Archive for February, 2010

Free of Gravity

February 20, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

We take flight when we rise above our habitual ways of thinking about things and experience new insights.

As earthbound beings, humans have always had a fascination with winged creatures of all kinds. The idea of being able to spontaneously lift off from the earth and fly is so compelling to us that we invented airplanes and helicopters and myriad other flying machines in order to provide ourselves with the many gifts of being airborne. Flying high in the sky, we look down on the earth that is our home and see things from an entirely different perspective. We can see more, and we can see farther than we can when we’re on the ground. As if all this weren’t enough, the out-of-this-world feeling of freedom that comes with groundlessness inspires us to want to take flight again and again.

Metaphorically, we take flight whenever we break free of the gravity that holds us to a particular way of thinking or feeling or being. We take flight mentally when we rise above our habitual ways of thinking about things and experience new insights. This is what it means to open our minds. Emotionally, we take flight when the strength of our passion exceeds the strength of our blockages; the floodgates open and we are free to feel fully. Spiritually we take flight when we locate that part of ourselves that is beyond the constraint of linear time and the world of form. It is in this place that we experience the essential boundlessness that defines the experience of flight.

Taking flight is always about freeing ourselves from form, if only temporarily. When we literally fly, in a plane or on a hang glider, we free ourselves from the strength of gravity’s pull. As we open our minds and our hearts, we free ourselves from habitual patterns of thought and emotional blockages. As we remember our true nature, we free ourselves from identification with the temporary state of our physical forms. The more we stretch our wings, the clearer it becomes that taking flight is a state of grace that simply reminds us of who we really are.

The Message of Pain

February 19, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

When you feel emotional or physical pain, take the time to tune in and listen for the message.

When we feel pain, our first impulse is often to eradicate it with medication. This is an understandable response, but sometimes in our hurry to get rid of pain, we forget that it is the body’s way of letting us know that it needs our attention. A headache can inform us that we’re hungry or stressed just as a sore throat might be telling us that we need to rest our voice. If we override these messages instead of respond to them, we risk worsening our condition. In addition, we create a feeling of disconnectedness between our minds and our bodies.

Physical pain is not the only kind of pain that lets us know our attention is needed. Emotional pain provides us with valuable information about the state of our psyche, letting us know that we have been affected by something and that we would do well to focus our awareness inward. Just as we tend to a cut on our arm by cleaning and bandaging it, we treat a broken heart by surrounding ourselves with love and support. In both cases, if we listen to our pain we will know what to do to heal ourselves. It’s natural to want to resist pain, but once we understand that it is here to give us valuable information, we can relax a bit more, and take a moment to listen before we reach for medication. Sometimes this is enough to noticeably reduce the pain, because its message has been heard. Perhaps we seek to medicate pain because we fear that if we don’t, it will never go away. It can be empowering to realize that, at least some of the time, it is just a matter of listening and respond!
ing.

The next time you feel pain, either physical or emotional, you might want to try listening to your own intuition about how to relieve your pain. Maybe taking a few deep breaths will put an end to that headache. Perhaps writing in your journal about hurt feelings will ease your heart. Ultimately, the message of pain is all about healing.

Contemplating Death While Creating Life

February 18, 2010

[Posted by Kiri Westby, Change-maker/Rule-Breaker/Story-teller]

This week I nearly lost a family member, albeit a four-legged one. And in the midst of dealing with urgent care doctors, IVs and exorbitant bills, I shed a lot of tears and thought a lot about the end of life…how quickly it arises and how little control we actually have over it.

At four months pregnant, the last thing I imagined being preoccupied with while creating life was death. But it keeps coming up again and again. This little person in my womb, barely 5 inches long now, will die someday (hopefully long after me). Perhaps it seems strange to be thinking about my baby’s death, when it has not yet had its birth, but I feel it is important.

I like to picture myself becoming a non-controlling mother, one who allows her child to roam free, realizing their dreams uninhibited by my fears and expectations. But my fierce instinct to keep our cat alive this week and my fears of letting him leave the house (now that he is home recovering) have brought to light just how difficult this state of motherhood may be.

