In the journey of personal growth and self-discovery, the fear of failure often looms in the distance. This fear can paralyze us from taking risks, pursuing our dreams, and reaching our full potential. However, what if I told you that failure is not the end but a stepping stone on the path to success? What if I told you that embracing failure is the key to unlocking your true potential and achieving your goals? This article will explore the transformative power of failure, showing you how embracing it can lead to tremendous success and fulfillment, and ultimately, a more resilient and confident you.

The Fear of Failure

Before we delve into the solution, let’s first understand the problem: the fear of failure. This fear is deeply ingrained in our psyche, often stemming from childhood experiences, societal expectations, and our own insecurities. We fear failure because we equate it with defeat, embarrassment, and judgment. We worry about what others will think of us if we fall short of expectations and doubt our abilities to bounce back from setbacks.

The Cost of Avoiding Failure

However, many fail to realize that the true cost of avoiding failure is far greater than the temporary discomfort of facing it head-on. When we let the fear of failure dictate our actions, we limit our potential for growth and self-discovery. We miss out on valuable opportunities to learn, evolve, and ultimately succeed. Instead of taking risks and pursuing our dreams, we play it safe, settling for mediocrity and wondering what could have been. The choice is yours: temporary discomfort or a lifetime of regret?

Embracing Failure as a Stepping Stone to Success

So, what is the solution to overcoming the fear of failure? The answer lies in embracing failure as a natural and necessary part of the learning process. Instead of fearing failure, we must learn to welcome it with open arms, knowing that each setback brings us one step closer to success. Remember, failure is not the end, but a stepping stone on your path to success.

  1. Reframing Failure: The Power of Perspective
    • By reframing failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, we can shift our mindset from one of fear and avoidance to one of curiosity and resilience. This shift opens up a world of possibilities, inspiring us to see failure not as a setback but as a stepping stone to success. When we view failure not as a reflection of our worth or abilities but as a chance to refine and improve, we empower ourselves to take risks and confidently pursue our goals.
  2. Extracting Wisdom from Setbacks: Learning from Failure
    • Every failure, no matter how small, contains valuable lessons and insights that can guide us on our journey.
    • By reflecting on past failures and identifying patterns and behaviors to avoid in the future, we can extract wisdom from setbacks and use it to inform our actions moving forward.
  3. Using Failure as Fuel for Success: Taking Inspired Action
    • Instead of letting failure paralyze us with fear, we can use it as fuel to propel us forward in our pursuit of success.
    • By leveraging failure to clarify our goals and priorities, we can take inspired action toward our aspirations, knowing that each setback brings us closer to our desired outcome.

The Joy of Growth and Achievement

Ultimately, embracing failure is not about avoiding mistakes or never experiencing setbacks. It’s about recognizing that failure is not the end of the road but rather a detour on the journey to success. It’s about having the courage to take risks, the resilience to bounce back from failure, and the determination to keep moving forward, no matter what obstacles may arise. This message is a reminder that success is not about avoiding failure, but about how we respond to it.

Failure can be an opportunity to learn and improve. It’s important to reflect on the experience and identify what went wrong. By doing so, we can turn failure into a valuable learning experience that can help us grow and develop our skills. Even in the face of significant setbacks, it’s possible to use the lessons learned to achieve success.

Conclusion:

So, I encourage you to embrace failure as a natural and necessary part of your growth journey. Instead of letting the fear of failure hold you back, let it propel you forward. Embrace each setback as an opportunity for growth and learning, and trust that with perseverance and determination, success will be within reach.

By reframing failure, extracting wisdom from setbacks, and using failure as fuel for success, you can overcome your fear of failure and unlock your true potential. So, go ahead, take that leap of faith, pursue your dreams, and remember that failure is not the end but only the beginning of your journey to success.

 

**Ready to embrace failure as a stepping stone to your success? Visit nickcampos.com for more articles, resources, and courses on personal growth and development. Visit drnickcampos.com for articles, resources, and courses on chiropractic, health, wellness, and pain relief. Join the conversation on Twitter (@DrNickCampos) and share your experiences with failure using the hashtag #EmbraceFailure. Remember, every setback is an opportunity for growth and transformation.

West Hollywood chiropractor - UCLA sick studentThis Saturday, I awoke to my teenage daughter stumbling through the hallway. I could hear her from my bed and knowing the sound of her footsteps, I called out, “You okay, honey?” She was dizzy she said, and her eyes were blurry. I jumped out of bed, ran to her, and helped her into the kitchen where I sat her down. We took her temperature – she was burning up. I could feel her back was sweaty and her cheeks were rosy red; I asked about her symptoms. She said she was hot and had a cough, and that was it. The momentary dizziness was just that, momentary; and her eyes were clearing. It was evident that she was fighting an infection.

My daughter had been under the weather for a couple of weeks. She was sick for several days two weeks prior then got better. There were four good days and then last Friday she felt ill again. She had congestion with a runny nose for most of the week, and the cough, that incessant cough. When I came home last night, she looked weathered. She had just woken up but clearly felt ill. I suggested she stay home from her theater rehearsal – her school’s rendition of Mama Mia – in which she has the role of the mother; essentially lots of singing. I didn’t want her to strain her voice, nor did I want her to expose the other students. She insisted that the show MUST go on, so I didn’t press. But her body, in its infinite wisdom, said otherwise.

Her immune system kicked into full gear, that was obvious to me. But I am certain she had put it under extreme pressure, as so many achieving young students do, so they may become susceptible to bouts of infection and illness due to what we often refer to as run-down bodies. What we mean by run-down is fatigued – often physically and mentally – sometimes malnourished, and under moderate to extreme stress. As a senior, my daughter had all these, navigating college applications (she got into four UCs, including Berkeley and UCLA; she has chosen UCLA), her AP classes (she still must pass), a boyfriend and social life, and of course, the school musical. She was run-down and tired.

In this article, I will discuss factors that diminish or enhance immune function. I will explain why you are more prone to getting ill when run down, and how to strengthen your constitution to better handle those times when you push yourself to the extreme to accomplish your goals. This article is especially useful for high school and college students to understand how they could be beating themselves down by making certain habits and lifestyle choices. It will also investigate how to mitigate this from happening, and what people can do to recover quickly and completely if they do end up running themselves into the ground.

Faulty Behaviors Suppress Immune Function

Los Angeles chiropractor - UCLA sick studentLos Angeles chiropractor - UCLA sick studentLos Angeles chiropractor - UCLA sick studentSo why did my daughter’s immune system fail to keep out whatever had overrun her body? How did the barriers to the fort break down and the soldiers get overwhelmed? The answer lies in resources – that is, what you provide to your defense warriors in terms of energy (nutrition), alertness (rest), and morale (lack of stress). What you do, and how you live, on a day-to-day matter when it comes to immune function. The immune system needs a certain environment in which to flourish, and if that environment is compromised, a weakened immune system, and imminent invasion, are sure to follow.

The three most common factors suppressing the immune system are poor nutrition, chronic stress, and immunosuppressive medication. In my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, I outline the six key areas you must attend to regularly to attain and maintain optimal wellness. Poor nutrition and immunosuppressive medication violate keys number one (enhance diet) and six (minimize toxins), while chronic stress violates the other four. I will touch on these three primary suppressive factors and then discuss the top three things you can do to optimize your immune function.

Malnutrition as an Immune Suppressant

Inadequate intake of essential nutrients can weaken the immune system, impairing its ability to function properly. As you know from my previous writing, I believe that people have genetic, metabolic, and physiological differences (we can call them digestive constitutions) that lead them to process, or fail to process, certain foods that others have no problem processing, or in fact may thrive in processing, due to their own constitutional makeup. As a result, people who regularly eat foods that are poorly digestible to them will suffer malnutrition.

Los Angeles chiropractor - UCLA sick studentDeficiencies in essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C, D, E, and zinc can weaken the immune system. These nutrients play critical roles in supporting various immune functions, including the production and function of immune cells, antibody production, and the regulation of inflammation. For example, vitamin C is known to enhance the function of certain immune cells like T cells and phagocytes, while vitamin D plays a role in modulating immune responses. A lack of these nutrients can impair immune function, making individuals more susceptible to infections.

 

Do not mistake malnutrition for the images you have seen of starving children in Third World countries – they are malnourished no doubt – but you can be well-fed and malnourished too. Malnourishment is the “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat,” according to the dictionary definition. The takeaway here is that if you are not eating enough food (willful caloric restriction), not getting the proper nutrients (poor dietary habits; junk food and whatnot) or eating foods that are wrong for your body type (constitution), you will suffer malnutrition.

Poor nutrition –> Depressed immune system –> More and longer lasting infections/illness

Chronic Stress = Immune Depressed

Stress is defined as a state of physical, mental, or emotional tension due to challenging circumstances. When extreme or long-standing (chronic), stress can diminish health. While stress can be physical, like from extreme or excessive work, it can also tax the mental and emotional states, whether the physical is involved or not. Physical activity (or lack thereof), sleep, pain (acute or chronic), and mental health all play roles in stress. Often, several or all of these areas are taxed in the chronically stressed person.

Cortisol and catecholamines, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), are stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands. These hormones play crucial roles in the body’s fight-or-flight response, which helps individuals respond to acute stressors or threats. However, chronic or prolonged exposure to stress can dysregulate the production and activity of cortisol and catecholamines, leading to suppression of the immune system through several mechanisms:

  • Suppression of Immune Cell Function: Cortisol and catecholamines can inhibit the function of various immune cells, including T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. These hormones can directly interfere with the signaling pathways involved in immune cell activation and proliferation, impairing their ability to mount effective immune responses against pathogens.
  • Decreased Production of Inflammatory Mediators: Cortisol is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone that can suppress inflammation. By dampening the inflammatory response, cortisol helps mitigate tissue damage and inflammation associated with stress. However, prolonged suppression of inflammatory mediators can also weaken the body’s ability to combat infections and other threats.
  • Alteration of Immune Cell Trafficking: Cortisol and catecholamines influence the movement and transportation of immune cells throughout the body. For example, these hormones can promote the redistribution of immune cells from the skin and mucosal surfaces to lymphoid organs like the thymus and spleen. While this helps limit tissue damage during acute stress, it also compromises immune surveillance and responsiveness in peripheral tissues, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Shift in Immune Response: Chronic stress and elevated levels of cortisol and catecholamines can bias the immune system towards a Th2-type immune response (humoral response), and suppression of Th1-type responses (cellular immune response). This shift in immune balance, a hallmark of the allergy response, can impair the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response against intracellular pathogens, such as viruses and certain bacteria.

From an evolutionary perspective, the suppression of immediate immune function from a heightened stress response serves multiple adaptive functions. First, it conserves energy by redirecting resources towards essential bodily processes required for immediate survival, like increasing heart rate and blood flow to muscles, while suppressing non-essential functions such as digestion and immune responses. Additionally, it helps prevent excessive inflammation and tissue damage that could arise from immune cells, thus preserving tissue integrity. Finally, it may safeguard against autoimmune reactions by temporarily reducing immune cell activation and proliferation. However, prolonged stress can have adverse effects on immune function and overall health, underscoring the importance of managing stress levels for optimal well-being.

Lack of sleep can also make us more susceptible to getting sick, while good sleep is crucial for recovering from illness. The brain and immune system talk to each other constantly, meaning changes in sleep can affect our immune system and vice versa. Research on animals deprived of sleep has revealed a gradual decline in energy balance and overall health, eventually leading to a fatal bloodstream infection even without a clear source of infection.

An increase in disease susceptibility was also observed in sleep-deprived humans. For instance, less efficient sleep and shorter sleep duration in the weeks leading up to contact with a rhinovirus were linked to reduced resistance to the common cold. One study has shown that inadequate sleep was associated with ~50% decline in the body’s ability to respond effectively to vaccines. Both limiting sleep and total sleep deprivation have been linked to weakened immune function, making individuals more prone to infections and susceptible to chronic diseases.

Finally, stress has been demonstrated to elevate the likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases. Remember autoimmunity occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks healthy tissues and cells within the body, leading to tissue damage and dysfunction. Additionally, individuals with autoimmune conditions have trouble regulating their immune responses following exposure to stressors.

Medication can Suppress Immune Function

Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, immunosuppressants used in organ transplantation, and chemotherapy drugs, are designed to suppress immune responses. While these medications are essential for managing conditions like autoimmune diseases and preventing organ rejection, they can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infections.

Corticosteroids (steroids), for example, work by mimicking the effects of cortisol. They inhibit the activity of immune cells and reduce the production of inflammatory mediators, thereby suppressing immune responses. Due to their use as a super-inflammation reducer, these are some of the most commonly asked-about medications in my chiropractic practice.

While steroids can be highly effective in alleviating symptoms and controlling inflammation, they inhibit the production and activity of inflammatory mediators and immune cells. Steroids dampen the body’s ability to mount an immune response, making individuals more susceptible to infection. Additionally, steroids can interfere with the function of white blood cells, such as lymphocytes and macrophages. Therefore, the use of steroids requires careful consideration and monitoring to minimize the risk of immune suppression and associated complications. I tell my patients: Use steroids sparingly.

Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors Enhance Immune Function

To the same degree that faulty lifestyle behaviors can suppress immune function, so too can healthy behaviors enhance it. The three most important and wide-reaching activities you can adopt for optimal immunity are maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting sufficient sleep. High school and college students need to maintain these behaviors before and during their semesters, as the rigors of studying can run the bodies down. Having a conditioned and heightened immune system will get them through those late nights and busy schedules, protecting them even when their peers are falling ill around them.

Healthy Diet

The most important thing you can do for your dietary health is to eat according to your body constitution (see above). Depending on where you are in the world, I might be able to help you with a referral. If you live in Los Angeles or the Coachella Valley, I can help you directly with testing and dietary/nutritional analysis. Outside of that, you can practice some basic dietary/nutritional habits:

First is to make sure you eat whole, natural foods. Whether you abide by an animal-based diet or a plant-based one, making sure you have real food is crucial. In a nutshell, this means fresh, store-bought food, prepared at home – not canned or packaged, not premade, and not fast food. Eating at a regular rhythm is also essential for optimal dietary health. In other words, food type (believe it or not, less variety is better than more) proportion, and consistent feeding time are vital to optimizing nutrition.

Nutrients that enhance immune function include vitamins (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E), minerals (e.g., zinc, selenium), fatty acids (omega 3s), and phytochemicals (e.g., flavonoids, carotenoids), which play crucial roles in various aspects of immunity, such as antibody production, cellular immunity, and inflammation regulation.

An “activated” immune system increases the body’s energy needs, especially during infections when basal energy expenditure rises, as seen in fever. Therefore, optimal nutrition for ideal immune function would support immune cell activities, enabling them to mount effective responses against pathogens while swiftly resolving the response when needed and preventing chronic inflammation.

Regular Exercise

Next, you must get regular movement in the form of exercise. Regular physical activity boosts immune function by promoting circulation and reducing inflammation. As the blood flows, white blood cells (leukocytes) spread throughout the body, as do antibodies and immune factors. These cells become more readily available at new penetration and infection sites.

Regular exercise also stimulates the production of immune cells, like neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells—soldiers that play key roles in the innate immune response. These cells detect and destroy pathogens, infected cells, and cancer cells. Studies show that single bouts of moderate-intensity exercise are “immuno-enhancing” and have been used to effectively increase vaccine responses in “at-risk” patients.

Moreover, exercise can help reduce chronic low-grade inflammation associated with many chronic diseases. By modulating inflammatory cytokines and promoting anti-inflammatory processes, exercise helps maintain a balanced immune response and reduce the risk of inflammatory-related conditions.

Finally, exercise is known to reduce stress, a major player in immune suppression. But a word of caution: prolonged intensive exercise can do the opposite and act as a stress on the body, thereby diminishing immune function and increasing susceptibility to illness. Extended periods of exercise can hinder the function of T cells, NK cells, and neutrophils, disrupt the balance of Type I and Type II cytokines, and weaken the body’s immune responses to initial and repeated exposure to antigens. Elite athletes frequently report symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) when engaging in intense training and competition, which could stem from changes in mucosal immunity, notably decreases in secretory immunoglobulin A levels.

Adequate Sleep

Last but not least, is the absolute necessity of getting regular, sufficient sleep. Doing so is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, as sleep helps regulate immune function and promotes the production of immune cells. During sleep, the body undergoes various immune processes, including the production and release of cytokines (proteins that regulate immune responses) and the activation of immune cells. Chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt these processes.

During sleep, the body produces and releases T cells, B cells, and natural killer (NK) cells. Studies show that sleep deprivation can lead to a decrease in the number and activity of these immune cells. Adequate sleep helps ensure optimal immune cell production and function, strengthening the body’s defense against pathogens.

Sleep is also vital in modulating inflammatory responses in the body. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which can contribute to chronic inflammation and various health problems. In contrast, sufficient sleep promotes the release of anti-inflammatory cytokines, helping to maintain a balanced immune response and reduce the risk of inflammatory-related diseases.

Finally, sleep is essential for the formation and maintenance of immune memory (adaptive immune response), which allows the body to mount a faster and more robust immune response. Individuals who get adequate sleep after receiving a vaccine develop stronger and longer-lasting immune responses compared to those who are sleep-deprived. This highlights the importance of sleep in mounting an effective consolidation of immune memory.

