How to pick your vegetables.

I heard an interview with Arthur Haines who seems to have some interesting ideas on ancestral health. One struck me and I figured I would share. When looking at our ancestors, they ate a great deal more plant varieties than we do. He pointed out that when thinking about variety we should be looking at “families” of vegetables as a criteria.

Cruciferous vegetables are one family which includes kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. While they vary in nutrient density, the main nutrients are of the same class. Arthur Haines suggests that we should be making sure we include other classes of greens.

Another class is the lettuce family – most of the lettuces like romaine, iceberg, and bibb are also of the same family.

Here are some other greens to include that don’t share the above families: purslane, beet greens, chard, or spinach.

The key point here is while each family is fabulous for you, from an ancestral health perspective, you are probably better off sampling from different families of plants. This is an idea that makes a lot of sense to me.

Do You Need A Reason to Be Joyful?

In the Chassidic tradition,  which is part of the Jewish tradition, joy is emphasized, that God’s very presence is diminished when there is depression.   Nowhere is this more evident than on the holiday of Purim, that celebrates the events of the Book of Esther.   On this remarkable holiday where we wear masks and are advised to become intoxicated with the Divine (and drink more than usual), we are supposed to rise above the duality and confusion of this world and be joyous beyond reason, above reason. 

In our overly rational world, we seem to need a reason for everything.    But, have we ever stopped to think, why not be joyful even though you have no reason?  Why do we need one?   Let’s face it, we don’t really understand most of the events of our lives until we can see them in retrospect, often times finding out that some of the worst events of our lives were some of the most important and meaningful in giving our lives context and meaning.  

So, why not just decide to be joyful now?  I know, it sounds hard,  but we know that even smiling though there is nothing seemingly to smile about affects your brain chemistry in a way that makes you feel better.   What about expressing joy with your whole being?  Can you imagine what that would do for your health?  Just give it a try, we are all familiar with the case of Norman Cousins who laughed his disease away.   Joy heals and depression does the opposite.   You must fight for it because our bodies and our minds will try and sabotage you, but inside is that still small voice that is urging you to fight and reclaim your joy.  If you spend your whole life waiting for some thing, some circumstance, some event to bring you joy, that is no more logical than just deciding right now to be joyful. Can you remember what your body felt like when you were last joyful?   I know you can, why not just decide right now to bring some of that into your life right now. I can feel my pulse quickening, how about you?

The Long Shorter Way

The world has had many evil leaders in history. Of recent memory of course, was Hitler but they exist all over the world in all times. One of the techniques that they use which is also used by some health guru’s is that they blame someone else for you. This is one of the most effective ways to gain control over you. Someone comes along and say, “It’s not your fault, it’s x,y,z’s fault.”

Comparing health guru’s to Hitler is excessive, I am merely pointing out a technique that people use to control you. When your friendly smiling health guru, tells you that it is not your fault, that you don’t have control, that forces more powerful than you have led you to where you are, know that you are being acted upon by someone that does not have your best interests in mind.

This is not to say that there aren’t things out of our control, there certainly are but when someone comes along and blames for you, tells you how miserable it is, and then asks for your support or offers a solution, recognize this controlling technique.

So what is the alternative? Might I offer a radical piece of advice to try on for the next month. I learned it from Brian Tracy, whenever something goes wrong, claim responsibility for it. In your mind say, “I am responsible, I am responsible.” At the very least you start to become responsible for your reaction to what is happening and eventually you start to believe, rightly so, that you do have more control over your life and health than you ever thought possible.

And what about health guru’s who blame for you and then sell you something? Find someone another teacher. How do you know they are for real? Well, they will tell you like it is, which is often tough to handle at first but is what is known as the “The Long Shorter Way.” In other words, it may seem like the hard work starts right away, it might not be pleasant, but you end up getting where you want much faster and in a place where you become your own authority. Good luck finding those teachers, they are few and far between.

