Monthly Archives: June 2010

We like to write about our experiences and opinions in this blog. We also hope other people can read them, add their own take and benefit from them. This means the blog need to be found, and search-engines are the way information is found nowadays.

Being found by search-engines means using appropriate keywords in titles, descriptions etc. This bring one challenging question: are these keywords really an appropriate way to describe what we write about? For example, self-development and self-help are popular search terms. They are also contradictions in terms :-) Most of us do not really need to strengthen the self, most of us benefit from focusing on real awareness.

To make another example: the word happiness is inflated. It is used a lot, often to identify pleasure and other feelings which aren’t really happiness. Still, people perform happiness-related searches on Google et al, and a fair amount of friends visit us thanks to such searches.

So, how did we decide to balance these different opportunities, for now? We keep happiness in our posts and tags. We also mention self-development from time to time. And we also add what we believe is appropriate to describe the formula to a happy life: living joyfully. And also living joy fully. Because, based on our personal experiences, happiness is a way of living: acting in appropriate manners (because we really are all on the same boat, and we all deserve respect; and not because we know only because that makes us happy) creates joy, here and now, for all.

Self-Control Relies on Glucose  as a Limited Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than a Metaphor” is an interesting research published in 2007 by by Matthew T. Gailliot, Roy F. Baumeister, C. Nathan DeWall, Jon K. Maner, E. Ashby Plant, Dianne M. Tice, and Lauren E. Brewer, Brandon J. Schmeichel.

As indicated in their abstract, “their work suggests that self-control relies on glucose as a limited energy source. Laboratory tests of self-control (i.e., the Stroop task, thought suppression, emotion regulation, attention control) and of social behaviors (i.e., helping behavior, coping with thoughts of death, stifling prejudice during an interracial interaction) showed that (a) acts of self-control reduced blood glucose levels, (b) low levels of blood glucose after an initial self-control task predicted poor performance on a subsequent self-control task, and (c) initial acts of self-control impaired performance on subsequent self-control tasks, but consuming a glucose drink eliminated these impairments. Self-control requires a certain amount of glucose to operate unimpaired. A single act of self-control causes glucose to drop below optimal levels, thereby impairing subsequent attempts at self-control”.

Please consider that consuming sugar is not the only way to increase blood glucose levels:  eating protein or complex carbohydrates offers better long-term results.

In their concluding remarks, it is stated that “It has long been known that action consumes energy. More recent evidence has indicated that some brain and cognitive processes likewise consume substantial amounts of energy—indeed, some far more than others. The “last-in, first-out rule” states that cognitive abilities that developed last ontogenetically are the first to become impaired when cognitive and physiological resources are compromised. Self-control, as a relatively advanced human capacity , was probably one of the last to develop and hence may be one of the first to suffer impairments when resources are inadequate. The present findings suggest that relatively small acts of self-control are sufficient to deplete the available supply of glucose, thereby impairing the control of thought and behavior, at least until the body can retrieve more glucose from its stores or ingest more calories. More generally, the body’s variable ability to mobilize glucose may be an important determinant of people’s capacity to live up to their ideals, pursue their goals, and realize their virtues”.

The research is available on:

We also provide a selection of comments on the research. Quoting from

“Galliott et al. published a 2007 article entitled “Self Control Relies on Glucose as an Energy Source: Willpower Is More Than Self Control”. Recently Vaughan at Mind Hacks and Dave at Cognitive Daily have taken up the topic with some creative posts.  Vaughan writes that Resisting Temptation Is Energy Intensive, focusing on the role of attention and the prefrontal cortices.  Dave posts on Practicing Self-Control Takes Real Energy, and includes a recreation of the research procedure (with video) and an informative summary.  I also mentioned some of this research in a previous post on Willpower as Mental Muscle.


Diets are often marked by periods of effortful weight loss, followed by a slide back, where weight is regained.  That pattern is not simply a matter of mind over matter, of willpower so we can match a cultural and cognitive ideal.  It’s hard for people to maintain sustained mental efforts, it costs energy, and there’s little evolutionary reason to expect everybody’s brains to suddenly begin cooperating with what our culture tells us we should be able to do.”

Quoting from

“Research led by Roy Baumeister has found that people who’ve resisted eating cookies gave up sooner on a task requiring persistence compared to those who succumbed to temptation and ate the cookies. Other research has associated low blood glucose levels with poor performance on the Stroop task — another task that requires people to avoid reading. Is it literally true that the sugar in our blood fuels our ability to control our impulses?

Matthew Gailliot, along with Baumeister and six other researchers, asked 103 psychology students to fast for three hours before watching a video like the one I showed above. Half the students were told to ignore the words, while the rest weren’t required to exercise any self-control. Blood glucose levels were measured before and after this task. The students exercising self-control had significantly lower glucose levels after watching the movie, while the other students did not. In another experiment, students performed the Stroop task after watching the movie. The students who had to resist reading the words performed significantly worse on the Stroop task; their lower blood glucose levels after watching the movie and avoiding reading seemed to impair performance.

