Our great nation has seen so many drastic changes in medicine today. The advances of technology has reached its greatest achievements over the course of the past 50 years. Nanotechnology is on the horizon and may be heralded in to change the course of disease. While these changes are a wonderful addition to the tools of medicine, one should still question if they are the best course back to wellness. We are at the cross roads in medicine and particular how we take care of our own individual health. Do we need advances in medicine or to learn the simple ways that have been successful for 1000s of years?
The passage of the health care reform bill was an opportunity for many to realize that the direction of our collective health is at a turning point. The politics behind the bill raised questions such as “How are we going to pay for it” and “How do we allow those who don’t have access to health care get it?” The mainstream media put a spin on much of the debate in congress and the conversations around the water cooler were filled with equal opportunities for debate. It doesn’t matter about what was written in the legislation because it had its effects before it was signed into law. There may have been a bipartisan split in congress, but a union took place in the hearts and minds of most Americans.
It is easy to see the issues in health we face when you peel back the many layers that are hiding the roots of the problem. Do we need to expand our scientific understanding of disease or contract back to our opportunities to shift our health? This notion of contraction has its beginnings since the discovery of disease and how we learned to cope with it. Humans have always had the curiosity to grow and learn about how to get better, but after careful reflection and meditation. Our modern times have just shorted this reflection period and reduced it down to identify a collection of diagnosis codes that logically point to a solution. Is it possible that the best solution is to actually go through disease to allow one to process it and avoid it altogether the next time? This doesn’t fit with many of the life threatening diseases that have become more prevalent over the past 25-50 years, but the experiences of others may catalyze the necessary lifestyle changes in oneself.
It may seem like a shift for many to realize that in disease is a message and an opportunity for change. We have collectively agreed in today’s American society that we must expose the cause and chip away at it. This is the opportunity for a paradigm shift in how we shape our health. Fortunately, this opportunity does not ride on how we pay for it or who has access to health care. It starts with the realization that we must change the dynamic core of how we live and challenge what has not worked in our modern times. The solutions are simple and don’t cost much, but may be hard to steer the course and cost us determination and perseverance. Instead of reducing our health to a diagnosis, ask yourself what this really mean I need to do and simply do it.
You can search the internet, turn the tv on, or talk to your co-workers and you will hear many differences when it comes to nutrition. There exists an endless supply of research on the bio-chemistry of food and what it does for your body. People’s food preferences are likened to one’s view of religion or politics because of the personal and deeply rooted conditioning that many have experienced. What effect does our nutrition have on our Spirit?
There are many thoughts surrounding the effects of food on one’s spirit or soul. Let’s say that you think of food as energy source. The most basic and natural foods start out with as 10 (scale of 10, 10 being the best and 1 being poor) before they come to fruition. It is helpful to use some examples to help you envision this notion.
Farmer A plants the seeds that were taken directly from his previous year’s harvest and stored in an ideal environment prior to planting. He uses his bare hands in newly tilled soil that is free from any chemical toxins. The water is pure and from a local source that has remained untainted. The air that permeates the landscape has a fresh crispness can be felt upon a deep breath.
As the harvest grows, he is out caring for the crop by helping to weed the areas around each plant to ensure that there is no competition for the soils nutrients and water. His excitement grows each day that is closer to harvest until it finally comes. The harvest time is a gathering of his family and neighbors to help retrieve the bounty that has spent the months maturing.
The food is then taken and prepared, stored, and eaten in a manor that preserves the essence of the crops. His bounty is shared in the local community and traded for other goods that his neighbors have. Much of the overstock has been prepared, preserved, and dried in a traditional ways that helps to extend the essence of the food in a manner that is free of harmful chemicals.
Farmer B receives the seeds that were grown from various locations around the country and sometimes world. His diesel machine turned the soil that has been in use for many years. It has been “restored” with a plethora of unnatural chemicals that aid the food to grow. His machines assist to plant the seeds in a robotic fashion. The source of water is sprayed on from an irrigation supply that is pumped in from its area water facility and has been treated with other chemicals also help to keep bugs away.
The machines are also used to harvest along with some workers who are paid menial wages and are far from their own families. An assembly collects the harvest and packages it to be delivered by trucks to various locations around the country. Some of it is used in food plants that breaks down the food and prepares it with many other preservatives and chemicals to process it. This is then shipped to other locations around the country to remain on shelves and purchased by many people.
