Is a vegetarian diet really more environmentally friendly than eating meat?
Beef from Brazil, avocados from Mexico, lamb from New Zealand, wines from South Africa and green beans from Kenya – food shopping lists have a distinctly international flavour. And with many questioning the sustainability of importing so much food from so far away, we are beginning to ask if switching to a vegetarian diet to cut emissions caused by meat production is as sustainable as one might think.
The influence of the global trade of food on local diets and cultural choices has exploded over recent years. Food supply chains operate globally and deliver rural produce to nearly 4 billion people now living in cities and towns. It was this principle that established the world’s first agricultural research station some 150 years ago when the founders of Rothamsted saw the potential of the agricultural land surrounding London to supply a growing urban population. In the 21st century, the whole world can be your bread basket.
Many are conscious of what they eat – both from a health and environmental perspective. But what is the impact of this? We’re increasingly encouraged to eat less meat to tackle climate change. And meat consumption, in the European Union at least, has reduced and stabilised at around 42m tonnes over the last 15 years. There are also now new labels for different types of meat eaters: flexitarians (only eat meat sometimes) or the reducetarian (aim to eat less meat) that reflect the ways different groups are trying to cut down.
But what about all those fruit, vegetable and staples crossing the globe – can we really label them as more sustainable than eating meat? The growth of ethical food purchases now make up close to 10% of grocery purchases in the UK, which is double that of tobacco. But in addition to the impact of air miles, global land and resource use determine the sustainability of the food we eat – food production can destroy or displace natural resources in order to supply growing demand. Changing land use to expand avocado production in Mexico, for example, is displacing the rainforest. Or the devastating impact of non-certificated palm oil, used in food but also a whole host of other products. And then there is the issue of food wastage.
Measuring the sustainability of food
However, the first thing we need to be able to do is measure the environmental impact of the food we eat. We can do this for different food supply chains using carbon footprinting methods. The difficulty is that consumers choose foods based on what they like – and this frequently changes but rarely considers the impact of climate change.
From this we can say that a vegetarian diet does deliver a decreased carbon footprint. But it also shows us that food miles and global distribution can be the least of our problems. This is because food wastage can be up to 20% of food purchases and food losses across the supply chain can be far greater than this. Food waste in turn increases the carbon footprint which counters the positive gains. And perishable fresh fruit and vegetables are more likely to be thrown away than fresh meat and fish.
So is vegetarian really best?
Ultimately, we cannot say that eating a vegan or vegetarian or meat diet is any better for the environment. This is because all can be appropriate if production systems are sustainable, there is no waste and positive health outcomes are achieved. There are clearly trade-offs in choosing foods. Air freighting of green beans from Kenya into the UK was seen as unsustainable because of air miles but it also supports up to 1.5m people and livelihoods in some of the poorest regions of Sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s not just meat that increase greenhouse gases. Rice – produced on 163m hectares, around 12% of the global arable area – has one of the greatest plant carbon footprints because it produces a lot of methane. But a fall in production of rice is not only unlikely, it could also disrupt greenhouse gases held in the soil. But there are different ways to do things – draining off paddies at particular times in the growing season, for example. Or using different fertilisers or rice varieties that are less susceptible to the heat.
The best way forward?
Consumers need to understand trade-offs and to keep up to date on information of what is best to buy. It is important to spot food trends, for example, and project any sustainability impacts. The number of gluten-free products available is doubling year-on-year in Europe and the US. This has resulted in an increase in the consumption of plant proteins from beans and lentils. These kinds of foods are arguably more eco-friendly than meat but – whatever your thoughts about gluten-free eating – it will change how protein crops are distributed globally and may divert pulses or increase the price of them for countries such as India that depend of non-livestock proteins.
Sustainability certifications have changed how we shop, giving us guidance on ethical purchases including sustainable fishing, rainforest produce and so on. This is one way to make sure that what you eat is less damaging and/or helps sustain livelihoods and good agricultural practices.
But it is day-to-day food waste – both at home and in supply chains – that can make any diet unsustainable whether you choose to be vegan, vegetarian, a meat eater or a combination of these. Different preservation formats can reduce food waste to zero. In the case of frozen food we know food waste can be halved compared with fresh foods – less of it is thrown away. Despite what you might think, frozen compares well to fresh and can be just as nutritious.
We all choose foods based on what we like, what we can access and what we can afford. But continued surveillance and interest in sustainable production will mean we can buy produce we know has a better supply chain. There isn’t currently a certification that shows food produced with less waste (there should be), but we can aim to cut down our own and keep up with suppliers who show better commitments.
We might have an avocado – but maybe not five in a week. And of course we can source more food locally and seasonally as well as considering preserved options if we want to cut down on air miles. Like eating less meat, there are ways to make your footprint better.
How Tapping into "Energy" Can Trigger a Paradigm Shift in Biomedicine
The practice of medicine has changed dramatically since I started Medical School in 1975. Back then, the prevailing attitude was that exercise was for jocks, yoga and vegetarianism were the domain of hippies, and lifestyle issues were basically irrelevant to health. I was a regular at the brown bag lunches hosted by a junior faculty member who was teaching his colleagues about mindfulness meditation, his counter-culture hobby. But it was a world apart from clinical care, as there was essentially no evidence at that time that patients might also benefit.
In the ensuing 40 years, that young professor—Jon Kabat-Zinn—went on to found the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare and Society, and helped to bring mindfulness squarely into the mainstream of American culture. A concurrent medical paradigm shift has seen behavioral factors—diet, exercise, and stress management—become well ensconced in our society's view of health. But another challenging shift might be necessary before we can fully understand health and illness: it is my belief that this deeper understanding requires that we come to terms with the widespread belief in invisible healing energies, the additional dimension of our human organism that is hinted at by NCCAM's adoption of the term “biofield” to refer to electrical and magnetic processes that occur within and around the human body. Without this added element, medicine will be like Newtonian physics in the age of Einstein—useful, but only within a very limited range.
Conventional medical authorities tend to view concepts like “life energy” as metaphorical at best. Biomedicine remains alone among the world's healing traditions in its rejection of this healing energy, whether it is called prana (in yoga), qi (in Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM]), élan vital, or animal magnetism.1 Our materialist dismissal of these intangibles has hindered our acceptance of many effective alternative and complementary healing modalities2 and limited our concept of what it means to be human.
As a result, many therapies are considered beyond the pale because they invoke these invisible forces to explain their effects. Yet homeopathy,3 biofield therapies (including modalities such as Therapeutic Touch and Reiki),4 and distant prayer5,6 are supported by a credible, if mixed, peer-reviewed literature, with JACM a leading forum for research in these fields.4,7 But the lack of an established physiologic mechanism(s) of action makes these practices regular targets for skeptics. Nevertheless, some energy-based techniques are gaining acceptance because researchers are reducing their intangible elements to something more acceptable: in acupuncture, the piezoelectric response of the fascial matrix to mechanical stimulation is being actively researched as a potential mechanism,8 whereas acupoints and meridians are being reconceptualized, respectively, as intersections of connective tissue planes and as the fascial planes themselves.9 Such mechanistic reframing makes it easier for mainstream medicine to accept acupuncture, despite its vitalist origins.
Because such a wide range of therapies fall under the biofield umbrella, it may be helpful to focus on one exemplar, which epitomizes these wider paradigm-stretching issues. I will look at an approach that remains obscure in the halls of academic medicine, but is now in wide clinical usage: energy psychology (EP).
EP is so widely used that lack of fast-track consideration by institutional gatekeepers is puzzling. For example, an online training guide has been downloaded over 2 million times, e-mail rosters of two EP-oriented organizations (Innersource, and EFTUniverse) have over 800,000 subscribers, a web-based conference (the World Tapping Summit) has averaged 500,000 viewers annually over the past 10 years, and EP's professional organization (the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology [ACEP]) has 1300 members, primarily graduate-degreed clinicians (www.energypsych.org). In addition, over 100 published studies—including 48 randomized controlled trials (RCTs), 5 systematic reviews, and 4 meta-analyses—consistently show statistically significant clinical benefits to patients suffering a wide range of ailments, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and chronic pain. Yet, the latest government guidelines for PTSD treatment released by SAMHSA (the federal government's Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) does not even mention EP, despite its widespread use and increasingly solid research base. So the question must be asked—why not?
By way of background, EP is the umbrella term for a range of therapies whose best-known form (emotional freedom techniques [EFT], or “tapping”) can be described in conventional psychological terms as an exposure-based desensitization process with a somatic component. But that formalistic phrasing disguises just how odd looking the technique is. The patient repeats aloud a series of affirmations of self-acceptance despite their strong emotional reactions to the trauma, while tapping himself on a series of acupuncture points on the face, upper body, and hands.