In another experiment, a new group of 62 students watched the movie, again divided into groups who watched normally or controlled their attention by avoiding reading. Then everyone was offered a glass of Kool-aid lemonade. Half the lemonade was sweetened with sugar, while half was sweetened with Splenda, which does not affect blood glucose levels. Since glucose takes about 10 minutes to be absorbed by the brain, everyone was given a 10-minute distractor task, then given an 80-item Stroop task.


when the students consumed glucose, they performed just as well on the Stroop task, whether or not they had had to exercise self-control while watching the movie. But students who didn’t consume any glucose performed significantly worse on the Stroop test.

Gaillot’s team repeated these experiments several times, with tasks ranging from avoiding displays of racial prejudice to dealing with thoughts about death. In each case, the results supported the idea that self-control literally relies on glucose. When blood glucose is depleted, we’re less able to exert self-control. The researchers say that the brain has a limited reserve amount of glucose, which allows us to handle the initial task demanding self control, whether it be watching a movie without reading accompanying text, or avoiding fattening snacks. Once that glucose supply is depleted, self control becomes much more difficult, across an array of different tasks.”

Freeing consciousness

June 30, 2010

A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe’. A part limited in time and space. We experience ourself, our thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest: a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion, to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

The Bodhi Tree bookstore, one of the institutions of the spiritual community in Los Angeles, is going to close down. Located in 8585 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, CA 90069 and a landmark for local eager readers, the Bodhi Tree book store has a rich calendar of events, made available on

Transcripts from past lectures (but only up to 2007) at the Bodhi Tree bookstore are available on

As reported by the LA Times, “the founding owners of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore are dealing with the closure of their L.A. institution as only spiritualists can. “In our best Buddhist sense, we try to incorporate the idea that things always change,” says Phil Thompson, who, along with Stan Madson, opened the Bodhi Tree 40 years ago. Through the years, their cozy Melrose Avenue shop became a nationally known, much beloved center for Buddhists, astrologers, psychics, yogis, swamis, acupuncturists, naturists and others seeking enlightenment.

Thompson and Madson decided to sell the property to a local business owner who leases space to several other nearby retailers. The store will be closed within a year, they say”.

Banyen Books and Sound is located at 3608 West 4th Avenue. It is one of the few bookstores which can be considered a real institution, far from the “supermarket” of the word which is often common with stores of this size. Banyen Books mixes a wide selection of spiritual, inspirational, meditation, etc. books with a laid-back atmosphere.

Banyen Books also organizes several interesting events, both on its premises and around Vancouver. A detailed schedule is offered on

Banyen Books and Sound Hours of operation:
10a-9p M-F, 11a-8p Sa, 11a-7p Su, Closed: Dec 25, 26, Jan 1 & Labour Day

Sensory homunculus, cortical homunculus, Motor Homunculus are different ways to call a graphical representation of the anatomical divisions of the the portion (primary motor cortex and the primary somatosensory cortex) of the human brain directly responsible for the movement and exchange of sense and motor information of the rest of the body. We see the image below, courtesy of McGill university.

Sensory homunculus, cortical homunculus, Motor Homunculus

Sensory homunculus, cortical homunculus, Motor Homunculus

Always on McGill University website we find the explanation: “Dr. Penfield‘s experiments in stimulating the cortex enabled him to develop a complete map of the motor cortex, known as the motor homunculus (there are also other kinds, such as the sensory homunculus). The most striking aspect of this map is that the areas assigned to various body parts on the cortex are proportional not to their size, but rather to the complexity of the movements that they can perform. Hence, the areas for the hand and face are especially large compared with those for the rest of the body. This is no surprise, because the speed and dexterity of human hand and mouth movements are precisely what give us two of our most distinctly human faculties: the ability to use tools and the ability to speak.”

Another way to portray this map is with a 3D human body,  with disproportionately huge hands, lips, and face in comparison to the rest of the body. Because of the fine motor skills and sense nerves found in these particular parts of the body they are represented as being larger on the homunculus. A part of the body with fewer sensory and/or motor connections to the brain is represented to appear smaller.

Sensory homunculus: cortical homunculus, Motor Homunculus

Sensory homunculus: cortical homunculus, Motor Homunculus

This model shows what a man’s body would look like if each part grew in proportion to the area of the cortex of the brain concerned with its sensory perception. The cortical homunculus is a visual representation of the concept of “the body within the brain” that one’s hand or face exists as much as a series of nerve structures or a “neuron concept” as it does a physical form. This concept relates to many neuro-biological phenomena including “phantom limb” and “body integrity identity disorder”.

