Saturday, June 07, 2008

Training the Mind Changes the Brain

An interesting post from Positive Psychology News Daily.
Training the Mind Changes the Brain

Kathryn Britton, MAPP, CPC, former software engineer, is a certified professional coach working with professionals to increase well-being, energy, and meaning in their lives. Visit Theano Coaching. She is writing about her experiences as a Positive Organization Advisor within a very large corporation. She recently started a blog, Reflections on Positive Psychology. Full bio.

Kathryn writes on the 7th of each month, and her past articles are here.

by Kathryn Britton

Whenever we talk about positive interventions, we are assuming that people are malleable. William James wrote about intentional activity to change habits in ways that make life better. That’s the premise of books like The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky: that research has shown that people can make lasting changes in their level of happiness, but it requires action, effort and persistence.

Richard DavidsonThat’s what psychologists have found. Neuroscientists are finding the same thing. Richard Davidson is a neuroscientist who uses brain imaging to study behavior and emotion. (See his site for a more technically correct description of what he does.) He claims, “Social and emotional learning changes the brain,” and “We can change the brain by training the mind.” Social and emotional learning is a process by which people become better at understanding and managing emotions and learn how emotions impact the choices they make, the relationships they have, and their outlook in life.

Dr Davidson has a 16-minute lecture online that is available at the Edutopia site. Here are some of his primary points:

  • Behavioral interventions have biological impacts. They change the brain.
  • Behavioral interventions can cause more specific brain changes than psychotropic medications. They can affect very specific circuits, which is beyond our ability with drugs.
  • Prefrontal cortexThe prefrontal cortex (PFC) is involved in more than cognition. It is also very involved when we use positive emotion to guide decision-making. For example, when someone is getting motivated to pursue a goal, the PFC is involved.
  • The prefrontal cortex is also connected to the amygdala – the part of the brain that detects threats and generates negative emotions. Scientists can visualize the connections between a person’s PFC and amygdala. They have reasons to believe that stronger connections enable better self-regulation. These connections can be built with intentional activity.
  • Amygdala responses are important for avoiding threats, but not many of us are chased by tigers any more. The physical responses to negative emotion have been hijacked for situations that are much less threatening — e.g., attacks to our self-esteem. (This reminded me of Martin Seligman saying that we still have Pleistocene brains … )
  • Scientists have shown greater prefrontal cortex activity in the brains of people who recover more rapidly from negative events. Presumably the PFC is actively reappraising a negative stimulus and coming up with a more adaptive and positive response. People can learn to do this with practice.
  • This ability to regulate emotion is important not just to happiness but also to health. Adolescents with strong PFC activation in response to negative events tend to have lower levels of cortisol in the evenings. Higher cortisol takes a toll on many organs, including the brain.
  • Neuroscientists have shown that anxiety impairs working memory. Therefore the ability to calm oneself is an important skill for learning.

He concluded that qualities such as patience, calmness, cooperation, and kindness are skills that can be trained, not traits that are either inborn or set for life by early childhood experiences. He also commented that he has not seen a sharp decline in this sort of neural plasticity as people get older. Training the brain may get somewhat more difficult as people age, requiring somewhat greater effort. Unlike learning language, there is no window that closes at a certain age.

Social and emotional learning is strongly related to Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence and involves 5 competencies that proponents believe should be core parts of education:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Self motivation
  • Empathy
  • Peer relations

Cat seeing a lion in the mirrorThis summary does not include any specific interventions for increasing these competencies. But I believe that just knowing that the brain can be changed is a positive intervention all by itself. I’ve been trying it out. Whenever I start feeling negative emotions — anger, shame, fear — I think about having an opportunity to train my brain, and somehow that helps me moderate my response.

When just learning a new skill like giving speeches, it’s very helpful to act as if one is confident without waiting until one actually feels confident. We sometimes call that “Fake it ’till you make it.” Building strong PFC-Amygdala circuits is similar. Acting as if they are already there — by intentionally working on self-regulation — helps bring them into existence.


Davidson, R. (2008). The heart-brain connection: The neuroscience of social, emotional, and academic learning. Video retrieved June 5, 2008 from

Zins, J. E., Bloodworth, M. R., Weissberg, R. P., & Walberg, H. J. (2004). The scientific base linking social and emotional learning to school success. In Columbia University, Building Academic Success on Social and Emotional Learning: What does the Research say? Chapter 1. See page 7 for a discussion of the SEL competencies.

Clinton Urges Her Supporters to Work for Obama

Hillary Clinton ended her campaign for the presidency today and asked her supporters to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States.

From Newsweek:

Everyone knew it would be a loaded speech—especially Hillary Clinton. Almost 16 months after launching her bid for the presidency, she brought it to a close in Washington on Saturday, thanking her supporters and throwing her "full support" behind the party's presumptive nominee. "I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me," she said.

Hillary approached the podium in Washington's National Building Museum with an air of melancholy, in spite of the large crowd of cheering supporters. She started her speech acknowledging that circumstances were less than ideal. "Well, this isn't exactly the party I planned but I sure like the company."

Clinton was acutely aware that her words and facial expressions would be closely magnified, but at times it seemed she couldn't hide her disappointment. "She's obviously really bummed," a junior campaign staffer told NEWSWEEK. Prior to the campaign's widely publicized endgame, Clinton invited about 150 staffers over the night before for a small get together at her home, where she looked "upbeat" and "happy." "She's always in a really fun mood, so it's tough to tell how she's really feeling," said the same staffer, who was not authorized, even at the campaign's end, to discuss the inner workings of the campaign.

Read the rest.

You can read the whole speech here, but this is the crucial section:

The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand is to take our energy, our passion, our strength, and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama, the next president of the United States.

Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.

And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me.

I have served in the Senate with him for four years. I have been in this campaign with him for 16 months. I have stood on the stage and gone toe-to-toe with him in 22 debates. I've had a front-row seat to his candidacy, and I have seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit.

In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream, as a community organizer, in the state senate, as a United States senator. He has dedicated himself to ensuring the dream is realized. And in this campaign, he has inspired so many to become involved in the democratic process and invested in our common future.

Now, when I started this race, I intended to win back the White House and make sure we have a president who puts our country back on the path to peace, prosperity and progress. And that's exactly what we're going to do, by ensuring that Barack Obama walks through the doors of the Oval Office on January 20, 2009.

Now, I understand — I understand that we all know this has been a tough fight, but the Democratic Party is a family. And now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together and to come together around the ideals we share, the values we cherish, and the country we love.

We may have started on separate journeys, but today our paths have merged. And we're all heading toward the same destination, united and more ready than ever to win in November and to turn our country around, because so much is at stake.

This is exactly the tone she needed today, and that the party needed to hear. It remains to be seen what percentage of her supporters will get behind Obama, but most people suspect that he will get the majority of them.

What seemed clear to me in this speech was the subtext of her running as a woman more than as a Democrat. Good old fashioned identity politics. Andrew Sullivan thought the same thing:
One theme stuck out to me: she essentially said that even though she was careful to avoid ever saying that she was running because she was a woman and that people should vote for her because she is a woman, that's what she believes in private. That's the theme she spoke of most compellingly. She is Ellen Malcolm's spiritual sister. In the end, Clinton remains wedded to the identity politics of her generation and her time. It's a powerful message after so many long decades and centuries in which women have been denied full equality in law and society. It's a necessary message and a moral message. But it becomes circular and self-defeating when it becomes its own rationale.
Hopefully, Clinton's highly successful campaign this year will make it easier for a woman to run and win in the future. There are many women with her political skill -- and without the burden of being married to Bill, who I think really damaged her campaign by urging her to go negative.

