Monday, October 17, 2011

Democracy is an acquired trait; Respect for tyrants is innate

A colleague of mine who has recently come back from a trip to Libya said she was amazed by the number of people—particularly among the poor—who still harbor loyalty, respect and love for former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

It took seven months to overthrow the Gaddafi regime, despite the help of a NATO air-campaign. Why are dictators so hard to oust?

Regime change and promoting democracy—especially if it sought by an outside force—face unexpected difficulties because they fail to understanding human nature.

If there is one thing people hate more than a brutal dictator, it is a foreign occupation.

Here is my amateur attempt at explaining this from a sociobiology perspective:

There is a strong biological basis for being suspicious of invaders; there is no strong biological basis for resisting a brutal dictator. In fact, there is a strong social instinct that drives people to rally around their leader in times of war, even if he is a tyrant.

Dictators who practice brutal aggression often gain reverence among their people. This aggression is often followed by acts of kindness and generosity, which nurtures the "Stockholm syndrome."

It is human nature to appeal to a higher power, whether it is a deity or a leader, since humans are primates that have evolved to look up to the alphamale for protection and guidance; someone who is a symbol of the group's identity and unity.

This might also explain why so many people are greatly offended when God's name is desecrated, even though they are taught that God is omnipotent and omnipresent.

On the other hand, democratic behavior seems rare in the animal kingdom--and among humans for that matter. Dictatorship is a die-hard trait and it is still prevalent, even in countries that call themselves democracies.

By democracy, I don't mean choosing a leader through social consensus. What passes for democracy is often collective complacency. I mean the ability of individuals in a group to criticize the leader, hold him accountable and prevent him from misusing his power.

The status of the alpha in animals is usually achieved by means of superior physical strength, but this also applies in human democracy, since groups want the strongest and fittest to be their leader.

The presidential debates mirror animal behavior where individuals competing for the alpha position challenge each other to a fight, and in some species, to the death.

On the other hand, biologists are now realizing that shared decision making is not unique to humans and is probably widespread in social animals. The alpha status is also achieved through social efforts and alliance building.

The attempt to oust the last brutal dictators today should be approached with the understanding of why humans have an instinct to cling on to them.

Also, the attempt to build democracies should be approached with the understanding that democracy is an acquired human social trait that doesn't come naturally and requires a reprogramming of social values, which takes time and a string of setbacks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Differences between religion and spirituality: My experience

Based on my personal experience of being at one time religious but not very spiritual and later spiritual but not very religious, here are some differences that I have observed between religion and spirituality.

This list is only meant as a general comparison. There is no one who is strictly religious with no spirituality or the other way around.

After all, religion and spirituality are interrelated and they need each other. Religion is a bridge to the spiritual. It is the language used to communicate spirituality. On the other hand, our spiritual needs and impulses are probably the reason why religions evolved.

A good way to compare religion and spirituality is to compare Salafism and Sufism.

I hope this comparison does not lead to a polarization. For a spiritual person to say, "I am more tolerant than you are" is just as egocentric.

The reason why it is important to be aware of these differences is that spirituality alone has its problems and religion alone has its problems. When we tilt one way or the other, we face imbalances.

Religion: My way is the only way. Not only should you be of my religion, but my brand.
Spirituality: There are many paths and they all lead to the same truth—the oneness and interconnectedness of all things; the focus on positive emotions such as love, compassion, gratitude and joy. Religion divides, spirituality unites.

Religion: Leads more often to egotism than to humility.
Spirituality: Leads more often to humility than to egotism.

Religion: There should be strict rules to ensure that we stay on "the straight path."
Spirituality: There are no rules, although you do need a "compass."

Religion: There is more evil in the world than good.
Spirituality: There is more good in the world than evil.
Note: In the Levant, a dervish (darwish) is used as an adjective to describe a naive person who is oblivious to the evils of the world.

Religion: Kindness is preached but not often practiced.
Spirituality: Kindness is practiced spontaneously as a result of spiritual practices that cultivate humility.

Religion: God is personal.
Spirituality: The Divine is multidimensional. He/She/It can be personal or impersonal. Any attempt at a definition is a limitation.

Religion: Attempts to reduce the universe and/or God to the level of the understanding.
Spirituality: Seeks to expand consciousness to identify the self with the universe and/or God.

Religion: Tribalistic. Relies on religious group identity in making decisions and taking positions. I always have to side with my religious group.
Spirituality: Doesn't not seek to strongly identify the self with a religious group. Avoids identity politics. It is human nature to side with your group, but always remember that we are one.

