Saturday, June 23, 2007
Life would be unbearable if everything stayed the same because human beings find situations that are fixed and predictable very hard to tolerate. Even in small matters, we become uneasy if we feel there is no end in sight. I know of couples who live harmoniously together for ten years then marry and are divorced within a year. As soon as they feel bound to each other for the rest of their lives, they begin to fight. Impermanence removes our reasons for quarrelling with each other. Arguments only break out if we imagine that our relationships are endless. When we appreciate that our time with our families, partners, and friends may be shorter than we think, we get on better with each other. Awareness of impermanence gives us extraordinary inner strength and resilience.
~ From Mind Training by Ringu Tulku, edited by B.M. Shaughnessy, published by Snow Lion Publications
Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:
A Pond of Clear Water
All of [the] hindrances--desire, anger, sloth and torpor, restlessness, doubt--are mental factors. They are not self, just impersonal factors functioning in their own way. A simile is given to illustrate the effect of these different obstructions in the mind. Imagine a pond of clear water. Sense desire is like the water becoming colored with pretty dyes. We become entranced with the beauty and intricacy of the color and so do not penetrate to the depths. Anger, ill will, aversion, is like boiling water. Water that is boiling is very turbulent. You can't see through to the bottom. This kind of turbulence in the mind, the violent reaction of hatred and aversion, is a great obstacle to understanding. Sloth and torpor is like the pond of water covered with algae, very dense. One cannot possibly penetrate to the bottom because you can't see through the algae. It is a very heavy mind. Restlessness and worry are like a pond when wind-swept. The surface of the water is agitated by strong winds. When influenced by restlessness and worry, insight becomes impossible because the mind is not centered or calm. Doubt is like the water when muddied; wisdom is obscured by murkiness and cloudiness.
~ Joseph Goldstein, The Experience of Insight
I've been reading a book recommended to me by bobJuan, a Zaadz friend -- The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life by John Tarrant. This is good stuff, although not (so far) incredibly deep. But the message is a good reminder of why we try to be more awake, and the ways that we come to that decision.
I've posted several articles on change -- viewing it as a ritual process -- and offering ways to navigate the challenges and understand the processes at work [see the sidebar]. This passage from Tarrant might be a perfect summary of how this happens and why it is important.
The First Descent
Midway in the journey of our life
I found myself in a dark wood
~ Dante Alighieri
The journey into a life of awareness begins for most of us in a moment of helplessness. When our lives are going well, we do not feel any need to change them, or ourselves. We are content to go on as we are, coasting, serene as planets in their orbits, or caribou on seasonal migration. Our habits of mind are sufficient to sustain us through the days. We are unperturbed, and half asleep.
Then a crisis arrives: a child falls ill, a lover disappoints, or some vast, neutral power of the earth, such as a hurricane or a fire, strips us of everything we have relied upon to stay the same. We will have other descents in life, but this first one has a terrifying vividness. Change is sure, and change brings suffering, which is an inner as well as an outer event. Under the impact of a crisis, images we have worshipped, beliefs we have cherished, also break and fall away. We lose not only houses, photo albums, and people dear to us, but our idea of what life is. We find ourselves plunging unprepared, a weakness in every limb.
Yet this unexpected fall is also a gift, not to be refused -- an initiation ordeal preparing us for a new life. The enveloping dark strips us of our sleepyheadedness, our assumption that who we now are and the life we now know will be enough. The night is not interested in our achievements. Pitching headlong into this first descent of the journey, we struggle, we suffer untellable grief, but we also wake up -- we begin to see ourselves and our lives for what they are. We cannot return to the way it used to be, even yesterday. We realize that we have no choice: before we can rise up, we must go down and through.
It's too bad that it often takes a crisis -- a death, a failed relationship, the loss of a job, a natural disaster, and so on -- to launch most of us into a life of awareness, but this seems to be true for the majority of people. Even the great Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, did not come to the path until mid-life, after a failed marriage.
In order for us to view crisis as an opportunity, we must have some awareness already. Most people do not have this awareness. If we believe in God and a divine order, we might see the crisis as a manifestation of the inscrutable will of God and accept it as such. If we are rationalists with no spiritual beliefs, we might see the crisis as a random occurrence and go about our lives as though nothing has changed. Either way, we are missing the call to awareness.
