Friday, June 22, 2012
I saw a young looking kid in the office the other day. She had what looked like inflammatory acne to her face a forehead, oily skin, hair tied down for ease, thick glasses, zipped up dark colored jacket with poor eye contact. My office manager said she had booked an appointment for a skin rash. I greeted her as usual, with and open heart and mind, but something was wrong. I figured she was a teen to college student, so the possiblity of some social apprehension was normal. I slowed down my health interview so as not to frighten her and tried to give some non threatening, open ended questions to engage eye contact. (My mind took me back to highschool- freshman year I was very shy; when everyone witnessed the speed and agility I had in gym class, I got recognized; then I got identified as the kid who knew Karate; then it backfired as John Travolta came out with Saturday Night Fever and mimicked my hair style resulting in a branding as "disco-boy"....back to square one) So I compassionately engaged her interests and interjected questions of why she was there today.
Her reason for visit was right, she was unhappy with her previous doctors just seeing her face and prescribing steroid ointment. She brought forth knowledge of "injections" for psoriasis as a next step and said she was here to come up with "other alternatives" and felt that from our website, we had a nice mix of western and alternative medicine. I was able to finesse a good basis to her chief complaint without presenting myself as an average doctor she had been to in the past. So crucial is the way doctors ask questions and not the questions we ask.
I felt my history taking and physical was successful enough to have a working diagnosis. In the fast paced life of getting patients in and out, once a diagnosis is attained with confidence....of course a treatment plan is already known since the existence of the AMA, western medicine has proven that if there are "these symptoms" then most likely they can be controlled with "this treatment".....and the current fast paced treatment will be.......prescription medicines!!! Hurray for drug companies allocating billions of dollars just for the sake of improving the way humanity is suffering from disease-then educating the doctors on how to treat disease. Any way......I was set and ready to start writing her prescriptions and start thinkng wow, this was an easy diagnosis and I was able to break through the typical shy demeanor of a teen/young adult....all in 15 minutes! But something was still uncomfortable with me. My teachers from medical school called it a "Gestalt Awareness" that something inside you is sensing a message that isnt being addressed in the obvious. Deepak calls this the Law of Pure Potentiality where everything in the universe exists as one so inner intelligence if given the opportunity for expression will yield all the answers to life.
I decided to query a little more. Turns out she is actually 30 years old, has "angry thoughts" that continue since teen years. "When i stress, the rash gets worse"-easy and obvious. SO I PROBED FURTHER. What is this anger and where did it come from. Seems she has no family support and they actually avoid her when the rash is so prominent. (Typical dynamic with a dysfunctional family); maybe this is a conversion reaction she is manifesting from some poor coping skills in communication. I was able to find out there was an associated joint pain issue with the first few episodes of rash. AAHA! sounds like psoriatic arthritis.....I'll confirm this with blood tests! But wait, no joint deformity now.....fever? infection? traumatic event? It was now passed the usual 15 minute time for a visit designated as Rash, infact it was now touching on the next patients time....but still something wrong. I opened up the proverbial can of worms to define what her interpretation of family dysfunction was......suddenly her head drifts to the floor, she covers her eyes, the tissue she had hidden in her fist goes to catch the tears.
Turns out the joint swelling/rash began after she suffered a rape/physical abuse by another family member. The abuse continued nightly for a year. She wanted to get help but comes from a family where they "dont believe" in seeing doctors or letting strangers know about relationships. She is still living with the family member. Doctors she has seen for the last few years of worsening rash have quickly treated her for the same diagnosis the previous doctor gave but just with a stronger steroid since treatments are becoming less effective, thus prompting the last doctor to suggest injections of a Rheumatologic agent known to halt white blood cell activity. A saviour for people truely suffering from debilitating disease but with terrible side effects including turning off your defenses to any and all infections.
Ultimately, I immediately got her an appointment to our behavioral department for a full psychological assessment and gentle establishment of safety/sanctuary; I introduced her to my Naturopathic doctor to look for solutions in controlling these flare ups and help with allergies to environment and food and try homeopathic whole system approaches to "cooling down" this emotional fire she is dealing with. I started the thought process of using acupuncture to control future flare ups that may occur in the next few weeks with the holidays coming around and the obvious conflict ofintentional family gatherings with the person that may still be threatening her. Most importantly I gave her time to express herself in her own way with her own time. The medical business model tells me I cant spend gobs of time with everyone that walks in for evaluation....but....my heart has a healer says the answer to the patients suffering is already the patients expression, it is my job to help find his/her answers amidst the confusion and pain.....even if it means going over the average 15 minute office visit.
