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Archive for March, 2012

Kiwi: More Than a Funny-Looking Fruit?- Dr. Weil’s Daily Tip.

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The Two Healthiest Diets in the World – Dr. Andrew Weil.

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A Stroke of Insight

A Stroke of Insight
by Amy Anderson

On December 10, 1996, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor woke up with a pounding, pulsating pain behind her left eye. She was hypersensitive to light, and her hands were curled up like claws. “It was as though I was witnessing myself having this experience rather than me being the person having this experience,” she says.

At 37, Taylor was having a stroke. And she thought it was amazing.

Every 45 seconds, someone suffers a stroke in the United States. But Taylor was a brain scientist, a neuroanatomist at Harvard’s Brain Tissue Resource Center. And so, over the next four hours, as a blood clot the size of a golf ball slowly hemorrhaged to the size of a fist in her brain’s left hemisphere, she observed herself not just as a stroke victim, but as an expert on the brain.

In 2006, Taylor published the New York Times best-selling My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. Today, she is a sought-after speaker, addressing medical and nursing schools, corporations and even spiritual organizations. She was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008, and her speech at the February 2008 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference became a viral video that was seen by more than 5 million viewers.

The stroke occurred in Taylor’s left hemisphere, which is the logical, sequential, organized side of the brain, concerned with numbers, words and time. The right hemisphere is the intuitive, kinesthetic side that views the world in pictures and sees everything in the present moment.

That morning, as Taylor’s left brain began to shut down, she tried to continue with her morning routine. But when she lost her balance in the bathtub, she had a startling realization: She could no longer perceive boundaries around solid objects. She couldn’t tell where her hand stopped and where the wall started. “And through the eyes of a scientist,” she says, “I was really thinking, This is totally cool, totally interesting. But what is wrong with my brain?”

Taylor was alone, and as she got out of the tub, her right arm became paralyzed. “As soon as that happened, that was when I realized, Oh my gosh, I’ve got paralysis. That’s a warning sign of stroke. I’m having a stroke. And then I thought, Wow, this is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to do this?”

She knew she needed to call for help but couldn’t remember any phone numbers. Words and symbols didn’t register with her deteriorating brain. She drifted back and forth between moments of brief clarity and moments of great peace. “When I wasn’t in my left brain attending to details and going through this process [of finding a phone number], I would drift off into my right hemisphere consciousness, which was very peaceful and very blissful. There was no sense of urgency and there was no sense of fear. There was just this overwhelming sense of love and openness and being as big as the universe.”

After managing to match the “squiggles” on a business card to the “squiggles” on the phone, she reached a co-worker. When he spoke to her, he sounded “like a golden retriever. And I realized I couldn’t understand language. And then I tried to speak and the same ‘roar-roar-roar’ comes out of me. And it was like, oh my gosh, I sound like a golden retriever.”

After being stabilized at Massachusetts General Hospital, she was completely disabled. “I could not walk, talk, read, write or recall any of my life,” she says. “I was essentially an infant.”

She underwent surgery, and over the next eight years, Taylor, with help from her mother, relearned everything. She learned to sit up, to use a fork, to tie her shoes. But she made agonizingly slow process. For example, her mother would teach her to put on her socks and at another time to put on her shoes. “But if you laid my shoes and socks in front of me and said put them on, I would not know that you had to put the socks on before you put the shoes on because I had no linearity to my thinking. And because I had no linearity, I could not multitask.”

Later, she learned vocabulary and conversation. She learned to read. “That was a particularly difficult and painful process for me,” she says. “Very complicated.” Because the right hemisphere thinks in pictures instead of words, she retained images of anatomy and brain structure, but no words to go along with them, so she also relearned the language of her career.

But the brain is designed specifically to overcome such enormous obstacles, Taylor says. “You know, it’s amazing that we are programmed for the brain to change, to adapt, to recover. It’s an absolutely amazing thing we’ve got inside of our heads.”

She compiled most of what she learned during her recovery in her book, including 40 things she needed most as a stroke survivor, a list to aid caregivers.

So what’s different now? Today, she is more artistic, thanks to a heightened ability to see the world with her more visually oriented right hemisphere. Among her works are stained-glass replicas of the brain. And she can sing on key, a new development since the stroke.

“If we look at our anger as simply a form of brain circuitry, we can take steps to diffuse that circuitry.”

“It has fundamentally shifted me,” she says. “Before, I was very left-brain-driven. I was a high achiever. My whole focus was really on my career.” She still works as the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, is an adjunct instructor at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the consulting neuroanatomist on brain cancer for the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute. She also serves as president of the Bloomington, Ind., affiliate of NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) and is collaborating on Wii-like gaming tools for neurological rehabilitation from brain trauma. But she doesn’t stay so busy to boost her career.

“Now, I’m more concerned about having limited time in this body,” she says. “I have had an incredible experience and have incredible opportunities to apply what I have learned to the betterment of humanity. We are all essentially programmed for deep inner peace right there in the core of our right hemispheres.”

