Subheading: More than skin deep.
Our skin is our single largest living organ and it literally defines who we are. Without our skin, we would be a skeleton in a puddle of blood and that would take some getting used to, I imagine. Skin is often derided for being at the surface of things and thus incorrectly labelled superficial – so skin deep – but what this elastic covering achieves for our anatomical structure is more than just a tidy appearance. Skin breathes and like a baboon’s bottom its colour and appearance indicates our state of health – it is a barometer for all to see, of our moods, our level of hydration, our age and whether we are succumbing to disease.
We look outward in our search for beauty in our lives, we are conditioned to look out and not within, to seek beauty and meaning in romantic love, Art and nature. Beauty that inspires us to love or perhaps to begin the journey to find our heart, and meaning – to find meaning in that same quest for love or is there meaning in beauty itself? Much of our seeming obsession with appearing beautiful is, I think, the desire to be loved for who we are. As Louise Hay writes, “Our skin represents our individuality. Skin problems usually mean we feel our individuality is being threatened somehow. We feel that others have power over us.” I always think of adolescence and the eruption of skin problems at this time as a great example of this.
Our skin makes us uniquely who we are and no other. To touch another’s skin is an intimate act and usually the preserve of mothers and lovers. Skin to skin. The feel of your beloved’s skin is very important – it must feel right to touch for things to proceed from there. How one feels inside one’s own skin is another way of conveying the emotional response to one’s own existence. It is funny that we describe someone as ‘skinny’ when they in fact have less skin than someone who is not so svelte, but perhaps we are referring to them having less fat beneath their skin. Still we call someone a fatty when they have more fat but linguistically ignore the need for the extra skin to stretch over that fat. Skinny latte for me please.
Skin is portrayed in myth as often about magical powers, like the dragon’s scaly skin being impenetrable or the healing powers of the snake shedding its skin as renewed life. Skins were our first clothing in ancient times, to keep us warm and perhaps also to take on some of the properties of the slain animal – bear skins, sheep skins, fox, wolf, mink, cat, dog, buffalo, rabbit, kangaroo………..Shaman still today, wear skins of their totemic animal when performing rituals. When the beautiful white swans descend down to water, they remove their feathered skins to become frolicking naked ladies and if you can steal their skin they will follow you home and be yours forever – according to the myth that is.
For healthy skin I recommend the Cook well Eat well Live well program at the Sacred Chef cooking school on the sunshine coast
Appeared in Eco Living Magazine.
Posted by sudhahamilton in Health, Published Articles.
Tags: weight loss, ageing, omega 3 fatty acids, children, nutrition, digestion, food allergies, food intolerances, allergies, preservatives, chemicals, additives, immune system, organically, organics, bloating, histamines, lactose, nourishment, breakfast, diet, fats, physiological, sex hormones, amino acids, sugars, enzymes, carbohydrates, bacteria, acidophilus, coeliac disease, constipation, inflammation
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Heading: Hard to Digest
Subheading: Food allergies and intolerances.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine
Food allergies and intolerances in children have become the topic du jour in parenting circles and among health professionals. Whether the increase in interest is merely a raising of awareness or the true cause of the intolerances and allergies is the preservatives, chemicals and additives found in foods separates the experts. There has also been speculation that a generally more chemical rich environment can add to susceptibility to allergies in food, with so much pressure on our immune system, it is hardly surprising that allergies are affecting children’s immature immune and digestive systems much more than in the past.
Eating organically can reduce the stress on children’s immune system, by removing the stress of unnecessary chemicals, pesticides, phosphates in the fertilisers, not to mention the practice of picking the produce unripe, not allowing the important nutrients to fully develop, providing vital nutrition for growing immune and digestive systems.
Allergies and intolerances have a different physiological base and vary in severity and implication for the child’s health. An intolerance is an unpleasant reaction to food, such as runny nose after a hot curry or a particularly antisocial aftermath to a bean casserole, some intolerances are more severe and symptoms may include bloating,
An allergy on the other hand is a function of the mast cells which are found underneath the lining of the skin, gut, lungs, nose and eyes. These cells are our protective force against worms and parasites. In allergic people, these cells react to the allergen when it presents itself. “Mast cells are like “land-mines”, and contain “bags” filled with irritant chemicals including histamine. Mast cells are armed with proteins called IgE antibodies, which act as remote sensors in the local environment”
FOOTNOTE — 1
A person allergic to peanut, for example, will have IgE antibodies capable of recognizing the shape of peanut protein (the allergen), in much the same way that a lock “recognizes” the shape of a key. When this happens, mast cells are triggered to dump their contents (such as histamine) into the tissues, causing an allergic reaction.
Kristina Hoffman Philpott, M.D. on childhood food allergies
“The most common form of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, resulting from a lactase deficiency. Lactase is an enzyme made by the cells lining the stomach. It is responsible for breaking down lactose, the simple sugar found in dairy products. The symptoms of lactose intolerance are gas, bloating, abdominal pain and sometimes diarrhoea.
The most common food allergens for American children are milk, eggs, peanuts, soybeans, wheat and fish. In adults with food allergies, the most common culprits are shellfish (such as shrimp, escargot, squid, crab and clams), peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pine nuts and almonds), fish and eggs.
A true food allergy is an abnormal response to a food, triggered by the immune system. When the immune system overreacts to a food protein, an allergic reaction may result. Food intolerances differ from allergies in that they do not involve the immune system. It is important to identify true food allergies because these reactions can be severe and even life threatening”. http://www.pamf.org/children/newsletter/foodallergies.html
Of course allergies & food intolerances grow up with their hosts & remain active in adult life & it is fascinating to speculate on their origins. If genetic predisposition is the first answer, where did it have its genesis in the generations before? Is it a mixed race issue? With lactose intolerance being far more common in non-caucasian races for instance. Or perhaps the degradation of our environments & the continuing costs of mechanised mass production have changed our essential relationships with foods?
Eating food, ingesting nourishment – nutrition – the thing that we do everyday, mostly three times a day and often without thought. I wake up in the morning and break my fast with fresh juice, toast and coffee. I have lunch and later on dinner and hopefully leave it at that for the day, before sleeping and repeating the cycle once again, until one day I sicken and die and have no more need of food. What is the essential nature of this most banal of activities? What secrets lie at the heart of understanding – nutrition? When we do things unconsciously, or without considered thought, we are prone to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers – why am I eating toast for breakfast? Because my father did & his father before him. Is there intrinsic nutritional value in coming from a long line of toast eaters? Well if it is organic sour dough perhaps. So many of the basic and most important human activities like eating are handed down generationally, and like a taboo they come with many strings attached. If you eat differently from your parents in many cases they will be initially offended by your decision and will see your new nutritional path as a rejection of their values and upbringing of you. I am sure that many readers will have experienced this and that the differences can continue to grate in shared social settings, and as our parent’s age and sicken one of the most frustrating things is trying to get them to eat better themselves. Traditions are like walls that keep people in and people out.
The Greek root of the word diet is diatia, which refers to a way of life toward wellness, and is more than just a regime of eating do’s and don’ts. It understands the link between how you live your life and what and how you eat. Epicurus the Greek philosopher of BC 341-270 stressed the importance of eating with friends, and I personally know that when I eat with good friends that I eat with a greater degree of joy and dont eat as much as when I eat alone. Good conversation and the sharing of gratitude for a well prepared dish is the reason why, I think, that we first started eating out at friends places and restaurants in the first place. The level of noise in most restaurants in Australian cities has taken much of the joy of keen conversation away, above the ‘night club’ yell, “how’s the steak?” Where we eat and how we eat impacts on our digestion and therefore ability to benefit from good food. Dishes in restaurants have to be designed to excite and rise above the clamor of the hustle and bustle of busy eating houses, they are therefore usually rich and high in sugar and fats. How do you get noticed in a crowded room? By being extra spicy or so sensual that I melt in your mouth. The ambience within restaurants is part of a cyclical fashion trend and I am confident that it will shift again, away from the current din.
So what actually happens on a physiological level when we eat. As I understand it once we have ingested the food and it has travelled down the gullet into our stomach, having been chewed into smaller bits and coated with saliva, the digestive process begins with acids and small particles that have been released from the stomach, liver and pancreas called enzymes. At this stage foodstuffs have been reduced down to a liquid by mastication by the muscles of the stomach wall, working in conjunction with acids and enzymes. Here the food’s large molecules of carbohydrates, proteins and fats are broken down into even smaller particles that the body can absorb. Complex carbohydrates are reduced into simple sugars by the enzymes sucrase, amylase, maltase and lactase. Fats are separated into fatty acids and glycerol by the lipase enzymes. Protein becomes amino acids transformed by the enzymes pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin. Moving then to the small intestine, which on average receives around 6.5 litres of fluid from the stomach, salivary glands, pancreas and liver on a daily basis. This fluid is absorbed by the small intestine and then transfered by means of osmosis through the cell walls, this being totally dependent upon the level of sodium present within the cells (the vital importance of salt in our diet). The small intestine is responsible for virtually all the absorption of nutrients into our blood, which includes electrolytes such as sodium, chloride & potassium, and all the organic molecules, which include glucose, amino acids and fatty acids. The small intestine is lined with hairlike projections called villi that are close to many tiny blood vessels and nutrients are passed through the villi into these capillaries.
So the starchy foods we eat like bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are broken down from complex carbohydrates into simple sugars or monosaccharides, as are carbohydrates derived from lactose and sucrose. We are left with glucose, galactose and fructose from maltase, lactase and sucrase respectively and these make their way into our blood stream and give us energy. Proteins are almost always not absorbed directly but are digested into amino acids or dipeptides and tripeptides and these are likewise absorbed into our blood. One exception to this is for new born babies who are able to acquire passive immunity through the absorption of immunoglobulins in their mother’ colostral milk. Fats are broken down by bile salts and the enzyme lipase through the process of emulsification and become fatty acids and monoglycerides. These are absorbed differently to the simple sugars and amino acids by diffusion across the plasma membrane. One well known lipid trygliceride is cholesterol which is vital to cell membranes, sex hormones and in digesting fats, it is however carried through the blood stream by lipoproteins and low density lipoproteins in particular. The build up of these in the blood can of course cause plaque deposits on artery walls and lead to heart attacks and strokes. Fatty acids are generally divided into three groups: saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated – and these terms refer to the number of hydrogen atoms attached to the carbon atoms of the acid chains in the molecule of fat. The polyunsaturated fats are further defined by the number of carbon atoms in their acid chain and so named Omega-3, Omega-6 & Omega-9.
Enzymes are present in just about everything we eat and they are necessary for most of the chemical reactions within our bodies that make life possible. As proteins they are the catalysts for so many of the metabolic functions that give us our energy and the spark of life. With over 5000 now identified, they are involved in all the bodily processes that lead to movement, thinking, digestion and maintenance of the immune system. Cooking food at temperatures over 52C kills off the enzymes and so we derive most of our enzymes from raw plant life. New research is now positing that a diet poor in raw foods places a strain on the pancreas to keep producing enzymes for healthy digestion and metabolism. Studies have also shown that as we age we produce less of our own enzymes and diet becomes even more important for healthy functioning. Research has also shown that the body recycles enzymes by absorbing them through the large intestine & colon and then sending them back up through the bloodstream to the small intestine to be used again. Which may indicate their vital importance to the human body.
Lactose intolerance or lastase deficiency is an inability to break down the carbohydrate lactose, usually found in milk and dairy products. This can cause digestive problems resulting in abdominal pain and diarrhoea. The enzyme lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose into simple sugars so that we can derive the energy benefit from the carbohydrate. Without enough lactase in the mucus of the small intestine, the lactose finds its way into the large intestine and is partially broken down by the bacteria there. This can be experienced painfully as bloating and bowel problems.
If you think that you may be lactose intolerant, you can check by firstly eliminating foods that contain lactose – like dairy foods that are predominantly derived from cows & foods that contain milk solids, like milk chocolate; milk breads; processed foods that contain milk products & soups & sauces that are dairy based. If your physical reactions cease during this break & then re-appear when the foods are re-introduced then this is a very good case for a lactose intolerance.
Some of the things that you can do to manage this condition, apart from a complete avoidance of these highly nutritious foods, are to eat fermented milk products like cheeses & yoghurts as these do not cause as much problem. . In particular goats or sheep milk products like fetta ( be warmed most fetta’s are not made from sheep’s milk unless stated on the packaging); pecorino cheese made from ewe’s milk & goats cheeses are delicious and do not contain the same level of lactose.
Avoid low fat milks as they move through your digestive system quickly causing a reaction, as the fats in full cream milk actually slow down the process and give the lactase more time to break down the lactose.
Soy food products are a good source of calcium and can be used in some cases as an alternative.
Acidophilus is a natural source of lactase.
There are some natural enzyme supplements that help the body’s own lactase enzymes to digest the milk products & studies are proving these very effective.
Coeliac Disease & Gluten Intolerant
Although two different conditions they obviously share a problem with the digestion of the wheat protein gluten. In Coeliac Disease it is an apparent autoimmune reaction that causes the destruction of the villi, which are hairlike projections of the mucosa into the small intestinal lumen & are actively involved in the digestion of sugars and proteins. It is posited that when the gliadin wheat protein is ingested by Coeliac Disease sufferers, the glutamine found within that binds to tissue transglutaminase and forms glutamic acid & the resultant gliadin epitopes are recognised as foreign by the host cells. This causes inflammation and mutation of the villi structures within the lumen. The consequences of this are varied and symptoms can range from many to none at all.
Symptoms can be:
Bloating and stomach cramping.
Nausea and vomiting.
Fatigue and lethargy.
Diarrhoea or Constipation.
Basically the absorption of the nutrients is not occuring and there is an inflammatory reaction that can manifest across a broad spectrum in different people. The only treatment for Coeliac Disease is a gluten free diet. Wheat is not the only grain to cause this reaction, as rye; barley & oats contain proteins called prolamines which have a similar effect.
The control of this amazing digestive system is achieved by electrical and hormonal messages in concert, coming from both the digestive functions own nervous and endocrine systems, and from the central nervous system and the adrenal gland. The body is a finely tuned instrument of incredible complexity that is continually interacting within itself and from without – meaning that the ability to digest and metabolise food into energy and life maintenance is effected by a myriad of things, thoughts and circumstances. In my opinion to simply focus on one particular aspect in exclusion of all others, for instance a particular food or chemical ingredient within a food, is often missing the whole picture. It is not only what we eat but how we eat and under what conditions both externally and internally do we eat that can seriously impact upon our health. Like an extremely delicate fulcrum we are all about balance and it may involve adjustments in not just what is ingested but in lifestyle and influences upon your life. Awareness of food allergies and intolerances may be just the beginning and they are quite likely pointers to a whole host of changes that may involve deeper introspection and attitudinal shifts from the current status quo. Our often defensive attachment to what has been scientifically proven and our quickness to ridicule any thing outside of the known scientific paradigm is in my opinion evidence of our resistance to the expansiveness of enlightenment, so many of us have an investment in keeping our world small. For what is scientically known is forever changing and what we know now about nutrition is only beginning to unfold. My experience in all of this is that new nutritional answers are being revealed all the time like pieces of a jigsaw in a puzzle that nobody knows in its entirety.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine
www.sacredchef.com New cooking school just opened on the sunshine coast, featuring the Cook well Eat well Live well program
Time of the Kidney
Noni and the Kidney Qi
By Sudha Hamilton
Published in WellBeing Magazine
In our western health culture the kidneys are perhaps one of the most invisible and possibly neglected bodily organs. These two vaguely bean shaped organs are located near our spine at the small of the back, just below the liver and spleen. Responsible, in the main, for the removal of urea, mineral salts, toxins and other waste products from the blood, they are seemingly behind us and out of sight, out of mind. Perhaps their association with excreting waste has led to a lack of polite conversation about them over the years. The kidney is not, at this juncture in time, the somewhat sexy organ that the liver has been of late, with its infamous association with drugs, alcohol and partying. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) however prescribes far greater influence for the kidneys upon our physical health and indeed our lives.
Western medicine focuses very much on the diseases that affect the kidney and the field is called nephrology, from the Greek “nephros” for kidney. Renal failure and dialysis are possibly terms and conditions that you have heard of and refer to in the first instance – “renal” Latin for kidney and their failure through disease to remove wastes from the blood; dialysis involves filtering the blood outside of the body assisted by a machine and is used as a means of keeping those with renal failure alive before and if a donor for a kidney transplant can be found. Kidney diseases can be congenital, meaning from birth, or acquired and although most of us are born with two kidneys we can function with one working kidney.
The fully functioning kidney is made up of more than a million nephrons, which are the units that actually filter the blood. Consisting of a renal corpuscle and a renal tubule, which are an intertwined blood vessel and urine collecting tube, a chemical exchange takes place between them as waste materials and water leave the blood and enter the urinary system. Your kidneys are also measuring out the minerals and chemicals like sodium, potassium and phosphorus and releasing them back into the blood as needed. They are the prime regulating organs for these vital substances, where too much or too little can be harmful and indeed fatal. In addition to this the kidneys are directly involved in the release of three important hormones: erythropoietin (EPO) which stimulates bone marrow to produce red blood cells; renin which regulates blood pressure; and calcitriol the active form of vitamin D that maintains calcium for bones and for chemical balance within the body.
The greater proportions of kidney diseases damage the nephrons and cause them to lose their filtering capacity. Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure and high blood pressure is a major factor in diabetics developing kidney problems. Indeed high blood pressure in non-diabetics also ranks as a leading cause of kidney disease, as it damages the small blood vessels in the kidneys. That damage reduces the filtering capacity of the kidneys. If wastes are not being removed and proteins are not being returned back into the blood then you are moving toward renal failure and a variety of health issues before death ensues without medical intervention.
So that is a very basic understanding of kidney function within the western medical framework. The TCM outlook is a far more comprehensive and holistic view and involves more than just the organ itself. A brief definition of TCM being that it is a system of health care that encompasses acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, anmo tuina (remedial massage), qi gong (exercise and breathing), and diet and lifestyle.