Why Highschool and College Students are Prone to Falling Ill

When we think of the life of an ambitious student, we acknowledge that they have a rigorous schedule that often includes academic pressures, work responsibilities, and maintaining an active social life. While not all students have to attend to these obligations equally – some do not work, others have low social interest – they tend to distribute their time to their obligations similarly. The intense attention they place on one or all three (sometimes even more) areas, can lead them to run down physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Lack of adequate or restful sleep, particularly when extended over the length of weeks, can severely depress the immune system.  This is likely the number one cause of students getting sick, and for holding onto their illness for longer than usual times. It highlights the importance of students learning and applying good and regular sleep habits before they enter college. In other words, high school is probably the time students must learn the importance of sleep. Caretakers (parents) should remind and encourage students to get as much sleep as they can. If the student brings poor sleep habits into college, their performance and health will surely suffer.

Sleep deprivation also renders the student more susceptible to stress. Add to that the demands of school work, competition for grades and graduate positions, work stresses, relationship breakups, and potential family problems, and the environment is ripe for a depressed immune system. Nobody can mitigate all sources of stress, but one can strengthen the body and mind to be better able to handle the stresses as they come.

First is physical health, so diet and exercise are paramount in building up the internal environment. Good wholesome food prepared at home is the most important thing you can do in this regard. Then, regular movement done multiple times per week, enough to make you sweat, but without over-training (which can depress the immune system), is the next best thing you can do to strengthen your inner environment. If you have injuries – from sports, accidents, or anything else – have a doctor who works naturally with the body itself adress them (chiropractor, acupuncturist, or massage therapist), and try to avoid taking medications, especially steroids for inflammation control when you can use ice instead. Doing so will lower your risk of immunosuppression which comes as a side effect of using corticosteroids.

Next is mental health, and again, there is no cookie-cutter system to mitigate the many stresses students encounter from semester to semester. But prioritizing is a solid action students can take to maximize their potential for academic survival and success. It may seem that school matters should come first, but in reality, it is your health that should take top priority. Of course, students have a goal in mind, and their future will seem to depend on prioritizing academic matters. However, without a strong body and mind, academics will take a backseat anyway.

Getting sick costs energy and time, so minding their wellness is paramount to your accomplishments. Then each individual will have to determine the next priority, whether that be work, social life, clubs, and so on. There is no right or wrong, but you must keep in mind that the day only has 24 hours, and you would be wise not to steal from your sleep time to accommodate other, lesser priorities (a common miscalculation by students).

If you do get sick, the order of importance is rest, nutrition, medical help if you need it (could be priority number one if a life-threatening illness), and then strengthening through exercise. And then refrain from jumping into the patterns of neglect and poor choice that got you ill in the first place.

My daughter, it turns out, had the flu. She had no body aches so that threw me. I did take her to the Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, where she received the diagnosis…and orders to stay home, rest, and drink lots of fluids. That’s what we did. She really ran herself down. With school, her play, and college applications/decisions, she burned the candle at both ends (not to mention her attention to social life, to boot). She had to learn through experience that health comes first, then school, then everything else.

Students, and all people, need to be smart and take care of their bodies and minds. Depressing health through poor lifestyle behaviors is counterproductive. While each experience eventually teaches you what to do and not do, heed my advice early on to maximize the shots you have today. School life is taxing, and so is work-life, social life, and every other life of an adult. Do the right things and have the strength (and fortified environment, with soldiers at the helm) to protect you when times get tough. In so doing, you stand the greatest chance of success and maximizing your life experience.

 

Life is precarious – there are truly a million ways to die. And even amid tens of thousands of years of evolution, the dangers have stayed the same. Violence, accidents, natural disasters, starvation – there are many ways for man to meet his end. One hazard that has evolved alongside humans is the pathogenic microorganism – the bug (germ). These micro-toxic invaders seek entry into our bodies, to take over our physiological systems for their gain, essentially the propagation of their colonies (species) through the use of our cellular resources.

But we are not sitting ducks. On the contrary, evolution has led to the development of the most efficient cellular fighting force the world has ever seen. The military might of this army executes day-in-and-day-out its prowess in keeping the human body safe and sound, despite the constant exposure to hostile invaders. This cellular soldiery is the human immune system, and it has a vast and varied genetic code that allows it to stay on top of all innovations in the pathogenic arsenal.

The immune system is complex and magnificent, and I wish to share its grand design with you here. In this article, I will explain the basics of immune system physiology, describe innate and adaptive immunity, and a few of the cells and immune factors that act as soldiers and weaponry of this legion. This article will also serve as a reference point for all future writings on immune function and how you can enhance yours. With that, I bring you the glorious human immune system.

Immune System Function

The immune system has the primary function of keeping the body free from invaders. These can include things like bacteria, viruses, and even cancer cells. Of course, it is impossible to keep invaders out completely, so when they do penetrate the body’s primary defenses, the immune system has cells that patrol the body and destroy any invading cells it encounters. Finally, the immune system keeps track of all invaders it comes into contact with. It creates an identification record so that if those pathogens are reencountered, the immune response kicks in to mobilize an active army to seek and destroy the intruders.

I particularly like to think of human immune function in terms of human military action – a metaphor that illustrates both basic and complex immunity effectively. By addressing the immune system and its function in this way, I believe it is easier to understand both its mechanism and rationale. With this analogy in mind, I think it is useful to think of the body as a kingdom, or homeland nation, or even an intricate fort. Essentially, it helps to view the body as something worth protecting, and therefore for the pathogen, also worth invading. Typically, pathogens seek entry to establish themselves in an environment conducive to their growth and propagation. What is good for them is generally not good for us, however, and so it is of utmost importance for the immune system, like a nation’s military, to be working at its highest potential.

Innate Immunity

Innate immunity is the non-specific immune system, which we can think of as our first line of defense. It includes our fortress walls, moats, and garrison soldiers. These are the barriers and forces that keep invaders out. It is non-specific in that it will work hard to keep out anything that looks foreign, regardless of type. It does not concern itself with whether it has seen the invader before – it is a keep-out-at-all-costs defense system.

First, we must discuss the walls which are things like skin, which acts as a primary barrier to microorganisms. Along with its impenetrable membrane, it has an acidic oil on its surface which renders it uninhabitable for many bacterial species. Mucous membranes in the nasal passages, mouth, and other orifices also act as a primary barrier to pathogens seeking entry. The acidic environment of the stomach makes it unsuitable for many bacterial and viral species.

If an invader makes it through the primary barriers, gaining entry into our blood circulation, respiratory, or other organ tissue, then our garrison foot soldiers come to the defense. These cells – known as phagocytes (neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer (NK) cells) – essentially destroy invading organisms by swallowing them up (phagocytosis) or releasing chemicals, which disrupt cellular structural elements leaving the microorganism susceptible to bursting. Phagocytes can also induce inflammation and release chemicals that send signals to recruit another class of immune cells called lymphocytes to the site of infection.

Adaptive Response Immunity

Some invaders will find entry into the kingdom. The mechanisms evolved to evade the initial onslaught may include the secretion of bacterial toxins to impair protective functions of host barriers (like ciliary clearance function [hairlike sweeping] of the respiratory tract), biofilm formation, and evasion of immune recognition, among others. Regardless of the means used to gain entry, once in, the invaders can cause maximal damage. They will initially float around the body’s extracellular fluids like the blood, lymphatic, cerebrospinal (CSF), and pleural fluid, as well as in body cavities lined with serous (moisture-exuding) membranes.

Humoral Immune Response

Enter the humoral immune response: secreted antibodies, opsonins, and the complement system (which complements antibodies), surveilling the body fluids (humors) on a seek-and-destroy mission. When these reconnaissance satellites encounter a pathogen, they may directly kill it (complement system) as might a missile-wielding drone, coat it for recognition (opsonization) by destructive soldiers (phagocytes), or interfere (sabotage) with the chemical interactions required for the pathogen to infect or bind to other cells (antibodies).

The special forces are the elite soldiers on the battlefield, and for the human immune system, these are the lymphocytes of the adaptive or specific immune response. The B lymphocytes are responsible for the humoral immune reaction. They recognize foreign antigens – molecular markers that elicit an immune response – and respond by creating antibodies specific to that marker. As a result, they become the progenitor of specific B cells which will forever recognize one specific invader – a bacteria or virus, let’s say. They differentiate into memory and plasma B cells, which are like the intelligence and munitions departments of the armed forces.

Memory B cells are long-lasting lymphocytes (some lasting decades), which present the original recognition receptor of the parent for the specific pathogen and its antigen on their surface. They are one of several antigen-presenting cells (APC), along with macrophages and dendritic cells (DC). Their primary role is to act as long-term recognition of a pathogen it has seen before, and so these cells are responsible for what we call the secondary immune response. It is what gives us long-term immunity to previous invaders.

Plasma B cells, or effector B cells, are essentially antibody production plants. They produce large quantities of long-lived antibodies specific to the pathogenic antigen of its parent cell. The antibodies are released into the fluid system to circulate throughout the body. They act as surveillance reconnaissance drones keeping on the lookout for a future invasion by the original intruder.

Cell-mediated Immune Response

So, while B cells of the humoral system produce antibodies, which in turn circulate throughout the body in search of previously encountered antigens, they are only effective against free-floating pathogens. In other words, only pathogens moving about freely in the body’s fluids are at risk from circulating antibodies. But what happens when an invader makes it inside a cell, infecting it? If antibodies are helpless against these infiltrators, then is that the end of the fight? The answer is: “Absolutely not” – this is where cell-mediated immunity comes in.

The big guns of the cell-mediated immune response are T lymphocytes (cells). Other soldiers like macrophages and NK-cells also contribute to these reactions, but cytotoxic T cells are the assassins of the immune system while helper T cells the secret police. Cell-mediated immunity is the destruction of cells that have been infiltrated. This could happen from a bacteria or virus, but it can also be a cancer cell. Any cell that needs to be eliminated will be paid a visit by one of these soldiers.

In the case of the cytotoxic T cell, the visit is paid direct. These T cells directly kill the infected or cancerous cells by poking holes into their membranes and inserting enzymes, like grenades or other IEDs, which ultimately destroy the infected cell. Like assassins, cytotoxic T cells go in, create a vulnerability, and then exploit it.

Helper T cells, on the other hand, act like the police by surveilling the body. When they encounter foreign antigens, they also act in a specific manner, like the B lymphocytes, specific to only one antigen. When activated, helper T cells differentiate into memory T cells – which are long-lasting, providing long-term immunity – and effector cells. Effector T cells are the alarm system, which sends out signals to draw in even more soldiers to the area. They also play a role in activating B cells to secrete antibodies and proliferate into memory B cells.

Inflammation, Hypersensitivity, and Autoimmunity

A healthy, robust immune system is paramount for keeping our bodies free from invaders. However, it can also be too robust. Three immune responses that can go haywire and lead to destruction and even death are inflammation, hypersensitivity, and autoimmunity.

Inflammation is a normal, healthy, and abundant immune response to injury, infection, and tissue damage; it is the engagement of the military on the battlefield. It is characterized by heat, redness, swelling, and pain at the site of injury or infection. Inflammation serves to eliminate pathogens, clear debris, and initiate tissue repair, and it recruits soldiers from both the innate and adaptive immune responses (like neutrophils and macrophages, as well as B and T lymphocytes).

A fundamental part of the inflammatory response is cytokine release, whereby signaling molecules act as messengers to initiate, amplify, and regulate the inflammatory process. It contributes to the body’s defense against infection and injury. Dysregulation of cytokine signaling can lead to chronic inflammation and contribute to the pathogenesis of various inflammatory diseases.

Hypersensitivity refers to an exaggerated or inappropriate immune response to harmless substances, known as allergens. There are four types of hypersensitivity reactions (Type I to Type IV), each involving different mechanisms and immune components. An example of hypersensitivity is allergic rhinitis (hay fever), where exposure to pollen triggers an exaggerated immune response, leading to symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and nasal congestion.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own tissues, causing widespread inflammation and tissue damage in the affected organs

Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets and attacks healthy tissues and cells, leading to tissue damage and dysfunction. Autoimmune diseases can affect various organs and systems, and they are characterized by chronic inflammation and immune-mediated damage. An example of autoimmunity is rheumatoid arthritis, where the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation, pain, and joint damage over time.

Each process can and does have significant implications for health and disease. The cytokine storm was a hallmark of severe COVID-19 infection and has been recognized as a major cause of mortality among COVID-19 patients. Hypersensitivity may be another important mechanism involved in severe cases of COVID-19.

Epilogue

As you can see, the complexity of the human immune system is vast, and its potential to adapt to specific invaders…infinite. That makes the immune system a veritable guarantor of survival and a generator of evolution for the human species. What I have given you here is a sound overview of immunity – its soldiers, its systems, and its processes. As I have said above, I will refer back to this article often regarding other topics on immunology and health. I have attempted to organize the information and make it easily scannable to gather information quickly, and I have provided links to further reading and study. The next question I want to ask is: what can be done to enhance the immune system to increase health and wellness? Stay tuned.

Positive Thinking - Dr Nick Campos“Can you please hand me your purse so I can look through it?” My student stared at me stunned; she did not know how to answer. “No, seriously, hand over your purse, I’d like to see what’s in it, maybe something I’d like to take for myself.” She said slowly and with great care, “No, I’m not handing over my purse.”

“Why are you being so negative?” I asked. There was laughter in the room. The attendees got the point. The female student commented that she thought it best to always stay positive. We had been discussing the futility of one-sidedness in being, behaving, and thinking, and I was trying to convey the impossibility of being only one way, a perpetually “positive” person, for instance. I wanted the class to see that there are plenty of reasons to be negative in life, it only depends on the context. In other words, negative thinking is just as valuable as positive thinking despite what so many well-intentioned teachers have taught us.

We have two sides to us in every facet of life we can think of. We are proficient at some things, deficient at others: I am a skilled chiropractor, a fairly good cook, and I have ample experience at training dogs. However, I cannot fly a plane; I know zero about computer programming, and I have almost no experience with acting. Equivalently, all people are kind and good-mannered when being supported in their endeavors. They can also become downright mean and nasty when challenged. Is this a character flaw? Hardly. We are at times dumb, other times smart; we have loads of energy on some days but feel tired and rundown on others. This pattern is found throughout our entire being – there are no exceptions. Nobody is all one way or another.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/40/Dopaminergic_synapse.svgThis is especially true when it comes to our thinking patterns. We have developed a neurohormonal system that rewards us when we encounter things that support us like food, sex, and shelter. The hormone involved is dopamine, and we get a rush whenever we “score” what we want (desire, need, love). Alternately, we also secrete hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine which are responsible for our stress reactions (fight or flight) when we encounter things that challenge us. These are primitive systems that have definitive functions revolving around our survival. If we were to have only one or the other, we would surely perish as we would starve or be unable to recognize peril due to a lurking predator or some other danger. Our most primitive neurological system is a balanced interplay between two opposing sides.

So why does there seem to be this push toward always thinking positively then? Positive thinking has its roots in the early 19th century as a part of the New Thought movement. Part metaphysical, part Christian theology, New Thought taught a way of thinking, which was understood to define one’s reality. Not only are one’s thoughts the creator of one’s reality but also that positive thinking could impact the entire world for the better. William James, the father of American psychology, branded New Thought as “the religion of healthy-mindedness.”

Norman Vincent PealeNew Thought was influenced by such luminaries as Emanuel Swedenborg and Ralph Waldo Emerson. But the most well-known and influential teacher of positive thinking was the American Protestant clergyman and author, Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote the best-selling book, The Power of Positive Thinking. The basis of this book is that the mind controls how the body feels, and thus, by releasing negative energy and emotions, infinite energy is given to the body through God. The book asserts that happiness is created by choice and worrying only inhibits it and should be stopped. A foundational premise in the New Thought movement is that negative thoughts can lead to physical ailments and disease. Positive thinking, then, is the basis for a peaceful, positive life, which includes health, professional, and financial well-being.

With all these potential benefits to positive thinking, why wouldn’t we want to adopt such a practice? In theory, I think we would: It is clearly more uplifting to think positively. And in times of crisis, optimistic thinking is a powerful equilibrator to offset panic and hyper-emotional thinking. There is a power in believing, so why wouldn’t we want to believe the best?

However, a hell-bent attachment to positive thinking can also work against us. Numerous circumstances warrant bringing attention to that which we call negative. Being alert in public, keeping one’s eyes open, and being on the lookout for danger is never a dumb move. Nor is avoiding an infatuation with a potential romantic, business, or community service partner, which is paramount to keeping oneself safe in person, property, and/or reputation. When one is too focused on “keeping things positive,” they allow themselves to drop their guard and invite danger in the form of predators and charlatans. Like with anything, it is healthy to maintain a balance between trust and skepticism, enthusiasm and nonchalance, and attention and disregard.

Positive Thinking - Dr Nick CamposMy observations of positive and negative thinking have led to a particular awareness: People who tend to gravitate toward more negative, pessimistic thinking should, indeed, make a concerted effort toward positive thinking. Those who are more inclined toward an optimistic, uplifted frame of mind, should work hard toward strengthening their negative thinking. Is negative thinking too harsh a word? Then how about cautious thinking, great discernment, skepticism, or playing things cool? How we phrase it is less important than the idea behind it. What matters is the healthy balance between two poles, which is necessary not only for survival but ultimately for a state of thriving.

