Sunday, December 20, 2015

10 TED Talks to Make You a Better You

For something that's been around for only a few years, TED talks have quickly become an important medium for learning and inspiration. They help people in all kinds of pursuits with knowledge and inspiration--and there's something wonderfully accessible about seeing and hearing someone communicate directly.
If you're not already a fan, these 12 TED talks represent some of the best and are a great place to start, especially if you are looking to become a better you.
1. Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability
When we work from a place, I believe, that says, "I'm enough" ... then we stop screaming and start listening, we're kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we're kinder and gentler to ourselves.
With insight and humor, Brené Brown shares findings from her research and where they led her in terms of human connection that leads toward knowing oneself and others.
Our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown, because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.
The author of Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert takes exception to the idea that happiness lies in getting what we want.
3. Richard St. John: Success Is a Continuous Journey
Why do so many people reach success and then fail? One of the big reasons is, we think success is a one-way street. So we do everything that leads up to success, but then we get there. We figure we've made it, we sit back in our comfort zone, and we actually stop doing everything that made us successful. And it doesn't take long to go downhill.
Richard St. John tells the story of the rise and fall of his business as the basis for a discussion about the importance of tenacity and the nature of success.
By training your brain just like we train our bodies, what we've found is we can reverse the formula for happiness and success, and in doing so, not only create ripples of positivity, but a real revolution.
We believe we should work hard in order to be happy, but what if it's the other way around? Positive psychology researcher and teacher Shawn Achor uses humor and rapid-fire delivery to make the case that happiness makes us more productive.
If you don't find the highest expression of your talent, if you settle for "interesting,"  do you know what will happen at the end of your long life? Your friends and family will be gathered in the cemetery, and there beside your grave site will be a tombstone, and inscribed on that tombstone it will say "Here lies a distinguished engineer, who invented Velcro." But what that tombstone should have said is, "Here lies the last Nobel laureate in physics, who formulated the Grand Unified Field Theory and demonstrated the practicality of warp drive."
Larry Smith uses humor and blunt truth to call us out on settling for anything less than pursuing our passions.
6.  Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do
Your model of the world is what shapes you long term. Your model of the world is the filter. That's what's shaping us. It makes people make decisions. To influence somebody, we need to know what already influences them.
Understanding motivation--our own and that of others--is a key to success. Famed success coach Tony Robbins discusses the forces that compel us to do the things we do.
If you make an effort to do the best you can regularly, the results will be about what they should be. Not necessarily what you'd want them to be but they'll be about what they should; only you will know whether you can do that. And that's what I wanted from them more than anything else.
Legendary coach John Wooden shares his thoughts about the meaning of success, the wisdom he gained from his father, and the values and lessons he passed on to his players.
Smiling can actually make you look good in the eyes of others. A recent study at Penn State University found that when you smile, you don't only appear to be more likable and courteous, but you actually appear to be more competent.
Learn about the evolution and purpose of the human behavior we call smiling--a behavior that has a surprisingly strong influence on our well-being.  
The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?
Google engineer Matt Cutts presents a new way to think about goals. Pick something you keep intending to do and commit to trying it for 30 days.  
10. David Steindl-Rast: Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful
Grateful people are joyful people, and joyful people--the more and more joyful people there are, the more and more we'll have a joyful world.
Benedictine monk and interfaith scholar Brother David Steindl-Rast shares the "gentle power" of gratitude.
The bottom line is: your life only gets better when you get better. 
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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

"The Human Universe"

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Deepak Chopra Headshot

What Does "the Human Universe" Actually Mean?

Posted: Updated: 
Most people have never heard the phrase "the human universe," so it got a major boost from British physicist Brian Cox. A popular science presenter in the UK and physics professor at the University of Manchester, Cox called his latest BBC series by that name. (The amplified text is available in a lavishly illustrated book, Human Universe, written with producer Andrew Cohen, just out in paperback.) Cox covers the biggest unanswered questions, not just in physics but in science: Where are we? Are we alone? Who are we? Why are we here? What is our future?

