As 2014 draws to a close, I would like to reflect and offer gratitude for a remarkable year. This past year, my personal and professional life converged on the theme of Vitality, which links together my lifelong interest in health, consciousness, the environment, and social transformation. It all began on January 25, when Jhan Kold and I discovered Repose while lying in a park. Simply lying in this position for a few minutes relaxed and energized us in unique ways. Instantly, we recognized the potential health benefits of Repose, which were confirmed in a two-month study involving 50 volunteers. After 30 days, the Repose group showed dramatic benefits compared to the control group, including increases in overall happiness, optimism, resilience, self-image, and social functioning, as well as a reduction in stress levels and the number of days one's activity is restricted by physical health issues such as pain or illness.
Personally, Repose began to work its magic on me right away. In my first month of doing Repose three times a day, I lost five pounds and felt noticeably better. Chronic knee pain that I had experienced for three decades started to disappear. I had more energy and woke up every day with a sense of elation and excitement, like a kid on a Christmas morning. It made sense that the open and receptive physical state associated with Repose would be accompanied by an analogous mental state. From both a physical and a psychological standpoint, Repose seemed to be increasing my Vitality. Now, I wanted to know what else I could do to heighten this experience even more.
Teaching health psychology, I kept coming across the same realization over and over: Inflammation is making us sick. Virtually every major chronic health issue, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and Alzheimer's disease have been linked to inflammation. Our bodies' defenses are working overtime to protect us from environmental toxins, unhealthy diets, and stress. This runaway inflammation is depleting our Vitality and causing unnecessary suffering. I made it my goal to look for ways to strip away inflammation from my body.
First, I changed my diet, taking out any food that I knew to be inflammatory. This included wheat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners. At the same time, I increased my intake of foods known to have an anti-inflammatory effect, such as leafy greens, flax, nuts, and berries. In less than three months, I lost over 25 pounds. More importantly, my body felt better than it had in years, with less pain throughout but especially in my joints.
Then, I changed the way I work out. Instead of doing long sustained periods of exertion, which increase inflammation, I opted for short, intense bursts followed by rest. I cut my workout time almost in half while making dramatic, visible gains in terms of agility, flexibility, and the development of lean muscle mass.
For me, one of the important discoveries for me this year has been: Let the body lead and the mind will follow. Physical Repose leads to mental Repose. If your body is receptive, vital, and balanced, your mind will eventually get there, too. We can trust the body to take us where we need to go. And my body loves Repose! Everything started with Repose, and all the insight I have shared here came while lying in this position. As we shared Repose with our circle of friends and family, we found that many of them took to it immediately. In the slide show below, you can our beloved friends lying in Repose on a Portland hillside, accompanied by his adorable son Ari.
We spent much of the summer writing our book, Repose: The Potent Pause, which made its official debut on November 4. The immediate response to the book was extraordinary. Over the next three days, it stayed atop the Amazon Best Sellers list in two categories, including Short Reads in Science and Math. We received endorsements from people we admire greatly, including the wonderful Ram Dass. Within days of the book's release, testimonials began pouring in about the dramatic positive impact of Repose. Thousands of people were beginning to experience the same extraordinary benefits that we discovered for ourselves several months earlier.
On a personal note, our dear friend Ellie Hall died this fall after an extended illness. As her health took away her ability to say more than a few whispered words, Ellie began to communicate directly through the love she radiated, and there is no question that her love spoke louder than words. In the way she lived and died, she was a role model and inspiration for the many people whose lives she touched. We walked in the All Souls Procession to honor her and in recognition of the simple fact that she continues to live in our hearts and in our lives.
A few weeks later, my beautiful great-niece, Amiyah Jean Miller, was born in Seattle--a perfect little teacher about the nature of Vitality. All of us alive at any moment are passing over a hot spot of vital life force. This Vitality is a precious gift that lasts such a short while. We cannot afford to squander it on the things that deplete us unnecessarily, the battles that do not need to be fought, or the issues and concerns that will hardly matter in a few months, let alone a few years.
