Archive for November, 2010|Monthly archive page
These holiday seasons are full of emotion of all kinds. There is excitement and happiness of time with family and friends. Stress and frustration with packed schedules and time lines of a different sort. And, unfortunately, for all too many, thoughts and weighty memories of friends and family members lost and no longer with us. Especially during this time of year, grief can be dark and heavy, clouding and obstructing any joy that we may seek.
As any reader of this blog knows, I am a huge fan of yoga. It can be a great vehicle for miracles of the body and soul. There is no better time, and no better situation, for the beauty and power of yoga than to help someone experiencing loss and grief move through the holiday season with grace.
I know a gentle and sweet young woman, Tara Emrick, who knows grief well, through both personal loss and professional training. She is, quite literally, a radiant example of how yoga can help someone experience tremendous loss and find beauty, strength, and peace anew.
She is trained in the Kripalu tradition of yoga, which is a style of compassion and consciousness that honors the moment – your moment – through recognition of the deep wisdom that lays at its core.
Tara is offering a four session yoga series to help people experiencing grief this holiday season. It starts December 12th, and runs for four Sundays. It’s being held at Amala Yoga, in Capitol Hill, and costs $40.
If you’re interested, or maybe know somebody that may benefit from this workshop, I invite you to visit her website:
I wish everyone a peaceful and fulfilling holiday season!
There’s a basic rule that applies across the board in taking ‘correct’ action for any given problem: If you fail to address the underlying cause, the essence, of a problem, any solution will only be temporary; the same problem will reappear and will, most likely, be worse the next time around (having now had the opportunity to grow and develop).
This comes up almost daily in my private practice. When it comes to health, too often I see people resistant to wanting to look very deep at why an issue has arisen. We tend to have our set of beliefs (often held subconsciously -we don’t really even know what they are) and, should they lead to actions that don’t serve us well or maybe even cause us harm, we can be really stubborn about not wanting to address them (or even check to see what they are); most likely, we will simply attempt to reapply those basic beliefs in a slightly different way. That is, we continue doing what we’ve always done, expecting, this time, things to work out differently. (For better or worse, I’m going for brutal honesty, here, as opposed to popularity. Hope you’re stickin’ with me :).)
In today’s New York Times, there was a great article about us, as a modern society, caught up in this game. “Looking for a Superbug Killer” (1) talks about the the urgent need to address an “impending public health crisis”. That crisis being related to the fact that disease-causing bacteria is steadily becoming “resistant to virtually all existing drugs”.
Most of us have heard something of this problem. Our beloved antibiotics – those powerful drugs that are so deliciously close to being a magical bullet that can hone in on the exact cause of a problem, ugly little bugs, and kill them – have a serious downside. The little bacteria that they are so great at destroying adapt and become better at not being destroyed. This is where the term “superbug” comes from – bacteria that survive the once effective power of antibiotics require more powerful, next generation, drugs to kill them.
Without going too deep into germ theory or the creation of bug-killing drugs, let’s just say that that dynamic is a cornerstone of modern medicine (biomedicine, or “Western” medicine) and, really, is a shining example of the most fundamental beliefs, or ideas, underlying biomedicine. I am speaking, primarily, of reductionism.
Applied clinically, a reductionistic medicine strives to “reduce” a medical issue down to its most base, constituent parts. (Importantly, its understanding of the human body, in health and disease, is also an attempt to break down that which is being investigated into smaller and smaller parts or pieces, which is why your typical anatomy and physiology course is so heavy with learning the names, or labels, of different parts of the body, and the little parts that make up the parts of the body…)
This makes sense, right? You want to find the cause of the problem, so you break it down into smaller pieces, looking for the one that is at fault, and fix it. (This is also where mechanism, as a fundamental paradigm, or belief, works its way in – the idea that the thing being investigated functions like a machine, with clearly delineated parts, but I’m trying to keep this discussion relatively short, so I’m not going to mention any of that.)
Of course, it makes sense. In our modern world, the very ideas of “sense” and logic are based, in large part, on the idea of reductionism; it is, literally, built into the how and why something “makes sense”.
The problem arises when you’ve reduced things down so far those “things” lose their connection to the original whole they were (are) part of. The opposite of reductionism is holism, the idea that things are defined by their relation to their given context – remove something from its natural, original place, and it ceases to have meaning; it loses its essential nature, what it is, when removed from its natural context. You can end up dealing with a specific “piece” that’s so removed from the whole that manipulating it has very limited effect on that original whole.
Think of the time you or a friend or family member went to a doctor and were simply shuttled around from specialist to specialist (focusing on one isolated aspect of medicine), or, even better, when you’ve had something “treated”, yet you still feel sick. That which was determined to be the cause of the problem was eliminated, yet you’re still sick.
Or how about the time when the doctors couldn’t even “find a cause” for your illness, when there was no “reason” for you to be sick. Clearly, there is both a cause and a reason! It is simply that their methods for seeking it, based on their fundamental beliefs, wasn’t the most appropriate approach, in that instance.