But if we do understand that crisis provides us with an opportunity to question and reassess our lives, we must learn to navigate the darkness that such a challenge will lead us through. We must go down and through -- the initiation stage -- if we are to grow from the experience and become more aware. This is often described as the proverbial Dark Night of the Soul.
However, if we can learn to breathe through this time, to sit with our emotions, to accept that change is the only constant in the universe, we can begin to wake up:
Come back to square one, just the minimum bare bones. Relaxing with the present moment, relaxing with hopelessness, relaxing with death, not resisting the fact that things end, that things pass, that things have no lasting substance, that everything is changing all the time--that is the basic message.~Pema Chodron
I'm not saying this is easy -- and surely I fail much more often than I succeed. But I try to be aware that loss, suffering, and pain are signposts pointing me toward more wholeness and awareness. Here is another great view on this issue:
Whatever you do, don’t shut off your pain; accept your pain and remain vulnerable. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a priceless gift: the chance of discovering, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow.
“Grief,” Rumi wrote, “can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.”
~ Sogyal Rinpoche
We will never grow as human beings unless we are confronted with pain, with suffering, with loss. But even if we are confronted with these difficult experiences, we will not grow if we cannot see them as teachers, as opportunities to awaken. Befriending our pain opens our hearts and softens them, makes more room in them for compassion.
We can refuse the call, of course, and try to return to business as usual, but we will end up facing the same pains again and again until we listen, until we accept the lessons being offered us. Within all of us, there is a deeper self that seeks health, happiness, and growth -- call it psyche, call it soul, call it whatever you wish -- and it will keep bringing us back to learn what we need in order to grow more whole.
This deeper self wants us to evolve, and it will keep finding ways to drag us into the fertile darkness of pain and loss until we wake up.
Friday, June 22, 2007
1) I hit a new personal best on hack lunges. A hack lunge is done on a power squat machine while facing in, then stepping one foot down to the floor, bringing that knee up to waist level, then repeat. The leg that is on the machine is doing all of the work. Here is the machine:
Today I did four sets of ten reps with 320 pounds, which were pretty easy, so next week I am going up to 340 pounds.
2) I picked up a new client today, which is good because summers are always slow.
3) I continue to feel better each day -- actually sleeping helps a lot.
What are you grateful for today?
"Women want mediocre men, and men are working hard to become as mediocre as possible."
~ Margaret Mead
Image of the day:
~ Burning Fat And Carbohydrate During Exercise -- "In a paper published in The Journal of Physiology, Helge, Stallknecht, Richter, Galbo, and Keins from Copenhagen shed light on fat oxidation during exercise and physical activity. Their observations suggest that fat oxidation during exercise reflects a fine interplay between the cardiovascular, neurological, endocrine and muscle metabolic systems. During exercise and physical activity, the primary fuels used by muscles are carbohydrate and fat."
~ Dare to Bare -- "Who cares if you aren't a size 2? Learn how to feel great about your body."
~ Multiple unhealthy habits best addressed together -- "People who simultaneously attempt to stop smoking, reduce their sodium intake and increase exercise may be more successful than those who try to change these lifestyle factors one at a time, Texas-based researchers report."
~ FDA Issues New Safety Rules for Vitamins -- "The Food and Drug Administration said Friday it is phasing in a new rule that is designed to address concerns that existing regulations allowed supplements onto the market that were contaminated or didn't contain ingredients claimed on the label."
~ Pack nutrition into your picnic basket -- "Picnics are a wonderful part of summer, but the foods that make up traditional picnic fare are rarely in step with good nutrition. With some updating, however, picnics can be delicious and nutritious."
~ Seven Ways Your Body Tells You You're Hungry ... Even When You're Not -- "Aside from some well-known culprits like stress and the holiday season (not to mention both of them combined!), there are other factors involved in over-eating that may not seem obvious, including . . . ."
~ Omega-3s may hike baby’s IQ -- "Children whose mothers get enough omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy may have sharper problem-solving skills in infancy, a small study suggests." This is old news -- I've been telling my clients this for years. If there aren't enough healthy fats in the diet, the mother's health will suffer because the baby gets first dibs.
~ Personalised drugs -- "The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece on using genetic tests to determine which psychiatric drugs will be most effective and least problematic."
