Meditating Tips on Vacations

It’s good for the mind, body, and soul to escape with some relaxation on the beach. But you might want to consider meditating while you’ll away to give yourself even more of a healthy boost.

Vacationers who meditate while on vacation may be less inclined toward depression and stress, according to new research from scientists from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; the University of California, San Francisco; and Harvard Medical School. They found that a resort vacation provides a strong and immediate benefit to stress and well-being — especially when you meditate while you’re there.

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The research studied 94 healthy women, aged 30 to 60. Participants stayed at the same resort in California for six days; while half were simply on vacation, the other half joined a meditation training program with mantra meditation, yoga and self-reflection exercises. Researchers also studied a group of 30 experienced meditators already at the resort.

The researchers examined gene network expressions changes to determine the effects of vacation and meditation. The novice meditators, experienced meditators, and regular vacationers alike all showed signs of improvement in stress response and immune function during their time at the resort. Both novice and experienced meditators, however, showed these improvements much longer after their vacations ended — as long as ten months after the vacation.

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While the meditators showed improvements far than non-meditation vacationers — according to metrics like blood samples and self-reported well-being surveys — it’s unclear whether these enduring effects are due to continued practice or psychological changes in how people view their lives.

The researchers also pointed out how “impressive” they found the significant changes in such a short time spent in a relaxing environment.

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“The benefit we experience from meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said Harvard researcher Rudolph Tanzi in the news release.

Another takeaway from the study is that workers should not feel guilty about taking vacation time. In fact, this and other research indicates that vacations have positive, quantifiable effects on productivity at the office. For instance, a study from Intuit found that 82% of small business owned reported increased job performance after taking a vacation.

Free Passes for National Parks Tips

Good news for families who love the outdoors: The National Parks Service is again giving fourth-graders a free pass to its vast green spaces.

Any child in the fourth grade this year can visit the Every Kid in a Park website starting Thursday (Sept. 1) to obtain a free pass that grants the youngster — plus his or her parents or other adults — access to federally managed lands and waters. That includes more than 2,000 national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and marine sanctuaries.

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The pass is valid between Sept. 1 and Aug. 31, 2017, and gives free entry to fourth-graders and up to three accompanying adults. To get the pass, fourth-graders need to complete an educational activity and print it out.

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To celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015, the National Parks Service gave fourth-graders free passes last year. The promotion was in line with President Barack Obama’s goals to preserve the country’s open space, as well as allow children to experience it. Inspired by the success of the program, the National Parks Service plans to continue it annually for the next 12 years, so every U.S. school-age child will have had the chance to visit the national parks free of charge.

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If you have a child in the fourth grade this year, this could present the perfect opportunity to visit one or several of the national parks. Since parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite charge up to $30 per vehicle for visitors, the deal could potentially save you a lot of money. Click here for more information about how to obtain an Every Kid in a Park pass.

Star studded Tribute to Oscar Wilde

In a small cell in Reading, England, writer and 19th century cultural icon Oscar Wilde spent two years in prison for “gross indecency” with another man.

Some 119 years later, artists, musicians and actors from around the world will return to the prison to pay homage to the man, his work, and his final years of solitude.

Reading Gaol will host the exhibition from September 4 through October 30.

During his imprisonment, Wilde was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The experience was devastating to his physical and mental health, and he died three years after his release, at the age of 46.

“In 1895, Oscar Wilde was one of the great celebrities of his time,” James Lingwood, co-director of exhibition, told Agence-France Presse. “He had plays on in the West End, he lived a glittering social life. Three months later he found himself in Reading Gaol. The prison regime here at the time was absolutely brutal, it broke Wilde.”

Gillman & Co, gelatin silver print, May 1893 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The central focus of the exhibition is a series of paintings, sculptures and photographs installed throughout the prison created by such artists as photographer Nan Goldin and Chinese artist Ai WeiWei.

All of the art is intended to deal with the theme of loneliness, allowing visitors to experience what life might have been like for the writer, imprisoned for his forbidden love of another man.

Musician and artist Patti Smith, along with actor Ralph Fiennes and Irish writer Colm Toibin are among the participants who will read Wilde’s 55,000-word letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas, in a performance each Sunday.

Morley von Sternberg

The prison was permanently closed in 2013, so Wilde’s cell has been recreated to be as it would have been when he was an inmate, complete with the books that he requested.

Wilde penned what was considered one of his last great works, a poem called the “Ballad of Reading Gaol,” while fulfilling his sentence. Expressing the despair of his own situation, an excerpt reads:

Right in we went, with soul intent
On Death and Dread and Doom:
The hangman, with his little bag,
Went shuffling through the gloom:
And each man trembled as he crept
Into his numbered tomb.

Twin Puppies in South Africa Is The First Time

An Irish wolfhound has given birth to what are believed to be the first identicallygenetic puppies in history.

Veterinarian Kurt de Cramer was performing a Caesarean section on the dog in South Africa’s Rant en Dal Animal Hospital in Mogale City when he noticed that she had an unusual bulging by her uterus, the BBC reports.

He was shocked to find two foetuses attached with umbilical cords to the same placenta, which he then successfully delivered along with five other puppies.

The puppies are of the same gender, with very similar markings, which led de Cramer to believe they were identical twins. Reproductive specialists then confirmed his suspicious by obtaining blood samples from the twins when they were two weeks and then six weeks old.

Although this is first recorded case of a monozygotic pair of puppies, as DNA tests are not typically performed on dogs even when puppies look strikingly similar, it is difficult to know how rare it is.

In the past, identical twin foetuses have been reported in horses, but none have survived.