These are both extreme examples to help illustrate what it takes to get a seed to your plate as food. At this point the food from Farmer A is holding pretty strong as a level of 10. There are not many hands that pass through the source to care and love the crops, so its essence remains. The seeds that have been passed down have learned to resist the insects of the area, so the pesticides are not necessary. The joy of the farmer is certainly shared with his local community. Farmer B never touches his seeds or crops and the local community never receives any of the crops. They are sprayed with pesticides and the soils has lost much of its nutrients from overuse. This food is definitely at a 5 or 6 depending on the amount of handling to package or preserve it.
The actual handling of the food either chemically or mechanically affects the energy level of the plants. It certainly is not something that is noticeable in the short term when we eat them, but it should warrant many to question its efficacy over a lifetime. Many people know when something is homemade when they compare it to store bought, so why can’t this be applied to simple farming versus commercial farming.
In this repost from last year, I outline my path back to wellness from Bipolar using simple alternatives that don’t involve conventional prescription drug means. I started listening to my inner wisdom that was shouting “change”.
I continue to experience the wonders of life free of medication. I have made adjustments along the way to remain balanced. Some of these include changes in my nutrition, meditation, and exercise.
It is my belief that all dis-eases and dis-orders signal a change is needed. This is hard for many to swallow because it involves a drastic paradigm shift away from what they have been taught over the years. We all have this inner power and we need to stop giving it away to others.
You can read part 1 of my story here:
The Power Behind my Bipolar: Becoming Friends with Both Sides
I want to tell my story, but not for a high five or a kudos. It is not to get an “atta-boy” or a pat on the back. I want to tell it because it is time to look at the view atop the mountain that I have been climbing for over ten years. I want to tell it because I hope that maybe someone is looking for a glimmer of hope no matter what DIS-ease your body is telling you. My story is meant to be told for my own well-being and it is my last step to fully embrace it.
Our society has a carved out the mental disorders as something that needs to be suppressed and fixed. However, our solutions are not perfect. It started for me in college during a time when most push themselves to the brink by partaking in activities that may be foreign to many. I was no stranger to this. I stayed up late during the week studying and then partied hard on the weekends. My diet consisted of an incomplete breakfast, a lunch of more carbs, and pizza or some other unhealthy choice. There was no salad or pure, raw foods mixed in anywhere.
My only exercise was walking to class (took the bus for the long walks) and lifting kegs. I never learned the art of quieting the mind, so I turned to TV to help. My way of coping with any stress was to shove things in my body such as alcohol, food, and other dangerous chemicals. I was pushing myself to the limit in the wrong direction.
My stress levels intensified as the semesters came and went until my spirit finally had it. My body, mind, and emotional well being were pushed to the brink. There are many theories about WHY someone has a manic experience, but to me it was simple. My spirit said, “If you can’t change, then I will help you.” My body was in one place, my mind in another, my emotions were out of wack, so an explosion took place. It was a recipe for mania. I know that anyone in the same circumstances would have a similar experience.
I will skip over all the years of medication and hospitalization that I endured in the beginning of this. I was told that I would have to be on medication for the rest of my life and there was no cure. Funny thing is that I was a psychology student and read all about this the semester before. I remember thinking that I shouldn’t believe it. I heard that most people who were diagnosed this way, don’t believe they are sick. Well I was sick, but relying totally on medication and the doctors was not the complete way to regain my health.
I am not condemning all the wonderful doctors and nurses that helped me along the way. I am not condemning the medications that I chose to take. They all helped me to get to where I am today. Although, I felt like I was giving my power away. We all have the power to return to homeostasis if given the chance.
I really owe much to my family because they always stuck by me even when I was unbearable to watch or be around. I AM blessed to have such wonderful support in my transition to health.
In Part 2..I will talk about what changed and helped me to embrace my own true power.
This post is part of Prevention Not Prescriptions blog carnival.
There are some movies that connect with many people young and old on many different levels. My current generation has seen the likes of Star Wars, Harry Potter and the Matrix movies that have captured a wide audience. The latest saga that has thrilled audiences is Avatar the movie. This movie has sparked much interest and has received high accolades for its creativity, imagination, and special effects. The spectrum of emotions that many have experienced watching and analyzing this movie ranges from depressed, suicidal thoughts to inspiring and joyful feelings. It also parallels the struggle of man with ego.
The story is basically about humans searching for bigger and better things to profit from on a distant planet named Pandora. The strategy for the humans is to become like the indigenous intelligent life forms using an Avatar, or a body of the life forms. The Avatars are controlled by the humans as a result of their consciousness being projected into their respective Avatar. It follows one man who chronicles his quest to fit in with the natives to learn their ways and gain their trust. In the process, he is forever changed and finds that the human race is the problem and not the solution.
