Paradox of wisdom, working and mindfulness

The afternoon of life

The paradox of the afternoon of life is that just as we may feel we are finally hitting our stride – if we do not take a siesta, we risk burning out – never making it to the evening of life. I have found myself looking at living according to the rules of the first half of life and one point, even said that it is better to burn out than rust. The reality is that mind-set almost certainly leads to death; sooner rather than later.

Mindfulness – the key

The key for living in the afternoon of life is mindfulness. The consequences of not being mindful at any point in life takes a toll, but as we age it manifests increasingly in the physical being.

A perfect example of this phenomena occurred recently, serving as a good reminder to me of lessons I thought I’d mastered. Life is nothing is not a persistent teacher! Recently I’ve been very close to burn out and decided to take a much needed vacation. Shortly into the week, I was already feeling better, but true to my somewhat controlling nature, I was frantically counting steps to get back into shape so that I could better cope with the stress that I had put myself under. Yes you read that right – I was trying to control my relaxation in order to better or more quickly bring myself back to equilibrium so that I could intentionally continue to pile on more stress. A bit of a nasty cycle now that I think about it…

In the evening, my type A personality was still in control, when I tripped over an ill designed corner fireplace corner (really not sure what the architects were thinking but perhaps I should thank them?) and landed on my knees. My already compromised left knee took the brunt of the fall and I immediately knew I had severely injured it. It would set the tone for the rest of the vacation, and in fact the rest of my life.

When I started my coaching practice three years ago, I was determined to help people lead the life they wanted to live in the afternoon of life. In launching that practice, however, I used the approach that worked for people in the second stage of life, what the Hindi’s called the “householder phase”. Both Carl Jung and Gail Sheehy, the author of the book “New Passages”, have asserted that in this phase males and females are the most drawn to overly masculine or overly feminine stereotypes of behavior. While the feminist movement allowed many women to tune out this meme, most if not all men my age clearly did tune into the provider meme. The cause of this stereotypical behavior is the biological imperative to procreate so that the species survives. Whether that works out for the species in the long run is still open to debate.

I tried falling back to householder phase. And it simply does not fit.

The Hindi culture also points to the next phase which is the forest dweller phase, a time of detachment from the world. This detachment is the foundation of effective mindfulness practices. As we age, both genders cross back to the middle of the spectrum, in fact crossing over for men to slightly more feminine energy and vice versa for women who shift towards more masculine energy. Essentially, men become more nurturing and women more independent as they hit their late fifties.

I had been trying to balance my masculine outreach energy during the day with the compulsion to fit in more nurturing activities in the evening . This resulted in something many young women experience today when attempting to “have it all”. Simply put – I burnt out by trying to do too muc. This balancing was by doing more instead of being more.  The “balancing” itself was really overusing masculine energy instead of integrating more rootedness.

As I recovered by resting, I downloaded the book – “New Passages”. I read the original book when I went through my thirties crisis shortly after it was published in 1976. It helped me perceive that my angst at the time was a normal passage. The new book was written in the nineties and I am surprised that I did not find it when researching how people shift in the second half of life because Gail identified that well before Wayne Dwyer and the authors of Quantum Change did in this century.

At this point, all I have re-identified is that I now know the questions to ask. This Monday blog series – Siesta – focuses on living in the afternoon of life by including mindfulness practices. What does it mean for men especially to embrace feminine wisdom and energy and live in harmony with it. This is not a new script for a Transparent type TV show. While gender fluidity is becoming the norm today, this particular exploration is not about clothing or dramatic behavior. It is about how does a sixty or seventy something male live a life of significance without burning out, coping out or dropping out, And how can we have fun doing it? It is the questions we need to ask ourselves.

If you are a guy who has turned sixty, how are you dealing with finding a reason to get up in the morning each day, now that we are living in a time for men where for the most part, the thrill of being a male is gone? If you’re a woman experiencing the shift of focus from nurturing to “doing” – how does that impact your sense of identity? Regardless of your gender – have you noticed these changes in your partner? How has it affected your relationship balance?

We would love to know your story.

Why New Years resolutions fail

Why New Years resolutions fail – and how you can cultivate lasting change

I stopped making New Years resolutions a long time ago because they never seemed to amount to anything.  The most frequent resolution for me was to get back into shape or lose weight.  But when we make resolutions to make big, drastic changes in our lives – we set ourselves up for failure. Humans resist change. It ain’t pretty but it is true. In order to affect true, sustainable change – we need a different plan of attack.

What Works

Over the last twenty years, I have gradually made small changes in my life to both loose weight and get into shape. The real results came from small changes over time and by gradually crowding out bad habits with better behaviors.