According to TCM, these spots are the endpoints of major acupuncture meridians, and they regulate our emotions. However, from allopathic medicine's perspective, they are essentially random points on the surface of our body that have no particular biologic significance. Nevertheless, a growing body of research suggests that something significant happens when these points are stimulated at the same time that upsetting experiences are mentally reviewed.
In one RCT,10 combat veterans meeting DSM-5 criteria for PTSD were given 6 weekly hour-long EFT treatments. By study's end, 86% of them no longer met the diagnostic criteria, compared with only 4% in the wait-list control group (p < 0.001); at 6-month follow-up, 80% still did not meet criteria.
I propose the following reasons for this translational lag: institutional inertia, intellectual gatekeeping, and paradigm loyalty. Here are three examples of those sociocultural processes at work.
(1) Resistance by professional organizations—The American Psychological Association (APA) has well-delineated guidelines according to which newly proposed therapies can earn acceptance as an “empirically supported therapy.” In 2012, after 5 years of concerted effort by ACEP, the APA overturned their 1998 policy and allowed programs in EP to be granted CE credit for psychologists. But the next step—endorsement—has still not happened, despite ongoing efforts in this direction.11
(2) Resistance by professional journals—In 2012, The Journal of Clinical Social Work published an article concluding that EFT practitioners were generally “uncritical thinkers” who believed in “pseudoscience” and “intuition.”12 ACEP formally requested the right to respond, and the journal's editorial board initially agreed to publish a counterpoint. But the board rescinded this offer at the last minute, so ACEP's detailed point-by-point rebuttal was published elsewhere.13
(3) Resistance in popular media—Wikipedia is a widely consulted source for medical information, yet it has been credibly accused of bias against holistic therapies.14 The Wikipedia article on EFT uses emotionally loaded terms (“pseudoscience,” “highly bizarre”) and omits mention of most research after 2005. However, ACEP's attempts to update and edit the entry were regularly scrubbed within days, and sometimes even hours.15,16 ACEP initiated a Change.org petition asking Wikipedia for a reconsideration, and was surprised to receive a personal response from Jimmy Wales, the founder. He described his site's commitment to solid scientific research, and responded16 to the systematic review of the evidence presented by ACEP with this evaluation: “What we won't do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn't.”
It is human nature, of course, to hold on to cherished beliefs, especially if one's identity (professional or personal) depends on maintaining a certain worldview. Although biomedicine has significantly shifted its institutional identity with its recent embrace of behavioral and lifestyle factors, I believe it will remain an incomplete healing system if intangible factors like “energy” and consciousness are excluded from consideration. Many effective therapies such as EFT will continue to be marginalized because their mechanism of action does not mesh with the standard model.
But does it actually matter if we cannot explain a treatment's mechanism of action? Surgeons continue to use general anesthesia, even though they cannot explain why it works. Energy-based therapies should be held to a similar standard: as long as they are proven effective, they should be endorsed while we work to outline a plausible mechanism of action.
As long as intangibles such as energy and consciousness are not part of medicine's explanatory mix (at least in the expanded sense of those terms used in this essay—i.e., “energy” meaning more than just biochemical metabolism, “consciousness” meaning more than just being noncomatose), I predict that we will continue to miss opportunities to construct a more complete and effective model of health and illness. That is because we will be excluding from consideration effective therapies that appear implausible, if not downright impossible. As scientists who stick to familiar territory, we will resemble the drunk who keeps looking for his missing key under the street light because that is the only spot where it is bright enough to see.
But there are some positive notes. Several academically based and research-oriented organizations now actively explore the reality of energy and consciousness. A recent special issue of Global Advances in Health and Medicine devoted solely to Biofield Science17 resulted from scientific meetings and discussions fostered by a recently established nonprofit collaborative called The Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI).19 Academic researchers at major universities and medical centers (including the University of California at San Diego and the MD Anderson Cancer Center) have partnered with CHI, as has The Institute of Noetic Sciences, with its 40-year record of conducting this sort of research.18 The movement toward worldview expansion in medicine goes beyond the United States: an international panel of researchers produced the recent consensus document “Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science.”20 These groups, and others, are actively educating clinicians, conducting research, and collaborating across disciplines to generate a new and more powerful multidimensional conceptual framework for medicine.
One hundred years ago, the discoveries of quantum physicist Max Planck triggered a paradigm shift, one that was met with great resistance by the scientific establishment of his era. He responded: “Science advances one funeral at a time.” The current expansion and shift of scientific paradigms could potentially run a smoother course, if medicine finally comes to terms with the intangibles in its closet.
The author thanks John Weeks, Robert Schwarz PsyD, David Feinstein PhD, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.
Author Disclosure Statement
No competing financial interests exist.
Healing Touch practitioner Margot Baker, a volunteer with the Stanford Healing Partners Program in California, demonstrates the practice on Dr Nancy Rubin. "The person who gets on the table is not the same person who gets off the table," says Baker.
Picture credit: Nic Coury
Dr. Nancy Rubin is an oncology specialist at Pacific Cancer care in Monterey, California. She was sceptical when she first learned about Healing Touch. The practice that claims to open up the energy centres of the human body – aka chakras – and align the energy that flows through the body’s energy system as a way to aid healing does have that element of “woo woo,” she concedes. But she couldn’t deny the results she was seeing after one of her nurses trained in the healing practice was helping patients to feel better during cancer treatments. One patient declared the nurse had “magic hands,” because his pain diminished whenever she worked on him.
Over the last several years, Rubin has referred more than 100 patients to the Stanford Healing Partners Program, an organization of volunteers who treat cancer patients for free. About 15 volunteers are operating on the Monterey Peninsula, connected to the program that got its start with two practitioners working at the Stanford Cancer Center in 2004. Rubin’s patients report that the several one-hour sessions weekly help them better tolerate cancer treatments and give them more energy.
Rubin herself went through Healing Touch treatments after surgery two years ago, and says her doctors were amazed at how fast she healed compared to similar patients.
The practice of Healing Touch was developed in 1989 by a registered nurse and Navy veteran in Denver, and has slowly been gaining acceptance in the U.S. medical community. It’s probably most akin to Reiki therapy, although in Reiki the hands are usually kept a certain distance from the body, whereas Healing Touch does incorporate some light touching.
Clients are fully clothed, and lie on their backs on a table that resembles a massage table in a spa-like setting.
“Through soft gentle touch we restore the flow of energy in the body, so that the body can access its innate capacity for self-healing,” says Margot Baker, the Carmel Valley woman who is credited with single-handedly organizing a new group of Healing Touch volunteers when she moved to the area in 2010 from Mountain View.
She points to recent scientific studies that confirm there is a correlation between Healing Touch treatments and patients of any ailment experiencing less pain, less depression – among other problems – as well as healing faster than patients who do not undergo treatments. “It just really makes my heart sing to know that science is coming around,” she says.
Practitioners complete two levels of training before helping with Healing Partners; five total levels of training and an apprenticeship with 100 documented sessions and other tasks takes place before certification is possible with the national board. They focus their concentration on the specific needs of each client during the sessions, using their hands to either sense the patient’s energy – or lack thereof, in the case of blocked energy – and to direct their own energy toward realigning the patient’s energy flow. Some practitioners feel a heat or tingling in their own hands. When Saxton does an initial assessment of a patient’s surrounding energy field, she describes it as pushing against a balloon.
Rubin sees a direct correlation between areas blocked from energy flow and where cancer develops. “Anything that can bring energy to the area to increase blood flow helps the immune system,” she says.
The 15 local volunteers treat more than 100 patients a year through the free program, and there’s always a waiting list. The only requirements are an openness to trying the practice and that the patients be undergoing treatment with a doctor. The volunteers make it clear the program does not replace traditional treatments. When the program started it was only for breast cancer patients, but it’s since been expanded to all types of cancers. It grew mostly by word of mouth among women who attended breast cancer support groups and their oncologists. Increasingly, more men are coming to appreciate the benefits as well, Saxton says.
Some of the volunteers in the program have gone on to start their own private Healing Touch practices, including Baker, Saxton, and Elizabeth Ashton Blackman, who coordinates practitioners in the Bay Area region. Blackman says Healing Touch can benefit any illness, including dementia and PTSD. It’s currently being used across the country in U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics.
The three women say practitioners in private practice charge rates similar to what a massage therapy session might cost in the area, which on the Monterey Peninsula might range from $80 to $120. And most charge on a sliding scale to make it available to anyone.
For more information about the Stanford Healing Partners Program call Elizabeth Blackman at (650) 725-9461, or visit https://stanfordhealthcare.org/events/cscp-healing-partners.html
Title: The NHS Healer – Onwards and Upwards
Author: Angie Buxton-King
Genre: Popular medicine & health / Self-help & personal development /
Imprint: Vanguard Press
Since Angie's first book was written in 2004, the integration of Healing within the NHS and more generally in healthcare has substantially increased.
So much so that Energy Healing (although still generally misunderstood) has found its place alongside conventional medicine in many areas of healthcare.
