Posts by: "Dr. Nick Campos"

MindfulnessIn a previous article, I touched on the very basics of mindfulness. I said mindfulness was a state of mind, one in which we are aware of the self and unfolding experience in a moment-by-moment attentiveness; I called it a state of conscious consciousness. When going about our regular day, most of us operate on a predominantly auto-pilot mechanism. Most of our actions are habitual. We can execute them without much thought, even the complex activities like driving or working at our jobs, and indeed, many people do just fine under this system.

When we need our more attentive mind, we can do that, too, without much ado for relatively short periods. Holding the focus, however, is not that simple. Holding the focus requires brain power, skill, and training; each one accomplishable by most people. Brain power relates to health not IQ, skill to development, and training to hours of practice; but all are reachable for the average person. It takes enormous focus to perform as elite athletes, concert musicians, surgeons of any sort, and deep thinkers. Every one of us can improve at what we do professionally and personally, in most areas of life, by honing our focus – our conscious consciousness.

So it takes practice to develop the skill of mindfulness. And in so doing it is important to practice effectively. Yes there are techniques. More important, however, is that the practitioner understands to what he or she is attending; in other words, what is the goal in mind. For sure, it is to focus and hold the attention for as long as possible. And if the focus is lost, then the objective is to return to the focus and hold, and refocus and hold, and so on.

MindfulWith this basic intent and action, the practitioner will also need to consider some fundamental elements of our mind which are ingrained and habitual, yet completely contrary to maintaining focus. These mind habits will pull your attention away and take you down paths which are easy to get lost on. By simply having awareness of these habitual behaviors of the mind, you can keep yourself off these temporal paths of past memory and future imagination. I do not mean to knock either memory or imagination, as both serve their purpose, but as I have said, both oppose our intent to maintain focus. Discussing these elements is another of way explaining mindfulness by laying out exactly what it is not.

The first thing mindfulness is not is control. It has nothing to do with controlling the mind. While we aspire to sharpen our focus, we do not accomplish it by controlling our thoughts. Part of awareness is being conscious of your incoming and outgoing thoughts. Once you observe them for long enough you come to realize that you have no control over them anyway. Where do they come from? Why are they persistently of particular types? These answers will become clearer as you practice. Mindfulness is allowing these thoughts to come as they come, and go as they go. It is never about stopping any particular thoughts like, “I shouldn’t be thinking that.” Instead, being aware of the nature of your thoughts will teach you a great deal about your highest values. Your seemingly random stream of consciousness is directly related to your value system. I say to my students, “You will come to know your values intimately when you practice mindfulness.”

The next thing mindfulness is not is judgment. Judgment is a natural mind activity. We judge by default almost constantly: Good, bad, right, wrong, up, down, hot, cold, safe or sorry – all of these are judgments we are making constantly. We need judgment to survive; we have to select between choices constantly. As a hardwired function of the human mind, we judge things, idea and experiences with little to know thought. In fact, this system is so strong that we often allow it to make decisions for us, even in spite of evidence showing errors in our judgment. That being said, mindfulness is neither about judging our thoughts nor stopping judgment. It is the observance of our judgments without becoming attached to them. Our mind creates stories that we can easily get carried away by. Mindfulness is allowing these stories to take shape, making note of them, and allowing them to fade as abruptly as they come. It is not allowing one story to lead to the next while falling unconsciously into its stream. A seasoned mindfulness practitioner will recognize this is the standard state of the mind – the unconscious consciousness of auto pilot.

MindFinally, mindfulness is not assessing oneself, one’s life, or anybody else’s and it is definitely not comparing oneself to others. Mindfulness is being aware of present moment – as it is. It is not desiring something different, just as it is not an elation over the way things are. At its most basic: it is an acceptance of things exactly the way they are. But more precisely, it is an underlying appreciation of things as they currently are. The human mind has the tendency to seek the next desire, goal, accomplishment and/or novelty. While this may have distinct advantages – like the advancement of civilization, for instance – it can lead to an incessantly chattering mind. One reason our mind jumps from story to story is precisely because of this function. Our seeking minds find problems to solve and obstacles to be overcome; it does so naturally and automatically.

Mindfulness, however, is not wanting the world to be different; it is not wanting your life to be different. Mindfulness is loving and appreciating your life in present time. More accurately, it is observing the present moment in depth, with sharp focus, and no judgment; it is carried out with an underlying appreciation of self and circumstance. When you can passively observe the details of your life, remain poised, and not become emotionally swayed, you will be practicing mindfulness properly.

With all that being said, it is important to remember that these skills are sharpened over time and effort. You have to practice mindfulness to master it. Once you get the hang of it, you will begin to experience a depth to your awareness. You will enjoy your activities and interactions more. You will have greater insights and certainty, and you will open portal of your mind that will enhance creativity and productivity. Anything worth doing comes with difficulties, and practicing mindfulness is no exception. I can say with no uncertainty that you will find the rewards of mindfulness practice well worth the investment.

MindfulnessI’ve been teaching mindfulness and meditation courses for the last six years. The big question beginners usually have is what they will achieve from taking on the practice. This question can come in many forms, sometimes with statements like: “Will mindfulness increase my energy?”, “Does mindfulness really work?”, and “What will I get out of mindfulness?”

Many benefits come as a result of taking on mindfulness or meditation practice, from the physical to the mental to the spiritual, but most importantly it allows one to come to know oneself more deeply. This may not sound so enticing to the person looking for some real magic to come from their efforts, but I assure you that the depth of your being is far more exciting and magical than you can understand at this point. The most I can get across without your experiencing it yourself is that you will develop and learn more than you might imagine at this point – you do not even have the reference point yet to understand, but you will in time, along with a number of progressively developing powers.

The primary power you will attain is best illustrated with a story. Almost everybody is familiar with the image I’ve posted. It is a Pulitzer Prize winning photo of Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức, who burned himself to death on June 11, 1963 in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. Buddhists were banned from flying their flag in Huế city on their holy day of Vesak, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. In dissent of these orders, Buddhists gathered with their flags to protest the edict and were fired upon by government forces. Nine protesters were killed that day by gunfire.

As a result, U.S. journalists were contacted and told of an important event that would take place the following day outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon. Reporters who were there saw a procession of 350 monks and nuns carrying banners denouncing the South Vietnamese government and its policies toward Buddhists. A sedan carrying Quảng Đức rolled ahead of the procession. When it reached its destination in front of the embassy, three monks, including Quảng Đức exited the car. Quảng Đức calmly sat down on a cushion in the traditional lotus position, closed his eyes and began meditating. Another monk, removing a five gallon gas canister, came over to the meditating monk and emptied the entire contents of the canister over Quảng Đức’s head. Quảng Đức rotated a string of wooden beads while repeating a Buddhist mantra; he then struck a match and dropped it on himself. The flames engulfed him quickly and furiously. Quảng Đức remained poised throughout. He was a master of mindfulness – he never broke his concentration.

David Halberstam of The New York Times, who was one of the reporters present that day, described it like this:

“Flames were coming from a human being; his body was slowly withering and shriveling up, his head blackening and charring. In the air was the smell of burning human flesh; human beings burn surprisingly quickly. Behind me I could hear the sobbing of the Vietnamese who were now gathering. I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think … As he burned he never moved a muscle, never uttered a sound, his outward composure in sharp contrast to the wailing people around him.”

I once told this story in one of my classes, and the attendee, a doctor, asked, “Why are you showing us this picture?” It is simple; I want you to understand what is capable by the human mind. You see, humans have only two instincts: reproduction and survival. Like all living things, humans are driven to spread their genes and persist as life forms. And like all other life forms, humans have an instinctual drive to survive. If you are attacked, chances are you will do whatever necessary to survive – you will run, hide, fight, scratch, bite, climb, swim, and anything else that might keep you alive. You might even eat human flesh if there is nothing else available. That is what happened to Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, later known as Andes flight disaster, a chartered flight of 45 people, passengers and crew, which crashed over the Andes Mountains in 1972. The surviving 16 spent 72 days lost in the mountains before they were rescued, and ultimately had to resort to cannibalism, albeit reluctantly. They did what was necessary for survival. Their ordeal was made into a movie called Alive.

MindfulAnother film, called 127, staring John Franco, is the story of avid mountain climber Aron Ralston. Ralston goes climbing in Utah but fails to tell anybody where he was going. He has an accident and gets his hand caught between a rock and a hard place. After several attempts to free himself over days, he ultimately has to amputate his own arm. As grueling as this sounds, it is a true story, Aron Ralston did what he needed to survive. Most people would do whatever they could. It is human instinct.

And this is precisely what I want to get across with the story of Quảng Đức. What would most people do if they were on fire? Naturally, one’s instinct kicks in and they will attempt to extinguish the flames: rolling on the ground, patting themselves, and screaming at the very least. But not Quảng Đức – he sat there in quiet meditation, never moving a muscle. How did he do it? Was he some superman? Did he have special powers? The answer is no. Quảng Đức was a human being no different than you or me. He had one element, however, that he had mastered: his ability to focus his mind beyond all physical and mental distraction. It was this power that kept Quảng Đức in a peaceful composure throughout, completely overriding his human instinct for survival.

Now if this isn’t awe inspiring, I don’t know what is. Does that mean one will be inspired to emulate Quảng Đức? No but think of the potentiality of the intense focus and to what ends it may be used – it is exhilarating! If one can transcend even one’s own instinct for survival through mindfulness, what cannot be endured; what cannot be accomplished? Thích Quảng Đức has become the empyrean of mindfulness practice, the highest potentiality we can wish to attain in our own practice; to approximate, if not to become.

Mindfulness brings many benefits to the practitioner. A powerful, laser focus is the foundation for so much more. Think of the physical (sports, games, sex), intellectual, and spiritual accomplishments you can muster with such potent focus. Think of the circles in which you can play with strength of focus. Truly the world will become your playground when mastering the power of mindfulness. Your time and energy is a small price for such an enormous attribute. Start working today and increase your mindfulness potentiality to Thích Quảng Đức power. You too might affect the world long after your flame has flickered out.

mindfulnessMindfulness has become a fashionable term over the last few years, for good reason: as an ancient practice cultivated to allow practitioners to come to know themselves, mindfulness has been shown scientifically to reduce mental and physical effects of stress. Stress can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how one perceives it, but since most people tend to experience stress negatively, it can lead to a number of physical conditions which ultimately break down the body. In fact, stress related disorders are estimated to be responsible for 75-90 percent of all doctor’s visits, causing such problems as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, and even sexual problems. Having a tool, then, to minimize stress and its effects on the mind and body is invaluable.

Mindfulness is the deliberate attention to Self – a moment by moment awareness of what is going on around and within oneself. It is attentively observing experience as it unfolds without evaluating or judging it and also accepting what is and what isn’t, in the moment, in present time. Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now in full attention. I like to call it conscious consciousness – one is consciously aware of one’s consciousness when in mindfulness. Easier said than done for the uninitiated, but reaching this state is definitely cultivatable.