This movie reflects the allegorical struggle between good and evil, yet its struggle does not exist in some external form. It parallels the struggle that we all may face today within ourselves. This struggle can be seen when the humans unleash destruction on the peaceful Na’Vi to fill a need for more power and wealth. Our internal selves go to battle with our egos on a daily basis. The collection of our individual selves forms the collective consciousness of the planet. Just turn on the t.v. or walk into any mall and you will see signs of this. It is seen in the aisles of overflowing cereals at the supermarket and the vehicles that have evolved from small & economical to enormous & costly. Our needs are constantly expanding, but not evolving towards enlightenment if we focus on material things.
The ego is defined as that part of our personality that provides structure. Most people think of this as the voice in your head that makes sense of the world around you. Most think it is the voice of reason, but ultimately it is the voice that gets most into trouble. Just think of the time when you were talking to someone, but going through a list of things to do in your head at the same time and missed half the conversation. The ego is always in the past and the future, but never the present moment.
Jake Sully began his adventure as Na’vi much like a child discovers the world. He explored as much as he could with fresh eyes and wanted to try everything. He started out strong with an egoic agenda and ended up following his heart. His love of others was the catalyst to triumph over what was wrong. Does good always triumph over evil when you follow your heart? Maybe it doesn’t even exist when you do.
“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.”- Deepak Chopra
The time between Christmas and the new year is an opportunity to reflect on the moments of the past year. It is a perfect time to assess one’s accomplishments and learn from the mistakes. It can also be a good time to plan for the future year and commit to achieving desired goals. There is a quiet moment that exists during this week as you take stock of the past and plan for the future. This quietness is felt when one recognizes where you stand at this very moment.
This seems like an opportunity that should not be left before the clock strikes midnight at the turning of a new year. Quietness should be experienced this same way each day and night. This seems like a daunting task in our busy modern society where refuge from the noise of life is a luxury. The ability to achieve quietness each day works wonders for one’s spirit. It softens the haze of uncertainty that is experienced and built up as the hours of the day pass.
This quietness can be achieved in many ways. It can be experienced through writing or reading. It can be achieved looking through the eyes of a child smiling. It can be achieved through meditation or prayer. The simplest way to achieve it is to simply listen to the stillness of yourself as you experience it.
I can remember watching my grandfather tending his garden when I was a young boy and lived in the same house. I even remember his habits of saving all of his vegetable and fruit scraps to add to his compost. He was very meticulous about where to plant and was always in there picking weeds. This love of gardening was not a chore or something that was done with back breaking labor each day. It was carefully laid out and tended a little each day.
Our own conditioned tendencies or habits can be shaped very much like a garden. We all have our own garden to tend to. My garden is full of variety and changes as the season fade in and fade out. It is rich with a soil that that holds its ground and supplies each vegetable with the proper nutrients to thrive. It is open to the sky to receive nourishment from the life giving heat of the sun.
My garden was not always so plentiful and was full of many weeds. The water was scarce, the ground was almost barren, and the sun’s radiant energy was blocked. I couldn’t feed a family over the years if it continued on. This farmer took stock of his land and came up with a plan. I started with one weed a day. Eventually, the soil was feed organic materials, a consistent supply of water was available, and the shadows were removed to let the light in.
I use this analogy because I want others to know that any change starts with looking over what you have and look for improvements each day. It has to become your lifestyle and to not allow it to feel like work. A big one for me was my nutrition. It was terrible and needed a significant overhaul. I started small and made incremental changes each day. I allowed time for my habit to change and was patient for it to grow. I lost about 75 lbs in 6 months eating healthy and became fit. I found my own approach to tend my garden.
I have started a new endeavor to further my passion to help others. I am attending the Body Therapy Institute to become a massage therapist. I am stepping out of my current element to learn about something I have never done before. The one phrase that stuck out with me during class was to start new and fresh. Start with “beginner’s mind”. The beginner’s mind comes from a Zen practice. It is a way to look at things much like a child’s mind. You are present to explore and observe. You are free from judgment and expectations.
Massage therapy builds on foundations that does not just encompass a specific technique. It is a blend of being in the moment, centering and balancing oneself, extending unconditional positive regard to yourself and the client, and an arrangement of your own physical body to ensure you are using it most efficiently and safely. My beginner’s mind is telling myself that I will get the footwork and technique down with consistent practice. I understand myself and I am extending patience and kindness to allow myself to learn. This is not always easy, but I focus on my desired outcome and I trust it will come with time.