December 2014 was one of the most eventful months I have ever known. I had a profound realization while watching an Alan Watts video with the bold title "This Video Could Wake Up the World." I was transported to a moment before time existed, a place beyond space, and could recall what it was like to exist as the very source of all Vitality--the singular consciousness that abides in all things. There is only one Consciousness, one great Being of which we are all a part. Realizing this connection is the single most important task of human existence. When we grasp who and what we are in the fullest way possible, feeling it in every cell of our bodies, we find the happiness that transcends all human suffering, the peace that transcends all struggle and conflict, the vitality that transcends death, the love that transcends all separation, and the joy that transcends all wounds. This is how a new era of peace, sustainability, and balance begins.
After this realization, I felt compelled to circulate this simple message to everyone I know: "Someone cares. You are not alone." The sense of isolation and alienation that most of us have felt at one time or another is not based on reality. It does not serve us and isn't needed. Our Vitality is heightened by knowing that we are part of something greater and feeling the love that is always available to us.
On December 7, I gave a presentation at Sacred Space Tucson entitled, "Vitality and Ecstasy." The basic idea of this talk is that when we gather up all of the Vitality that gets invested into the things that typically deplete our bodies and minds, we tap into the experience of ecstasy. What is ecstasy? It is the joy and elation that comes from self-transcendence--from knowing in our heart of hearts that we are much more than just a tiny little individual struggling to survive and from feeling our connection to something infinite and profound that connects us to all of creation in the most gratifying ways imaginable.
As we enter 2015, it is time to fully see and experience our interconnectedness. That is why I offer this simple intention to welcome in the New Year: "See me in you. See you in me. Be me in you. Be you in me." Wishing you a Happy, Healthy, and Vital New Year!
The information below comes from an article entitled "16 Cancer Causing Foods" that appeared on the Natural On website. I found the information to be extremely useful but the article is broken up into a series of 17 web pages that are slow and inconvenient to download. Here, I've brought it all together for you and edited some of the typos in the original:
It’s probably not something you think about every day, whether or not the foods you are eating could contain carcinogens, but with almost 1.5 million people diagnosed with some type of cancer just last year, perhaps it’s time to look at what is in our foods that could be causing such a huge number of new cancer patients. Here is a list of the top 10 foods that you most likely consume every day that may contain carcinogens or be suspected of causing cancer.
1. Microwave Popcorn
Those little bags of popcorn are so convenient to just stick in the microwave, you wouldn’t think for a minute that they could be dangerous to your health, but they are.
First, let’s talk about the bag itself. Conventional microwave popcorn bags are lined with a chemical called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This is a toxin you can find in Teflon also. According to a recent study at the University of California, PFOA is linked to infertility in women. Numerous studies in lab animals and humans show that exposure to PFOA significantly increases the risk of kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas and testicular cancers. You can read more about this substance and the above mentioned studies at cancer.org.
Now, let’s talk about the contents. Although every manufacturer uses slightly different ingredients, most of them use soybean oil (a GMO product) as well as various preservatives such as propyl gallate, a chemical that is causes stomach problems and skin rashes. Now they don’t actually say they are using GMO corn kernels, but that’s because the government says they don’t have to. Even if they don’t use GMO corn, you can bet they aren’t using organic corn!
Also, applied to the popcorn itself, is a chemical called diacetyl. Conagra Foods decided to remove it from their brand of popcorn, ACT, because it was causing lung diseases in the workers at their factory.
2. Non-Organic Fruit
Fruits that are non-organic are contaminated with some very dangerous pesticides such as atrazine, thiodicarb, and organophosphates, as well as high nitrogen fertilizers.
Atrazine is banned in European countries but still used here. This is a weed killer that causes severe problems in humans, especially in our reproductive capabilities.