To understand mindfulness one really needs to understand mindlessness. Mindlessness is not a derogatory term as it is used here – it does not mean stupid, ignorant, or thoughtless. What it refers to is the state of being on auto-pilot. The human brain has evolved for a certain amount of efficiency. Like other autonomic processes, we do not have to think about our moment to moment brain activity. To understand this, it is best to first make note of processes in our body that need no conscious awareness: breathing, digestion, nutrient assimilation, waste production and elimination, cellular respiration, and the list goes on and on. Like these processes, many brain functions require no active input on our part. In fact, our brain produces thousands of thoughts per day. It is difficult to know how many, but one really comes to understand the constancy of our thought stream when trying to quiet the mind in meditation. Thoughts are like molecules produced continuously in a cell – they happen whether we want them to or not.

complexityMore importantly, they happen without our taking notice. We do not have to think about our every action. We do not have to initiate every move, only the decision, and sometimes not even that. By freeing our mind of these routine actions, we are able to concentrate more on complex actions and behaviors, we are able to think about abstract ideas, and we are able to self-reflect (as far as we know, the only species that does this). Complex thinking has led to the creation of musical masterpieces, mathematical theories, and technological innovations. It has inspired timeless art, revolutionary science and allowed us to ask and ponder the great philosophical questions of life, those that give our lives meaning. Without an automation of our primary thought system, it is questionable whether we’d have ever accomplished anything more than our most basic survival. Automation of thought is the first and foremost system used by the brain on a regular basis. More than ninety percent of our day is made up of habitual actions. According to Daniel Kahneman, Nobel Prize winning psychologist and economist, ninety-eight percent of our mental processes are of the automatic, effortless, and unconscious kind, even though we tend to believe we are making rational decisions throughout the day. Most people are thus walking through life effortlessly unaware, allowing their automatic thoughts to flow in and out of consciousness, and create a stream of time which ultimately frames their experiences. I like to call this unconscious consciousness – consciously awake, just not aware.

This influx of automatic thoughts is barely noticed, except from time to time when a thought so pleasurable or disturbing enters the awareness causing desire or fear, and even many of these come and go with little notice. For the average person, unrestrained thought-flow, or what some call mind-chatter, can lead to anxiety, depression, mental overload, fatigue and even more severe mental illness. Unrestrained thought-flow can thus become a source of stress. Add to that all the other things we must act on in any given day, and it is no surprise that the bulk of doctor’s visits are for stress related conditions.

focusWhile many people turn to drugs and alcohol in a futile attempt to quiet the mind-chatter, these mind-alterers actually make matters worse over time. The only way to diminish mind-chatter is to pull the mind into attention. That’s why sports and exercise have been popular since antiquity. By focusing on a physical activity, the mind is forced into what Kahneman calls system 2 thinking, or one which is done with our conscious mind – conscious consciousness – effortful, intentional, and controlled. Making art and music are also amazing mind-chatter reducers. So is doing math, or thinking about anything in detail, like when you strategize or follow a protocol. Anything which forces the mind to focus reduces mind chatter (one reason smart phones have become addictive). However, even these activities, when done repeatedly can become automatic. Without a doubt, people strive to make automatic as many of their activities as possible. We call this mastery. And mastery makes what was once effortful a habituation. As a result, once we master an activity, it does have the potentiality to become an automatic process.

For all these reasons, practicing mindfulness regularly through meditation is an ideal activity. Working the mind into focused attention, about nothing in particular, is like lifting weights for the body. It is a mental exercise that enhances all other activities by the sheer strength of sharpening the awareness. This, over time, allows the mind to focus its attention during routine day-to-day activities, in other words, to attain and maintain conscious consciousness. The more we achieve states of mindfulness, the better we are minimizing stress: mind-chatter reduces, awareness improves, creativity is enhanced, and communication and personal connection deepen as a result of a meditation practice. Not only does this have positive consequences for our mental health but for our physical health as well. Health challenges caused by stress – like pain, addictions, chronic infections, and sexual dysfunctions – can be reduced and even remedied by taking up a regular meditation practice. Something as simple as a daily commitment to intentional awareness has the power to improve health and create wellness.

Mindfulness is a state of mind not easily accessed without some intentional effort. Working earnestly at focusing one’s awareness trains the mind to enter a state of conscious consciousness more regularly and with less effort. Once it is ingrained into the habituation system, all activities are illuminated by increased awareness. While it, too, will become a more automated process, it will paradoxically lead to spontaneity, as we become more conscious of every moment, bringing new meaning to our experiences. Ultimately, awareness assures our growth and development, which leads to richer experiences, in a cycle of expansion and change, keeping things novel and interesting. You can continue to walk through life on unconscious auto-pilot or put in the effort to become more aware, and thus more appreciative and attentive to the details that make your life rich.

atomThere are two primary ways to look at the world: the first is through the lens of materialism. Materialists believe that the universe is purely physical; a tangible reality that can be observed only through the physical senses or tools which are interpreted by the human intellect. A materialist would say that we can observe physical phenomena, measure them, create equations and models to represent these phenomena, and make predictions based on those equations and models. A materialist would argue that we can come to understand the entire universe, over time, by understanding the physical processes underlying it, in the same way we might understand the workings of a machine. If there is something we currently do not understand, it is simply because we do not yet understand the physics behind it. Many current theories fall under this category: The standard model of particle physics, dark energy, quantum gravity, and even consciousness itself.

Materialists are generally secularists in that they do not contemplate or even consider spiritual matters. To the materialist, the universe is made up of physical matter (particles and waves), which is the only substance we can actually measure, and thus it is the sole substance of reality. As such, physical substance is the only thing worth discussing or contemplating – all else is folly. Materialism could be summed up with the line, “Brownian motion, chance collisions and probability are what make up the nature of reality.”

Ancient GreeksMaterialism is the predominating world-view among governments, military, science, medicine, academics and media in the western world today. We see it in every aspect of life – relying on physical evidence by which to base decisions and protocol. It is neither right nor wrong: simply the way agencies set policy, conduct operations, set standards, and provide education. It has not always been this way; throughout history humans have oscillated between approaching the world from a materialist perspective (Ancient Greeks and Romans) to approaching it from a spiritualist one (Middle Ages Europe), and some have even attempted to balance the two (Enlightenment). Today, however, the major institutions of the western world are materialist in viewpoint.

Spiritualists, on the other hand, believe that a supernatural force exists which is beyond physical. While most spiritualists would agree that we are, on some level, experiencing a physical universe, there is something more, a metaphysical reality that goes beyond material substance. The substance in which a spiritualist believes may vary, as some may believe in a dual realm of material and spirit, while others believe there is a third, or primary, substance from which all other substances emerge.  Some even believe that the physical realm exists only in one’s mind; that the true nature of reality is in this primary substance. Some examples of spiritualist philosophies include Advaita Vedanta, Daoism, and monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

lightSpiritualists believe that we can transcend the body-mind of the physical world and tap into that something else which exists. This can achieved through meditation and other esoteric practices, rituals and trances, and mind-altering medicinals. Whichever method is used to achieve transcendence, the goal is always to attune to the greater reality. Spiritualists believe that means of gaining knowledge are not limited to physical, or scientific, observation, but also to reason (Enlightenment) and revelation (Judaism, Christianity, Islam). In fact, many other methods are believed to be sources of knowledge, but most importantly, spiritualists do not place a boundary around the physical world and its phenomena.

Spiritualists do not have to subscribe to a particular religion, as some people are spiritual, yet maintain no religious practice. While the modern western world views the world primarily through materialism, most people walking the planet are spiritualists (84% according to the Pew Research Center).  The line which can sum up spiritualism is, “Personality – the subjective perception – is the solid foundation and unifying principle of our existence.”

Neither materialism nor spiritualism is right or wrong – in fact, it does not appear to be a provable matter. They are simply foundations by which one views the world. Many people never even think about their foundation of reality in detail. They simply accept their beliefs without question, sometimes not even knowing how they came upon those beliefs. But for people who have a solid understanding of their philosophical views with regard to the nature of reality, it is easier to understand the decisions they make in life. Other age-old philosophical questions, such as free will are easier to contemplate when one determines how one leans with regard to the substance of the universe. Is the world purely physical, with particles and waves simply bound by physical laws? Or is there something else, regardless of what one calls it, a metaphysical force, which underlies all reality, and which can be tapped into for knowledge, guidance, presence and hope? Think about these questions to learn more about yourself and add a deeper level of meaning to your reflections. Either way, to come to know yourself is the greatest endeavor regardless of how you view the nature of reality. But by solidifying your views, you will come to know yourself more profoundly: what makes you tick, why you make certain decisions, and even where you might be going. Most importantly, your views will underlie the meaning by which you will ultimately evaluate your life: an endeavor worth every bit of energy.

America BurningAs we emerge from the fires of last week’s riots here in the U.S., Europe finds itself in the throes of unrest. With three months of moderately-strict lockdown due to Covid-19, many had reached the limits of their self-containment. George Floyd’s death was the spark that ignited an inferno which would consume American cities all across the country. Like a wildfire it spread, making its way across the Atlantic to Northwestern Europe. And in the ashes of its destruction, good people have been devastated – emotionally, financially, and legally. Some have lost their lives, leaving behind grieving loved ones, and forcing every citizen to reflect on the full implications of their beliefs, their expectations, and their future.

Not one person has been left unaffected by the combined Covid-19 pandemic and weeks of civil unrest. Businesses remained closed, despite quarantine restrictions being lifted in the strictest U.S. states. And 36 million Americans have been left jobless as a result of Covid-19. Analysts have been uncertain as to how the country will recover following the coronavirus lock downs, but many believe that unless something is done to help homeowners and renters, defaults will be abundant as people scramble to put their lives back in order.

I have no uncertainty that we have stepped into a new world in 2020. What that world will shape into is anybody’s guess, but to think it will ever return to life as we’ve known it would be foolish. Of course, some elements will remain the same – technology will reign supreme, social media will be the place to gather news, information, and entertainment, and political polarization will lead to even greater divides between people. But what, if anything, might we look forward to: what ups-and-downs can we expect along the path of reconstruction? The most honest answer is it will depend on our focus.

TechObviously, different people want different things. Every person can have a version of the future they envision to some degree. I will explain this idea more fully in a bit. But right now exists opportunity to shape your world in the way you want it. Yes you can shape society too, but do not fall victim to the belief that you can do it against the will of others. To create lasting social change, the hearts and mind of the people must be won over. Let me encourage you to think of any lasting social change, and investigate how it was accomplished. Yes violence has happened in moments of societal change, but the violence itself was not the catalyst to the lasting change, it was the inspired movement of hearts and minds which led to the transformation. Gandhi won the hearts and minds of the people. Martin Luther King, Jr. won the hearts and minds of people. Even the American Revolutionaries won the hearts and minds of the people. Without aligning these energy centers to your vision, you will be unlikely to cause lasting change. One need only consider the long chain of military occupiers in Vietnam and the drawn out fighting there to understand what I mean about failing to win hearts and minds. If your vision is big, however, and it includes the most people, you will have a greater probability of creating lasting change. I cannot stress this factor enough: hearts and minds.

MLK Hearts and MindsWhen forging a path in this new world, it would be wise to focus on your highest values. Those things that act as drivers for your decisions – things you are inspired by daily – are what you should focus on and centralize in your vision. For some people it is family, for others it is service, and for even others it is the beauty of the world (artists, poets, musicians, mathematicians, etc.). There is certainly no right or wrong in this regard, other than the importance you give it to your mission. Simply put: A mission is a plan with a purpose. The purpose is the why you do what you do, while the mission is the vision.