~ Inside The Mind Of A Suicide Bomber -- "Suicide bombers are not mentally ill or unhinged, but acting rationally in pursuit of the 'benefits' they perceive from being part of a strict and close-knit religious enterprise, according to a University of Nottingham academic. Research by Dr David Stevens, of the School of Politics and International Relations, suggests that the widely-held view of suicide bombers as brain-washed religious fanatics, vulnerable through youth and poverty, is not an accurate one."
~ Here’s a quick, easy, free way to boost your happiness: get more SLEEP -- "Studies show that people get accustomed to being sleep-deprived. At first, they notice the effect on their mood and alertness, but before long, they adjust to that state as normal. So even if you insist that you feel fine, if you got more sleep, you might feel a lot better."
~ Summary of Goal Setting Activities -- "This article consolidates the goal setting information from several articles relating to personal development and goal setting/goal achievement."
~ Buddhist Meditation Helps People Stop Drinking -- "A combination of cognitive behavioural therapy and Buddhist meditation can help people with drinking problems turn their backs on alcohol. Dr Paramabandhu Groves, a consultant psychiatrist at the Alcohol Advisory Service in London, who has successfully run workshops with people with depression, has now turned his attention to using the techniques to help people with addictions."
~ Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain -- "Why does putting our feelings into words talking with a therapist or friend, writing in a journal help us to feel better" A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense."
~ Americans Couch Feelings About Race In The Happy Talk Of Diversity-Speak -- "According to a new study by researchers in the University of Minnesota's sociology department, Americans are generally positive -- even optimistic -- about the word 'diversity,' but when asked, even those working in the field of race relations have trouble describing diversity's value and stumble when giving real life examples."
~ Robert Wright: The Real Roots of Suicide Bombing -- "Still, seeing terrorist groups as rational actors is the first step to combatting a pernicious right-wing meme: the idea that terrorism is ultimately incoherent, grounded in pure religious zealotry or some supposed Arab irrationality or whatever. If you buy that meme, you're likely to think there's no point in even talking about serious territorial concessions in Palestine, or reconsidering American military deployment in Iraq or the Middle East broadly."
~ A bid to build centrism in US politics -- "Schwarzenegger and Bloomberg are pushing efforts to bridge the political divide."
~ And the Federal Budget Will Be 100 Percent of GDP -- "In testimony before the Senate Budget Committee yesterday, Congressional Budget Office Director Peter Orszag said spending on Medicare and Medicaid will represent one-fifth of the gross domestic product in 2050 if it continues to grow at the same rate it has during the last four decades. That's 'roughly the share of the economy now accounted for by the entire federal budget.'"
~ The Endgame for Guantanamo? -- "Amid reports that the facility will be closed, Bush hard-liners and pragmatists wrestle over its future."
~ The Cheney Branch of Government -- "The Vice President is fighting yet another call to turn over secret material, the latest reminder that he continues to play by his own rules."
~ Student Loan Reform: What to Expect -- "Students now appear likely to get a back-to-school present: loan reform. The Senate Education Committee approved relief measures this week similar to those recently passed by its House counterpart. Both full houses are expected to approve the bills later this summer, with a final version going to President Bush in September, just in time for the new school year."
~ The possibilities of hemp-growing -- "Is weed the new green?"
~ Ecuador Wants Habitat on Endangered List -- "Ecuador says tourism is threatening the Galapagos Islands and has asked UNESCO to add the habitat that inspired the theory of evolution to its endangered list, the culture agency said Friday."
~ Archeologists Turn to Professional MythBusters for Stone-Age Experiment -- "In the Stone Age, prehistoric peoples created weapons by making stone projectile points and affixing them to arrow and spear shafts. Until now, no one has researched the technological advantage or disadvantage of the arrowhead to prehistoric culture."
~ 10 Ways to Green Your Spending -- "Be a positive force for change by buying different."
~ Taking animals out of laboratory research -- "Pioneering work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and ultimately remove them from laboratories altogether has received a major boost at The University of Nottingham."
~ Great Lakes slowly losing water -- "Boaters on Lake Superior said the water is so low it appears the world's largest freshwater lake is disappearing."
~ The Mind Outside the Body (Part 6) -- Deepak Chopra -- "Explorations into the mind field will become more fascinating as time unfolds. But at least one finding has its share of entertainment value. A few years ago the adventurous British researcher Rupert Sheldrake received an e-mail from a woman in New York City who said that her African gray parrot not only read her thoughts but responded to them with speech."