How do we balance our parental instinct to protect and nurture with the tendency to become overprotective, fear-based parents who raise fearful, reticent children?

In these moments, I think of my mother and all that I have put her through, testing the limits of her sanity (you too dad!).

When I was 18, I entered my first war zone in Cambodia and ventured far West into the territory of the brutal Khmer Rouge Dictator Pol Pot…just to see what I could see. When I emerged unharmed a week later in Vietnam, I forgot to call home on the agreed upon date and my poor mom spent several days distraught, waiting by the phone, refusing to leave the house (at that time we had no e-mail, no Facebook, just expensive calling booths).

When I was 30, I was arrested by the Chinese Military for staging a Free Tibet protest at Mount Everest and subsequently disappeared for three days before any government could confirm I was still alive. And believe me, in the twelve years between those two events I gave my mom’s heart several reasons to stop beating. At the time, I thought little of it.

Now, on the precipice of becoming a mother myself, I often wonder how she handled it all? The only thing I can come up with is that she spent a lot of time contemplating death and becoming friends with it…hers and mine. An avid meditation practitioner, she set me loose upon the world, working through her fears and desires to control me and refused to stand in the way of my path.

When we try to control life and pretend that death is not awaiting us, then we exist in an illusory world of make believe, convincing ourselves that everything is safe and predictable. Then, when the reality of death does strike, it is much more brutal and unfamiliar and we are that much more unprepared. But we all know that there is no avoiding death, no matter how safe we feel, no matter how much insurance we purchase. As we saw last month in Haiti, and as I witnessed over and over again in my years working in war zones, disaster can strike anytime and our only weapon against it is to know it, to expect it, to befriend it.

There is a Buddhist saying that goes, “Death comes without warning, this body will be a corpse…at that time the Dharma is my only help, I shall practice it with exertion.”

Or as the poet Mary Oliver puts it, “when death comes, like an iceberg between the shoulder blades, I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering: what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?”

So as an expecting mom, one who wants my kid to grow up fearless and believing they can accomplish anything, I am already practicing by contemplating my unborn child’s death and coming to terms with it.

For many, contemplating death is considered morbid and to be avoided. But for me, embracing death is the only way to live.

Truthfully,
Kiri Westby

春有百花秋有月

February 17, 2010

[ From Yahoo!奇摩]

依【無門關】記載,此詩偈出自唐朝南泉普願接化趙州從諗的禪門公案。

趙州問南泉:「如何是道?」泉云:「平常心是道。」州問:「還可趣向否?」泉云:「擬向即乖!」州問:「不擬爭知是道?」泉云:「道不屬知,不屬不知;知是妄覺,不知是無記。若真達不擬之道,猶如太虛,廓然洞豁,豈可強是非邪?」

趙州乃於言下頓悟玄旨,心如朗月。又頌云:「春有百花秋有月 夏有涼風冬有雪 若無閒事掛心頭 便是人間好時節 」。

趙州向南泉問「道」,南泉答以:平常心。接著又說:「道」無法追尋思問、覺知言傳,只能在生活中自行體會;屆時天地身心、洞然開闊,自有一番境界。

趙州聽了之後,作出悟道詩偈,供南泉印證。詩意是說春夏秋冬各有美景、如果心中沒有執著偏見,四季何時不是勝況?

Uplifting Showers

February 17, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Rain is often seen as an annoyance, next time it rains visualize it cleansing both you and the earth.

The simple miracle of water falling from the sky has been interpreted in many ways by many cultures. In various areas of the world, rain was viewed as a nourishing gift, given by well-pleased deities. Rain also served as a symbol of emotional cleansing and represented the unending union between earth and sky. Today, rain is often seen as an annoyance—something to be borne doggedly while attending to one’s usual duties. But the arrival of one or more rainy days can also be interpreted as a signal to slow down and contemplate life. When Mother Nature darkens the sky and causes drizzle to fall, freshly opened buds close and many animals settle into their nests for a period of repose. We can honor rainy days by following the example put forth by the flora and fauna around us. Even if we must venture out into a shower, we can still slow down and appreciate our connection to nature.