By using "we" in each case, he centers the big questions on human beings. The science that Cox relies upon is orthodox. That is, he views the universe as a huge physical mechanism, with countless objects existing "out there" for scientists to examine. Contemporary physics is extremely complex--the book does a good job simplifying it for us laymen--but the basic foundation for all the billion-dollar radio telescopes and high-energy particle accelerators has been dubbed "naive realism." This view doesn't question Nature as it appears. There may be mysteries lying behind a phenomenon like the Big Bang, but that event, like the existence of stars, galaxies, molecules, and atoms, is a given.

The challenge to naive realism, strangely enough, also comes from modern physics. It is based on several grounds. First comes fine tuning, the name given to the extraordinary way that all the working parts of the cosmos, including the laws of nature that govern everything, mesh together. Over a dozen constants must be perfectly entrained for the present universe to exist. Fine tuning has been argued over for five or six decades at least, and it poses a huge dilemma for anyone who claims that creation in physical terms is completely random. As the British astronomer Fred Hoyle famously wrote,

"A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe."

Cox doesn't mention Hoyle except as the inventor of the term Big Bang. The index to his book doesn't list fine-turning, and there is no significant treatment of the challenge to randomness. This is in keeping with the interest orthodox science has in seeming to be correct rather than just a choice among several other choices. (In the same vein Cox is amused by philosophers, whose arguments against naive realism are not presented at all.) But in reality the existence of fine-tuning is absolutely critical to the existence of human life, since one can argue that not a single factor in the makeup of the universe can be changed or deleted without eliminating the appearance of human beings on Earth.

The second huge issue raised by the phrase "human universe" is our interaction with objects "out there." Are we observers staring at Nature like children with their noses pressed against a bakery shop window? That has been the standard view in science, in the name of objectivity. Only by being detached and rational, taking precise measurements and collecting data that isn't tainted by all the whims and uncertainties of our inner life can we hope to discover how reality works. This split between objective and subjective, however, was undermined by a phenomenon known in quantum physics as the observer effect, according to which the act of observing a particle like a photon or electron isn't passive at all. Instead, the observer influences what he observes.

At first the observer effect was chiefly related to the position of a particle. Where a photon is in time and space depends on how and when it is observed. This is a major attack on naive realism, because elementary particles apparently have two diametrically opposed aspects, known as wave and particle. When behaving like a wave, a photon exists as a "smear" extending infinitely in all directions; when behaving like a particle, it has a pinpoint location. What makes the difference, known as the collapse of the wave function, depends on an observer.

One of the greatest quantum pioneers, Werner Heisenberg, declared something truly radical: "The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts." Other seminal thinkers like Niels Bohr and Erwin Schrödinger agreed; they saw that naive realism was a dodo more than a century ago, even though a belief in "things" being physically a given is the mainstay of Cox's book. He quotes no other viewpoint and comes nowhere close to revealing just how important the observer effect may be, as when Heisenberg makes another explosive statement: "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning."

The third huge issue in the human universe is the role of consciousness. Max Planck, who originated quantum physics, believed that consciousness was impossible to get around; the human mind only knows reality through consciousness. Yet we have no idea what consciousness actually is, only that we possess it. A number of quantum thinkers, including Schrödinger, held that the human mind can't be unique. They posed the possibility that we live in a conscious universe, and that idea continues to be explored in conferences, books, and articles. Cox presents nothing on the issue, even though a widely respected theorist, the late John Archibald Wheeler, spoke of the "participatory" universe, one is which human beings are inexorably entwined. Wheeler isn't cited in Cox's book, nor is "consciousness" an entry in the index.

The bottom line for Cox is contained in the statement, "Our universe appears to be made for us." But instead of endorsing this view, which would be the beginning of the human universe, he calls it "content-free whimsy." To him, the mystery of how human life arose is simply the wrong question. We should be asking instead how we fit the laws of nature, not the other way around. Even though he concedes that the constants of nature are "with no known rhyme or reason to them," he believes that inside these constants are hidden potentials that will fully explain, often through computer modeling, how human beings came to exist.

