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Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others & What We Can Learn From Them

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Abigail Marsh almost lost her life in a car accident. She was avoiding a dog in the middle of the street, and suddenly found her own life in danger. But a complete stranger stopped, got out of his car, helped her to safety, and then drove off, never even telling her his name.

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Why did he do it though? That was the biggest question Marsh found herself asking, and it changed the course of her life. She has since made a career out of understanding the human capacity to care for others; where it comes from; how it develops. Marsh wondered why people do selfless things, and resolved to find out. She soon realized very little work had been done on this topic.

Altruism is a voluntary, costly behaviour that benefits only the other. And Marsh wanted to know what made some people more altruistic than others:

The actions of the man who rescued me meet the most stringent definition of altruism, which is a voluntary, costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual. So it’s a selfless act intended to benefit only the other. What could possibly explain an action like that? One answer is compassion, obviously, which is a key driver of altruism. But then the question becomes, why do some people seem to have more of it than others? And the answer may be that the brains of highly altruistic people are different in fundamental ways.

To really figure it out, she did the opposite of what one might expect, however. She started on the opposite end by analyzing psychopaths. People with this disorder are missing the desire to help other people. They are often cold, uncaring, and antisocial individuals. But they’re not typically insensitive to other people’s emotions, just to the signs that other people are distressed:

The part of the brain that’s the most important for recognizing fearful expressions is called the amygdala. There are very rare cases of people who lack amygdalas completely, and they’re profoundly impaired in recognizing fearful expressions. And whereas healthy adults and childrenusually show big spikes in amygdala activity when they look at fearful expressions, psychopaths’ amygdalas are underreactive to these expressions. Sometimes they don’t react at all, which may be why they have trouble detecting these cues. Finally, psychopaths’ amygdalas are smaller than average by about 18 or 20 percent.

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But in her Ted Talk, Marsh brings us back to altruism. She says that her main interest isn’t about why people don’t care for others, but why they do. “So the real question is, could extraordinary altruism, which is the opposite of psychopathy in terms of compassion and the desire to help other people, emerge from a brain that is also the opposite of psychopathy?” she asks. 

Extraordinary altruists have done things like give a healthy kidney to a complete stranger. But why?

“The brains of these extraordinary altruists have certain special characteristics,” she says. “They are better at recognizing other people’s fear. They’re literally better at detecting when somebody else is in distress. This may be in part because their amygdala is more reactive to these expressions. And remember, this is the same part of the brain that we found was underreactive in people who are psychopathic.”

“And finally, their amygdalas are larger than average as well, by about eight percent,” she adds. 

What’s intriguing is that, when people were asked why they gave their kidney to a complete stranger, they didn’t know how to answer. They didn’t consider themselves unique or special, but normal, just like everyone else. They just did it, because that’s who they are. Even more intriguing is that the people the donors were giving their kidneys to weren’t in a close circle that somehow already connected them through other loved ones. They were totally removed human beings. And that’s pretty extraordinary:

I think the best description for this amazing lack of self-centeredness is humility, which is that quality that in the words of St. Augustine makes men as angels. And why is that? It’s because if there’s no center of your circle, there can be no inner rings or outer rings, nobody who is more or less worthy of your care and compassion than anybody else. And I think that this is what really distinguishes extraordinary altruists from the average person.

But the main lesson of Marsh’t talk is even more fundamental than all of this. “I also think that this is a view of the world that’s attainable by many and maybe even most people. And I think this because at the societal level, expansions of altruism and compassion are already happening everywhere,” she explains. 

Marsh believes that we all have the ability to take ourselves out of the center of the circle and extend the circle of compassion outward, so it brings in even total strangers. It looks like a globe outlined with people from all over the world holding hands in unity, in support, in love.

Watch Marsh’s full Ted Talk below:

 

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Consciousness

Ask Yourself: Would Would You Do If Money Didn’t Matter? What Would You Do If It Didn’t Exist?

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Alan Watts delivers a speech that puts into question the idea of money and what we are all doing here on planet Earth.

  • Reflect On:

    Do we have enough resources and technology to provide everybody on Earth with abundance? If we do, and if we did, what would human beings do? Would we return to our natural state and start exploring and advancing?

