Tag Archives: mind-body

Deepak Chopra: Take a Journey Into Healing

The Chopra Center invites you to attend this rare opportunity to expand your understanding of mind-body healing, Ayurveda, and integrative health care. “Journey into Healing” features sessions with Chopra Center founder Deepak Chopra, M.D.; the Chopra Center’s expert integrative physicians and master educators; and world renowned guest speakers.

Each day of “Journey into Healing” combines daily sessions of experiential learning, interactive sessions, lectures, and group activities, offering unique opportunities to interact with like-minded individuals from around the world. In addition, Journey into Healing includes:

  • Instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation and daily group meditations
  • Morning and evening Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga classes (all levels)
  • The science of Ayurveda and a mind-body perspective on health and disease
  • The role of emotions and the mind in health and well-being
  • CME credits for physicians and other health care practitioners

Learn how to enhance your health, balance, and well-being at Journey into Healing, August 22-25, 2013!

Are You A Thinker?

urlI Think, Therefore I Am.

When I have a problem, I think about it.

I imagine it from every angle. The pros and the cons. The yes and the no. Sometimes that’s really helpful. It guides me to make good decisions.

But sometimes, I think too much about the same thing, over and over. Have you ever done that? That sort of over-thinking is called rumination.

Women are particuarly good at this. We don’t know why. Maybe it’s biology or the way we’re raised. Who knows? The only reason it matters is that rumination can lead to more than misplaced keys or sleepless nights. It can lead to depression.

And now a new study shows that dwelling on your problems can effect your body too.*

The Mind-Body Link

Turns out women who were asked to dwell on a stressful experience, showed higher levels of C-reactive protein in their blood—a sign of inflammation—than women who were asked to think about sailing ships. And higher amounts of this protein have been linked to heart disease and other illnesses.

Now, Don’t Over-think This.

I tell you this not to freak you out, but to tell you there’s good news. You don’t need to stop ruminating on your problems. That’s right. As a matter of fact, trying to put the brakes on your over-thinking can make it worse.

Instead, the trick is to distract yourself from your over-thinking, just like you’d redirect a curious toddler away from a light socket. Put your focus elsewhere.

Here are a few simple ways I curb my rumination:

  • Do something pleasant: Go see a funny movie or listen to upbeat music or read a great book. Distracting yourself with your sense of sight or sound or your imagination lets your mind become immersed in something else.
  • Do something nice for others: Studies show when you do good for another person, you take the focus off of yourself and that shift can make a difference in your thinking.
  • Focus on your breathing: For an instant mental break, focus on the in-and-out of your own breathing, 3-4 times in a row. Notice how it feels. This mindfulness practice can redirect your thoughts and calm you.

If you’re a thinker, like me, having a few go-to strategies can make a big difference. What strategies have you tried? I’d love to know.

*Ohio University (2013, March 13). Dwelling on stressful events can increase inflammation in the body, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 14, 2013, from http://tinyurl.com/aomom5s

Deepak Chopra: The Whole World Exists in You

“You are not your body or your mind. Your body and your mind – actually the whole world – exist in you.”

In this episode of “Ask Deepak” on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra discusses the distinctions between body, mind, and consciousness. If you’ve ever struggled with things like weight, weakness, difficulty solving puzzles or learning new concepts, it may be liberating to know that our selves, defined by consciousness, transcend the woes of body and mind.

Our bodies and minds record every experience in our lives: the mental and emotional associations, the elements in the air, the impact of all sensory data. But, Deepak continues, we are not our experiences. Bodies and minds are in a constant state of flux, growing, dying, losing cells, gaining new ones. The experiences that occurred in a ten-year-old’s body and mind are not the same as those imprinted on the teenager’s or the grandmother’s.

I think I'll start a new lifeOur physical and mental selves are also things we experience, but only intermittently. How often do you think about your elbows or the tops of your feet? How often do you recall those algebra equations from ninth grade or the address of your first house? There is one thing, however, that is never turned off. It is consciousness hosting a temporal body and mind. It is you, your true self.