Each of these changes have come around the new year and are the result of a process which is in tune with the cycle of the earth in the northern hemisphere, particularly the part that gets real winter each year.

As the days shorten this time of year and we approach the winter solstice, we have more time for reflection.  Christians celebrate Advent, a time of preparing for the arrival of the Christ child or new life.  Other religions have similar beliefs and we are now in the time of the crone for the Celtic pagans awaiting rebirth in early February.

Woven into these traditions is time for reflection on how we have lived.  As a coach, I always want to know what’s working and what’s not with my clients and I apply the same thing each year for myself.  In fact, that is what I started working on in early November with my own coach.

Things I Have Changed

A few years ago, I realized that my attempt to find a late life career in photography was too non-social and was not meeting my needs.  I spent a few months reading and researching, with the intention of finding a new path.  I had no idea of where that path would lead, but in my studies I read The Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton, discovered the PSYCH-K process and realized that I needed to become a professional coach from the feedback of others in the workshops.  I trained for it and launched my practice when I completed my training.

The following year, I read Wheat Belly after listening to Wayne Dyer reference the book.  I discovered that I was probably allergic to the changes in modern wheat. After eliminating it from my diet, I lost inches of belly fat that has never returned. Four years later – I am grateful for the major reduction in inflammation in my joints.

Three years ago, at this time of year, I discovered that dairy products were something that also produced inflammation in my body. I came across information that baby’s given milk before the age of two (like I was) often develop an allergy to the protein in milk (casein) and become inflamed and congested from consuming it.  I have gone from up to twelve sinus infections per year to two over the last three years – which I credit to the removal of processed dairy from my diet.

Reflect -> Intent

All of these resolutions were made from reflection and intention.  When I decided to become a coach, my intention was -and still is- to give back to others from the gifts that I have been given. It is act of an acceptance of those gifts and the intent to use them well.  I suspect that I might never “get rich” from the venture, but I am making a difference in people’s lives, which fulfills my own personal sense of purpose.

The lifestyle changes were made from the intention of being healthy so I am not a burden to my children as I age.  I want to be as healthy as I can be for as long as possible. Though this – I can continue to contribute and not become unnecessarily dependent on others. We cannot control the outcome, but we can set the intention to be as healthy and as contributing as possible.

This is a great time of the year to reflect.  To go into stillness and quietly ask, “Who am I?”  “What do I want?” “How can I contribute?” And then set some intentions for the time of the year when we have more daylight and more energy.

Try This

For thirty minutes each day turn off the TV. Stop tweeting. Stop pinning pictures to Pinterest.  Spend some time with yourself. Figure out what is working well and what is not.  Read a book that strikes your fancy.

And then in the stillness of the winter set one intention for next year. But do it from a place of gratitude and a feeling of abundance for all that you have.

Gratitude

As we age it is easy to tune into what we no longer have.  For me – it is great eyesight, tremendous drive and business success, the ability to eat anything I want, sleeping through the night and so on. Tune into what replaced those things you miss.  Wisdom, trust in my intuition and experience, acceptance of others and the willingness to not so desperately struggle for the last word.  Most importantly, it is my ability to shut off my monkey mind and just be still.

Be Still Like Broccoli

In the movie Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts’ character says to the busy executive (Richard Gear) after she takes his cell phones out of his hand, “be still like Broccoli”.  In 1991, I could not relate to this wisdom.  That was my loss at that point in my life.  Today, I can be still and be with myself.

This year, how about you? Are you wiling to be still like broccoli and find one thing to change in your life?

Image Credit – Shutterstock

Jawbone UP24 as a tracking tool

In preparation for a series on consciousness and awareness, I have been doing some research, which led me to a number of product offerings designed to entrain the brain into a readiness state conducive to meditation. I have found a couple that I will use and be reporting back on in the coming weeks. The first tool that I have found as a feedback to increase awareness is a new device from Jawbone.

Ever since I started using a Jawbone UP24 device in February, I have become a big fan of using technology in general to improve health. Prior to using Jawbone, my sleep was often in the five to six hour per night range. Knowing that what we track changes, I started using my device as a tracking tool to bring awareness to my bad habits and crowd them out with good habits.

Over the last ten days, I have exceeded my goal of 7.5 hours of sleep 8 times. The only discrepancies were getting up for early morning meetings. I have not yet seen a significant increase in my step count, but lumbar issues are playing a role there. Despite lower back issues, I am averaging about seven thousand steps per day, well short of my ten thousand step goal, but in the top thirty percent of UP24 users. It is now starting to trend upward, however.

