The Front Line

Imagine the front line of war.    Soldiers battling and pushing forward and back.   At this front line is a no man’s land where the fighting takes place.  This line is constantly moving up and back.   Now imagine a tug of war.  In the middle is that handkerchief as one side pulls and then the other, this handkerchief moves forward and backward.   

The first analogy / parable was used by Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler to illustrate a point and was what he called the “Behira point.”  It is the constantly moving front line where we are being challenged.   When the front line moves forward, what was once a difficult dilemma or decision no longer is a struggle.   The example given is of a person who was raised by thieves and pick-pockets.   While the temptation for you to steal something from someone is minimal and causes you very little stress, for someone raised in that culture who is attempting to grow morally, that temptation is real and difficult.  That is their front line, their “behira point.”  For you, your line of maximal difficulty in growing ethically and morally is somewhere else.

First and foremost, this analogy gives us a deeper compassionate understanding for people.   Often, we see people judging others for things which hold no temptation for the person judgeing, since for them it is so easy to avoid.   But seen through this lens, we can realize that it is simply that they are at their own front line.   

On the other hand, there are people who have advanced their front line so far ahead of us, that the challenges that they have are inconceivable to where we are now.   Each of us is at his point of maximal challenge, some ahead on some issues, some behind.   The battleground of life presents us with challenges in all spheres, so that where we are can never be defined by another by the battleground in one aspect of life if seen through this lens. 

It is often helpful, though, to assess where we our frontline is, our “behira point” is on the levels of our life, those being physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and social.   Next time you are tempted to judge someone because they don’t get up at 5 am like you to exercise or are still having trouble giving up that piece of cake that is keeping them from losing weight, or are suffering from addictions of various kinds, realize that they are at their point of maximal challenge as are you.  You only see one behira point, only one in a complex individual with many such points.  

The best advice ever given when you find yourself about to judge someone for being lazy or succumbing to something you find easy to avoid is to remember this parable and to heed the advice of this great (slightly paraphrased) quote by Ian Maclaren, “Be Kind For Everyone is Fighting a Great Battle.” 

Internal vs External Cues

Last week, I stopped at a rest stop on the Florida Turnpike driving back to Miami from a diabetes convention.    I learned so much about the love and heroic measures taken by parents with kids with Type 1 Diabetes to make sure their kids feel as normal and are as healthy as possible. I was hyper-focused on this remarkable aspect of parenting and love in general.  I was also encouraged that they often go above and beyond the recommendations of their doctors.   In fact one of the organizations slogans was, “We aren’t going to wait . . “  Love is a great fuel to break barriers, isn’t it?

The rest stop was packed to the gills.   And while I am still shocked when I see what types of poisons people eat on a regular basis, one particular parent / child combo stood out to me.   The dad was clinically morbidly obese as was his son eating food together watching something on his father’s cell phone.   Here were 2 with statistically significant risk for a shortened life with chronic illness, not just eating deadly food, but they were doing it unconsciously, as their minds were being consumed by what they were watching.

In the 1960’s Stanley Schachter and his team, studied college students in France and Chicago to determine what cues they had to when to stop eating.   Remember that this is before youtube and smartphones, so its probably worse now.   The French students were more likely to use internal cues, like stopping when they felt full (how novel :)), when they were leaving room for desert and the students from Chicago more likely to use external cues, such as stopping eating when the TV show was over (yes, really), when they run out of a beverage, or when they think what they’ve eaten is normal!!

I could be wrong but I see people more and more disconnected from the sensations of their bodies.  This general appreciation and connection with the body can occur on a more and more subtle level with time.  This in fact, is a never-ending process with these miraculous bodies we have.  There is a lot of value in yoga or qigong when it comes to gaining more and more awareness of our bodies.   But you don’t even need to do those if you don’t want to.  It just means that you pay attention more and more to how you feel by mentally checking in with your bodies and extending your awareness to around 3 days ongoing.    It can take up to 3 days post stress or subtle food sensitivity to feel its impact on your body.  I will likely write another post on this subject.

