Compassion is Fabulous…

Fabulous & Compassionate

In the so-called age of narcissism, it’s been said that empathy is declining — and some research has shown that social media is causing us to become more self-obsessed than ever before. But whether or not selfishness is actually on the rise, it’s safe to say that we need compassion more than ever.Compassion

Eastern spiritual practices have long touted the importance of compassion as a necessary ingredient for building happy lives and peaceful nations (“Without [compassion], humanity cannot survive,” the Dalai Lama wrote in The Art of Happiness). Now, Western science is catching up to this ancient wisdom.

New research from the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research (CCARE) at Stanford University (some funding for which has been provided by the Dalai Lama) is shedding light on the human capacity for goodness. Through his work at CCARE, James Doty, the center’s founder and director, has become convinced that young people are actually becoming more compassionate.

“We’re really seeing a sea change in how people perceive their place in the world,” Doty recently told New Scientist. “The millennium generation is the first to grow up with 24/7 access to global information. When you see the suffering of others, you realize that those individuals could just as easily have been you. It’s much easier to say, ‘I can’t let that happen — I feel their pain.’ That is how humanity is going to survive.”

Doty and other neuroscientists and psychologists have made compassion a growing field of study, looking at how empathy and altruism work in the brain and how we can increase our capacity for goodness. Here are six insights that will change the way you think about compassion — and revolutionize your approach to giving and social connection.

We’re wired for compassion.

For thousands of years, scientists and philosophers have asked whether humans are self-interested or altruistic. Historically, it’s been thought that our actions are largely selfish in motivation (look no further than the popular theory of Social Darwinism), but that school of thought has started to give way to a new, and more compassionate, picture of human behavior.

Many psychologists have suggested that we developed altruism as an evolutionary advantage — helping others is in fact a powerful way of helping ourselves, and key to the development of tribes and social groups. Datcher Keltner of the University of California has presented a wide body of research to support the idea humans have a “compassion instinct” — in other words, there is a biological basis for treating others well.

“It has long been assumed that selfishness, greed, and competitiveness lie at the core of human behavior, the products of our evolution,” Keltner wrote in a report for the Greater Good Science Center. “But recent scientific findings forcefully challenge this view of human nature. We see that compassion is deeply rooted in our brains, our bodies, and in the most basic ways we communicate. What’s more, a sense of compassion fosters compassionate behavior and helps shape the lessons we teach our children.”

Compassion is good for business.

More than 80 percent of US workers say that their jobs cause them stress, and this high level of employee stress can have a high cost for businesses. Workplace stress can result in lower employee productivity, engagement and retention, and higher health care costs. But recent research has found that creating a culture of compassion — a workplace in which managers and employers are friendly and help one another — can make employees happier and more productive. A 2005 study, conducted by Jonathan Haidt of New York University, found that when managers were fair and self-sacrificing, employees experienced “elevation,” a state of heightened well-being, and were more likely to feel loyal to their company and act kindly toward their co-workers.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner knows this well, and runs his business accordingly. Weiner calls leading compassionately his “first principle of management,” and wrote in a 2012 LinkedIn blog that the Dalai Lama’s Art of Happiness taught him compassion and empathy. Weiner has also spoken about the potential of meditation to boost compassion.

Compassion makes you happy.

The Dalai Lama has long held that compassion is the key to happiness and good physical health, and recently, brain-imaging studies have shown that doing good for others does provide pleasure and boost well-being. A 2006 National Institutes of Health study showed that the brain’s reward centers are activated in the same way when we give to others as when we receive money ourselves.

“I believe compassion to be one of the few things we can practice that will bring immediate and long-term happiness to our lives,” His Holiness wrote in The Art of Happiness. “I’m not talking about the short-term gratification of pleasures like sex, drugs or gambling… but something that will bring true and lasting happiness. The kind that sticks.”

Meditation can increase the brain’s capacity for compassion.

Neuroscience research on Tibetan Buddhist monks has found that meditation on compassion (metta meditation) can produce powerful changes in the brains of experienced practitioners. When asked to meditate on “unconditional loving-kindness and compassion,” the brains of the monks generated powerful gamma waves that may have indicated a compassionate state of mind, Wired reported. The research suggests that empathy can be cultivated by exercising the brain with loving-kindness meditation.

But meditation doesn’t just boost compassion among monks. University of Texas psychologist Kristin Neff says that cultivating mindfulness — the focused awareness on the present moment, which can be increased through meditation — is the first step for anyone to develop compassion for the self and for others.

“In order for us to open our hearts in the face of suffering, we need to be mindfully aware that suffering is occuring, and we need to be able to turn toward it and be with it as it is,” Neff explained in a Greater Good Science Center talk.

Compassion can be taught.

