Is it possible to find peace even within the confines of prison?
For 43- inmates of the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility just outside of Birmingham, Alabama, many of whom are serving life sentences without possibility of parole, inner peace has indeed become attainable. They’ve taken 10-day, in house, Vipassanā meditation retreat ... and. the results are looking pretty good.
The William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility is the set for the documentary The Dhamma Brothers. The 2007 film focused on the prisoner meditation program and followed four inmates, convicted of murder, through their progress of learning and practicing Vipassanā.
Vipassanā is one of two types of meditation practice in the Buddhist Tradition that is sometimes referred to as “Insight meditation” here in the U.S. Insight into self is the primary focus of this meditation practice: it is a way of self-transformation through observing self. The practice focuses in on the deep connection between the mind and the body. That focus is achieved in meditation by paying attention to physical sensation in the body.
Someone who is in prison can’t go far ... there are walls everywhere. But they can go deep. Someone who has been convicted of a crime can’t change their past, but they can get insight into their present, and insight into themselves. Imagine the impact that an intensive study of Insight Meditation could have.
But we don’t have to imagine.
General Mills Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal, Kellogs Frosted Blueberry Mini Wheats, Kelloggs Special K Fruit Crisps, Fiber One Blueberry Muffin Mixes—[please insert your non-organic cereal name here] do not contain the ingredients in their pictures or their names.
These breakfast foods and countless others do not have real blueberries, pomegranates or the other fruits they purport to have. Instead, those colorful little antioxidant look-a-like berries in the names and package pictures of your breakfast foods are actually hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars! Yup, you read that correctly—its sugar and chemical specifically red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2, dextrose, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, citric oil, high fructose corn syrup—the list is endless.
If I were you, I would run to your cabinet and pitch these breakfast chemicals in your nearest wastebasket.
Guess what else these dishonest companies are marketing to your body? Depression and Anxiety. Recent studies published by Psychology Today suggest that the chemicals and sugar based diets of Americans could be causing and worsening Major Depressive Disorder and a litany of other psychological and psychiatric conditions.
A new meta-analysis shows that teaching children how to play well with others has far reaching benefits – it helps kids emotionally, socially and academically.
This is the first large-scale meta-analysis (review of relevant research literature) of school programs that focus on helping students improve their relationships with others and themselves
The research study looked at classroom based instruction conducted by the students’ teacher or by an outside instructor such as a university researcher. They looked at programs that were taught by a combination of classroom based instruction, additional school programs such as afterschool programs and within families.
They reviewed 213 school based programs focused on social and emotional development that were available to all students who did not have any identified behavioral issues. The programs included more than 270,000 K-12 students from rural, suburban and urban schools and crossed socio cultural backgrounds.
The great news is that students who were in these types of program showed an improvement in their social and emotional skills. This means that these kids were far more caring, aware, less stressed and anxious and acted in positive ways with others in their schools and lives. The improvements were small but present nonetheless compared to the control group.
The great rat race doesn’t bring happiness! More money doesn’t either! Forgot what you were told: more espresso shots to stay awake at work, Ambien to stay asleep at night, and Prozac to keep you from screaming aren’t actually inching you any closer to a happy life.
Throw out your self-help books and career guides. It turns out happiness doesn’t come from success, success comes from happiness.
If you want to be happy, research shows, deepen your sense of identity, your sense of intrinsic value, and find your purpose in life. Do that, and success will follow. Nothing else counts for nearly as much as we’ve been promised.
Artificial Intelligence's biggest success isn't making computers smarter -- it's making people dumber02/04/2011
Well, were they?
Today it doesn’t seem like it. I doubt you can come up with a single substantive way that a computer being better at chess than Gary Kasparov has affected your life. Sure, you use computers even more now, in even more ways, than you did ten years ago ... but that no longer feels threatening. In fact, when IBM’s newest supercomputer “Watson” beat the all-time (human) Jeopardy champion in a test match, nobody panicked.
The success of Artificial Intelligence (AI) doesn’t seem to threaten humanity at all.
But the failure of AI may be doing lasting and terrible damage.
Artificial Intelligence is much better understood through its failures than its successes. Sure, we’ve taught a computer to win at Jeopardy, but was that actually something we set out to do? No – the field set out to create true “thinking machines.” In 1963 the scientists at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Laborabory (SAIL) anticipated that making a computer capable of truly understanding the world as people do would take about a decade. Alan Turing expected AI machines to be able to make moral judgments.