So, satisfied with that progress, I am now using a new feature for food tracking. It has been an eye opener. I have seen that my daily protein intake is lower than I need it to be, but by and large everything else is in line. I did however; fine-tune my smoothie recipe by cutting the Avocado amount in half, when I saw the overall calorie count. I was pleased to see my sugar intake averaging below fifty grams per day. (Note -As a health coach, I need to point out that the sugar that is consumed really needs to be watched for what form the sugar is and how it is consumed.  Mine for the most part came from whole foods eaten in conjunction with mostly vegetables and a healthy fat source in the same meal so that the absorption is handled.  Even fifty grams of sugar consumed in two candy bars in the form of high fructose corn syrup is not in your best interest.)

There are a number of features in the app that others have commented on elsewhere. From a coaching perspective, I think that it is more interesting to comment on how I have been able to self-coach myself into new behavior by having feedback. Knowing that I will receive feedback each morning on sleep, throughout the day on activity and now on food, it brings awareness to me on my food intake, my activity and my sleep. And awareness fuels positive change.

I am now paying more attention to how these are related. Over time, I will be able to see if there is a connection between the amount I exercise and sleep, as well as the food that I consume and sleep quality/quantity. One key thing that I can now easily track is the amount of water I drink in a day. Most Americans drink far too little water. When I ask clients how much they drink, the answer is usually “not enough.” What we track – we can change – and using the app on my iPhone allows me to track this easily, because looking at it throughout the day to see how I am doing has become a habit.

I am also now seeing that I have periods in the day that do not have activity in them. My chiropractor tells me that sitting is the new smoking, and I now have a device that will tell me to move if I have been sitting for more than an hour (personal setting).. Five months into using this device, I seem to be getting into a rhythm with it. Over the last ten days, my step count has been over 10,000 steps 7 times, and my sleep is averaging above my target of 7.5 hours/night. Being active and getting sleep are the ante or “table stakes” for playing the game of the second half of life. I certainly recommend trying a device like the Jawbone UP24 to others.

How about you? What tricks/tools are in your good health toolbox?

Turning 65

I have spent the last few years trying to convince myself that turning 65 was a non event. It turns out that God has a tremendous sense of humor. A few weeks ago, I, like many other boomers turned sixty-five. They say that sixty five is the new fifty, and while I still believe that, the excesses of the past come home to roost. In my case, it was centered in the lower back, which has been an issue for years but suddenly became much worse.

My spring of heavy functional exercise caused four lumbar discs to bulge and produce something that I never heard of before – parathesia. My body felt like my cell phone was on vibrate at different points in the pelvic area and down each of my legs. Normal essential and routine bodily functions were being impaired – this was a definite wake up call. Something was very obviously amiss and so I set about identifying the cause. I had an x-ray and then an MRI and to quote my doctor, the results were “not awesome.” The good news received, oddly, from a surgeon, was that I did not require surgery.

Taking a lesson from past health issues and modern medical failures, I decided to care for myself rather than expecting a medical miracle courtesy of my primary care physician. My process included a combination of diet, exercise, acupuncture, chiropractic care, medication, essential oils, meditation, EFT, PSYCH-K and therapeutic massage. Now, six weeks from this milestone date, things seem to be getting better.

What I have learned from this experience so far is that there clearly are new rules for the second half of life. First, we must be smart about how much functional exercise we do and perhaps more importantly, how we do it. Poor posture and poor technique may be survivable in early life, but a lifetime of bad habits regarding lifting and posture will have a profound affect as the shadows lengthen. Second, there is no easy cure for chronic health conditions. I used ten techniques to begin to change my condition. I will add yoga and reflexology to the mix to bring it to an even perfect twelve (call me superstitious!). Included in this mix were twelve professional traditional and nontraditional caregivers – four doctors, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, an acupuncturist, a PSYCH-K practitioner, a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, a reflexologist and my own self coaching (my wife and I are, after all, health coaches).

An important take-away from all of this is that work life balance emerged as a particularly important aspect to be resolved. The twisting of my back quite frankly told me that I could no longer stand the approach that I was taking in a number of areas of my life. To that end, I have begun to change my approach to be more in line with my core values of loving wisdom. The x-ray showed that my spine suffers from scoiolosis, which was new news to me. Interestingly, it is bowed to the left – or to the feminine side of my body. This leads me to believe that the discs that were bulging are related to childhood trauma and the need for grounding. I was left with the realization that I was angry and needed to do something about it if I wanted to feel better.