So, if you find yourself in the throes of negative thinking, do not try to stop it. Instead, ask what purpose it serves you. Is it a warning of potential danger? Is it helping you break your addiction to or infatuation with another person? Is it waking you up to a fantasy that has found home in your mind, but which is not in your best interest, and could even potentially lead to a hard comedown, or even depression? Do not be so quick to dismiss your mental and emotional equilibration function, which has evolved over millions of years to assist you in your survival. Learn to listen and then ask the right questions because of it – in this way, you might find that there can be power in negative thinking too.

Palm Desert MeditationIn the last post, I discussed the neurological basis of quieting the mind, along with some physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of taking on a regular practice. In this post, I would like to continue the conversation by discussing a few of the more common obstacles to quieting the mind, as well as some tips on overcoming them. And finally, I will share a simple exercise that you can use to kickstart your mind-quieting endeavors.

Common Obstacles to Quieting the Mind

Anybody who has ever tried to quiet the mind through mindfulness or meditation has invariably had the experience of becoming distracted. This is because, in its efficiency, the neurological mind has many automatic processes leading to an influx of sensations, thoughts, and emotions. It allows us to operate as complex beings without tying up our focused attention by moment-to-moment neural activity. Only through trying to quiet the mind does the practitioner become aware of how little control he or she has over the myriad of inputs flowing into consciousness. Despite the utility of this automatic mental activity, the flood of mental chatter that results can severely challenge a mind that is trying to obtain silence.

The mind wants to be in control – the more automatic its processes, the more it can focus on higher-minded activities, like socializing, theorizing, or creating. When the conscious mind (that which you are in control of) attempts to focus completely, at the expense of the influx of thoughts, the unconscious mind (that which you are not in control of) will create diversions to pull the conscious mind out of focus. It does so to resume the incoming thoughts and go back on autopilot.

The three primary distractions of the mind come from its focus on sensations, thoughts, and feelings. All three are ubiquitous and constant – experienced by all consciously aware people (albeit not always consciously). It is these distractors that we try to transcend during mindfulness or meditation. The first step is becoming aware of them, of how these distractors operate; and only then can we label and release them.

Three Primary Distractors of Mind

Sensations

Palm Desert Vibrational HealingThe first primary distractor of the mind comes from somatic or body sensations. Any stimulus picked up by the receptors of the somatosensory system would constitute a sensation. The four types of sensation are superficial, deep, visceral, and special. Superficial sensations include things like touch, temperature, pain, and two-point discrimination. Deep sensations include things like muscle and joint position, muscle force and effort, deep muscle pain, and vibration. Visceral sensations are related to the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and are things like hunger, nausea, and visceral pain (chest pain, stomach pain, etc.). Special sensations are what we call the five senses of audio, visual, olfaction (smell), touch, and taste. Equilibrium is also a special sense related to the inner ear and cerebellum.

The sensory system picks up information from both the outer world and the inner being. It is a 24-hour job. Even as you sleep the nervous system senses and evaluates your lying position, the firmness of the bed, the softness of your pillow; it will make you aware of the room temperature, whether it is too hot or too cold. And it will awaken you if your bladder is full.

Since the somatosensory system is on at all times, taking in information from the internal and external environments, it is the first system to cause distractions when trying to quiet the mind. An itch on your nose, a pain in your buttock, the feel of your braces as they hug your teeth – any physical sensations come to the forefront when trying to quiet the mind. You become acutely aware of your varied sensations as you dive deeper into the practice of silence. Intentionally tuning in to your body sensations is a powerful exercise in its own right, one I walk my students through regularly. But when we desire to quiet the mind for meditation, we must shut down the senses and withdraw from the outer world.

The senses form the bridge between the inner and outer worlds. It is how we stay connected to the “reality” of material existence. But when it is time to turn inward, we can only do so by raising this bridge and shutting down the senses. In yoga, the process is known as pratyahara. The idea with pratyahara is that, until you dissolve all bridges to the external world, you will never go deep enough for Samadhi to take place. Pratyahara is specifically removing the awareness of sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. While the sensations are still there, the mind has stopped attuning to them.

Thoughts

The next common distractor of the mind is the mind itself and its incessant production of thoughts. As I have already pointed out, the efficiency of the human mind has evolved to place many functions on autopilot – not only our physiology, but also our thoughts, ideas, visions, and self-talk. Even music we have recently listened to can enter a loop and replay repeatedly in our heads.

Palm Desert DaydreamingThere is an enormous propensity of the mind to create stories – real or fantasy – which can be so engaging that our mind gets carried away with its ruminations. This can lead to what we call daydreaming – or getting caught up in the progression of a tale. Daydreaming is a conditioned habit, with some people being more susceptible than others, but the more one does, the stronger the activity becomes. Daydreams usually stem from real-world events or sensory stimuli (noise, smell, conversation topic, or movie). These stories can be intense, vivid, pleasant, or unpleasant, and may come with characters, settings, and plotlines. Regardless of one’s susceptibility, every person has this aspect of their mind. It comes from the same source as imagination, so it is important to creativity and innovation, but also extremely disruptive when left to its own accord. It is not only a major challenge in the day-to-day conscious waking state, but especially when trying to quiet the mind.

The way to prevent this distraction from carrying your mind away during silence is to note when a story is happening, label it (“There is a story”), and allow it to fade away instead of following it down its unraveling path. We tend to follow a story unconsciously, almost as if passive witnesses to it, and watch it like a movie (not a bad perspective to develop, just in the wrong scenario or circumstance). Instead, when we consciously become aware that a story is unraveling, we can snap out of it by labeling the story (“There is…), which gives the conscious mind a concrete element to recognize and thus dismiss. Without awakening to the story’s unraveling and calling it for what it is, it is allowed to continue, remaining unconscious to the mind and allowing the passive component (daydreaming) to persist.

The goal is not to remove thoughts completely, as that would be impossible, but instead to allow the thoughts to happen without being carried away by them. An influx of thoughts will always be present, but the more experience one has in quieting the mind, the more one will be able to focus despite the neural/mental activity happening in the background. The best analogy I can use is of a computer that is on and executing functions; programs run in the background – virus scan, firewall, operating programs, and so forth – but the user is not following them or observing their operation. The user is simply employing the system for its intended use, while the programs operate unnoticed in the background. This is how the conscious mind should respond to mind chatter: give no attention; simply focus on an object or release all focus altogether, and just allow the mind to float within pure presence, beyond any sensation, thought, or emotion.

Feelings

Palm Springs Emotional HealingEmotions are the next primary distractor of the mind, especially when highly charged. Every person has had the experience of being so angry, hurt, or upset that they could not think straight. Their minds went on overdrive, and they could not stop thinking about what had gotten them riled up. Alternatively, every person can relate to being infatuated with someone, something, or some experience, such that their mind repeatedly loops back to their infatuation: they cannot stop thinking about it. Both are the consequence of an emotionally charged mind.

When the mind is highly charged, it is practically impossible to silence it. Unfortunately, this is the steady state for many people, as they spend most of their waking consciousness highly charged about one thing or another. When chronic or extreme, highly charged emotional states can lead to what we label as mental illness. Not only is an emotionally charged mind a distraction to quieting the mind, but overall, it is unhealthy for the individual.

The answer to neutralizing this state of mind is far too involved for this article, but a powerful tool for overcoming it is available. Anybody interested in learning how to dissolve their highly charged emotional states should contact me. In the meantime, one can get beyond their emotions in the same way they transcend their thoughts: by becoming aware of the emotionality, labeling it, and then letting it pass. Like thoughts, emotions can lead to a story being run through your mind. Your mind can then attach to it and follow along passively, or you can notice what is happening, label it with, “There is an emotion,” and then let it fade away. The great sage, Sri Ramana Maharshi advised, “Let what comes come. Let what goes go. Find out what remains.” You may find that what remains is more real than transient emotions.

Sleep

Palm Springs Sleep HealingClosely associated with, yet opposite to, sensation is sleep: the complete loss of awareness of our senses. While sensations themselves are still up and running, our conscious awareness of them is not. Unless we become uncomfortable, we will remain unconscious of the outer world (not true while dreaming).

When attempting to shut down the mind and enter silence, the unconscious mind will work hard to regain control and it will do so through the common distractions: sensation, thought, and emotion. If the focus of the practitioner is too strong for the unconscious to overcome, then it will often go to its big gun and try to shut the consciousness down completely and send the practitioner into slumber.

This is by far the most difficult distraction for the conscious mind to overcome, but with practice, it can be done. The first thing to note is that if you are lacking sleep, it will be incredibly difficult to keep from dozing off. In those moments, it is best to just stop your practice and take a quick catnap. Even fifteen minutes can recharge you and allow the mind-quieting to happen.

The second point to note is that if you are not particularly tired, your mind is instigating the drowsiness. Just the act of becoming aware is sometimes enough to overcome sleepiness. Along with a conscious effort to focus on an object (or mantra), by withdrawing the senses, you can submerge into a true meditative state.

Sleep is a last-resort effort by your unconscious mind to take control of its function. If you can overcome that, you are on your way to laser-focus awareness and, ultimately, to meditation and what the yogis call samadhi.

Quieting Exercise

I would like to share a simple quieting exercise that you can do anywhere and at any time.

Palm Springs MeditationBegin by sitting quietly on the floor or straight up in a chair. If seated in a chair, make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Have your hands folded in your lap, or palms face up on your thighs. Your chest should be up, chin straight, and eyes closed. Focus on your breath. Abdominal breathing is ideal (and if you do not know how, watch this video). You want the breath to reach a deep, long, rhythmic pattern.

You should count your breaths up to five at first, inhaling and exhaling for one full breath. After five breaths, return to one – that is a round. Do two to five rounds. It will allow your mind to focus and not fall into passive automation. Once you feel confident that focus has been established, put your attention to your jaw – relax it; let the tongue drop away from the palate. Relax the corners of the mouth and let them drop toward the jaw. Then bring your attention to your cheekbones – let them melt downward toward your earlobes. This will release tension in your inner ear. Finally, bring your attention to the bridge of your nose. Imagine a dark, warm hole at the bridge sinking into the cranium toward the brain. These exercises are elements of pratyahara or sensory withdrawal. You can also pay attention to your hearing. Concentrate on an audible sound; within time, the auditory system will tire, and the attention will shift inward. This is Pratyahara.

Once you have reached a satisfactory state of sensory withdrawal, then just observe; invariably you will begin to become aware of physical sensations. Maybe a hair clings perceptibly to your forehead, or perhaps you feel tension in your neck and shoulders; whatever the case may be, simply become aware of the sensation and it will lessen the impact of the distraction. Feel free to scratch an itch or brush your hair off your forehead – no need to be uncomfortable – but then label the sensation by saying quietly in your mind, “There is an itch,” or, “There is back pain,” and so on. And then return the focus to the breath. The simple acts of attaining awareness, labeling distractions, and letting them go removes the distraction from your mind’s attention.

You might also have incoming thoughts about your day, particular events, or even people. Here again, without judgment on the thoughts, simply label them by saying quietly in your mind, “There is a thought about…” And then let it go.

The thought that comes may have a strong emotion tied to it, or you may even have the feeling of an emotion without an associated thought. Whether a conscious or unconscious emotion, label it, and then let it go. You do not have to understand the emotion in the moment; you certainly do not have to resolve any conflicts in the moment. No need to judge yourself or the emotion – simply become aware of its presence, label it, and then let it fade away. Bring your attention back to the breath.

Continue this exercise of withdrawing the senses, bringing awareness to and labeling distractors, and letting them go, and you have a powerful beginning exercise to quieting the mind at your disposal.

There is more you can do to reach the deeper states of meditation, but I will leave this for another article altogether. Practice the simple exercise I have outlined here to kick-start your mind-quieting practice. If you have an interest in learning the deeper secrets to a profound meditation or mindfulness practice, then please contact me. But this tool for reaching greater states of silence through pratyahara will get you far if you practice diligently. I trust you will have enormous success in your endeavors.

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick CamposQuieting the mind is thought by many to be the goal of meditation, but what does it mean exactly? And what can we expect from quieting the mind; what will result? Can we make the mind completely quiet – that is, can we actually attain thoughtlessness (a state of no mind)? These are some of the questions that people have when contemplating whether or not to take on a meditation practice.

To quiet the mind is to suspend active thought. The more one can achieve this state, the more one can allow the undirected, intuitive mind to guide them. The yogis call it “living spontaneously,” and along with it come many benefits, from physical to mental to spiritual. Some of these effects can be achieved immediately, while others develop over years. The immediately realized benefits will bring a sense of accomplishment for your efforts, while the more deeply cultivated effects will bring you a deep satisfaction. Not only will you realize the immediate consequences from the benefits themselves, but you will also literally shape your body, mind, and spirit simultaneously to stimulate enhanced genetic expression, psychological expansion, and spiritual development.

What are some of the benefits you can realize by quieting the mind, and what are the obstacles or challenges people face when trying to do so, and how might they overcome them? I will attempt to answer these questions here, as well as give you a sample exercise which you can use right away to practice quieting the mind and enhance your body, mind, and spirit in the process.

What is quieting the mind?

To understand quieting the mind, it is important to understand what happens in the mind that would require quieting. I have described the autonomic system of the body and brain in this article on mindfulness, so I won’t go into detail here. But what I will address is how the mind, in its automaticity, can go into self-referential and mind-wandering loops.

Self-referential thinking refers to a mental process in which individuals focus on themselves, their experiences, beliefs, and feelings. It involves thinking about one’s own identity, self-image, and personal relevance. This type of thinking can include introspection, self-analysis, and self-consciousness. For example, when you reflect on past experiences, contemplate your goals, or evaluate your emotions, you are engaging in self-referential thinking.

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick CamposMind-wandering, on the other hand, refers to the spontaneous and involuntary shifting of attention from the current task or external stimuli to internal thoughts and mental scenarios. During mind-wandering (daydreaming is one type), the mind tends to drift away from the present moment and becomes immersed in unrelated thoughts, memories, fantasies, or plans. This phenomenon is common and can happen during various activities, such as work, studying, or even conversations.

Both self-referential thinking and mind-wandering can be natural and occur in everyone’s mind. However, excessive engagement in these thought processes can lead to distraction, decreased focus, and a lack of mindfulness. In extreme cases, they can lead to mental disorders such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and social anxiety.

In depression, individuals may engage in rumination, which is a form of repetitive and negative self-referential thinking. They may excessively dwell on past failures, mistakes, or negative events, leading to a downward spiral of negative emotions and feelings of hopelessness. Numerous studies show a reciprocally reinforcing relationship between rumination and negative affect. Rumination tends to increase when negative emotions increase. In depressive patients, levels of rumination have been associated with the severity and duration of depressive episodes. In other words, the more depressed a person, the more they focus on how bad things are. And vice versa, increased levels of rumination have been found to increase the risk of depressive relapse in remitted patients.

In OCD, intrusive, distressing thoughts (along with repetitive behaviors) may be self-referential, leading to obsessive questioning or doubts about oneself or one’s actions. And in social anxiety, individuals may experience self-referential thinking focused on how others perceive them. They may constantly worry about being judged or criticized by others, leading to avoidance of social situations. It is important to note that self-referential thinking, like its subcategory rumination, can act reciprocally with OCD and social anxiety whereby it is both a consequence and precursor to these conditions.

To quiet the mind, then, one needs to alleviate the constant stream of thoughts and mental chatter that can lead to self-referential thinking, rumination, mind-wandering, and emotional turbulence. The mind can often become occupied with worries, anxieties, regrets, and various other thoughts about the past and the future, which can prevent one from being fully present in the current moment. Quieting the mind involves calming this inner noise and achieving a state of stillness and focus. Practices like meditation and mindfulness play a crucial role in achieving this state of mental quietude.

The Neurological Basis for Quieting the Mind

Is quieting the mind neurologically possible? Can we actually see evidence of our minds slowing down and going quiet? What happens in our brains as we increase focus and our ability to diminish the chatter? Quietening the mind is indeed neurologically plausible, supported by scientific research on the effects of meditation. Numerous studies have demonstrated that meditation can lead to observable changes in brain activity and structure, promoting a state of mental calmness and reduced cognitive chatter.

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick Campos

A study published in the journal Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience found that long-term meditation practitioners exhibited decreased activity in the default mode network (DMN), the network of brain regions associated with mind-wandering and self-referential thinking. Excessive activity in the DMN is associated with a noisy (mind-chatter) and restless mind. Researchers note that the DMN has been found to be most highly active when individuals are left to think to themselves undisturbed or during tasks involving self-related processing, and less active during tasks requiring cognitive effort. Experienced meditators thus exhibit decreased DMN activity during meditation (and even during resting states), as a result of their conditioned focus, demonstrating a reduced tendency self-referential thinking and mind wandering.

Quieting the mind through mindfulness and meditation has also been shown to impact the brain’s neuroplasticity, the ability of the nervous system to change its activity in response to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, functions, or connections. Studies on meditation have shown that regular practice can enhance cortical thickness and increase gray matter density in brain regions involved in attention, interoception (the ability to sense your body’s internal environment), and sensory processing, leading to enhanced cognition, memory capacity, and general intelligence.

