Monthly Archives: May 2011

Martin Seligman: Martin Seligman’s videos on happiness and optimism.

Martin Seligman on happiness: VIA Signature Strengths exercise

The VIA Signature Strengths exercise is designed to encourage you to identify and own your signature strengths by finding new and/or more frequent uses for them. As challenging situations arise in your life, ask yourself how your signature strength could be applied to improve or make the most of the situation.

Martin Seligman on Counseling

Martin Seligman: optimism definition

Find out how Dr. Martin Seligman defines optimism.

Martin Seligman: optimism and Gratitude Visit

The Gratitude Visit exercise is a powerful tool for increasing life satisfaction because it amplifies good memories about the past, and it forges a very strong bond with an important person from your past. The goal of this exercise is for you to experience the power of expressing your gratitude to someone who has touched your life.

Wisdom 2.0 Youth Conference will be held on September 17th 2011, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

With over 75% of teens now owning cell phones, and sending or receiving in average 3,339 texts a month, the impact of technology on young people will only likely increase. There is no going back; the question is how to skillfully and mindfully move forward. “How we can help young people grow in awareness as the world speeds up around them?” And possibly most importantly, “How do adults embody the very qualities we want to pass along to the youth in our life?”. Join teachers, educators, parents, mindfulness teachers, etc. at the Computer History Museum.

For more information and registration:

Hello! I’d like to thank each of the participants of yesterday’s informal talk at Banyen Books in Vancouver. Thanks for sharing your questions and opinions during and after the talk!

Peace and metta,


Estonia, a European Union member country flourishing on the Baltic Sea in Nordic Europe, became soon known as ‘e-Estonia‘. Being one of the most advanced e-societies in the world, it wrote an incredible success story that grew out of a partnership between a tech-savvy population, private and public sector. Thanks to this success, Estonians and the Estonian state enjoy a wide range of e-solutions that are years ahead of those of other countries, making it the leading example for others who wish to follow the same path. Now, their success story and best practices are shared with the world in a dedicated portal

e-Estonia: Life in the Digital Society
e-Estonia means voting in elections from the comfort of your own living room. Filing your income tax return in just five minutes. Signing a legally-binding contract over the Internet, from anywhere in the world, via your mobile phone. These are just a few of the services that Estonians take advantage of on a regular basis.

For their part, entrepreneurs can register businesses in as little 20 minutes, check vital company, property and legal records online, and even integrate their own secure services with the ones offered by the state. Interaction among government agencies, and between the government and citizens, has been completely transformed in e-Estonia, quickly making bureaucracy a thing of the past and making the running of all levels of government more efficient than ever before.

Estonia’s e-solutions have resulted in:
* An unprecedented level of transparency and accessibility in government
* Safe, convenient and flexible exchange of private, government and corporate data
* A healthier, better educated population with easy access to social services
* A prosperous environment for business and entrepreneurship

e-Estonia: Digital Society and Infrastructure
The e-Estonia digital society is made possible largely due to its infrastructure. Instead of developing a single, all-encompassing central system, Estonia created an open, decentralized system that links together various services and databases. The flexibility provided by this open set-up has allowed new components of the digital society to be developed and added through the years. It’s that power to expand that has allowed Estonia to grow into one of Europe’s success stories of the last decade.

More information on

Accepting every day, every situation, as it comes; and committing to make the best of it, for all beings.

What is acceptance?
“Being Accepting” is about accepting similarities and diversities in opinions, feelings, values, views. Acceptance is facilitated by understanding that there is strength in diversity: one should we stick to only one colour, when we can enjoy the whole rainbow?

What is self-esteem?
Self-esteem is “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself; self-respect” (Webster). In Western psychology, it was often postulated that one needs to develop self-esteem in order to properly relate with the world. But there are not many evidences to support this theory. Understanding the value and values of all beings is certainly necessary to interact with the word; however, giving to one own esteem a kind of priority on the rest, it is not an evidence-based approach. Focusing on self-esteem may result in the vicious circle: self-esteem, self, self-interest, greed, feeling disconnected from other people, need to reinforce self-esteem, etc.

Nurturing acceptance, or self-esteem?
Steven Hayes, with his Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), has been creating awareness about the importance of nurturing acceptance. And then, to commit to keep the valuable approaches, and make the necessary changes.

Albert Ellis, with his work including the book “The myth of self-esteem”, stated that self-esteem is conditional, while acceptance is unconditional. Such conditionality of self-esteem makes us vulnerable and harder to cultivate empathy. For these reasons, he suggested to cultivate acceptance. And also to rate our behaviours and traits, to rate our aliveness, choosing to live healthfully and peacefully. He suggested not to rate our overall “worth”, because people who assign negative values to it create a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor results. If one really wants to rate overall worth, he suggested to rate all beings positively, because we are all on the same boat, and all worthy.

