Archive for the Health Category

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

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Chi is for Chakra

Posted in All, Health, Spirituality on October 8, 2010 by marushiadark

“Aang, tell me everything you know about Chakras.”

“What are Chakras?” ~ Avatar: The Last Airbender

I don’t have very much faith in the human race as a whole, but every once in a while, someone comes along that really proves they know something about what’s truly going on in this world.  I would have to say that the creators of Avatar: The Last Airbender are one such group of people.

For instance, I learned more about chakras from watching the episode The Guru than I had from any other source.  I think a lot of it had to do with the way in which it was presented, between use of simpler language, visual examples, and their ties with the four elements.

After watching that episode, I became more acutely aware of my chakras and figured out how to sense when there was a problem with one of them.

Chakras are large collections of energy within the body.  They are a part of the energy layer.  Where chi is like blood and meridians like blood vessels, chakras would be like the various organs.  Indeed, the various chakras have a direct effect on the organs of the body.  Clarity of the chakras means health of the body, while blockage of the chakras leads to disease, be it mental, emotional, or physical.  So understanding how your chakras work is vitally important for anyone wishing to be healthy.

Most aficionados will tell you that you have seven chakras.  In actual fact, you have a lot more than that; possibly well over a hundred, depending on how loosely you define the word chakra.  But most people agree on at least the main seven, so we’ll start there.

“In order to enter the avatar state, you must open all the chakras.” ~ Guru Pathik

The seven main chakras follow along the spine from the coccyx at the base, all the way up to the skull.  Their actual positions correspond roughly to the organs of the endocrine system, called glands.  The endocrine system is an information system, much like the nervous system.  The glands release chemicals through the bloodstream that then attach to our cells and cause the cells to execute all the various functions of the body, such as growth, sleep, emotion, metabolism, etc.

In TCM, doctors are often able to diagnose energetic symptoms before physical symptoms become apparent.  The soul will use the chakras as a medium to communicate its desires to the endocrine system, which in turn communicate that desire to the rest of the body.

Energy flows through the chakras like electricity through a circuit board or water through a river.  If there is a blockage or resistance at any point along the way, it will disrupt the flow of energy, which will impede upon the desires of the soul being carried out.  These blockages are created and removed by various emotions held in our mind.

“Each pool of energy has a purpose and can be blocked by a specific kind of emotional muck.” ~ Guru Pathik

The chakras go by various names and have different properties, but the basic understanding is as follows:

  1. Muladhara – The Base Chakra, also called the Root Chakra or the Earth Chakra.  It’s located at the base of the spine, at the tip of the coccyx (tailbone) near the perinium.  It is responsible for survival and blocked by fear.  Its element is earth and its color is red.
  2. Svadhisthana – The Sacral Chakra, also called the Sexual Chakra or the Water Chakra.  It’s located between the sacrum and the L5 vertebrae (lower back).  It is responsible for pleasure and is blocked by guilt.  Its element is water and its color is orange.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the sex organs (naturally).
  3. Manipura – The Solar Plexus Chakra, also called the Stomach Chakra or the Fire Chakra.  It’s located between the L1 and T12 vertebra.  It is responsible for willpower and is blocked by shame.  Its element is fire and its color is yellow.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the adrenal gland (as in adrenaline).  Interestingly, it is also referred to as the Sea of Chi, presumably because it is a very large pool of energy.  The use of the word “solar” in solar plexus is not accidental, since the sun is the largest source of firey energy in the solar system.
  4. Anahata – The Heart Chakra, also called the Air Chakra.  It’s located between the T6 and T7 vertebra, about where the heart is.  It is responsible for love and is blocked by grief.  Its element is air and its color is green.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thymus gland.  Interestingly, the ancient Egyptians believed the heart is where the soul of the body was housed, not unlike the spark in Transformers.
  5. Visshuda – The Throat Chakra, also called the Sound Chakra.  It’s located between the T1 and V7 vertebra.  It is responsible for truth and is blocked by lies that we tell others and ourselves.  Its element is earth and its color is blue.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the thyroid gland.
  6. Ajna – The Brow Chakra, also called the Third-Eye Chakra or the Light Chakra.  It’s located in the middle of the forehead, between the eyes.  It’s responsible for intuition and oneness and is blocked by the illusion of separation.  Its element is water and its color is indigo.  Its corresponding endocrine gland is the pineal gland.  The Ajna is perhaps the most well-known chakra.  The Hindu bindi is a symbol of it and many pop culture references depict a literal eye there.  The Ajna is your own person all-seeing eye that gives you the power of second sight and inner knowledge.  It also relates to dreams and mystical experiences.  An open Ajna is the defining characteristic of all Indigo Children.
  7. Sahasrara – The Crown Chakra, also called the Cosmic Chakra or the Thought Chakra.  It’s located at the top of the skull.  It’s responsible for being in the present and is blocked by attachment to the past or the future.  Its element is aether and its color is violet.  Its corresponding endocrine glands are the pituitary and hypothalamus glands.  The crown chakra is the point of connection with the divine Allness.

