The mindfulness conspiracy

Mindfulness has gone mainstream, with celebrity endorsement from Oprah Winfrey and Goldie Hawn. Meditation coaches, monks and neuroscientists went to Davos to impart the finer points to CEOs attending the World Economic Forum. The founders of the mindfulness movement have grown evangelical. Prophesying that its hybrid of science and meditative discipline "has the potential to ignite a universal or global renaissance", the inventor of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Jon Kabat-Zinn, has bigger ambitions than conquering stress. Mindfulness, he proclaims, "may actually be the only promise the species and the planet have for making it through the next couple of hundred years". So, what exactly is this magic panacea? In 2014, Time magazine put a youthful blonde woman on its cover, blissing out above the words: "The Mindful Revolution." The accompanying feature described a signature scene from the standardised course teaching...

Read More

Science says silence is much more important to our brains than we think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing 'product'. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan "Silence, Please". A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, "No talking, but action." Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: "We decided, instead of saying that it's really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let's embrace it and make it a good thing". Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world...

Read More

SOTT FOCUS: MindMatters: The Triumph of Irrationalism and the Death of Metaphysics

Between hysteria, censorship, endless war and climate catastrophe it seems the world has fallen victim to chaos and irrationality. On today's show we take a hard look at the origins of this madness and what to do about it, utilizing a work by one of our favorite philosophers, R.G. Collingwood. Collingwood, an English philosopher, archaeologist and historian, passed away in 1943. But just three years before he passed he published An Essay on Metaphysics and left the world a rigorous defense of truth, ethics, and metaphysics, as well as a warning as to what would happen if these 'ancient sciences' were neglected or cast aside by future generations. On today's show we utilize the work that he left behind in order to understand why the world is the way it is, and to explore what it takes to be rational...

Read More

For health and well-being, spend two hours a week in nature

Spending at least two hours a week in nature may be a crucial threshold for promoting health and well-being, according to a new large-scale study. Research led by the University of Exeter, published in Scientific Reports and funded by NIHR, found that people who spend at least 120 minutes in nature a week are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being than those who don't visit nature at all during an average week. However, no such benefits were found for people who visited natural settings such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches for less than 120 minutes a week. The study used data from nearly 20,000 people in England and found that it didn't matter whether the 120 minutes was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits. It also found the...

Read More

The hippies were right: It’s all about vibrations, man!

Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A bat? A cockroach? A bacterium? An electron? These questions are all aspects of the ancient "mind-body problem," which has resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years. The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades and is generally known now as the "hard problem" of consciousness (usually capitalized nowadays), after the New York University philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic 1995 paper and his 1996 book The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory. ...

Read More

Free will is real

Philosopher Christian List argues against reductionism and determinism in accounts of the mind I can live without God, but I need free will. Without free will life makes no sense, it lacks meaning. So I'm always on the lookout for strong, clear arguments for free will. Christian List, a philosopher at the London School of Economics, provides such arguments in his succinct new book Why Free Will Is Real (Harvard 2019). I met List in 2015 when I decided to attend, after much deliberation, a workshop on consciousness at NYU. I recently freely chose to send him some questions, which he freely chose to answer. -John Horgan Horgan: Why philosophy? Was your choice pre-determined? List: I don't think it was. As a teenager, I wanted to become a computer scientist or mathematician. It was only during my last couple of...

Read More

Imagination can change perception of reality on a neural level

Imagining something into reality is probably a desire as old as imagination itself, but there might just be a slight bit more to it than mere wishful thinking. A new study reveals how imagining a scenario that takes place in an emotionally neutral place can change our attitude to that place in reality. To puzzle out how we learn from imagined events, researchers from Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive Brain Sciences conducted an experiment, first in the US and then they replicated it in Germany. Participants were asked to provide a list of people they really liked, people they disliked and a list of places they had neutral feelings towards. Then, while lying in an fMRI scanner, they were asked to imagine meeting someone from their liked-list at one of their neutral places. ...

Read More

Caitlin Johnstone: On authentic spirituality

Spirituality, as it is implemented in our world today, is almost entirely useless. No, that's not fair, I take that back. Spirituality as it is implemented in our world today has been very useful for giving people pleasant narratives to tell themselves about the nature of reality, for helping people to compartmentalize and dissociate away from their feelings and their psychological trauma, and for giving people a sense of belonging and the egoically pleasing feeling of having superior beliefs to other people. Spirituality as it is implemented in our world today is great for escapism, in the same way that doing drugs, playing video games or binging on Netflix is great for escapism. I think it's fair to say that more than 99 percent of what is generally practiced and recognized as spirituality today is nothing other than glorified escapism,...

Read More

Stoic practices that can make us happier …or less unhappy

Learn from the Stoics - turns out they knew a thing or two - and try these 4 rituals for a happier life. Alright, you've probably read a zillion articles about happiness online and you're not a zillion times happier. What gives? Reading ain't the same as doing. You wouldn't expect to read some martial arts books and then go kick ass like Bruce Lee, would you? All behavior, all changes, must be trained. The ancient Stoics knew this. They didn't write stuff just to be read. They created rituals - exercises - to be performed to train your mind to respond properly to life so you could live it well. From The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living: That's why the philosophers warn us not to be satisfied with mere learning, but to...

Read More

Men more likely than women to face mental illness and substance abuse

June marks National Men's Health Month, an opportunity to examine the prevalence of drug misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs) in men. Compared to women, men are more likely to engage in illicit drug use and to begin using alcohol or drugs at a younger age. These risk factors contribute to a rate of substance dependence in men that is twice that of women; men are also more likely to experience an opioid overdose. In fact, of the 47,600 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2017, two-thirds were among men. This disparity is also true for alcohol and other drugs. For example, men are more likely to drink excessively, which is associated with higher rates of alcohol-related deaths, hospitalizations, and risky behavior, such as drinking and driving. For other drugs, such as marijuana, use in males is higher, as is the prevalence...

Read More