TCM assigns the kidney the foundation position among the other organs, as the home of the ‘ancestral chi’ and the root of the yin and yang for the entire body. The kidney stores the vital life essence, and this is produced by the Qi, as it digests food and drink in the stomach and small intestine. According to Chinese Medicine we have a post-haven Qi and a pre-haven Qi, with the former being derived from the food we eat and the air we breathe, and the latter from our parents, perhaps similar to our understanding of our hereditary genes. The kidney in TCM is much more than just renal function, it encompasses the influence of the adrenal glands as well. Kidney energy is divided into kidney yin and kidney yang. Kidney yin refers to the nutritive function of the kidney, body fluids and essential Qi. Kidney yang governs the physiological processes like warming and transforming fluids like hormones. Yin is like the earth or substance that is the body and yang is the life energy that courses through it.
I think that this is a particularly salient example of the difference between the two medical frameworks, with the western medical view only seeing the body & its functioning, but unlike TCM never seeing the life force that runs through the body because it can never measure it or define it under its current scientific rules of evidence. According to the western model early stage kidney disease is very hard to spot with few obvious symptoms and this is perhaps why most information about nephrology focuses on worst case scenarios, leading to dialysis and kidney transplant. The Chinese model allows for earlier detection and indeed kidney tonics form the greater part of TCM herbal remedies. A deficiency of kidney yin means that the body is being run down and not able to maintain its health with too much yang energy showing itself through a flushed complexion, overheating, hypertension, inflammation and the like. Whereas coldness, pale complexion, tiredness, low libido and oedema are indications of a lack of kidney yang.
Ageing in general is seen to be due to declining kidney energy in TCM and will manifest itself as low kidney yang in most cases. The slowing of our metabolism as we age contributes to many of the symptoms like coldness, fatigue, emotional withdrawal, mild depression, frequent urination, loose bowels, memory loss, weak back and legs. Kidney tonics to stimulate yang energy by increasing our metabolic rates and tightening up organ function can delay the onset of many of these conditions. Kidney yang in essence can be seen in the energy lifting secretions of the adrenal medulla, some androgenic hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex, thyroid hormone and growth hormone from the anterior pituitary gland. It is also affected by the release of EPO by cells in the kidneys and to a lesser extent the liver, which stimulates the bone marrow to make erythrocytes. Further symptoms of a kidney yang deficiency are: sensitivity to cold, lack of libido, impotence, sterility, clear urine, dribbling urine, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation, oedema of the lower limbs, weak pulse, whitish moist tongue fur.
Morinda officinalis or Noni has a long history of use within TCM and is commonly used as a kidney yang tonic. The roots have been traditionally been employed and Morinda is known as “Bajitian.” Traditionally recognised for its adaptogenic, aphrodisiac, urogenital astringent, analgesic, hypotensive, digestive stimulant and diuretic properties. It provides a tonifying action on the reproductive (sexual), urinary, muscoskeletal and central nervous system functions.
The Morinda plant is a genus of around eighty species and they mainly come from tropical regions. There are seven species found in Australia. Plants can grow from three metre shrubs up to twelve metre trees. It has oval shaped leaves and white flowers that occur in the summer and autumn. These are followed by the fruit, which are edible and have a pungent aroma. The juice of the fruit is considered to have a wide range of medicinal qualities. In recent times, since 1997, Noni juice has become popular in western nations as a health supplement. Studies into the healing benefits of Morinda are now being undertaken by herbal research centres, like Lismore’s Southern Cross University.
The Morinda plant is made up of polysaccharides, which include glucoronic acid, galactose, arabinose and rhamnose, coumarin, medium chain fatty acids, flavone glycosides, sterols ( betta-sistosterol), terpenoids, essential oils, amino acids, vitamin C and potassium. Plus Morindone (yellow dye), alizarin (red dye), rubiadin and a large range of anthraquinones in the roots, bark and leaves. The terpenoids help the body detoxify through their anti-bacterial qualities. The many anti-oxidants within the noni plant like the glycosides provide a defence against free radicals. Scopoletin or coumarin has anti-inflammatory properties. Limonene and anthraquinones have anti-septic value within the body.
Morinda citrifolia (a close relative of Morinda officalis), has been used for centuries by Polynesian healers to treat the respiratory, digestive and immune systems. Likewise it has a strong healing history in India, SE Asia and in our own Northern Australia. Published information on its use by indigenous Australian’s indicate that various groups regarded Morinda citrifolia as “an excellent food and a strong medicine.”
In studies conducted recently at the Southern Cross University, the antioxidant activity of noni juice was assessed to be in a similar range to green tea (with an oxygen radical absorbance capacity ORAC result in the 747 to 1517 level). Professor Wang from the Department of Pathology, UIC College of Medicine, Rockford, Illinois 61107, USA reported on studies conducted on Tahitian noni juice which showed the superoxide anion radicals scavenging activity of Tahitian noni juice to be 2.8 times that of vitamin C, 1.4 times that of Pycnogenol and 1.1 times that of grape seed powder. Also the initial results of cholesterol synthesis inhibition of noni juice are particularly promising. Results reveal that noni juice shows a positive dose response and inhibits cholesterol synthesis. Associate Professor Dr David Leach (Southern Cross University) say’s “The in vitro findings are encouraging, and it is work we would like to repeat”.“In noni’s anti-inflammatory activity scopoletin, quercetin, and ursolic acid were identified as major anti-inflammatory constituents. Since ursolic acid was known to have anti-inflammatory activity, we characterized the mode of action of scopoletin and quercetin.” H. YU, S. Li, M.-T. Huang, and C.-T. Ho. Dept. of Food Science, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey . An antidepressant like effect was also observed in a study conducted by Zhang ZQ, Yuan L, Yang M, Luo ZP, Zhao YM. Division of Psychopharmacology, Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology. The study observed the antidepressant-like action of the medicinal plant Morinda officinalis in a behavioral swimming test conducted on rats.
There are numerous positive anecdotal reports of noni’s effectiveness in improving vitality, libido, skin condition, hair condition and many of the symptoms related to low kidney yang levels. It is particularly useful for people who have a highly sensitive intestinal tract and who suffer easily from constipation and pain. People who exhibit sluggish metabolism associated with a hypo-thyroid condition also seem to benefit from using noni.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza sp.) is another kidney yang tonic ingredient, noted for having cortisone-like action. Glycyrrhizin, a derivative of glycyrrhetinic acid, is chemically very similar to certain adrenalcortical hormones. It is not uncommon for plants to contain hormone-like substances similar to those found in humans. Licorice too has anti-inflammatory properties and these were discovered quite by accident in 1946. When a Dutch physician, F. E. Revers, saw a small-town pharmacist prepare a licorice based remedy for the treatment of gastric ulcers and upon trying it on several of his own patients he found that it worked just fine. In at least half the patients he tested this paste on, the ulcers were nearly gone within a month. Licorice like cortisone, though not as strong, can relieve symptoms of peptic ulcers by inhibiting the inflammatory reactions. Also like cortisone, the regular and excessive use of licorice will produce the oedemic, moon face appearance of Cushing’s syndrome, a condition which can be described as `deficient kidney yang.’ As with corticoid
therapy, licorice in regular and high dosage can cause, elevated potassium levels, resulting in oedema and hypertension. It is, therefore, not recommended for those past the age of sixty five who have a tendency towards renal hypertension.
Rehmannia root, or sheng di huang and/or shu di huang in Chinese, is another very effective ingredient in many kidney tonics. A member of the foxglove family, the root can be used in its raw state as a detoxifying herb that cools the blood in the treatment of wasting fevers. As shu di huang it is cured by soaking and drying the compressed root many times in rice wine, thus warming its influence as a kidney tonic. Like many TCM herbs it can be used in different preparations as both a yin and yang tonic. Rehnammia is said to be the “kidney’s own leading herb.” Promoting kidney function, cooling the blood and bring moisture to dryness. With kidney yin deficiency said to be very common in our modern societies because of the hectic lifestyles. Rehmannia root, taken under the supervision of a trained TCM practitioner, can be of great help in relieving many of the symptoms – like dryness in the scalp, skin, night sweats, frequent urination and dark rings under the eyes.
Siberian Ginseng is a warming TCM kidney yang tonic. The major chemical components of Siberian ginseng are eleuthrosides A-G (phenylpropanoid, sterol,
lignans, isofraxin, carotenoids and coumarins). There is evidence of cortisol like anti-inflammatory activity.
“The pharmacologically active ingredient of noni.” by Heinicke, R. 1985 Pacific Botanical Garden Bulletin.15:10-14
“Anti-cancer Activity of Noni Fruit Juice against Tumours in Mice” by Furusawa E., CTAHR Conf. Jan 2003 P-1/03
“Noni Handbook” by Jackson J, ND & Dr Wermuth PhD. Qld.
Hirazumi A, Furusawa E. Chou SC, Hokama Y. Anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) on intraperitoneally implanted Lewis lung carcinoma in syngeneic mice. Proc West Pharmacol Soc 1994; 37: 145-6.
Hirazumi A, Furusawa E. et al., Immuno-modulation contributes to the anticancer activity of Morinda citrifolia (noni) fruit juice. Proc West Pharmacol Soc 1996; 39:7-Hirazumi A, Furusawa E. An immunomodulatory polysaccharide-rich substance from the fruit juice of Morinda citrifolia (noni) with antitumour activity. Phytotherapy Res 1999 Aug:13 (5):380-7 Liu, G., et al. Two novel glycosides from fruits of Morinda citrifolia (noni) inhibit AP-1 transactivation and cell transformation in the mouse epidermal JB6 cell line. Cancer Res 2001; 61:5749-56. Fong ST. et al. Extracts of Morinda citrifolia (noni) exhibit selective anti-tumour activity against breast and colon carcinoma cell lines. Poster presented at: Building Bridges with Traditional Knowledge Summit meeting: May 30. 2001; Honolulu , Hawaii Bushnell OA et al., The antibacterial properties of some plants found in Hawaii . Pacific Science 1950; 4: 167-83
Banbury L, & Brushett D. Investigation of Noni Juice Centre for Phytochemistry & Pharmacology 2004 (11) Wang MY et al. Morinda citrifolia (Noni): A literature review and recent advances in Noni research. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2002 Dec; 23 (12):127-41
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine
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RAISING CHILDREN CONSCIOUSLY
Subheading : Parenting for a peaceful world.
By Sudha Hamilton & Suzy Barry
Is parenting a thankless task of unfathomable consequences or an opportunity to bring a keener light of consciousness to our universe?
Parenting is a state that resides deep within the lands of instinct and tradition. The most common determinant of your parenting instincts is your own parents and how they parented you. Depending on the circumstances you may either repeat that act of parenting or do the opposite in reaction to the unwelcome reminder of your own parent-induced trauma.
This repetition in parenting behaviour patterns is condemning us to keep on making the same mistakes again and again. If you do not take responsibility for raising your children in the most enlightened manner possible then how can you ever expect them to take responsibility for themselves, their health, their state of mind and their ability to love. It is a challenge to stand apart from the ever repeating cycle and honestly ask yourself, “what do I want for my child in every moment?”
It is those moments that make up the whole. So what does it all mean? How can we apply the same level of consciousness to raising our children as we do to our own issues? Here are some practical solutions for ‘aware parenting’.
The “Fourth Trimester”
The first few months of new parenthood can be considered the “fourth trimester” of your baby’s life. For parents they are the most intense, but need not be the most difficult! Humans are born at the earliest maturation of all mammals. Consider other mammals that are born almost as fragile and dependent as humans. A baby orang-utan is carried almost constantly on its mother’s body until it is capable of dealing with life on its own. This is a useful way to look at the early months: it helps to separate the advice based on this premise and the advice characteristic of a fast-paced, ‘get things done’ society.
Controlled Crying is an example of a common practice considered to be harmful and unnatural by many. Keeping your baby close is what’s best for baby and your relationship with them. You might say, “There are no predators in the nursery, my baby is safe,” but the hollow sound of a baby’s unanswered anguished cries indicates a type of predator, a human emotional predator, which can engender a sense of abandonment and is extremely distressing for the infant. The Australian Association for Infant Mental Health has expressed concern and does not encourage this practice of Control Crying and other variations on the theme, which essentially disregard the only method of communication available to your child. Babies and young children have shorter sleep cycles providing more opportunity for awakening but also more REM sleep and hence, essential brain development. This means that if those inconvenient awakenings that infants are prone to in the first two years or so, are by-products of the short sleep cycles, which are vital for their brain development. Controlled Crying and other sleep training methods designed to keep children asleep for longer periods, must train them out of these shorter cycles, hence rob them of their quota of REM.
English psychiatrist John Bowlby, developed in the nineteen sixties, what has come to be known as attachment theory. This theory holds that babies thrive best on having a secure touch orientated attachment to their parents, being constantly held rather than being placed in a pram or cot. More recently science has detected positive benefits to the babies immune system when they are predominantly held in states of physical closeness to the mother or primary carer.
When you think about it, it is not so surprising, having been inside the womb for nine months, the transition from mother’s body to spending large parts of the day in a pram or cot, away from the reassuring heart beat of the mother does seem harsh. Jean Liedloff in her nineteen seventy five seminal book, The Continuum Concept, named this vital stage in early childhood care the “in-arms phase.” Spending several years in the jungles of South America with a tribe of Indians, she observed a different and decidedly more nurturing way to raise children.
Skin to skin contact is a vital physical reassurance to the newborn child and like our monkey forebears this contact provides a successful two million year old continuum. Strapping the baby to the mother by means of a sling or other similar device allows the child to be part of the mother’s energy field and has been a part of numerous cultures throughout the world; in Africa; Asia and beyond. Through observation the baby is also learning about the mother’s universe, her day-to-day activities. Beware though of the front packs where the legs hang straight down, they are not good for spinal development. [STUDIES?]
Rochelle L. Casses, D.C, taken from http://continuum-concept.org/reading/spinalStress.html
“A baby’s spine is placed in a compromising position in many of today’s popular carriers. If the carrier positions the infant upright, with the legs hanging down and the bodyweight supported at the base of the baby’s spine (i.e. at the crotch), it puts undue stress on the spine which can adversely affect the development of the spinal curves and, in some cases, cause spondylolisthesis (forward slipping of a vertebra on the one below it).
Spondylolisthesis is documented in approximately 5% of white males, but is prevalent in native Eskimos (as high as 60% of the population is affected). There has been much discussion on the high percentage of affected Eskimos as to whether it is a genetic predisposition or related to environmental factors (i.e., papoose carriers). Knowing how dynamic and vital the biomechanics of the spine are, I believe that environmental factors are the cause. If the trend continues in the U.S. to carry infants in carriers (or place them in walkers, jumpers, etc.) that place their spines in a weight bearing position before the spine is developmentally ready to do so, I believe we will see an increase in the incidence of spondylolisthesis”
The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for the first two years and beyond. The WHO encourages food as a diet of food and bm after 6 months, exclusive bfeeding up to 2 years and beyond.
“Promoting appropriate feeding for infants and young children
10. Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the
healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral
part of the reproductive process with important implications for
the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation,
infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of
life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.1 Thereafter,
to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should
receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while
breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive
breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical
conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in
ample milk production.”
The WHO’s recommendation to exclusively breastfeeding to six months should not be mistaken as an instruction to wean at six months. There are wonderful benefits to full term breastfeeding. Six months is such a premature time to wean when the human history is taken into account as is the world’s current population. If you can do it, the best foundation for ensuring your child’s needs are being met is to breastfeed on demand for the first year and as long as is mutually desirable. Some time in the second year, the child’s understanding of others’ needs may grow to allow you to gently begin to assert your own needs, your own instincts and your child’s reaction are the best guides here. Breast milk changes with the growing infant and is undoubtedly the best source of nutrition for a young child.
Toddler Years and Beyond
The toddler years are the beginning of individuation and undoubtedly the most challenging for many parents and children. The toddler is becoming aware that they are separate people and their own desires are emerging and taking control of their body, mind, voice and spirit. The age of the tantrum is upon you! How many of us have looked at or partaken in a sort of release therapy? Toddlers should be release therapy practitioners. They are open valves of emotion, they live in the moment and embody the oneness that so many of us are striving for.
Raising toddlers consciously means not crushing this exuberance, whilst guiding your tremendous toddler in the ways of the world, via your own personal boundaries. To parent authentically is to allow your toddler to express themselves within the boundaries you are comfortable with. There is no benefit to the toddler allowing them to climb on your head, while you patiently wait for their exuberance to change to respect, you need to indicate that you have personal boundaries. They are now ready for them. In teaching them that you need your boundaries respected, they will learn to give this respect and expect the same from others; here we have the foundation of respect for self.
Gentle discipline means respecting your toddler as another human being. It does not mean allowing them to walk all over you as this is rarely what the toddler wants or needs. Gentle discipline involves negotiation from a place of empathy with a view to a long-term goal, as opposed to short-term convenience of an obedient toddler with eyes downcast in shame. Shaming and physical punishment/ solitary confinement (time-out) have become the cornerstone of popular discipline. This is what Robin Grille, psychologist and psychotherapist, in his book Parenting for a Peaceful World terms operating in “Socializing Mode”. The socializing mode is characterized by the preoccupation with social norms and producing children who will function well in society, be employable, polite and well mannered. In order to train children it is necessary to curb their natural desires in some way. Every time we employ these conventional methods, we are attempting to “break” our children. An obedient animal has its sprit broken, and every time this happens to a child, a little of them must surely die.
If you see your child becoming aggressive, don’t wait for them to hit someone, and then punish them. Intervene, ask if they are feeling angry and tell them it is not acceptable to hit people, but that it is just fine to feel angry and invite them to belt a cushion to alleviate their frustration. This can be great fun!
