The amazing brains and morphing skin of octopuses and other cephalopods | Roger Hanlon

Octopus, squid and cuttlefish — collectively known as cephalopods — have strange, massive, distributed brains. What do they do with all that neural power? Dive into the ocean with marine biologist Roger Hanlon, who shares astonishing footage of the camouflaging abilities of cephalopods, which can change their skin color and texture in a flash. Learn how their smart skin, and their ability to deploy it in sophisticated ways, could be evidence of an alternative form of intelligence — and how it could lead to breakthroughs in AI, fabrics, cosmetics and beyond.
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How I Stopped Feeling So Lonely and Disconnected

If I were given the chance to relive my childhood, I wouldn’t take it. For the most part, those were times I’d rather forget. I didn’t get along well in school, and family life was less than ideal. About the only thing I liked about the seventies and eighties was the rock ‘n’ roll music.

As a kid growing up in Miami, I had an Asian look about me, even though I was of Hispanic descent. Many of the kids in school asked me if I was Chinese; some called me a stupid chink; and a few just beat me up.

Things at home weren’t much easier. My parents divorced when I was in grade school. I lived with my mom and three sisters (all older and bigger than me). There were the usual sibling rivalries. So, at school I got beat up by the boys, and at home I got beat up by the girls.

I hardly had any friends. Anybody I associated with was just as much a misfit as I was. I spent most of my free time either with my head in a book or riding my bike around the neighborhood.

High school was torture. I was shy, unattractive, and under-developed. And though I was small for my age, the hormones still surged through my body. Like any other teenage boy, I wanted to be at least noticed by the girls, but it seemed like every girl was out of my league.

My whole existence could be described in two words: inadequate and lonely. I remember one day walking down the hall in school. I was so tense that I couldn’t seem to walk straight. I felt like I was a prisoner in my own body and mind. There was me, and then the rest of the world.

Things didn’t get any better as I got older. Depression began to set in. I tried alcohol for a few years, but that only made things worse. I became even more isolated.

At twenty-two, it seemed like my life was coming to an end. I didn’t know what to do. I always resisted help because I thought nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. I was wrong.

I found a group of people who knew exactly how I felt. How did I know? They told me about their feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, even though I never told them how I felt.

They offered to help me; one guy in particular, Steve, told me that I could be free from the bondage of self, and that he would show me the way. This was hard for me because I didn’t like taking directions from other people. I also didn’t want to impose on them. But Steve acted as if it was an honor to help me. I didn’t understand that.

For the next couple of years, Steve had me do written exercises to examine my past. He also gave me assignments to change my behavior. For example, he had me do volunteer work to help other people in need. I chose to volunteer in prisons, helping inmates turn their lives around, as I was doing.

Over time, I began to feel much better about myself. I was able to make friends and felt like I had a role in this world. But I still felt a bit out of place, and at times very lonely. My relationships with women were brief, more like just encounters.

Up until that point, I had heard about meditation, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. I intuitively discovered that I could relieve stress by going to the park, sitting quietly, and contemplating the things that were happening in my life. I would also take time before work and sit for a few minutes before I started working at the computer. I was self-employed at the time, selling long-distance calling services over the Internet.

One spring day in 1996, as I sat quietly at my desk having my morning cup of coffee, I suddenly found myself immersed in what seemed like pure consciousness. I had the distinct feeling that time had come to a complete stop, and I was seeing the essence of who I really was. I must have been in this state for only a short period of time, as the screensaver on my computer had not yet kicked in.

When I returned to normal consciousness, everything looked surreal and I felt completely at peace, as if all my troubles had simply disappeared. All of a sudden, my entire life made complete sense. I realized that I was never lost at all, but that all my painful experiences had served a purpose—to learn an important life lesson. The confusion was gone.