A powerful vision is one that has a strong purpose behind it, allows the most people fulfillment of their values, and has a coherent, specific plan to make it happen. If one’s purpose is linked strongly to one’s values, one will be more likely to see it through. Many people inject other’s values into their endeavors, but they do not have the drive to ultimately carry things out. We are driven by our true values, and no matter how good another’s values sound, if you do not truly share them, you will peter out and lose drive. A vision which allows for the greatest numbers of people to fulfill their own values will be the most powerful and longest lasting. Civil rights is one of those visions: by ensuring that all people have a right to pursue and fulfill their values, in health, wealth and freedom, failure becomes impossible. Obstacles will arise, as in any endeavor, but ultimately, people will be inspired and driven to support freedom and justice for all. Finally, a vision is only as good as its implementation. You can envision all day long, but if you do nothing to make it happen, it will remain a daydream.  Constructing a specific plan which can be communicated coherently, so that others may become inspired by your vision, is the surest way to accomplishing your goals. You will forge your way in the new world most successfully by following the principles above. Purpose, vision, and fulfillment for the most people are the ingredients for a lasting legacy.

BalanceFinally, and most importantly, is to strive for balance – in your personal endeavors, as well as for the collective or greater good. Understand that regardless of your vision, you will face obstacles in that endeavor. Obstacles are not vision-killers; they are feedback mechanisms that are in place to guide you. Your vision will be shaped and refined by the obstacles you face…and overcome. To do so you may need to alter your plan a bit. You may need to learn more, or you may need to change beliefs or perspectives. I love to read biographies on the greats of humanity to get a sense of their obstacles, their solutions, and their evolution. You will have yours in your unique way. When attempting to elicit change that is resisted by others, try to find a middle ground. Believe it or not, it is possible to exist in coinciding realities with others – that is, many people can live in worlds of their making together, even when it seems that their worlds are diametrically opposed. Find the common ground. How do you get what you love while others get what they love? That may be the very challenge for you to figure out, but what a powerful vision that is. “All you need is love” is not some hokey song lyric, but a profound truth of all human beings: How do I get what I love while you get what you love…? Living in the extreme polarities of any human issue is volatile – it brings the most stress, the least cooperation, and the baddest blood to the table. Finding the center point and striving for a win-win is the greatest achievement one can have, with the highest possibility of longevity. Game theory, a mathematical study, shows unequivocally that people do better when working together.

The chaos of 2020 has been disruptive for most people to say the least. For many it appears, for now, devastating. But in chaos there is always a hidden order, one that allows for a reconfiguration of your life at the micro-level, but the entire world in the macro. There appears to be great opportunity at this time for enormous change, so take the time and invest the energy to create the world that you want to live in. It will not come easy – so do not take this as the walk-away message. Whatever you would love to see and experience in this new world will take great effort, but it will be worth it. If you can observe the principles I have outlined here, you stand the greatest chance of lasting success. People will follow your inspired message if they can see what is in it for them. What this means for most people is how it will allow them to fulfill their own mission, according to their life’s purpose, which, of course, is intertwined with their highest values. People are only fulfilled – that is, filled-up full – when they are allowed to pursue their dreams, in their way, at their pace. If your vision for the new world allows others to do this, it will be embraced by all.

Prepare Your Spirit House (Copy)Religion and spirituality are two very different things. One is an organized set of rules by which to live cohesively with one’s fellow humans, while the other is a faith-based belief in a metaphysical reality which transcends the physical universe; and we can tap into this reality to come to know, understand and influence our roles within the matrix. Religion and spirituality are interdependent to a degree, but every individual can believe in – and thus operate within – one, the other, both, or neither. Depending on your viewpoint, your approach to life, particularly with regard to the unknown, is greatly influenced by your metaphysical beliefs.

I know people who believe our current quarantine (more accurately lockdown) is simply a dress rehearsal for what’s to come. This notion has a very distinct possibility. Apparent to many is that politics has been playing a major role in the lockdown: it can no longer be solely about a virus at this point when the numbers fail to support a continued lockdown. So I agree with the possibility of this being a precursor to a more disrupting event. I will not make any predictions here, but it will allow me the opportunity to discuss how to keep your mind and heart on the right track to navigate whatever unexpected happenings may ultimately come your way. One thing I am certain everyone can agree on is that we are in a very different world today than we were a few short months ago. And making sense of this new abnormal will require some thought and an ability to put things into proper perspective. A friend of mine has said that, along with getting your physical house in order (in the event of another long lockdown), wisdom would be in getting your Spiritual House in order as well.

Natural OrderFirst let me discuss things from an atheist’s perspective. Atheists believe that no metaphysical “power,” like God, exists. An atheist may or may not be a dualist – that is, have a belief in another realm, mind for instance, or spirit. An atheist may or may not be a physicalist either: one who believes solely in the physical universe. To the physicalist, mind or consciousness is merely an illusionary consequence of physical activity. While the atheist does not require faith in a metaphysical power, one may still have faith in the natural order of things, and by extension, a natural dynamism: as living beings, we create unseen forces which move world-wide events in space and time. This dynamic alone may be enough for the atheist to connect to what I am proposing.

Getting one’s Spiritual House in order might be for an atheist semantically unnecessary, as it may be enough for an atheist to simply keep a calm, cool head. What better than to direct one’s rational action with a clear mind? I would most definitively agree with this approach to facing the unknown; to me it is a valid strategy to simply balance the mind. But to do so successfully, one must be aware of all the looming potentialities. Create a game plan as to how you might approach each possible outcome (either good or bad). It will be imperative to first neutralize any emotionality you have surrounding each potential outcome. For example, if another lockdown could occur, it would be wise to list the ways in which this current lockdown has benefited you and others, but also how it has been detrimental. This will allow you to see how we adapt to every situation. What was life like before the lockdown? How has it changed since? List the ways in which things were previously detrimental to you. Do the same for how it served you. Make sure your lists are equal in number: keep things balanced, even if you have to dig into the depths of your mind for some time. Don’t give up. Do it for every potential pitfall you can think of: martial law, riots, or an even worse illness. This will help you face anything that might arise in the future.

ReligionReligion is the practice of living by an organized set of rules which will allow you to live cohesively with one another. Religion is a way of existing, a way of living. What we call morals typically derives from religion, as a set of principles by which to act, think, and believe. Many religious people are spiritual; however, spirituality is not absolute. Some people are raised within a religion, and may practice certain customs and rituals, but some may do so merely by rote or habit. Some historians have suggested that religion was a great way to control the masses, but things may not be as sinister as they sound. Religion is the foundation of many people’s morals, and it is by morals that people keep themselves in control. Some have suggested that society’s shift away from religion is the primary cause of what appears like increased chaos, although this point is debatable. I would argue, though, that religion is what has gotten many generations through their toughest times. Having a moral foundation, particularly when it is aligned with spirituality, can be enormously powerful for staying centered during crises, and keeping the faith to carry on. For the religious person, praying for awareness, guidance, and adaptability would be a worthwhile endeavor. And giving praise for what you have will bring your heart into alignment with the perfection of God.

Spirituality, as I have said, is a belief in something more than the mere physical. It is faith that a greater power exists, one to which the mind and heart can open, and thus bring awareness, guidance, and adaptation which every human craves. Spiritualists understand that everything exists in perfect, divine order; and as an integral part of this order, the individuated spirit-soul is also part of the future. We have a role to play in the dynamics of the matrix, so to trust in the universal order will bring the greatest sense of inner peace.

Spiritual HouseGetting one’s Spiritual House in order, then, is to connect to these greater truths and deeper realities. It does not matter your personal philosophy: when you balance your mind, neutralize your emotions, pray and give praise, and have faith in a divine order, then there is nothing you cannot conquer. Every crisis is surmountable when taking the wise actions I’ve laid out here. Some have even reported feeling divinely guided as they passed through their toughest times. To get your Spiritual House in order is to connect or reconnect with truth – you are a part of the grand divine organization. Whether that be God, nature, or some other force, it can only help you to align with it, even if just in thought. I promise that by getting your Spiritual House in order, you will be prepared for whatever awaits you, both pleasant and unpleasant, in the future unknown.

In this time of rapid and uncertain change, some things remain constant, like the ways to keep your body healthy and strong. A simple question would be: who stands the greater chance of withstanding the symptoms of a viral infection, one who maintains the health of one’s environment, or one who does not? Unfortunately, too many people fail to ask that basic, valuable question and instead argue over treatment options. Treatments are important, for sure, but whatever any particular treatment might be, the person who cares for his or her environment will handle the treatment better than if he or she does not. This is not a deep philosophical statement – it is simple logic. It does not depend on the virulence of the pathogen, either – in every way, people who care for their environment will have a greater probability of handling illness.

Staying Strong in the Era of Covid-19Athletes take many physical hits and stresses. They absolutely must condition themselves to withstand these stresses. So too warriors and soldiers of yesterday and today: only the conditioned can take the battering which results from their call of duty. Would you choose a conditioned horse for which to win a race, or would you place your bets on an older, deconditioned horse? There are almost always exceptions to the rules, but all in all, a properly conditioned person tends to fare better than a deconditioned one.

What can you do to strengthen your body? I have written a book on maintaining optimal health, so I could probably ramble on for pages. But let me keep things relevant to our current climate surrounding the coronavirus and its associated illness, Covid-19. Since it is mostly a lung cell attacking virus, keep your lungs as clean and conditioned as possible. I will not bore you with a quit smoking or quit vaping sermon, but I am certain that everybody understands that each habit increases risk. By no means would I share smoking paraphernalia at this time – bongs and hookahs might just be things of the past – smoking in the era of Covid-19 should be a solitary act. Personally, I would not hinder my resistance with any recreational drug whatsoever, but if you must, then stay moderate. Partying hard can, and often does, inhibit the immune system. If you are going to party, then just make sure you get plenty of sleep. Definitely do not go hard two days in a row.

Don’t run with masks onYou should maintain your cardiovascular conditioning. If you can run without pain, do so. Running outside on pavement is probably better than on a treadmill. Either way, get to a point of heavy breathing and sweating every time you challenge your cardiovascular system. Do not run with a mask on. Get fresh air: oxygen is paramount to cardiovascular health. Can’t run? Skip rope. Shadow box. Dance. Do whatever it takes to get your heart rate up and into a sweat. Strong lungs may not be immune to infection, but the greater the surface area of the lungs to absorb oxygen, the better for you if, in fact, you fall ill.

As always, eating whole, natural foods will keep you vibrant and well-functioning. Take this time of quarantine to cook most of your meals at home. Keep the dining out to a minimum. Try bringing down your caloric intake, if you are overweight, and exercise daily. I realize these are not always the easiest things to implement, but in my opinion they are the necessary things to do. As always, results will come down to your desire and commitment. However, keep in mind that one of the highest risk factors with regard to Covid-19 is obesity. This is not surprising information. I have made similar warnings throughout the years: Obesity exponentially increases the risk of falling ill. The reasons are many, and not necessary to delve into here, just suffice it to say that you almost always have a better chance of wellness by keeping fit and trim. Take the first step, the rest will follow.

Quiet your mind and talk to Self Keeping the mind balanced is probably the greatest key to staying strong in the era of Covid-19. The first, and most important, action you can take is to write down all the knowns and unknowns with regard to this virus. Do the research, look at the numbers. I think this activity is worthwhile, so much that I did exactly that last month with a group of students and clients (ask me how); it was enormous in reducing any anxiety we were feeling and putting things into perspective. The purpose of the exercise is to reduce fear, which can be a killer with regard to healing or worsening symptoms. Chronic fear rarely leads to better healing, so try neutralizing your fears around the virus. I can start you off with one major known: The virus is mostly mild, meaning the vast majority of people recover quickly. Some people do not even know they have it. “Vast majority” is well over 90%. Please put that number into your awareness. Seriously, research the virus, the illness, and the numbers. I am certain that one simple exercise will liberate you.

