Feb 282011


The Secret: The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I had previously reviewed wildly popular book “The Secret” by this author. I gave a mixed review of that book, in which I noted that a book on how to get anything you want can send an entirely wrong message to someone in the grip of powerful ego drives.

The newer book hit me wrong right out of the gate. It was only as I continued to read (in this case, listen) that I started to appreciate what the author was actually saying.

I’ll give away the “secret” of the book by saying that the “power” mentioned is Love. A wonderful message. However, in proving that everything in the world is created and obtained through love, Rhonda equates a fervent desire for a pair of designer shoes with “love” for those shoes. Unfortunately, spiritual teachers such as the Buddha identify desire as the root of all suffering.

The Power

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As the book went along, however, I realized that Rhonda means something different by “desire” than the Buddha means. What she’s actually suggesting is not a desperate longing for material things, but an awe, appreciation and gratitude for material things. This puts her program on an entirely different (and spiritually helpful) footing. For example, she shares a remarkable point of view for dealing with envy. Rather than having negative feelings about good things coming to other people, we are to consider this as a sign that we are on the same “frequency” as these good things, and that the universe is presenting them to us to enjoy, love, and HAVE if we wish. By this rationale, we should be as happy and grateful for someone else having good things as we would if he had them ourselves.

I found this a unique approach. While perhaps not as pure as being grateful for other’s good fortune because we are spiritually one with them, it’s a good start. And there is much to praise in the book. It’s well written, easy to follow, full of helpful quotations and excellent summaries. It encourages us to practice love, gratitude and positivity in every situation – and that can’t be bad. I found that simply listening to the book on audio while commuting improved my entire day.

The audio version, by the way, has lots of interesting music, sound effects, and Rhonda’s own unique voice. I found these helpful and engaging, but it’s easy to see how some people might find them distracting. Such people might prefer the book instead of the audio.

The original point I made in my review of The Secret still applies here I think. You have to begin with a good perspective on who you are and what your purpose is to avoid being sucked into an ego trap. As Jesus put it:

So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  (Matt 6:31-33, NET)

In a sense, however, the Power is much better on this point. An approach of cultivating love and gratitude is already a long way along the road of seeking the Kingdom than simply trying to practice the “law of attraction”. I think this book rounds out and corrects some of the potential problems with the first, and I’d recommend it over the Secret.

Aug 242010

batgirl I picked up this book because I was intrigued by the title. The name Alicia Silverstone rang a bell, but I really didn’t remember who she was. One of my kids reminded me. “Batgirl” (in the “Batman and Robin” movie). Suddenly I was impressed. While Silverstone was pretty enough in that role, the girl on the cover of “The Kind Diet” was thinner and more radiantly pretty – so much so that I hadn’t recognized her. A good endorsement for any diet.

The diet is “Kind” because it’s vegan – kind to animals and kind to the earth. Actually, it’s three diets in one. She includes instructions and recipes for “flirting” (adding vegetarian and vegan alternatives to your diet), “vegan” when you eliminate animal products entirely, and “super-hero”, where you add more macrobiotic ideas and ingredients, such as more whole grains and sea vegetables. Obviously she hopes to entice you into eventually trying out “super-hero”, but has a lot of help for people who just want to make small improvements.

The book is beautifully done, and includes her personal story, and her well-written arguments against meat, dairy, processed foods, etc. There are also mini-bios of vegan “super-heroes” – athletes and activists who embrace vegan principles. Alicia herself is apparently quite well known as a vegan activist. I suppose I’m not well informed on vegan politics.

blog-alicia-silverstone The photography is very good, and the recipes look great. Some folks commented on Amazon that the ingredients were too exotic for them to find. This applies primarily to the “super-hero” recipes, where the macrobiotic principles call for a lot of Asian (especially Japanese) ingredients. People living anywhere near a metropolitan center or anywhere with a good Asian market should do fine. For all the aspiring trendy vegans in the Midwest, a number of the ingredients are available online. And the vegan and “flirting” sections use an ingredient list that is more familiar.