Many of the healers now working within cancer care in the UK have been funded by Angie's charity The Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust, formed in 2006 in memory of her son Sam who passed away in 1998 aged 10 from Leukaemia.
This book will share with the reader her personal pathway to how this expansion of healers has taken place and how you can do the same work yourself.
Angie's book will be of particular interest to those who want to empower and help themselves by describing the patient pathway and describe how healing supports the patient at every stage of their journey.
Whether you are a patient, a carer or a therapist this book will expand your understanding of what a profound tool Healing is for physical, emotional and mental health when used alongside conventional medicine.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie was one of the first healers to be paid by the NHS. She was employed by University College London Hospital (UCLH) as a Healer from 1999 - 2011.
In 2006 she and her husband Graham created their charity the Sam Buxton Sunflower Healing Trust (SBSHT). SBSHT's work is to integrate healing into healthcare by providing funds to employ healers within cancer centres in the NHS and Hospices. Since 2006 they have provided funds to employ 33 healers within cancer units and hospices.
Angie has over 25 years' experience as a healer and has spoken extensively about her work as a healer within the NHS at medical and holistic conferences in the UK and abroad.
Copies of The NHS Healer – Onwards and Upwards can be purchased direct from the publisher by visiting our website at www.pegasuspublishers.com or by calling 01223 370012. Contact can be made with the author via the publisher.
This exercise from Greater Good in Action can help reduce stress, improve well-being, and decrease aches and pains.
Why You Should Try It
This exercise asks you to systematically focus your attention on different parts of your body, from your feet to the muscles in your face. It is designed to help you develop a mindful awareness of your bodily sensations, and to relieve tension wherever it is found. Research suggests that this mindfulness practice can help reduce stress, improve well-being, and decrease aches and pains.
Evidence That It Works
Carmody, J. & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms, and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31(1), 23-33.
Participants who attended eight weekly sessions of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MSBR) program showed increases in mindfulness and well-being at the end of the eight weeks, and decreases in stress and symptoms of mental illness. Time spent engaging in the body scan in particular was associated with greater levels of two components of mindfulness--observing thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, and non-reacting to stress--and with increased psychological well-being.
Why It Works
The body scan provides a rare opportunity for us to experience our body as it is, without judging or trying to change it. It may allow us to notice and release a source of tension we weren’t aware of before, such as a hunched back or clenched jaw muscles. Or it may draw our attention to a source of pain and discomfort. Our feelings of resistance and anger toward pain often only serve to increase that pain, and to increase the distress associated with it; according to research, by simply noticing the pain we’re experiencing, without trying to change it, we may actually feel some relief.
The body scan is designed to counteract these negative feelings toward our bodies. This practice may also increase our general attunement to our physical needs and sensations, which can in turn help us take better care of our bodies and make healthier decisions about eating, sleep, and exercise.
20-45 minutes, three to six days per week for four weeks. Research suggests that people who practice the body scan for longer reap more benefits from this practice.
How to Do It
The body scan can be performed while lying down, sitting, or in other postures. The steps below are a guided meditation designed to be done while sitting. You can listen to audio of this three-minute guided meditation, produced by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC), in the player; if it doesn't play, you can find it here or download it from MARC's website.*
Especially for those new to the body scan, we recommend performing this practice with the audio. However, you can also use the script below for guidance for yourself or for leading this practice for others.
Begin by bringing your attention into your body.
You can close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you.
You can notice your body seated wherever you’re seated, feeling the weight of your body on the chair, on the floor.
Take a few deep breaths.
And as you take a deep breath, bring in more oxygen enlivening the body. And as you exhale, have a sense of relaxing more deeply.
You can notice your feet on the floor, notice the sensations of your feet touching the floor. The weight and pressure, vibration, heat.
You can notice your legs against the chair, pressure, pulsing, heaviness, lightness.
Notice your back against the chair.
Bring your attention into your stomach area. If your stomach is tense or tight, let it soften. Take a breath.
Notice your hands. Are your hands tense or tight. See if you can allow them to soften.
Notice your arms. Feel any sensation in your arms. Let your shoulders be soft.
Notice your neck and throat. Let them be soft. Relax.
Soften your jaw. Let your face and facial muscles be soft.
Then notice your whole body present. Take one more breath.
Be aware of your whole body as best you can. Take a breath. And then when you’re ready, you can open your eyes.
* You can also listen to a 45-minute version of the Body Scan that the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness uses in its trainings in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
I was once the executive partner of a large practice in Southampton. I loved my work, my patients and teaching. In my late 50s I realised something was seriously wrong, but I was young, articulate and a good doctor, no-one believed me. It took five years to get a diagnosis.
My initial symptoms were getting lost when visiting patients, not being able to find my way to the branch surgery and eventually not being able to find my way home. So I just bought a satnav. I found I did not recognise people I once knew well: relatives, neighbours or colleagues at work. I made a complete fool of myself at a case conference which I was chairing by asking everyone to introduce themselves as I told them I had never met any of them before although I had been working with them for 20 years. I knew I had to resign because my patients’ safety was paramount.
My father had dementia so I knew something of how it affects the family but had no idea how different it was from ‘the inside’. As with most doctors, I did not know that I did not know.
I see my dementia as an unexpected gift (even if unwelcome) and a wonderful opportunity. I used to produce health education leaflets for friends, acquaintances and family. I gave a talk to my church and was then asked to record it. My son did so, and set up my website producing more teaching videos used all round the world. I was given no help or support so found an early onset dementia group run by the Alzheimer’s society.
What can GPs do to help?
GPs need to continually provide information, too much too soon is counterproductive as some patients are overwhelmed and then feel abandoned. I realised that I was also having auditory olfactory and visual hallucinations but no doctor ever asked me about these. One day I did not recognise my husband, so we searched the country for a dementia-appropriate facility. We were appalled that so many removed independence, disabling rather than enabling those with dementia. We chose a place run by St Monica’s Trust which facilitates independent living with care packages as required, onsite respite and long-term dementia care. My husband died shortly afterwards and I am so glad I live here. I have many opportunities to use my teaching skills whether at large conferences, small groups or locally.
I think we are with dementia where we were with stroke 15 years ago - now we expect improvement in stroke even if the brain is damaged. I passionately believe we can improve in dementia as well.
I run groups twice a week where I live, the management facilitate and support this as they have seen the difference it makes to the community. I am always learning from others with dementia and finding what works, we can make a tremendous difference to how we live with dementia. Doctors need to provide hope as they do with any other condition.
Dr K Jennifer Bute FRCGP is a retired GP. This year’s Dementia Awareness Week (15-21 May) is about encouraging people to confront dementia head on, be aware that you can do something about your worries and come to Alzheimer’s Society for help and support.
The philosophical role of illness – and how it can teach us to live reflectively
Serious illness is a great calamity. It is unwelcome, violent, frightening and painful. If it is life threatening, it requires the ill person and their loved ones to confront death. Illness causes pain, anxiety, incapacitation; it limits what the ill person can do. It can cut a life short, stop plans in their tracks, and detach people from life, suspending the previous flow of everyday activity. In short, illness is almost always unwelcome but must be endured, as it is also unavoidable. We “each owe nature a death”, as Freud put it.
But illness also has revelatory power. It pushes the ill person to the limit and reveals a great deal about us, how we live, and the values and assumptions that underpin our lives. Illness can also provide both philosophical motivation and instruction, by pointing to our habits and assumptions and putting them into question. So we should consider illness as a legitimate and useful philosophical tool.
What kind of a philosophical tool is illness? First, illness uncovers aspects of embodied experience with tremendous force. It shows us the frailty and failure of the flesh, revealing dimensions of human existence that are both tacit and surprising. Illness is therefore an opportunity for us to reflect on the nature of such bodily existence, its limits, and how it conditions our lives.
Second, illness is (at present) an integral part of biological life and so must be taken into account when considering human life, values, meaning and social arrangements. We are all destined to die, and most of us will fall ill (or are ill) in the process. This is a significant fact about human life that both structures and delimits it.
Third, illness has what I call a ‘distancing effect’. It withdraws us from previous habits, routines and practices, which become impossible in illness, and forces us to reflect on those habits and practices. Illness can destroy the expectations we have about our life, such as assumptions about how long we might live and how independent we should be, and in this way reveals the values we take for granted, many of which are only articulated explicitly when one falls ill.
In short, illness leads us to question how we live, why we live as we do, and how we might continue to do some things within the constraints of illness. Illness is a challenge, a demand, that requires a reflective response. Illness radically changes our relationship to our body, environment, and social world.
It changes our attitude towards time and the future. It often forces us to consider what is important and what is trivial. It can furnish us with new clarity and focus, and it can lead us to appreciate things we were previously too busy to notice. As such, illness can awaken reflection in the ill person simply by forcing change on that person. This reflection is, simply put, philosophising.
