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A Zen Master Reveals a Little Known Strategy to Deal With Uncomfortable Feelings (and Creative Positive Ones)

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We all can agree that negative emotions can be tough to deal with. Sometimes it can be much easier to avoid them and keep them bottled up inside.

Yet, according to research, one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance. It appears that avoiding negative emotions buys you a short-term gain at the price of long-term pain.

According to spiritual guru Osho, it’s crucial to experience all emotions if we want to be truly happy:

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”

The question is:

How do we learn to embrace our emotions?

Osho believes that’s all about listening to your being and becoming mature:

“Listen to your being. It is continuously giving you hints; it is a still, small voice. It does not shout at you, that is true. And if you are a little silent you will start feeling your way. Be the person you are. Never try to be another, and you will become mature. Maturity is accepting the responsibility of being oneself, whatsoever the cost. Risking all to be oneself, that’s what maturity is all about.”

One strategy to learn to embrace your emotions

Osho also offers a brilliant strategy to embrace difficult emotions like sadness, anxiety and depression:

“Sadness is silent, it is yours. It is coming because you are alone. It is giving you a chance to go deeper into your aloneness. Rather than jumping from one shallow happiness to another shallow happiness and wasting your life, it is better to use sadness as a means for meditation. Witness it. It is a friend! It opens the door of your eternal aloneness.”

Master Buddhust Pema Chödrön also echoes these feelings:

“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.”

By viewing these emotions as friends, you will gradually rewire your brain to accept them and work with them, rather than fighting against them.

For example, when you experience anxiety, you can see it as an overprotective friend that is just looking out for you. You can simply say, “Thanks for looking out for me, even if you’re being a bit silly.”

11 Life Lessons From Buddha That Will Rock Your World (And Make You Much Happier!)

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Guatam Buddha is at the center of Buddhist teachings, and his words of wisdom have been passed down over the millennia through oral teachings and written records. Buddha embodied the spirit of peace, acceptance, and non-attachment to material possessions, and through his messages we can come to a better understanding of our spiritual and emotional selves.

Here are 11 lessons from the Buddha that will help you start winning at life:

“When you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily.”

There is a sharp contrast between unconditional love and emotions that are based on our ego’s needs and desires. By learning to understand the true meaning of what love is, we can appreciate the beauty and power it brings to our lives.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”

The truth cannot be hidden from those who seek it. No matter what life throws at you or what manipulations you have to deal with from others, eventually the true nature of a situation will always be revealed.

“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.”       

Modern society places such an emphasis on material possessions that we tend to measure our level of success by the amount of money we have or how others perceive us. However, a peaceful life can only be achieved by acknowledging who you are within.

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”

The old cliche that life is about the journey not the destination holds a lot of truth. Don’t live your life in anticipation of the end result. Instead, embrace the joys and heartaches along the way to find out what it truly means to be living.

“An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.”

To get the most out of life, you need to be surrounded by sincere people that are supportive of your authentic self. When we associate with those who only cause us pain, we rob ourselves of an opportunity to be happy.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.”

Buddha emphasized within his teachings that we are all one. Segregation and separation are a construct of mankind, but in the eyes of the universe we are all equal and worthy of love and happiness.

“You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.”

Holding onto a grudge does nothing to the person that you are angry at. Instead, it simply consumes your mind and steals your joy. All emotions have their place,but the best thing you can do to move forward is to let go of the negativity.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

Our thoughts create our reality, and this idea is a common thread throughout many spiritual cultures. What you focus on in life is what you will continue to see. If you only acknowledge the darkness, it is hard to see the light.

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

Buddha’s message is simply to learn to think for yourself. We all have a lens that we perceive reality through, but only you can decide what is true for your life. Just because something is popular, does not make it right.

“You only lose what you cling to.”

Many of Buddha’s teachings are based upon the concept of attachment. There is no need to fear loss if we remove our emotional attachment from it. Unconditional love and joy comes from fully accepting the experience, even if it is short-lived.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

Your life is yours, and yours alone. There is no way for anyone to experience the world from your unique perspective. Instead of leaning on others to guide you through life, be brave and blaze your own path.

