A discussion of many diverse topics within the realm of Alternative Medicine and Healthy Living, some of which include: Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Eastern Nutrition, Pulse Diagnosis, Psychology and Bodymind Medicine, Aromatherapy, Philosophy, Spirituality, Buddhism, Meditation and Family.
Please sign up for our monthly newsletter by clicking the following text: Newsletter Signup
2013: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2012: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2011: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2010: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2009: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2008: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
2007: Dec | Nov | Oct | Sep | Aug | Jul | Jun | May | Apr | Mar | Feb | Jan
Want more information about blog topics? Click Here.
I wrote this as a comment on a friends blog, but thought I'd re-post it here as well:
1. There is no magic point prescription to prevent getting sick. One has to look to the individual constitution and support the deficiencies and resolve accumulated stagnations to promote health and wellness, harmonize ying and wei and boost yang/wei qi, etc. We are treating individuals who get sick, not sickness/illness.
2. Why do you want to prevent getting sick? I think most people will be shocked by this question. But the reality is that getting sick (and we are talking about external invasions) provide a very valuable opportunity to the bodymind to release accumulated stagnations. An example of this is chickenpox. I won’t get into the vaccine debate here, but according to classical Chinese medicine and pediatrics, children are born with inherited toxins from there parents. It is the exposure to a virus that allows for the release of this toxicity. And if handled appropriately, the child becomes stronger and healthier after the illness. I believe this to not be limited to pediatric infectious diseases. Of course, we are not talking about the reckless behavior that gets people sick, but why are we all so paranoid about getting the flu? You just might be healthier on the other side of it……
acupuncture in new jersey
Tuesday 13th of October 2009 11:00:28 PM | Comments
Back in January I wrote a post on "Sleeping your way to being thin." It detailed the benefits of sleep on metabolism and on health in general. Just today I read an article in Acupuncture Today that echoed and expanded on the themes in that post. Please see the link below.
Acupuncture Today article
Tuesday 06th of May 2008 10:27:56 PM | Comments
Please support this legislation to create a 'conscientious belief' exemption to mandatory vaccines in the state of NJ. Most states currently have this in addition to the medical and religious exemptions. This would allow a parent to refuse vaccinating their child(ren) for moral and ethical beliefs. Please follow the link below and sign the petition.
Friday 08th of February 2008 10:29:02 AM | Comments
The YSL is off to an ambitious start; which makes sense as everything in my life is ambitious to some degree: busy acupuncture practice, thriving family with three children; PhD program; etc.
So, what did I actually accomplish:
1. I have committed to watching a minimum of one hour of my PhD dvd lectures while taking detailed notes at least 2 nights per week after the kids go to sleep. I have been able to achieve this thus far and have been doing so 4 nights per week.
2. I have committed to a more diligent practice of Chen taijiquan. I have continued to take weekly classes, driving into NYC every Sunday morning. And each night (more like 5 nights per week) I spend approximately 1/2 hour practicing my forms after studying. It's been a great way to unwind from the less than perfect posture of watching dvds on a laptop computer.
3. More time with family: I have made a concerted effort to spend more uninterrupted time with my kids (without checking the phone, emails, etc.). I have spent Tues and Fri afternoons with the family as I finish with patients early on those days. I have taken the kids bowling, away for the weekend and have taken my son out of his kindergarten wrap around program to spend more time with him. (We are also in the process of organizing a plan to homeschool. Yes, more ambitious. I'm sure this will spur some more blogposts soon.) My lunch break has been more playtime than worktime.
4. While I have not been able to take any additional classes in Tibetan medicine as my translator is not available and Rinpoche is travelling, I have been continuing my Medicine Buddha practice.
5. As January deals with learning, I also read The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. An excellent book (which also ties in my tai ji practice). See it here.
6. Publishing articles and video lectures: No additional publishing this month, however, I am starting to work on the next article which has a mid Feb deadline. The video lecture will gain some momentum in mid March after my vacation to Costa Rica and trip to Gainesville.