Upon reflection, what I came to understand was that my core values of loving wisdom, which I discovered previously using the Taylor Protocols Core Value Index, were hidden throughout much of my corporate career. At that time, I relied heavily upon my (arguably inferior) values of powerful knowledge. I tended to just “show up and drive” and placed a far greater value on “facts” over “feelings.” Western society identifies these as the more “masculine” (and often more important) values, while viewing loving wisdom as more “feminine” (and so, necessarily, weaker). I realized, as I started working with people in the business world in my current role, I had inadvertently returned to drawing more on these inferior values that are not core to my essential being. This led to denigrating and limiting who I am and how I “show-up” or behave in a given situation.. I was angry that I had regressed to this older way of being, so out of keeping my essential reality, and the truth was coming out in increasingly aggravated health issues.

This reflection upon and clarification of who I am and how I need to show up is both freeing and empowering. I have begun to tweak my branding ever so slightly to reflect these changes. I’m also now using the full suite of tools and techniques at my disposal including PSYCH-K, EFT and my extensive knowledge of both Christian tradition and eastern wisdom, and its confluence with the quantum reality of our existence.

When I started this practice, I was committed to combining these modalities and teachings into my offerings. But, as I attempted to explain what I do to my referral partners and the general market, I watered down my marketing too much. The result was that I began attracting business that was outside my target market and not in line with my goals. I was attempting to fit in, when I need to fit out. I am an outlier. I do not fit in and the genius of this is that is precisely why people hire me. They want my loving wisdom and outlier perspective. I’ve recommitted to making this available. So in turning 65, it is time for my authentic self to be present in my practice with no apologies. I have come to realize that for me life begins at 65.

How about you? What music is still inside you – and are you ready to play it out loud?

Pink cancer ribbon

Cancer

Cancer – a word you do not want to hear from your doctor

When my wife was diagnosed with cancer twenty months ago, we immediately began to research both conventional allopathic treatment and alternative options, along with how to prevent recurrence. For her breast cancer, it was clear that conventional treatment was the best path forward and so we followed it.

But we also realized that it was essential to change the stress factors in our lives if we wished to attain – and maintain – true health. And so we did this with intensity and great success – for a time. But, as often happens, life interfered. Family drama reared its inescapable head. While I put my business on the back burner for three months, I also returned to my original focus for the business. Cancer gets your attention; however treatments and test results that show an over ninety percent chance that the cancer will not recur, work to lull you back into the matrix.

Cancer and stress

Cancer makes other people treat you differently; which can increase stress (stress, incidentally, can lead to more Cancer!). Many people were supportive, many more were afraid for themselves and shunned us in fear of having to face their own inevitable mortality. A few people even processed the cancer as a weakness and allowed (subconsciously – I hope) their darker natures to take over, directing negative thoughts and energy toward us.

It is clear from my research, which, as a certified holistic health coach has been extensive, that cancer is dramatically affected by both food and mood. It was easy when cancer was the blaring voice inside of our home, to follow the advice from our mutual health coaching training. Be happy. Live in the now. Eat organic, seasonal, local food, a plant based diet, drink lots of water, exercise and get good sleep. Surround ourselves with happy supportive people. But as we heal – so also do we become over-confident, forgetful of the lessons Cancer so recently taught us. In that recognition of our human tendency to gloss over issues of the past is the realization that true health is an ever present, evolving force in our lives. One to be constantly considered, attended to, and managed. True health will not survive our typical autopilot mentality. We must instead actively cultivate it.

Cancer and the persuasion to care for yourself

Cancer gives you permission to be selfish. It forces you to live in the present and be radically mindful of even seemingly small choices. But cancer in the more distant rear view mirror, coupled with societal pressure to un-selfish, takes us back into the dysfunctional matrix in which western civilization has been spinning for so long.

In the second half of life, we are going to die. Cancer is a real possibility, as are heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s (to name but a few). All are increased by stress, an acidic diet and inflammation. Stress is caused by not living in harmony with our core values. Inflammation is mostly caused by the food we eat. To be truly well – we must address and manage both of these primary aspects of disease generation. There are other causes of disease; toxins, viruses, and bacteria, but our immune system is designed to fight them when we are not being stressed out; when we are truly well.

In our personal journey towards wellness, we have  found that living in harmony with our core values is a primary need for us both, as we are our family unit. We have also found that laughter, community, and good food that works for our bodies is of vital importance to our ability to sustain true health.

How about you? What is your path to true health? If you wonder what your core values are, and what you need to do to live in harmony with them, get started with a free assessment. Do it today, and in the words of a small boy in Star Trek, Insurrection. “Remember Data, you need to have a little bit of fun every day.”