Religion: Religious laws are written in stone because God knows what is best for us better than we do. Any attempt to modify them will lead us astray because it will be motivated by our desires.
Spirituality: Religious laws should be read from the perspective of their original intent. They can be reinterpreted and modified as long as our intent is that of goodness, justice and wellness.

Religion: Quickly despises other faiths. Focuses on finding differences with others.
Spirituality: Recognizes commonalities with people of different spiritual traditions and realizes that they are the same.
Example: A woman once approached me after a Zumba dance class and said, "You are a spiritual person, aren't you?" I said, "How did you know?" She said, "We know one another."

Religion: The world is heading for the worse. Pessimistic about the present and future.
Spirituality: The world is heading for the better. Optimistic about the present and future. (Example: Doomsday scenarios are common in religious discourses. On the other hand, a New Age interpretation of the 2012 transition posits that during this time Earth and its inhabitants may undergo a positive physical or spiritual transformation, and that 2012 may mark the beginning of a new era of awakening.)

Religion: Creativity is risky. It weakens our foundations.
Spirituality: Creativity is safe. It leads us to improve and grow.

Religion: Suspicious of art, music and dancing. They might be permissible but they are unnecessary.
Spirituality: Appreciative of art, music and dancing. They are avenues for spiritual growth.

Religion: Happiness must be delayed until the afterlife. If you are happy now you should feel guilty about it.
Spirituality: Happiness can only be experienced now. True happiness is spiritual and it is a means to an end. Happiness leads to wellbeing and success.

Religion: If you don't have enemies, create one. Followers will tighten and cohere when they have your cause to believe in and enemies to destroy.
Spirituality: Mystics don't feel the need to have enemies.

Religion: War is the answer to conflicts. More likely to be revengeful. Not usually able to love their enemies.
Spirituality: Peace is the answer to conflicts. More likely to be forgiving. Better able to love their enemies in a healthy and effective way.
Note: War is not necessarily unspiritual. It's just a different type of spirituality. A woman in Jordan once told me that during times of war she feels that life has meaning. During times of peace she feels life has no meaning.

Religion: skeptical about the efficacy of love.
Spirituality: has faith that pure love ultimately triumphs.

Religion: Human nature is basically bad. People cannot be trusted with freedom. Freedom will lead to deterioration and disarray.
Spirituality: Human nature is basically good. People when given freedom will do the right thing because that is their basic propensity.

Religion: Searches for the bad in everything and everyone. More likely to be judgmental and critical.
Spirituality: Searches for the good in everything and everyone. Less likely to be judgmental and critical.
Note: Being judgmental and critical is mostly a genetic trait; but religion, spirituality and other environmental factors influence it.

Religion: Exhibits a "holier than thou" attitude of religious superiority and self-righteously pious.
Spirituality: Does not take a "holier than thou" attitude or look down on everyone else.

Religion: Often takes an all or nothing approach. Revolution is better than evolution.
Spirituality: Recognizes the value of small improvements toward growth. Evolution is better than revolution.

Religion: Takes pleasure in making things hard. It is gratifying to be hard on myself.
Spirituality: Takes pleasure in making things easy.

Religion: God is more punitive than compassionate. He won't forgive me if I say I am too tired to pray.
Spirituality: God is more compassionate than punitive. He knows my weaknesses and does not want me to suffer.

Religion: Prefers to take metaphysical topics at face value.
Spirituality: Appreciates the symbolic and metaphorical value of metaphysics.

Religion: God is in another realm and He is unknowable. There is no way to experience God directly. He is far away and you just have to believe that He exists.
Spirituality: Seeks a direct experience with the Divine or union with a mystery. God is here and now and can be experienced in a way that is not different from ordinary experience.

Religion: Favors a dualistic approach to reality. The seen and the unseen are two separate domains. The metaphysical is beyond our experience and there is no way for us to imagine it. We just have to have faith that it exists.
Spirituality: Favors a non-dualistic approach to reality. The seen and the unseen are inseparable

Religion: God created the universe and created us.
Spirituality: God is the universe and He is us.