7. In the midst of all this, January has been a month of tremendous reflection on how I want to live my life, how I want to raise my children, where I want to live, and how to propel myself in that direction. The discussions go on daily in my household as I try to practice more of what I preach. One of my biggest lessons this month is that change must come.
So, all in all, it's been a good month. A good start with a long road ahead.
Wednesday 30th of January 2008 11:12:57 PM | Comments
Thursday 17th of January 2008 04:04:32 PM | Comments
To be healthy requires that we experience a balance between yin and yang, and have a smooth flow of qi and blood throughout our bodies. This is best maintained by living a moderate lifestyle in accord with the energies of nature. As summer is not afraid to end and transmute into fall, so we too must be willing to let go and change where appropriate. Part of my path as a Buddhist and practitioner of Chinese medicine is to recognize when I fall prey to attachment towards particular behaviors, thoughts, emotions, etc. Likewise, I must point these issues out as they become relevant to my patients in the course of their healing.
While watching my dvd lectures from my teacher, Jeffrey Yuen, he discusses how so often patients come to see practitioners to rid themselves of their symptoms, but never see the connection to their lifestyles. Most look forward to getting back to their lives pain -free, cancer-free, or free of whatever ailments are plaguing them. But we must instruct our patients that their lifestyles are the problem. To do otherwise, we are simply treating the branch, the manifestation.
To heal, we need to change. We need to be brave enough to change our lives in a way that is conducive to health. On a spiritual level, this means non-attachment. It means cultivating a way of life that transmutes our physicality towards spirituality. The goal of qi gong, for example, is to alchemically transmute our jing (essence) to qi, then from qi to shen to expand our consciousness and experience emptiness, the non-duality of all things.
On a physical level, healing requires significant lifestyle modifications. Dietary changes (avoiding cold, damp, greasy, fried, preservatives, chemicals, refined sugars, etc. and eating for health, not pleasure, eating live whole foods, etc. (see the Resources page on my website for a really good introduction to Eastern nutrition), habitual patterns of movement (ie, sitting all day at a desk leaning over our keyboard which kills the qi in our chest), and perhaps most importantly our habituated emotional responses. If we are living lives of quiet desperation, unhappy in our marriage or work, unhappy with how we look or feel, we must make radical changes to secure our health. If we are having difficulty containing our anger, if we are experiencing depression, we must seek out their roots.
Dealing with roots of our habituated responses is incredibly powerful and the entire subject of humanistic psychology as detailed in Dr. Hammer's Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies is very well laid out. Learning how one's behaviors, rooted in early life, shape our health across the entire bodymind spectrum, and gaining the tools to make the appropriate changes can spark a profound healing.
So, as we have decided this is the 'year of sagely living' we must strive towards this ideal by rooting out our behaviors that are synonymous with imbalance, and replacing them with habits that foster health and well-being.
Friday 04th of January 2008 10:33:45 AM | Comments
The mark of the superior physician has traditionally been a high degree of cultivation. Eastern medicines have long held the scholar-warrior-physician as the benchmark for all doctors to aspire to. In this day and age, the scholar-physicians are few and far between. But there are a growing number of practitioners of Chinese medicine who seek to strive towards this ideal and see the importance of resurrecting this tradition.
The "Year of Sagely Living" is the brainchild of my good friend Brandt (Abdallah) Stickley (see Even Unto China) and Eric Grey (see Deepest Health) and I am fortunate to be involved in this at its inception. The idea is that over the course of the next year (beginning today) we make the commitment to cultivate the skills (academic, clinical, spiritual, etc.) of the superior physician. A syllabus of sorts has been created (see below) that will help guide the process. January 1st marks the beginning of scholarship and study. Each month will have a unique theme based on a synergy with the energies of each season and time of year. Excerpted below is the syllabus from Deepest Health.
While all these categories are areas that many of us are already cultivating to various degrees, the syllabus will allow a renewed commitment and strengthened focus on a monthly basis. Each of us involved will also share our experiences online on our respective blogs.
