T H E ST R ESS PA R A D OX ✽ LIVING A HEART-CEN TERED LIFE ✽ POLY VAGAL THEORY
issue 55 | fall 2017 | $7.95
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Design & Layout Tina Aitala Engblom Pathways Coordinator Tia Ohm Digital Integration Gabe Small Web editor Jamie Dougan Advisory board pathwaystofamilywellness.org/advisory
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on the cover THE STRESS PARADOX....................................................... 8 LIVING A HEART-CENTERED LIFE.................................... 14 POLYVAGAL THEORY........................................................ 18
Subscribe to our Channel PathwaysConnect Pathways to Family Wellness is an award-winning quarterly publication offering parents thought-provoking articles and resources to make conscious, informed choices for their families’ well-being. The individual articles and links to healthcare information in Pathways to Family Wellness are based on the opinions and perspectives of their respective authors. The information provided is not intended to replace a one-onone relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is presented as a sharing of knowledge and information. Pathways to Family Wellness magazine is published by the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, a 501-C3 nonprofit. Sales of Pathways to Family Wellness and the direction of its community outreach program fulfills ICPA’s mission for public education. Images used are for illustrative purposes only. Materials in this publication (printed and digital) may not be reprinted without written permission from the editorial offices in Media, PA. All rights reserved. © 2004–2017 ICPA, Inc. Issue 55, Fall 2017. Printed in the USA.
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in this issue F E AT U RE 4
T H E S T R E S S PA R A D O X
LE T TER FROM THE EDITOR
Finding the Balance Within
Stress is often seen as a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be that
By Jeanne ohm, D.C.
way. Changing our relationship with stress can enhance our vitality,
sociability, and perseverance while spurring us to lead happier,
By Madisyn Taylor
more fulfilling lives. Author Kelly McGonigal uncovers the hidden
NEW EDGE SCIENCE
virtues of stress.
By Kelly Mcgonigal, Ph.D.â€‚ page 8
Living a Heart-Centered Life By Paul Lenda
CHIROPRACTIC FOR LIFE
Autism, Neuroplasticity, and the Polyvagal Theory: What Does It All Mean?
By Donna Simmons
Birth Principles Workbook: A Soulful Alternative to a Birth Plan By Jessie Harrold, C.D.
By Larry Malerba, D.O.
SUSTAINABLE COMMUNIT Y
What Is Biodynamics? Contributed By The Biodynamic Association
Holistic Medicine: Do You Believe?
By Philip Incao, M.D.
By B. Grace Bullock, PH.D. PREGNANCY & BIRTH
By Joette Calabrese
A New Kind of Thinking
Cooking Traditionally with Little Time to Cook
New Perceptions: Revisiting Jean Liedloff and The Continuum Concept
By Danielle Miller, M.S.W.
By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
TOUCHING THE FUTURE
By Sam Fisher
Sleeping Like a Baby
Are We Medicating What It Means to Be a Child?
By Kathleen M. Waddington
Thank You: The Difference an Adjustment Makes By Danielle Drobbin, D.C.
By Drew Rubin, D.C.
By Kelly Brogan, M.D.
PARADIGM SHIF T
Otherism: Are You Not Selfish Enough? By Dan Sanchez
Be a part of Pathways! We love to hear from you. If you have stories and photos to share about pregnancy, birth, family wellness lifestyle choices, or healthy recipes and nutrition ideas, please contact us at email@example.com.
L E T T E R F ROM T H E E D I T O R
Finding the Balance Within
Why do we never get an answer When we’re knocking at the door With a thousand million questions About hate and death and war? With the stories making the news today, I couldn’t help but think of this album, whose message is most relevant. Daily, we are told about crime and human-rights violations. We hear about racism, sexism, hate, and intolerance. The stories we hear are always heartwrenching, and they pull at us in such a way that we, too, fall into opposition and intolerance. We become polarized, allowing ourselves to transmit the very vibrations of energy that we wish to dispel from the world. This is a human error that all prophets and sages have cautioned us about. To avoid this spiraling pit of demise, the wisest among us have given us the message of compassion and the vision of what this kind of love can do for us. Yet, we often default to the polarization of judgement because it’s so easy for us. Our physiology actually supports it. Our brain is designed to look for the negative, but when we are repeatedly given fear, anti-truths, and distorted perceptions by the social structures in which we live, our brain learns to accept these things, and even becomes addicted to them. By the very nature of our physiology, judgement and fear have become our truth. The protective survival mechanisms inherent in our brain’s function have been turned
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against us to keep us in a base, unsatisfied state of angst. Everything that we see, hear, and read influences the way we think and plays on our physiology. An actual addiction to the tactics of propaganda can happen when enough physiological responses occur in the body. Once addicted, we start to buy more, follow more, fear more, and judge more. To address the Moody Blues’s question, “Why do we never get an answer?” it’s because the ruler of our present-day consciousness— our survival brain—keeps us in what Bob Marley called “mental slavery” in his “Redemption Song.” In this lower, un-emancipated state of mind, we are easily thwarted from living freely and being who we really are. What if, instead, we consciously choose what we subject our mind to? What if we choose to continually connect the brain in our heads to the brain in our hearts? What if we choose to discipline ourselves away from the addictive state of judgement, and into a state of love? What if we choose heartfelt meditation and contemplative prayer to reinforce our efforts to change the world? I will leave you with these lyrics from the final song from that Moody Blues album. It is titled “The Balance.” Upon this, he saw that when he was of anger or knew hurt or felt fear, It was because he was not understanding, And he learned compassion. And with his eye of compassion. He saw his enemies like unto himself, And he learned love. Then, he was answered. For the raising of the consciousness,
Jeanne Ohm, D.C.
© SU TIPO NMM | DREA MST IME.C OM
s kids in the 70s, my friends and I were avid followers of The Moody Blues. We had every one of their albums, and we knew every song. We considered them to be almost like prophets of the time. Their message moved the listener to think about the deeper meaning of life. One such album was called A Question of Balance. The first track erupts with the question:
We are all beings in a body needing to love and be loved. It really is that simple.
issue 55â€ƒ pathwaystofamilywellness.orgâ€ƒ 5
© | DREA MSTIME.COM
CON S C IOU S PAT H
pathwaystofamilywellness.org issue 55
PURPOSE By Madisyn Taylor
© NU MXYZ | DREAM STIM E.COM
urpose gives our lives meaning. When you discover your purpose, you can live your life with intention and make choices that serve your objective for why you are here on the planet. Finding your purpose is not always easy. You must embrace life wholeheartedly, explore many different pathways, and allow yourself to grow. Your purpose is as unique as you are, and will evolve as you move through life. You don’t need anyone’s permission to fulfill your purpose, and no one can tell you what that purpose is. Finding and fulfilling your purpose can be a lifelong endeavor. To discover your purpose, ask yourself what drives you—not what forces you out of bed in the morning, but what makes you glad to be alive. Make a list of activities that you wish you were involved in, or think about a career path that you would love to embark upon. These are the endeavors that can help you fulfill your purpose and bring you the most satisfaction. Picture yourself working on projects that don’t interest you or fulfill your purpose, yet they satisfy your basic survival needs. Imagine how living this way each day would make you feel. Next, picture yourself devoting your time to projects that spark your imagination, and inspire, excite, and satisfy you. More often than not, these activities are some of the ways that you can fulfill your life’s purpose. Time spent on these endeavors will never feel like a waste. Live your life with purpose, and you will feel significant and capable, because every action you take and each choice you make will have meaning to it.