I also felt wide awake, as if I had been asleep my whole life. I now had an awareness, or a sense, that I didn’t have before, or even know that I could have. It was like I had been blind my whole life, and didn’t even know that it was possible to see. I could sense another presence in the room even though I was alone at the time. I kept looking around to see who was there, but I couldn’t see anyone, at least not with my eyes.

In the weeks that followed, I underwent a dramatic transformation, and many people noticed. They said I looked so peaceful and wanted to know why. I didn’t yet know how to explain it to them.

I now felt a deep connection with other people. It was as if they were a part of me. When I looked at them, it seemed like I could see deep inside their soul and feel what they were feeling. I could feel their joy and their pain, their confusion and their loneliness. There were many times that it brought tears to my eyes.

While I changed in many ways as a result of this experience, I think the most profound change was my ability to see that we’re all connected on a deeper level. Interconnectedness was no longer just a concept to me, but rather a reality.

Ever since that spring day in 1996, I have never felt alone, regardless of who was or wasn’t in my life, because no matter how far apart I may be from other people, I can always feel them in my heart. I have meditation to thank for that.

How Meditation Can Help You Overcome Loneliness

While my experiences may seem unique, other people are learning how to overcome their loneliness through meditation, as well, and you can too. Meditation is a lot simpler than many people may think.

The way meditation helps you overcome loneliness is by calming your mind and emotions. Then you’ll be able to see for yourself how you’re connected with other people on a deeper level. Meditation will literally help you expand your awareness.

The form of meditation I practice, and now teach, is mindfulness meditation. Though it has its roots in Buddhism, it focuses on the techniques and leaves behind all the rituals and beliefs. There are two basic components of the practice: sitting meditation and writing meditation.

Sitting Meditation

The best way to start a meditation practice is to simply start meditating. I know I’m stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. We often procrastinate until we find the perfect time. Don’t wait. Start now.

Find a quiet place where you can sit for a few minutes without being disturbed. Close your eyes and begin following your breath. Observe how your lungs expand with each in-breath and contract with each out-breath. Let your breathing become relaxed and natural. As your body relaxes, notice how you take each breath in one graceful motion.

When a distraction arises, observe it mindfully as it comes into being, then let it slip away without clinging to it. Then gently bring your awareness back to your breath. Don’t get upset if your mind keeps wandering off. This is perfectly normal. The idea is to keep bringing it back to your breath.

Start with a ten-minute session and then work your way up to twenty minutes or more. It may be a challenge to sit still in the beginning, but it will get easier as your mind settles down over time.

And as your mind settles down, you’ll likely find you’re less consumed by thoughts about being different, inadequate, or lonely, which means you’ll be better able to be present with other people and create connections from moment to moment.

Loving-Kindness Writing Meditation

Writing meditation is a technique I developed to reprogram the subconscious mind to help people achieve their goals. It only takes five to ten minutes a day, and it’s highly effective.

The practice is simple. You just copy by hand a set of affirmations, such as the loving-kindness meditation, over and over in a notebook. This will force your brain to rewire itself for new thinking and behavior. Within a week or two, you’ll find yourself acting differently without any conscious effort.

Here is a sample of the loving-kindness meditation:

May I be healthy and strong. May I be safe and protected. May I be peaceful and free from mental, emotional, and physical suffering. May I be happy and joyful. May I be patient and understanding. May I be loving, kind, compassionate, and gentle in my ways. May I be courageous in dealing with difficulties, and always meet with success. May I be diligent and committed to my meditation practice, and to helping others along their spiritual path. May my True Nature shine through, and onto all beings I encounter.

After you write this verse, write the same words again, swapping “I” for “every person and living being in my house.” Then write it again for every person and living being in your neighborhood, then again for all people and living beings in your city, your country, the whole planet, and the entire universe, for a total of seven verses.

Remember, all you do is copy the meditation in a notebook for five to ten minutes a day. It doesn’t matter how far you get. The next day, just pick up where you left off. You don’t even need a quiet time or place to do it. It’s that simple.