January - Gall Bladder, Zi 子 (Rat): Scholarship/Study: This category will contain practices to develop us into true scholars in the Confucian/neo-Confucian tradition. Why this pairing? The seasonal energy is still in winter, a contemplative mood prevails, but the Yang is rising. Similar to this, we can see scholarly pursuits as ACTIVE passivity. One generally sits still, but one’s mind is hard at work.
February - Liver, Chou 丑 (Ox): Strategy/Business: This category will contain practices in the realm of business development and strategic planning in the professional world. Why this pairing? The Liver is the general of the body, so has a natural affinity for this kind of activity.
March - Lung, Yin 寅 (Tiger)- Activity/Rest: This category will contain practices having to do with appropriate cycles of rest and activity in daily life - for instance, appropriate waking times throughout the seasons. Why this pairing? This earthly branch and the essence of the Lung Zang is all about peaceful tension between opposites, like the time of the year associated with both. Further, being mindful of our need for balance between rest and activity is great preparation for the often overactive spring/summer energy.
April - Large Intestine, Mao 卯 (Rabbit) - Care of the planet/consumption: This category will contain practices that develop us into compassionate and sane consumers, while helping to develop our deep relationship with the natural world. Why this pairing? April is a time when we can see the beauty of nature all around us, so is a great time to contemplate our dependence on it and responsibility towards it. Also, the negative side of LI/Rabbit is a tendency to run rough-shod over the needs and wants of others, these practices will seek to counterbalance this.
May - Stomach, Chen 晨 (Dragon): Physical cultivation: This category will contain practices that help us to shape our physical bodies into ideal vehicles for the transmission of healing energy. Why this pairing? The natural world has exploded into full splendor and the weather in the Northern hemisphere will be warm enough in most places to warrant moving around outside. The ST is an Earth organ and is related to the flesh of the body, which we will be building with these practices. Think also of the dragon and its association with martial arts and other physical cultivation practices.
June - Spleen, Si 巳 (Snake)- Food choices - This category works in tandem with the previous one to help maintain the physical form of the body in an optimal way. Why this pairing? June is actually a great time to do fasting or other food restriction activities because most of us don’t feel any great desire to eat excessively in the summer heat. Further, reducing the burden on digestion will help us to focus on absorbing the pure Yang energy so abundantly available in June.
July - Heart, Wu 午 (Horse) - Community building/charity - This category speaks to our need to be an integral and contributing member of a number of communities. It also involves the practice of compassion in a world where inequality is the norm. Why this pairing? The summer is a wonderful time to participate in community-oriented projects! Also, the Heart and Fire (the Heart’s element) are about intimacy, about connection to Spirit — both of which are well represented in the idea behind this category.
August - Small Intestine, Wei 未 (Sheep)- Ethical Behavior - This category will include practices not covered in other categories that have some ethical dimension. These practices are likely to be very individual and defined by a person’s background, spiritual/religious practice and culture. For example, practicing “Right Speech” through abstinence from cursing. Why this pairing? The Fu (hollow, Yang) organs are said to transmit the essence of their associated Zang (solid, Yin) organs. SI exemplifies this relationship in its devotion to sacrifice as a way to manifest the Heart’s mandate of connection to Spirit in the purest sense. Also because many of the “ethical behavior” practices we discussed are somewhat prohibitive, it resonates with the descent into metal energy that the earthly branch Wei represents.
September - Bladder, Shen 申 (Monkey)- Arts/Aesthetics: This category involves the use of our creative faculties - particularly as they pertain to the arts associated with Chinese medicine, such as calligraphy. Why this pairing? These activities are Yin within Yang - they are still, yet active - like scholarship. More importantly is the symbolism of 申. One of the meanings of this character is to stretch, and the oracle bones show it as two hands pulling something in opposite directions. We might think about this as the intercourse between Heaven and Earth, the Human Being in the middle being the substrate that is stretched between those two poles. I think Art facilitates this threefold communication.