The lessons of Guatam Buddha can be applied to nearly every facet of our lives. No matter where you came from or what you have experienced, we all have room to grow and evolve as people. When we remain conscious of our own thoughts and embrace our winding journey, we open the doors to bigger and brighter experiences.

This article was originally published on The Power of Ideas.

The One Mindfulness Technique That Will Improve Every Conversation You Ever Have

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Listening seems like a natural skill that we all can do, however not everyone remains present the whole time someone is talking. In fact, our minds tend to wander when someone else talking and many of us start to think of our response.

Our emotions can also interfere with our ability to listen. Sometimes many of us misinterpret what someone is saying because we think that they saying something hurtful or uncalled for. Thanks to evolution our mind is always looking for threats.

That’s why a technique called ‘mindful listening’ is the ultimate remedy. It encourages us to take a step back from our preconceived notions and focus fully on what the person is saying without judging them.

Here are 4 ways to practice mindful listening:

The Art of Mindful Listening

1) Are you preparing your answer before they’ve finished talking?

The first bad habit you need to catch yourself doing is when you prepare your answer before they’ve finished speaking. Many of us do this naturally because we want to avoid an awkward silence.

Instead, try to be more spontaneous and take your time when you decide to speak. Just focus on their words and what they’re actually saying without judging and when it’s your turn to speak, take your time and let the words come to you.

2) Getting distracted

This is a big one, especially when we find ourselves a little bored in the conversation. Our minds wander all the time. It’s almost natural. Instead, use mindfulness and try to focus on the present moment.

Focus on the words they are speaking and when your mind drifts, simply return your focus back to what they are saying. It’s a great mindfulness practice to consistently do every day.

3) Stop judging

When we listen to others speak, we naturally put labels and judgments on what they’re saying. Instead, try to catch yourself when you do so and put an end to it. Just let your mind take the words in without putting a judgment on them.

4) Don’t try to achieve anything

When we have a conversation, we tend to want a certain outcome to occur. This can mean that everything we hear we attach our preconceived notions about how we things should do. The result? We’re not truly listening to what the other person is saying. Let go of having an end result and simply “be” in the conversation. Not only will you enjoy the conversation, but you’ll probably get more out of it too.

If you implement these 4 tips in your daily conversations, you’ll become more likable, friendly and better able learn from every conversation you have.

This article was originally published on Hack Spirit. 

 

5 of History’s Greatest Buddhist Philosophers Reveal the Secret to Happiness

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To many people who don’t believe in religion, Buddhism is seen as a “good” religion. It doesn’t promote hate and offers the individual more freedom to find their own way.

But can it really help you find meaning, fulfilment and happiness in life?

Many say that it can, and after studying Buddhist philosophy for a few years now, I have to agree.

It offers a different way of looking at meaning, attachment and happiness compared to the west. It teaches us that material objects won’t bring you happiness and that it’s what’s inside that counts.

Below, I’ve collated some of the top Buddhist thinkers and their opinions on happiness and how to find it. Enjoy!

1) Gautama Buddha

We must take responsibility for our happiness:

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

Your purpose is key:

“Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.”

The journey is what matters:

“There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.”

“As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.”

The present moment is all that exists:

“The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live, and that is the present moment”

Do good:

“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.”

“Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to others.”

Remove attachments:

“A man asked Gautama Buddha, “I want happiness.”
Buddha said, “First remove “I,” that’s Ego, then remove “want,” that’s Desire.
See now you are left with only “Happiness.”

2) Bodhidharma

Seek nothing:

“To seek is to suffer. To seek nothing is bliss.”

“People of this world are deluded. They’re always longing for something-always, in a word, seeking. But the wise wake up. They choose reason over custom. They fix their minds on the sublime and let their bodies change with the seasons. All phenomena are empty. They contain nothing worth desiring.”

Understand the mind:

“The mind is the root from which all things grow if you can understand the mind, everything else is included. It’s like the root of a tree. All a tree’s fruit and flowers, branches and leaves depend on its root. If you nourish its root, a tree multiplies. If you cut its root, it dies. Those who understand the mind reach enlightenment with minimal effort.”

“If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.”