Religion: Seeks to experience awe by searching for miracles and other extraordinary phenomena. Frequently shares invalidated news of miracles happening to people and uses them as a source of inspiration.
Spirituality: Seeks to experience awe in ordinary things. Sees everything as a miracle. "If you could understand a single grain of wheat, you would die of wonder." - Martin Luther

Religion: The main source of knowledge, guidance and morals is from scripture rather than from the experience. If there is a contradiction, experience must be rearranged to accommodate scripture.
Spirituality: The main source of knowledge, guidance and morals is from the experience rather than scripture. If there is a contradiction, scripture should be re-interpreted to accommodate experience.

Religion: Less welcoming of women's presence, creativity and leadership.
Spirituality: More welcoming of women's presence, creativity and leadership.

Religion: Focuses on prayer—asking God for what you think is good for you.
Spirituality: Focuses on meditation—listening attentively for guidance on what to do and what is the highest good.

Religion: Sex is a drive for procreation and physical gratification. It should have no other place in religion, knowledge or life.
Spirituality: Sex is a source of knowledge and inspiration. Sex and spirituality are interrelated. Spirituality awakens Eros, because Eros is a passion for all the beauties of life.

Religion: Likes to preach. Aggressively reaches out to people. Desperate for converts.
Spirituality: Does not like to preach. Waits for people to approach them to share their inspiration. Not desperate for converts.

Religion: God last came down and left a message for humanity 1400 years ago and has never been heard from since. It is only through going back in history that we can search for God's guidance.
Spirituality: God is here and now. He is everywhere, every time, and in everyone. His thoughts can be heard if we listen quietly and contemplate.

Religion: Focuses more on the past and future and less on the present.
Spirituality: Focuses less on the past and future and more on the present.

Religion: Acknowledges that it is important to be thankful for illness, pain, loss and adversity, but struggles to accept it emotionally.
Spirituality: More likely to be genuinely grateful for illness, pain, loss and adversity as a gift that pushes us to see more clearly, grow and heal emotionally, to be closer to God, to be willing to forgive and to feel authentic within ourselves.

Religion: When good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people it is a test. When good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people it is justice. Since I am good and my enemies are bad, there is a simple explanation to everything that happens to me or them.
Spirituality: The universe is not as simple as that. The divine plan always works at the grand level towards the evolution of mankind and the universe, but there is absolutely no way for the human mind to comprehend how a single event fits into the general plan. As humans we want to create meaning, but people of spiritual depth withhold judgment of praise or blame. They are content with the state of not knowing. It can be egotistic to claim to know when people are being punished or rewarded for their actions. Being comfortable with not knowing is the highest level of peace.

Religion: Less comfortable with uncertainty and groundlessness.
Spirituality: More comfortable with uncertainty and groundlessness.

Religion: Searches outside the self for happiness, peace and solutions to problems.
Spirituality: Searches inside the self for happiness, peace and solutions to problems.

Religion: Less likely to be interested in eating healthy, exercising, losing weight, managing stress, and feeling good about their bodies. A recent study found a link between obesity and attending church.
Spirituality: More likely to be interested in eating healthy, exercising, losing weight, managing stress, and feeling good about their bodies. People interested in yoga are more likely to be spiritual.
Note: My guess is that being overly concerned about your health and looks is considered self-indulgence and frowned upon in religious circles, but praised in spiritual contexts because it is interrelated with other aspects of one's being. Also, spiritual people are more likely to have experienced long term suffering and thus feel the importance of taking care of their health.

Religion: Advocates simple, one-dimensional answers to complex problems.
Spirituality: Open to complexity, paradox and new possibilities.

Religion: Less likely to have inner peace and happiness.
Spirituality: More likely to have inner peace and happiness.
Note: Happiness is basically a genetic trait. It is influenced positively by both religion and spirituality (in addition to other environmental factors.) The comparison here is between religion and spirituality, with all other factors equal.

When Religion has an advantage over spirituality

Obviously I am biased towards spirituality, but here some differences where religion has an advantage.

Religion: More effective in reaching wide audiences.
Spirituality: Less effective in appealing to wide audiences.

Religion: More effective in rallying adherents for war when war is necessary.
Spirituality: Reluctant to go to war. The sad reality is that, in politics, hate is a much more powerful motivator than love.

Religion: More likely to be politically active. More likely to be organized.
Spirituality: Less likely to be politically active. Less likely to be organized.

Religion: Attracts people who are suffering or at ease.
Spirituality: Only seems to attract people who are suffering. As it is said, "Religion is for people who want to avoid going to hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there."

Religion: Attracts both young people and old people.
Spirituality: Attracts old people much more than young people.

