Archives For: March 2009

Dreams are made of better stuff


It was, according to the New York Times, a breakthrough in the study of dreams.

“(S)ocial scientists now have answers,” about what dreams “mean,” wrote Times science blogger John Tierny, “and really, it’s about time.”

He was referring to a meta-analysis published by the APA showing that “people engage
in motivated interpretation of their dreams and that these interpretations impact their everyday lives.”

In other words, there is a selection bias in the way we interpret dreams:  we’re more likely to act on the basis of dreams that reinforce our existing prejudices, and less likely to believe in dreams that tell us things we don’t want to hear.

Voila! Tierny wrote.  These “suspiciously convenient correlations” mean that your dreams mean “whatever your bias says.”  Problem solved.

Saybrook’s experts in dream studies are not impressed. 

“I find it interesting and not a little amusing that one should do studies to show that our cultures and belief systems influence how we interpret dreams,” says Claire Frederick, a faculty member in Saybrook’s Mind-Body Medicine and Consciousness and Spirituality programs.  “From a strictly neuroscience point of view, this seems obvious.”

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Be a Librarian: See the World


For Annemarie Welteke, the only problem with her job as a librarian is the marketing:  she thinks the Navy stole her slogan.
“You know how they used to say ‘see the world, join the Navy?’” Saybrook’s librarian asks.  “I always think of it as:  see the world, become a librarian.  I know it’s not so common an experience, but really the job of librarian is much the same throughout the world.  Having worked in five different countries, I can practice as a librarian anywhere.”
Recently she had a chance to prove it, when – as the recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Senior Specialist award – Annemarie served as a peer advisor to the national library of Bahrain, and to the library of the University of Bahrain. 
For anyone else, this might have been the opportunity of a lifetime.  But for Annemarie, it was one more stop in a lifetime of opportunities. 
Annemarie’s career has taken her from Japan (three years) to Ethiopia (nine years) to India (one year) and to the U.S.  Here at Saybrook, she found her intellectual home – but of course she wanted to travel again.  

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Research Opportunity: Discover the "Power of Place"


We’ve all been to a “special place” – even if we couldn’t explain what that meant.  Some places are romantic, others profound, and some have history written all over them.

How does that happen?  How do they get that way?  Most importantly, could such places, and the way we relate to them, cultivate them, and care for them, have a powerful impact on what happens there? 

Saybrook Organizational Systems alumna Renee Levi is heading up a new research project on the Power of Places to influence people and events. 

The Powers of Place Collaborative (website currently under construction) is an 18-month initiative supported by the Fetzer Institute and the Berkana Institute that will “catalyze a new field of study and practice based on the premise that right relationship between people and the places in which they gather offers the potential for transformative action needed change in the world,” Levi says. 

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Is a "Nanny" state a "healthy" state?


It didn’t get much buzz in America, but across the pond Britons are still talking (so we’re told) about a BBC commentary made last month by Dr Alan Maryon-Davis, the President of the UK Faculty of Public Health.

In it, Dr. Maryon-Davis says that public health has become a significant enough social issue that the government must intervene at far more significant levels to ensure participation and effectiveness.  Sound like a “nanny state?”  Yes, says Maryon-Davis, it does:  and that’s not a bad thing.

“Is the government 'nannying' us too much” to help prevent killers like heart disease, strokes, and cancer?  Maryon-Davis writes.  “Is it trying too hard to micro-manage our health?  I say firmly - no.”

Here at Saybrook, many faculty have been advocating a changing governmental role in health care for years:  Mind-Body Medicine faculty member Marie DiCowden, for example, has overseen public hearings on the way the government – at all levels – can encourage best practice. 

But at the same time, DiCowden says, the idea of “nannying” doesn’t seem to get it quite right.

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Building America's first "green highway"


Imagine a highway stretching along the coast from California to Mexico – with alternative, eco-friendly fuels available at every rest stop.  Need compressed natural gas?  Electricity?  Biodiesel?  Hydrogen?  They’d offer it to every car that passes by.

That’s the dream of three state governors - Gov. Chris Gregoire in Washington, Gov. Ted Kulongoski in Oregon, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California – who envision America’s first “Green Highway” across 1,300 miles of coastland. 

If the idea can clear federal and state regulations … not to mention opposition from business groups who say alternative refueling stations at rest stops would take business away from nearby private entities … it would be a milestone in both American environmentalism and inter-state cooperation. 

Nancy Southern, who directs Saybrook’s Organizational Systems program, says it also might be a good reason to finally buy an alternative fuel vehicle.

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Saybrook Save the Dates


Saybrook has some great community programs coming up in the months ahead.


Thursday, April 2

The Saybrook Dialogues kick off 2009 with “Leadership, Wisdom, and Making a Difference.” Organizer Marc Lesser, the founder and president of coaching and facilitation company ZBA Associates and the former director of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, will focus the conversations on making meaning of our personal and professional lives during uncertain and challenging times.

For more information, or to RSVP, call Terry Hopper at 415-394-5220


Tuesday, April 14

An Alumni Community Web-Cast Gathering featuring Saybrook faculty Don-Moss, who will present on the new Mind-Body Medicine degrees and college at Saybrook, followed by a Q&A. 