Subscribe to The Chopra Well, and check out Deepak Chopra’s book Reinventing the Body, Resurrecting the Soul!

photo by: Noukka Signe

Talking To Your Mind

I began the study of psychology because human behavior fascinated me, and my coursework in psychology provided me with some insight, along with a rudimentary knowledge of how the human brain works.  But after all these years, I find myself wondering if we — as a society, and I’m talking about the entire human race — will ever learn how to definitively figure out enough about our brain/mind/consciousness to make lasting changes in the way we behave.  But then again, the capacity of the human brain is, quite frankly, mind-boggling…so much to learn, and the possibilities are vast.

Though the title of this blog is Talking to Your Mind. When dealing with this subject, I want to distinguish between our brain (that masterful mass of cells where thoughts originate), our mind, and  consciousness. So, do we communicate to all three?  Do we, as individuals, reside mainly in one of those three places, or do we rotate among them? Does anyone know?  I personally can’t give you the answer, but I wonder about it once in awhile. Numerous notable psychologists and psychiatrists over the years have chewed on this and published papers on their views.

There is no doubt that the brain is a wondrous organ — the most complex in our bodies. The brain houses the cerebral cortex, and north of 30 billion neurons which are constantly communicating messages through a complex system to the entire brain, our internal organs, and all the other parts of our body, enabling us to perform the basic functions we must in order to survive.  And then, there are the conscious and unconscious behaviors we exhibit, which the brain/mind controls as well.

From within our brains, come our thoughts; the constant narrative we notice but don’t really hear, the voice that annoyingly describes the world we’re experiencing, even though our “conscious self” picks up what we see, smell, feel, hear, and touch quite instantly, and all without the need of additional description by our interior curator/guide/narrator.  When we’re awake, or conscious, meaning, aware of what is going on, the voice inside is most probably narrating and discussing it all inside our head while we’re experiencing it.

It seems as though our brain/mind  — is this consciousness??? — is talking to us all the time, telling us what to do, how to feel, who or what to be worried about, what we should have done, could have done, or must do tomorrow. The constant chatter can be exhausting.

Thankfully we go to sleep for several hours each night and tune out — we need the rest.  But how do we deal with the daytime?  Some people don’t find peace even during sleeping hours.  What if our inner narrative becomes obtrusive? Is that where road rage and abuse comes from? Does the chatter in some people’s heads work them up into a frenzy until they lose their cool?

The thoughts our brain/mind produces include situations we have yet to experience, yet are fearful of, angry or worried about.  We’re pretty much creatures of habit, after all, and our habits go back thousands of years.  Much of our behavior is reactionary, initiated when we’re faced with situations that cause us to be fearful or angry.  Our primitive brains  — specifically the amygdala, take us into fight-or-flight mode in order to survive. Within seconds our brains are flooded with chemicals, our heart-rate changes, our blood rushes from our extremities to our body’s core to guard our important organs, and we’re prepared to run or stand our ground and fight the saber-toothed tiger.

Problem is, we’re not fighting saber-toothed tigers anymore.  Yet we still get all fired up when we miss a green light, or someone cuts in front of us on the freeway, or you name it.  For any number of reasons that don’t require a strong survival-type response, we respond that way anyway.  Believe me, I’m glad I have this mechanism when I need it – I’m glad our brains/minds/bodies are perfectly engineered this way.  But to have stressful hormones pumped into our systems too often, and for the wrong reasons, is simply not healthy for us, and we suffer for it physically and mentally.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could learn to harness our thoughts, and quiet that chattering voice?   To take charge of our own mental capacity, dexterity and energy in emotionally-charged situations, and manage to maintain a sense of harmony?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could sustain a state of relative calm, as opposed to being hijacked by a physical reaction so fierce that we can barely see straight, let alone think pragmatically?  How terrific it would be if we could side-track the part of our brain/mind that gets mad, angry, violent — to shut it up, turn it off, calm it down, perhaps even reprogram it so it could “count to ten, and breath deeply” before it flies off the handle and hurls accusations, shouts expletives, or worse — does something unthinkable and inflicts harm.