More gray matter is associated with better cognitive function, while decreases in gray matter are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias”

The Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Benefits of Quieting the Mind

So why should anybody care about quieting the mind? Other than some esoteric practice, what can quieting the mind do for the average person? The answer is: A lot! Quieting the mind has numerous physical, mental, and spiritual benefits available to any person who takes the time to cultivate a practice which leads to the state.

Physical Benefits

Anybody who has delved into the mind-body question knows that the two are inextricably linked. In other words, you cannot separate the mind and body into independent parts. Stress one and the other feels the ramifications, strengthen one and the other strengthens too. The first place you will experience beneficial results is in your physiology. Quieting the mind has been shown to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and symptoms of stress disorder. It does this by activating the relaxation response. Sympathetic nervous system activity (the “fight or flight” response) decreases and parasympathetic nervous system activity (the “rest and digest” response) increases. This shift promotes a state of calm and relaxation.

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick CamposQuieting the mind also helps reduce stress hormone levels, like cortisol and adrenaline, which are associated with the body’s stress response. It increases vasodilation, a widening of the blood vessels, which helps facilitate better blood flow, leading to lower blood pressure. It improves heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of the variation in time between successive heartbeats. Higher HRV is associated with better cardiovascular health and increased adaptability to stress. Quieting the mind has been linked to improved HRV, indicating a healthier balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system activity. And finally, it helps reduce muscle tension, a byproduct of an increased fight or flight state. The more one operates in sympathetic stress, the greater the muscle tension. Quieting the mind, however, promotes muscle relaxation.

Mental benefits

As goes the body, so goes the mind, and practices which quiet the mind have a multitude of mental benefits. Not only do the physical ramifications of stress diminish when the mind is quiet, but the mental ones do as well. By reducing the psychological effects of stress, we see anxiety diminish. A 2022 study compared patients who took an intensive eight-week mindfulness meditation program to patients who took escitalopram, the generic name of the widely-prescribed anxiety drug Lexapro. They found that both interventions worked equally well in reducing debilitating anxiety symptoms.

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick CamposQuieting the mind improves mental clarity and focus, as well. When the mind is less cluttered with mind-chatter, it is less prone to self-referential thinking and mind wandering, and thus it becomes easier to concentrate on tasks, make decisions, and engage in activities with heightened attention and presence. Clearing mental clutter enhances productivity, learning, and overall cognitive performance.

Quieting the mind also creates a fertile ground for creativity to flourish. When the mind is calm and free from distractions, it becomes more receptive to new ideas, insights, and innovative thinking (see this article on the Noosphere). By accessing deeper levels of awareness and tapping into your innate creativity, you increase your potential to experience inspiration and novel perspectives.

And finally, although not exhaustively (there is much more), quieting the mind fosters emotional well-being. By cultivating self-awareness and emotional regulation, it enables individuals to observe their thoughts and emotions, label them, and come to understand them more deeply, and ultimately to lead to better emotional resilience.

Spiritual benefits

While not everybody attunes to the spiritual realm, the physical and mental benefits of quieting the mind may be enough; but for those who do seek a greater spiritual awakening, quieting the mind is perhaps the clearest path toward realization. Similar to the physical and mental benefits, the following spiritual enhancements of quieting the mind are by no means a complete list, but they should be encouraging enough for those wishing to cultivate a mind-quieting practice to begin and adhere to a routine.

Quieting the mind creates a conducive environment for heightened Self-awareness and insight. As mental chatter subsides, individuals form a deeper connection to their inner selves, their intuition, and their spiritual essence. This increased awareness will lead to profound realizations about the nature of existence, life’s purpose, and interconnectedness of all things. Quieting the mind is the precursor to the awakening of unconditional love – the “thank you for all that is, as it is” state of awareness.

Quieting the mind also involves moving beyond the ego – the self-centered, identity-driven aspect of our consciousness, or what we call the “I”. By quieting the mind, individuals can detach from the incessant stream of self-referential thoughts, leading to a sense of liberation from egoic patterns. This transcendence of ego can open the door to experiencing a greater sense of unity, oneness, and humility (we are all the same in essence).

Quiet the Mind - Dr. Nick Campos

Finally, quieting the mind can facilitate a deeper connection to the divine higher self. As the mind becomes still, the channel to our higher mind expands, allowing transmissions of communication between higher (soul intelligence) and lower (neurological intelligence) mind. As a result of this expansion, individuals may experience moments of profound clarity, inspiration, and communion with higher spiritual reality (approximating the highest high). This can lead to a sense of divine guidance and attunement to one’s ultimate purpose in life (dharma).

So, should you take the time to cultivate a quiet mind? If you have aspirations to maximize your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, then absolutely – it is more than worth the investment. What will it take to attain the ability to quiet the mind? What is a simple beginners exercise to kick-start your mind-quieting regimen? How will I know if I am doing it well? I will answer all these questions in part two of this article coming soon.

Integrity - Dr. Nick CamposFor millennia, human beings have constructed and lived by codes of conduct. These have been crucial to the formation and preservation of viable, prosperous, and safe societies. Chivalry is one of the earliest and most well-known codes of conduct, whereby medieval knights and nobility lived by honor, bravery, loyalty, and courtesy. This code encompassed a set of ideals and behaviors aimed to promote justice, protect the weak, and uphold moral values.

Even today, we live by a set of principles which guides our behaviors, allowing us to operate in functional, efficient, and harmonious societies. But it does appear, at times, that modern society, particularly in the West, fails to adhere to its own inherited and evolved code of conduct. This seeming lack of integrity has led some to question where we are headed as a civil society. By addressing this concern, it is my intention to present here the elements necessary to maintain one’s integrity for self-development, excellence, and a promotion of safe and stable environments, particularly for those who are too weak to protect themselves. Consider this a modern lesson on the principles of chivalry, or to phrase it in more common terms: How to live a life of integrity.

Integrity is universally considered to be the quality of having strong moral and ethical principles (moral uprightness), particularly honesty. Other characteristics associated with integrity are trustworthiness, reliability, and sincerity. In other words, people are considered to have integrity when they do what they say they will. You can trust them to be people of their word. People are also considered to have integrity when they act in accordance with their principles, and they do so even when no one is watching. We call this being authentic. And it is precisely this authenticity which garners respect from others – they feel confident in knowing with whom they are dealing, the person’s character, and the trustworthiness of their word.

Master of the Codex Manesse, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsChivalry was not very different from our ideas of living with integrity today. Knights were expected to demonstrate integrity by adhering to their moral and ethical principles (doing the right thing), acting with honesty, and maintaining their word. Integrity formed the basis of a knight’s reputation and trustworthiness. Chivalry viewed integrity as an essential quality for knights, as it ensured their actions were consistent with their values and obligations. Upholding integrity meant fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities, regardless of personal gain or temptation. It encompassed not only honesty but also being honorable in one’s conduct, treating others with respect and fairness.

Women were the primary receivers of the knights’ chivalry. Knights saw it as a duty to be courteous and helpful to ladies, whom they considered to be the more vulnerable sex. It was not just ladies, though, that benefitted from the chivalry of the medieval knights: so, too, did men of weaker standing, which included the elderly, the ill, and the young. Even able-bodied men benefitted indirectly from the knights’ crusades and protection from infidel invasion. Chivalry prided itself on being “everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.” Knights were expected to give to those less fortunate than they, and to do so generously; in this way, medieval knights were seen as the true guardians of society. As a result, society ran as smoothly as possible, despite being a time of war, famine, and pestilence.

 

Chivalry underwent changes and eventually declined over time. Several factors contributed to its transformation and eventual replacement by other societal norms and values. Warfare changed and became more centralized. As a result, the need for chivalric knights and their traditional methods of combat diminished. The feudal system, which formed the foundation of chivalry, began to decline, giving way to centralized monarchies and nation-states. With the weakening of feudalism, the traditional roles and privileges of knights diminished, altering the social structure that supported chivalry. New religious ideas emphasized individual faith and salvation rather than adherence to a code of conduct, so that focus shifted away from the rituals and practices associated with chivalry. And changing educational and cultural norms also contributed to the decline of chivalry. Despite its fall from predominance as the primary code of conduct, chivalry left a lasting impact on Western culture and ideals. It has acted as a foundation for honor, honesty, courage, service, loyalty, and justice that persist today, particularly among military heroes.

But could it be that we have seen an even further diminishment of chivalry in today’s western society? Honesty is often brushed aside with an attitude of, “If simply for the greater good,” then dishonesty, corruption, and censorship are all excusable. The ends justify the means with the rationalization of seeking the “lesser of two evils.” Our political systems tolerate unsecured voting structures despite opposing parties echoing the same concerns as their antipodes: Electronic voting machines are rife for election tampering. And yet, the party which benefits from the interference defends the exact opposite position they held when the tampering worked against them.

Voter fraud - Dr. Nick Campos

Politico Magazine – August 05, 2016

News media show no restraint in reporting false stories, either. The industry which most necessitates honesty habitually runs stories based on unconfirmed allegations, a disproportionate number of anonymous sources, and flat out lies, without pushing hard against the purveyors of the false information. When they get caught, they ignore the lie and act as if it has never happened. Our scientists and medical doctors did the same during Covid: they pushed clear-cut wrong scientific information, pressured media companies to silence experts who challenged the falsities and have since acted as if they had meant something different altogether. Unfortunately for them, as they say, the internet has receipts, but in 2023 it seems that the pushers of false information care little about their integrity and more about their results. We even saw self-aggrandized philosopher, Sam Harris, rationalize to interviewers,

“…that’s a left-wing conspiracy to deny the presidency to Donald Trump – absolutely it was, absolutely. But I think it was warranted.

Self-aggrandized philosopher If our political leaders, mainstream media, and academic/thought leaders have no problem blurring the lines of honesty and integrity, then what can we expect from the average person?

Well integrity is not just an old-fashioned code for suckers. I believe that integrity is the foundation for individual and societal excellence. And I do believe that one can live like a modern-day knight by simply adopting some chivalrous practices. Here is a list of attributes that I am certain will help you live your life with integrity:

Be Reliable

Astronomical Clock in PragueNothing stands out more than being true to your word. If you say you will do something – do it! If there is a chance at all that you may be unable to fulfill a request, then refrain from accepting it under any circumstances. Far better to turn people down than to agree to something you can’t produce. I cannot emphasize this point strongly enough: Your reputation hinges on your reliability. People will not likely share their impressions of you with you when you act unreliably, but they most certainly will with others. If, on the rare occasion, something comes up and you truly cannot fulfill your obligations, then acquaintances of generally reliable people will be more prone to think, “That’s not like her/him; something must have happened.” They will give you the benefit of the doubt, and you want that. You want to be so reliable that people are concerned in the rare moments when you can’t come through…and then make it up to them! No matter how difficult it is to fulfill your obligation, and no matter how trivial or unimportant you perceive the task, complete it anyway…and do it timely. This behavior will lead the world to see you as trustworthy, a person of your word, and someone who comes through in the clutch. This behavior is the foundation of integrity.

Commit to a Purpose

Purpose - Dr. Nick CamposWhen you attune to your life’s purpose (dharma) you have a foundation for all your actions, behaviors, and decisions. When you know why you are here and what you need to do to fulfill it, you have little problem in deciding when to commit (or not) to another person. Being in tune with your purpose allows you to say no when a request is misaligned with your mission. “No, I cannot make the party this weekend; I’m sorry, I have an obligation with my family…,” Or work, or a deadline, or the gym, or whatever. Your motivations are not up for scrutiny when you tap-in to your purpose: you know what needs to be done and you do it. This does not mean you cannot help others, but you weigh the prospects against your obligation to your purpose – if they fail to align, you simply decline. This attunement allows you to remain true to your word. Knowing your role in the world, and acting in accordance with it, is a characteristic of integrity. We want our pilots, police, and surgeons (and all others) to commit to their duties and responsibilities, and not be wishy-washy if something comes along to grab their attention. Integrity is commitment and follow through.

Act for the Good

The Good - Dr. Nick CamposWe all live by a set of values which guide our actions, behaviors, and decisions. These values are the foundation for our life’s purpose. In other words, our values and life’s purpose work in harmony to ensure our fulfillment. If you base your actions on these inseparables, you will naturally act toward fulfillment of the greatest good – not just your greatest good, but the greatest good for all. There must be an underlying intention within your purpose of service to more than just yourself. Pure self-enrichment, self-pleasure, or self-preservation rarely has an impact beyond the individual, and thus they have a low chance of manifesting and/or maintaining. Acting for the good of all (yourself included) gives your decisions a greater chance of manifesting in an impactful manner. You will not be tripped-up on a slippery-slope of moral relativism when you think and act in accordance with universal principles. When philosopher, Sam Harris, rationalized his position as being for the greater good,

“[Donald Trump is] unfit for office in every possible way…My argument is that it was appropriate for Twitter and the heads of big tech and the head of journalistic organizations to feel like they were in the presence of something like a once-in-a-lifetime moral emergency… we’re going to get four more years of Trump if we give this a fair hearing,”

he erroneously assumed the greater good was one that served his political perspective. That others shared his polarized opinion only gave him credence for a momentary feeling of self-righteousness. However, he failed to see that denying a politician – and thus approximately half a population – the conditions of a fair election, opens the door for ALL future elections to be tampered with and manipulated. One day it will be Sam Harris’ polarized side which sits on the receiving end of the ‘greater good’ rationalization, and I’ll bet our philosopher will speak differently at that time. Acting for good in this case would be to attune to the universal: Be honest; abide by fair play, and let the people (not a small group of elite string-pullers in the corporate media) decide which direction we go. Live by this principle and you will always operate at the highest integrity.

Be Authentic

Authentic Self - Dr. Nick CamposFinally, be yourself. At the risk of sounding cliché: You will never be better at being anyone else than you will be at being yourself. But what does it mean to be authentic? You must understand your values and have an inkling of your life’s purpose. Only then can you know who you are and what you are here to do. When you develop this self-awareness, and you act in accordance to fulfilling your purpose, then and only then, will you be able to present your authentic self to the world daily. When you bring your authentic self to the table, people develop trust in you and believe in your mission. When you act in accordance with your purpose, the world learns what to expect from you and loves you for it. You will never need to apologize or rationalize when you express your authentic self. It is who you are meant to be, and you cannot fail when you act in accord with your nature and your purpose.

A life of integrity has many elements, but its absolute foundation is to be yourself always, act for the good, define and pursue your purpose, and be reliable. These four pursuits will make you a chivalrous knight in modern times, in a world too often wrought with low integrity. The code of chivalry will continue to impact our world, as our refined trait of integrity helps maintain a stable world, a safe world, and one which functions efficiently to provide the most ‘good’ to the most citizens. Politicians, academics, and mainstream media may brush aside integrity in their professional and personal lives, but you should not. Operating at the highest levels of integrity will make you stand out as a person who strives for excellence. It is my opinion – based on experience – that this leads to a rewarding and fulfilling life. Be a person known for your chivalry; be known for integrity. Not only will you sleep peacefully at night, you will know that you strive for the absolute best in life, and you will succeed.

Sugar induced stomach painI have told you all about diet and how I believe food sensitivities are responsible for the widespread prevalence of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders in the western world today. I have explained that everything from hiccups to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the body’s response (either early or late) to physiological insult from food which acts as a poison to that body. A recent study outlines how, at least, one GI condition progresses along this path.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that a high-sugar diet worsened inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms in a mouse model. Mice were fed either a standard or high-sugar diet and then treated with a chemical to mimic IBD colon damage after they were fed one of the two diets. All mice fed a high-sugar diet died within nine days of the 14-day experiment. All the mice fed a standard diet survived for all 14 days.

Digestive systemIBD is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. It’s a term used to describe a group of disorders characterized by chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. The two main types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Current medical science is uncertain of the exact cause of IBD, but believes it to be the result of an abnormal immune response in genetically susceptible individuals, triggered by environmental factors. Sound familiar? I told you in this article that when medical science does not know all the details around a pathology, the standard go-to is “genetic predisposition.” All this means is “we don’t know,” and since everything biological is foundationally genetic anyway, that explanation means very little.

But according to what modern medicine does know: In IBD, the immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the digestive tract, leading to inflammation and damage. This inflammation can occur anywhere along the digestive tract, from mouth to anus, with the severity and location of inflammation varying depending on the type of IBD and the individual. Common symptoms of IBD include abdominal pain, diarrhea (sometimes with blood), rectal bleeding, weight loss, fatigue, and reduced appetite.

Living with IBD often involves periods of active disease (flare-ups) and periods of remission. Medical science classifies IBD flare-ups as unpredictable, and as such, IBD can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, through physical discomfort, emotional distress, and limitations in daily activities. The medical approach to managing IBD typically involves medication and/or surgery. As you can see, the article I wrote on the pathophysiology of food sensitivities outlines this exact scenario associated with IBD.

So for this study, researchers examined the colons of the mice who had died following the high-sugar diet. What they found was that the lining of the large intestine was inhibited in its healing and regeneration as signified by diminished expression of cells (intestinal stem cells [ISCs]) needed to maintain barrier integrity of the colon walls, especially after inflammatory damage.