Invite and employ negotiation. Think about the wonderful skills you are passing on by respecting their desires enough to negotiate. Blind obedience loses its appeal somewhat after about age 10, then we value initiative. Probably one of the few simple formulas: If your child doesn’t want their nappy changed, but it is stinky and you need to go out. You can say: “We have to change your nappy, but would you like to bring this toy with you, or this one?” Or “We have to change your nappy now, but would you like to do it on the change table or on the couch?” This alleviates the monotony a toddler must feel of not being in charge by giving them a choice within your own boundaries. You need to go out now – that is your boundary – so within that, what can you offer?
Frustration abounds in the toddler years, they are becoming independent in so many ways, but their natural exuberance means that they are often met with opposition from parents and from their own capacity. Allow and encourage tantrums, they are the toddler’s therapy; they are valid expressions and should be honoured. If your child wants chocolate in the middle of shopping and you don’t want her to have it – fair enough! But…she will be upset and though it wouldn’t distress you that much, it is the end of the world for her, so there is no point telling her it’s not! Let her sit on the ground and have a ‘tanty’, really what’s the big deal, be brave and weather the disapproving glances of the old ladies who ‘never would have had that in their day’ or who would ‘have given them short shrift’. Remember, it is children brought up under that paradigm who pack the waiting rooms of therapists, and whose depression levels have hit record levels. Honour your child and focus on your child and you will be amazed at the transformation after she has grieved the chocolate experience that never was.
Look behind the behaviour
It is important that you delve beneath the behaviour presented by your child and always ask, “Why?” A holistic way is to look at the whole child, not just the behaviour you would like to stamp out. What is happening for your child that is making them react in this way? Can you help them? As we all know; it is always better to deal with the cause than the symptom.
Alfie Kohn has published works including “Unconditional Parenting” on the problems with a system of punishments and rewards. We are not dealing with a rat, which is what behaviourism was based upon. (The faith in a punishment/reward system is based on studies conducted with rats and morsels of food; not humans).
Withholding love and approval sends a message to our children that they are only lovable if they do what we want, what a concerning idea to take to the world! The idea is to ‘work with’ your children to achieve the best consensus for all involved, instead of ‘doing to’ them – in order have your own laws obeyed. For example, a punishment is something you do to your children; instead consider working out a solution that is acceptable to all parties.
Mutual Respect and Authenticity
These are perhaps the most important elements that underpin all aspects of Gentle Discipline. When your child does something that makes you angry tell them so just as you would your partner. Communicate with your child with respect, but with feeling and authenticity. Your children want to know you. Your needs are also important, a self-sacrificing parent is not being authentic and our children can feel it. If you have had enough of reading “Maisy” after the 50th time that day; stop. Offer another suggestion, or just say, I need a break and offer an alternative activity that doesn’t involve you…or Maisy. Your child should respect your threshold, as you should respect theirs.
The bigger picture
Are we parenting today in a manner today that is all about making things easier for parents or are we parenting for healthier conscious children? Is placing six month old babies in full time childcare in the best interests of that child? Are we relinquishing our parental responsibilities over to paid professionals for purely economic reasons? Economics is after all, about the value of “things”. What is the value of a well-loved child throughout his or her lifetime?
There is a millennium of violent, exploitive and sadistic cultural behaviour towards children entrenched in our collective unconscious, and only a handful of sporadic decades that have been characterised by the desire to nurture and value children. Robin Grille prefaces his book by saying, “The key to world peace and sustainability lies in the way we collectively relate to our children.”
This might not be the first occasion in human history on which this idea has been expressed. Today however, groundbreaking research has brought new confirmation to this ancient idea. Our understanding of early childhood development has grown so rapidly in recent years, that we can now say the following with unprecedented confidence: “the human brain and heart that are met primarily with empathy in the critical early years cannot and will not grow to choose a violent or selfish life.” This is Robin Grille. Parenting for A Peaceful World.
There is a link between how we parent our own children and the levels of violence and degradation in our communities. Each moment with our children provides the opportunity to foster respect for self and others, to nurture them with the same enlightened quality of love that you desire in your own life and to above all allow their individual spirit to flourish. When you as a parent are temporarily subsumed by your negative emotions (rage, despair, and the like) find ways to vent these elsewhere away from your children, remembering that in reality they are often just very small children, not the “Toddzillas” they sometimes feel like. As with all moments that seem to be overwhelming remember, “this too will pass.”
There is no future in a return to a spurious golden age of discipline and authoritarian control, as often promulgated by media commentators. This was clearly a time characterised by violence and force. There is no turning back the pages of time and there is no quick fix, raising children consciously is time consuming, challenging and the true consequences of an act of love.
Parenting for a Peaceful World
By Robin Grille
Longueville Media 2005
The Continuum Concept
By Jean Liedloff
Penguin Books 2004 reissue
By Alfie Kohn
The Natural Child – Parenting from the Heart
By Jan Hunt
New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island BC 2001
The Aware Baby : A New Approach to Parenting
By AJ Solter
Shining Star Press, Goleta California 1998
The First Relationship – Infant & Mother
By Daniel N Stern
Harvard University Press 2002.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine
Our Right to Health or 1984. December 5, 2008
Heading: Our Right to Health or 1984.
Subheading: Control versus individual responsibility in the health system.
Is the TGA helping or hindering our journey to better health?
Is protection, censorship & control the way?
Who will make the necessary investment in nutraceuticals & superfoods to satisfy the regulatory bodies?
I think to begin this topic we need to define what “health,” actually is.
What is health?
“1.The state of being well in body or mind. 2. A person’s mental or physical condition. 3. Soundness, esp. financial or moral.” (Aust Concise Oxford Dictionary)
Health is most often defined negatively as an absence of disease & this is probably closer to the paradigm that encapsulates our modern health system in this country. I think we, as a community need to find a more comprehensive & sophisticated definition of health before we can actually move to a state of overall greater health. A better definition I came across is this one from the nursing dept at a training institute in the United States:
“Health is a unity and harmony within the mind, body and spirit which is unique to each person, and is as defined by that person. The level of wellness or health is, in part, determined by the ability to deal with and defend against stress. Health is on a continuum with movements between a state of optimum well-being and illness which is defined as degrees of disharmony. It is determined by physiological, psychological, socio-cultural, spiritual, and developmental stage variables.”
I particularly like the reference in this definition to the “uniqueness” of each person & the encompassing acceptance of health as a continuum moving between different states at various stages of our lives. The more that we can move to respecting & treating the health of each individual rather than basing our health policy on generalised statistical medicine the greater satisfaction that we all will draw from our health system. Our doctors & health administrators need to stop treating us like cattle or other so called dumb animals, we are not bodies without minds or souls. It is the narrowly defined “universality,” in the laws of science, which has, in my opinion, condemned modern western medicine to always treat the body not the person. Why does an effective treatment always have to be reduced down to what works for everybody or at least a majority of “bodies?” The lowest common denominator will always be precisely that – the lowest. Why can’t we look with more inclusive eyes at the amazing variety of people & their responses to various treatments, be they nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals or so called superfoods?
The increasingly aggressive standpoint of the Australian government’s Therapeutics Goods Administration in challenging health claims made by those in the business of selling these natural substances can be partially understood as a means to protect certain vulnerable sections of the community, those who are sick with terminal & incurable conditions that do not readily respond to those treatments proffered by our doctors & hospitals, & who may be swayed by the testimonials of others who have cured themselves through diet & directly or indirectly through the consumption of a particular natural substance. Therefore, perhaps avoiding treatments recommended by the state in favour of a more natural approach, that may or may not shorten their life expectancy.
This protection for a small minority of people, through strictly enforced censorship based on the premise of science’s lowest common denominator, condemns the rest of the community to ignorance of the health benefits of these substances. Why? Because it is money in our capitalistic economies that drives information, education & research & if these natural health manufacturers & distributors cannot advertise their products then they cannot sell them & the information dries up. It also makes the task of sharing some new healthy discovery a lot harder now & the province of big companies, as it is often too expensive for the smaller player now to enter the commercial arena due to the onerous investment now needed. Do I personally think the majority of Australian business’ involved in selling health supplements genuinely believe that their products contribute to creating better health for those in the community that purchase & use them? In my experience I would say yes. Of course there are also always a small number of business people who exploit demand without a view to the totality of consequences in their pursuit of profits, like the owners of the Pan Pharmaceutical Company who were suspended by the TGA in 2003. However one rotten apple does not make the whole apple industry shonky. We need to be careful that greater regulation does not choke the creativity out of the natural health industry & leave it in the hands of a few with enormous vested interests.
The current lack of definitive western scientific proof for many of the health claims made by many of the people involved in selling things like Goji juice & berries, is due I think to a combination of circumstances. Firstly it is a relative new phenomenon here in the west & there has not really been the time or the money that needs to be invested in these trials but I see signs that is now coming. Secondly, that inertia, has also been fuelled by a general disinterest by the medical/scientific fraternity in testing natural substances when there is far more money to be made in the development of artificial pharmaceuticals that can by copy righted for exclusive income generation. Who funds most tests = pharmaceutical companies. This lack of investment in nutritional science also leads to relatively poor levels of understanding about this field & question marks over whether the right queries are being framed in studies into these substances. Which brings us back to timing & the fact that we are on the threshold of an exciting new era of nutritional understanding & its impact on our quality of life.
Can we empower people to take responsibility for their own health? Does the existing established medical fraternity want people to take back that power? Is it happening anyway in some sort of quiet revolution? All questions that arise when I am faced with this ongoing conundrum about whether a superfood is really that or in fact more snake oil, as many of our health legislators would have us all believe. Lets be blunt, many doctors still think that taking vitamin supplements are a waste of time & money. Self- interest drives much of our world, be it in health or elsewhere, the question is who is driving the TGA? Is it medical experts who have had much of their research funded by pharmaceutical companies? Do we want to end up with a few vitamin giants supplying our supplement market, who are in fact owned by pharmaceutical corporations? Which is pretty much where we are now in this country. Is big business always going to sell us the “good oil?” And where are our passionate modern “shaman” going to put their healing knowledge & energy now? Lots of interesting questions, that we all could be asking our elected representatives in the days ahead. It will be fascinating to see how things continue to unfold & where the power will reside in the ongoing maintenance of our health.
As appeared in Conscious Living Magazine
Posted by sudhahamilton in Health, Published Articles.
Tags: ageing, Alzheimer’s disease, beliefs, Christianity, consciousness, ideals, illusions, mental journey, mind, Mormonism, omega 3 fatty acids, psychology, religion, search for happiness, Socrates
2 comments ,
Heading: Stages and Phases of the Mental Journey.
Subheading: Exploring consciousness, linguistics and language.
“O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theatre of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all- what is it?
And where did it come from?
Excerpt from Julian Jayne’s book, The Origins of Consciousness In the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind.
This journey of mind we set out upon hopefully fearlessly, but invariably not, is unique to each of us. It has been indelibly influenced by our childhood and the love we did, or did not quite receive in the particular manner that we would have preferred. From the very beginning we start with a sense of our self, a nascent spark that will emerge in time like a sculpture quite unlike any that has ever been before. So defined by our life experiences and in turn our reactions and responses to them, that the twisting formless space that seems to be located behind your eyes might be beautiful art or something else again.
Does the aging process effect our thinking and feeling sense of self, and if so, how does it?
I once read, that according to a study conducted amongst a cross section of age groups, most people feel in their mind’s eye that they are twenty five years old, irrespective of their actual body age. That whether they be fifty, sixty or seventy years old, inside they see themselves as that bright, shiny twenty five year old. Perception and self image are powerful things, and perhaps we function best when we feel young at heart. It begs all sorts of questions, like what is wisdom, and how does one get it? Is it the stoic acceptance of the vicissitudes of life and the bearing of tragedy with uncommon grace? Is a flexible quality of mind something that we should foster in the hope of a life well lived?
The mental journey through life could be said to be the only real journey we take, as we modern folk don’t live much below the chin. We think ourselves through life, from a moment somewhere between conception and birth up until physical death takes us we are marching to the constant thinking, taking place in our brains. Rene Descartes’ old dictum, “I think therefore I am,” sums it up pretty well. A few qualifications are needed before we can continue. Is our mental journey the journey of consciousness, and what is the definition of consciousness? Is our beginning located in developmental psychology or in the actual origin of consciousness itself? Who am I? What is consciousness? Pretty heady stuff as you can see.
The word consciousness is used in a multitude of circumstances to mean:
a. awake in the literal sense (as in not asleep or in a coma).
b. general awareness of things happening around you.
c. the totality of a person’s thoughts & feelings.
d. a spiritual merging of your awareness with God/s.
I think we will take c. here – the totality of a person’s thoughts and feelings – to be our definition in this instance. Looking briefly at the development of consciousness in the individual we need to understand its beginnings in our infancy.
Developmental psychology begins its inquiry with the conceptual sense of self. When the child is born, and first breathes its breath separate from the mother, and perhaps even earlier as a foetus inside the womb, it is that sense of self that we know that defines us as truly us. When a baby first begins to smile in response to its parents’ gaze at the age of two to three months it is due to an altered subjective experience within the baby. It is the beginning of a pre-designed sense of social awareness that all babies are born with and which Daniel N Stern, infant psychologist and author of The Interpersonal World of the Infant, views as the beginning of the development of the core, separate self. He states, “the subjective experience of union with another can occur only after a sense of core self and a core other exists. Union experiences are thus viewed as the successful result of actively organising the experience of self-being with another, rather than as the product of a passive failure of the ability to differentiate self from other.” So we begin with a sense of the self. As that sense of the self, within our own mind, grows with age we continue to differentiate what is us, and what is not. The child later begins to understand that its inner thoughts are not automatically known by those around him or her but that he or she can still convey that information by facial expressions and the like.
Our minds and in particular their use of language is what really sets us apart from other animals on this planet. It has indeed been posited that our experience of consciousness is in fact a result of metaphorical language and the constructs this has caused. Put simply we do not just see, hear, touch, smell or taste something, we immediately place that experience in the context of our own unique reality or story. We name it according to our rules and define its reality in line with our wishes. There is no true objective reality but only our mental interpretation of it. Everything is interconnected in a web of language that explains something by referring to it in comparison to something else. For example words like ‘heart of the matter’ or ‘bring to a head’ are all words that have been taken from our bodies to describe situations. Metaphors have created our languages and perhaps language has created our consciousness.
In this quoted passage from Julian Jayne’s book, The Origins of Consciousness In the Break Down of the Bicameral Mind, we can grasp the essence of the mystifying question that has plagued us down through the ages – what is consciousness?
“We are trying to understand consciousness, but what are we really trying to do when we try to understand anything? Like children trying to describe nonsense objects, so in trying to understand a thing, we are trying to find a metaphor for that thing. Not just any metaphor, but one with something more familiar and easy to our attention. Understanding a thing is to arrive at a metaphor for that thing by substituting something more familiar to us. And the feeling of familiarity is the feeling of understanding.
Generations ago we would understand thunderstorms perhaps as the roaring and rumbling about in battle of superhuman gods. We would have reduced the racket that follows the streak of lightning to familiar battle sounds, for example. Similarly today, we reduce the storm to various supposed experiences with friction, sparks, vacuums, and the imagination of bulgeous banks of burly air smashing together to make the noise. None of these really exist as we picture them. Our images of these events of physics are as far from the actuality as fighting gods. Yet they act as the metaphor and they feel familiar and so we say we understand the thunderstorm.”
What I am conveying here, is that much of what we trust in our shared realities is in fact complete delusion – we do not really know what happens inside a thunderstorm but we have a story that we all agree upon. Our mental worlds are all uniquely different, and we share tenuous imaginary links that hold our communities together – that perhaps stop the sky from falling in. Our minds are magical things that have been directed to think in certain ways by the adherence to traditions. We have an innate ability to believe in things and thus make them appear real. Religions are a great example of this, when you do a little investigating into many of the religions of the world, you find an incredible willingness to believe things based simply on tradition & the handing down of beliefs from generation to generation. In the Christian tradition, Mormonism, a relative late comer to the field, has an extraordinary tale to tell of solid gold giant tablets inscribed with the words of the angel Moroni – that nobody except the profit Joseph Smith Junior ever saw. Far fetched fantastical stories that apparently only occurred a couple of hundred years ago in the United States of America, and yet now several generations down the line, these things are solemnly accepted as true by bicycle riding missionaries around the world. Now I don’t wish to merely pick on Mormonism, as the stories in Catholicism and the other bands of Christian faith are equally unrealistic with virgin births and the raising of the dead. We have an inordinate faith in anything that has been written down or passed down to us as true by our forefathers. Even when faced with incontrovertible evidence of the impossibility of these things, we hold them near and dear to us – in fact we place them as the very bedrock of all our civilising institutions – myths that we swear by in justice, in love and in government.
Our minds are malleable and impressionable, and our consciousness is very likely a construct of excerpts of our sensory reality, which are glued together by the lie of language. No wonder there is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. Socrates was apparently a very ugly looking chap, and every day he would go into the city square and challenge the truth of various statements made by his fellow citizens. He would not back down and would not accept the little white lies that we all share in, and as if peeling back layers of the onion he sort out the truth. Of course it all ended badly for Socrates. We are all so conditioned to accept lies, untruths and tall stories that it is a very hard road if one chooses to seek the truth.
Develop a healthy aptitude for doubt in your life and mentally this will take a great deal of the bullshit out of everything. As we age be vigilant for the desire to take ‘short cuts’ and to limit the size of your world – remain open to the mysteriousness of life in all its strange and varied nature.
Following ideals in your life can be a two edged sword – it can inspire and motivate you to reach for things and states that are seemingly beyond you, but it can also make you immune to the spontanaeity and passions that mark our existence as well. As we get older the attachment to certain ideals can cause us to become rigid and inflexible. Compassion and the ability to truly say you are sorry are the hallmarks of a great soul.
In returning to the question of what is wisdom. Is it knowing that you are right? Or is it knowing that you don’t know the answer to any of the really important questions in life? Or perhaps it is having experienced the very real pain of losing someone that you loved forever? When I meet much younger people than myself, I notice that they have an almost bullet proof idea of optimism in the future and I sense an absence of depth that only tragedy can truly provide.