Just as we can wire our brains for happiness, we can also optimize the mind for altruism. Compassion training developed at Stanford has been shown to be effective in boosting an individual’s level of care for others. Preliminary data shows that subjects who participated in Stanford’s nine-week compassion cultivation training demonstrated significantly enhanced compassion in the three target areas of compassion for others, receiving compassion from others, and self-compassion.

“There’s a small subset of people on the side of extraordinarily kind, compassionate, and that’s their baseline — Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama,” Doty explained. “And then there’s a fairly small group who, no matter what we do to try to potentiate their capacity for compassion, don’t have that capacity. Between those extremes are the rest of us, who can probably benefit from some kind of intervention or training when it comes to our ability to be altruistic or compassionate.”

Compassion is contagious. Heart-shaped-hands-and-compassion

Here’s a good reason to pay it forward: It turns out that there’s scientific proof for the idea that “kindness is contagious.” A 2010 social science study from the University of California and Harvard found that being kind to others is like yawning: It catches on. Small and large acts of generosity, compassion and helping others can inspire a chain of more good actions from others — and this social influence spreads for up to three degrees of separation. Huffington Post

Fabulous White Dresses

Sending Summer off in Style

With Labor Day right around the corner, it looks like it may be our last opportunity to rock a white dress until next summer. These are my top picks to send the summer off in style.

My favorite dresses are short, not too clingy and comfortable for dancing, and ideally shows off good shoes. But maybe you’re more of a strapless, mid-length and tight sort of girl, or that’s what’s more flattering on you. That’s fabulous too.

Everyone’s got a favorite dress style, and I don’t expect yours to be mine. And while you probably already know you want a new white dress (and apparently guys love them year round) maybe you don’t know what styles are out there or what would look good on you, so below are my top picks for white dresses that will work with many different body types:

Flowy-Short-Long sleeves

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Venetian -Short
Empire Waist-Long
Plus Size White Dresses For Women
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So get out there, show off that hard-earned glow and make summer proud! And by the way, any fabulous gal knows that a little rule breaking is always in order. So go ahead rock that white dress all year-long! You look fabulous!

French Women and the art of L’amour…

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Given that Paris is the most romantic city in the world, it makes sense that our French counterparts know a lot about the art of love.

This summer, French author Sophie Fontanel revealed that she went 12 years without having sex. In her book The Art Of Sleeping Alone, which the New York Times described as “very French,” she explains what she learned about sex and sensuality during that time.

In a post for Slate XX, Hanna Rosin explained how Fontanel’s experiences — and the resulting book — highlight the differences in attitudes about sex in France and America.

American books about abstinence end with important feminist lessons about dating and advocating for yourself. Fontanel’s ends, of course, with the sudden, final-chapter appearance of a mysterious beau who asks intriguing, loaded questions: What would happen if we fell in love?

So what exactly is different about women’s sex lives in France versus the U.S.A.? What are the cultural forces shaping them, and what lessons can we learn from them? Different isn’t always better, but we might learn something from how French ladies practice the art of amour.

Here are seven things French women can teach us about sex and love.

1. The “big O” isn’t everything. In 2012, psychiatrist and sexologist Philippe Brenot published a 300-page report on French women’s sexuality titled Les Femmes, Le Sexe Et L’amour. Brenot surveyed 3,404 heterosexual women age 15-80 who were married or in a civil union and who lived with their partner.  Seventy-four percent of his respondents claimed they had “no trouble” experiencing desire and pleasure, but only 16 percent climaxed every time. These results suggest that the majority of French women find sex pleasurable whether or not they reach orgasm — so maybe it really is all about the journey, not the destination.

2. There’s no need to slow down with age. According to data from 2008, 90 percent of French women over the age of 50 are sexually active compared with an estimated 60 percent of American women. Research shows that women over 50 enjoy sex as much as those in their 20s, so what is everyone waiting for?

3. Flirting is a way of life — and it’s not just about sex. In her book La Seduction: How The French Play The Game of Life, Elaine Sciolino explains how la séduction is a crucial element of French culture. But seduction might not mean the same thing to the French as it does to us.

“Seduction is conversation,” Sciolino told Forbes in a 2011 interview. “It could be a conversation of smell, a conversation of looking. It could be a conversation of speech; it could be a conversation between two diplomats. It is basically making contact with the other person and talking about or sharing what you have in common. Deciding what you have in common and then developing it.”

4. The art of the long-term romance. In 2001, John Gagnon and Alain Giami published an article comparing sex and sexuality in the U.S. and France. Their findings showed that French respondents had sex more frequently and were more likely to be in monogamous, long-term relationships.

In a June 2003 interview with Salon, Giami claimed: “The major difference between Frenchwomen and American women can be summarized as follows: The French are marathoners and the Americans are sprinters.” Sometimes it might be nice to slow down.