October - Kidney, You 酉 (Rooster/owl): Chinese medicine specific skills: This category includes the refinement of Chinese medicine related skills, such as hand techniques in acupuncture. For those not in the field, you might look into developing skills that will help you in your work. Why this pairing? The Kidney is often said to be the root of all skill and expertise. Also, with the cool calm energy of autumn, one can become focused enough to substantially increase specific skills.
November - Pericardium, Xu 戌: Relationships: This category will involve practices that help us develop more mature and meaningful relationships with others. Why this pairing? Pericardium is frequently said to mediate intimate relationships. One interesting symbolic note is the association of the earthly branch Xu, which means - essentially - weapon. This speaks on many levels to me. For instance, we must be careful to avoid violence in relationships, on whatever level. Also, relationships are a bit like handling weapons — if you’re not careful and mindful, it can come back to bite you. Finally, the late fall and winter are good times for relationship oriented activity, given that most of us desire to stay at home with family and friends as the weather cools.
December - Triple Burner, Hai 亥: Spiritual cultivation: Although we will be looking at spiritual dimensions of all kinds of activity throughout the year, this month we will give it special attention. These practices will probably be quite individual, but there may be some shared goals - such as having a daily meditation practice. Why this pairing? I’ve always learned about TB as being the mysterious “in between,” the mover between worlds, the ultimate stillness. What a metaphor for spiritual practice!
Tuesday 01st of January 2008 05:08:33 PM | Comments
When asked how many seasons we have or how long each season lasts, many would argue 4 and that they last 90 days each. In Tibetan and Chinese medicine, we say that there are 5 and that they each last 72 days. Where the difference comes from is aligning the 5 seasons with the 5 elements/phases of nature: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal Water.
Wood is associated with spring; Fire with summer, Metal with autumn and Water with winter. Earth is seen as mediating and bridging each season together harmoniously. Thus, the 18 day period between summer and fall, between fall and winter, between winter and spring and between spring and summer is earth.
So, typically in the lunar calendar of Tibetan and Chinese medicine, when we are starting winter according the western calendar on December 21st, winter is actually half over. The shortest day of the year (the least light), marks mid-winter. As our bodies are a microcosm of our world, this becomes very important and instructive on the kinds of behaviors and lifestyle that we should be following. And, as clinicians, it is equally important that we advise our patients appropriately and that we do not misinterpret signs on the pulse and symptoms incorrectly.
Monday 31st of December 2007 02:59:46 PM | Comments
I urge all supporters of acupuncture and Chinese medicine to please take 5 minutes out of your day to call and email the following two assembly persons regarding this bill. Please leave a message with their office OPPOSING this bill. In addition, please send an email (you can use the text below, just cut and paste it). This is urgent. Chiropractors are trying to pass a bill that would allow them to practice acupuncture without going to acupuncture medical school. Their training would consist of a couple hundred hours (a weekend course and home study). Acupuncturists spend 4 years in school and over 3,000 hours studying acupuncture. Should this bill pass, the quality of care will be dangerously low and the risk to public safety dangerously high.
Assemblyman Joseph Roberts: firstname.lastname@example.org: 856-742-7600
Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman: aswWatsonColeman@njleg.org: 609-292-0500
Hi. My name is __________ and I am requesting that Assemblyman Joseph Roberts and Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman OPPOSE Assembly Bill 3122, the Chiropractic Scope of Practice Bill. This bill allows chiropractors to practice acupuncture (an entire system of Chinese medicine) with abbreviated (barely any) training and presents a significantly increased risk to public safety. Unless all references to acupuncture are removed from the bill, I am OPPOSED to A3122. This is a significant public safety issue and I urge an opposition to this bill.
Thank you very much for considering my position on this issue.