Madisyn Taylor is a bestselling author and the cofounder of the popular inspirational website DailyOM (dailyom.com). A recognized leader in self-help and New Thought spirituality, Madisyn has more than 15 years of experience in personal development and alternative healing methodologies. When not working, Madisyn can be found meditating in her garden and communing with nature. She lives in Ashland, Oregon, with her husband, Scott Blum, and their son, Oliver. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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F E AT U R E
Stress Paradox The
KELLY McGONIGAL’S SPEECH AT THE 99U CONFERENCE IN NEW YORK CITY
pathwaystofamilywellness.org issue 55
© EUGENESERGEEV | D REAM ST IME.CO M
hat do you think the role of stress is in our lives? I’m a health psychologist, and I was trained to view stress as the enemy of well-being, of productivity, of happiness, and of health, and I spent many years trying to help people reduce their stress or avoid it. But in the last few years, I fundamentally changed my mind about stress, and I want to change yours, too. I’ll start by talking about something that I call the stress paradox. I went to 121 countries and asked people the same question: “Did you experience a great deal of stress yesterday?” We computed something called a stress index, which is the percentage of people in any country that said, “Yes, yesterday was very stressful.” A group of psychologists got their hands on that data, and asked an interesting question: Does a country’s stress index correlate with other indices of well-being, like life expectancy, GDP, global happiness, or people’s life satisfaction? It turns out that it does, but in exactly the opposite direction the researchers expected. The higher the nation’s stress index, the greater the GDP and life expectancy, the more satisfied people are with their lives, with their work, their communities, and their own health…the happier they are. Basically, the more people who thought yesterday was very stressful, the better it was for public health, for the economy, and for all the other elements they looked at. In order to better understand this odd correlation, the researchers looked at what other experiences seemed to correlate with a high stress index. They found, as you might expect, that on stressful days, people were also more likely to feel sadness, to feel worried, or to feel angry. But a high stress index also correlated with some interesting things, like feeling a great deal of joy, laughing a lot, saying that you felt a lot of love, or saying that you learned something interesting. The researchers realized that the same circumstances that give rise to stress also give rise to these positive experiences, and that’s what I call the stress paradox. Even though we experience stress in the moment as distressing, and we often think of it as being undesirable, it can be a barometer for how engaged we are with the things in our lives that bring love, laughter, learning, and growth. Stress actually seems to go along with the things that we most desire: the love, the happiness, the success, the wealth, the satisfaction, and the meaning in our lives. More recently, a group of psychologists asked a broad sample of people in the United States to reflect on whether they felt like their lives had meaning. The researchers gave people a whole bunch of other surveys to find out what was the predictor of having a meaningful life. It turned out that one of the best predictors is stress, any way they measured it. People who experience higher levels of stress in their lives right now are more likely to find meaning in their lives. If you look back in a person’s life
to see how much adversity they faced, that also predicts more meaning. Even the amount of time you spend every day worrying about the future predicts a greater sense of meaning in your life. Researchers concluded that, overall, people who feel that they have a meaningful life worry more and experience much more stress than people who feel their lives are less meaningful. This is a really different way to think about what stress means. Stress could be a signal that you are engaged in the goals, in the roles, and the relationships you’re pursuing, that you’re facing the challenges that will also give rise to meaning in your life. All too often, when the moment of stress arises— whether it’s anxiety, overwhelm, sadness, despair, anger, or frustration—we view that stress as a signal that we are either inadequate to the challenges of life, or that we shouldn’t be feeling stressed out. Maybe we think that our lives have become toxic, that there is something fundamentally wrong with us, and we might actually turn our attention to trying to avoid the things that give rise to stress. And that brings me to the next reason why I changed my mind about stress, and why I want to change your mind, too. How you think about the stress in your life plays a profound role in its effects on your well-being—whether that stress is harmful and leads to things like depression and burnout and heart disease, or whether it leads to greater well-being and resilience.
Even though we experience stress in the moment as distressing, and we often think of it as being undesirable, it can be a barometer for how engaged we are with the things in our lives that bring love, laughter, learning, and growth. Here are two different ways of thinking about stress. I invite you to consider which one best describes the way that you talk about stress, and the way that you relate to it in your own life. Is stress negative? Something that needs to be avoided, reduced, managed, suppressed? Or is stress positive and helpful—something to embrace, accept, and use? The mindset you hold plays a really big role in how that stress affects your life. Researchers at Yale have found that people who hold a more negative perception of stress, and believe it should be reduced or avoided, are more likely to experience what
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F E AT U R E
The protective benefit of embracing stress, rather than trying to reduce or avoid it, seems to hold TRUE whether your life is not very stressful or extremely stressful, whether or not
we typically think of as the negative outcomes of stress. They’re more likely to have health problems like back pain, headaches, and illnesses. They’re more likely to become depressed. They’re less productive at work, and enjoy it less. They’re even more likely to get divorced. Other studies with other research groups have shown that it may increase your risk of stress-related heart attacks or mortality. On the other side, people who hold a more positive and accepting view of stress seem to be protected from those things, even when their lives are stressful. They’re healthier. They’re happier. They do better at work, and are better able to find meaning in their struggles. When I first came across this research, I was deeply skeptical. I thought the reason those people on one side
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were happier and healthier was because they hadn’t experienced enough stress yet. If they suffered a little bit more, they would join me on this side of the line, where I had the accurate and correct mindset that stress really is bad. The great thing about science is you can test those hypotheses, and this one turned out not to be true. The protective benefit of embracing stress, rather than trying to reduce or avoid it, seems to hold true whether your life is not very stressful or extremely stressful, whether or not you’ve had a relatively easy life, or whether your life has had a lot of adversity in it. Most important to me, as someone who wants to help people be healthier and happier, is that research shows that when you tell people about the importance of stress
© EUGENESERGEEV | D REAM ST IME.CO M
you’ve had a relatively easy life, or whether your life has had a lot of adversity in it.