It’s time to seek an “out of mind” experience.  Perhaps that chatty inner voice is an opportunity for us to learn to meditate — to get in touch with our own brand of spirituality. There are those that suggest we can train ourselves to do so.  Those who who have learned how propose that we first find our selves and then look beyond to something else.

Author Michael A. Singer has written a wonderful book about this.  The Untethered Soul – the journey beyond yourself.   It’s worth the read, even if you must allow your inner narrator to read along side.

photo by: alles-schlumpf

Mind Body Medicine: Can What You Think and Feel Affect Your Physical Health?

 How you think and feel emotionally can contribute to your physical health and well-being — it’s just that simple. The list of scientific studies demonstrating that point comes from diverse fields of study including medicine, neuroscience, immunology, genetics, psychiatry and psychology.

Integrative medicine is fast becoming the examplar of approaches to healthcare based on the importance of treating the whole person — taking into account body and mind — in health promotion, disease treatment and prevention. The mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind.
It is now well known that chronic stress is a significant contributor to illness and the leading cause of death worldwide. Psychiatric disorders like anxiety and depression are on the rise in adults and children, and they are estimated to affect as many as one in two adults at some point in the lifespan. Science shows that stress affects a wide range of physiological states in the body, particularly the immune response, but also factors important in aging (like telomere shortening). A recent study of social anxiety conducted at UCLA illustrates the powerful role such anxiety can have on our body’s inflammatory response, and other research is showing how body illnesses like irritable bowel disease have associated brain states.
Thus the mind is a powerful vehicle for reducing body health. But conversely, it may be a powerful vehicle for enhancing it, as well.
Yet modern medicine provides very little in the way of a doctor’s prescription to treat our mind states when dealing with health issues. We may be told to relax or be less stressed, but very often there is no remedy to do so (aside from momentary release in prescription meds when severe enough). It is where the role of mind-body practices like meditation, tai chi, yoga, or other forms of tailored exercises for mental health is needed.
Research, albeit still limited, is indicating that mindfulness practices (exercises that increase present-moment awareness) are very beneficial to health and well-being, influencing a wide range of physiological and subjective states including:
  • Boosting the immune response in cancer and HIV patients.
  • Reducing pain in chronic pain patients, including sufferers of arthritis, back pain, and headaches, among others.
  • Improving the effectiveness of behavioral change programs like smoking reduction, weight loss, and substance abuse.
  • Enhancing heart health when coupled with an integrative health care.
  • Reducing the risk for relapse in clinical depression by half compared to a standard treatment protocol.
  • Reducing anxiety and stress across a wide range of physical and mental health disorders.
The mechanisms of how mindfulness alters brain and body physiology is under investigation by labs around the world, but preliminary findings demonstrate changes in brain function and structure, immune cytokines, stress hormones and gene expression patterns, to name a few.
The means by which mindfulness influences health and well-being will be a topic of science for decades to come, but what is already suggested is that it alters our relationship with thoughts and emotions so that there is a level of "decentering" that arises, where our experiences are seen as less attached. In a way, there is a greater sense of awareness that these experience are part of the human condition and less personal or attached to oneself. By practicing mindfulness exercises (a whole host of practices is available from books, courses and free downloads) on a regular basis, we can learn to relate to life’s experiences (whether that is an illness, a pain or a negative mental thought) with greater ease and equanimity.
Scientific evidence suggests that this can and does enhance our health, regardless of the particular circumstances that may be hindering it.
For more information see, "Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness" (Smalley and Winston, 2010). To get free mindfulness practices, go to www.marc.ucla.edu and click on "Mindfulness Meditations."

Resolution: Listen to My Cells

We are at the transition point in our year, looking back to what has been and looking forward to what will be.  I just celebrated the one-year anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis this December and as I look back, I reflect on a very deep and meaningful journey.  As I look forward, I see opportunities to take what I have learned and share it with others.