A rainy day spent indoors can be wonderfully uplifting. As the rain pours down, fill your home with light, sound, and comfort so that you can fully appreciate the loveliness of being snug and dry during a downpour. Storms literally change the energy in the air, and you may feel driven to follow suit by burning incense or sage, ringing bells or chimes, lighting candles, or singing. You may even feel compelled to talk to each room in your home in order to express your gratitude for the protection they give you. If, however, you feel claustrophobic rather than calm because you cannot venture outdoors, you can clear away negative energy by getting rid of clutter, sweeping away dust, and freshening your up spaces. The happier you are in your home, the more beautiful and wondrous a simple rain shower will seem.

A sheltered spot like a covered porch, sunroom, or bay window can provide you with a wonderful vantage point from which to meditatively observe raindrops as they make their descent to earth. And the pitter-patter of rain on a rooftop or car window can even be a therapeutic and soothing sound—one that reminds us that while the unforeseen will always be a part of our lives, we should never forget that nearly every cloud that comes into our lives will have a silver lining.

Feeling Our Words

February 17, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Choose the words you speak with carefully as they are more powerful than you know.

Words carry energy and this gives language its power and its potential to heal or hurt. Most of us can remember a time that someone sent a word our way, and it stuck with us. It may have been the first time we received a truly accurate compliment, or the time a friend or sibling called us a name, but either way it stuck. This experience reminds us that what we say has weight and power and that being conscious means being aware of how we use words.

The more conscious we become, the more we deepen our relationship to the words we use so that we speak from a place of actually feeling what we are saying. We begin to recognize that words are not abstract, disconnected entities used only to convey meaning; they are powerful transmitters of feeling. For the next few days, you might want to practice noticing how the words you say and hear affect your body and your emotional state. Notice how the different communication styles of the people in your life make you feel. Also, watch closely to see how your own words come out and what affect they have on the people around you.

You may notice that when we speak quickly, without thinking, or rush to get our ideas across, our words don’t carry the same power as when we speak slowly and confidently, allowing those receiving our words time and space to take them in. When we carefully listen to others before we speak, our words have more integrity, and when we take time to center ourselves before speaking, we truly begin to harness the power of speech. Then our words can be intelligent messengers of healing and light, transmitting deep and positive feelings to those who receive them.

Healing Past Hurt

February 13, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Choose to be more conscious of the words and phrases you use in everyday life as words have power.

There are many troubling phrases in our language that we use without considering their full meaning simply because they have been accepted into common knowledge. Even as our ideals progress, our language maintains some phrases from our past that no longer serve us, for example: Boys don’t cry; good child; boys will be boys; problem child; illegitimate child; and many more. While these phrases may be used without harmful intent, they are inherently negative. Children can be especially sensitive to such phrases, which may stay with them their whole lives, adversely affecting their self-image and wounding their self-esteem. We can create positive change by choosing not to use these words and phrases as we come across them in our vocabulary.

It is challenging to examine our habits in terms of the words we use to express ourselves, but it is also exciting. Language is an area where we can exercise our free will, creating positive change in the world around us by simply choosing carefully the words we use. It may seem like a small thing, but our words have a rippling effect, like a stone thrown in a pond. People naturally pick up on the way other people speak, consciously or unconsciously changing the way they speak in response. We don’t need to actively try to influence people; it happens without our even thinking about it. All we have to do is choose to be more conscious ourselves, putting to rest words and phrases that are outmoded, insensitive, or harmful. We can also exercise our creativity by creating new phrases that carry positive and loving energy to replace the old ones.

You may already have some ideas about phrases you’d like to transition out of your language, and now that you’re thinking about it you may come across many more. As you consciously decide not to use these phrases, you may feel lighter and more joyful, knowing that you have chosen to drop baggage that was handed down to you from a less conscious time. As you do so, you elevate the language for future generations who would no doubt thank you if they could.