As you can imagine, these stem cells are very important in regenerating damaged epithelium and must divide even faster to replace dead and damaged cells. What we found was that high sugar concentrations directly affected the ability of stem cells in the intestine to regenerate in response to damage. Under high sugar conditions, when they need to increase their function, intestinal stem cells were unable to do so.

– Tim Hand, PhD, senior study author

High-sugar dietThe study authors, naturally, advise people with IBD to avoid high-sugar intake, especially soda and candy. I will take it a step further and say, try to avoid sugar completely, except for very rare occasions, IBD or not. As I pointed out in my article from 2013, everybody walking the planet has foods to which they are sensitive. These foods act as toxins to that person. In over two decades of observation, I have found that refined sugar is poisonous, and I mean with extremely rare exception, to practically every person. This study on mice being administered high-sugar diets simply confirms what I have been sharing with you over the last ten years: and it gives a peek into the pathophysiology of the process. If you are interested in the biochemistry involved in the study, you can read it here: Excess Dietary Sugar Alters Colonocyte Metabolism and Impairs the Proliferative Response to Damage

This study is particularly relevant considering the average American consumes somewhere between 17-34 teaspoons per day, which is more than six times the recommended intake by the American Heart Association. This averages more than 100 pounds of sugars per person each year. Almost all processed foods in the supermarket contain extra sugar and this includes and many “low fat” products.  Sodas, themselves, contain 10 teaspoons of sugar per can. High Fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has replaced sucrose (sugar) in many food products. HFCS is only sold for processed foods; yet, it provides about 8% of the total calories in the average American diet.

Healthy gutFood sensitivities are a reality for all people. Which foods are poisons for which people vary by type. Finding out which foods you should avoid is paramount to preserving your gastrointestinal health. If you find yourself in Los Angeles or Palm Springs (the Coachella Valley), then I am available for consultations. We can find your specific body type, and thus the foods which are toxic to you, and also those which are tonic – or beneficial – to your digestive disposition. What can you do on your own in the meantime? Pay attention to the moments you do not feel well in any part of the digestive system – from mouth to anus – and record the foods you had just before your symptoms arose. It will take patience and perseverance to find the offenders, but if you remove those suspicious foods from your diet, while also removing symptoms, then you are those many steps closer to figuring things out. If you have IBD of any form, I assure you that something in your diet is causing that situation. Very likely sugar is a major contributing factor, but sugar may not be the only problem – so you will have to look. However, this study shows clearly how at least one substance (refined sugar) acts as a toxin to diminish the healing capacity of the colon and its ability to regenerate as needed. Like I said in 2013, from source of irritation, to symptoms, to chronic condition, to frank disease over time. I’ve been watching it unfold – and helping people with real solutions – for over twenty years.

marijuana adverse effectsGet this: weed smokers are at an increased risk of developing peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a condition characterized by blood clots and vessel-narrowing which can lead to limb pain. Although I am certain this news won’t keep anybody from getting high, at least it may serve as some foreknowledge as to what stoners have in store for themselves.

A recent study showed that marijuana smokers have triple the odds of developing PAD. Researchers used data from U.S. National Inpatient Samples from 2016 to 2019, and found that of the 30 million patients sampled, over 620,000 were marijuana users. Among them, more than 2.400 also had PAD.

PAD - marijuanaPAD is a condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the arms or legs. The affected limb – more commonly a leg – does not receive enough blood flow to keep up with metabolic demand. The reduced blood flow leads to claudication in the leg, which is characterized by pain, cramping, and muscle fatigue. Many people suffering from PAD will have leg pain while walking, most often felt in the calf. The pain can range from mild to severe and may ultimately disrupt the ability to walk or exercise normally.

Symptoms of PAD may include:

  • Coldness in the lower leg or foot relative to the other side
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Weak pulse in the legs or feet
  • Painful cramping in one or both legs (hips, thighs or calf muscles) after certain activities, like walking or climbing stairs
  • Shiny skin on the legs
  • Skin color changes on the legs
  • Slower growth of the toenails
  • Sores on the toes, feet or legs that don’t heal
  • Pain in arms (aching, cramping) when doing tasks involving hands (knitting, writing)
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on the legs

Cannabis has in the past been linked to other cardiovascular health issues in heavy smokers. THC, for instance, is known to cause blood platelets to aggregate, thereby increasing the risk of blood clots. This can further lead to narrowing and obstruction of the arteries supplying the limbs. But both THC (the compound in marijuana that gives the high) and cannabidiol (CBD) can negatively affect the tone of the arteries, as well as stimulate brain receptors that trigger blood vessel narrowing. A 2014 study showed that smoking marijuana increased the risk for myocardial infarction (heart attack) and stroke.

marijuana adverse effects femaleI understand weed smoking; I really do. When compared to other forms of chemical mind-alteration, it is rather benign. Alcohol makes people go loopy when done in excess (easy to do) and has quite the price to pay the next day in horrendous hangovers. Narcotics and stimulants are massively habit-forming and ultimately prevent abusers from functioning normally in day-to-day lives. Relative to these drugs, marijuana seems so mild. But that’s the danger, to think that THC’s mellow effects (relative to harder drugs and alcohol) means that it has no immediate or long-term negative consequences. That’s a huge illusion. Some of marijuana’s immediate and long-term effects (from chronic use) are:

man tits (gynecomastia) - marijuanaThe latter is enough for me. The prospect of walking through life with man-titties is enough to just say no! So, like I have already said, I doubt that any of this information is going to stop the most ardent smokers of marijuana from partaking in their daily toke, but maybe, just maybe, some of you who might be questioning your once-in-a-while indulgences might see enough here to hang it up for good. You can also keep in mind that non-users of marijuana are going to generally outperform users in every capacity – physically, mentally and emotionally – and so the world is your oyster, abstainers…especially as marijuana use grows by the day. Oh well, unemployment and man titties – that’s what users have to look forward to. I’d think twice on it.

True SelfHave you ever watched a movie that at first you hated, only to find that later you really enjoyed it? For me, that movie was American Psycho. I could not resonate with it from the start as I was taking the story literally, and from that angle it seemed too silly for me to appreciate. I had to change my perspective from just over a quarter of the film and watch it from a totally different viewpoint. Once I did, I really loved the film. That experience opened my eyes to a universal truth: It is not what happens that matters as much as our perception of what happens.

When speaking of material existence, our world arises from our human desires and fears. Think about this for a moment: All our inventions, conveniences, and civilizations have been borne from our desire to grow and automate – our desire to make things “better” or easier. We wanted better locomotion, and thus we tamed horses, built railroads, and mastered air flight. We wanted bigger civilization, so we expanded our towns into cities, built skyscrapers to the clouds, and sent our telecommunications into space. However, we have also created a world out of fears: the fear of others which has led to walls, wars, and mass surveillance on a scale beyond our wildest imaginations; and yet, most of us take in all this progress, a little bit for granted, but with wide-eyed astonishment.

Mentally, we spend our lives judging our experiences according to our likes and dislikes, which typically follow from our unique set of values. Those experiences which support our values by allowing us to fulfill them, of course, we call “good,” while those that challenge our values, by either denying us what we want or by threating them, we call “bad,” and avoid them like the plague. And we have a whole set of memories, both conscious and subconscious, which trigger our brain and hormonal system to respond automatically to our likes and dislikes symbolically represented in otherwise neutral experiences. In other words, we color our experiences with perceptions that stem from our value system.

True SelfSpiritually speaking, if you feel comfortable calling it that, you have a purpose and mission underlying your existence. People who fail to recognize and tap into their purpose commonly feel “lost” and may seek out meaningful experiences through hedonism or altruism. Hedonism is the pursuit of self-indulgence, or immoderate pleasure seeking. Sex, drugs, food, music can all act as forms of sensory pleasures. Nothing wrong with any of them in moderation, but it is my observation that hedonistic people are some of the most unhappy and unfulfilled people in society. Altruism, on the other hand, is sacrificing the self to benefit others (some would say “help” others, but that is debatable). While altruism itself can lead to a feeling of purpose, left unbalanced it can also be unfulfilling and lead to conflict and burnout. But when people tap into their greater purpose, whether that be providing a product or service for the world or raising a beautiful family, they have a foundation by which to guide their actions, behaviors, decision, and perceptions.

True SelfOur lives are a composite of experiences (which are largely out of our immediate control but strongly influenced by our desires and fears), perceptions (colored by our likes and dislikes), and life’s purpose (realized through value fulfillment). Life’s purpose is immutable as it derives from the level of the higher mind. Our greater purpose, on the other hand, is universal, and it is simply to come to know the Self (yoking or yoga), and this is done primarily through acting within one’s life’s purpose (karma yoga). Because the world is composed of many souls, world events are aggregates of interacting actions, behaviors and decisions based on billions of likes and dislikes in varying combinations. These are complex and seemingly random, but there does exist a greater order in the totality of world events in the present time as well as in past and future events.  But most important is how we see those experiences and what they mean to us in micro- and macrocosm of our lives. We call this perception.

True SelfAnd this is what this piece is really about, how we see our lives. Not only does perception color the meaning we give to our lives, in both the microcosm of our daily events and the macrocosm of decades, quarter centuries, half centuries, and complete lifetimes, it is also the final determinant on our feelings of self-fulfillment. Now that might make some feel that they are either blessed with “good” perception, or what some call positive thinking, while others might feel they are cursed with “bad” perception, or negative thinking. And some of these people might beat themselves up for not having the correct perception and thus set out to change themselves. This, however, is a mistake. Perceptions can be changed but vacillating from one polar emotional view to another (the consequence of attempted self-change) is not the most empowering state one can achieve. Indeed, seeing both sides of an issue, simultaneously, is far more powerful and liberating than teetering. And more important is to see how every event in our lives – regardless of whether we initially perceive it as good or bad – is helping us along our path of purpose.

So what can you do to empower yourself in this area? First is to attune to your life’s purpose. You can do this by observing and recording your value system: how you spend your time, what you do without being told or without seeking outside motivation, what inspires you, and what you are driven to achieve. In other words, the things you value in life above all else. Pay attention and write them down – keep a journal. You will learn a lot about yourself by doing so. And you will find that your life’s purpose revolves around these things. This major uncovering will be invaluable in guiding your decision making and action.

True SelfNext will be to train yourself to envision your conscious awareness as if you are witnessing a movie. Not simply the watching of a movie, however, but experiencing it in full Sensurround – that is, chock-full of sensory experiences from sight to sound to feel to taste and smell. It should not be too hard to imagine this perceptual viewpoint if you have ever played video games, experienced virtual reality, or been on the Disney California Adventure’s ride Soarin’ Over California. By experiencing consciousness from an objective standpoint, without getting attached to the outcome, you will come the closest to understanding what yogi’s describe as detachment. Think again about a movie. Do you really care about the outcome of the plot, to the degree that you lay awake at night, are unable to concentrate on your work, or cry uncontrollably at random times when thinking about it? Do you genuinely feel pain at the fate of any character in a film, no matter how tear-jerking the story? No, you watch, you experience emotion in the moment, and then you walk away, without attachment. Work hard to cultivate that same viewpoint in your own consciousness. I am not suggesting that this is an easy shift in perspective – very little is more challenging – but detachment leads to objectivity…which lessens emotionality…which increases appreciation, poise, and presence…and ultimately leads to gratitude. When you can say thank you for the world as it is, for all people exactly as they are, and for yourself and your beautifully unique, purposeful life, you vibrate at your highest frequency. We call this a state of unconditional love (“Thank you for all that is, as it is”).

True SelfJust like watching a movie, we can change our perception of that which we become consciously aware of, and this, in turn, changes how we feel about the experience. Great sages have said that we suffer because we believe that what happens in any given moment, our present-time experience, is real. In other words, we believe in the reality of what we are consciously aware of, instead of viewing it as a sort of dream, or movie as I have proposed. Shifting the perspective from the self as an entity operating in an external world, and to whom things happen, to the objective witness in awe and appreciation of the magnificence of life and one’s purpose within it changes the experience, and thus the meaning (or mood) of the movie. Try out this perceptual alteration from time to time, or better yet commit to a regular practice; and enjoy the brief, yet profound, moments of a consciousness shift, which has the great potential to bring you into a vibration of unconditional love. Watching a movie in objective amazement is far different than attaching to the transient ups and downs of a film and suffering along with its characters and plot. Shift your perspective, watch your gratitude soar, and bask in the illumination of unconditional love.

All is OneWe often hear we are all one, but in which way are we so? Have you ever considered it? Clearly, we are all human, but within the physical domain we are assured, through genetics, an infinite variety. How then are we the same? Well, in actuality we are all the same, and it is to this sameness that great spiritual teachers have, throughout history, attempted to awaken us.

The material world is born of variety – different elements, different rock and metal composition, different phases of matter, different life forms, different species, and different environments. Every species has morphological and behavioral differences as well, which are only compounded by their relation to the environment. So between genetics and natural selection, then, the magnitude of variety is endless. For the human life form, there are also mental, emotional, and spiritual differences, that shape the temperament of the individual, as well as cultural and socioeconomic factors which act as strong influencers. Every distinct component of an individual leads to that person’s many-ness – their gender, race, national origin, sexual preference, personal style, musical taste, and palate to name but a few. Every person is unique and distinct when taking into account each difference that makes up that individual’s nuances.

On some levels, human beings celebrate differences. Most people want to be recognized and loved for “who” they are, their unique selves. While one may be proud of one’s heritage, one’s hometown, or one’s alma mater, most people want to be seen and appreciated for their authentic selves. As a result of this ubiquitous human drive, it is only natural for people to attach to the blueprint of their nuances – that is, to believe that their unique composition of differences is what makes them them. People attach to their personas to such a degree that if one or the other gets disrupted, the individual might fall victim to an identity crisis. Loss of job, death of a loved one, relationship changes are only a few of the great many changes that routinely disrupt people’s lives.

All is OneBut great spiritual wisdom teaches that none of these different elements are the actual us. Underneath lies something else, the true fabric of our authentic selves. This something else is precisely what the great sages claimed makes every living being the same in essence: an endless light, spark or spirit which sits underneath all those things we assume make us the psycho-spiritual-material entities we are. Not even the mind – our thoughts, perceptions, or emotions – are us. These things, too, come and go, so they cannot be our true selves by their sheer transience. The actuality of our essence is said to be eternal – existing before the current material form was born, and long after it will burn out – to either merge with the Absolute oneness (God, Tao, The Absolute, or Plotinus’ The One) or to inhabit a new life form, over and over again (samsara), until the final yoking (Yoga) of individual essence (Atman) with the absolute reality (Brahman). So the goal of Yoga, then, is to realize this individual essence through devotion (to Self-realization), duty* (dharma or purpose) and/or right discrimination (jnana or knowledge).

*Which includes action (karma)

But devotion, duty, and right discrimination are not the tools most often employed by the masses, even though the Bhagavad Gita stresses them (not enough people have taken the time to read/study the Gita). The tool most often associated with awareness of the Self is meditation. Now, let it be said that Self-realization is virtually impossible without devotion, dedication to duty and knowledge. Nonetheless, meditation is effective in bringing our consciousness in tune with our essence from a physical, mental, and conceptual standpoint. It may sound counter-intuitive to more discerning minds as to how we might tune-in to our true essence with machinery (our brains and minds) that I have already pointed out is NOT what we are in actuality; but if we consider which layers of awareness are available to us – sensory/motor, consciousness, and essence – in order of decreasing complexity and refinement, we can see how we must peel off each successive layer of attachment (or what some might call illusion –maya), from what we sense (see, hear, touch, smell, taste), feel or think…the forms of awareness we most generally use to distinguish self from other.

All is OneThrough meditation we can get underneath each successive layer of illusory self, sometimes by negating (neti-neti) – “I am not this; I am not that,” – and sometimes by simply knowing that anything transient (thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, memory, and imagination) is not us. This is what the Yogis call jnana – a knowingness of Self and non-self, a right discrimination between reality and illusion. When we sit quietly, and it may take some time to develop*, we have a greater ability to dive to the depths of our being, that simple yet refined essence, which is buried beneath the increasing layers of complexity, diversity and baggage that many call the ego.

(*This is why I recommend dedicating oneself to learning and practicing means of Self-realization, uncovering one’s purpose and living by service and duty, and constantly discerning between truth and illusion through right knowledge [some call it rationality, some call it intuition, but it is both, together])

The ego makes up our individuality, and thus, our sense of separateness from others; essentially it is responsible for the many-ness that populates the world. But the oneness which universally and eternally underlies all individuals making up the many at every level of existence is what the great teachers of history have referred to when they have said we are all one. We ARE all one …in essence. Our cells make up our organs, which make up our bodies. From the many to one. Our thoughts make up our personas, which make up our personalities. From the many to one. To understand this, and to use this knowledge to detach from the individual elements that we generally mistake for ourselves, is the true goal of meditation, and ultimately of Yoga. When the individual quiets the brain noise by focusing on the usual elements of illusion, labels them, acknowledges their transient nature, and negates them as Self, they start to merge with, and are engulfed by, an indescribable experience (not quite feeling, not quite conception) of oneness (which is both nothingness and everythingness in paradoxical synchronicity).