So, for me, illness is a unique form of philosophising. We normally think of philosophising as a chosen activity, not something that can be forced on someone. But in the case of illness, the ill person is thrust into great uncertainty, anguish, incapacity, and anxiety and these may lead that person to ask philosophical questions about justice, luck and misfortune, autonomy and dependence, and about the meaning of their life.
Illness is a violent invitation to philosophise. It arrives, unwelcome, wreaking havoc on a previously ordered life, and throws into the air many of our assumptions and ideas about what our life could and should be like. As such, it may be an effective philosophical tool that can yield important insights. Illness can call for more radical and personal methods of doing philosophy. It can affect the philosophical concerns of the ill person. It triggers reflection on finitude, disability, suffering and injustice. It can also change the urgency and salience of particular philosophical topics.
Of course, illness won’t do this in every case. If the illness is too painful or debilitating, there is no room for reflection. If the sorrow and trauma are too great, there can be no “post-traumatic growth”, as psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls it. But in other cases, illness can be a transformative experience, as philosopher L.A. Paul defines it. It can alter what we know and what we value in ways that are deeply life changing.
Eating well – it’s more than just what you eat
As the new year rolls on and people consider the resolutions they have already broken, we’re being flooded with advice on what to eat. The US has released its revised dietary guidelines, Public Health England has launched their new sugar app and there are endless new books, TV shows, magazine articles and blogs advising us on how to lose weight, stay healthy, avoid disease and live longer. Although the health experts' views on how to achieve these goals may differ, they have one thing in common: they only focus on what to eat. But eating well is about much more than what you eat, it’s about when, where, why and how you eat as well.
When to eat
We live in a culture where being busy is valued. We’re too busy for breakfast, too busy for lunch and too busy for a proper meal in the evening. And so the traditional three-meals-a-day structure of our lives is disappearing and people are getting fatter and fatter as more snacks are consumed than ever before. But if we have specified meal times then we will eat these meals and nothing else in between as we’ll remember “I’ve had that meal”.
Where to eat
Not only are meal times disappearing, designated meal places are also on the way out. And so people eat in the car, at their desks, walking down the street or on the sofa in front of the TV. Yet much research shows that eating on the go or eating when distracted can make people eat more as they aren’t focusing on how much food they’re consuming. It can also make people eat more later on as they “forget” that they’ve eaten. But if you have a designated café, table or common room then the meal becomes an event; the food is the focus; the meal box can be ticked as “done” and you become not only more full there and then, as you’re thinking about eating, but you also remain full in the gap until the next meal as you know that the meal has taken place.
Why to eat
If you ask people why they eat they tend to say “I’m hungry” or “I enjoy eating”. But for the majority of people food is far more complicated than that. Eating is about regulating emotions. We eat when we’re fed up, bored or in need of a treat.
It’s also about social interaction. So we eat more at a birthday dinner or festive celebration than during a simple night in, and it’s about communicating who we are to the rest of the world.
Imagine a first date – what would you cook? A roast dinner might be too maternal, beans on toast too student-like and oysters too desperate. Food can talk and it’s used to show the world the kind of person you are. But as a result people lose track of hunger and food fills many more roles in their lives than just preventing hunger.
We need to rediscover the feeling of hunger; learn that it feels nice to be hungry before a meal and that this hunger goes away once we have eaten. We also need to learn other ways to manage our emotions and other ways to socialise that don’t revolve around food. And this is helped by planning not only what to eat but also when and where to eat. And it’s also helped by planning how to eat.
How to eat
Fullness is a perception, like pain or tiredness. So, in the same way that a headache hurts less if we drag ourselves off the sofa and into work to be distracted by our colleagues, we feel less full if we’re distracted when we eat. And so we eat more because we haven’t properly processed that we are eating. But if we eat at a designated time in the day called “a mealtime”, at a designated place called a “meal place” and tell ourselves “this is a meal” then this mindful approach to eating can make us feel fuller after meals and this fullness can sustain us until the next meal.
Dietitians, nutritionists and celebrity chefs are right to focus on what to eat. But eating well is also about when, where, why and how food is consumed. And if we can eat well then we can feel full again and food can be put back in its rightful place so that we can start to eat to live, rather than live to eat.
The World Celebration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's 80th Birthday at the Global Compassion Summit
THE WORLD CELEBRATION of HIS HOLINESS the DALAI LAMA’s 80th BIRTHDAY
at the GLOBAL COMPASSION SUMMIT 5, 6, AND 7 July, 2015
“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow. Today is the right day to love, believe, act and mostly live.” Dalai Lama
On the 5th of July, the discussion was on Awakening of Compassion through the transformative power of creativity and art. Creativity and art are universal in their ability to reach into the hearts of all people. Artists empowered by the expression of their gifts can be a tremendous source of awakening compassion and kind action in a global population.
On 6th July there were two discussions, the first about the effects of Climate Change and how to engender a Compassionate Planet where all persons, globally, consciously care for the Earth and it’s resources. Scientists from University of California Irvine predicted a significant change being measured currently with weather patterns warmer in Europe and the United States, glaciers melting soon to cause a rise in water tables affecting land at sea level. This in turn will forward a need to relocate large populations globally. The emphasized word was action, we as a world population must begin immediately to address conservation of resources, personally and to inspire our communities to do the same.
The afternoon discussion was on Wisdom, Vision, and Experience, and at the heart of this discussion was the power of long distance healing and it’s ability to create lasting change in a person’s health, and the health of the Earth and global populations. The Dalai Lama said that each of us must have a real experience of divine grace influencing the whole self to quiet, to listen for guidance from this source of spiritual experience. This experience of the divine internally over time leads to an awareness of wisdom, perfected true divine guidance.
Wisdom requires space and time within us, a commitment to work at developing personal strength by the experience of divine spirit held within.
On 7th July the Significance of Education was emphasized in the development of youth leadership and in advancing universal human values. The promotion of universal human values of civil rights, relating with compassion, the end of human trafficking, refraining from conflict to resolve differences, and to create a more kind planet, global culture. The Dalai Lama said we have a moral responsibility to think of the well-being of humanity, to practice and teach unbiased compassion; acting in loving kindness. As a human being, a social animal, every individual has a moral responsibility to think of the well-being of humanity and the welfare of the Earth.
The Tibetan word for the Dalai Lama is Kundun, meaning “Presence”.
Ideas of Loving Compassion: making a difference in the world
Live life with a free mind and an open heart by working on your own inner dynamic of peace and compassion. Promote clarity within yourself from which to help others.
Social and emotional learning need to be valued equally to scholastic aptitude. Children need compassion and mindfulness in their lives to develop self-esteem.
Stand up against injustice! The 3 pillars of an “equitable society” are fairness, transparency, and accountability. Injustice requires action, which is the expression strength in compassion.
Always lend a helping hand. The way to express your intelligence, compassion and talent is to give help to others, personally, making a positive impact, assisting in ending someone’s struggles.
Play your part in healing the Earth. The well-being of mankind is directly reliant on the well-being of the Earth. We must each accept personal responsibility regarding conservation.
Use your personal power as a force for good. Find peace inside yourself before engaging in collaborative dialogue and conflict resolution. Approach conversation and challenges with compassionate awareness of all persons being a part of a single humanity. Daniel Goldman, author of Emotional Intelligence and A Force For Good, states that we should learn to connect on a personal level to eliminate prejudices.
True compassion knows no boundaries; the Dalai Lama believes it is the one trait and quality within every human being that can change the world if acted upon.
Healthy Living, July 12, 2015 - Alena Hall and Daniel Goldman
The Dalai Lama holds more than 150 notable awards from around the world. In 1989 His Holiness received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work helping to liberate Tibet.
Lyndall Demere, Ph.D., Msc.D. internationalassociationofmetaphysicians.com
From the man with dementia who diagnosed another patient to the terminally-ill woman full of joy, nurses recount experiences they will always remember
Nursing is not about plans or budgets or charts. It’s about a helping hand
Once, I had a Catholic priest with an abdominal aortic aneurysm – basically, bad news. He was due to have surgery to repair it and I was the anaesthetic nurse. I got him comfortable on the operating table, with everything ready. As the anaesthetist prepared, I held the father’s (let’s call him Joe) hand while he told me about his upcoming holiday to the US and how excited he was to be going. As he went off to sleep, I was able to somehow hold his hand and help the anaesthetist intubate him. Anyway, his aorta was a mess and they could not fix it and he died on his way to the intensive care unit. Mine was the last hand he held. I’m not Catholic – or even religious – but I’ve never forgotten this. Nursing is about the human touch. It’s not about plans or budgets or charts. It’s about a helping hand.