~ BLOG: Guest Blog: Integrative Spirituality: Grounded Contemporary Perspectives (by Bruce Alderman) -- "In this essay, I will not attempt a comprehensive statement on the nature of integrative spirituality, but will offer several perspectives on it which have been helpful to me and which guide me in my own inquiry and practice."
~ Knowledge, Wisdom and Ignorance -- "In my last post, I wrote – perhaps somewhat flippantly – about ignorance and about how any kind of practice presupposes a degree of ignorance. It is probably necessary, however, to explore this claim a little more, because whilst I think that it is not at all unreasonable, at the same time it seems to me as if it could be easily misconstrued."
~ Seamlessness of psychology and spirituality, practice and daily life -- "Before Ground awakens to itself, it makes sense to do practices that invites Ground to notice itself and also makes it easier to be who we take ourselves to be. Why leave one out?"
~ Interview with Ken Wilber you haven't read -- "In it KW makes the point that I've made a few time about the problems of taking the idea of fixed stage development with no cultural variation. That is, judging other cultures with the same stage development lens that we would our own. This is done by the majority of people who study AQAL, I think because it doesn't have a culture concept. But, KW is fully aware of the issue it seems. Actually it seems like a non-issue with him."
~ Witnessing the Witness -- A discussion at the Zaadz I-I pod worth looking at -- it's a long thread.
Today's Daily Dharma from Tricycle:
In traditional Buddhist texts the five energies of Lust, Aversion, Torpor, Restlessness, and Doubt are called "Mind Hindrances" . . . because they obscure clear seeing, just as sandstorms in the desert or fog on a highway can cause travelers to get lost. They hinder the possibility of us reconnecting with the peaceful self that is our essential nature. They confuse us. We think they are real. We forget that our actual nature is not the passing storm. The passing storm is the passing storm. Our essence remains our essence all the time.
Five different energies seem like a limited menu, but they present themselves in an infinite variety of disguises. Ice cream sundaes are different from pizzas are different from sex, but fundamentally they are all objects of the lustful desire . . . Grumbly mind is grumbly mind; sleepy mind is sleepy mind; restless mind is restless mind; doubtful mind is doubtful mind.
The fact that it's in the nature of minds for storms to arise and pass away is not a problem . . . [It] helps in keeping the spirits up to remember that the weather is going to change. Our difficult mind states become a problem only if we believe they are going to go on forever.
~ Sylvia Boorstein, It's Easier Than You Think
|You Are Scissors|
Sharp and brilliant, you can solve almost any problem with that big brain of yours.
People fear your cutting comments - and your wit is famous for being both funny and cruel.
Deep down, you tend to be in the middle of an emotional storm. Your own complexity disturbs you.
You are too smart for your own good. Slow down a little - or you're likely to hurt yourself.
You can cut a paper person down to pieces.
The only person who can ruin you is a rock person.
When you fight: You find your enemy's weak point and exploit it.
If someone makes you mad: You'll do everything you can to destroy their life
OK, I'm not quite as bad as this sounds, but it does point to some shadow stuff I've been working on.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Some things I am grateful for today:
1) The US soccer team beat Canada 2-1 to advance to the Gold Cup final against either Mexico or Guadalupe. They looked a lot more aggressive in the middle third of the field, which bodes well for the final.
2) I had a light day today and got to watch some good episodes of The West Wing.
3) My ex, Kira, recommended me for a writing assignment, which may or may not happen, but it's nice of her to have done so. She also recommended me for an editing assignment I completed last weekend. I am grateful for all of that.
What are you grateful for today?
Don't watch this with food or liquid in your mouth.
"To be pleased with one's limits is a wretched state."
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Image of the day:
~ Limiting Factors -- "Here are 5 reasons why you're still a weenie. There are probably a bunch more, but we didn't think your ego could handle that many at once."
~ Salt restriction to lower blood pressure: an ongoing controversy -- "Nowhere in medicine is there more confusion than the issue of salt as a cause of high blood pressure. At a recent meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, Dr. Abdul-Rahman of Newark, Delaware reported that people who lowered blood insulin levels had a significant reduction in high blood pressure even though they also markedly increased their salt intake."