You might need a mentor:

“Only one person in a million becomes enlightened without a teacher’s help.”

Detach:

“The essence of the Way is detachment.”

It’s what’s inside that matters:

“But deluded people don’t realize that their own mind is the Buddha. They keep searching outside.”

Reason and practice: 

“Many roads lead to the path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice.”

3) The Dalai Lama

Help others:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

“To be kind, honest and have positive thoughts; to forgive those who harm us and treat everyone as a friend; to help those who are suffering and never to consider ourselves superior to anyone else: even if this advice seems rather simplistic, make the effort of seeing whether by following it you can find greater happiness.”

“When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”

We need relationships:

“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection.”

Inner peace is key:

“Inner peace is the key: if you have inner peace, the external problems do not affect your deep sense of peace and tranquility…without this inner peace, no matter how comfortable your life is materially, you may still be worried, disturbed, or unhappy because of circumstances.”

What others do doesn’t matter:

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace.”

4) Buddhadasa

Remove “I”:

“True happiness consists in eliminating the false idea of ‘I’.”

Try not to cling:

“What is the world full of? It is full of things that arise, persist, and cease. Grasp and cling to them, and they produce suffering. Don’t grasp and cling to them, and they do not produce suffering.”

No desire:

“Happiness is when there is no hunger or want at all, when we’re completely free of all hunger, desire, and want.”

The truth of life:

“The entire cosmos is a cooperative. The sun, the moon, and the stars live together as a cooperative. The same is true for humans and animals, trees and soil. Our bodily parts function as a cooperative. When we realize that the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise, that human beings are all mutual friends in the process of birth, old age, suffering and death, then we can build a noble, even heavenly environment. If our lives are not based in this truth, then we shall all perish.”

It takes practice:

“Those who read books cannot understand the teachings and, what’s more, may even go astray. But those who try to observe the things going on in the mind, and always take that which is true in their own minds as their standard, never get muddled. They are able to comprehend suffering, and ultimately will understand Dharma. Then, they will understand the books they read.”

5) D.T Suzuki

The moment is what matters:

“Who would then deny that when I am sipping tea in my tearoom I am swallowing the whole universe with it and that this very moment of my lifting the bowl to my lips is eternity itself transcending time and space?”

Catch life as it flows:

“The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows. There is nothing extraordinary or mysterious about Zen. I raise my hand ; I take a book from the other side of the desk ; I hear the boys playing ball outside my window; I see the clouds blown away beyond the neighbouring wood: — in all these I am practising Zen, I am living Zen. No wordy discussions is necessary, nor any explanation. I do not know why — and there is no need of explaining, but when the sun rises the whole world dances with joy and everybody’s heart is filled with bliss. If Zen is at all conceivable, it must be taken hold of here.”

You won’t be able to explain your happiness:

“No amount of wordy explanations will ever lead us into the nature of our own selves. The more you explain, the further it runs away from you. It is like trying to get hold of your own shadow. You run after it and it runs with you at the identical rate of speed.”

“As far as the content goes, there is none in either *satori* or Zen that can be described or presented or demonstrated for your intellectual appreciation. For Zen has no business with ideas, and *satori* is a sort of inner perception — not the perception, indeed, of a single individual object but the perception of Reality itself, so to speak.”

Compassion is essential:

“Compassion is not religious business, it is human business, it is not luxury, it is essential for our own peace and mental stability, it is essential for human survival.”

 

 

 

 

10 Brutal Truths About Life That Are Difficult To Accept But You’ll Benefit a Lot If You Do

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Every single one of us have our own struggles to deal with. We worry, we procrastinate, we don’t feel good enough, we wish we had more money…the list could go on and on.

But when you think about it, every single of these problems is self-created. They’re real, but they are only real because we’ve created them in our minds. We’ve attached ourselves to the way things should be, rather than accepting what is. The Buddha was right when he said desiring and attachment are the primary cause of unhappiness.

It’s all in our heads, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The key is to see life as it is, without all the ideals and fantasies you’ve created in your mind. Let go of all those stressful distractions and just accept and experience the moment.