mindsets and you encourage them to choose a more accepting attitude toward the stress in their lives, they actually become healthier, happier, and more productive at work—even in very difficult and stressful circumstances. Here’s a mini mindset intervention that will help you choose this more accepting and embracing attitude in the moments when stress is rising, whether it’s anxiety, anger, overwhelm, frustration, or sadness. To give you this mindset intervention, I’m going to tell you about three of my favorite scientific studies that test how someone’s positive view of stress transforms her experience. A study conducted at Columbia Business School brought people into the laboratory to prepare and then deliver a persuasive talk. They were told that their talk would be evaluated by experts in communication, and they would be getting critical feedback on everything, from their body language and facial expressions to what they said and how they said it. When they showed up and started to give their speeches—not knowing this would happen—the experts began interrupting them often to tell them exactly what they were doing wrong: “Your body language suggests that you lack confidence.” “You need to try to stand this way.” “You need to make better eye contact and here’s what that would look like.” “You used a really weak example. You need to come up with a better one.” “Let’s just go back in your speech and try that again.” This is a pretty stressful experience for folks to go through. But before they went through that period of having to adapt immediately to critical feedback, all the participants watched one of two very short videos about stress. Some unlucky participants were forced to watch a three-minute video that started with a demoralizing statement that said, “Everyone knows stress is bad for you. But research shows that stress is even more debilitating than you'd expect.” Everything that we usually hear about stress was in this video: “Stress makes you sick. Stress interferes with performance. Stress will kill you. It’s a problem. You need to reduce it or avoid it.” The other participants got a real mindset intervention with a short video that started with a very different statement: “Everyone thinks that stress is bad for you, but research shows that stress is actually enhancing.” This video informed participants that our own stress responses—how our bodies and brains respond to stress—can help us rise to a challenge and improve
performance. Stressful experiences are an important part of life. They help us learn and grow and can be opportunities to develop strengths and choose our priorities. The researchers were curious whether giving people a positive spin on stress would transform their experience. To be clear, everyone in the study was stressed out. It really is nerve-wracking to give a speech and get negative feedback and adapt on the spot. Everyone experienced it as stressful. However, the people who were put in this more accepting mindset towards stress felt more confident, more determined, even more excited about the experience. The researchers also looked at their physiological stress responses. We’ve all heard about certain stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, but there are a lot of hormones that the body and the brain release during stress. One is DHEA. Most people don’t know that this is a stress hormone. DHEA plays a role in being a precursor to testosterone, and it helps your body get stronger from physical exercise. In the brain it functions as a neuro-steroid, which helps your brain grow from stressful experiences. It helps your brain form new connections from new experiences so you’ll be better the next time you face a similar challenge. In this study, the participants who were put in that more positive mindset toward stress released higher levels of DHEA during and after their talk. They entered a physiological stress state that makes it easier to learn and grow as a result of doing something anxious or difficult. Getting that critical feedback in a moment and having to respond to it, their bodies and brains shifted into a stress state that helped them learn and grow. The next study was a study of job-interview stress. The researchers were interested in that feeling of anxiety and stress that happens right before you have a big opportunity where you really want to impress others and nail the performance. So they told some participants to do what most people usually do—spend a few minutes thinking about how they were going to impress the interviewers, how they were going to show their strengths, and prove that they were the best person for this job. But another group of participants got very different instructions for that pre-interview, high-anxiety period. They were asked to think about how the job was connected to their values. They were asked, when that moment of anxiety came, to bring the bigger context of personal meaning into that experience of anxiety. And they were asked to think about how, if they got this job, it would be an opportunity to express those values. Why did they care so much about getting this job, and what could they do if they had that job that was personally meaningful? Just as in the last study, this mindset of meaning didn’t make people less stressed out—they still felt anxious and stressed about the job interview. However, they did a lot better. The researchers filmed the interviews and showed them all to unbiased raters, who rated each interviewer on different criteria. Participants who had spent a few minutes
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F E AT U R E putting their anxiety into a context of meaning were rated as being more inspiring and more uplifting. They were the kind of people that other people wanted to work with and hire, because they felt inspired by them. In terms of their stress physiology, the researchers looked at cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is most associated with burnout, especially in the workplace. People who have a stress response characterized by higher levels of cortisol are at greater risk of depression, fatigue, burnout, collapse, and things that we want to avoid in order to thrive in the workplace or in other roles that are important to us. In this study, the participants who took on a mindset of meaning released lower levels of cortisol during and before the interview, even though they were still anxious and stressed. They had a healthier physiological stress response without suppressing the stress, or reducing the stress, or running out of the office because they were so panicked about the interview. They didn’t avoid the stress by bringing in a mindset of meaning—they transformed it.
How you think about stress can make a difference in how that stress impacts everything, from your physiology to how well you’re able to do the things that matter to you. The last study I want to tell you about was a very different kind of stress study. In this study, people came into the experiment and were asked to spend a few moments thinking of an experience in their lives that was difficult, and still painful to think about. Some participants were asked to think about it in the way that we usually ruminate on painful experiences—to just sit down by ourselves and think about it. Other participants were invited to think about it from a different point of view: “For the next two minutes, try to think of the experience as an opportunity to grow, to learn, or to become stronger. If this experience was far in your past, take a moment to think about any benefits that you might have experienced by going through that difficult and painful experience.” During the two minutes that everyone thought about this heartache or trauma, their facial muscle expressions were being measured by electrodes attached to their faces. One of the first things the researchers noticed was that when participants were trying to see the good in something painful, they actually had less activation of the corrugator muscles of the forehead—the muscles that furrow your brow and flatten your eyebrows in that classic, telltale signal of distress. But they also had electrodes on the
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zygomaticus muscle, which lifts your cheeks into a smile. And those muscles were more activated, even though the participants were thinking about painful experiences. It wasn’t just their faces that were happy. The participants who thought about the stressful experience from a benefitfinding mindset reported greater levels of gratitude, joy, and forgiveness, and they actually felt less angry afterward, now having thought about it in this way. The physiology that researchers looked at was something called heart-rate variability. Heart-rate variability is considered the classic physiological sign of emotional resilience. When participants who thought about this painful experience the way we usually do, their heart rate variability got constricted. But for the people who thought about their painful experiences from a benefit-finding mindset, their heart-rate variability increased. Making contact with that point of pain was putting them in a physiological state of resilience and producing the biology of gratitude and joy. I said I wanted to change your minds about stress. But what I really want to do is simply empower you to understand that how you think about stress can make a difference in how that stress impacts everything, from your physiology to your brain resilience to your well-being to how well you’re able to do the things that matter to you. The way to change your mindset is surprisingly simple, as you saw in those three interventions. If, before reading this, I asked you whether you hoped that tomorrow would be stressful, odds are you wouldn’t have said yes. Of course, we don’t actually get to choose whether tomorrow is stressful or not. But I hope that if tomorrow is stressful for you, that you might take a moment to think about the paradox of stress, to recognize that a meaningful life is also a stressful life, and that you could use that stress—not as a signal that there’s something wrong with you, that you’re inadequate to your life, or that your life is somehow fundamentally toxic and killing you— but to actually use that stress as a sign that something you care about is at stake. To take that stress as an opportunity to think about what you care about, and to view whatever the situation is as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to choose to express your values—and most importantly, to trust that you can handle the challenge.