If you want an attractive introduction to vegetarian/veganism with explanations, recipes, and photos of  celebrities, this is the book you want to pick up. It performs the service of making a radically healthy diet seem normal and mainstream instead of fringe and quirky. Give it a try.

Jul 122010

juice If you have or know someone with psoriasis, this post may be of interest to you. If not, I apologize for posting something with a rather narrow focus on a site that’s usually very general. But if you’ve struggled with psoriasis, as I have for many years, any suggestions or ideas are usually welcome. So I thought I’d discuss an experiment in juice fasting I’m going to try for the next few weeks.

As a bit of background, psoriasis is a skin disorder that is currently thought of an auto-immune disease, with probable genetic components and various “triggers”. Basically, the body’s immune system attacks its own skin cells, causing those cells to die off at a much faster rate than normal. Everyone sheds skin cells every day, but in the case of psoriasis, the immune reaction causes itching, painful red patches that quickly form white scales and flakes, which shed like dandruff (in fact, some dandruff is caused by psoriasis).  If you’ve ever seen this on someone, rest assured that psoriasis isn’t contagious – just painful, aggravating and embarrassing. Among the things that can trigger outbreaks are stress, weight gain, lack of sunshine… but many outbreaks seem rather random.

Psoriasis is notoriously difficult to treat, and most of the treatments have dangerous side effects. For me, none of the treatments have ever done much good at all. Only one thing seems to have reversed psoriasis for me. On two occasions when I had gall bladder issues that were so bad I couldn’t eat for a week or more – the condition began to disappear. This caused me to wonder about the dietary triggers for psoriasis.

As it turns out, there have been alternative health practitioners for years (including Edgar Cayce in his trances) who have believed that psoriasis is a reaction to various foods, possibly in relation to so-called “leaky bowel syndrome”. The theory is that in some people, the intestinal wall becomes too permeable, and allows various substances to pass into the bloodstream that don’t really belong there, causing various problems including triggering psoriasis outbreaks. I’m not so sure about this theoretical mechanism, but I can personally attest that for some people, food and psoriasis are linked. Whether this is “leaky bowel”, allergies, or simply some interaction with the immune system I’m not sure.

In any case, many people, as it turns out, report some success with fasting, and with juice fasting as a treatment for psoriasis. Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who’s books I’ve discussed elsewhere, is a big proponent of therapeutic fasting.  I’ve tried fasting completely (taking only water) several years ago. It helped the psoriasis quite a bit, but I was unable to continue a complete fast more than a week without becoming too weak to function normally. And one of the things about treating psoriasis is that if you stop too soon – if there are patches left, the condition tends to simply come right back. If I had the resources to do a medically supervised fast, this might be an option. But at the moment it’s not.

During my gallbladder episodes, the only things I was able to keep down were lemon-lime soda and a bit of apple juice. This suggests that a juice fast might be able to do the job. Quite a few people report success in treating psoriasis with either a juice fast for a number of weeks – or alternating juice one week with fruits and vegetables the next.

So I’m giving it a try. I’ve been primarily on juices for three days now, and I’m already seeing about a 30% improvement in the psoriasis (I’m also losing a bit of weight, which is just fine). I am, however, making some modifications to the “ideal” juice fast which I feel are necessary for my situation.

1. Fresh, raw juices are said to be the best for juice fasting. I don’t have the time or money to go that route. I’m using store-bought apple, grape, orange and “green” juice.

2. If I get so hungry that I feel in danger of going off the diet, I’ll have fruits and veggies if needed. At the end of a week of juice, I’ll evaluate and decide if I want to stick with juice or alternate with a week of fruits and vegetables.

3. I’m occasionally expected to eat out on business. If this happens I’ll stick with a salad.

4. I’m allowing myself tea. I tried allowing coffee but it didn’t go over too well, making me suspect caffeine has been a problem. 

