If you’ve been diagnosed with “low hormones” or are experiencing symptoms of low hormones, what does that mean and how does that work?
In this video, naturopathic physician Bryan Walsh presents a basic overview of how some of the key controller hormones work. Here, he explains the fundamentals of the controller hormone system, and covers some of the most common causes of low hormone production.
Understanding hormonal pathways
Millions of men and women aren’t being properly treated nor managed for symptoms of hormonal imbalances. Knowing more about how hormone systems work can help you actively manage your health situation, and be a more informed consumer in discussions with your health care providers.
There is a common pathway for many of the “master controller” hormones, such as sex hormones (e.g. estrogen, testosterone, progesterone); thyroid hormone; and the adrenal stress hormone cortisol. Here’s how the pathway works.
- The pathway starts in the brain with neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, or acetylcholine.
- These chemicals stimulate a small gland in the brain known as the hypothalamus, which then stimulates another gland, the pituitary.
- The pituitary then directs a particular gland, such as the thyroid or testes. That gland will then release its hormone(s) as directed, usually bound to a transport protein that helps to carry the hormone to where it’s supposed to go.
- If the body doesn’t need all of this hormone, the excess can go to the liver, which along with the gallbladder’s bile, helps to excrete the excess through the large intestine for eventual disposal.
- The body can also convert hormones into other things — either a slightly revised yet related molecule, or a new type of molecule with quite different properties (for instance, testosterone can eventually convert to estrogen).
- Once converted, hormones then bind to a cellular receptor site. If it can do this effectively, it creates a cascade of events within the cell, known as a proteomic response. If this step doesn’t happen, there will be low hormone symptoms. In other words, even though there might be a lot of hormone circulating, and every other master controller gland is doing its job, if the proteomic response doesn’t happen properly, you’ll still end up with a low hormone response.
What happens when the process breaks down?
Defects can occur at any stage of this process.
- Not enough neurotransmitters? You can’t stimulate the hypothalamus.
- Hypothalamic or pituitary suppression can occur. The stress hormone cortisol, for instance, can suppress pituitary function. In fact, stress and inflammation are two of the most common causes for low hormone levels.
- The gland itself (e.g. the thyroid or testes) may be unable to produce hormone(s) required. Often, though, we assume that the gland itself is the problem when in fact it may be higher up the chain.
- Too much or too little binding protein can also cause problems. This is also very common.
- The gastrointestinal detoxification system (liver, gall bladder, intestine) can be dysfunctional. This means hormones aren’t properly detoxified and excreted.
- The conversion process can be faulty.
- If the hormone doesn’t bind properly to the cellular receptor site (perhaps because the receptor is not working adequately) or can’t do its job once it gets into the cell, this can inhibit the hormone even though it may have reached its destination.
Thus, low hormone symptoms can have multiple causes. And many things can go wrong in this complex chain. If you’re experiencing symptoms of hormonal dysfunction, first things first.
Make sure you’re following a well-designed exercise program (incorporating at least 5 hours of physical activity per week), as well as a really good nutrition plan (The Precision Nutrition System anyone?). Then, if the symptoms persist, look at the “big picture” and consider all the possibilities discussed above when seeking health care.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
So it's no surprise to me that we ate meat early in our development, and in fact, that may have contributed to our evolution of larger brains according to some researchers (here and here as starters).
This comes via NPR's Talk of the Nation, Science Friday with Ira Flatow.
Zeresenay Alemseged, director and curator, Anthropology, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, Calif.
David DeGusta, former professor of anthropology, Stanford University, founder, Paleoanthropology Institute, Oakland, Calif.August 13, 2010
A new study in the journal Nature suggests that the butchering of animals with tools by hominids occurred nearly a million years earlier than thought. Study author Zeresenay Alemseged and anthropologist David DeGusta discuss the finding and what it might mean for human evolution.
IRA FLATOW, host:
This is SCIENCE FRIDAY from NPR. I'm Ira Flatow. Researchers reporting in the journal Nature this week say a pair of fossil bones found in Ethiopia could revise what we know about human evolution.
According to the researchers, the bones have the tell-tale marks of being cut with a tool. In other words, they were being butchered. And based on the age of the fossils, the researchers think the meat-eating occurred nearly a million years earlier than we previously thought that meat-eating actually did occur.
Other scientists are not so sure. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, to paraphrase Carl Sagan, and they are not convinced that this evidence matches the claim.
That's what we'll be talking about this hour. Our number, 1-800-989-8255. You can tweet us @scifri, @-S-C-I-F-R-I. And you can join the discussion at sciencefriday.com and also in Facebook.
Let me introduce my guests. Well, first up is Dr. David DeGusta. He is a former professor of anthropology at Stanford University. He is founder of the Paleoanthropology Institute in Oakland, California. Thanks for joining us today.
Dr. DAVID DeGUSTA (Founder, Paleoanthropology Institute): My pleasure, Ira.
FLATOW: Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged is director and curator of anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences, and he joins us from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Thanks for being with us today.
Dr. ZERESENAY ALEMSEGED (California Academy of Sciences): Thanks for having me, Ira.
FLATOW: You're welcome. Dr. Alemseged, you are the person who has made these claims about the bones. It sounds exciting. Tell us what you've actually found.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Well, the claim is made by myself and by the Dikika Research Project, which is a (unintelligible) research project being conducted in Ethiopia.
What we found is the evidence for the earliest - the find, which consists of the evidence for stone-tool-inflicted cut marks dating back to 3.4 million years ago, and this pushes the earliest evidence for meat-eating and of stone tool use by one million years back.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: And the implication being that the species Australopithecus afarensis probably used tools to consume meat.
FLATOW: And the evidence are bones, you say, with evidence of cut marks from tools on them. Which kind of bones are you talking about?
