Friday, November 2, 2018

Breathing - when did we forget how?

We are surrounded by advertisements,  infomercials,  news articles,  posters, signs, audio, and video telling us that we need to stop and breathe.  Wait a minute if I was not breathing I think I would know it?  Yes, we are all breathing but not like we used to breathe in the days and times when we hunted for our food, pounded our own corn into flour, knitted our own clothes, walked everywhere and even beat our own eggs.  In our faced paced world today we are living in a state of sympathetic overload or dominance.  What that means is that our nervous system and thus all of our organs and brain are running in high gear. When that happens, our breathing is more shallow and rapid thus causing increased cortisol (stress hormone) that signals our immune system to produce lower white blood cells which are used to fight off infections and police our bodies for mutated/potential cancer cells.   Blood is shunted(moved away) from our core to our arms and legs so we can run from this danger or stress our bodies are perceiving.  Our bodies PH changes and that causes all the flora in our gut to change so the bad flora over grows, our skin ph changes so that it smells different and feels different. Our digestive tract at first speeds up but as the stress response continues, day in and day out, our digestive tract fatigues, contracts and spasms.  As a result of the shallow more rapid breathing we are not able to breath in large quantities of oxygen to nourish our cells providing a necessary ingredient in the production of energy.  Additionally,  we are not fully exhaling which causes a built up of carbon dioxide and other toxins in the body.  So, our bodies essentially become a backed up sewer line with all the debris slowing, stalling then backing up,  sitting there and fermenting and stinking up the joint.  In our bodies we experience decreased energy, brain fog, lowered immune system, digestive problems, more frequent infections, dry skin, pimples, need to use more deodorant because we smell different........

In the days when we used to hunt for our food,  walk to gather our food,  sit and have to pound out corn to make flour, darn our own socks, even beat our own eggs  we were able to take the time to breathe correctly.  We had to pace our selves and our breathing otherwise we would not be able to do all that needed to be done. Thus our bodies were in more of a balance between sympathetic (fright and flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) modes of operating.  Let's think about this.  If you were out hunting for your food do you think you would be successful if you were breathing quickly, moving quickly,  acting or feeling jittery.  You would starve to death because the animals would hear you, smell you and sense some strange agitated/unsettled presence in their forest and stay away.  To be a good hunter you have to be calm, blend into the forest,  breath slowly in and out, move slowly and rhymically or not move at all.  That is parasympathetic living.  Very different from our fast paced lives of today.   Let's look at those that did not hunt but rather were in charge of taking care of the day to day needs.  The ability to sit for long periods of time and pound corn into flour  required a comfortable position, focus and developing a rhymical motion, and breathing so that it could be sustained for an extended period of time.  Even the act of darning clothes requires a steady hand,  flowing motion of needle and thread  all of which requires controlled breathing.   If not you would prick your finger with the needle, pound your finger with a rock, get off a bad arrow shot.....

But today in our fast paced world we must take breathing classes, yoga classes, meditation classes to remind us how to breathe normally, restore us to a more balanced state.  If we just put more balance into our day, sometimes quick sometimes slow, we wouldn't need to make time to remember to breathe correctly we would be living correctly.

But, until that time comes let's talk about how to breathe correctly to help our bodies maintain a more balanced nervous system.

Ideally, we should be breathing in (inhalation)  for a count of 6 and breathing out (exhalation) for a count of 6.  This type of breathing help keep our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems balanced.  Inhalation stimulates our sympathetic nervous system.  It puts or keeps us in fright and flight mode.  Exhalation stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system.  This is the state that allows for rest, digest, repairing of our bodies.  It is also the state that allows our brains to focus and perform more efficiently.  Parasympathetic nervous system allows us to have a steady hand to shoot the arrow, type on a keyboard, throw a dart and hit the bullseye.  When we are too sympathetic we lose fine motor skills.  We are just running for our lives.

If you would like to continuing learning about breathing, Richard P. Brown MD,  has done extensive research and teaches how to breath properly.  He also has several books on the subject.  One of which is called Healing Power of the Breath.

Friday, September 21, 2018

How is that for you?

A question we rarely ask our canine companions.  And why not?  A dog's sense of smell is way better than ours.  A dog has 300 millions olfactory (nose) receptors to sense an odor vs a humans mere 6 million.  The area in the dogs brain that is responsible for processing and analyzing what they smell is 40 times larger than the same area in a human.

12 percent of the air a dog breaths in their nose is diverted directly to the olfactory area in the brain.  The remaining air goes to the lungs for normal breathing.  As humans we don't do that.  All of the air we breathe in goes to our lungs.  It does however pass over a very small specialized olfactory area on the roof of our nasal cavity. 

