Monday, February 23, 2015

Hungry Ghosts- reposing!

Hungry Ghosts

My father sent me an article from the Guardian with my birthday present. It arrived late from Paris,  where my father lives, like the postal service of my childhood.The article is dated January 16, 2015: Outsider’s Critique of the Hurried West, written by John Vidal. It contains nine shots against Western culture or more specifically white people –fired by Amazonian shaman Davi Yanomami: wealth, greed and selfishness, shopping addiction, the high cost of living in the urban landscape, war for natural resource exploitation, politics (no explanation needed), healthcare systems focused on illness, conservation rather than restoration of the environment, and finally the orientation of man versus nature rather than the human as part of nature.    In essence, the white man is the reason our world is going to hell. 

I can't argue.  But I think there is more to it than that.  Davi Yanomamicontrasts the white people approach to war with that of his own “If one of our people is killed by arrows or sorcery blowpipes we only respond by trying to kill the enemy who ate him.”  Is this the proposed alternative?  And - let’s not forget that its easy to criticize, easy to shoot down, easy to find faults in others.   Not so easy is the creative, generative and loving path.

Lately, I have been listening to Joseph Campbell lectures. One of his observations is that the divide    To this, I do not think the problems Davi Yanomami points out are only of the white man, or the western culture. It seems to me, the mindset of selfishness, greed and “never enoughness” – what some call “the hungry ghost” are the problems facing us all.
between the East and West is no longer. Whether the forces of globalization, media, information technology or time, the differences between “white man” and that of any other race, color, creed or nationality are diminishing.

 Joseph Campbell also said, in his last lecture for Myths and the Masks of God, that  “the first low of our biology is self-protection, the first law of the spirit is compassion.”  Here, it seems, is a sign for a solution. I have also been listening to lectures on Jung, and by way of that a lecture given by Robert McDermott on Rudoph Steiner who paraphrases Steiner as saying something to the effect of  ‘our job on this planet is to so so love nature.’  My dharma teacher, Robert Beatty, has spent much of his life trying to understand why we treat the planet and each other poorly when we are of nature, we are the environment, we are the planet.  It's a problem the sustainability movement has also been trying to understand, and the happiness movement as well.  In fact, one of the early findings in the happiness movement is that nature and happiness are deeply connected.

On the backside of the clipping my father sent me is a story of an Afghani family that walked three weeks across land “littered with landmines” leaving behind the bodies of his parents and one of his sons killed during the journey to come to Kabul where his children shake from the cold at night and the economy is “on the rise” from an annual per capita income of $210 to $700 due to international funding, mostly foreign military spending.  The article points to opium and corruption as the growth industries, and gives an example of jobs created: scrap metal collecting (by a man would dreams of going to school to become and engineer or doctor).

It’s about as far from happiness as you can get.  And yet, love and creation is in our nature as much as it is in our nature to destroy.   This is part of the reason I believe so much in sustainability and the happiness movement.  Another has to do with my family.

My father, a Parisian Jew, was a child when WWII broke out. He was one of the lucky ones who   As his daughter, I grew up within the context of survival of WWII, and with the deep crisis that happens to a people when questioning how something so terrible could happen.  I remember very early in life, looking at image of concentration camp victims. From early, I embraced that part of my job, as his daughter, was to encourage in him, and in myself, the creation of a context where people would take care of each other, and would not allow something so terrible to happen again.

As a grandmother today, I think about the world my grandson is inheriting and this is yet another
reason for my dedication to the happiness movement, as much as it is to give hope to those robbed of it from the past, it is to help lay down the foundation for future generations to live in a natural, social and economic world that is vibrant, loving and caring of each and every being.  It is easy to get lost in the horrors of the world, to decry all the evil of human nature, and to give up.  But that is not the inevitable end for humans. As great as our destructive, selfish, mean and greedy power is, with all the innovation, production and outcomes that have come from it, so great is our generative, giving, loving and compassionate power – and perhaps, even more.

By Laura Musikanski

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How do YOU define happiness?

On Defining Happiness by Laura Musikanski 
Yesterday Mitch, one of the founders of The Rules Change Project, asked me how I define happiness. He explained that he defined it by how one feels, but was wondering anyway. We had a great conversation about what it will take to bring about a new economic paradigm, sustainability and wellbeing for all.

Mitch's question is not an uncommon one -in fact, it is most common.

