Posts by: "Dr. Nick Campos"

Los Angeles Chiropractor Muscle MemoryWhy do you never forget how to ride a bicycle?* If you can forget people’s names, the triangle inequality theorem, or even where you put your car keys…then how the heck can you remember how to ride a bicycle, even after years of not doing so? The answer lies in our different types of memory. We have short-term memory, procedural memory, and even episodic memory, each one being stored in different regions of the brain. And while every form of memory within the human capacity is indeed fascinating, the type of memory I wish to share with you here is not a cognitive memory at all but physiological. It is called muscle memory.

Muscle memory is well-known among athletes and bodybuilders, professional and amateur alike; any person who has spent time exercising, any time at all, believe it or not, has some experience with muscle memory. Simply put, muscle memory is a “detrained” muscle’s ability to regain size, strength and endurance upon retraining. To understand this completely, one must understand what happens during exercise, in this case, I wish to keep it to weight-lifting, although you can assume some overlap into other forms of exercise like yoga, swimming, Pilates and so on. I am referring mostly to forms of resistance training, but these principles apply to other forms of exercise (sports, flexibility training) to varying degrees as well.

When one contracts forcefully against resistance – gravity, weights, resistance bands, etc – the muscle fibers develop micro tears, a form of microtrauma, which the body then adaptively repairs the tissue and adds more fibers to essentially prevent further damage. This process of adding muscle fibers is called hypertrophy – trophy meaning “growth,” hyper meaning “above” or “beyond.” Hypertrophic muscle is what it means to be yoked or ripped in bodybuilding speak. It is essentially what most people wish to achieve, on some level, by lifting weights.

Now in my experience as a long-time health practitioner – with many clients seeing me for a decade or two – I find that very few people exercise consistently day in, day out, week in, week out, or year in, year out. This is not a flaw – it is life. Over the course of a decade, most people have new obligations, changing schedules, new relationships, babies, divorces, deaths of loved ones, and a whole multitude of other tragedies. Sometimes people just burn out – they need a break. Sometimes people get sick or injured. I have many clients who are extremely dedicated to their health and fitness, and not one person have I ever seen keep up exercise without a break in a ten-year period. I am not saying it doesn’t exist, just that it is extremely rare. Life happens.

Here is the point: If you have ever in your life exercised against resistance – that is, lifted weights, done calisthenics, or any sport requiring strength or bursts of speed – you have developed muscle memory, which will allow you to regain what you once had relatively quickly. The two important terms here are “what you once had” and “relatively.” First, it is crucial to understand that getting back to your pre-layoff size, strength and endurance should be fairly simple. You’ll have to return to your work outs slowly and smartly to prevent injury and coax the body back into its groove, but if you do things rightly, you will see your body morph over a short period back to how it once appeared. True, you might have stored some adipose (put on fat), and it won’t just melt away overnight, but the good news is that resistance training actually speeds up fat metabolism, so that lifting weights regularly will help you shed weight faster than diet or aerobic exercise alone. All three matter, but by doing resistance training along with the other two will burn the fat in the fastest possible way. And that is also why I say “relatively,” because, obviously, the rate at which your body returns to pre-layoff shape, size and strength will really depend on the duration of your layoff and the damage caused in that time (food, drugs, alcohol to be exact). So patience will matter in this endeavor, but the principle remains.

West Hollywood Chiropractor Muscle MemoryI cannot emphasize enough this phenomenon of muscle memory and what it means for you. I am certain anybody who has ever seen their once-developed body slip into softness, but then returned to the gym, knows exactly what I am talking about. It doesn’t take long in most cases. One study showed that women who trained for 20 weeks (~ six months), then laid off (detrained) for 30-32 weeks (~ seven months), and then retrained for 6 weeks showed significant increases in cross-sectional areas of muscle fibers (size, girth) which also translated to strength and endurance. Interestingly, the same study found that the initial strength gained by the women during the initial training phase was not diminished much over the detraining phase.

This study shows that aside from the incredible ability of muscle to retain its size, strength, and endurance, even for people who have never worked out, a simple six month regimen of weight lifting exercise will create positive body changes that cannot be completely undone by an equally long layoff. So its worth every effort, even if incrementally. And, if you are like most people, when life twists and turns and you find the need to stop your exercise routine, you can rest assured that you will get back to where you left off quickly when you return to the gym.

I always try to impress upon clients, however, that while getting back to where you were last is relatively easy, taking your fitness to the next level is not – you have to work really hard to get to where you’ve never been. Keep that in mind. I am not trying to imply that developing your body to each successive level is easy. But I do wish to encourage you to keep with it (i.e. – get back to it…or start even) no matter what. Every time you exercise you are developing a little more toward your goal in mind, even if it doesn’t seem so in the moment. Muscle memory proves it. Your body develops and it remembers. So you are never wasting time by exercising – this should be encouraging to know that due to muscle memory, every workout matters.

*The bike thing is due to procedural memory

Life After DeathHere’s a party topic: What happens when you die? Even atheists can have fun contemplating the fate of consciousness on the body’s demise. This, of course, is a ubiquitous concern – every person at one time or another has pondered the thought of what follows the final breath; and some might be surprised to learn that similar views on the matter exist among different cultures and civilizations, showing either a primordial human intuition or our limits on comprehending potentialities which lie beyond the event horizon of our own intellect.  However, I believe that thinking about this question can help bring peace of mind to the here and now, a way to assist one in living fearlessly, and for getting the absolute most out of our one certain lifetime, the only one that ultimately matters.

According to ancient Indo-Aryan traditions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, etc), life proceeds through perpetual cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth, spiraling into ever-higher realms and forms. They call this process Samsara, which essentially means, wandering through successive states of mundane existence.” To understand the true essence of this concept, one must focus on the terms wandering and mundane. To the Indian mind, material or worldly existence was a form of aimless roving through illness, loss, poverty, unrealized desires, and other countless sufferings. Until one applied one’s mind toward spirit, only then could one attain moksha, or liberation, from the repeated cycle of pain and suffering that is the human existence. And this is the important part: only the body dies, the form, while the formless soul (Atman) exists eternally in bliss (Ananda). Reincarnation was associated with the cycle of karma, which was believed to influence the future lives on the cycle of Samsara.

