Archive for the 'Spirituality' Category

The Mind-Body Connection

I suppose, once a nurse, always a nurse. Even though I have not practiced nursing in over twenty-five years, I have an innate interest in health issues try to keep up with all the recent advances. In recent years and many illnesses later, I have become more and more interested in the mind-body connection.

This past weekend I attended a lecture given by Dr. Hans Gruenn who runs the Longevity Center in Los Angeles. Now, isn’t this a perfect lecture for a baby boomer wanting to remain forever young?  Dr. Gruenn, originally from Germany, spoke on “Advances in Integrative Medicine,” and gave a powerful and poignant two-hour talk.

Integrative medicine is a type of medical practice that incorporates physical western medicine in addition to  alternative therapies while taking into consideration psychological, environmental, historical and genetic factors. It relies upon a partnership between the patient and the physician and is considered a way to treat the body, mind and spirit all at once.

The major question Dr. Gruenn posed for us, is to ask ourselves, not why we  get sick, but why don’t we heal? He believes that the patient must do their part in maintaining their health. He quoted Voltaire – “The doctor is to entertain the patient while he heals.” He admitted that some people have a tendency to see an array of doctors looking for solutions to their health problems, but that there is a real danger in seeing too many doctors and having too many tests. He agrees that we must pick and choose. He spoke about the difference between medical practice in the United States and in Europe and how the basis of good health gets down to good nutrition and eating fresh organic foods, instead of processed foods. He said that due to poor diets, the life expectancy for our children will be shorter than ours.

In general, he said, “Medicine keeps you honest. It makes you think why you  are stuck, whether it is for emotional, physical or genetic reasons.” He believes that the practice of medicine is a searching process and that if a patient comes into his office for a medical problem, he will typically treat that problem, however, if they do not heal by traditional methods, he will examine other reasons which might prevent their healing, including medical history, ancestors’ history and their general state of health.

His recommendation for good health is to examine the following:

1)   What is your weak spot? How can you address it?

2)   What is your diet? Do you have a metabolic problem? Genetic issue?

3)   Do you have food sensitivities or allergies?

4)   How acidic are you? (your pH should be over

He suggested the following basic supplements for health (which I was already happily take!)

1)   Omega 3’s (anti-inflammatory)

2)   Minerals

3)   Digestive enzymes

4)   Vitamin D

5)   Probiotics

If your blood test show deficiencies, you might be instructed to take additional supplements. In the 1970s when I studied nursing, Integrative Medicine was not even in my curriculum. Practitioners in this field were regarded as being on the fringe or practicing quackery. Even acupuncture and chiropractic treatments which are more readily accepted today, were considered questionable treatments.

Today is different, many nursing and medical schools are teaching their students to think in an integrative way with the understanding that the  body, mind and spirit all interact and are never independent of one another. Nutrition is part of the curriculum, whereas typically in those days, it was not.

There’s no doubt that some non-traditional treatments might not work or may not have been adequately tested, but with good research and referrals, it is certainly worth a try. Personally, I believe in the mind-body-spirit connection. As  someone who  meditates and writes in a journal daily, I can honestly say that it makes a huge difference in managing my own stress levels!

Possibilities, Shamanic Healers and Reflections

Last Wednesday at Chaucer’s Bookstore in Santa Barbara, I attended a reading by a writing friend, Hope Edelman. We had first met at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Program back in the 1990s—where I was the student and she the instructor. I vividly recall sitting on the bench by the river, chatting as she pushed her baby carriage back and forth, cajoling her crying daughter. As the author of Motherless Daughters , I remember observing that her maternal instinct was strong. Today, that baby is twelve years old and the subject of her latest book, The Possibility of Everything. There are only a handful of nonfiction writers who I truly admire and whose work resonates deep inside my psyche and Hope is one of those.

The subject of Hope’s new book will intrigue even those who do not have a spiritual streak. Hope describes the book’s impetus as the introduction of ‘Dodo,’ into her three-year old daughter Maya’s life. As we learned during her powerful reading, Dodo was Maya’s imaginary friend who insidiously infiltrated every aspect of this young family’s life. This imaginary friend would instruct Maya to take random and bizarre actions, such as walking into a room where her mother was, hitting her and then leaving.

To help fix the problem, most parents would decide on the traditional medical route and pull the child down a path of intense psychoanalysis and perhaps years of treatment with a long train of still-unanswered questions as to whether the child is schizophrenic. But not Hope and her husband Uzi. with the encouragement of their Nicaraguan nanny, the couple decided to pursue nontraditional modalities.They packed their bags and took their daughter to Belize hoping that the healers there would help Maya banish Dodo from her life. The book is about that journey which ultimately lead to Maya’s cure.

