Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back To School Stress

You know all about buying school clothes and supplies, and providing a good breakfast, and the importance of exercise for your school-bound children. Here are a few of the less commonly known and discussed stresses you should be aware of that kids experience when they go back to school.

Make a schedule and stick to it. The human body likes habit. It works better and more efficiently when it can eat meals, and get up in the morning and go to bed at night at the same time each day.

Sugary and greasy foods are to be avoided always, but most especially at dinner time and later. These types of foods, and also eating dinner too close to bedtime, can lead to digestive upsets and a poor night's sleep which translates into poor thinking and performance skills in school.

Select a reasonably quiet, low-traffic area of the home in which to do homework. This should not be the bedroom. When done in the bedroom, anxiety surrounding homework can carry that burden into the night and have an adverse effect on a good night's sleep. Listening to music during homework is ok, some people learn better with music and it can be an aid to memory (like the Alphabet Song taught to young children), but it should not be loud or distracting.

Don't schedule more than two or three after-school or extra-curricular activities. Kids need some down time just to kick back and relax. On the other hand, do find fun activities that encourage social interaction and cooperation. That sets the stage for cooperative work and pleasure experiences into adulthood.

Stay in touch with your child's teachers by sending in a friendly note or calling and leaving a friendly message once a month. Something like, "Hi there, just checking to see if everything is OK with my Jimmy. Let me know if there are any problems." A good parent/teacher team can work wonders toward your child's success in school.

Conversely, if your child comes home with stories of "My teacher doesn't like me," don't dismiss them. Talk to the child and find why she feels this way, and then talk to the teacher. My son had such a teacher in high school, and it was pretty obvious to all the parents who attended Open House that autumn, that this teacher didn't like certain students. You may not be able to do much about it, but you also can't tell your child that he's mistaken when he's absolutely right. If this is an older child, this could be a good time for the "You have to learn how to get along with all sorts of people" speech.

If your child likes school and does well academically but has many stomach aches, head aches, or other symptoms that will keep him home from school, suspect bullying and report it immediately to school officials. Call the police if you believe there is the possibility for physical harm. Ignoring it, saying "Kids will be kids," has lead to serious, sometimes deadly consequences like beatings and shootings.

Always keep the lines of communication open; ask your children how school was that day, and what they did. Do not be judgmental if you receive responses like "Math is terrible" or "Social Studies sucks." Be supportive by agreeing that some subjects are more difficult than others, and you have confidence that your child will be successful. Offer to help or tutor in a difficult subject. If your child is silent or morose, or the answers to "How was your day? What did you do?" are repeatedly, "Oh, it was ok," or "Not much," that's as good as a Red Flag Warning that something is not right. Communicate – find out what's wrong before the problem becomes overwhelming.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Daoism on Concentration

19th century Phrenology chart, from Fowlers & Wells

courtesy Wikimedia

"Imagination, song, the soaring spirit.
Separate them to know them as aspects of the whole,
Join them to know the mystery of totality.”

"The mind, if focused, can become the most powerful force we know. Yet for most of us, we are lost in the vastness of our own uncharted minds. We play around with different aspects, find certain modes that we can get by with, and leave the rest unexplored. Those who follow Tao do not do this. They want to explore all the dimensions of the mind so that they may find a wholly integral mode of consciousness.

"The primary means of exploration is through concentration of the mind. Practitioners first select an aspect and delve into it by daily focus. Only when they have fully understood do they go on. It is like studying. When you are first introduced to a subject, you must put your attention to work in order to master the knowledge. Such concentration leads to absorption, like mixing liquids together in a bottle: Once they are combined, they cannot be distinguished from one another.

"With concentration, all the various aspects of the mind can be joined together into one superconscious mode. Sound is the same as sight, taste is the same as smell, touch is the same as thought, and all that we are is identical with the spiritual energy that resides within us. In this high concentration, there is complete union, and we feel the joy of total integration with all our facets."

"Concentration" from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao.


Some years ago here in the U.S. a television commercial solicited money to send young minority students to college. The tag line was "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

When you think about your ability to concentrate or to be focused, you realize that you waste an awful lot of your mental acumen on flitting thoughts and idle mental chatter. This contributes to stress by making you feel unproductive, unable to cope with whatever is going on, and just generally ineffective.

Not only that, concentration seems to be something of the past in this day of multi-tasking where you type away on a laptop computer or a PDA, and engage in a phone conversation at the same time. These demands on your mental resources also contribute to stress.

When was the last time you were driving, eating, and talking on your cell phone all at the same time? I'll bet it was not all that long ago....last week? Yesterday? This morning? When was the last time you were reading a book for pleasure or a bedtime story to your children but kept losing your place as you mentally slipped over to tomorrow's "To Do" list?

The mind is an amazing thing, but it can concentrate on only one thing at a time. Consider this experiment: in a dark room, you must read two reports on related topics. The "light" that allows you to read each report is your mind but, like a flashlight, it enables you to concentrate on only one page at a time.