Open Heart

February 12, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Approaching life with an open heart means that we have opened the door to a greater consciousness within ourselves.

Spiritual teachers have always pointed to the heart as the seat of consciousness, and recently Western science has found evidence to support this realization. It turns out that the heart has its own central nervous system and is not simply under the rule of the brain as formerly believed. Anyone who has taken the time to explore the heart knows this and, more important, has realized that the heart is the source of our connection to a consciousness greater than the ego. Approaching life with an open heart means that we have opened the door to this greater consciousness, taking up residence alongside it in the seat of our soul. Fortunately, at this time there is a lot of support for this shift energetically as well as practically. To some degree, approaching life with an open heart is as simple as shifting your attention onto your heart.

Eventually you will be able do this any time, any place, but at first it may help to try it in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Simply sit with your eyes closed and draw your breath into your heart. As your breath expands your chest cavity, your heart expands and opens. You may feel tenderness or sadness in your heart, and you may also feel relief. Any emotions that arise can be effectively witnessed and healed through the meditation process, which benefits both your physical heart and your energetic heart. The more you practice, the more you will find your heart opening to your own presence and to all the situations your life brings.

When we open our hearts, they may feel tender and vulnerable, which simply means that they need our loving attention as we cleanse and heal them of past hurts and blockages. This process asks us to practice some of the heart’s greatest lessons—patience, compassion, and unconditional love. On the other hand, we may take up residence as effortlessly as a bird returns to its nest. Either way, approaching life with an open heart simply means returning to our true home.

A Peaceful world

February 11, 2010

[ By Arthur Hubbard ]

A peaceful world must weave itself from single peaceful souls.

As mighty rivers gather strength from single drops of rain.

Peace thrives on family harmony and common kindred goals.

In harmony we find the end of hunger, fear and pain.

Through empathy in business life, employer and employed, in harmony at place of work, prosperity is found.

When tolerance of race and creed is openly enjoyed, then health, wealth,  joy and hope are destined to abound.

In harmony with all life, one finds a lasting peace.

Through unity with earth and sky, humanity finds grace.

When we are on the road to peace, our hopes will never cease.

In sparing air and soil and sea, we save the human race.

While harmony of powers – that – be must be a fervent goal.

Yet, world peace builds from inner peace and gentleness of soul.

Centering and Expressing

February 11, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Expressing ourselves honestly from a centered place is essential to our sense of well-being.

When we are in a relationship where we feel listened to and understood, we count ourselves lucky because we know how rare that experience is. We reserve our most intimate selves for the people who, along with us, cocreate an open space where we feel free to express ourselves and listen without judgment. These relationships, which thrive on open communication, can mean the difference between existential loneliness and a deep sense of belonging. We all long to feel heard, understood, and loved, and clear communication makes this possible.

Sometimes problems arise in the process of expressing how we feel, but it is always worth it to do the work. Even in our less intimate relationships, expressing ourselves honestly is essential to our sense of well-being. Whether at home with family or in the outside world, successful communication requires some forethought; otherwise we risk blundering through our relationships like the proverbial bull in a china shop. However, too much forethought can stifle us or cause us to pad our words so extremely that we end up saying nothing at all or confusing the matter further. The good news is that there are many methods that can come to our rescue, from meditation to visualization to journaling.

If the person we need to communicate with is open to sitting in meditation together for a set period of time before speaking, this can be invaluable. When we are calm and centered, we can count on ourselves to speak and respond truthfully. We can also meditate on our own time and then practice what we need to say. A visualization in which we sit with the person and lovingly exchange a few words can also be a great precedent to an actual conversation. If writing comes easily, we can write out what we need to say; it may take several drafts, but we will eventually find the words. The key is to find ways to center ourselves so that we communicate meaningfully, lovingly, and wisely. In this way, we honor our companions and create relationships in which there is a genuine sense of understanding and respect.