Obama isn't the perfect candidate some think he is, nor is he the pseudo-Messiah Jonah Goldberg makes him out to be. Is he better for America than John McCain? I think so.

Some people worry about Obama's support of universal health care, but I doubt that it will ever happen, even if he pushes for it. On the issue of Iran, even Pat Buchanan believes he is correct to suggest we talk to Iran.

No matter what anyone thinks of his policy positions, I think that Obama represents a more thoughtful, multilateral, compassionate politics.

Don't vote for him because he will be the first black president -- vote for him because he will be the first truly 21st century president.

Coldplay - Viva la Vida - Live MTV Movie Awards 2008

The first single from the upcoming album.

Carl Zimmer - The Evolution of Mind

A cool video, found at Zimmer's blog, The Loom.
A couple weeks ago I spoke at Downstate Medical Center in New York about some of my articles in the New York Times that revolve around how the mind evolved. We can learn from bacteria, fruit flies, hyenas, and our own kids. You can now see the whole lecture with surprisingly clear slides on Click on the screen below, or go to the page on Warning: the sound drops out briefly around 13:00.

Seed - The Reality Tests

A very cool article from Seed Magazine last week, The Reality Tests. In essence, it describes new research to study the idea that an observer is necessary for reality to exist (a notion I am more than a little skeptical about).

Here is a taste of what is a very lengthy article.

Some physicists still find quantum mechanics unpalatable, if not unbelievable, because of what it implies about the world beyond our senses. The theory's mathematics is simple enough to be taught to undergraduates, but the physical implications of that mathematics give rise to deep philosophical questions that remain unresolved. Quantum mechanics fundamentally concerns the way in which we observers connect to the universe we observe. The theory implies that when we measure particles and atoms, at least one of two long-held physical principles is untenable: Distant events do not affect one other, and properties we wish to observe exist before our measurements. One of these, locality or realism, must be fundamentally incorrect.

For more than 70 years, innumerable physicists have tried to disentangle the meaning of quantum mechanics through debate. Now Zeilinger and his collaborators have performed a series of experiments that, while neatly agreeing with the theory's predictions, are reinvigorating these historical dialogues. In Vienna experiments are testing whether quantum mechanics permits a fundamental physical reality. A new way of understanding an already powerful theory is beginning to take shape, one that could change the way we understand the world around us. Do we create what we observe through the act of our observations?

Most of us would agree that there exists a world outside our minds. At the classical level of our perceptions, this belief is almost certainly correct. If your couch is blue, you will observe it as such whether drunk, in high spirits, or depressed; the color is surely independent of the majority of your mental states. If you discovered your couch were suddenly red, you could be sure there was a cause. The classical world is real, and not only in your head. Solipsism hasn't really been a viable philosophical doctrine for decades, if not centuries.

But none of us perceives the world as it exists fundamentally. We do not observe the tiniest bits of matter, nor the forces that move them, individually through our senses. We evolved to experience the world in bulk, our faculties registering the net effect of trillions upon trillions of particles or atoms moving in concert. We are crude measurers. So divorced are we from the activity beneath our experience that physicists became relatively assured of the existence of atoms only about a century ago.

Physicists attribute a fundamental reality to what they do not directly perceive. Particles and atoms have observable effects that are well described by theories like quantum mechanics. Single atoms have been "seen" in measurements and presumably exist whether or not we observe them individually. The properties that define particles—mass, spin, etc.—are also thought to exist before we measure them. In physics this is how reality is defined; particles and atoms have measurable properties that exist prior to measurement. This is nothing stranger than your blue couch.

As a physical example, light consists of particles known as photons that each have a property called polarization. Measuring polarization is usually something like telling time; the property can be thought of like the direction of a second hand on a clock. For unpolarized light, the second hand can face any direction as with a normal clock; for polarized light the hand will face in only one or a few directions, as if the clock were broken. That photons can be polarized is, in fact, what allows some sunglasses to eliminate glare—the glasses block certain polarizations and let others through. In Vienna the polarization of light is also being used to test reality.

For a few months in 2006, Simon Gröblacher, who had started his PhD not long before, spent his Saturdays testing realism. Time in the labs at the IQOQI is precious, and during the week other experiments with priority were already underway. Zeilinger and the rest of their collaborators weren't too worried that this kind of experiment would get scooped. They were content to let Gröblacher test reality in the lab's spare time.

For those not familiar with the history behind the questions being addressed by Gröblacher's research, here is a fairly comprehensive account featuring all the major players in quantum theory's origins.
In the summer of 1925, Werner Heisenberg was stricken with hay fever and having trouble with math. He asked his advisor for two weeks off and left for a barren island in the North Sea. He spent his mornings swimming and hiking, but every evening Heisenberg tried to describe atoms in a theory that included only what could be measured. One night, feverish with insight, he calculated until dawn. After Heisenberg put down his pencil as the sun began to rise, he walked to the tip of the island, confident he had discovered quantum mechanics.

By this time a quarter century had passed since Max Planck first described energy as whole-number multiples of a basic unit, which he called the quantum. When two of the quantum's other leading progenitors, Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, heard about Heisenberg's completion of the work they began, their reactions were almost immediate; Bohr was impressed, Einstein was not. Heisenberg's theory emphasized the discrete, particle-like nature of matter, and Einstein, who tended to think in images, could not picture it in his head.

In Switzerland, Erwin Schrödinger had also been "repelled" by Heisenberg's theory. In the fall of 1925, Schrödinger was 38 years old and rife with self-doubt, but when Einstein sent him an article describing a possible duality between particles and waves, Schrödinger had an idea. Over a period of six months, he published five papers outlining a wave theory of the atom. Though it proved difficult to physically interpret what his wave was, the theory felt familiar to Schrödinger. Heisenberg, who had moved to Copenhagen to become Bohr's assistant, thought the theory "disgusting."

Schrödinger and Heisenberg independently uncovered dual descriptions of particles and atoms. Later, the theories proved equivalent. Then in 1926 Heisenberg's previous advisor, Max Born, discovered why no one had found a physical interpretation for Schrödinger's wave function. They are not physical waves at all; rather the wave function includes all the possible states of a system. Before a measurement those states exist in superposition, wherein every possible outcome is described at the same time. Superposition is one of the defining qualities of quantum mechanics and implies that individual events cannot be predicted; only the probability of an experimental outcome can be derived.

The following year, in 1927, Heisenberg discovered the uncertainty principle, which placed a fundamental limit on certain measurements. Pairs of specific quantities are incompatible observables; momentum and position, energy and time, and other measurable pairs cannot be known together with absolute accuracy. Measuring one restricts knowledge of the other. With this quantum mechanics had become a full theory. But what physicists ended up with was a world divided. There was an inherent distinction between atoms unseen and their collective motion we witness with our eyes—the quantum versus the classical. While the distinction appeared physical, many, like Bohr, thought it philosophical; the theory lacked a proper interpretation.