Considering this, now would be an oppurtune time to remind of yourself of some hard truths about life that will benefit you in the long run.

1) We haven’t got that much control in life

There are many factors outside yourself that you cannot control. There’s only one thing you can control, and that is how you respond. That’s where your power is.

2) Our expectations are what causes are suffering

Expectations usually lead to disappointment because nothing ever turns out the way you think it should. Try to let go of expectations and simply enjoy life for what it is.

3) Everything, even you, is imperfect

If you wait until you’re ‘perfect’, you’ll never live the life you want to live. Imperfection is impossible and doesn’t exist.

4) Worrying is a complete waste of time

No matter how much worrying you do, it will never change what’s going to happen. Focusing on doing more and worrying less.

5) The best lessons often come from hardships

Unfortunately, sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to truly learn a valuable lesson. The good news is, it will be worth it in the long run.

6) We often confuse being busy with being productive

It can be so easy to get bogged down in tasks that we forget what’s actually important. Focus on actions that are lead to positive change in the grand scheme of things.

7) Most of us don’t need more to be happy, we need less

So many of us think that if we get more material objects that we will be happy in life. But this simply isn’t the case. The joy of obtaining material possessions doesn’t last long and before you know it, you’ll be desiring other material objects.

8) As a society, we’re way too focused on outer beauty

Ask yourself this, if the whole world went blind, how many people would see your inner beauty? Focus within. Be beautiful on the inside too.

9) Most arguments we have are pointless

When has a heated argument ever lead to something beneficial? It’s much better to have a discussion where you focus on learning from each other.

10) It’s easier to hold onto the way things are than to learn and grow

Letting go and moving forward means coming to the realization that some things are a part of your history, but not a part of your destiny.

This article was originally published on Hack Spirit. 

7 Habits That Will Dramatically Improve Your Life

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What does your daily routine look like? If you’re like most people, it involves struggling out of bed, having a quick breakfast, waiting for work to finish and then getting home to watch a TV show before you fall asleep.

There’s nothing wrong with this routine, but it doesn’t get you any closer to your goals. And in the end, it’s our habits that define us and determine where we’re headed.

Cultivating good habits help you find a more meaningful and fulfilling life and allow you to find the best within you.

Here are 7 habits that will send you in the right direction:

1) Stay away from people who erode your quality of life

Toxic people don’t add to your life and simply make it harder. It’s worth avoiding them to negate the cumulative effects of years of negative influence. There are plenty of toxic people and the last thing you want to do is give them more attention than the people who actually deserve it.

2) No more phone, tablet or computer before bed

I’m willing to bet that almost everyone reading this use their phone in bed. But did you know that blue light short-wavelength plays an important role in determining your mood, energy level and sleep quality?

In the morning, sunlight contains this blue light which halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and makes you feel alert.

By the evening, your brain doesn’t expect any blue light exposure and it very sensitive to it. Yet, most of our favorite evening devices like tablets, phones and laptops emit short-wavelength blue light right in your face. This exposure interferes with your ability to fall asleep, as well as the quality of your sleep once you nod off. The best thing you can do is avoid these devices for an hour before you go to bed.

3) Realize the here and now is the only thing that exists

The art of true happiness means being fully accepting and awake to what’s happening right now. Don’t think about what you don’t have. Instead, appreciate what you have right now. If you can’t appreciate what you have right now, you’ll never be able to experience the good life.

4) Realize that your perception isn’t always correct

Whenever you envy someone, or believe that the grass is greener on the other side, realize that you’re probably wrong. You’re only seeing a small slice of their life and have no idea what is going on behind closed doors.

And when something happens to you that you perceive to be bad, always remember that there may actually be a silver lining.

5) Get started, even if you might fail

The only way to achieve your goals is to get started. So many people don’t start because they’re afraid to fail. Get over your fear of perfectionism. Either you’ll learn something new or you’ll succeed. Win-win.

6) Get organized

We waste so much time by not being organized. Starting working out a schedule so that you can get the most of our day. There’s always enough time in the day, you just need to be better organized.