Taylor’s goal today is to share what she’s learned about how our brains affect our daily lives, which is the insight she refers to in her book. “We are circuitry. We are thinking circuitry, emotional circuitry and physiological circuitry.” She explains that it only takes 90 seconds for us to think a thought, have an emotional response, such as anger, and then a physiological response that fl ushes in and through us. “And I think that really has the power to change how we look at ourselves and how we look at others.”

Because if we look at our anger as simply a form of brain circuitry, we can take steps to diffuse that circuitry. “Instead of saying I’m mad, I’m madder than hell, say, I’m running my anger circuitry. Wow.” You observe the anger circuitry run its course instead of acting out. “And once that happens, then you have the power to just let it come and go,” she says. “You don’t have to rethink the thoughts that re-stimulate the feeling. You think about something else.” Redirecting your mind, as you would for a child throwing a tantrum, allows the circuitry to stop running and the anger to dissipate.

This insight also has the power to help curtail stress. The part of the brain that causes stress is mainly centered in the left hemisphere. “It’s the left brain that’s talking to us all the time,” Taylor says. “It’s telling us we’re behind; it’s telling us we’re late. It’s our worry circuitry.” So when we’re stressed and our mind is filled with what ifs, it’s important to remember that the left brain is just doing its job. And that we have a choice instead to use the right brain to bring us back into the present moment.

“The present moment is a great moment. I’m just grateful to be alive. I’m just grateful I have my health. I’m just grateful I have my eyes and can see. I’m just grateful I have bladder control because I’m caught in traffic. You know, we have alternative ways of looking at things. And the alternative is to bring my mind right here, right now, back to the present moment. It’s the little things,” she says. “And it’s a choice. That’s the point: It’s a choice.”

 

 

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Rules of Life

Rules of Life

An extract from a book by Cherie Carter-Scott’s book ‘If Life Is A Game, These Are The Rules’.

 

Rule One – You will receive a body. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s yours for life, so accept it. What counts is what’s inside.

Rule Two – You will be presented with lessons. Life is a constant learning experience, which every day provides opportunities for you to learn more. These lessons specific to you, and learning them ‘is the key to discovering and fulfilling the meaning and relevance of your own life’.

Rule Three – There are no mistakes, only lessons. Your development towards wisdom is a process of experimentation, trial and error, so it’s inevitable things will not always go to plan or turn out how you’d want. Compassion is the remedy for harsh judgement – of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not only divine – it’s also ‘the act of erasing an emotional debt’. Behaving ethically, with integrity, and with humour – especially the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mishaps – are central to the perspective that ‘mistakes’ are simply lessons we must learn.

Rule Four – The lesson is repeated until learned. Lessons repeat until learned. What manifest as problems and challenges, irritations and frustrations are more lessons – they will repeat until you see them as such and learn from them. Your own awareness and your ability to change are requisites of executing this rule. Also fundamental is the acceptance that you are not a victim of fate or circumstance – ‘causality’ must be acknowledged; that is to say: things happen to you because of how you are and what you do. To blame anyone or anything else for your misfortunes is an escape and a denial; you yourself are responsible for you, and what happens to you. Patience is required – change doesn’t happen overnight, so give change time to happen.

Rule Five – Learning does not end. While you are alive there are always lessons to be learned. Surrender to the ‘rhythm of life’, don’t struggle against it. Commit to the process of constant learning and change – be humble enough to always acknowledge your own weaknesses, and be flexible enough to adapt from what you may be accustomed to, because rigidity will deny you the freedom of new possibilities.

Rule Six – “There” is no better than “here”. The other side of the hill may be greener than your own, but being there is not the key to endless happiness. Be grateful for and enjoy what you have, and where you are on your journey. Appreciate the abundance of what’s good in your life, rather than measure and amass things that do not actually lead to happiness. Living in the present helps you attain peace.

Rule Seven – Others are only mirrors of you. You love or hate something about another person according to what love or hate about yourself. Be tolerant; accept others as they are, and strive for clarity of self-awareness; strive to truly understand and have an objective perception of your own self, your thoughts and feelings. Negative experiences are opportunities to heal the wounds that you carry. Support others, and by doing so you support yourself. Where you are unable to support others it is a sign that you are not adequately attending to your own needs.

Rule Eight – What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. Take responsibility for yourself. Learn to let go when you cannot change things. Don’t get angry about things – bitter memories clutter your mind. Courage resides in all of us – use it when you need to do what’s right for you. We all possess a strong natural power and adventurous spirit, which you should draw on to embrace what lies ahead.

Rule Nine – Your answers lie inside of you. Trust your instincts and your innermost feelings, whether you hear them as a little voice or a flash of inspiration. Listen to feelings as well as sounds. Look, listen, and trust. Draw on your natural inspiration.