Our circumstances do not make us what we are, they reveal who we have chosen to be…

This is a selection of Elizabeth W. Dunn‘s research about subjective well-being:

Quoidbach, J., Dunn, E.W., Petrides, K. V., & Mikolajczak, M. (in press). Money giveth, money taketh away: The dual effect of wealth on happiness. Psychological Science. ( doc )

Dunn, E.W., Ashton-James, C., Hanson, M. D., & Aknin, L.B. (in press). On the costs of self-interested economic behavior: How does stinginess get under the skin? Journal of Health Psychology. ( pdf )

Huntsinger, J., Sinclair, S., Dunn, E. W., & Clore, G. (in press). Affective regulation of automatic stereotype activation: It’s the (accessible) thought that counts. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. ( pdf )

Anik, L., Aknin, L. B., Norton, M. I. & Dunn, E. W. (in press). Feeling good about giving: The benefits (and costs) of self-interested charitable behavior. In D.M. Oppenheimer & C.Y. Olivola (Eds.), Experimental approaches to the study of charitable giving. ( pdf )

Aknin, L., Norton, M. I., & Dunn, E. W. (2009). From wealth to well-being? Money matters, but less than people think. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 523-527. ( pdf )

Kawakami, K., Dunn, E. W., Karmali, F., & Dovidio, J. F. (2009). Mispredicting affective and behavioral responses to racism. Science, 323, 276-278. ( pdf )

Dunn, E. W., Huntsinger, J., Lun, J., Sinclair, S. (2008). The gift of similarity: How good and bad gifts influence relationships. Social Cognition, 26, 469-481. ( pdf )

Dunn, E.W., Aknin, L.B., & Norton, M.I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 1687-1688. (Datasets: Correlational Study, Longitudinal Study, Experimental Study, Predictions Study) ( pdf ) ( letter )

Dunn, E. W., *Forrin, N. D., & Ashton-James, C. E. (2008). On the excessive rationality of the emotional imagination: A two systems account of affective forecasts and experiences. In K. D. Markman, W. M. P. Klein, & J. A. Suhr (Eds.) The handbook of imagination and mental simulation. New York: Psychology Press. ( pdf )

Dunn. E. W., & Ashton-James, C. (2008). On emotional innumeracy: Predicted and actual affective responses to grand-scale tragedies. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 692-698. ( pdf )

Dunn, E. W., Brackett, M.A., Ashton-James, C., Schneiderman, E., & Salovey, P. (2007). On emotionally intelligent time travel: Individual differences in affective forecasting ability. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 85-93. ( pdf )

Dunn, E. W., & Laham, S. A. (2006). A user’s guide to emotional time travel: Progress on key issues in affective forecasting. To appear in J. Forgas (Ed.), Hearts and minds: Affective influences on social cognition and behavior. (Frontiers of Social Psychology Series). Psychology Press: New York. ( pdf )

Wilson, T. D., & Dunn, E. W. (2004). Self-Knowledge: Its limits, value, and potential for improvement. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 493-518. ( pdf )

Wilson, T. D., Wheatley, T. Kurtz, J., Dunn, E. W., & Gilbert, D. T. (2004). When to fire: Anticipatory versus post-event reconstrual of uncontrollable events. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 30, 340-351. ( pdf )

This is a selection of media articles about Elizabeth W. Dunn:

Globe and Mail. January 15, 2010. “Got a complaint? Sing it out.” ( Read )

The Globe and Mail. October 22, 2009. “Flirt away, it’s all in the name of healthy jealousy.” ( Read )

National Public Radio. March, 2009. “Money and Happiness.” ( Listen )

CBC. January 8, 2009. “Racism not as strong as we think, study says.” ( Read )

The New York Times. December 25, 2008. “Your friends need money. Do they have references?” ( Read )( Read )

The Wall Street Journal. November 7, 2008. “Do wealth and well-being go hand in hand?.” ( Read )

Maclean’s. May 5, 2008. “It’s official: Money buys happiness.” ( Read )

The New York Times. March 20, 2008. “Yes, money can buy happiness…” ( Read )

Forbes. March 20, 2008. “How to buy happiness.” ( Read )

The Georgia Straight. May 24, 2007. “Getting off your booty never felt so good.” ( pdf )

Global News . May 18, 2007. “Putting Your Best Face Forward .” ( Watch )

The Province. May 17, 2007. “Some enchanted evening, you may meet as strangers…”  ( Read )

Weather Network. June 2006. “Resolutions and Weather.” ( Watch )

CityNews. March 2006. “Affective Responses to Shark Attacks: A Case Study” ;) ( Watch )

ArtsBeat. Fall 2005. “What makes you feel good?” ( Read )

Chronicle of Higher Education. September 3, 2004. “Rising Stars: How to be happy.” ( Read )

Arts & Sciences. July 2004. “The grad life”. ( Read )

A&S Online. May 2004. “Best foot forward.” ( Read )

This is a selection of Buddhist podcasts, Buddhist mp3, Buddhist audio. If you want to add your favourite Dharma-bits to this post, feel free to contact us!

Buddhist podcasts

A Buddhist Podcast, by Jason and Karen

Dhamma Podcasts from

Diamond Path

Lama Marut, Buddhist monk, former University professor, popular teacher of Buddhism and yoga philosophy

Practice Happiness, Mahasukha Center (Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles)

Zen Buddhist Podcast of Shaolin Zen, Buddha Zhen lectures and chats about Chinese Chan Buddhism from the Shaolin Zen CyberTemple

Buddhist mp3

Mahasukha Center (Asian Classics Institute of Los Angeles)

Shambhala Sun Audio, monthly updates from Shambhala Sun magazine

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