Thursday 27th of December 2007 05:54:24 PM | Comments
USDA PROPOSES RULE UNDERMINING ORGANICS AND SMALL FARMS
The USDA is accepting public comments until December 3 on a new proposed rule that would force small farms growing green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, to put into place industrial-style sterilization measures that reduce biodiversity and soil fertility. The proposal follows in the wake of the USDA's recent controversial crackdown on raw almonds, continued interference with raw milk production, and bans on the sale of locally produced organic meat directly to consumers. The proposed rules basically cover up the fact that e-coli 0157H contamination in lettuce and spinach crops comes from feedlot or industrial livestock-contaminated irrigation waters or contamination in large processing plants. The rule limits hedgerows, and other non-crop vegetation commonly found on and around small organic and sustainable farms. In addition, although every organic farmer knows that healthy soil is literally alive with multiple types of healthy bacteria, the rules also discourage the development of beneficial microbial life in the soil. Send a message to the USDA today:
Learn more and take action: http://www.organicconsumers
Take action now at http://www.democracyinaction
Wednesday 05th of December 2007 10:44:12 AM | Comments
Check out this article on just how important sleep is to the health of our children.
Monday 15th of October 2007 11:03:09 AM | Comments
On Friday night, I hosted Lama Lobsang who lectured on Tibetan medicine. One of the more notable things I wanted to share from that talk was the following statement:
If you can get a disease, you can cure a disease. We just need to know the cause.And while he did acknowledge certain "karmic diseases" that have no cure, most diseases were curable. He said that was the only logical way to understand the ability of someone to get sick. If one can get sick, one can get un-sick. Knowing the cause of the disease is the most difficult part. In fact, he stated that in many instances we will never know the real cause; that it is hidden, as in karmic diseases. But placing the emphasis on diagnosis is the real key to understanding the causes (or coming as close to the cause as one can), and then healing the person from that disease. He gave the analogy of knowing what country a person is from by looking at their face and features, but not being able to know the exact town or street address or the specific details. The more details you can uncover, the better your success at treating the disease.
Sunday 07th of October 2007 08:57:36 AM | Comments
A very important article to read. You can access it here:
Monday 17th of September 2007 10:19:06 AM | Comments
The art of diagnosis is disappearing and I take this as a very sad occurrence. One of the problems, perhaps, is that western medicine and scientists try so hard to ensure that there is no art to diagnosis; that it is a strict scientific discovery. In prior posts I have demonstrated how the art and the science must co-exist to arrive at a comprehensive and holistic diagnosis using our minds (theory) plus our senses (touch/palpation, listening, smelling, looking, etc.) and our experience and intuition.
Just yesterday, a New York Times Magazine article was brought to my attention. It was about diagnosing a young girl with periodic fevers and abdominal pain that would come and go every so often. The doctors were perplexed and it wasn't until she had a positive test that they had any real idea of what was going on. If only this was a rare occurrence, I would pay it no mind. But the following quote was made by one of the doctors. It struck me how sad it is that a doctor could make this statement; especially as it seemed to be stated out of a pride for the advancement of western diagnostic tests. What about the decline of medical diagnosis? The quote was:
"In medicine, we can only really know a disease once we have a test that can reliably identify it."
Monday 10th of September 2007 09:22:46 AM | Comments
What would your life be like if you could live each moment in the moment without judging it based upon your past experiences or projecting it into the future? Experiencing things as they truly are with no bias or duality or theoretical constructs......
Thursday 06th of September 2007 10:15:52 PM | Comments
I urge everyone to see this film (Sicko). While Michael Moore is seen by many as controversial and presenting one-sided arguments, this is a side of the story everyone should be aware of. And while many may think these horror stories cannot happen to them, I was just informed this morning of how my mentor and friend was thrown out of the hospital with severe injuries because his health care insurance (Medicare) would not pay to admit him.
Tuesday 07th of August 2007 10:01:41 PM | Comments
This is a response I wrote to a comment from a post in June on the Effects of Lifestyle. As comments from older posts are not as accessible, I thought I'd re-post it here. It was essentially a question on how to motivate oneself to make change in one's life:
Your question is significant and, of course, hard to answer. I can only discuss what motivates me and how I approach this subject, understanding that there are many roads to travel.