It's particularly important not just because of defining happiness (affect/feeling, satisfaction with life and the domains, or external conditions of life and eudiamonia) but also to put to rest the war some have on happiness, pronouncing eudiamonia (a sense of purpose, being your true self in a fully integrated way, etc.) more important than how one feels and the pursuit of pleasure or hedonism, the war some have on the impact of genetic set points versus external versus internal factors and all that.

It's important to because how one defines happiness can include all of this, and embrace the interconnections.

And, like here, I did give Mitch the usual long-winded explanation, but told him I had just finished an infographic for just that purpose. So here it is, with the hope that a picture (or infographic, in this case) is worth a thousand words:
(download here)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

On a Healthy Happy Home

How to Style Your Home for Maximum Health and Happiness,
a guest post by Katie Writes

Your home is your sanctuary. A place you can get away from all the stresses and strains of the outdoor world, and it should reflect that. The last thing you want after a long day is to come home to a place that is cluttered up, with leaks or drab paintwork.

What you surround yourself with in your home can have a huge effect on your mental and physical
well-being. Have you ever walked into a room that is light and airy and beautifully decorated, instantly instilling a wonderful feeling of calm? With a little effort, that is what your home can be like.

Homes designed for maximum happiness generally share common themes—plenty of light, well-arranged furniture and uncluttered surfaces. Using this as your base and adding in a spark of your own personality, you can create your perfectly balanced oasis.

Create Light
The easiest approach, of course, is to have large windows in every room to allow the sun to pour in. If this is not possible then paint the walls a fresh, sparkling white or neutral tone.
Avoid chunky, dark furniture as this will absorb the light. Light reflecting items like acrylics and glass will appear to take up less space, in turn making the room seem more open.
Hanging mirrors in a darker room is a great way to create light. Placed opposite a window, the mirror will reflect light into the room. Having two mirrors opposite each other will reflect light, creating a brighter feel.

Go Minimalist
Less is definitely more when you are styling your home. Get rid of clutter and allow your house to breath—your home will instantly feel more peaceful.
Choose hidden storage solutions and maximize space under tables and beds, to stash items you don’t often use.

Bring Nature into Your Home
Nature is well documented to have a positive effect on your well-being. Decorating your interior with will increase oxygen levels and help to eliminate nasty toxins from the air. Toxins can build up from synthetic materials in our home and even in our clothes.
house plants
Feng shui experts say that flowers give different energies depending on their type, so having them in your home will have a range of positive effects. Mix colors depending on your mood, like red and violet for increased energy, green and yellow for increased happiness or blue for a more calming effect.

Create a Safe Haven
Your home should be your safe place, where you can completely be yourself, whatever you choose that to be. Make sure your home has up-to-date safety features. Knowing your home is protected will allow you to relax with confidence.

Windows are an eye to the world but should be covered at night time to create that cozy nest feel. Consider implementing chic handcrafted window coverings to add a touch of personality and comfort to your decor.

After a little thought and organization, you can create a home that will fulfill all your needs, spiritually and physically. Get it right and you will enjoy a happier, healthier and more productive life.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Change the world with Castles in the Sky, and an ask for you to help build

About this post: The world changes because people build castles in the sky - dream impossible dreams, and then take action to make them happen.  Marilyn Winter-Tamkin, Meryl Lefkoff and the group at Emergent Diplomacy have been laying the foundation to build the a castle in the sky to change our economic paradigm and our world. I met Meryl in 2012 at the UN's Happiness & Well-being high level meeting, and Marilyn shortly after.  Both are phenomenal people who are doing phenomenal things.  This post is for all of you systems thinkers who believe a better future is possible (like me!), and an ask that you contribute to this world-changing castle in the sky. Laura 

A guest post from Marilyn Winter-Tamkin
People around the world are suffering and growing angry about increasing inequality,poverty, global
climate change, and endless war. Political leaders are not changing the situation.

Bretton Woods 3.0 is about changing things. Bretton Woods 3.0 is an unprecedented global summit to be held in May, 2016 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It will bring together grassroots activists who understand how to successfully mobilize large communities with leaders who focus on innovative perspectives and solutions to the overwhelming problems we face. This is a gathering where magic will happen.

After 10 days of working sessions, participants will emerge with a collaborative global strategy and action plans to ignite and maintain long term coordinated mass action. These ongoing actions will be designed to keep pressure on policy makers to change the way we measure human progress; to make our current economic policies more compassionate; and to create a new economic system that protects our children's future and the planet's resources.