Dr. ALEMSEGED: The bones are a rib bone from a large mammal, probably a big cattle-like animal, and then a small (unintelligible) femur fragment, which is probably from an antelope. And these two bones preserve evidence for cut marks, for percussion marks, which a pounding mark when you use a hammer stone to extract the bone marrow and then probably sharp-edged tools to extract meat or the flesh of the bones.
FLATOW: So pushing this age back of the first meat eater would put it about the same time as the famous Lucy skeleton?
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Yes. This takes us back to the era of Australopithecus afarensis, famously represented by the fossil Lucy, as well as the fossil Selam, which also was discovered only 200 meters away from where we found this bone.
FLATOW: Dr. DeGusta, you're not convinced yet. Why is that?
Dr. DeGUSTA: Well, first, I think before we get into the specifics, I think we should commend Dr. Alemseged and his team for the fieldwork they do at Dikika. By all accounts it's an extremely difficult place to work. So I think we all need to respect, you know, the blood, sweat and tears that they put in to recover the fossils from there, even though I strongly disagree with them, as do others, about the interpretation of these two fossil fragments.
FLATOW: What is the disagreement here?
Dr. DeGUSTA: Well, the key question is who or what made the marks, because we know that there's a variety of natural agencies, including animals, crocodiles, trampling, contact with other rocks, there's a lot of natural agencies that can make marks on the bone.
So from what has been published, I and others think it's much more likely that these marks are the result of the known ability of these natural agencies to damage bone rather than the previously unknown tool-using abilities of Australopithecus.
And I think that's certainly sort of the most parsimonious position here, because it can be difficult to determine unambiguously whether a single mark is due to an animal's tooth or to a stone tool, and they really only have two fossil fragments.
He said bones, but these are just fragments. One was about four inches by one inch, and so you can think of, if you imagine an animal the size of a cow, and you've got one fragment that's, you know, a couple inches long, that's not very much to go on to interpret how that animal was butchered or if it was butchered.
FLATOW: Dr. Alemseged, how do you answer that criticism?
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Well, I understand fully the skepticism, and actually, it reminds me of the type of skepticism that I had a year and a half ago when we made the discovery at Dikika.
But then after going through the details and then after the scanning electron microscope analysis, I was convinced because the type of agents that Dr. DeGusta mentioned are not represented in these fossils.
For example, if this agent were crocodiles, we would have found the typical fang, such as the bisected tips, the puncture marks and the furroughs.
And also, when you look into the scanning microscope images, you don't see the type of density and frequency of micro-striations, which are the very fine lines that you'd see in stone tool-inflicted cut marks.
Dr. DeGUSTA: Well, actually, crocodiles do produce those micro-striations, and...
FLATOW: Dr. DeGusta, let him finish, please.
Dr. DeGUSTA: Sure.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: So the features that we have on these bones, on these marks, are clearly indicative of stone tool-inflicted cut marks. So we have eliminated all the other agents, including the trampling, which would have included lines that would have been perpendicular to the main axis of the cut mark.
So without having eliminated this, obviously, we wouldn't have claimed that these bones were inflicted these cut marks were inflicted by stone tools.
Dr. DeGUSTA: Right, well, there's a specific point here and then a more general one. The specific one is actually (technical difficulties) on the NPR SCIENCE FRIDAY website (technical difficulties) comparison between the marks on these fragments and crocodile damage that was documented previously by Dr. Jackson Njau. And I think it's a pretty good match, but people should look for themselves.
And regardless, Dr. Alemseged and his colleague, they don't actually discuss the possibility of crocodile damage at all in their text. So to me that's a major oversight.
It also takes us to a more general question this find raises, because as Zeresenay explained, based on these two fragments, they're claiming that the early human species, Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy's species, had developed butchery using stones.
Okay, well, literally right next to their site, just a few miles away, is the famous site of Hadar, where Lucy was found, along with hundreds of other afarensis fossils and literally tens of thousands of animal fossils, same age as Dikika, same kind of early human, same place.
And yet in 40 years of research at Hadar, they've not reported a single butchered specimen, even though they have thousands more animal bones at Hadar than at Dikika.
And the same is true at all the other afarensis sites because afarensis is actually a well-known species at multiple sites, and it's not found with butchered fauna anywhere else. It kind of makes you wonder, don't it?
FLATOW: Dr. Alemseged?
Dr. ALEMSEGED: All right, let me answer. First of all, I agree with Dr. DeGusta that there was no cut marks found at the (unintelligible) Hadar site, even though there are thousands and thousands of bones.
But the discovery that we made, in a way we owe it to the new techniques that we employed at Dikika. In 2009, we started what is called 100 percent collection strategy, whereby at selected localities we collect all the bones that we have at that site.
Dr. DeGUSTA: (Unintelligible)
FLATOW: Dr. DeGusta, let him finish.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Let me finish. As you know, the standard way of doing paleontology involves collecting fossils from the skull, from the mandible, from the teeth, and then the extremities of the long bones. Why? Because they are taxonomically valid. They are easy to identify as an animal.
We don't collect, normally, the ribs and the shafts, which we did, and if you are to expect cut marks, where do you find them? You don't find them in the head. You find them on the shaft and on the ribs, where you would expect animals to butcher, to eat or to extract meat.
So that's the point. However, looking for 40 years does not guarantee finding it. The difference between searching and discovering is that. We found it. We discovered it (unintelligible) searching.
Dr. DeGUSTA: The point (unintelligible)...
Dr. ALEMSEGED: So you can search for 40 years. It doesn't guarantee that you find them, and you find them when you find them. So that's a big I don't think that's a good argument. I think we owe it to the new technique of collecting our fossils.
FLATOW: What about, Dr. DeGusta, the new technique that he's talking about?
Dr. DeGUSTA: Well, first of all, it's not new. The Middle Awash Project, which is also right next to Dikika, has been employing 100 percent collection of selected localities since 1990, and at other places where bone modification is suspected, or you're interested in it, there's also been 100 percent collection, previously.
