Category Archives: Health and Virtue

Role of Virtues in Health – The seven fundamental virtues and beyond.

Sustainable Health and Ethical Decision Making

Ethical decision making is the process of choosing actions based upon a determination of right vs. wrong.  When we say that a certain act is “not ethical” we are saying that “one ought not to do” the act because it is wrong.   Of course, ethics is not an objective science because it is based on subjective values,  therefore, your ethics have to be defended using logical arguments and value judgments that can be agreed upon to guide the behavior of a group.

Religion also deals with right and wrong conduct, but it allows intuition and revelation to supersede logic.  This approach is also necessary because sometimes logic and the ‘gut’ may disagree.  Ethical decision making  works in synergy with religious principles.

There does not appear to be a force that strictly imposes ethical standards in the universe and therefore it is up to us to figure out how to make the universe a more ethical place.  This is quite an astronomical task given the vastness of the universe and our confinement to planet earth.  Perhaps earth is our proving ground.

The occurrence of actions that are clearly ‘wrong’ demonstrates the lack of enforcement of ethical standards in the universe.    For example, Jeanne Clery was a 19-year-old college  student  sexually abused and murdered  in her dorm room in 1986.   Any sane person agrees that ‘wrong’ acts such as this should never happen.  This ‘wrong’ act can never be reversed, but it could have been prevented had Josoph M. Henry (the murderer) followed an ethical decision making process.

There are various different approaches to ethical decision making, and it is a skill that should be taught early on in school.   We spend much time in school teaching and acquiring technical skills and knowledge as if they alone could solve all of our problems.  But in reality we have a huge deficit in ethical decision making that must be reduced if we are to survive as a species.

In this post we explore the application of a 4-step process of ethical decision making to the issue of sustainable health.

4-Step Process for Ethical Decision Making

A 4-step process is explained in “Thinking Like an Engineer,”  3rd Edition,  by Elizabeth A. Stephan, et al.  The steps are:

  1. What are the issues?  Who are the stakeholders?
  2. Consider possible courses of action from three perspectives
    • Consequences – how is each stakeholder affected if I do this
    • Intent – how would you like each stakeholder to be affected
    • Character – would a person of good character do this
  3. Correlate perspectives, assign weights, choose course of action
  4. Act – Do I have the courage to do what is right?

Example Application – Should you buy solar panels

Step 1)  What are the issues?  Who are the stakeholders

Issues:   We are polluting the earth by using fossil fuels for heating, transportation, and electricity generation.  This compromises our health and the health of future generations.  The energy consumption choices of the average citizen results in  10 metric tons of CO2 per year per person.  With population growing and more countries adopting high-energy lifestyles,  air quality will be reduced, breathing related illnesses will increase, and temperatures will increase due to global warming.

Question:  Should I invest in solar panels to reduce the use of fossil fuels in my home even if it is financially challenging?

Stakeholders:  home owners, home owners immediate family, neighbors, immediate ecosystem, electric company, natural gas company, town, state, country, world

For this analysis I will focus on the primary stakeholders in boldface above.  These are the stakeholders that would have the highest weight given the expected extent of the impacts of the action under analysis.

Step 2) One possible course of action is to install solar panels.

  • Effect on homeowner
    • consequences of installing solar panels
      • debt that may be difficult to pay off
      • savings from lower natural gas expenses
      • improved respiratory health due to improved air quality
      • satisfaction of reducing carbon footprint
    • intent of installing solar panels
      • savings from lower natural gas expenses
      • increasing energy independence
      • improved respiratory health due to improved air quality
      • satisfaction of reducing carbon footprint
      • knowing this is something that everyone should do
    • Character
      • A person of good character would do this if there is a way to limit the debt burden
  • Effect on immediate family
    • consequences
      • improved respiratory health
      • financial restrictions due to expense of solar panels
      • education regarding sustainable health
    • intent
      • education regarding sustainable health
      • improved respiratory health
      • lifelong commitment energy independence
    • Character
      • a person of good character would do this
      • some financial restrictions are OK in order to achieve sustainable health and lower carbon footprint
  • Effect on Neighbors
    • consequences
      • provide an example for neighbors to follow
    • intent
      • provide an example for neighbors to follow
      • serve an educational role in the community for sustainable living
    • character
      • a person of good character would do this

Step 3) Correlate perspectives

Based on the above analysis there are some possible unintended consequences of the proposed action to install solar panels.  That is, debt that is difficult for the homeowner to pay off and financial restrictions on family members due to the incurred debt.   This indicates that further analysis is required so that the consequences and intents can be brought into alignment.  However, the effect on all three primary stakeholders indicates that the action of installing solar panels should be initiated if the alignment is feasible.

Step 4)  Act

I should further evaluate the cost and debt burden associated with the installation of solar panels and seek ways to decrease this financial burden.  If this effort is successful I should not hesitate to move forward with the installation of solar panels because it is an ethically correct action.

I challenge you to try this ethical decision making process on an issue related to your sustainable health.  Let me know if it helps you to improve the quality of your ethical decisions, and I will keep you posted on our solar panel progress.

 

Happiness, Joy, Laughter and Fun

Laughtacephalus

Laughtacephalus, is a word I just coined to describe the idea of “joy on the brain.”  Laughtacephalus is a strategy for healing and health that taps into positive circuits of happiness, joy, laughter and fun in the brain in order to effect rewiring as an antidote to negativity and suffering, and as a pathway to a healthier brain.  When properly applied happiness, joy, laughter and fun can help reverse the downward spiral of health, and promote a robust recovery.   Oh, I should warn you to watch out!  Laughtacephalus  has contagious qualities!

Happiness and Joy

In “The Book of Joy” (pg. 14) Dalai Lama states, “I believe the purpose of life is to find happiness … The ultimate source of happiness is within us.”  He defines happiness (pg. 35) as “satisfaction”, and joy as “great  satisfaction.”

In his view, both happiness and joy can be of two types (pg. 53), one experienced through sensory pleasure (eating, sex, etc) and the other experienced through the mind (compassion, love, generosity, etc).  The sensory route to happiness is seen as fleeting and the mental route as more enduring and dependable.

Both sensory and mental forms of happiness and joy can be applied and shared for health and healing.  However, better ways are needed for monitoring and administering happiness and joy.  We have not invested enough effort into understanding how to apply them and often people go for days without experiencing laughter or joy.  We need to develop a diet of happiness and joy.

One of the secrets of happiness and joy is that you can have it for yourself if you provide it to others.  Interesting how this works!  Usually one needs to choose whether to keep something or share it.  But with happiness and joy you can share it and keep it at the same time.  Of course, you can also make others happy at the expense of your own joy, but then you will become depleted.

Smiling, Laughter and Fun

The physical manifestations of happiness and joy are genuine smiling, laughter and fun.  Do you experience hearty laughter on a daily basis?  Do you have fun at work every day?  Are your smiles genuine or are they just a mask that you wear?  We have been conditioned to think that fun and laughter are luxuries when in reality they need to be placed at the center of life.  We need to work just as hard at adding fun and genuine laughter to our lives as we do for the sake of survival.

Once again,  social interaction is the key and the goal should be sharing laughter and fun in a compassionate and caring setting.

Challenge yourself to find the forms of social interaction that increase happiness and fun for all involved.  This is a big challenge since many social interactions have become too formalized to allow for the spontaneity that comes with joy and fun.  Often there are hidden agendas associated with formal social gatherings that hinder pure fun or joy.

If you have taken part in fun and joyful activities lately feel free to share them.

It surely helps if you have young children since they naturally understand the importance of joy and spontaneous fun.  For example, my daughter is teaching me how to do cartwheels.  Here’s a warning though – you may need to check with your doctor before trying to keep up with a child that is  having fun!

“Be the change you wish to see in this world.”  Gandhi

I would love to see more happiness, joy, fun and laughter in my life, therefore I must find ways to grow by applying  laughtacephalus to my own brain.

We must be willing to grow new connections in our brains if the world is to become a better place.  Start reconnecting with laughtacephalus today!

 

 

God’s Proximity and Health

The ultimate goal of man is eternal life and perhaps with that comes eternal health.   I am convinced that we have defined God out of existence in many cases by accepting definitions that are out of our realm of direct experience.   The verse above reminds us that God is always ready to “come into us” and dine with us.  With every “in breath” we can open the door and let him in and dine with him.  Then with every “out breath” we can transform the new life and energy delivered directly from the source of all movement into health and healing for our bodies and our world.  Notice that this matches the recommended breathing pattern for most exercise.  That is, we breath in while preparing for exertion and then breath out as we perform the exertion.

In another verse (John 15:5) we are reminded that we are always directly connected to God like branches on a vine.  God is the Prime Mover and the Prime Energizer.  Feel God’s movements in your life as energy by liberating your body in the present moment.  Move, stretch, let God lead you in the dance.  Do not let your body stagnate.   God / Energy  permeates all space and time.  It permeates our bodies and  minds.  Energy powers our lives just as it powers our cars.  This does not imply that God is mundane, but rather that the seemingly mundane also relies on the divine for its present moment.  Everything that is created remains connected to the creator, for everything exists in God and through God.

The illusion of separateness must be conquered in order to progress to the next level of health.   Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as inter-being (we inter-are).  We inter-are with each other and we inter-are with God.

We face many challenges in the struggle towards the next level of human advancement, and it will not happen without awareness of God’s proximity.  How has God’s proximity affected your life?  In my case it has allowed me to trust in God to pursue transformation of my own life and priorities.  It has also allowed me to “be” in gratitude and to feel the urgency of being in this moment.

What do you feel about the role of God in health?  Notice that I am asking about God not religion.  Would love to hear your take on this.  How does God present himself / herself to you?

Your Best Attainable Health (BAH)

Image of nonviolent struggle
Your Best Attainable Health (BAH) requires a nonviolent redirection of outdated genetics through mindful practice. Photo by ManicMorff @ morguefile.com

Over the last several month’s the OnTierraHealth blog has focused on the big picture issues that limit the attainability of ideal health for most people. Today I will focus on the fundamental root cause of the poor health prognosis for our species (taken from an evolutionary perspective). The problem is a very basic clash of developmental time scales when comparing biological evolutionary change to technological progress. The essence is this, evolutionary behaviors that were well suited for survival in a jungle-like environment are grossly unsuited for survival of life on earth over the long-term given the rapidity of technological innovation.

Biological Evolutionary Behavior

Biological evolutionary behavior is genetically determined and as such can be viewed as a bottom-up organizational force. An example of this for a heterosexual person would be attraction to the opposite sex. A person is not attracted sexually to a worm. We take this for granted but must acknowledge that sexual attraction is created by the brain. There is nothing inherently sexier about a person unless the brain makes it so, therefore to a worm another worm is much sexier. We accept evolutionary behaviors as immutable and in many cases they serve us well.

However, warfare can also be considered a biological evolutionary behavior.  It is based on an evolutionary algorithm whereby “might is right” by virtue of survival. The fundamental principle is that one can determine who is right in a dispute through an existential challenge, with the survivor being right. Initially this behavior may have led to wrestling matches and fisticuffs resulting in the selection stronger individuals. However, as technology progressed the evolutionary algorithm of “might is right” has not budged resulting in weapons for destroying hundreds, thousands and then millions of individuals (i.e. WWII). Here we can see the problem clearly, technology has advanced too quickly for the evolutionary algorithm to catch up. An evolutionary algorithm that in the past helped natural selection to create stronger individuals now has become a liability that could result in mutually assured destruction of all life on earth.

One may think that this scenario makes the self-destruction of life on earth an inevitable outcome.  However, there may be a form of high-speed evolution that is attempting to bridge the gap.  There is no guarantee that this high-speed evolution will occur fast enough to rescue life on earth.

Evolutionary Neurodynamics and Memes

The idea behind Evolutionary Neurodynamics (Szilágyi, et al., 2016) is that the same natural selection algorithms that are at work in the ecosystem are also at work on a microscopic scale within each person’s brain  and that natural selection in the brain is critical to the discovery of open-ended evolutionary solutions that can take place within an individuals lifetime.  According to the theory, neural evolution takes place at high-speed as neurons and populations of neurons compete with one another in a parallel search for solutions to problems.  Successful solutions are then copied to other groups of neurons with some variability.  This process forms a type of heredity among neural connections that is constantly in flux, resulting in the possibility of novel solutions.

Combining the idea of Evolutionary Neurodynamics with the concept of memes (ideas that are able to be transmitted and reproduced between brains) provides a framework whereby evolutionary behaviors that have become liabilities may be replaced by self-evolutionary behaviors that can be reproduced in a large population.

The advantage  of self-evolutionary behavior is that unlike the relatively blind bottom-up forces of biological evolution, neurological evolution has both bottom-up and top-down components allowing it be guided by holistic intelligence.  This holistic guidance is necessary for the success of self-evolution.  Religion, philosophy and science play a role in providing sources of holistic intelligence and in particular the practice of mindfulness may be critical for self-evolution.  However,  understanding the evolutionary challenge is also essential.

Best Attainable Health (BAH)

The problem of replacing bottom-up genetically-determined dysfunctional evolutionary behavior with holistic top-down self-evolved behavior is at the heart of achieving Best Attainable Health (BAH) and long-term survival.   It appears that at the heart of this evolutionary transformation is the art and science of mindfulness as practiced and taught by the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh (Thay).  The practice of mindfulness draws our attention to the beauty and miraculous nature of the present moment through breathing meditation, and in so doing causes the mind and the body to be reunited. This allows us to observe dysfunctional biologically evolved behaviors with a balanced non-judgemental perspective and to slowly rewire our brains for the next stage of human evolution.

Thay states, “The practice of meditation helps us to see things other people can’t see. ”  An example of this is the nature of inter-being.  The father is in the son and the son is in the mother,  the cloud is in the river and the river in the ocean, the tree is in the seed and the seed is in the fruit.  The spirit of nonviolence is born from this realization, that we inter-are.  Nonviolence is the antithesis of the “might is right” principle of biological evolution and it constitutes the only path towards the next stage of human evolution.  Thay states,

When we realize our ‘interbeing nature’, we’ll stop blaming and exploiting and killing, because we know that we inter-are. That is the great awakening we must have in order for the Earth to be saved.

Establishing and spreading the meme of nonviolence is the first step towards achieving BAH, because it is a direct mitigation of the self-destructive, biological, “might is right” directive.  Note that Thay warns us that we can never achieve complete nonviolence but rather, nonviolence is a direction that leads us away from complete self-annihilation.   Christ referred to it as  ‘turning the other cheek’ and though the seeds have been sown by religious figures such as Buddha, Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, we are entering urgently upon the time for watering the seeds fully in order to save the world from madness, self-destruction and lost life.

Nonviolence is not a weak concept but rather a form of justice that substitutes “might is right” and warfare with reconciliation, forgiveness, and just arbitration.  It requires one justice for all people throughout the world based upon nonviolence.  However, as Thay teaches, it begins with nonviolence towards the self, achieved through mindful meditation.    From this practice will emerge the neural evolution required to reach Best Attainable Health individually and collectively.

Share the meme.

Global Messianic Health

calca_morguefile_messianic
All of the world’s popular religions profess belief in a messiah whose coming is necessary to set the course of history back on track. Image by calca @ morguefile.com

The beginning of a new year is a good time to breath deeply, sit back and survey the health of the world, it’s past and its future directions. We have traveled a long way to arrive at this point in time with 7.4 billion fellow human travelers on space station earth. Many people sense that the world is coming to a transition as the population reaches a critical mass, and as the technology of intercommunication moves us towards a transformative threshold of shared awareness.

What is looming next for humanity and for the world, and how will we fare as a species?  What will trigger the transformational change in how societies function that most people feel is necessary for true progress?

Many put hope in a messianic perspective in which a powerful just being returns to set humanity straight.  This tradition exists in Judaism (Messiah), Christianity (Christ), Islam (Masih), Buddhism (Maitreya), Taoism (Li Hong), Hinduism (Kalki) and Zoroastrianism (Saoshyant).  In some faiths the coming of the messianic figure triggers a great war as the messiah contains existing earthly powers and topples the existing social structures in order to set up a new, just, worldwide government.  In other traditions the messianic figure comes as a teacher of men.  Although there are many different views and timelines, many hearts yearn for this messianic figure with power to transform the world, while simultaneously fearing the possible end-time scenario and the large-scale upheaval that it represents.

Others who, like John F. Kennedy,  stared into the abyss of nuclear holocaust hold out hope that humanity itself can resolve the problems that it has created.  In his commencement address of June 10, 1963, JFK expressed the importance of developing new strategies for peace and dialogue between countries including joint space exploration with the Soviet Union and a direct phone line between Moscow and Washington.  He emphasized the danger of dehumanizing communists and promoted the idea of a world-wide peace where all people could obtain a better future for their children.

JFK was assassinated five months after this amazing speech.  This tragic moment in history reminds us of the ruthlessly violent, self-serving social forces that, to this day, continue to obstruct the path to true global health.

But what exactly are these doomed social structures that hold back human progress and how would we expect them to change?  Which changes, if any, are feasible and or necessary in the near term?

Humanity in the Balance

People often agree on the problems that humanity faces but there is much less agreement on the root causes of human suffering.  Capitalist economies appear to have the advantage of creating freedom for some at the expense of oppression for others.  This freedom for some appears to have positive benefits for technological innovation.  On the other hand communist and socialist economies appear to restrict individual freedom in order to equalize opportunities for all, potentially limiting the extremes of innovation that emerge from individual freedom.  Thus there is the bizarre result that the USA ranks highest in per capita prison population while simultaneously expounding the importance of individual freedoms.

The list of global health problems to which there is some agreement includes:

  • Incessant war and the threat of nuclear holocaust
  • Starvation and poor distribution of wealth
  • Environmental destruction for the sake of profit
  • Joblessness, low wage jobs and degrading jobs
  • Substance abuse including drugs, alcohol and smoking
  • Depression, suicide and homelessness
  • Profiteering from behavioral addictions – i.e. gambling, porn
  • Lack of supportive, nonjudgemental, loving communities
  • Barriers to education
  • Apathy and lack of civil participation
  • Waste, sedentary living and obesity
  • Oppression through violence and threats of violence
  • Racism, prejudice, scapegoating, intolerance and lack of empathy
  • Disease and overpopulation

In spite of these profound social flaws we remain positive because of the many virtues and strengths that have brought us this far, such as:

  • Many people have sacrificed their lives for others, and many are  willing to do so.  This is the true meaning of love. The power to love is humanity’s greatest asset and hope.  All parents everywhere want a better future for their children.
  • The collective creative intelligence  7+ billion human brains is mind-boggling.  We can accomplish amazing technological feats when we set our wills to it.  The problem is avoiding the ‘brain-in-a-box’ syndrome where intelligence is used foolishly by social forces.
  • The Gross World Product (GWP) is estimated at a whopping 107.5 trillion.   There are many great jobs and the world economy is powerful.  This productive capability, though astronomical, could be increased further with social improvements to allow more individuals to reach their full potential.
  • Enough food is currently produced to feed every person on the planet.
  • Sustainable living technologies are currently available.
  • The world is interconnected through technology and the internet allowing us to respond to needs around the world with unprecedented speed.
  • Many of the most crippling diseases can be prevented with proper lifestyle and environmental modifications.

Social Transformations for Global Health

Given the ruthless nature of the forces that obstruct human progress one could conclude that the current condition of the world is the best possible scenario and that nothing can change drastically unless a divine Messiah intervenes, or until humanity self-destructs.

However, the ultimately miraculous nature of the present moment described by teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh, indicates that divinity can manifest within any human at any instant.   We have to begin with a concrete dream of what ‘should be’ before it can be made manifest.   One should dream, but not limit oneself to dreams.  The next step is to communicate with others to propagate the dream.  This is what JFK did in his June 10, 1963 commencement address.  He was not able to fulfill the vision but he passed it on and it is still alive today.

In order to transform global health we must take on the distribution of wealth and money.  Money appears to be at the root of all man-made global health problems.  However, money is only an elaborate proxy for controlling access to goods, services and resources, and for facilitating institutionalized favoritism / oppression and inequity.  Thus any attempt to correct social flaws must deal head on with the design and obfuscation of money and with the social forces that misuse it.

The following social transformations are needed to promote optimum global messianic health:

  • Debt Free Governments and Societies – Monetary systems based on issuing debt are at the core of most human setbacks.  Democratic governments must take back control of their monetary supplies such that they are controlled by the people and not private interests.  Governments must be wealth creators not debtors.  Societies also must transition to debt free models because debt and slavery are very close cousins.
  •  Inflation Protected Savings and Salaries –  Inflation is a tax that disproportionately affects lower-income people, and ultimately steals our savings.  It is the result of a flawed fiat monetary system.  A government system must be designed to correct or prevent losses associated with inflation.  Prices of essential commodities such as staple foods, fuels, home and car prices should be closely monitored and justified to control inflation.
  • Minimum Wage Control –  Minimum wage should be set based upon a desirable standard of living for a family of four.  This requires that all jobs that are not self-sustaining be supplemented by government wages.
  • Paid post-secondary education.  Students over the age of 18 should be paid to study and maintain good grades.  Their salaries should depend upon the cost of tuition, room and board and stipend.
  • Food and shelter first policy.   No person should starve while others gorge themselves and no one should be left out in the cold.
  • Non-Monetized Industries – All economic activities should not be monetized for profit.  Many activities such as building roads and bridges should be paid by the government through direct creation of wealth. In a society where there may be excess money individuals may need to be drafted (through a fair and non-coercive process) for certain intervals of service to make sure that vital products and services are delivered.
  • Salaries connected to civil participation – Time should be alloted for all individuals to partake in local government and local community involvement.  Salaries should be supplemented for reinforcing this level of connectedness in the community.
  • Health coach assigned to each person – just as everyone is expected to have a primary physician, each person should have a health coach to help set goals and evaluate progress towards improved health behaviors.  The goal should be the transition to a prevention model of health care.
  • Specific population growth plans –  Each country would promote a targeted sustainable population based upon the available resources and have a plan for meeting the desired goals through education on target family sizes.  The assumption here is that education is sufficient for guidance.  Induced termination of pregnancies should not be advocated.
  • Sustainable environmental use – all forms of energy use must be renewable and sustainable with respect to carbon footprints.
  • Redistribution of wealth and guaranteed income – The extreme gap between haves and have-nots needs to be reduced.  The right to a salary should exist for every person willing to work or be trained.  People in transition or looking for work should also receive salaries and guaranteed employment.  The right of individual ownership should be protected but limits must be set to prevent abuse.  For example, the number of acres owned by a single person should be limited, as should the maximum allowed individual net worth.
  • Retirement wages for community work – retired individuals willing to work in the community should receive an additional stipend.  There is much work that is necessary (but not profitable) to make communities places of true interrelationship.

The list goes on and on as there are plenty of steps and changes required to achieve messianic global health.  All change must start with a vision.  What is your vision of messianic health?  What changes do you believe can be made now?

Have a happy New Year!

 

Gardens: Magic Stress Relievers!

 

Garden of the Heart of Heaven, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photo by Prestor Saillant
Tenshin-en, or “Garden of the Heart of Heaven”, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photo by Prestor Saillant

There is something magical about a garden that can soothe and heal the soul.  I remember visiting a distant relative who was in a hospice at a hospital that had a beautiful outdoor garden on the top floor.  He was not able to appreciate this garden because he was comatose.  I remember thinking that one should make the most of life’s opportunities to enjoy and experience the power of gardens.

Life has a way of bringing us through ups and downs.  It is imperative to the senses as well as to the emotional well-being of individuals that time be taken to contemplate beautiful gardens. The senses are heightened, relieved and soothed when we behold the beauty that nature has to offer us.

I know the many times that a prayer walk through a garden has refreshed my mind, body and soul.  If I am sad, depressed, or frustrated it has a calming effect on my mind which in turn calms my body.  My attitude is adjusted, as well, to begin to hope anew and become positive about life and the future.

“Garden of the Heart of Heaven"
Taking in the scents at Tenshin-en, or “Garden of the Heart of Heaven”, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photo by Prestor Saillant

Hearing birds singing, while viewing the intricate handiwork and beautiful colors of flowers or trees in bloom, and smelling their fragrance seems as affective as a sedative for inducing relaxation, without the side effects.  Even a memory of a beautiful garden has meditative potential to harness tranquility.

Therapeutic Gardens for Healing

An example of a garden that is actively being used for therapy is the Morikami program .  “For almost 10 years, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Boca Raton, Fla., has offered strolls for well-being for caregivers and people living with loss and illness. Vietnam vets suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, grieving widows, exhausted caregivers, and people living with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis have strolled the gardens, written their thoughts and feelings in accompanying journals and experienced a sense of calm and joy.”  The art of writing down thoughts and feelings or even drawing artistically has a cathartic quality that promotes therapeutic healing.  It is as the proverbial onion whose layers are pulled back to reveal the inner parts that make it whole.

Prayer walks have become a mental medicine for my soul.  I pour my heart out to the Lord through thanksgiving, praise, problems, questions, uncertainties, frustrations, fear, anger,  joy and requests.   It’s like talking to a friend who is right there by me physically.  I feel I need this as the air I breathe to survive.  I hope you feel inspired to  visit a garden for as John Burroughs says, ” I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

“Garden of the Heart of Heaven"
Tenshin-en, or “Garden of the Heart of Heaven”, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Photo by Prestor Saillant

 

Faith – a Vision of Unseen Health

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Faith is our way of peeking into the future and molding it.

Faith is a virtue that is often tested by fire (i.e.  the color orange) and it forms the second pillar in the foundation of your health.  Orange is also the color of the Fall season.  In the Fall the abundance of nature begins to die out as the winter draws closer and  because of our faith in the seasonal cycles we buckle down for the winter and begin to prepare for the next Spring.

Faith is all about a vision of the future, and is not directly limited by the hard and painful realities of the present.  It is believing that a future can be created that may seem impossible at present.  It is the hope, the dream, the  vision  of  healing.   It is the proud oak tree hidden in a small buried acorn, or a  prince in a jail cell, or a person constrained by a crippled body.

Faith stares out at us from the eyes of every newborn child, what a beautiful virtue.   It’s fullness comes from the understanding that the future is not limited to one reality, but instead is a superposition of many parallel worlds, of which only one must be selected when reaching the present moment.  Faith selects and clings to a future in which virtues are fully manifested.

Because faith is anchored in the future it can not become outdated or disproven. It is an attractive force that draws the present into its mold.  Therefore faith can be equated with a spiritual form of energy.   Faith may also play a role in the generation of simultaneity of events, where the probability of coincidence is extremely low.

Through faith in the power of healing we can grasp that a cure for every illness already exists (though it may remain hidden for a time),  and thus hope is always warranted.  Through faith in the power of healing we can garner the energy to work tirelessly to find our own cures and to support others searching for cures.

Faith is often directly involved in healing as has been demonstrated scientifically through the existence of the placebo effect.  And better still, faith can be developed and strengthened like a muscle.   This is where we see a vital role for technology in the future of healing.

In fact, every voluntary movement of our bodies is a manifestation of faith, in the sense that we do not perceive the connection between our desire to move and the orchestration of the actual movement.   This faith element in movement is especially tested in cases of injury that lead to paralysis.  In these cases the force of willpower is critical to healing.

Technology can be used,  to track the results of will power on health, and to track the development of will power.   Just as with weight lifting, one can start with simple tasks such as determining to add certain healthy foods to one’s diet, and then progress to harder tasks, such as adding daily workouts, and increasing our awareness of our bodies.   For example, a nail biter can use a monitor to help increase awareness of automatic hand movements and thus end nail-biting, a habit that causes many illnesses.

Virtual Reality Technology is currently being used to help with visualization for the purposes of healing patients with PTSD. The essence of the treatment is that if the patient can visualize themselves as being cured, they will actually be cured.  There are many similar health related applications of new virtual reality devices such as Oculus Rift.

At OnTierraHealth Technology we believe that technology will play an important role in the development of faith-based cures in the future.   However, we must also keep in mind that faith will always transcend current technology.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Heb.  11.1 KJV.

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Compassion and Health

Compassion, Faith, Truth, Justice, Security, Abundance, Joy

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Each of the seven virtues is related to health in powerful ways, and the combination of all seven can dramatically alter your progress  on the path of health.

Today’s blog post is in honor of my father, Prestor Saillant, Sr who went to rest in the Lord yesterday.

Last Sunset
Last Sunset on 9/14/14 at Goddard Beach, RI

Compassion #########

In the last 9 months of his life my father taught me a very profound lesson about compassion.  I was made brutally aware of the intense suffering that the elderly must endure at the hands of diseases like Parkinson’s.  Suffering that is often compounded by our system of health care.  But when, I questioned deeply why the elderly must suffer so, the “still small voice” inside responded, “He still has a lot of blessings”.   His logical mind remained intact, even though, he had to deal with faulty input from his senses.  And his memories of the past and present were largely spared.  He emphasized to me that caring for my wife and children should always be my first priority, but he greatly appreciated the time we spent together, and he always yearned for home.

Through the entire time my father also emphasized the importance of compassion from caregivers.  I noticed that he would always respond and gain strength when surrounded by compassionate people.   On the other hand, those who were simply trying to get a job done or who became negative, sapped him of his energy and will.  He said to one of his therapists several weeks ago that he could see through people’s smiles and could tell who really was smiling inside and who was only feigning a smile.

It is very challenging for a caregiver to develop the level of  compassion and patience required for true healing, and I realized that I still have much to learn.

From this experience I am convinced that we should not underestimate the power of compassion!  It is the gateway to health and healing.  This is the framework for all other virtues, and above all it can be viewed as an essential characteristic of true consciousness.  Consciousness expands when smaller entities share their contribution to awareness.  Sharing of consciousness means becoming aware of another entities existential experience, and thus expanding awareness in the process.  Thus through compassion a greater consciousness forms with transformational power.  Compassion is an essential force that allows billions of separate entities to unite on both a microscopic (i.e. cellular level) and macroscopic ( i.e. human population) level, while still prioritizing the experience of each individual.

Compassion for Self

The Golden Rule springs from this virtue (i.e. love your neighbor as yourself).   I hope you can see that for the Golden Rule to work you must have compassion for yourself!  Thus health starts by having a deep compassion for yourself which can then be shared as compassion for others.   Compassion for self means self-acceptance, self-appreciation, and self-importance and compassion for mind, body and spirit.  Remember that you are an emperor in a kingdom with 37 trillion subjects (i.e. cells) and take time to shower them with compassion.  This willingness to listen to your cells is a major step towards health.   There are many disciplines that help to increase self-awareness such as prayer, stretching, yoga, meditation,and tai chi.

Technology can help increase self-awareness by providing reminders for a stretch, for a workout or for taking a deep breath.  Technology also plays a role in tracking information that is important for health such as diet and symptom tracking.

Compassion for self means investing time and money in your health!

Compassion for Others

It is amazing that we often heal best by trying not to focus on our own pain!  The Golden Rule helps us to realize that there are always people worse off than ourselves.  It reminds us that although we need to take out time for ourselves, a balanced amount of time should be spent helping others.  The important emphasis here is on balance.  If you spend more time helping others than taking care of your own health you will likely end up sick and then not be able to help anyone.  If you spend more time taking care of yourself then helping others then you may also end up getting sicker by virtue of the golden equation (i.e. consider the hypochondriac).  You will end up getting stressed out about your health and the stress alone will make you sick.

Technology plays a huge role in keeping us informed of outreach efforts geared towards helping others.  It can also be used to increase awareness of those whose needs are not being met.

Compassion for others means investing time and money in the health of others.

Compassion First

As my father stated,  “care givers should first truly place themselves in the shoes of the person they are trying to help before approaching to help”.  For healing to take place we need to remind ourselves to surround ourselves with compassion, so that it is our first interface to others.

Compassion and Sacrifice

True compassion entails a measure of sacrifice and this is why the color associated with it is red.   Red is the color of blood when it comes into contact with oxygen.   It is understood by all religions that individual sacrifice for the betterment of others is the highest human calling.  The color red is a reminder that we should be ready to give our all in the battle for a more compassionate future.

 

Economies of Abundance

One of the Seven Virtues of the OnTierraHealth VISION  is Abundance.  One might ask, “How is Abundance a virtue?”

First let me explain that our philosophy is based on the idea that virtues are eternal entities, whereas material things are imperfect instantiations of these eternal entities.  This idea is not new and dates back at least to Plato’s Theory of Forms.   The point is that Abundance exists as an attribute of the spiritual realm (where by spiritual we mean that which is not directly observable), and that the spiritual realm, is the foundation of the visible realm.  That is, the visible realm of material things is like a small tip of a huge submerged iceberg.

So lets start here: in its spiritual form a person may have Abundance even though they lack the material instantiation of Abundance.  This spiritual Abundance is ultimately the granddaddy of material abundance, but exceeds material Abundance in value because of its eternal qualities.   The amazing fact is that this spiritual Abundance is freely available to everyone, and thus as human beings we are all intended to live continuously immersed in spiritual Abundance.

Do you feel rich today!   I am convinced that regardless of outward appearance every person is rich and here is why.   Planet Earth is a physical instantiation of spiritual Abundance and we get to live on Planet Earth.  There may be many problems on Earth, many of which are of our own making.  But for the Earth as whole, scarcity of resources is not one of the problems.   Here are some examples of Abundance:

  1. Number of cells in the human body – approximately 37 trillion according to Eva Bianconi, et al.
    Each of these cells is ALIVE, so you can never really say you are alone if there are 37 trillion lives working together to create you.  Remember to think of yourself in plural form.  Remember that that you are like an emperor in a kingdom with 37 trillion subjects.
  2.  Miles of arteries, veins and capillaries  in your body –    about 100,000 km.   Remember there is more to you than meets the eye.
  3. Solar Energy is abundant and freely available to everyone, and it is freely converted into food by photosynthesis.
  4. Air to breathe is plentiful and freely abundant to everyone.
  5. 71% of the earths surface is covered with water.
  6. As you drive about notice any cracks in the pavement.  Most of the time you will notice that life has found the cracks and something is growing there.  Life is abundant everywhere and the resources for life are abundant everywhere.

So then if we are surrounded by Abundance, why the apparent scarcity in human economies.  Why do we mostly struggle to survive and pay our bills.   One answer – economies of scarcity are engineered by humans such that the few can better control the many and their foundation is greed.

But never mind that now.   Just feel the Abundance because it cannot be taken away from you and is a vital part of your proactive health strategy.   From Abundance springs Peace, Optimism and Courage – attributes that are also critical for optimum health.