The Saybrook Forum



If peace is possible in prison, it's possible for us all


Is it possible to find peace even within the confines of prison?

Dublin_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. 

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Is depression part of a balanced breakfast?


Breakfast table Your food may be to blame for your mental illness.

It turns out some of the biggest manufacturers of cereal are fraudulently advertising their ingredients, and what they’re putting into your bodies is bad for your mind.

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.

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Playing well with others is just as crucial as Reading, Writing, and 'Rithmatic


Children_marbles When your mom said “it's important to play well with others!” she wasn’t kidding.

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.

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Anyone selling happiness doesn't know anything about it


Happy Faces Americans, we have been deceived. 

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. 

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Artificial Intelligence's biggest success isn't making computers smarter -- it's making people dumber


Mecha brain Back in 1997, when IBM’s computer “Deep Blue” beat the world’s (human) champion at chess, the news world erupted:  were human beings on the way out?

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. 

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Alumni Messenger

Alumna Roxie McBride, MA '10 Recently Passed Away

Recent MA-MFT grad, Roxie McBride, MA '10 passed away December 30, 2010. She died of bone marrow myeloma within weeks of the cancer’s discovery. She was 56 years old and was happily married with 7 children. From staff member, Susan Tunis: She was lovely, and she had worked so, so hard for her degree. She deserved a long and productive career; I’m sure she would have helped a lot of...

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Alumni Messenger

Alumnus Ken Bradford, PhD '89 Offers 8 Month Advanced Training in Existential-Contemplative Therapy

Authentic Presence: The Art of Psychotherapy A Professional Course with Ken Bradford, PhD An 8 Month Advanced Training in Existential-Contemplative Therapy Berkeley, CA Four Weekends, 36 Hours, $675, Dates TBA, April through December, 2011 Contact Ken Bradford for further information and a flyer:

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Alumni Messenger

Alumna Karen Koepp, PhD '09 Offers Free Webinar for New Saybrook Students: Secrets of Graduate School Success

Secrets of Graduate School Success Free Webinar Saturday, February 12 8:30 am PST Learn and apply project management tools to help you achieve deep learning and maximum progress this semester. This 1-hour interactive workshop will guide you through a process of identifying semester goals and creating an effective semester strategy, including Ø Self-management...

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Children without community suffer the worst effects of poverty


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.

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Alumni Messenger

The Annual Meeting of the Society for Humanistic Psychology, April 14-18, will Feature the Symposium:The New Existentalists: A Revival in Existential Thought and Practice

The New Existentialists: A Revival in Existential Thought and Practice The annual meeting of the Society for Humanistic Psychology (Division 32 in the American Psychological Association) will be held April 14-18 at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The Chicago Symposium will be on The New Existentalists: A Revival in Existential Thought and Practice Existential psychology...

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