The purpose of loving-kindness meditation is to cultivate unconditional love for all people and living beings. Imagine the impact on your life if you truly lived according the ideals of the affirmations:

  • You’ll become more outgoing
  • It will improve your relationships
  • It will heal the wounds from your past

The reason loving-kindness writing meditation is so effective is that you’re using multiple senses to assimilate information directly into your subconscious. And once it’s in your subconscious, it will manifest in your attitudes about yourself and other people.

As you can see, overcoming loneliness is not as hard as you might think. It takes just a little bit of time for practice, and some diligence, but the rewards are tremendous. You’ll no longer feel disconnected and isolated. You’ll feel like you’re a greater part of humanity, and this can make all the difference in the world. I know from personal experience how painful it is to feel lonely. I overcame it, and so can you.

Best wishes on your spiritual journey!

About Charles A. Francis

Charles A. Francis is the founder and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute, and author of Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner Peace. He is the creator of the 12 Steps of the Mindfulness Meditation Practice, and writing meditation technique. He helps people find true happiness through workshops & retreats. For more great content, visit MindfulnessMeditationInstitute.org.

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A Grateful Ode to My Narcissistic Ex

We have all had that ‘someone’ who crushed everything that we thought we knew inside us, the one who “made us” feel extra special though we were getting blinded time and again, the one who was sporadically in and out of our life, the one who cleverly made us lose ourselves when it was finally all over.

We love calling those people narcissists because they have been so full of themselves, self-seeking and egoistic simply because the most important chapter of our life didn’t end as we expected and desired because we remember how they treated us.

We almost always forget that they are the same kind of ‘Divine Beings’ like us when they’ll pass over, that they have their own path to follow and that they have to learn from their own experiences.

We always put the blame on them for hurting us and never asked ourselves: what was our role in the story?

I’m not saying that someone’s broken heart is not validated. All of our feelings are always authenticated, whether or not they are legit and acceptable to others. I am just saying that I know the feeling because I’ve been in the same shoes. Yes, I have been in a relationship with someone for almost eight years, placed him on a pedestal and that ended two and a half years ago.

During those eight years, I was miserable most of the time, because I thought he would finally choose me one day or the other. I had no confidence and I would feed off his attention whenever he gave it to me (during sex most of the time). I thought the mind games would stop someday. We would end up actually being together. I would grow tired of my sad state, escape and come back months later in search of his validation of myself, missing the amazing sex and the jokes we shared.

When we would start seeing each other again, it would be like it always was and it would end like it always did. Then, one day I came to know that I was pregnant. But he didn’t show up as the dad, every little girl deserves. That was no surprise to me…

The last time we spoke, I was growing tired of begging him (for the millionth time) to care about me, to come and see me, to spare out time for me, from his busy schedule. One fine day, I decided to stop chasing him for attention. I said to myself: “If he wants to see me, he’ll come after me” and that was the last time we spoke because he never did come after me. I did try to reach out to him, a few times this year since our daughter keeps asking for her father…but that has not happened until now. We never said goodbye nor have I ever had any kind of closure.

After that, I was hurting for almost a year, so I decided to go on a self-love journey. Since then, I’ve discovered my power and that is just the beginning. I started to go back on the relationship to see what I could learn from it. I learned so much in the past two and a half years and thought of sharing my deepest insights which might be eye-opening for those who have gone through such heartbreaks or abusive relationships.

Being Victim to the Victim mentality

We never realize that we develop victim mentality when we are in a one-sided relationship. Having such a mentality for quite a long time never benefited me. I would blame others (especially my mother) for anything and everything that wasn’t going well in my life. I lived with mom (moving out this summer!) because she made me believe that I needed her all of my life. I was totally dependent on her because I didn’t believe I could make it on my own. I blamed my mother for my lack of self-confidence or my very poor money management skills, instead of thinking that I wasn’t the one taking responsibility for my expenses (started taking responsibility a few months back). I would also think that I had to have a boyfriend to validate me – instead of thinking that I would have to work on myself, to attract better people (I’ve been single for almost all of those two and a half years). My last failed relationship just taught me what I had to work on more and come to terms with reality as my whole perspective on relationships had changed. I finally realized that I was not a victim and that kind of thinking was only creating hindrance in my growth.