Finally, take the time to go within yourself: meditate. Quiet your mind and talk to Self – that part of you which is beyond words, thoughts, and ideas. Do this daily. Great inner strength comes from this practice. Add plenty of quality sleep and you will find your peace of mind is enhanced dramatically.

These tips are the absolute best things you can do for yourself in the era of Covid-19: Exercise, eat well, minimize smoking, sleep plenty, and balance your mind. These are the same health-enhancing behaviors I would recommend even outside a world-stopping pandemic. As I have said: some things may change rapidly, but the behaviors that strengthen the body remain constant. The numbers show that, for the most part (>90%), you will be fine. But take the time to increase your chances in that regard. Do the right things for your body and mind, and you might find this lockdown a great blessing.

Part 2

Brain statesIn part one of this series, I discussed how former drug users might benefit physically by taking up a regular meditation program. I also touched on how former drug users are at an advantage when it comes to “finding the Self”, as the mind-altering action of some drugs approximates the deeper states of meditation. In this piece, I will address a few mental and inspirational elements that regular meditators enjoy, which will also help former drug users find what we are all ultimately looking for—a deeper connection to our true Selves—all while keeping them off dangerous drugs.

The Way I Cope

Drugs not only make the body feel good, they make the mind feel invincible. Amphetamines were given to World War II pilots as a way to keep them awake and alert on numerous sorties throughout the war. Even today, speed-like drugs are given to ADD-labeled children and adults to help them concentrate. Drugs do, in fact, enhance our mental capacities in the short-term. Whether talking stimulants for alertness and concentration, or the mind-expanding quality of hallucinogenics: the primary use of many recreational drugs is for altering mind-states.

Stress copingGoing within via meditation also alters consciousness states. As we deepen our meditative practices, we pass through states of consciousness that simulate dream states or even deep sleep (albeit consciously). It is for this reason that former drug users have a hand up on most non-users—they know what it feels like to pass through these varying stages of consciousness. When meditating, the former drug user will recognize and feel a sense of calm, ease and comfort passing through these stages. Call it an acquired skill to feel comfortable as one makes it through these transitions. The average person often must take several passes through a consciousness state to feel comfortable enough to allow it to happen on its own without a mental disruption or dispersion of the state.

From a mind perspective, meditation has also been shown to decrease anxiety—a godsend to anybody who uses, or has used, drugs at one time or another “to cope.” Studies have shown meditation increases stress adaptability as well. Or plainly, regular meditators handle stress better—one reason some people turn to drugs to begin with. Further, meditators have been found to feel less lonely. It is well known that loneliness is associated with increased incidence of illness and death. A regular meditation practice, then, goes a long way to preserve the psychological, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Finally, regular meditators have been found to have increased brain activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for executive function, while simultaneously decreasing activity in the amygdala, the area of emotional reaction. Executive function encompasses a number of mental processes, but put simply, this region is responsible for inhibiting emotional outbursts or impulsive behaviors. The amygdala, on the other hand, is the area where memory, decision-making and emotion work together to elicit quick responses. These two regions are regularly at odds with one another, balancing how we wish to act—venomous anger for example—with how we contain ourselves. The amygdala in teens, for instance, develops much more rapidly than the prefrontal cortex, leading to more reactionary decisions and impulsive behavior (one reason teens are at higher risk for accidents). But by meditating regularly, executive function is enhanced while reactionary amygdala function is depressed, and thus the practitioner becomes more poised and disciplined, thinking things through rather than exploding in unrestrained emotion.

The Voice I Hear

Woodstock-1969Some people have had spiritual experiences on drugs, as attendees at Woodstock or today’s raves might attest. This is because chemical substances acting on the brain can open doors to insights, compassion and even a feeling of “oneness,” things we ultimately all crave as human beings. For this reason, many habitual drug users return again and again to drugs to relive a temporary experience which we intuitively feel should be more permanent.

Users who have spiritual experiences are correct in their intuition—feelings of oneness are our birthright, and they should persist beyond the temporary high felt from drugs. The only way to tap into this eternal unity is by going within and awakening to the Self. While the term Self is actually interchangeable with many others—God, the absolute, the final reality, etc—it is incomplete and incapable of fully describing what yogis would call the source of all things. No matter which name you give it, this source is what we all truly want: reconnecting with the Self is the inner drive which underlies all human desire. And it is exactly this which is the basis for people turning to drugs.

When we uncover our true Selves, however, we concurrently uncover the bliss inherent in our source of being. Through this uncovering we come to realize that we exist in this material dimension (our form) for a purpose, and the deeper we go within, the stronger our realization of our life’s purpose becomes. But interestingly for the former drug user is that this realization also brings to light the purpose of the chosen path of substance abuse. Most people enter professions where they wish to make a difference, either in an area which they perceive themselves to have failed in the past, or in an area which they themselves have been helped. It is not surprising then that many former drug users, myself included, look to make a difference in the world of recovery—helping other addicts shake the illusions of the high drugs provide, and in finding the truth inherent in uncovering the Self.

Helping Drug AddictsRegular meditators have also been found to cultivate greater compassion—for themselves and others. Why is this important? Because it is so easy to beat oneself up for perceived mistakes one has made, and every other shame and guilt that comes along with drug addiction. Having compassion for one’s choices comes from a deep understanding that one receives as a result of going within. By understanding the greater purpose of our choices, we can open up to a world of gratitude for the life we have lived, and how it has lead us down our current inspired path. The highest service in life comes through giving from a place of compassion—the I-have-been-there-before state of empathy. Nobody can relate to this more than former drug users who have dedicated their lives to helping others, and this compassion is enhanced by a regular meditation practice.

Meditation has also been found to improve a person’s skill at introspection—the ability to reflect on one’s life and oneself mentally and emotionally. People who have a strong ability for introspection come to know themselves better, make better choices, and experience greater growth spurts emotionally and spiritually. As a consequence, meditation also opens the floodgates to inspiration, so creativity is enhanced as one quiets the mind of its incessant chatter and allows the Self to reflect unimpeded. Most creative geniuses have a way of tapping in—meditation is one surefire way to unleash our inherent potential and express creative genius. Start today to take advantage of this power we all possess.

OnenessPeople typically return to drugs to recreate an experience that brought them close to feeling the bliss of oneness with all things. That is because drugs open doors to states of consciousness which simulate stages we pass through along the path to union—the known deeper states of meditation. Drug-induced altered states of consciousness, however, are short-lived and they come with many unwanted side effects, most treacherously death. But what drug users are searching for is what all people ultimately search for: the bliss that comes from awakening to our true Selves. While many paths to the Self exist, meditation is time-tested and proven; its effects are long-term, and its many changes are permanent. Drugs will never bring the seeker what he or she is looking for, because like all external experiences, they are transitory and illusory by nature. Only by going within and uncovering the true Self will an individual find what he instinctively seeks: union with the entire universe. Meditation is a tool available to all of us—rich, poor, young, old, male or female—to bring us in-touch with our true essence, while enhancing our lives in body, mind and spirit. But even more astoundingly, former drug users may be at an advantage as they have experience in passing through various altered states in which the average, non-drug user is not so immediately comfortable. These reasons seem overwhelmingly encouraging for those in recovery to take on a meditation practice. Turn on and tune in, if you will, and you will find exactly what you have always been looking for.

prozac_cake_by_h0p31355-d4iys4qIt was only a matter of time. How long could the wool be pulled over society’s eyes before questions would arise? Antidepressants have been some of the most overprescribed meds in all of history, yet the “science” behind them is tainted with selective publication, where research groups leave out negative outcomes, and only publish favorable ones. But the real tragedy is in how western culture could buy in to the mass drugging  of society, the medicating of an illness of questionable etiology, and the anesthetizing of its children; all for one reason only: It was the easiest thing to do. Time is not on the side of the current pharmaceutical solution to depression, however, as larger, more scrutinizing eyes peer into the dark hole that is the antidepressant industry, and some of the truths revolving around the popular SSRI medications will finally be brought to light.

A recent comprehensive study carried out in Copenhagen, Denmark, and published last week in the BMJ (the British Medical Journal) showed that pharmaceutical companies were not presenting the full extent of serious harm in clinical study reports, which are detailed documents sent to regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) when applying for approval of a new drug. Researchers examined documents from 70 double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of two common types of antidepressants—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)—and found that the occurrence of suicidal thoughts and aggressive behavior doubled in children and adolescents who used these medications.

dt_140827_rope_hang_suicide_depression_800x600 (Copy)This should come to no surprise for readers of this blog, as I have reported extensively on similar occurrences taking place within the antidepressant manufacturing industry since 2008! Remember when I told you how “one third of antidepressant drug studies are never published in the medical literature, and that virtually all of those that are hidden happen to show the drug being tested did not work”? Or how about when I brought you the 60-Minutes piece that disclosed that many of the studies that show antidepressants not doing much more than placebo have been hidden by the manufacturers who lead the studies. Hmmm…see a pattern here? How about when I told you of the government’s black box warning on antidepressants which were causing increased suicidality in young adults taking the medications. Or maybe you have checked out my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, where I delve in to detail of the shameful practices of antidepressant industry. And remember…I told you that antidepressants were the third most common prescription drug taken by Americans of all ages between 2005–2008, and that  more children are on psychoactive drugs today than on any other drug ever before in history. Well if you actually have no clue as to what I am talking about do not feel ashamed, you are right in step with the rest of society, because you were never meant to know, you see. That was the idea. And if you did happen to find out, you likely let it gloss right over you, even if your child was on these same drugs, because you have been conditioned by a system to believe in your cultural health authority—your medical doctor. Little did you know that your trusted doc was being fooled as well.

BMJ-study-329 (Copy)According to the Scientific American article, The Hidden Harm of Antidepressants (February 3, 2016), “Last September a study published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology revealed that a third of meta-analyses of antidepressant studies were written by pharma employees and that these were 22 times less likely than other meta-studies to include negative statements about the drug. That same month another research group reported that after reanalyzing the data from Study 329*, a 2001 clinical trial of Paxil funded by GlaxoSmithKline, they uncovered exaggerated efficacy and undisclosed harm to adolescents (emphasis mine).”

This latest Danish study discovered that some of the most useful information was in individual patient listings buried in the appendices. For example, they uncovered suicide attempts that were passed off as “emotional lability” or “worsening depression” in the report itself. This information, however, was only available for 32 out of the 70 trials.

“[This study] confirms that the full degree of harm of antidepressants is not reported,” says Joanna Moncrieff, a psychiatrist and researcher at University College London who was not involved in the study. “They are not reported in the published literature, we know that—and it appears that they are not properly reported in clinical study reports that go to the regulators and form the basis of decisions about licensing.”

Medical report (Copy)Here is an interesting tidbit on the dynamic between the pharmaceutical industry and the government regulatory system meant to keep an eye on it: The FDA requires pharmaceutical companies to fund and publish studies on all their products. As you might imagine, that is loads and loads of paper. To accommodate the reporting agents who must read these papers, thousands upon thousands of studies are combined in the form of a meta-analysis—a study of studies—where certain parameters are established, and these studies are collectively analysed and reported on. And who do you think prepares these meta-analyses? Yup…representatives with ties to pharmaceutical companies themselves. Duuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh….