A link has been made between children who have imaginary friends and creativity. As a matter of fact, Hope admitted that she had imaginary friends as a little girl, but supposedly they did not adversely affect her childhood nor her childhood relationships. In other words, unlike her daughter Maya, she did not become obsessed by her imaginary friend. As an only child, I also had imaginary friends, who helped to fill the gap of having siblings as playmates. After hearing Hope’s story, I have grown even more curious about the connection between these friends and creativity. I wondered if any of my readers have any comments.

I have only begun The Possibility of Everything, but cannot put it down. In addition to wanting to hear Hope’s story and her family’s extremely unorthodox choice to journey in Belize and visit shamanic healers, I am also intrigued by the idea of shamanic healers, in general, and other complimentary modalities.  I would love to hear about your experiences in this area.

Pico Iyer on The Dalai Lama

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Pico Iyer interviewed by journalist Scott London about his recent book, On The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Pico Iyer is not only an eloquent writer, but also an eloquent interviewee. Since 1974, when Pico was seventeen years old, he was lucky to be in close communication with The Dalai Lama who was a personal friend of Pico’s father. Pico deftly called the Dalai Lama, “A global village on two legs.”  He said that no matter what The Dalai Lama was wearing and no matter where he was, the best way to describe him was as an individual with a huge amount of integrity. He stressed that being in close proximity with him was stimulating and the mental equivalent of being in the gym. “He is a doctor of the mind,” says Pico.
Pico discussed The Dalai Lama’s exile from his home, Tibet, and his life-long struggles with the situation. He briefly discussed the basic tenets of Buddhism and how all blessings come from doing good onto others. Although I am an amateur student of  Buddhism, I am fascinated by the power of this tenet. No  matter what religion you practice, this is true, in that all that you do for others comes back to you at least two-fold. This goes hand in hand with another Buddhist belief is how you die is a reflection on how you have lived your life. It has also been said that people age like they live. Look around you at any older person and you will notice that they have not changed since their younger years. If they were industrious and busy, they will continue to be so. If they sat around watching television, chances are they will continue to do that in their golden years.

Pico spoke about the Dalai Lama’s energy and how everyone wants to “bathe in his charisma,” and I noticed this during his visit to UCSB earlier this year (see blog below). Certainly his energy spreads wide. In summary, Scott London did a terrific job, allowing Pico to hold his own, but asking very salient questions…doing everything a journalist should do.

A good journaling prompt is to write about what good things you have done for others this past week.

Memory in Retrograde

There has been some negative energy in the air this past week and I recently learned that it might be because mercury is in retrograde. Some believe that this phenomenon can make people act differently. Supposedly, when a planet is in retrograde it moves back through the zodiac. Scientists don’t necessarily believe that planets can do this, nor do they believe that planets are stationery, however, those with more spiritual slants are more inclined to be believers

Mercury rules thinking, perception, processing and means of communication. As a result, mercury in retrograde can give rise to misunderstandings, various types of glitches involving computers, phones and transportation. Believers don’t suggest making any important decisions during these times because some people may have difficulty thinking clearly.

It has been said that retrograde planets mark a period of inevitability fated events. In fact, some unresolved issues from the past might surface. Whether I believe this is another matter, but I do know that I have been thinking about a particular event from my past:the death of my dear friend Lynda Percival Glickman in 1992. She was a brilliant woman and nursing practitioner whose passion was traveling. Each year she traveled to Africa to teach African women about birth control. She loved the culture. Because of a combination of emotional and physical factors, she shockingly ended her life by jumping off a 21-story building. She knew that there was finality in this type of suicide. Yesterday would have been Lynda’s 63rd birthday.

For years, Lynda had been my inspiration. In nursing school she was my mentor and over the years became a dear friend. I met Lynda days before my plan to drop out of nursing school because of a bad experience. I enrolled in Lynda’s pediatric nursing course and she immediately inspired me to stay in the program. The following year I graduated. That same year was the first time I came face to face with a child who lost his hair due to chemotherapy. It really snapped my life into perspective.

So today, when mercury is supposedly in retrograde and the effects of the full-moon of last Thursday still linger, I stop to think about the importance of keeping one’s perspective and to look at the glass half full, rather than half empty.

What do you have to be thankful for this week?

Quote of the Week

"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me

I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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