Operating theatres, 2000, Brisbane
Nurses can change and improve care across the entire world
In the past I have worked with the Red Cross in areas of conflict as a nurse; posts included feeding programs, cholera outbreaks, primary healthcare among others. I had the opportunity to confront the imbalance life presents by place of birth. To witness how people survive in the context of famine, disease outbreak and conflict has been inspiring. Being a nurse has given me access to people and places I could only have dreamed of. Twenty plus years into my career I still love going to work and am always thinking what opportunity is next and how I can use the incredible scope of skills I have developed over the years. Nursing is a basic qualification, yet it is one that can take an individual wherever their interests and imagination allow. Nurses should feel incredibly empowered by their choice of profession; we could change and improve care across the entire world if we wanted.
Emergency Medicine Clinical Research, Edinburgh
Caring for a patient just after they’ve died can be beautiful
As a first year student nurse a staff nurse showed me how to care for my patient who had just died. We washed the woman together – afterwards she asked me to find some flowers in the ward. She cut them and placed them on the pillow next to the patient – it was beautiful and stayed with me as I moved to work in palliative care and cancer care. I have never forgotten the compassion that staff nurse shared with me as she carried out the final act of care.
Deputy director of n
Compassion is not a part of nursing, it is the definition of it
During my second year placement I spent a night shift with one man who was admitted to the ward with respiratory failure; he was sadly entering his last few hours. He was unable to talk or move and could barely keep his eyes open. We attempted to contact his family but had no luck. He was frightened and distressed. I sat next to his bed and held his hand, to which I received a firm grasp. This was the first sign of consciousness I had from him for hours, so I sat with him until his family arrived later on in the morning, when he then passed away.
This experience taught me that regardless of who or what you are, we are all human and that in times of fear, the touch of another person provides immeasurable reassurance and comfort when it is most needed. As my patient was dying, I knew that while I could not save him, I could make him as comfortable as possible to allow his last moments to be dignified and peaceful.
Compassion is not a part of nursing, it is the definition of it.
Student nurse, Bath, 2014
I value the opportunity to give care to people at their lowest ebb
I was involved in the emergency care of the people injuredwhen a helicopter crashed into the Clutha Vaults pub in Glasgow. The response from the nursing staff and the whole team at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary made it a career defining night that I’ll never forget. Almost immediately after the news broke and we were on standby for a major incident, staff who had already been on duty that day, and people who worked at nearby hospitals and clinics called and turned up to be of whatever help they could. I felt like I worked with a team of superheroes that night. A patient who arrived in the department recognised me and broke down in tears saying: “Thank God it’s you!”. It was an extremely humbling yet uplifting experience – even when he was terrified and injured, he recognised me (I had nursed his child a few days previously) and my being there appeared to make a difference for him. There are many moments that I’ll always remember but that, for me, is what makes nursing the rewarding career it is – the opportunity to give care to people in need at their most vulnerable and lowest ebb is to be valued.
Emergency care, Glasgow, 2013
I started nursing because I wanted to make people feel better. Now I want to help make society better
I did my first year of nursing training in Glasgow. On a community placement I was able to shadow a multi-disciplinary team set up to support parenting skills for at risk families in some of the poorest parts of the city for a day.
I met a beautiful two-year-old girl with blonde hair, blue eyes and a cuteness that only children that age have. She was born to a teenage single mother with drug dependency who was in a new, abusive relationship. Her grandmother was in her 40s and an alcoholic. Their house was squalid and had dog faeces on the carpet. All social norms were absent from this household that suffered abject poverty and reminded me of things I had only read about in history books. This one family portrayed a circle of despair where one generation, cut off from society, passed on their hopelessness to the next. Yet through it all, the beautiful girl played and joked and brimmed with all the potential of life.
I now have a daughter of my own. Sometimes I look at her and she reminds me of that little girl I met a number of years ago – blonde, blue-eyed and beautiful. Presuming my daughter does not suffer a major accident or life-changing event, I can say with some confidence that she will be better educated, have better health and will live longer than the other girl I met on my placement.
Neither of these two girls had the power to influence their lives at 2 years of age. It is unfair that the locale of your birth has more effect on your life chances than anything you personally can do.
Health inequalities first sparked my interest in healthcare research. I have spent a number of years studying part-time while working full-time in an acute medical admission ward to learn skills that will help me make a difference for those born into deprivation. I recently started a full-time PhD investigating how people with multiple chronic conditions across the city of Glasgow access health and social care.
I started nursing because I wanted to make people feel better. Now I want to help make society better. Nursing is an exceptional profession.
David, telephone triage, Highlands, 2007
My terminally-ill patient taught me how to live
When I was a district nurse, I had one patient who was a young professional woman in her 30s with advanced terminal breast cancer. She was interested in people and had a thirst for life and fun which was infectious. I was having building work done, working 30 hours, with three kids all at primary school and generally busy – she taught me so much about being in the moment. I remember one time getting home after picking the children up from the child minders – she had been my last visit and her pain control was good and we talked about the future that she couldn’t have. The builders had made a mess – the hallway and stairs were coated in a thick film of dust. Instead of being cross at the mess, the children and I made hand and footprints in the dust – like you would in snow. I took a moment to be thankful for my children and to my patient for teaching me you can’t organise or dictate the future but you can enjoy the present.
End of life care, Leeds, 2002
One episode showed me the importance of holistic care, even if I didn’t realise at the time what I was doing
I was a first year nursing student on a night shift in a busy medical ward. I was sent to observe a patient who had an extremely high temperature. I spent around four hours keeping them company through a long night. I went home that morning and thought no more of it. When I went back on shift I found out they had made a full recovery, been discharged and had left me a gift – a cake with my name on it, calling me their guardian angel. I couldn’t understand initially why I’d been singled out until I thought about it from their point of view. Someone had spent a few hours keeping them occupied during the acute phase of their illness, while they were scared, just talking and listening. It was this episode, nearly 30 years ago that showed me the importance of holistic care, even if I didn’t realise at the time that was what I was doing. It shaped my subsequent practice and it is an episode I regularly share with students. I am also extremely grateful that it happened right at the start of my nursing career.
Surgical, Scotland, 1985
The girl who shaped the nurse that I am today
I once cared for a 19-year-old Iranian girl with leukaemia. Her family weren’t honest with her about her poor prognosis. Maybe this was due to her age or maybe her culture. Administering her chemotherapy enabled me to get to know her. Her bravery when she asked me whether she was going to die, because she couldn’t ask her family, has never left me. I learned so much about the essence of care, compassion and honesty in nursing that day and feel so proud that I contributed to her readiness for and acceptance of death. She shaped the nurse that I am today and is the reason why I still choose to work with young people today.
School nurse, Warwickshire, 1990
Elderly patients can be frustrating but it’s our duty to care for them
An elderly man (in his 90s) was brought in by ambulance and due to his presenting complaint, age and the fact that it was 1am, it was highly likely that he would be admitted to a medical ward for further investigation, as there is only a limited amount of investigation we can do in the four hour window that is A&E. My main concern was his wife who had severe Alzheimer’s and was cared for mainly by my patient. He told me about the carers that would go into their house first thing in the morning and write in the care book “Got Mrs Smith out of bed, washed and dressed her. Assisted her to have breakfast”. Mr Smith told me: “They think I’m stupid. I get my wife out of bed, I wash her and I feed her breakfast everyday. Those carers come every morning, write in the book and leave”. This brought me to tears. Sometimes, elderly people are the most vulnerable and while it is easy to get frustrated when you are under time pressures and they need the toilet for the 15th time that hour, these people fought in great wars; they’ve raised us and cared for us. It is our duty to care for them whether we’re a nurse or not. In the end we admitted Mrs Smith as well, due to safeguarding concerns and both her and her husband were kept in beds next to one another. I felt proud of the care we as a department had given this married couple and felt proud to be a nurse.
Emergency medicine, East Midlands, 2015
Sometimes patients surprise you in the most unexpected of ways
When I was working on an elderly ward which cares for people with dementia, one patient I was caring for was a retired chest physician. He had gross cognitive impairment, and was unable to recognise his wife or family. There was a fellow resident who was receiving palliative care and was at the end of his life. The retired doctor wandered to the end of the patient’s bed, and gave a clear diagnosis of pneumonia and dementia. He then turned round, walked away and returned to his world. This was the most moving thing I have witnessed, a person who could not recognise his surroundings or his family, yet could recognise pneumonia and dementia. The memory has stayed with me.
Mental health/dementia care, 1990s
• Some names have been changed to protect patient confidentiality
How mindfulness could give you the gift of a calmer Christmas
In the run-up to Christmas we find our to-do lists bloated with added chores: present shopping, card writing, preparing to travel or receive guests. We are bombarded with adverts telling us what to buy and where. We tackle the shopping crowds searching for the perfect gift and the juiciest turkey. Our energy and purses are pulled in all directions while we limp on at work waiting for the holiday to arrive.
As the day approaches we may dream of happy families singing around the fire or worry whether everyone will like their gifts or if there will be arguments. Media images distort our expectations of the perfect Christmas with celebrities advising us on the recipes and crafts to add extra joy to the holidays.