When the researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen attempted to secure the appendices from the EMA they were flatly denied.

“We found that a lot of the appendices were often only available upon request to the authorities, and the authorities had never requested them,” says Tarang Sharma, a PhD student at Cochrane and lead author of the study. “I’m actually kind of scared about how bad the actual situation would be if we had the complete data.”

“They talked about commercial confidentiality although there was absolutely nothing in these reports that was commercially confidential,” Peter Gøtzsche, a clinician researcher at Cochrane and a co-author of the study.

It took three years, repeated requests and complaints to the European Ombudsman—elected by the European Parliament to investigate claims against European Union institutions—for the research team to receive the documents. While the EMA vowed to increase public access to clinical-trial documents, no equivalent has been proposed for the U.S.

Medicine-Costs (Copy)You can see that the antidepressant industry—from publication to regulation—has had the cards stacked in its favor for decades. But as a result of the fine work carried out in Copenhagen, more attuned eyes are now on the case. It will be much harder to deceive the greater scientific community as it has been to fool the public and its pushers: the medical establishment. How the medical community has eaten up the fabrications conjured by Big Pharma without so much as a question: “Hey, why aren’t my patients doing significantly better?” “Gee how did we ever make it this far as a species without antidepressants if they are so crucial?” “Do my patients really need to be medicated from the time they are very young til the day they die?” “Are lifestyle drugs really the answer for a modern humanity?” I mean, really, no doctors ever had those thoughts? Ever? That’s what really blows me away. And to this day, doctors will defend their paradigm, “I know its helped my patients.You don’t have a competing theory.” But they can no longer say the science backs them up (as so many had assumed in the past).

31drug-inline1-650 (Copy)But, again, this entire fiasco is simply a dynamic: Individual doctors would naturally accept a paradigm taught in medical college as a sacred cow. What reason would compel the average medical doctor to question what seems to make sense. Isn’t that how we do it? Take the smoothest, easiest run down the river; why wouldn’t we? People want that. And we got it. What’s easier and more miraculous than pharmaceuticals? Seriously. AND…we get cool stuff for pushing it—pens, all-expenses paid trips, and updates from sales reps on the latest breakthroughs, science and public health figures along with Starbucks and muffins. Parents are happy because it appears something is being done. But don’t mind Junior—he just wants to kill himself… Listen, it’s a dynamic. If a doctor is not forced to make a change he or she will not. Even highly-discriminating professionals are susceptible to stagnancy.

High waves hittingEasy, solution, and profits are three words that make for a powerful force—elements of an unharnessed wave that can sweep over a village and wipe away its foundation before anyone knows what hit them. But a study like the one carried out in Denmark is a wake-up call for an inherently more powerful force, the force of the public good. As more accurate information gets out to the masses—like the dangerous side-effects of suicidal thoughts and aggression in young people taking antidepressants—people will be less inclined to make that choice for their own children, doctors will become less enamored with the pharmaceutical option for treating depression in children, and the regulatory agencies—under public pressure—will have to become more scrutinizing (which essentially means “more paper”).

And pharmaceutical manufacturers? Well they will merely look for newer drugs to replace the current antidepressants. In fact, they are already in the works now. A dynamic it will continue to be, just with different parameters to fool us for the next while.

*Please read up on study 329


Lottery winner“Dr. Campos,” the office manager said in her best business voice, “Would you like to contribute ten dollars to the office lottery pool?”

Ugh…we aren’t going to win. Greater chance of getting struck by lightning, twice! But I couldn’t stand to let my colleagues get rich without me, not for ten dollars…so I bought in.

I am relieved we did not win. It is not that I am above the fantasy…but I know something: Nobody unprepared to handle such a massive sum of money will keep it for long, or at the very least, the work it takes to manage a jackpot will stagger them. Very few people realize this fact, but many lottery winners rue the day they hit the numbers.

“You know, my wife had said she wished that she had torn the ticket up. Well, I wish that we had torn the ticket up too.” ~ Jack Whittaker, West Virginia, Powerball lottery jackpot winner, $315 million

BlingSpending sprees are the first order of business. Gotta buy the bling, and the houses, and the boa constrictors, and the stripper pole…you know, lottery-winner necessities. But ask any big-name athlete or celeb who has squandered away millions (Mike Tyson, Michael Jackson), it goes fast…like water through the fingertips if you are not careful. About 70 percent of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years, according to the National Endowment for Financial Education.

Today, after spending almost all her winnings — “big house, fancy cars, designer clothes, lavish parties exotic trips, handouts to family, loans to friends” — [Sharon Tirabassi] is back in the working class: riding the bus, working part-time, living in a rented house.

But not just the spending, the people coming out of the woodworks with hands outstretched. Numerous lottery winners talk about friends and family who have come asking for assistance, only to get offended if the new millionaires say no or ignore their calls. On Good Friday 2004, Sharon Tirabassi and her sister, Shavaughn, walked to a variety store to buy lottery tickets.  Shavaughn also wanted a renters’ guide, but at the first store there were none, so they moved on without buying tickets. Next store, same thing, no renters’ guides. They continued walking for several blocks, entered the third store, where Shavaughn grabbed a renters’ guide. She went to the counter and bought a Super Seven ticket. Sharon followed and bought her ticket.

When Sharon won the $10 million lotto, Shavaughn believed it was because of herself; it was her wanting the renter’s guide (and purchasing two random pick tickets before Sharon) that allowed Sharon to be in the right place at the right time. Without Shavaughn, there would be no lottery winnings. For this reason, Shavaughn thought she deserved a payout. Sharon gave her $500K. Shavaughn wanted more. Today the sisters no longer speak.

I had to endure the greed and the need that people have, trying to get you to release your money to them. That caused a lot of emotional pain. These are people who you’ve loved deep down, and they’re turning into vampires trying to suck the life out of me.” ~ Sandra Hayes, split $224 million Powerball jackpot with a dozen co-workers in 2006

outstretched handsBesides the challenges of managing newly acquired wealth, many lottery winners make grave mistakes which affect their psychology and support networks. Some cut contact with old friends, family and their familiar neighborhood in order to move among the rich in a fantasy paradise. New neighbors are often not friendly to the ‘nouveau riche’ and as a result lotto winners have difficulty with social integration.

But the most macabre outcome for a number lottery winners is the death that seems to follow after hitting the jackpot. Take young Craigory Burch Jr., 20-year-old forklift driver-turned-lottery winner, who won nearly half a million dollars in Georgia; he did not live long to enjoy his winnings, as he was killed in a home invasion last month, only two months after purchasing a winning ticket.

Abraham Shakespeare Or take the story of Abraham Shakespeare of Sebring, Florida, $30 million lottery jackpot winner, found murdered and buried under a slab of cement in the backyard of his new lady acquaintance’s home.

Or Jack Whitaker, our $315 million jackpot winner from West Virginia, whose granddaughter was found dead, wrapped in a plastic sheet, dumped behind a junked van. The cause of death listed as ‘unknown’, but likely due to her drug lifestyle which Whittaker says is a direct result of his lottery winnings. He believes the Powerball win had become a curse upon his family. ”My granddaughter is dead because of the money,” he said.

According to a 2009 study by the Paris School of Economics, sudden windfalls can in fact increase one’s risk of death.

“Positive individual income shocks produce changes in lifestyles which may well be prejudicial to health. Exogenously higher income“—that is, wealth that comes, poof, out of the blue—”produces unhealthy living.” ~ Anneli Rufus, Lotto Death Curse

Out Of MoneyAdd 46-year-old Urooj Khan, who was found poisoned with cyanide following a $1 million jackpot win. And 47-year-old Deborah McDonald who was run over by a car near Sandusky, Ohio, after leaving a bar where she had been celebrating her win on the Ohio Lottery’s official TV show. And the bus in 2003, carrying a group of Germans, which overturned, killing 28—they were on a trip to Spain that they had won in a lottery. And the list goes on and on…

No I am grateful that neither me nor my colleagues hit the numbers last month. We are here to provide service to the world, and any windfall of big-time money is not going to get us there; it will serve the least amount of people—not the staff, not the clients, and not the community. I played the game for $10 to stay cohesive with my mates, but in the end I had to sigh a big, fat, “Phew…” Tragedy prevented by mathematical improbability. And on to play another day.


56a70bad78832.image (Copy) When it comes to cardiovascular events—heart attacks and blood clots in the heart or lungs—time is of the utmost importance. The sooner the person having the cardiac event get medical attention, the greater their probability of survival, and the greater their chance of preventing irreversible damage to the muscle tissue of the heart, which can eventually lead to heart failure. Most people know the symptoms of a heart attack—chest pain, shortness of breath, and pain in the left arm or between the shoulder blades. While these symptoms can be experienced by both men and women, women, in fact, can have unusual symptoms, and these differences may keep women suffering a heart attack from seeking immediate attention. Awareness of these signs of heart attack in women could prevent disaster, particularly so for black and Hispanic women, according to the American Heart Association.

While heart attack rates between men and women favor men slightly, women die at a higher rate of 1 out of every 3 to men’s 1 of 4—heart disease is the leading killer of both sexes annually. While chest pain, left arm pain and shoulder pain are typical and well known, as are shortness of breath, anxiety and dizziness, women can also feel nausea and vomiting, which does lead some to pass symptoms off as the flu or food poisoning. Women may also feel pain between their shoulder blades or neck pain, which is especially deceiving if the woman already has pain in those areas. Women tend to be about a decade older than men when they suffer heart attacks. And if women have diabetes, their risk is four to five times higher than it is for men.

heart-healthBlack women have a higher incidence of heart attacks in all age categories and young black women have greater probability of dying before they leave the hospital. Black and Hispanic women are also more likely to have heart-related risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure at the time of their heart attack.

Once a heart attack starts, time is of the essence: Getting help quickly minimizes damage and increases the chance of survival. Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer, says: “Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure. Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

And on women ignoring symptoms,“Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 9-1-1,” Goldberg said. “But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 9-1-1.”

Heart disease can be reduced by following some health basics:

  • photogallery_heart_disease_prevention_10_fullExercise – you have got to move; you have got to sweat. Fail to do either and increase your risk significantly.
  • Eat well – whole, natural foods, moderate portions, lots of water, fresh juices, vitamins supplements.
  • Rest – sleep and downtime are very important. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.
  • Mental – balance those mental charges; Deep breathing and meditation go a very long way here
  • Minimize toxins – smoking, liquor, drugs, sugar, etc.
  • Medical – after 40, get checked consistently (to me rhythm is more important than frequency, but this will depend on your awareness and regular attention to body-health)

Women need to be mindful of heart attack symptoms. In sheer numbers, women are not much different from men, so knowing the warning signs of a heart attack, especially the unusual ones, may be the difference between life and death. The sooner any person having a heart attack gets into treatment, the less likely they will suffer irreversible tissue damage, which is almost a guaranteed future cardiac event. Be smart, ladies, save this link and go back to read the symptoms of heart attack every January 1st—it just might be the wisest health practice to do all year.


Part 1 here

Anorgasmia

I have previously written on some underlying factors which may cause anorgasmia. I have outlined four of the seven primary fears which pull people out of sexual consciousness and into self-criticism. As I have pointed out, our mental state is vital to our ability to perform sexually and to orgasm. Anorgasmia, while affecting more women than men, has every person susceptible if they succumb to any of these primary fears. I will finish this topic by discussing the final three fears, starting with the fear of inadequacy.