In the end, it's a matter of perspective, with naive realism on one side, backed by the immense apparatus of modern research and technology, and other-minded thinkers who see that this block of cheese has many holes in it. Every argument for calling humans a cosmic accident--and Cox presents many of them, can be countered by arguments that view the same facts through a different theory--Cox presents none of those. Knowledge is now  in a state where some like Cox believe that modern physics is marching ahead triumphantly while others see physics at a crossroads of turbulent, confused crisis. Even beyond the biggest questions posed in Human Universe, science has been forced to ask itself what is real and what is true--two issues that haven't been resolved since ancient times and have now returned to challenge us.

Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. Chopra is the author of more than 80 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His latest books are Super Genes co-authored with Rudy Tanzi, PhD  and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine.

Friday, December 11, 2015

10 Quotes From a Sioux Indian Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society

Originally seen on Wisdom Pills|
Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles EastmanBlack Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of life of the Indigenous people of the Great Plains before, and during, the arrival and subsequent spread of the European pioneers. Raised in the traditions of his people until the age of eleven, he was then educated at the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School of Pennsylvania, where he learned the english language and way of life. (Though a National Historical Landmark, Carlisle remains a place of controversy in Native circles.)
Like his above mentioned contemporaries, however, his native roots were deep, leaving him in the unique position of being a conduit between cultures. Though his movement through the white man’s world was not without “success” — he had numerous movie roles in Hollywood — his enduring legacy was the protection of the way of life of his people.
By the time of his death he had published 4 books and had become a leader at the forefront of the progressive movement aimed at preserving Native American heritage and sovereignty, coming to be known as a strong voice in the education of the white man as to the Native American way of life. Here, then, are 10 quotes from the great Sioux Indian Chief known as Standing Bear that will be sure to disturb much of what you think you know about “modern” culture.

1) Praise, flattery, exaggerated manners and fine, high-sounding words were no part of Lakota politeness. Excessive manners were put down as insincere, and the constant talker was considered rude and thoughtless. Conversation was never begun at once, or in a hurried manner.

2) Children were taught that true politeness was to be defined in actions rather than in words. They were never allowed to pass between the fire and the older person or a visitor, to speak while others were speaking, or to make fun of a crippled or disfigured person. If a child thoughtlessly tried to do so, a parent, in a quiet voice, immediately set him right.

3) Silence was meaningful with the Lakota, and his granting a space of silence before talking was done in the practice of true politeness and regardful of the rule that ‘thought comes before speech.’…and in the midst of sorrow, sickness, death or misfortune of any kind, and in the presence of the notable and great, silence was the mark of respect… strict observance of this tenet of good behavior was the reason, no doubt, for his being given the false characterization by the white man of being a stoic. He has been judged to be dumb, stupid, indifferent, and unfeeling.

4) We did not think of the great open plains, the beautiful rolling hills, the winding streams with tangled growth, as ‘wild’. Only to the white man was nature a ‘wilderness’ and only to him was it ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame. Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.

5) With all creatures of the earth, sky and water was a real and active principle. In the animal and bird world there existed a brotherly feeling that kept the Lakota safe among them. And so close did some of the Lakotas come to their feathered and furred friends that in true brotherhood they spoke a common tongue.

6) This concept of life and its relations was humanizing and gave to the Lakota an abiding love. It filled his being with the joy and mystery of living; it gave him reverence for all life; it made a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all.

7) It was good for the skin to touch the earth, and the old people liked to remove their moccasins and walk with bare feet on the sacred earth… the old Indian still sits upon the earth instead of propping himself up and away from its life giving forces. For him, to sit or lie upon the ground is to be able to think more deeply and to feel more keenly. He can see more clearly into the mysteries of life and come closer in kinship to other lives about him.

8) Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.

9) …the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too. So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence.

10) Civilization has been thrust upon me… and it has not added one whit to my love for truth, honesty, and generosity.

I hope some of these quotes have moved you and influenced you the way they have for me.  It seems as though our modern culture could use a little guidance from ancient wisdom.
Source: “10 Quotes From a Sioux Indian Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About ‘Modern’ Culture,” from
Photo credit: Kirby Sattler

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