So every time you catch yourself blaming others or not taking responsibility for your actions, let go, forgive yourself and accept your situation since you are the one who attracted it to you.

We attract everything and everyone into our lives ( yes even that Ex )

Every situation that ever happened to you or every person in your reality, were attracted by you, knowingly or unknowingly. You attracted these situations and people because they were going to be the cause of your catapulting yourself into being the best version of yourself yet. We are here to learn and grow, to find our own divine powers and to share them with the world. The “easiest” way for us to learn is from our mistakes (which aren’t actually because they were meant to be) and from the pain caused. This is the “best” way for us to remember who we truly are and finally find our way back to ourselves. So whenever you feel, something or someone is too much for you to handle, look out for that lesson behind that pain that will make you become the best version of yourself yet.

Everything happens for a reason

Everything that happens to you happens for you and you have to find out that reason. If something was not meant to happen, it wouldn’t. See the situation for what it is, don’t overthink it because you and I both know how far that can go. Be still. Take a deep breath and look for your answers within yourself, your inner guidance is all you need. So now, you’ve accepted that everything happens for a reason… What was the reason for that relationship? What did you get out of it? Why did it happen to you? What was the role of the other person in teaching you about yourself? What are the traits of that person that you disliked/hated? Are any of those traits inside you that sound similar to those you don’t like in the other person? Why don’t you like them? What can you do to change them? That is the easiest way to analyze and learn from experiences, relationships or people that hurt you. When you question everything and why it happened; you own your right to learn from it, move on and grow in life. So stop the blame game, own the responsibility, be brave and honest, face it and resolve it because anything that happened to you is because you let it happen.

Nobody can take your power unless you let them

I’ve got physically abused when I was younger by my first boyfriend. I’ve got cheated on many times (don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a saint either). I’ve been physically hurt and manipulated, and it happened because I’ve let it happen. I never stood up for myself because I never thought I was worth it. I thought it was normal to get treated those ways because I thought that’s what I deserved. I never thought that I should deserve more, because who was I to think that way? Lack of self-love and self-esteem were definitely the causes of me, accepting to get treated in those ways. But that doesn’t validate the fact that it wasn’t my fault. It was my responsibility to learn to know and to love myself (and those situations were definitely there to teach me that). Now I realize that the only way to get respect is to command and earn it by boosting up my self-respect. The only way to get true love is to have real self-love. And the only way to not let anyone play with my emotions is to have boundaries, to set them, to respect them and to leave when others try to cross those set boundaries. So anyone that surrounds you now can know that you’re a powerful being (with boundaries).

You are powerful

The most important thing I learned after that eight-year long “relationship” is that I was powerful. I went through all of that and I still laughed, I still let myself feel through all of my emotions, I still believed in love, I still was open to learning from pain, I was not scared (nor scarred) of going through pain anymore because I already did and I could do it again and again. I now know that I was responsible for everything that ever happened in my life and it was time to consciously attract what I wanted. I learned how to be in the present moment, how to accept things as they were, how to learn from my pain and what I wanted in my future. I am not looking for the love I craved for so much in the past; I have enough love for myself now. I am not scared to be alone / single anymore because I know I have my own identity and I thank my narcissistic ex-boyfriend for driving myself back home, to myself. You have been over so much; it is time for you to see your own worth. You are a powerful being, my friend, so be honest and brave enough to own it.

I hope these tips will help you get through whatever situation you think, weakened you, and destroyed you. I hope you see now that destruction for what it really is – a rebirth into the bigger, better, and more powerful version of yourself.