Interested? Participate with Indiegogo campaign site.

We hope you will contribute generously, and ask you friends and colleagues to consider doing so, too.

Yes, we really can change the world!

Many thanks,

Marilyn, Board Director of Emergent Diplomacy

Friday, January 16, 2015

Play Matchmaker for Valentine's day this year

A guest post from social monsters:
Play Matchmaker This Valentine's Day

Studies published in the Social Psychology and Personality Science journal show chronic
matchmaking is associated with higher well being. Other studies show matching people on how well they get along increases happiness and is more intrinsically rewarding.
Do you have friends that you want to get together but it seems like they could be an unlikely match? Another study shows the more unlikely the match, the more rewarding it is when it proves successful. So if you’re down in the dumps this Valentines Day, play Cupid to make yourself feel fantastic while helping someone else discover love.
Here are some ideas to get started:

Be a Good Listener

Listen to your friends and try to decipher what they’re really trying to tell you. When shesays, “I just want a good guy” press to find out what that means to her. Does she want someone loyal and hardworking? Or is she looking for a guy who is thoughtful and spontaneous with a history of great relationships?
Remember not every match is going to be a good fit. If you’re hearing your friend say she’s just not ready to date, then respect that. Offer to set her up on a casual date with someone fun that will take her mind off a past relationship or whatever is troubling her. Instead, match her up with a few great friends and help plan an evening out.

Offer a Personality Test

It can be tricky to tell if a couple is going to spark or not. Give yourself an advantage by sending them both a personality test. The idea is to look for traits the other finds attractive, not to necessarily match a couple up based on having a similar personality. While a test can’t determine personality, it can help determine the odds that a pair will hit it off or share an appreciation for each other. Couple the personality test with what you already know from this couple to make an educated guess about their chances for a love match.

Help Take the Edge Off

It’s okay to share a little inside knowledge about the couple without disclosing everything. Tell him about how she loves volunteering with animals and going on long walks through the city. Tell her about his appreciation for architecture and to look at which buildings are going up around town next. But don't interfere unless there's confusion after the date.
For example, she might think he's just not interested while he's crazy about her. And if the guy takes the traditional approach and asks out the woman, make a suggestion to get him a gift. Consider suggesting heartfelt gifts like chocolate dipped strawberries or a collection of his favorite teas to inspire fun and help give the evening a spark.

Make It Easy to Say Yes

Matching up the perfect couple may offer the matchmaker a thrill, but can be stressful for the couple involved. Make it easy for them to say yes. Make suggestions about the date you know they would both enjoy or offer to organize it yourself. Look for interesting and fun events in your city where they can get to know each other like a jazz night at a local museum. Avoid plans where they have to make awkward conversation on their own with no reprieve of entertainment or distraction in sight.

Friday, January 2, 2015

What was your new year's resolution? A post by coach Andrea Taylor

Set a Goal to Make It a Happy New Year

The New Year naturally invites you to start something new.  Don’t resist the urge to make a resolution. Having a goal is a powerful way to become happier. 

For the moment, don’t worry about being able to keep your resolution. Simply going after a goal will increase your happiness. And when you feel happier, that mood spreads to others.

Imagine your resolution as a way to make the world happier. That thought will help motivate you. And the research about happiness and goals is encouraging as well.

D. Niven in his book, 100 Simple Secrets of the Best Half of Life, reported that people who had a specific goal were 26 percent more likely to have high self esteem. And they were 19 percent more likely to be satisfied with life.

Your happiness increases because goals give you purpose and optimism. Your positive mood will attract good things into your life. A study in Psychological Science by Seligman and colleagues found that optimistic people had more success than pessimistic people.

The power of your goal goes beyond you. Our biology helps us spread happiness to others. Scientists who study the brain say that we’re hardwired to exchange emotions. Our mirror neurons pick up on Goleman. When you’re happy, this built-in feedback loop helps other people feel happy too.
the social cues and emotions of others and mimic them, according to

This means that your New Year’s resolution for 2015 can create a ripple effect. You can even design your goal to specifically boost happiness.

For example one of the goals on the Happiness Goals Countdown at Life Coach Hub is to compliment someone every day. You gain happiness by making another person’s day better. And the feeling builds as you stick with it day after day.