To put another way, dogs can detect some odors in parts per trillion.  What does that mean? Well, in her book Inside of a Dog, Alexandra Horowitz, a dog-cognition researcher at Barnard College, writes that while we might notice if our coffee has had a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic sized pools worth.  

So, when my dog Spike is happily walking on a trail or down the street and suddenly stops, smells the air and does an abrupt about face to high-tail it out of there, I should have always listened.  But no, I thought I knew more.  I thought he should have "sucked it up" and continued to walk.  I wanted to walk and I didn't see a threat.  I would then try to convince him to walk some more which usually just ended with me being frustrated and disappointed and Spike probably thinking, she is dumb and she doesn't trust me?  It is amazing I have any credibility at all in his eyes.  

I now believe him.  Now I ask him in all situations - How is that for you? Why is that so important?  Well, for one thing I have first and foremost acknowledged that his answer to the question "How is that for you"  is DANGER WILL ROGER'S  DANGER !! Let's get the hell out of here!!  By acknowledging his reaction as real, and not minimizing it, tricking, coaxing, luring him to continue thus reinforcing his belief that  - YOU ARE STUPID AND NOT TO BE TRUSTED,  AND YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME !!  Why then should he ever listen to me if I do not listen to him?  Humm.....  Just because I walk on 2 legs does not make me better or smarter than my 4 legged friend.

I have to admit I am a slow learner ( in my own and probably Spike's eyes) in this regard.  Since I have been acknowledging Spike's reactions as real and then giving him choices, our relationship has really become more solid.   

I am wondering if we all employed this simple consideration in all aspects of our lives how it would be?

If you would like to learn more about this ELEMENTAL QUESTION™ and others to improve your relationship with your canine companion, please go to Suzanne Clothier's website.
See your dog, Elemental Questions™ by Suzanne Clothier

If you would like to learn more on the dog's olfactory functions here is the link to a good article.  Dog's Dazzling Sense of Smell

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Meditation - what does it really do?

I have tried to meditate many times over the years.  The usual sitting in a quiet place either on the floor with my legs crossed and my hands on my knees in the traditional meditation pose or sitting on a chair to maintain good posture. Have even tried laying down to minimize thinking about my body posture.  It does not matter the pose or position, my mind still runs away parading a ticker tape of thoughts, words, pictures across my brain.

I know every one says you must "calm your mind", "follow your breath".  Really?  What does that really mean?  All I wind up doing is criticizing myself for not being able to do this for even 5 minutes.  I get frustrated - Not, relaxed and focused. I walk away feeling worse about myself for not being able to just BE.  I have read many philosophical books on the subject and still no help or what I consider a logical explanation as to the real benefits of meditation, how, why and what actually is occurring in the body as a result of meditation.

I came across an article in the NYTimes by a neuroanatomist. He basically said as you breathe in you are stimulating the sympathetic nervous system and when you breathe out you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system.  Why is this important you might ask?  The sympathetic nervous system keeps us in a state of fright and flight, ready for action, high cortisol levels. This stresses every system in our bodies as they are on guard and prepared to take action at any moment.  On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is about rest and digest.  This state allows us to take in information, process it and respond appropriately without the adrenaline rush or cortisol spikes.  So,  your breath out should be twice as long as your breath in to activate and achieve more parasympathetic tone in the body.

Another study talked about how putting yourself into a more parasympathetic state several times a day is more helpful for your heart health than a rigorous aerobic workout.  It is the low part of the aerobic workout, the time after you push yourself to the limit that is the most beneficial.  The lower intensity time of interval training is what is teaching your body and heart to function in parasympathetics.  Imagine that.

Back to mediation.  So,  how does one ignore or get past the ticker tape of information running trough your mind as you are attempting to meditate?  Dr. Daniel Siegel MD in his book Mindsight used the analogy of a wheel to get his point across.  He says that the hub of the wheel is where you want your focus to be and as your mind drifts outward to the rim of the wheel you must bring you attention back to the hub.  It is not about quieting your mind!!!!!  It is about learning how to focus, even in the light of distractions!!!  This was a brilliant concept and finally one that made sense to me.

In a conversation with my sister I had a flash of insight on this subject that seemed to pull it all together for me and hopefully others as well.