Shine your mind (the flashlight) on one piece of paper and read the first sentence. Now, flick the light over to the other piece of paper and read that first sentence. Now, flip back to the first paper and read the second sentence; flip to the second paper and read the second sentence; flip to the first paper and read the third sentence; flip to the second paper and read the third sentence. I encourage you to perform this little experiment for real and then assess how much of the content of any of those sentences is still in your mind, and how well you can distinguish the writings from the first paper to the second.

How well did you do?

Not only did you start to get stressed out, but the information from each of the reports is all jumbled together, isn't it? Now, multiply the results of the experiment by twelve, fourteen, even sixteen hours each and every day.

This is how most people use the “most powerful force we know,” by dividing it and scattering it until it is useless. Think of the most powerful army in the world. How powerful would it be if its forces were divided and scattered all over the globe? (You’ve heard of “divide and conquer,” haven’t you?) Your army would be very weak and ineffective, and so too is your mind when you scatter your mental forces in too many directions, onto too many tasks at once.

Consider the accomplishments of someone you admire; an Olympic athlete perhaps, or a wealthy entrepreneur or successful business-person. Do you think this person rose to the heights of fame or fortune he or she enjoys by flitting from one thing to another? Or, did he or she use dedication, focus, and concentration to achieve his or her success?

This is the most important statement in today’s writing: "The mind, if focused, can become the most powerful force we know.” If you are completely focused, if you are mindfully dedicated to attaining whatever goal you set for yourself no matter how large or small it is, You Cannot Fail.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Air pollution, heart disease, and anger

I saw this story the other day, and I can't say the result of the study is surprising. It's sad in that industry doesn’t seem to care enough to want to do anything about it, which is also not surprising.

I have long felt that even the smallest, "don't worry it isn't enough to hurt you" amount of toxicity and pollution has severe and long-lasting effects on people.

The story below discusses heart disease, but I think there is also a link between pollution and anger. People seem to be more and more angry, easier to anger, and their feelings of anger last longer.

I believe that the cause of anger can have more to do with the stress of environmental pollutants that the stress of an overwhelming lifestyle.

In Chinese medicine, the liver is the organ connected to the emotion of anger. I very sincerely believe that when the pollution entering through the lungs ends up in the bloodstream, and the liver has to filter all these chemical pollutants and toxins, the liver becomes over-stressed. (It also becomes very stressed by having to filter all the food additives and medications that people take, but that is for a different time and article.)

Even though accumulating these toxins together in one organ – the liver – causes stress to that organ, it may not show up on medical tests as "disease." However, I can assure you, there is a great deal of dis-ease in a liver that is constantly called upon to filter from the blood the overwhelming pollutants that enter the bloodstream through the air and lungs.

I wonder if we would see fewer incidents of road rage, school shootings, and other senseless acts of anger and violence if we cleaned up our act and cleaned up our air.

Another thing I would like to mention is a word of warning to parents who walk their children in strollers. Please avoid walking along streets busy with traffic. The face of your child in his or her stroller is just about even with the exhaust pipes on most cars and trucks…in effect, your baby's face is right beside the exhaust pipes of every vehicle that drives by.


Bad air raises heart risks in young adults: study

By Tan Ee Lyn Wed Aug 15, 2007 6:02 AM ET

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Bad air can trigger in young, healthy adults a string of adverse biological changes that are linked to cardiovascular disease, a Taiwan study has shown.

Writing in the second August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the researchers described how they observed changes in 76 students living on campus at the Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taipei.

"Urban air pollution is a cocktail of pollutants, when you breathe it gets into your body, through the nose, the respiratory tract, then the lungs," said professor Chang-Chuan Chan at National Taiwan University's College of Public Health.

"The different air pollutants observed here can go into your lungs and invoke inflammation effect in days. They can also go directly, without causing inflammation and affect cardiovascular function, like heart rate variability," Chan said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

Chan's team took blood samples from the students, aged between 18 and 25, and monitored their hearts via electrocardiogram (ECG) three times between April 2004 and June 2005.

They then checked to see if there were changes to four indicators that are normally linked to heart disease.

The four are inflammation, oxidative stress or damage to tissues and cells, coagulation in blood vessels and autonomic dysfunction or disruption of unconscious bodily functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature regulation.

"After exposure of between one and three days, we can see these kinds of biological responses in young adults," Chan said.

"They hardly can feel the effects, but there are these changes. If your blood is drawn and your heart rate variability is monitored, then definitely there are some changes."

The results of this study are consistent with previous studies, but this is the first time scientists have established a correlation between all four indices and air pollution.

Chan stressed Taipei's air was no different from that in many other cities. The type and amount of air pollutants observed, like suspended particulates of 2.5 and 10 micrometers, nitrate, sulfate and ozone are consistent with those seen elsewhere.

"Even though we use Taipei in this study, these pollutants are commonly experienced by people living in cities ... in China, the amount of their particulates are even higher," he said.

Although such damaging changes were reversible if periods of air pollution were brief, consequences could be dire if exposure to bad air was prolonged.