7) Do something that reminds you who you are

We all joke about having “me” time, but what is that, really? It’s making time for those activities that we feel most authentically ourselves doing, when all the masks are off and we can just be. Whether it’s running, painting, writing…make sure you carve out enough time during the day for you to focus on that.

This article was originally published on The Power of Ideas. 

17 Profound Quotes From an Ancient Zen Master That Will Blow Your Mind Wide Open

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Among the most important texts of Zen literature, the Lin-Chi lu details the insights and exploits of the great ninth century Chinese Zen master Lin-chi. Lin-chi’s words and wisdom have outlasted other forms of early Chinese Zen to become dominant throughout China to this day.

He is known as being one of the most influential Zen masters who was quite direct and strict on his students in leading them to enlightenment. Below are some of his most powerful quotes that will change your perspective on life.

Just be yourself

“When it’s time to get dressed, put on your clothes.
When you must walk, then walk.
When you must sit, then sit.
Just be your ordinary self in ordinary life,
unconcerned in seeking for Buddhahood.
When you’re tired, lie down.
The fool will laugh at you
but the wise man will understand.”

“Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you’re tired go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand.”

“The real being, with no status, is always going in and out through the doors of your face.”

“If you want to be free, get to know your real self. It has no form, no appearance, no root, no basis, no abode, but is lively and buoyant. It responds with versatile facility, but its function cannot be located. Therefore when you look for it you become further from it, when you seek it you turn away from it all the more.”

On reality and delusion

“If you live the sacred and despise the ordinary, you are still bobbing in the ocean of delusion.”

On the present moment

“Just put thoughts to rest and don’t seek outwardly anymore. When things come up, then give them your attention; just trust what is functional in you at present, and you have nothing to be concerned about.”

On detachment

“If you want to perceive and understand objectively, just don’t allow yourself to be confused by people. Detach from whatever you find inside or outside yourself – detach from religion, tradition, and society, and only then will you attain liberation. When you are not entangled in things, you pass through freely to autonomy.”

On determination

“Where the student is exerting all his strength, not a breath of air can pass, and the whole thing may be over as swiftly as a flash of lightning or a spark from a flint. If the student so much as bats an eye, the whole relationship could be spoiled. Apply the mind and at once there’s differentiation; rouse a thought and at once there’s error. The person who can understand this never ceases to be right before my eyes.”

“Followers of the Way, if you want to be constantly in accord with the Dharma, you’ll have to begin by learning to be first-rate fellows. Be weak-kneed and wishy-washy and you’ll never get there.”

Independent of all that is

“Things like the twelve divisions of the scriptures all speak of surface or external matters. But students don’t realize this and immediately form their understanding on the basis of such surface and external words and phrases. All this is just depending on something and whoever does that falls into the realm of cause and effect and hasn’t yet escaped the threefold world of birth and death. ”
“The buddhas are born from the realm that leans on nothing. If you can waken to this leaning on nothing, then there will be no Buddha to get hold of.”

On the mind

“Followers of the Way, this thing called mind has no fixed form; it penetrates all the ten directions. In the eye we call it sight, in the ear we call it hearing; in the nose it detects odors, in the mouth it speaks discourses; in the hand it grasps, in the feet it runs along. Basically it is a single bright essence, but it divides itself into these six functions.”

“If your mind entertains a moment of doubt, it becomes obstructed by the element earth. If your mind entertains a moment of craving, it becomes drowned in the element water. If your mind entertains a moment of anger, it is seared by the element fire. If your mind entertains a moment of delight, it is tossed about by the element air. If you can understand that this is so, however, you will not be swayed by the environment but can utilize the elements wherever you may be.”

On non-seeking

“Seek the Buddha and you’ll lose the Buddha. The more you search the farther away you get, the harder you hunt the wider astray you go. This is what I call the secret of the matter.”
“Outside the mind there is no Dharma, and even inside the mind it can’t be grasped. So what is there to seek for?”

“The way I see it, there’s no call for anything special. Just act ordinary, put on your clothes, eat your rice, pass the time doing nothing. You who come from here and there, you all have a mind to do something. You search for Buddha, search for the Dharma, search for emancipation, search for a way to get out of the threefold world. Idiots, trying to get out of the threefold world! Where will you go?”