Fear of inadequacy

Fear of InadequacyThe next fear is related to our feelings of self-worth. While the fear of inadequacy could certainly apply to the fear of physical rejection, it is really our self-image in the world to which this fear applies. When a person misperceives her sexual worth in any given situation pertaining to her social or economic worth, or even her heritage, it can lead to hampered sexual arousal, and ultimately anorgasmia.

This fear is often financial in men.  As there is some evidence to women’s orgasmability being related to their male partner’s financial worth, at least according to one study, it thus makes this fear not completely unwarranted. However, men should consider that any true negatives on that end would likely prevent things from escalating outright, so if she is in bed with you, then it probably is not that.

Women, on the other hand, may feel intimidated by a difference in class, socio-economic status or racial heritage, which again can hamper relaxation, sexual arousal and orgasm. In fact, any feelings of inadequacy can do the same. This may be the number one reason some married couples only experience mono-orgasmic sex—that is, only one partner (usually the male) climaxes—even when both put in the effort. When one partner feels inadequate relative to the other, the sex will suffer. And when that feeling of inequality persists, so does anorgasmia. It is perfectly healthy for power to fluctuate in a relationship, and the partner perceiving the short end of the stick may express it sexually (albeit unconsciously); however, once balance returns, even if briefly, di-orgasmic sex can be had once again. Couples in awareness of this fluctuation can even find greater intimacy within this dynamic if the dominant partner uses it as an opportunity to nurture the other one sexually, and the non-dominant partner uses it as an opportunity to trust. Any power games played here, however, will run the risk of creating a mono-orgasmic sexual imbalance within the relationship.

Of course, this fear is based on a misperception, as one can never be beneath another. Saying this, however, it can be a difficult obstacle to overcome psychologically, and seeking help may be necessary. Please contact me if you have are having trouble with this fear and it is affecting you sexually.

 Fear of disgracing loved ones

Family disgrace“What would my mother think?” “What would my children think?” “What would my friends think of me if they knew I did/liked/desired that?!” The opinions of our loved ones matter to us, and many hold themselves back with an unconscious fear of disgracing ourselves in their eyes. This fear can be seen on more superficial levels as manner of dress, chosen profession (particularly in eastern cultures), even social and professional affiliations. It is closely related to fear of social rejection, only greater. If you can hear your mother scolding you, it is doubtful you will be climaxing. Now obviously some people might experience the opposite and actually get sexually aroused from the same scenario; however, most people who have an unconscious fear of disgracing their loved ones will be affected negatively sexually.

This can be tough and deep rooted, so I encourage anybody who is aware of this obstacle in their sex life to seek help. Please contact me.

Fear of dishonored reputation

reputationMany of us have worked hard to establish ourselves professionally, and as a result we have earned a certain reputation in our industries, our communities and within the world at large. It is not uncommon for the fear of loss of reputation to affect our decisions, in many ways good, as it keeps some of us in check, and prevents us from doing things that embarrass us later. However, when that fear runs deep it can affect sexual arousal, performance and orgasmability (creativity and partner satisfaction as well).

Some careers or professions are historically uptight—teachers, judges, clergy, to name a few—and thus people within those professions may have difficulty enjoying di-orgasmic sex. Saying that, however, anything that is repressed will be expressed elsewhere and so plenty of these professionals exhibit quite carefree (and sometimes careless) sexuality. The rise in female teacher sex relations with male students is testament to this. But to those afflicted with an irrational fear of losing face if their pleasures and fantasies are found out, only keep themselves from enjoying sex and experiencing thunderous orgasms.

While these seven fears may seem irrational to those who do not suffer them, I can assure you they are very real. And while some people are perfectly content with both their fears and their anorgasmic or mono-orgasmic sex lives, plenty are frustrated by them. If you happen to be one who cannot figure out why you no longer reach orgasm (or never have!), then it will be wise for you to self-reflect and investigate, and if you find that one or more of these fears is in fact hampering you, you can overcome them, and enjoy explosive sexual experiences that need to be experienced to believe. Please contact me if you need help in this area, and stop missing out on this natural gift that has been bestowed upon us humans—the pleasures of orgasm. Believe me your life will blossom.

Part 1

Cocaine BlissDrug addiction is a form of seeking. The high we get from drugs is the closest thing to the altered states of consciousness that are the hallmark of deeper states of meditation, including samadhi, and thus drug users—most unconsciously—are seeking what we all are: the internal source of bliss. Bliss can only be achieved from within, whether it be inspiration, fulfillment, joy or any other state of being; it is an inside job. Drug addiction, then, is like any other attachment to the external world—it is our seeking fulfillment from things outside of us.

The quest for bliss, or a something other than what we experience in the purely physical world, is a real and ubiquitous drive—a universal human yearning. We bounce from experience to experience, desire to desire, and even relationship to relationship—what the yogis would call gaining knowledge—seeking this bliss. And all these quests for the outer are necessary to lead us to the reality of the inner. Drugs and chemical highs are no exception. In fact, former drug users may even be at an advantage on this quest, as the altered states so familiar to substance abusers most closely approximates the different states the meditator passes through on his or her way to Self-realization.

Learning the Self is the most rewarding experience we can have, as it lasts a lifetime. While every former drug user has learned invaluable lessons about herself, only through conscious awareness and awakening can true Knowledge—and all it affords—be had. In seeking the Self the greatest of all fulfillments is ours—the bliss we are never able to find in outer experiences. By taking on this quest, the former drug user has the greatest probability of remaining clean, because what is a temporary high when compared to bliss?

russell brand meditatingThe quest to “find” the Self can be carried out by a number of paths. One such path is meditation. Meditation, the art of silencing the mind and going within, is a profound practice, one which has a number of short and long term benefits for the former drug user. The benefits range from the physical, like a decreased risk of debilitating cardiac events, to the mental (increased emotional control), to the spiritual, like greater creative inspiration. In the following paragraphs, I will touch upon these benefits of body, mind and spirit to encourage former users to take up the habit of going within. I am certain that when I am finished you will see that the enormous advantages the practice of meditation affords are far greater than any momentary highs we get from drugs.

The Way I Feel

Dopamine system

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Drugs feel good—we can thank the dopamine system for that. But the physiological sensations resulting from drug actions are temporary and come with the risks of tolerance, withdrawal and potential overdose. Going within, on the other hand, particularly via the path of meditation, provides physiological changes which are longer lasting, and many even permanent. These physical changes can feel good too, but they are subtle and come on gradually, so there is really no high with true meditation.

Meditation has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiac events—like heart attack and stroke—by one half. At risk African American men and women were given either a meditation program, muscle relaxation exercises or conventional health education courses. Those participants who meditated had nearly half the risk of suffering a cardiac event. These findings are particularly valuable for recovering methamphetamine and cocaine users, as stimulants can stress the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels). Further, the practice of pranayama (breath control) works to slow the metabolism, bringing down heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These physiological changes are imperative for any person who has been artificially speeding up their cardiovascular system with drugs.

Meditation also has been shown to reduce pain, fatigue and depression. Many people who suffer from chronic illness turn to drugs to alleviate pain. A 2010 study showed that an eight-week course of mindfulness training reduced all three symptoms above, and improved health-related quality of life for people suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS). As any long-term drug user will tell you: part of the package that comes with substance abuse is pain, fatigue and ultimately depression. Here we now have evidence of the power of going within for alleviating these overloading sensations which often plague chronic drug users.

healingFinally meditation may lead to improved healing—something every drug user needs, as repeated use of chemicals can and does lead to breakdown of the body. Both inflammation and immunity are altered by meditation. Inflammatory processes have been observed to diminish, while immune function has been found to increase in regular meditators. As self-healing, self-regulating organisms, we need our innate powers to function unimpeded. While drug use hinders our healing abilities, quieting the mind and going within enhances them instead. Choose meditation and watch your miraculous regenerative powers operate in full force as your body and mind return to their most optimal functioning states.


depressed-pregnant-woman-300x200Here’s the $64,000 question: When it comes to the alarming increase in children born with autism over the last decade, what seems a more likely factor—a mother’s depression, or taking antidepressant medication while pregnant? Think about that for a minute. Well as coincidence has it, a recent study has just shown a link between a mother’s use of antidepressants during her second and third trimester pregnancy and an increase in the risk of her child developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The disturbing rise in autism has almost doubled over the last ten years, and everything from vaccinations to exposure to flame retardants have been suspected as being the cause of this increase. But a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics (online) this week showed that mothers who had one or more prescription for antidepressants filled during the second or third trimester of the pregnancy had an 87 percent increase having a child with ASD, compared with women who did not take the medications while expecting. And women who took selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a particular class of antidepressants, which includes Zoloft, Prozac and Celexa, had a more than double the risk of having a child with autism. Finally, women who were prescribed more than one class of antidepressant during the final six months of pregnancy had greater than four times the risk of having a child with autism.

understanding-about-autism-spectrum-disorder (Copy)ASD is a neurodevelopmental condition that affects a person’s ability to communicate, interact and behave appropriately with others in social situations; it includes autism, Asperger syndrome or other pervasive developmental disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 45 children in the United States has autism, and the condition is about five times more common in boys than in girls. The most recent controversy surrounding autism has been fears that the disorder is caused by routine childhood vaccinations, particularly the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination, but recent evidence has shown there to be no association.

In the study, researchers analyzed data collected from all 145,500 pregnancies that occurred in the Canadian province of Quebec over a 20-year period from January 1998 to December 2009, in which mothers had a full-term pregnancy and gave birth to only one baby. They followed up with the children until age ten; 1,054 of the children were diagnosed with ASD. The researchers looked at whether the women in the study had filled a prescription for antidepressants at any time during their pregnancy, or one month before conception.

t1larg.antidepressants.pregnancy.gi (Copy)The analysis found that about 4,700 infants, or 3.2 percent of babies, were exposed to antidepressants at some point during their mothers’ pregnancies. Among these babies, 46 developed autism. But only a mother’s use of antidepressants during the second or third trimester was associated with a greater risk of autism in children (31 exposed infants developed autism). The risk was persistent even after taking into account maternal history of depression. However, there was no increase in ASD risk linked to using antidepressants during early pregnancy.

Antidepressants are not only some of the most prescribed medications within the general population but extending into maternity as well. In fact, 7 to 13 percent of American women are estimated to be taking them while pregnant, according to one study. While previous studies have sought to determine a link between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism, there have been mixed results. This latest study, however, is the largest of its kind.

“This study is the first to quantify autism risk based on the class of antidepressants used by a woman during pregnancy, and the first to find an increased risk with SSRIs mostly,” said study author Anick Bérard, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Montreal, who specializes in drug use during pregnancy.

fncel-07-00212-g001 (Copy)

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These results have got some in the psychiatric profession up in arms, and why wouldn’t they be? As some of the most (over)prescribed meds today, antidepressants are the go-to for medical professionals in general, and psychiatrists specifically. Some doctors are going as far as downplaying the findings. Despite the second and third trimesters being critical for fetal brain development, and that serotonin is essential for this process, and also that previous research in animals has hinted at SSRIs altering certain aspects of fetal neurodevelopment, some in the neurosciences think the points are moot. Says Lars Henning Pedersen, Adjunct Associate Professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, these results can largely be explained by other factors, such as the severity of a mother’s depression.