The Value of Value
The new driver in my family approaches me with tears in her eyes saying she “broke my car”. Her follow up statement is, how much is that? (referring to the damage). My mind streams to days 16 years ago when I would spend the whole day Sunday, waxing the outside so that soft cloth would just slip off the hood, or working in the engine bay replacing her turbo, or taking her racing with local race clubs, or popping the hood open with some younger car guys and having jaws drop like they just saw the arc of the covenant. So how much? …….it’s not in the price of repair, it is the deep cut placed into my years of caring for a one of a kind, limited edition racecar. Price was never the point, it is the responsibility being displayed.
How can an individual fathom how valuable something is when they have not experienced the steps required to attain, cultivate, grow and mature this “thing”? I love the scene in Jurassic Park when Jeff Goldblum’s character is scolding the scientists on recreating dinosaurs-
“…..don’t you see the danger John/genetic power is the most awesome force this planet has ever seen but you wield it like a kid whose found his dads gun/the problem with the power your dealing with here is it didn’t require any discipline to attain it….”
Fast forward to the Aquabounty Tech, splicing genes between Atlantic Salmon and a Pacific Chinook Salmon to create a fish that doesn’t stop eating during slow season and gets bigger and fatter in a shorter time. They point out it is good for humanity since we will have more fish to feed the planet. But what about the natural ebb of allowing plankton and smaller fish to repopulate and bloom for the next season of new salmon. Do we genetically modify the feeder fish of the monster salmon so the feeder fish population don’t become extinct? Or a more basic law of evolution creating an ideal body weight for a salmon-region of the ocean but the same law being broken by human technology. Is there a price to pay for creating fat fish?
Well let’s see what has happened to humans. The world obesity rate has placed the United States as 5th highest for obesity out of 192 countries in the world health organization’s statistics. https://apps.who.int/infobase/Comparisons.aspx The cool thing with being obese in the US is with our healthcare technology, we can take care of high cholesterol with statins, we can replace worn out knees and hips with steel, we can control diabetes with insulin pumps so you can eat anything you want, we can short cut eating disorders with gastric bypass, we can cheat heart attacks with angioplasty.
In other words, the new generation is being brought up to cater to a voracious appetite of cheap fast food, with the technology addiction that keeps them out of the gym and in front of a computer and the only learned remorse as being, “with this year’s physical exam, your new problem is _______ for which I have a pill that wont interact with last year’s medicines. Our challenge in the healing world is how to teach someone with massive risk factors, about the impending doom approaching. How to impart to someone the feeling of communing with nature, the benefit of giving and receiving, the joy in detaching from goals and the knowledge of how it feels to feel your purpose in life. What seems intangible and unimportant usually is where we end up when the shift in life comes. For most, the shift occurs on deaths door and we wait until then. Reality is with the way economy, technology, nutrition and physical disability are infecting like a viral infection, deaths door is opening sooner. The greatest teacher is personal experience but does that mean we just wait until the knee, pancreas, brain and heart give out? How do you teach someone to invest money they don't have, in a concept they have never experienced, to hold back and event they don't believe in? It is a sin to just give short cuts to remedy problems without teaching the value of evolutions rules of existence. Or showing how each individual contributes and is essential to the growth and existence of the universe. If we don’t teach living in a mindful way to coexist and contribute, there will be no remorse for actions and life will lead up to a point where the universe kicks you out of the timeline and you cease to exist (probably in a very painful and lonely ending). Guess the only solution is to educate and live by example hoping others that are "ready" for the shift remember seeing the bliss in your way of living. If they are ready, so am I; if they aren't ready, I will wait......sooner or later they will feel the urge to change-or be forced to change.
During imagination, the human body will release the same bliss hormones, burn the same neural paths and get the heart pumping as actually performing the activity. Athletes do this all the time in picturing a golf swing, free throw shot, turning a corner in a race car. The mental activity entrains the brain to know what to do when the actual time comes to perform the real event. In the hospital, if doctors didn't go through the physical and mental scenario of advanced life support -"code blues", we would probably lose a lot patients to failed resuscitation. There is a negative side to this repetitive activity of imagination/imagery. When people get into the repetition, "I will never be the same", I will never pay off these bills", "nothing ever happens the easy way for me", it is impossible to lose weight" or "I'll never find true love", it too entrains the brain to live in a way where that belief comes alive. When life is visualized through the pages of that negative story, the alternate good options to healing become camouflaged by an ending that we unconsciously bring into our lives. By choosing to "entertain" positive ideas, we can begin to move the brain to a direction of visualizing healing paths to blissful existence. Repeating positive thoughts and activities, will entrain the mind/body to live at an energy where cells work better, the mind is not effected by stress, tissues function efficiently and outcomes seem to fall into place as we dream them. In science this level of living is called the "Unified Field" where basic matter if broken down to thought. All DNA is built from this field and when the thinking brain begins to contemplate this place....it gains a sense of "being home", there is an effortless ease of existing. I liken it to the idea that no matter how tough your day at school was (playground, teachers, lunchroom, gym class, opposite attractions, bus ride bullies...) when you open the door of your room, there is a feeling of sanctuary when just for a split second, all the previous tough experiences of the day....don't mean anything or hold any value. There is a "pause" that occurs while lying on your floor or looking up at a blank ceiling where the brain/body/spirit just float. The odyssey is to capture that pause and expand it to our entire waking day. Modern day experts have been able to coach people into daily practice bringing them to that place. Andy Weil teaches breathing exercises
that introduce a neutral "time pause" into one's life bringing you to a place where just for 5-10 minutes twice a day, you live in the moment; not worrying about problems, bills or tomorrow. Herb Benson and Deepak Chopra have encouraged to take the "quiet time" of up to 10-20 minutes twice a day and introduce a mantra or positive thought with it.