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., is a Stanford psychologist and the author of the bestselling The Upside of Stress. More than 44 percent of Americans admit to losing sleep over stress, but McGonigal’s book highlights new research indicating that stress isn’t bad. It can, in fact, make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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NEW EDGE SCIENCE
LIVING A HEART-CENTERED LIFE
By Paul Lenda
etween 60 and 65 percent of the cells in the heart are neural cells—the same kind of cells as those in your brain. The neural connections between the brain and heart cannot be turned off. Information is always flowing between the two. The heart is directly wired into the central nervous system and brain, interconnected with the amygdala, thalamus, hippocampus, and cortex. These four brain centers are primarily concerned with emotional processing, sensory experience, memory, spatial relationships, the extraction of meaning from environmental sensory inputs, problem solving, reasoning, and learning. The heart makes and releases its own neurotransmitters as it needs them. By monitoring central nervous system functioning, the heart can tell which neurotransmitters it needs and when, in order to enhance its communication with the brain. The heart also has its own memory. The heart stores memories—specific emotional experiences and the meanings embedded within them—which affect consciousness, behavior, and how we perceive the world. The more intense the emotional experience, the more likely it will be stored by the heart as memory. Analysis of information flow into the human body has shown that much of it impacts the heart first, flowing to
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the brain only after it has been perceived by the heart. What this means is that our experience of the world is routed first through our heart, which “thinks” about the experience and then sends the data to the brain for further processing. When the heart receives information from the brain about how to respond, the heart analyzes it and decides whether or not the actions that the brain wants to take will be effective. The heart routinely engages in a neural dialogue with the brain and, in essence, the two decide together what actions to take. When the brain entrains to the heart, connectivity increases between brain and body. Sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways directly link the heart and brain, allowing communication and information to flow freely. Messages flowing from the heart to the brain during this shift to coherence significantly alter the brain’s functioning, especially in the cortex, which profoundly affects perception and learning. A new mode of cognition is activated…the holistic/intuitive/depth mode. This kind of synchronization does not occur spontaneously, unless people habituate heart-focused perception. Since we have been habituated to the analytical mode of cognition through our schooling, and taught to locate our consciousness in the brain and not the heart, this
© M ASHIKI | DREA MSTIME.C OM
Drawn from the inspiring words of Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book Secret Teachings of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature.
Sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve pathways directly link the heart and brain, allowing communication and information to flow freely. Messages flowing from the heart to the brain during coherence, however, significantly alter the brain’s functioning, which affects perception and learning.
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type of entrainment must be consciously practiced. Even though the brain entrains with the heart through heart-focused techniques, the brain tends to wander in and out of entrainment. Because of the brain’s long use as the dominant mode of cognition, this entrainment is not permanent. Practice in entrainment helps the brain and any other system to maintain synchronization for longer and longer periods of time. Impacts on Health and Disease The heart is the most powerful oscillator in the body and its behavior is naturally nonlinear and irregular. One measure of the irregular, nonlinear activity of the heart is called heart rate variability (HRV). The resting heart, instead of beating regularly, engages in continual, spontaneous fluctuations. The heartbeat in young, healthy people is highly irregular. But heart beating patterns tend to become very regular and predictable as people get older or as their hearts become diseased. The greater the HRV, the more complex the heart’s beating patterns are, and the healthier the heart is. It is not surprising, then, that our culture’s focus on a type of schooling that develops the brain to the exclusion of the heart—that fosters thinking instead of feeling, and detachment instead of empathy—leads to disease. Heart disease is always accompanied by an increasing loss of nonlinearity of the heart. The more predictable and regular the heart becomes, the more diseased it is. Loss of heart rate variability, for instance, occurs in multiple sclerosis, fetal distress, aging, and congestive heart disease. To be healthy, the heart must remain in a highly unstable state of dynamic equilibrium. Since emotional experience comes, in part, from the electromagnetic field of the heart, a disordered, narrow, noncomplex electromagnetic field will produce emotional experiences that are themselves disordered, narrow, and restricted in scope. Holding the consciousness to one state of being—the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition—necessarily produces a diminished heart function, a shallower mix of emotional states, and an impaired ability to respond to embedded meanings and communications from the environment and from the self. Conversely, increasing heart coherence and heart/brain entrainment has shown many positive health effects. Increased heart coherence boosts the body’s production
of immunoglobulin A and produces improvements in many disorders, such as arrhythmia, mitral valve prolapse, congestive heart failure, asthma, diabetes, fatigue, autoimmune conditions, autonomic exhaustion, anxiety, depression, AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder. One specific treatment intervention study, for example, found that high blood pressure can be significantly lowered within six months, without the use of medication, if heart coherence is reestablished. And as heart/ brain synchronization occurs, people experience less anxiety, depression, and stress overall. Lack of cognitive focus on the body (habituation to the verbal/intellectual/analytical mode of cognition) results in disconnection and increased disorder in organ function and is the foundation of many diseases, including heart disease. When attention is focused on different sensory cues, such as heartbeat, respiration, or external visual stimuli, physiological function shifts significantly and becomes healthier. It becomes even healthier when specific kinds of emotions are activated: Feelings of caring, love, and appreciation enhance internal coherence. The more confused, angry, or frustrated a person becomes, the more incoherent their heart’s electromagnetic field. In the healthy heart, the varied and complex emotional mix we experience each day—generated by contact with our internal and external worlds—produces a range of heartrate patterns that is nonlinear and constantly shifting. Heart Communication with the External World Renee Levi, Ph.D., a researcher on collective resonance, says that biological fields are “composed of vibrations that are organized, not random, and have the capacity to selectively react, interact, and transact internally and with other fields.” An expert on child development, Joseph Chilton Pearce, wrote, “Our body and brain form an intricate web of coherent frequencies organized to translate other frequencies and nestled within a nested hierarchy of universal frequencies.” Living organisms, including people, exchange electromagnetic energy through contact between their fields, and this electromagnetic energy carries information in much the same way radio transmitters and receivers carry music. When people or other living organisms touch, a subtle but highly complex exchange of information occurs via their electromagnetic fields.
