Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on January 2, 2018

In its December 22 - December 29, 2017 print issue, The Week sums up the odd mixture of trends, events, and cultural phenomena of the last year as seen through a potpourri of polls. Here are some of the findings:

  • 59% of Americans say we're at the lowest point in our country's history that they can remember. (American Psychological Association)
  • 63% say concerns about the nation's future are a major source of stress in their lives. (American Psychological Association)
  • 70% say the nation's political divide is at least as big as during the Vietnam war. (Washington Post/University of Maryland)
  • 39% think this lack of unity is the new normal. (Washington Post/University of Maryland)
  • 79% think that if the Founding Fathers were alive today, they'd be disappointed with the U.S. (Fox News)
  • 73% are concerned that North Korea will launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies. (Investor's Business Daily/TIPP)
  • 76% are worried the U.S. will become involved in a major war in the next three years. (NBC News/Survey Monkey)
  • 38% are less likely to attend events that draw large crowds because of their fear of terrorism. (Gallup)
  • 46% are afraid to travel overseas for the same reason. (Gallup)

Here are some of the ways Americans seek to relax:

  • 55% snack two to three times a day and 24% admit they reach for the cookies when they need to de-stress. (Mintel)
  • 73% engage in epic binge-watching sessions, staying glued to the screen for three hours or more. (Deloitte)

Our modest suggestion: Use spiritual practices to deal with difficult times and your fears.

Posted by Frederic Brussat on December 21, 2017

This eye-opening article was first published by the Wellcome Trust in MosaicScience.com.

Falls kill more than 32,000 Americans every year. The figure leaps to 420,000 when putting a global focus on this peril. Nearly three times as many people die in the U.S. after falling as are murdered by firearms.

Where do falls happen? Mostly in ordinary places such as shower stalls, supermarket aisles, and stairways. Scientists are advising elders to learn how to fall in order to minimize injury. There are more courses now on maintaining balance and "transferring" (moving from one state to another such as from walking to stopping). In addition, more attention is being paid to people's fear of falling and to resistance to using assistive tools like canes due to concern about appearing to have a disability. Tips for lessening the impact of a fall include: protect your head, roll rather than fall straight back or forward, and use your hands to break the fall while protecting your hips.

Posted by Frederic Brussat on November 27, 2017

In the tale of Don Quixote de la Mancha, sixteenth century Spanish writer Don Miguel de Cervantes challenges us to see that our most difficult and scary battle is within. That is the conclusion of Scott Horton in a 2007 post on “Browsings,” the blog of Harper’s magazine, which we recently came across while browsing the Internet. It seems remarkably timely. Cervantes notes:

"Since we expect a Christian reward, we must suit our actions to the rules of Christianity. In giants we must kill pride and arrogance. But our greatest foes, and whom we must chiefly combat, are within. Envy we must overcome by generosity and nobleness of spirit; anger, by a reposed and quiet mind; riot and drowsiness, by vigilance and temperance; lasciviousness, by our inviolable fidelity to the mistresses of our thoughts; and sloth, by our indefatigable peregrinations through the universe"

Horton concludes: “Our world and the human condition is immiserated by those who seek always to find the dividing lines between peoples and cultures, who see ultimate virtue in homogeneity and who embrace a creed of intolerance. How much better is humankind served by those who seek to find the golden cord that ties and unites us, that has been a source of inspiration throughout human history."

During these times of divisiveness, it is salutary to seek what unites us. It doesn’t seem at all quixotic to practice the virtues that animated Don Quixote!

Posted by Frederic Brussat on November 20, 2017

In an article appearing on the Greater Good website, Summer Allen reports on a research suggesting that our generosity might not only be shaped by the helper's high but also by our trust in the institutions governing our society — courts, police, schools, religious communities or political parties.

Yale University researchers used online games . . .

Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on October 6, 2017

In this fascinating article by Elizabeth Svoboda on Greater Good Magazine's website, she takes a brisk look at the reasons why it is so hard for us to change people's minds. Deeply held beliefs are not easily set aside; the brain is a stay-at-home kind of organ. Pre-existing beliefs took a long time to stabilize and grow, and they keep us anchored in the world. We are tribal people, and we worry about the dire effects from disloyalty to our peers. Finally, inertia can overtake those who want to update their beliefs.