According to Bohr every measuring device affects what it is used to observe. The quantum world is discrete and so there can never be absolute precision during a measurement. To know about quantum mechanics, we rely on classical devices. To Bohr this implied that the hierarchy between observer and observed had no meaning; they were nonseparable. Concepts once thought to be mutually exclusive, such as waves and particles, were also complements. The difference was only language.

By contrast Einstein was a realist who believed in a world independent of the way it is measured. During a set of conferences at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, he and Bohr argued famously over the validity of quantum mechanics and Einstein presented a number of thought experiments intended to show the theory incorrect. But when Bohr used Einstein's own theory of relativity to evade one of these thought experiments, Einstein was so stung he never tried to disprove quantum mechanics again, though he continued to criticize it.

In 1935, from an idyllic corner of New Jersey, Einstein and two young collaborators began a different assault on quantum mechanics. Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen (EPR) did not question the theory's correctness, but rather its completeness. More than the notion that god might play dice, what most bothered Einstein were quantum mechanics' implications for reality. As Einstein prosaically inquired once of a walking companion, "Do you really believe that the moon exists only when you look at it?"

The EPR paper begins by asserting that there's a real world outside theories. "Any serious consideration of a physical theory must take into account the distinction between the objective reality, which is independent of any theory, and the physical concepts with which the theory operates." If quantum mechanics is complete, then "every element of physical reality must have a counterpart in the physical theory." EPR argued that objects must have preexisting values for measurable quantities and that this implied that certain elements of reality could not be determined by quantum mechanics.

Einstein and his colleagues imagined two electrons that collide and fly apart. After the collision the electrons exist in a state of superposition of the possible values for their momenta. Mathematically and physically, it makes no sense to say that either electron has a definite momentum independent of the other before measurement; they are "entangled." But when one electron's momentum is measured, the value of the other's is instantly known and the superpositions collapse. Once the momentum is known for a particle, we cannot measure its position. This element of reality is denied us by the uncertainty principle. Even stranger is that this occurs even when the electrons fly vast distances apart before measurement. Quantum mechanics still describes the electrons as a single system across space. Einstein could never stomach that an experiment at one electron would instantaneously affect the other.

In Copenhagen Bohr began an immediate response. It didn't matter if particles might affect one another over vast distances, or that particles had no observable properties before they are observed. As Bohr later said, "There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description." Physicists' discourse on reality began just as the world slid inexorably toward war. During WWII physicists once interested in philosophy worried about other issues. David Bohm, however, did worry. After the war Bohm was a professor at Princeton, where he wrote a famous textbook on quantum mechanics. Einstein thought it was the best presentation of quantum mechanics he had read, and when Bohm began to challenge the theory, Einstein said, "If anyone can do it, then it will be Bohm."

In 1952, during the Red Scare, Bohm moved to Brazil. There he discovered a theory in which a particle's position was determined by a "hidden variable" even when its momentum was absolutely known. To Bohm reality was important, and so to preserve it, he was willing to abandon locality and accept that entangled particles influenced one another over vast distances. However, Bohm's hidden variables theory made the same predictions as quantum mechanics, which already worked.

In America Bohm's theory was ignored. But when the Irishman John Bell read Bohm's idea, he said, "I saw the impossible done." Bell thought hidden variables might show quantum mechanics incomplete. Starting from Bohm's work, Bell derived another kind of hidden variables theory that could make predictions different from those of quantum mechanics. The theories could be tested against one another in an EPR-type experiment. But Bell made two assumptions that quantum mechanics does not; the world is local (no distant influences) and real (preexisting properties). If quantum mechanics were correct, one or both of these assumptions were false, though Bell's theorem could not determine which.

Bell's work on local hidden variables theory stirred little interest until the 1970s, when groups lead by John Clauser, Abner Shimony, and others devised experimental schemes in which the idea could be tested with light's polarizations instead of electrons' momentum. Then in 1982 a young Frenchman named Alain Aspect performed a rigorous test of Bell's theory on which most physicists finally agreed. Quantum mechanics was correct, and either locality or realism was fundamentally wrong.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the foundations of quantum mechanics slowly returned to vogue. The theory had been shown, with high certainty, to be true, though loopholes in experiments still left some small hope for disbelievers. However, even to believers, nagging questions remained: Was the problem with quantum mechanics locality, realism, or both? Could the two be tested?

I tend to side, intuitively since I can't possibly understand the math, with the EPR theory. This position is essential in Buddhism. There is an objective reality outside of all our experience and theories about our experience. As Einstein pointed out, the moon does not cease to exist simply because we are not looking at it.

On the other hand, there is something magical about the notion of quantum entanglement.

You can read the whole Seed article here.

Satire: Once-Great Competitive Eater Reduced To Hustling At 10-Cent Wing Nights

The Onion, of course, has the strange story of a competitive eater's downfall.

Once-Great Competitive Eater Reduced To Hustling At 10-Cent Wing Nights

June 7, 2008 | Issue 44•23

Once-Great Eater

Rierden in his prime (above, far left); and Rierden today (right).

BUFFALO, NY—It's 1:30 a.m. Chris Rierden breathes a beleaguered sigh as he counts a large wad of singles next to the dumpsters behind a local Hooters. Though you wouldn't know it to look at the haggard, sauce-covered 32-year-old, Rierden—who currently ekes out a living hustling unsuspecting locals in impromptu low-stakes chicken-wing-eating contests—was at one time the most promising competitive eater on the professional circuit.

But with one bad decision, that once-bright future went dark forever. Gone is the $85,000 home outside of Akron. Gone is the ESPN2 guest-commentator spot. Gone are the mid-range American cars, the weekend miniature-golf outings, and the decent-looking women.

Chris Rierden threw it all away.

"I never got a legitimate shot at [retired world champion Takeru] Kobayashi, but I know I could have taken him," Rierden says over two dozen hot dogs. "Anybody who's seen my old tapes would tell you that. I was good. Maybe I could've been the best. Of course, there's no use dwelling on it now."

How could such a talented gurgitator have fallen so far from the glory of rapidly forcing 13 pounds of calf brains down his throat on national television? As Rierden will candidly admit, the answer is an all-too-familiar story of hubris and greed.

"I took a dive, plain and simple," Rierden says. "A heavily invested party who shall remain nameless paid me $30,000 to throw up while eating a five-gallon tub of mayonnaise in a competition where I was the clear favorite. I had just come off a strong showing in matzo balls and I thought I was invincible. The [International] Federation [of Competitive Eating] caught wind of it, and I was banned for life."

"I betrayed the gift, and now I can't even look at 19 pounds of deep-fried asparagus without feeling sick," adds Rierden, staring vacantly into a bucket of french fries.

Rierden's circumstances steadily declined after his 2002 ejection from the world of competitive eating. After falling off his training program, the former 230-pound gastronomic athlete ballooned to a doughy 245. In September 2005, after losing his third job in a row and being served with an eviction notice, a destitute Rierden began entering illegal backroom eating contests.

"The money was good, but it was just too dangerous," Rierden says of the thriving black- market sport, where the average life span of unsanctioned eaters is three to five years. "You never know when someone with a lot riding on a match is going to spike a 10-gallon bowl of jambalaya with habaneros. I saw grown men forced to use the same rusty spoons over and over again without washing them. There are zero rules or regulations. Two guys just eat until someone's stomach explodes."