You are not broken

Many people are stuck in victim energy or see others as victims – what if we were not broken?  We choose to remain broken, it is a way of being a victim and not needing to take responsibility for ourselves.  We become our disease.  Oh, I can’t do that – I have cancer. Or we become our limiting belief – I cannot dance, I have two left feet. We can transcend our broken beliefs by channeling the divine through us as was taught by Jesus when he said the kingdom of God is within you. I have been working with John Craig on a new video series. This series of his is an experiment as it is for me.  Working with John has been a gift to me and I hope to produce more work with him in the future.  This first experiment on my part with video has been very enlightening to me.  As photographer I have never liked being in the picture.  This video has allowed me to realize that the potential for this medium is one that I have been ignoring. Enjoy.

 

Inflammation – It’s the Environment, Stupid!

What do cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s all have in common? Besides being words that we hope never come out of our doctors’ mouths, there’s something else; inflammation. Our bodies environment is hot, fat and crowded. Makes you cringe a little, doesn’t it? The standard American diet has been cited by the six doctors that we quoted three weeks ago. They all point to inflammation as a common cause of these diseases of the second half of life. When I think about the effects of inflammation, I am drawn to Death Valley.

I began looking at my own body’s environment when I read the book “Wheat Belly“.  Within this journey, I found that as I cut out my consumption of wheat, and then cheese, things dramatically got better. My thinking got clearer, my joint pain lessoned – in places like knees, and fingers, and the like.  Believe it or not, you can survive without those greasy grilled cheese sandwiches. In fact, you’ll thrive. As I completed my coursework for IIN, studied scores of diets, internalized all of the work on how our diet can improve our health and either prevent or reverse the diseases listed above, I started to become very smug.  I started to believe that I was eating really well.  Then, I contracted one of those pestering ear infections, and for the last three months have struggled to get back on track, from a health perspective at least.

In the afternoon (or late evening, as I sometimes think of it) of our lives, our toleration for mistakes is lessened over that of our earlier years.  I read the “Honeymoon Effect” and listened to the person that started this journey for me – Bruce Lipton – talk about the effects of stress and cortisol on the environment in our bodies.  I commented on this two weeks ago, and I thought, Fine, I just need to relax a bit, and simple awareness will make all of this angst go away.  To a point it did.  But not completely, and certainly not authentically.

I started to meditate more and slow down, but I was on deadline for a number of things.  I did not really focus on it.  I did not mediate as if my life depended on it.  For those of you that prefer the term “prayer” to “meditation” – feel free to substitute.  I remember when I used the “prayer” term – I would turn things over to God, but then take them back.

Here is the dirty little secret that I rediscovered over the last few months.  Encore Entrepreneur – or Entrepreneur – same thing.  One thing is in common to both.  In 1994, I had the pleasure of listenting to Michael Gerber (the author of the E-Myth) speak about the midset of the typical small business owner.  One day, you wake up and you realize you are working for a tyrant.

It does not matter if you are working fourteen hour days for “the man,” for your own thing, or for your cause.  If you are working fourteen hours and you are not having fun with at least half of it, you are probably building up cortisol, which is making your body hot, and not in the glamorous way. It is inflaming it, and it does not matter what food you are eating – you are going to feel bad, maybe even awful.  If you are working fourteen hours a day but living onCORE and in harmony with yourself, then spending the day in Death Valley might not be all bad.

Plein Aire

I can choose – I could be in the “death valley” of business – wandering around, bitching. My mindset: “Damn, I am in death valley, and life sucks.”

Or, I can grab a camera, since I cannot paint, and get up in the early morning light to enjoy the day, even if that camera is metaphorical.  If you have followed this blog, then you know that I identified this a few weeks ago, and here I am still writing about it. Well I did title that entry – Remedial.  And I guess that I am still remedial.  At the time that I wrote it I thought that I had the answer.  Maybe I did, but I left out a real daily centering every day.

One of my favorite spiritual teachers, Wayne Dwyer, has told the story that he would get frenetic – as I have gotten recently with the challenges of launching a business – being “in the world”, so to speak.  He would question another of my favorite teachers Deepak Chopra, and Deepak’s answer was simply one word – MEDITATE. Wayne would say some thing along the lines of, “But Deepak, don’t you think…” And he would simply say, “MEDITATE!”  For me, the food is one thing, and it is very important, but the real answer is to center myself daily, – so I can be IN the world and not OF it, in the famous words of St. Paul.