To sign up Contact:

Saturday, June 13

Alumnus Brian Kolodiejchuk, PhD ’01, Author and Editor of Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light and the Superior General of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity Fathers, and Alumnus Joseph Bobrow, PhD ’80, Zen Roshi and Founder and Director of the Coming Home Project will give a joint talk at the Saybrook Residential Conference.



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Emotion is at the heart of the heart


It seems that anger really can kill you:  a furious heart can burst, and a sorrowful heart can break.

That’s the result of recent research published in the latest issue of The Journal of the American College of Cardiology.  According to the research, anger leads to irregular heart rhythms, which increase the chance of mortality, especially among those with already weak hearts.  The effect has been observed, according to the researchers, across whole populations put under stressors – like the loss of a World Cup match. 

That may be news, but it’s not a surprise to scholars and practitioners of complimentary medicine.

For decades Mind-Body Medicine has been following the way that both emotions generally, and in tandem with the heart specifically, really do impact health and mortality, according to Donald Moss, director of Saybrook’s program in Mind-Body medicine. 

In fact, as Moss wrote in a chapter of a forthcoming book on anger and heart disease, the idea goes back a lot farther than that. 

“This is not a new perspective,” says Moss.  “Aristotle believed that the heart was the center of the human body, the seat of the soul and the emotions, and a primary sense organ of the body. For example, he defined anger as a seething heat in the region of the heart.  The ‘cardiocentric’ theory was widespread in the ancient world, and included an assumption that the heart was the seat of mental processes including thinking and memory.”

Okay, clearly they got some of that wrong – but not as much as cardiology once thought.  Research has shown for some time that there is a clear two-way communication between the heart and the brain – and the effects can be big. 

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Bargain hunting for religion


First the Obamas had the country in a tizzy over what dog they were going to pick.  Now they’re looking for a church. 

You better believe that’s getting press coverage. 

But amid the clamor and hype about the first couple “church shopping,” a fundamental truth about American life is being brought into focus:  people really do “shop” for their places of worship today in a way that they never did 50 years ago. 

The very idea that selecting a family church could be viewed through the same lens as selecting the family dog is a difficult one for many places of worship to swallow:  it puts them in a “marketplace,” a competitive, sell-or-die, environment where their parishioners are “customers” – and they can’t count on customer loyalty.  In fact, 44 percent of American adults have switched churches and even religions, according to a survey by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life. 

“Constant movement characterizes the American religious marketplace,” their survey says.

Lois Koteen, a Saybrook student getting her PhD in Organizational Systems, is familiar with these trends:  her consulting work specializes in helping synagogues change their governance structures and staff approaches to better serve and attract congregants.  In her experience, places of worship greet these with a sense of panic.

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Meet our new students


Saybrook held its spring Residential Orientation for new students last week, and forty two new students enrolled at Saybrook for the Spring Semester, coming from California, Canada, Switzerland, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Colorado, New York, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, and other points across the globe. 

They come to Saybrook with experience at a variety of schools, including Seton Hall, Kent State, Mills College, St. John’s University, Naropa, the Bangalore Theological Seminary, San Diego State, UC Berkeley, Syracuse Unviersity, and more. 

The average age of the spring class is 40, befitting a graduate school most focused on established career professionals, and a slim majority – 22 – are pursuing PhDs. 

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Does that compute? Saybrook seeks community input on instructional technology


A school is defined by its people, yes: but at Saybrook, more than many schools, technology impacts how much access we have to our learning community, and how we can interact with it. 

That’s why Eric Fox, Saybrook’s new Dean of Instruction, is conducting a survey of faculty and students to find out how they use and relate to technology.  What do they want, what do they need, and what’s the best way to connect them to their peers?

“This survey is designed to give both faculty and students a voice in the use and selection of educational technologies at Saybrook,” Fox says, “and the results will inform an educational technology plan being developed.”

It will also outline current and future needs – giving Fox a heads up if there are needs not being met, or challenges appearing on the horizon. 

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How to pick a cabinet that's ethical AND effective


It stunned a lot of us:  no sooner had President Obama begun nominating people to fill his top posts, than stories of scandal began swarming around his choices.  No one, including some of the most respected names in contemporary American politics, seemed immune:  from tax problems to lobbying concerns, nominees began dropping out almost as fast as they took the call.

It was, many observers agreed, a profound indictment of a Washington culture that assumed perks and privilege come with power. 

But it also put President Obama in a bind:  on the one hand, he’d vowed an ethical and transparent administration.  On the other hand, the nation is facing big crises:  people with experience in government could be key to getting desperately needed work done. 

When it comes to making a choice between ethics and experience, how do you choose?  How important is it that the people making decisions pay their taxes properly, and how much does it matter if someone called upon to make fundamental change is a system is a product of the old, failed, culture?

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Mi casa su casa: Visit Saybrook's open house this week


Saybrook will be holding a spring open house for prospective students in its San Francisco offices on Thursday, March 12, from 5:30 - 8 p.m.

Accessible in person, by webcast and teleconference, the open house will feature presentations on:

  •  Saybrook. LIOS, and the new University structure;
  • Academics at Saybrook, including our humanistic tradition and our model of community-based distance learning;
  • Overviews of our degree programs (psychology, mind-body medicine, organizational systems, and human science)
  • Financial aid

In addition, there will be break out sessions on specializations and concentrations.  Snacks will also be served, and the admissions staff will be available to answer questions. 

For more information, or to register, email   

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