Religion: Cultivates anger and judgment and therefore is able to mobilize efforts to change things that need to be changed. Anger and impatience are important in dealing with injustice.
Spirituality: Avoids cultivating anger and judgment and therefore is less effective in mobilizing collective efforts towards change.
Note: Anger is a health energy force if invested wisely and channeled into motivation for doing things.

Religion: Hard work and perseverance are the necessary ingredients for success and subsequently lead to happiness.
Spirituality: Acceptance and non-doing are necessary for happiness and subsequently lead to success.

Religion: More often a Type A personality--highly motivated, competitive, controlling, time-conscious, and impatient.
Spirituality: More often a Type B personality-- relaxed, easy-going, patient, and at times lacking a sense of urgency.

Religion: Existential questions should not be dwelled upon much. We should come to simple answers to them and move on with our lives. This attitude puts an end to vexing unanswerable questions that drive many people crazy.
Spirituality: Pondering existential questions is a necessary part of the spiritual journey. It is often frightening to look inside of ourselves, but that is ultimately how we discover who we are and our relation to the universe.

Examples:
"ويسألونك عن الروح قل الروح من أمر ربى وما أوتيتم من العلم إلا قليلا"
"They will ask you about the Spirit. Say: 'The Spirit is one of the commands of my Lord. You have only been given a little of knowledge.'" (17:85)

Religious people interpret this ayah as "Don't ask and don't ponder". Spiritual people infer from this ayah that the spirit is God; it should be pondered and explored.

"ثم استوى على العرش"
"Then He (God) firmly established Himself on the Thrown." (7:54, 10:3, 13:2, 25:59, 32:4, 57:4)

Religious interpret it by saying, "The establishment on the thrown is known, but how it happened is unknown. Believing in it is obligatory but asking about it is a heresy."
"الاستواء معلوم والكيف مجهول والإيمان به واجب والسؤال عنه بدعة"

Spiritual people believe that we are called upon to ponder how this happens, and because they appreciate metaphors, they are able to find a perception that is compatible with reality.

Religion: Motivated by hate and love.
Spirituality: Motivated only by love.

Religion: Rules are rules. There should be no individual exceptions. Individual discretion leads to corruption. Strict rules serve as a safe-guard from our desires and temptations.
Spirituality: Rules can be molded to the person or circumstance. The pitfall is that loose rules can allow us to fall victims to the desires of our egos. Mystics often give themselves permission to be released from responsibility and misuse that permission. A recently study showed that people who believed in a loving, compassionate God were more likely to cheat than those who believed in an angry, punitive God.

Religion: More likely to be high achievers and successful in business.
Spirituality: Less likely to be competitive. Willing to leave their family, friends, and jobs to find the answers to life. The egolessness that spirituality produces, in its extremity, leads mystics to a life in which union with God is the only true happiness and wandering around with a begging bowl is more fulfilling than any worldly achievements.

Religion: Focuses on the society. More interested in changing the world than changing oneself.
Spirituality: Focuses on the individual. More interested in changing oneself than changing the world.

Religion: More likely to be conservative politically and socially.
Spirituality: More likely to be liberal politically and socially.

Religion: Relieves the individual of searching for truth for himself by providing him with a ready-made package and asking him to have faith in it.
Spirituality: Puts the responsibility on the individual in finding his truth and source of ecstasy. Only the individual can find that kind of intimacy for himself. You can't share that kind of experience of the mind with others.

Religion: Non-accepting of the status quo.
Spirituality: Accepting of things as they are.

Religion: Seeks to promote discipline in oneself and others through coercion.
Spirituality: Seeks to promote discipline in oneself and others through gentleness.
Note: Both are necessary at different times for different people.

Religion: Looks outside the self for answers to life's basic questions.
Spirituality: Looks inside the self for answers to life's basic questions.
Note: We need both.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How does Facebook affect our emotional well-being?

There have been numerous studies recently suggesting that using Facebook could have negative effects on people's psychological health.


On the positive side, this study found that Facebook Enhances Self-Esteem.

My guess is that Facebook serves as a refuge for people who already have emotional problems, so there is a correlation, but not necessarily a cause-and-effect relationship.

Jay Leno joked about the study linking Facebook use among teenagers and depression, by saying, "You know what else leads teenagers to be depressed? Everything. They are teenagers."

My personal experience with Facebook has been mostly positive and I have been able to avoid the negative effects.

Since I've been on Facebook, I've gotten more Happy Birthday wishes than any time in my life.