What to do? "Productive exchange is more likely when there's a mutal foundation of respect and friendship," so sharing first about personal issues helps. Ask open-ended questions. Svoboda observes: "The less you try to force a particular set of views on someone, the freer they'll feel to reflect honestly what they think — and maybe even revise their thinking down the line."

To sum up, whether discussing political, personal, or spiritual matters, go slow and proceed with caution while talking about deeply cherished beliefs. Watch out for falling rocks. And remember, you never know what lies around the next bend.

Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on August 28, 2017

One of the pivotal goals of holistic health care is cultivating resilience, the ability to absorb change and to bounce back from setbacks, disappointments, and failures. In an article in The Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan suggest that we have misunderstood the meaning of resilience; we think it means toughing it out, which can lead to overwork, lack of sleep, and exhaustion.

Our resilience develops from our nurturing ourselves and our letting go of excessive behavior. Bradford counsels us to take more cognitive breaks during the day where we move from high mental arousal states to free time adventures. As for excesses, they shock us with the following statistic: The average person turns on [checks] a cell phone 150 times every day.

Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on August 15, 2017

In March of 2017, New Zealand passed a bill making the Whanganui River the first one in the world to hold the same legal rights, responsibilities, and liabilities as a human being. For the Maori people it was the climax of a 140-year struggle to recognize the river as an ancestor of the tribe.

In his report on this rights issue, David Korten of Yes! Magazine affirms that polluting or damaging this river henceforth will be the legal equivalent of harming a person. Citing the New Zealand law as a precedent, a court in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand gave the Ganges River and its main tributary, the Yanuma River, the status of living human entities.

Although Korten salutes this triumph for Mother Earth, he raises some relevant questions about the new law and its meaning in a time of ecological disarray and humankind's refusal to work together on the catastrophes heading our way with climate change.

Here's something to think about: What elements of nature do you think ought to have the same rights as humans?

Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on August 9, 2017

In an article in The New York Times, Dave Itzkoff describes filmmaker and comedian Michael Moore as "a 63-year-old hybrid of Noam Chomsky and P. T. Barnum." Now he's coming to Broadway. The Terms of My Surrender is already running previews and is set to open on August 10 at the Belasco Theatre.

What can lucky ticket holders expect?

Posted by Frederic Brussat on July 27, 2017

In an article in The New York Times, Marilyn Suzanne Miller (an original writer for Saturday Night Live and author of How to Be a Middle-Age Babe) outlines the ennui and discontentment of the Baby Boom generation who have become used to the attention and buzz surrounding their changing activities and identities.

Do you remember Hostess cupcakes . . .

Posted by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat on July 19, 2017

In an article on CNNMoney, Chris Isidore notes that malls are doomed; between 20% and 25% of American malls will close within five years, according to a new report from Credit Suisse. Estimates are that a record 8,600 stores will close this year alone. In addition department stores which have been major anchors in malls — Sears, Kmart, JC Penney, and Macy's — are closing many of their stores.

In the wake of bankruptcies and closings, some malls have come up with clever ways to lure people back to their spaces by sponsoring carnivals, concerts, and food-truck festivals in their large and empty parking lots.

In 2000, Duane Elgin wrote in Promise Ahead: "The American Dream of a consumerist way of life has become a dangerous illusion that no longer fits the reality of the world and our human potentials."

Malls gave new life and energy to consumerism and now that new life and energy is flagging. But is this blow against malls a sign that the consumerist way of life is dying? Nope. Malls may be closing, but shopping has not diminished. Millions are just shopping online. Amazon, for example, has grown from being a bookstore, to offering all kinds of consumer goods including food.

And in affluent areas of the country, malls are doing just fine. Perhaps that's because the rich want to be seen buying expensive items at exclusive stories.

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About This Blog

Spiritual literacy is the ability to read the signs written in the texts of our own experiences. It is recommended and practiced in all the world's religions. Whether viewed as a gift from God or a skill to be cultivated, this facility enables us to discern and decipher a world full of meaning. More

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