Life After DeathReincarnation is not purely an eastern conception, however, but a western one as well, as the ancient Greeks also believed in the soul’s transmigration from one body to another over time. Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Plato all discussed rebirth and the movement of the soul from freedom to its captivity within the body. To Plotinus, the immortal Soul was the divine emanation of the Intelligence (Nous), and it was corrupted by the body to forget its divine nature. It is the role of the Soul to “remember” its oneness with the source (The One), and it does this through recurring material existence until it is reminded completely of its true place and state in the Divine Realm. Like the Indo-Aryan ideas on reincarnation, the Ancient Greeks believed that only the body dies, while the eternal Soul migrates from body to body until it remembers, and ultimately returns to, its Divine origin.

Life After DeathOther civilizations believed strongly in an afterlife. Whereas reincarnationists believed in an immortal soul which recycled in form and intellect, a tenet of the Abrahamic religions (Judaic, Christian, Islam) is that our soul is indeed immortal but only exists at one time in materiality. Upon death, the soul proceeds to either a heaven or hell. There are many different interpretations of what constitutes a heaven or hell, such as whether they are actual dimensions or simply states of being for the soul. The names also differ from religion to religion, but they all believe in the desirability of one (the heaven) with its eternal graces for the virtuous, and the repugnance of the other (the hell) with its fire and brimstone for the damned. In these belief systems, as in the karmic-based ones, a soul’s eternal future depends on how the person acts in this lifetime. The Pagans, too, believed in an afterlife, in which the immortal soul was either banished to the underworld or exalted into a heavenly garden reserved for the valiant and good-hearted.

Of course, some may offer a third possibility, which is the complete oblivion of consciousness at the time of death. The notion of nonexistence is frightful for many, often subconsciously, and it underlies most if not all human fears. Considering nothingness is extremely difficult for the vast majority of us, so the notion of it being our fate does not promote peace of mind. Further, resuscitation sciences – the medical study of keeping dying people alive – show some interesting findings with regard to near-death experiences. According to Dr. Sam Parnia, MD, PhD, Director of Critical Care & Resuscitation Research at the NYU School of Medicine, we call them “experiences” of death because that’s what it appears to be exactly. He explains what people have reported following resuscitation from cardiac death, where the heart has stopped functioning but the brain has not yet reached irreversible brain damage (brain death):

“People report a unique cognitive experience in relation to death. They may have a perception of seeing their body and the doctors and nurses trying to revive them, yet feel very peaceful while observing. Some report a realization that they may have actually died.

Later they develop a perception or a sensation of being pulled towards a type of destination. During the experience, they review their life from birth, until death, and interestingly this review is based upon their humanity.

They don’t review their lives based on what people strive for, like a career, promotions, or an amazing vacation. Their perspective is focused on their humanity. They notice incidents where they lacked dignity, acted inappropriately towards others, or conversely, acted with humanity and kindness.

They re-experience and relive these moments, but also, what’s fascinating, which sort of blows me away because I can’t really explain it, is they also describe these experiences from the other person’s perspective.

If they caused pain, they experience the same pain that other person felt, even if they didn’t realize it at the time. They actually judge themselves. They suddenly realize why their actions were good or bad, and many claim to see the downstream consequences of their actions.”

It’s almost as if consciousness is operating outside of the brain, as if a separate substance from body is responsible for what we deem awareness.

No logical argument can be made in either direction to prove whether we are immortal souls transmigrating from one lifetime to another or whether we can look forward to, or fear, an eternity of heaven or hell. Both options serve a purpose psychologically to either lessen the fear of nonexistence, which the nothingness of oblivion offers, or to guide behaviors by which to live one’s life, in the event an afterlife of punishment or paradise does, in fact, await us. I think it’s valid to question whether these ideas on life-after-death were conceptualized and promoted to act as a societal control for growing populations. As societies grew, any assistance in keeping people civilized had to be welcomed, and what better way to maintain order than through self-imposed moral restraints. Also true is that the topic of immortality is rarely considered outside of moral contemplations (I was kidding about the party talk), so it is hard to imagine the concept evolving independently from how we expected societies to act as a whole.

Life After DeathNot even oblivion can be proved. But what sets the idea of life-after-death apart from nothingness is that it provides a potentiality from which to bring about peace of mind. If our fundamental fear is the potentiality of non-existence, then its antipode has to have the opposite effect. Oblivion has nothing, literally, to look forward to, and while imagining an afterlife or other material existences may indeed be fantasy, it would have intrinsic value, as the human mind seems to thrive when it has something to look forward to. The mathematician Blaise Pascal and the philosopher John Locke both wagered that the benefits of imagining immortality outweighed its downsides, because, they reasoned, it would be better to be wrong about an afterlife (or karmic cycle) and simply get nonexistence – “he is not miserable; he feels nothing” – than to deny it, act haphazardly, and then ultimately face judgment if an afterlife does, in fact, exist.

Life After DeathIf the notion of death can be equated to “moving on to the next adventure,” then not only is the mind brought to a place of tranquility, but it can also act as foundation to living one’s life to the fullest. Our fears can, and often do, act as limiting factors to what we might try in life, and thus what we accomplish. The primary fear of nonexistence, and its twin fear of death, is most often expressed as a fear of failing. This fear can be strong enough to keep people from taking risks and thus receiving the rewards that come with them. Those that allow their fears to control what they go after often prevent themselves from living magnificent lives. People who live, and act, fearlessly not only surprise themselves in unleashing power which they didn’t know they possessed, but they might even find themselves doing things never before conceived or carried out by another human in history. Everybody can think of someone who fits this profile. Most of the time, great accomplishers do not let their fears guide them. I have heard it said that overcoming the fear of death allows people to truly live.