~ Young Women Prefer Individually Tailored Weight Loss Advice -- "The word is out - young women want personally tailored nutrition advice and information when it comes to weight loss. Over 80% of young women are trying to lose weight but are confused about the best way to achieve this a study published by Wiley-Blackwell in the June 2007 issue of Nutrition & Dietetics."
~ Whole Grain, Not "Fiber", Lowers Colorectal Cancer Risk -- "Experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) offered praise for a recently published study which showed that whole grain fiber, and not fiber from other food sources, is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer. The AICR experts said the study is to be commended because, unlike many earlier investigations, its authors took care to analyze the role of dietary fiber from different food sources."
~ FDA OKs First Fibromyalgia Treatment -- "Lyrica, known generically as pregabalin, previously won FDA approval to treat partial seizures, pain following the rash of shingles and pain associated with diabetes nerve damage."
~ Fish Oil Might Slow Prostate Cancer (HealthDay) -- "A new study with mice suggests that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids from fish might help slow prostate cancer." Yet another reason to use fish oil.
~ Fitness level predicts heart problems -- "Cardiovascular fitness may predict the odds of a future heart attack in men and women with no apparent signs of heart disease, a large study suggests."
~ Omega-3 supplements affect Alzheimer's symptoms -- "Omega-3 supplements can, in certain cases, help combat the depression and agitation symptoms associated with Alzheimer`s disease, according to a clinical study conducted at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet."
~ Oldest? You might be smartest too -- "Children at the top of the pecking order — either by birth or because their older siblings died — score higher on IQ tests than their younger brothers or sisters."
~ The surprising realities of Absolute Pitch and Tone Deafness -- "Glenn Gould had it -- so did Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Horowitz and Sinatra. On the surface, absolute pitch seems like the province of musical geniuses -- the exotic gift that they have and we don't. But the truth about absolute pitch -- and the opposite phenomenon of tone deafness -- is much more interesting, and helps us understand what "musical talent" really is and isn't."
~ Next step brains: Evolution or optimisation? -- "This week's edition of ABC Radio National's opinion programme Ockham's Razor has Dr Peter Lavelle speculating about a future when computers will match or outstrip the human brain."
~ Labeling Emotions Diminishes Their Influence -- "The common perception that verbalizing one's mental distresses will help a patient diminish and better understand his or her negative emotions is perhaps the central tenet of talk therapy. Brain-scan based research continues to further this belief, indicating that emotions, when considered as linguistic abstracts, engender less severe reactions in outside parties. Perhaps language allows for a greater disconnect between the raw experience of the emotions on display and their conceptual representations."
~ 15 Ways to Create an Hour a Day of Extra Time … for Solitude -- "One problem with our complicated lives these days is that many of us never find time to spend alone, in peace, without being bombarded with noise and information. There’s no time for solitude and quiet contemplation, and as a result, we have stress and anxiety and depression and repression."
~ Depression Treatment Shows Ability to Extend Life -- "A new study by Dr. Joseph Gallo found stronger evidence of depression’s link to life-span. Previous studies may not have found what they were looking for because they focused only on patients hospitalized for specific ailments like heart problems. Dr. Gallo tested a wide range of patients, and found that depression only significantly affected cancer deaths."
~ Fair and Balanced, My Ass! The Bizarre Reality of Fox News -- "But it's not like the leading lights at Fox actually enjoy turning America into a nation of fatuous morons. If they could accomplish the same goals by not making their viewers morons, they'd probably do so, just as the tobacco companies would probably prefer their products didn't cause cancer, and Ann Coulter probably wishes the sound of her voice didn't make young men's and small animals' testicles shrivel." Nice quote.
~ Does Swearing Corrode Society? -- "Do young minds and civil society crumble from the F word?"
~ Where Have All the Rock Stars Gone? -- "In popular music, the decline of a genuine mass audience has meant that it is harder and harder for a performer to attain recognition beyond his or her niche. Those whose recordings now top the charts usually seem to be the least culturally significant, often lacking either the musical distinction or the political commentary that one can still find among less popular performers. But the bigger issue is that even this music reaches a small fraction of the total audience."
~ Will Mike Bloomberg run? -- "New York's mayor flirts with an independent bid for the presidency."
~ This Just In: America Tilts Left -- "Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Americans are liberal, writes Rick Perlstein. How long will it take politicians and the media to get that?"