In a previous post, I mentioned as I was working an Immediate Care Center in Aurora IL, there was a frantic dad who burst in demanding care for his son bitten by something while playing baseball. Dad has a life threatening reaction to bees and he wanted his 11-year-old son given the same series of medicines for exposure to a possible bee. The dad was frantic, the kid was sweaty in his baseball uniform with flushed skin and fast breathing. Aside from that, my evaluation revealed no life threatening problems so I calmed down the dad, showed him all the monitoring equipment I had to detect impending doom. I asked the patient if I could help him calm down and I proceeded to take him through guided imagery. During my "story telling" he work on slow breath in and slow breath out. Since he was a baseball player, I had him imagine he was pitching and in slow motion going through his signals to catcher, cocking up the throwing arm, releasing the ball, fingers flicking the stitching on the ball as it was leaving his hand.....the slowest throw he could imagine happening. During all this imagination work, by the time the batter in my story swung for the ball, 5 minutes elapsed and miraculously, the boy was not red, he was relaxed (along with his dad), with no shortness of breath and no throat tightness. We just saved him an epinephrine shot, a steroid shot and a tremor inducing breathing treatment. (May have also given him a visualization to pitch better!)
Imagination is a very powerful tool to get us back to childhood. It is also a key that takes us to a place of peace. We can choose to be responsible for our everyday actions and control out future or....be a victim of events allowing the actions of others dominate our thought patterns. In the end, the brain with all its complexity can only be positive or negative. It is impossible to think negative thoughts and positive feelings at the same time. When the mind is allowed to step into that Grand Canyon of relaxation on a regular basis, answers will appear, opportunities will form and prosperity and abundance will follow.
Just watched Escape Fire: The fight to rescue American Healthcare. I spoke with the director and praised him for a job well done in empowering the American people to understand the paradigm of health in the US and get better "around the system". When I give lectures, there will always come a time when the attendees will ask, how do I take care of flare ups? This could be with anything from pain, to stable disease states to family dynamics. I always say the power of prescription medicine is in the impact it can have on symptoms immediately. Surgery, big gun medicine, acupuncture can change things fast. The sacrifice is the side effects that piggyback. In most cases, an immediate relief does allow patient to get back into the game faster (by continuing with work, training or functioning as a parent/partner) The wise man will plan the wean off during the same day as writing the prescription or performing the procedure. With the 10 minute visit (....minute clinics in Walgreens or Wal-Mart) providers specifically only address a single problem and only give just-enough medicine for a week-hoping the patient will follow-up with primary care to address the true reason for "life-imbalance". The problem I used to "prescribe to" was in seeing a patient for follow-up. If I didn't have time to fully investigate/dive into history that led to "imbalance", I would opt to just continue the big gun/high side effect/behavioral addictive medicine and get the patient in for a longer visit a few weeks down the line outside my scheduling back log. By that time the symptoms were worse, big gun med has stopped or caused a side effect, or problem fixed itself. My training would usually call for initiating the lifestyle change I have been urging the patient to go through from before. I take advantage of nutrition, stress reduction, supplementing deficiency and mind-body techniques. All those things that patients sometimes postpone for lack of time, are now easily translated as the "cure" for the crescendo of problems they comeback with.
The rub is; with the current model of medicine, RESCUE technique only works when disease has been ignored and postponed. The "rescues" only accumulate and become complex resulting in a constellation of diagnosis and intervention....yet resulting in poorer health and high financial expense. Mega-hospitals are built to care for postponed problems. Average health expenditure per person in the US is 5000-7000 dollars per year. We are also low on the list of world nations for health so the current system of constant "rescue" is flawed. What ever you do, I encourage you to listen to what you know is out of balance and start planning the fixes. Even if the plan spans over a few months to years, enlist the help of someone with nutrition experience, behavioral health knowledge and complementary medicine. Still trust in you current doctor to look out for big problems but understand the predicament with healthcare providers and that the insurance based system is stressed.