After nearly dying from ingesting 12 pounds of tainted cookie dough during an illegal competition, Rierden left the underground eating rings and started hustling amateurs full-time.

Rierden is the first to admit that the sports bars and other dives he can be found in most nights are a long way from the glitz and glamour of official events sponsored by the IFOCE. These days, a typical evening for the former champ consists of casing 10-cent wing promotions at local watering holes in search of drunken frat boys and other would-be challengers willing to lay down quick bets on eating contests.

"You get friendly with some cocky chump who thinks he can pack it away, and you ham it up," Rierden says. "You nibble at a few wings and say you had a big dinner, or complain about how spicy they are and maybe pop a few Tums for effect. After a couple of friendly challenges, you suggest making it interesting. Then you waste the dupe by pounding 40 or 50 wings in eight minutes and you're on your way to the next dump."

But even in this simple con, things don't always go so smoothly. Rierden now sports a full set of dentures after a gang of bikers he divested of $32 in an Albany honky-tonk dragged him into a back alley and pulled out all of his teeth with pliers.

"Good wings at that place, though," Rierden says.

Although Rierden has begun crawling his way up from rock bottom, those lucky enough to have seen him in action still consider his story one of the greatest tragedies in the sport. Friends who are still involved in competitive eating and stay in contact with him often lament his wasted talent and singular stomach capacity.

"He's still more than good enough to compete, but with this lifetime ban, there's really nowhere for him to go," says Rierden's former trainer and IFOCE contender Rick "The Tummy" Mickelson. "Chris is like Icarus. He flew too close to the sun and then ate his own wings."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Zen Convert - Change Your Mind Day

Change Your
Mind Day

An interesting segment from Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, from back in 2005. Tricycle is again celebrating "Change Your Mind Day," with some good videos at the site.

BOB ABERNETHY, (anchor): Every year in New York's Central Park, the Buddhist magazine TRICYCLE sponsors a demonstration of Buddhist practices called "Change Your Mind Day." That refers not to conversion but to exploring ways to become more mindful, more fully aware, and to meditate. We talked with Jane Smith, an architect, about the kind of Buddhism she practices -- Zen.

JANE SMITH: I grew up in the Roman Catholic tradition and loved it. But then, when I came to New York, I thought, I've got to figure out a way to be able to handle these stresses that I'm taking on. And so I started thinking, what can I do in order to release the tension and yet still be able to embrace the joy of doing what I really love to do, which is the architecture and the creative skills and the challenge of being in an intense workplace and taking on New York? So I really went on a quest.

The Zen practice and the Buddhist tradition [are] based on nature and space and simplicity. It really was life-changing, mind-changing for me. One of the big differences for me between the two traditions is the idea of how we're born. In the Western tradition, there is the idea of original sin. The Eastern tradition comes from the point of view that we're born perfect, and every moment is really complete and perfect.

Now my practice is part of my day-to-day life. I get up very early in the morning, and I sit for a half an hour with my legs crossed.

Jane Smith
Jane Smith

When you do meditation practice, there's a lot of pain. You're sitting there cross-legged, which is not a Western way of sitting. You look at the pain in the knee, and you witness: "That's pain in my knee." It's really amazing that, as you look at it in this kind of nonjudgmental, not clenching around it, freaking out [way], it starts releasing.

And that's the same thing with our thought. Things come up -- the stresses that are coming up through the day. But as something comes up, the practice is to allow it to be there, like the clouds that move overhead. The clouds come and you see them and then they pass away. And so if an anxiety comes up, I look at it, and by looking at it, it really -- it diffuses and moves on. And then I have a moment of -- and maybe it's a small moment -- of just peace and relaxation. But it clears my head. It makes me realize again what's important to me in life: being aware of every sound and everything that's going on around you. And as you do that, you let go of the difference between yourself and the other things out there. You become the sounds on the street. But, again, it doesn't last, because we're in our human nature. And our human nature is to keep pushing ourselves down, being really tough on ourselves. And I'm, you know, boy, I'm big on that one.

How do you not be a bystander in your life but ... be an active participant in your life? What I get from Zen Buddhism is the ability to live this life, this moment, now. To really appreciate everything as it happens in front of me and to be able to have the tools to embrace it. That's it; that's it for me.

You can view a short video of Smith discussing her practice here.

Pat Buchanan on the Colbert Report

When the hell did Pat Buchanan start making so much sense? His position in Iran is exactly right. And I'm not sure he is wrong about WWII.

[Hat tip to Taki's Magazine.]

Negotiating Your Inner Lizard

This is a useful article from The Lohasian on dealing with the more primal part of our brain. This is nothing new for anyone who has taken a basic psychology class and understands the triune brain. [More below.]
--Feature: "Sustainable Soul w/Rebbeca Hecking"--

When I say the word “reptile” to you, what pops into your head? Scenes from Jurassic Park? The boa at the zoo? High School biology? Your brain? No, that last one wasn’t a typo. I had a chance last weekend to listen to a talk on the evolutionary psychology of the human brain. Fascinating stuff. The basic concept is that the human brain today is built around older structures that came into being early in the evolutionary process. Imagine a modern city built up on top of an old one. Some old buildings remain, along with the old layout of streets. New structures squeeze in around the old. Cities like London or Rome come to mind. Another analogy might be to imagine an old fashioned mechanical adding machine. Now…build up a state-of-the-art laptop with the (still functioning) adding machine at the center. Get the picture?

Our human brains carry within them an ancient legacy, the brainstem and cerebellum, what scientists call “the reptilian brain” since it first appeared in our reptilian ancestors. It regulates automatic processes like heartbeat and digestion. It is concerned with survival, sustenance, and sex. That’s it. It’s impulsive, aggressive, and automatic. It gives no thought to future consequences. On top of our “lizard legacy” (as the speaker put it), our emotional center (limbic system), and analytical neocortex developed much later in our evolutionary history. Today, all three interact to enable us to far exceed our reptilian cousins in our capacity for thought, planning and abstract reasoning.

The problem I see is that, when it comes to decisions about global resource use, the lizards are running the show!! Survive. Grow. Multiply. Strike when opportunity presents itself. No fear. No conscience. Am I talking about a crocodile or a multinational corporation? (no insult to crocs intended)

Don’t get me wrong. I have great respect for the place of reptiles in ecosystems, as well as their exotic beauty. I also appreciate the function of our reptilian brain, and how it connects us to our evolutionary history. I’m glad that I don’t have to think about digesting my lunch or pulling my hand back from a hot stove.

Still, something is not right with the humans! It almost seems upside down to me. Our inner “lizard” is making all the decisions, and our “higher primate” spends all its energy carrying them out. In the natural world, a reptile’s impulses are held in check by the limits of its environment and the limits of its mental capacity. The crocodiles at the watering hole aren’t designing highly efficient zebra traps that would decimate the zebra population. They are not capable of doing so. Most zebras escape, a few don’t, and the overall system remains in balance.