~ Starr: Soccer's Cinderella Team -- "I am a root-root-root-for-the-home-team guy. But every one in while there is a Cinderella team that is hard to resist."
~ A GLBT Center of Their Own -- "It's "not your average GLBT Center" declared the April 24 edition of The Advocate, the national GLBT newsmagazine. Indeed. The Center on Halsted, billed as the nation's most comprehensive GLBT community center, was unveiled last month in a flurry of local and national press."
~ Probing Question: How do dimples make golf balls travel farther? -- "A golfer's worst enemy may be divots, but his or her best friend may be dimples -- the dimples on a golf ball that send it sailing farther down the fairway."
~ Antarctic icebergs -- Hotspots of ocean life -- "According to a new study in this week`s journal Science these floating islands of ice - some as large as a dozen miles across - are having a major impact on the ecology of the ocean around them, serving as hotspots for ocean life, with thriving communities of seabirds above and a web of phytoplankton, krill, and fish below."
~ Nanoethics -- The watchdog of a new technology? -- "The field of nanotechnology is broad and has the potential to be used in a wide range of industries and fields, but the question is whether it is a good investment. Will it solve fundamental social problems that assure a better future?"
~ Expedition Seeks Primordial Life Beneath the Arctic -- "A hydrothermal vent could harbor never-seen-before life."
~ Fruit may be the latest source for biofuel madness -- "Could your kumquat power your Kia? A team of U.S. scientists has made a low-carbon fuel from fructose, the sugar in many fruits. It could be a better bet than ethanol, with 40 percent more energy, less vulnerability to water, and more stability. . . ."
~ 'Blog', 'cookie', 'wiki' top list of hated Internet words: poll -- "Blog", "netiquette", "cookie" and "wiki" have been voted among the most irritating words spawned by the Internet, according to the results of a poll published Thursday."
~ Bridging Jung and Wilber: towards healing the 'inner ascender' -- "Recently participating as a witness in a complex psychotherapeutic intervention called therapeutic enactment -- which is an updated and refined form of Moreno's pioneering work on psychodrama -- has stimulated some thoughts and feelings about the importance of healing a subpersonality, schema, pattern, voice or archetype that we might term the "inner ascender" -- or, the "inner frustrated ascender"."
~ The so-called retro-romantic transpersonalists -- "For the longest time I refused to read those who might fit the above description provided by Ken, as if they had a hideous and highly communicable disease. But I’ve come to question the accuracy of this prejudice and have begun to investigate these authors. This is largely due to an incipient intuition about states of consciousness as related to the pre-trans fallacy. Those like Washburn and Goddard see that we “return” to these lower states (subconscious and unconscious) after the evolution to the rational ego, but from the vantage point of the latter they are transformed (into subtle and causal)."
~ Working with emotions -- "Any one of these may work well on its own, but the real effects come from using a combination of them over time, exploring emotions, and any particular emotion, from many different levels of the holarchy and from several different angles." Good post.
~ Integral Politics -- "In a recent Integral Naked dialogue, "Escaping Flatland, Part II", Wilber discusses the contours of Integral Politics as he sees it. He gives a good summary of the points he has made in the three chapters published so far of his The Many Faces of Terrorism manuscript. These chapters, unfortunately, lack focus. If this, after all those years, is Wilber's choice of genre for conveying his vision of integral politics, we're really lost."
Why Americans Keep Getting Fatter
True, the USDA has been doing more, over time, to promote health through dietary guidelines, food pyramids and other nutrition programs. And yet more than $20 billion yearly -- more than one-fifth its budget -- is sunk into a farm bill that supports many of the foods its recommendations warn against. At the same time, the department virtually ignores incentives to produce, promote and consume some of the healthiest foods: fruits and vegetables.
This contradiction may play a role in today's obesity epidemic and is in part driven by a counterintuitive farm policy, highlighted by the farm bill, which is up for renewal this year in Congress. This legislation began during the Depression to protect farmers against environmental disasters and plummeting crop prices but has evolved into a massive program of handouts, largely benefiting agribusinesses. Worse, it promotes vast overproduction of crops that are the building blocks of calorie-dense, nutrient-poor, processed junk foods. It has become a "food bill."
For a half-century, the farm bill served farmers and the public well by regulating supply and stabilizing food prices. In 1973, it was overhauled to significantly increase crop production. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the U.S. food supply has since ballooned by 500 calories per person per day, and per capita food consumption has increased by more than 200 calories per day -- the equivalent of more than 20 pounds of fat per year.