You probably hear this now-cliché question all the time: “If money was no object, what would you be doing with your life?” But hearing a question multiple times doesn’t make it any less valid. There is a profound truth underlying these words which it seems many of us have come to belittle or outright ignore, and yet the implications of truly internalizing their meaning are huge.

You may be a young, excited individual coming into the workforce or you may be part of an older generation who has been in the workforce for a while, wondering, “How did I get here?” Or perhaps you are someone who already loves what you do. In any case, I truly think that regularly asking yourself what it is you would love to do with your time if money was no longer an object can be a powerful tool. So why don’t we go ahead and do some self-analysis? But first, let’s listen to what Alan Watts has to say about the topic, as I think it will really get us into the right mindset for this task.

The Exercise

This exercise is a pretty simple one, just like the question it addresses. When answering these questions, it is important to go beyond some of the things we are kinda taught are the things to strive for. For example, letting go of our ideas about ‘success,’ money, material goods, fame, etc. and instead looking at it like Alan says – if money didn’t matter and I could do anything right now… what would it be?

Don’t worry about the whole career or job thing right now, just begin with what you like. Then think about what you feel you can contribute to the world, whether it be to just one person or a whole community (or the entire globe!). Educating others, contribution to a project, and bringing joy to others are all examples of ways you could contribute to the world. 

Then grab a piece of paper and write:

“What do I enjoy doing? What makes me tick or gets me excited?”
“What would my ideal day look like if I could do what I wanted to do?”
“What is my ideal job? What does it look like?”
“What are my favorite hobbies or things to do?”

Once you start answering some of these more basic questions, we dive into things like:

“Why do I like these things I enjoy doing?”
“What about them are interesting to me?”

What this does is gets you thinking about yourself and the things that you enjoy. More importantly, it gets you thinking about why you enjoy them. This is key, 
because it helps you to isolate the elements of those activities that are important to you. You can then use that knowledge to find or incorporate those things into many different tasks or jobs. Because sometimes you really should ‘sweat the small stuff.’ Sometimes it’s those little details which make a job really great, or really awful. 

In the end it’s all about participating in activities that bring you joy and ignite your passion, even if it’s only for a few hours a week. The key is trying not to get too stressed about the process either. Worrying that you can’t find your passion or your purpose is not going to help you find it. Have fun and be playful with it. The answer may also change a year from now or 5 years from now. It is human nature to change and to grow, and our passions and interests may change as we do.

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Consciousness

New Moon In Pisces: Seeing Things In A Different Way

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We are having a New Moon in Pisces on February 23rd and in the early hours of the 24th in the countries furthest East. This is initiating a new 29.5-day lunar cycle and a new wave of energy for the coming month. However, the astrological configurations mentioned in this article will be more prominent over the coming two weeks. This cycle will include a Full Moon in Virgo on March 9th/10th.

This New Moon is occurring a week into Mercury Retrograde which is also in Pisces for most of its duration. You can read more about that here. Generally speaking, this is a period of re-orientation around how we incorporate Piscean energies in our lives and this New Moon kicks this into gear even more so.

Pisces is the last of 12 signs and is associated with spirit and oneness as a reflection of its place in the zodiacal evolution. As a result, it is the least compatible with the physical-material and mundane world.

Pisces is oriented around emotion, compassion, energy, spirituality, imagination, and dreams. It is highly intuitive and even psychic, sometimes unknowingly. Pisces can be divinely inspired, idealistic, healing, tranquil, mystical, empathic, and highly creative. It is forgiving and self-effacing.

Negative qualities of Pisces can be delusion, deception, confusion, escapism, addiction, intoxication, flakiness, evasiveness, and having issues with boundaries. It can lack rationality and mental acuity. The line between reality and fantasy can be blurred.

New Moon Sextile Uranus & Mars Near South Node

In the days leading up to the New Moon, Mars in Capricorn has been in a trine with Uranus which are both in a sextile to this Lunation and get carried into the Lunar cycle. This can be good for taking a different approach towards something or asserting yourself in an area of life in a new way. It can also reflect action that is unusual, innovative, progressive, metaphysical, experimental, liberating, rebellious, or independent.

