Thursday, November 26, 2009

Healing Reality

On this Thanksgiving I am thinking of all I have to be grateful for - friends, patients, family, health and happiness. I’m not one who is so big on holidays but this one seems a little more full, a little more poignant with all that’s going on in the world. Gratitude is an important part of healing of any sorts - whether its physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual challenges or any other challenge we face called life. And a day to celebrate that and bring our attention to that seems like a good thing to celebrate. 

We need healing right now - individually, culturally, and across the globe. At a fundamental level I think its a healing between mind and heart. It SEEMS easier to choose what we think we should do rather than what our heart is telling us to do. But that is just a habit. The heart is primary - it started beating days into our conception without any body or blood yet developed. So I think this is where we find healing - in our heart, and gratitude and love are the primary emotions that live here. This if not just metaphorical. 

There is a Healing Reality in all of us all of the time - a bright source of light, a mystery which is bigger and brighter than our apparent physical being but its intimately connected with who we are physically, emotionally, energetically, physiologically. This is my journey - to learn and give myself to this Healing Reality. And I am very grateful for all the people willing to share this journey and find out together what this is. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Capitalism vs. Our Health

One of the things that has become apparent to me is that at least part of the issue is that we are dealing culturally with the apparent conflict between capitalism and public health. One public health doctor in Florida was fired from his job because he equated what I will call junk food - donuts in particular - with death. Before he was fired he also equated hamburgers and french fries with a fat waistline and big thighs.

Why do I call it junk food? This may seem obvious to some and just what is to others but the distinction is important. There are many foods that are “empty calories” - lots of fat and sugar in this case but no nutrients. No vitamins, no minerals, no phytochemicals, no antioxidants. Why is this important? Because really our bodies are happiest with all those wonderful and varied phytochemicals. Plants developed them to survive all kinds of hostile environments to protect themselves from heat, drought, disease, animals, etc. because they cannot move to change environments like animals can. And we as humans have evolved eating those plants and they help regulate our cells and their metabolism and make our cells and therefore us happy.

As David Kessler says in his new book, The End of Overeating, evolutionarily we have evolved to recognize, crave and fixate on fats, sugar and salt. Those staples are the reason we have survived as a race. These high energy and high calorie foundations have helped give us the boost to run from tigers and our enemies, to have creative bursts of energy when we didn’t have to focus only on survival. But really the foundation of our diets are the plants - the roots, leaves, seeds, flowers and fruits of those evolutionary beauties who watch us move all over the earth looking for home.

If we have those things we can eat the fat, sugar and salt but if we don’t have that as a foundation, our cells turn on different sets of genes and we get sick. We get sick with chronic diseases - diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, strokes, autoimmune diseases, alzheimers, cancer.

You see, we used to die of infectious diseases - cholera, tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia. Now in some areas of the world these are still major issues, and in the US there are still a few every year who succumb to these causes. But in the US really our main causes of death are cancer and heart disease/stroke and these are preventable and reversible if we look at our root history, our evolutionary history and do what we need to do to change our path.

So where does capitalism come into this? Right now the rules seem to favor big business - Oprah can get sued for saying not to eat meat by the meat industry and a public health doctor can lose his job for aggressively marketing against junk foods. Collectively there is an incredible force against those foods which are healthy - no one is making big money off of organic vegetables or whole grains. They can’t be patented or processed and repackaged. They are perfect as they are.

But I know there are individuals within the system who are concerned about this and who want to make a difference. I’ve met a program director at Aetna who is looking at the value of functional medicine in prevention and treatment and I’ve met a CEO of one of the major Blue Cross organizations who really cares and wants to use insurance for its purpose - to help people who are sick. So my challenge is to those individuals to stand up and stand out and seek out others who have like minds for the greatest challenge and creative purpose at this particular moment. We have the greatest opportunity to use all of our collective history - to look at all the government run health programs around the world - look at their good points and bad points; look at all the incredible information we have from science including the information from functional medicine and companies such as Metagenics, Xymogen and Thorne and see what works to prevent disease and reverse it. And we have an incredible public health system and hospital system which works when we need it - when there are emergencies of all kinds. So how can that be part of the picture and not the whole picture?

By using our creative ability to look both deeply at the major issues and look widely at creative solutions we can come up with a new way to look at health care which will be the epitome of what is possible now. That can be our legacy for the future of this world. Others can look to us and know the challenges that created the particular pieces which led to this breakthrough. This is how capitalism can actually promote health. How exciting is that?

I’ll be exploring more in future blogs about the joy our bodies experience with phytochemicals...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Health House: An Integral Co-Healing Retreat (not just a Halloween experiment)

We are embarking on an experiment - a healing retreat based on collective consciousness and experiential wisdom instead of just information. I find that most things relating to health are very information heavy. There is nothing wrong with the science and the information but I don’t think we learn best that way. I think we need to have experience inform our perspective so that we understand why we are making the choices that we do. Medical school is about information overload the first two years. But after that we learn by doing - seeing patients with their diseases, putting our hands on their bodies and hearing their stories. We need the information but we won’t remember it without experience.