Loving the Light

February 11, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Color therapy allows us to harness the power of individual color frequencies to heal our bodies and allow harmony.

The wondrous displays of color that define the world around us are manifestations of light and, as such, each possesses a unique frequency. The attraction we feel to certain colors is not a matter of pure chance—we experience the beneficial affects of color even while blindfolded. We are naturally drawn to those colors that lift our mood, expand consciousness, and restore health. Color therapy, also known as chromo therapy, allows us to harness the power of individual color frequencies to heal the body, positively influence our emotions, and achieve a renewed sense of inner harmony through sympathetic resonance. Colors do not directly affect the composition of our physical, mental, or aura, but they noninvasively alter the vibrational characteristics of diverse elements of the self so that each resonates at its proper healthy frequency.

It is easy to overlook the colors that saturate our personal and professional environments. Yet these, whether in the form of the paint on our walls or the clothing we wear, can influence our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings to an extraordinary degree. The colors we like best are often those that we need most in our lives, and there are many ways we can utilize them. Basking under a colored lightbulb or gazing at an area of color can stimulate or calm us depending on the color we choose. For example, red stimulates the brain, circulatory systems, and first chakra, giving us an energy boost, while blue acts on the throat chakra, soothing the body and mind. And when we do not feel drawn to any one color, we can still benefit from the healing effects of white light, which is an amalgamation of all the colors of the visible spectrum. It is a cleansing color, one that can purify us on many levels.

Human beings evolved to delight in vivid sunsets and rainbows, to enjoy the sensations awakened by particularly eye-catching color, and to decorate our spaces and ourselves with bright colors. In essence, we evolved to love the light because of its harmonizing influence on every aspect of the self. When we pay attention to the potential affects of individual colors, we can modify our spaces, wardrobes, and habits to ensure that we introduce the colors that speak to us most deeply in our everyday lives.

Heart, Hormones, and Emotion

February 9, 2010

[ Posted by Megan, selected from EnlightenNext]

Heart, Hormones, and Emotion
How many folks do you know who are fuming over economic conditions? Are you one of them? Have you noticed how addictive and contagious anger is? Maybe you secretly feel that the emotion is justified. After all, who wouldn’t be angry watching their 401(k) or IRA shrink like an unpicked vegetable?

Those who try to justify negative emotions rarely see the damage those emotions do to their hearts and other organs. I sometimes think folks would rather die than see their emotional explosions as unjustified, irrational, or dangerous. But findings from a 1989 study at Harvard Medical School should be sobering to those of us who have a tendency toward emotional tirades. Researchers interviewed 1,623 heart attack victims four days after their attacks and discovered that the heart attacks had taken place a mere two hours after angry venting and that anger had actually doubled their risk of an attack.

For most people, statistics like these aren’t powerful enough to override emotions. Indeed, we can only counteract negative emotions with positive ones. Why is this? It’s because we’re dealing with very powerful chemicals called hormones. As we explore this further, keep in mind that all your thoughts are chemical reactions processed in your brain and body. When you’re assaulted by the negative emotions of anxiety, depression, and frustration, you are also ramping up the production of free radicals and increasing your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. (As research by Dr. Sapolsky of Rockefeller University in New York has found, cortisol levels also spike upward two to seven days before you die.) Even if you’re lucky enough to survive this cortisol spike, your immune system will be greatly impaired because your body’s production of disease-fighting antibodies will shut down while the few remaining antibodies will be destroyed. Not a rosy picture at all.

So what can you do about anger? Here are a few time-honored basics: get on a regular exercise program, learn to meditate, improve your diet, learn some new jokes, and smile more. Remember, no one needs a smile as much as those who have none left to give.

The secret to staying alive and regaining peace of mind is to convert your demands into preferences. After all, if you downshift your emotional addictions to things you simply prefer, will you throw a fit if you don’t get them? Of course not. Nothing changes except the space you are coming from, and in reality, it’s only from this space that real change can take place. So give the world a sincere smile–it costs you nothing but creates so much! Good health to you!