But what about us? What about reptilian predatory multinationals? Collectively, we need to dethrone our “inner lizard” and put our higher thinking, abstract reasoning, future planning “higher primate” prefrontal neocortex back in charge. We need to call on the better angels of our nature. We need to change our legal structures to constrain predatory corporations, and shift our ideal from a growth economy to a steady-state sustainable economy. We need systemic controls on resource use. We need to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

On a personal level, living mindfully means being aware of the impulses of our inner lizards, but not being a slave to them. If I am in a dark alley, I will trust my inner lizard to keep me alert and safe. On the other hand, if I am at a shopping center, I most certainly will NOT hand her the credit cards!

Rebecca Hecking ponders her brain’s functions from her home in northwest Pennsylvania. She likes reptiles in general, and considers green tree pythons to be especially beautiful. When she was in third grade, her class had a pet chameleon. Find her at
OK, so this is a little simplistic. But she sort of has a good point. But rather than think of this as our inner reptile, although that isn't too far off, we would do better to think of it as a subpersonality.

If we treat this part of ourself as something that needs to be "dethroned," it's simply going to recede for the moment then seize its next opportunity to hijack the self-system to meet its needs.

But if we treat it respectfully, as a valued part of our psyche, then we can get to know it with curiosity and compassion, learn what it needs to be happy so that it won't hijack the system. We can do this through dialoguing in a journal, creative visualization, active imagination, empty chair, and a whole mess of other techniques.

The reptilian part of us cannot be reasoned with or pummeled into submission. If we want to be more mindful of its influence, we need to befriend it and be aware of its needs so that they can be met without the reptile hijacking the self.

Are You Vitamin D Deficient?

Vitamin D has become one of the most widely studied nutrients of late, implicated in everything from cancer to depression. This Natural News article looks at the vitamin in detail.

John Cannell, MD, founder of the Vitamin D Council is a tireless champion for Vitamin D research. He understands, like a growing number of scientists do, how devastating vitamin D deficiency is to our overall health. His website, is a virtual mega resource for vitamin D research, information on diseases related to deficiencies, the physiology of vitamin D, treatment for deficiencies and much much more.

Current U.S. recommendations for vitamin D are too low for millions of Americans

Dr. Cannell recently attended the Vitamin D Symposium in San Diego, California (April 2008) where top researchers in the exploding field of vitamin D research presented new data that supports a growing consensus that current government recommendations for vitamin D need to be raised, and soon.

Dr. Cannell's not for profit website and newsletter provide practical solutions for how you can make sure you are meeting your vitamin D requirements, instead of depending on foot dragging government agencies to raise the bar on vitamin D requirements. Sooner or later, official requirements will be raised, but in the mean time you or members of your family may be among the millions of people that are deficient in this extraordinarily important nutrient. We are learning that a vitamin D deficiency puts us at risk for a very long list of degenerative diseases.

Vitamin D is a prohormone, supplied in nature via UVB sunlight, at least for those of us that have access to sunlight and dare to expose our skin for around 20 minutes during midday, without sunscreen. Skin pigmentation, aging skin and illness decrease our ability to manufacture and store vitamin D.

Highlights from the Vitamin D Symposium

Dr. Cannell's May 2008 Vitamin D Council Newsletter highlights the latest findings from top Vitamin D researchers including William B Grant, PhD, Bruce W Hollis, PhD, and Robert P Heaney, MD.

Dr. Grant, an ex-NASA scientist has taken on vitamin D research full time. He presented evidence that "15 cancers (colon, esophageal, gallbladder, gastric, pancreatic, rectal, small intestinal, bladder, kidney, prostate, breast, endometrial, ovarian, Hodgkin's lymphoma, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma) are associated with lower UVB light" and said that "257,000 cancer deaths in 2007 in the USA were accounted for by inadequate vitamin D levels".

These numbers illustrate why screening, using the inexpensive vitamin D blood test, the 25(OH)D test is a logical, sensible, proactive way to identify and treat children and adults with a vitamin D deficiency, in order to decrease risks for the development of diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency, including certain cancers and osteoporosis.

The Vitamin D blood test, 25(OH)D, and therapies to correct deficiencies, including adequate exposure to sunlight and/or nutritional supplements are remarkably economical. The blood test is available for $25 at the Life Extension Foundation. That is incredible, considering what the results can tell you about your current health and future risks.

Physicians should order this test for patients and insurance companies should pay for it. It could save them billions of dollars in long term health care costs and save millions of people from many unnecessary degenerative health disorders, including the development of certain cancers.

Professor Neil Binkley, a Vitamin D researcher at the University of Wisconsin presented his important discovery that "the body doesn't start storing cholecalciferol (D3), until levels reach about 50 ng/ml." This means that current "normal" lab values showing serum concentration at 20-56 ng/mL are inappropriately low to optimize health. Along with Binkley, Dr. Hollis believes that "50 ng/ml should be considered the lower limit of adequate 25(OH)D levels".

An important question was posed by Dr. Heaney. "Do different disease states use up vitamin D quickly? The answer is probably yes." This means that people with certain diseases including some cancers may require higher doses of vitamin D than currently recommended.

Based on today's government recommendations, a healthy 50 year old or one with cancer, should get about 200 IU of vitamin D from dietary and supplement sources daily.

Research suggests this recommendations could be hazardous to your health. When you add the standard warnings we get from doctors and the media to avoid "unprotected" exposure to sunlight, well, you see far reaching potential for vitamin D deficiency.

Key recommendations from Dr. Cannell

* Tell your family and friends about the importance of vitamin D

* Tell your doctor about the importance of vitamin D

* Have your family tested for 25(OH)D levels. Ask your doctor to order the test but if he won't it is available at the Life Extension Foundation or from Direct Labs.

* Supplement with D3 cholecalciferol if necessary

Current government recommendations for optimal intake of Vitamin D are too low

At the same time that such prolific vitamin D research is taking place, our Food and Nutrition Board and the Institute of Medicine (FNB/IOM), responsible for setting dietary intake recommendations, appear quagmired in research assessment, unable to move forward in a timely fashion, to raise current vitamin D recommendations to higher, healthier levels, based on a staggering amount of scientific evidence.

In 1997 the FNB/IOM set the tolerable upper limit (UL) , a safe upper intake for vitamin D at 2000 IU, for children and adults. The U.S. recommendations for "Adequate Intake (AI)" of vitamin D remains at 200 IU for infants to 50 year olds, 400 IU for 51-70 year olds and 600 IU for those 71 and older.

The more we learn about health risks associated with vitamin D deficiencies and the reality of a deficiency epidemic, the FNB/IOM recommendations look more and more like "inadequate" recommendations.

According to the Linus Pauling Institute (LPI)- Micronutrient Center at Oregon State University, a valuable site frequented by nutrition students, "the AI values established in 1997 reflect vitamin D intakes likely to maintain serum 25(OH)D levels of at least 15 ng/mL, which many experts now feel is too low".

This current government recommendation perpetuates serum levels of vitamin D in a severe deficiency range for many people in the U.S., including those who don't have access to regular exposure to sunlight or dietary sources of vitamin D.

Regarding toxicity, the LPI Micronutrient Center notes that "Hyperglycemia has been observed following daily doses of greater than 50,000 IU of vitamin D . Research published since 1997 suggests that the UL for adults is likely overly conservative and that vitamin D toxicity is very unlikely in healthy people at intake levels lower than 10,000 IU/day ".

