Clearing Your Bodily Awareness

You have a doctor inside you. For a great deal of health issues, your body is capable of telling you what is wrong and how to correct it. It is only capable of doing this however when the things that cloud your bodily awareness, your bodily perception can communicate to you through symptoms and sensations.

So what clouds your ability to “hear” the messages your body is sending you? Firstly, it is your lack of listening. In a prior post, I discussed how in North America, overwhelmingly we don’t use internal cues to stop eating. So, the first step is starting to listen and using internal cues, paying close attention to how you feel.

Unfortunately, most people have behaviors and ingest toxins that don’t allow them to sense what is going on in their bodies. A whole book could be written on this topic, especially how various cultures have tackled this subject. There is a deep wisdom in the body that is open to all of us to reclaim.

Alcohol, drugs, sugar, lack of proper sleep and rest, abnormal exposure to light, emotional stress, dehydration and even abnormal preoccupation with the past or some future event are just some of the factors that cloud your perception of what is going on in your body.

You task is to avoid getting bogged down in the details of science and learn to listen to the wisdom of the body. The Taoists have remarkable exercises where you actually work on each of the organs of your body and through work can learn to understand the signals of your organs. When it comes to longevity and learning how to listen to your body, the Taoist writings on health are by far the most advanced..

But you don’t need to be a Taoist master to learn to start listening. Just start listening. Pay attention to your body, your posture, how you feel, where you feel it, and what your body is telling you. Acknowledge that your body has an intelligence of its own, an amazing ability to adapt and try to achieve balance. It’s a miraculous creation. Most of what we complain about is an adaptation to some imbalance. In that knowledge, you can realize what your body wants for optimal health, balance. Now go and listen.

Image above by Benjamin Balázs

An Untapped Source of Strength

Whether you like it or not, you are probably 2-3 generations from someone of great faith. It could be your grandparents or great-grandparents who likely had a simple faith in God and derived incredible strength from that. In most ways, they had a much tougher life than we do these days. That is not to say that we don’t all have our difficulties, in fact as mentioned in a prior post, the quote “Be Kind for everyone is fighting a great fight” holds for all people at all time. It just reflects the nature of our lives on Earth.

You, possibly, may know more “things” but that doesn’t make you smarter than your ancestors. Popular culture loves to denigrate the beliefs of people just a generation or 2 ago. They judge people based on their knowledge and not their wisdom. The ancient Hebrew prophets and sages and the ancient Greek philosophers, had profound wisdom and trained in how to use their minds to probe eternal truths. There were many who toiled in having a simple faith and relationship with Divinity, they did this with a brilliance that is hard to find these days.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. You should know that besides the genetic inheritance of your ancestors, you possess a lot more. If you choose to access this, spend some time contemplating that there are great people behind you who survived and thrived who while no longer here in the physical remain connected to you. Thinking about them gives me great strength and motivation to face each day squarely. It also helps me stay on a balanced path in a crazy world.

Image above from from page 45 of “Religious emblems : being a series of engravings on wood, executed by the first artists of that line, from designs drawn on the blocks themselves” (1809)

Principles over Knowledge Any Day

“Beware; making many books has no end, and studying much is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12 Translation:

Nowhere is this more evident than on the internet.   Content creators just keep on creating.   New television shows on more stations, producing more and more content, on and on.   How much is wisdom over knowledge?   How much is principles over details?   How many options for diversion from reality?  A small amount of that is valuable art, but it is a very small amount as it always has been.  

The structures that exist in society largely don’t change.   The principles of wisdom have been with us for ages untold.  Yet, the value in the evolution of society is that there is always an opportunity to use what exists in the moment to teach wisdom, through analogy and parable.

And what about health and medicine?   It does progress and detail is important, for the experts, but often times you will find studies done that have the wrong premise to them, that there was a lack of wisdom in their construction.   It takes the real wise scientists to formulate general principles from the detailed knowledge that is published and to design studies where the right questions have been asked.

In my internship in Internal Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and Princeton Hospital, we had several senior residents and attending physicians that had photographic memories.   It was astounding to interact with someone who could tell you the page in Harrison’s Textbook of Medicine that he just recited almost word for word pertaining to the diagnosis of the patient in front of us.   These doctors were, however, not the best doctors.  The best doctors were the one that could “see the forest for the trees” and would often have to look up details and supporting information.

In terms of your health, I often encounter people on my phone consultations that know much knowledge but lack wisdom in applying the knowledge in a balanced way to their health.   Often times, just using an analogy can bring many aha moments that put things into perspective.   The answer is rarely found by acquiring more knowledge. Knowing much is easy, it just takes time, acquiring wisdom and understanding principles comes through real toil.  

Details can be interesting, can be fun, but often times become distractions for learning what really matters in health which in its simplest description is learning the art of balance. 

Image above from the British Museum: in the public domain.

Longevity Madness: The Missing Piece

Image from an Intro to Zoology Textbook from 1889. Tortoise is one of the longest living creatures on earth,

The tech giants are investing in research labs that are focusing on finding novel new treatments to extend life. You have a new set of billionaires who want to live forever. I don’t blame them. Given optimal health, most of us would choose to extend our lives if we could. I know I would.

Besides this fact, the science is really fascinating. I am aligned very much with the founder of the Life Extension Foundation when he says that there are diseases of aging and if that is the case, isn’t biological aging a type of disease? I know how this sounds to some of you, like one is trying to reverse the natural order in some kind of perverse egotistical direction.

