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    Tuesday
    Sep162008

    Sand Castles

    I have been thinking about the beach a lot lately.

    I like the beach -- it's not my favorite place the way it is for some people but it is right up there, close to the top of the list.

    I can remember the first time I saw the ocean. We had gone to the Jersey Shore -- I was a little boy, 3 or 4, and my family was vacationing in Wildwood, NJ. It was my first time. We stayed at a wonderful old hotel called The Elberon, which was located on Poplar Avenue in the center of town. I doubt that I knew or cared to know the name of the place at the time, things like that don't really matter to a boy that age, at least they didn't to me. I can't remember the hotel, not that time, anyway.

    But I remember the first time I saw the ocean like it was yesterday.

    Most of the beaches on the Jersey Shore, at least the ones I know, have boardwalks running parallel to the shore. For those of you who have never been, the boardwalk in Wildwood is a broad wooden street made of planks raised up on risers. You climb stairs to get to the boardwalk, or you walk underneath it to get to the beach beyond. One side of the boardwalk is the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. There are benches set up so you can sit and look out. The other side is wall-to-wall stores that sell beach stuff, and arcades and rides and places to eat.

    Under the boardwalk it is dark and cool and a little musty, a welcome contrast to summer heat. Its true what the song says -- when you come out from under the boardwalk the sand is so hot you wish your tired feet were fireproof.

    Click to read more ...

    Thursday
    Sep042008

    The Physical World: Reality or Illusion?

    An Interview with Dr. Robin Kelly, author of The Human Antenna

    by Ernest Dempsey

    Mainstream science has long been skeptical, and recklessly so, of what have come to be called ‘paranormal phenomena’. The latter have repeatedly been criticized and discarded as unscientific and fiction, rather than fact. Lack of objectivity and a plausible, rational explanation have hindered the acceptance of the paranormal as believable experiences of mentally sane individuals. But now, we have a groundbreaking, new approach from Dr. Robin Kelly, a medical doctor and alternative healing expert, explaining the unusual phenomena with a fairly plausible hypothesis (if it can be called so at this point). In his latest book The Human Antenna (Elite Books, 2007), Dr. Kelly shares some of the most amazing research studies on the specialized properties of microtubules and DNA and their interaction with cosmic energy. Stories of near-death and out-of-body experiences, xenoglossy, x-ray vision, telephonic telepathy, and other mind-blowing phenomena make Dr. Kelly’s book a page turner. After reading it, you’ll seriously think, for the first time perhaps, of human beings as more than material bodies and human consciousness as not confined to brain function. I could hardly wait to chat with Dr. Kelly about his research and views on physical existence and cosmic energy, and their implications for healing illnesses. As expected, our conversation was exciting and Dr. Kelly’s insight simply fascinating.

    Ernest: Dr. Kelly, please tell our readers briefly about your academic background, professional experience, and major publications.

    Dr. Kelly: I am a formally-trained medical doctor, graduating from Middlesex Hospital, London University, in 1974. I spent six years in hospital medicine – three of these in London and three years in Auckland, New Zealand. During this time I worked in cancer wards, both with adults and children, as well as doing the usual internships, and emergency departments etc. I moved into family practice in Auckland, in 1981, as a proactive step, realizing my vocation was to treat ‘people rather than diseases.’ I sat the advanced qualifications for general practice, and progressed to become a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners. Along the way, I became president and education convener of the NZ Medical Acupuncture Society, and a founding trustee of the NZ MindBody trust. My first book Healing Ways: A Doctor’s Guide to Healing (Penguin Books, 2000) was released in New Zealand and in the UK. It explained the ways through which Eastern and Western philosophies of health could best be integrated. I focused on the meridian theory and the ‘zang fu’ – how our organ systems are interlinked, and display mind body and spiritual characteristics. The other main focus was how best to introduce the person’s uniqueness into their deep healing. One chapter focused on modern theories of healing, with particular reference to quantum theory, nonlocality, and entanglement. The Human Antenna extended, and updated, these concepts in 2007; this time with a focus on the Ayurvedic chakra system, and the growth of human consciousness. My aim in both books was to present a thoroughly grounded, straightforward, and practical view of these concepts, relating to my own experiences with people at times of challenge, and crisis in their lives.

    Click to read more ...

    Wednesday
    Sep032008

    The Eureka Hunt

    by Jonah Lehrer

    THE NEW YORKER, JULY 28, 2008

    The summer of 1949 was long and dry in Montana. On the afternoon of August 5th—the hottest day ever recorded in the state—a lightning fire was spotted in a remote area of pine forest. A parachute brigade of fifteen firefighters known as smoke jumpers was dispatched to put out the blaze; the man in charge was named Wag Dodge. When the jumpers left Missoula, in a C-47 cargo plane, they were told that the fire was small, just a few burning acres in the Mann Gulch.