And in fact, as I read the Nature paper, 100 percent collection was not actually employed at the particular locality of Dikika 55 that yielded these two cut-marked fragments, because they say in the paper that the only other two bones from that locality that were collected was two pieces of giraffe.
So one of the problems that I and other have with this paper is from the specific locality where these two fragments are from, we only have two other fossils that we can compare them with. So we don't know if the other fossils from Dikika 55 are do we see carnivore chewing? Do we see crocodile damage? Do we see trampling on those other pieces? That may be very informative.
Now, it's possible that I may have misread the Nature paper, but as I read it, they actually only collected four fossils from Dikika 55...
FLATOW: Dr. Alemseged, 30 seconds to rebut here.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Yes?
FLATOW: Go ahead, I gave you 30 seconds to answer that, Dr. Alemseged.
Dr. ALEMSEGED: Yeah, we collected all the fossils that we had at the selected localities that we identified for 100 percent collection, and again, he mentioned that the 100 percent collection was - they were collecting for 30 or 40 years. That (unintelligible) argument. Searching is different from discovering.
FLATOW: All right, that's about all the time we have for now. I want to thank Dr. Zeresenay Alemseged and Dr. David DeGusta, debating this find. If you ever thought that scientists agree with each other all the time, here's a good answer to that. Science is an ongoing problem and a solution.
Stay with us. We'll be right back after this break. Don't go away.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.
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by H.H. the Dalai Lama
translated, edited and annotated by
B. Alan Wallace
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week
We need to understand the essential nature of the broad diversity of phenomena. For example, if we are obliged to be involved frequently with a man who exhibits a personality that is true only on the surface, as well as another basic personality, it is important for us to know both of them. To engage in a relationship with this person that does not go awry, we must know both aspects of his personality. To know only the facade that he presents is insufficient; we need to know his basic disposition and abilities. Then we can know what to expect from him; and he will not deceive us.
Likewise, the manifold events in the world are not non-existent; they do exist. They are able to help and hurt us--no further criterion for existence is necessary. If we do not understand their fundamental mode of existence, we are liable to be deceived, just as in the case of being involved with a person whose basic personality we do not know.
--from Transcendent Wisdom by H.H. the Dalai Lama, translated, edited and annotated by B. Alan Wallace, published by Snow Lion Publications
Transcendent Wisdom • 5O% off • for this week only
(Good through August 27th).
Tags: Buddhism, Transcendent Wisdom, H.H. the Dalai Lama, B. Alan Wallace, Snow Lion Publications, dharma quote, phenomena, essential nature
Matthew Taylor (Chief Executive of RSA) explores the meaning of 21st century enlightenment, how the idea might help us meet the challenges we face today, and the role that can be played by organisations such as the RSA.
Friday, August 20, 2010
A new generation of psychologists and therapists focus on the relationship between nature and mental health
By Ferris Jabr | Posted August 12, 2010
Standing alone atop a modest mountain in rural Maine, Eric Adams looked out into the darkness all around him. Between the silhouettes of boulders and trees, slivers of yellow light wandered and winked — the eyes of wild animals. Fears began to crowd his mind, but he did not push them away. This was part of his therapy.
To help confront a marriage in crisis, Adams (a pseudonym) sought counseling. But the 34-year-old lawyer from Syracuse, New York, didn’t opt for the psychiatrist’s couch. Instead, he chose the mountain. Adams turned to an emerging practice called ecotherapy, which applies the principles of ecopsychology — the study of how the natural world influences mental health.
“I don’t have an office — all my meetings are outside regardless of the weather,” said Dennis Grannis-Phoenix, an ecotherapist in Bangor, Maine who began counseling Adams in 2004. Hiking, camping, kayaking — each therapeutic session centered on an outdoor activity. Grannis-Phoenix asked Adams to climb the mountain alone as an exercise in learning to face his fears and anxieties. Instead of rationalizing his fears, Grannis-Phoenix wanted Adams to embrace them — something both therapist and patient feel is easier to learn in nature than in an office.
“Nature forces you to confront your immediate circumstances,” said Adams. “Ecotherapy speaks to you not just through your analytical and verbal capabilities — your body interacts with nature.” In a way, Adams said, interacting with nature is a kind of therapy for both body and mind.
He isn’t alone in thinking so. In the early 1990s, when historian Theodore Roszak criticized mainstream psychology for failing to consider the relationship between mental health and natural environments, a movement called ecopsychology emerged to address exactly that. Loyal to Roszack at first, the movement developed ideas that budded in the 1960s and framed itself as a critique of Western psychology’s focus on the experiment — but things are beginning to change. Some researchers are mounting a new campaign to bring the scientific method to ecopsychology and its applied practice, ecotherapy. These researchers have already founded the field’s first peer-reviewed journal, Ecopsychology, and they are about to publish a book outlining their mission. The book, published by MIT Press, advocates serious study of how green spaces color psychological well-being.
“We are hoping to revitalize the field of ecopsychology,” said Jolina Ruckert, a PhD candidate in developmental psychology at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the forthcoming book. “We want to bring in the more rigorous approach of the modern social sciences.”
Science and Skepticism
In the past few years, some ecopsychologists have made significant strides in adding scientific rigor to their field. What their research suggests so far is that even subtle interactions with nature provide a range of cognitive benefits, including elevated mood, enhanced memory, and decreased stress. Staring out a window at pretty scenery can significantly lower one’s heart rate, for example, and some studies even indicate that hospital windows with views of nature can facilitate healing. What’s more, nature provides measurably greater benefits than both manmade environments and simulations of nature. Research demonstrates that walking through the city can tax our attention, whereas a park restores our concentration and can even improve our performance on tests of memory.