You can learn the research about happiness goals by joining the Countdown. You’ll get 10 suggestions for happiness goals. With these insights you’ll choose resolutions for 2015 you can really feel enthusiastic about.    

Monday, December 29, 2014

A cautionary tale from the grinch of christmas past? Nope. It's about keeping the happy in Christmas - a post from Ginny!

The concept behind Barbara Frederickson’s and Marcial Losada’s “Positivity Ratio” is common sense: to be a happier person, you can both increase the number of positive experiences in your life and decrease your exposure to negative situations. At a certain point — the exact ratio is a matter still under scientific scrutiny — the positive to negative ratio is high enough to allow for flourishing, thriving, living our best possible lives.
  • Avoiding the negative could mean limiting your exposure to sensational news coverage, cutting back the time you spend in toxic relationships, or, in my case, staying away from shopping malls.
Shopping malls give me the heebie-jeebies. Long ago, I used to enjoy malls, but now my little Vermont heart finds them emotionally and aesthetically displeasing. Worse — much, much worse — malls are ever-grinding gears in the capitalist growth economy.which is destroying our planet one shiny trinket at a time. For me, they are the very antithesis of both personal and systemic well being.
Further, judging by my recent experience, malls are just not very happy places.
  • So why was I in a mall on, of all days, the Friday before Christmas? Well, as the late great positive psychology pioneer Chris Peterson put it, “Happiness is not a spectator sport.” This wisdom applies to many aspects of life, not the least of which is nurturing relationships and taking care of loved ones.  There are some things we just have to do.
On this particular day, my daughter Jennifer, her two-year-old daughter Madeleine, and I had spent three long days driving to be with the whole family for two weeks of togetherness (at the beach, I won’t lie to you!). We were going to spend the night with a friend of Jennifer’s, but we had arrived several hours early. It was too rainy and chilly to play outside.
Not only that, but Jennifer’s phone was dying. She is a hard-working single mom — redundant, I know, but she’s a tenure track college professor with a crazy number of demands on her time. She needs a working phone, for both professional and parental reasons.
But Jennifer’s semester had been far too busy to carve out time to go to the phone store. This day, we were near a mall, with extra time, a phone kiosk, and a toddler that needed to get out of her car seat and run around. Plus, many modern malls have indoor playgrounds which Madeleine loves. Not only that, Madeleine needed a snack. So when Jennifer suggested we go to the mall to take care of all these needs, it struck me as more important to be a loving, supportive mother and grandmother than to either whine or pontificate about how much I hate malls. Happiness is not synonymous with narcissism. Into the mall we went.
Strike one:
Immediately, we were walking through row upon row of women’s clothes, and I wanted it all. Oh, yes, I am as susceptible as the next person to the powerful forces of alluring displays and marketing magnetism — maybe even more so, since I am so rarely exposed to this stuff. I’m like an easy drunk. And I do not like this in myself.  At. All.  Right away, I was unhappy with my own shortcomings and with the whole damn money hungry mall machine but I kept quiet and kept going.
Strike two came at the playground:
Jennifer headed for the phone kiosk, leaving me determined to savor Madeleine’s enjoyment and try to block out the overwhelming stimuli all around — smells, sounds, sights — all designed to get me (& everyone else) to spend money now. The playground was in the midst of it all, but contained within by plastic walls @ three feet high, with a thick cushion floor and several modest climbing pieces for little kids to enjoy. In fact, a sign explicitly stated that the playground was only for children shorter than the sign — in other words, the pre-school set.
Yet, the small play area was filled with much older and taller children who were playing fast and hard, quite oblivious to the vulnerable young ones trying to play on the same equipment. Madeleine is a tough and brave two year old. She also loves to climb. I tried to let her do her thing, and not be an over-protective grandmother, as the hyped-up big kids dashed madly about, ready to run over any toddler in their way, or knock a little one off the climbing structure. These kids were not being mean — they were just out of control, and in the wrong play area for their ages.  Twice, I said to them, “watch out for the little kids!” Each time, there was a only slight pause before the mayhem resumed.
Finally, Madeleine had enough and asked to leave. I was more than happy to go along with her choice.
I can’t blame the kids. They were playing, and isn’t that what children are supposed to do?  I just wondered, where are their parents? I looked, and looked — their parents were nowhere to be found. Madeleine was in that play area for at least a half hour, and the parents (or other responsible adults) never came by to make sure everything was fine (which it wasn’t). Over and over, I wondered, where are the parents???  Or even a mall employee?