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However, Mars is also moving towards the South Node which is strongest from February 24th-26th.  This can reflect some sort of purging or releasing and/or things from the past may come up that need to be changed. Perhaps something may come up that can get in the way of our growth. For some people this can be a period of needing to let go of negative expressions of Mars that can be holding us back. If so, it can be connected to anger, aggression, force, competitiveness, or aspects of sexual behavior or relationships.

Mercury Inferior Conjunction

This Mars aspect is happening during the most significant part of Mercury’s retrograde which is when it joins the Sun, known as the ‘Inferior Conjunction’. Mercury will also be in a direct sextile with Mars and the South Node which makes it more significant. This can be a period of increased insights, and the themes or circumstances pertaining to how this retrograde is affecting you may come up more during this period.

Complications and frustrations can also be stronger at this time depending on your circumstances or how you are applying yourself. This may also be a period of ridding yourself of certain thoughts, ideas, perceptions, old interests, expectations, or other things that are not serving you while the potential for new ones may be seeded.

Jupiter Sextile Neptune

Jupiter is making its first of three sextiles to Neptune that are happening in 2020. This one is strongest from February 14th-26th. Considering that Neptune is associated with Pisces (also currently in that sign) and Jupiter having a broadening effect on it, this energy accentuates all the Pisces energy that is already occurring at this time.

It can be expansive, explorative, educational, philosophical, and ambitious in a creative, artistic, spiritual, mystical, or compassionate way. With Jupiter being in the Earth sign of Capricorn, many people can experience this around ambitions, career, business, or practical matters. This energy can also be good for visual media efforts. Capricorn can help bring groundedness, practicality, and realism to this idealistic combination of planets.

Venus Square Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn

Venus in Aries is in an exact square with Jupiter at the time of this New Moon. This energy can be excessive and impulsive when it comes to spending money, fun, pleasure, love, or anything sensual. However, it can also reflect growth or learning around relationships, values, art, or perhaps connected to aesthetics.

Venus then builds up towards a square with Pluto which will be strongest from February 27th-29th. At best this can reflect depth, regeneration, passion, or some sort of empowerment in our relations with others. This can also play out as power struggles, possessiveness, intensity, manipulation, or changes within friendships, in social situations, or amongst lovers. Fears or suspicions around these areas can come up or hidden matters may surface considering that Mercury is also retrograde.

Following this, Venus is in a square with Saturn which is strongest from March 2nd-4th. This can reflect difficulties, obstacles, delays, seriousness, dullness or restrictions either socially, financially, or aesthetically. We may need to be realistic, cautious, or more responsible in these areas.

Making Intentions and Things To Consider

What can you be doing to help you become more spiritually activated and bring more magic into your life? Do you have any self-sabotaging or escapist tendencies that could be traded in for creative, spiritual, or inspiring practices, efforts, or projects? Do you need to develop your intuition? Should you be meditating more often? How can you be integrating your visions, imagination, inspiration, creativity, or even visual media into your career or any projects that you are doing? Do you need to be more compassionate?

These are just some examples of what to consider or focus your intentions on at this time. However, it is good to reflect on anything else that is coming up for you. It is generally best to make any intentions within the first 24 hours following a New Moon. The exact moment it will occur is 3:32pm Universal Time on February 23rd.  You can click here to see what that is in your time zone.

Follow me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK, and YOUTUBE for more astrology-related content.

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Looking for astrological insight into what is going on in your life? Or perhaps looking to better understand your life and its potentials? Get a personalized astrology reading with Carmen (author of this article) specific to you based on your exact birth date, time, and location. Click here for more information or to order. 

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Consciousness

32 Thoughts That Can Help You Achieve Anything

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9 years ago I made a choice, that choice changed the rest of my life. What I realize today is that same choice is one that many face and are very afraid to consider. I want to help shift that today.

In today’s world, most seem to be chasing success, wealth, an opportunity, fame or something of that sort. And I can’t blame anyone. We live in a world where ‘things’ are flashy, fun, and exciting. Where money holds us back from being able to have basic experiences.

Of course people want to have access to the world! But in many cases to get that access means we may need to work hard. We may need to work through challenges.