These findings come from controlled studies that follow the tenets of mainstream psychology. Despite the new enthusiasm for serious empirical work, many researchers in mainstream psychology remain cautious about drawing any conclusions that ecopsychological studies cannot properly support. “My impression as an outsider is that ecopsychology is a promising but preliminary field,” said Scott O. Lilienfeld, a psychologist at Emory University. “I wouldn’t say it’s conclusive, but there are certainly many suggestions that nature may be helpful for short-term mental health. There’s no question it can have positive effects on mood. I think claims that nature may be helpful are reasonable, but claims that our technological society or distance from nature are massively detrimental to mental health go beyond the current data.”
The fact is that empirical work is a new trend in ecopsychology, which began as a field that wasn’t interested in the experiment so much as the experience — an individual’s personal experience with a natural environment.
“In the beginning, we didn’t need to measure anything,” said Lisa Lynch, an ecopsychology pioneer who now coordinates a masters program in the field at Antioch University in Seattle, Washington. The University of Wisconsin, Oberlin College, and Lewis & Clark College also offer graduate programs in ecopsychology.
Lynch’s graduate work at Antioch is emblematic of ecopsychology’s subjective origins. Like many of her emerging colleagues, Lynch drew inspiration from Roszak’s 1992 The Voice of the Earth to examine how natural spaces — as distinct from urban or manmade environments — affect mental health. But her PhD thesis included no scientific research.
Instead, Lynch designed a creative thesis on the ecology and natural history of a river in Oregon where she grew up — a river in which her 11-year-old sister drowned.
“The ecopsychological element for me was to take my own story of loss and grief and look at its relationship to all these other stories — the salmon, the natives that lived on the river,” Lynch said. “It was 1994 and it this was one of the earliest ecotherapy projects.” She wrote a novel; she choreographed a ceremonial dance; she told her stories. But there were no controlled experiments — just experiences and anecdotes.
“My experiences are not empirical science, but for me they are extremely valid,” Lynch said. A new generation of ecopsychologists disagrees. Experience, they argue, is not enough.
“Ecopsychology just didn’t have the rigor needed to really understand the relationship between the natural world and mental health,” said the University of Washington’s Ruckert. She belongs to a new generation of ecopsychologists who are trying to establish that rigor by growing a body of empirical work.
Parks and Relaxation
According to Thomas Doherty, a clinical psychologist in Portland, Oregon and the editor of Ecopsychology, research by these second generation ecopsychologists evidences the measurable benefits of nature for both body and mind. In green spaces, for example, people’s heart rates decrease, their muscles relax, and they become calmer. It’s the difference you feel when you leave behind a busy city street for a peaceful park.
A recent study by Ruckert’s advisor Peter Kahn confirmed these findings. First, Kahn stressed out his participants by giving them a series of math tests. Then he placed some people in front of a window overlooking a grassy lawn with trees, others in front of a large plasma television screen displaying the lawn in real time, and still others in front of a blank wall. As expected, those in front of the window experienced the quickest drop in stress levels, as measured by their decreasing heart rate. Participants also spent far more time looking out the window and at the plasma screen than at the blank wall. But the researchers found an unexpected result.
“Surprisingly, the blank wall and the plasma screen were no different in terms of stress reduction,” said Ruckert. Their study indicates that gazing at an authentic natural space reduces stress, whereas a digital replica of nature soothes only as well as a boring blank wall.
Kahn, whose study appeared in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, isn’t sure why the plasma screen failed to relieve stress any better than a blank wall — but he suspects it’s because people recognize even a realistic display of nature as a substitute for the real thing.
Emory’s Lilienfeld thinks Kahn’s study is a good example of how to design empirical ecopsychological studies, but says he won’t be convinced until future studies confirm the findings. “There’s a lot of interesting and provocative work, but studies need to have proper controls and some of them are starting to, I think,” Lilienfeld said. “The plasma screen study is a good example, but it’s still only one study. I think it’s a good design, but I want to see the results replicated. I want to see there is that isn’t just a general effect of relaxation, but really is specific to nature.”
Focus Among the Flowers
In addition to helping us relax, authentic interactions with nature help maintain concentration, according to attention restoration theory. “Our energy to focus gets fatigued,” Doherty explained. “Natural spaces restore our ability to pay attention.”
In a 2008 study at the University of Michigan, Marc Berman asked some participants to memorize digits and recite them in reverse order. Then he had one group of participants walk through an arboretum, while others traveled crowded city streets. Afterwards, the subjects completed the digit task again. Those who’d strolled through the arboretum performed with higher attention and memory than those who had walked in the city. The arboretum-walkers recited an average of 1.5 digits more on their second test than on their first, compared with an average of 0.5 digits improvement for participants who had been exposed to the urban environment.
“Our study was one of the first to make it into a mainstream psychology journal,” said Berman, whose study was published in Psychological Science. “We had a lot of experimental control.” For example, Berman made sure his participants followed consistent paths through the arboretum and streets by monitoring their progress with GPS-enabled wristwatches. And he used standardized surveys to assess people’s mood before and after their walks.
“It was one of the first times that we grounded the human relationship with nature in empirical research,” said Ruckert of Berman’s study. “As ecopsychology increasingly incorporates a more systematic approach, I see it emerging more in the dialogue of mainstream psychology.”
Even Lisa Lynch — the ecopsychology pioneer who believes in the experience over the experiment — is excited by her field’s new empirical directions. “Sometimes it was a little like Peter Kahn and I were fighting with light sabers,” Lynch said. “But I think Kahn and his students are doing some excellent work looking at how can we validate these experiences through science. I think that’s an important move for the field.
Ecopsychology had no peer-reviewed journal of its own until April 2009, when Mary Anne Liebert, Inc. published the first issue of Ecopsychology. Additionally, Ruckert, Peter Kahn and Patricia Habash are the co-editors of an upcoming book with MIT Press entitled Ecopsychology: Science, Totems and the Technological Species, in which around a dozen psychologists, anthropologists and biologists discuss their work and the importance of applying rigorous scientific methods to ecopsychology.