He also invited people to know the difference between needing, and wanting what we really need is limited, what we want unlimited. If we let the craving grow, soon there will be little space for empathy and happiness.

Exercises to cultivate acceptance
Think about something you want to let go. Put it in a bubble. The bubble starts to fly away, until it disappears in the sky.

Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner (Webster)”. Empathy is distinct from sympathy (a feeling of compassion or concern for another, the wish to see them better off or happier. ), pity (feeling that another is in trouble and in need of help as they cannot fix their problems themselves), and emotional contagion (imitatively “catching” the emotions that others are showing without necessarily recognizing this is happening).While the way children understand the intellectual meaning, and implications, of empathy varies from case to case, a straightforward approach makes everything easier to relate to. For example, show a few pictures of people who clearly look happy, bored, suprised, etc and ask children to identify what these people are feeling. Then, show pictures of people waiting for a bus, looking at their watch, etc. and ask children to identify what these people are likely to be thinking. Then, just explain that is empathy: the capacity of understanding what other people feel and think. Explain that we all have this capacity for empathy, and that it gets better and better when cultivated with determination. Show pictures of happy kids in groups, playing together, listening to each other, etc. and explain that kids who are empathic are better at understanding their own feelings and the ones of peers, parents, teachers, etc. This resulting in people liking even more to communicate with them, at the advantage of everyone’s happiness.


How to facilitate empathy among children?

In “the heart of parenting: raising an emotionally intelligent child” John Gottman defines the five steps of emotion coaching as:
being aware of the child’s emotions
recognizing the presence of emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
listening emphatically and validating the child’s feelings
helping the child to verbally label emotions
setting limits and problem-solving.

He says that his studies demonstrate that emotion-coached children learn better, get along well with others and are physically healthier and socially better adapted than children who have not had such “coaching”. He researched this mainly in terms of interactions between children and parents, however this can be extended also to educators, and peers. As summarized on, an Emotion Coach:
values the child’s negative emotions as an opportunity for intimacy and bonding
can tolerate spending time with sad, angry or fearful child
does not become impatient with emotions
is aware of and values own emotions
sees the world of negative emotions as an important area for parenting
is sensitive to the child’s emotional states, even subtle ones
is not confused or anxious about the child’s emotional expression
knows what needs to be done
respects the child’s emotions
does not invalidate the child’s emotions
does not say how the child should feel
does not believe he needs to fix has to fix every problem for the child
uses emotional moments to: listen to the child; empathize with soothing words and affection; help the child label emotion; offer guidance on regulating emotion; set limits and teach acceptable behaviour and expression of emotions; teach problem-solving methods

This substantially increases the likelihood that a child learns to trustfeelings, relate to emotions, make the best of opportunities and solve problems, and get along well with others.

Michele Borba, in her “Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing”, identifies empathy as the first of the Seven Essential Virtues of Moral Intelligence (, and also three steps to facilitate empathy:
Foster awareness and an emotional vocabulary.
Enhance sensitivity to the feelings of others.
Develop empathy for another person’s point of view.

Among the other essential virtues she outlines, these are also very important for developing empathy:
respect: showing you value others by treating them in a courteous and considerate way. Fostering actions: convey the meaning of respect. Enhance respect for authority and squelch rudeness. Emphasize good manners and courtesy.
kindness: demonstrating concern about the welfare and feelings of others. Fostering actions: teach the meaning and value of kindness. Establish a zero tolerance for meanness and nastiness. Encourage kindness and point out its positive effect.
tolerance: respecting the dignity and rights of all persons, even those beliefs and behaviours we may disagree with. Fostering actions: model and nurture tolerance from an early age. Instill an appreciation for diversity. Counter stereotypes and do not tolerate prejudice.
fairness: choosing to be open-minded and to act in a just and fair way. Fostering actions: treat kids fairly. Help children learn to behave fairly. Show ways to stand up against unfairness and injustice.

This shows that empathy is a multidimensional way to relate to people; it is an approach, not only a goal to achieve. It is always a “working”, or even better “relating”, in progress.

Banyen book will kindly host our event “How to live a happier life: Ten Proven Approaches to improve well-being” on May 5 2011 at 6:30-8:00 pm.

From the official description: Frank Ra will talk about how to improve well-being, meaning, empathy and cultivate happiness. After an overview of research in the field of subjective well-being, he will outline a process of facilitating your happiness through AmAre (Awareness and acceptance; Meaning and motivation; Action and attentiveness; Resiliency and respect; Eating properly and exercising), including practical applications.

This is a map showing Banyen’s location (Banyen Books, 3608 West 4th Ave.):

More information and updates can be found on Banyen books events page:

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