This mammoth oversupply would be less egregious if it were spread equally among the food groups. Instead, most funding supports just a few crops, and those lay the foundation of the standard American diet: high in sugars and empty-calorie, refined grains; high in fats; low in whole grains and fiber; and low in fruits and vegetables.
Read the rest.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Everything happens on schedule, at the appointed hour,
but who sets the clock? I awoke one morning
on the floor, curled up against a bookshelf,
or was it out on my deck in the night air --
the details elude me. But there must be a reason,
right? Perhaps I needed the comfort of my books,
or the fresh air of a hot spring night. Perhaps
none of this really happened anywhere
except on this page. Everyone hurts, but suffering
is optional. I read that someplace, or something
similar. Have I chosen this, or was it my time,
my turn, my number pulled from a hat?
1) I bought a car with air conditioning back in March. This is my sixth summer in Tucson, but the first one with an air conditioned car. Didn't need it in Seattle. But I had to wait until I could buy a good car without going into debt. I hate debt. But I LOVE air conditioning.
2) Something seems to have shifted in the last few days. The angst has lifted. The anxiety is fading. I feel good again. For that I am more than grateful.
3) It's good to know that if I don't feel like doing this on some days, it's OK.
What are you grateful for?
"O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet."
~ Saint Augustine
Image of the day:
I Post this image in hope of an early monsoon this year, since it will be 106 today and 110 tomorrow.
~ A Joint-by-Joint Approach to Training -- "Mike Boyle and other coaches think you should train movement patterns, not muscles. The next step? Thinking about training from a joint perspective. Confused? Read this article and all will be clear!"
~ Exercise Can Prevent Bone Fractures In Men -- "It has been well documented that regular exercise can help prevent osteoporosis in women, but now researchers believe that regular exercise can prevent bone fractures in older men."
~ Focus On Exercise Alone For Diabetics Makes Greater Improvement Than Diet And Medicine -- "Diabetes is often called a lifestyle disease, and now a new study from the University of Missouri-Columbia verifies that a lifestyle change brings strong improvements. People with diabetes who attended classes to help them increase their exercise had more significant improvements than people who focused on trying to change exercise, diet modification and medication at the same time."
~ Feds, Legal Threats Put Snacks on a Diet -- "America's snack food makers are marketing smaller portion packs, using healthier fats and reducing sugar in some of the nation's favorite potato chips and cookies...."
~ The State of The Union’s Fat -- Interesting graphic.
~ Junk Food or Junk Diet? -- "The week-end arrives; you heave a sigh of relief as you now have a couple of days relaxation before you face the pressures of work again. Or do you?"
~ Spoonful of cinnamon helps blood sugar stay down -- "Adding some cinnamon to your dessert may temper the blood sugar surge that follows a sweet treat, a new study suggests." Or better yet, take a cinnamon capsule or two each day and avoid the junk food altogether.
~ Men eye faces, while women gaze at sex -- "Contrary to popular opinion, men are more likely to look at a female's face before other areas when looking at pictures of naked women, according to a study by Emory University researchers."
~ Health Tip: What Causes Nightmares? -- "Nightmares can cause poor sleep and anxiety, triggering health problems. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says the following factors can contribute to nightmares."
~ Sense of touch is crucial for empathy -- "A rare condition in which people sense physical touch when they see someone else being touched could help us understand empathy."
~ The Alleged Risks of Psychotherapies -- "A column in the most recent edition of Newsweek addresses a sometimes-controversial topic in mental health circles: negative outcomes of psychotherapy. The subject is tackled by science writer Sharon Begley, and throughout her piece she raises many legitimate concerns about the potential for risk and even harm during therapy."
~ Genetics Open Door to More Effective Depression Treatment -- "This similar reaction of relatives to medication suggests that a genetic analysis can predict an individual's reaction to a drug. This assumption is at the heart of a burgeoning new medical field--pharmacogenomics."
~ Counselling Not Helpful In The Immediate Aftermath Of A Disaster -- "Mental health professionals should stay away during the immediate aftermath of a terrorist atrocity or environmental disaster. Forcing counselling on trauma victims not only prevents them from talking to their family and friends but could increase the risk of their developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."