5. I take a multi-vitamin just to cover the bases.

So far, this is working out much better than the total fast. I’m much less hungry, my energy is good, and the results so far are as good as a total fast. It remains to be seen if this will continue.

If you or someone you know has psoriasis, you might look into juice fasting. I’ll report on my results here and tweak the diet as needed as I go along.

Apr 132010

Apologies to everyone for my vacation from blogging. In addition to having to attend to several family issues, I’ve been working on a new set of books on Reiki. I’m hoping to have the level one Reiki book ready within the next few weeks, and I intend to offer it, along with an audio-file attunement, for free.  This will give anyone who wishes it the basic spiritual tools needed for healing themselves and others.

If you would be interested in receiving this free book, you may want to consider signing up for our feed either by email or through RSS. Otherwise, check back over the next few weeks and I’ll keep you updated on progress.

Feb 102010

In writing his latest two books, Food Rules and the earlier In Defense of Food, author and professor Michael Pollan had a surprising revelation. With most of his previous (well-researched) books, he found that subjects that seemed to be simple on the surface turned out to be more complx and ambiguous when you looked into them deeply. But when

investigating the question “What should we eat?” Pollan was surprised to find just the opposite. For all the complex and contradictory diet advice coming out of nutritional and food science, all the parties agreed on two very simple facts.

1. The traditional Western, highly processed diet will kill you. It causes obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and a host of other troubles. Every culture that adopts it suffers drastic increases in these diseases.

2. Cultures that do NOT eat a Western diet manage to live on a wide variety of traditional diets, ranging from high-carb to high-fat to high-protien – all without high rates of these chronic Western diseases.

And a related truth:

3. When Westerners stop eating a Western diet – their health improves quickly and dramatically.

You would think that agreements on these points would make diet choices easy and nutritional research simple. But instead of focusing on dropping the Western diet, nutrition and food scientists spend all their time squabbling about exactly what  isolated nutrient or lack of it is the issue. Is it processed carbs? Omega 6 vs Omega 3 fatty acids? Dairy? High fructose corn syrup? Artificial colors and sweetners?

Why this confusion over a simple subject? In a word, money. Food manufacturers don’t get rich by selling you a few cents worth of corn. They get rich by taking a few cents worth of corn, processing it into high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, xanthan gum, malto-dextran – combining it into some unnatural monstrosity of a breakfast cereal, squirting the latest “fad” ingredient into it,  and then selling it to you for four bucks a box. They want to isolate the “good” things in a traditional diet so they can artificially add them to their processed foods, slap health claims on the label, and still make enormous profits. And the health industry isn’t doing too bad either selling us expensive maintenance drugs for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and the like.

So, putting aside the deliberately confusing and self-promoting diet “recommendations” of food “science”, Pollan reaches back into traditional cultures and produces a book of “rules” for how to eat well. They are actually more personal policies. This is an expanded version of the rules he outlined in his previous book, In Defense of Food. This book doesn’t have all the meticulously researched history and science of the previous book. It’s a short, simple guidebook that you can read in an afternoon, full of wisdom that will stick with you.

The rules are divided up into three sections – What to eat (food), what KIND of food to eat (mostly plants) and HOW to eat (not too much). Here are a few examples from each section.

Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary human would keep in the pantry.

…so much for xanthan gum.

Don’t eat  breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.

…no, “Fruit Loops” are not fruit.

Do all your eating at a table

…no, a desk is NOT a table.

You get the idea. A lot of the rules are deliberately redundant. Pollan hopes that of all his rules, a few from each section will be memorable enough to stick with you. All it takes is a few rules from each category to drastically improve the way you eat.

This is the shortest book you will ever read on diet, but it’s all you need. Carry it with you. Memorize as many of the rules as you can, and this small book will make huge changes in your health.

Feb 052010

reiki I don’t do a lot of debating on alternative therapies. I got tired of the “my study is better than your study” sort of discussion. But when I recently discussed my problem with homeopathy, one of the responses challenged me to apply the same logic to Reiki. I’m an Usui Reiki master, although I’m not professionally active. I do treatments and attunements for free when asked.