And then there’s the ghost of Christmas past. Maybe we are feeling that Christmases are not as good as they used to be or maybe we are dreading a repeat of an earlier disastrous year. It can be a lot to contend with and perhaps not everyone feels as festive as the songs and adverts would have us believe.
Some of us may be seeking a way to avoid being bogged down by the stress. We could try a single ticket to that Caribbean Island or perhaps embrace the spirit of Scrooge and say “bah humbug” as we lock ourselves out from the world. If these options seem a little extreme, an alternative is to take inspiration from the teachings of mindfulness.
A modern interpretation of ancient Eastern philosophies, mindfulness incorporates guided meditation that helps us learn about the inner workings of our mind. This helps break habitual patterns of thinking and behaving that can increase distress and unhappiness.
Meditation practises that focus on monitoring the activity of the mind or cultivating compassion are familiar in both historical Eastern traditions and modern mindfulness interventions. The way in which mindfulness meditation is different is the way in which it has been packaged. Often it is taught to beginners as an eight-week course that includes a selection of meditation practises and teachings that have been brought together and adapted to address specific issues such as emotional stress or chronic pain.
It is thought that some of the effects of practising mindfulness are a result of making our reflections on our experiences more positive, reducing rumination, and lessening the extent to which we react emotionally to our environment.
How does it work?
So what is mindfulness? A common practice is to sit quietly for several minutes placing the attention of the mind on the flow of your breath, perhaps focusing on the movement of breath in your nose, throat, chest or belly, or counting the breaths, starting from one each time you lose count. The practice may sound simple but the stillness of the exercise reveals the restless nature of the mind. As we aim to focus on our breath we see the activity of mind, as it distracts us from our purpose.
Like sitting on the side of a busy road we see our thoughts, feelings and memories pass us by. It doesn’t take long before one or more of the passing cars pulls us out of our seat and away from the breath entirely and we find ourselves trying to control the traffic, stopping the thoughts we don’t like or clinging on to the ones we do. This is the natural way for our minds to behave and they do this most of the time. The result is that we are often not fully present in what we are doing right now in this moment.
Our minds can wander as we carry out our daily activities. As we approach Christmas we may be thinking about all the shopping we need to do while we are drinking a cup of tea. We may also be thinking about sitting drinking a cup of tea, while we are doing the Christmas shopping.
And regardless of whether these fantasies are pleasant or unpleasant, research has found that all mind wandering has a negative effect on our mood. This may be because our wonderful daydreams make our real lives seem like a disappointment and our unpleasant thoughts prevent us from taking pleasure in the small delights of life.
During the festive season you may notice thoughts, feelings or memories interrupting you. These thoughts may be subtle and fleeting but sufficient to take the edge off your Christmas cheer. When you notice what is happening in your mind, acknowledge it, don’t criticise – be kind and return your attention to writing your Christmas cards, wrapping your gifts or standing in a queue of shoppers. Pay more attention to where you are and what you are doing, even if your mind tries to offer distractions and alternative realities that appear to be more pleasant than your real experience.
So from the time you wake up on this Christmas morning, take time to fully notice the little things, the smells, textures and tastes of Christmas. Each chocolate, cuddle and gift. Take time to savour it. How do the sweets look in your hand? How do they smell? How does it feel in your mouth? Notice the effort others have made to give you gifts. Look at the way they are wrapped. How it feels to pull off the paper. Consider that many other people you do not know have made effort to grow, make or transport parts of your present too.
Be kind and compassionate to everyone you have contact with – including yourself. And if things don’t quite go as planned or you are feeling overwhelmed by the celebrations, just take your seat by the side of the road and spend a few moments focusing your attention on your breath.
Devolution and the Chakras
Written by CHO Associate Delcia McNeil
Since yesterday morning I have been feeling the need to write about the result of the Scottish referendum. This morning, I just had to! And I want to share it with those who appreciate the concept of Chakras.
It is exciting that we are going to have major constitutional changes in the United Kingdom, following the vote in Scotland to remain part of the Union.
From a Chakras point of view, my sense is that this represents a significant step in the evolution of consciousness – from the Solar Plexus to the Heart chakras. The Solar Plexus is where we define ourselves, experience ourselves as part of a family, group or nation. It is important for our sense of self, our self esteem and how we value ourselves. It is about our identity within a culture. This is why nationalism feels so deep and people fight and die to protect it.
Historically being a separate nation has been essential for survival – the fight for land, for power, for governance. But now? Now we are moving into Heart chakra consciousness. This is a place where it doesn’t have to be ‘either/or’, it doesn’t have to be ‘for me to have, you will have to go without.’ Most importantly, it doesn’t mean ‘if I join with you I will lose my own unique identity’. This is about ‘both and’ not ‘either/or’.
Scotland can be and is part of the United Kingdom, as is Wales, Northern Ireland and England, each keeping their own unique culture. This potentially makes us all ‘greater’. Social change comes through the constant process of unity, splitting off, re-grouping, coming back together again. Being able to have the Heart chakra position as the default position, rather than the Solar Plexus (and therefore Sacral, and Root chakras as layers beneath that), we consciously come to our relationships from a position of caring about the needs and wants of the other, as well as of ourselves.
From the Heart chakra we recognise the value of every single person, every single nation. The colour for the Heart chakra, of course, is green. This is reflected politically in the Green movement. Caring about our environment, human beings working together from all around the globe to tackle our environmental problems – this is the Heart chakra energy in action.
So, for me, the No vote in Scotland is, in fact, a Yes vote – not only for Scotland, not only for the United kingdom, but also for the world, for the ‘eyes of the world are upon us’ (to quote Gordon Brown this morning).
This is democracy at its best. We have a responsibility to work to open and acknowledge our Heart Chakra energy, to heal any negative conditioning or woundedness in the ‘unconscious lower chakras’ (Solar Plexus, Sacral and Root) because whatever we are unaware of will influence all that we feel and do in our day to day lives.
We need to thank all those who worked hard for a Yes vote in Scotland, because without this referendum many of us (especially the English) would not have even recognised there was a need for change. Americans often refer to the UK as England. It would be good for those of us who are English to consider any covert feelings of false security – ‘I’m in England, and that’s superior to being in Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland.’
So wherever the splits remain in the world – and there are so many, so much terrifying, horrific behaviour going on, let’s trust that by continuing to work with our own fears and prejudices (which come from fear), we can move fully into Heart chakra consciousness, come to believe and know that we are all precious, full of the capacity to give and receive love. We can live in harmony through facing up to our fears, our conflicts and splits. We can develop a greater capacity to ‘walk in the other man’s moccasins’, to have an empathy that leads to a desire for inclusion rather than exclusion.
End of sermon! I rest my case!!
Navajo Native Tony Redhouse doesn’t look his age, and for several decades he didn’t act it either. Now in his mid-50s, he was what is referred to as a “bad boy” in his formative years. In fact, because he was high all the time, he says he received his early education not in school, but on the street. “I was first incarcerated at the age of 14, put in aCaliforniamental hospital in a straightjacket, from an LSD overdose,” he says. “They called me Gas because of my habit of inhaling gasoline as a cheap high.”
Redhouse, who says there isn’t a drug he didn’t do, later got kicked out of his family’s home and ended up in foster care, where things just got worse because, he says, members of his adoptive family were also addicted to drugs.
What followed over the next 20 years and stretched from the Bay Area to England was a series of marriages (five), more trips to detox than he can remember (100-plus), medical problems (hepatitis C), a stint in prison (two years), and five alcohol-drug-related DUIs. “I had a habit of running into telephone poles and totaling vehicles,” he recalls. “I was in the dark for a long time. I wandered the streets unaware of where I was and not really caring. I ate out of Dumpsters. I committed crimes to get money for more drugs. I was suicidal and self-destructive.” Recognizing the inevitable end to the path he was on, family members intervened and had him committed to a mental hospital when he was 50.
And there he found both himself and a new path. “Although it had taken me half a century to reach that point, I came to my senses and decided to change my life.”
Once Redhouse decided to become a good guy, new vistas opened up for him as an inspirational speaker, a recording artist and a sound healer. He says those are all ways he can help others in need—addicts, domestic violence victims, grief and trauma survivors, and hospice members about to transition. “Because I had already walked the negative footsteps and knew their pitfalls, I began alternative teaching, sharing spirituality as a means of recovery influenced by Native American culture.”
He now lectures to capacity crowds across the Southwest and also teams up with such lecture-hall luminaries as Deepak Chopra and Dr. Oz. He speaks passionately of his years working withNative Wayswomen in recovery program at aTucson,Arizonafacility. According to that facility’s web page: “Therapy is designed to meet the unique needs of Native women and draws on their cultural strengths to promote healing and recovery” and quotes a Great Spirit Prayer—“Make me wise so that I may understand the things you have taught my people.… I seek strength not to be greater than my brother, but to fight my greatest enemy—myself.”