A 2009 study found that when pregnant women drank water contaminated with atrazine, their babies had reduced body weights. Were you aware that the sewage from cities in the USA (nicely called bio solids) is used in the fields of farms in the USA as a form of fertilizer? You will never find organic food being cultivated in composted human sewage waste!
Conventional foods are also subjected to an enormous amount of these types’ chemicals as well as hormones, to make the fruit and veggies grow bigger. Apples are probably the worst offenders with pesticides showing on more than 98 per cent of all apples tested. Fruits with a 90 per cent positive rate of pesticide residue included oranges, strawberries, and grapes.
Washing fruit does not remove 100 per cent of the residue. Pesticides are toxic chemicals to insects as well as human beings.
3. Canned Tomatoes
Actually, most canned foods are a concern because of what the can is lined with. The lining of almost all canned foods are made with a chemical called bisphenol-A, or BPA.
A study published in May of 2013 by the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences showed that BPA actually affects the way genes work inside the brain of rats. Even the FDA agrees that there is a problem with BPA as it is supporting efforts to either replace or at the very least, to minimize the amounts found in canned foods. You know it must be bad when even the very lax FDA is concerned!
Tomatoes are exceptionally dangerous due to their high acidity, which seems to cause BPA to leech from the lining of the can into the tomatoes themselves. The level of BPA can be so high in fact; you should seriously consider not feeding them to children. Due to FDA laws, there are no standards for labeling BPA so simply because a can does not say it has it does not mean that it does not contain BPA. Be safe and avoid cans. Cook fresh or buy glass bottles.
4. Processed Meats
What exactly are processed meats? This is a long list that includes, but is not limited to, sausages, hot dogs, bacon, most lunch meats like bologna or pimento loaf.
Researchers who wrote in the journal of BMC Medicine said that the excessive salts and chemicals that are used when making processed meats are damaging to your health. The study showed that 1 in every 17 people who were involved in the study died and those who ate 160 grams or more of processed meats increased their risk of early death as much as 44 percent within 12 years as opposed to those who ate 20 grams or less. This study involved people from 10 European countries and went on for almost 13 years.
All these processed meats contain numerous chemicals and preservatives, including sodium nitrates, which make them, look appealing and fresh but are well known carcinogens. Smoking meats seem to be particularly bad as the meat picks up tar from the smoking process. Yes, tar, the same deadly ingredient that cigarette smoke contains
5. Farmed Salmon
Although fish sounds like one of the healthiest foods possible, farmed salmon is one you should avoid. Unfortunately, more than 60 percent of the salmon consumed in the USA is farm raised.
These fish are fed unnatural diets and are contaminated with chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides, and other known carcinogens. They live in very crowded conditions which results in these fish having 30 times the number of sea lice than wild salmon. (Doesn’t that sound appetizing?) Farmed salmon are fed chemicals to make their meat that reddish pink color that should occur naturally but doesn’t because of the diet of chicken litter that they are fed.
Also, due to their diet, they have less of the healthy omega-3 that we think we are getting when we consume fish. Studies have also shown that farmed salmon contain high levels of PCB’s, mercury, and cancer causing dioxins. Avoid farmed salmon and buy it canned or look for labels in your market that state the fish you are buying is wild sockeye salmon.
7. Hydrogenated Oils
Let’s start from the point that all hydrogenated oils are vegetable oils. Vegetable oils cannot be extracted naturally like butter. They must be chemically removed from their source, and then they are changed to be more acceptable to consumers. They are frequently deodorized and colored to look appealing.
All vegetable oils contain high levels of Omega–6 fatty acids. An excess of Omega- 6 fatty acids cause health problems, such as heart disease and an increase in various cancers, especially skin cancer. You need a good balance of both Omega 3 and Omega 6. Try to get plenty of Omega 3 every day. You can do this in the form of supplements and grass fed meats, also fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel are a very good source of Omega 3.
Hydrogenated oils are used to preserve processed foods and keep them looking appealing for a long as possible. Hydrogenated oils influence our cell membranes’ structure and flexibility, which is linked to cancer.