Today we’re not even close – even Watson, the Jeopardy winning computer, doesn’t “understand” the world, it just searches the web for terms that are linked together. It’s found that “Jericho” is the link between “Joshua,” “city,” and “walls fell.”
But rather than admitting failure and thereby celebrating what human intelligence is, AI researchers ... and the business world ... are trying to pull human intelligence down to the level of a machine.
It’s been well established that poverty hurts the well being of children. Bad health, obesity, mental illness – these are associated with childhood poverty and everybody knows it. What we’re discovering now is that a lack of community engagement and connections caused by poverty might be a cause.
A new study published in Psychological Science, looked at the long term outcomes for children who were living in poverty in rural upstate New York. Over ten years ago a research team lead by Gary Evans of Cornell University were looking for an answer to the question “What is it about poverty that leads to these negative outcomes?” Their research study shows that the lack of financial capital isn’t the only factor.
At least, we didn’t. As it happens, somebody predicted exactly what was going to happen in those countries ... and in Iran, and in Jordon.
In fact, three academics developed a model of predicting political turmoil that is now 7 for 7 on predictions of global unrest.
The Predictive Societal Indicators of Radicalism Model of Domestic Political Violence Forecast was developed by two Kansas State University professors, Sam Bell Amanda Murdie in collaboration with Professor Cingranelli at SUNY Binghamton University. It lists 37 nations that the model believes will see domestic political uprisings in the next five years – and so far all seven nations to do so since the 2010 predictions were made (including Iran, Tunisia, and Egypt) are, in fact, on the list.
The tool was developed for an Open Innovation company called Milcord that builds knowledge management systems for federal governments. The researchers compiled a database based on public information on 150 countries. The data cover the amount and intensity of politically motivated domestic violence spanning two decades from 1990-2009. The violence includes a full spectrum from non-violent sit-ins that go over the edge to politically motivated bombings.
The trouble with the debate sparked by Amy Chua’s book is that it assumes that the only relevant questions in parenting are: how authoritarian are you?
There’s no question Chua went over the top: when she writes about forcing her children to sit for hours with threats of no food, no water, no bathroom, until you perform perfectly ... doesn’t that sound like torture? But there’s also no evidence to suggest that lax parenting is a good thing. Authoritarian ... permissive ... is this really what matters in how happy and well adjusted children become?
A recent study out of Hong Kong suggests it's not. This 2010 longitudinal study of 346 Hong Kong 7th graders found that the degree to which 7th graders thought their mothers cared about them was more relevant to their long-term life satisfaction than how strict their mothers were.
In other words, how “authoritarian” and “permissive” mothers were didn’t actually matter all that much – but their relationship with the child, how loved the child felt and how much the children thought they mattered – was pretty important.
In a report entitled The Children Left Behind, UNICEF reported its findings on how children in the richest country are being cared for.
A UNICEF report (PDF) called “The Children Left Behind” shows that one fourth of American children are in poverty.
Does that matter? Morally and ethically, of course it does – but it also matters developmentally, as new research shows that while spending money for already well-off kids does little to improve their brain power, growing up in poverty can cause significant drops in intellectual capacity
Money doesn’t increase intelligence, but poverty can decrease it.
Here is a glance at the research:
Do you know what ruins intimate partner relationships? If you are thinking the obvious, cheating, try again. You very well might not guess this one – but you should know it, because it ranks up in the top three reasons couples split, relationships end, and divorce proceedings occur.
The culprit? Financial Infidelity.
Yup, it is about that pesky almighty green dollar bill. And, researchers tell us it is one of the biggest stressors for middle-aged Americans.
Money + relationships = volatile territory. Financial infidelity involves lying to one’s significant other about any aspect of money or finances.
Here is the clincher—it may be just as damaging to a couple’s relationship as sexual infidelity.
Harris Interactive, Redbook, and Lawyers.com researched this delicate subject and found startling results. Out of the over 1,700 couples studied, twenty four percent believed financial infidelity was worse than sexual infidelity. Twenty-nine percent admitted lying to their partner regarding finances; most often because of excessive spending on personal shopping. And more-- twenty five percent reported being lied to by their partner regarding some aspect of their combined financial state. If you do the arithmetic, over fifty four percent of couples lie to each other about their spending habits and earnings.