But some ecopsychologists and ecotherapists aren’t so enthusiastic about the new empirical work. “For me the science is not a critical piece,” said Dennis Grannis-Phoenix, the Maine ecotherapist who asked Eric Adams to hike a mountain alone at night. “I’ve seen the changes Eric and my patients go through and they are real.”
Adams, on the other hand — who is now divorced, but lives in Bolivia to be near his children — welcomes science. “People who gravitate towards ecopsychology don’t tend to have that kind of a background,” Adams said. “But it’s not like the scientific perspective and the ecotherapeutic perspective are at odds with each other.”
For Adams, divorce was the right decision — one he reached through ecotherapy. “Rather than conform to my environment, I learned to change my conditions,” Adams said. “Because nature is so much a part of who I am, something about interacting with it helps me to make these big life choices.”
Reverend Danny Fisher - the Master Buddhist Blogger - posted on a recent issue in the Zen community around sexual misconduct of a teacher. The Zen Studies Society took the issue seriously (unlike other organizations I have blogged about here in the past) and consulted with the FaithTrust Institute, a multifaith organization that addresses ethical violations by spiritual leaders.
Clearly, the Zen Society has different ethical standards around Zendo rules and conduct, not to mention drugs, alcohol, and firearms, that would not - as written - apply to the integral community in the same way. Still what they have written is a very useful foundation for us to consider in forming an integral ethics.
As an aside, of sorts, in reference to the diagram above, in his Introduction to Volume 7 of the Collected Works, Ken Wilber said:
This model sheds considerable light on the fact that, for example, some individuals--including spiritual teachers (and Presidents)--may be highly evolved in certain capacities (such as meditative awareness), and yet demonstrate poor (or even pathological) development in other streams, such as the interpersonal or psychosexual.Hmmm . . . . One wonders why he can write about it so clearly and yet be blind to it in his own organization?
What follows are the new ethical guidelines the Zen Society have adopted - and I think this is a good foundational model for an integral ethics for spiritual teachers.
Finally, here is the FAQ from the FaithTrust Institute on sexual misconduct by clergy/spiritual teachers:
The Zen Studies Society Ethical Guidelines
updated June 2010
The Buddhist Precepts are a fundamental part of Zen Buddhist practice. They help create a safe and supportive environment for all. It is each person's responsibility to follow and honor the tradition. The precepts are:
- Honor life, don’t kill
- Respect others' property
- Refrain from sexual misconduct
- Honor honesty and truth
- Refrain from drug and alcohol intoxication
- Remember that silence is precious
- Do not judge others
- Be tolerant and cooperative
- Be peaceful and calm
- Esteem the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
The Zen Studies Society is a community based on trust and respect. Sangha members are expected to interact with one another in a manner that reflects this trust and respect and are expected to behave in an ethical manner flowing from the Precepts. At Dai Bosatsu, no hunting or fishing is allowed. In addition, no driving of any motor vehicle or water craft is allowed while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug. The following behaviors are not permissible for any teacher, guest lecturer, monastic, Sangha member, program attendee or visitor at either Dai Bosatsu Zendo or New York Zendo:
- Failure to conform to zendo or monastery rules.
- Any willful removal or damaging of property, or theft of funds.
- Withholding or falsely reporting any income generated by the Zen Studies Society.
- Threatening, abusive or obscene behavior.
- Disrespectful or preferential treatment towards anyone on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age, physical disability, income or national origin.
- Willfully causing injury, whether physical or psychological, to anyone.
- Any type of illegal drug use, possession or sale.
- Consumption of alcohol unless served at an officially sponsored event.
- Possession of any firearms or other weapons.
- Misrepresenting personal information requested for any program sponsored by the Zen Studies Society.
- Engaging in any type of unlawful activity.
- Sexual advances or liaisons between teachers or guest lecturers or monastics and Sangha members, program attendees or visitors.
- Sexual harassment, defined as any single act or multiple persistent acts of physical or verbal conduct that is/are sexual in nature and (1) sufficiently severe or intense to be abusive to a reasonable person in the context; or (2) unwelcome or offensive behavior in the view of the receiver of such attentions.
1. If any Sangha member, participant or guest has concerns about how he or she is being treated by another or has concerns about someone’s ethical conduct within the community, he or she may choose to have a direct conversation with that person to address the concerns, provide feedback and reach an agreement about needed changes.
2. However, if the concerned Sangha member, participant or guest does not feel safe to speak directly with the source of concern, feels the complaint is sufficiently egregious, or if he or she has spoken with that person and does not believe the concerns have been addressed, he or she is encouraged to actively pursue the following process: The Zen Studies Society's board will designate an ethics committee consisting of three persons to hear, oversee and resolve issues of interpersonal behavior or ethics. The names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all the committee members will be posted in the main office of each property associated with the Zen Studies Society. Anyone having concerns will be directed to contact someone on this committee.
3. A complainant may choose one of the following ways to submit a formal complaint. A written complaint can be submitted by the complainant to the committee or developed with the assistance of the committee. Or a formal complaint can be made directly with the accused during a dialogue arranged and attended by at least two members of the committee, one of whom will take notes. In the case of a written complaint, after a review by the full committee, it will be shared with the accused so that he or she can make a written response to the committee. After the written response is reviewed, the committee will share it with the complainant and ask for any additional comment.
4. The committee is authorized to review and investigate the complaint. The committee will retain all notes and correspondence associated with a given complaint for at least ten years.
5. If the complaint is judged by the committee not to meet the level of plausible illegal activity or egregious conduct, the committee will, at the request of the complainant, arrange a facilitated session with the concerned party for the purpose of achieving understanding.
6. If, after consideration, a majority of the committee agrees that a reasonable person would likely judge the conduct under investigation as illegal activity or egregious, it will be brought to the attention of the full Zen Studies Society's board for prompt consideration and response. If a member or ex officio member of the board is accused in the complaint then that member's voting rights associated with Board membership will be suspended during the period the complaint is investigated and he or she will be excluded from attending any meeting related to the complaint.