I believe Reiki to be a valuable and effective method of “energy healing”. It’s certainly finding widespread acceptance in hospitals and clinics around the country and around the world for that matter.  A number of studies suggest that Reiki is helpful and effective with a number of conditions, for self-healing, one-on-one treatment, and distance healing. Certainly there are flaws in some of the studies. But there have been effects significant enough to merit larger and better studies.

More important, I believe, is the subjective experience of the patients and healers. People find Reiki healing to be a positive and helpful experience. As a healer who has tried several different methods of energy healing, I can say that Reiki is my favorite. In Reiki healing, the healer is instructed to simply let energy flow naturally to the patient. The Reiki energy directs itself to wherever it is needed. The energy knows best, and the healer simply lets it gently flow through. This is in contrast to some other methods I have used, where I am consciously directing, almost “forcing” energy to go where I want it to. With such methods, I can end a healing session feeling drained. With Reiki, I always feel as rejuvenated as the patient.

But isn’t my subjective experience lacking in any scientifically recognized mechanism? Isn’t the “energy” I am channeling undetectable, and for all intents and purposes, non-existent?

No, I’m not willing to concede that ground. In addition to promising studies on Reiki, there are other studies on prayer, spiritual healing and the effect of intention that are quite interesting. In particular Dean Radin’s research on the effects of intention on physical systems seems to be excellent science – and I do have a reasonably good scientific education. I suspect that in the future, the power of intention will become better understood, and virtually undeniable.

But let’s suppose I’m wrong about all that. Let’s suppose that there is no direct physical effect of intention. No subtle energy. No physical mechanism that corresponds remotely to what Reiki healers THINK they are doing. Let’s look at Reiki purely from a non-metaphysical viewpoint.

What is it like to receive Reiki treatment? What is the subjective experience like?  Ideally, you are made very comfortable in a relaxed setting. There may be calm music or pleasant aromas. You are made to relax and direct your quiet meditation to your own healing and well being. While this is going on, you are aware of the presence of someone who is intending to help you and heal you. You are aware of kind support and encouragement. You are reassured that things will be better. You experience a calm, positive mood regarding your health and well being.

How can this fail to have a beneficial effect? If nothing else, it is an ideal situation for maximizing the placebo effect. All the things that researchers try to studiously avoid doing to minimize the placebo effect – detaching themselves from the outcome and avoiding giving the patients “cues” – all these are the things the Reiki healer deliberately DOES. Psychological elements such as relaxation, optimism, and the emotional support of others have all been shown to assist healing in a multitude of ways. You’d be hard pressed to design a better method of providing ideal emotional support to someone in need of healing.

But continuing down the path of skepticism – assume that both Reiki and Homeopathy have no intrinsic, non-metaphysical basis to them. Is Reiki really any better than homeopathy? Isn’t one placebo the same as another? I was going to suggest, yesterday, that I would still prefer Reiki. But after a few discussions I find I needed to edit this post a bit.

There are apparently quite a few homeopaths who focus a lot on the metaphysical energies involved, the “vibrations”, energy signatures or whatever term you prefer, of various preparations and medicines. My impression (perhaps mistaken) was that  many MORE seem to believe that it is the intrinsic physical properties of the medicine that matters. These physical properties based on concentrations so dilute that often not a single molecule of the original substance actually remains. Such people believe they are taking a medicine very much like a traditional pharmaceutical preparation in mechanism and effect, when in fact the ONLY source of homeopathic effectiveness  comes from metaphysical or para-natural mechanisms, or from psychological sources.

I simply think it’s more satisfactory either with Reiki or Homeopathy,  to be right up front and say “this is SPIRITUAL healing”. With Reiki, of course, there’s little danger of confusion. With Homeopathy, I think that if you are making the energetic essence the basis of the healing, there’s an additional educational task if you want people to understand that.