“You can’t seem to stop your mind from racing around everywhere seeking something. That’s why the patriarch said, ‘Hopeless fellows — using their heads to look for their heads!’ You must right now turn your light around and shine it on yourselves, not go seeking somewhere else. Then you will understand that in body and mind you are no different from the patriarchs and buddhas, and that there is nothing to do.”

This article was originally published on The Power of Ideas. 

 

10 Profound Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes That Will Change the Way You See the World

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If you’ve ever listened to StarTalk radio, then you’ll know that Neil deGrasse Tyson can not only make us laugh but also think.

Often, Neil deGrasse Tyson can shake our perspective on the universe and our place in it.

As a popular science educator, deGrasse Tyson is out to inspire generations of innovators to reach for the stars.

While it’s difficult to narrow down his best quotes, we’ve taken a shot here. We’ve also included our favorite video of Neil deGrasse Tyson where he explains our connection to the cosmos at the end.

We are part of the universe and the universe is in us

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”

What the most successful people in life realize

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

After death

“I would request that my body in death be buried not cremated, so that the energy content contained within it gets returned to the earth, so that flora and fauna can dine upon it, just as I have dined upon flora and fauna during my lifetime”

We are literally stardust

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

One of the biggest problems in the world today

“One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research.”

Let’s reward curiosity

“I would teach how science works as much as I would teach what science knows. I would assert (given that essentially, everyone will learn to read) that science literacy is the most important kind of literacy they can take into the 21st century. I would undervalue grades based on knowing things and find ways to reward curiosity. In the end, it’s the people who are curious who change the world.”

The dreams of tomorrow

“When you visit countries that don’t nurture these kinds of ambitions, you can feel th absence of hope…people are reduced to worrying only about that day’s shelter or the next day’s meal. It’s a shame, even a tragedy, how many people do not get to think about the future. Technology coupled with wise leadership not only solves these problems but enables dreams of tomorow.”

The greatest Tragedy

“If humans one day become extinct from a catastrophic collision, there would be no greater tragedy in the history of life in the universe. Not because we lacked the brain power to protect ourselves but because we lacked the foresight. The dominant species that replaces us in post-apocalyptic Earth just might wonder, as they gaze upon our mounted skeletons in their natural history museums, why large-headed Homo sapiens fared no better than the proverbially pea-brained dinosaurs.”

Robots are better, but this is what gets people excited

“Robots are important also. If I don my pure-scientist hat, I would say just send robots; I’ll stay down here and get the data. But nobody’s ever given a parade for a robot. Nobody’s ever named a high school after a robot. So when I don my public-educator hat, I have to recognize the elements of exploration that excite people. It’s not only the discoveries and the beautiful photos that come down from the heavens; it’s the vicarious participation in discovery itself.”

This is not the way to have a conversation

“The moment when someone attaches you to a philosophy or a movement, then they assign all the baggage and all the rest of the philosophy that goes with it to you. And when you want to have a conversation, they will assert that they already know everything important there is to know about you because of that association. And that’s not the way to have a conversation.”

The Most Astounding Fact in the Universe, According to Neil deGrasse Tyson

Here is an eye opening video of Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing what he believes is the most powerful piece of knowledge we’ve learnt about the universe.

Stephen Hawking Lays Down the Law on AI

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At a recent conference at the Future of Life Institute in Boston, rock star theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, along with several hundred others, endorsed 23 new principles concerning the ethics of artificial intelligence.

Other notable figures in the world of AI to sign were: billionaire Elon Musk, DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis, OpenAI’s Ilya Sutskever, Siri co-founder Tom Gruber, author Ray Kurzweil, and for absolutely no reason at all, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Joseph Gordon-Levitt as much as the next guy, but he had as much business getting involved with FLI as Humphrey Bogart would have had signing the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.

The Asilomar AI Principles were the result of a discussion on how artificial intelligence should remain beneficial to humanity, rather than becoming something which would “spell the end of the human race”; according to a warning from Stephen Hawking in a 2014 BBC interview.