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NEW EDGE SCIENCE
When a person projects a heart-coherent field filled with caring, love, and attention, living organisms respond to the information in the field by becoming more responsive, open, affectionate, animated, and
Refined measurements reveal that there is an energy exchange between people, carried through the electromagnetic field of the heart that, while strongest with touch and up to 18 inches away, can still be measured (with instruments) when they are five feet apart. Of course, our technological ability to measure electromagnetic radiation is very crude; electromagnetic signals from living organisms, just like radio waves, continue outward indefinitely. Energy encoded with information is transferred from one electromagnetic field to another. In response to the information it receives, the heart alters its functioning and encodes in its fields, on a constantly shifting basis, its responses. Those responses can, in turn, alter the electromagnetic fields of whatever living organisms the heart is engaged with—for this is a living, ever-shifting dialogue. The heart generates the strongest electromagnetic field of the body, and this field becomes more coherent as consciousness shifts from the brain to the heart. This coherence significantly contributes to the informational exchange that occurs during contact between different electromagnetic fields. The more coherent the field, the more potent the informational exchange. A Heart-to-Heart Network A coherent heart affects the brain-wave pattern not only of the person achieving coherence, but also of any person with whom it comes into contact. While direct skin-to-skin contact has the greatest effect on brain function, mere proximity elicits changes. A sender’s coherent heart-field is measurable not only in a receiving person’s electroencephalogram, but also in his or her entire electromagnetic field. When people touch or are in close proximity, a transference of their heart’s electromagnetic energy occurs, and the two fields begin to entrain or resonate with each other. The result is a combined wave created by a combination of the original waves. This combined wave has the same frequency as the original waves but an increased amplitude. Both its power and depth are increased. The signal of transfer is sometimes, but not always, detected as flowing in both directions; this depends to a great extent on the context of the transfer and the orientation of the sender. When a person projects a heart-coherent field filled
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with caring, love, and attention, living organisms respond to the information in the field by becoming more responsive, open, affectionate, animated, and closely connected. The effect of caring on outcomes in healing has been stressed in a great many cultures and types of healing professions. Healing practitioners who consciously produce coherence in the electromagnetic field of their hearts create a field that can be detected by other living systems and their biological tissues. This field is then amplified and used by the organism detecting it to shift biological function. When these loving, practitionergenerated fields are detected and (naturally) amplified by ill people, healing rates of wounds are increased, pain decreases, hemoglobin levels shift, DNA alters, and new psychological states manifest. The best outcomes are dependent on the state of mind of the healer. We should attach importance to the kind of intention a practitioner has as he or she works. The more caring the practitioner, the more coherence there will be in their electromagnetic field, and the better the healing will be. When we are cared for or care for others, the heart releases an entirely different cascade of hormonal and neurotransmitter substances than it does in other, less hopeful circumstances. More immunoglobulin A, or IgA, is also released, stimulating the health and immune action of mucous membrane systems throughout the body. The receiver’s receptivity to the practitioner’s heart field also plays a part in the outcome. The more open he or she is to receiving caring, the more he or she will entrain with an external electromagnetic field. However, the elegance of the practitioner in creating and directing a coherent electromagnetic field to the patient is of more importance than the sufferer’s receptivity. In addition, the practitionergenerated field must be continually adjusted. The more accustomed people become to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields generated through a practitioner’s heart, the more rapidly they are able to physiologically respond when they detect a coherent electromagnetic field. The more interaction two living organisms have, the more imprinting occurs on their hearts, the more alteration there is in their electromagnetic fields, and the more shifts occur in their heart function.
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Since this element of healing is almost absent in conventional, technological medicine, patients are not used to responding to coherent electromagnetic fields as part of their healing. In fact, the electromagnetic field of most medical healers is extremely incoherent, since they have been trained to use their brains to the exclusion of their hearts. The ill are immersed in incoherent electromagnetic fields throughout their healing process in hospitals, which, in and of itself, is a strong contributing element to the kinds of outcomes hospitals and physicians produce. Incoherence vs. Coherence The heart-based way of living takes into account that everything is part of an interconnected Wholeness. This interconnected aspect of consciousness increases the feelings of empathy, compassion, and love among humanity’s part of this grand field. It seems as if the process of evolution itself, initiated and formulated by whatever processes of reality began it all, are focused and directed towards strengthening the aspects of reality we have come to know as interconnectedness and oneness. Evidence of this can be seen in many places. One such place is in the sphere of incoherence and coherence. Incoherence, such as when a person feels stress, anxiety, uncertainty, and fear, generates chaotic and incoherent signals in the heart that go to the brain and trigger stressful responses. The heart and brain fall out of alignment, and as a result the solutions to personal or world problems are not readily found. These negative emotions are registered in the heart and brain’s electromagnetic fields and generate a global stress and incoherence wave that radiates
outward into those around us and to those all over the world. Negative stress and incoherence are intensified by catalysts such as instant mass media reports of situations of suffering such as natural disasters, social upheaval, economic turmoil, and more. Incoherence brings about negative results and, because of this, demonstrates that the opposite—coherence—is what the process of consciousness evolution prefers. When a person feels genuine hope, caring, and compassion, his or her heart sends out harmonious and coherent signals to the brain, replacing feelings of separation and solitude with a sense of connectedness and oneness. The heart and brain are aligned and in sync. There is harmony. The higher cortical functions are enhanced, facilitating objective, sober assessment and intuitive perception. A person can perceive more wholeness, and solutions to problems become more apparent. On a collective level, balanced emotions such as hope, will, caring, compassion, and appreciation generate a global coherence wave whose electromagnetic field goes out into those around us and all over the world. The intentional increasing of the heart-mind alignment and the focusing on a heart-centered way of life have the potential to create a global coherence wave to facilitate new solutions for the problems and issues that the world faces today. Now that you know about the incredible impact our hearts and their electromagnetic energy fields have on ourselves and others, use this information to your advantage and create coherence with those around you, enhancing not only your life but the lives of others, and ultimately society as a whole.
Paul Lenda is a conscious evolution guide, life coach, and co-founder of SHIF T>. Author of The Creation of a Consciousness Shift, he wishes to provide an integral role in the positive social transformation of humanity. Paul has degrees in business and psychology, and has taken part in extensive spiritual practice. He has a drive for esoteric knowledge and wishes to see and understand the wider horizon of reality. A gifted speaker at events, Paul has had his articles published in magazines and journals around the world. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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C H I ROP R AC T IC F OR L I F E
A U T I S M, NEUROPLASTICITY, and
The Polyvagal Theory WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? By Drew Rubin, D.C.