 

To Market

It is in our psyches – going to market in the morning to bring home the freshest whole foods. In fact, here in Pittsburgh, the largest food retailer has special stores with “Market” in its name, and in the South East, another grocer chain has opened stores with both “Fresh” and “Market” in its name.  But the real fresh markets are the farmers’ markets where local farmers – real farmers with names like Greg, or Alice – come to sell their fresh goods that were in the ground yesterday or in the case of the fresh free-range eggs, in the bodies of their mother this week.  They came to market in pickup trucks from less than 100 miles away, and there is no middle man or woman.  The fresh foods still have the energy that they were created with, and since most of these farmers are organic and/or practice sustainable practices, the soil has not been depleted by a mono-culture and chemicals.

So today, we just want to say thank you to these farmers who were at the old Firehouse in the Strip District in Pittsburgh this morning.  And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Yesterday, as I was finishing the coursework for IIN, I had the pleasure of listening to one of the instructors speak to Whole Foods.  Perhaps it is because I spend so much time at the local Whole Foods in Wexford, that I tend to not think about what a “whole food” is. It is easy to confuse nutrition bars or food-based supplements with whole foods. A whole food is something where you eat the whole food – so the whole grain of rice, or the whole sugar cane, or the whole pig.  So an egg is a whole food , celery is whole food, peppers are whole foods – a chicken breast is a part of a whole food – no bone, or organ meat etc.  As they used to say – parts is parts. And a can of spray “cheese”……..

The beauty of this market is the energy of it, and the local farmers are there selling their own goods.  The Amish farmer with his chickens and eggs, the Mott family farm where the owners are there to answer you questions about the difference between sustain agriculture and organic – and exactly what they sprayed on their peaches and when.  As I was putting the food away this morning, I could not help but feel the energy coming off it it and marvel in the clean, crisp feel of the produce. I started my working career as a produce clerk for a supermarket, and I can tell you, I never saw food THAT fresh coming into the store, let alone leaving it. As far as what they do to meat in the back room…we just won’t go there.

Why is it important to know your farmer?  There are a number of reasons – first, you know what you are getting – is it really grass-fed and what does that mean?  You might be shocked that your farmer might explain as mine did today that the cost of grass-fed beef is higher because the cost of corn is higher – even though the cattle is not eating corn.  He explained that the cost of hay is higher because there is more demand to grow corn – think about that as you put ethanol in to your SUV to drive to the market and complain about the cost of grass-fed beef.  Or he might tell you that you need to come earlier to get eggs – it kind of reinforces that there are only so many eggs his chickens can produce.

We ran into one of our clients there today and we were thrilled that we were able to share her joy in her purchases as she was leaving to go home. If you want to learn more about eating whole foods, we are having a session on Thursday October 3, at the Zock Family Chiropractic Facility in Cranberry Township at 6:30 PM. Our session will deal with the reasons behind your sugar cravings when your diet is lacking whole foods. We hope to see you there, or at one of the many local farmer’s markets in Pittsburgh and its countryside.

 

 

Health and Wellness through Integrative Wellness

Two weeks ago, we began our focus on health and wellness with a listing of the various theories that we use as informational resources for our clients in our health and wellness offerings.  In my practice, I focus on a client’s inner thought process that often destroys their approach to becoming healthy, and how they can create a state of work-life balance.  My practice is not life coaching, nor is it wellness coaching in its purest sense, but more of transition coaching in which I work with a client on a vision of what path they want to take in their life, and then how to take the steps towards that route. Many Americans (60% of the population, in fact) want to follow a slimmer path – as in, they want to lose some extra weight.

The list of diet approaches being recommended by the doctors in our first entry are all variations on a theme.  Both Melinda and I have worked through programs at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and have studied these theories as well as a number of others in our training.  We start the discussion with the views of Dr. Andrew Weil, who is a founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. The crux of Dr. Weil’s opinion, which is being adopted by over 25% of the medical schools in the US includes:

  • Restore the focus of medicine on health and healing
  • Insist that human beings are more than just physical bodies – they are also spiritual, emotional, beings
  • Insist on the importance of lifestyle practices – how to eat, how to handle stress, how to manage relationships, how to sleep, how to balance career and so on
  • Insist on the importances of the practitioner and patient relationship – allows the patient to tell their story

According to Dr. Weil, the key element of a health-promoting lifestyle – stop eating refined, processed and manufactured food.  His premise includes that the diseases of aging, which include cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s) and cancers are not our natural fat but the outcome of the standard American diet.  His working premise is that all of these diseases are caused by a combination of factors, but all are based on chronic low levels of inflammation.  Inflammation is, of course, the corner stone of the bodies healing response – we’ve all seen redness and swelling as we bruise our bodies.  Dr. Weil asserts that we need to control this so that it ends when it has fulfilled its purpose.