We have access to much more knowledge about our bodies than we think.  It is why you must become your own authority on your health, not just by learning knowledge but by feeling and understanding the sensations of your body.   You must extend your time horizon of observation as mentioned above, slow down, and start listening.  Your body actually does want you to know what’s best for it and remarkably, when you start listening beyond its superficial cries for pleasure and the avoidance of pain, it is also telling you how to discipline it for optimal use.   Pay attention!

Message on a billboard?

I was listening to an interview with Seth Godin on the Tim Ferriss podcast. One of the reasons I am doing this daily blog (well not so daily, there is never a post on Saturday for religious reasons) is based on Seth Godin’s daily blog.

One of the questions he asked him was what message he would put on a billboard. He said the best message on a billboard was by marketing legend name Jay Levinson that said “free coffee next exit.” 🙂

On a more serious note, I was thinking about this and though no one is asking me, on mine it would be a quote from Zig Ziglar that I say is a master quote, which I define as a quote that encapsulates a universal truth. On this blog, I also mention another master quote in my post The Enemy of Art. Zig Ziglar’s quote is “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

Then today, I came across this quote by the Lubavitcher Rebbe which expresses a similar sentiment. Here it is “Teach and you will learn, give and you will receive, love and you will be loved. In this world, there must not be any person, place, or thing, that only gives or only gets, and if there is, it is for us to heal.”

I really love both of those quotes. Hope you do as well.

Your comments requested, below 🙂

The 4 Dimensions of Fitness

There are 4 basic dimensions of fitness.   

1.  Moving where you are out of breath 
2.  Low intensity but longer duration movement  
3.  Lifting heavy things  
4.  Flexibility.  

You can assess most exercise regimens against these 4 dimensions.   

Walking of course, would fall into the second dimension.   Yoga, depending on the type could fall into all categories as sometimes lifting yourself is lifting something heavy.  Qigong could also fit into all 4 depending on the type. Martial arts would be 1, 3, and 4 but could be all 4.  

On top of these criteria is the time duration.   For 1 – most recent research says that things like marathons actually cause some actual heart damage. It is not recommended, it is extreme from a biological perspective.   Safe upper limit on time duration is probably no more than 20 min.   For 2 – the minimum I would say is 30 min, a goal of getting to one hour of walking is advisable.   For dimension 3 – bodyweight exercises and calisthenics count and are a great way to start  For 4 – this is often neglected, but there are many resources online to enhance your flexibility, its advisable to see if you can incorporate with the other dimensions in some way.

Ideally, you would get in all of the above dimensions in some way during one week  Dimension 1 is not for everyone however and I recommend if starting out, you just focus on dimension 2 and work up to being able to walk for one hour at a time. .  If you can do that, you could try to ramp up the incline for example on the treadmill.  Take it easy – your body appreciates any movement.   Of course, get your doctors advice if you have any heart issues

Flexibility does not mean you need to be a yogi and pull your legs over your head 🙂 it can just be working on full range of motion in the daily range of movement.    This is another reason I like QiGong as a recommendation and practice.   There are lots of resources online.  

And with all that which one is the most important?  By far it is walking!  If you don’t have time or feel like you have the energy.   Go take a walk for 30 minutes, that is the best thing you could ever do for yourself.

Some of the ideas above adapted from the writings of Mark Sisson.

Rights, Privileges, and Health

A lot of people want to lose weight or get healthier because they want to reduce the amount of resistance or limitations in their lives.  They imagine some future imaginary end point where a certain weight and a certain health goal will fix some major issues in their life.   Resistance in general, which I have spoken about before, is a necessary component of growth.   It is also how we interact with the world around us.   It is the resistance of the clay against the potters hands, it is the tossing and turning of the ocean, that creates the beauty of the driftwood and the examples go on and on.  In our lives when we focus on a direction and are not staking everything on a specific outcome then we can maneuver and adapt as natural resistance comes and it always comes in some fashion.  Here’s the good news, the resultant creation or endpoint is often unexpected and often more beautiful.  