According to Bérard, depression severity is indeed a possible explanation, and  for which the research group is now conducting studies to look at it, She does point out that her recent work shows an association between antidepressant use and autism only, and is not proof of causation. However, to further recommend antidepressants, particularly SSRIs, during pregnancy is dangerous. Says Bérard,

“The common belief that depression can only be treated with antidepressants is false. I would always be very cautious about saying that anything is ‘safe’ during pregnancy. We have to remember that thalidomide was labeled as ‘safe’ for use during pregnancy.”

drugwatch-antidepressants (Copy)

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The “critical flaw” in the new research, says Roy Perlis, a psychiatric geneticist at Harvard University, is that it doesn’t fully account for the fact that women suffering from psychiatric illnesses already have a greater risk of having children with ASD. Although the authors controlled for maternal depression, “they don’t really have reliable measures of severity,” he says. As a result, there’s no way to tell whether the children were at higher risk because their mothers were taking more drugs or because the women had more severe depression.

But Bérard states that her group’s study shows that the link between antidepressants and autism is above and beyond its increase in risk associated with maternal depression alone. The results showed mother’s depression to be associated with only 20 percent greater autism risk. Bérard’s opinion is that, “Given the mounting evidence showing increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcome with antidepressant use during pregnancy, our study shows that depression should be treated with other options (other than antidepressants) during this critical period.”

So what do you think? Is severity of depression more likely a potential cause of the near doubling of ASD over last decade? Or is it the increased use of antidepressants among pregnant women? Maybe it is neither; maybe it is just changing guidelines and better diagnosis and recognition. Heck it may even be that antidepressants actually help the fetus of a depressed mother, at least this possibility has been posed by psychiatrist Jay Gingrich at Columbia University. What do you think? You better think about it seriously,  folks, especially if you are planning to have family. Informed decisions bring the greatest certainty – exactly what you want with every decision possible when having a baby. A good pregnancy is a calm pregnancy, and that’s the best you can ask for.


My chiropractic clients will tell you that in my office it is adjustments, rehab, stretches, exercises and ice! Ice, cryotherapy, the big word in fitness marketing (my gym has a full-on cryotherapy center) today. Just so you know, I have been pushing ice since before it was hip.

In any case, when it comes to icing injured tissue or body regions, some rules apply. Always remember to watch the clock: I recommend fifteen minutes, then at least ten minutes off if you wish to reapply for another fifteen, that should work fine. Also be sure to put a thin barrier between the ice bag and your skin. I tell everybody this vital precaution every time I recommend icing, especially if that person purchases a bag from me. In fact, no ice bag exchanges hands without my warning…yet, yet, yet…

No matter how much I emphasize this point, there is always one or two peeps out of every ten that will not heed my warning. Why Dr. Campos; why ya gotta put a barrier between your skin and the ice bag? Oh I thought you’d never ask. Here’s why:

IMAG0197_2

Burn from an ice bag.

Because if you do not put a thin barrier—paper towel, tee-shirt—then you will get burned…literally. Yes ice, like fire, can burn. Ever heard of frostbite? Duhhhh…

Okay, okay, I know many people do not know this; however, do you think it might be important if the doctor takes the time and is adamant about explaining it? Had one client fall asleep on his ice bag for well over the recommended fifteen minutes, and he had a very similar burn as the one pictured above for months afterward. Truth be told, I do not even know if it is gone now…maybe, I hope.

So, yes, please be smart, especially if you must be hip and dip into cryotherapy. Heed my warning and place a barrier between your skin and the ice. The barrier must be thin enough—even jeans work—so that the affects of ice actually get through. So terry towels are too thick; you will never get enough of the ice’s effects if the barrier is bulky. And remember, when icing, you will pass through three stages;

  • Cold – the obvious one
  • Burning – this is where people, especially those not watching a clock, will pull the ice off. Bad move, you will not get the effects you are shooting for until you reach the next stage
  • Numbness – this is where the therapeutic effects—decreased inflammation and pain relief— are occurring.

Please just watch a clock and stick to it through the three stages, use a barrier, and continue the practice for as long as your doctor recommends. Skip any of the three and you risk, at the very least, not getting better, but at worst a burn. Do you really need to experience that to believe what I tell you? Good. Happy icing.


Sexual obstaclesIn an earlier post I discussed the physiological differences between men and women that allows men the potential for orgasm during any sexual encounter in which they can perform. Men are pointers and shooters. Women, like men, have to be physically aroused to climax, but most women also need to be mentally aroused. Yes there are always exceptions, but the rule is that a lover must get into a woman’s mind for her full arousal and the greatest chance at her having an orgasm.

But whatever aids us also challenges us equally, and the mind too can be the greatest obstacle to a woman’s reaching her optimal orgasmic state. In that earlier post I discussed the first of seven primary fears, the fear of moral disgrace, which is based on religious beliefs. This post we will discuss fears 2-4, starting with the fear of not knowing enough or being experienced enough.

Fear of not knowing enough/being experienced enough

sexual inexperienceThis fear is based on our perceived accumulation or deficiency of knowledge. In this case, it is sexual knowledge or experience. Most everybody can relate to moments when they felt inexperienced sexually. The nervousness that rides along with this feeling can be paralyzing, except for the trembling. This fear can lead to erection problems in men, lubrication issues in women, tense muscles, and every other fight or flight, sympathetic nervous system (SNS), response possible. Now while the sympathetics are actually responsible for the ejaculation in men, in women they play a role in the onset of sexual arousal. But here is the interesting thing, a 2000 study on the role of the SNS in sexual arousal among three different female groups—normal sexual function, low sex drive, and anorgasmia—showed that while exercise (an inducer of SNS stimulation) increased signs of sexual arousal in the first two groups, it did the opposite in women who have difficulty climaxing. In other words, women who are anorgasmic will be further hampered by anything increasing tension, including mental states.

Fear of not knowing enough sexually can lead to performance anxiety, where the woman—in her ability to receive without being sexually aroused—becomes a passive spectator in the sexual act, rarely enjoying  her time, seeing sex more as a duty than a pleasure. Despite this obstacle being, in a sense, self-inflicted, it does lead to an overall feeling of non-safety, which, as any woman will tell you, is the killer of sexual arousal. Partners can aid in quelling this fear through reassurance, encouragement and communication of what feels good, what is erotic, and so forth to the one sexually “crippled” with this fear.

Fear of physical rejection

body dysmorphiaThis is perhaps the most obvious fear, as we all have body parts that we both love and despise—this is as true for supermodels as it is for you and me. However, this fear can be extreme enough in some people as to affect sexual performance in men, and sexual arousal—and thus anorgasmia— in women. Too fat, too skinny, organ size, breast size, nipple size, skin blemishes, bad tastes and smells are all areas that can have some people too self-conscious to relax during sex.

If you were to understand that everybody goes into it with areas of themselves they do not love, and that a person is actually in bed with you because of something they like about you, then that helps. If you are too self-conscious to actually enjoy sex, then contact me, because I can show you every reason to love that part of you that you despise. And until you do that, orgasmic sex with another person is unlikely to happen.

Fear of social rejection

Social rejection“What will people think if I…” Finish the sentence. That is the fear keeping you from experiencing orgasmic sex or life itself. Is it being with someone of a different age (too old, too young), a particular body shape or size (too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall), or a different race? Is it what the neighbors would think if they heard you scream your sexual desires? What your children might think if they find your vibrator? Whatever it is, it’s nothing more than a hang-up. That fat girl just might give you the best orgasm of your life; that young guy could be your key to climax. Screaming might just be the release you need to have an orgasm, and frankly, the neighbors might like it.

Some people believe that if they were to receive and enjoy their sexual pleasures, they might be labeled a slut, or looked upon as a pervert. Some are still afraid to express their homosexuality. Others are ashamed of what they themselves consider deviant. Some people are even afraid their sex partner might be turned off if they let loose, and I’ve got to tell you—I doubt it. I have met and spoken to a lot of people, and most admit they like kinky stuff in bed. We all do! Accept it and start having fun. Believe me, nothing is too weird—if you like it, someone else does too. Promise. A universal. Contact me if you really cannot get past this one.

Part III coming soon


tall vs shortDid you ever watch the Brady Bunch? Do you remember when Bobby was stressing over being small, and he just could not see any upside to his little boy frame? And then he fit through the meat locker window, saving his and Greg’s life, and in a flash he was enlightened. Well turns out there’s another benefit along with passing through tight spaces that grows with each centimeters (cm) of height NOT developed: it lowers the risk of developing cancer. You heard right, being tall seems to increase one’s cancer risk. At least that is the word out of today’s meeting of the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology held in Barcelona.

Researchers, who have not published their findings in any medical journal, say they conducted the biggest study of its kind looking at at birth, health and military records of 5.5 million people born between 1938 and 1991. What they found was that as height increases over a certain baseline, 1 meter or 3 foot 3 inches (3’3), cancer risk increased every 10 cm, by 10 percent in men and 18 percent in women. While nothing has been published, these results do seem to confirm the findings of other studies like a 2013 U.S. study, looking at women only, which found a 13 percent higher risk of developing certain cancers for each 10 centimeters of height.

Breast-CancerAlong with the increased cancer risk, the current study found that for every extra 10 cm, a woman also had a 20-percent higher risk of breast cancer, while there was a jump of 30 percent for every 10 cm in melanoma risk for both genders. A 180 cm woman (5’11) would be about a third more likely to contract cancer than a woman of 170 cm (5’7). Not every expert agrees with the potential height-cancer link, however, as some question the methodology of the study, while doubting the strength of the link, pointing out a much greater cancer association with genetics and obesity. Skeptics also believe that any link might be attributable to growth hormone, which could be affecting both traits.

“It sounds an odd relationship at first glance, but it is actually very plausible that the risk of cancer in a person should be related to the number of cells in their body, since that determines the number of cells ‘at risk’,” Dorothy Bennett, a scientist at University of London said in comments issued by the Science Media Centre.

healthy for all sizesSkeptics wish to emphasize that these results should not have tall people worrying about contracting cancer. I agree. Scientific inquiry into everything has value on many levels, but causing unnecessary stress is not one of them. Nobody wants or needs to have the risks associated with uncontrollable traits hanging over their heads, yet science shows what it shows; what can we do? It’s a tough situation really—an access to truth, yes, but unpleasant findings nonetheless. My feeling is just be grateful for the information so that you can monitor yourself throughout your lifetime as you age, and perhaps an inspiration to pick up the health regimen a bit. Hey, we can all do better than what we are doing now, and I even believe that striving for and achieving better fluctuates constantly throughout our lifetime too, so now is as good a time as any. If you are tall: start juicing, get lots of vitamin D (yes, even in the face of these findings on melanoma – adequate sun exposure is waaaaay more important than any melanoma fear, just sun smartly), take omega 3′s, drink lots of water, eat moderately, sleep plentifully, and so on, and you should be fine.

And before Bobby Brady gets too big for his britches, understand that shorter people were not found to be without risk—they just had a lower risk, but risk all the same. So people of all shapes and sizes need to take part in the same behaviors I have described above. Listen these are good habits no matter who practices them, and frankly, I would rather spend my time focusing on all the health enhancing stuff I can do, and less worrying on which of my traits increases which risks. I mean, life is a freakin’ risk, darnit. Just do the right things and you should be fine.


green tae pills for weight loss

The jig is up for on-line weight loss products, as British teen contracts hepatitis from drinking a green tea she purchased on the internet to “lose weight.” Here’s a wake up call for people purchasing any products that one ingests: it’s just not a good idea to do this sort of thing anonymously. And for you hawkers of weight loss products: herbal and pharmaceuticals carry the biggest risk, why not maintain the highest integrity with quality and support of your product? Oh might be because many, if not most, on-line companies which sell these products are overseas, and I doubt they are reading this post, but you the potential victim are. So here is the truth about many companies that sell supplements or drugs online: they do not care about your health!