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hen I was in college, we learned that the autonomic nervous system (ANS) had two parts: the sympathetic and parasympathetic. We were taught that the ANS was a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, where one was on and the other was off. As I began to specialize in pediatrics and deal with an increasing number of neurobehaviorally challenged children, I realized something was missing in the explanation of what was going on for these kids. I was first introduced to the Polyvagal Theory several years ago at the Freedom for Family Wellness Summit in Washington, D.C. [look for information on registering for the 2018 Summit on page 47]. The theory, authored by Stephen Porges, Ph.D., adds so much into the loop of what we were taught about the autonomic nervous system. Dr. Porges, in his extensive research with anatomy and psychology, found that there was a third controlling mechanism to the autonomic nervous system. The Polyvagal Theory explains the autonomic nervous system as a hierarchy that included a third part—the social engagement system. The social engagement system is above the parasympathetic and sympathetic in this hierarchy. The parasympathetic system is the most ancient of all three systems, found in amphibians and reptiles. This is the typical “freeze” reaction a frog or salamander may have when approached. Mammals evolved the sympathetic nervous system to actively evade or fight predators. When a sabertooth tiger approached a human, fight-or-flight activated. (The freeze reaction wouldn’t work so well in this situation.) Humans then evolved further with the social engagement system, which allows for connection and instant assessment of friend or foe. When chiropractors care for so many kids with autism and sensory-processing disorders, one of the most common issues that changes over time is the lack of eye contact and failure to communicate. When I first heard about the Polyvagal Theory, I was blown away at how well it explained our success in practice. The autistic children under care were reintegrating with this third branch of the autonomic nervous system. Ever since the Polyvagal Theory was presented at the Pathways Summit, I’ve been active in furthering my understanding of chiropractic’s effect on the social engagement system of children with autism and sensory-processing disorders. The findings of my first study are published in the Journal of Pediatric and Maternal and Family Care, and I have continued to conduct research in our office. How do chiropractors reach this third branch of the ANS? I hypothesize that there are two ways we as chiropractors can reach the third branch of the ANS. Indirectly, we can reach it through atlas adjustments, because the vagus nerve travels next to the atlas in the cervical spine. More important, we can affect the vagus through our ability to perform cranial work on children, accessing the nerve as it exists through the jugular foramen of the temporal bones. Years ago, when I first started using cranial work, based on the work of Carol Phillips, D.C., I would mainly focus on children with nursing problems, colic, and reflux, and they responded remarkably well. Through my current research, we have now seen that special-needs kids may also benefit from this type of technique. What are some other responses from children on the autistic spectrum through this type of interaction? The Polyvagal Theory states that the myelinated portion of the vagus nerve— the social portion—goes to five key body components: the eyes, ears, face, heart, and lungs. One of the main characteristics of children on the autistic spectrum is poor eye gaze, and we regularly see this change under chiropractic care. The second key component the vagus nerve connects to are the ears. A lot of special-needs children tend to cover their ears because of their sensitivity to noise or difficulty understanding what someone is saying. The vagus also connects to the face, as
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C H I ROP R AC T IC F OR L I F E
Why are there so many children on the spectrum today? This has become the question of our time. Why was autism in the 1960s just 1 in 10,000, when now it’s 1 in 68 according to the CDC? In his book Neurodiversity, Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., states that these characteristics of autism have been present for a millennium. In times past they were seen in savants who had unbelievable memory capacity, or the wise old medicine man who knew much that was unknown to the ordinary member of society. Dr. Armstrong doesn’t ask where autism comes from, but why is there so much of it today? In his book Disconnected Kids, Robert Melillo, M.D., discusses the neurotoxic world we live in that’s especially disruptive to growing children’s brains. Concerns have been identified with Monsanto-altered food, EMFs, such as microwave radiation from cell phones and wireless technologies, and many other environmental pollutants that all may be contributing factors to the downward health of children’s brains compared to previous years. What is neuroplasticity and how does it relate to the Polyvagal Theory? In his book The Brain that Changes Itself, Norman Doidge, M.D., a pioneer in neuroplasticity, explains how any given brain does not have to remain the same. It may mean that an autistic child who comes into my office, who for the last four to eight years has been absent from social interaction and communication, can change, because her brain can change. It may mean that brain activity may go from an impaired activity rate (less than 100 percent) to a more optimal function. The brain is not “off” or “broken,” which was the prevailing attitude about brains that we had for generations. When I was in college, I was taught that the brain never regenerates. Once you get to a certain age you will have all the brain cells
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you will ever have, and you will never get any more. And once they die off, that’s it. Research into neuroplasticity has shown that this surely is not the case. When we see kids with symptoms of autism or ADHD, or adults after a stroke, there may be a possibility of neuroplasticity. Certainly, the younger a child is the more adaptable, because her potential for change is so high. We see kids in their teens with autism, and their pattern is more embedded in their system, making it much slower for change to occur, but it’s totally wrong to say that it won’t, or it can’t. According to these theories, it suggests that it may take more time to rewire the brain. There’s a fundamental maxim in neurology, contributed by Canadian psychiatrist Donald Hebb, F.R.S., in 1949, that states: “Nerves that fire together, wire together.” This appears to be true in either direction. You fire the right things, breaking old patterns, and you can create a “new” brain with new patterns. Therefore, it should work in the opposite direction. Like the old saying goes, “If you keep on doing what you are doing, you’ll keep on getting what you are getting.” So if you keep wiring the old patterns, you’ll keep reinforcing those same old patterns. Want something different? You’ve got to do something different! Chiropractic care may be that something. A chiropractor should take the time, energy, and effort to become an expert in her area by becoming certified or a diplomate in pediatrics. Larry Webster, D.C., the founder of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), used to say, “Taking care of kids is not like taking care of little adults.” Understanding the sensitivity of a child’s spine and nerve system is the key to helping change their trajectories. What effect do chiropractors have on the brain? Chiropractors are not back doctors or spine doctors— we’re nerve system doctors. Between the adjustments we do, which help the nerve system rewire itself, neurological exercises one can do at home, and nutritional improvements that avoid any further assaults to the mind and body, we can help create a fertile ground for new seeds to grow. To paraphrase what Dr. Doidge says, “you can teach an old brain new tricks.” He mentions research by Paul Bach-y-Rita, M.D., that states that if part of the brain is not functioning, other parts of the brain can be rewired to produce the function of the weaker portions. For centuries it was thought that brains were hardwired (this was also taught in the 1980s while I was in school). But now, researchers in neuroplasticity have shown that the brain has remarkable abilities to re-integrate. Areas of the brain thought to be permanently
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evidenced by the many children who come to our office that have a flat or reduced affect with no smile. After the adjustment, there is a tendency for them to smile, which may be due to its affecting the facial and trigeminal nerves. Lastly, the vagus connects to the heart and lungs, which a lot of specialneeds children have reportedly had a difficult time regulating. [See "Breathe Deep" on page 28 for more about vagal tone on the heart and lungs.] Over time, with chiropractic care and therapeutic exercises, we see many of these children become more athletic and improve their coordination. An example is one young patient who first presented with the inability to look someone in the eyes. She would only directly talk to her mother or father, and spoke in one- or twoword communications. At her most recent visit to our practice, this young girl now has dramatically improved her ability to speak with others. During the visit, she went up to a baby and said, “That’s a baby! Why is the baby crying?” And the baby’s mother replied, “I think she’s hungry.” This child held a brief conversation for the first time. It’s amazing the opportunities we have as chiropractors to watch these changes.
The salutogenic model implies that you can always be healthier. Therefore, we as chiropractors don’t “treat” autism, ADHD, ear infections, and the like. What we do is optimize performance.
localized can reach out to neighboring parts of the brain and essentially ask for help. What that means is that you are not stuck with you. According to these theories it is important for us to investigate how chiropractic may help special-needs kids literally change their genetic expression. Not change their genes, but how those genes are expressed. If you have a child who didn’t talk for his first four years and now can talk and read, we have witnessed that his genes which used to express a nonverbal child now express a verbal child.
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How does this tie into the Polyvagal Theory? The ICPA supports the salutogenic model of health. The salutogenic model is about optimizing performance, something that’s beyond the wellness model which aims to stay the same, to keep someone well. The salutogenic model implies that you can always be healthier. Therefore, we as chiropractors don’t “treat” autism, ADHD, ear infections, and the like. What we do is optimize performance. Following a salutogenic model allows the brain, nerve system, and other body systems to do better than they otherwise are doing. In addition to seeing children with autism, ADHD, or other problems improve, it’s very rewarding to see healthy people get stronger and healthier under chiropractic care as well. The Polyvagal Theory, by its very existence, is complimentary to the salutogenic model of health, because it teaches us that the body is not a balance scale or on/off nerve system, as it was previously understood. There is a hierarchy to the body’s ability to self-regulate, and that is the very thing that chiropractors work with every day: the body’s innate intelligence, which allows us to be selfhealing, self-regulating organisms. Subluxations interfere with this ability to self-heal and self-regulate, and children on the spectrum and with other symptoms have significant challenges especially in self-regulation. The Polyvagal Theory conceptualizes a way to tap into inner healing potential. It opens a whole new set of possibilities. Concussions Several months ago, we had a child come in with postconcussion syndrome, and later that same day had a child come in diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Both had similarities in their presentations. A concussion may cause post-concussion syndrome, where the child who received a blow to the head has lingering effects from the injury and after several weeks of healing still does not exhibit the behavior he displayed before. Common symptoms are moodiness,
irritability, decreased sociability, and decreased eye contact. If you look at that child and don’t know he received a trauma to the head, and compare him to a child with high-functioning autism, their behavior sometimes looks similar. Some research shows that autism may have some parallels to brain injury that occurred in utero or shortly thereafter, but not a brain injury like a force or blow to the head. Another name for concussion is mild traumatic brain injury (or mTBI). Children on the spectrum have a mild brain injury to a specific part such as the cerebellum, frontal cortex, etc., that I call mild non-traumatic brain injuries (mNTBI). Two interesting corollaries exist between autism and concussions. Both the prevalence of autism and the prevalence of concussions have both doubled since 2000. What that means is brain injury reporting is on the rise, whether the injury is due to a direct injury or not. I think this shows that our children’s brains are more fragile than they’ve ever been, which is why pediatric chiropractic is so important. Another corollary I’ve seen in practice is how often kids on the spectrum and kids with post-concussion syndrome have retained primitive reflexes. I have already done research on neurobehaviorally challenged kids and primitive reflexes, and am now doing follow-up research on this affect in children with concussions. Our kids have never been more susceptible to both outside injury from a trauma and “invisible” injury, as discussed above. It has never been more important to get children under regular chiropractic care. Incorporating neurological exercises and proper diet along with chiropractic care offers a powerful three-pillared approach to health. Let’s help get children access to all three pillars!
rew Rubin, B.S., D.C., CCSP, DACCP, is a chiropractor, D adjunct faculty at Life University College of Chiropractic, and an author, researcher, and speaker. He has been in private practice since 1989 and specializes in pediatrics, special needs, pregnancy, and families. He has published research in peer-reviewed journals, and has presented at conferences around the country on topics such as autism, primitive reflexes and Polyvagal Theory (see theadjustment.com for links to his research). He has authored the following books: The Adjustment, The Acceptance, and It’s a Small World. He also produces Dr. Drew Rubin’s Chirocast, a podcast available on iTunes. He speaks around the world for the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association (ICPA), and lives in Georgia with his wife, Lisa, and son, Palmer. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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I N N AT E E X P R E S S I O N S
The Difference an Adjustment Makes By Danielle Drobbin, D.C.
Katie is the mother of two beautiful twin boys, Wesley and William. She brought her sons to me because they were having issues with chronic ear infections and fluid in their ears. I felt an intense pull toward Katie as soon as we met. We began a normal consultation in my practice, but it quickly turned into an emotional and honest conversation of the struggles Katie and her family had been faced with in the short time since her children’s birth. As I listened to Katie’s story about Wesley and William, I learned that the boys were born at only 24 weeks gestation. For many agonizing weeks, the boys lived in the NICU, fighting to stay alive. As the boys grew, Wesley began advancing ahead of William in both gross and motor skills. This changed at 18 months, when the boys were administered their next round of vaccines. Katie saw drastic changes in Wesley’s demeanor, behavior, and his gross and motor skills. He started banging his head against the wall and flailing his arms around. He became uncommunicative, and suddenly was extremely irritable and disconnected from those around him. Wesley suffered from a severe vaccine reaction and now has the diagnosis of autism. His parents began seeking any possible way to bring their son back. They immediately took Wesley to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit a functional medicine doctor who specializes in vaccine injuries. The doctor began a process of natural and holistic practices to reverse the injury. They tried chelation
Dr. Drobbin. I am so sorry to contact you so late, and on Facebook of all things. But this is the only way I could think of to get in touch with you personally, and I just have to tell you this. This will probably seem so insignificant, but I cannot even describe how much it meant to me. After dinner tonight, the boys were in their playroom with Matt, and I was in the kitchen cleaning up. I constantly look over to check on them, and one of those times, Wesley must have seen me peer in. He looked me square in the face, with the widest and brightest eyes, and said with excitement, “Hi!” Just thinking of it brings me to tears. The eyes that looked at me tonight were the same eyes I saw months and months ago, that I’ve been afraid I’d never see again. Filled with lights and hope and curiosity. He brimmed with a smile and his cheeks just looked so full and bright. And he spoke the simplest, most inviting word, “Hi!” It’s like he’s telling me he’s still in there and he’s been listening this whole time. I’ve always felt he must see us and hear us, but ever since the injury, he never responds. It’s just like they say, “the child regresses into his own world.” But he must have been seeing and hearing us; he communicated with me tonight, from across the room, a word I’ve never heard from his mouth before, but one that he must hear all the time. Our sweet boy was taken from us after those vaccines. Their early delivery, experiencing the NICU, all of their developmental challenges, and then the hardest blow, the sign of autism, overwhelms me with guilt and dire yearning to help them every single day. I know I must be the most frazzled, frantic mom to come into your office, and I’m so sorry we bring so much chaos to your serene space. But I need you to know what you did for Wesley today did something. I don’t know how or why, but I am seeing a glimmer of our precious baby again. You have given me so much hope that there are still ways we can help him. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you with all the gratitude I have in me. I am seeing Wesley again. —Katie
ome things in life can’t be explained. The love that a mother has for her child is one of those many things. Unless you have a child of your own, there is no way to describe the maternal instincts to protect and care for a child. Being a mother, I know that feeling myself, but I was instantly reminded of the intensity of the bond between mother and child as soon as Katie walked into my chiropractic office.
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“ We chiropractors work with the subtle substance of the soul. We release the imprisoned impulse, the tiny rivulet of force that emanates from the mind and flows over the nerves, to the cells and stirs them into LIFE.” –B.J. PALMER
therapy, which eliminates heavy metals within the body, and they even tried a hyperbaric chamber that allows the body to inhale pure oxygen into the system for natural healing. Despite all of their efforts and some minor progress with Wesley, Katie felt as if they were at a standstill. William and Wesley began chiropractic care with me and received their first adjustments at 2 years old. After Wesley’s second adjustment, I received Katie’s amazing, heartfelt Facebook message (seen at left). On Wesley’s next visit, he began talking. He immediately went into the playroom and began pointing out and naming the colors on the blocks in the room. His communication skills and spatial awareness began to return, and he had started to touch Katie’s face and would run his fingers through her hair. Katie said he was actually looking at her and really seeing her, as if a cloud had been lifted from his precious little eyes. He not only saw his mother again, but he noticed their family dog for the first time as well. Wesley would watch the dog, touch, and interact with him like he had never done before. If there was ever a time I had more faith in a single specific chiropractic adjustment, this was that time. Wesley’s communication skills are steadily growing and he is talking more and more every day. I want to make it clear that this
article is about the greatness of what we as chiropractors do. How powerful the chiropractic adjustment is! After eight years in practice, I feel laserfocused and more fired up than when I first started. Wesley had a setback in his life, but his body and his mind are back on the right track to give him the full potential he was meant to have from the beginning. I cannot wait to watch as he grows and develops into the life he was designed to live.