In Ayurveda, when the person preparing the meal is stressed to listen to the hunger, pick the ingredients, cook the dish, and present it......the "bad energy" of the cook-is "eaten" by the person dinning. This leads to health problems. If the person you entrust your health to is stressed to make financial deadlines, see "X" number of patients per hour, and come up with a plan for a lifetime of health and wellness....the likelihood is the plan with have the same "bad energy" in it that the provider is feeling.
Patient heal thy self, find your own "center for healing", keep western medicine "on a leash" and if you find a doc that listens and is an example of health...never let go and share with others.
While at a holiday party a cousin said he wanted to go with me hiking. Then asked why do I do it. I had to think about the answer; I know there is an attraction to the "rhythm" of nature, I know there is a bliss felt when pace is slowed down, I know I think and problem solve faster and clearer for the time period after a hike, I know my best ideas for healing/growing the nonprofit business seem to come with effortless ease. So how come I can't articulate all this into a few sentences of a "hiking" mission statement? Here is my quest, and what better way to find an answer but to get into nature and allow is to present itself. I just decided to drop off my son to school and head to the Morton Arboretum. My island of nature amidst 2 major highways and 4 Chicago suburb towns. With all the trees being leaf-less, the nearby sounds of highway penetrate through to deep in the woodland area but it's just a low hum of tires and engines. I think back to when I was deep in Yosemite hiking to Half Dome. There were no highways but with the rolling mountains and redwoods, the wind would create this crescendo sound every once in a while that sounded like a jet was starting its engines. I just took the mechanical sounds encountered in the Arboretum and pushed past to get allow the wildlife to bubble through. Then I became aware of the squirl's gnawing away at acorns, birds speaking, ducks overhead, the ground fall warming up as the sun came out. Even though everything was brown, frozen, hibernating....there was still life all around that just seemed to have slowed down for the season. I felt with every step on the trail, I became connected with the prairie that was waiting to bust out in 90 days. When I slowed down (not my steps but ny questions) this cool feeling in the chest (heart chakra for my yogi's) seemed to resound. I feel the human species is hardwired to express and bath in compassion. There is a built-in reward system created when we experience love and give love. Sounds new age but when we know Hollywood banks on the fact that if/when people see compassion played out on the screen, there is a sense of happiness experience in the viewer. The action has been studied in what is called a mirror neuron. Nerve cells designed to bring out the same emotion in the observer as the one actually doing the action. Think of a large group of rescuers all working to free up a child from some fallen structure. You watch and hope and wait until one rescuer reaches in and pulls out the dirt covered child and cradles him/her in his arms while rushing to the ambulance team. A large wave of relief is felt by all the rescuers and equally felt by the viewers. The vagus nerve is triggered in the neck and chest, a full feeling develops in the same area then tears start in the eyes. All this in the comfort of your own home! Civilization, industry, technology calls us to pay attention to distractions, media, political and religious ideas in efforts to make existing together more regimented where individuals work together for the benefit of coexisting in peace. The problem arises in the idea that we are all individual and the only connect we have to others is the reaction to our actions. We exist as individuals and who we are in society is dependant on what we have. To shine out and be the best is inherently related to being better than someone else. This is such a false pretense to think we are the center of the universe and the world revolves around "me". Getting back to walking the prairie this morning, the universe doesn't exist to serve us, we exist to serve the universe. This gigantic field of energy will continue on regardless of our participation and it seems people who learn to support "it" are so at peace and with seeming prosperity and abundance that follows them. People who detract from "it", always go down in a fireball of pain, suffering and separation.
There are a lot of manmade distractions that beckon our attention with the promise of a more fulfilling life. When one is already weak, tired and sick, it seems easy to fall prey to a short cut to bliss. The problem with short cutting nature is it will always find a way to get payback. Going with the flow of the universe has its abundant rewards but it does take awareness, acceptance and daily practice. Finding time to get back into the harmony of nature "resets" my mind to shake off the false suppositions that tempt me into thinking from the ego. When I can think from an awareness that I am here to serve in this continuum of energy, the answers to all my questions just seem to appear as if they were always there, just hidden by endless stress reactions happening all around me, inviting me to join in the stress. This is why the trails choose me.