These are the basic seven chakra.  The lower chakras are yang chakras (male, day, sun, positive, extroverted), while the upper chakras are yin chakras (female, night, moon, negative, introverted).  The heart, being in the middle, is both and neither.  It is in perfect balance.  Each chakra, except for the heart, is paired with its correlated chakra of equal distance from the heart.  If the heart is zero, the lower chakras would be 1, 2, 3, … while the upper chakras would be -1, -2, -3, … and their properties relate accordingly.

“Born in you along with all this strife is the power to restore balance to the world.” ~ Uncle Iroh

Recall that the chakras are the mediums that your mind uses to direct the actions of your body.  Depending on what physical and emotional sensations you are feeling, you can diagnose which chakra is blocked and correct it.

Case in point, if you have stomach pains, it’s a problem with your stomach chakra.  If you know it’s not caused by something you ate, or getting punched there, you can ask yourself, “What am I ashamed of?” “What am I too proud to let go of?” “In what way can I be more humble?” and when you find it and correct it, you will feel a lot better.

I used to have obstructive sleep apnea until I started being more honest with myself about who I was, what my situation was, and what I wanted or needed.  Soon, my throat chakra started to heal itself and I could literally feel the difference.  When I entered a mindset of “I want to figure out what’s wrong here,” my thyroid would swell up as though I was choking until I finally found the problem.  Once I corrected it, I would belch and the feeling in my throat would go away.  Similarly, after I’d broken up with my girlfriend of four years, I felt like there was a great weight on my chest.  But as I started to get through the grieving stage and move on with my life, I could literally feel that weight sink down from my chest into my stomach.  Then I knew it was time to move onto shame.

Because each of the chakras is paired (except for the heart) and grouped according to yin and yang, it is possible to experience disease in multiple chakras at the same time.  For instance, guilt and shame are related to one another, so you might feel lower back pain and stomach pain at the same time.  Or maybe neck and stomach pain since solar plexus and throat are paired.

As I said before, you have the main seven chakras, but there are other ones besides these.  Usually, these other chakras have auxiliary effects and appear at the halfway points between the main chakras, or in pairs running up and down either side.  For instance, there is a pair at the knees, hips, kidneys, shoulders, ears, and temples of the head.  These provide extra energy for the base, sacral, stomach, heart, throat, and brow chakras respectively.

All in all, it should be fairly straight-forward as to what these other chakras do.  For instance, the ear chakras are responsible for hearing.  If you have problems with your ears, it could mean that you aren’t listening to someone, and so your body is just obeying the orders of the mind and producing chemicals that induce a physical change.  If your hips are sore, it’s a problem guilt.  And so forth.

There is also a large chakra at the base of your feet called the Ground Chakra, which receives energy from earth.  There is also one several feet above your head that discharges energy out of your body.

A river naturally flows from a source atop a mountain, moving on downhill towards some larger body of water, such as the ocean.  When we look at a map, our natural inclination is to think that a river is always flowing south, because south on a map is down.  However, some rivers, such as the Nile actually flow north.  The energy of the body is a lot like that.  It flows contrary to our expectation.

The top of the mountain is actually the bottoms of your feet where we gather energy from the earth (the phrase “being well-grounded” relates to electromagnetism).  Earth is female (mother earth) and negative, while yang is male and positive.  Opposites attract, so the energy flows up from the earth to the body through the yang chakras, passing into the heart.  The heart, being neutral, converts the negative energy into positive energy (fear into love), which is then attracted to the negative, female yin chakras.  The energy then flows through the upper chakras out the crown of the head and into the cosmos or Allness, which is a great ocean of energy.

In this way, we draw essential life force that allows us to run out bodies and interact with our world and be a source of energy for future creation.

C is for Chi

Posted in All, Health, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 7, 2010 by marushiadark

“You guys can do all this awesome Bending stuff … I’m just the guy in the group who’s regular.” ~ Sokka, Avatar: The Last Airbender

When I was young, around nine-years old, my dad decided to enroll me and my younger siblings in martial arts.  My father was a black belt.  The sensei of the school he enrolled us in studied under the same master as him.  From time to time, my dad would show us techniques well in advance of what most of the other students were learning.  I don’t really consider my father to be the best of teachers.  I feel he lacks the patience to go through things in a step-by-step, kinesthetic, ground-up manner.  When I first learned to drive, he started me on my mom’s SUV, which to this day I still get nervous driving.  However, regardless of how I may feel about him, there’s one thing I owe him my gratitude for and that’s introducing me to the concept of chi.

I don’t remember exactly how I old I was at the time, maybe somewhere around fourteen years of age.  But I remember my father sitting me down in the living room.  He didn’t really go into too much detail; he just explained that there was a sort of energy inside us and that we could learn to use it with practice.  He told me to hold out my hand, which I did.  Then he held his own up around mine without touching it and asked what I felt.  I remember feeling a sort of warm energy when he did this.  That’s chi, he said.