I think that thinking about death is important. Studies have shown that talking about death regularly actually diminishes anxiety over it. Since death is inevitable, having a healthy, hopeful outlook on it and what lies beyond cannot hurt. As I have already mentioned, there is no logical argument that can prove or disprove any of the theories I have discussed above, so like Pascal or Locke, why not choose the one which allows you the greatest psychological advantage? Or maybe consider the benefits of all potentialities I have discussed here, and weigh each in equanimity. Plato states, through his favorite protagonist and teacher Socrates, that “…either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another… [either way] be of good cheer about death, and know of a certainty, that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.”

Higher MindWhen you speak of yourself, to which you are you referring? Is it your body, your mind, a combination of the two, or a mix of many things? A physicalist might say it is your unique nerve bundles and pathways, how you developed relative to your environment, and how you perceive sense data that makes you you. John Locke, the English philosopher, believed you were a collection of your memories of your experiences. That sounds reasonable…until you consider amnesia. Although rare, cases of thirty-year amnesiacs regaining their memory do occur. Were they not themselves for thirty years? If not, who were they?

These questions bring us back to the subject of dualism and monism. Self-identity is one of those topics that require a conception of what might be the source of “I”. Remember, physicalists believe that everything in the universe is ultimately made of matter; everything is reducible to a physical process, even what we call mind. Memory is brain function, nothing more. As are behavior, emotion, and cognitive tasks, like computations, planning, and decision-making. But what about the more abstract processes we attribute to mind, things like belief, meaning and values – are these also neuro-chemical processes? Where are these processes carried out; what is their mechanism? To date, there is no evidence of a central region of consciousness in the body, or elsewhere for that matter. Rene Descartes believed that the central region of consciousness was nowhere at all. That’s something to ponder.

It is true that we can attribute many mental processes to neurological function. Take vision, for example. Light reflecting off objects enters the eye through the transparent covering called the cornea, is focused by the lens and projected onto the retina. The retina is a transducer which converts the light into neuronal signals, which then travel to the brain via the optic nerve (cranial nerve II). Vision is only one way in which we perceive the external world; another is sound, another touch, another taste, and even another is smell. So we take in a number of sensory stimuli and produce a complex picture of the world around us. But is this everything there is to perception?

Higher MindOften when we discuss perception we refer to meaning. It is not enough to sense the world around us; we also apply meaning to everything we experience. Meaning is a complex attribute that receives input from beliefs, values, memories and emotions. Is this also reducible to physical processes? What about belief – is there a brain function we can call the Santa Claus belief process, which could explain the belief in Santa Claus in all children who do so? For us to determine that indeed a brain process is responsible for this belief, we would have to see the same process in most, if not all, Santa Claus believers. And values – those elements of us which drive our decisions, actions, and behaviors – which brain functions create them?

Conundrums like these make it difficult to imagine that all mental processes have physical foundations. I believe we can safely say that any mental function which is clearly attributable to a brain state, like simple sensory perception (or speech recognition, word formation, and impulse-control), would be a brain function. We can call them functions of lower mind. This designation is not intended to make a value judgment on importance or value, but instead to delineate between the tangible, material, and objective processes that we can observe and record from the abstract, intangible, subjective processes which we cannot, but which seem to exist if even just by illusion. The latter processes we can call functions of higher mind.

Higher MindHigher minded processes cannot be observed or recorded. The perception, or meaning, of these processes can be discussed on an individual basis, making them subjective, but we see no observable brain states associated with them. I have already provided the example of belief. What about perception itself? Sense-perception is only one element of experience-perception. How we process an experience requires a number of inputs. But more importantly, we can change our perspective and thus change the subjective meaning of an event, person or thing without any observable change in brain state. It is as if something else must be responsible for these functions.

Former Professor Emeritus of Physiological Science at UCLA, Valerie V. Hunt, a thirty-five year professor of kinesiology and researcher on movement behavior, body image, and neuromuscular organization of human movement, also dedicated much of her life to the study the mind as an energy field and its influence upon human consciousness and behavior. In her book, Infinite Mind: Science of the Human Vibrations of ConsciousnessInfinite Mind, Science of the Human Vibration of Consciousness, she explains higher mind in great detail.

There are growing neurological observations showing that electrical stimulation of the anticipated brain regions did not activate what was considered to be the higher mind. There is no neurophysiological research which conclusively shows that the higher levels of mind are located in brain tissue. Although some level of awareness occurs in the brain, higher levels of consciousness have not been found there. Consciousness appears to be on a continuum from material to non-material reality in which the mind is always involved, sensing, non-material happenings primarily, while the brain taps the material ones. People can remember what happened when the brain was dormant or asleep under anesthetic. Penfield found that during medical anesthesia the human mind continued to work and remember in spite of the brain’s inactivity. Acute awareness also occurred for comatose patients. It is the mind which experiences, and it is the brain which records the ‘experience’. The mind is independent and contains the will of man. The mind is the stream of consciousness. Neurotransmitters are not to be misconstrued as the source of higher mind function. The higher level of mind seems to be outside the domain of material reality as we have been able to measure it. The mind is more a field reality, a quantum reality or a particle reality. The mind is unique from the brain. The mind experiences non-physical reality. Einstein stated that the only reality is that of energy organized into fields. The mind is a field. The long undetectable energy of the human mind springs from the electron energy of the body’s atoms. The mind field is a superconductor. The mind energy is recycled in the environment. Electromagnetic energy waves or fields constitute information and describe the mind. The mind is infinite. It can be everywhere. It could be here or there simultaneously. It is embedded in a larger mind of the planetary ecosystem. Tumors or poor circulation do not affect higher levels of consciousness, only the lower minded levels. Abstract experiences and thought do not rely on the function of sensory nerves.

Higher MindCan you now see why these issues of mind, body, and self-identity have confounded thinkers for centuries? What is responsible for our higher-minded functions? Is it a part of the “me” and “you,” or is it something distinct? And what exactly is responsible for our thoughts, desires, fears, ambitions, sympathies and compassions? Is this something, this higher mind, in complete control of the physical and lower minded us, making us a form of “God-puppets,” or is higher mind accessible to us? I happen to believe our higher minds are individuated, accessible parts of us. Professor Hunt could be correct that higher mind is an energy field. Or Descartes might be correct that higher mind is nowhere at all to be found, and certain elements of Taoism might even support this notion. But it can hardly be argued that higher mind is separate from us, as higher mind clearly necessitates individuation to account for the varied personalities, subjectivities, and perceptions of “I” in the world.