8. Foods that are highly salted, cured or smoked.
Foods that are cured by use of nitrates or nitrites act as preservatives as well as adding color to the meat. Although nitrates do not cause cancer in and of themselves, under certain conditions these chemicals change once they are inside the body into N-nitroso composites. It’s this N-nitroso that is associated with a greater increase the risk of developing cancers.
Smoking foods such as meat or nuts causes these food items to absorb considerable amounts of the tar that smoke produces. Tar is a known carcinogen. Meats such as bacon, sausage, bologna, and salami are high in fat and salt. Pickled foods are also very high in salts.
There is overwhelming evidence that eating these types of foods greatly increases the risk of colorectal cancer and higher rates of stomach cancer. The rates of stomach cancer are much greater in places such as Japan where a traditional diet contains many foods that are highly salted, and/or smoked.
9. Potato Chips
Yes, we know, potato chips are cheap, great tasting, quick snack, however, the negative effects they have on your body may not be worth the little bit of pleasure you derive from these crispy snacks.
Potato chips are high in both fat and calories, which are sure to bring on weight gain. A study done in the New England Journal of medicine found that eating just 1 ounce of potato chips per day caused an average 2 pound weight gain in one year. Besides being full of trans-fats which can cause high cholesterol in most people, they have excessive sodium levels which, for many people, cause high blood pressure.
Potato chips have artificial flavors, numerous preservatives, and colors as well, which is something else your body doesn’t need. Potato chips are fried in high temperatures to make them crispy but this also causes them to make a material called acrylamide, a known carcinogen that is also found in cigarettes.
10. Highly Processed White Flour
Most of you have already heard by now that white flour is not a good thing, but you most likely have no idea just how bad it really is for your health. Refining grains destroys its natural nutrients. Mills are no longer content with waiting for their flour to whiten with time; mills now bleach flour with a chemical called chlorine gas.
The EPA states that chlorine gas is a dangerous irritant that is not safe to inhale and in large quantities can be lethal. White flour lurks in many processed foods. White processed flour has a very high glycemic index which quickly raises blood sugar and insulin levels, which can be a direct cause of diabetes, not to mention it is believed that it spreads cancer cells by feeding the cells directly.
Cancerous tumors feed mostly on the sugars in your bloodstream. By avoiding refined grains such as white flour, you can avoid, or at the very least, starve tumors.
11. Refined Sugars
Refined sugars are known not only to spike insulin levels, but also to be the most preferable food for cancer cells, thus promoting their growth.
Cancer seems to have a sweet tooth. This is a known fact that has been around for many years. Back in 1931, the Nobel laureate in medicine, German Otto Warburg, first discovered that tumors and cancers both use sugars to “feed” themselves and/or to increase in size. In order to proliferate, cancer cells seem to prefer feeding on fructose-rich sweeteners like high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS); the reason is that HFCS is metabolized more quickly and easily than other sugars.
Now it is clear why high-fructose corn syrup is considered the worst offender. And since cakes, pies, cookies, sodas, juices, sauces, cereals, and many other extremely popular, mostly processed, food items are loaded with refined sugars and HFCS in particular, this helps explain why cancer rates are on the rise these days.
12. Artificial Sweeteners
Most people use artificial sweeteners to either lose weight or because they are diabetic and must avoid sugar. The main problem in all this is that there are numerous studies that show people who consume artificial sweeteners on a regular basis, such as in sodas, or coffee sweeteners, actually gain weight. It also does little or nothing to help those with diabetes.
In fact, artificial sweeteners actually make it even more difficult to control their blood sugar levels and worsen conditions that are related to diabetes such as cataracts and gastro paresis. Sometimes aspartame has been found to cause convulsions, which some people will mistake for an insulin reaction.
Not to mention that artificial sweeteners inhibit your body’s ability to monitor its daily calorie consumption and make the body crave even more sweets. Well, we’ve already discussed how refined sugars can cause cancer.