Very sad.  What is wrong with our systems that children are left alone — in blatant disobedience to posted rules — for such a long period of time?  Are unsupervised children deemed an acceptable price to pay for more money being spent?
Strike three:
Next up was snack time. The playground was adjacent to the food court, but have any of you tried recently to find a healthy snack for a two year old at a mall food court??? Really, how much of this stuff is even really food? There were cookies, pretzels, candy, pizza, Chinese food, and burgers that I wouldn’t have minded putting in my own system but that I was not about to feed to Madeleine.
Finally, I resorted to Starbucks, despite the fact that I am currently trying to boycott Starbucks (because, as a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, they have teamed up with Monsanto in a lawsuit against the state of Vermont because our representative democracy passed a law requiring GMO labeling of all food sold in our own state). Once again, taking care of my beloved grandchild triumphed over my political scruples. In Starbucks, I bought her a yogurt, granola, and strawberry parfait that seemed reasonably healthy.
As we sat in the food court, Madeleine happily ate her parfait while I watched more unhappy, unsupervised children at the next table. There were three children, roughly six to 10 years old, apparently siblings, and they were not having a good time. The oldest and youngest (both boys) were fighting, and the oldest somehow made the youngest cry in pain. Later, the youngest got his revenge by using his feet to smash a package on the floor — a bag containing what appeared to be the oldest’s new pair of sunglasses. The middle child — a girl — sat impassively throughout.
This went on for some time — half an hour maybe? I wanted to help somehow, but could not figure out what to do, other then tend to the little one in my care as we waited for her mother. Jennifer showed up, and then all three of us sat there for a while longer — and still the unhappy trio was alone at the table next to us.
Again, where were their parents?? Whatever the answer — maybe they had to wait while mom or dad was working, not shopping — it was a sad situation.  More mall fall-out?  Or just the way it is these days?  Either way, something is wrong here.
Strike Four: $anta Claus
Okay, I have nothing against Santa Claus. I like Christmas. I like this special family time, and exchanging small and thoughtful gifts — or, in our case, buying each other the experience of a vacation. I want this time of year to be magical for Madeleine (though not greed-inducing).
So when Jennifer’s phone transaction was finally completed, and we could at last escape this large glittery bastion of suffering, I initially had no problem stopping at the Santa Claus booth on our way out. Madeleine likes Santa Claus — she calls him, “a good friend.”
But there was, in fact, a problem: visiting Santa, like everything else in a shopping mall, is just another opportunity to turn parents into consumers and cajole more money from them.
Maybe my age is showing here, but as I recall, when my kids were little, the department store and mall Santa Claus’s were free. Sure, they were a way to lure parents into particular stores or malls, but the actual Santa experience did not directly involve commerce.
Not anymore. Now, it is all about buying photos of your child on Santa’s lap.  It is about commerce, not magic.
Technically, visiting this Santa was free, but as we came to the front of the line — staffed by photographer/salespeople, not elves — we were asked whether we were just visiting Santa or were there to buy photos. When the answer was, “just visiting,” I got the distinct impression that we had just become second class citizens in Santa’s workshop.
Madeleine was fine. She had a good time. She wouldn’t let Santa hold her on his lap, but she glowed all the same.
I was happy for her, but turning Santa into $anta cast a pall over the experience.  Is nothing sacred?
  • Speaking of sacred, this morning, a friend posted a great quote by Bill Moyers (another redundancy?) that sums it up nicely: “I believe that the fundamental war we are engaged in is one between a paradigm that commodifies everything and everyone, and a paradigm in which life, community, nature and our obligation to future generations is actually held as sacred.”
Yes, oh yes. I do hold life, community and nature as sacred. That is why I work for a gross national happiness paradigm and helping others grow their own personal happiness paradigms, governed by genuine well being, not internalized, insatiable, GDP-inspired desire.  As for holding my obligation to future generations as sacred, that is part of the reason I pour so much effort into helping my daughter raise Madeleine, in addition to the fact that I’m flat out in love with her. Even in that mall, the love between us was sacred — as it was for many others in the mall, I am sure — but not much else was or is likely to be sacred in any shopping mall in the near future.
Of course, there is much in life that is far more negative than shopping malls — but on both a personal and big picture level, it all adds up.  Thus, for my positivity ratio and yours — and that of future generations — here’s to a happy new year far far away from shopping malls. Salud!