So are these diseases a requirement for aging?  No – you prevent this by eating healthy foods and meeting your core needs for relationships, spiritually, physical exercise, and your career.  His teaching from a dietary perspective is to avoid processed foods, especially foods that are high in carbohydrates even if they, and perhaps especially if they claim to be whole grain or healthy.  The standard processes that food manufacturers use pulverize the grains such that they have no real whole grains left in them. The resultant product has a higher glycemic index than white bread and is seen by the body as sugar. Nutrition labels can be deceiving; fat is not necessarily the culprit of obesity; excess carbs are the silent criminal.

His anti-inflammatory diet is written in his books and on his website. It is based on a colorful diet of various fruits and vegetables, less animal products (especially meat), more fish, olive oil, green tea, red wine, tumeric, ginger, and dark chocolate made with at least 70% cocoa. Most people prefer to eat delicious, healthy food rather than simply throw back pills, and fortunately, Dr. Weil agrees that nutritional supplements should strictly be supplements and not substitutes for nutrient-dense food. However, fish oil, a multi-vitamin supplement, Vitamin D (especially north of Atlanta six months out of the year) should be taken with a fat containing meal.  On a side note, adequate levels of Vitamin D are critical in fighting off colds and flu in the winter especially. If you are bothered by these, there is a book discussing this available from Amazon and other retailers.

Keeping physically active in the second half of life is key, according to Dr. Weil and his study of centenarians who maintained physical activity, social support, and intellectual liveliness. You can see why I have chosen to start with this author’s works because it is our premise that being onCORE to your values, eating the right foods, and achieving whole life balance is essential to living a long life.  From a physical activity perspective, things like walking, gardening, hunting, fishing, nature photography, biking outdoors and other daily activity is important as we age.  It is not time to play basketball and run marathons – but a time to do things that are of a lower impact, such as swimming and walking.  He also asserts that it is important for older people to be loved and embraced by younger people and to have a respected place in society.

Stress kills – it increases cortisol levels in the brain that kills cells in the hippocampus, which processes memories in the brain – so Dr. Weil promotes breathing techniques that are effective at reducing stress – these are found on Youtube if you are interested in them.

What I have gotten from this body of work and in reading Dr. Weil’s work is that I need to be balanced in my life; I need to be active, and I need to be spiritually grounded to manage stress.  Dr. Weil believes that breathing exercises are great for reducing stress – groovy, right? No, I think that idea is about as stupid as the term “groovy.” Moving forward to the eighties, I think that meditation is actually “totally tubular.”  Onward to the twenty-first century, I’d say it’s “awesome.”  The key is managing stress, and for me, that means meditation.  Earlier this week, after three days of too much Quickbooks and not enough stretching – I needed to meditate for about thirty minutes to relieve the pain and tension in my body that I only became aware of at eleven in the evening when I woke up with numb hands and sore legs because my lower back was out.  I woke up my wife and asked her to get me a heating pad for my neck and some herbal tea and then consciously relaxed my pain points through mediation and relaxation until I was able to get to sleep.  The alternative would have been a trip to the ER and hours of tests or prodding followed by, “It’s only stress, bozo, go home.”  As I was writing this entry and listening to Dr W; they only go to the doctor as a last resort. On the other hand, in America, we go immediately and expect some pill to fix us.

Combining what I have taken away from Dr. Weil with what I am getting from Bruce Lipton, the quantum biologist, I have come away with my own theory for my approach to my health in the second half of life. Last week, I spoke of the environment in our bodies. according to Lipton, as producing things like excess fat – for me, excess stress means excess thinking about the past or worrying about the future – which means fat. And it also leads to the potential for disruption of the health of my brain, according to Weil.

This certainly explains the last couple of months for me, as personal stress has lead to a small weight gain, and I feel like I am often more foggy than I have been. What has been missing is intense exercise and regular meditation. I have not been focused on living an HD version of life. I have not been fully engaged; I’ve only gone through the motions at times. I have allowed a personal source of stress to decrease my passion, because in the past, others have been hurt by my actions.

But others have been helped by the same actions, and how others receive my energy is not mine to control or predict. I can only be authentic and speak with my authentic voice and the truth. I cannot allow fear of how others might perceive me to stop me from being me.