One of the significant principles agreed upon was that any future investments in AI should also be accompanied by funding for research into the benefits of the technology. Questions researchers will have to ask include; how to keep AI from malfunctioning or being hacked, how to maintain people’s resources and purpose while growing the technology, how to update legal systems to manage risks associated with AI, and most importantly, what set of ethics and values AI should be aligned with.

There are many risks associated with artificial intelligence, and all of these principles aim to keep us away from Terminator territory. Researchers will be expected to engage in cooperative efforts in order to avoid cutting corners; an issue normally associated with the race to be the first company to develop a new technology.

Transparency, proper education of policymakers, and safety-protocols will all also be key ingredients in avoiding our imminent doom.

While the extreme dangers of artificial intelligence may bring to mind a Terminator-like scenario, there are much more immediate and equally damaging problems which could arise with the advancement of the technology. Court systems where AI impartially judges cases and doles out sentences, AI controlled transportation systems (airlines, taxis, etc), and perhaps most importantly, control over military apparatus.

Another significant problem which needs to be considered is the economic impact AI would have on an already fragile job market by replacing employees with advanced systems.

These important questions, and many more which were raised during the conference, hope to challenge both future researchers and investors to consider the weight of their actions before continuing down a potentially dangerous road.

The problem is that, unfortunately, these principles are not a set of laws, nor could they be treated as such since they are open to the interpretation of the reader. This means that while current leaders in AI community agree upon the direction and risks of the technology, developers won’t necessarily be legally bound by any strict code of ethics.

After all, any endeavor of technological advancement is always intrinsically susceptible to human error, particularly, deviation from its founding principles. Just as the 1955 manifesto by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein didn’t stop nuclear proliferation, the Asilomar AI Principles, alone, cannot hope to prevent catastrophe, but it’s a pretty good start.

One thing is for certain, it will be interesting to see where we go from here.

Alien Life May Be Closer (and Colder) Than You Think

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The idea that aliens exist goes back thousands of years, possibly even into prehistory. We have descriptions such of UFOs recorded throughout history, carved on rocks, described in writings, and captured in paintings. Ancient folklore has tales about people from the stars, of gods and goddesses who appeared as great spirits.

Fast-forward to today. Countless conspiracy theories claim alien life exists, but nobody has been able to actually prove it. Even SETI has failed so far.

How can we be so certain of alien life, yet fail to prove it? That really depends on what we think we’re looking for. What if we’re shooting way too high, looking for advanced, complex life forms that simply do not exist?

The logical answer is to shoot a little lower and try for something less spectacular, such as microbial life. NASA intends to do just that with a mission to the Jupiter’s moon Europa. The space agency believes that the possibility of life on Europa is strong enough to warrant a launching a probe to find out.

The Mission to Europa

The report put together by NASA’s Planetary Science Division, outlines the mission’s priorities as well as the required engineering. The report also outlines additional research to assess the Europa’s habitability along with collection of data concerning the surface and subsurface of the moon. If approved, the Europa Lander mission would be the first primarily dedicated to the search for extraterrestrial life since the Viking Mars spacecraft in the 1970s.

What Kind of Life Are We Talking About Here?

The Europa Lander mission will initially search for biochemical indications of life, namely carbon containing compounds that are critical when searching for biosignatures. If such evidence is found, then the mission will turn to searching for microbial life forms.

Where will the Europa Lander Look?

The mission will look in three particular environments when searching for life:

  • Deep polar oceans removed from sunlight
  • Cold, deep brines
  • Subglacial water environments

They will look for life on the seafloor and where ice and water meet. The probe will also look for hydrothermal activity, since it powers life here on Earth.

When will the mission launch?

A flyby mission is currently being planned by NASA, with an expected launch in the early 2020s. There are two meetings in the works to discuss the Europa Lander report. The eetings are scheduled to take place on March 19th and April 23rd of this year. When the mission actually takes place will depend on the outcomes of these two meetings.

Conclusion

It’s an ambitious mission with a lot of hope riding on it. Finding life on Europa would make a new kind of history–one that begins with the discovery of life outside of our own planet. We may even find that Europa is suitable for human settlement, and begin work on finding ways to make it happen. At that point, we would be the aliens visiting another world, instead of looking for them in ours.