“The audience is 25 to 30 female addicts, some just out of prison or detox—a lot of them still strung out on meth and coke—and here I am, [at] the first phase of their recovery. I’m a visual artist in musical form—bells, bar chimes, wooden blocks, shakers, flutes, drums, a palette of sound equipment. The lights are turned off, candles are lit, and I start playing the flute and drum while humming a chant. These women don’t have an inkling about where we are headed, but every time the music begins, they put their heads down on the table and go into their own internal, calming space.
The nurturing sound of the heartbeat drum brings security and takes them back to before their addiction, before being molested or beaten, returning back to the days before anything bad had happened.”
Redhouse says the simplicity of sound healing takes the mind to a place where it can begin to be clear enough to make healthy decisions. “If you think about indigenous cultures, there are three ancient forms of expression used in ceremony to express our emotions and dreams—voice, drum and flute. They speak louder than words and allow us to connect with the spiritual realm. When I use these sounds, they evoke thoughts, images, feelings that take people back to their beginning, back to the simple state, the sound of a heartbeat, a breath, the hum of a lullaby—back to a peaceful place, a sacred place, for us to start healing inside. We remove all the built-up complications and come back to the point where you can see clearly what your life is and what you want it to be.”
The healer’s philosophy, as he explained in a documentary co-produced by Chopra called Death Makes Life Possible, came from his hospice work. “I teach that if you are ready to die, then you are ready to live. Spending time with people who are transitioning, you see them settle old scores and make peace with people and situations so they can stop struggling and depart. We’d be wise to adopt that concept of clearing up unfinished business, closing the chapters in our lives that no longer serve us. If we can make peace to depart this world, we can also make conditions that will allow us to live passionately and completely.”
Continuing to help others helps him to continue helping himself. “I feel like I’m right in the center of my destiny, why I’m on this Earth, my life’s purpose, why I’ve gone through everything I’ve gone through so far that has shaped me, the ups and downs, the darkness. I’m doing things right now. I’m a tool in the hands of spirits, that’s all. I’ve become another instrument, blessed to have an opportunity to change other lives for the better.”
Orginal article at Indian Country Today Media Network.com
Meryl Davids Landau
Over the years I’ve been to a number of energy therapists who’ve used methods ranging from their hands to acupuncture needles to tuning forks to cure whatever’s ailed me (and it usually did). But the last time, when an odd pain kept me from traveling to a practitioner’s office, the ache was vanquished over the phone.
That was more woo-woo than even I could handle (even though I’ve written about various forms of energy healing for years), which got me wondering, how is it that a therapist - using nothing more than thoughts and energy - can help someone improve their health?
So I put in a call to Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., author of the books “The Biology of Belief” and “Spontaneous Evolution.” Lipton is no flighty New-Ager; earlier in his career he worked as a cell biologist and professor at the National Institutes of Health, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin, among others. It was actually the experience of scientifically cloning cells that convinced Lipton that the way we view healing is wrong. When he separated genetically identical stem cells into three Petri dishes, he says, the cells in each dish grew to be totally different than those in the other dishes - even though all were genetically the same. That set Lipton on his lifelong quest to uncover the role the environment and other factors play in cell restoration and growth.
Here are excerpts from our fascinating conversation.
Q: Is it possible to scientifically explain energy healing?
Bruce Lipton: Absolutely. There’s a concept in quantum physics called “entanglement,” which is when one energy source entangles with another so that they interfere with each other. This interference can be positive and harmonious, as with energy healing, or it can be negative.
Physicist Amit Goswami published an article in a physics journal showing that entanglement affects people. He had two people meditate together and then separated them into two chambers where they couldn’t see or hear one another. When one person had a light strobed by his eye, it caused the firing of a certain frequency in the brain. Remarkably, at the same moment, the other person’s brain also fired, even though he never saw the light. This proves what we intuitively knew, that the energies of people can affect one another.
Q: Are there examples of entanglement in other things?
Bruce Lipton: Sure. If you have pendulum clocks on the wall and start them all at different times, after a while the pendulums will all swing in synchronicity. The same thing happens with heart cells in a Petri dish: They start beating in rhythm even when they’re not touching one another.
Q: What exactly happens in an energy healing session, then?
Bruce Lipton: What Goswami’s study demonstrated is that when two people become entangled, one person will conform to the energy of the other person. When one of them is a healer whose cells are vibrating at a higher level, the client’s cells become entangled, and their energy is lifted. That’s why that old saying, “physician heal thyself,” is so important, even though most don’t understand it: If the physician’s energy is going to influence or, in scientific terms, “entrain” the patient’s, the doctor’s must be higher.
Q: What causes a person’s energy to be lower in the first place?
Bruce Lipton: This is where environment comes in. And by that I mean of course diet, exercise and stress, but also your sense - or lack - of optimism. Each of our cells is a living entity, and the main thing that influences them is our blood. If I open my eyes in the morning and my beautiful partner is in front of me, my perception causes a release of oxytocin, dopamine, growth hormones - all of which encourage the growth and health of my cells. But if I see a saber tooth tiger, I’m going to release stress hormones - cortisol, histamine, norepinephrine. Those chemicals change the cells to a protection mode. I don’t even have to see these things: If I’m worried or afraid, my blood will fill with the same harmful chemicals. People need to realise that their thoughts are more primary than their genes, because the environment, which is influenced by our thoughts, controls the genes.
Q: So you have to change the environment - including your thoughts - if you want healing to be sustained?
Bruce Lipton: Yes. If your environment keeps draining your energy, it’s like having a leaky bank account, where any money you’re putting into the bank, such as by seeing an energy healer, keeps slipping out. You have to change your environment, including any harmful beliefs, before the energy can stay high.
Q: Does a person’s expectation about a healer play a role in whether they improve?
Bruce Lipton: Absolutely. Your cells don’t see the environment directly; they take as their truth what the brain tells them. That’s why the placebo effect is so powerful for every type of healing. If the brain expects that a treatment will work, it sends healing chemicals into the bloodstream, which facilitates that. And the opposite is equally true and equally powerful: When the brain expects that a therapy will not work, it doesn’t. It’s called the “nocebo” effect.
I once developed Bell’s palsy, which is a paralysis of the face. One morning I put a coffee cup to my lips, and the coffee started running down my shirt. The standard treatment is medication, but I was determined to be over it without drugs in one week. I went to an acupuncturist and chiropractor, both of which are forms of energy healers. Seven days later it was gone. I know it could have resolved even faster if I hadn’t chosen a week as my goal.
Q: What about healing over a long distance? That’s a hard concept for people - including me - to wrap our heads around.
Bruce Lipton: It’s freaky, but it works, because energy isn’t limited to a set spatial distance.
Have we faith in our healers?
Carol Ryan - Irish Times online
Despite little scientific evidence that faith healing helps cure illnesses, some people find it works where conventional medicine fails
The shift in Irish people’s attitudes to religion in recent years has been dramatic. At the same time, society has become more rational. Superstitions are dying out and there are fewer tales of statues crying tears of blood or banshees wailing in the night. But even in this sceptical age, do Irish people still believe in miracles when their health is in danger?
Faith healers have been around since antiquity and generations of Irish people believed that certain people have God-given gifts to cure disease.
Aidan Wrynn is a “seventh son” healer based in Leitrim. According to old Irish folklore, the seventh son of a seventh son has special healing powers (the American Indians hold the same belief). Even in pre-contraception Ireland when couples churned out huge families, “seventh sons” were a freak occurrence and people flocked to them for cures.
Wrynn says that significant numbers of Irish people of all ages are still going to faith healers. “There is demand for what I do . . . it varies depending on how many clinics you do, but I would probably see eight people on a daily basis.”
He recommends a course of three treatments and charges €20 for a consultation in his home or €30 for a call out.
People come to him with everything from minor aches and pains to serious illnesses.
“I see a lot of people these days suffering from anxiety and depression because of the nature of society at the moment. The most common problem with younger children is digestive imbalances. Colic is up dramatically.”
He says that faith healers are not the first port of call, but a last option for people who have exhausted conventional treatment.
About 10 per cent of the people he deals with have a life-threatening or terminal illness.
“With anyone who is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the first most obvious thing is that you don’t make a promise that you can’t keep. I shudder to say anything about success rates with cancer or terminal illness because it can give the wrong impression.
“I also see people who are having radiotherapy or chemotherapy and they come primarily to get through the treatment in as comfortable a way as possible.”
He has noticed that belief in faith healers is stronger in certain areas. “The east of the country has less understanding of it and they probably haven’t been exposed to healing as much as the west of Ireland. There are areas like south Armagh that are highly responsive to healers and have a great trust in it. Rural areas in general tend to be more permanent in their belief structures.”