5. Marriage isn’t the be-all and end-all. Gagnot and Giami’s study found that French people are more likely to be coupled up, but less likely to be married. Giami told Salon: “The French have more ‘premarital cohabitation,’ ‘nonmarital cohabitation’ and even ‘noncohabiting long-term relations.’ What does this tell us? Perhaps French people are less likely to think of marriage as a natural step to take after — or even before — moving in together.

“Marriage is not the only honest and responsible way of bonding,” Giami explained.

6. Holding back a little can be sexy. In her interview with Forbes, Elaine Sciolino recalled a piece of advice that French singer and actress Arielle Dombasle offered her: “Never walk nude in front of your lover.”

While we’re personally of the opinion that being comfortable in your own skin regardless of the situation is something to celebrate, there is something to be said for the big reveal. “It all has to do with dressing and undressing and secrecy and hiding and revealing,” Sciolino clarified.

7. It’s fine to be the one making the moves. According to the 2008 Study on Sexuality in France, French women are becoming “increasingly assertive in their sexual habits.”

“The good old dichotomy (male predators, females patiently awaiting the warrior’s return in front of the cave entrance) is in big trouble,” French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur commented. We’re pretty glad to see those stereotypes fade away. If a woman wants to initiate something sexual, she should go for it.

Huffington Post

Being a fabulous American traveler…

How to be a fabulous traveler and avoid embarrassing yourself abroad:

There are innumerable ways that Americans stick out when traveling, to the amusement and annoyance of the locals. Last year’s guide to sticking out was so popular that we’ve come up with some more ways that we embarrass ourselves when overseas.

Pushing back in China

Pushing in Chinese crowds is normal, so don’t get angry over it.

In overpopulated China, people will push you. Grandmas, children, everyone. But it’s not meant as an aggressive act, and it would be a mistake to take offense or push back, especially when you look different from everyone else. Most non-Chinese Americans are conspicuous not only by their race, but by their (bigger) size, so retaliation will not go unnoticed. Either relax your body and let yourself be moved around, as I did on the ferry in Shanghai, or else plant your feet firmly, without hostility. The jostles are rarely energetic enough to cause you physical harm.

Not carrying change

(Photo: InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr)(Photo: InSapphoWeTrust / Flickr)

Making change, especially for big bills, is just not a “thing” in many countries. And always have small change on hand for public restrooms in train stations, museums, and archeological sites. In Italian restrooms, once you drop your euro in the slot, for god’s sake step swiftly past the retractable plastic doors. I’ve seen those doors painfully close on many a dumbfounded American.

Getting impatient with the check

Don’t get alarmed, annoyed, or impatient when the check isn’t brought immediately after you take your last bite. It’s considered impolite in many cultures to bring the bill too quickly. Unlike in America, where restaurants want to turn their tables quickly, in other countries lingering is encouraged or expected.

Eating in

(Photo: Digital Vision)

Nothing is more rube-like than being too lazy to leave your hotel for a meal. Hotel meals are overpriced, devoid of local color and often of substandard quality. Of course the exceptions are fine restaurants that have achieved a distinct identify, such as the two-Michelin-starred Le Cinq at the Four Seasons George V. And it would be silly to forgo the free, increasingly ample breakfasts available at most European hotels, some of which even offer hot food (it is common to obtain a bed-and-breakfast room rate).

Being a bad complainer

If you get a bad room in a hotel and want to change, make sure you have a specific, concrete complaint and use precise words that the hotel manager “gets.” When I was given a room at a fine hotel in Barcelona’s tony Example neighborhood, and it was small and dark, I wasn’t happy. But I knew it would be the noise outside the window, from construction debris being dropped down chutes, that would get me an upgrade. And I knew to avoid emotional language and use a few words that Europeans favor: “unacceptable” and “impossible.”

(Photo: Walter / Flickr)(Photo: Walter / Flickr)

Not greeting the shopkeeper

It’s typical in America to walk into a shop and start examining the merchandise. It’s an impersonal, corporate mentality. But in homey Greece, for example, there’s a good chance that the person minding the store is the actual owner, so it’s customary to greet the shopkeeper, and say admiring things about their olive wood crafts.

When in France, know some French

Learning a few phrases in French can be especially helpful. The French, unlike the Italians, don’t easily give up their language to English, and they certainly won’t converse with you in their native tongue if your French is imperfect. But you’ll get less of a sneer if you make an effort.

Visiting Bali without blessings

(Photo: Kojach / Flickr)(Photo: Kojach / Flickr)

There are Hindu shrines all over Bali, and experienced travelers will know better than to approach one empty-handed. So come prepared with little offerings; even better to use the tiny local baskets and fill them with flower petals and gifts. The Balinese are too polite to say anything if you fail to offer, but they’ll be very touched if you observe this ubiquitous custom.