So ended the lesson.  It wasn’t much of anything, really.  All I had to go by was that experience, that feeling, and a vague idea that it had something to do with breathing.  But fortunately, that was enough to get me started.

It’s truly a revelatory experience your first time.  I remember my eyes went wide when I first felt it.  Over the years, I had to figure a lot of stuff out for myself and my progress was very slow.  Having someone there to guide you through your exploration of internal energy is a very beneficial thing.  Joining a Tai Chi or Chi Kung or Yoga class, or even just working with a partner who knows something about it, is a lot better than trying to figure it all out all on your own.

“To train the mind, one must first train the body.” ~ Izumi Curtis, Full Metal Alchemist

In my house, we have a lot of old Shaw Brothers kung fu films.  The first one I ever saw was The 36th Chamber of Shaolin.  It’s the story of a young man named San Te who enters Shaolin Temple and learns kung fu.  At first, San Te’s eager to the point of foolishness and wants to start with the highest art, so he’s taken to the 35th Chamber where a bunch of old and senior monks are reciting Buddhist sutras.  The master of the chamber tells the San Te to leave because San Te clearly doesn’t know what he’s doing.  When he refuses, the master raises his arms and the man falls back on his ass.

The monk never touched him, but was sitting at least ten feet away.  You can imagine the look on San Te’s face and how afraid and confused he was.  That was his first experience with chi.

While that may have been a movie, the idea of chi has basis in reality.  The other day, I was watching Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which is a documentary series about real life superhuman abilities.  Among the ones I saw in the episode was a Shaolin monk named Shi Yan Ming who used chi in martial arts.  The premise of the show is to try and determine the scientific basis of such superhuman feats.  A collision scientist was brought in with equipment that revealed results unlike anything the woman had ever seen before.  Shi Yan Ming’s punches delivered damage greater than that of a 30 MPH car crash.  That was just one of several feats performed that would appear impossible given his size and muscular build, so clearly chi has an affect here.

Many martial artists have spent years developing their chi power through training of the body and getting a feel for their own energy.  Unfortunately, few of them spend as much time studying the nature of reality, science, healing, philosophy, and metaphysics, so their ability to use chi is limited mostly to its connection with their physical bodies.

“Teacher, what is this?  This isn’t kung fu!”

“That’s the highest form you’ll ever see, the final form.  You don’t understand.” ~ 36th Chamber of Shaolin.

So what exactly is chi?

In its most basic sense, chi is a type of energy that exists within your body.  It originates from your soul and is the essential life force that powers your mind and body like electricity flowing through your computer.

Your body has many different systems of organs, such as the nervous system, the circulatory system, the skeletal system, the digestive system, etc.  There is also an energy system.  You may have seen diagrams of energy meridians which map out the locations of this system for use in acupuncture, reiki, and other healing arts.  If the meridians are the blood vessels, the chi is the blood that flows through them.

Through mental training and practice, you can learn how to use and manipulate your own chi for a variety of purposes.  If you’ve never worked with it before, it’s essential that you experience it for yourself.  I can’t think of a better way to start you off than to say find someone who knows about it and get them to show you, just like how my dad first showed me.  It will jump start your awareness.

The nearest I can describe it in words is that it’s like an electromagnetic effect.  If you were to hold two magnets of the same polarity in your hands and try to bring them together, you’ll feel a well of magnetism between your hands as if there were an invisible ball there.  That’s basically the same effect that you are creating here.

It’s likely that chi is electromagnetic energy, but I us the word “chi” out of tradition and because it just sounds cooler.  Recall that everything in the universe is made of energy, most of which, if not all of which, is electromagnetic in nature.

The human body is indeed capable of generating electrical charge, which creates magnetism.  The effect of putting your hands out acts like two opposing capacitor plates.  Through focus, you can turn the current on or off and control the flow of electromagnetism between your hands.  I’ve heard of people that can actually shoot sparks across their fingertips like a van de graaff generator.  That’s probably what allows the Sith and Firebenders to manipulate lightning, at least in theory.

Over the years, I’ve been able to do a lot of things with my chi.  I can generate it, manipulate it into different shapes, alter its “mass,” and use it for healing purposes.  I haven’t been able to use it for telekinesis yet, bu

Realistically, I’ve found that, for the amount of time and focus you’d need to gather the energy necessary to flip off a light switch from across the room, it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just summon the discipline and energy to get up and turn it off manually.  So that scene with Anakin Skywalker feeding Padme with the Force … not likely to happen.

The Power of Christ Compels You

Posted in All, Health, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“Healing is not a science, but the intuitive art of wooing nature.” ~ W.H. Audin, poet

In my last post, I talked about the basic points of health and healing, stating that the human body is a self-correcting machine and that medicine is only as good as its ability to help the body return to homeostasis.  Most drugs are ineffective in the prevention and curing of disease because they do not address the underlying cause of the problem.  However, there is a field of medicine that I have yet to address and it is perhaps the most powerful form of healing known to man.  It is also the most overlooked and under-appreciated “drug” man has ever created.  I’m talking of course of the Placebo.

A placebo is essentially a form of medicine that has no actual measurable effect on the human body.  The most common form of this is a simple capsule filled with a small amount of sugar.  Its purpose in modern medicine is largely as a control metric in experiments that test the efficacy of drugs.  Patients are given placebos but told they are actually medicine and then the results are compared between the drug being tested and the body’s own ability to heal itself.

I admit, I can’t think of any better way to test the efficacy of drugs than that, but what these tests fail to determine and what modern medicine seems to have completely brushed over, is the actual power of the placebo itself.

A placebo itself has no effect on the body, but the patient believes it does and so their mind registers the belief that it is being healed.  Since the mind controls the body, the state of the mind can affect the health of the body for better or worse.  If the mind is convinced that it is healed or is in the process of being healed, then it will tell the body that everything is okay and so the body will release chemicals and hormones and endorphins to correct whatever issues are there.

Conversely, if the mind believes it is sick or hurt or in pain, then the body will align itself with that belief and act accordingly.  This is the mechanism that creates psychosomatic illness and is a chronic problem in many hypochondriacs.  Very often times, a hypochondriac can become seriously ill from nothing more than the fact that their mind told the body to be sick and it obeyed.

We know that disease is the result of either some overt toxin being present in the body or the lack of sufficient raw materials (water, minerals, etc.) to carry out the bodily functions.  But for all instances where this is not the case, the result is psychosomatic.  It’s all in the mind, meaning that the issue is not with the car, but with its driver.  Correct the driver’s error and the car will stop crashing into trees.

Consequently, this is the mechanism by which all medicine works.  Whatever will convince you that you are better is what will help you heal your body.  This is why drugs can sometimes appear to be helping, even though they are in fact introducing toxic substances into the body.  What’s actually helping is the mind’s orders to release healing chemicals, coupled with the presence of life-enhancing raw materials and energies.  As I said before, the human body is a self-correcting machine.  All you have to do is give it what it needs to do its job and then get out of its way while it does its thing.

“All healing is first a healing of the heart.” ~ Carl Townsend, futurist

The spirit controls the mind, which controls the body.  Everything in the universe is made up of energy, so it would make sense that any and all issues within the higher levels of the body and mind stem from issues on an energy level.  Our conscious minds may not know how all this works, but our subconscious minds and our spirits are working diligently behind the scenes to make sure everything comes alive for us on stage.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a diagnosis begins with an assessment of a person’s energy.  In such fields, it is common to hear about things like energy meridians, chakras, yin and yang, feng shui, or the concept of hot-cold-wet-dry.  Such practitioners of TCM have a very acute awareness of the factors that contribute to the health of the energy body – as do a great many faith healers, reikiists, reflexologists, acupuncturists, and psychics – and it is from this assessment of the energy body that they are able to catch and correct most diseases way in advance of western medicine, which still relies mostly on drugs and surgery.

Now, to be fair, there are a great many hacks as well within the alternative community, but the underlying principles are both accurate and applicable, and this is how all of the legitimate ones operate.  And by knowing this, you can begin to heal yourself without help from anyone.

“Then he asked him, ‘What is your name?’ and he answered, saying, ‘My name is Legion; for we are many’.” ~ Mark 5:9

Perhaps the most well-known healer in history is Jesus of Nazareth.  The Gospel of Mark, chapter five, recounts three of Jesus’ more famous healing sessions.

In the Gospel, Jesus is traveling with his disciples by boat when he comes to a small village.  A man from the village is being bound by chains and it is said that even the chains could not hold him for very long.  When Jesus arrives, the man is raving with madness, cutting himself with stones, but falls to his knees at the sight of Jesus and asks that Jesus not torment him.  The man says that he is possessed by a demon that is actually many demons.

In ancient times, people were far more superstitious and didn’t have the modern understanding of psychology that we do today.  So was this a demon or was the man just merely schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder and sadomasochistic tendencies?  Regardless of the actual facts, the man believed he had a demon living inside him and that demon quickly went away when Jesus commanded it to enter into a herd of pigs.  Did Christ really cast out a horde of demons, or did the man simply heal himself with the power of his own mind, for which Jesus was merely a catalyst?

The Gospel states that the demon was known as “the legion” and it affected the man’s “right mind.”  Was this really a demon or was it simply an aberration?  Or perhaps it was even a lesion in the right hemisphere of his brain, which Jesus healed using nothing more than a placebo effect and a transfer of energy.

Regardless of the actual details, the Bible says that when Christ healed the man, the people of the village were very afraid and they made it clear that they didn’t want Jesus hanging around there anymore.  So much for gratitude, eh?  So Jesus got in the boat and sailed back the way he came, but not before the man he healed came up to him and thanked him.  He wanted to go with Jesus, but Christ instead said that he should go and tell the people what he’d done for him.

“And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well.  Go in peace and be healed of your affliction’.” ~ Mark 5:34

By the time Christ reaches shore again, news of his “miraculous” healing powers had reached the people there and he started to gain more attention.  A man named Jarlus came up to him and told him his daughter was sick and near death and he wanted Jesus to come and see her.

Along the way, a crowd begins to follow Jesus.  Among them is a woman with a severe blood disorder.  The Bible says that, for twelve years, she “had suffered many things from many physicians … and was no better, but rather grew worse.”  She hears about Jesus and comes up and touches his cloak because she believes that Jesus has some sort of special healing powers that can save her.

Jesus turns and asks what she thinks she’s doing.  The woman becomes terribly afraid and confesses all, but Jesus tells her not to worry and that she is healed.  Moreover, Jesus emphasizes that it is the woman’s faith that has healed her, not him.

Many Christians today attribute this event as being proof that belief in Christ is what will heal them.  However, it’s less about their faith in Christ and more about the power of the placebo effect and the ability of the mind to heal the body.  What you believe in specifically is of little importance to anyone but yourself.

Many churches, especially televangelist and evangelical churches, are known for their priests and pastors that lay their hands on worshipers and the people feel an overwhelming sensation come over them and they feel much better afterwards.  Scientists can’t explain it or apply it to non-believers and so there is a schism between the scientists who say it’s all bunk and the believers who are exploited into further belief and in subjugating themselves to God and the church.  In actuality, these people are healed because of the power of their own minds over their bodies with the priest or God or whatever merely being a metric that will only work for them and no one else because the minds of others are not geared to believing in that stuff, which is all that matters.

Faith in Christ is just a catalyst for getting the mind to be in a mode of healing and is fundamentally no different than if you were healed through belief in Buddha, Mohammad, or Tom Cruise.  It’s all about you and there’s no subjugation or worship required.

“When he came in, he said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and weep?  The child is not dead, but sleeping’.” ~ Mark 5:39

At the end of Mark 5, a servant comes up to the group and tells Jarlus that his daughter is dead.  Jesus commanded Jarlus not to worry, but to have faith that everything would be alright.  He then went alone with some of his disciples to the house.  Before he even went inside, Jesus told the people there that the child was not dead, but only sleeping.  The people rebuked him for this and so he made them wait outside.

Many Christians believe this to be an example of Jesus bringing someone back from the dead, but is it really?  Why did Jesus say she was only sleeping?

The passage seems to contradict itself here because it says that only Peter, James, and John went with Christ; yet Jarlus, the girl’s father, was present at the house when Jesus got there.  So if Jarlus went, is it possible the servant went as well?  Who really went with him?

If Jarlus and/or the servant went with Christ to the house, they could have told Jesus about her illness and Jesus, being a healer, would have known what the problem was and so he might have known just from that information that it wasn’t anything lethal.  People that aren’t knowledgeable in disease and healing often overreact to what are otherwise relatively simple problems to solve.  Is that what happened here?  I don’t know, but it’s possible.

Or if Jesus went alone with his disciples, he could have relied on his intuition to tell him that the situation wasn’t as bad as it seemed.  I know many times I, myself, have been in what appeared to be very bad situations; but my intuition coached me through it, telling me everything would be alright, and, more often than not, it was.  Is that what happened here?  Again, I don’t know, but it’s possible.

When Jesus got to the house, he made everyone wait outside.  He then took the mother and father and went inside the house to the little girl.  Undoubtedly, they believed that Jesus knew what he was doing and had faith that the little girl would be alright.  Jesus told her to wake up and she did.  Jesus told them to give her something to eat and she was fine from that point on.  Was she really dead or did the servant just mistake her being asleep for actual death?

I remember a very particular scene from the movie Doc Hollywood where Michael J. Fox is about to cut open a kid’s stomach because he believes the boy has a terrible stomach virus; but the local doctor comes by with a cola and gives it to the kid and rebukes Michael J. Fox’s character for nearly putting the boy through an unnecessary and risky procedure.  As it turns out, the boy simply had a case of gas, not a virus at all.  How did the town doctor know?  Because he had treated these people before and knew what they were like and knew their habits and the sorts of things that might cause diseases in that town.  He had knowledge and experience and an understanding that neither the family nor Michael J. Fox’s character had.

Perhaps this twelve-year old girl simply fainted from not having anything to eat.  But let’s consider the possibility that maybe that wasn’t the case, and that maybe there really was something wrong with this girl.  Maybe she wasn’t dead, but instead she just fell into a coma.  How would someone like Jesus have handled that?

Recall that the mother and father probably had a great deal of faith in Christ’s abilities.  They heard stories of how he cured a man of demons and saw how he healed a woman’s illness by the touch of his cloak.  Likely, they and their servants believed him to be some sort of magic man and spiritual healer.  So their minds were aligned with a spirit of healing and so it’s possible they transferred some of that positive energy to the girl and this reached her subconscious and caused her to awake and become healthy again.  After all, everything in the universe is just the interaction of energy waves in space.  All matter and medicine is subject to these laws.

“So based on your time spent with … these bizarre individuals, you’ve concluded that possession is a basic, typical human experience?”