Releasing control over your life or rather letting go of the illusion that you have any control anyway will free up a great deal of your mental faculties. You are going to die and people close to you and loved ones are also going to die – accept these facts with good grace. The compulsion today to always have a fantastic time and to avoid any pain or discomfort, has created in many of us a vacuum where the other side of life’s experience once resided. Without the fullness of sadness in our lives we cannot scale the heights of ecstasy and we will be forever in the shallows of ‘searching for happiness.’
Age can give us perspective on things, allowing one not to get all ‘het up’ over the details. Having experienced the ups and downs of a life well lived; we can refrain from being so quick to judge things at any particular juncture in time. I am reminded of a hundred clichés and truisms that point this very fact out.
Of course our minds are not able to live in isolation; they are a part of our monkey bodies and they will not function at their highest level without being exercised. A healthy body – a healthy mind, the interconnectedness of our brains with the other major organs and our autonomic nervous system really places our mind throughout our body. For peak mental performance, lots of stimulation – physical, emotional and intellectual – is desirable.
New research into depression and Alzheimer’s disease is now seeing inflammation within the body as a cause for these very serious conditions and imbalance in our diet and lifestyle is a strong contributing factor. Feeding our brains a diet rich in Omega3 essential fatty acids will improve their functioning ability and re-dressing the imbalance in our diets by reducing the intake of foods rich in Omega6 fatty acids will further this.
In my own experience I have found the strategy of making decisions about things highly effective – don’t dither or procrastinate over choices in your life, trust in your instincts and make a decision. If it turns out in hindsight to be the wrong choice then review and be flexible enough to change tack. There is no value in over identifying with your life choices. We are in my view travelers through life and there are no prizes for getting everything right first time. I used to be very fearful of making mistakes as a young man and found parallels for this in my father’s attitudes to life. That whole thing of only attempting things that you know that you are good at and avoiding everything that may embarrass you. At a certain point, as a young adult, I needed to confront and make conscious this aspect of myself and let go of this life strategy, as it was not aiding my journey. I remember someone sharing with me the story of how an aeroplane reaches its destination by continually correcting its course.
Life is a mental journey and it is far more interesting than many of us acknowledge. Thinking techniques based on fear avoidance and pain avoidance severely limit your life experiences. Drop the mental barriers and go fearlessly where you have not gone before. Start conversations with people – from whom you cannot predict replies – and relax into a sense of unknowingness because you will never know everything anyway. Smile at the sky sometimes and encourage gratitude for the showering flowers in your life. And if you cannot see those flowers look a little deeper.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine.
By Sudha Hamilton
Heading: Thermal Therapy
Subheading: Detoxification through Far Infrared Sauna Technology.
“Horses sweat and people perspire, my dear,” who has not heard this well mannered refrain? Getting hot and then getting all sweaty, that sticky, prickly and often unsightly condition that signals overheating, excitement and sometimes fear. Many of us have an aversion to one of our body’s most natural and important functions, especially in public places. In the right circumstances, perhaps with the lights out, most of us would agree that sweating can be fun, and that we often feel pretty good afterwards. Whether we are exercising, working strenuously or perhaps just experiencing a particularly hot and humid day, our bodies perspire to cool us down. What is also happening is that we are cleaning our largest single organ; our skin, as our sweat carries away toxins and impurities.
Sweating is an essential physical process, as it regulates the critical internal temperature of our bodies at around 37C. The skin has greater complexity in its make-up than any other bodily organ save the brain. Composed of blood vessels, nerve endings, pigmentation and lymph vessels, oil glands, hair follicles, cells that waterproof and prevent entry to bacteria, and our many sweat glands. Our skin is so vital that death will occur within hours if its pores and sweat passages are smothered. We have 2.3 million sweat glands embedded in our skin and these are activated by heat sensitive nerve endings, which produce the chemical, acetycholine, as an alerting agent. However not all of them respond as the aprocine sweat glands, located in our pubic and arm pit areas, are activated only by emotional stimuli. They carry a faint scent whose purpose is believed to arouse the sex drive. Nevertheless, the eccrine sweat glands, by far the most abundant, respond to heat.
Heating up the body on purpose through saunas, hot springs and steam rooms has been with us for as long as we have had recorded history. Broaching most cultures from east to west, thermal therapy has a rich and varied past. The baths of Ancient Rome and their importance to the socialisation of that particular civilisation are well documented. Bathing rituals that involved heating up the body and causing the participants to perspire and then scrubbing and massaging the skin are deeply embedded in these cultures. I suspect that the origin of these rituals had something to do with how good you felt afterwards and that feeling great impacted positively on their health.
Thermae, is from the Greek word for heat, and Roman engineers devised the hypocaust method to heat the bath air to temperatures exceeding l00 C. -so hot that bathers had to wear special shoes to protect their feet from blistering upon the floor.
Bathers would journey through three distinct chambers, beginning with the tepidarium, the largest and most luxurious in the thermae. Here, the bather relaxed for an hour or so while being anointed with oils. Then he moved into the little bathing stalls of the caldarium, providing a choice of hot or cold water for private bathing. They were usually built on the periphery of the main bathing room, under which the central fire burned. The final and hottest chamber was the laconicum where the scraping of the skin and vigorous massage was executed, amid much healthy sweating.
The oldest know medical document, the Ayurveda, appeared in Sanskrit in 568 BC and considered sweating so important to health that it prescribed the sweat bath and thirteen other methods of inducing sweat. Sauna rituals and techniques vary from culture to culture – how hot; how wet or dry and whether oils or inhalations are employed. In the Turkish bathing traditions, for example, the body sweats more profusely in the hotter (80-100 degree C) and drier (15-25%) atmosphere of the Turkish bath. In Finland & Russia immersion in very cold water usually follows the sauna experience, and this is viewed as particularly good for heart function and the pores of the skin. The sweat lodges of the Native American Indian involve hot rocks and steam and an intensely communal experience. I remember my own sweat lodge experience, in the wilds of Bermagui in southern NSW, with a seemingly sadistic, Scottish, medicine wheel guide. Sixty stark naked bodies crawled inside the hottest, stuffiest bush oven known to this man, and amid chanting and my eye balls feeling like they were cooking in their own sockets we sweated like the denizens of hell for far longer than humanly possible, in my humble opinion anyway. After slithering over half a dozen hot bodies I at last found the only entry/exit and expunged myself from there; before plunging into a shallow creek and steaming relief.
From one extreme to another the advent of the infrared-ray sauna has greatly improved the efficiency and accessibility of the sauna experience. This dry sauna uses infrared heating elements that are enclosed in a lightweight timber box, creating a small room or closet of varying size. Now available for self-assembly and only needing a domestic power point it has ushered in the era of the home sauna. Where once saunas were very much a communal experience, the infrared sauna is a relatively affordable private health option. No longer do you need to spend vast amounts of money on plumbing or building structures, but rather it is now available in the ‘flat pack,’ erect it yourself and then just plug it in mode. The sauna has become a home health tool for the time and space poor big city inhabitant.
How does the infrared sauna work? It utilises infrared radiation, which is defined as electro-magnetic radiation with wavelengths longer than visible light but shorter than radio waves, and which we experience as heat. Far infrared radiant heat is a naturally occurring energy that heats objects by direct light conversion, meaning that it warms the object but not the surrounding air. This is the main point of difference between traditional saunas and infrared sauna, the air within the chamber is not heated and so breathing is easier and the heating is more energy efficient.
So what exactly are the health benefits of infrared thermal-therapy? We have known for sometime, through the use of infrared ray lamps, that infrared heat can relieve pain and accelerate healing. It achieves this by expanding blood vessels and increasing the circulation of blood and thus oxygen to the injured area of the body. In our increasingly polluted city environments and in combination with our more sedentary lifestyles the therapeutic value of the infrared sauna has become more acute. Recently hyperthermic or sweat therapy has been studied quite extensively and a body of research papers have been published in the scientific press. Through these studies it has been established that saunas can assist in the elimination of accumulated toxins from the body. Toxic heavy metals including mercury as well as organic toxins such as PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) and pesticide residues are excreted in high quantities during the sweating induced by the sauna experience. Heat causes toxins to be released from the cells. The toxic molecules then move temporarily to our lymph fluid, and because sweat is derived from this lymph fluid, the toxins are then carried out of the body. As the liver and kidneys are not involved directly in this process, it can allow detoxification to occur in those with impaired kidney or liver function.
During a 15-minute sauna, sweating can perform the heavy metal excretion that would take the kidneys 24 working hours. Ninety-nine percent of what sweat brings to the surface of the skin is water, but the remaining one percent is mostly undesirable wastes. Excessive salt carried by sweat is generally believed to be beneficial for cases of mild hypertension. Sweating is such an effective de-toxifier that some doctors recommend home saunas to supplement kidney dialysis. Sweat also draws out lactic acid, which causes stiff muscles and contributes to general fatigue. Sweat flushes out toxic metals such as copper, lead, zinc and mercury, which the body absorbs in polluted environments.
Even in Australia, a hot climate country, many of us in this sedentary age simply don’t sweat enough, as we move from our air-conditioned homes, offices and cars. Antiperspirants, artificial environments, pollution, synthetic clothing, toxic and physically idle lifestyles all conspire to clog skin pores and inhibit the healthy flow of sweat. When you have a sauna your skin temperature may increase by as much as 10C but your body’s internal temperature will only increase from 1C to 3C. Still the sauna induces the body to mimic a feverish state, which can kill off harmful bacteria and also provides a workout for your body’s organs, as if you were jogging or stretching. During a 15 minute sauna you can excrete on average a litre of perspiration, and this sweat from the eccrine glands is usually clear and odourless. Any odour present would be from bacteria.
In Japan at the Graduate School of Medicine at Kagoshima University in the Department of Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Metabolic Medicine, they have been testing systematic thermal therapy on patients with congestive heart failure caused by lifestyle related illnesses. The patients were exposed to 15 minutes of infrared sauna at 60C for 2 weeks and the results showed considerable improvement in a number of areas. Heart function was positively stimulated for those unable to exercise and weight loss resulted in the obese.
Hyperthermic therapy is also one of the few means in which to bring about a significant rise in the level of growth hormone, and this hormone helps us to maintain lean body tissue including muscle. Ghrelin is the natural ligand of the growth hormone secretagogue receptor and strongly stimulates growth hormone secretion. Ghrelin is actively involved in balancing food intake and weight gain. Energy intake and body weight are controlled by circuits in the hypothalamic region of our brain and the hormone leptin is involved in providing feedback to this system. It has been posited that leptin may regulate satiety, energy expenditure and weight gain, and leptin deficiency may be a cause of obesity. It was noted in the Japanese study that the responses of plasma ghrelin to food intake and repeated infrared sauna therapy were different between obese and non-obese subjects. The ghrelin levels fell in the non-obese but remained the same in the obese group. The obese subjects decreased their body weight substantially without any physical exercise during the study period.
In my own experience with infrared sauna, I was lucky enough to have a trial period of 10 weeks, in which the sauna was erected at my home, and I had a daily sauna of 20 minutes. After initial experimentation I had the temperature of the sauna at between 55C & 60C during the 20 minute period. Like all new things there was a time of adjustment and at the very beginning I found the infrared heat quite intense and had to get used to the enclosed feeling. I made a few mistakes like not drinking enough water and trial and error gave me a headache or two.
Reading the recommendations and instructions that are posted inside the sauna with a greater degree of care was a definite move in the right direction. There it was, “always drink plenty of water, prior to your sauna, during your sauna and after your sauna.” I had seriously underestimated the amount of water required, but now with practiced familiarity I take in a 1.25 litre bottle of purified water, along with my morning newspaper and a towel. Drinking water during the sauna is a necessity, and when you consider that you are sweating out a litre in 15 minutes at 60C it is a natural re-balancing of the body’s H2O levels. Quite often a quick trip to the toilet post sauna will result in a big clean out, especially if I have over indulged the night before. This flushing, reminds me of the results after a colonic irrigation, obviously the heat is speeding up my body’s processes. If I have drunk enough water then I feel fantastic after this expunging of wastes and ready to meet the day.
Another instruction is do not use the sauna under the effects of alcohol, as this can have dire consequences in relation to the thinning of your blood by both the sauna and the effects of alcohol. There went my fantasy of sipping champagne in the nude in my own sauna on the balcony. In actual fact the discipline of not drinking around the sauna has been an unexpected health benefit as well. So often in the city I find that I turn to a glass of wine after work to unwind, as it is such a hassle to find a park or go to a gym to get that space to exercise. However with the sauna I found that I could speed up my heart rate, detoxify and stay in the nude on my own balcony.
I took a niggling physical injury into my infrared sauna trial, a strained Achilles tendon that was the result of some injudicious domestic furniture moving, and I was surprised to realise a few days later that it had completely disappeared. Also since the regular thermatherapy treatments have begun I have not experienced any strains from my sporadic forays onto the tennis courts, which is unusual. My skin is cleaner and seems to have a healthier glow or colour to it, and the number of friends who commented on how well I looked, made me think, that I probably really needed this. All in all I am feeling more alive and positive about things.
I have lost weight and although I could do with losing some more, I am not that fussed about this aspect of it. I am not going to go the way of the horse jockey and stay in the sauna forever, and again the instructions state, “do not exceed 40 minutes inside the sauna.” I find also that the sweating process continues long after I have departed the box and that a shower and more liquid replenishment is required. A hot shower or bath is recommended prior to your sauna to get things moving quickly. When you first turn on the infrared sauna it will begin at room temperature and the five infrared heating elements soon increase this. There is a temperature control button so that you can set the limit and a timer so that you know how long you have been in there. The timer automatically shuts everything down when it reaches the end of its cycle, for safety reasons I presume.
My wife who also took part in a daily thermatherapy regime reported to me that her skin felt cleaner and more toned, and that she loved the resultant relaxing of her body’s muscles. In particular when pre-menstrual she felt that the sauna relieved her of water retention problems. I noticed that she also lost weight and that she was generally more relaxed.
The actual arrival and erection of the sauna on my balcony was a fairly traumatic occasion, as they literally do come as flat –packs. Two enormous rectangular cardboard boxes were delivered to my residence by a chap in a decidedly small Ute, who shared with me the fact that he had recently cracked one of his ribs and that he would be unable to help me get the flat-packs up my stairs or indeed off the back of his Ute. I pondered at this time about the age we live in, where it seemed that all household purchases now came in flat-packs, whether it be king sized beds, cupboards, bookcases and now even saunas, and that the savings one made were equally dependent upon one’s innate engineering skills, and how some Swedish bastard called Ikea was responsible for all this and that one day I would find him.
Shelving these musings I lumped this truly enormous box on my shoulders and dragged it off the Ute’s tray and onto my front step, before repeating this Herculean feat again with the second flat-pack. All the while being watched by the indifferent delivery driver. Once inside I confess that my wife and I broke up the boxes and carried the timber panels singly up the stairs and out onto the balcony. Thoughts of great follies committed by historical figures tumbled through my head. Would we really be able to put together a sauna by ourselves on our balcony? The answer luckily was no, as our flat mate from downstairs, who had trained in tanks in the Australian army, was soon on hand to direct proceedings. Several hours later amid the odd broken thing we had a spiffy looking sauna, standing like a Finnish sentinel on our balcony. Would it actually work and who would be the first to try it? I could not avoid the odd errant thought of being cooked alive inside this box with five elements. However by this time we had dinner guests about to arrive & as our dining table abutted the sauna we used its in-built CD player first as our entertainment station.
In retrospect it is all fairly laughable and I would probably pay the extra to have a professional put it all together. It is however all still working perfectly 3 months later and the sauna has become one of our indispensable healthy lifestyle accessories. That it fits into my small home and as I have not felt so good in years has turned me into a big fan of therma-therapy.
The Journal of American Medical Association states: “A moderately conditioned person can easily sweat off 500 grams in a sauna, consuming nearly 300 kcal, which is equivalent to running 2 to 3 miles”. The Infrared Thermal System might stimulate the consumption of energy equal to that expanded in a 6 to 9 mile run during only one single session of 30 minutes. The Infrared Thermal System can play a pivotal role in both weight control and cardiovascular conditioning.
TITLE : Electromagnetic Wave Emitting Products – Potentiate Human Leukocyte Functions
AUTHOR : Niwa Y; Iizawa O; Ishimoto K
SOURCE : Int. J. Biometeorol 1993 Sept; 37(3):133-8
Repeated Sauna Treatment Improves Vascular Endothelial and Cardiac Function in Patients With Chronic Heart Failure
Kihara T, Biro S, Imamura M, et al
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
March 6, 2002 (Volume 39, Number 5)
Sadatoshi Biro, Akinori Masuda, Takashi Kihara and Chuwa Tei1
Department of Cardiovascular, Respiratory and Metabolic Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima 890-8520, Japan
Health Effects of PCBs
PCBs have been demonstrated to cause a variety of adverse health effects. PCBs have been shown to cause cancer in animals. PCBs have also been shown to cause a number of serious non-cancer health effects in animals, including effects on the immune system, reproductive system, nervous system, endocrine system and other health effects. Studies in humans provide supportive evidence for potential carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic effects of PCBs. The different health effects of PCBs may be interrelated, as alterations in one system may have significant implications for the other systems of the body. The potential health effects of PCB exposure are discussed in greater detail below.
EPA uses a weight-of-evidence approach in evaluating the potential carcinogenicity of environmental contaminants. EPA’s approach permits evaluation of the complete carcinogenicity database, and allows the results of individual studies to be viewed in the context of all of the other available studies. Studies in animals provide conclusive evidence that PCBs cause cancer. Studies in humans raise further concerns regarding the potential carcinogenicity of PCBs. Taken together, the data strongly suggest that PCBs are probable human carcinogens.