7. Disciplinary action by the Board of Directors may include expulsion, discharge, suspension, probation and/or exclusion from future practice and events associated with the Zen Studies Society. Any egregious activity that is also thought to be illegal will be turned over to the police for investigation.
8. This document will be posted in each main office of the Zen Studies Society and made easily accessible here on the Zen Studies Society web site.
Abuse by Clergy FAQs
What is sexual abuse within the ministerial relationship?
Why is it wrong?
Is sexual contact between a religious leader and me ever okay?
How do some religious leaders justify their sexual abuse?
How do I know if my boundaries have been crossed?
What should I do if I am sexually attracted to my religious leader?
What should I do if I believe I am a victim of sexual abuse by a religious leader?
How can I help my church or synagogue prepare for the possibility of sexual abuse by clergy?
What is sexual abuse within the ministerial relationship?
Sexual abuse happens when someone in a ministerial role (clergy, religious or lay) engages in sexual contact or sexualized behavior with a congregant, employee, student or counseling client in the ministerial relationship.
Sexual abuse can include physical contact from the person in the ministerial role, such as:
- Sexual touch and "accidental" touch of sexual areas of the body
- Tickling and playful aggression that seem uncomfortable to you
- A prolonged hug when a brief hug is customary behavior
- Kissing on the lips when a kiss on the cheek would be appropriate
- Pressing up against your body when hugging
- An inappropriate gift from your religious leader (such as lingerie)
- Sexual intercourse with your religious leader
Sexual abuse can also include verbal behavior initiated by a person in a ministerial role when such behavior sexualizes a relationship. Examples include:
- Innuendo or sexual talk
- Suggestive comments
- Tales of his or her sexual exploits or experiences
- Questions about the intimate details of your relationships
- Looking for sympathy about his or her partner's sexual inadequacies
Sexual contact or sexualized behavior within the ministerial relationship is a violation of professional ethics. There is a difference in power between a person in a ministerial role and a member of his or her congregation or a counselee. Because of this difference in power, you cannot give meaningful consent to the sexual relationship.
Individuals usually seek counseling or support from their religious leader at times of stress or crisis. During these times, you are emotionally vulnerable and can be taken advantage of by a religious leader.
Is sexual contact between a religious leader and me ever okay?
Meaningful consent can occur when two people are relatively equal in power and when fear, coercion or manipulation is completely absent from their relationship. Clergy who are seeking a romantic relationship can do so outside their own congregations. If a religious leader becomes interested in dating or romance with a member of his or her congregation (though this is complicated and not advisable), the clergyperson must remove him/herself from a ministerial role in that person's life before ethically pursuing a relationship of this nature.
Questions that need to be asked to evaluate if it is possible to pursue this type of romantic relationship include:
- Was the ministerial relationship minimal in nature (no counseling involved)?
- Is the religious leader willing to remove him or herself from the ministerial relationship?
- Is the religious leader willing to be open about the relationship with the congregation?
How do some religious leaders justify their sexual abuse?
Religious leaders are reported to have justified their boundary-crossing behavior in these ways:
- "But he said that love can never be wrong; that God had brought us together."
- "He said we should sin boldly so that grace might abound."
- "She said that ministry was mutual and our relationship was mutual. So she shared her problems with me and the sex followed from that."
- "I was learning about God for the first time. He took me seriously. I went along with the sex so that I could continue to learn from him."
How do I know if my boundaries have been crossed?
Your boundaries have been crossed if:
- You feel uncomfortable and confused with the interaction even if you are initially flattered.
- You are receiving unusual time and attention from the religious leader.
- You are receiving personal gifts from the religious leader.
- When you meet with the religious leader for counseling, you end up talking more about his or her problems than about yours.
- The religious leader is inviting you out for intimate, social occasions.
- The religious leader touches you in a way that you find confusing, uncomfortable or upsetting.
- The religious leader gives you theological rationale for questionable conduct, e.g. "God has brought us together."
What should I do if I am sexually attracted to my religious leader?
There is nothing wrong with you or your feelings. Your religious leader may be a very attractive, sensitive, caring person. Should you choose to share your feelings of attraction with your religious leader, it is his or her professional responsibility to help you to understand that to preserve the integrity of the ministerial relationship, he or she cannot reciprocate your interest in an intimate relationship.
What should I do if I believe I am a victim of sexual abuse by a religious leader?
If you believe you, or someone else, is a victim of sexual abuse by a religious leader:
- Pay attention to your feelings and trust yourself.
- Share your confusion, fear or anxiety with someone you trust.
- Remember that you are not to blame, even if you agreed to the relationship in the beginning.
- Find out if your congregation, synod, conference, etc. has a specific policy and procedure for dealing with complaints about clergy misconduct. Use that process to make a complaint.
- Find an advocate who understands church or synagogue systems; rely on him or her for guidance and support.
- Remember that you might not be the only person to whom this has happened and that your action can help both yourself and others.
- If a child has been sexually abused by someone in a ministerial role, make an immediate report to a law enforcement agency in your community.
- If you wish to make a complaint against a pastoral counselor, find out if he or she is a member of the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Make the complaint there as well as to the church or synagogue.
How can I help my church or synagogue prepare for the possibility of sexual abuse by clergy?
Your congregation, synod, conference, etc. will benefit from examining the issue of sexual abuse within the ministerial relationship. You may wish to pose these questions as a way of helping your church or synagogue develop a compassionate and just system of responding to the potential problem of sexual abuse by clergy:
- Does your church or synagogue have a policy and procedure for responding to sexual abuse or other violations of professional ethics within the ministerial relationship?
- Is the policy widely disseminated to clergy and members of the congregation?
- Has training on the issue been made available to members of the congregation and clergy?
A Commentary on
Zurchung Sherab Trakpa's
'Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice'
by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche,
based on Shechen Gyaltsap's
Annotated Edition, translated by
the Padmakara Translation Group
Dharma Quote of the Week
"If you fear you are running after the objects of the six senses, hold yourself with the hook:"
'Employ the watchman that is mindfulness.'