Today I want to tell you about a strange experience I had about a year before my diagnosis that has implications about listening to your body.  I had a dream about my maternal grandmother in Wisconsin who died about 20 years ago and who also had breast cancer in her early 40s.  In the dream, I was at the farmhouse in the front room looking out the side window into the little woods of pine trees.  My grandmother came out of the woods all dressed in black with a black veil over her face.  I couldn’t believe I was seeing grandma after all this time!  She came to the window and was trying to tell me something.  I saw her mouth moving but I couldn’t hear her through the window and through the veil.  I kept asking “What?”  “What are you saying?”  Finally, as I strained to read her silent message, I made out the words,

“You are in mortal danger.”

“Oh, No!” I thought.  “I am in mortal danger?  In what way?”  I called out to Grandma, “Can you be more specific?”  But that’s all she said and she left.  I then saw my still-living and healthy mother come out of the woods, but she was all in white and in a happy care-free mood.  So I thought to myself that whatever was going on, it was all going to be ok in the end.

Later in the dream sequence, I dreamt I was telling my dad about this crazy dream I just had about my grandma and mom.  The fact that I dreamt I was telling someone about a dream I just had told me that this was a message to pay attention to, but I had no idea what she was trying to warn me about.

Some time before this dream, I had gotten a really strong feeling that I wanted to get off birth control pills.  I kept saying that I felt like every cell in my body was telling me to get off of them, like screaming at me to do it.  A few months after my dream with my grandma, in what I thought was an unrelated decision, I did go off them and found out later that year that I had a cancer that grows on estrogen.  My body was trying to tell me something…

So, I don’t know if it was really my grandma who came to warn me, or if it was my body that already knew a cancer was growing that used the imagery of my grandma in a dream to get my attention.  But either way it is pretty interesting that something out of the ordinary was going on. 

This got me to realize that our bodies seem to have an intelligence of their own, different from our thinking mind.  But our bodies are not separate from us, we are our minds and we are our bodies and we are the listener too.  So join me and take a resolution this new year to listen to your cells…they are you.  They have deep wisdom to share with you, if only you will listen, and they can be an integral part of the inner conversation of your life.  Your cells are the trillions of stars that make up the universe that is you, so take them with you into the new year and enjoy the journey with your full self!


Lisa is the Business Manager at the retreat center at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (www.noetic.org), recently written about in the new Dan Brown book "The Lost Symbol."  The Institute of Noetic Sciences is a membership organization that conducts and sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness—including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention, and intuition. The Institute maintains a commitment to scientific rigor while exploring phenomena that have been largely overlooked by mainstream science and provides a 200+ acre retreat center for other like-minded speakers and organizations.


On wellness: The Most Important Part

The human body is designed to be perfectly healthy at all times, and is in a constant state of striving for this perfect health dependent upon the environment it is given. There is an innate intelligence that is a non-local property of all living things which gives animation to them; it is what separates living organisms from inanimate objects. It is this intelligence that allows us to heal from a cut without giving it conscious attention, it causes for the coordination of our body’s 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000/second functions in perfect harmony. In the human body the innate intelligence uses the nervous system to coordinate the functions of all the other systems, organ, and cells. For the full potential of health and therefore the greatest ability to heal and correct damage that has occurred, the nervous system must be healthy and freely functioning without interference. This is where chiropractic care enters the picture. Chiropractic care is about the business of assisting the body to clear subluxations (patterns of interference to the nervous system, and therefore the innate intelligence’s function). This allows for the greatest potential of health to be attained. If the nervous system has interference, one can eat a great diet, exercise properly, get good, rest, etc.., but still not be achieving 100% health.

The body is more likened to a flowing river of change, rather than a static machine of function. So, even though we think of our bodies as being permanent structures, most of our tissues are continually being turned over, renewed in a balance between the constant death of old cells and the constant birth of new cells. Some studies have suggested that the average age of the cells in an adult human may be as low as seven to ten years. (An interesting concept for those who consider their ill health to be a result of their body being old) This reality adds restorative importance to dietary and lifestyle changes that can help to limit oxidative stress. In effect, it is never too late to make positive changes towards health, and with a full spectrum approach, including reverence for the innate intelligence that really does the healing, seemingly miraculous changes can occur.