All is OneOver time, the ability to drop beneath the layers of consciousness allows the true Self to become aware of itself in every interaction and every dynamic. The Self recognizes it is the source of every experience, every relationship, and every sense of meaning. The Self knows that bliss is born of perception and attitude, which can be changed, and not the desires (and fears) typically inflicted upon consciousness. Replacing the self-love of the individual with love of the Self – the essence common to all things – changes our experience: desires are left unpursued, fears are discarded, and pleasures and pains are recognized as inextricably linked in space and time. By attuning to the Self, life can unfold spontaneously, without the pressure of needing this or that to happen. What is required is to simply discard the notion of individuation based on the transient elements of body, mind, and emotion, and to attune to what lies beneath them, and beneath consciousness itself. The essence of our authentic selves is what is common to all people. It is a pure awareness, in pure neutrality, bathed in unconditional love and appreciation for all things. Until we can look beyond the seeming many-ness of material individuation and attune to our underlying oneness, we will forever obsess over differences which separate us in the illusion we call “being ourselves.”

Consciousness - AwarenessIf a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? This long-standing philosophical question is the basis of many theories of ontology, the study of the essence of being. It basically points out the difficulty in determining whether things exist outside of their being perceived. In other words, without an observer, can there really be any phenomena at all?

The 18th century philosopher Bishop George Berkeley thought not: He believed material substance to be an illusion, and that all things existed only in the mind where they are perceived. No perception – no existence. He said:

“The objects of sense exist only when they are perceived; the trees therefore are in the garden… no longer than while there is somebody by to perceive them.” ~ Bishop George Berkeley

The twentieth century saw the advent of quantum physics, which seemed to corroborate Bishop Berkeley’s immaterialism. Quantum data showed evidence that things are not always as they seem. One major conundrum inherent in quantum theory was that particles did not occupy any definitive space, that is, not until a measurement was taken, at which time the particle would collapse to a specific point in space. This collapse occurred due to an interaction called an observation, whereby the measurement, or act of observing, interacted physically with the object being measured, affecting its properties through the interaction itself. Quantum physical observation, by some interpretations at least, appeared to confirm Berkeley’s philosophy: Truly nothing exists materially without it being perceived.

Even Albert Einstein was perplexed by the perception-necessitates-existence puzzle. His paradigm-changing theory of relativity sought to establish locality as the indisputable principle of reality. Locality means that an object is influenced directly only by its surroundings. In other words, an object cannot be influenced by something in another part of space without a wave or particle travelling through space between the two points to influence it. Locality, in a sense, describes a universe where things have their place relative to other things, regardless of who perceives them. Along with localization, Einstein became a strong advocate of the concept of realism, a belief that there exists “a real factual situation,” which is “independent of our observations.” To fellow physicist Abraham Pais, Einstein once remarked. “Do you really believe that the moon only exists if you look at it?”

Consciousness - AwarenessTo counter this conundrum, some have turned to an ancient philosophy which proposes that consciousness permeates the entire universe. Known as panpsychism, this viewpoint believes that all things possess consciousness, including inanimate objects such as rocks, clouds, and even man-made instruments like thermostats. This philosophy has iterations in Ancient Greek, Hindu, and Native American thought, among others. It is not too hard to imagine other life forms like lower animals (insects, for instance), plants, and even individual human cells having some form of consciousness. Native Americans expressed panpsychism as a profound reverence for nature, whereby they believed that all natural objects possessed sentience – that they were alive in a real sense. Panpsychism, then, offers a solution to Einstein’s disbelief of perception-necessitates-existence by providing an omnipresent consciousness to act as the observer necessary to maintain a continuous localized universe.

The Yogic philosophy, particularly Advaita Vedanta, teaches that the entire universe is cradled in consciousness. Aligned with the modern scientific concepts of entropy and emergence, the yogic philosophy explains that consciousness requires order (negentropy) and harmony (syntropy), such that consciousness can only be expressed through vehicles of varied complex systems (emergence). Some of these systems are simple and have simple levels of consciousness, while other are more complex, like the human mind, and have a more refined form of consciousness. In other words, consciousness exists on a spectrum according to the system that is transmitting it.

But Advaita Vedanta takes things a step further by pointing out that what underlies even consciousness is awareness. So, while consciousness is responsible for all things physical and mental, those things themselves merely float like waves in the ocean of awareness (which engulfs consciousness, and its constructs, completely). This is an important concept to understand, as some real distinctions separate consciousness from awareness. According to the Yogic philosophy (among others), these differences are what separate the illusions of reality from the truth of actuality. For instance, it is consciousness which is responsible for the ego, or the sense of “I”-ness. Our conception of separateness from all other things in the universe begins with our sense of individuation, or our identification of being a distinct entity. Awareness, on the other hand, knows no distinction or individuation, but only wholeness and syntropy. To be separate from the rest of existence is an illusion, while a cohesive oneness with all things is the truth of actuality.

Both the conscious and unconscious minds exist in awareness, as well. They are not separate entities, despite their very monikers delineating the mind’s isolation of one from the other, while focusing conscious awareness on only half the equation. Nonetheless, what the yogis call awareness, or the Absolute, is the totality of all that is; it is what they describe as beyond existence. Nisargadatta Maharaj said of awareness, “It is the changeless reality itself.”

Consciousness - AwarenessThe ultimate message from all this is that there’s no real separation between us and the rest of our experience. We are literally one with the people in our lives and everyone we encounter –what we might call a form of quantum entanglement. We are also one with the world in which we walk, such that everything we perceive as being “out there” is actually a reflection of what we have inside us. So the statement, “We don’t see the world as it is; we see it as we are,” is a truth we would be wise to acknowledge, like the idealists and various interpreters of quantum physics had before us, that nothing exists outside of our perception. And thus, every experience we have is in actuality a dynamic in which we are a player along with other people, things, and experiences of the world. This is in stark contrast to the perception of an “individual acting within the external world” in which things simply “happen to us,” an illusion of conscious reality. When we shift our perceptual understanding in this way, pain and suffering which we experience from the vacillations of isolation/togetherness, winning/losing, successes/failures, pleasures/pains, and people coming/going ease away. We come to a certain knowingness of the importance that every person, thing and experience plays in the unfolding of our magnificent lives.

Consciousness really is at the heart of our worldly experience. And the life we create is a function of our consciousness in complete alignment with our underlying awareness (conscious and unconscious together as a whole). Meditation, as a tool, gives us an outlet for which to go beyond consciousness, beyond the “I,” and beyond ego attachment. It allows us to bring the unconscious and conscious into complete wholeness, the inseparable state of awareness. You will never fully understand the body, mind, or consciousness until you go beyond them into awareness. Know the source of all experience, which is in yourself, and you will find no question left unanswered. This is what leads to bliss.

True SelfReceiving sound advice from a wise soul is invaluable. Who better than a person of experience, who has faced certain turmoil, and has lived through elements of life for which we yearn, to impart on us all that they have learned along the way. Many of us will even pay good money to sit at the table of an old sage to absorb his or her wisdom. But in the end, does it really matter?

Even when in earnest we listen thoughtfully to those we hold in the highest esteem, we never really come to understand a thing until we experience it ourselves. Wisdom imparted makes us reflect and ponder, and it may even have us believing that we are better off for having heard it, but without the personal experience what can we truly know?

Try describing the taste of an apple without saying it tastes like apple. How could you explain it to a toddler other than handing her a slice? And the color red to a person with protanopia – a form of color blindness where the person’s red cones are damaged and thus they see black instead of red – how would you describe it? What about being in love? Try explaining it to a toddler and you will find you can only do so in the most trivial manner – the essence of what you feel can really only be effectively expressed to another who has experienced it as well.

Similarly, nobody can convey to you what it feels like to play the piano…you just have to play one to understand. A wealthy person cannot tell you what it feels like to be rich; he or she can only point you in the direction of the mind set you must have and the actions you must take to increase your chances of amassing great wealth. It will be up to you to actually do what it takes in order to achieve and experience it in totality. And this is true of becoming an athletic champion or a great artist as well. No one can teach you. They can coach you and guide you, but ultimately, you must learn by doing.

This is most true then when it comes to spiritual wisdom. You can spend time with a guru, but the guru can never teach you enlightenment; she can only show you the way to ready yourself and the direction you must walk to get there. The Buddha would say, “Ehipassiko,” or “Go see for yourself.” Take nothing on authority. Seek. Find. And only then will you Know Truth.

Nature of RealityWhy is this? A guru cannot make you into what you already are. All he can do is show you how he himself arrived at his Self-realization. The guru simply encourages you to come along to where he is. Can he tell you what he sees, what he experiences? To some degree he can show you, he can share with you energetically, but words can never fully describe what he experiences. For this you must seek and find for yourself. Ehipassiko.

When the seeker comes to understand that the real guru is within, then there is no longer a need for an outer guru. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And when the student becomes aware that the teacher is, and has always been, the Self, then all external manifestations of the guru merge into one within the seeker/student. All the books one has read, all the instructors one has put trust into, and all the wisdom one has earned on his or her path of spiritual seeking become part of the realization that all was just a remembering of what the Self has always known.

It has been said that spiritual practice is helping to ripen the fruit of the mind and prepare it for awakening. My advice would be to practice the methodical self-awareness of mindfulness, train the mind to attune to the perfect balance of non-duality of the Self, and dedicate time every day to enter into states of pure being and silence to experience the true reality of your existence. This may sound wildly unreachable to one who has not investigated the practices I am suggesting. But I assure you the actions are simple. Contact me if you would love to learn the simplicity of attuning to your Self and bearing the fruits of your labors. If you want to live mentally well-balanced, creatively, and with infinite riches in any area of life which you value, then listen to me and follow my guidance. I cannot move beyond these words and show you exactly what I mean; you will have to do that for yourself. But if you take the time to do as I advise, you will find that eventually you will come to see what I am suggesting – a new dimension of reality which is yours for the taking. But like the Buddha said, “Ehipassiko” – you must go see for yourself.

Conditioned MindOne of the most often repeated truths, yet also perhaps one of the most difficult to comprehend, is that you are the creator of your life. You are your own creation. Who hasn’t heard this and nodded in agreement? Almost everybody understands it on a basic level, although there is a depth to this reality which I would love to share with you here.

Most people can connect with the fact that they are products of their choices, decisions, and actions. Not hard to understand either is how our beliefs, drives and intentions also play an intricate role; yet it does raise an age-old philosophical question of whether we truly have free will (make all our own decisions) or simply have lives that are determined (a product of circumstance). If you are unaware of this fascinating conundrum, please do yourself a favor and read a little bit about this paradox – it is well worth the time. In any case, most people have a surface understanding that we do indeed create our own lives.

However, what few tend to ponder is how we do this. How exactly do we create our lives? Well, it all emanates forth from the conditioned mind. I am not speaking in terms of a conditioned behavior here, like Pavlov’s dog, but instead the state of creating conditions – a particular state that something is perceived to be in. A conditioned mind, then, is one which differentiates, reduces, and groups together elements of a thing into similarities and differences in order to understand that thing. This is a material necessity of the human mind. Put more simply: for humans to make sense of the external world, we must be able to discern this from that, here from there, and now from then. It is how we humans walk through the world.

Conditioned MindAdditionally, we have likes and dislikes which are part of our dispositions. I like ice cream, rock music, and warm weather. I dislike seafood, the smell of body odor, and cruelty to people or animals. That’s me. You might agree on all or some of these things or disagree on all or some. But I have mine, and you have yours.

You also have drives, needs, and values, however, which underlie most of your actions – in other words, why you do what you do. If you value family, for instance, you will most certainly be drawn in awareness to family-supportive activities and events. If you value a strong social life, then you will be driven to go out, meet people, make friends, and party.

Then there are needs you have like the need to feel loved and appreciated, or to be recognized for who you are, or for what you provide to others (to name just a few). And these needs, along with your values, lead to desires, and ultimately to behaviors, including your perceptual emotions. Needs, values, desires, likes, and dislikes all work together to cause you to then pass judgement onto the outer world. You see things as good, bad, right, wrong, deserved, unjust, nice, mean, attractive, or ugly, all as interpretations from your conditioned mind. True self-realization comes from becoming aware of your mind’s conditioning (in its many varieties).

Your conditioned mind, then – through your likes and dislikes, needs and values – creates your perception; that is, how you tend to see things. Your conditioned mind, equally, influences your decisions and behaviors. It’s your conditioned mind that creates your history and the narrative story you repeatedly tell yourself and others. And depending on whether you feel mostly supported or mostly opposed will determine the theme of that narrative. We all know people who skew in one direction or the other, and some of us skew in many different directions depending on the number of sub-narratives we have. In other words, we all have the potential to become a hero or victim in different areas of our lives. And it all comes down to the conditioned mind.

Conditioned MindI hope you can see now more clearly how you are, indeed, your own creation, at least with respect to the usual ways in which we create our lives and the material world around us. But things cannot exist independently. They must always be in conjunction with their antipode. Even beingness must be opposed by nothingness, and neither can be without the other. Thus, for there to exist a conditioned mind, there must also exist an unconditioned mind.

The unconditioned mind is the transcendent state – the one in which no distinction is made between antipodes or opposites. Neither this nor that, here nor there, or now and then exist in the unconditioned mind. All appear as one to the eternal present mind. The Buddha called it enlightenment (Nirvana), the Vedanta, nirguna. It is also the cause of the rising of the Christ, and the source of all mystical experiences, so some might call it God. The unconditioned mind is also known as superconsciousness, and it is available to all human beings on the planet.

If the conditioned mind is creation, then unconditioned mind is evolution, growth and transcendence. Conditioned mind brings along with creation suffering, as part of our judgment is also to discern our dislikes, defeats, and disasters. Being denied our desires can create pain so intense as to render us into helplessness and despair. And then, of course, exist our fears. Those things we wish to never encounter – hurts, rejections, traumas, and predators – which we spend great energy to avoid throughout our lifetime, but nevertheless find us anyway. These, too, are the product of conditioned mind. Unconditioned mind, however, sees no difference between heaven or hell, pain or pleasure, justice or injustice, or any other polarity. Unconditioned mind accepts all that is exactly as it is and is thankful for it. All is one to the unconditioned mind.

Conditioned MindSo, yes, you are your own creation. And in the material world, you need the conditioned mind, in a sense to do that. But you can easily get mired in the swamp of your own creation, as not all creations become the oasis we envision. However, it is through unconscious mind that we create the Shangri-la from whatever conditioned form our life has taken. Only through the unconditioned mind is it possible to find heaven regardless of the material circumstances. Conditioned mind does the creating, and unconditioned mind takes care the appreciating. When we love our lives in all their circumstances, exactly as they are, then we can be certain that we are operating in unconditional mind.

Attuning to unconditioned mind takes training and practice. I have been teaching mindfulness, meditation, and mental balance for nearly a decade. I have had the honor of sharing wisdom with thousands of novice and seasoned meditation practitioners. You too can learn to cultivate the art (and science) of attuning to your unconditioned mind. Please contact me for one-on-one or group consultations. You are your own creation. And you are your own evolution and growth inducer. This is how we walk through the world.

Spiritual EvolutionThere is a purpose to life, even if the current materialist position is that there is not. The meaning of life is to grow, or to evolve, into a state where you love yourself and others completely. The fundamental biological principle is evolution. Every living thing does it. You are no exception. You are born into this world, and you die, but in between, you grow, you learn, you evolve, and in that growth, you come to see the world and its inhabitants differently. It may happen quickly, almost immediately for some – a few well-known Yogis come to mind – and it may take decades, but the longer you live the greater you will realize this truth.

Something that people do not realize is the very fact that they are living at all is truly a miracle. Think about the details: It takes one unique combination of gametes (eggs and sperm) to form you. Any other sperm reaching the one monthly released ootid (immature ovum) would lead to a different person genetically and morphologically. It just would not be you. So that alone is miraculous. But, additionally, the birthing process is no walk in the park. In the early 20th century out of every 1000 live births 100 ended in death of the child (and 6-9 women giving birth per 1000 also died). Now, as a result of many public health and medical measures, this has been reduced dramatically for infant (90%) and maternal deaths (~99%), but nonetheless child birthing has its dangers. Both mother and child are transformed during the process, both evolve, as Joseph Campbell so eloquently described:

“Everyone is a hero in birth, where he undergoes a tremendous psychological as well as physical transformation, from the condition of a little water creature living in a realm of amniotic fluid into an airbreathing mammal which ultimately will be standing. That’s an enormous transformation, and had it been consciously undertaken, it would have been, indeed a heroic act.”

Unconscious MindThen we move into life, first striving for independence, then to consume our desires and avoid our fears. We have beliefs and perceptions shaped by experience, which lodge into our memory, some as conscious recall, while others get buried deep into the hidden recesses of our mind. These hidden memories and experiences then sit in our subconscious minds, like little neurological software programs running underneath the conscious operating system, only to drive our behavior, or further perceptions, all completely unknown to our awareness. If you take the time to think about them, many of your reactive behaviors, emotions, and perceptual judgements are not really under your conscious understanding. You do not always know why you do what you do.

Our desires and fears are driven by passion – strong and barely controllable emotions. We want what we want and will do whatever it takes (at times) to achieve them (consume them). Many also often equally avoid their fears, pains, and traumatic challenges, without ever really knowing what caused these perceptions to begin with. And yet, we walk through life on an oscillating path of seeking pleasures and avoiding pains, all the while picking up more distorted perceptions of reality and bury quite a few that are simply too painful for us to process. And the cycle spins.

