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October 2010

Post image for A Shocking Revelation About Human Nature

The results were horrifying. Nobody suspected it could be that bad, not even close.

In 1961 a controversial experiment was carried out that made some chilling discoveries about human nature. Psychologist Stanley Milgram wanted to know how it was possible that so many people co-operated to commit the atrocities of the Second World War. They couldn’t all have been sociopaths, yet thousands and thousands of people did unspeakable things to innocent people, and millions more looked the other way.

Is it really that hard to stand up to authority?

Milgram devised an experiment that went like this:

Forty subjects were recruited to participate in an experiment “on learning and memory”, having answered a newspaper ad offering a modest payment for an hour of their time. Each of the subjects were informed that they would be compensated fully as long as they showed up, regardless of their performance in the experiment.

Upon arrival, each subject met with two people. The first was a man in a white labcoat purported to be the scientist conducting the experiment. The second was another person who was supposed to be a fellow subject, but whom was actually an actor. The two subjects drew slips of paper to see who would be the “teacher” and who would be the “learner” in the experiment.

It was rigged: both slips said “teacher,” so the real subject was always given the role of teacher, though he was under the impression that he’d had an equal chance of being the learner. The actor always played the learner.

The experimenter then announced that the learning was to be reinforced by electric shocks, which would be administered by the teacher on the learner whenever the learner gave an incorrect response to a simple memory test. Each teacher was given a 45-volt sample shock to get an idea of the shocks they would be giving.

The teacher was intentionally allowed to witness the learner being strapped to a chair, with electrodes fixed to him, before being ushered into the adjacent room, where he would be stationed in front of an electric shock generator. The experimenter sat behind the teacher, holding a clipboard. Read More

Post image for 9 Mind-Bending Epiphanies That Turned My World Upside-Down

Over the years I’ve learned dozens of little tricks and insights for making life more fulfilling. They’ve added up to a significant improvement in the ease and quality of my day-to-day life. But the major breakthroughs have come from a handful of insights that completely rocked my world and redefined reality forever.

The world now seems to be a completely different one than the one I lived in about ten years ago, when I started looking into the mechanics of quality of life. It wasn’t the world (and its people) that changed really, it was how I thought of it.

Maybe you’ve had some of  the same insights. Or maybe you’re about to.

1. You are not your mind.

The first time I heard somebody say that — in the opening chapter of The Power of Now —  I didn’t like the sound of it one bit. What else could I be? I had taken for granted that the mental chatter in my head was the central “me” that all the experiences in my life were happening to.

I see quite clearly now that life is nothing but passing experiences, and my thoughts are just one more category of things I experience. Thoughts are no more fundamental than smells, sights and sounds. Like any experience, they arise in my awareness, they have a certain texture, and then they give way to something else.

If you can observe your thoughts just like you can observe other objects, who’s doing the observing? Don’t answer too quickly. This question, and its unspeakable answer, are at the center of all the great religions and spiritual traditions.

2. Life unfolds only in moments.

Of course! I once called this the most important thing I ever learned. Nobody has ever experienced anything that wasn’t part of a single moment unfolding. That means life’s only challenge is dealing with the single moment you are having right now. Before I recognized this, I was constantly trying to solve my entire life — battling problems that weren’t actually happening. Anyone can summon the resolve to deal with a single, present moment, as long as they are truly aware that it’s their only point of contact with life, and therefore there is nothing else one can do that can possibly be useful. Nobody can deal with the past or future, because, both only exist as thoughts, in the present. But we can kill ourselves trying. Read More

Post image for Two Milestones

On Wednesday Raptitude surpassed one million unique visitors. Thank you for supporting me.

And yesterday was the final day of my twenties. What a trip it was.

I love you all.


Photo by pshutterbug

Post image for Being Healthy is Not Normal

The figure is inching upwards. 70 per cent of Americans are overweight or obese.

That’s seven out of ten people walking down the street, not excluding you. It will be three out of four in a decade.

Luckily for my health, I’m not quite American, I’m only Canadian. Canada, the land of fresh air and slightly smaller fountain drink sizes, is marginally better healthwise. Only six out of ten of us are above a healthy weight.

This means, statistically speaking, that in either country it is normal to be fat. I’m honestly not quite sure if I’m part of the four or the six. Either way, as I age, I’m edging toward the fat end.

I always thought I was one of the healthy ones, but just recently it’s dawned on me that I’m not, no matter which side of that 60/40 split I land on. I think most of us who consider ourselves to be of average health are much further from good health than we think.

Why is health the number one concern for so few of us? Why is it normal for everything else to be more important? Good health improves the quality of everything else: your working life, your outlook, your self-esteem, your energy levels, your confidence, and your ability to do just about everything.

I know some people are probably thinking, “Speak for yourself!” You run ten miles a day, eat a strict paleo-diet, do yoga on the beach at 5am and you never take elevators.

I admire you, but you are in a rather slim minority, and you can stop reading now if you like. This post is for everyone else — those of us who do buy vegetables but also have the not-quite-infrequent binge on wings or ice cream. Those of us who have to tell our host to take the bowl of cashews away. Those of us who detect in ourselves a secret joy when we realize we’ve forgotten to bring a lunch to work, and have “no choice” but to get drive-thru. Those of us who are steadily fulfilling the average adult’s fate of gaining one pound a year (maybe two) until we die.

For many of us, getting into good shape is a nagging “should” in our lives that we never really tackle. Life gets in the way. After all, you’re still in okay shape, aren’t you? Read More

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