How do we access higher mind? And what does it mean precisely to access higher mind? I will save these questions for another post, but I will say that if higher mind is what we, in fact, call our higher-minded, abstract mental functions, then it would most certainly have influence on our decisions, creativity, innovation, inspiration, art and music, mathematics, technology and philosophical understanding. Anybody wishing to enhance any or all of these areas would certainly care about, and welcome, accessing their higher minds. I have been teaching courses and providing individual consulting on ways to access higher mind to enhance one’s life experience. If you would love more information, please contact me.

Mind-Body ConsciousnessFrom where do your thoughts come? Have you ever considered it? What makes you see the color red; what makes you distinguish one shade of red from another, and how would you describe it to a person who doesn’t? What is responsible for your palate? If you have no taste for fish, does your friend who loves it taste something different, or do you taste the same thing but you just don’t like it? Why have people different political opinions – isn’t doing the right thing simply common sense? Or different musical tastes, clothing, what people find attractive in others, and so on? This is the realm of the mind-body problem, which seeks to answer whether we are purely physical beings, purely mental, some combination of the two, or something else entirely. This question has existed in some form dating back to ancient Vedic philosophy; the Buddha discussed it, as did Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, and of course most famously, Rene Descartes.

Descartes believed that the mind and the body were separate things. The body being part of the material world is in the realm of physical matter. The mind, on the other hand, belongs to the non-physical mental realm – the realm of thoughts, beliefs, sensations, and the soul. Both body and mind, according to Descartes, were separate entities acting on one another. His philosophy today is called Dualism and it considers mind and body to be distinct yet closely joined. In other words, even though they are different fundamentally, mind and body do act on one another.

So what do you think – is there a real distinction between mind and body? Can you touch your ideas or beliefs? Can you change your body – your skin color, how much insulin you produce, how curly or straight your hair – the way you change your mind? And if mind and body are different, how do they act on one another. What is the mechanism of thought to action, like getting up to go to the bathroom? Where in the brain does it happen? And how can you and I share essentially the same machinery – same neurons, same neurotransmitters, same physiology – yet have totally different tastes, perceptions, and experiences? This is a problem for Dualism, in fact, it is known as the hard problem of consciousness.

The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Philosophy of Mind)

Mind-Body ConsciousnessDualism, like all things, has an opposition. Monism believes that there is only one primary substance, all else derives from it. Now before you think it’s as simple as that – Dualism, two substances; Monism, one primary substance – understand there are different views on which substance is primary. Physicalists (or materialists, remember these folk?) believe that the primary substance is physical – that is, everything can be reduced to physical matter. To the physicalist, brain and mind are one and the same. What we consider the workings of the mind are simply neurochemical processes of the brain, and although we do not know exactly which processes lead to subjective experience (the hard problem), or where to find them, a physicalist believes we will ultimately come to know them, and when we do, very likely we will find that consciousness is reducible to a physical process.

Another type of Monism is called Idealism, which believes that the primary substance is mental, and matter can only exist to the extent that it is perceived by the mind. Even time and space only exist in the mind, according to idealists. Idealism, derived from the Latin and Greek “idea,” is the belief that all things owe their existence to the mind, for without consciousness how could anything be perceived at all.

Neutral monism is yet another type of primary substance belief, which see both physical and mental as part of the same unique, distinct stuff. A sub-group of monism is Dialectic Monism, also known as Dualistic Monism, which states that reality is ultimately a unified whole, but expressed in dualities of complementary polarities, which, while opposed in the realm of experience and perception, actually exist together as inseparable pairs.

So how would these potential realities impact your life? What would they imply about the unfolding of your experience? What would be the implications for your health, your wealth, or your success or failure in any area of your life? We know the mind acts on the body and vice versa. We know that lack of sleep can severely diminish mental acuity, that healing is affected by our outlook, and that placebos work. We are told by accomplished people that “success” and “wealth” are nothing more than states of mind. So, clearly, Descartes was right that the mind and body are intimately tied – there is simply no denying their dual existence.

And from where do our thoughts come? Are they simply neurochemical processes? How are we such vastly different people, not in our machinery, but in our input-output, in our immaterial minds? Our wiring, or neural pathways, is certainly one piece of the puzzle, but what determines that? Why aren’t twins exactly the same? Can DNA account for the parts of us that we can barely understand in and of themselves, like consciousness for example? What about purely subjective thoughts like who we find attractive, or what ice cream flavor we like, or our political leanings? What about our values – that which drives our perceptions, behaviors and actions? Can all this be explained by neurology, biochemistry, and genetics?

It is, of course, possible that the infinite complexities of the mind are reducible to purely physical processes. It is also hard to refute the Idealist argument that nothing exists outside of consciousness, for perception is indeed somethingness (Descartes was right again). So it is possible, as well, for consciousness to be the primary substance, of which our thoughts would be principal, and so perhaps it would be more appropriate under these conditions to ask from where come our bodies.

Mind-Body ConsciousnessBut finally, it opens the possibility of mind and body to exist as polarities of emergent properties from a more primary substance. Many philosophies including Advaita Vedanta and Taoism are monist, with even the monotheistic religions having strong elements of monism. One cosmology I find interesting is that of the Neo-Platonist, Plotinus. In his metaphysics, all things in existence emanate from The One, the primary substance. As the self-caused creator of being, The One outwardly emanates the Nous (intelligence), which then outwardly emanates the Souls, the principle desire for external objects, which then outwardly emanate the Forms (matter).