"If the dirty air stays longer, say for months, or years, then there could be chronic exposure effect," Chan said.

"We're worried for people who already have heart disease and air pollution becomes too serious, then this will be a tipping point, leading to adverse effects, including death."

See original story at:




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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Qigong Group Practice: It Does A Body Good!

A group of people in China practice qigong together outside.

I've been advocating qigong for almost a year now, first mentioning it on August 9, 2006 and introducing Eight Pieces of Brocade on November 6, 2006. Speaking holistically, there is no better practice than qigong to aid in your surgery and illness recovery, strengthen your immune system, restore flexibility to your joints and muscles, and eliminate your anxiety and stress.

Qigong does this by restoring, correcting, or improving the natural function of your body systems so that you may effect your own healing. This is known as "reaction medicine." The "action medicine" approach to healthcare means introducing an agent that is directed at the control of symptoms and forces the body into compliance with a desired effect, for example a drug to control heartbeat that has very dangerous side effects. The "reaction medicine" approach would be to employ herbs, nutrition, or techniques like massage or acupuncture to restore health to the affected area, and that restoration of health will naturally eliminate symptoms of disease. It turn out there are additional benefits as well.

I take this opportunity to quote from a previous article on holistic healing and how this method helps the body react to an agent by returning to health.

Briefly quoting two paragraphs from pages 110 – 111, Additional Benefits of Reaction Medicine from Healing Power Of Acupressure and Acupuncture (Avery Health Guides) by Matthew Bauer, L.Ac.:

  • One of the most important and often overlooked strengths of reaction medicine is the potential to provide benefits for problems other than those being treated; that is, to cause good side effects. Because of the nature of holistic interconnections and the fact that reaction medicine takes advantage of these connections in helping the body to help itself, helping one problem with reaction medicine often helps others as well.

  • Finding that other health conditions improve in the process of treating the primary problem is common occurrence in the practice of Chinese medicine. Often these additional benefits go unnoticed by the patient at first. Because reaction medicine helps the body to better adjust and heal itself naturally, many people do not realize that the cause of their sleeping better, catching fewer colds, experiencing more energy, and so on is the treatment they have been having for other problems. If someone continues to be treated with reaction medicine approaches over long periods of time, the improvements in overall body balancing they experience can also help to prevent future health problems.

You can see by this that all true healing is self-healing, the return of your body to working in its unique and natural order.

There is an outside component that can enhance your self-recovery through qigong, and that is practicing with a group or in a class of people.

If you can't join a class, certainly doing qigong along with a video or through the instruction in a book will be beneficial, but there is a special synergy that increases every participant's personal energy when like-minded people with similar goals come together.

The energy of each person in the group becomes stronger, clearer, more focused. It is the personal energetic equivalent of 1 + 1 = 3, or the group energy being greater than the sum of its parts.

You have experienced this at sports rallies or games – though to a greater degree and sometimes unpleasant degree – when groups of people cheer for their team. The energy of the crowd is much greater than it would be if the individuals were not concentrated in one area and in close contact with each other.

For example, 10,000 people could be at home watching the same game and cheering for the same team to win, but the energy would be much different if those 10,000 people were together in the stadium.

Practicing qigong with a group of people won't be as exuberant as being in a sports arena with hundreds of screaming fans – it isn't supposed to be! – but the same energetic principle will be at work, enhancing your energy and the energy of your surroundings. It will be very beneficial and rewarding to your health and wellbeing!

Furthermore, when you become familiar with the routine of the form, you will find that you relax into a meditative state when practicing. This may take some time, but every repetition of the form brings you that much closer to knowing it without thinking about it. Upon reaching that level of knowledge, after a couple months of practice, when you do qigong, you may feel like you do when you are daydreaming, your body and mind both relaxed and in the moment.

When this happens, the body emits energy in the form of a bio-magnetic field that is often in the frequency range defined as that which can promote healing in a variety of soft and hard tissue. P. 83 of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis by James Oschman Ph.D.

This is the same energy you experience when you say "vibes" in the context of the feeling you get in the presence of another person. Without that person doing or saying anything, you often get a feeling about a stranger when you are near them, getting "bad vibes" or "good vibes" as the case may be. Bad vibes make you feel nervous and uncomfortable, good vibes make you feel relaxed, open, and friendly.

You know that you do well when you are surrounded by people who have good feelings toward you, who want you do succeed. You learn better, you perform your job better, and in good surroundings, you also heal better.

Put those "good vibes" to work for you in the form of a class; join a group of people all interested in good health, all wanting to experience the benefits of practicing qigong, all feeling good being with a group of people who have the same goals. You will experience an unbeatable combination of enhanced internal and external "good vibes" producing a stronger, faster, and even more beneficial stress-reducing and healing experience through your qigong practice.

A Mouse's Tale Of Friendship

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package.

"What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning.

"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said, "There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said, "Wow, Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap-- alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house -- like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from his crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and make an extra effort to encourage one another.