Practicing Nonattachment

February 5, 2010

[ From DailyOM]

Truly loving our children requires us to set them free and practice nonattachment.  Trust and allow.

Parenting asks us to rise to some of the most difficult challenges this world has to offer, and one of its greatest paradoxes arises around the issue of attachment. On the one hand, successful parenting requires that we love our children, and most of us love in a very attached way. On the other hand, it also requires that we let go of our children at the appropriate times, which means we must practice some level of nonattachment. Many parents find this difficult because we love our children fiercely, more than we will ever love anyone, and this can cause us to overstep our bounds with them as their independence grows. Yet truly loving them requires that we set them free.

Attachment to outcome is perhaps the greatest obstacle on the parenting path, and the one that teaches us the most about the importance of practicing nonattachment. We commonly perceive our children to be extensions of ourselves, imagining that we know what’s best for them, but our children are people in their own right with their own paths to follow in this world. They may be called to move in directions we fear, don’t respect, or don’t understand, yet we must let them go. This letting go happens gradually throughout our lives with our children until we finally honor them as fully grown adults who no longer require our guidance. At this point, it is important that we treat them as peers who may or may not seek our input into their lives. This allows them, and us, to fully realize the greatest gift parents can offer their offspring —independence.

Letting go in any area of life requires a deep trust in the universe, in the overall meaning and purpose of existence. Remembering that there is more to us and our children than meets the eye can help us practice nonattachment, even when we feel overwhelmed by concern and the desire to interfere. We are all souls making our way in the world and making our way, ultimately, back to the same source. This can be our mantra as we let our children go in peace and confidence.

Honoring Passing Spaces

February 3, 2010

[ From DailyOM ]

Saying good-bye to a home or space is an important part of moving forward. It gives us a sense of completion.

When we move from one residence to another, we often get so caught up in the forward thrust of where we are going that we forget to properly say good-bye to the home we are leaving behind. Yet saying good-bye is an important part of moving forward. It gives us a sense of completion so that we are able to fully inhabit our new space, having left nothing of ourselves behind in the old one. In this way, we honor the space that has held and nurtured us. At the same time, we cleanse it and empty it of our energy so that the new residents can make the space theirs.

Plan a walk through your home that begins and ends at the front door. Ideally, you will be alone or accompanied only by a person who shared the space with you. Prepare yourself mentally to be as present as you can during this process. As you enter the house, you might say, “I have come to thank you for being my home and to say good-bye.” You might touch the walls with your hands as you move through the house, or you might burn sage as an offering, as well as an energy cleanser. Spend some time in each room expressing your gratitude and gathering or releasing any lingering energy from the room. As you do this, you are freeing your home to embrace its new occupants. Remember to visit your outside spaces as well. Plants are especially sensitive to the energy around them and will appreciate your consideration.

As you make your way back to the front door, know that you have completed your final journey through your home and that you have honored and blessed it with this ritual of farewell. As you close and lock the door behind you, say one last good-bye. Now you can walk freely into your future and fully inhabit the new spaces that will keep you safe and warm.

2 Questions More Important Than a Diagnosis

February 2, 2010

[ Posted in Care2 by Dr. Frank Lipman,, the  founder and director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Centre in NYC a center whose emphasis is on preventive health care and patient education.]

After 30 years of practicing Medicine, I have learned that for any chronic illness or ailment, treating underlying imbalances and dysfunctions is more important than making a diagnosis and naming the disease. Ultimately, asking the right questions is more important than giving a label to a set of observations. This is because most if not all chronic problems, from heart disease to arthritis, migraines to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression to fatigue, usually have multiple factors that need to be addressed – this is called the total load.

The total load is the sum of the factors that influence a person’s life and health, including diet, exercise, job stress, relationships, state of mind etc. Individually, each of these elements might not cause a problem, but their cumulative effect can overload our normal functioning and cause harm. Everyone’s tipping point is different and each of us manifests or experiences overload in our own unique way.