The mind-body problem has engaged our greatest thinkers for millennia, and I do not foresee the debate being solved anytime soon. I have presented this article to you as an opening to ponder questions, which I believe, can help you live your best life. Believe it or not, these age-old questions underlie our most basic belief systems, and thus the way we perceive the world and ourselves. Seriously, think about the questions I have posed – think about them rigorously, and think about them lightly; toss the ideas around with your friends. I assure you the more you think on the subject, the more your mind will open to ideas which only you can have. Whether because of genetics or a cosmic emanater, you will see your mind stretch to new dimensions with these meditations.

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2020s. Our TV-filled minds and soda-soaked bodies got spun in a real life episode of Black Mirror. I have been writing this blog since 2007, and the primary theme for most of those years has been “mind your health.” I approached this mission from a number of angles. I stressed:

  • Be mindful of your self-care: watch what you eat, move regularly, balance your activities with rest, balance your perceptions to minimize volatilities, address your pain, and minimize toxins
  • Be hygienic and do not be petrified of pathogens. Focus more on your immune function than on any germ
  • See symptoms as your body doing its job, and think of “illness” as an opportunity
  • Keep challenging yourself physically and mentally for continuous conditioning and adaptation

My way, especially in the early years, was to pound that message into my audience, over and over again, perhaps changing the scenario or details of the story, but keeping the main points the same, always. I am big on universals.

It’s also important to be rational – that is, not have expectations that fall outside of reality. Unfortunately, it seems to be the folly of the human mind to place hope in the irrational. While the trait is widespread among us all, it generally operates beneath our awareness. A common expression of this trait is we want to save or eradicate one thing or another – many of which are simply a reality of this world and are neither savable nor eradicatable.

Take death for example. Everyone will tell you that they accept death, and they do, in the long run, without exception. However, when one takes the time to actually think about and assess our underlying views: collectively, people believe we should save life and prevent death at all costs. Our medical system runs with this as its fundamental purpose, and public opinion is often aligned with this sentiment: Nobody should die.

HealthyPreventCovidDeath3I do not believe this is a bad view. We should want to prevent death in others, particularly our loved ones, because it is a distinctively human trait. We do not need to change the things that make us beautiful as humans. But it does help in keeping bigger events in perspective when we are frank with ourselves. For instance, in accepting that all dynamical events (events moving through time) involving a life form come with an inherent probability of death. In other words, death is a part of life. There is death everywhere, and in everything there is a way to die. We might die from something we enjoy and we might die from something we don’t. There is no predicting it at all, not if you allow nature to be the director.

And, of course, that means the world will have death. We tend to perceive large scale, high probability death events as horrific: War, natural disaster, disease – all tragic, all unnecessary, all regretful. Naturally, as humans we wish to eradicate them all. It would seem absurd, of course, to most of us for the hope of the abolition of natural disasters. There isn’t a soul who fails to get that we have no control over the elements of nature. Yet, surely, the other two are controllable. War and illness are large-scale dynamic events very similar to what we might consider “natural” phenomena. But human developments are no less natural in how they flow through time, with human decision-making and action leading to an unfolding of events not under individual control. While collaborative efforts can, and certainly do, affect outcomes, they mostly contribute to the flow and unfolding of events more than they “alter” history, as we often perceive, and report on, our heroic efforts.

Understanding these “realities,” as I have already said, gives clarity to our ability to assess larger-scale phenomena. Take Covid-19, for instance: We have had nine-months, maybe longer, to observe and analyze the virus responsible, SARS-CoV-2. We have solid numbers now. Why are we acting irrationally in the face of the facts?

For nine months, I have read, listened, watched Congressional hearings on, discussed and cross-referenced this pandemic. I have heard many arguments on a few different sides, and the conclusions always depend on who is doing the talking. Some people believe we are under-reacting; others believe we are going too far. Animosity is simmering and beginning to roll to a boil. Some have been willing to unleash their aggressions on those they think are either selfish or sheep, depending on their overall perspective. But is it warranted?

I think I have laid the groundwork for an argument which I believe stems from the human propensity to not want others to die. Most of us feel that way on one level or another; it’s understandable, and in my perspective, desirable and beautiful to want others to live. But on the other hand, it seems irrational to continue strict quarantine measures, when the numbers do not justify the reaction.

The two most fundamental characteristics of a pathogen are its contagiousness and its pathogenicity. A pathogen’s contagiousness is how quickly and readily it will spread among people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is a rapid spreader. This to me is the most relevant attribute of this virus. The pathogenicity of a microorganism is its ability to cause disease. A highly pathogenic organism can cause serious damage – to individuals, yes, but also to populations as a whole. If a pathogen is both highly contagious and highly virulent, there will be enormous death. Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of the bubonic plague, the Black Death, is contagious and highly virulent. If left untreated, the death rate for this pathogen is 70-100%. As a result, it led to the death of over a third of the population of Europe.

How virulent is SARS-CoV-2? As a novel virus – meaning, it is relatively new to us – we could only estimate early on the virus’ pathogenicity, to which we then attributed a death rate. Now, understandably, in the first few months of the pandemic, we estimated high. The numbers were not large enough to approach the mean, and without a doubt, it was wise to be safe over sorry. Death rate [or infection fatality rate more accurately (IFR)] is simply calculated:

# of deaths/# of cases

As we are now nine or more months into things, the numbers are large enough that we can assume we are approximating the mean (or average). The U.S. death rate, then, using the most current numbers (as of December 17, 2020):

311,000/17,300,000 = 0.018 or 1.8% (approximately 1 in 50)

Studies like this one estimate that the actual SARS-CoV-2 infections is anywhere from 3-20 times higher than current confirmed cases. At the low end that would make the death rate

311,000/51,900,000 = .0059 or .59% (approximately 1 in 200)

At the high end

311,000/346,000,000 = .00089 or .09% (less than 1 in 1000)

Deaths-by-Age-Group-ChartFurther, approximately 40% of all U.S. deaths have been in nursing homes. If we were to remove the 100,000 nursing home deaths from the numbers above, the death rate would look like this:

211,000/17,200,000 = 0.012 or 1.2% (approximately 1 in 100)
211,000/51,800,000 = .0040 or .40% (approximately 1 in 250)

211,000/345,900,000 = .00061 or .06% (approximately 1 in 2000)

Seen from another angle, the number of people who have been infected and who have survived is as high as 1,999 of every 2,000.