However, something happens to most people as they age. Each time they commit to self-reflection – through therapy or meditation/mindfulness or, for some, maybe even psychedelic substances – they begin to develop an awareness of mind. That is, they come to learn lessons from their experiences, both pleasureful and painful, and some may even gain deep insight into why they act, behave, think, react, or believe what they do. It is at these moments, especially when the experience involves another person (almost always), that a self-reflector may see him or herself in the other. They have that awareness of, “I do that!” These are usually “a-ha moments,” which catapult the self-reflector to the next level of understanding. When we comprehend that all the things we see in others – behaviors, traits, patterns, whatever – exist in us too, something miraculous happens: We develop true compassion.

Emotional Hurt - CompassionTo relate a personal story, on self-reflecting on a recent conflict I had with somebody very close to me, this awareness came like a flash of light – I have heard it called apperception. I immediately knew (not thought, knew) that I had done the same exact behavior myself in the past. So, naturally, my next question was: Why did I do said behavior? The answer became immediately clear: because I was hurt. Ah, I did the behavior because I was hurt…yes. And come to think of it, that is very likely the reason the other person did it. When I put that into perspective, I developed a whole new awareness around the conflict. I understood from where the person was coming. It was real compassion. I knew. I understood.

These moments in life lead to great spiritual growth – psychological, yes, behavioral, yes, but spiritual seems to capture the essence more completely. This is a magnificent evolution that a person goes through when they develop compassion by seeing themselves in others. The Yogis describe it as the seer, seeing, and seen all becoming one.

Spiritual Growth MetamorphosisWe can return to Joseph Campbell’s words now: “where [the hero] undergoes a tremendous psychological as well as physical transformation.” That is exactly what happens to all people when they have experiences of apperception, understanding, and evolution. We must ask ourselves the right questions. Sometimes we cannot get past the mind chatter of our emotions, and so we become passionate, maybe angry, maybe hurt. But in moments of clarity (and anybody who would love to learn how to flow through life with more clarity, please contact me), we often can, and do, see the truth: that we, our brothers, and sisters are all the same; we share every quality in existence with them. And this is the foundation of spiritual growth.

Every person gets better at accomplishing spiritual growth as they age. The longer one lives, the clearer this process becomes. We call it wisdom. When you have had enough pain, and enough conflict, and enough demanding to be right, you will ultimately come to a place of greater understanding – a more expansive awareness, if you will. It is as if when we evolve, we want more compassion, more understanding, and more connection with others. If you find yourself in this place, then I commend you on your growth. You will surely acknowledge that this process also cultivates compassion and love for ourselves. And your relationships likely thrive as a result. If you have not yet reached this place, do not worry, you will, to some degree, in time. If you would love assistance in speeding up this process, please contact me – I teach classes every month showing students how (I also give private consultations). Growth and evolution is the purpose of life – for all living things, and this includes you – to come to love yourself and others completely.

When I was a kid, a commercial for Paul Masson wines aired on television nightly; it featured the great Orson Welles reciting in his baritone voice, “Some things can’t be rushed: good music and good wine… Paul Masson wines taste so good because they are made with such care. What Paul Masson himself said nearly a century ago is still true today: We will sell no wine before its time.” Now forget that Paul Masson wines were mass produced like Budweiser, and likely spent little time between production and sales. But what’s important is the message: All worthwhile things take time.

Whether we are talking about the development of a skill, like music or cooking, or the accumulation of great (and stable) wealth, time is one component which cannot be compromised. We have all heard stories of miraculous overnight successes, but what we don’t hear is the background story of thousands of hours of practice. It’s true that one can become a master of their craft within a relatively short period of time – that is, if they increase their daily practice hours to twice of what they would do otherwise. But it is time that makes a great master, and to dedicate oneself in time, one needs discipline.

Discipline is the key to all greatness. It is the foundation by which one is driven to put in the hours of practice, study, or work necessary to master one’s craft. Without discipline, it is impossible to reach mastery in less than half a century. Love of the craft helps for sure, but it is discipline that takes you beyond what the joy of performing brings to the lover of any art. Basketball, dancing, hair styling, photography, and writing all require time. Love is what brings you to the art – discipline is what shapes it.

discipline - Dream Design Los AngelesEvery example I have given thus far has been somewhat evident. Likewise, though, are those who wish to express health, wellness, style and beauty; they must also dedicate time and energy to their endeavors. Make no mistake about it: people who consistently look fashionable and attractive put in the work to achieve them. Even making it onto the cover of a fashion magazine takes years of mental preparation. Nobody is simply “lucky” in how they look. Maintaining a fit, healthy, beautiful body takes hours of sculpting. And healthy physiology requires rock-solid discipline – from overeating, from over-indulging in sugar, from drinking to excess, from smoking and doing drugs. People who practice discipline with regard to their physical bodies get rewarded with feeling good, looking good and all other athletic and sexual amenities which come along with this area of attention.

One thing that always amuses me is the young professional who thinks he will be a millionaire shortly after hanging his shingle. He has not yet learned that it will take hours of knocking on doors, meeting people, hustling, networking, sending referrals to other professionals, giving free talks, buying lunches, and cleaning toilets (yup) before he even begins to work. Of course, there are some who get lucky out the gate and encounter some success early on, but these stories are rare, and they seldom last forever. I had a colleague with whom I went to school. He had a foreign girlfriend who helped him market to students of the same national origin. As it turned out, these students had medical insurance policies from their home countries that covered their care to a tee. The trust and comfort provided by the girlfriend – a compatriot in a distant land – led to the students pouring into this doctor’s office for care. As a result, he made big money rather quickly, and this led him to believe that he had “made it” professionally too. He became arrogant to his friends, bought a house far bigger than he needed, and expanded his business too quickly. After one year, the foreign insurance company changed its covered services (probably due, in part, to my colleague’s billing practices) and shut off. My colleague ultimately lost it all. He simply couldn’t maintain the false growth. We must build up to business and financial growth in time, energy, and capital. Remember: all worthwhile things take time.

discipline - Dream Design West HollywoodParents of grown children know this. How people function as adults is directly related to the time and energy provided to them by their parents. Both mothers and fathers are extremely important to the growth and development of a child. Research shows this; and although children certainly adapt to the absence of one parent, there is no doubt that children do enormously better when both parents are present in body, mind, and spirit. In other words, parents need to be physically present with their children, regularly; they must give the children undivided attention more often than not, and they must show love and appreciation for the blessed honor to do so. Our children require our time and energy, and every parent can attest that along with juggling career and business, physical health, hobbies, and intellectual pursuits, it takes unshakable discipline to give our children the best of us every day. But that is what is required.

discipline - Dream Design West HollywoodFinally, and to me the most important, is the time and energy necessary for spiritual self-development. All other endeavors emanate from this essence of our true selves. Spiritual development is what some call “coming to know the self,” and it is the highest effort in which one can engage. A great challenge, however, is that the path often appears as long and arduous, and it can most certainly be. Very likely, for the average person, spiritual development takes the greatest hours of attention, and to move the shortest distance; yet the rewards are also the biggest. Nothing can be as effectively appreciated as through the lens of the soul, what we might call our authentic self. Hundred of thousands of people try meditation (or prayer, or japa, or psychedelics) and never attain what they aspire to; NOT because it is ineffective, but because they have not yet ripened the mind to allow their spirit to flow. I understand this is an esoteric concept, but to know you have to do…and this requires practice. The yogis liken the mind to unripened fruit. When fruit is in this state, it is not pleasant to eat – it will remain on the tree, hard, sour, and undeveloped. Only when the fruit becomes mature, ripened, will it then fall from the tree and open itself to the sweetness that life has to offer. Your mind, like fruit, will not ripen until its time. This time comes over the course of long, arduous spiritual work.

discipline - Dream Design Beverly HillsAll worthwhile things take time. What you would love to achieve in life will not happen overnight – and you don’t want it to. We all want a long biography, filled with experience, pleasure, pain, and love. This is what we call living. Who you would love to be, how you go about achieving it, as well as what you get to enjoy along the way, all come down to the attention you put into your art(s). But never forget, the greatest aspiration is of self-knowledge or spiritual development. Like fine wine, you will fully appreciate your divine essence when you ripen mentally and spiritually in love and gratitude. I can almost hear it rolling off Mr. Welles tongue: “No mind will align with the divine until its time.” And so it is.

Los Angeles ChiropracticBreath is life. Without breath, life will not carry on for long. But somehow, I think, most people take it for granted. Breathing is autonomic – you do not have to think about it for it to happen. It just does. Every yogi is aware that the breath will flow unimpeded regardless of the attention or inattention given to it; yet the great Yogananda warned that every novice meditator would sooner or later interrupt their meditation for fear that their slowed breathing was their body forgetting to do so. Breath in life, however, will never stop on its own; it is the first thing we do upon entering the world (gasp in the first breath) and the very last thing we do before passing on to the next (exhale the last breath).

The breath is so important to life that yogis conceptualized it as the prime mover of the life force energy throughout the body – what they call prana. And both yogic teachers and modern science understand the breath’s intimacy to our consciousness states. When operating in the autopilot state of mindlessness, especially while under heavy stress, the breathing can often be shallow, rapid, and erratic. During states of deep sleep or meditation, however, the breath can slow to a crawl. Listening to a regular pranayama practitioner breathe might conjure up images of waves crashing on the shore – long, deep, and rhythmic sounds of the ebb and flow of nature.

 

Breathing reflects consciousness and we can affect or influence consciousness by changing our breath…breath and consciousness are just the flip sides of the same coin. ~ Richard Rosen

 

Beverly Hills Chiropractor

The function of the breath is to bring in oxygen needed for energy production, and to remove CO2, the byproduct of cellular respiration. The breath thus acts as cyclic transporter of gasses necessary for both human and vegetative life on the planet. Breath is life in every sense of the word.

With this in mind, I believe, it is of utmost importance to focus on the breath in as many of your activities as possible. Yes, of course, as a means of entering deep states of meditation, focusing on the breath is without rival. I have been teaching this vital and fundamental element of meditation weekly for eight years and, always, I emphasize the importance of focusing on the breath. It is this cycle of breath – the inspiration of life, and the expiration of death, with the spaces in between them – that allows for the deepest submergence into the great meditative state of dhyana, and ultimately, samadhi.

I focus intently on my breath whenever I must sit for something unnerving or potentially painful, like a medical or dental procedure. Because of my commitment to bringing solitary focus to my breath and ultimately release all focus as I let my consciousness dive deeply into the meditative state, I have been able to slow my breath to such a degree that dentists, doctors and nurses frequently check in with me to make sure I am still alive. One nurse just prior to my last colonoscopy told me I was not “breathing enough,” to which I jovially disclosed that I am a regular meditator and purposefully controlling my breath. The anesthesiologist who was monitoring my breathing caught the conversation and essentially told the nurse to put a lid on it – he could see my respiratory rate was normal.

Breath control has also helped me maintain my poise under stressful situations, like while in a court of law, or when under the control of some power-tripping authority (DMV employee, police officer, and so on). Deep breathing really does help calm the nerves and keep one poised under stressful situations. That alone is worth practicing breath control.

Los Angeles ChiropracticBut perhaps my favorite time to focus on the breath is during exercise. Anybody who works out regularly knows how important breath control is, but I must stress that the breath it truly is the foundation of all power and endurance in sports and fitness. Take professional fighting for example: I always know which fighter is going down first…it’s usually the one who is breathing the heaviest. When an athlete loses breath control, he loses power, and ultimately, he’ll lose the contest.

When I do cardiovascular exercise – like riding a bike – I always attempt to maintain the most deep, rhythmic breathing possible. Not only does it guarantee I will finish my workout (reach my numbers), but it also allows me to pace myself, and kick on the power where I need it. When you find yourself tiring in your workout, focus on your breath – slow it down, build a rhythm – and watch your energy go up and your endurance expand. When lifting weights, focus more on the breath than on the contraction and, believe me, you will see your strength explode by controlling your breathing.

Finally, take time every week to practice diaphragmatic breathing. If you do not know how to do this powerful breathing exercise, please look here for instruction. You may not believe me when I say that people forget how to breath properly, neurologically, and it is of utmost importance to practice in the same way you would practice focused awareness (mindfulness) and meditation. I have seen over a twenty-two-year span of natural bodywork and healthcare how quickly people lose their ability to breath diaphragmatically. It is like working out – use it or lose it – to be totally cliché. But take my assurances: you will increase your power, physically and magnetically, if you take the time to work on controlled breathing.

West Hollywood ChiropracticBreath is life, indeed. You can let it happen automatically without ever thinking about it, and your body-mind will certainly do its job dutifully. Or, instead, if you apply your mind and actions to your breathing consciously, you will become a psychic and energetic powerhouse. You will look vibrant and healthy from the maximized oxygenation of your body. You will become metabolically efficient by conditioning your gas transport and exchange system. Your mind will be clear and sharp, and you will be much quicker to drop into deep, calm, poised states of quiet meditation. Use your gift of breath to your advantage. The yogis are conceptually right with their image of life force energy control of the breath. Expand your life force for your greatest health and vibrancy through the gift of breathing.

West Hollywood ChiropractorHow afraid are you still of Covid? Not much? Never were? Somewhat? Or terrified? I am going to try give some perspective on this matter, but I realize there is a spectrum when it comes to understanding viruses and the immune systems in general. And much of it we can throw out the window when it comes to understanding, or perhaps better to say, rationalizing, Covid; as you shall see the public has been run through the wringer with regard to “official” information (much of it turning out to be wrong), which was meant to control behavior, and foolishly, the virus itself.

I ran into an old acquaintance a few weeks ago at the grocery store. I was with my daughter and saw a masked Jamie walking by with her dog (it’s L.A. you know). As we passed one another, we made eye contact. It was one of those “I think I know you, but I am not quite sure yet who the fuh…hi Nick!” She recognized me. But then she did something strange: she backed several feet away from me. She must have seen that I was without a mask. Stranger yet, she said, “I haven’t been feeling very well, so I am going to stand over here.” I get that it’s proper Covid etiquette, but it seemed so unnecessary, and I really didn’t believe her anyway; I mean, why was she out at all then? But ok, whatever, that’s my trip.

We started talking. I introduced my daughter who was actually standing a few feet away from me (which made it unapparent that we were together), and I think it caught Jamie by surprise. She looked over at the kid, gave a friendly hello, and then stepped in closer. Jamie started to talk to my daughter about how she and I knew one another. The conversation was pleasant and I was genuinely delighted to have run into Jamie…but I’ll admit, I found the initial strict Covid protocol somewhat peculiar – mask, standing at a distance, announcing health status, and then dropping all protocol when seeing a young lady with her dad, both unmasked and, frankly, looking vibrant.

Los Angeles ChiropractorI still see people sometimes walking in the street instead of walking on the sidewalks, I presume to avoid crossing paths with potential carriers. I still see people abstain from shaking hands. It’s cool – I can elbow bump (been doing it for years). Folks at the gym carry around spray bottles and clean the machines they are about to use…but interestingly not afterwards! Amazing how pre-Covid selfishness sometimes mixes with the new “contain it” protocol. And that is what I imagine the public is attempting to do: contain the virus. I guess that’s understandable, as the public is simply following the lead set out by authorities. “We can contain this virus and stop the spread; save lives”…hasn’t that been the goal from the start?

Well have I got an ice-cold splash of wake-up call for you: The SARS-CoV 2 (Covid virus) is not going away. I have been saying this from the get-go, like so many experts, but too many wanted to NOT hear it early on. It was too important to avoid getting sick – at least in the beginning of the pandemic. Ok, but here we are now. Is it time to get real yet? Good, then listen up: viruses do not just go away. Herpes – forever. HIV – forever. Chickenpox – forever (as shingles potentiate). The flu comes around every year, and so do colds. Covid will be exactly the same – an every-year thing.

I have been telling clients this for over two years. Some have nodded in agreement; some have said they got it but then still acted scared, but many with confused looks on their faces went right to the ol’, “But, but, but…” They had erroneously believed that the vaccine was going to end it all. And to their defense I will say: that is what they were told. Even though NOW I see “experts” and media puppets saying the vaccine was meant only to decrease illness and hospitalization…well that certainly was not how it was sold to the public from the start.

Los Angeles ChiropracticAnd what did I say to my clients when the vaccine began to roll out? “Well just understand that SARS-CoV 2 is a rapid mutator like the flu. You’ll have to get a vaccination every year. Just like with flu.” Same thing happened – some nods of understanding, others confused, “Well I am glad we can get back to normal now…I just wish everybody would vaccinate.” Ohhhh kayyyyyyyyyy!!!!

It was the way in which Covid was handled from the start that has damaged so many people psychologically. I made a prediction early on: They (authorities) will have to push the vaccine hard because it will be the only way to neutralize the psychological damage they caused, through the relentless media coverage, scaring people to death, literally. Unfortunately, however, the vaccine has not appeared to be enough to ease the fear in a large number of people. I wish I had the answer for these folks. “Listen,” I might say, “what do you imagine that you are preserving? Is life-at-all-costs really what you desire? I mean, does not quality of life matter as well?” Seriously, if you really have the option to live like we did in that first year of the pandemic – lockdowns, masks, zero social events – is that what you would choose? Not me. I would much rather live like a person of nature, in nature – viruses, illnesses, and all.