Many of us, however, mistake our health as a right and not a privilege.   One definition that appeals to me personally is the definition by Dr. Robert Rhondell Gibson.  He states that a right is something that you earned a right to and can’t be taken away from you.  So, since health, even life, can be taken away from you with right poison or a weapon, it is distinctly a privilege.  So as he says “Maybe the greatest way to lose your privileges is to mistake them for rights.”  

So, coming back to health, we have certain things about our lives that are privileges.  And in this is tied up the notion of gratitude.   For example, there is no question that the ability to walk is a privilege.   What I am saying really is that when you realize it is a privilege, then you would naturally expend every effort to maintain, enhance, and maybe gain more.   This is really the difference between greed and gratitude.  Greed wants more, better, and different from something that one has taken for granted.   Gratitude says that I see what I have as a wonderful privilege and I want to protect, enhance, and grow.  

Let’s take an example.  Walking : what a privilege.  How do you maintain, enhance, and gain more of that privilege?  You walk!  You stretch! You practice your balance, flexibility, and endurance! You condition your body and in so doing you are expressing gratitude for the gift that is walking.   Cooking!  What a privilege!  How do you maintain, enhance, and gain more?  You use it for your health so that you can continue doing it!   So what I am suggesting is that we start realizing that most of the good things in our life are not rights, they are privileges.  When it comes to health, we can start with where we are – if its walking or our ability to learn to cook better, or its our ability to choose healthier options in our food so that as I have said, we can expand, enhance, and gain more of that privilege if we wish to.  Take a look at your health and your health goals, you are already a very privileged human being I would venture to guess, all I am saying is perhaps we start spending time thinking about that and making an effort to secure your privileges.

Leave your comments below.

Books Are Just Better

Better than what?  Better than the internet, that’s what.   While you might be able to find the same information and even find real wisdom, nothing matches a well written book, here’s why.   The act of constriction.  Any good author possessing of wisdom and knowledge could fill page after page communicating the ideas he or she wishes to express.  The act of constricting it and going through an editorial process both by himself and by others, results in a better presentation of the topic.

I could record and transcribe, every educational interaction I have with my patients on a daily basis and I would have a page after page of information but it wouldn’t be an effective teaching tool unless I sat down and selected, deleted, and crafted them into a message that could resonate with people.

Another example : If I am communicating with a peer, I could use medical language to explain the condition I am treating.   If I have to explain that to a patient, I have to explain it differently, which requires I craft it to be understood at a lower level. This requires effort and skill.     Try telling the same information to a kindergarten class and the amount of effort involved to make them understand is increased further. 

The good writer painstakingly reviews, edits, constricts the information until the form it is presented is concisely presented so you can understand it.  

Perhaps it is not a complete surprise that the Hebrew mystics described the act of creation as an act of “withdrawal.”   They explained that the light of God being infinitely bright would obliterate anything in its way so the act of creation was a partial divine withdrawal to allow something else to exist, at least from our perspective.    

Creation both Divine and in a matter of speaking in the creation of expression, art, teaching etc is often an initial expansion but then just the opposite, an active constriction, otherwise it is often unintelligible and sloppy.   Has a great book been written on the topic you are interested in?  You’ll likely save time and be more enriched reading that book instead of surfing the internet.   At least that has been my experience.

Leave your comments below . . .

Giving Credit To Your Source

One thing you will find out about me pretty quickly is that hardly anything you find me write about is original 🙂 I also spend time giving credit to the knowledge I share. There are universal truths, expressed by many traditions around the world in different ways, which no human claims credit for, that is part and parcel of the very structure of our world.

For everything else, its important we give credit to our source. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD (Jerry) used to say that one of the most important verses in the Bible was Esther 2:22 “And the matter became known to Mordecai, and he told [it] to Queen Esther, and Esther told [it] to the king in Mordecai’s name.