For example, several patients may all be diagnosed with IBS but the individual factors underlying their illnesses may be varied, meaning that each requires different treatments to address their specific problems. Simply diagnosing these patients with IBS, obscures this critical fact.

When working with patients, I always assess their total load and then try to reduce it by slowly removing the factors that could cause harm. At the same time, I will add new elements that will nourish them in order to enhance the healing process.

Some examples of what may need to be reduced or removed from your diet are, sugar, chemicals, caffeine, or alcohol. Or you may need to lessen the burden of responsibilities, your work load, or how much tension you carry in your muscles. Examples of factors that may be lacking and need to be added are nutrients, sunlight, sleep, down time, play time, love or joy.

To understand the concept of total load, think of yourself as a ship floating in the water. Depending on the load you’re carrying, you are either riding high above the waterline or sinking beneath the waves. And just as you can save a sinking ship by tossing some ballast overboard to lighten the load, your health can be improved by reducing the overall number of factors that cause stress to your system. The good news is that frequently you may only need to identify two or three factors to toss overboard in order to feel better.

Unfortunately, I, like all doctors was never taught this at medical school. Instead, we were taught to name it, blame it and tame it. That is to look at the symptoms, signs and test results, make a diagnosis, name the disease and treat it.

This model works well for the acute or short-lived illnesses that were most common until about 70 or 80 years ago. There is no better model for crisis care management, such as a heart attack or burst appendix, a broken bone or an acute bacterial infection like pneumonia. Due to the incredible success of antibiotics in treating most infectious diseases, we have extrapolated that model, looking for a single cause with a magic bullet treatment, and adapted this thinking to all diseases.

But most complaints today are not acute illnesses, rather chronic problems, which are not served well by this model in which varied complex disease processes are reduced to a single diagnosis. Giving a set of observations a name and treating the named problem does not help us understand the origin of the problem and its causes, which are usually multi-factorial. This name-it, blame-it and tame-it medical paradigm is not particularly effective for the chronic diseases which are so endemic today.

I want to make it clear, a label or descriptive name for a problem is not a bad thing–it is often reassuring to know what we have. I do not want to under-estimate the significance of this. But we have been habituated to assume that if we know the diagnosis and the name of our disease we will know how to not only treat it, but fix it.

Unfortunately, this is not true. Doctors are increasingly practicing from the vantage point of an outdated and ineffective model and are not addressing the needs of the millions of patients who come to them with complicated chronic problems. They give them drugs to suppress symptoms and do not address the underlying physiological imbalances that produce these symptoms. Therefore we do not change the course of the disease and often end up causing more harm than good because the underlying problem persists and many people develop side effects from the drugs.

Luckily for all of us, there is a new little known science-based model for chronic diseases, called Functional Medicine that deals with the underlying causes instead of just suppressing symptoms. It is a true mix of Chinese and Western Medicine. This new medicine is systems-based biology rather than disease-focused. It redefines chronic disease as a functional alteration in the physiological network that requires a systems biology approach to its management, improving both the safety and effectiveness of treatments.

This model helps us understand how the disruptions of molecular pathways cause dysfunctions in various body systems that then result in disease. It is less concerned with a diagnosis and more concerned with the underlying dysfunctions that lead to the symptoms and the disease.

My Chinese Medicine teachers taught me to think of myself as a gardener when I see patients. When a plant or tree is not growing well, when the leaves are drooping and turning yellow, we do not call it yellow leaf syndrome and paint the leaves green or cut off the sick part. The gardener evaluates why the plant is not growing well. He determines whether the plant is getting enough or too much sunlight, enough or too much water, the soil rich and balanced in order to nourish the plant? And he looks to see if the roots are being impinged upon, and if so, what needs to be removed.

Even though you may have been given a diagnosis, always ask these two questions with any chronic problem:

1) What is harming you and needs to be removed to permit your body to heal?

2) What is lacking or what does your body need to promote healing?