My first step is to come to the conclusion that I am not as healthy as I'd like to be. If you believe that you are healthy and feel great and can't benefit from changing your habits, then it is hard to make the change.
Secondly, you need to be confident that what you have learned about healthy living and eating, etc. can make the improvements you are seeking.
You see, it's not about sacrifices. We are not looking to deprive ourselves. We are looking to nourish ourselves. The difference is huge. One needs a shift in perspective. People think, oh, the ice cream tastes good, it makes me feel good, etc. and not having it feels like deprivation. A different perspective would suggest, what is the long-term (or even short-term, not immediate) effect of what I am doing? Knowledge would tell us that the ice cream which is filled with refined sugar, chemicals, empty calories, etc. is restricting our circulation in the stomach and intestines, draining out our adrenals, creating a mucus lining in out gut that prevents assimilation of vitamins and nutrients necessary for our well-being, etc. When I think of it that way, I don't feel deprived. I feel empowered.
Understanding the tremendous difference between pleasure and happiness is crucial. Yeah, ice cream tastes good to many, but it also leads to suffering/illness/imbalance in the future. Is it worth it?
These are the kinds of questions to ask oneself to help motivate change. But, yes, you are right. Change isn't easy. It's really difficult. And the best way to do it is to make small changes daily and commit to the process for one's own sake.
I hope this helps. Maybe it's too vague? Let me know. I'd love to continue the discussion.
Thursday 19th of July 2007 07:59:48 PM | Comments
Often in medicine, the tendency is to view illness as antagonistic. But, like everything else, a simple shift in perspective can point one in a whole new direction. If one thinks of their illness as part of themselves rather than something separate, one can view their illness as a way of getting to know oneself better. The Type A personality who has a heart attack may have an opportunity to slow down and "smell the roses;" the father who suddenly loses his job gets to spend time with his children; the cancer patient who comes to terms with her mortality and can fully appreciate the time that she has left, are just a few examples. I have had patients who later became very thankful for their illnesses and the lessons that they learned from them.
Illnesses, symptoms, etc. are a chance for us to purify ourselves; purify our negative karma, change faulty beliefs, let go of pain, sorrow, anger, etc. that no longer serves us. We need to view our symptoms as something that is trying to teach us something. Our job is to figure it out. We can't squash it with pain medication, or antibiotics, or chemotherapy. We need to face it head-on. To be a warrior and fight through the suffering to get to the other side. Be on a quest for truth, simplicity and finding one's inner nature.
And above all, don't be afraid to change. If you see your imbalances as rooted in your thought patterns, your past actions and your behaviors, without changing one can never heal. Your symptoms are your opportunity to make the necessary changes and adjustments. Failure to adapt and change breeds illness. Awareness is the first step.
Monday 16th of July 2007 11:08:14 PM | Comments
I wanted to inform everyone of the above-referenced monastery and medical school/clinic that Rinpoche has asked me to create on His behalf. I am in the process of forming a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation in this name. This is a project that I am hoping will keep Rinpoche here in NJ for a good part of each year. He has expressed to me that He would like to spend the majority of His time here, and this monastery/school/clinic is the first step in ensuring this happens. Upon Rinpoche's request, the location of the monastery will be my home and office for the time being. When Rinpoche returns from Tibet in October, He will be bringing back all the silks and throne materials to make everything formal and official!
As with all ventures of this nature, help from as many interested parties is welcomed and necessary. The areas of help include:
1. Initial Fundraising: to set this monastery up properly and professionally we need to raise approximately $1,000 for the incorporation fees, filing of 501(c)(3) status, lawyer fees, articles of incorporation and bylaw drafting.
2. Website: I have begun putting up a temporary website. The address is http://rangnangogminling
3. On-going Fundraising: to keep the business running, there are a number of on-going fees, including: (a) website maintenance, hosting, design; (b) state and federal corporation and registration fees; (c) raising monies for the eventuality of a separate location (ownership, rental, etc.); (d) funding the workshops, lectures and other Buddhist teachings that will take place at the monastery, etc.
