"As Long As I Hate Them, They Still Have Me" Nelson Mandela

Watch this two minute video to understand the title of this post:

Unfortunately I had to remove the embedded version of the video as it would start automatically each time anyone clicked on this post. However, clicking on either of the links in the post, you can see it. It is worth watching.

Here's where I found it: The Inspiration Tube

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Purpose in Life

How wonderful to find that research is consistently giving us empirical proof of all the things we know intuitively! It does show us that our second and third brains (all those billions of neural cells in our gut and heart), do offer much intelligence, albeit of another kind than the rational intelligence we are familiar with in our brain. To read more about this, go to my article Introducing Our Second and Third Brains: We Do Think With Our Heart and Instinct .

The research I am referring to is this:
As described in the third article from Medical News Today, purpose in life, or "the psychological tendency to derive meaning from life's experiences and to possess a sense of intentionality and goal directedness that guides behavior, has long been hypothesized to protect against adverse health outcomes".

Also read Finding a Meaning For Your Life on my website.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Emotions and Clogged Arteries

An intelligent health newsletter that I follow is written by Dr. Ben Kim. Not only does he offer sensible information without a constant assault of selling products, but he also offers great recipes that I have frequently put into delicious use.

Today he writes about clogged arteries and while he gives advice from the latest research - specifically from Dr. Dean Ornish, author of such renowned books as:
Dr. Ben Kim is, in fact, in this fascinating article, offering another kind of advice:

"To reduce risk of heart attack and stroke, one of the most important lifestyle choices to make is to learn how to effectively manage emotional stress because it's emotional stress that's most likely to cause rupture of vulnerable plaques in your arteries via sudden constriction that's regulated by your autonomic nervous system."

"Numerous studies clearly indicate that mental and emotional stress - including chronic depression and anger - significantly increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. This is why being in an unhappy long term relationship is arguably just as dangerous to your health as smoking, eating poorly, and not being physically active."

Read the entire article here

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So There IS an Upside to Depression!

If you have not yet read the article my title refers to by Jonah Lehrer in last week's New York Times, you will not have become aware of the fact that he draws attention to research that indicates there may be an upside to depression.

Jonah Lehrer, a young scholar and author of two books: the recent How We Decide as well as the acclaimed Proust Was a Neuroscientist, also writes a highly intelligent blog called The Frontal Cortex and writes articles for publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Seed, The New Yorker, Nature, Wired, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe. He is also a Contributing Editor at Scientific American Mind and National Public Radio's Radio Lab.

Having established those rather impressive credentials, I'd like to draw your attention to his article about depression. In it, he refers to Darwin, highly prone to depression, who said “Work is the only thing which makes life endurable to me,” Darwin wrote and later remarked that it was his “sole enjoyment in life.”

Lehrer continues: "For some unknown reason, the modern human mind is tilted toward sadness and, as we’ve now come to think, needs drugs to rescue itself.

"The alternative, of course, is that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse. Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction. Maybe Darwin was right. We suffer — we suffer terribly — but we don’t suffer in vain."

He refers to researchers Andrews and Thomson who wondered "if rumination had a purpose. They started with the observation that rumination was often a response to a specific psychological blow" and who speculated that “even if you are depressed for a few months, the depression might be worth it if it helps you better understand" life and that there "are insights that can come out of depression, and they can be very valuable.”

"This radical idea — the scientists were suggesting that depressive disorder came with a net mental benefit — has a long intellectual history." Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Milton and Keats were all fore-runner of the concept. But Andrews' and Thomson's "challenge was to show how rumination might lead to improved outcomes, especially when it comes to solving life’s most difficult dilemmas."

They conclude, at least for now: “To say that depression can be useful doesn’t mean it’s always going to be useful,” Thomson says. “Sometimes, the symptoms can spiral out of control. The problem, though, is that as a society, we’ve come to see depression as something that must always be avoided or medicated away. We’ve been so eager to remove the stigma from depression that we’ve ended up stigmatizing sadness.”

For Thomson, this new theory of depression has directly affected his medical practice. “That’s the litmus test for me,” he says. “Do these ideas help me treat my patients better?”

Read the entire article here. And if you got this far, and actually read the article, you may find Lehrer's answer to criticism he received for parts of it - by psychiatrists - of interest as well here.

There is so much more in this fascinating article than what I have reproduced here. I recommend you read it - not because I concur with all it says, but because it allows us a glimpse (via science) to a world not ruled by drugs, and a world that looks at difficult times in a person's life, even when that implies depression, as times through which one can grow and learn and evolve.

Does that mean we need a purpose, a meaning in life? What Darwin referred to as his work? In Darwin's case his work was clearly his purpose and meaning, his work gave his life significance in his own eyes. And that was why it gave him enjoyment.

Related Articles on this blog or at my website: