Chinese Medicine considers preventative care as important as treating the disease itself. If we cultivate our health we can prevent illness and injury from occurring and minimize their consequences when 'disease evils' do attack us. Join Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc as she shares thoughts, news articles, recipes & tips derived from a wide variety of source material, as it relates to Chinese medicine and cultivating optimal health for the body, mind and spirit.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

On Money & Health

The first half of your life you spend your health to get your money. The second half, you spend your money to get your health. masseuse, Canyon Ranch, Miami FL

From The New York Times: Mind, Body and Organic Martinis. Maureen Dowd. Jan 18, 2009.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lift Your Armpit Chest: Yoga Instruction for Beautiful Posture Relieves Back Pain

I went to New York for New Year's, and while I was there I took a few yoga classes at my favorite yoga studio: the NY Iyengar Center. They had re-done it since I'd last visited a few years ago, and it is beautiful. What a treat to take classes there. Quite a different experiences from when I was a regular student there, some years back.

I heard an instruction in all the classes I took there, which I have not heard in a long-time: "Lift your armpit chest". This is a regular instruction you hear oft repeated in all the beginner classes there, that I had forgotten. It reminded me of a crucial step in maintaining back health: posture.

When Iyengar instructors say "Lift your armpit chest", they are referring to the area of the upper ribcage, just under the armpit (axilla), about 3" down, or where a tank top armhole opening would be. When one lifts this area, the sternum automatically lifts, followed by the collar bones.

In fact I once took a class there with Mary Dunn (recently deceased) who spent an entire class (or what seemed to be) in tadasana (tree or mountain pose) focusing on lifting the collarbone and rolling it up, like the top of a sardine can.

When the sternum and collarbones lift, the scapular area (shoulder blades) draw down towards the waist, and in toward the lungs and front body. Now one has a fully erect spine, and beautiful posture.

Since taking these classes, I have continued to remind myself of 'lifting the armpit chest' whenever i catch myself slumping forward: working at my desk, driving, cooking - any activity. I'm finding that by maintaining more optimal posture I have less back fatigue and tension, and consequently more energy. What a way to begin the new year :) KB

Photo: Oleg Klementiev
oObsessed, flickr Creative Commons 2.0

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese New Year Jan 26th: Year of the Ox 2009

Happy Chinese New Year!
2009 - Year of the Ox

January 26 marks the New Year in China, and there will be much celebrating and fireworks. The fireworks are to scare away any evil ancestral spirits from coming into the New Year. In addition, the Chinese sweep there homes on Jan 25th in order to sweep away any lingering evil qi (energy) from the old year coming into the New Year. So the New Year marks a time of new beginnings.

The following gives a little background and folklore about the Chinese Zodiac system which has 12 signs, like it's western counterpart.

12 is a powerful number in numerology: 12 apostles, 12" in a ruler (the distances from the king's [ruler's]
elbow to his middle finger tip), 12 = a dozen. 12 is a combination of the powerful trinity 3 x 4: a stable number - 4 legs on a table or chair, 4 corners in a square or rectangle, the usual foundation shape for a building.

Also discussed here is what the Ox brings to 2009. The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work. Ox people (born in the Year of the Ox) hate using credit cards. These traits bode well to carry us through this recession. KB

Background and Concept

The Chinese animal signs are a 12-year cycle used for dating the years. They represent a cyclical concept of time, rather than the Western linear concept of time. The Chinese Lunar Calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, and is constructed in a different fashion than the Western solar calendar. In the Chinese calendar, the beginning of the year falls somewhere between late January and early February. The Chinese have adopted the Western calendar since 1911, but the lunar calendar is still used for festive occasions such as the Chinese New Year. Many Chinese calendars will print both the solar dates and the Chinese lunar dates.

Background Information

In the United States, the years are dated from the birth of Jesus Christ, for example, 1977 means 1,977 years after the birth of Christ. This represents a linear perception of time, with time proceeding in a straight line from the past to the present and the future. In traditional China, dating methods were cyclical, cyclical meaning something that is repeated time after time according to a pattern. A popular folk method which reflected this cyclical method of recording years are the Twelve Animal Signs. Every year is assigned an animal name or "sign" according to a repeating cycle: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Boar. Therefore, every twelve years the same animal name or "sign" would reappear.

A cultural sidelight of the animal signs in Chinese folklore is that horoscopes have developed around the animal signs, much like monthly horoscopes in the West have been developed for the different moon signs, Pisces, Aries, etc. For example, a Chinese horoscope may predict that a person born in the Year of the Horse would be, "cheerful, popular, and loves to compliment others". These horoscopes are amusing, but not regarded seriously by the Chinese people.

The animal signs also serve a useful social function for finding out people’s ages. Instead of asking directly how old a person is, people often ask what is his or her animal sign. This would place that person’s age within a cycle of 12 years, and with a bit of common sense, we can deduce the exact age. More often, though, people ask for animal signs not to compute a person’s exact numerical age, but to simply know who is older among friends and acquaintances.


According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox's back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last.


Ox Horoscope for 2009

The Ox is the second sign of the Chinese zodiac. Like its predecessor and complement, the Rat, it signifies new beginnings. The main difference is the Ox is associated with building to last and slow but sure action. Even more so than last year we all have to make good choices, as that which is begun now is likely to have long term consequences.

As with last year, this is an Earth year. The difference is this one is yin rather than yang. It is thus likely to be less tumultuous. On a personal level, better results are more likely to be achieved by reacting to circumstances and going with the flow rather than aggressively charging forward and initiating a lot of action.

Unfortunately Earth has a destructive relationship with the Ox's fixed element, Water. In fact this is the fourth in a run of six years governed by an unlucky conflict of elements. This fact should come as no surprise to those who have followed US and world financial markets or the unspeakable horror that has persisted in Iraq.

The combination of Earth and Ox, however, is not at all a negative combination. Its primary characteristic is durability. It suggests an environment dominated by cautious pragmatism rather than quixotic dreaming. Things will get done.

Interestingly this is an equally good time for thinking and all kinds of intellectual endeavors. Planning, scholarship and research, for example, are favorable activities. It is also an auspicious time for the arts; although, under Earth's influence, applied arts such as design and graphics may do best.

Furthermore, they will generally be successful if done in harmony with the spirit of the Earth Ox. This applies both to the type and amount of new projects as well as the approach to accomplishing them. That means focusing on just a few, long term projects. It also suggests proceeding in a cautious yet determined manner. Finally, it counsels avoiding taking unnecessary risks and yielding to the temptation to seek short term gains.

There is likely to be a focus on career and self improvement this year to the detriment of family. People thus need to be attentive and creative so that this area does not suffer. It is, however, a relatively good time to begin a new romance. Those in a relationship may want to consider raising it to the next level, to include marriage.

Since this is an Earth year, those people born in a Metal year will generally fare better than others of their animal sign, while those born in a Water one are likely to do worse than those born in Wood, Fire, and Earth years.

The year 2009 will be a period of lasting accomplishments. This is true for individuals, societies and the human race in general. There may be times when motivation appears to be lacking. In fact the big challenge everyone faces is to generate the enthusiasm and desire to act. Those individuals and organizations that do will create enduring benefits for themselves and the world.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Dalai Lama Provdes Inspiration on Overcoming Adversity

Today's contemplation from the Dalai Lama (January 22
The Path To Tranquility: Daily Wisdom) has to do with overcoming adversity. He mentions that he counsels his countrymen that they were born in the darkest of ages. Truly in Tibet's history this is true, with the Chinese taking over and destroying Tibetan culture.

But, he says to remember that in despair there is the opportunity to overcome. Adversity is a time to tests one's mettle, one's will & drive, one's strength of character. And through this opportunity there is the dawn of hope. From this viewpoint, he says we are fortunate. Fortunate to have the skills and abilities to overcome the adversity we face.

In reflecting, honestly my first thought was, "Wow".

The Dalai Lama is emphasizing here the importance of having a positive attitude. Positive attitude is the first step in overcoming. One must have the belief and confidence that one has the inner strength and ability to overcome in order to muster that strength to get the ball rolling to overcome. This is the survivors attitude. Chin up, don't give up, forge on. This is what one must do in order to move forward.

I am currently reading the Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness. Positive attitude is the pathway to happiness.

Today, reading these words, I thought that his message is particularly poignant given the state of our economy. It's an inspiring contemplation on how to navigate through difficult times. No one is immune to this recession yet we will get though it together by utilizing our inner strength. This is Obama's message to the country.

So, though facing adversity, such as these economic times, is frightening it is by drawing on our inner strength that we will find the tools to get through and soldier forth to more prosperous times ahead.

Right now, we all have to do a little belt tightening and re-prioritizing. But after the excesses of the past few years, it's appropriate that we reassess and decide what is truly important in our lives. This is a time to chart a new course according to our values and priorities.

Though the decisions may not be easy, and we may have to swallow a few bitter pills in the process, we will come out on the other side stronger for the journey taken. KB

Thursday, January 15, 2009

On Integrating Chinese Herbal Medicine Into Our Medical System

Jake Fratkin is a highly respected colleague and herbalist within the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medical) community. Here he gives a thoughtful position on integrating the Chinese herbal tradition into our medical system. I would think all acupuncturists in the US would support his position. KB

Acupuncture Today
January, 2009, Vol. 11, Issue 01

The Price of Western Medicine and the Promise of Eastern Medicine

By Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, LAc

I would like to put Western medicine into perspective. The training focuses on hospitalized patients, and the profession’s greatest successes lie in saving life and limb: fighting serious infection, severe trauma, and life-threatening deterioration of major organs. When a patient needs to be hospitalized, Western diagnostics, surgery and pharmaceutical medicine prove to be almost miraculous, and our society has benefited from this knowledge and application. No one would discount its remarkable effectiveness compared with 150 years ago.

However, modern medical science certainly does not come without a high price tag. Typical medical school graduates have accumulated debts between $250,000 and $300,000.1 They are driven to repay these debts, and the best and brightest gravitate to higher-paying specialties such as orthopedics, surgery, dermatology, gastroenterology and endocrinology. Specialists routinely charge $100 to $500 per visit, (although insurance companies end up paying less), and the cost of medical visits are the first factor dictating why medical expenses are so high.

Specialties require advanced diagnostic technology such as X-ray, CT scan, MRI, and specialized blood tests. A contrast CT scan without insurance, for example, costs $3,000. Hospitalizations are astronomically expensive in the United States compared to countries such as France or Japan.

The price of pharmaceuticals is also driving up medical costs. The newer drugs cost more than $100 for a one-month supply. As people age, they find themselves on more and more pharmaceuticals, and these costs come out-of-pocket for the elderly on Medicare.2

The outcome for Americans is an unaffordable health care system. Prices are driven by either necessity (for the primary care physician or hospital) or outright avarice (specialists, insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry). Politicians, the public and, finally, the medical profession, are now acknowledging a crisis situation, and wish to address it. In the national talk of correcting the situation, attention has focused on cost, availability and accessibility.

The situation that is not being addressed in any national discussion, however, also needs to be heard. Western medicine as it is being practiced today, outside of hospital crisis intervention, has become a therapy of expensive pharmaceutical medicines, and these medicines are an abject failure. They do not cure illness and they do not promote health. In fact, they typically weaken one’s health or lead to a decline in quality of life. Data analysis has shown that Western medicine is one of the leading causes of death in this country.3

I want to be careful how I address this issue, so as not to offend medical friends or readers. The earnest physician is not at fault here; they have become a pawn of the pharmaceutical industry, which aggressively belittles safer and effective natural alternatives while spending large amounts of money promoting their drugs to the physician and the public alike.

The problem with Western pharmaceuticals compared to herbal therapies, is that they rarely cure the illness. How do I know? Because when you stop the medicine, the patient still has the problem. Think of the following conditions: thyroid, type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, asthma, osteoporosis, hypertension, depression, insomnia, seasonal allergies or headaches.

When the medicine is discontinued, even after years of use, the problem is still there. And there are numerous conditions for which the medicine does not work at all but is promoted regardless: eczema, ear infections, cough, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss and dementia, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and late-stage chemotherapy.

The demands of a busy outpatient clinic afford the Western practitioner a limited time to evaluate the patient, and they decide quickly which problem to prioritize. I think it is obvious that the general practitioner chooses from an arsenal of 13 or 14 types of medicines, and everyone who walks in their door gets one of them. If I were a typical medical doctor – well-trained and intelligent – I would blanch at the intellectual restrictiveness of this practice, and at the mechanical lifestyle my practice had become: four to six patients an hour, each getting a prescription from a list of 14 medicines, without time for an in-depth interview, counseling or any real detective work as to their overall health.

This approach to medicine is failing the public. It is mechanical, dishonest and ultimately harmful. When we look at Chinese herbal medicine, we see something very different. We see a medicine based on an ancient and deep understanding of how the human body works, and we choose medicinal herbs that allow correction and healing without side effects. The herbal medicines are less expensive. As the American public critically evaluates the limits of Western medicine in terms of its accessibility and affordability, we should also take a hard look at how Chinese herbal medicine could benefit society, both in cost and effectiveness.

Evaluating Herbs on Their Own Merit

This requires government-sponsored research to evaluate Chinese herbal medicines for safety and efficacy, on its own merits, and at a much greater clip then the 10 or so studies that the NIH authorizes per year. This does not mean dissecting and analyzing Chinese herbs for chemical properties that “explain” its mechanisms to an entrenched scientific mindset. It does mean evaluating the efficacy of Chinese herbal formulas for the treatment of disease compared to existing medical protocols.

For example, it is common for Western doctors to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infection. A simple comparison of the use of Ba Zheng Wan vs. the standard antibiotic would no doubt show that the herbal formula is at least as effective as the antibiotic, and may even be more effective.4 The advantage of proving Ba Zheng Wan would then encourage medical doctors, as well as the self-medicating public, to utilize an effective herbal medicine that does not carry the burden of encouraging “super bugs” or destroying essential gut flora that impacts the immune system.5

Scientists and medical physicians worry about several issues surrounding herbal medicines. One is the safety issue. Are the herbs contaminated? Are they safe? The question of contamination can be resolved by requiring GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) levels on product production. The question of safety can be settled by using standard animal (mouse/rat) studies to determine toxicity; a relatively quick and inexpensive protocol.6

Standardizing Herbs

The other concern has been the need for standardization of herbal products, such that each herbal ingredient is extracted with consistent percentages of active ingredients. The medical world believes that clinical efficacy can only be researched with bio-identical formulas. I believe that this is a scientific conceit that would only add unnecessary cost to Chinese herbal products without significantly improving outcomes. Chinese herbs have latitude in potency. What is really important are the relative ingredient percentages of raw herbs in a combined formula.

The Western scientific community would like to evaluate medicinal herbs along the same lines as pharmaceuticals, but this is really unnecessary, and costly. Much of Europe has accepted this reality, calling herbs la m├ędecine douce or “the gentle medicine.” Because they don’t pose the health risks that pharmaceuticals do, they do not need the high research standards established for potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals.

Many French medical doctors are comfortable in recommending (European) herbal medicines and homeopathics, which are available in pharmacies. They do so because they are comfortable with their safety.7 What is important is access to herbal formulas that have been tested for safety and efficacy along the lines I mentioned above, rather than trying to validate them using the same parameters applied to pharmaceuticals.

The American medical establishment is shooting itself in the foot by criticizing, demeaning or restricting the free flow of herbal medicines to the public. Chinese herbal medicines are more effective than Western medicines for common conditions: acid reflux, depression, anxiety, insomnia, asthma, infections, menstrual disorders, constipation, inflammation, etc.

For certain medical conditions, Chinese herbal medicines are without competition: the dissolution of kidney stones, viral infections (upper respiratory infections, cough, herpes simplex and shingles), ovarian cysts, etc. In several areas, herbal medicines are so effective that the economic impact of using them would dramatically reduce overall medical costs: common viral and bacterial infections, digestive problems such as acid reflux, control of liver degeneration in hepatitis C, infertility and in combined treatment (with chemotherapy) for cancer.8

As Western medical doctors gravitate toward the higher-paying specialties, the primary-care providers will be nurse practitioners and physician assistants. We should add practitioners of Oriental medicine, chiropractors and naturopaths to these gatekeeper positions, who can then refer to medical specialists for advanced diagnostics or therapies. Those patients preferring natural medicine for common ailments will have society’s approval, and overall costs for health care will actually go down.

Our profession needs to work vigorously to educate the general public and government agencies about the cost and efficacy benefits of bringing Chinese herbal products into mainstream health care.