Dublin-based Finbarr Nolan was one of Ireland’s most famous faith healers before he retired. While thousands of people came to him for cures during his heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, he noticed a dramatic fall-off in numbers seeking faith healing in recent years. He puts this down to the decline of religion rather than any urban/rural divide.
“Religion and belief in God has gone. What I do is very hard to understand, maybe very hard to believe, and people have become more sceptical . . . they think it is a con job.”
Certainly a major concern about faith healing is that people desperate for a cure are easily preyed upon. The multi-million dollar faith healing “industry” in the US is booming and thought to be rife with fraud.
During the 1980s, investigator James Randi exposed a famous American healer, Peter Popoff, as a con artist who made millions of dollars selling cures to the sick.
His party piece was to stun members of his audiences by giving them personal details – perhaps their home address or specific details about their illnesses – claiming he was receiving the information from God.
However, it was not God, but his wife who was feeding him this information through an ear piece.
Faith healers have been credited with miraculous cures, but their powers are usually dismissed by scientists as a myth. Cures are hard to verify because the evidence is anecdotal and there are no before and after medical reports kept. Sceptics claim miracle cures can be explained by spontaneous remissions or a placebo effect.
Edzard Ernst conducted hundreds of studies on alternative therapies during his time as professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter in England.
While he says faith healing can alleviate stress, his research suggests it causes nothing more than a placebo effect. In one of his studies, 110 chronic pain patients were given eight treatments by either a faith healer or a trained actor. The reduction in symptoms was remarkable, but the trained actors got results that were just as good as those achieved by the healers, suggesting that there is a placebo effect at play.
Placebo effect or not, faith healers do appear to have satisfied customers who found relief where conventional medicine failed. Those who believe in it argue that scientific thinking is too linear and too limited to explain what is going on with faith healing.
If science can’t explain it, how do faith healers understand their gift?
“My hands feel hot . . . my interpretation is that it is the transfer of healing energy, which enhances the immune system in the body, which gives the person a chance to recover,” says Wrynn.
Finbarr Nolan also spoke of having a healing energy that some people respond to while others do not.
All of this sounds very like popular alternative therapies such as reiki or plexus-bio healing, which claim to heal by correcting “energy imbalances” in the body.
Is this more or less the same “healing energy” used in faith healing, but stripped of the religion for our new secular tastes?
By Jeremy Dillon
For Lehigh Valley’s The Express-Times
Jill Rehrig takes a hands-on approach to healing.
In her career as a physical therapy assistant and massage therapist, she sees people living with life-changing chronic pain. She helps them manage the pain through treatments such as reiki, the Japanese healing technique that is gaining in popularity because of its touted benefits of reducing pain, stress and anxiety, all through the power of touch.
“I had a patient who had been in an accident, and her pain level was at a constant 8 out of 10,” says Rehrig, an instructor of reiki at Northampton Community College as well as owner of New Beginnings Medical Massage in Monroe County. “After performing reiki on her, I was able to help reduce her pain level to a 3 out of 10 without any other changes to her life.”
Reiki is said to incorporate a universal energy that surrounds everyone. In China, that energy is called chi and in Navajo, it is nilch’l. Reiki taps into the universal life energy around the body, Rehrig says, and accesses that energy to help heal the body.
Practitioners access the universal energy by lightly touching patients with their fingers and palms. It is usually performed while the patient is lying down, but it can also be performed while the patient is seated or standing. The main goal is to have the patient relax, Rehrig said.
The process of placing the hands relies on the intuition of the practitioner, who follows seven general areas in the beginning but allows the body of the patient to guide the hands to the area that needs the most focus.
“The body has jug handles like on a highway where congestion like stress and anxiety builds up over time that impede the flow of energy. By focusing on these areas, it helps clean up that congestion,” Rehrig says.
Karen Huslik, a retired nurse and volunteer reiki practitioner with Hunterdon Medical Center, also emphasizes the flow of energy in reiki.
“It’s like water flowing down a river. Energy goes through me to the patient for healing,” Huslik says.
Huslik says she has to keep her mind as free as possible so she can listen to where spend time with her hands. She feels where to stay and move through a light touch.
The results of the therapy vary by patient, the practitioners say. Some report a tingling sensation during the treatment while others feel heat, even when the hand is not placed on the body. Some have seen visions or reconnected with past traumas. Most people feel an overarching calm after the therapy has finished.
Hunterdon Medical Center surveyed patients about their thoughts on reiki therapy to get a better understanding of its benefits and found it helped improve stress, anxiety, pain and nausea by at least 50 percent. It helps with the effects of chemotherapy as well as the general stress of being in a hospital, Huslik says, and it can even be performed on family of patients in the hospital who are going through a stressful time.
Both Rehrig and Huslik advocate reiki therapy as one tool in the holistic approach to medicine. It should be used in conjunction with traditional Western practices, they say. Healing is not just a science but an art, and when those two are used in the healing process, the whole person is addressed, they say.
“What happens when you hurt your hand? You rub it,” Huslik says. “Touch has an incredible healing power.”
Original article: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/entertainment-general/index.ssf/2013/03/reiki_a_japanese_healing_techn.html
Can Hands-on Healing Help My Dog?
Writer Monica Cafferky
My dog Tilly, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who's six, recently sprained her back. She was so stiff she couldn't walk up the stairs and looked very put out. The first port of call was my vet who prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs. But I wondered if there were other ways I could help her recovery?
When I searched the Internet thousands of links came up. I was amazed to discover a host of complementary therapies for pets, from acupuncture to hydrotherapy.
I opt for Reiki, a form of hands-on healing, because it’s non-invasive. If it turns out to be mumbo jumbo it won’t do pooch any harm. Using the net I track down a practitioner in Wetherby, North Yorkshire, 45-minutes from my home.
Elaine Downs has been healing humans and animals with Reiki for 11 years. On the phone she has a no-nonsense approach that fills me with confidence. I book a consultation, which costs £40.
On the day of the session I’m nervous. Tilly is a lively dog and I wonder if she’ll be able to sit still for the healing?
“Don’t worry, Tilly will take as little or as much Reiki as she needs,” says Elaine. “Dogs, like all animals, let you know when they’ve had enough healing by moving away.”
Before she starts, Elaine explains the background of Reiki and tells me that she prefers to work in the animal’s natural surroundings (their home, stable and so on) because it helps them to relax more easily, although she can work remotely using a photograph to tune into the animal’s energy. So far she’s treated dogs, horses, cats and chickens.
“Reiki is never a substitute for veterinary care,” she says firmly. “If an animal appears unwell you should contact your vet first. However, Reiki can work in conjunction with conventional veterinary treatment to support the healing process.”
Tilly has been licking Elaine’s hand whilst we’ve been chatting – a good omen. Ready to start the session, Elaine sits on the floor with Tilly and places one hand on her back. My dog sits in the same position for a few minutes and then turns around so Elaine’s hand is touching the corresponding side of her body.
“Is that more comfortable for you?” Elaine says to Tilly. Tilly shuts her eyes.
This is unnerving. Usually if someone sits on the floor with my dog she sees it as an invitation to play and finds a toy – but not today.
After a few minutes in this position Tilly flops down on her side, Elaine places her hand on the dog’s rump. Pooch let’s out a snort of contentment and licks her lips a few times.
“She’s releasing the tension in her body and relaxing,” explains Elaine, “This is a good sign.”
I ask Elaine if she can pick up anything about Tilly’s back injury. Elaine says she feels Tilly did the damage by twisting, which is spot on. Tilly twisted to scratch her ear and yelped – I saw it happen.
Elaine explains how animals, like humans, have meridian lines all over their bodies, which act as channels for the universal energy. When any of these channels, also used in acupuncture, are blocked it can indicate a health problem.
“The block in her back is shifting,” says Elaine after 25-minutes. “I can feel the area warming up, she has a lovely pink glow around her.
“She’s a cutie although I’m picking up that she can be a bit of a madam at times. But she knows when to behave,” says Elaine laughing.
I’m shocked because this is true. My nickname for her is “Princess Tilly” because she prefers fresh chicken and walks around dirty puddles, which I find endearing.
She is also impeccably behaved in public. I can take her anywhere and do often to cafes, posh hotels and the homes of friends and family.
Elaine has been resting her hand on Tilly’s back in the same spot now for 15-minutes. My dog is deeply relaxed, so much so that when my partner Chris comes home from work she doesn’t dash to greet him at the door, which is a first.
After a session lasting 45-minutes, which Elaine says is one of her longest, Tilly sits up and has a deep stretch. She appears to be less stiff and she certainly enjoyed the healing.
Tilly gives me the ‘food stare’ and wags her tail. I check the clock and it’s 5.30 pm – teatime. Whilst pooch may have had a bad back there’s certainly nothing wrong with her timekeeping.
A version of this feature by Monica Cafferky appeared in The Daily Express.
* To book a session with Elaine Downs visit our Links page and search for Animal Matters