P.S. For convenience I’ve referred to Reiki practitioners as “healers”, those on whom they practice as “patients”, and Reiki itself as “treatment” and “healing”. Otherwise the language gets awkward. Since the one possibly negative effect Reiki might have would be to make a person hesitate to receive some critically needed medical treatment thinking they are already “cured” let me remind readers of my disclaimers. I believe Reiki is best as a complementary therapy, used as support. I’m not a doctor, and when I do Reiki I am not giving medical treatment for a disease as understood by the medical community. However, while you’d be foolish not to at least consult a health professional for a health problem, the ultimate responsibility for your health rests with you.

Feb 032010

I’m very much into alternative and holistic health and healing. I’m a Reiki master and practice other healing modalities as well. I’m also very much an advocate of nutritional and herbal medicine. However, in spite of having a lot of friends who either practice homeopathy or use homeopathic medicine, I can’t really get on board. Here’s my issue…

Homeopathy is based on extremely dilute preparations of various active ingredients. In fact, according to some theories, the MORE dilute, the more effective. These are SO dilute that most orthodox doctors, chemists and physicists say there is simply no possibility of their actually having any effect. While I have a decent scientific education, I’m perfectly willing to accept that these scientists may be wrong about homeopathy. Perhaps, as some studies suggest, these minute doses really are effective.

Here’s the problem. We are constantly exposed to very dilute amounts of nearly EVERYTHING. Our food, our water, our air, the buildings we live in – all of these expose us to minuscule amounts of virtually every compound known to man (and probably a lot that aren’t known). This must mean that, homeopathically, we are receiving doses of thousands of potentially active ingredients. What is one dose of a homeopathic compound compared to the thousands of doses of other compounds we are exposed to?

Take, for example the homeopathic compound known as Natrum Muriaticum. For all the fancy Latin, this is simply Sodium Chloride – table salt.  In any daily diet – even without added salt – even if it’s all natural, we are exposed to more Sodium Chloride than we are likely to get in a single homeopathic dosage. So how can a homeopathic dosage have any effect whatsoever, that isn’t completely drowned out by the minute doses of hundreds of salts of various kinds that we are exposed to every day?

One possibility I can see is that the homeopathic preparations are actually a vehicle for some other effect – be it a spiritual/psychic one or an alchemical one. I can see even a drop of water as being a vehicle for the transference of directed energy. I wonder if, when results are obtained with homeopathy, the real cause of the healing is the intention of the healer. But if this is the case, homeopathy seems like an unnecessarily complicated vehicle. About the best one can say about it in this case is that it does no harm. Or perhaps the homeopathic substances are prepared in such a way as to make them contain a different form of energy than would be present simply in an ordinary, diluted substance.

I’d love to chat with some dedicated homeopaths and hear their take on this idea, because as open minded as I like to be, I’m still not seeing the picture here.

Jan 302010

Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

– William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Another insight from the new book Nurtureshock is that one of the biggest issues with children and teens today is that almost universally, the world over, cheldren are getting an hour less sleep every day than they did thirty years ago. This is the source of innumerable problems. For example, researchers were trying to correlate behavior such as TV watching with teen obesity. They couldn’t do it. Thin kids watch just as much TV as fat kids. But they DID find a correlation with overweight – and lack of sleep. Yes, lack of sleep can make you fat. The hormones that are required to properly burn fat are manufactured by the body during sleep. What’s more, lack of sleep produces the stress hormone cortisol, which causes fat to be stored. This stress hormone can also cause high blood pressure and heart disease.

For children, one of the primary problems with lack of sleep is that memory is processed during sleep. Our body uses that time to process and categorize memories. For children who are learning huge amounts of new information every day, lack of sleep can seriously interfere with learning and development. Some high schools that have experimented with starting school later in the morning resulted in a dramatic increase in student test scores.

Lack of sleep also compromises the immune system making us more susceptible to disease. Even cancer is associated with sleep loss.