When someone posts a status update saying they are sick, they get more "Get Well" wishes than they could in real life. I'm sure it does wonders for their immune systems.

People vent off when they have minor inconveniences such as being stuck in traffic, studying for an exam, or having a tough day at work.

Facebook is giving people the opportunity to give and receive love more than any time in history. This does wonders not only for the person who is facing difficulties, but for the people giving the empathy. Compassion heals the giver as well as the receiver.

In terms of good news, I delight vicariously when I see a friend sharing joyful news. There are people who might feel envious when they see people posting pictures of them having fun, but jealousy, envy and other destructive emotions are things people have to work on themselves. It's not Facebook's fault. They need to remember that people who post happy pictures are not necessarily always that happy.

The "Like" feature is a great way for people to contribute their "two cents." Many people often don't have the time or the eloquence to give complements to others, but clicking "Like" is easy for the giver and effective to the receiver.

From what I see, maliciousness on Facebook is rare because people are cautious of appearing cruel in public. Duplicity is also rare because it's hard to hide.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mindfully eating and breathing should not lead to choking

I frequently get questions from people who worry that focusing on breathing while eating could cause choking.

I can tell you that it has never happened to me while practicing mindful eating.

The only time I might choke is when my mind is neither on my breath nor on what I'm eating.

Choking while eating usually happens when you are not relaxed; either eating too fast, laughing or remembering something that makes you gasp.

You might choke when, while eating, you are listening to the news, remembering a bad incident that happened in the past or might happen in the future; or when thinking thoughts of anger, regret, resentment, fear, guilt, shame, blame, worry, frustration, hurt, bitterness, hatred, nervousness or envy.

So what do I do when these thoughts arise? I replace them with positive thoughts.

I remember holding my baby nephew, Faris. I remember a warm and loving smile from a very dear friend. I remember fun moments with my family. Then, I turn my attention back to the food I am eating.

As for swallowing while inhaling, it is unlikely to happen when you are mindful because mindfulness elicits relaxation.

Remember, eating should be a natural process. We instinctively know when to breathe and when to swallow. We learned it when we were babies. Mindfulness only makes us aware of it and awareness reduces the chances of choking.

If you don't have the time or presence to be mindful during the whole meal, just be mindful while swallowing, because that is when you sense of smell influences your sense of taste.

Inhale before swallowing and exhale after swallowing. Breathe continuously while chewing.

All breathing should be through your nose unless you are congested. To be honest, I never had allergy problems, so I can't comment on how to deal with them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Zumba is a form of meditation

I have come to realize that the Zumba dance classes that I go to are actually a form of meditation.

We all meditate from time to time without really knowing it. Meditation is when you are concentrating on something, yet relaxed and enjoying the process. It is when you feel whole in the present moment and in harmony with all that is. However, what makes you a meditator is when you know you are meditating.

When I am in a Zumba class, I am in the present moment. I cannot think of the past or the future. I have to concentrate on the choreographies (if I don't I will go out of synch with the class). Yet, I'm smiling and I'm not feeling time passing by.
I don't feel like it's a grim duty that I have to finish. My aim is not to get to the end of the Zumba class. The dance itself is the goal. I am enjoying the moment and opening up to the infinite.

Dancing is a way of communicating emotions through movement. It helps people have a dialog with their bodies.

Because Zumba is a group form of choreographed dance, it makes us feel part of something larger than ourselves. The class is like a team that works together to produce a work of art. The creative synchronicity that we all achieve together expands spirituality.

Dancing meditation makes us more spiritual because it helps us transcend our egos.

We bless the Lord by dancing.. because dancing kills the ego, and once the ego has been killed, there is no further obstacle to prevent you from joining with God. -- told to Greek writer Nikos Kazantakis by a Sufi dervish
Dancing is like meditation in that it cultivates love.
While I dance I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. That is why I dance. --Hans Bos
The mind wanders and returns

Does my mind wander off in Zumba class? It sure does, but not for long. There are repetitive moves that become second nature and don't require concentration. These moves might allow my mind to drift to my thoughts, but they only last a few seconds. After that, the moves change and I have to bring my mind back to the moment, else the class will notice that I'm not concentrating.

This is what happens in meditation. It's not that your mind does not wander off. It is that every time it does, you bring it back to your focus of attention.

Different strokes for different folks

So why doesn't everyone get into a meditative state in Zumba class like I do?

Because we all march to the beat of a different drummer. We are made with different predilections.

