Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Science of Sukha - by Zack Walsh

You can download a copy of this article written by Zack Walsh here.

The Science of Sukha:
A Scientific Theory on the Buddhist Concept of Happiness and Human Development
By Zachary David Walsh
June 2013 Abstract
There are many engaged Buddhists incorporating science into Buddhism without reference to traditional value structures and there are many Buddhist scholars ignoring or rejecting the ongoing development of Buddhism by scientific research. This paper seeks to avoid these two extremes by constructing a platform upon which Buddhists and scientists can meaningfully advance one another’s understanding of happiness and well-being without neglecting important differences. Using an integrative literature review format, research from positive psychology, happiness economics, and contemplative science will be linked to Buddhist ethics, in an effort to delineate the territory and boundaries of Buddhism’s engagement to the science of happiness. 
Since there is no operational definition for a Buddhist concept of happiness in current scientific literature, this paper will also attempt to lay the foundation for its establishment in three ways: First, it will define happiness in correspondence to the Buddhist concept of sukha; second, it will integrate scientific research into a construct that retains the concept’s traditional integrity; and third, it will experimentally demonstrate the validity of sukha by providing evidence of its functional relevance to lived Buddhist practice. The paper will conclude with a critical analysis of the potential merits of Buddhism’s happiness hypothesis in future studies.

Please download the entire article here.

Friday, January 10, 2014

What Time Is It? Come to this event (if you are in Seattle...but it may be in your area soon)

<# some text #>Robert Gilman
"I've never been more encouraged about the future than I am today."
That's Dr. Robert Gilman, former astrophysicist and long-time sustainability thought-leader, drawing a surprising conclusion from his study of 16,000 years of human history. On February 12 he'll talk in Seattle about the reasons he's so encouraged and what they mean to you personally, to the way you see the future and what you can do to create a thriving future for yourself, your community and the world.
Come and discover what you can do to work with the momentum of history.
Seating is limited so please order your tickets now.
What Time Is It? - Foundation Stones part 1
Plymouth Congregational Church
Seattle, WA

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Nation of Spoiled Brats? How the Happiness Initiative Is Working with Youth to Ensure a Happy Future - repost from CSR Wire

A Nation of Spoiled Brats? How the Happiness Initiative Is Working with Youth to Ensure a Happy Future

The simple things in life – spending time with friends and family, volunteering, a strong work ethic – can prove more valuable than riches.
By Laura Musikanski, JD, MBA
My friend John de Graaf wrote the book (and coined the word) Affluenza to describe a world where consumerism trumps governance, greed trumps community and money trumps all. In writing Affluenza, John’s mission was to save our nation from descending into a Hunger Games-like dystopia where the rich control everything and the poor must suffer. He never thought his work would be used to get a wealthy teenager off the hook for killing people.

Ethan Couch, Symbol of What Ails US?

The blast of news reports, blog posts and social media about young Ethan Couch paint a picture of what is wrong when Affluenza is the norm. Ethan was raised with the notion that money, rather than remorse and correcting a course of action, is the answer Affluenzato mistakes or misdeeds.
Within his cocoon of wealth, a sense of empathy for those not as well off as he was not instilled but, instead, a sense of invincibility was. He was not held accountable for his actions. Instead, his parents swamped him with things money can buy. This poor little rich boy is now in the unenviable position of representing what is wrong with our country.
Ten years after the first release of the book, John and I started working together on a project to cure the ills of Afflenza and the widening rich-poor gap in this country. It is called The Happiness Initiative. It provides a way to get our country off the singular focus on wealth and consumerism and onto a broader focus on the wellbeing and happiness of all.

Teens Surveyed on Well Being 

This summer, Teens in Public Service (TIPS), a Seattle-based nonprofit used the Happiness Initiative’s Gross National Happiness Index to understand what makes teenagers happy. TIPS works with teens by providing paid employment in public service. Teens get a chance to earn money while doing work that they love and helping others. TIPS couples the cultivation of a strong work ethic with that of compassion.
Thirty-one of the 50 TIPS youth took the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) during the course of their paid internships in 2013. They scored highest in material wellbeing, at 81 out of 100, and lowest in time balance, at 52 out of 100. Their other lowest scores were in community and governance, at 58 and 56 out of 100 respectively.
The GNH Index indicated that the teens were spending more time in activities that enhance their material wellbeing at the expense of time spent in community, governance and other areas of life. Community includes relationships with friends and family, volunteering and getting to know neighbors and others in their schools and work place so as to build trust.
They also scored low in governance, indicating they did not trust that their local or federal government had their interests at heart or feel that there was enough opportunity for involvement.

The Paradox of Plenty

The teens were reminded that ignoring time with friends and family or not being active in other areas of your life for a short time because of a pressing engagement is okay. However, long-term imbalance can have a deleterious effect on all the other areas of life and will eventually lead to unhappiness. In essence, balance is important.
They were also informed about the Easterlin Paradox, which tells us that happiness in terms of satisfaction with life and affect does not increase much once you pass an income of about $75,000 for a family of four. Admittedly, short-term affect (how you feel) does increase if you gain a lot of money, like if you win the lottery. Yet, depending on who you are, after between two weeks to one year, you go back to your old level of happiness.

Community, Friends, Family Offer the Most Gains In Satisfaction

We let the youth know that on the other hand, the most bang you can get for your buck after you have an income of about $75,000 for a family of four is in the domain of community. So spending time with friends and family, volunteering and getting to know neighbors and others in your community will make you happier. So will engaging in the governance of your school, neighborhood, city or country.
We left the project feeling hopeful about the youth of our nation. The teens were idealistic, hard working and responsible.
When faced with current events, memories of working with them and their program cheers the heart with the knowledge that while there is a serious problem with the rich-poor gap in this country, many of our nation's youth are gaining the education and experience to change that tomorrow.