  2. “Medicare drug spending increased by nearly 72 percent between 1997 and 2001, when adjusted for inflation. The surge was primarily driven by a 26 percent escalation in the average prescription price and a nearly 24 percent growth in the average number of medications used per beneficiary.” Moeller JF, Miller GE, Banthin JS. Looking inside the nation’s medicine cabinet: trends in outpatient drug spending by Medicare beneficiaries, 1997 and 2001. Health Affairs Sept-Oct 2004;23(5):217-25.
  3. “The total number of iatrogenic [induced inadvertently by a physician or surgeon or by medical treatment or diagnostic procedures] deaths is 783,936. The 2001 heart disease annual death rate is 699,697; the annual cancer death rate is 553,251. It is evident that the American medical system is the leading cause of death and injury in the United States.” Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND, Martin Feldman MD, Debora Rasio MD, Dorothy Smith PhD.
  4. It would not be necessary to compare the Chinese herbal formula against a placebo, because the antibiotic will have already been tested against a placebo.
  5. See Alternative Medicine for Children, The Consequences of Antibiotics.
  6. Presently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not allow scientific studies on herbal products, because they would then be labeled as drugs, not supplements, as defined in the DSHEA act, and the manufacturer/distributor would be “violating” that agreement. A new category is required, somewhere between “food supplement” and “drug”, which would include medicinal herbs, and allow for dissemination of scientific research and studies.
  7. No deaths or injuries have been reported with any GMP Chinese herbal product in the United States, despite the fact that Chinese herbs have been dispensed since 1980 among 15,000 acupuncture practitioners.
  8. See Tai Lahans: Integrating Conventional and Chinese Medicine in Cancer Care. A Clinical Guide (Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2007).

Click here for more information about Jake Paul Fratkin, OMD, LAc.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cellphone Drivers are as Dangerous as Drunks, Even With Hands-free Devices: NY Times article

We all know how erratically drivers drive when holding cellphones to their ears. But you may find these findings surprising, I certainly did.
Tara Parker Pope, Wellness writer at the NY Times reports that researchers are showing that cellphone users drive as erratically and dangerously as drunk drivers. You may not be able to keep your cell phone driving habit for long: the National Safety Council is pushing for an all out cell phone ban in cars, likening the dangers to drunk driving and lack of safety belts. Like me, you might think hands free devices are OK, no different that having a conversation with a passenger. Nay say the researchers, hands free is just as distracting to the brain. Studies show less driving errors when talking to a friend or listening to an audio book or music than with hands free devices. KB

How to Post Comments

If you'd like to post a comment either click on the post's title, or click on the word comment at the end of the post. The comment form will appear. Then proceed with your feedback.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. KB

Listen to Your Inner Voice

We all have an inner voice constantly giving us guidance and direction. The problem is, we don't always heed it's counsel. Lately I've been becoming aware of how accurate my inner voice is, and how when I don't heed it's warning, the outcome is never what I had designed in my mind.

So I offer you this exercise: start listening to your inner voice and do what it suggests. Note the outcome of following it's advice. As importantly, notice what happens when the inner voice says to do one thing and you do another.

I think you'll find the results of this little exercise interesting & surprising. KB

Monday, January 12, 2009

We're all Interconnected

Today during my morning meditation, the inner voice pointed out that we are all interconnected with each other and to all the elements of the world, universe, solar system. That would include the song birds and the green trees, the warm sunshine and the azure blue sky. And to one another. It became crystal clear to me at that moment this morning that it's not about us as individuals and our individual needs, it's about our part, or role in an inter-connected society of other beings. It's not about how events affect us individually, it's about how events affects others and the web of connectedness we share with one another. It's about working together in a spirit of cooperation with one another, both on an individual, societal and global levels.

It's not about the slow driver in front of us on the road, preventing us from getting where we want to go in a timely matter. That slow driver has wants and needs, too. Maybe that driver is old or infirm and cannot drive well. We are a community of drivers on the road, all trying to transport our bodies from point A to point B in order to fulfill our work and purpose in this life. It's not about our needs as individuals. It's about the our collective needs as a group, a society, and our individual part to play to fulfill the societal roles and goals.

The Dalai Lama's quote for Jan 12 discusses the issue that though a society may achieve a certain level of material wealth, it is the "mental development" that is important, "the internal attitude of the people that comprise it". (see The Path to Tranquility, Daily Wisdom).