“I must say, counselor, that’s quite a laundry list of disdain and one that thoroughly mischaracterizes my work.” ~ The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The very last line of Mark 5 says that Jesus commanded that no one be told what had happened.  To me, this is more indicative that the actual metric of healing used in this case was the power of faith in the minds of those around him.  If Jesus told them what really happened, perhaps they would lose faith and so then they might also lose the power to heal themselves, having nothing else to believe in and no skills in diagnosing or treating diseases.  And so Jesus would have to be called back to them, which I’m sure he would have preferred not to do if he didn’t have to.

How often have we heard doctors, as we’re leaving their offices and hospitals, tell us, “I don’t ever wanna see you here again” or something comparable?  Of course, that doesn’t mean that they are inherently grouchy and anti-social individuals.  What they mean is that we should take better care of ourselves so that they don’t have to treat us again, because the power to prevent and cure our own maladies and diseases lies in our own hands.

I’m sure some of you reading this article aren’t willing to believe this.  Maybe for you, the catalyst is something else more in line with your empirical beliefs and the scientific method.  Maybe the healer you trust is a medical doctor and because you believe that his remedies work, you become in-tune with the spirit of healing and that helps you get better.

Likewise, I’m sure there are some of you reading this article who are already well-versed in spiritual healing and so I’m just preaching to the choir.

Then there are probably a third class of people that are somewhere in between.  You’re not sure if you believe this works or not.  For those people, if you haven’t read it already, I would recommend the book Clairvoyance and Occult Powers, by Swami Panchadasi.  It’s out of print, but you can find an e-book of it on Google Books.  It was written almost a hundred years ago, and yet it reads as though it were written more recently than that.  I like it because it explains everything in rather layman’s terms from the very beginning and the most basic assumptions that require very little stretching of the imagination.  Another one you may enjoy is simply called Psychic Healing, by Yogi Ramacharaka.  It was written in 1934 and can also be found freely on Google Books.

H is for Healing

Posted in All, Health, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.” ~ Buddha

The Japanese toast “kanpai” is a wish for health and wealth, with the understanding that health is more important and thus comes before wealth.  Money comes and money goes, but without your health, you haven’t got anything.

Many people do not take charge of their own health, but instead leave to men and women called doctors, most of whom are only trained in the treatment of symptoms with patented drugs and surgical procedures.  Most of them are on a payroll getting kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies when they should be interesting in curing disease and restoring optimum health to their patients.

Do not misunderstand me.  There are great doctors out there that do know what they’re doing, who are interested in genuinely helping people for reasons other than money (the real-life Gregory Houses and Hank R. Lawsons) that have not allowed themselves to be corrupted by the business of medicine.  Those are the sorts of doctors I would defer to if I needed help.  And were I or someone I knew in a serious medical emergency or accident, I would probably go to a hospital in lieu of any other option.  But for the vast majority of illnesses, it takes a long time (sometimes years) to develop these problems and the majority of them are preventable and/or psychosomatic (i.e. all in your head).

So why are we leaving our bodies in the hands of drug dealers and butchers?  All a doctor is going to do is ask you questions about your body and then make an assessment based on the information and patterns he has stored in his head.  He can’t possibly know your body better than you can because only you can know what you are feeling.  And the information that he learned is information that you can learn as well.  So why are you there listening to him?

“A lot of people say they want to get out of pain, and I’m sure that’s true, but they aren’t willing to make healing a high priority.  They aren’t willing to look inside to see the source of their pain in order to deal with it.” ~ Lindsay Wagner

I’ve often said that the best way to think of your body is to think of a car and treat your body in a comparable way to how you would treat your motorized vehicle.  If a car doesn’t work, it’s a technical problem and there are only so many things that it can be.  To fix the car, you simply find the root cause of the problem, address it, and viola! the car will run as well as it did before … unless there’s something else that’s wrong, in which case you just step and repeat until it’s working again.

The human body is no different.  Find the cause and you find the cure.  But the body is also a self-correcting machine, unlike a car, because it’s alive and a system of living organisms; and if you respect it as such and treat it well, it’ll serve you well.  Any medicine you give it is only as good as its ability to help the body regulate itself in getting back to homeostasis.

In my article on organic food, I stressed the importance of not putting crap into your body and in getting the right nutrients, vitamins, minerals, water, and energy you need to keep your body running.  If we did just that, and nothing else, about half of the diseases in the world would be eliminated.

The children in Africa are sick primarily because their country is our waste dump and they have no food and water.  Find the cause and you will find the cure.  It’s as simple as that.

“Healthy people are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet in an environment equally fit for birth, growth, work, healing, and dying … Healthy people need no bureaucratic interference to mate, give birth, share the human condition, and die.” ~ Ivan Illich, philosopher

So what about drugs and surgery?  Is there any place for them?  The answer is yes, but their role is auxiliary, best used in emergencies and accidents and such.  They’re more like a Plan Z than a Plan A.

As I said before, the human body is a self-correcting machine.  Every part has a purpose and so the removal and replacement of such parts should be reserved as a last resort.  Things like heart disease and kidney disease are preventable and the human body will suffer without them.  If taken care of properly, transplants shouldn’t even become an issue.