PCBs are one of the most widely studied environmental contaminants, and many studies in animals and human populations have been performed to assess the potential carcinogenicity of PCBs. EPA’s first assessment of PCB carcinogenicity was completed in 1987. At that time, data were limited to Aroclor 1260. In 1996, at the direction of Congress, EPA completed a reassessment of PCB carcinogenicity, titled “PCBs: Cancer Dose-Response Assessment and Application to Environmental Mixtures” [PDF]. In addition to Aroclor 1260, new studies provided data on Aroclors 1016, 1242, and 1254. EPA’s cancer reassessment reflected the Agency’s commitment to the use of the best science in evaluating health effects of PCBs. EPA’s cancer reassessment was peer reviewed by 15 experts on PCBs, including scientists from government, academia and industry. The peer reviewers agreed with EPA’s conclusion that PCBs are probable human carcinogens.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine
Eco Living Magazine
Subheading: Poisons in our foods.
Aspartame is the technical name for the main ingredient in many artificial non-sucrose sweeteners; including NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful and Equal-Measure. It is also at the top of the list of chemical baddies that are still being approved by government agencies for use in our food. You will also find Aspartame commonly used in soft drinks, pharmaceutical products and over the counter cough lollies and syrups. It is said to be an ingredient in over six thousand items of consumer foods/drinks. It is a compound of aspartic acid, phenylalanine (a free amino acid isolate) and methanol (wood alcohol). This combination is subsequently responsible for some very serious negative activity in our bodies, including nerve cell necrosis (death) which can lead to organ system disease and also contributes to dangerous toxic interactions with other pharmaceutical drugs.Aspartame crosses the blood/brain barrier and damages brain tissue and causes lesions on the brain, where the dead cells once were. It also affects the autonomic nerve system located down the spine and the conjunction system of the heart. It is quite simply a neurotoxin.
How, why and when did Aspartame become approved for human consumption? It was discovered accidentally in 1965 by James Schlatter – a chemist working for the pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co – and was found to be 180 times sweeter than sugar. Initial safety tests were inconclusive, as to whether Aspartame may have caused cancer in rats and the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA) did not approve its use in food for many years. Further testing did not answer why the brain cancer developed in the rats, and the debate raged on until some familiar names entered the scene.
One Donald Rumsfield became Searle’s CEO and Ronald Reagan became US President, and he appointed Arthur Hull Hayes FDA commissioner, who approved Aspartame in the dry goods food category. In 1985 Monsanto bought G.D.Searle and the Aspartame business became a separate subsidiary; the NutraSweet Company. I would love to tell you that it is not about money or that there was never a suspicion of corruption; but I cannot. In 1995, the FDA Epidemiology Branch Chief Thomas Wilcox reported that Aspartame complaints represented 75% of all reports of adverse reactions to substances in the food supply from 1981 to 1995.
The metabolic journey that Aspartame takes once ingested causes it to break down into several residual chemicals and further break down products include formaldehyde, formic acid and diketopiperazine. Exposures to very low levels of formaldehyde have been proven to cause chronic toxicity in humans. There has however been scientific disagreement regarding how the body deals with the methanol and formaldehyde produced by Aspartame, and this debate is one of the key reasons why Aspartame has not been reviewed and subsequently banned by regulatory government bodies in the western world. The phenylalanine component of Aspartame, which is one of the nine essential fatty acids, makes up around 50% of Aspartame’s mass and this is highly unsafe for those with the rare genetic condition known as Phenylketonuria. It is also known that Aspartame can spike blood plasma levels of phenylalanine, as it is absorbed much faster than naturally occurring phenylalanine containing proteins. This has caused further debate into whether Aspartame ingestion by pregnant mothers can harm the safe development of neurotransmitters in the brains of fetuses. Similarly the 40% of Aspartame broken down into Aspartic Acid also causes large spikes in the level of the acid in blood plasma and these can act as excitotoxins- which can inflict brain and nerve cell damage by crossing the blood/brain barrier. Again there is scientific debate over whether humans are as susceptible to this extensive brain damage as are the rats, for which the research shows conclusive proof. Further concerns regarding Diketopiperazine, which is created in products as Aspartame breaks down over time, can through nitrosation in the body create a chemical which can cause brain tumors.
So we are left with a situation of scientific disagreement paralysing regulatory bodies, and lots and lots of health complaints, ranging from the small, to claims involving hundreds of thousands of possible deaths. A recent survey of 166 studies into the safety of Aspartame found that 74 of them had NutraSweet related funding and that they all found that Aspartame was safe. Whereas of the 92 independently funded studies, only 8% of them found that Aspartame did not have safety concerns in humans to answer to. Science may not be as clean and trustworthy as those white lab jackets that so many scientists are fond of wearing might indicate to us. After all, if you ask the right questions in any scientific study you can pretty much get any answer you are after. Omission is as much of a cause of death as anything else.
Appeared in Eco Living Magazine
NLP – 3 letters that changed the world November 28, 2008
Eco Living magazine
Heading: NLP – 3 letters that changed the world.
Subheading: The most influential transformative therapy on the planet.
Is there a therapy or transformational process that has been as influential and all pervasive as NLP? Neuro linguistic programming (NLP) has, over the last 30 years, reached into nearly every level of our society. Beginning with the therapeutic community, Richard Bandler and John Grinder (who were the founders) developed their work in conjunction with three of the most effective and well known psychotherapists of the time – Fritz Perls (founder of Gestalt), Virginia Satir (family systems therapy) and Milton Erickson (hypnotherapy). As NLP included principles from all of these disparate modalities, it dropped a large pebble in many pools of consciousness – and the ripple effect has been substantial. It is highly likely that any training or transformational work that you may have done has been positively and powerfully influenced by the many guiding principles inherent in NLP. Recently the publication “Psychology Today” stated that “NLP may be the most powerful vehicle for change in existence.”
From there, NLP immediately began spreading like a virus into the corporate world, infecting sales trainings around the world, as managers realised that this work could make their people more effective and therefore their make companies more money. Modelling “rapport”, and “anchoring their intentions” with powerful gestures and mental images, firstly sales people, and then all levels of corporate management began to expand their understanding of how we all think and operate. Training and Development Journal says “NLP does offer the potential for making changes without the usual agony that accompanies these phenomena….it offers the opportunity to gain flexibility, creativity and greater freedom of action than most of us now know.” NLP has been instrumental in the shift to a greater consciousness within our corporate world.
NLP has also been hugely influential in the field of sport and other high performance categories. Coaches and athletes have benefited from the techniques employed by NLP – “reframing” their communication to be able to perceive new possibilities and identifying our sabotage tendencies through “parts integration.” Golfing star Tiger Woods and tennis great Andre Agassi both utilised NLP techniques to reach the peak of their particular sports. A strong mental performance is such a vital component of any successful performance, be it on the sports field or on any other world stage. Politicians and performers have also taken advantage of the NLP approach, with Bill Clinton and Tony Blair as two notable examples.
NLP is, of course, all about education, and it focuses on the effective teaching process through “modelling” and recognising the different ways we learn, depending on whether we are more visually inclined – “I can see what you mean” – or auditory – “That rings a bell” – or kinaesthetic – “That feels right to me.” These defining sub-groups allow teachers and trainers to use the language that each student’s brain is most able to effectively process. Concepts are grasped quickly and learning occurs without the pain of incomprehension. Recognising that each individual has a preferred representational system (PRS), was a key to designing effective “sub modality” tools, like visual, sound and textual imagery.
The techniques which NLP practitioners employ bring awareness to naturally occurring processes, and enable us to enact change in our behaviour at will. As the great teacher Osho would always say, “awareness is enough” – once you become conscious of something then transformation can happen spontaneously. Ask yourself the question who am I? Keep asking and with each round of answers you will discover more and more parts of yourself. Some seemingly buried in your unconscious and quite a few in apparent conflict with each other. Recognition and understanding of these disparate parts and their desires can allow us to move forward and to let go of attachments to unhelpful behaviours. These processes can release a tremendous amount of previously pent up energy and many people who have done the trainings have reported such results. NLP can also help you gain access to the many resources in the unconscious mind – that great storehouse of learning, memory, behaviour and emotion.
One of the fundamentally correct things about NLP is that it was formed out of the observation of what works – Bandler and Grinder analysed the language and behaviour utilised by three excellent psychotherapists in their consultations with clients that affected positive healing outcomes. It is solution based rather than symptomatic. This is, I think, one of the main reasons it has gone on to become the most influential transformative process on the planet. To understand how our brains work and the important role that language plays in how we process information and perceive reality is heroic stuff indeed. Bandler and Grinder, and all those NLP innovators who have come after, have created a system that allows humanity to develop, change, grow and evolve. Christopher Partridge, author of New Religions, states that “NLP may be best thought of as a system of psychology concerned with the self development of the human being” and “It is concerned with the function of belief rather than its nature. It is not concerned whether a belief is true or not, but whether it is empowering or disempowering.”
In Australia, we have a number of innovative and excellent NLP Master Practitioners, who have taught, trained and created – transforming lives along the way. There are also NLP schools where you can become a teacher/trainer in a variety of NLP associated modalities including hypnosis, time line therapy™ and NLP life coaching. (Many thanks to Sue Sharp of Australian College of NLP for editorial contribution to the above article.)
Appeared in Eco Living Magazine
Lungs fit for life November 28, 2008
Heading: Lungs fit for life.
Subheading: Breathe easier with Powerbreathe.
In our city centred world, full of stress, pollution and too many sedentary occupations, we seem to be at the mercy of the many resultant respiratory ailments. It is all too common to hear of spiralling rates of asthma and bronchial complaints within our modern communities. The breath of life – is there anything as vital to our survival?
Have you ever experienced that panic inducing moment when you just cannot catch your breath, whether it’s under the waves in the surf, running a race, or simply stressed by life? Not being able to breathe properly is a terrible experience, and one that marks a rapid rise in heart rate. What can we do to check the rise of these often life threatening conditions? Get fit! Yes – improving overall fitness levels through regular exercise like swimming, walking and going to the gym, can and does help many people who are prone to developing serious respiratory diseases.
What are we doing physiologically when we exercise? Well many things are occurring within our bodies when we run, swim or walk quickly. Our hearts beat faster and push more blood around our body more quickly; our lungs expand to take in more oxygen, and we are forced to do this more often. As we breathe in and out, especially if we are running uphill or further than we have before, it gets harder to catch that full breath. There is resistance to this caused by the exertion involved and it is this resistance that trains our lungs and improves our inspiratory muscle strength.
These muscles, which are directly responsible for our ability to breathe, are weakened when suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is most often exacerbated by bronchial infections and can often lead to hospitalisation if unchecked. The treatment for COPD is usually a rehabilitation program, which involves some inspiratory muscle training, and runs between 4 to 12 weeks depending on the severity of the disease. Unfortunately around 50% of hospitalised COPD patients are readmitted the following year with the same condition and many patients remain permanently symptomatic with impaired quality of life. This is due to the fact that the effects of short term rehabilitation program inspiratory muscle training fade after 6 months.
What is involved in inspiratory muscle training (IMT)? Generally speaking a breathing device is used and this device creates resistance by means of pressurisation – making it more difficult to breathe in fully and thus building muscle tension. So in the same way we build muscles in the gym, we can do this internally for our inspiratory muscles. This means that IMT is a completely natural approach to the treatment of respiratory illness, and allows us to target the particular muscles with which we need to breathe. These devices are now available for use at home and can now provide long term IMT for the successful maintenance of conditions like COPD and the many other degrees of respiratory disease. These devices are of particular use to those who are unable to exercise their whole body because of an accident or illness. The IMT devices now available were developed by sports scientists to help athletes improve their aerobic capacity and sporting performances.
The Power Breathe Wellness device I trialled at home is a hand held portable unit and is easy to use. It has an adjustable load feature, which allows you to increase or decrease the training level. You place the mouthpiece of the unit in your mouth, holding the handle at the same time, your lips cover the outer shield to make a seal and the mouthpiece bite blocks are gripped between your upper and lower teeth. Then you breathe out as far as you can before taking a fast and forceful breath in through your mouth. Take in as much air as you can, quickly, straightening your back and expanding your chest. Repeat the process, feeling more confident about breathing in through the Power Breathe unit each time. There is a nose clip for those who require some assistance in not breathing in through their nose. The instruction manual recommends starting with thirty breaths at level 0 before turning the dial clockwise to increase the load if you feel ready and able to. It also advises to complete 30 breaths at whatever level you feel able to twice a day – once in the morning and again in the evening.
It may feel difficult at first but as with all muscle training this is part of the journey to increased lung capacity. In my experience and if you are using the unit correctly, after four to six weeks your breathing and lungs will show increased capacity.
The really wonderful thing about this therapeutic device is that it is completely natural and that you are in control of your own training. The work that you put in directly correlates with the improvements you will experience in your ability to breathe, and thus enjoy life. This is in complete contrast to many of the medications prescribed for breathing conditions, which often have side effects and most importantly give you no feeling of being part of your own cure. Of course consultation with your GP is always recommended if you are currently on medications for respiratory illness and wish to begin training with the Power Breathe Wellness unit. Medical research has conclusively shown that IMT increases strength and reduces fatigue in those that embark upon it. If we can take back responsibility for our ability to breathe, it will be in my opinion, the beginning of a dramatic reduction in the incidence of diseases like asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Appeared in Eco Living Magazine
The Greed Squeeze November 28, 2008
The Greed Squeeze
We are now faced with a massive worldwide credit crisis, and it is instructive to have a close look at what caused it. Our Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, made a very interesting speech recently to the Federal Labor Business Forum in Sydney. He drew attention to the rampant greed for quick profits in the financial sector around the globe, and the absence of any effective regulation to prevent the current collapse of bank and investment houses we see before us.
In Australia and the United States, we have had 10 years of free market, ideologically driven conservative governments – and the consequences of this laissez- faire approach to managing the financial world are at once apparent. This idea that market forces will take care of everything is plainly an underwhelming one, when endless upward stock market pressure is demanded of all businesses – banks included.
The system’s unrelenting need for ever greater profits and the unscrupulous behaviour of some within the investment sector have conspired to deliver us into a situation, where of course it will be the average person on the street who will ultimately suffer. We will bear the costs through our tax dollars going to mop up the mess, and face credit restrictions on our lifestyle imposed by the resultant chaos caused by the greed of get rich quick investment schemes gone wrong.
It has been pointed out that individuals and investment houses were making profits of in some cases $280 million US dollars in the subprime market before the collapse last year. People who did not have the means to service housing loans were being aggressively coerced into taking them by consultants who were charging them huge hidden fees as part of their loan structures.
Our direct exposure to this global crisis in Australia has been lessened, by our more highly regulated financial sector, but we will still feel the brunt of it through the tightening of credit and stock market/superannuation level damage. Businesses around the country are already feeling the ill winds of falling consumer confidence as this massive financial disaster discourages spending.
Our four big banks are, of course, part of the global financial world and although not directly exposed to much of the worst subprime debt, they are connected to its ramifications, by the very nature of international banking and investment.
There has been a powerful move to privatise profits over the last decade and a never-ceasing call to reduce the obligation of taxation. And yet, now, when the milk is spilt and the bowl upturned, the money men call for the socialisation of their losses. Our Reserve Bank has pumped between $4-7 billion dollars into our banking/lending market in a bid to maintain liquidity and confidence in our own banking sector.
The United States has, of course, been attempting to float a rescue package of some $700 billion US dollars into their own banking sector.
Likewise similar government/tax payer funded packages are being injected into banks around the world.
Whether these actions will be able to arrest the falling financial houses of cards, slow it down, prevent a depression/recession or some degree of the above situations – is yet to be seen.
The global economy is on the brink of a huge amount of change and much of it will be forced upon it by circumstances of its own making. The pain will be felt by many and probably most by those least able to understand it. Endemic greed within our financial systems for huge short term profits will, in the end, cause people to lose their jobs, houses and ability to feed their families without welfare support. The same sections of our society who always bag the welfare state are causing its expansion through their own desire to grow exceedingly rich very quickly.
Macquarie Bank, Centro, ABC Learning Centres, Bridgecorp, Lehman Brothers, HBOS, North Rock……….The list of those shaky and those businesses already done and dusted is growing day by day. It will be interesting to see if real and positive change – accountability, regulation and respect for longer term profitability by the market can come out of this. Can we take the gambling compulsion out of the money market and replace it with something else.
If we boil all this down to the bone, and look at what it really says about us as a community, and our individual values, it is this: that we still reckon that life is all about being wealthy, and we aspire to being so far ahead of the game that normal rules don’t apply. Money talks; and enough money says: “Don’t bother me with the details, because I am too bloody rich to care!”
© Sudha Hamilton
History of Astrology December 26, 2008
Posted by sudhahamilton in Astrological Writing, Published Articles.
Tags: aspects, astrology, Babylon, celestial bodies, celestial sphere, Christianity, Church, conjunction, Egypt, Graeco-Roman, Greece, history, horoscope, Islam, Jupiter, Mars, mesopotamia, Moon, Persia, planets, Rome, Saturn, science, star chart, star gazers, stars, Sun, time calibration, universal language, Venus, zodiac
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Heading: The History of Astrology
Subheading: From Babylonian stargazers to Liz Greene.
Looking back in time in search of the origins of astrology, we are faced with the question, what is astrology? Is it an advanced scientific hypothesis, based on the premise that the heavenly bodies give off an ‘influence,’ which affects individual events on earth, or is it primarily a universal language, as argued by Giovanni Pontano, the Italian Renaissance astrologer? Pontano’s treatise, On Celestial Things, published in 1512, stated that astrology is “a language of the stars and planets that formed the letters of a cosmic alphabet that conformed in all essential ways to the language of humans.” In my experience as an astrologer, it has been the latter definition, which has made most sense to me and encouraged me to take the journey of life guided by the stars above.