Recently heard someone say-he (the new love) was a gift from God. Still recuperating from the last "gift", it would seem that meeting someone new would be the universe paying back the heart ache it caused last time. (If that's the case.....I got a big refund coming!) Truth is the universe doesn't do things for spite, doesn't pay back, has no intention to single-handedly cause everything to come crashing down. Events happen, life happens, no secondary gain, no vendetta. The way one interprets the event depends on if you are living in the past/afraid for the future or just basking in the present moment. A marketing guy once told me; "I know you like doing good things for everyone but I am interested in prosperity and abundance. I told him there is nothing wrong with prosperity, health, abundance.....I have tasted it and feel I attract it. The problem I see is we base these on material accumulation. Monetary value is one thing, (it pays the bills) but no way does it equate with the other. I love the way Wayne Dyer says he lives to serve the universe the best way that only he can. When this occurs, there will always be a feeling that this is right, that feeling of success is hardwired into our DNA in efforts to help sustain the species. If killing and living in isolation was the best way for man to survive, Darwin would have predicted extinction by now. Any culture no matter the language spoken, if watching a touching event, will have that tight feeling in the chest, a fullness in the throat and a tear in the eye form. Compassion is meant to be repeated over and over again. (Kind of like the way George Carlin used to say God wanted the eyes to be sensitive so he sprinkled a lot of nerves into creation, same with the mouth, ears and nose. When it came to the reproductive organs....he poured the whole bottle of nerves saying; I want them to shout my name!) I believe Hollywood is a combination of mass hysteria and industry driven secondary gain. This facade of success being the biggest bank account or top grossing record or friend status on Facebook. It will never sustain a lasting feeling of happiness, there will always be something lacking, causing the seeker to go out and accumulate more of the same empty reward. One of the biggest reasons for hoarding is we are told who we are is based on what we have. Deepak has a great saying: "We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to please people we don't like." In my lectures, I always mention the true healer writes prescriptions for nutrition, grounding and movement. I feel more than the rescue medicines I prescribe, the biggest impact on life is made when I can help a person find the substance inside them that feels true reward. Helping people realize their strengths and not just point out weaknesses and then guiding back to the path of bliss that we kind of got introduced to in highschool and college but then promptly reconstructed by society to do what is available in the job market that will make the most money in the least amount of time. When so overwhelmed with maintaining the facade of success and a place in society, we sometimes don't recognize the beauty of common everyday bliss that just past by. In the case of a person in mourning from a loss, honoring what we once had is fine, lamenting on the fact that we don't have the relationship anymore, will bring all the focus of everyday life on the past and not what is happening so beautifully right now, under our noses. -Living in the Now as written by Eckart Tolle. Sometimes placing attention on those basic concepts of what can I do best that will serve this world -will turn out to be the most fulfilling and rewarding. (...this is usually what we dream of as kids/adolescents....think back right now on what you used to love doing!!) I dont mean to forget responsibility to family, ignore bills, disobey the 10 commandments or break the law. That would go without saying, but if during those times when the brain for a split second contemplates, "what should I do?" -acting in a benevolent way is an option and will always have a positive outcome. When you are one with the universe....the cool thing is there will never be any thought of events occurring for spite, revenge, payback, or secondary gain.
It seems like a good concept. Get seen faster and to a larger population of humans and you will be "guaranteed" more new patients. Instead of paying 1000.00 for an ad in the local paper, just go internet and you can reach thousands. Getting plugged into someone else's database of contacts will insure a higher percentage of "clicks" on your profile/ad which translates to higher recognition/awareness of your name. But no one spoke of the side effects. Even in the pharmacy now, there are so many listed side effects to medicines you pick up that they print it on a sheet and ask you to read, understand what you read and sign that you were informed.....all in efforts to get you in and out fast with your "brand new bottle of prescription medicine". This thirst for speed, volume, public recognition.....to reach the masses, be in the masses, be the best of the mass and make a lot of money. No one tells you that you have to update your profiles, regularly observe how many people clicked on you, how long they stayed on your link, if they came back, if there was a phone call generated from the click, if they scheduled for a visit, how to change the profile so it takes advantage of the trending for that week, what people are trending about for the month, who else is generating high volume following (likes). Then when you get status....you wonder what happened the next time you do the same thing and don't have the same reaction. Did I do something wrong? Why aren't people following? Am I not valuable anymore? Who else is getting my followers? What do people think of me now that I am a failure? What crazy "hollywood" stunt should I do to get attention back-it seems to work on cable TV. Like Al Pacino in the Godfather: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in". If you buy into the fervor of virtual presence, you should first be grounded in what your dharma is. (Dharma comes from Sanskrit and stands for your purpose in life) If you are unsure of your original intention before the journey, the challenges you will face on the journey will shape and manipulate the way you live your life. Could be a good thing, could also turn out terribly wrong with a resultant twisted, altered package of what formerly was a compassionate idea. Growing up in mainstream America, we are taught how to succeed, that only the best will make it to success and that anything other than blood, sweat and tears will result in a lifetime of suffering and poverty. So we become very good at getting to the top by stepping on others that don't deserve your spot. I remember in Catholic school we are all part of God's creation and should love one another like we would want to be loved. This was taught to me by a tall, shadowy lady in a nun outfit that used to carry a ruler with the threat of a swift whip from the wooden instrument end onto knuckles if you didn't recite the phrases. The only time I was taught to calm the mind was in sports. When it was my time to belt test in front of the class for martial arts, or when getting ready for the state finals in a sprint and performing the ritualistic steps to slow down time and wait for the gun to go off and unleash the fury of concentrated human speed. So when do most people learn the trade of meditation and grounding.......usually at the lowest point of life. Some people don't touch on spiritual access until the last breath, some get it and move onto a higher way of living (seemingly igniting life into everyone they meet) and some are lucky to learn from parents/friends.