For some people, painting is what makes them feel in the flow. For others, it is being in nature, writing poetry, playing with children, going to a place of worship, helping people in need, or sitting and watching one's breath.
"God calls one man with a song, one with a shout, one with a whisper, one with a dance. Which way are you called?" Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Fragrances that smell like food might make us hungry

How do pleasant scents affect your appetite? In my case, they usually suppress my appetite, because they make me feel good. However, I have a suspicion that fragrances that smell like food might slightly increase my appetite because they remind me of food.

I recently shopped at Bath and Body Works for body sprays, soaps, home fragrances, lotions and other beauty products.

What the trend seems to be the past couple of years is that most of these products now have scents of edible foods such as vanilla, apple, citrus fruits, coconut, cinnamon, melons, tropical fruits, etc.

I personally don't like perfumes that smell like food, but my friend reminded me that "men like to eat." That's another story, though. My main concern here is how these products affect me. They remind my subconscious mind of food, and since smell is stored in the area of the brain related to long-term memory, it has strong connections to emotional memory.

On the other hand, pleasant scents that do not remind me of food, such as lavender, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, pine, aqua essences, oak, and musk, promote my emotional well-being in a way that suppresses hunger.

The effect might not be significant. The factors that influence our weight are far more complex than just smells. It could perhaps be less than 5 percent. But for those of us who have a tendency to gain weight, every little bit counts.

Of course, scents that smell like food are better than no scents, but if I had a choice, I would choose scents that don't remind me to eat.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

To enhance your sense of taste, focus on your exhale

My experience with the practice of mindful eating has helped me enjoy food more.

It has been particularly fascinating to explore how paying attention to my breathing while eating affects my sense of taste.

Many people are aware that our sense of smell is essential to our sense of taste. We can observe this by noticing that food loses most of its flavor when we have a cold and we can’t smell anything. Also, when we want to force ourselves to consume something repugnant, we plug our noses so that we can't taste it.

But here is a piece of information that has greatly improved my sense of taste and my enjoyment of food since I learned it: It is during exhalation that the olfaction (sense of smell) contribution to flavor occurs, in contrast to that of proper smell which occurs during the inhalation phase.

Apparently this happens immediately after we swallow (retro-olfaction), which is why it is important to take a deep inhale before we swallow and a long exhale afterwards.

I also like to pause after I swallow and take another breath (in and out) to savor the experience, and to remind myself to take small bites and chew them well, else 90 percent of the food I eat, I will gobble without tasting.

When I have a big bite in my mouth, I don't swallow the whole thing at once. I swallow it in bits.

Study which tells people to clench their fists is misleading

My mother recently told me that she read a news story about a study that showed that clenching your fist can help you deal with stress.

The study concluded that clenching fists, calf muscles or biceps "can serve as a non-conscious source to recruit willpower, facilitate self-control, and improve consumer wellbeing."

My mother said she started that same day to practice clenching her fist in order to relieve tension.

In this study, half the group were told to clench muscles as they took part in the experiments, the other half were not given any instructions.

I wonder what the results would look like if the study compared people clenching muscles in response to stress with people relaxing and thinking positive thoughts.

Also, the study only examined the short term effect of clenching muscles. I wonder what the results would be if it compared the long term effects of frequently clenching muscles in response to stress vs. frequently relaxing and thinking positive thoughts.

Unfortunately, people who get their health information from the daily news read this and say to themselves, "The latest scientific evidence indicates that clenching your muscles in response to stress is good for you. I must do it."

And unfortunately, news editors are not aware that lay people act on a lot of the health information that they publish and make decisions about their health based on studies that they are not able to interpret correctly.

The results of this study run contrary to what five thousand years of yoga have proven; the best way to alleviate stress is to train ourselves to greet it with an inner calm and awareness rather than with anger, anxiety, and aggression.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Why it's important to give complements to others and yourself

I recently had a conversation with my sister about giving complements. She mentioned her professor who is a sharp dresser but would still give complements to others who are far less dressed up.

We were wondering if giving complements could be a form of lying or hypocrisy.

I think it is neither. It is truth that we want to start with and build on.

Giving complements sets the energy momentum upwards for growth and improvement. It is finding the positive in any situation and focusing on it.

When we build on our strengths, our weaknesses take care of themselves. Finding the positive in any situation sets in motion the process of attracting change. Whatever we focus upon, increases.

You do not become good by trying to be good, but by finding the goodness that is already within you and allowing that goodness to emerge. Eckhart Tolle