The Biology of Belief

 My dog died this morning. He was a small, black, mixed-breed, part Chihuahua, perhaps part miniature pinscher. I adopted him five years ago after someone dropped him off at a pet shop in South Miami Beach. The owners gave him to their parents, who are my friends, and I fell for his hyperactive long-legged stumbling and running and prancing and turning circles. He shot me one beseeching “don’t you abandon me too” look and I brought him home.

The next day I went to my favorite lunchtime eatery only to find it closed. It was a little Italian deli across the street from my writing office in Boca Raton. A Brazilian couple of Italian descent owned it. The manager was a good enough businesswoman to keep the tables full with fair prices, good service, a friendly smile and remembering everyone’s favorite dish. The real draw was her husband, Lelo, though, for he was a magician with a pan and spices. Lelo kept a seat at the counter for me no matter how crowded the place got, and he effortlessly whipped up magnificent dishes, sandwiches and salads and traditional plates, as well as rigatoni pasta for my young son, who sometimes joined me for a bite.

The inside was dark and the door was locked and a sign in the window said “closed for family emergency”. I had the wife’s cell phone number as I had once held a private New Year’s Eve party there, but when I called it there was no answer. The door stayed closed for a week, then into the beginning of a second week. I left to give a speech in Eugene, Oregon after that, and was walking along the forested bank of the Willamette River when my cell phone rang. It was the restaurant manager. “Are you sitting down?” she asked.

I found a stump. “I am now. What happened? Are you back at the restaurant? Is everything okay?”

“Nothing’s okay,” she said. “Lelo is dead.”

I went cold and held my breath.

“37 years old,” she told me. “We were taking a shower. He looked at me and said ‘oh’, and then he dropped to the tile. He was dead very quickly. It was a brain aneurysm. The restaurant is finished. I’m going back to Brazil.”

When I got home, I gave my new puppy Lelo’s name. The idea, I told my family, was to honor the memory of a man who had died too young, and had been kind to us. I wanted to remember his friendly manner and his terrific cooking and I figured this was a good way to do it. I wasn’t sure how Lelo’s wife would take it, but when she heard she was delighted.

Lelo grew into a ten-pound ball of energy that could zoom in a way that said whippet. He took great joy in circling my local park at high speed, harrying my 16 year-old toy Mexican Hairless like a black wasp. As he matured he became more and more dominant and the old hairless dog took refuge from him at every opportunity. I ran Lelo with me on my bicycle. I taught him to obey me even when unleashed and then took him with me to my tai chi classes in the park so he could run free. He had the life of Riley for some years. Everything was going well, and there seemed to be nothing but a joyous connection between him and the man who had died so young.

Then my little dog killed his hairless “brother”.

I didn’t see it happen, but at the time I was sure it happened, and later became even more so. The dogs were often in my back yard together when I was out. One day I came home to find the old Mexican hairless floating dead in the pool. He had drowned there, and from his expression had suffered mightily. He might have had a seizure—he was prone to them—and fallen into the water, but more likely Lelo had “humped him in”, in his customary expression of dominance. I don’t think Lelo intended to kill him, but I imagine that watching the old boy drown was traumatic for the other two dogs, especially for Lelo.

I say this because shortly after the sad event, Lelo developed Addison’s disease. In this syndrome, also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal gland fails to produce enough steroid hormones. One day he grew unresponsive, and could not stand or walk. A visit to the emergency veterinary clinic and a large and expensive number of tests later confirmed the diagnosis. For the rest of his life, two more years, a monthly shot kept him alive, but he grew fragile, docile, and delicate.