Someone who has been captured with a hook has no option but to go wherever he is led. In the same way, if we catch hold of our mind--which risks being distracted by the objects of the six senses--with the hook of mindfulness, and with vigilance and carefulness, this will be of enormous benefit. We should use this watchman to constantly check how many positive or negative thoughts and actions we produce during the day. When we are able to control our minds through mindfulness, everything that appears in samsara and nirvana becomes an aid in our practice and serves to confirm the meaning of the teachings. All appearances are understood as being dharmakaya. We perceive everything in its natural purity, and there is nothing we can call impure.
--from Zurchungpa's Testament: A Commentary on Zurchung Sherab Trakpa's 'Eighty Chapters of Personal Advice' by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, based on Shechen Gyaltsap's Annotated Edition, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, published by Snow Lion Publications
Zurchungpa's Testament • Now at 5O% off
(Good until August 27th).
with cancer and depression, Swiss scientists claim
Combined with therapy, such substances could treat depression, chronic painLONDON — Mind-altering drugs like LSD, ketamine or magic mushrooms could be combined with psychotherapy to treat people suffering from depression, compulsive disorders or chronic pain, Swiss scientists suggested on Wednesday.
Research into the effects of psychedelics, used in the past in psychiatry, has been restricted in recent decades because of the negative connotations of drugs, but the scientists said more studies into their clinical potential were now justified.
The researchers said recent brain imaging studies show that psychedelics such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), ketamine and psilocybin — the psychoactive component in recreational drugs known as magic mushrooms — act on the brain in ways that could help reduce symptoms of various psychiatric disorders.
The drugs could be used as a kind of catalyst, the scientists said, helping patients to alter their perception of problems or pain levels and then work with behavioral therapists or psychotherapists to tackle them in new ways.
"Psychedelics can give patients a new perspective — particularly when things like suppressed memories come up — and then they can work with that experience," said Franz Vollenweider of the Neuropsychopharmacology and brain imaging unit at Zurich's University Hospital of Psychiatry, who published a paper on the issue in Nature Neuroscience journal.
Depending on the type of person taking the drug, the dose and the situation, psychedelics can have a wide range of effects, experts say, from feelings of boundlessness and bliss at one end of the spectrum to anxiety-inducing feelings of loss of control and panic at the other.
Vollenweider and his colleague Michael Kometer, who also worked on the paper, said evidence from previous studies suggests such drugs might help ease mental health problems by acting on the brain circuits and neurotransmitter systems that are known to be altered in people with depression and anxiety.
But if doctors were to use them to treat psychiatric patients in future, it would be important to keep doses of the drugs low, and ensure they were given over a relatively short time period in combination with therapy sessions, they said.
"The idea is that it would be very limited, maybe several sessions over a few months, not a long-term thing like other types of medication," Vollenweider said in a phone interview.
A small study published by U.S. scientists this month found that an infusion of ketamine — an anaesthetic used legally in both human and veterinary medicine, but also abused by people who use it recreationally — can lift the mood within minutes in patients with severe bipolar depression.
Mental illnesses such as depression are a growing health problem around the world and Vollenweider and Kometer said many patients with severe or chronic psychiatric problems fail to respond to medicines like the widely-prescribed selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, like Prozac or Paxil.
"These are serious, debilitating, life-shortening illnesses, and as the currently available treatments have high failure rates, psychedelics might offer alternative treatment strategies that could improve the well-being of patients and the associated economic burden on patients and society," they wrote.
Copyright 2010 Reuters.
The UK's Daily Mail also ran a story on this paper.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I don't share some of his views - but he is interesting to read.
This interview comes from Single Eye Movement, a very cool site. If you have never been there, check it out.
Read the whole interview.
by Benton Rooks
Do you believe there is a way of apprehending trans-human laws and absolute truth outside of the conditions of time and mind? That the Soul may know the truth alone when it has become isolated from the default body-mind orientation?
This is a very complex question and involves the need to make clear what is meant by time, mind, and soul. On one level, these terms are ways of conceptualizing certain modes of perception and experience and are also subject to the conditions of particular historical contexts. In fact, these terms and what they represent of themselves have a history that reflects shifts and changes as well as a degree of continuity. The body/mind conception, Cartesian dualism etc. are influential ways that various persons in the West have attempted to understand the phenomenal world, sensation, and the correlation or not between the latter and the seemingly independent existence of consciousness. This dualism has, in the course of time, either collapsed into being reduced to "body" or "mind". There are Eastern parallels for this as well.
My own view is that there is a fundamental unity underlying "body" and "mind" and yet a distinction has emerged seemingly to initiate a dialectical process for the purpose of the differentiation of consciousness. Some have resisted this distinction in favor of one side or the other; there are others who have seen and experienced the unity behind it all and these are the visionaries. But to attain this level of consciousness, and not experience it as the consequence of regression into unconsciousness, is exceptional, transpersonal, and probably the work of several centuries on the collective level.
What are the ways we can make the metaphysical truths of the wisdom traditions more accessible to the public at large? Is there any hope for the perennial philosophy to become more mainstream, and to bridge the gap between various religions, ideologies, and philosophies? Could visionary art perhaps contribute to the effort of validating these universal experiences?
Well, I think many of the great wisdom traditions are becoming known but often the downside of allegedly making them more accessible has resulted in diluting, distorting and commodifying them, especially in America. Yoga is only one of the obvious examples. Most are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices to follow a spiritual path and there are few true teachers in spite of the claims otherwise. Sadly, the so-called “spiritual supermarket” of this culture is proof, once again, that all too often the real religion of America is business and money!