This study from September 2020, estimates the infection fatality rate as .28-.31%, or roughly 3 deaths in every 1,000 infections, and according to some experts the actual death rate [case fatality ratio (CFR)] is closer to 0.02% (that’s 1 in every 5,000).

More importantly, and the real point I wish to make, is that 94% of deaths reported have had associated comorbidities, in other words, underlying health issues. Does this mean that only 6% actually died of Covid-19? No but what it does mean, though, is that people who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Well I’ve got news for you: People who have underlying illnesses are at a greater risk of dying, period. I have been trying to get this point across for going on two decades now. When will people get it? And the vast majority of underlying illnesses today are lifestyle related – that means they are PREVENTABLE! Some of the most common comorbidities associated with Covid-19 deaths are influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, cardiac arrest, heart or renal failure, and obesity.

HealthyPreventCovidDeathBelieve it or not, every one of these Covid-19 death associated illnesses can be minimized by adopting healthy lifestyle habits. It’s amazing how many people get angry at me for stating this fact, that they could actually improve their health, improve their lives, and minimize illness and suffering by practicing simple healthy habits. Eating well, exercising, stretching, sleeping well, addressing emotional stresses, addressing physical pains and injuries wisely, and keeping the drugs, alcohol, and other medications to moderate levels will significantly impact your life for the better. These are simple actions that everyone can adopt, but the reality is that only a small percentage of the population actually does so. People, in general, want easy fixes, which just do not exist in the realm of health and wellness. Fixes which appear to be quick and easy (and that includes many surgeries) almost always come with unwanted consequences (aka side effects). Dying of Covid-19 is one of them.

Listen, the numbers do not lie. What makes things uncertain for the masses is the volume of different interpretations. Granted most people wish to be safe over sorry – I both get that and agree with it. However, you cannot leave your health to chance and then expect a different outcome. It is not too late for the vast majority of people. I have come to understand that only a small portion of the population will heed my words. This article is for YOU – the person who recognizes the wisdom in what I say. Do highly virulent pathogens exist? Yes. Is SARS-CoV-2 that pathogen? Not by the numbers, it isn’t. Despite hearing for months that the death rate would climb to its more accurate number, it hasn’t gone up at all – it has gone down, and in my opinion it will prove to be even lower. Does this mean we should take it lightly? NO! Do the right things for yourself and your family (what you teach them today becomes habit tomorrow). That has always been my message and it will continue to be so – it is universal.

Dharma Karma Particles and LightWhy are you here? Do you have a purpose? Or is your life simply random—chance collision of particles and light; the perfect, yet improbable, conditions for the emergence of life, a pure coincidence? The reigning belief among materialists is that this scenario is precisely how life emerged—right place, right time—the materialist notion of a miracle.

Some scholars, however, particularly in evolutionary biology, believe there exists a teleology within nature, a purposeful action, a reason for doing things. Birds orient toward Earth’s magnetic field via magnetoreceptors, allowing them to find their way home; molecules of life form to better dissipate energy and thus increase entropy, and the human mind does not perceive reality as it truly is, but in ways which allow it to survive.

Dharma Karma Life PathMany have spoken of a purpose to human life, a dharma as the yogis call it, and every person, it is believed, has their own individual dharma. Acting within one’s dharma would be the highest undertaking one could choose, as mission would dictate one’s actions. Great teachers throughout history have seen this as the answer to life—a way to rise above one’s challenges and seeming obstacles. Simply follow your dharma and you can never fail. Many people, however, are not completely aware of their life’s purpose. I believe that uncovering your life’s purpose is the greatest blessing you can receive. I have dedicated my life’s work to helping people uncover and cultivate their purpose.

Following the path of one’s dharma is not without hardship though, an experience common to all human beings. In fact, hardship, trauma, and devastation are so ubiquitous that some of the world’s greatest teachers have addressed these with sayings, stories, and even their own lives. The simple fact is that every one of us must walk through our own personal tragedies, and we must do it alone—nobody can walk for us.

Why must we all have this experience of turmoil? Is there a purpose or is it also random?

Some would say that we have a guiding light directing us at all times, and that we have the ability to increase our connection to this source of information, or perhaps better to say that we can increase the transmission of information, as the connection is always there, only the rate and intensity of the broadcast varying. We can increase the transmission of that guiding light by using the tool of meditation.

The source of this guiding light has been called the Higher Mind, and its transmissions are received by the Lower Mind. I will spend significant time in later articles to describe what is meant by Higher Mind. Lower Mind is simply the somatic element of the mental system—the brain and spinal cord, the neurology. The sensori-emotional Lower Mind when highly charged can convolute the transmissions of Higher Mind, and so by minimizing these convolutions (through meditation and other equilibrating practices), the individual (or monad) begins to make its way toward divinity—a state of complete unity (Godliness).

To do this requires a shift from Lower Minded perceiving to Higher Minded knowing, a certainty which must be cultivated. The shift is mental, and thus perceptual, so it is of the mind—taking the individual from a perception of separateness to a knowingness of unity. The human mind’s greatest illusion is of separation in space and time, another concept we will investigate in another post.

Dharma Karma Rising PhoenixAnother ubiquitous human experience is the rising like a phoenix from the ashes and anguish of our traumas. It is no surprise that some of the most powerful stories told are of rising, like great spirits, up to the heavens of salvation. We do rise, only to fall again, yet rise higher and higher every time we pull ourselves up, approximating the oneness of all things, in timeless, spaceless elevation.