It is generally agreed that humankind’s look to the stars has been one that all the tribes of earth – indeed, every culture – has shared in. Evidence of this remains today on ancient cave and wall paintings, and on surviving archaeological tablets and texts in museums around the world. To look up at the night sky and witness the incredible changes of the celestial light show would have been profoundly awe-inspiring. It would also have stimulated the formation of a number of basic philosophical questions like: why are we here? What is nature of time? Who controls the movement of the stars across the heavens? When we ask, what is the history of astrology? We must consider that, incredibly, there once was a time when the inhabitants of this world did not know what time it was! Imagine how that would affect everything you did or wanted to do.
The quest to calibrate time is paramount to an understanding of humankind’s history of astrology. Which leads us to the twin sister, astronomy and astrology – one now the realm of science’s greatest achievements and the other, now considered a shabby con for the naïve and ignorant. It has not always been thus; in fact, both ‘girls’ started out from the same family, a Babylonian family. For it was in the latter stages of the Mesopotamian civilisation, around 1500 BC, that the emergence of mathematical astronomy made possible the journey towards the creation of the first ‘star chart.’ It would not be until the fifth century BC that Babylonian ‘star gazers’ would cast that first recognisable individual horoscope.
Within the Assyrian Empire there was a class of scholar-priests called the Ummanu, who served the Babylonian royal family. They would observe and correlate the patterns of the stars over scores of decades. It was their job to watch out for omens in nature and to advise how to ritualistically act to cleanse sin and thus avoid calamity. Eclipses, shooting stars, conjunctions and the like were, according to surviving Babylonian instructional texts in the British Museum, signs placed in the natural world by the gods to warn the king of impending dangers. This was, at the time, a divine science that was exclusively in service to the king, the god’s representative on earth, and not for the general use of the larger population.
The Mesopotamians had a written history, like the Greeks and Egyptians (see Hermes and Thoth), that tells of divine teachers from ancient times who passed on special knowledge of the sciences, philosophy, law and wisdom to the Ummanu. The work of the Ummanu is also confirmed in certain passages within the Christian Bible’s, Old Testament; for example, in the scornful words of Isaiah towards the Babylonian stargazers and soothsayers (Isaiah 47: 12-13) and in the Book of Daniel: “There is in your kingdom a man who has in him the spirit of the holy gods, a man who was known in your father’s time to have a clear understanding and a godlike wisdom. King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, appointed him chief of the magicians, exorcists, astrologers and diviners. This same Daniel is known to have a notable gift of interpreting dreams, explaining riddles and unbinding spells” (Daniel 5: 11-12).
Three Stars Each
Astrology, as we know it today, clearly had its birth in Babylon, although it was to be influenced substantially on its journey through Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Islam, India and then the Western world. It was injected with certain vital elements from each culture it spent time with and those strands have come together to make up what we know today as astrology. The mathematical astronomical foundation was developed in Mesopotamia, indelibly contributing to the technical ability to cast a horoscope.
Surviving tablets from around 1000 BC, known as the “Three Stars Each”, are circular diagrams divided into 12 equal parts representing the 12 months of the year. For each month, three stars are listed as rising and becoming visible just before dawn – the ‘helical rising’. The tablets are also split into three sections that show the northern sky (nearest the centre of the wheel), the sky directly overhead (in the middle) and the southern sky (the outer zone). The whole circular tablet is then a calendrical star-wheel that links each month to an astronomical event.
There is still the puzzling question, however, of whether the Babylonian astronomers thought of the heavens as a sphere itself and why they did not create a model or working paradigm of the heavens in motion. This would be left to the Greeks and their cosmic theory of the celestial sphere. The “Three Stars Each” tablets also show that at this time the yearly passage of the Sun through the constellations of the zodiac has not yet been recognised by the Babylonians, for if it had they would have surely been used to mark the months.
The Babylonians were primarily interested in the Sun, Moon and Venus and believed they were manifestations of their gods Shamesh, Sin and Ishtar. The Sun and Moon were important, of course, because of their affect on the measurement of time. In the Babylonian creation epic, “Enuma Elish”, the heavens are said to have been created in order to mark the passage of time and to give order to humanity’s cosmos. This learning through recorded observation of the initial three solar entities led them to expand their search to include the motion of the five planets of the classical cosmos.
Babylonian astronomy was cross-fertilised by the Babylonian’s astral religion and the planets all had shared identities with their gods:
Marduk – Jupiter – creator and ruler of the heavens and god of life and justice.
Nergal – Mars – god of war and the Underworld.
Nabu – Mercury – god of writing and intellectual pursuits.
Ninibe, or Ninurta – Saturn – god of the hunt.
The linking of the planets with these deities that affected everyday life was the primary motivator in the development of Babylonian astronomy. It was important to know the celestial positions of these gods/planets to aid in the prediction and understanding of their divine intentions. It can be posited that the development of mathematical astronomy would not have occurred without the astrological desire to know the will of the gods on earth.
Mesopotamians knew the planets as the gods of the night. By the seventh century BC, the extent of their astronomical knowledge was featured in a new series of tablets known as “Mul Apin”, meaning ‘the stars of Apin’. This is a complete compendium of their study of the stars, listing up to 70 individual stars with helical rising dates and tracing a lunar path through 18 constellations. It shows they used the movement of the Moon rather than the elliptic path of the Sun. Here are the constellations and their modern equivalents:
Mul (the Mane) – the Pleiades
Guanna (the Bull of Anu) – Taurus
Sibzianna (Anu’s Shepherd) – Orion
Sugi (the Old Man) – Perseus
Gam (the Sickle Sword) – Auriga
Mastabbagalgal (the Great Twins) – Gemini
Allul (meaning unknown) – Cancer and Procyon
Urgula (the Lion) – Leo
Absin (the Furrow) – Virgo
Zibantitum (the Scales) – Libra
Girtab (the Scorpion) – Scorpio
Pabislag (the Archer) – Sagittarius
Suhurmas (the Goatfish) – Capricorn
Gula (the Great Star or Giant) – Aquarius
Zibbati (the Tails) – Pisces
Sirmmah (the Great Swallow) – Pisces and part of Pegasus
Anunitum (Goddess Anunitum) – Pisces and part of Andromeda
Luhunga (the Hired Man) – Aries
The Babylonians shared with the Egyptians the belief that the Sun spent the hours of darkness in the Underworld, only to emerge from out of the earth at dawn. Likewise, the stars returned to this Underworld at the rising of the Sun. It was some time around the sixth century BC that the step was taken to subdivide the path of the Sun into 12 sections, each named after a constellation and corresponding to the passage of one month of the calendar year. Interestingly, however, there is no surviving evidence linking the figures of the zodiac with Mesopotamian myths or particular deities. The only obvious connection is that the ancient sages who handed down the sacred knowledge to the Ummanu were described as having the forms of animals, or as being half man, half animal (like the centaur). Now, with the zodiac circle divided into 360 degrees and with each section evenly covering 30 degrees, we have the referencing system that can locate any celestial body.
There has survived a small number of tablets from the fourth to the first century BC that list the positions of the stars in the zodiac for individuals other than the king, telling us that the influence of astrology had by this time expanded into the wider Babylonian community. A horoscope from 235 BC reads: “Year 77 (of the Seleucid era), the fourth day, in the last part of the night, Aristokrates was born. That day: Moon in Leo, Sun in 12 degrees 30 minutes of Gemini, Jupiter in 18 degrees Sagittarius. The place of Jupiter means his life will be regular, he will become rich, he will grow old, his days will be numerous. Venus in 4 degrees Taurus. The place of Venus means wherever he may go it will be favourable to him. He will have sons and daughters….” From this we can see a clearly recognisable, albeit brief, chart and interpretation. An immense journey had already been made in the formation of astrology, from basic observation of celestial omens to a vast and complex star chart – that had begun to calibrate time in space while simultaneously weaving religious meaning into the movements of the cosmos. This placed humankind at the very centre of the universe.
Astrology’s time in its Babylonian birthplace was, however, coming to an end. In 539 BC, King Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon and for the next two centuries it formed part of the Achaemenid Empire. It was during this period that much of the meaning behind astrology’s symbolism was engendered through its exposure to the mysterious cults of Zoroastrianism and Mithraism. Indeed, it can be argued that these two mystery schools have profoundly influenced the spiritual nature of all the great Western religions of the world. Astrological knowledge had also by this time crossed into Egypt, where many wrongly thought it had originated. The historian Herodotus wrote of his visit to Egypt in 450 BC, “I pass to other inventions of the Egyptians. They assign each month and what disposition a man shall have according to the day of his birth.”
The Graeco-Roman world
Alexander the Great was the military ruler and political force who brought Babylon under the rule of Greece. By 330 BC the social landscape of the region had undergone enormous shifts through resettlement, opening the way for cultural and scientific exchanges. It was during the Hellenistic period that the science and mathematics of the Greeks merged with the esoteric religions of the East, and this was especially seen in astrology’s development.
The underpinning concept to emerge in Greek astronomy was the celestial sphere, which could be geometrically charted. Parmenides was first to put forward that the earth itself was spherical. To Pythagoras the sphere was the most perfect shape in nature, and both Plato and Aristotle taught that the universe was a system of interlocking spheres. The Greek mathematicians, Eudoxus and Hipparchus, postulated that the language of geometry could be used to describe the movements of the stars. It was the visual quality of this model that proved to be such an epiphany. One name, Ptolemy of Alexandria, stands out in Hellenistic astrological history as the crowning executor of this new geometric paradigm that could plot the position of any known star or planet in time.
Once again, astrology was imbued with the philosophies of the culture in which it flourished, this time with Stoicism. The Graeco-Roman world embraced the concept that fate or destiny was identified with divine reason. “Apatheia” was the Stoic ideal, a state of acceptance of the unfolding of a divine purpose in life, and astrology provided an individual map of that unfolding. Posidonius, who was teaching in Rhodes in the first century BC, was a leading figure in the spread of Stoicism throughout the Roman world. Seneca and Cicero were influenced by Posidonius and they shared in the belief that nature offered signs of future events to those who could read them. Astrology was becoming acknowledged as the science that gave that code-breaking ability.
In the cities of Antioch, Pergamum, Athens, Rome and, in particular, Alexandria, astrology was well established in a form that would be recognisable to today’s astrologer. There are surviving papyrus horoscopes, written in Greek and Demotic between the first and fourth centuries BC, that tell us astrologers were aware of exaltations, lots of fortunes decans. Marcus Manilius and Vettius Valens, in the first century AD under the rule of Emperor Tiberius, were the authors of the first two systematic treatises on astrology. Manilius’ Astronomicon is written in verse, of all things, as apparently it was part of the literary challenge of the time to versify scientific work.
An important consideration of horoscopes of this time is that when they speak of the native being born under a certain sign, they are not referring to the location of the Sun within the chart. Rather, they indicate the particular sign that is present at the rising or contains a stellium of planets, or some other important point in the horoscope. The focus on the Sun sign in astrology is entirely a twentieth century phenomenon. There is also at this time no clear interpretive connection between planets and signs, unlike today’s astrology. Aspects between the planets and points of interest were, however, of fundamental importance to the Graeco-Roman astrologer and expressed the Hellenistic mathematical ideals in the relationships of trines, squares and sextiles. The development of the astrological houses, or ‘loci’, originates here, following from the splitting of the heavens into quadrants. Two central axes cross the 360 degree circle of the chart, from the Ascendant to the Descendant and from the Midheaven to the Imum Coeli; these quadrants are then trisected into a total of 12 houses.
Astrology’s time in Rome was punctured by its use and abuse by emperors; it was debated in the senate by proponents and opponents and generally embraced by its citizens. Emperor Tiberius (14-37 AD) employed a ‘secret police’ of astrologers to identify possible political rivals. He also enjoyed testing astrologers by inviting them to predict the time of their own deaths, before proving them wrong by executing them on the spot. It was a time when astrologers needed to do a lot of quick thinking on their feet if they were to remain on them for long. The evidence of astrology’s popularity in Roman society can be seen in the naming of the seven day week after the planetary gods.
A thousand years in the darkness
With Emperor Constantine’s official endorsement of the Christian faith in 312 AD, astrology was plunged into “a thousand years of darkness”, and removed from Western consciousness. The new church state began a program of eradication, which included any pagan practices that were not prescribed by the theological authorities. Astrology became a crime punishable by death. Rome and the Church were divided into two distinct areas, the east and west, with the eastern Byzantine sector far more forgiving of its pagan past. Here astrological study managed to continue until around 549 AD, when the last pagan school of learning was closed in Athens.
Christian theological thinkers such as Tertullian (160-220 AD) and St Augustine (354-430 AD) were fiercely uncompromising in their condemnation of astrology and their attacks were characterised by the notion of Christian ‘free will’ versus the classical idea of ‘fate’. The real closure on astrology, along with many other ‘sciences’ in the Latin West, can be attributed to the decline of classical learning as the Christian Church ushered in the “Dark Ages”. Many of the classical texts were in Greek, and the Church’s control ensured they were not translated into Latin. Ptolemy’s treatise on spherical astronomy, Almagest, was not translated, nor were any tables of pre-calculated astronomical positions. Without these texts it was near impossible for aspiring astrologers.
As with many things in life, if something is suppressed in one region, it often moves to where it can still flourish; in this case, astrology moved to the Islamic world. From available evidence, astrological knowledge journeyed to India around the second century AD. The recorded sources are Hellenistic, although there are also signs of earlier Babylonian -influenced celestial omens. Persia was the cultural point where the classical Hellenistic world and India crossed, and the adaptation caused some interesting new ideas to bloom. Five elements instead of the usual four, plus the transmigration of souls, were added to the astrological mix. The lunar nodes became a more important focal point of the horoscope and new calibrations of the zodiac were made, dividing it by seven and nine into saptamas and navasamas. Astrology continued to flourish in India, unharmed by state or religious persecution, and is widely practised to this day.
The Islamic culture embraced astrology as much for its philosophical qualities as for its predictive usefulness, and it was here that many consider it reached its highest state. “As above, so below,” the old maxim tells of the oneness of existence, encapsulating astrology’s appeal to Islamic thinkers. It was here that the astrolabe and the “Zig”, two devices for calculating the time and the degree of the elliptic in the ascendant at any time from celestial positions, were perfected. Abu-Mashar (787-886 AD) is known as the founder of Islamic astrology and his theories on planetary conjunctions have been immensely influential. His work on the importance of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions throughout history has filtered down to us today.
Astrology returned to the Latin West from Islamic sources via Toledo in Spain when, during the Reconquista, Islamic cultural centres fell under Christian control in 1085 AD. Here scholars were able to translate the major works of Greek science that had never before been translated into Latin. A new font of learning was opened and this would feed down through the centuries. As Christianity became a little more magnanimous, now that it was long established and felt far less threatened, Church scholars absorbed the new learning and sought to integrate it with their religious principles. Leading thinkers such as Albertus Magnus, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas were all in agreement that the movements of the stars affected life on earth. Geoffrey Chaucer had a special interest in astrology and composed the first English treatise on the astrolabe. His poetry is full of references to the stars and a few of his stories are actually allegories for particular astrological star groupings.
Astrology still trod a dangerous path during the rule of Christian kings, and burning at the stake and astrologers being hung, drawn and quartered (still very mathematical) were not uncommon occurrences. Astrologers were often in service to kings as advisers for when was the best time to go into battle, and to ‘would be kings’ for advice on their chances of succession. It was, I imagine, a job fraught with danger when things did not work out according to the stars, or to the king’s desire. Shakespeare is a great source of historical evidence for the role astrology played in the Middle Ages. Astrological almanacs were published every year in most cities throughout Europe, proving popular with the general community and listing likely weather for the growing of crops, the phases of the Moon and fortuitous times of the year.
The Renaissance in the 15th century was the culmination of the rediscovery of the treasure trove of classical knowledge. The Medici rulers in Florence were the greatest political supporters of this unfettered exploration but it also flourished in many other European cities. Rome, Paris, London and the like all sported intellectuals and artists who once more began to stretch the limits of humankind’s knowledge. Astrology flowered here like it had not done so for an age, as great thinkers discovered the pearls of wisdom that had been hidden for hundreds of years in the obscurity of the East.
The Hermetic texts, then thought to be ancient writings purporting to be the words of the Egyptian deity, Thoth, to his disciples, were translated by Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499). These made a huge impact on the thinkers of the day, and it was experienced as a validation of the concept of a lineage of philosophers and teachers passing on wisdom down through the ages to the present time. (It was later suggested by Isaac Casaubon, in the 17th century, that the Hermetic writings, because of the language used, dated from the second century AD and not from antiquity, a view universally subscribed to today.) Also, the words of Plato and Aristotle were resonating through the halls of learning for the first time in nearly a thousand years.
Astrology was at this time being taught in universities all over Europe and, in particular, had great appeal to doctors for use in diagnosis. Paracelsus and Ficino both considered astrology the core of medical doctrine. The popular practice of bleeding patients (phlebotomy) was usually undertaken in conjunction with knowledge of astrological medicine. In fact, the various veins, along with parts of the human body, all fell under certain astrological signs. You would not, for example, bleed someone from the thighs if the Moon was in Sagittarius, as it was considered dangerous, even fatal. The Moon, ruling the tides in nature, was seen to be the major influence over the body’s internal fluids.
Of course, astrology’s uneasy relationship with the Church continued. Girolamo Cardano, the brilliant Italian mathematician, physician and astrologer, was but one of many who fell victim to the Inquisition. His crime, was having the audacity to publish the horoscope of Jesus Christ, in his treatise on Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. Although the date of the chart 24 December 1 BC – is thought to be incorrect, that was not why he was eventually prosecuted. Rather, it was blasphemy to say that Christ’s body was subject to the will of the stars.
It was not the Church, however, that would this time play the decisive role in the fall of astrology from its lofty intellectual position, but the rise of the ‘new god on the block’ – science. Galileo’s revolutionary discovery that the earth and all the other planets in our solar system, rotated around the Sun , not around the earth as previously believed, was a fatal blow. So too was Copernicus’ idea that the universe might be infinite, making the closed concept of the zodiacal constellations obsolete. Prior to this, scholars had invoked the names of the great classical thinkers to add weight to their treatises; with these revelations, much of what came before was suddenly incorrect; it was suddenly ‘a new world’. All these revered ancient texts became wrong in their most basic assumptions. Of course, this did not happen overnight; it took many years for the dismantling. Indeed, it was not until the 17th century that the split between astronomy and astrology was clearly seen in academic circles. Astrology was on its way to that dirty ‘fairground’. The later discoveries of the planets Uranus and Neptune were also seen as further discrediting the astronomical ‘facts’ of the classical universe.