If by perennial philosophy you mean the Traditionalist School, I think it will likely never become mainstream but also of limited influence because of its position on evolution and its largely anti-modern stance. While the best Traditionalists have managed to maintain a degree of integrity for their anti-modern vision by harnessing vast learning and some of the best scholarship in the service of their metaphysics, they can also come across as too dogmatic, judgmental, and even entrenched in their opinions of various other perspectives. In my view, the above two points are what prevents what is otherwise a fascinating and compelling combination of scholarship and spiritual vision from being accessible to most in the modern world. Nevertheless, the Traditionalist School is becoming more present in recent times by reprinting many of the works of the older scholars and publishing more recent ones.
Yes, I agree that visionary art, if taken in a broad sense, could be of considerable value in conveying universal spiritual themes.
When did you first encounter such thinkers known as the Traditionalist school such as Rene Guenon, Ananda Coomaraswamy and Frithjof Schuon? What kind of impact did they have on you personally?
I cannot quite remember when I came upon any of these authors but I actually read them individually at first not really connecting them to a particular school of thought. Later, when I read Eliade, Huston Smith and others as an undergraduate, I came to understand there was a perennial philosophy that is rooted in Guenon's work and built upon by Schuon, Comaraswamy and others.
As I said in my answer to the previous question, what I find most compelling in the Traditionalists is the fusion of scholarship, spiritual vision, and practice. This comes across to me as an expression of an authentic form of spirituality and a legitimate lineage of teaching that is deeply committed to seeking the unity behind the multiplicity on the religious level. The Traditionalists endeavor to accomplish what many others mistakenly do not do, and that is provide a way of respectfully honoring our planetary spiritual ancestors and to uncover the underlying unity in the scriptures, practices, rituals and institutions they transmitted and developed over time.
In my view, many today are seeking meaning and spirituality and their longing arises out of the emptiness and meaninglessness that a one sided materialism produces. In their desperation and laxness, they all too often turn to the New Age movement, much of which is shallow, self indulgent, and narcissistic; the blind leading the blind who band together in mutual admiration to invoke the same superficial platitudes in a bid to convince themselves that they are truly “spiritual but not religious”. In this respect, I believe the Traditionalists are right: if you are seeking authentic spirituality you need to follow an established path and not imagine that you can walk up and down the aisles of the so-call “spiritual supermarket” and pick and choose items to concoct one to suite your immediate needs.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Tami Simon speaks with Lama Surya Das, one of the best-known American-born lamas in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He’s the author of the books Awakening the Buddha Within and The Mind is Mightier than the Sword. With Sounds True, he’s created seven programs, including the audio learning programs Tibetan Dream Yoga and Buddha Is As Buddha Does, as well as a book/CD package called Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Lama Surya Das discusses recognizing our buddha nature, waking up to the nature of mind, and leads us in a Tibetan dream yoga practice. (57 minutes)Download »
Read Transcript »
As long as it relives pain, I'm cool - speaking as someone with knee (and wrist) arthritis.
Ruby Washington/The New York Times
Fake acupuncture appears to work just as well for pain relief as the real thing, according to a new study of patients with knee arthritis.
The findings, published in the September issue of the journal Arthritis Care and Research, are the latest to suggest that a powerful but little understood placebo effect may be at work when patients report benefits from acupuncture treatment, which involves inserting thin needles deeply into the skin at specific points on the body.
The study, from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, tracked 455 patients with painful knee arthritis who received either traditional Chinese acupuncture or a sham treatment. A control group of patients was put on a waiting list for acupuncture treatment. Patients were told only that the study was comparing a traditional versus nontraditional form of acupuncture.
In the real treatment group, needles were inserted at specific points on the body and manipulated in accordance with traditional Chinese acupuncture techniques. In the sham treatment group, needles also were inserted, but not at the locations traditionally used for acupuncture. Electrical stimulation was also used, although those in the sham group received lower voltage and far shorter treatments.
Compared to people on the waiting list for treatment, both the real and sham acupuncture groups had statistically significant reductions in pain, averaging about a one point drop in pain on a scale of 1 to 7. The researchers also found that the enthusiasm of the person inserting the needles had a small but statistically significant effect. Patients reported slightly more pain relief when they were treated by someone who said “I’ve had a lot of success with treating knee pain,” compared with a practitioner who took a more neutral stance, saying “It may or may not work for you.”
The results don’t mean acupuncture doesn’t work, but they do suggest that the benefits of both real and fake acupuncture may have something to do with the way the body transmits or processes pain signals. Other studies have suggested that the prick of a needle around the area of injury or pain could create a “super-placebo” effect that alters the way the brain perceives and responds to pain.
The study design may also have blurred the lines between real and fake acupuncture, muting the effects of the real thing. For instance, in traditional Chinese acupuncture, the needle insertion points are along specific areas called meridians, but the exact point of insertion is decided on a patient-by-patient basis, depending on the patient’s body and area of pain. In the study, however, a standard map was used so that the needle insertion point was the same for every patient. In addition, trained acupuncturists also were asked to administer the fake treatment and insert needles at specific points outside of traditional meridians. Although researchers sometimes stepped into treatment sessions to check on the location of the needles, it’s possible that some of the sham treatments were similar to real acupuncture.
The current findings are similar to a 2007 study of 1,200 patients with back pain who were also given real acupuncture, a sham treatment or traditional back care such as physical therapy or exercise treatment. In that study about half the patients in both the real and fake acupuncture groups reported significant pain relief compared to only 27 percent of those receiving traditional back care. In that study, however, real acupuncture did reduce the need for pain medicine. Only 15 percent of patients who received real acupuncture used extra pain medication, but 34 percent of patients in the sham group and 59 percent of patients in conventional therapy needed extra pain pills.
A 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that an estimated 3.1 million Americans had used acupuncture in the past year. Back pain is the most common reason patients seek acupuncture treatment, followed by joint pain, neck pain, migraines and other forms of recurring pain.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers an extensive review of the research on acupuncture, including studies of acupuncture for back pain, knee arthritis, post traumatic stress, fibromyalgia and fertility treatment.