We all have new beginnings and sometimes we shift back to our old ways of doing things because we may have been conditioned to do so and it feels comfortable. I would not last long as a massage therapist if I did not use my body in this new way because it would strain my body physically. I had to see the value in learning something new to allow myself to grow and learn. This can be true for anything new in our lives. We must seek the value in the change to help us overcome the challenges of learning something new. We must learn like a child learns something for the first time.
I see the headlines today on CNN, “U.S. commander says Afghan war winnable, new strategy needed.” It makes me wonder if we will always have a war present in our lifetimes. I certainly don’t support any type of war, but support the people in the middle of it. This made me think how we can achieve peace.
Most people are extremely adept at beating themselves up and this energy extends to other people. Think of it this way, “Have you ever a terrible day at work where everything just didn’t work?” You go home to your significant other and it all comes out in one way or another. This release of energy cascades through the other person to another person or it is released in a healthy way. You can ask my wife and I am sure she will come up with some story in which she would say I was not releasing my energy in a healthy way. The worse scenario is for it to build up inside of yourself and come out in one big blob.
What does this have to do with war? Here a quote that I found that summarizes it for me,
“Simply: War must end, or we will. A peaceful world is made of peaceful nations. Peaceful nations are made of peaceful communities. Peaceful communities are made of peaceful families. And finally, peaceful families are made of peaceful people.” -unknown
It is pretty simple: Extend an olive branch to ourselves and stop beating ourselves up. Take responsibility for yourself and release any built up energy through positive means. Forgive yourself. How can we be a peaceful person to others if we are not peaceful to ourselves?
Find what works to focus our attention on healing yourself. Some may exercise, read, meditate, cook or millions of other things. Just take the time and make it a goal to release your energy in a healthy way. I know that if we ALL took responsibility for ourselves that we WILL have a peaceful world.
Gandhi said, “There is no way to peace, peace is the way”
I might as well start off prefacing that I was raised in a Catholic household and went to a Catholic high school. I was born in one of the most liberal cities in Massachusetts (Cambridge) and raised in a Republican house. At one point I considered myself Catholic and leaned more towards the Democratic party. Today, I don’t considered myself Catholic or affiliated with any party. Sure, you may call me Independent or Spiritual, but those names really don’t come close.
My time after college was spent studying other religions and learning from each one of them. At first, it seemed like I was looking for one that fitted me like a nice leather coat that I could wear proudly. I now know why I tried on many coats. I was looking for the similarities between them all. I will summarize what I have learned from world religions. The most common theme that I have found is that there is a greater source beyond our 5 senses. They all teach you how to find it, yet you really have to experience it on your own. They all teach us to love ourselves first and then love others.
It really behooves me that we wage war in the name of our religious beliefs because deep down, they are all the same. Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I think it is time for the world, starting with ourselves first, to really change the way we think about religion. I am not saying to denounce your beliefs and go on some soul searching journey (unless that is what you really want), but just explore the other religions and other ancient teachings to get a better understanding. If you study the Bible, pick up and read the Tao Te Ching and compare them. Find the common threads in each of the teachings. Use your religion to ride your bike around other ones.
This brings me to politics. I liken politics to an extension of one of the biblical sayings, “Love your neighbor as Yourself.” Politics and governments were really formed out of the basis of unifying a community of individuals. I have always respected people’s different views, but I don’t think it should separate one from another. I have seen the passion that many have with their political views, but I don’t like the line that it tends to draw. This can be seen when 2 opposite party candidates are campaigning. The mud slinging that goes on is preposterous and uncalled for. I certainly give props to anyone who wants to go through that to become a voice for many.
My training wheels served me well. I have been able to ride my bike around all of the religions and political sides and enjoy the nice breeze. I don’t need them to tell me how to live my life or treat others. I just do it within reason of course. We really need to stop drawing the lines that separate us as individuals, communities, states, and countries or our world will get smaller and smaller. It is time to weave all of our differences together to form a blanket that everyone can use. It is time to stop waging war in the name of political or religious views. The choice is really up to YOU, not your elected officials or religious leaders.
“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow.”– Anais Nin
Some of these may seem radical to many and at one point I agreed with you, but the easy life, takes hard work. Some of these are ancient ways that have been practiced and mostly forgotten since the dawn of man. This is no high tech or radical treatment plan. I know that if you found your own recipe and had the drive, you WILL be successful.