This virtual chat room with the rest of human kind is a great thing but if you have no substance or only have an intention of joining in because everyone else is doing it, you are just postponing the inevitable. You will find yourself with no time to relax, no true friends to share adventures with, withdrawn from nature, caught up with always having to check for new responses and update status. Sooner or later, you will ask yourself the question of why do I do this, it there something better, who am I and what is my purpose. May as well start now before you are too deeply infected by the man-made "mind virus" of virtual living.
With primitive brain function, pain and pleasure can be burned into pathways that are easily accessed again and again. For example, if seeing fire is associated with painful heat, the animal will induce an immediate response to smoke or fire by turning on the fight or flight reaction and avoid the encounter. The more the association with pain, the more nerve paths/brain maps are created to elicit faster/powerful reaction. When the stimulus of fire is not experienced for a while, the learned paths are not erased.....they are just over taken by day-to-day experiences/paths. In 10-20 years, if the painful experience comes up again, out of the depths of the brain, the path/brain map is called on again to elicit the same learned reaction in efforts to keep the animal alive. Sports medicine docs/trainers refer to this as "engrams" that an athlete learns during practice to reproduce during competition. Mind body medicine docs like Richie Davidson out of University of Wisconsin/Madison refer to developing brain paths as "neuroplasticity". Dr Davidson has studied people like the Dali Lama and gone on to state the brain will actually make neurons/brain cells if a new activity is practiced/brain path is created.
The current argument is with contemplative science, if compassion/meditation is practiced daily for years, can the brain make nerves/paths/maps that can be re-accessed in a fraction of a second to elicit an animal response just as powerful as fight or flight. YES! His work as documented with multimillion dollar biomedical machines the same postulates that Herb Benson assumed in the 70's about relaxation bringing on some healthy response in the body. All this controversy and high-end research is being documented just to say to doctors and patients: "relaxation and meditative practice on a daily basis is associated with healthier lives and less need for pharmaceutical treatment". Duuhhhaa! It is a shame we have to prove this with expensive testing/randomized controlled trials but when a pharmaceutical company comes up with 100 pages of documentation by "their scientists" that this drug will help control symptoms of your disease, an equal and opposite force must be utilized to show doctors and patients on the fence that spending 10-30 minutes once to twice a day in mindfulness will extend your life and reverse symptoms of disease.
With direct to consumer advertising, a lot of people are placed "on the fence" with deciding what is good for health. The internet is a great vehicle to get information but it is likewise a great vehicle for spreading bad information. I empower my patients to be their own advocates for living long but always discuss the information they learn with a reliable person to sort out what should be applied and what should be avoided. Spending 1000.00$ on a slew of vitamins can be cut down so the extra money can be utilized to spend on massage, healing touch, a great anti-inflammatory meal, a vacation....all that will be just as impacting to health/feeling healthy.
Americans are not taught in school how to get in touch with nature or relax. It is usually assumed that alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or buying a big house/fast car/new purse is relaxing. These things may bring on an immediate sense of happiness but it only lasts until the next day when remorse sets in. As Herb Benson and Richie Davidson both point out, cultivating the relaxation response with regular meditative practice can help "neutralize" all the stress responses we go through in 24 hours.....emotion on the highway, emotion watching the news, emotion paying bills, emotion doing someone elses work, emotion watching Jersey Shore.