During meditation we sit in a chair, on the ground, or lay down so that we have contact with our bodies on a surface.  This contact keeps us grounded and we can use the pressure we feel of that surface to our bodies as a place to bring our attention back to when we start to become distracted by the ticker tape in our mind.  We practice our breath to increase our parasympathetics and decrease the sympathetics.  We can also use our breath as another cue that we can bring our focus back to when our minds start to be distracted.  Again,  this is never about quieting our mind!!!  This is about learning to have control over what we think about.  What we allow our attention to be drawn to.

So,  here is  a story I came up with to explain the process of mediation when I was talking to my sister....

Think of the center of the wheel, the hub as the place where you are feeling your body against a surface or the sound of your breath.  This is a real, tangible feeling that you can always come back to.   Maybe even think of yourself as sitting on a rock.  As we know, that is not a comfortable place to sit and we usually are very aware of it pressing into our body.  We are breathing and can hear our breath as the air passes in and out of our nostrils or mouth.  Great so far.  We think yeah, I can do this!  Then the fairies start to dance around the rock.  Fairies can symbolize the distractions that start to surface and run across your mind.  These distractions can be words, pictures, to do lists....  Now, these fairies can be very distracting.  They can be wearing bold colors,  jumping up and down to gain your attention,  even calling out to you.  This is where you must draw your attention back to that rock where it is pressing into your buttock or the sound of your breath.  Let the fairies dance around.  You have no control over them.  What you do have control over is where you focus your attention.  And that is now on you and the present moment.  Sure, you will keep taking a peek out to see what the fairies are doing next (they are cute little things and very entertaining)  however,  bring your attention back to your rock and your breath.  You did it - you meditated.

This is what we must do in real day to day life.  This practice of meditation enables us to filter or block out distractions and remain in a more parasympathetic state that is not dominated by reactivity, flight and fright but rather a state where we can make clear decisions and appropriate reactions.

I find this to be a much better way of mediation rather than criticizing myself for not being able to tame my mind.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Part 2....

After some reflection following my first writing on the subject of valued professions I got thinking that as consumers we can change this perception.  Our young people and even older people in certain jobs are not even treated kindly or with respect by consumers.  Maybe if we, as consumers, would show our appreciation for others then maybe they could feel better about their jobs.  This could snowball into better self esteem, better work ethic, improved quality of their work, initiative to learn more and be better at what they are doing.  What a novel concept.  As consumers, we could eventually change this warped view of what is important and valued in society.  We could begin to see that what is of real value is the person doing the work.  If the doctor or computer  person did not have someone to make them their coffee, prepare and serve their lunch, cut their grass, fix their leaky pipes…….  they would or could not be as good at their job because they would have to be learning how to do these other things in life.  They could miss their opportunity to come up with something life/world changing.  AND, when they do come up with that life/world changing idea it is important to realize that it is really those others in their lives that played an enormous role and allowed it to happen.  For without their help, it would never have occurred. Think about that one. 

How did we get here?

Who has determined what is an important job or career to have in this lifetime.  Seems that over the years more importance has been placed on doing jobs or having a career in technology, computers, medicine, law…… which are considered important and prestigious.  Owning your own business, making alot of money, having a big house, going to the right schools, shopping  at certain malls, driving the right car……  How did we get here? How did we get brainwashed into this belief system?  Plumbers, tailors, electricians, mason/bricklayers, deli workers, landscapers are all needed and valued professions.  Finding someone that is really skilled in those trades is hard to do.  It is a true gem to find a person that is skilled, talented, passionate and takes pride in their trade/profession in spite of the fact that society doesn’t hold them in high esteem.   One of the businesses my parents had was a deli and custard stand.  The customers that came in valued the fact that we knew their names (most of the time), but always remembered what they liked to eat and how they liked it prepared.  I found it to be so rewarding to hand a customer their sandwich or ice-cream and know that they really appreciated it.  For all I knew it was the highlight of their day. It was a rare occasion that I/we were not treated with respect.  I think it is because we (all of us working in the deli and custard stand) loved what we did, we took pride in what we prepared, and loved to see the smiles it brought to people’s faces.  My Dad used to say about working in the custard stand,” Handing someone an ice-cream cone was the happiest job in the world because everyone’s face would light up and give a big smile as they reached for their ice cream. “  He was right, we brought happiness and smiles to people’s lives, even if just for that short moment.