4. Executive Board: We will need to appoint/elect an executive board, so those of you who are interested in being an on-going part of this venture, please contact me.
I am very much determined to have this completed by the time Rinpoche returns from Tibet in October. Thus, time is of the essence!
To make a donation, or to help in any way, please contact me as soon as possible.
Thank you to everyone for their anticipated support. And PLEASE pass this information on to everyone that you know who may be interested in this project and all members of the sangha (as I do not have email addresses for most of them). We will need as much support as possible.
Sunday 08th of July 2007 10:49:47 PM | Comments
There is no more important determinant of one's health than the state of mind. Of course, genetics, constitution, lifestyle habits, etc. have a large impact, but the power of our minds has the most pivotal of roles. In Chinese medicine we differentiate causes of disease into multiple categories: (1) internal: emotions and state of mind (including, anger, fear, grief, overthinking, etc.); (2) external: climactic factors (wind, cold, damp, heat/fire, etc.); and (3) miscellaneous (which is not meant to minimize its importance): habits, trauma, toxins, etc.
Of these three categories, the emotions make up the largest percentage of the etiology of disease. Controlling one's emotions, therefore, would seem to have a tremendous impact on our health and the prevention of disease (or treatment thereof). Listening yesterday (again) to a series of lectures that Taoist priest Jeffrey Yuen gave on cancer and Chinese medicine, I couldn't help but notice the correlation between what Jeffrey states and Dharmakirti's psychological law (see previous post). Essentially, Jeffrey was mentioning how the diagnosis of cancer is viewed as a death sentence by most of us and that it is, in fact, how one handles this diagnosis that has tremendous influence on whether or not someone will heal. So often, people get so overwhelmed by the fear of death that they are constantly focused on death. This reinforcement perpetuates negative states of mind and set a vicious cycle in which the disease grows stronger and the patient's health deteriorates (mentally and physically). Jeffrey even goes to say that cancer support groups are for the most part detrimental in that they give credence and power to this deadly disease. He advocates for support groups which foster hope and the desire to heal.
As always, our minds have the greatest power and potential to either bring us towards happiness and health or towards undesirable states of mind and illness. It all depends on how much attention we give positive thoughts and emotions or negative thoughts and states of mind. On a website I visited recently, I read the following tale:
One evening an old Martial Arts Master told his young students about a “Great Battle of life and death” that goes on inside all Human Beings.
The wise man said, "The battle is between "Two Dragons" … They are battling for dominance inside us all.
One is Dark, it represents Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is Light, it represents Good. It is joy, love, peace, hope, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, serenity, compassion and faith."
The students thought about it for a while and then asked the Master: "Which Dragon wins?"
The old wise man simply replied, "The one you feed."
Friday 06th of July 2007 09:57:12 PM | Comments
HH The Dalai Lama's book The Universe in a Single Atom: the convergence of science and spirituality has a wealth of interesting discussions on the nature of consciousness, the origin of the universe, and on scientific exploration in general into the truth of reality. A relevant passage to achieving happiness mentions Dharmakirti's "psychological law" which posits psychological states and emotions as a field of opposing forces in constant flux. One family of emotion may consist of hate, anger and hostility, while the other consists of love, compassion and empathy. The argument is that if any one side of this polarity gains strength, the other weakens. Thus, the goal is to practice and reinforce the desired states of mind, effectively weakening the undesirable and transforming one's thoughts and emotions. Just as turning on a light dispels darkness, cultivating love and compassion can eliminate hate and anger over time with dedicated practice and intention.
Thursday 05th of July 2007 09:22:43 PM | Comments
I probably sound like a broken record, but I can't stress enough the importance of a healthy lifestyle in achieving and maintaining health. Everyone wants to be healthy, but how many of us really want to live healthy? Following natures rhythms, rising with the sun, retiring with the moon. Eating foods that nourish us when we are hungry. Avoiding refined, processed, denatured, store-bought preserved foods. That's right, no ice cream, sorry. And how well does our career fit in with nature. The day to day stresses mostly over office politics and deadlines for the sake of what? How hard would it be to change to a line of work with a social benefit? To walk or ride a bike instead of jumping in the car. You can extrapolate further.