My own teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD who since his passing recently, has been on my mind and in many of my posts, would tell it to you straight, his allegiance was to the Truth and the Truth can be a bitter pill to swallow sometimes but as I said for the student it seems longer in the beginning but is ultimately shorter way. I will leave you with a little parable from Talmud discussing this, people who blame for you are leading you through a “short and long way” :

Said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananiah: “Once a child got the better of me.” “I was traveling, and I met with a child at a crossroads. I asked him, ‘which way to the city?’ and he answered: ‘This way is short and long, and this way is long and short.'”I took the ‘short and long’ way. I soon reached the city but found my approach obstructed by gardens and orchards. So I retraced my steps and said to the child: ‘My son, did you not tell me that this is the short way?’ Answered the child: ‘Did I not tell you that it is also long?'”


Healer, Physician, or Doctor

It seems each of those words carry a different connotation with various people. Undoubtedly, the word doctor has lost a lot of what it means to the general population, as doctor can be a Ph.D as well a whole slew of people who help people with their health. It comes from a root that means to teach.

A physician has taken on the connotation of a formal medical doctor with a MD/DO degree generally speaking. It comes from the french word Physic which means remedy.

And then there is a healer. It is instructive to note that heal, whole, and holy are all related. Perhaps we understand this in some deep way anyway and it is why the term “healer” tends to evoke notions of holistic, alternative, healers.

Are these terms just playing with semantics? I don’t think so, I think what it shows that when it comes to helping people with their health, while the above terms are not that well defined, that the way to approach helping people comes from my different angles.

And with that, I have a patient waiting and when the door closes, the real world of person to person connection happens and if it is done right, all labels disappear and you are just there as a helper, person to person.


Manifestation Madness

I admit it, I cringe when I see the word “manifestation.” Usually its paired with some spiritual “technique” to get you the life you desire. As I mentioned in a prior post, most of the world is struggling under the mistaken notion that the purpose of life is to avoid pain and pursue pleasure, whether that be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual. I think you can see where I am going with this. Giving people spiritual tools (which in some select cases are actually quite effective) when they are still operating under a dead end notion about life’s purpose, or more accurately, to people who have not seriously examined life’s purpose, is foolish. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD used to call all of these manifestation movements “spiritual materialism.”

The ancient Hebraic sages, would say that at a certain point of spiritual development, one becomes a chariot of the Divine, meaning that your life becomes one where God is in the drivers seat. It is said that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all reached this stage, they didn’t lose their unique identities but their desires become aligned with Divine. One would think that this would limit your freedom, but in fact, it is said by the sages that when the confusions of life get cleared up and you have a connection to Source, you taste what true freedom is.

I am not against the idea of manifestation, but when you choose to pick what it is that you wish to manifest, make sure it is aligned with a vision that takes into account higher aims and purposes or brings you closer to determining your mission in life, or brings you in direct alignment with that mission.

When it comes to health however, start with the 4 pillars first. Examine in detail 1. Nutrition 2. Mental State 3. Physical Activity 4. Environmental Influences and see where there is something out of balance.

See One, Do One, Teach One!

This was the maxim in medical school when learning procedures. The second you learn and do, go and teach someone else. In the scheme of things, it would be beneficial to recognize that any level of knowledge or wisdom you have will always pale in comparison to the level of knowledge or wisdom that is possible. That means that even when you are recognized as an “expert,” if you think you are, you probably don’t realize how much there is to know. With that being said – we are all amateurs in the scheme of wisdom, so when you learn something of value, you should experiment with that wisdom, and then teach it and not feel like you are unqualified. Don’t be an armchair genius who read and then spews forth his knowledge. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald (Jerry) Epstein, MD use to say, before saying anything, say to yourself “What do I myself truly know about what I am about to say?” Have you experimented with this knowledge or are you just repeating it? Once you have experimented with it or experienced it, then you should teach it. The act of teaching is a way of exercising your will in a beneficial fashion.

Jerry would often talk about the “5 dark currents of will” (which was explained by a Catholic mystic by the name of Valentin Tomberg): those being the desire to be great, to take, to keep, to hold on to at the expense of other and to advance at the expense of others. Jerry listed the remedy for “advancing at the expense of others” is to teach.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often tell people with no background in studying sacred texts that once they learned something deeply, they should immediately share it with someone else. Those who have done teaching know that the benefits of teaching are almost always more impactful on the teacher than the student as the ancient sage Rabbi Chanina said “I have learned much from my teachers and even more from my friends, but from my students I have learned more than from all of them.