Back in the 90's, I used to acquire titles to be someone. Can't be a good sports medicine doc it you don't work with a team, can't be a good family doc if you don't see 30 patients a day, can't be a successful physician without driving a Porsche. Did it all to validate me as being a good doc amongst my colleagues. Patients were praising me but administration said I still was not competitive with how the average doctor in the US bills in a day (MGMA standards). So when I didn't agree with the direction the hospital was going (insurance business model) I left private practice and worked for emergency room/immediate care centers. I didn't have to worry about finding a true cause of suffering, I just treated acute symptoms, gave medicines and told everyone to follow-up with your doctor ("Treat and Street"). Just have to follow acute care "cook books"" and not worry about bonding with humans-(takes too much time). Ha!, but little did I know, when I started to show compassion and listen, my "numbers" went down compared to how many patients were seen per hour by other docs. Then when I followed orders and moved through charts like a Jewel Grocery cashier scanning cans, then patients complained they felt rushed. I just can't win in this insurance reimbursed model. I had to figure, how do I empower patients to help themselves while at the same time, be profitable as a small business owner. I needed to find an answer and was always taught the answer is in the wisdom of other docs who have the biggest buildings, fastest cars and biggest staff. But.....I found there was a message inside, a knowledge within each cell of me that knew the exact way to problem solve and come up with the correct choice in every decision. My epiphany came when Deepak Chopra came to Chicago and I thought maybe if I heal the inner turmoil between compassion to serve and the hollywood picture of success I can be better at applying my textbook knowledge and problem solve. I listened, learned, met other non-health professionals that were healing (also met some docs that were going through the same thing as me but they seemed very angry.....complaining about the medical system and missing the event of something beautiful morphing during the lectures that allowed for an inner message to be heard.) I began to interpret feelings my heart generated and allowed these to effect my decision-making/problem solving. I didn't recklessly abandon medical protocols but I allowed for feeling comfortable with using "feeling" to help guide patients to better health. Something called me to learn acupuncture, something called me to observe an herbalist using aroma therapy, something called me to give more "free lectures" to the community, something called me to start following Andrew Weil, something called me to start teaching yoga. I would have never done any of this in the eyes of my doctor friends because it would seem "quackery practice" and I can't get reimbursed for it. Fast forward to earlier today, I am supposed to be preparing a lecture for Cancer patients but the new Hospital Wellness Center that just hired me for yoga instruction, still had to have me go through the painful administrative paperwork of credentialing, verification of training, drug testing.....I dont have time for this! In my mind, the question of why am I even teaching yoga? as my first class was filled with 20 people who had no training, and I probably will be paid just enough to take care of gas....I should just stick at filling my office hours and promoting myself using the "usual marketing companies". Well as I was being told I needed another picture ID (I live 25 miles away!) and about to stick it to the manager of HR saying, this paper-chase is sooooo frustrating and worthless and just get some "minimum wage non-MD" to teach it! A lady walked up and excused herself but had to interrupt and say; she attended the meditative yoga class I gave yesterday and in the 10 years of suffering from Fibromyalgia, had an entire day of feeling no pain: she told me it was "transforming and has been telling everyone she can't wait for next week and wanted to see me as a patient". Like a switch, all the anger left, I suddenly was speaking to an HR manager that appeared to look different and this calm was injected into my blood stream. To imagine I was seconds away from allowing self doubt to control my heart/mind, ruin another human's day and probably get on the highway at dangerous speeds taking frustration out on innocent motorists. Although it was reassuring to be validated, I feel more empowered to follow the innate wisdom that was always there but sequestered by the ego. As Deepak's Law of Karma says; My Actions are Aligned with the Universe
A great Marine Corps motto (popularized in Heart Break Ridge) is applicable to daily life. Most would speak of this as being used in physical situations like those seen on Dual Survival or Man vs Wild. My belief is one can apply this to milestones of life. Our first day at school, first public speech, first kiss, first house, first funeral, first bully, first job loss, first financial setback....the list goes on. In psychology it can be referred to as coping skills. We accumulate coping skill from small life challenges and hopefully rely on previous experience to deal with larger ones we take on in later years. That's if we are lucky enough to have the big challenges saved until the very end. With the current financial climate, the existing health status of the US, and the 24/7 internet tsunami of yellow journalism media related stress.....our tweens and "millennial's" are being tested before standard defenses are learned. I think of the ending scene in Platoon where Charlie Sheen is coming back from a slaughter, exhausted about to fly home and he looks over the line of young soldiers coming off the plane with uniforms freshly ironed, rifles unfired, clean-shaven with "deer in the headlights" looks of bewilderment. It is my hope that has young people learn their coping skills, the wing of a parent will be around to secure a soft landing from the experience and add insight to why an outcome occurred.