Beverly Hills ChiropractorIt is neither realistic nor necessary to live like we did in the beginning of Covid-19. Viruses are forever because they adapt to us and we to them. It would not benefit a virus to kill off its host, so most viruses become less pathogenic as they mutate, less lethal; and SARS-CoV 2 is no different. However, viruses will evolve in such a way as to further their reproductive potentiality – this is a fundamental biological property – the will, not only to survive, but to pass on its genes through its progeny. Thus, SARS-CoV 2 appears to be getting even more transmissible – becoming a stronger contagion. And that’s why the newest Covid variant, omicron BA.5, is driving up cases today. Additionally, it is of great benefit for a virus to evolve an evasion strategy from its natural predator – our immune system. And so that is exactly what SARS-CoV 2 has done and will continue to do – forever. Check out this recent article explaining just that:

Not only is [omicron BA.5] more infectious, but your prior immunity doesn’t count for as much as it used to…And that means that the old saw that, ‘I just had COVID a month ago, and so I have COVID immunity superpowers, I’m not going to get it again’ — that no longer holds.”

Yeah derrrrr…..

And from the same article:

“So far there is no evidence that this variant causes more serious illness. And infectious disease experts say that even though new infections are on the rise, the impact of BA.5 is unlikely to be on the scale of the surge we saw last winter…the U.S. is averaging about 300 deaths a day, compared to 3,000 last winter.”

Los Angeles ChiropracticAnd yet the powers that be are still pushing the panic. Just Google “ba.5 variant” and see which articles come up. Ok, panic if you want to – although I advise against it for your overall health and wellbeing, including your mental health – but if you find you are too afraid to be near people for fear of catching the virus, then you are doing quite a number on yourself. So just let me repeat: YOU WILL CATCH COVID! Not maybe. Not “only if that person who stood next to me had been wearing a mask…” And definitely not “if I am boosted, I won’t.” You will. And more than likely you will also survive. I know, I know…what about immunocompromised people? If you are immunocompromised, then, yes, stay home. But you will probably catch it too. That’s the nature of viruses.

So what’s the answer? Is there an answer? Yes, in my opinion there is: Stop watching/reading mainstream media pushed government propaganda. All it is doing is scaring the life out of you. Go about your days as normally as you can. Get back to living. It is tragic that so many people have been damaged from the multi-year psyop that has been perpetrated on them by the authorities, experts, and message carriers. Asking why is certainly a useful question, but it isn’t necessary to find the answer to move forward and take back your life.

The vaccine, I believe, was meant to help ease the public back to normality, psychologically – an antidote if you will. But the fear campaign, which was needed to control public behavior, never allowed for the difficulty that would be faced to de-terrify the population. In this endeavor, you have been simply been left on your own. Only you can empower yourself to look beyond the fear and get back to seeing the world as it truly is. Just take a look around you: do you see how many people are NOT wearing masks? Look at them. They are still alive. Trust your eyes and turn away from the fear porn pushed by the government-controlled media. You are going to be fine, Covid or not. In the event you do get sick. Don’t panic! I have heard far too many horror stories of hospital-induced comas to put panicked people on ventilators during the early phase the pandemic (this will be for another article altogether). Just stay calm and treat yourself the way you would during any other illness. Call your doctor if you need to.

SARS-CoV 2 is here to stay. It isn’t going anywhere. You will see it every year. You will likely catch it every year. Are you going to let the fear porn run your life for the next decade, until you finally get tired of it, or until the next pandemic is released on you? Well I hope not. I actually hope you stop being afraid and get back to living your beautiful life. But if you do choose to take the path of fear – limiting human interaction and closeness, suffocating yourself and your children with debatably-effective masks, and getting angry at your neighbors for NOT choosing that life, but instead choosing freedom – and you do so simply because the “experts” tell you that’s what you should do, then you might want to consider finding different experts.

Beverly Hills ChiropractorI encourage you again to look around. The hundreds of thousands of people you see walking around unmasked, going to crowded live events, and touching, hugging, and kissing one another are not merely risk-taking idiots that you might be led to believe. No, they are people who have chosen to step away from the 24/7 news cycle of fear that has been perpetrated on them for far too long, and they have chosen to live their lives, like brave, certain, and optimistic human beings. Come join this world. Refocus on what is important in life and come join the living. I am pulling for you to return to a normal life with your fellow human beings. We look forward to your arrival.

aging can be rewardingHow many times have I heard a client say, “It sucks getting old!”? Usually, the statement follows a patient’s full account of his or her many physical ailments, apparently as a way to rationalize the perception of being physically “a mess”. But life should get better as we get older, not worse. We have more experience, more wisdom, and more gratitude.  Life only sucks as we get older under one condition: when our health deteriorates.

The first thing most aging people notice is a breakdown in their aesthetics – that is, the way they look. As we age, the wear-and-tear of living can lead to wrinkles, crooked teeth, graying hair, and sagging skin. Many people increase in size, and they get soft, literally. Of course, this is distressing to many, and as a result, the anti-aging industry has flourished. Creams, lotions, and Botox for wrinkles. Invisalign to straighten teeth. Coloring and hair transplants to battle graying and balding. And plastic surgery for everything from sagging skin to fat removal to bigger boobs to fuller lips. Nothing wrong with any of these treatments to combat the diminishing aesthetics of aging. Obviously, the more one does, the more noticeable it will be to others. On some it looks good, and on others it’s debatable, but nonetheless, we are fortunate to have such a vast number of products and procedures to help us maintain our looks.

Aesthetics: How You Look

Just understand that there are many things you can do, naturally, to maintain your aesthetic appearance. Drinking ample water is essential to skin health (along with many other internal environment benefits). Eating whole, natural foods and avoiding processed foods, fast foods, and foods laden with sugar is absolutely vital in maintaining your looks over time. Supplementing with high quality vitamins will also go a long way in keeping you looking vibrant – vitamins B, C, D and essential fatty acids, among others, for your best aesthetic enhancers. And regular exercise is a must for maintaining your overall appearance. Your body from the neck down goes a long way as an attractive factor. While some become obsessed with their facial appearance, your body shape and size are noticed by most people immediately; and frankly, your face will always look more attractive when slim and healthy from exercise. And finally, you simply cannot ignore getting sufficient rest. Sleep is essential to so many aspects of health including your brain, immune function, and wound healing. Skimp on the sleep and it shows in your face first, then over time, the rest of your body and mind. Sleep, exercise, good food, high quality vitamin supplements, and plentiful water are the keys to natural anti-aging.

Aches and Pains: How You Feel

exercise to stay youngThe next thing that happens to people as they age is that many develop conditions which lead to aches and pains. Some of these conditions are simply excesses and deficiencies of actions and behaviors. For example, not exercising is a deficiency that commonly leads to pain. I am surprised at how many people are unaware of this. Not moving regularly, in a challenging manner (that is, not simply grocery shopping, window shopping, or walking around the mall), is one of the biggest sources of spontaneously emerging aches and pain in people. Back pain, neck pain, arm and leg pain, and joint pain like in the elbows, knees and hips often have no specific injury but are simply due to lack of movement. Conversely, excessive activity can also cause pain – something my athletic clients often ignore. Obviously, overuse injuries exist; however, I am not talking about those here. I am talking about overworked muscles, joints, and limbs. Exercising excessively, or not being mindful of form while working out, or even playing sports on only a few days rest can all lead to overuse aches and pains.

Aches and pains are probably the most common reason people feel old. While wrinkles and graying hair may make one look older, pain is what actually makes people feel old. And it is this element which truly makes people feel that it sucks to get old. However, if you can alleviate your pain, naturally, without a reliance on drugs or surgery, then you can most certainly retain a feeling of youth and vibrancy in your day-to-day living. Adding drug reliance to painful conditions really can cause you to feel old and worn down. Drugs have side effects, like making you feel tired, clouded thinking, forgetfulness, and many others. This combination of pain and drugs is the great ager. Fortunately, there are natural solutions to pain relief, but you will have to be committed and patient. Depending on how chronic your pain condition, it could take time and a lot of work initially. But stay with it. I promise if you keep working at ridding yourself of pain (with professional help where needed), you will succeed.

But I can tell you that in twenty-two years in the natural health business, I have observed that patience is the hardest thing for people to follow. This is somewhat understandable, as few people enjoy being in pain. While drugs and surgery offer quick fixes, but I can tell you, again from over two decades experience, there is no reality in a quick fix. My clients who have opted for surgery, at best, feel better for a short time and then are back in pain again later. Sometimes it is the same pain, sometimes a different but related pain due to the added invasive nature of surgery. You do not have to believe me although I hope you will. You can test what I have just said but unfortunately, I tell you, there is no turning back once you go under the knife. Some folks need the surgery, no doubt, I support those situations. But many people do indeed seek a quick fix, and it just does not exist. In the end, it’s the pain that makes the sufferer feel old; and with enough pain, some added drugs, and a surgery or two, anybody will look and feel old.

Body Rehabilitation: How You Function

injuryAlong with pain is disability. If a person suffers pain, not a spontaneous emerging pain, but one due to injury, it is not uncommon for that situation to lead to a loss of normal function. Sprained ankles, torn ligaments, hip degeneration, labral tears, tendon ruptures, and spinal conditions like herniated discs can all cause long term disability. It is probably not hard to imagine how limping around, difficulty bending forward, the inability to lift moderately heavy objects, difficulty raising one’s arms above one’s head, and numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers could make somebody feel very old. Unfortunately, injuries can be difficult to treat, may take long to heal completely, may have many exacerbations and recurrences, and may prevent you from exercising, leading to further pain and disability. However, the good news is: All injuries are treatable. Again, you just need dedication, commitment, and patience. A good doctor (physical health practitioner) can help minimize setbacks and increase successful healing. But still, it may take time and effort. These are situations which can easily lead one to seek a quick remedy (drugs, surgery). And, of course, surgery may especially be necessary in these situations. Torn ligaments, rupture tendons, and severe disc herniations all need the help of a good surgeon. But many injuries are treatable conservatively; and in my opinion, conservative treatment is always best when an option. Disability, without a doubt, is an aging increaser, but getting your injury treated and rehabilitating yourself will return a pep in your step and bring back some youth and vigor. Heck, you might even be able to run around like kid if you do take care of yourself the right way.

Getting older definitely does not suck. You have enough growth and evolution behind you to truly understand what is meaningful in life. You have more confidence, and less worries about what others think of you. Hopefully, you have enough humility to resolve conflicts with your closest loved ones. Things only get (and stay) bad when you feel bad physically – THIS is what makes you feel older: It makes you feel broken down. The more you can offset this breakdown, the more you will be able to enjoy your golden years. This requires work on your part. It won’t come without your commitment, and it won’t come without action. But if you invest in yourself by doing the right things, you will have the greatest probability of looking your best and feeling your best. That should be worth the effort and I know you will see it that way, too, in the end.

**If you want the definitive guide to healthy life-enhancing behaviors, pick up a copy of The Six Keys to Optimal Health today.

Los Angeles chiropractorA long-time client of mine recently remarked while speaking about Covid that he, in his late fifties, has lived a good, long life and when it’s his time…it’ll be his time. I found this notion odd because, as a whole, he is a remarkably fit guy. He exercises at least five days per week, eats healthfully and moderately, and has meaningful relationships, a number of enriching hobbies, and a professional purpose which gives some meaning to his life. So I had to think about this idea with regard to lifespan and quality of life as we get older, but particularly with respect to how we view the aging process, what we do with the time we have left remaining, and how to think about our inevitable deaths.

My client’s remark struck me as odd since the average life expectancy for an American male is 78.6 years old. Now let’s think about this for a minute. When talking about the average, or mean value, for a (usually large) number in a set, it is important to remember that we are talking about the value in the center of all other values put together. To put it more simply, the average is in the center of a particular range of numbers and will have nearly equal parts bigger and smaller numbers. Thus, if the average American male lives 78.6 years, that means roughly half of American men will live longer. The law of large numbers guarantees that outliers (like existence a 120-year-old person) will not skew the average. That being said, what does the average life expectancy say about each individual’s potentiality for longevity and quality of life?

The average American is overweight. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 75% of the U.S. population is overweight. Two in five people (42.4%) in the U.S. are obese. Let me rephrase that: Take a group of five Americans randomly…four will be overweight, two of them will actually be obese, and only one will be “healthy weight.” Now overweight has some wiggle room; I mean, a body mass index (BMI) of 25 is still considered overweight. Therefore, a 6’0” man at 185 lbs. has a BMI of 25.1. A BMI between 18.5 – 24.9 is a healthy weight, so I would not consider a BMI of 25 problematic. Nonetheless, as you start to push the BMI toward 28-29 (6’0” 210 lbs.), you are just a few pounds short of obesity (BMI 30). If you want to calculate your BMI, you can do so here:

Los Angeles chiropracticIf the average American is overweight, and almost half the population obese, then any individual who is not overweight or obese has a pretty good chance of living into his or her eighties. And their quality of life will be greatly enhanced. How can I be so sure? Well overweight and obese are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and death from Covid. In fact, being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk of death overall. The top five causes of death worldwide are: high blood pressure, tobacco use, high blood glucose, physical inactivity, and overweight and obesity. My client’s well-managed weight almost ensures, in the absence of any accidents or violence, that he will live past the average life span. You should never stop working at weight management, no matter how many times you slip. Get back up and try again if you do – it is most certainly worth the work.

How about drugs? Well first we have prescription meds – 131 million Americans take at least one prescription medication. In a country with 329.5 million people, that’s 40% of the population which is medicated. In fact, the U.S. is the greatest consumer of drugs around the world. That means that either the U.S. is the sickest nation in the world (might be if looked at clearly: U.S. obesity statistics are alarming) or the big business of pharmaceuticals, replete with its white-coat pushers, has found the ultimate market in America. And just to add some spice to these numbers: The U.S. population is roughly 20% children (72 million). So pulling children off the total U.S. population number, it means more than half of American adults take at least one prescription medication regularly. Here is the kicker, though: of these people, the average number of medications taken is FOUR! You must never forget that ALL medications come with side-effects. The longer a person takes a medication (lifestyle drugs) the greater the chance of having his or her physiology affected. Why do you think doctors always ask which meds you’re on? Because medications affect the body, period – no escaping it. The less you take, the less disruption to your physiology. My client, who takes only one prescription medication regularly, is still on the lower rungs of the mile-high medication ladder. If you, like me, take zero meds, then you will have the least amount of medication-disrupted physiology and the highest probability of longevity.

Beverly Hills chiropracticHow about the other drugs – the fun ones? Alcohol, tobacco, and other illicit substances. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 165 million Americans aged 12 years or older currently abuse drugs – that is ~60% of the population (Minus kids under 12). Alcohol consumption is the highest at 139.8 million Americans 12 and over (~51%). Next is tobacco at 58.8 million people (~20%). Finally are the illicit drugs (coke, methamphetamine, heroin, and so on) – 31.9 million Americans use them (~12%). Need I go over all the damage caused by drugs and alcohol neurologically, organically, psychologically and in mal-quality of life to chronic users? My client is a rare drinker at most, putting him at an almost zero risk to health and longevity. And if you are a total abstainer, then your potentiality of living a long, healthful life is rather high.

The one area my client seems to skimp on is getting adequate sleep. My understanding is that his sleep is often interrupted (perhaps from the one medication he takes), and I will say that this one negative element actually can be impactful. At the very least, his lack of restful sleep may lead him to question, psychologically, whether he is expressing his best health. When tired, life can seem a little dragging to anyone. It might also lead one to “feel old”, something I hear quite regularly in my West Hollywood chiropractic practice. When people are in physical pain they do, it turns out, feel older. However, when chiropractic helps relieve their pain, their vibrancy increases, and they appear lighter on their feet and in their attitudes. Getting proper rest can have the same effect on a person. Just take that much-needed vacation you’ve been putting off to see this principle in action. Getting sufficient rest is as important as healthy diet, regular exercise and keeping drugs/alcohol to a minimum.

So again, I found it surprising when my client spoke of his life as if he were on his last legs – living in his golden years. A man in his late fifties should be contemplating what his final contributions to the world will be in service and creativity, thinking about his family and estate, and the ways in which he will enjoy his next forty years. One’s golden years seem to me to be no earlier than in one’s seventies. I do believe, though, that my client’s perspective was being colored by his lack of sleep. That will certainly make anyone feel older. I do not profess an easy solution to this problem, as the cause of insomnia may be varied and complex; however, in the simplest way possible, I must emphasize that if this is also your problem you really should work on fixing the problem sooner rather than later – your quality of life will improve dramatically by doing so. The average life expectancy of an American male is 78.6 years – higher for a female at 78.8 years. Just remember that the average American is also overweight/obese, takes 1-4 prescription drugs, and abuses drugs and alcohol. These are real facts, ugly or not. If very few of these apply to you – or even none! – then you will most likely, in the absence of accident or violence live long into your eighties, nineties, and for some, even hundreds.

Copyright © 2013 Dr. Nick Campos - All Rights Reserved.