Recently there was an article in the New York Times about how Zabar’s would call back to work all their retired Lox cutting employees at the holiday.  These individuals were flown in from around the world regardless of how old they were.  If they wanted and were still able to work they got to come to work.  Customers would line up in front of their favorite Lox cutter for hours if need be to receive the fruits of their years of cutting experience.  Yes, this is an art just as laying bricks,  a good tailor…..  but it is sad, that for the most part, in our society these professions are not considered prestigious, worthwhile, lucrative…….  But they are!!  And the individuals that are doing them are gifted, talented individuals that fulfill a need in society and people’s lives. In many cases it can take years (even longer that it takes to be a doctor) to master the art of one of these professions.  Whether it is Lox or prime rib, you can have the best cut of meat or fish that was prepared to perfection but,  if a hunk was just cut off and put on a plate it would not taste as good as a piece that was carefully carved to the perfect thickness and in the best direction to assure most flavor and tenderness.   This even holds true for a master tailor.  Sure anyone can hem a pair of pants or take in a waist line.  However,  when done correctly, you can’t even tell the article of clothing had been touched and it looks and falls beautifully when you put it on.  A beautifully made sandwich or perfectly twirled ice cream cone is a work of art and will taste delicious vs a sandwich thrown together or a blob of ice-cream thrown on top of a cone. 

We are ALL doing important work in this world.  Making a sandwich or ice cream cone is needed as much as my work as a chiropractor.  In fact, I got as much pleasure from those deli years as I do as a chiropractor.  It is all about serving others and taking pride in what you do. The Zabar article reminded me of that.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


How would you feel if someone told you that you have accomplished all the goals you had set to do in this lifetime?  Would you feel  - Happy? Relieved? Surprised? Shocked? In disbelief? Sad........?
What does even mean since most of us would say that we are not famous or rich.

Each of us has come into this world for a purpose.  Sometimes the purpose is for us to learn something, experience certain things, meet certain people, resolve some issue.  We can also come here to be of service to others.   Serving others can look very different, so different that one might think their life is a failure because they have not achieved all the outward accolades that our society attributes to success or accomplishment.  Have you ever considered that just by being present in another person's life can provide that person with the learning opportunities they need to fulfill their destiny?  Take for instance an individual that drinks, smokes and does not possess the highest values. They might provide the opportunity for those around them to strive to be better people.  We have learned to look at that person as bad, worthless, a burden to family and society.  But,  could they really be saving the lives of those around them?  Humm....   Conversely, a person that is just going through life trying to be the best spouse/partner, parent, student, coworker, teammate might inspire others simply by their presence.  This concept has recently made me think about how important it is NOT TO JUDGE ANYONE.  We have no idea their highest calling.  We are all here to fulfill a purpose and who am I to judge another person's worth or validity.

So, back to the original question - How would you feel if you were told that you have accomplished your goals for this lifetime?  I think I would feel relieved!!  All the voices in my head pushing me to do more and be more because I was afraid I wasn't enough, I could turn off.  I could breathe a sigh of relief!!!!  Now what? Do I stop living? Do I pack it in? Or imagine this - LIVE LIFE.  ENJOY LIFE!!  I have nothing to prove and nothing to lose.  It is all a bonus from now on.

Reflecting back on the previous years I think that I thought I knew what was important.  What it meant to be a success.  But, in reality I knew nothing.  That is why it is extremely important to appreciate the fact that how one carries themselves, conducts themselves, interacts and treats themselves and everyone around them is the most important.  We have no idea how our actions, words or inactions will affects others and ourselves.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It Took A Village ...

Many people ask me how I managed to get to where I am today in my health journey.  I decided to answer this question first.  It is not an easy, clear cut answer or step by step course of action that is meant to be the receipe for anyone but me.  I am sharing this journey so that others can take from it new ideas, options, ways of thinking and approaches to their particular life and health challenges.

Dr. Mona Lisa Schultz MD, in her book Awakening Intuition, writes, "Illness - A catalyst for change or just one of life's challenges "?

I personally believe that my health issues were a catalyst for change that challenged me to examine and restructure my values, thought patterns, belief structures, and my soul's purpose in this life.  If I had not gotten sick I would have continued in the only way I know how, which was to keep pushing forward with my nose to the grind stone.  I did this by working hard everyday helping people and  animals while striving to attain the american dream.

My body, mind and spirit finally lead a full out protest and revolt.  I had been pushing aside/burying the sign for years that I needed to do life differently.  I needed to practice differently.  I was different and the conventional ways of life and work that everyone was following was not good for me.  Stubbornness, strong will and fear kept me moving forward until - gratefully - I was stopped in my tracks.  My joints became swollen, stiff and painful.  My brain shut down.  My speech was affected.  My coordination was compromised.  It sure took a lot to finally to get me to stop.  Yes, and as you all know, I still tried to push and work through the physical issues and hide it the best I could.