But let’s think about that for a moment. Just from a financial perspective, there are changes, like the loss of muscle called sarcopenia, that if that one thing were delayed would have enormous savings to our medical system. Obviously exercise is helpful but if other biological factors are identified that contribute to this wouldn’t it behoove us to treat that to prevent the enormous cost of broken hips and its subsequent sequelae. The same can be said for many different pathways in the body that start to go awry as we age, why must it go awry? Is it even ethical to allow to do so if we have treatments or lifestyle interventions that would help and would obviously lessen suffering?

Let’s just hope that along with the advancements and extension of life that come that along with the blessing of long life, that we have a corresponding increase in wisdom and people we can call sages. The last thing we need is 150 year olds who just want to be teenagers forever. A balanced approach would seek to not just work on the body but to correspondingly work on growing the depth and wisdom of the mind. Those teachings have been with us all along and they wait for the person who wishes to learn them. A blessing of greater life would give us more time to immerse ourselves in those teachings and to teach others, that to me would be an extended life worth living.

The “Man-Made” World of Medicine

Drawing above by Jason and Mary Hunt of Orlando.

Dr. Robert “Rhondell” Gibson explains that the “real world” is a world where no two people are alike and no standards can be held against anyone. It is the free association of people without expectation, standards, fully accepting that each of us is unique.

The “Man-Made” world is the world of institutions and games with rules (even traffic is a game in this definition and I would say the rules are valuable here). I will go further in depth into this in another post but suffice it to say, that when I see someone in my office as a patient, they come in through the man-made world, but the second the exam door closes and we are interacting, it is my aim to make sure the real-world holds sway.

I don’t recall if I mentioned on this new blog but as of now, I still do free phone consultations for people. The conversations range from guidance on nutrition, fasting strategies, weight loss, psoriasis, lupus, and of late, conversations on the use of mental imagery for healing trauma of the past that was taught to me from my teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD.

Yesterday, I spoke to a woman who contacted me on my FB page and set up a call with me. She was suffering from pain related to ovarian cysts. In the small town she lived in, she had very few consultations with specialists but she saw who was available.

In these situations, knowledge of the “man-made world” of modern medicine can help. After taking a full medical history, I explained to her a referral to the closest university hospital, about 80 miles from her, would be the next logical step. I explained to her why a university hospital setting could help her and gave her the exact wording to use to ask her doctor in such a way to elicit a referral. These words would tell him or her that she means business and understands fully her need for more opinions.

How often do we get caught up in the man-made world and forget the real world? There are so many things to remember to stay awake in our hypnotic society and here is another question to ask yourself as the day goes by : To what extent have I identified the man-made world I am working in and am I allowing it to dictate my behavior and thoughts? Am I capable of recognizing that the person in front of me is a real person of which no two are alike, completely unique?

It’s a cliche but nowhere is the following paraphrased quote more apropos that your aim might be “To be in the man-made world, but not of it” In other words, you might physically be in the man-made world most of the time, but your substance, your true essence is not of that world.

The path of Western spirituality is that we engage the man-made world fully but constantly remind ourselves to be awake and cognizant of who we really are. In this case, your knowledge of the man-made world can be of assistance to the people you associate with in the real world 🙂 Avoiding the man-made world for spiritual bliss and non-disturbance prevents you from making significant contributions to the lives of those around you and it is in those contributions that lies the greatest happiness.

Balanced Immersion

Yesterday evening around 6pm, I walked down to the beach and spent about an hour in the ocean. In Miami Beach, this time of year, the water is amazing. The water was so clear and there were so many fish you could see. My legs were acting like a mini-reef and I had around 15 fish around 4 – 5 inches long just hanging around my legs.

The sun was behind the clouds and it was absolutely silent and absolutely beautiful. While our souls may be altogether spiritual, we are born into these physical bodies that have resonance with the physical world that should be explored. Just like I think we are born into traditions for a reason that should be explored fully before jettisoning them for the allure of a “strange fire.”

The great physician and rationalist philosopher Maimonides believed that the Earth itself had a consciousness. In the last century, the scientist, James Lovelock introduced the Gaia hypothesis partly said something similar. BBC podcast – Discovery, one of my favorites, had a great interview with him last week. He is 100 years old.

There are so many aspects of our health to be conscious of, that I may forget the need for immersion in nature on a regular basis, hopefully it doesn’t take a rare transcendent ideal moment like yesterday to remind me. Immersion in nature on a regular basis, is after all, the balanced approach.

Processed vs Unprocessed

Just because it sounds unprocessed according to the conventional definition, doesn’t mean your body reacts to it as if it were.  

Case in point is dried fruit.   Just imagine, how likely is it for you to eat 5 plums in one sitting, but 5 prunes?  Easy!  Congratulations you just downed the sugar in 5 prunes when the natural form would have prevented you from it.   

A little honey is fine, but it is still a concentrated form of sugar. Processed from many flowers by the bee.    Fruit juice is processed even if you make it at home.  Why?  You removed all the fiber.

Conventional store bought meat and chicken?  Processed!   It’s been fed food that it was never intended to eat and turned into something different on the micro and macro nutrient level.  It just looks unprocessed, it’s not.

Farmed fish?  Same thing, processed or I should I say (altered).   Now, unfortunately, we have to be concerned with environmental alterations also.  Some wild fish potentially could have more toxins than farmed fish.   Solution, only eat the low mercury fish,(SMASH : salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, herring) farmed fish, no more than once per month or eat none.   Same goes with the conventional store bought meat, no more than once a month.    Most people eat way too much animal protein to begin with.   General guidelines on that in another post.

And what about the rest of the pillars : Environment, Mental State, and Movement / Mechanics?  We can discuss those another time but the analogy of processed vs unprocessed works there also.