Sometimes an organ is defective from birth, like a car that was built badly or the steel used in the Titanic.  We can’t sue God for the damages, but we can correct the mistake (and, by the way, it’s only a mistake or a defect if it inhibits the person’s ability to function).

And what about drugs?  There’s a simple metric for that as well.  What is the cause of your problem?  If your problem isn’t caused by a lack of drugs, then taking prescription and non-prescription drugs will not make you better.  Do you have an aspirin deficiency?  If not, then aspirin is not the solution.  While it may relieve the pain, it isn’t really fixing the underlying problem, which is caused by something else.  No amount of medication will fix your carpel tunnel if you continue to rest your wrists on the sharp corners of your laptop.  No amount of pain killers will correct your poor posture and alleviate the pressure of your vertebrae on your lower back nerves.  If you haven’t had anything to eat or drink all day, then how can ibuprofen or acetaminophen possibly stop your headaches?  And if your life is causing you stress, why would anti-depressants be a better option than a cup of hot tea and a vacation?

Then, on top of not fixing these problems, the over-abundance of such toxins in your body can wreak havoc on your systems and lead to other potentially lethal side effects.  Who in their right mind would volunteer themselves for all of that?  Someone not in their right mind, that’s who.  A little may not hurt, but a lot will most certainly kill you, and there are people ingesting and injecting themselves with drugs on a virtually daily basis.  Maybe we’re simply fighting the wrong enemies in the drug wars, because we’ve certainly become a nation of medicinal junkies.

The body is a machine and its problems are technical.  Find the cause and you find the cure.  You can do this yourself with a little bit of knowledge and experience.  And the usage of drugs and surgery should be limited to only medical emergencies.

“Man thought he had a human spirit.  That is totally  incorrect.  Man is a human spirit, which is enwrapped more or less in a mind, which is in a body.” ~ L Ron Hubabrd

Man is a spirit in a mind in a body, like a Russian nesting doll, setting one inside the other (and then at times we have our body in something else and this continues).  The spirit directs the mind and then the mind directs the body and then the body in turn acts upon the world around us and interacts with it.  But because the mind controls the body, the health of the mind means the health of the body and so it’s not enough to simply figure out the machine.  Even the best working car can’t make up for driver error and so we must learn what causes damage to our psyche as well and then work to correct that.

The brain is an organ, a physical machine.  It runs on electricity and, at least according to one theory, is the recipient of all electrical signals from the cells.  It is the central office, the capital of the nation that is you.  Direct all complaints here, it says, and we will take care of you.  Along with that information comes all the pain felt by the body and the brain sends this information to the mind, which is the president and the emperor, who determines what course of action must then be taken.  Depending on the condition of the mind, it may make rational decisions or it may be affected by mental aberrations (bad advisers) and be in the habit of making poor or irrational decisions that affect the overall health of the body at large.  To make the best decisions possible, we must weed out the aberrations of fear and guilt and shame and pain and grief and doubt and so forth until only love and logic remain.  Then and only then will be truly be able to heal.

All this obviously represents a huge financial loss to the companies that make products tailored to those diseases.  There is nothing wrong with companies making a profit off their contributions to society, but when they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep in business, we have to draw the line somewhere.  It’s us or them and I’d rather be on the side that wins that battle.

Food for Thought

Posted in All, Health, Science with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2010 by marushiadark

“It would be nice if the Food and Drug Administration stopped issuing warnings about toxic substances and just gave me the names of one or two things still safe to eat.” ~ Robert Fuoss

In this day and age, there seems to be a great deal of emphasis on diet.  Eat this, don’t eat that.  Eat more protein, eat less protein, eat more carbs, eat less carbs, eat no carbs, eat only certain carbs.  Join Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Slim Fast, South Beach, and so forth.  In a world where one of the leading causes of death is starvation and malnutrition, in America we have the highest obesity rates we’ve ever had; and that’s in spite of having more weight-loss programs, dietary drugs, stomach pumps, and liposuction than ever.  We blame genetics and viruses for our poor health and spend countless billions in pursuit of treatments (not even cures) along those lines with no assurances that that’s even the right path to be going down.

It can’t possibly be as hard as we’re making it, can it?  Clearly, something is very wrong, since we didn’t have this problem a hundred years ago.

“We are all dietetic sinners; only a small percent of what we eat nourishes us; the balance goes to waste and loss of energy.” ~ William Osler, physician

Human beings are made of three parts: a body, a mind, and a soul.  The soul is the conscious observer that has the experiences.  The mind is like analytical software that helps us to figure out problems and order our world.  And the body is the physical machinery, the vehicle, the avatar that we use to interact with the world around us and have those experiences.

While I don’t claim to be an expert on cars, I have noticed a great deal of similarities between the way in which vehicles operate and the way in which our bodies seem to operate.  They’re both mechanical devices that work best when the proper substances are flowing through them and when all the moving parts are maintained and kept clear.  Maybe you’ve seen that commercial on TV where they talk about engine sludge and a guy gets doused in the stuff.  You wouldn’t intentionally put sludge in your car.  It simply wouldn’t work right if you did.  Yet that’s exactly what we do with our own bodies.  We put harmful chemicals and toxins into our bodies, often willingly, and then wonder why we have such terrible health complications like we do.