Taking notes in China

Also in China, take photos, but not notes (at least with pen & paper). Given the country’s history of censorship and restrictions on the press, your note-taking might make people uncomfortable. Writing in public means that you’re taking their situation too casually and rubbing your democracy in their faces. This is the only thing I did in Shanghai that caused people to stare. Take notes on your phone instead.

Surfing on the locals’ waves in Hawaii

(Photo: Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ / Flickr)(Photo: Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ / Flickr)

It’s possible, even likely, to be a rude American in Hawaii (even though it’s the 50th U.S. state). Black socks, fanny packs—it’s a well-worn cliché. And even in laid-back Hawaii, you can get yourself into trouble by trying to surf on a locals’ beach. “Surf rage” is not unheard of. If you’re from the mainland, no matter what ethnicity, you’re “haole” (North American), and if you ride the wrong waves you may end up losing your teeth. Stick to Waikiki and other hotel beaches.

Finding chaos at kiosks

Have at least one credit card with a PIN code. Train kiosks in Europe are the last holdouts: either you need that European “chip” in your credit card (which we don’t have), an ATM card or a credit card registered with a cash withdrawal code. In France, with all those labor strikes, there might not be a human to buy a ticket from, and then you’re stuck. Yelling at the kiosk doesn’t seem to work.

Stick with these tips and you will be welcomed across the globe, you fabulous traveler!

Do’s and Don’ts for dressing the fabulous man..

Women get to mix up their pants with skirts, dresses and the occasional skort (hey, we’ll admit it). But for guys, it’s almost all pants, all the time. So it would behoove men to get the details right, right?

Right. Unfortunately, many guys are making serious mistakes when it comes to wearing pants, from the cut at the top to the cuffs at the bottom. And don’t even get us started on pleats. So we’ve rounded up the most basic things about pants all men should know — because dudes, we women are watching. And judging.

1. Pants should never be pleated. Basically ever. Pleats are basically woman repellant, plus they make most men look bigger rather than slimmer. A flat-front pant (think most jeans and the suit pants worn on Esquire covers) will make trim guys look even trimmer, and help the average guy appear less schlumpy.

president obama hawaii vacation

2. There is a fine line between slim-cut and skinny. Your pants shouldn’t flare out, but you also shouldn’t have any issue getting the bottom of the legs over your feet. If you do, they’re probably too skinny at the ankles. Think straight from knee to ankle, with no billowing in the thigh.

3. Mid-rise is your friend — don’t go too low, and don’t show your undies. As GQ’s Glenn O’Brien once wrote, “Perhaps the Creator (or whoever plays him on television) put that navel there for a scientific reason, and that reason is as precise and ineffable as pi.” Your waistband doesn’t need to go all the way up to your belly button, but it probably shouldn’t be seven inches below in. In fact, a higher-waisted pant can do wonders for short guys.

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4. Avoid light-wash jeans. They scream “’90s boy band” — or, alternatively, “I’m a dad and I dress like one.” Just ask President Obama.

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5. Your jeans should fit just as well as your dress pants. Are your slim-cut dress pants nicely tailored? Then there’s no reason you should be wearing denim that’s floppy and baggy, especially in the thigh area. Tighten it up.

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6. Just because jeans are dark doesn’t mean they are “fancy.” Specifically, that doesn’t mean you can wear them with shiny black dress shoes.

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7. Distressed jeans are OK… if the distressing happened naturally. We’re all for the broken-in look, but if your pants are worn out, it’s probably time for a new pair. And if you buy them already destroyed, they’re probably not going to last very long.

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8. Cuffs on pants are acceptable, but not necessarily stylish. Cuffs are generally associated with pleated pants, hence the uncool factor. (See #1.) Shorter guys should always avoid cuffs, as they visually shorten the legs. Taller men can work a cuff, but it usually looks sleeker not to. Just peruse the pages of GQ and Esquire — do you see any of those models with their suit pants cuffed?

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9. If your pants are flapping around the ankle, they are too long. The key to pant length is the break, i.e. where your pants fall on your shoes and create a horizontal crease in the fabric. You want a small break so that pants skim the shoes, but not too long so the creased fabric flaps. Pooling around the ankle? Uncool.

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BONUS TIP: Belts aren’t always necessary, but naked belt loops look sad. Though belts are technically accessories, they’re often your greatest ally. They keep your pants from falling down, after all. Just be sure to pick a color and style that complements your pants, and doesn’t call attention away from them.

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Macaron overload

Macarons are always a fabulous treat!

The Lu Life

Through my travels, there is one food item that I can never seem to get enough of: macarons.  There are the staple macaron flavor profiles, such as pistachio, chocolate or lemon, but the ones I look out for take some creative thinking.  So I thought it was time I tell you about some of the best macaron bites I’ve taken (although by no means have I tried all the best).

Ladurée
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