Clusters Based on Similarity

Clusters Based on Similarity

Stories cannot demolish frontiers, but they can punch holes in our mental walls. And through those holes, we can get a glimpse of the other, and sometimes even like what we see."

~ Elif Shafak

Solution Aversion

Solution Aversion

"A new study finds that deeply held beliefs can undermine rationality: When confronted with solutions that challenge deeply held values, people may be inclined to disbelieve the problem."

~ Brandon Keim

How Disgust Influences Our Moral Beliefs

"We have sort of a built-in poison detector. You can see this as early as even in newborn infants. If you are willing to do this, you can take a couple of drops of a bitter substance or a sour substance, and you'll see that face, the tongue stick out, the wrinkled nose, as if they're trying to get rid of what's in their mouth.This reaction expands into adulthood and becomes sort of a full-blown disgust response, no longer just about whether or not we're about to be poisoned, but whenever there's a threat of physical contamination from some source. But the face remains strikingly similar. It has expanded more, though, than just keeping us away from physical contaminants, and there's a growing body of evidence to suggest that, in fact, this emotion of disgust now influences our moral beliefs and even our deeply held political intuitions."

~David Pizarro, from "The Strange Politics of Disgust," TED Talks, May 2012

Mindfulness for the Nation

Tim Ryan, Mindful Congressman (Photo by Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Excerpt from "In Meditative Mindfulness, Rep. Tim Ryan Sees a Cure for Many American Ills," by Neely Tucker, The Washington Post, Apr. 4, 2012:

Rep. Tim Ryan (D) is a five-term incumbent from the heartland. His Ohio district includes Youngstown and Warren and part of Akron and smaller places. He’s 38, Catholic, single. He was a star quarterback in high school. He lives a few houses down from his childhood home in Niles. He’s won three of his five elections with about 75 percent of the vote.

So when he starts talking about his life-changing moment after the 2008 race, you’re not expecting him to lean forward at the lunch table and tell you, with great sincerity, that this little story of American politics is about (a) a raisin and (b) nothing else.

“You hold this one raisin right up to your mouth, but you don’t put it in, and after a moment your mouth starts to water,” he says, describing an exercise during a five-day retreat into the meditative technique of mindfulness, developed from centuries of Buddhist practice. “The teaching point is that your body responds to things outside of it, that there’s a mind-body connection. It links to how we take on situations and how this results in a great deal of stress.”

For Ryan, the raisin was the beginning of a transformation. The retreat, conducted by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, led Ryan on a search into how the practice of mindfulness — sitting in silence, losing oneself in the present moment — could be a tonic for what ails the body politic.

In “A Mindful Nation,” published last week, Ryan details his travels across the country, to schools and companies and research facilities, documenting how mindfulness is relieving stress, improving performance and showing potential to reduce health-care costs. It is a prescription, he says, that can help the nation better deal with the constant barrage of information that the Internet age delivers.

“I think when you realize that U.S. Marines are using this that it’s already in the mainstream of our culture,” he says. “It’s a real technique that has real usefulness that has been scientifically documented. . . . Why wouldn’t we have this as part of our health-care program to prevent high levels of stress that cause heart disease and ulcers and Type 2 diabetes and everything else?”

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Seeing Through the Clutter of Life

From “Mindfulness meditation being used in hospitals and schools,” by Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY (6.8.09):

Tim Ryan Challenges are landing fast and furious on Capitol Hill. So Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, feels he has to arrive at the top of his game every day. And Ryan says he has found a way to do that: He meditates for at least 45 minutes before leaving home.

Ryan, 35, sits on a floor cushion, closes his eyes, focuses on his breath and tries to detach from any thoughts, just observing them like clouds moving across the sky — a practice he learned at a retreat. "I find it makes me a better listener, and my concentration is sharper. I get less distracted when I'm reading," he says. "It's like you see through the clutter of life and can penetrate to what's really going on."

…As research expands, scientists expect to unlock more of the mysteries around meditation. Meanwhile, for those such as Ryan, proof of benefit is already evident. "I'm much more aware now than I used to be," he says. "I enjoy my life more because you notice, and you really appreciate."