Perhaps there is a reason for having a handful of different approaches to health, healing, and medicine. Perhaps certain approaches are more appropriate, and will be more successful, in certain situations. How do we know when one is better suited for a problem than the other? Well, at the very least, when one is failing, you could consider another, as opposed to continually reattempting the same thing over and over. (I would love to suggest that in every situation, you consider multiple approaches, seeking to find the best fit right from the beginning, but that’s just crazy talk coming from your local quack acupuncturist ;).)
This NY Times article quotes Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, as saying:
“The world’s weakening arsenal against “superbugs” has prompted scientists to warn that everyday infections could again become a major cause of death just as they were before the advent of penicillin around 1940.”
Now, keeping in mind that I am a practitioner of a medicine that is defined by its being an expression of experience gathered over thousands of years – billions of patient interactions – I would like to say that as great as penicillin is, and it is awesome at doing what is does, if the belief system, or medical approach, underlying the use of it, or drugs like it, only buys you sixty years before you are right back to where you were before you started using them… I mean, maybe that solution isn’t digging very deep into the cause of the problem.
Again, nothing against antibiotics. They are great at what they do, and they are often very important in addressing medical complaints. However, what’s staring us straight in the face is the fact that they and, so importantly, the underlying beliefs of health and medicine that they represent are limited, very, very limited. Even if they work wonderfully, do exactly as they were intended, fulfill their mission perfectly, there is still so much more to being healthy and, forgive me, but practicing good medicine, then giving any drug to fix any isolated problem.
And, yes – absolutely, positively Yes – this applies to any system of medicine, and any form of “drug”, be it pharmaceutical, herbal, or a supplement from Whole Foods. Why? Because it’s not about the specific medium by which the underlying paradigm, the basic philosophy, finds expression; it is about your very method of approach in the first place.
If you just keep trying different drugs/herbs, if you just keep building stronger and stronger pharmaceuticals, but don’t make any genuine progress… I gotta suggest stopping and taking a closer look at what you’re doing. (Yes, I do this. Literally, every single day I investigate those basic ideas and thoughts behind my actions and efforts.)
This is very difficult to do. For a second, imagine the world of science questioning the very basis of what it considers logical. Press the “pause” button on reality, just for a second; step out of existence, as you know it, and consider maybe what actually makes senses isn’t necessarily what we’ve come to so rigidly define as “logical”. Maybe we dare to genuinely reevaluate our base assumptions (we, science, claim to do this all the time; we claim, in fact, to make such reevaluation a pillar of what we do).
Maybe we question this whole idea that we have to tear something apart to reveal its inner workings, in order to know the essence of it. Maybe cutting something up into smaller and smaller pieces, as a way of getting to know it, only destroys that which we wanted to understand. Maybe, yes, you could create a strong, logical argument that I am “composed of” countless little pieces, little molecules, hormones, and proteins, but is that who I am, really? I’d argue that those who know and love me have oh so little knowledge of my endocrine system, much less love me for the wondrous functioning of my glands!
We tend to get locked into our ways, into one way, of not only doing, but of seeing things. Surely, that way is appropriate for some situations, but if it fails, if we do not make real progress, maybe we need a new way, a truly New way of doing things. Maybe our most basic philosophy should be to make progress, not just use a certain method in attempt to make progress.
In keeping with the running theme of brutal honesty, reading this NY Times article leaves one with the feeling that there is no attempt to reevaluate the basic paradigm, but instead to leave it in place and try to find a way to force it to work. Maybe I’m cynical. Maybe I began writing this three hours ago, before doing anything else with my morning, including eating breakfast, and maybe my blood sugar is running low and I’m a little more irritable and pessimistic than I would be after a good meal.
However, whatever the “world” does is, ultimately, irrelevant (actually, unknowable, and, therefore, irrelevant). What you do is what’s important. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, and I will continue saying it again and again, Pay Attention. Are your beliefs, your understandings of the world leading to a truly improved experience of life? i.e. are they working?
More importantly, what are they? What do you expect to happen? and why? Without the insight gained from such investigation, you’re, ultimately, just stumbling around in the darkness. Shine the light of consciousness on what you do, and most importantly, the motivations for those actions. Please. Pretty please. With powdered sugar and some blueberries on top… I need breakfast…
I know you’re busy. We’re all too busy to pay close attention. That’s why we don’t do it. It’s not that we don’t care, or don’t want to be happier and healthier; we’re just so busy.
And there it is. What are we so busy doing? What is the underlying motivation driving us to do so much that we can’t even focus on, what I consider to be absolutely fundamental, our very health? Seriously, ask yourself why you don’t exercise everyday? Why are so many meals consisting of so much that falls so far shy of being actual food? Ask. Not to beat yourself up, but to understand, to know, to bring up into consciousness.
There are (were) good, healthy motivations originally, somewhere in the distant past. We’re not inherently self-destructive. We just end up acting that way (poor diet, no exercise, poor choices in medical issues) because we’re not paying close enough attention to what we do and why we do it. We’re not stupid. Our innate intelligence simply isn’t allowed to kick in because consciousness isn’t there to guide it.
For those of you counting tangents, that’s about a half dozen.
I’m done. Have a great weekend!
1. Pollack, A. (2010, November 5). Looking for a Superbug Killer. The New York Times (online) www.nytimes.com/2010/11/06/health/policy/06germ.html