Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The power of love

The title of this blog entry may sound corny, but it is nonetheless what I've been thinking about this morning.  I was feeling such a deep gratitude to my teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, for not only passing on his knowledge of Taoist Chinese medicine, but also because he is a true master.  What do I mean by that?  He walks his talk.  He lives and breathes compassion.  There is no judgment felt anywhere in anything he

Even those closest to me often say things that make me feel bad about myself.  Jeffrey just doesn't have that in him.  It's mystifying.  Here's my explanation:

He is not identified with his ego, therefore he doesn't need others to be anything other than what they are.  It is the ego that wants others to conform to our idea of who they should be.   Judging others does not come from the heart.  Love doesn't need anything to be different than it is.  Love is in love with the world exactly as it is, warts and all.  Love embraces every single thing about the universe, about reality, and loves it deeply and completely.

Now THAT sort of love is transforming.  After dedicating myself to alchemical work with Jeffrey (working on spiritual transformation rather than physical healing), I began to see all sorts of things shifting into a more positive, happier, more peaceful way of experiencing the world.  This love thing really does work.  I was hoping to be able to go through the experience of transforming my spirit to see how that affects the physical body and mind.  If I had a personal experience that it is possible to transform the body by transforming the spirit, that would then pass from me to my patients, giving them the ability to believe in the possibility of their own self-transformation through attention to the spirit.

I always wondered why great spiritual masters studied one on one with a guru type teacher.  If you've ever read Rumi, you know the ecstasy he expresses whenever he mentions his teacher, Shams, and the unconditional love Shams brought him to experience toward all of life.  Well, now I understand that kind of devotion, I have felt the indescribable gratitude one feels toward the person who has embodied that kind of absolute and all-embracing love in the world.   Jeffrey's example makes it possible for me to believe in the power of love to transform negativity.

It is one thing to learn by reading and studying or even practicing clinically.  It is another to know someone personally who actually embodies unconditional love.  The only other person I have ever met that gave me this same feeling of unconditional love was the Dalai Lama.  I met him twice, and felt bathed in the pureness of his love.  It was as if wisdom and childlike innocence were blended together.  Many things made him chuckle with delight, yet I know that he is a highly educated and brilliant man (he has studied astronomy, physics, neurology, the guy is no slouch in the brains department).

Thank you, Jeffrey, for being who and what you are, and for coming to the United States to pass on your great knowledge, wisdom, love and compassion.  Your students and the people they help through your medicine will be forever grateful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is your heart as light as a feather??

This morning I read an article in Oprah's email newsletter about the findings of Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the pre-eminent researchers and thinkers in the area of positive psychology.  Forty years ago when he was starting his career in psychology, he didn't believe in the powerful link between emotional outlook and physical health.  "But the data has grown year after year, and it's become a scientific certainty."  (If you would like to read the entire article on Oprah's website, here's the link:  "How Your Emotions Affect Your Health").  Our mind set determines our level of health, and our ability to heal from injury and disease. 

You would this was good news, right?  Well, it is, because it means we have a lot more control over our health and well being than we usually think we do.  But for someone like me, who was born with the tendency to see what is wrong with the picture  rather than all the things that are right, this presents a challenge.  To avoid being negative about this, I will point out that being able to see what is wrong with the picture makes for a great diagnostician, a very important skill in a healthcare practitioner.  

Luckily for me and all the rest of you who tend to see the glass half empty rather than half full, Stanford professor of education, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., entitled Mindset, The New Psychology of Success:  How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential.  Her message is that optimism is a learnable skill.  She calls this point of view the "growth mindset," that even if we fail to do something in this moment doesn't mean we won't be able to master it in the future.  People like me who rely on our inborn smarts to get things done become discouraged when we find ourselves unable to do something naturally.  If it requires effort, we must not be able to do it.  Carol Dweck says no, that is not so, we CAN learn to do things we don't immediately have a feeling for.  And that, of course, is very good news.  

As a practitioner of Eastern medicine, I find it hopeful that Western scientists are finally recognizing what we have been saying all along, that all illness is rooted in our imperfect understanding of the world.  (Ling Shu, Chapter 8, "Ben Shen")  Chinese medicine completely agrees with the statement that what we think and feel about ourselves and about our world determines our base state of health and also determines our ability to recover from illness when it strikes.

Several decades ago, I was an avid reader of Tom Robbins' novels, including Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Jitterbug Perfume.  In one of those books, he writes about the the passage from this life to whatever comes next.  After death, we arrive at a huge transportation hub, where we stand in line to have our heart taken out and measured on a scale.  If it is as light as a feather, we hop on the bus to bliss.  I have always loved that image, and so I challenge those of you who tend toward a heavy heart to give Carol Dweck's book a read.   It's a very interesting story that she has to tell, and she offers real help with how to go about changing your mindset to one of belief in your ability to learn and to change.  I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be helped by her book, except maybe the one or two in a million people who were born optimistic.  Good thing we have her book for the rest of us!

Have a truly wonderful day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Diet Sodas Found to Increase Risk for Strokes and Heart Attacks

As if those who love diet sodas haven't heard enough bad news (they don't help you lose weight, and may lead to Type 2 diabetes), now they have another reason to give them up.  If you have loved ones who drink lots of diet sodas (and I have many of them), you might want to pass this along to them:

As for diet soda, the researchers concluded that:
"This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death than regular soda."
While more research will likely be needed to confirm this potential link, there’s plenty of evidence showing that aspartame can be dangerous to your health. I believe aspartame is, by far, the most dangerous artificial sweetener on the market. Reports of adverse reactions to the US FDA also supports this, as aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA!
Further on in the article, Dr. Mercola cites several reasons why aspartame (brand names include Equal and Nutrasweet) are so dangerous:

What Makes Aspartame so Dangerous?

  • Phenylalanine: 50 percent
  • Methanol (aka wood alcohol/poison): 10 percent that is formed from breaking the ester bond linkage of aspartic acid and pheylalanine.
Each of these comes with its own set of health hazards, which you can read more about on my aspartame page. Additionally, diketopiperazine (DKP) is created as a byproduct of aspartame metabolism in your body, and DKP has been implicated in the occurrence of brain tumors.
OK, wood alcohol (isn't that the stuff that made people go blind during Prohibition?) and brain tumors!  Scary stuff, indeed.  Here's the link to read the full article:   New Study says Diet Sodas Increase Risk of Stroke

I'll bet that reading about the dangers of Aspartame will make your loved ones (or you?) think twice before gulping down another diet soda.  Seltzer with a squeeze of lime makes a nice soda, for those weaning themselves off of diet sodas.  I know, it ain't sweet, but it is delicious and thirst quenching.