    Mann Gulch, nearly three miles long, is a site of geological transition, where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains, pine trees give way to tall grasses, and steep cliffs loom over the steppes of the Midwest. The fire began in the trees on one side of the gulch. By the time the firefighters arrived, the blaze was already out of control. Dodge moved his men along the other side of the gulch and told them to head downhill, toward the water.

    When the smoke jumpers started down the gulch, a breeze was blowing the flames away from them. Suddenly, the wind reversed, and Dodge watched the fire leap across the gulch and spark the grass on his side. He and his men were only a quarter mile uphill. An updraft began, and fierce winds howled through the canyon as the fire sucked in the surrounding air. Dodge was suddenly staring at a wall of flame fifty feet tall and three hundred feet deep. In a matter of seconds, the fire began to devour the grass, hurtling toward the smoke jumpers at seven hundred feet a minute.

    Dodge screamed at his men to retreat. They dropped their gear and started running up the steep canyon walls, trying to reach the top of the ridge. After a few minutes, Dodge glanced over his shoulder and saw that the fire was less than fifty yards away. He realized that the blaze couldn’t be outrun; the gulch was too steep, the flames too fast.

    So Dodge stopped running. The decision wasn’t as suicidal as it appeared: in a moment of desperate insight, he had devised an escape plan. He lit a match and ignited the ground in front of him, the flames quickly moving up the grassy slope. Then Dodge stepped into the shadow of his fire, so that he was surrounded by a buffer of burned land. He wet his handkerchief with water from his canteen, clutched the cloth to his mouth, and lay down on the smoldering embers. He closed his eyes and tried to inhale the thin layer of oxygen clinging to the ground. Then he waited for the fire to pass over him.

    Thirteen smoke jumpers died in the Mann Gulch fire. White crosses below the ridge still mark the spots where the men died. But after several terrifying minutes Dodge emerged from the ashes, virtually unscathed.

    Click to read more ...

    Sunday
    Aug312008

    Daydream Achiever

    A wandering mind can do important work, scientists are learning - and may even be essential

    By Jonah Lehrer

    August 31, 2008

    ON A SUNDAY morning in 1974, Arthur Fry sat in the front pews of a Presbyterian church in north St. Paul, Minn. An engineer at 3M, Fry was also a singer in the church choir. He had gotten into the habit of inserting little scraps of paper into his choir book, so that he could quickly find the right hymns during the service. The problem, however, was that the papers would often fall out, causing Fry to lose his place.

    But then, while listening to the Sunday sermon, Fry started to daydream. Instead of focusing on the pastor's words, he began to mull over his bookmark problem. "It was during the sermon," Fry remembers, "that I first thought, 'What I really need is a little bookmark that will stick to the paper but will not tear the paper when I remove it.' " That errant thought - the byproduct of a wandering mind - would later become the yellow Post-it note, one of the most successful office products of all time.

    Although there are many anecdotal stories of breakthroughs resulting from daydreams - Einstein, for instance, was notorious for his wandering mind - daydreaming itself is usually cast in a negative light. Children in school are encouraged to stop daydreaming and "focus," and wandering minds are often cited as a leading cause of traffic accidents. In a culture obsessed with efficiency, daydreaming is derided as a lazy habit or a lack of discipline, the kind of thinking we rely on when we don't really want to think. It's a sign of procrastination, not productivity, something to be put away with your flip-flops and hammock as summer draws to a close.

    In recent years, however, scientists have begun to see the act of daydreaming very differently. They've demonstrated that daydreaming is a fundamental feature of the human mind - so fundamental, in fact, that it's often referred to as our "default" mode of thought. Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections. Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings - such as the message of a church sermon - the daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings. As a result, we're able to imagine things that don't actually exist, like sticky yellow bookmarks.

    "If your mind didn't wander, then you'd be largely shackled to whatever you are doing right now," says Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "But instead you can engage in mental time travel and other kinds of simulation. During a daydream, your thoughts are really unbounded."

    The ability to think abstractly that flourishes during daydreams also has important social benefits. Mostly, what we daydream about is each other, as the mind retrieves memories, contemplates "what if" scenarios, and thinks about how it should behave in the future. In this sense, the content of daydreams often resembles a soap opera, with people reflecting on social interactions both real and make-believe. We can leave behind the world as it is and start imagining the world as it might be, if only we hadn't lost our temper, or had superpowers, or were sipping a daiquiri on a Caribbean beach. It is this ability to tune out the present moment and contemplate the make-believe that separates the human mind from every other.