There is mounting evidence that the chemicals that make up these sweeteners, especially aspartame, break down in the body into a deadly toxin called DKP. When your stomach processes this chemical, it in turn produces chemicals that can cause cancer, especially brain tumors.
13. Diet Foods
Diet foods, including frozen foods, or prepackaged foods labeled as “diet” or “low fat”, including diet sodas, generally contain aspartame, which is a chemical, artificial sweetener that we talk about in detail above. There are numerous studies showing that aspartame causes many diseases such as cancers, birth defects, and heart problems.
All “diet” food is chemically processed and made from super refined ingredients, excessive sodium levels, as well as artificial colors and flavors to make it taste good. Don’t ever forget, artificial anything is NOT real food! Although the FDA says that all these added chemicals are safe to eat, you might want to take their advice with a grain of salt. After all, don’t they also tell you that sugar and vegetable oils are safe to eat? (Not to mention GMO’s and fast food!)
There have been many studies that show that these additives, for some people, can actually be addicting. They feed that “feel good” part in your brain, similar to cocaine! Well, that actually makes sense because if you become addicted to these foods, the companies making them are certain to score a lot of money, aren’t they?
Be smart and eat nature’s own, natural “diet” food; fruits and vegetables! (Organic, of course!)
An American study that followed the diet and lifestyles of more than 200,000 women for almost 14 years found that postmenopausal women who drank one drink per day or less had an almost 30 percent increase in breast cancer rates compared to women who did not drink at all.
Alcohol use is the second leading cause of cancer, right behind tobacco use. While a moderate or low consumption of alcohol can be healthy and lead to a reduced risk of heart disease, excessive drinking is known to cause heart failure, stroke, and sudden death. In 2007, experts working for the World Health Organizations International Agency for Research on Cancer looked at the scientific evidence regarding cancer and alcohol use from 27 different studies. They found sufficient evidence to state that excessive alcohol use is the main cause of mouth, esophagus, liver, colon, mouth, rectum, and female breast cancers.
Don’t fret! You can still enjoy that glass of wine with dinner, but, for your health’s sake, no more than one!
15. Red Meat
For those of you, who love your T-bone steak, calm down. There is evidence that shows that red meat is actually a good thing in your diet, in small, infrequent amounts, Grass fed beef contains conjugated linoleic acid that actually fights against certain cancers.
However, in a study done over a 10 year period, eating red meat every day, even a small amount, such as that quarter pound hamburger you like to enjoy at lunch, increased a man’s risk of dying from cancer by 22 percent and a woman’s chance by 20 percent. A separate research study has shown that eating a lot of red meat increased the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer.
Red meat seems particularly dangerous when talking about colon cancer. A study done in the US followed almost 150,000 people between the ages of 50 and 74. This study showed that the long term consumption of red meat significantly increased the amount of colon cancer found in the subjects studied. On the other hand, the long term consumption of fish and poultry appeared to be protective in nature.
Enjoy that T-bone, but not every night, perhaps not even every week. Save those steaks for a once in while treat and be sure you are consuming grass fed, organic beef for your best health.
Perhaps you heard about the recent study that was published in May in the American Journal of Nutrition? It found that people who consumed more than one soda per day had a higher risk of stroke than people who did not drink sodas.
Loaded with sugar, sodas are an empty source of calories of that cause weight gain and contribute to the nationwide epidemic of obesity. Drinking large amounts of this rapidly digested sugar causes your blood sugar to spike which can lead to both inflammation and insulin resistance. Soda is often the root cause of gastro-esophageal reflux disease, which is when the contents of the stomach leak into the esophagus causing not only pain but an actual burning of the esophagus from stomach acid.
Although sodas are not a direct cause of ulcers, they are known to irritate and make those with ulcers have more pain. Sodas also contain artificial colorings and food chemicals like derivative 4-methylimidazole (4-MI); no wonder soda pop has been shown to cause cancer.
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.