Dr. Cannell warns that if the FDA embraces the European Union model of Codex, which regulates the sale, dosage and personal use of nutritional supplements, Vitamin D supplements could become unavailable.

He says that more likely, the dosage of vitamin D supplements could be limited to the current "Adequate Intake" dosages. If this does happen (and it shouldn't if enough of us demand health freedom legislation from our elected representatives), a person could have to swallow many more pills to get the dose desired to bring their vitamin D to healthy levels.

This would be an inconvenience for sure and would discourage those that won't or can't swallow pills, (ie. children and the elderly) from taking vitamin D supplements. What a tragic scenario.

Something else to consider -- Do low cellular cholesterol levels decrease our ability to synthesize vitamin D naturally?

We need normal levels of cholesterol to manufacture vitamin D from sunlight. Cholesterol is a precursor to vitamin D synthesis in the human body, activated by UVB rays from the sun. What happens to natural vitamin D synthesis when we drop cholesterol to abnormally, even artificially low levels with inappropriate use of statins?

To learn more about the latest from the Vitamin D Symposium, please open the link to Dr. Cannell's May 2008 Vitamin D Council Newsletter. Also Dr. Cannell has graciously made slides of the symposium presentations freely accessible at ((


The Vitamin D Council - May 2008 Newsletter

Hollis BW, Wagner CL, Drezner MK, Binkley NC. Circulating vitamin D3 and 25-hydroxy vitamin D in humans: An important tool to define adequate nutritional vitamin D status. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Mar;103(3-5):631-4.

The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University:

Barack Obama - A&E Biography

A fairly even-handed biography of the Democratic nominee for the White House.
When he called himself "a skinny kid with a funny name" at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his political star was already on the rise. By the time he decimated the competition in 2004 race for the Illinois Senate, he was the bona fide golden child of a Democratic party desperately in need of a winner. In many ways, the story of Barack Obama is a uniquely American tale of the 21st century, where racial lines are blurry and the most interesting chapter is just beginning.

Satire: Bill Clinton Updates Facebook Profile

Andy Borowitz is keeping an eye on Bill.

Bill Clinton Updates Facebook Profile

'It's Complicated,' Says Former Prez

The endgame of Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination took an unexpected turn today as her husband, former President Bill Clinton, updated his status on a popular social networking site.

Visitors to Mr. Clinton's profile page at Facebook noticed that minutes after Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign, President Clinton updated his status from "Married" to "It's Complicated."

The former president also added several items under the category of "looking for" on his profile page.

Previously, Mr. Clinton had indicated that he was on Facebook primarily for "networking," but today he added "friendship," "dating," and "a relationship" to the list.

When asked what significance, if any, Mr. Clinton's profile updates had for his relationship with Mrs. Clinton, campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson offered an evasive response.

"What can I tell you?" he said. "It's complicated."

Elsewhere, in a kick-off to the 2008 general election campaign, John McCain challenged Barack Obama to a "Creepiest Smile" contest.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Bigger, Stronger, Faster - Steroids in America

[Body by Anabolics, Growth Hormone, Insulin, Etc]

I've written before on drugs in sports -- essentially I'm a libertarian in this realm, favoring a complete decriminalization of steroid use and doctor-supervised sanctioning of use by athletes.

A new movie - Bigger, Stronger, Faster - takes a somewhat ambivalent look at the use of steroids by athletes, which is completely understandable given the climate of condemnation in this country. The movie has a 100% rating at Rotten Tomatoes after 29 reviews.
Synopsis: In America, we define ourselves in the superlative: we are the biggest, strongest, fastest country in the world. Is it any wonder that so many of our athletes take performance-enhancing drugs? Director Christopher Bell explores America’s win-at-all-cost philosophy by examining the way his two brothers became members of the steroid subculture in an effort to realize their American dream. Ingeniously beginning the film by harkening back to the mentality of the 1980s, where the heroes were Rambo, Conan, and Hulk Hogan, Bell recounts how these role models led him and his brothers into powerlifting and dreams of becoming all-star wrestlers. Those dreams were soon shattered by the realization that success in those fields required the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Bell uses his personal story as an entree into analyzing the bigger issues that surround these drugs: ethics in sports; the health ramifications, both physical and psychological; as well as the mentality that fuels it all. Bigger, Stronger, Faster* combines crisp editing of hilarious archival footage with priceless family revelations, as well as interviews with congressmen, professional athletes, medical experts, and everyday gym rats. The power of the film is the way Bell stays away from preconceptions and stereotypes and digs deeper to find the truth and concoct a fascinating, humorous, and poignant profile of one of the side effects of being American. --© Sundance Film Festival
Bigger, Stronger, Faster - Reviewed in The Chicago Tribune
A 2002 trip to the Dominican Republic should have left me with a sense of guilt over the squalid conditions in San Pedro de Macoris, Sammy Sosa's hometown.

Instead I was left with skepticism: No way Sosa, whom I had been covering as the Cubs' beat writer, could have plumped to 230 pounds au naturel. Every other native Dominican was built like a marathoner.

Then I asked myself: If going on a "juice" diet was Sosa's only way off this island, could I blame him? A terrific new documentary called "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" asks similar questions. While it's easy for politicians to brand steroids as the devil's potion, the film presents their use as a moral tightrope, perhaps not that different than the use of legal stimulants, Viagra, beta blockers, altitude chambers, cortisone shots, even Lasik eye surgery.

"So it's OK to enhance your performance if you're a pilot, porn star, a musician or a student," director/writer Christopher Bell explains, "but if your job is to play professional baseball, somehow that makes you a cheater."

Bell grew up in the '80s, a self-described "fat, pale kid from Poughkeepsie" who idolized Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bell is crushed to learn that all three are frauds, having injected their way to fame, riches and (for Schwarzenegger) a path to the governor's mansion of California.

But Bell cannot demonize steroid use, in part because of a family secret. Bell's older brother, nicknamed "Mad Dog," began taking steroids while playing football at the University of Cincinnati. His younger sibling, nicknamed "Smelly," pledges to quit after winning a competition with a 705-pound bench-press.

Bell confronts Smelly, labeling him a cheater. But he also sympathizes with him, explaining, "There is a clash in America between doing the right thing and being the best."
Two other views:

Bigger, Stronger, Faster* left me convinced that the steroid scandals will abate as the drugs are reluctantly accepted as inevitable products of a continuing revolution in biotechnology.
~Stephen Holden, New York Times

A foreboding look at our conception of the human being: as a mechanism that can be sculpted, doped, enhanced, and perfected because, well, because we all want to be powerful and attractive.
~ Brett McCracken, Christianity Today

There is a real disconnect here between doping for sports (physiological enhancement) and the rest of our culture. My guess is that people who wouldn't think twice about getting a little "work done," referring to plastic surgery, would be totally opposed to athletes using growth hormone to speed healing of injuries or general recovery, or to athletes using testosterone to build a little more muscle to make themselves more competitive,

I'd bet these same people would have no issue with taking Prozac for depression or giving their kids Ritalin for ADD. I'll bet some of them have tattoos, or pierced ears, or permanent eye-liner. At what point is body (and brain) modification alright, and at what point is it a crime?