Now I think we can go on talking about how much of the time we get caught up in looking for material wealth to make us ‘happy’. But today I’m going to pull focus away from that and simply look at what can inspire us to achieve our deepest desires, passions, and the things we feel we’ve been put on earth to do.

Not everything comes easy but if we have the right mindset approach with ourselves and take action, I believe we can achieve anything. I proved this to myself 9 years ago when I made my choice to drop out of school for good and pursue my passion. I’m still doing it and there is much I learned along the way.

Words have power. The story we tell ourselves and the power of the mind comes into play everyday in our lives. Audit your current story, how much do you doubt yourself? Talk poorly about yourself? Talk down to yourself? What about when you are talking to others about yourself?

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Here are some thoughts and phrases to really reflect on and internalize to help you achieve anything.

1. You are in control of your life, at a deep level!

2. Take your dreams seriously. Others will tell you they are not possible, but they are. Always.

3. What does your ideal day look like? Start creating it!

4. “If you don’t have room to fail, you don’t have room to grow. — Jonathan Mildenhall

5. If someone asks you why you do what you do, you better have a good reason.

6. If you are doing what everyone else is doing, there is a good chance you will end up where they are too.

7. What you do and who you are is unique and no one else in the world will do it like you. For that reason alone you must do it.

8. There is no such thing as failure, it’s simply a learning lesson you were brave enough to reach.

9. You already have all it takes to create anything! It all comes from within you, it’s about what you choose and expose yourself to.

10. Change for yourself, not for others.

11. Change starts within. Don’t look outside yourself to get things started. Look inward.

12. There is so much to be said about DOING. You can’t achieve anything if you don’t DO.

13. A setback is a setup for a comeback” – Dr. Willie Jolley

14. Be genuine! Your true self and true story holds much more power than a fabricated game.

15. Connect back with your initial passion and desire weekly. Getting lost in the chase is highly detrimental.

16. Surround yourself with others who support you. Limit time spent with those bringing you down.

17. Don’t completely shut out the nay sayers, they bring feedback you often won’t get otherwise.

18. There is no positive and negative when you see things for what they are. This allows you to stop fantasizing about outcomes.

19. Visualize! Each day you can benefit greatly from visualizing what you want to achieve. Seeing yourself doing it.

20. Be grateful for where you are no matter what. Check in with yourself to refuel the realization of gratefulness.

21. “Your problem isn’t the problem. Your reaction is the problem.” — Anonymous

22. Don’t subject yourself to other’s idea of how things ‘have to be done’. If your way works, do it!

23. On that note, learning from your mistakes is great but learning from others is even better. Use your FEELING to determine which path to take.

24. It’s not about the destination as much as it is about the journey, enjoy every step of the way and don’t judge it.

25. Pay attention to YOUR dream and not the dreams of others. Audit yourself, who’s dreams are you really after? Yours? Your parents? Societies?

26. Give a damn. Care. What you put in is often what you get out.

27. “The most important thing to remember is this: to be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.” — W. E. B. Du Bois

28. And on that note, who are you? Truly? Do you know? Spend time getting to know you!

29. Do or Do Not. There is no Try — Yoda.

30. What you do every day matters more than what you do every once in a while.

31. We often start off terrible at things, no problem. Mastery comes in continuing.

32. No great person simply picked something up and was the best. Everyone put in time, energy, hours and in fact, 10,000 of them. Be gentle with yourself, but remember to work for what you want.

Many of these thoughts, wise words and quotes have been huge themes in my life in following a passion. Climbing a mountain most thought I couldn’t climb. But the key after all these years is not to judge others, ‘prove’ anything to them or revel in accomplishments. It’s realizing that this was my path. This was my journey. I chose this.

Stay present, stay humble, stay in line with your passion and your ego will stay quiet. Connect to your heart.

Photo credit Tim Bogdanov.

Free: Regenerate Yourself Masterclass

In this free 7-part masterclass, Sayer Ji, founder of GreenMedInfo, explains how revolutionary new developments in biology can be leveraged to help prevent and manage the most common health afflictions of our day: cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases and metabolic syndrome.

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