I have long felt that our society is in its' decay, and that globally we are not developed enough as individuals to achieve lasting peace with one another or any hope of a Utopian society within the next several centuries. I remember becoming aware of this fact after watching "The Interpreter" several years ago. (

For global peace to occur, each of us as individuals must find peace within ourselves and with our neighbors. The discord we have with one another in our daily lives is amplified on a global level to cause war and strife. War is nations unable to work out grievances with one another, just as individuals fight with one another. Global peace begins within each of us as individuals.

When we are not at peace, disease (dis-ease) occurs. Chinese medicine sees the 7 emotions as a cause of physical disease in the body. The 7 emotions cause qi stagnation & heat accumulation (anger, grief, sadness, worry), which then cause disease processes to occur in the body; eg., stress related disorders [hypertension] or fibromyalgia.

I have personally found that a regular meditation and yoga practice (or qi gong & tai qi) to be useful in achieving inner peace (i don't claim to be there all the time, but I have seen tangible progress). For me, 30 minutes daily of seated meditation keeps me well oiled and functioning at peak performance. I have often wondered what the world would be like if all of our global leaders meditated. hmm. What if the CEO's did, too? KB

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Clearing a Path for Lakshmi:Hindu goddess of Wealth, Abundance and Fertility

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, abundance and fertility. Indian homes and businesses all have images of Lakshmi visible. Indian women begin the day by sweeping the front entrance way of dirt and debris that will hinder Lakshmi from entering.

I spent the New Year in NYC (my place of residence btwn the years of 1988-1987). I stayed at a colleague's apartment in Washington Heights, a Dominican neighborhood near the Cloisters. Victoria Koos is one of the top 3 acupuncturist's in NYC for fertility. I was there taking care of her cats, Lakshmi & Bodhi (named after the Bodhisattvas). She has a beautiful apartment, feng shui'd and full of sunlight & spiritual energy.

Victoria has an interesting library, full of spiritual material. One of her books that i started reading is Susie Orman's "Women and Money". This is an interesting book focusing on women's relationship with money. Susie dedicates her professional life to helping everyone achieve wealth & abundance in theirs.

Susie mentioned Lakshmi in this book, and the symbolic act of sweeping the path for her to enter.

This being New Year's weekend, it got me thinking. Since I returned to Asheville 5 days ago, I've begun doing this at my home and office. It's an auspicious start to the day. I'm thinking of getting a handmade broom with which to preform this daily ritual.

In the entrance hall of Victoria's apartment she has a shelf upon which is placed a brass statue of White Tara, a Hindu goddess of compassion, healing & longevity. You must pass by her and acknowledge her presence upon entering her home.

It gave me the idea to place a brass statue of Lakshmi in the entry of my home. So 2 days ago I began googling to find one I like. KB

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Karin Stephan's Twelve Recipes for Health: Spiritual Tips for the New Year

The following steps for health come from a handout I received in an Iyengar yoga workshop in NYC in 1996. Karin Stephan is a certified Iyengar yoga instructor. I'm sure you'll find that incorporating these tips into your life will bring health and spiritual fulfillment: an auspicious start to the new year.

"The body is my temple, the asanas are my prayers" BKS Iyengar

"Beauty is where the self is not" Krishnamurti

I. Have a daily spiritual practice with a physical foundation:

Have a daily spiritual practice of some kind which makes you fell better physically. Some practices which directly affect the physical body are yoga, meditation, walking etc.

I do yoga, meditation, and affirmations daily, morning or evening, regularly including pranayama, or yoga deep-breathing exercises. I begin my day, and often end it with qi gong breathing into the 3 Jiaos, or regions of the abdomen. This year I've begun reading "The Path to Tranquility" by the Dalai Lama daily. There is a contemplation for each day of the year. I have a yoga/meditation room in my home for spiritual practice. If you do not have a room to spare, find a corner in which to create a sacred space. You could screen off an area. KB

II. Eat only when hungry. Prepare the body to receive the food you prepare:

Eat only when you're hungry. Think that each meal should bring you pleasure. Visualize ahead of time what would satisfy and try to prepare that meal at least once a day.