There is a lot of information about right diet in the media but there are still a lot of Americans having french fries, burgers and coke for lunch. We want to create a retreat where people will have the experience of health and nutrition with the information, the science. We want to see how far we can go together in exploring health and wellness. The potential for all participants is huge - a collective look at health not tied to any particular healing modality or theory but open to all.

So this idea of an Integral Co-healing Retreat has come from several people. Two years ago one of my patient’s had a dream about this - and our first prototype retreat is going to be in his house. Then I have been working with a man who has helped me define my own life’s work as one of in depth health retreats. And then my partner, Richard Klein, recently had the hit we needed to do this as a collective consciousness experiment and create a new pathway to health. So here we are...

You’ll find Richard’s theory and treatise on what we want to do below. I’ll be blogging more as we refine what we are going to do and how our views of health are evolving.

And here’s Ken Wilber’s introduction about Integral Medicine - part of why I picked this as the kind of medicine I practice. Integral Medicine

Principles of an Integral Co-Healing Retreat

By Richard Klein

THE GOAL: To bring together physicians & healers with client/patients in an intensive, focused setting, in order to co-create an inclusive field of healing energy in which the mystery and mechanisms of human healing & wellness – physical, mental/emotional, spiritual – might reveal themselves; further, to create the optimal conditions for healers and patients alike to directly perceive the mechanisms of wellness and to invoke the spontaneous experience of healing—be it in body, mind or soul.

THE RETREAT: Why “Integral”? Integral, because it is necessary to step away from the materialistic, dogmatic, too-highly specialized, over-individualized practice or approach to medicine and healing.

An Integral Co-Healing retreat brings together a group of highly motivated, adventurous, skilled healing practitioners and their clients/patients for a period of 3-5 days. During that time, every healer will treat each individual patient in private sessions. Practitioners who work in a group dynamic will conduct their group work in sensible concert within the scheduled individual treatments. Other types of group activites should also be devised in order to bring together the retreatants for visualization, mantra or meditation practice, or for other educational programs related to nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, or any other topic of value as determined prior to or during the retreat.

Also – and crucially – all the participating practitioners should also share treatments with each other. “Physician, heal thyself” is applied as a pillar of the retreat and an integral part of the process. Patient downtime between treatment and group sessions should be somewhat structured with interim practices involving reading/education, or any variety of healing and/or spiritual practices, including visualization, mantra or meditation, in order to maximize receptivity and depth of effect.

During regular intervals during the retreat (at minimum once each day) the practitioners should assemble privately for in-depth discussion regarding each client/patient, sharing their individual findings and working collectively to create a coherent, incisive portrait of each patient’s condition, history, and needs – reaching, together, for the most accurate diagnosis and effective course of treatment. The more fully engaged the practitioners are with each other, without regard for the particular quality of the engagement—be it consonant or dissonant—the more trust and openness will be created during the retreat. There should be a direct correlation. The practitioners, therefore, should always strive for the most lively and authentic kind of engagement, tending toward consensus but never bowing to the tyranny of political correctness or the temptation to compromise for the sake of inclusion.

Any truly authentic co-healing paradigm will be created anew each time a group forms with the intention to create it. The mysterious foundational mechanisms of healing will always remain untouchable, unknowable, but the intention to create a healing environment in which those mechanisms might emerge, is in fact the sole, guiding principle and motivating force behind the Integral Co-Healing Retreat. The full responsibility to heal then, falls not on any one practitioner or participant nor on any single healing modality, but rather on the ability of the entire group to come together in search of wellness.

Within such a highly engaged dynamic, the likelihood of significant healing breakthroughs during a retreat is maximized and might also occur for the practitioners as readily as for the participants! It is, however, always unreasonable to expect (or even worse, demand) that remarkable healing will always occur in every retreat. Rather, like the prophet Elijah, a place is set at the table, an invitation sent, prayers offered. The rest is out of our hands, and that’s how it should be.

That said, even if “nothing extraordinary” seemed to occur over the course of an entire retreat, the powerful intention, depth of trust and shared empowerment created between the practitioners, the patients and amongst them, should leave everyone with the unmistakable impression that “something amazing” did indeed take place after all.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Health Care Reform

The words “health care reform” are bringing up a lot of very interesting and fiery reactions lately so I thought I would put my two cents in. I feel we need to step back and take a much wider view on what we can do to promote health - and even what the issues ARE.

So where do we start? There are common sense things that we can all do now that impact our health. Some are big and some are small. We all change at our own pace - sometimes a health crisis motivates us to want to change immediately and sometimes we just decide to start somewhere.

And sometimes I just want a place to vent....

The issues are as varied and complex as there are varieties of human beings and what we eat. As Michael Pollen says, we are omnivores - we can eat anything and conversely we can eat only what we choose to eat. We are driven by ingrained genetic programing - fats, sugar and salt - so big business has used this to market some interesting foods to us - hamburgers, donuts and french fries. And we also have genetic desires for all varieties of fruits and vegetables - those psychedelic phytochemicals which make our cells dance and sing much more than salt, sugar and fat but we have to remind our cells of this absolute fact.

I’m here to look at all these issues with you - to explore together so we can find a new way forward. Our health is our life. And our legacy for the future depends on us taking a look at the whole picture - who we are individually, collectively, culturally, genetically and where we are going.

So here we go....