From the 1800′s onwards, astrology in the West entered the ‘underworld’ once more, existing on the streets in trashy books and in secret societies like the theosophists and other groups of spiritualists. It was from these groups that astrology reinvented itself as an adjunct to spiritual growth. The old, negative, classical interpretations were junked in favour of character building ones. Astrologers like Englishman Alan Leo (1860-1917) contributed to rebuilding interest in a new, positive astrology that used esoteric knowledge for growth. German astrology was another driving force in the rebirth of astrology.
It has been astrology as a psychological language, however, that has kept my interest. In particular, the work of Carl Jung (1875-1961) has mined a fertile vein of mythological information. Astrologer Liz Greene continues this exploration today and her books are a rich source of old knowledge seen through new eyes – discovering philosopher’s stones to alchemical equations.
The history of astrology is like the history of humankind itself- enormous. I have only been able to give you the broadest of outlines and a few bon mots. I would like to acknowledge Peter Whitfield’s History of Astrology (The British Library 2001) as my main source of information and encourage those who have enjoyed this introduction to pursue it further with Mr Whitfield.
Appeared in WellBeing Astrology Magazine.
Retreats and Spas – The New Holiday. December 25, 2008
Posted by sudhahamilton in Health, Published Articles, Reviews.
Tags: beach, beauty spa, bush walks, climbing, Dargan Springs, day spa, fitness, Fountainhead, fruit juice, heart rate, holiday, Hopewood Health Retreat, Maleny Baths, mountain lodge, organic spa, retreats, skin treatment, spa, therapies, vegetarian food, weight loss, yoga
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Heading: Retreats and Spas.
Subheading: – The New Holiday.
As we live in an increasingly demanding high tech world, where our downtime is rapidly disappearing into the Ether(net) – where it is trapped by Microsoft and Google in an endlessly informative embrace. Work never seems to finish, as it follows us home via cunningly invisible wireless cables and our living spaces are filled with screens, which never sleep, and phones that go beep, beep, beep. We used to go on holidays for the sun, surf and beach – but our blackberries accompanied us, and nestled there beside us on the towel began to wink a message or two or three about work. No island resort was ever far enough away from a colleague on the phone or an email from the boss.
Stress was mounting up like the Himalayas in June, and alcoholic relief was just a drink away but in the morning it was worse. Where can we get away to escape the maddening ring of technologies echoing? A monastery or nunnery? Perhaps a touch too austere; but retreat we must or face the curdling of the milk beneath the full white moon.
A retreat indeed, to a place where there are trees and grass, where nature walks tall and the life is not so fast. To a place which is all about us; about the fleshy bits that change as we age and seasons pass, rather than the synapses drawn tight by modern life. Where expert hands can rub relief into bodies running on adrenal fatigue and quiet vegetarian food beckons a good night’s sleep. A spa that smells so pure, that it must be made of milk and honey. The sensual joy of a natural scrub, ridding your skin of grime and the cities’ dub. Where exercise is something that happens when walking to and from your cabin – and fun is to be found outside running about with others. A return to the childlike pleasures of mucking about in nature, and seeing the pure experience reflected in the eyes of another, who is likewise having a good time just being themselves. Retreats are like this – mixing an ambience of naturalness with gentleness and providing a resource for practical advice about diet, exercise, life coaching, natural therapies and your health. This is the healing holiday experience that you often feel that you need to take after a family holiday or ill fated overseas jaunt with a partner.
Retreats and spas are fast becoming the new holiday of choice, as an antidote to the pressured life of the mind that we all seem to be corralled into these days. So what are the defining differences between spas and retreats and what are some of the features you may encounter on your new holiday of the physical senses? Well a spa is defined in real terms as the kind of place where you will find a variety of treatments that relate to your skin and body. Many establishments qualify themselves as a beauty spa or day spa and they specialize in a wonderful cornucopia of aromatising, massaging, bathing, skin conditioning therapies which will make you feel cleaner, fresher, revitalised and more beautiful. Many of these spas will have a special relationship with a resort providing accommodation in their locale – so that you can make your holiday special. Many new skin care companies, who have developed unique ranges of organic skin care products, have relationships with these spa operators to bring you a treatment experience that you just don’t have access to in your own bathroom cabinet.
A retreat will usually involve accommodation specifically chosen for its naturally soothing character, either in its surrounds or on the property itself. It may indeed offer access to day spa facilities as well or it may not. The soul of the retreat experience is in its program of healthy activities – or non-activities in the case of a meditation retreat. The retreat is, by its very name, a retreat from the demands of modern life into a program defined by a philosophy, which focuses on reconnecting the individual with their elemental selves. Their body – fitness, heart rate, muscle tone, unwanted tension, health of the skin, weight issues, and groundedness. Their dependencies – so often we find ourselves self-medicating with alcohol, nicotine, drugs, sugar, work, parenting and various addictive behaviours, which we use to avoid periods of self-reflection that may initially lead to feelings of despair. When we stop; and arrive at a place, which, by design, does not have the stuff with which we distract ourselves from our real issues; things like TV, computers, trashy magazines and the idle chatter of co-dependents (like minded folk who are also avoiding their issues), we face the overwhelming emptiness of our lives and often freak out for awhile. This however passes and slowly with the help of the retreat staff, who are trained in positively assisting you through this phase, you come out the other side. Where you find the inner peace to enjoy stillness of the lake or the wind whistling through the trees above you, and all the myriad unimportant junk of your day to day life withdraws to give you the space to feel again. To feel your connection with yourself, to laugh again as you jump and skip and make a lovely fool of yourself attempting some physical pursuit that you have not tried for umpteen numbers of years. You can find your heart again, not in the embrace of anyone else but in the enjoyment of simply being with yourself. All these things are available and more when you surrender to the retreat experience.
Good Retreats and Bad Retreats
OK so the ideal retreat experience can deliver us to a state where healing can take place but how do we spot the bad retreat or the retreat that is not up to the mark. Tension – if you can feel tension in the air or insecurity among the staff, beyond encountering someone on their first day at work, then this is a sure sign that perhaps things are not all that they are cracked up to be. Health retreat staff have a duty, like all healers, to be aware that they are stewards to individuals who have made a commitment to the healing process. Everybody from the cleaner to the retreat coordinator needs to be on the same conscious page and if they are not, then it is not supporting your journey to heal. How to discover this before you actually book and are on the property? Well, ask some pertinent questions, like how long has the establishment been operating and what is the average length of employment and what appropriate qualifications are held among the staff? Ask to speak with the coordinator and perhaps a therapist or even a guest – it is quite within your rights to make thorough enquiries before you make your investment of time and money.
Every retreat has its own particular philosophy, and has been uniquely created in response to this set of ideals or life lessons – you can usually get a fair idea from their website. Being open to the full retreat experience involves vulnerability on your part, so you want to feel a certain trust in the people who are interacting with you – therapists, practitioners and staff. Retreats have a certain mystique about them in our psyches – Avalon like places where the mists part to reveal holy grounds where transformations and miracles take place -this is can be a powerful help to fully letting go to the healing experience, but it is also wise to tether your camel before the journey.
Retreats in Review
Hopewood Health Retreat
One of Australia’s longest established health retreats, Hopewood has been operating for 46 years – located just one hour’s drive from Sydney and surrounded by beautiful bush land. Hopewood is the epitome of a well run health retreat, with dedicated, professional staff who have been working there for many years. Renowned for its natural health philosophy, which advocates a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, gentle exercise, plenty of water, fresh air and rest; Hopewood Health Retreat is the perfect place to relax by the river, revitalize and revive your mojo and zest for life. Specialising in natural healing, stress control, weight management, as well as massage and beauty pampering, Hopewood has long been helping Australian’s to rediscover their equilibrium.
Good food is a cornerstone of their successful approach to healing and transformation – passionate chefs, who love plying their trade at a fantastic health retreat, and presenting you with knock out combinations of delicious healthy ingredients. Utilising the smart and simple dietary technique of food combining – which serves particular vegetarian food groups together and avoids combining starch and protein – you will feel lighter and more vital. Of course you get to take home these secrets with you and the great feelings come with you. Hopewood even has its own cookbook, full of yummy healthy recipes and tips for detoxing diets. Hopewood’s juice therapy pointers are:
- Drink a small glass or two of freshly prepared juice every day.
- Avoid mixing fruits and vegetables as it can cause fermentation in your stomach.
- Top up with carrot and ginger instead of coffee when you need a lift.
- Juices are a great addition to your diet but remember to also eat whole fruit and veggies for the added fibre.
There is a full range of exercise and fitness activities available and you can tailor your own program to suit your desires and aspirations. Inspiring guided bush walks, yoga classes, aqua aerobics and personal training assessments are just some of the options from which you can choose to make your stay both enjoyable and transformational. After the exercise you can unwind with the de-stressing massage therapies like myofascial release; reflexology; shiatsu and hot stone therapy to name a few. Feel beautiful with organic facials, body wraps and other divine skin treatments all available on site at Hopewood. This is a total retreat experience where you can put aside the pressures of your day to day life to give something back to yourself. All Hopewood’s retreat packages include accommodation – ranging from balcony rooms with ensuite to budget rooms in single or twin with shared bathrooms; full use of all facilities; smorgasbord vegetarian meals and the daily activities program.
For further information www.hopewood.com.au Ph- 02 4773 8401 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 02 4773 8401 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Dargan Springs Mountain Lodge Wellness Retreat
Looking for a natural high? Where the air is cleaner and a little more rarified? Dargan Springs is the Blue Mountains health retreat par excellence, surrounded by breath taking views, peace and tranquility. Located 2 hours from Sydney, it is nestled in the trees and looks out upon the majestic vistas of Australia’s greatest mountain range. Each retreat has its own unique slice of natural magic and Dargan Springs is a beauty to behold and experience. Mountain lodge accommodation finds you ensconced in the light and airy luxury of those who live in the clouds, with each room having private ensuites, valley or garden views, and king sized or twin beds. Central heating keeps you warm inside, with soft linen, natural bedding, thick towels and down doonas to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Outdoor activities are conducted by host and owner Mike Corkin, who trained in climbing, abseiling and mountaineering in New Zealand at Otago University. Happy to instruct and guide small groups and individuals at all levels of proficiency, Mike is passionate about sharing the special magic inherent in the mountaineering experience and the exhilaration it can produce. One of the special advantages Dargan Springs’ guests have is the lodge’s direct access to amazing walks, climbs and abseiling trips, meaning more time in the natural wilderness. All the Dargan Springs outdoor trips are certified with Advanced Eco-Accreditation, which recognises their commitment to ecologically sustainable eco tourism. Whether you wish to enjoy the mountains with an expert, or prefer to go it alone, the experience of this incredible wildlife resource is an inspiring life choice and will have you feeling more alive than you have before. Wildflowers in brilliant colours, dramatic rock formations, wallabies and a host of native birds freewheeling before your eyes, it is a rich pageant of life and of course you need to stay alert up here. Like on a Zen meditation walk your awareness is keen and the witness state allows life to flow through him/her.
All this mountain air activity provokes an appetite for sure, in addition to burning off calories; you want and get to eat fantastic fresh food at Dargan Springs. Being in the pure mountain climes somehow stimulates you to appreciate the pure flavours in good healthy food, it’s delicious and Dargan Springs offers you a range of quality meat, fish and vegetarian meals that are all low fat and bursting with freshness. Food never tasted so good and your body never felt so good. Plus certified mountain spring water flows from all the taps, freshly made juices are available and hot drinks too.
Massage therapies, yoga, aromatherapy facials, wellness consultations, meditations, hot spa’s and tai chi are all on the menu at Dargan Springs. Plus you have the choice of experiencing it at what level you wish to, from the wonderfully restorative Healthy Escape package to the bed and breakfast option. Dargan Springs can be a sensational place for a healthy group conference, a longer stay healing program or a divine place to explore the Blue Mountains from. It is welcoming and life enhancing without being too fanatical.
www.dargansprings.com.au Ph – 02 6355 2939 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 02 6355 2939 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Fountainhead Organic Health Retreat
The Fountainhead Organic Health Retreat is, according to founder Wayne Parrott, the only certified organic health retreat in the world. Established five years ago on an avocado orchard, it combines the stunning beauty of its chalets and lake setting with the natural order of a working organic farm. Utilising permaculture principles it is not a place of manufactured beauty like some resorts but a truly tranquil and magical locale for a healing retreat. Based in Maleny, in the Blackall ranges on the Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland, Fountainhead is a vision of rolling pastures, bubbling creeks and pristine lakes. Fountainhead runs a range of exceptional life changing programs focusing on Helping Overcoming Depressive and Anxiety Illnesses; Fit for Life and Cancer Education retreats. It is also a great place to pamper yourself, with the help of some wonderful massage therapists, life coaches and their attentive staff.
Organic juices flow at Fountainhead three days a week, in conjunction with some seriously delicious meals, which utilise the organic farm’s veggie output and also bring in some quality local organic produce from around the hinterland. Cooking schools demonstrate the best way to get the maximum amount of live nutrition from your food at home. Detox programs are available with expert input and guidance.
The Fountainhead Maleny Baths utilise natural spring water in the pools and there are saunas, a steam room and a fantastic area for relaxing by the pools. The brilliant blue of the bath centre’s walls contrasts with the green natural foliage all around and you have this sneaking suspicion that you might be in paradise after all. I remember during my last visit the chef bringing me over a fantastic warm salad of grilled king prawns, avocado and organic mixed leaves as I relaxed on a sun lounge by the pool. There are usually guests playing games in the pool or doing languid laps on their path to fitness and health. Choose from yoga, bush walking, aqua aerobics, personal training assessments, beach visits and daily excursions.
Accommodation is in a variety of architecturally designed chalets and you can choose from premium or deluxe levels. www.fountainhead.com.au Ph 07 5494 3494 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 07 5494 3494 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Appeared in Eco Living Magazine
Emotional Healing – Af-X Release Therapy. December 21, 2008
Posted by sudhahamilton in Health, Published Articles.
Tags: Af-x Release Therapy, affectology, brain, chronic fatigue syndrome, clinical depression, counsellor, Damasio, depression, early learning, emotional healing, emotions, Goleman, healing, health, human condition, hypnotherapy, Ian White, Lao Tzu, LeDoux, limbic brain, medication, meditation, OCD, perfect being, practitioners, psychotherapy, subsconscious mind therapy, suicide, therapy, Zen
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Heading: Emotional Healing.
Subheading: Af-x Release Therapy.
What first attracted me to Af-x Release Therapy©, was the notion of respect for our own mind’s ability to heal ourselves, inherent within its philosophy. Here, it seemed, was a process that put the onus on self-responsibility, instead of the almighty therapist. Having tried numerous therapies, I now have a greater respect for anything that puts me in touch with my own wisdom, rather than something that makes me dependent on someone or something else. It intrigued me, too, when I was told there would be only three sessions and I would not be required to speak much in any of them. This was definitely like no counselling I’d had before.
A Zen-like flavour pervaded my encounter with Af-x’s founding practitioner, Ian White, with few words on my part and from him a confidence in my ability to “right my own mental and emotional cart.” The silence growing within me was a welcome change from the usual chatter as I listened to him outlining the coming sessions. Why was I here? I suppose you could call it mild depression. I was also interested in experiencing this therapy. Closing my eyes and sitting back in my chair, I opened my mind to the words being spoken to me.
Af-x Release Therapy© is based on the work of the School of Affectology, developed by Australian psychotherapist, Ian White. Its roots are in studies are in studies of early childhood and the discovery that we develop a subtle emotional sense well before we begin to think conceptually. In the period of birth to 18 months, we’re developing our feeling selves long before we learn words and how to think in a narrative way. We learn what feeling responses work for us and this is the basis of the development of our emotions. This information is stored by the limbic brain, there to be called on when we require an emotional response. The process is referred to as neuro-encoding. Many of the scientific studies of this early learning period are covered in books by Goleman, Damasio, LeDoux and others.
“Of course, our affect -meaning emotional reactions, are immediate and don’t allow us to think about them because they are happening at a subconscious level – the reactions defy our rational selves,” says Ian. “Through this we build a habit of feeling, that eventually grows into our own unconscious sense of self.” Af-x Release Therapy© predicates that these first learning’s have a powerful influence on how we react emotionally throughout our life, often without realising why. As these feelings are experienced pre-verbally, it is, Ian’s view, ineffective for the client to attempt to “talk it out.” “What is important is to allow the client to focus on, and safely reach, that inner feeling space, and it’s only through silence and a quietening of the mind’s chatter that this is possible,” says Ian. “Once there, the subconscious mind’s own sophisticated self-correcting gear is available to a simple ‘reminder like’ suggestion.”
“So isn’t this just hypnotherapy?” I put to Ian. “I prefer to use the term ‘assisted self attention’, or ‘focus on feelings’, as it’s not necessary for the client to be in any particular state for the process to work, and the term ‘self attention’ also describes the meditative state, which I think is a closer fit for this work,” responds Ian. “Also, what is integral to understand here is that, unlike hypnotherapists and all other counsellors and psychotherapists, we are not responding to a particular complaint voiced by the client, because of course the client has not said anything. The Af-x practitioner is appealing to the client’s own innate ability as a perfect being to make the necessary adjustments to their emotional self.”
As I hear these words and ruminate on being a ‘perfect being,’ memories of my own spiritual journey filter into consciousness. I remember being told stories by my spiritual ‘master’ about how insanity was dealt with in the East, in the time of Lao Tzu; how the suffere would be locked in a cell in complete darkness with no contact with any other person, meals being slipped under the door. It sounded barbaric but, apparently, it was often a quick cure as the inflamed mental state was not pandered to and an encounter with the”original face or self” was hard to avoid. The strict adherence of the client to the no-speaking approach in Af-x therapy and the self-attention consciousness of the meditative state ring a few bells for me, so I am not surprised to learn that Ian White trained as a Zen Bukkyo monk in his earlier years.