Why did Jerry think that this biblical attribution of giving credit to your source was so important? Because to not do so, violates many of the 10 Commandments. It violates the 6th, to not murder, as it murders someone’s name by not giving them credit. It violates the 8th, as you are quite literally stealing what belongs to them. It violates the 9th since you are lying at the expense of the originator and it probably violates the 10th because you are coveting what someone else created.

In our social media world, many of the popular shared ideas are not given their due credit in the effort to get ahead, in this case, at the expense of another. When this becomes habit and we do not give credit to our sources, it is unlikely we will then give credit to our other Source, the Source of all.

Next time you share that nice tidbit of knowledge, try sharing where you learned it from, it is in a very direct way, a way of honoring both yourself and is symbolic of our connection with the Source of All.


ALL Non-sugar sweeteners damage you!

Ok, well the word damage is a strong word. What I mean by damage here is not something that is measurable biologically on a test but the set point of your ability to appreciate sweetness.

You see, your palate is like a thermostat and each time you eat overly sweetened foods, the thermostat to appreciate sweetness get set higher and higher, such that the pleasure of sweetness is moving further and further away from being able to enjoy the natural sweetness of things like berries.

The same thing goes for salt and despite what a new wave of health guru’s are saying, higher than suggested levels of salt are not good for some people’s blood pressure and it is related to a gene called AGE. I test for these in my online consultations, so if you are interested in this test, do let me know, contact me on one of my social media channels. Some people depending on their gene can increase their sodium possibly with some benefits.

You mission should you accept it for optimal health is to gain as much pleasure from natural foods as possible. Load your diet up with stevia, monkfruit, allulose, erythitol, all biologically safe sweeteners and you correspondingly decrease your ability to receive pleasure from Mother Nature’s bounty of healthy low sugar fruits like berries. Deserts / cakes etc, even with the above sweeteners should only be done on rare occasions when you want a treat. While they might not be as bad as flour, sugar laden sweets, in the long run, they ruin your ability to achieve balance with natural foods. Your goal to repeat is to gain as much pleasure from natural foods as possible.

Cooperation and Competition : A look at the numbers

When you build a business, obviously there is almost always competition especially if it is an demand service or product. Outsiders often decry that this competition is cut throat and sometimes ends in amoral activity.

I’ve built a company that according to the statistics is in the top 1/2 of 1% of all businesses in the country. I say that only to tell you that I’ve seen this from the inside.

I have had competitors that have resorted to some pretty amoral activities to try to gain an edge. This however is more reflective of the type of people they are than the natural of the game of business.

Here is the reality of the situation, in order to get a product like mine out to the market involves an enormous amount of cooperation from people as remote from me as farmers, machine manufacturers, plant workers, shipping companies, warehouse employees, distributors, truckers and the list goes on and on. This is all cooperation and it’s amazing. I have met people and gained friendships I never would have.

You can be narrow focused and lose this perspective if you get bogged down in making this a game revolving around ego, or you can see it as an exercise in cooperation. By the numbers, it most certainly is.

Reversing Cancer Through Mental Imagery by Simcha Benyosef

This is quite simply a remarkable book. As a physician who sometimes uses mental imagery in my practice to help give people power to help heal themselves, this book which explains a 12 month course of imagery, is a godsend. I have already given 2 copies to patients of mine. While this book doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are deeply spiritual aspects of this work – it is non-sectarian and will be useful regardless of your religion or beliefs. What this book describes is a comprehensive 12 month path of inner work for the cancer patient. If you know someone who has cancer and needs some help getting his/her inner state to be stronger and on their side for the work of healing – I would immediately buy this book. As I have studied with Gerald Epstein, MD, a contributor to the book and a master in mental imagery, I had known about this book for some time and had anxiously awaited it’s release, now that it is released, all I can say is that it is even more than what I hoped for.