My guess is that the genetic odds were stacked against him, as in addition to Addison’s he developed gait abnormalities and his chest grew asymmetrical in a fashion that suggested a tumor, although we couldn’t find one. Whatever his ills, the halcyon days, the proverbial “dog’s life” were over and Lelo no longer cavorted. He still greeted me with gusto in the morning, but spent most of his day lying around, was intolerant of exercise, put on weight and moped after the fashion of someone overcome by the guilt murder can bring.

His final day was not as painful as some I’ve seen, but in a way I think he began dying the day the Mexican hairless did. I can’t prove it, of course, and maybe his disease would have had exactly the same course without the drowning, but watching him fade away—and trying everything from acupuncture to dog whispering to help—brought all my mind/body pursuits to the fore.

Regardless of our genetics, we really are who we think we are and we really do reap the rewards and suffer the consequences of that self-image. The latest research, so well explained in Bruce Lipton’s magnificent book The Biology of Belief http://www.amazon.com/Biology-Belief-Unleashing-Consciousness-Miracles/dp/1401923119/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241624451&sr=1-1 points to the fact that our state of mind actually changes what our genes express. Our DNA, it turns out, is less a carved rock than a paper screenplay constantly evolving.

I will never know how little Lelo regarded himself. I will never know if he really died of guilt, will never know whether he took measures to pull his hairless brother from the pool but failed or even whether he had anything to do with the drowning. I do know, however, that the health of our body is always in a delicate dance with the health of our mind. The old distinction between the mind and body has given way to a modern linking of the two. We need to continue on this path and go one step further to the point where we see the mind and body as one entity. See if you don’t gain valuable perspective thinking about life this way, see if your ills and your trials and your challenges and your strengths don’t all have roots in how you see yourself and what you believe.

And watch for the return of a soul who was once a little black dog.


Nine Tips for Thriving in Tumultuous Times

 1. Reconnect with your favorite spiritual/religious practice. Showing up at temple, church, or mosque can be especially rewarding if you have not been for a while. A unique perspective on your purpose in life is available there, as are connections to a neighborhood community.

 2. Take a free, mini-vacation and disappear for a few hours. A visit to a park, the beach, or a nearby open space offers an opportunity to breathe deeply and reconnect with nature, to sense a timeless world that stands apart from the frenzies we create and the foibles we commit.

3. Make a mental inventory of those family members and friends who provide your personal emotional support system and then reach out to them. Don’t worry so much about how they can help you; focus instead on you can help them. The act of giving creates chemicals in your brain that will help calm you down and make you feel better.

4. Get some vigorous aerobic exercise. There’s nothing better for the blues than a good dose of endorphins, and nothing calms anxiety and tames fear faster than getting out there for a walk, a jog, a swim, or a visit to the gym. Push it hard enough to pant a bit, but go easy if you’ve not exercised in a while. Be sure and stretch your body before and after to avoid injury.

5. Start a mind/body program. Meditation helps you learn to watch yourself in a most helpful way, and yoga helps work the stress out of your muscles and joints. Best of all is tai chi, which does both.

6. Check a good novel out of the library, turn off the phone and curl up with it. There’s nothing wrong with disappearing into fiction for a while. Stay with fiction, though. Choosing one more book about global warming, terrorism, or the financial meltdown is just going to worry you more.

7. Start a creative project. Anything that uses your creativity, imagination and passion can help you transcend your world and put problems into perspective. Writing, painting, sculpting, woodworking, even graphic arts on the computer are all good choices.

8. Revisit a place from your past or check in with a friend from school. Perhaps there’s someone you’ve been meaning to call, or a restaurant you’ve wanted to visit because you remember a good meal you had there years ago. Seeing how things both change and remain the same can broaden your perspective in invaluable ways and help turn today’s mountains into molehills.

9. Watch what you eat. When we are preoccupied we are more likely to consume sugar, which increase our swings of mood. If you like caffeine, stay with tea for a smoother "ride". Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and fresh fish. Avoid large, heavy meals, dairy foods and foods high in fat. Eat often but lightly to keep your energy up and your mind clear and to avoid the doldrums. Drink plenty of water, too. Dehydration fogs thinking.


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