Yogi's suggest eating only until you are 80% full to prevent overeating. KB

III. Visualize meals. Prepare them with the pleasure principle in mind:

As you're going through the day, visualize what dishes would give you the most satisfaction and then cook those foods with that image in mind.

IV. Seek pleasing environments for yourself:

Always search for the correct physical and aesthetic environment which gives you pleasure. Learn to recognize which activities and places give you the most pleasure, satisfying as many parts of your physical, psychological and emotional being as possible.

This might be a favorite walk or waterfall, and return there often. The buddists say these types of magical places are full of 'drala' energy. Dralas are spiritual beings, but not buddhas or bodhisattvas. Kind of spiritual fairies.

Make daily life an adventure. KB

V. Friends of like mind:

Seek the company of like mind. If you're a mental person and if you enjoy literary people in the arts, spend time with them. If you're a film or opera buff, find a friend to see movies or operas with. Mental and artistic activity is also a form of food.

Google for a "Meet-up" group of a special interest, such as hiking or dining out. Or go to the "Meet-up" site and start a "Meet-up" group of your interest. KB

VI. Recognize sources of negative behavior:

Learn to recognize sources of negative behavior and work on those sources. Do not just treat the symptoms. Find the root cause. "Seeing is acting" says Krishnamurti. Once you see it, you can modify it.

VII. Resolve internal conflict right away:

Seek resolution of internal conflict as soon as it arises either through self reflection, reading, working with a therapist, direct dialogue.

Or journaling. KB

VIII. Develop an inner sense of independence:

Develop an inner sense of independence not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. That way people around you are free to give or not to give, be with you or not be with you. Do not set up situations where people are dependent on you either.

IX. Develop gratitude:

Learn to develop gratitude for all that comes your way, even the tiniest gift form a tiny child.

I say my gratitudes daily, usually at meal time: expressing appreciation for the organic nutrititious and satisfying meal I'm about to eat, my home, my life in Asheville, my practice and so forth. When I fall into a wave of negativity or self pity, I quickly remind myself of all the blessings in my life, and all the people through out the world who have a much more difficult life than I do. This never fails to pull up my vibration and put events into a healthy perspective. KB

X. The body as a vessel for the well being of others:

Nourish and heal the body not as an end in itself but in order to bring health and happiness to those around.

This would be a buddhist perspective. I have found that I get a great deal of pleasure in helping others. Simply: doing deeds for others makes me happy. This is partly why years ago, when I did the soul searching, I decided to enroll in acupuncture college so to become an acupuncturist: I wanted to devote my life to the well being of others, as I determined that this pursuit would be emotionally and spiritually satisfying and nurturing. I find the pursuit of personal pleasure for its own sake to be too narcissistic to provide any kind of lasting or eternal happiness. KB

XI. Know that everything is constantly changing and that conflict is naturally seeking resolution, war, peace, confusion, order, bondage, freedom.

The buddhists emphasize that nothing is permanent (like this recession), and that the only thing we can depend on is change. Trying to maintain the status quo will only lead to unhappiness, because everything will eventually change. We can never fulfill a pursuit to maintain events on a permanent basis: the act of attempting to do so will inevitably be futile and will therefore lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. So if you are rich, trying to maintain that status will inevitably bring unhappiness because that state cannot be maintained because everything changes. However, when things are down, remember that that too is not a permanent situation, so it will change according to the natural law. The key is being able to maintain a sense of peace of mind no matter what the exterior events may bring. This is buddhahood. KB

XII. Seek your own freedom in this lifetime and free others in the process.

Everyone dances to the beat of a different drummer. Find your beat and allow others to dance to theirs. KB

*70. "Regard your body as a vessel
A mere boat for going here and there;
make of it a wish-fulfilling gem
To bring about the benefit of beings."

"We should use the body, which is made up of impure ingredients, to support our intention to help others. If we use it properly for our spiritual growth, combining wisdom and means, we shall be able to develop a new realization and attain the omniscient rupakaya of the Tathagatas, which is like a wish-fulfilling jewel."

71. "Thus with free, untrammeled mind,
Have an ever-smiling countenance.
Rid yourself of scowling, wrathful frowns;
And be a true, sincere friend to beings."

from "A Flash of Lightening in the Dark of Night, A Guide to A Bodhisattva's Way of Life".
The Dalai Lama

*from the Bodhicharyvatara