    Click to read more ...

    Saturday
    Aug302008

    The Biology of Hope

    Every feeling, every emotion, every experience has it's own corresponding physiological state. The body will always perfectly reflect the mind.

    Emotions become physical feelings and physical feelings become flesh. Thoughts become things.

    That means when you worry, you get a worry body, and when you laugh, you get a laughter body. And feelings of health and well-being are conducive to physiological states of health and well-being. Our chemistry reflects our mood. Tears of joy have a different chemical composition than tears that come from sadness.

    When we are happy, our bodies feel happy -- which means that there are changes in the physiology that correlate to the state of happiness. Happiness is as much a state of body as it is a state of mind.

    When we are frightened, we feel it in our bodies as well -- fear has pinched our physiology and our physiological state has now become, to some extent, a flesh and blood demonstration of the emotion of fear.

    When we are fearful, our bodies feel agitated, distressed -- far from a sense of well-being. A fearful body is a stressed body. It is as though alarms are going off in our very being. Hormones and neuropeptides are coursing through our veins, signalling danger, activating defenses, rallying resources -- setting up the "fight or flight" response. Metabolic and cellular activities not directly related to survival are shut down. Our bodies begin to conserve energy as if in preparation for a physical battle. Anything not related to an immediate environmental threat, activities like digestion and healing, including most of our immune response, are put on a back burner.

    Conversely, when we are at hopeful, our internal signalling says, "all is well." We can relax and we feel good. All of our metabolic processes are humming along nicely. Digestion is happening in a relaxed and timely way, nutrients are finding their way where they need to go. Our systems are cleansing and repairing themselves. Our bodies feel bright and soothed and also positively expectant. A different set of chemical messengers is pouring into our tissues, one that is normalizing and balancing cellular activity. Energy is directed toward soothing, enjoying, rebuilding and healing, and also toward preparing for the good things we are imagining and anticipating.

    If your town is in the path of a hurricane you'll put away the gardening tools and start boarding the windows. In the same way, at the all-clear, you'd head out and start cleaning up the messes and repairing the damage.

    Healing is repair and it depends on peace and well-being and hope. There is very little healing that happens in the presence of fear. No one needs a scientific experiment (although many have been done) to prove this -- you can feel it for yourself: which body-state feels more conducive to health and well-being, anxiety or hope?

    The most important factor in any healing process is the emotional state of the person doing the healing. It's hard to heal when you're frightened or confused, because fear and confusion set up physiological states that are antithetical to healing.

    Click to read more ...

    Friday
    Aug222008

    Health is Our Natural State of Being

    Health is our natural state -- we are healthy by default. When we're less than fully healthy, it just means there's something going on that disallows or blocks that natural state of well-being. Something is interfering with our flow of health and needs to be corrected.

    Our bodies evolved over billions of years to be self-correcting and self-healing and to perfom well under very stressful and very difficult conditions. Even when we're very ill, there are always many more things our body is doing well than it is not doing well. And the body works continuously, 24/7, keeping well -- always doing it's best to get back to full and complete health.

    This is an important thing to remember -- that the body is always either well or working hard to get back to wellness. Sometimes we can get the impression from information in the media that sickness or poor health is normal or likely or inevitable -- that health is the exception and disease is the norm. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Health is the norm, and illness is the exception. And even when we are ill, our bodies are doing their best to get back to normal. The human body is self-healing.

    Our role, and the role of  our "health providers" is to support our natural return to health and well being. Doctors don't heal, practitioners don't "provide" health. The body is naturally healthy, all on it's own. The body heals itself. Doctors and nurses and all other practitioners can help with the healing, but that's the extent of their role. They're helpers, not healers.

    You are the healer. It is you that heals, that stays healthy.

    Click to read more ...

    Tuesday
    Aug122008

    What Cancer (Or Any Other Illness) Cannot Do

    Cancer is so limited.

    It cannot cripple love.

    It cannot shatter hope.

    It cannot erode faith.

    It cannot eat away peace.

    It cannot destroy confidence.

    It cannot kill friendship.

    It cannot shut out memories.

    It cannot silence courage.

    It cannot take away joy.

    It cannot touch who you are.

    I first saw these words on a poster at Mass General Hospital years ago, and I don't know who wrote them. What they affirm applies to any limiting circumstance or condition. Good to know. Good to remember. Good to share.

    Cancer (or any illness) cannot affect any of the things that really matter. Love and life shine eternally.

    Click to read more ...