What are you withholding? Or worse, what are you holding back at the expense of others when it comes to real wisdom? Or on the other hand, think you don’t have anything to teach? Well you are wrong. Very, very, wrong! You will be doing yourself a favor to share what you “truly know about” something in your life with someone else.


Layers of Unwellness

On Sunday, we emailed out a survey to people on our email list asking them about their health challenges. What we received was very upsetting. What I was hoping for was to identify within our list a general trend in answers that would allow me to cater my education to help them. Instead, what we found were people who were truly desperate and needing help in multiple areas.

The problems we found were financial, multiple health problems, polypharmacy (people on numerous medications), addictions, people still healing from severe trauma, and other problems that would require serious professional support.

In my medical practice, there is always one thing that can start someone on the process of healing and sometimes it is not even ostensibly related to their health. Sometimes, getting one aspect of their life handled helps with getting their health in order. Direct person to person, one can make so much change in someone’s life. The future however I believe is the proper support with experts of various kinds helping.

Kudo’s to Dean Ornish, MD who has an integrated program that has been approved for reimbursement by Medicare and an expanding number of insurance companies. While the diet wars rage on, where Dr. Ornish is often maligned and criticized, he has quietly ignored that, pushed forward, made political connections, and gotten his program that no matter where you fall on the diet wars, extends life and the quality of it. That a program could be planned, constructed, scaled, and then approved to be reimbursed by Medicare is an incredible achievement and will improve lives tremendously. I just signed up to learn more as a clinician. Maybe I will write more about Dr. Ornish again, one lecture at a conference in California changed forever the way I practice medicine.




The Enemy of Art . .

“The enemy of art is the absence of limitations” Orson Welles. He was one of the coolest dudes ever in my book. He went from having all of the resources for his films to being shunned and being severely restricted, yet he continued to create such amazing films. My teacher of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD would discuss with me, “second force.” It is the resistance that exists behind all initiative, anytime you start anything.

So what is it’s analogue in health? The obvious one is the resistance that builds muscles, but also the overcoming of a desire for unhealthy choices. If you succeed it moves you to another level . . . where more resistance comes. And so it goes in life. If you seek peace from this in anything, you are suffering from the great malady of 99% of humanity, the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain as the primary force in people’s lives.

So what do on the path of authenticity and truth? Recognize the next two steps, there is initiative, then comes force, then form, then the final result. If you constrain your view to want a specific end-result, you will never be happy, but if you recognize that this “second force” is just the second stage and remain open to what comes in step 3 and 4 with an open mind and ready to see it in Truth and not as a comparison with what you wanted, then wonderful things can come.

I don’t know at what stage of his career that Orson Welles made this realization, I would imagine it was early on, given his growing up in the arts. The arc of his professional career really made him stare at it down. Realize that this is a master quote applicable widely. Change the word “art” to just about anything and it holds true. The enemy of Life is the absence of limitations. The enemy of relationships is the absence of limitations and on and on. There is nothing truer than this. We are here to experience limitations and grow from them in EVERYTHING. I’ve been taught by my teachers that in the spiritual world, these limitations disappear. It is for this reason, that the ancient Hebraic teachings, say that while souls ascend higher and higher after death, it is only in life that the major growth occurs and in fact it is here where all the major achievements come.

So next time you experience “second force” realize it for what it is, reality staring you in face, saying “come and get me, you may not realize it but I am a gift.”

Sleep and Stress

Did you ever stop to think that your bad mood might just be related almost exclusively to lack of sleep? I see an ethereal soul behind the deepest actions of man and yet, those get covered up by the flood of inflammation that isn’t cleared with good night sleep. So, your authentic self, the one that you are here to get to know, could be covered up almost completely by lack of sleep.

And so it goes with all of the things in life that deplete you of your energy. Caffeine which is fake energy and further depletes you if you don’t overcompensate thereafter. So next time you feel like you need coffee or chocolate as a pickup, you would be better of finding a quiet corner and getting a short nap.