The 16 year-old girl from London presented to her doctor with nausea, joint pain and nonspecific abdominal pain, as reported recently in the British Medical Journal Case Reports. Doctors gave the girl antibiotics to treat her for what they assumed was an infection, but she returned to the emergency room jaundiced with worsening symptoms. At that time, the girl told her doctors about drinking the green tea for weight loss.

“I had only lost a couple of pounds but then started having horrible pains in my joints, and felt very dizzy and sick,” she said in the study. “I was very scared when I was admitted to hospital and had lots of tests. I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time.”

After doing multiple tests searching for viral causes to her illness, the teen’s doctors realized she had acute hepatitis, or an inflamed liver. Once the girl stopped drinking the tea and was given intravenous fluids and medication, she quickly recovered.

pesticides on cropsDoctors believe the liver damage was from a chemical mixed with the actual green tea, and not the tea leaves themselves, although the tea was not tested for contaminants. Green tea is non-toxic, but never put it past unscrupulous companies, or even unknowing ones, to boost product in either quantity or action. Contamination can occur at any stage from pesticides on crops, to mixing (compounding), to packaging. In this case, it was likely the “weight loss” compound added to the green tea, as green tea itself has no actual weight loss properties.

“We acknowledge that green tea is predominantly a very safe and healthy drink, with antioxidant properties,” the case study authors wrote, explaining secondary additives may cause harm. “This raises the possibility that it is the addition of other chemicals causing hepatotoxicity, (chemical-driven liver damage) particularly in preparations used for weight loss.”

It reminds me of a story that had an enormous impact on, not only my thinking on the subject of purchasing herbal supplements (or pharmaceuticals) on-line, but even merely taking herbal compounds. My longest-standing client (15 years – thank you MV), a director’s assistant at the time, roughly a decade ago, made her television directorial debut after the hired director had to pull out of the job at the last minute after being hospitalized for liver failure following the taking of herbs for “detoxing”, which incidentally she purchased online…from China! C’monnnnnnn… freakin’ duh!

That story stood out for me because I always remember one of my  teachers in chiropractic college, Dr. Assibi Abudu, one of the greatest doctors and men I have ever met, a medical doctor, told my class that liver failure from ingesting herbs is a common occurrence; and I believed him, because Dr. Abudu wore his experience like a seasoned veteran, and I knew he’d seen many wars. And this experience my client relayed to me was simply confirmation – I did not need any more convincing, and I have advised people consistently with this information ever since: Unless you get herbs from a licensed and competent (careful, don’t assume) practitioner, don’t take them! At all…

hepatitisListen, herbs are no different from pharmaceuticals in that they are foreign substances to your body. At low levels they may be perfectly therapeutic, but at larger doses, they can be lethal. And they can be stepped-on, just like street drugs, by people stupider than you and me. Your body – primarily your liver and kidneys – will need to detoxify (neutralize) the compound, and then excrete it. Further, any active compound in the substance will have its own effects and side-effects. Knowing this, wouldn’t you feel safer with products that have been tested? In this regard, only pharmaceuticals make the grade. Not even nutritional supplements can boast significant numbers of companies testing their products; in fact, this is the number one black cloud over the supplement industry’s head. And herbs…? Fuhgdat! I wouldn’t ever, no sorry…

Be smart and do not buy herbs online. If you want to lose weight, you’d better understand that you will never, ever find a magic bullet; and even in so trying you might damage your health, as this British case shows. I would go as far as saying that you need to practice utmost scrutiny when choosing to buy from any supplement company, as you never know what you might be getting (or not getting, as is the case sometimes). Only buy from companies that you can confirm are legit.

Here is the resource I use to know, with no uncertainty, the quality of the supplements I use or sell: Consumer Labs.

Supplement testingAnd I live by the principle that if I am going to put a foreign substance in my body, whether pharmaceutical, “nutritional,” or herbal, I must be severely discriminating, and weigh the benefit to risks of doing so. Safety lies in testing, and that’s why pharmaceuticals come out the best, just beneath taking nothing at all, but far better than taking any other foreign substance. By not having stringent testing regulations, herbs and supplements just fall to the bottom of the barrel for me. I know lots of supplement sellers and companies that are going to have their feathers ruffled over what I am saying here, but sorry, if you have not gone through the stringent third party (not your own company or its agents) testing, then you are just not legit in my book. If you would love to show your legitimacy, then submit your product to Consumer Labs for evaluation.

Safety when taking any ingestible should always be top priority, and this should be rule of thumb:

Herb testing

Taking nothing > doctor prescribed pharmaceuticals > practitioner recommended herbs* > herbs sold retail from verifiable source (Whole Foods for instance) > herbs from person in alleyway > on-line.

Seriously, folks.

*I would probably place homeopathic compounds here, although their dosages are so small that I doubt their toxicity, but I certainly wouldn’t take anything for granted.


ecig hospitalSomebody wasn’t paying attention when I said to watch it with those e-cigs. Remember three years ago, I told you about the man who nearly had his face blown off by an exploding electronic nicotine device? Well déjà vu, vapers – a kid in the south-eastern United States had an e-cigarette explode in his face, breaking his neck and burning a hole in the roof of his mouth. James Lauria, a 23-year-old vaper, now speaks with a lisp from the dime-sized hole in his mouth. He suffered first degree burns over his face and fingers. He even burned his cornea (the transparent layer forming the front of the eye).

“It’s just a normal day,” explained James. “I’m at work and things quieted down and I stepped away for a second like I always do. Next thing I know, it exploded and I was on my way to a hospital in an ambulance, and that is the last thing I remember.”

James’ injuries were so severe he was airlifted to the University of Alabama’s burn unit, where he spent a week in the ICU.

“He had burns to his hand and a fractured neck and finger, and burns to his cornea,” said Ed Lauria, James’ father. “It blew a hole through his palate and at the same time, flames went down and he got first-degree burns on his chest and up on his face. It forced his front tooth up into his gum- out of sight -and chipped the other one and damaged a few other lower teeth.”

It’s been six weeks (July 29th) since the accident and James is still on a liquid diet, unable to eat solid foods. His mother, Beth said he will be fitted for a prosthetic for the roof of his mouth

Well dang! If that ain’t enough to make you quit… This on the heels of another recent story that kids are routinely vaping marijuana to avoid the strong smell which accompanies regular pot smoking – probably to toke up at school.

E-cigarettesVape is slang for ‘vaporizing,’ which is heating up a liquid substance, called e-liquid (usually propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine, and flavorings), to the point where it turns into an aerosol, which is inhaled. Some believe that because it is not smoke—with the associated carbon monoxide, tar, and so forth, that it is better (less risky) than smoking. And some have been selling vaping as a way to stop smoking. Uh…yah, ok.

Ok, ok…I get it. But darn it, if you ask me, nothing is worth the risk of blowing your teeth out. Duh-uh-uh-uh-uhhhh! I guess it will have to happen a few more times for knuckle-heads to learn the hard way. But I’ll say it again: If you are going to quit smoking, then quit! Otherwise, just smoke the real stuff, and keep your teeth in place. Gawd…

Watch the video to see James Lauria explain it:


7802157 (Copy)Hoorah for humanity, as doctor-assisted suicide appears to be gaining ground in progressive Western culture. A California state bill allowing for physician-assisted suicide has passed a key legislative committee after failing to clear the legislature this summer. The bill was pulled from consideration in the legislature’s regular session in July but was reintroduced last month as part of a special session on healthcare called by Democratic Governor Jerry Brown. Proponents have been trying to legalize aid-in-dying in California, without success, opposed by the Catholic Church among others.

Doctor-assisted suicide for the terminally ill is the humane practice of putting people out of their misery—people who are suffering from the pain of cancer or other chronic, debilitating illnesses. Proponents state that not only does the practice help those who are suffering, but their families as well, as the costs of keeping a person alive medically can run into the tens of thousands per month. The biggest opponent to doctor-assisted suicide is the Catholic Church, which believes that helping one end one’s life is a sin, and that we should place more focus in encouraging people to live. The church was joined in their opposition by a group of doctors—who believe that their role is to save lives, not to end them—other religious groups, and disability rights activists, who believe that disabled people will be encouraged to end their lives by insurance companies and burnt-out relatives. But once the powerful California Medical Association removed its opposition, backers hoped the measure would finally pass. When the bill failed to get through the California legislation in July, it was reintroduced and passed today by 10-2. Next the bill goes to the assembly finance committee.

doctor-assisted suicideAlthough the issue of euthanasia is an old one—the Ancient Greeks practiced it by administering the poison hemlock—the contemporary issue has been a focus of debate since 1870. While different countries, and even different U.S. states have their varying laws, for the most part in the U.S. it is illegal. Some countries and states recognize and allow voluntary euthanasia, while non-voluntary and involuntary euthanasia is illegal everywhere, with the latter considered murder. Jurisdictions where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal include the Netherlands, Colombia, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Estonia, Albania, the US states of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Vermont and, starting in 2015, the Canadian Province of Quebec. Doctor-assisted suicide differs from euthanasia in that the means of death (usually lethal drug) is self-administered in the former, and doctor administered in the latter. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland. In the U.S. assisted dying laws are restricted to terminally ill and mentally competent adults, again in Oregon, Montana, Washington, and Vermont.

The controversial topic of doctor-assisted suicide was brought to the forefront of consciousness when last year a 29-year-old cancer patient, Brittany Maynard, moved to Oregon to take advantage of that state’s assisted suicide law. Polls show consistent support of doctor assisted suicide among California voters.

Brittany MaynardWhile opponents fear the potentiality for foul play—a valid concern—especially for monetary gain, such as from inheritance or life insurance payouts, and even by insurance companies looking to back out of their financial obligations, the newest form of the California bill addresses these concerns by making it a felony to pressure someone into physician-assisted suicide. It also forbids insurance companies from sending patients information about aid-in-dying drugs unless the patient has requested it.

If you have never been in the presence of a cancer sufferer, or if you have never had excruciating, unrelenting pain yourself, it might be hard to resonate with the idea of doctor-assisted suicide, but take that migraine headache of yours, multiply it by ten, and then imagine it affecting you every single day for ten years—a horrid thought isn’t it? Or your herniated disk, tooth abscess, sinus infection, or whatever, and this probably still does not come to the level of misery a cancer sufferer endures, especially if they are also doing radiation and chemo. According to several studies, more than half of oncologists polled have received requests from a patient wanting to end their life.

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Absolutely parameters need to be in place, and you better believe there will be some foul play—there always is, in every possible aspect of life. But this does not mean that we shouldn’t make the move toward being more humane with regard to our suffering brothers and sisters. I mean, c’mon, we put animals to sleep to save them from suffering, why would we not extend that same dignity to humans? Listen it has to be voluntary—that is, the patient herself must be a part of the decision and the one to administer. Do you think people cannot decide for themselves whether or not they have had enough? My feeling is this bill will eventually pass. Like the medical marijuana laws, society is dropping some of its outdated morality to allow for greater possibilities. I think this is the right way to go; people should have the right to make decisions about their health, their healthcare, and their lives—that is, whether or not to continue. This is humane and allows for the greatest autonomy. How can we go wrong with that?

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