Sleep deprivation also causes mood disturbances, depression, moodiness and the inability to concentrate. All of which are now cronic complaints of modern teens.  In fact, if we look at all the typical complaints of teenagers, they are a list of the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

For kids, lack of sleep is physically and emotionally devistating. But it doesn’t do the rest of us any good either. Our bodies are intended by nature to begin sleep soon after the sun goes down and awaken about when it comes back up. If we have so many commitments and activities that we can’t get good sleep time, we need to re-evaluate our priorities.

Sleep can also be a time for serious spiritual development. Take look at our articles on lucid dreaming, for example.

Jan 262010

I’ve mentioned Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat To Live in several posts, but I realize I’ve never actually written a full review of it. That situation needs to be fixed, because this is my favorite diet and nutrition book of all time (so far at least).  I ran into this book when I was having health problems. After a period of largely raw foods, I fell back on Joel’s diet for more long-term eating and it’s wonderful.

Dr. Fuhrman is the doctor that other doctors send their patients to when their lives depend on losing a lot of weight. And his diet does the job for them. But it’s  not simply the diet that makes the book a must-have. Dr. Fuhrman’s explanations of nutrition and the kinds of food that cause weight problems is simply brilliant. Light bulbs went off all over my head when I read it. In brief, Dr. Fuhrman is concerned with the nutrient density of foods.  Our body is well equipped with “detectors” in our stomach and digestive system that can sense the density, calories, and basic nutrients in our food. Using this information, the body can make sophisticated calculations about when it is full and what it wants us to eat that keep us at the perfect weight. At least, that’s how it works with real food – with the kind of food human beings have been eating for thousands of years.

Our body’s sensory equipment is completely overloaded when when fill our stomach with foods that contain enormous amounts of calories with almost no nutrients. It’s like putting a 50 lb sack of sugar on a postal scale. It completely sabotages the body’s regulatory mechanism. As a result, you think you are still hungry. And you ARE. You are hungry for nutrients. You are suffering malnutrition while packing away huge numbers of calories.

Dr. Fuhrman’s plan, then, is to fill yourself with nutrient-dense foods. These foods will make you feel full and satisfied, because your body can properly  sense that it is getting all the nutrition it needs.

Dr. Fuhrman’s diet has a few simple rules. You eat a lot of greens and vegetables, some cooked and some raw. You eat a lot of fruit. And you eat a little whole grain or starchy food and nuts. You minimize other fats and meat. How strict you have to be with these depends on how much weight you need to loose. The plan is not completely raw-food, but it incorporates much more raw fruits and vegetables than most of us are used to. Fuhrman is one of the experts involved in the “Raw for 30” program for reversing diabetes, so he understands the value of raw food.

Fuhrman has other books that expand on the recipes and diet choices of this first book – but this one is where you learn the nutritional facts – all meticulously researched – that are the basis of his programs. Highly recommended.

Jan 242010

We’ve been trying to stick to a healthier diet for the new year. The other night, my daughter fixed a dessert we’ve been dying to try every since we saw the recipe in Jennifer Cornbleet’s book Raw Food Made Easy. It’s raw vegan chocolate mousse. How can you make a chocolate mousse without cream, butter and eggs? By using avocado and figs! Just the idea of making a chocolate dessert based on avocados was so intriguing we had to try it. And as it turns out – it’s wonderful! You would NOT guess it had an avocado base if you didn’t know in advance. It has a rich, creamy chocolate flavor with just a hint of exotic undertones in the taste that make it unlike anything you’ve ever tried. Make it for your family and see if they can guess what’s in it.

This version makes 2 servings:

1/4 cup pitted medjool dates, soaked

1/4 cup pure maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

3/4 cup mashed ripe avocados (about an avocado and a half)

1/4 cup plus two tablespoons unsweetened cocoa or carob powder

1/4 cup water

Put the dates, maple syrup and vanilla (if desired) in a food processor with an “S” blade and process until smooth. Add the avocado and the cocoa powder and process until creamy, scraping down from the sides as needed. Add the water and process briefly. Store in a sealed container. It keeps several days in the fridge or up to a week in the freezer.


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