Rule Ten – You will forget all this at birth. We are all born with all of these capabilities – our early experiences lead us into a physical world, away from our spiritual selves, so that we become doubtful, cynical and lacking belief and confidence.

The ten Rules are not commandments, they are universal truths that apply to us all. When you lose your way, call upon them. Have faith in the strength of your spirit. Aspire to be wise – wisdom the ultimate path of your life, and it knows no limits other than those you impose on yourself.

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The Self-Healing Benefits of Meditation

By Susan Piver

We all know that regular, moderate exercise is good for us. But imagine what it would be like  if all you did was exercise: if you ran, walked, jumped, or lifted 24 hours a day. After only a very short while, exercise actually wouldn’t be   that good for you because without rest, exercise becomes counterproductive and even risky…and so it is with your mind. We spend all day (and sometimes  all night, too!) in a whirlwind of thought. When there isn’t something particular to think about (what to eat for breakfast, the tasks of the day, or what you’re going to say in an upcoming meeting), we search restlessly for something to fill the gap-worries, hopes, television, and so on. We never   allow our minds to rest. And without this precious self-healing time, our  minds become exhausted and thoughts less trustworthy. Just as we need to stop  moving our bodies every once in a while, we also need to stop moving our minds. But how? The idea can actually seem terrifying, not to mention  impossible.

But it is quite possible. The practice of self-healing meditation is just this: resting the mind in silence and space, allowing it time to recover and rejuvenate.   Meditation does not mean sitting in a perfect state of peace while having no thoughts. Big misconception! Instead, meditation is about   establishing a different relationship with your thoughts, just for a little   while. Instead of attention being drawn off by whatever thought happens to  present itself, in meditation, you watch your thoughts from a different, more  stabilized perspective. You’re training yourself to place your attention   where and when you want. This is very powerful. It gives you the ability  to direct your thoughts (and mood) in more productive and peaceful   directions. And, as has been demonstrated in the last few years, this ability  has profound self-healing implications for physical and mental health.

Over the last 10 years, Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama has been engaged in formal top-level dialogues with leading scientists and brain researchers from M.I.T., Harvard,  the University of Wisconsin, and others. Until several years ago, these annual conversations were held in private as simple but powerful inquiries into each other’s methods for understanding the mind. Recently, the results of this dialogue, and resulting studies into meditation, have been made public, and they’re fascinating.

When studying the brainwaves of meditating monks, Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin, found that brain circuitry is different in long-time meditators than it is in non-meditators. Here’s how: when you are upset – anxious, depressed, angry – certain regions of the brain (the amygdala and the right prefrontal cortex) become very active. When you’re in a positive mood these sites quiet down and   the left prefrontal cortex – a region associated with happiness and positivity – becomes more active. In studying meditating monks, Davidson found they had especially high activity in this area.

One of the things that is so amazing about this finding is that for a long time, scientists  thought that each individual was wired with certain “set-points” for happiness, depression, and so on. This study shows that the brain can rewire itself and alter its set points – simply by the self-healing power of   thought.

We’ve all read reports that stress can affect health and immunity; Dr. Weil has emphasized this repeatedly. An ulcer, for example, has direct correlation with emotional stress. An ulcer, simply defined, is the presence of certain bacteria in the stomach, plus stress. Other conditions have a noted relationship to stress,  such as heart disease, lowered immunity, diabetes, and asthma. The acute stress that results from almost being hit by bus or thinking your house may   have been broken into is not the kind of stress that has deleterious affect.   This kind of stress mobilizes your emergency responses and capabilities. But, according to neuroendocrinologist Dr. Robert Sapolsky, Professor of   Biological Sciences, Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, chronic stress is a different story. There is evidence that it shrinks neurons on the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in learning  capacity, memory, and positive mood. The self-healing hippocampus has the ability to regenerate, if stress is discontinued. And meditation reduces  stress, as shown in Dr. Davidson’s research.

Medical research   has shown that there are two main contributing factors to depression: a   genetic predisposition, and environmental factors such as stress, loss, and   trauma. The first factor, genetics, is not within our control. The second,  however, is. We can’t prevent loss and difficulty, but we can significantly   alter our reactions to them. Zindel Segal, Chair in Psychotherapy in the Department of Pschiatry at the University of Toronto, a pioneer in   Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has shown that MBSR participants  are 50% less likely than other patients to relapse once depression is  alleviated through medications and other therapies. This is because  meditation teaches us, thought by thought, to alter our responses to stress, thereby increasing serotonin production, a neurotransmitter that influences   mood, sleep, and appetite. Anti-depressants such as Prozac and Paxil,  so-called SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) are drugs that   increase serotonin.

As mentioned,  meditation is often viewed as a way to relax — and it is. But it’s also a  very precise strategy for maintaining health and training the mind in keen  observation, increased power of concentration, and emotional stability.

 

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Can Meditation Boost Your Mood? – Dr. Weil’s Daily Tip.

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