There's absolutely no reason for anabolic steroids to be illegal, other than politics. The drugs were legal until the early 1980s. You can still go into pharmacies in many countries and buy steroids over the counter.

With proper supervision, the health risks are minimal. Clearly, those who do not have fully developed hormonal systems shouldn't be using these drugs (that means kids). But proper control, regulations, and availability would take the drugs off the black market and make them much safer (thus also removing a whole line of work for criminals).

The reality of steroid use in America is much different than you might think:
Studies in the United States have shown anabolic steroid users tend to be mostly middle-class heterosexual men with a median age of about 25 who are noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes and use the drugs for cosmetic purposes.[68] Another study found that non-medical use of AAS among college students was at or less than 1%.[69] According to a recent survey, 78.4% of steroid users were noncompetitive bodybuilders and non-athletes while about 13% reported unsafe injection practices such as reusing needles, sharing needles, and sharing multidose vials,[70] though a 2007 study found that sharing of needles was extremely uncommon among individuals using anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes, less than 1%.[71] Anabolic steroid users often are stereotyped as uneducated "muscle heads" by popular media and culture; however, a 1998 study on steroid users showed them to be the most educated drug users out of all users of controlled substances.[72] Another 2007 study found that 74% of non-medical anabolic steroid users had secondary college degrees and more had completed college and less had failed to complete high school than is expected from the general populace.[71] The same study found that individuals using Anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes had a higher employment rate and a higher household income than the general population.[71] Anabolic steroid users also tend to research the drugs they are taking more than any other group of users of controlled substances.
The real problem here is that the drugs are illegal and stigmatized, so even though the users do a great deal of research, they don't tell their primary care physicians about their use:
Moreover, anabolic steroid users tend to be disillusioned by the portrayal of anabolic steroids as deadly in the media and in politics.[73] According to one study, AAS users also distrust their physicians and in the sample 56% had not disclosed their AAS use to their physicians.[74] Another 2007 study had similar findings, showing that while 66% of individuals using anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes were willing to seek medical supervision for their steroid use, 58% lacked trust in their physicians, 92% felt that the medical communities knowledge of non-medical anabolic steroid use was lacking and 99% felt that the public has an exaggerated view of the side effects of anabolic steroid use.[71]
So what is to be done?

Legalize the drugs for prescription use. Allow athletes to use the drugs under a doctor's supervision. Crack down on internet sales that target minors -- in this case under the age of 21.

The only other solution is to completely change our culture so that success, winning, strength and speed, and physical attractiveness are not so highly valued that people are willing to go to illegal means to achieve those things. Good luck with that.

Hillary Clinton Needs "a silent retreat"

Wow, pretty insightful commentary from Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn on The Early Show this morning. I've never seen it articulated so well, but it feels exactly right.

Who is Hillary Clinton, and what does she want?

Hillary Clinton addressing supporters at her Montana and South Dakota primary night event in New York Tuesday (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

The subject was raised with Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn on The Early Show Thursday by co-anchor Harry Smith, and Quinn minced no words, saying, "I've been intrigued by the questions in the last couple of weeks, 'What does Hillary really want?' And I think that the answer is that Hillary, up until now, has wanted what she thinks she should want. And what I think is that Hillary doesn't know what she wants. And she doesn't know who she really is.

"From the very beginning, when she married Bill Clinton, when she moved to Arkansas, she gave up her lucrative career, she changed her name during the campaign, 'I'll stand by my man' -- her personality changed. You remember when she first came into the White House and she had a different hairdo and a different outfit? She looked completely different. And people kept saying, 'Who is she?'

"And, even during the campaign this time -- during the Monica (Lewinsky) thing, when she stood by Bill Clinton, she was the health care maven. She was the strong one and the weak one.

And, during this campaign, she allowed him to, on some levels, sabotage her. She was feisty at some point and even shrill, and then she would cry.

"And then ... she said (after winning the New Hampshire primary), 'I found my voice.' But I don't think that she ever did find her voice.

"And I think that what she needs to do now -- and I know this sounds really strange, but -- if I were Hillary Clinton, I would go off to a retreat somewhere. ... A silent retreat. And I would stay there, I would take a sabbatical and stay there for three months, and not talk, and meditate, and think, and try to figure out who I really was and what I really wanted. I'm serious.

"I think that this is a tortured person who has run and run and run and gone for it and gone for it, and it's power, and it's this and it's that, 'I've got to be there.' There's never a moment where you see her relaxing, where you see her really stopping to smell the roses, stopping to say, 'Who am I and what is it that I want?'

"Maybe what she really needs is a wonderful, loving relationship with somebody instead of just going after power and being this ambitious person that I think she thinks she oughta be."
Wouldn't it be nice if our politicians actually had an identity outside of politics, a sense of who they are away from the power and the public image, and if they could stay grounded in that self-awareness even as they get swallowed up in the perpetual campaign cycles?

Meta-Medicine: New Innovations in Mind-Body Healing Techniques

A very cool article from Natural News, Meta-Medicine: New Innovations in Mind-Body Healing Techniques. This article presents a kind of integral approach to medicine and healing that is sorely needed. I added emphasis in one place below, where meta-medicine is defined.

Did you know that conventional medicine doesn't know the cause of 99% of illnesses? Often we hear that it is this virus or that bacteria. Bird flu is the rage. We are constantly told there could be a pandemic.

Louis Pasteur, the originator of the germ theory, started to question this towards the end of his life. It was too late. Germs were the new enemy. Hygiene definitely improved the lot of millions. When surgeons started wearing gloves, cross infections went down. The improvement in the quality of life that sanitation brought to everyone cannot be overestimated.

It is also acknowledged though that without germs, life would not exist. The criteria laid down for organic food is not just the removal of pesticides but most importantly, the diversity of soil organisms. They are the key determinant of the health of the land.

What is Meta-Medicine

Meta-Medicine is a model which sheds new light on the cause of disease. It is essentially a diagnostic tool and represents a paradigm shift in medicine on a Copernican scale. In the eighties, a German cancer specialist stumbled across the answers. He discovered a system in nature which unites mammals in as much as they share this common biological language.

Meta-Medicine takes into account the biopsychosocial aspects to disease. That is, it looks at the emotional trauma, the physical clinical presentation and the environmental context of the patient. With these factors considered, the patient gains valuable insights which could enable them to overcome the patterns which are holding them back.

Who would Meta-Medicine Benefit?

It will benefit complementary practitioners, Dr's. and patients alike. Chiropractors will understand what causes a herniated disc, homeopaths are more able to focus their emotional based medicines and with Dr's it radically improves differential diagnosis.

The Psyche, Brain and Organ

The Meta-medicine model unites these three aspects as a unified whole. No longer is there a dichotomy between mind and body as seen in psychiatry and medicine. When considering disease, these three have to be taken into account. They work synchronously.

Part of the reason for the dichotomy is that a few hundred years ago when the church held sway, permission was only granted for study of the body on condition that the mind/soul was the sole domain of the church. Desperate to do research, this rule was adhered to. Knowing this, one can be more understanding as to how something so vital could be overlooked.

Some definitions of Psyche:

* In psychiatry – the mind as the centre of thought, emotion and behavior. Greek for soul.

* Mind as divided into conscious, preconscious and unconscious, Sigmund Freud

* The aspect of the spirit that provides thought and direction.