If one understands that the causes of disease/illness are mental/emotional excesses of grief, anger, fear, anxiety, stress, overthinking, greed; environment, pollution, chemicals, habits, diets, posture/structure, one sees the importance of moving back into harmony with nature. So, what price are you willing to pay to live or not live a healthy lifestyle. Will you gamble your health to live for convenience and a scoop of ice cream or will you forego transient pleasures to live in accord with nature and experience good health, vitality and longevity? These are questions I ask myself daily. In theory it is a no-brainer. In practice, a whole different story.
Wednesday 13th of June 2007 10:54:01 PM | Comments
These two words have much import in my medicine (and in my personal life: it is the names of my first two children). Ben is the root or the source. Shen is the spirit (consciousness). They reflect an important principle in acupuncture therapy as recounted in Chapter 8 of the Nei Jing Ling Shu (one of the earliest texts on acupuncture dating back thousands of years ago) which is (and I'm paraphrasing) "above all, the most important thing is, with every needle not to miss the rooting of the spirits."
These words weigh on me daily. Ninety plus percent of all the patients that come through my doors have their roots in emotional and spiritual causes. The effects of the emotions on our physiology is complex and beyond the scope of this blog post, but excesses of the emotions have profound impact on our health. Without rooting the spirit, what kind of therapy are we actually giving? While I do see benefit in relieving the symptomatic discomforts of my patients, without getting to the root, we can affect no real lasting or meaningful change. If the spirits do not reside peacefully, one cannot be truly healed.
And while I am very mindful that to truly heal oneself is a life-long pursuit which entails significant exploration of our minds, the above titled post is a reminder of where our intentions should be while we treat each individual. Often, patients who seek care are unaware of the lack of rooting of their spirits and it is this disconnect which often perpetuates their imbalance. Whether it be the elderly patient suffering from depression regarding what he can no longer do, or the mid-life crisis as one begins to contemplate one's mortality, or the young adult who was the victim of an early life trauma, everyone needs the stability of a rooted spirit to maintain and ensure vitality and health.
Of course, as you can imagine, this puts a tremendous responsibility on the practitioner of eastern medicine. And I can attest, I have yet to live up to this ideal. I try daily, and fail often. But when the rooting of the spirits can be facilitated, it is as if a miracle has taken place. This keeps me on the path.
Tuesday 05th of June 2007 09:07:05 PM | Comments
Ever have something happen to you that you couldn't control, or have a loved one sick with no means to stop their suffering? This feeling of powerlessness while so often seen as a source of tremendous suffering to us, can be turned around (so I am told :-)) to provoke a deep sense of freedom. Once we accept that we have no control over our lives, we can start to quiet our expectations and simply bask in the in appreciation for what we have and how lucky we are. Even in the midst of our suffering, we can see things from a different perspective. And we can be there for others more fully to help them gain a different perspective as well.
Thursday 24th of May 2007 03:24:24 PM | Comments
I was struck today by a patient whom I have treated for a couple of years and whom I respect as a very intelligent, caring, loving person and friend who came in feeling acute anxiety, panic and fear over a (mis)belief that perhaps she was not a capable and adequate mother. So many of us struggle with profound insecurities, whether it be in our personal, social or professional lives, and these beliefs begin to shape the way we feel about ourselves, interact with others and ultimately create our reality.
And while it is human nature to question ourselves, to suffer from jealousy, anger, ignorance based upon our karmic imprints, I did want to write this post if only to remind myself and this friend of our unstained Buddha-nature hiding behind all of our delusions. These insecurities and "bad" feelings must be recognized for what they truly are: false beliefs forced upon us by our deluded minds from habituated thoughts. Recognizing this is the first step in breaking this unconscious habituation and thus obtaining freedom from these insecurities.
Tuesday 08th of May 2007 09:12:02 PM | Comments