“Yes, I sat in Zasen in black hakama robes, being whacked on the back with an oak walking stick by the senior monk and scrubbing a sterile, perfectly clean floor over and over again, and all that other exciting stuff, but I never really took to it because it didn’t deal with my impatience about helping bring peace to my fellow person,” says White.
It is perhaps that focus that has led Ian to a life devoted to assisting in the healing of thousands through the development and refinement of Af-x Release Therapy©. Through the School of Affectology, Ian White has trained Af-x practitioners in Australia, the US and Europe. He and those who are using the therapy in their work have had particular success in dealing with those apparently suffering from the many forms of depression, as well as a host of other mental-emotional problems. Ian says, “One of the most important aspects of the Af-x approach is that we do not consider that ongoing psychotherapy is productive in changes for the better. In fact, ongoing therapy actually gets in the way of people making the mental and emotional change choices that bring about success.”
“How do you monitor whether three sessions are enough or are effective at all?” I ask.
“Over the past 10 years, every Af-x client has been asked to participate in a feedback system,” Ian ventures. “Questionnaires are sent out guaranteeing that the client’s responses will remain confidential and anonymous. We just get the pure data and so we know in the majority of cases that it is working.”
Many ex-clients have come forward to volunteer their personal stories about their experiences with Af-x. It’s through this process that I am able to read through testimonials from clients who have visited an Af-x practitioner. Although these people range widely in age and circumstance, there’s a common theme, which runs through their experiences. In nearly all cases, they were previously informed by health professionals that they were suffering from depression, panic attacks or stress and required medication. One testimonial in particular caught my attention – “Lisa’s Story.” I think it was because, being a teenager, Lisa (not her real name) conveyed her situation with that rawness and emotional honesty often seen in her age group.
Lisa’s Story (age 17)
“For many years I suffered from what is known as clinical depression, a diagnosis I received from psychiatrists and doctors. From the early days of my problem, I was prescribed various antidepressants. I also suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. During this time, I thought about suicide on many occasions. Life seemed to be of no use, no purpose, and I didn’t want to spend the rest of it living in the big black hole I seemed to exist in. I felt lost and alone. No one knew how to help me. Of course, many people tried to help, but for a long while I suffered alone, thinking I was beyond help; just willing myself to die. On more than one occasion, I attempted to take my life, never thinking I could find any solutions to getting any better than just coping from day to day, taking drugs and lashing out at everyone and everything around me.
“My friends and family were desperate for my recovery. Endless visits to the school counsellor seemed to make no difference. I spent many months ‘in therapy’ with a psychiatrist. Same outcome. Those many years of taking antidepressants and even alternative natural medication resulted in no answer. In fact, things were getting steadily worse. Quite apart from my depressive sickness, there was a steadily increasing pressure on me to get better. Pressure that people who had no idea of the loneliness of me applied. I know they had the best intentions, but they didn’t know they were adding incredibly to my burden.
“Then my parents heard about Ian White and his work, which he called Af-x therapy. My parents had no idea how it worked and, quite incorrectly, translated it to me as being ‘hypnotherapy.’ This, of course, didn’t help my expectations and I was opposed to the idea of seeing him from the start. In fact, I was very sceptical about the idea, I thought it would be another case of crazy person with crazy antics claiming to have all the answers. For this reason, I refused the treatment.
“After months of my family pleading with me to ‘give it a go’, I reluctantly agreed. In all honesty, that was merely to stop the pleading and give me an excuse to say to them, ‘See, this didn’t work, either!’ I walked into his rooms, making it very obvious that I didn’t want to be there and I was only there to ‘shut everybody up’. Of course, I was determined to derail anything he was going to try with me. As a result of my many visits to other counsellors and therapists, I was certain I knew how to handle him to my own ends.
“But I was very surprised at his approach. Now, in hindsight, I would say I was pleasantly surprised. Ian was lovely and considerate of the fact that I had been pressured to undergo treatment. He talked about that pressure right from the outset and gave the impression that he knew all about how I felt about ‘everybody trying to tell me what’s best for me’. He made me feel very comfortable and relaxed and told me I was ‘the boss’. In other words, he did not do or say anything I was uncomfortable with and I was given no reason to oppose the idea of going ahead with helping myself out of the dilemma.
“He explained the procedures of Af-x very clearly, removing any idea that there was ‘a mystery’ about what he had to offer. Ian explained he didn’t want me to talk unless I wanted to ask a general question about the treatment. He explained why it was important for me not to try to put my problems into words. That was a great relief, because I had been trying unsuccessfully to put my problems into words for years. I had always left counsellors’ offices wondering whether I had really explained things in a truthful way.
“After my third session I thanked Ian for his time and walked away wondering when and if I would notice any change. In some ways, even though I had enjoyed my time in the therapy, I still couldn’t see how it could help to ‘say nothing’ and ‘take notice of my self’. I did what Ian suggested and tried not to analyse what we had done in therapy. As a matter of fact, I tended to forget I had gone to see him.
“About a month later, I stated to feel very strong, physically and emotionally, and I decided to stop taking medication for my depression. I had depended on that medication for such a long time, that there was a part of me that seemed to be saying, ‘Well, I’ll stop taking it and that’ll prove that I can do without it.’ But that didn’t happen. I started to notice that my energy levels were gradually rising and my desire for sleep was declining. I also started to notice I had a calmer and less aggressive approach to negative situations. My friends, my family and my teachers all noticed and commented on this change. I no longer felt a need to resolve my problems with violence, verbal or otherwise, and for the first time in my life I felt happy. Although I did not understand how the therapy worked, I remember on many occasions, the things he said and explained came back to me in those moments when I once would have become depressed or lost my temper.
“Today, eight months after my therapy, I am still not taking medication, I’m attending the gym three times a week and I seem to not react to things as I used to- angrily. I receive compliments all the time on how much I have improved in all areas of my life. At times, these comments are about changes that I think are obvious, but sometimes I’m surprised that people have noticed some of the more gentle changes to who I am. I feel like I have eventually found myself, and found the person inside that I once used to be, and found the person I can be.”
The idea that we can undergo change without analysing it, talking it through and even intellectually understanding that change is baffling for many people. In many of the volunteered stories I read the most common response was: “I don’t know how this thing worked but it did.” Ian White talks about ‘re-education’, that the work of Af-x Release Therapy© is all about re-educating our early emotional selves. This is subtle stuff and it doesn’t employ any high tech gadgetry….well, except, that is, for the most sophisticated gadget of all, the human mind. Perhaps as we evolve further we will learn to value the finer workings of the human brain. At present, our models of our own consciousness are computers, which in truth are terribly inadequate.
For many people, the whole purpose of their visit to a counsellor is to pour out their problems, so this ban on words can be a major deterrent. Ian explains it’s absolutely vital to the success of the therapy: “As soon as you listen to their story you are complicit in their world paradigm – the half truths, the snippets of pseudo self-help theories they’ve picked up and applied to their own situation; and you are caught in their web with them. The Af-x practitioner comes clean to the table and bypasses all this completely, working directly with the subconscious emotional mind.” White likens this process to the Zen therapeutic approach of “holding the mirror firmly.”
After speaking with Ian for many hours about his past training and personal experiences, I begin to get a picture of how this therapy has come into being. The development of Affectology has been a constant evolution of a work that began with a desire to understand the qualities of consciousness. Having at its core a profound respect for the ‘perfection’ of humankind, it’s a therapy for a conscious age. Also, at that core seems to be a deep concern for the way society believes many of the damaging myths about our mental and emotional wellbeing.
How was it for me? I experienced an upsurge of self-belief immediately after the sessions, which I had over a three week period. My self esteem, which had been low, due to a failed relationship that had ended some 16 months before, felt markedly stronger at the conclusion of the sessions. While I was suffering only a low level of depression, the results were gentle and subtle, yet definite. As for curing ‘the human condition’, Ian White maintains strongly that our human condition is already perfect but needs some guidance for reflective emotional and mental healing. That’s the nature of Af-x Release Therapy©.
There are now a number of practitioners who have been trained by the School of Affectology in Australia, the US and Sweden. Ian White is currently in Greece, training practitioners in Athens.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine.
Thought Field Therapy – Tapping the healer within. December 21, 2008
Posted by sudhahamilton in Health, Published Articles.
Tags: acupressure points, anxiety, autonomic nervous system, brain, Dr Roger Callaghan, EFT, energetic medicine, energy fields, Eugene Piccinotie, grief, healing, health, heart variability rate, HRV, panic attacks, phobia, placebo effect, psychology, Roger Callaghan, tapping, TFT, therapeutic techniques, thought field therapy, trauma, whole body therapy
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Heading: Thought Field Therapy.
Subheading: Tapping the healer within.
Do our thoughts have an energy field? Are we beginning to see the emergence of a new type of medicine based on the treatment and understanding of subtle energy fields? Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is one of these new therapeutic tools that may seem like magic from the outside, but is firmly based on the premise of our thoughts having an energy field.
It is interesting to stop and consider our own thinking processes. Especially those thoughts we run through our conscious mind again and again. Usually when we are very concerned about something and we begin to obsess about it. Is there an energy field around these obsessive thoughts? How are these thoughts affecting our physiology?
Is our autonomic nervous system reacting to how these thoughts are making us feel?
Perhaps even before we have registered that we are having an emotional reaction to these thoughts.
In the instance of trauma or severe anxiety, it is understood that these negative thoughts are encoded or embedded in our subconscious mind and can subsequently produce a range of physical reactions without first registering in the conscious mind. These so called diseases of the mind, psycho-symptomatic phobias, post traumatic stress and the like, have been and still are difficult conditions for our doctors and psychologists to successfully treat. As there has been no pharmacological answer to the debilitating experience of severe anxiety, except drugging the person into a state of apathy, the onus has fallen upon the “talk therapy” of our psychologists.
One of these psychologists was Dr Roger Callaghan, the founder of Thought Field Therapy (TFT) and the author of Tapping the Healer Within, the definitive TFT self-help book. Dr Callaghan who trained and practised as a clinical psychologist in the USA, and was associate professor of psychology at the University of East Michigan, was professionally frustrated at his own, and his colleagues, lack of success in treating these types of illnesses with cognitive based “talk therapies”. “Whether we were treating them for depression, phobias, or a shattered relationship, too many clients seem entrapped in years of expensive psychotherapy, talking endlessly about their life circumstances. They’d painfully relive their trauma. They’d often blame something or someone in their past for their current troubles. But at the end of the day- or the year- they had nothing to show for it,” he states in his book.
This led him to explore therapeutic approaches outside the mainstream. This quest would eventually open his mind, almost accidentally, to the consideration of Chinese medicine and its theory of energy meridians running through the human body. Whilst seeing a long term patient, who had a severe water phobia, Dr Callaghan chanced upon the idea, almost out of desperation, of using the acupressure points on the body to treat the symptoms of the phobia. The patient had said, “I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Every time I look at or think of water I feel it right here in my stomach.” Although not formally trained in acupuncture, Dr Callaghan knew that that position directly under the eye was the location of the concluding point of the stomach meridian. Instructing the client to tap with two fingers on that particular spot and to think about her fear of water he was amazed when she reported back a few minutes later that the sick feeling in her stomach was gone. Further more the client was positive that she was no longer afraid of water.
Although skeptical at the time, Dr Callaghan continued refining this technique through research and trial and error. He was hopeful that the stunning result that he had achieved with this one patient would be reproduced with all his patients, he was to be disappointed. However, as this was the most powerful healing experience he had had in thirty years of practising he persevered with his research into what would become TFT. He discovered that with certain clients a whole series of meridian points would need to be tapped and not just anyhow but in specific sequences. The value of this was that many more clients with a variety of psychological ailments beyond just phobias were helped and a system of tapping “algorithms” was developed.
These “algorithms” or specialised sequences of tapping on various pressure points on the body are used in conjunction with the initial focus on the thought that contains the fear, anger or negative emotion. It is paramount to the effectiveness of TFT that the person experiencing the therapy holds that thought in their consciousness. Thus the thought field is activated and the therapy can do its work. Apart from the tapping there is also a series of exercises involving the opening and closing of the eyes and the pointing of them in various directions.
These eye movements are common to a variety of therapeutic techniques and Dr Callaghan explains that the eyes are an extension of the brain. “I believe that each eye movement may access a different area of the brain. Some research shows, for example that when the eyes are open, the back of the brain receives relatively greater stimulation; when they are closed, the front of the brain is more stimulated.” In addition he states, “the humming and counting processes are designed to activate the right and left brain, respectively. Theoretically, the right side of the brain is being receptive to treatment by the humming and tapping, and the left side of the brain by the counting and tapping.”
If you are like me when you first begin these exercises you may feel a little like an uncoordinated child on your first day at ballet classes, trying to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time. With a little clear instruction and practice you soon get the hang of it though, and even when I fell on the floor laughing I noticed how much better I was feeling already.
Dr Callaghan’s study of several other fields has also contributed to the evolution of TFT. His look into physics has given him a language and a scientific structure to explain the effectiveness of TFT. Starting with Einstein’s basic postulation that everything is energy (E = mc2) then thought is an energy. This energy has a field like a magnetic or gravitational field; you cannot see them but they exist. Dr Callaghan in his book employs a dictionary definition for a field as thus: “a complex of forces that serve as causative agents in human behaviour.” He goes on to say, ” The thought field is the most fundamental concept in TFT. This intangible structure or scaffolding can contain large amounts of information, but in treating psychological distress, we’ll concentrate on the negative emotions you are experiencing. When you are terrified of snakes, devastated by a marital breakup, or depressed over the loss of a job, the cause of this disturbance is contained in the thought field.” Dr Callaghan then uses the term “perturbation” to describe this disturbance in the thought field – this is a unique entity according to him that contains “active information” (a quantum physics concept) of a highly specified sort that can be isolated within the thought field. He states, “the psychological upset is due not to a trauma or the loss of a love, for example. These experiences give rise to the perturbation, but it is the perturbation itself that is responsible for generating, guiding, and controlling all of the fundamental changes within the body.”
One of the most interesting pieces of scientific evidence produced in Dr Callaghan’s book to support the health benefits of TFT is its effect on Heart Rate Variability or HRV. HRV, which is the quantified variation in the intervals between heartbeats, has been used in cardiological research (for the last 30 years) as an indicator into the functioning of the autonomic nervous system. A low variation in heart beats per minute is seen as a depressed HRV and can be a warning about the health of the patient’s heart. Whereas the higher variability in pulse rates per minute is a sign of better overall health. Dr Callaghan has been assessing the physiological health of his patient’s bodies through HRV, before and after TFT sessions. He states, “although you probably aren’t conscious of it, your heart functions with subtle variations between beats. In fact HRV appears to be the most accurate tool we have for monitoring the autonomic nervous system or ANS, which is the internal system that controls heartbeat, breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, blood chemistry, tissue repair, metabolism, immune function, and other processes considered involuntary and beyond conscious control. Clearly, the more optimally your ANS is functioning, the healthier you are likely to be.”
The dramatic results that TFT has achieved with patients, some of whom were seriously ill with heart conditions, in raising their HRV has shown Dr Callaghan that the psychological healing is also producing measurable physiological changes. He states, “I often use HRV to evaluate TFT whether I’m trying to heal a patient’s anger, grief, anxiety, or phobia, or relieve his or her physical problems such as migraine pain or allergies. HRV is an adjunct to TFT that objectively demonstrates and quantifies the effectiveness of this breakthrough therapeutic technique.”
Dr Callaghan goes on to quote further HRV/TFT testing that has been done by Dr Fuller Royal, medical director of the Nevada Clinic. “Heart Rate Variability is the only test known that will not respond to the placebo effect,” he said. “You can’t fool the autonomic nervous system.” He added, “TFT has been for me a nice piece of the puzzle that has been missing on how to enter, and correct rapidly, defects in the autonomic nervous system.”
The broadening research into HRV as a clear indicator of our state of health, and in many studies as the strongest predictor of mortality is widely covered in Dr Callaghan’s book. He also puts forward research that states, “making changes – particularly rapid changes – in HRV readings is virtually impossible. Two studies (one of humans, the other an animal study) found that exercise was the only common way to get those HRV scores to budge in a positive way, but even then it would take eight weeks or more of intense physical activity to produce improvements.” This puts TFT’s remarkable effect on HRV into context.
Personally, I find that TFT seems to be a whole body therapy that listens not just to our chattering mind but is a further revelation in the understanding of the holistic paradigm. It is another step forward in removing our focus away from just what lies between our ears. We hear the words, that we are an interconnected system within an even larger interconnected system, but perhaps now we are beginning to see the proof of that through our healing experiences.
I did have some preconceived doubts and negativity in regard to how quickly TFT works in many of the cases reported. I suppose I share a common attitude about therapy and spirituality that we need to suffer to truly understand, before we are relieved of our burdens. For those who have carried these debilitating conditions, it is often like a miracle when they are set free from them. We as human beings are, I think, examples of the most incredible life forms, and the growing awareness of energy medicine is very exciting. TFT is part of that continuing enlightenment.
Now with more than twenty years’ research into TFT, Dr Callaghan, and a substantial number of therapists all over the world are achieving unparalleled success in the treatment of phobias, anxieties and psychological disorders. The work has evolved and been refined even further with the next generation “Voice Technology.” In Australia, Eugene Piccinotti has established a TFT centre here, and offers workshops all over the country. Eugene trained with Dr Callaghan in the USA, and personally overcame huge obstacles through TFT. Like many before him, he tried numerous variations of “talk therapy” without success. Eugene has now facilitated hundreds of people into energy shifting TFT releases, and continues to be inspired by the work.
Appeared in WellBeing Magazine.