Working in some capacity with the animals helped me feel useful and take my mind off of my own issues, even if just for a while.  I continued to work and push to prove to myself I was still in charge, still a strong athlete and person and still worth something.  However, the time came when my own pain and physical challenges could not be blocked out and I felt they could compromise the care I provided. To completely stop working was a very hard decision.  So much of our self worth and how people view one is wrapped up in our work.  To stop working was the right decision.  Looking back I see that it allowed me to finally focus only on me.

With the help of many talented practioners, friends and family I was able to get where I am today.  With Cynthia Smith, a Functional Medicine practioner specializing in Nutrigenomics, I was able to identify some underlying genetic mutations and use nutritional supplements and diet changes to improve my cognitive/brain functions and begin to rebuild my badly broken down body.  Once I could think, I could research the causes and figure out the solutions to my remaining physical issues.  This was not something that the medical profession had been able to do.  I was no longer waking up each day just trying to survive.  I could now begin to recover.  The years of taking lots of antibiotics, antimalaria and antiviral drugs took an enormous toll on my digestive tract and entire body.  Not to mention the destruction of my joints and nervous system from the Lyme and autoimmune issues.  Then, layer that with the emergence of the genetic mutations that surfaced when my body was at it's weakest and stressed.  It was hard at times to distinguish if feeling terrible was the Lyme, viruses, autoimmune issues, drug side effects, die off, or the genetic mutations affecting me. Every day was a mystery that needed to be solved.  Thank goodness I have always loved a good challenge and solving mysteries.

I am very grateful for my primary doctor throughout this ordeal, Dr. Lesley Fein MD.  Her knowledge of the body, illness, ability to interpret labs, her desire to keep digging until she found an answer, and her vast knowledge of pharmaceuticals. I am most grateful for her open mindedness to see beyond conventional medicine and be open to other disciplines and options to assist her patients.  I know I made her crazy on more than one occasion because I could lick a pill and get the most rarely published side effect.  I appreciated her willingness to work with me on dosages even when she didn't believe that could work.  She believed me and acknowledged the existence of my most bizarre symptoms and encouraged me that one day they would be gone.  She gave me the reality of my situation even when I wanted to brush it off lightly.  It was her quest to know more and help her patients get better that lead her to nutrigenomics and me to Cynthia Smith and the MTHFR support team.

Even a strong willed, intelligent person like myself couldn't have navigated through this ordeal with out the help of some very talented therapists. Dr. Jesus Salas, who gave me the skills early in this journey to be able to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Even when I did not think I was able.
Bari Bannister, my gift from heaven.  I truly believe that my dog Zia brought me to upstate NY to work with Bari and heal on my land.  Bari accompanied me into those dark crevices, pulled out, examined and worked through, threw out, and helped me to restructure my entire self.  Because, obviously, the way it was clearly was not working for me.  We looked at how accumulated past traumas and belief structures played a part in allowing a weakness in my system so that the illnesses could enter and thrive.  The work was and is hard but well worth the effort. Bari's honesty, directness, and her skill of knowing when to push and when to go easy, along with her constant support and encouragement has gotten me to this point.  I commend her patience in allowing me to take the time needed for me to "GET IT".  It is because of her skills and our work that I can step forward and into MY life.

I also need to thank Dr. Todd Shatinsky MD, nonsurgical orthopedist, whose kindness, progressive thinking and explainations allowed me to grasp the reality of my physical limitations, compromises and future expectations.

The amazing Dr. Amada Carpenter, physical therapist.  She has been a tremendous informational resource and wealth of knowledge.  I appreciate her willingness to share her journey and her help in my physical recovery.

Dr. Kasmiri, spine surgeon, for being honest and Jennifer Enos for starting me down the genetic mutation pathway.

Dr. Mark Woodbury DC, a talented chiropractic neurologist who helped fix my nervous system.

Dr. Ray Moyer MD, knee orthopedist, that knew me well enough to have me pursue Lyme disease as the cause of my knee pain even when the conventional testing was negative.  No matter how much I hurt or was broken, his gentle words, kind demeanor and magic examination hands fixed me without surgery.

I am indebted to my Zia who brought me to Stony Creek so we both could heal.  She got me.  She was by my side even when I did not want to be by my own side.  She would keep me safe in the woods and bring us home when I was lost.

Grateful for my Spike who has faithfully taken me for a walk every day and encouraged and accompanied me on all of our naps.

And finally, to Eve for sticking it out during sickness and health, through the good times and the bad.

Yes, this journey has taken a village.   Thank you each and everyone for their prayers and well wishes.

I will continue to write about specific aspects of my process in future posts.