I was contemplating the work of the great philosopher, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, titled The Sufferings of Young Werther (Norton Critical Editions), about a young man who falls in love with a woman he cannot have. The story follows the Young Werther as he attempts to win her heart by any means necessary as time moves on, until, upon accepting the agony of the situation, that she will never be his, he takes his own life in grief—a true tragedy of the heart. Too many people choose the Young Wether’s path, thinking they cannot rise from the ashes of their own scorched lives. But the rise is as ubiquitous as the fall. No matter how destructive your last inferno, by allowing the knowingness of Higher Mind to guide you spontaneously, and enhancing it by mind-equilibrating practices, you will fulfill your dharma with a certainty of the all-encompassing unity which paves your divine path. Uncovering purpose, following it dutifully, and allowing Higher Mind to operate freely, with trust in the unity of existence and experience, is truly the highest path one can take. History’s greatest teachers could not have all been wrong about that.

Earth's spheresIn the last post, I discussed a few benefits that come from regular meditation practice. One benefit which warrants its own piece is that meditation makes the mind ripe for inspiration. To understand this phenomenon, I will have to introduce a concept, one that is similar to the notions of God, soul, or Higher Mind (next post). Having no way to prove the existence of any of the above, and also having no way to falsify them, these abstract ideas are unprovable and fall into the realm of faith. However, I would like to point out that, despite there being no rigorous way to prove or disprove the forthcoming concept to others, you can gain experiential proof for yourself by doing what the Buddha always encouraged of his students; he’d say, “Ehipassiko,” or come see for yourself.

To understand what I am about to share, you must first understand the spheres which surround the earth. Although Earth has seventeen known spheres, I will only touch upon five: the geosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. A sphere is a three-dimensional shape equivalent to the two-dimensional circle, of which every point on its surface is equidistant to its center. The Earth itself is a sphere. One may think of Earth’s spheres, then, as smaller to larger orbs in, on, and surrounding the globe. The first and smallest is the geosphere, which occupies the space within the Earth’s core. It is the molten rock deep inside the Earth’s surface, magma as it is called, and also the mantle and plasticky-layer known as the asthenosphere. The geosphere is what makes up the inner core of the planet.

Next sphere layers outward start with the lithosphere, which is the rocky crust of land on the surface of the Earth. Litho- means “rock,” and thus the lithosphere is the mountains, volcanoes, and other rocky surfaces of the planet. Along with the lithosphere, the hydrosphere makes up the surface of the Earth. As its name implies, hydro- means “water,” so the hydrosphere is the Earth’s bodies of water. The biosphere is all the living things on the planet, including humans, animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, and viruses. And then there is the atmosphere, which surrounds the Earth in a sphere just larger than the planet itself. The atmosphere contains the gasses needed by living things to breathe and carry out photosynthesis; it maintains pressure sufficient for the presence of liquid water, and it also provides protection from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Each of these spheres contributes to Earth’s many functions, or to the ecosystems residing on the planet. Another sphere, and the one which I wish to introduce as the abstract, unprovable concept, was postulated by two thinkers at approximately the same time (and through mutual influence on one another). It is called the noosphere. This sphere is the hypothesized sphere of information, named after the Greek nous-, which means “mind” or “intellect.” The two founding conceptulizers of this evolutionary biospheric development are French philosopher and Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and biogeochemist Vladimir Vernadsky. I will not discuss their complete conceptualization of the noosphere. For that, I recommend further reading, specifically Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man (Harper Perennial Modern Thought). I merely wish to discuss how you can use the concept of the noosphere to understand from where inspiration may come, and how you might be able to tap into this potentially ever-present source of information.

I think it is most useful to think of the noosphere as a “cloud,” very much like the information cloud in which we store our digital data. The noosphere is all the information that has ever existed or will ever exist. So unlike the internet cloud, which is the information humans have access to currently, the noosphere contains all that, along with all past unknown or lost information, and all future information as well. According to this concept, individuals do not create information with their neurology, but instead tap into the cloud of information that is the noosphere, and as such download that information as a stream of ideas and inspirations. Think about it—all mathematics, all music, all art, and all technological innovation come from the noosphere, where each individual (monad) taps into and downloads the information. We all do it. Every idea you have ever had comes from this sphere of information.

Clear MindNow how do some ideas lead to innovation that ends up influencing humanity for years, generations, and even millennia?  Why do some people get big ideas while others seem to think diminutively? The answer is more complex than I can do justice in this one article, but the simple explanation is that some people are proficient at clearing their minds of the relentless mind-chatter I have referred to in a previous article on mindlessness. As a result, they clear the receiver, and thus enhance the transmission channels from the noosphere. Furthermore, while almost everyone gets great, inspirational ideas from time to time, not everyone acts on them, which a big mistake in my opinion. A discriminating mind is obviously needed to determine which ideas should be acted on and which shouldn’t, but it seems more common than not for the average person to disqualify their inspirational ideas as crazy, undoable, or unworthy for whatever reason people do. Again, as a result of my understanding of the noosphere, I think it is a mistake to discount your downloaded inspirations.

While meditation is not the only practice which can increase your transmissions from the noosphere, it is a simple tool which you can utilize immediately. There is a right and wrong way to meditate, as simple as it may sound, and I find many come to my courses without having had the proper instruction on technique and philosophy behind an effective meditation practice. Both elements are necessary as philosophy without technique is empty, and technique without philosophy is blind. So my recommendation is to learn both. If you would love to learn the hows and whys of meditation, as well as other techniques which will strengthen your ability to both tap into and increase the transmission from the noosphere, please contact me. Every great idea has been downloaded from the noosphere; yours are no less great, you simply need to act on them. Tap in, download and act—it really is that simple. Contact me and I can help you with each.

Meditation Los AngelesWhat is meditation? Is it what we speak of when discussing mindfulness? In short, no – meditation is tool, while mindfulness is a state of mind. A good reminder from a previous article is that we spend the bulk of our waking time on auto-pilot. This habitual activity-mode allows us to think while we drive, talk on the phone while typing, or discuss vacation plans while having sex. It is a state of mind; one which we specifically differentiate from being laser-sharp focused – or mindful.