Though the human body is a complex piece of machinery, it is fundamentally simple to maintain if we keep in mind one simple rule: we are what we eat.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Whatever you put in the engine is what the engine is going to process and it’s up to you how efficient you want that engine to be.  After all, it’s a lot cheaper and easier in the long run to change the oil than to change the engine.

There are certain things the body needs and certain things it doesn’t need and even certain things that can cause it a great deal of damage.  It’s vitally important to keep in mind that, whatever you put in your body, it will either be used by your body or it won’t.  Your body doesn’t care about how you feel in regards to the taste of the foods that you eat.  It’s only concerned in maintaining and executing its basic functions, which depend upon the presence of certain ingredients and the absence of others.

Human beings are a part of nature and so our food should ideally come from nature: water, plants, animals, vitamins, minerals, proteins, etc.  Such a diet would constitute a natural, organic diet.  Organic basically means that there is no crap in it.  No chemicals, preservatives, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, etc.  Also, the way in which the plant or animal is raised is a factor (such as free-roam chickens or grass-fed cattle).

When you consume food, beneficial bacteria in the digestive system (stomach, colon, etc.) breaks down that food, decomposing it into more basic and usable components that can be easily absorbed by the body.  This is similar to bacteria breaking down the materials in a compost pile.

Preservatives prevent this from happening and stop the process of decomposition by the bacteria.  Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were embalmed thousands of years ago and much of their flesh remains intact as a result.  Now imagine what such preservatives could do to the food that you eat.  If the food isn’t broken down, it just passes through undigested and the nutrients aren’t absorbed by the body, which can lead to loss of energy and weakening of the immune system, thereby making you more susceptible to disease.  Most processed foods are packed with preservatives in an effort to extend their shelf life, which has side effects of being beneficial to bottom lines (but not your bottom line).

Ever wonder why doctors are always telling us to limit our sodium intake?  It’s because sodium is a preservative.  For thousands of years, before the invention of refrigeration, salt was used to cure meats and keep them from spoiling.  However, unlike most other preservatives, the components of table salt (sodium chloride) are actually necessary to some degree for biological functions.  Sodium and potassium work together to provide cells with electrical energy.  So salt is ok in moderation.  If you’re worried about your salt intake, look for products whose ingredients list doesn’t contain any added salt.  Alternatively, you can also increase your intake of potassium and definitely drink more water.  Health is all about maintaining homeostasis (balance).

Chlorine is also needed by the body, but too much of it can be a bad thing as well.  For one thing, chlorinated water can lead to scarring of the arteries, known as arteriosclerosis, which can cause cholesterol problems when the cholesterol lodges inside the scars.  This can lead to heart attack and stroke.  If you’ve ever been in a public pool and your skin felt nasty afterwards, it was probably a result of the chlorine.  You’d wanna go home and take a shower, but chances are, your shower water is chlorinated as well.  Some people say that your skin protects you from this, but think about the chlorine: if your skin is impenetrable, why use topical lotions?  Wouldn’t they be ineffective?  Your skin has pores and just as sweat and odors can come out, so too can stuff get in.  Your skin is the largest organ in the body with tremendous surface area.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, when you shower, the water vaporizes and so does the chlorine in the water.  You then inhale the noxious chlorine gas.  I’ve been in showers where the chlorine level was so bad, you could actually smell it when showering.  That’s why I use a filter on my shower that removes the chlorine and why I use Brita pitchers for drinking and cooking water.  If you have a pool, try using an ozone filter or similar instead of chlorine chemicals.

Just like preservatives, pesticides and herbicides are also used to extend the life of crops by killing off life forms that would harm them.  Those chemicals then get into the food and eventually into us.  You may think you’re washing them off when you run your produce under the sink, but that’s only getting rid of the stuff on the surface.  Moreover, you’re probably also contaminating it with chlorine from the tap in the process.  So you’re really just adding fuel to the fire.

All of these things, and a whole lot more problems, could be solved if we just help food producers to higher standards and demanded that all our food be completely organic.  The resulting health benefits from increased nutrient intake and decreased levels of toxic substances would be a tremendous pay-off, one that ought to be self-evident.  I’ve often said that if companies like McDonalds could make their products completely organic while still maintaining their current prices, they would have my unwaivering support and I’d probably eat there all the time.  However, through the power of corporate lobbying, coupled with our indifference, such dangerous practices are allowed to continue with our consent.

I understand that, for many of us, we can’t always afford to go organic and so we buy less than healthy products.  But in the end, you’re only belaying your costs temporarily.  Instead of paying more for food, you wind up paying to patch your health problems later on, which could have been prevented.  If you can’t go organic, then at least start with the big things and go from there.  Read the ingredients lists, not just the nutrition facts, and educate yourself as to what the ingredients actually are.  Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.