1.) Nutrition– This is by far the biggest one for me. I was such an emotional eater. All my emotions came with a special treat. I had to learn how to tame this beast and feed it in other ways. I looked to find how I could curb my appetite and I fell in love with green tea, almonds, salads and fruit smoothie shakes. I really studied a great deal from who I call the 4 doctor dudes: Dr Oz, Dr Andrew Weil, Dr Dean Ornish, and Dr Mark Hyman. They all said the same thing. Get rid of the crap and add the good stuff. Prett simple. I started slowly and didn’t overload my body because it knew it was in for a change. I never followed a diet or fused about portions. I ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. The key was LISTENING to my body.
2.) Exercise– I hit this one pretty hard. I am not a big gym person and probably will never be, so I diversified. I do the elliptical machine, lift weights, and pretty much walk each day. I also mixed in some golf, walking nine holes. I figured it is a way to be out in nature and I never keep score. I set easy goals and hit them pretty quickly. During my times of abundant energy, I really give it my all within reason. Today, I plan on training for a triathlon with the only goal in mind to finish it.
3.) Reading and writing– Sure this makes sense, but when you read to improve yourself, it gives you the tools to work with. I found journaling or blogging to help me express my thoughts. That way I don’t have to think about them. I review them later.
4.) Meditation– How does one quiet the mind in a world of 24/7 everything? You have to go within yourself and allow yourself to shut down in a conscious state. I worked my way up to 1.5-2 hours meditating at night before bed. I started with guided meditation and then just 20 minutes each night. The most important part is consistency. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes a day to sit quietly and thinking about nothing? Your mind will thank you.
5.) Imagination– During those times that suck, I imagine my way out of it. I am certainly not perfect and have not made the best choices, but my imagination will help me make the next right move.
6.) Yoga and Tai Chi (see an earlier post here)- Yoga is such a good way to stretch and relax the body. I was out of my league when I first started, but our teacher was great. She was so calming and made it fun. I love getting into the child’s pose because I can feel myself stretch all my tension out. I was also curious about Tai Chi. It is a gentle movement exercise and meditation. I actually practice it sitting in my chair and on the elevator.
7.) Nature– This is something many avoid without even knowing it. How many times have you gone to work, drove home, and completed all your evening tasks without even consciously looking at the one of the many squirrels, birds, trees, and other wonderful living things around you. I mean really look at them. You will surely find peace when you do.
8.) Meeting new people– I was forced into this because I am not originally from the area I live at and I am a social creature by nature. I love my family, but I tend to drive them crazy when I can’t explore the world. I went to a few meetup groups for things I was interested in. We are only trapped in our own worlds if we don’t meet new people. I met and experienced some wonderful things from many people. I may have even brought some positive change to them as well. Win, Win.
9.) Reiki and other energy healing– This may be unheard of to many. I can tell you that much of the medical community is waking up to this simple truth. There are more nurses and doctors being attuned to Reiki and learning the ways Shamanic healing. We all have a power within us that can assist in our own healing. I usually practice Reiki on myself each night after I meditate. Shamans have been working with energy healing (we are all made of energy) for over 30,000 years. I thought, “Let me add this to one of my tools for health.” I am now a Reiki Master/Teacher and learning about the Shmanic ways. It is some pretty cool stuff.
10.) Fasting– You are probably thinking that I am religious or starving myself. Neither is true. I became fascianated with nutrition and learned all about it. It was then it clicked. We use a majority of our energy digesting and processing food. I thought if I could give it a rest for a week, that I may be able to get rid of toxins and heal some parts of my organs. This is not for the weak minded or the faint of heart. I suggest to really study this before partaking. I recently completed a 7 day fast on mostly water and some maple syrup lemon mixed with cayenne pepper. (see the “The Master Cleanse”) The hardest part is not the fast, but coming off of it, so be gentle and use your will power. It was truly a spiritual and powerful experience. It felt good to “reboot” my computer.
11.) Challenge myself– How do you get in touch with loving yourself? You have to want to. That is a challenge in itself because our world tells us that happiness is in external things. Just look at any commercial and you will know what I mean. I constantly give challenges to myself. Sometimes I don’t meet them and some times I blow myself away. The end result is the same- I want to get to know myself and learn about me.
These are just a few of the many things I did to become friends with myself and to become an “ex-bipolar”. I plan to write more and share what I experience for you. I really encourage dialogue amongst your families and friends and even with me. I really enjoy discussing health and well being. I have even decided to go back to school for massage therapy starting at the end of this month. I leave you all with a challenge, “Change one thing in your life and tell me all about it.”