So, is food the reason for obesity? Technically. However, Weil and Lipton agree that the environment in our bodies is a big part of the reason that we store fat, even when we do not have to. Toxic thinking leads to stress which leads to fat. So becoming well means eating the right foods, mostly plant based and not processed, and balancing our primary needs for exercise, spirituality, relationships and career.

One piece of advice directly from Dr. Weil: surround yourself with the people that you want to be like.

Look at the Birds….

Last week, I talked about the different diet approaches that provide the basis for our own food choices in the second half of life, which is a good starting point for anyone looking to make their own choices.  My original intention was to simply summarize the points of each of the authors, but that quick “Cliff Notes” process is not our style.  We believe you need to live with each theory and see how it affects you because our purpose is only to share what we have learned from an author and how it has impacted us, not tell you which one is right for you.

This belief comes out of my religious background, which is firmly rooted in my mother’s Irish Catholic beliefs.  In my formative years, I was raised in St. Bridget’s Parish on Long Island.  My own initial training in Bible study came from the teachings of two Pittsburgh Catholic priests who taught me two considerations when reading the Bible.  The first is that you have to understand the audience and the times of the writer.  Father Eugene Bonachi of the Mon Valley, which was decimated in the eighties as the steel mills closed, also taught me that the backstory of the writer cannot be ignored.

For this reason, so much of my back-story is on this blog series.  Who I am and my beliefs are always made visible in my writings or teachings.  Father Bonachi was an activist priest who believed that Reganomics was a disaster; something on which I believe he was remarkably accurate.  His assumption was that it would lead to a larger gap between the poor and the now former middle class, and the wealthy as the industrial base of America was destroyed and moved offshore.

But he also taught the importance of context.  Father Bonachi used the example of the headline of “Buc’s Bomb Birds.” Currently, it could refer to the Pittsburgh Pirates beating the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball.  It could be anything from the victory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC championship game a few years ago to a Disney-created story of Jack Sparrow bombing an island with flocks of birds in a future “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie.

So, the audience to whom the diet-creator is writing as well as the context of his experience and motivation needs to be understood.  Regarding diet, we are coaches, and we want our clients to be healthy and happy.  We are not selling diet books or being paid by food or drug companies for a testimonial.  We form our own beliefs, and we expect our clients to do the same.

The second thing I learned about reading and studying the Bible in the early Catholic church is that the interpretation of the Bible was not in the purview of the uneducated laity who had no knowledge of the times in which the stories were written.   For them it was to reflect upon how the story applied to their life and to share that with others.  This is something that I have continued to hold to, and the same thinking  should be applied to a lot of the teachings of both conventional and alternative healing theories, both of which seem to be religions to the people promoting them.  I believe this to be particularly true with diets that purport to understand how people lived and ate in the “cave man” era, or “diets” designed to sell supplements or manufactured foods.

The only thing that is certain right now is that regardless of what we do, we are going to die eventually.  If we fixate on the belief that we are going to be in more pain the older we get, and we are going to be less able to do the things that we used to do, we are going to amplify those effects on our bodies and psyches.  We need a fresh start in order to have healthy living in our retirement years.  Each of us has to weigh quality of live versus quantity of life and make our own decisions.  If in reading these diet books, we feel that eating kale for the next fifty years in order to have health is not worth the fact that we have to eat kale, then we won’t do it.  What we eat is important, but how we find our spiritual center is equally as important.  We can find similar answers in quantum biology and in sacred scripture.

So what was to be a six week blitz of these diets, is turning into a Thursday Wellness posting, and we will weave in these theories and others into the entries.  What we eat is only part of the story.  How we think and what we feel are a big part of what the fifty trillion cell structure that appears to the world as our body does with the food.  In his new book – “The Honeymoon Effect” about how our thinking controls our health, Bruce Lipton channels James Carvile from Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign with “it is the environment stupid.”  This is how I interpret this portion of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:26-27) “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

Here is a link to a site that Melinda found today, and my interpretation of it is that we, like this squirrel or the birds in the Sermon on the Mount, know what we should eat if we don’t let our egos and toxic thinking get in the way.  If squirrels are in-tune with what is good and what is bad, then why are we not able to do so?  Because we worry, which means we tune into the fear that we will look stupid.  So if everybody else is eating beef that was force-fed GMO corn and injected with drugs, then we should.  Really?  The last time I ate factory beef I found it to have no taste unless it was combined with sauces and salt and perhaps a bacon wrap.  We must not be dominated by our fears, but by our “gut feelings” on what is right for ourselves.

To do this we need to be in harmony with the magnificent creation that is the fifty trillions cells known as an individual human being, and to eat food and establish practices that balance our mind, body and soul.