~ Bush vetoes popular stem-cell research bill -- "President George W. Bush on Wednesday vetoed legislation to expand federally funded embryonic stem cell research, triggering an uphill battle in the Democratic-led Congress to override him." Dumbass.
~ An Army of Macs Powers Brian Eno's Scuptures of Sight and Sound -- "Brian Eno's new art installation, made up of constantly evolving digital canvases of sight and sound, gets its North American premiere for three nights only this weekend in San Francisco."
~ The 1.8 Million Solution -- "Like the supine parrot of Monty Python fame, the Senate's immigration reform bill might be dead, or it might be resting. Has it joined the choir invisible, or is it pinin' for the fjords?"
~ Bloomberg's Independent Streak -- "New York's mayor claims he has no plans to run for President. But his latest party change suggests he's toying with the idea."
~ DAVID COLE—The Constitution -- "From the collection “Undoing Bush: how to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect” in the June Harper's. David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center."
~ Multiculturalism’s civic future: a response -- "I thank the six commentators who offered me some comments on my original openDemocracy article ("Multiculturalism, citizenship and national identity", 17 May 2007) and on the book whose arguments it summarised (Multiculturalism: A Civic Idea¸ Polity, 2007). Each contribution has given me some food for thought, and I would like here both to respond to some of them and use the opportunity to clarify some points of my position."
~ China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter -- "The surprising announcement will increase anxiety about China's growing role in driving man-made global warming and will pile pressure onto world politicians to agree a new global agreement on climate change that includes the booming Chinese economy."
~ The Battle for the Air -- "In one corner, a coalition of public interest groups, scientists and academic advisors. In the other corner, industry lobbyists. The prize for the fight? The quality of our air."
~ Dinos' demise spurred rise of the mammals, new fossil suggests -- "A fossil discovered in the Gobi Desert has unlocked the most emphatic evidence to date that the mass extinction of the dinosaurs helped placental mammals -- of which Homo sapiens is a member -- become masters of the planet."
~ Geophysicists detect a molten rock layer deep below the American Southwest -- "A sheet of molten rock roughly 10 miles thick spreads underneath much of the American Southwest, some 250 miles below Tucson, Ariz. From the surface, you can't see it, smell it or feel it." I'm not so sure -- the ground feels pretty damn hot.
~ Prey Forget to Fear Predators -- "Prey animals are not necessarily hard-wired to fear their enemies."
~ Carbon nanotube injectors probe living cells without damage -- "In order to investigate the processes that go on inside a single human cellor even specific subcellular compartmentsresearchers need a device that is small and controlled enough to pass through the delicate cell membrane. Carbon nanotubes (CNTs), with their needle-like geometry, high elasticity and strength, have recently shown that they`re up to the task."
~ How Your Mind Really Works -- "Your ability to handle new situations goes way beyond behavior though. You can solve a problem entirely in your mind, even without taking any direct action. Sometimes you’re aware of the process, and sometimes it happens unconsciously, but either way there’s a purely cognitive aspect to human intelligence that’s independent of behavior."
~ Chinese and the Islamic Fundamentalists vs. Social Evolution -- "This post is completely OFF TOPIC - I started off writing about the Great Fire Wall of China and then went on an insane religious and political tangent. I started asking myself, “Why does the chinese government and other nations repress the cutting edge of human social evolution?” And here is what I came up with."
~ Irrational morality -- "I agree that Tantra needs to be transcended and included. I also think that much of our sexual morality should likewise be either included or transcended. As far as I’m concerned a great deal of our sexual morality is based on mythic thinking. When you examine sexual mores from a rational/integral perspective you realise that many of them are irrational."
~ Pringles are another word for poison -- "Chemicals are reliable, if boring. Phone calls to far away friends. Lovers let go to grow. Goals we create out of the dust and ashes, smoke and mirrors. Where is God in all this? Watching over me while I sit wrapped in a blanket in the June basement cold. What does He want me to do, wait here forever? Return phone calls and emails? Why?"
~ The Secret Life of (Burned) Objects -- "Do things exist outside of perception of them? More importantly: do they exist for each other? And if so, how? I am thinking now of all the ruined, melted, and charred objects which came out of our house fire a few weeks ago -- a collapsed typewriter, a torched piano, a gutted futon mattress -- objects which no longer retain their function, but still exist in the world."