Meditation, on the other hand, is a practice. Without a doubt, regular meditation strengthens focus, and thus it strengthens one’s ability to enter mindfulness, but it is purely a tool, one that needs to be practiced regularly and earnestly to become effective. Greater mindfulness is a consequence of consistent meditation. But meditation is not the only path to mindfulness, it just happens to be an extremely effective one. For sure, the Bhagavad Gita discusses meditation as a form of yoga, and it is a path to awareness, but by no means is it solely so: in fact, greater mindfulness is merely one consequence of many for the meditator. Meditation can be used to come to know the Self, to connect with the Source (or Absolute in Vedantic philosophy), and ultimately to unionize with the Source (samadhi). It achieves these aspirations by dissolving the boundary between self and other, between the one and many, and between sensory experience and reality.

To practice meditation is to attempt to go to the “other” side of thoughts: to allow what comes to come and what goes to go. Meditation is the start to separating the Self (true nature) from the self (body, mind, and sense of individuality). By repeatedly practicing awareness and focus, the proper conditions are beings set for release of self to Self. This state of being is called samadhi and is known to many spiritual disciplines. Because reaching this state is purely experiential, you cannot fully understand it with words alone. In fact, this is true for every stage along the way to samadhi as well, such that meditation leads to an inner unfoldment, a progression, where each layer spread out brings one closer to one’s true Self (not the self of the physical body and mind).

Mind Dissolves Meditation, by virtue of this inner unfoldment, leads to a greater receptivity to reality. As awareness expands, illusions become shattered and nightmares neutralize as a greater sense of oneness and orderliness flood the consciousness. Purpose becomes clearer, problems unite with solutions, and visions sharpen; meditation opens channels to understanding and inspiration.

Even the physical body changes morphologically through regular meditation. Studies show that meditation is associated with changes in gray matter concentration in brain regions involved in learning and memory, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective taking. While taking on meditation to attain physical or intellectual prowess might be mundane, these are a few interesting side-effects regular meditation brings.

Understanding that meditation is a tool is imperative, because it is easy for some to mistake the tool for the goal, which can lead to a discontinuation of practice for sheer lack of interest or significance to the practitioner. It can also lead to a false sense of achievement and thus stagnation in others. Understanding that meditation is simply a tool to achieve varying levels of awareness helps the practitioner stay on track and open to each layer of Self as it unfolds. It also allows the practitioner to remain unattached to the tool, because Self-realization can and will occur outside of meditation as well. Attaching to the tool can prevent the practitioner from reaching deeper levels of awareness by holding onto the illusion that the tool is necessary. It isn’t. It’s just a tool.

Deep sleep meditation coursesThat tool is used ultimately to get you to different states of consciousness. Recall that mindlessness, our typical waking state, is the state of unconscious consciousness: minimally aware of moment-to-moment details. And mindfulness is conscious consciousness: intense awareness of moment-to-moment details. Samadhi, then, that state of oneness to which we aspire through meditation, is an entirely different state altogether: we can call it a state of conscious unconsciousness. This is a strange concept to anybody hearing it for the first time…conscious unconsciousness? Appreciating this term is best done by associating it with something we do every night: deep sleep. The sleep cycle is split into four stages: light sleep, moderate sleep, deep sleep, and REM sleep. Deep sleep is about twenty five percent of each sleep cycle and what we call restorative sleep. When a person is in deep sleep they are unaware of everything: their body, their mind, and their individuality. They are conscious in the general sense that they are not dead, but they are dead to the world for the period they are in that state. An even better example is the person who is put under anesthesia, like I was in 2006 to have my appendix removed. Just before the operation the anesthesiologist told me, “This is going to be your cocktail for the night, Mr. Campos.” And the next thing I knew it was, “…Mr. Campos, Mr. Campos, wake up, you’re done.” And that was that, time passed but to me it was instantaneous. I was in a state of unconsciousness, and I was unconscious to it.  We go there every night in deep sleep. Every person has had the experience of waking up and thinking, “Where am I, how did I get here?” That’s unconscious unconsciousness. Samadhi is being in a deep-sleep-like state, yet being aware and conscious throughout. Weird, huh? But that’s what it is, conscious unconsciousness: a truly experiential phenomenon. Words cannot describe.

The main point is that meditation is a tool to get you to a state – the state of conscious unconsciousness. Once you are there the goal changes, but I will leave that for another article. Most important for you, the practitioner, the aspirant, is the revelation along the way. This unfoldment of Self is what changes life for good.

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

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

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

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

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

The next thing mindfulness is not is judgment. Judgment is a natural mind activity. We judge by default almost constantly: Good, bad, right, wrong, up, down, hot, cold, safe or sorry – all of these are judgments we are making constantly. We need judgment to survive; we have to select between choices constantly. As a hardwired function of the human mind, we judge things, idea and experiences with little to no thought. In fact, this system is so strong that we often allow it to make decisions for us, even in spite of evidence showing errors in our judgment. That being said, mindfulness is neither about judging our thoughts nor stopping judgment. It is about observing our judgments without becoming attached to them. Our mind creates stories that we can easily get carried away by. Mindfulness is allowing these stories to take shape, making note of them, and allowing them to fade as abruptly as they come. It is not allowing one story to lead to the next while falling unconsciously into its stream. A seasoned mindfulness practitioner recognizes this as the standard state of the mind – the unconscious consciousness of auto pilot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

simon-migaj-Yui5vfKHuzs-unsplash (Copy)Mindfulness has become a fashionable term over the last few years, for good reason: as an ancient practice cultivated to allow practitioners to come to know themselves, mindfulness has been shown scientifically to reduce mental and physical effects of stress. Stress can be both beneficial and detrimental, depending on how one perceives it, but since most people tend to experience stress negatively, it can lead to a number of physical conditions which ultimately break down the body. In fact, stress related disorders are estimated to be responsible for 75-90 percent of all doctor’s visits, causing such problems as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, problems sleeping, and even sexual problems. Having a tool, then, to minimize stress and its effects on the mind and body is invaluable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 2

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

The Way I Cope

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

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

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

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

The Voice I Hear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Please read up on study 329


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Heart disease can be reduced by following some health basics:

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

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


Part 1 here

Anorgasmia

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

Fear of inadequacy

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

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

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

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

 Fear of disgracing loved ones

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

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

Fear of dishonored reputation

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

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

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

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