I would love for you to share your stories with me and tell me how you grew out of any undesirable phases of your life.

Marsha Jean has been a spirituality addict since her awakening seven years ago. She is always eager to show people their own Divinity by teaching them that they can be their own coach and teach themselves personal and spiritual development. She is always dishing out goodies on Instagram to help others in their growth, go check her out!

Image courtesy of Andrew Neel.

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Feeling Stuck? Life Has a Bigger Picture for You.

Are you feeling stuck in what feels like a “too-small-for-you” life? Like a pair of britches from your adolescence, maybe they once fit. But now a deep breath feels impossible.

Perhaps the charge I used to hear from my mother has been leveled at you: “you’re too big for your britches.” No doubt, this was not meant to empower me. My mother wanted compliance, because encouraging my expression felt like more than she could handle. Compliance was easier, and in the midst of her own struggles, anything that seemed easier was a good thing.

Compliance was easier for me, too as a way to hide under the radar. But you can only hide out for so long.

Because compliance strangles. You cannot breathe in life’s fullness, nor express your soul’s voice.

stuck

Image courtesy of Angela Hawkins on Visual Hunt

Stuck Inside the Cage

What do you do when you feel stuck in something? A job that swallows your talent. A soul-killing relationship. Even (or especially) your own expectations of what you can and cannot do.

Do you feel yourself a “victim of circumstance”? You may not know what to do to change direction. Maybe you expect someone else to take action first, so that your situation changes.

How do you move beyond this feeling of being stuck?

Here is how you begin: crack the cage door open. Even just a fraction creates space for the light to get in.

And for yours to emerge.

Then you get to question, and to explore. Notice if your pictures about what’s possible in life are open-ended. Are they limited by your expectations? Have you only considered actions that others would approve?

Have you forgotten the truth of who you are?

This is so important. You are so much more than your self-judgments and your imposed limitations! Yet in a moment of forgetting, you hand over validation to outside forces, firing up self-doubt and self-judgment.

A downward spiral of destructive thinking begins, your thoughts fueling a picture of yourself with no options.

These false beliefs become the whip you can use to punish yourself.

The downward path will continue as long as you believe in things that are not true. That you cannot rise above your situation, your obligations or your sense of limitation.

You have a choice to let go of self-critical beliefs. However, you must be ready to release your grip on self-denial.

Find the desire to be responsible for your own well-being. It’s there, even if it’s long been hidden in mothballs. Replace blame—of you or of anyone else—with a sense of curiosity about your patterns of thought and behavior.

Curiosity creates space for you to see. Once you see them for what they are, you can move on!

Trust that there is something more than you can see now, even if you have forgotten the details.With trust comes a recognition and acknowledgment that another place exists.

Image courtesy of Cornelia Kopp on Visual Hunt

Self-Discovery

Remember the feeling in your body when there was a sense of flow. You’ve felt it before, that clarity and sense of direction. Feel back into it. Breathe your way in, in order to give it life in the moment. This intimate relationship with yourself brings a deep feeling of connectedness, opening new possibilities for moving forward.

The light exists within you. Open yourself to experiencing it and you will.

When you surrender to the life force within you that keeps you alive, you will remember. Believe me, it will come. @TheBacaJourney (Click to Tweet!)

You will swing open the door.

And you will find yourself. This is what you have been searching for, isn’t it?

Laurie Seymour is a mentor/guide, #1 best-selling author, host of the Wisdom Talk Radio podcast and founder of The Baca Journey. She helps women and men who are in the midst of great change to have a direct experience of their inner wisdom, dissolving self-doubt. Then she provides the strategies to sustain their inner connection so that they live the life they know is possible with confidence. Start now with a complimentary exploratory session (virtual tea!). Let’s explore where you’ve been and illuminate where you’re heading.

Feature Image courtesy of fusky on Visual Hunt.

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