How can we expect this with 50% of all families end in separation, the new parents of today have more psychological diagnoses and reliance on prescription medicine than ever before and our elderly are separated from the nucleus of the dinner table. In fact, those "banks of wisdom" (before they turn senile) held as a big focus in American Indian society are so de-valued today. Even if the information is considered ancient by our tweens, the interaction of story telling and experience passed from grandparent to grandchild (without having to be interrupted with -"I have to get this phone call; I must have a drink; I can't take you since my work starts early tomorrow") plays such a valuable role in the young adult experiencing events that lead to grandpa's own coping skill. Whether or not the grandchild adapts that particular coping skill is not important, it is the experience that is being lived in the story.
Richard Davidson in his new book The Emotional Life of you Brain, speaks of his studies where a person watching a sport being practiced will stimulate the same brain pathway as actually playing the sport. The best athletes in the world have long known if you visualize the "basketball free throw" enough, you will increase the chance of sinking the ball in the real life situation.
So....do we abruptly throw our chicks out of the nest and hope they fly right after hatching.....no! Nature allows animals to provide parental shelter, teach life lessons then teach not to need sheltering. Wayne Dyer in his book The Shift spoke of parents making "leaning" unnecessary. It seems irresponsible to allow children to experience the world "on their own"....but in the true family nucleus; they will never be alone. The challenge I see is how to impart these values to our kids in problem solving life if the family nucleus is devolving. Probably goes back to respecting wisdom, tradition and our heritage.
The legacy of humanity is not only in the young generation but also in our elders.
Usually when I ask a patient about exposure to nature, they say I live near a wooded area. When I ask further how often they venture into the wooded area, most just pass by. Even with people who have a backyard facing trees, the idea about experiencing nature is to be in it. Usually means at least 10-30 minutes of no technology, little to no mechanical noise and the intention to not react, just be. This last part usually is the deal breaker with people I speak to. In fact, most of my lectures are preceded by a slide showing a doctor's prescription pad where instead of writing a drug, I write orders for 1- nutrition; 2-movement; 3-grounding. I can usually make people feel better with the power of temporary drugs AND a plan for lifestyle change. Both are equally important but in my former life of 15 minute visits (please see The Fatal Fifteen blog), I didn't have time for teaching lifestyle change (or come up with an individualized, intricate plan). I have found if I stick to the 1,2,3 way of formulating a plan, makes it easy for me and my patients. Experiencing (witnessing) nature can easily take care of # 2 and #3. Takes physical movement to get into the forest or wooded area and once you are in, if you let go of technology and are willing to "slow down to the speed of nature", nature's speed will consume you. Example; going to the beach, (even if you are not a beach person), will usually capture you just with the powerful sound of the waves hitting the shoreline. Hypnotic, mesmerizing, relaxing if you stay long enough. There is usually an inherent "need" to check internet, email or text but when you start to realize the web will still be there later, the emails can wait, the texts aren't important information anyway.....then you allow nature to take over. That is when you realize, the breeze is cooling, the shade is refreshing, the surf is inviting. In fact, the surf is continuous, powerful and you don't have to power it on to access joy. Eva Selhub in her book Your Brain in Nature, speaks of Japanese Forest Bathing. Around the late 80's to 90's, there was research started about the effects of nature on city dwellers. For the medical community to make recommendations, doctors have to see studies. (Randomized Control Trials) Good for making drug companies spend on research and development (really just marketing); not good when simple suggestions like diet and exercise that have to be studied and tested before being recommended. Who is going to pay for expensive studies on the Mediterranean Diet being heart protective or a regular walk in nature being a treatment for high blood pressure. Truthfully, since the American public keeps on asking, your tax dollars are being used to pay for fancy double blind studies on diet and exercise. As I mentioned, Japan did precede us by testing whether health is effected by hanging out in the forest. They found that the blood and urine hormones for stress were less in those who spent regular time in the forest. They also found hormones for relaxation were higher in the forest group. Imagine if I wrote a script for high blood pressure that said go to a forest preserve 5 times a week and just sit there for 10-30 minutes 3-5 days a week. (or imagine if medical insurance paid for it!!!!) Well they will never do that, in fact, most medical insurance won't pay for anything preventive: exercise, weight loss, good nutrition, good sleep. What they will pay for is your disease-management after you have been diagnosed with the illness. My suggestion is don't wait for the disease to pop up in one of the annual physicals, start listening to your inner voice, start acting on what you see in the mirror, start taking extra time to sleep or wind down at bedtime. Spend on "Healthy". Even if it costs more in the short run, it will save you so much in copays, sick leave, prescription deductibles (and I am sure you won't miss the side-effects to the one or two pills used to "control" the disease you are labelled with). Eva's book is due out 13th of June 2012-well worth it if you want to make a pre-emptive strike on health and personal healing.