The psyche is the integrator of all functions of behavior and all areas of conflict. One could say that the soul codes experience. In other words, life's experiences define your personality. This in turn determines how you react to certain experiences.

The Brain

This is the main computer of all behavioural functions, conflict areas and organs. Meta-Medicine is a diagnostic tool which uses CT brain scans to inform the consultation. Like the rings of a tree give information on the tree's history, the CT brain scan records the history of significant emotional events. The brain also has direct communication with the organs and under certain circumstances will initiate changes in the organ. In scholastic medicine many diseases have the same symptoms so the Dr. engages in what is called differential diagnosis. Essentially he is a detective which attempts to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. CT brain scans allow for more accurate differential diagnosis coupled with a causal understanding.

So What Does Cause Disease?

For centuries man has suspected a psychic origin for disease. This is now firmly anchored as a scientific fact due to the discovery of Dr. Hamer. One key fact to note is that emotional trauma will only impact the body if it comes as a total surprise to the individual. These events are highly acute, dramatic, isolating and catch us totally unawares. If one breaks the word disease down it speaks for itself –- dis-ease.

For What Purpose Dis-ease?

What do you do when feeling uneasy? You look for the cause and attempt to change the situation thereby bringing security and peace of mind. The Dr. happened to be a Professor of Biology and therefore could not help but look at these processes through the evolution of species. Noticing that nature was extremely conserved, it was noted that all processes have a function whether man understands them or not. An example the oncologist uses to illustrate this:

The deer loses its territory in the rutting season. It is old and lacks the vigour it used to have. Unfortunately for the deer, the loss of territory means the end for him. Mother Nature enacts a special program we call disease. The main artery feeding the heart loses cells making the vessel wider. This is known an angina pectoris. This ensures increased blood flow with the accompanying nutrients and oxygen. The deer has a second fighting chance.

Everything in Nature is goal orientated or meaningful. The intelligence which crafted life doesn't make mistakes. Humans don't like to act in a void so while the understanding has been lacking, we have developed hypothesis. Now with Meta-medicine we have a model which accurately can trace the disease cycle from its inception. In the future, the patient will become the boss and enlist practitioners' help only so as to facilitate them in their evolution as a soul.

Have you never wondered why after spending so much time and money the condition persists? If the conflict remains unresolved the problem stays. A distinction needs to be made between psychological and biological conflict. One can have issues in their life which don't cause disease. The conflicts only manifest in the body if they are highly acute, dramatic, isolating and shocking. We say biological as these conflicts impact our biology.

Meta-medicine coaches help explain why they have pains, what the issues are and aid them to work through these. If certain patterns keep repeating then the growth of the client is stunted and the body reminds them of this.

"The secret of medicine is to distract the patient while nature cures itself." - Voltaire

Weekly Standard - The Kindergarchy

This is an interesting article by Joseph Epstein in the Weekly Standard - The Kindergarchy: Every Child a Dauphin. I don't agree with all of his premises, but I do tend to agree that children are far too pampered, and that they lack clear and necessary boundaries. [More below.]

Here is a lengthy passage:

One of the direct results of the 1960s was that the culture put a new premium on youthfulness; adulthood, as it had hitherto been perceived, was on the way out, beginning with clothes and ending with personal conduct. Everyone, even people with children and other adult responsibilities, wanted to continue to think of himself as still young, often well into his 40s and 50s. One of the consequences of this was that one shied away from the old parental role of authority figure, dealing out rewards and punishments and passing on knowledge, somewhat distant, carefully rationing out intimacy, establishing one's solidity and strength. Suddenly parents wanted their children to think of them as, if not exactly contemporaries, then as friends, pals, fun people. Parents of my own parents' generation may have been more or less kind, generous, humorous, warm, but, however attractive, they never thought of themselves as their children's friends. When your son becomes a man (or your daughter a woman), make him (or her) your brother (or sister), an old Arab proverb has it. But it's probably a serious mistake to make a kid of 9 or 14 your brother or sister.

Childrearing became a highly self-conscious activity, in all of its facets. Husbands were now called in not merely to help out with childrearing but in actual childbirth. They went to Lamaze classes with their wives; there they were, not infrequently videocam in hand, in the delivery room cheerleading and rehearsing breathing exercises with their laboring wives. Pregnant women were advised not to smoke, not to drink, not to do a great many other things that generations of expectant mothers had always done, lest their children pay the price in ill-health, if not actual birth defects.

A child being the most dear of all possessions, instructions--maintenance manuals, really--for his or her early upbringing were everywhere. Pacific mobiles swayed gently over cribs, nursery rooms were designed with the kind of care devoted to the direct descendants of the Sun King--and why not, for every child suddenly became his or her own dauphin or dauphine. In the background the music of Mozart--so good, parents were told, for heightening the intelligence quotient--played on at just the right volume. Impossible to be too careful about these matters, when so much was at stake.

"Children are best seen not heard," was a maxim once in frequent use. "Speak only when spoken to," was another piece of advice regularly issued to children. Now kids are encouraged to come forth, as soon and as frequently as they wish, to demonstrate their brightness, cuteness, creativity. A few years ago, I found it noteworthy (and still memorable) that when on the phone with an editor I was dealing with--he was working at home at the time--he said to his daughter, "Faith, don't disturb Daddy right now. He's working." Most people today would have put one on hold or offered to call back later. Kids, after all, come first.

On visits to the homes of friends with small children, one finds their toys strewn everywhere, their drawings on the refrigerator, television sets turned to their shows. Parents in this context seem less than secondary, little more than indentured servants. Under the Kindergarchy, all arrangements are centered on children: their schooling, their lessons, their predilections, their care and feeding and general high maintenance--children are the name of the game.

No other generations of kids have been so curried and cultivated, so pampered and primed, though primed for what exactly is a bit unclear. Children are given a voice in lots of decisions formerly not up for their consideration. "If it's your child, not you, who gets to choose your weekend brunch spot," writes David Hochman in the magazine Details, "or if he's the one asking how the branzino is prepared, it's probably time to take a hard look at your own behavior."

I'm not a parent and I have never really had any desire to have children, so a lot of this is foreign to me. On the other hand, I have a lot of opinions of what good parenting might look like as a result of having grown up with, at best, mediocre parents. They did the best they could, but both of them came from messed up backgrounds and had lots of "issues," as we now say.

What I see among some of my [former] clients who have kids, however, is a near-total lack of boundaries. Many of these kids eat whatever they want, and they dictate the meal choices. That never happened in my house, and any attempt to do so would have resulted in missing that meal while I sat in my room thinking about what I had done.

There's lots of love and every desire to see their kids succeed, but there is also a near complete unwillingness to allow them to learn through failing. They are sheltered from doing anything that might damage their self-esteem. That might sound good on paper, but if they don't learn how to weather mistakes and deal with failure, the "real world" is going to be a damn harsh awakening, for which they will be ill-prepared.

I'm a huge fan of parents spending time with their kids, especially fathers (since I never had that), and I like that they are so concerned about their kids' success in life. But I also think kids need to be able to make some decisions on their own (including bad decisions that they can learn from), and to have clear (and clearly enforced) boundaries.

What I am seeing, however, is a new generation that will make the narcissism of the Boomers seem like child's play.