Danielle Drobbin, D.C., a native of Bellmore, New York, attended Buffalo University and received a bachelor of arts in psychology. Drobbin graduated cum laude from Life University in Atlanta. She later received her D.A.C.C.P. from the ICPA. Her practice, Midtown Family Chiropractic and Wellness Center, is the largest pregnancy and pediatric practice in Atlanta, Georgia. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/ references.html.
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TOUCH ING T HE F U T URE
ARE WE MEDICATING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHILD?
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By Danielle Miller, M.S.W.
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he labels are becoming all too familiar to modern families: ADHD, ADD, OCD, ODD, and bipolar disorder, to name a few. Twelve percent of U.S. children and teens carried a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in 2011, a figure that rose 43 percent since 2003. Of those, 69 percent were medicated, and only half the children were engaged in counselling or psychotherapy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that almost 70 percent of doctor’s visits in the U.S. involve drug therapy. Perhaps a more disturbing figure is that one-third of prescribed medications are antidepressants. Not only will our children’s lives be cut artificially short, they will also be the saddest generation to ever live. The studies are in, and it doesn’t look good. Anxiety and depression increased in American teens by 30 percent between 2005 and 2014. The American Psychological Association states, “Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people aged 15–44 years.” We’re not alone; according to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability globally. Statistics like these are overwhelming for any parent. We must ask: Are these diagnoses accurate? And if they are, why is our children’s mental health rapidly declining, and what can we do about it? Second Opinions and Alternative Treatments As a former child and family therapist, I remember the outrage I felt as I read the charts of children who were diagnosed without warrant. Many kids carried multiple labels. Once applied, these were difficult to remove, no matter how inappropriate. I often wondered how quickly these children had been diagnosed. Professor Philip Mitchell, head of the School of Psychiatry at University of New South Wales in Australia, reports that many general practitioners can only spend 8 to 12 minutes with each patient. This makes it more practical to write a prescription than to delve deeper and get to the heart of a patient’s issue. If doctors took the time to sincerely talk to a child, they would realize they were, in fact, diagnosing the child’s living conditions. Take away stress, remove the fractured family structure, eliminate poor diet, and stamp out abuse, and in most cases, one could dismiss the diagnosis. Many doctors are categorically medicating a child’s life circumstances, not the child. As parents we all strive to make the best decisions we can for our children. Many of us believe we can trust doctors without question. We need to recognize we have a choice. Our opinion matters. Our children need us to protect them and we’re entitled to ask questions and advocate on behalf of our children’s health.
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Our Kids Are Not Broken The misguided habit of viewing children and teens who are struggling with the unreasonable demands of modern life as broken in some way leaves us susceptible to influence. It may sound extreme, but easy targets make easy prey. Unknowingly, we’re encouraged to detach from normal feelings and view them through the lens of disease. Yet, to feel is healthy. To experience emotion is human. And to struggle is to grow. Part of growing into a well-adjusted adult is the ability to navigate a spectrum of emotions throughout life. We cannot mute the negative without diminishing the positive. Sadly, the days of expressing thoughts and feelings without boundaries or guidelines are long gone. Normal behavior, such as a reluctance in young children to concentrate on their homework or sit still for long periods, is marketed by pharmaceutical companies as a potential symptom of ADHD. This leads parents of healthy children to ask their doctors about whether their kids need treatment for their “problems.” Many people believe this has propelled the exponential rise in ADHD (mis)diagnosis. Our western culture has pathologized the very essence of the human condition. If you have a symptom, America has the pill. Sometimes a diagnosis is easier than addressing change. We are no longer given permission to experience a passing mood without being forced to question if we may be ill. Masking pain with drugs, alcohol, and maladaptive behaviors has long existed in the most vulnerable. We all struggle with varying levels of tolerance toward our own pain. But what happens when the very infrastructure designed to support us instead contributes to our illness? Is it possible we are ushering our children into diagnoses as a hurried means to an end?
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The Answer Is Not Always Medicine If we can acknowledge that the answers to our struggles are not always medicinal, we open our minds and give ourselves the freedom to invite true healing into our lives. Embracing a community of support, reaching out to loved ones, nourishing our minds and bodies with real food, and feeling the sun on our skin while keeping our bodies in motion can offer a restorative, side-effect-free path toward wellness—far more powerful, in many cases, than medication. I became a therapist because I’m an optimist who believes in the innate wisdom of the human spirit. I believe people can change for the better. And as a parent of three young children, I want the healthcare system to do more. To be better. Doctors have a duty of care to read and act on the same reports I do about the success of exercise versus antidepressants on mental health. Multiple studies acknowledge proper nutrition and social support in combating mental illness. So why is no one prescribing exercise and improved nutrition in mental healthcare? Who benefits if much of our population is medicated?
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TOUCH ING T HE F U T URE
If we can acknowledge that the answers to our struggles are not always medicinal, we open our minds and give ourselves the freedom to invite true healing into our lives.
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We write articles and pontificate on issues of cyberbullying and social isolation. We discuss overstimulation from a steady stream of information that pummels our children at all hours, leaving them stressed-out and on high alert. And with suicide being the second-biggest killer of our teens, we have no choice but to dig deeper and begin addressing why our children are suffering in the first place. If we view emotion only through a lens of disease, we will find disease. Yet, if we view emotion as an integral and necessary piece of the human puzzle, we will learn to accept and grow rather than diagnose and medicate. As parents, we’ll understand our immense responsibility to teach young children how to regulate emotions they are physically incapable of coping with alone. Healing Our Children Holistically Of course, one cause does not lead to mental illness; rather, it is an accumulation of factors. Just as one pill cannot erase disease, one source cannot be at the root of mental fragmentation. We need to view our children as whole people. We need to work to heal their immature brains holistically.
We need to simplify our children’s lives: increase family dinners, reduce scheduled activities, decrease time spent with technology. Openly discuss our feelings with our children. Accept and work through all emotions in our homes without judgment. Exercise regularly, and nourish our children’s bodies with food from the earth. The magic is found in simply and fully being human. Broadening symptoms and stretching diagnoses until they fit every possible human experience does not mean we are providing best practices in terms of healthcare. Turning childhood difficulties into disorders takes away from those who truly need the medical community. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our children, to connect and feel. We can no longer afford to medicate what it means to be a child.
Danielle MIller, M.S.W., is a former child and family therapist, and a wife and mother. After completing her undergraduate degree from Indiana University, she pursued her master’s in social work at Boston College. Danielle worked with children, adolescents, and families within the foster care and public school systems. As a clinician focused on practicing cognitive-behavioral therapy, Danielle found her true calling by combining her therapeutic skills with her love of writing and her passion for nutrition into her blog, Moods and Foods 4 Kids. This article originally appeared on Raised Good, a heart-driven platform to provide parents with sound, scientifically backed advice to rouse your natural instincts so you can parent your way. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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P H Y S IOL O G IC A L F U N C T I O N
Intentional breathing can benefit your social interactions. Here’s how By B. Grace Bullock, Ph.D.
The Autonomic Nervous System The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for your body’s involuntary functions, like keeping your heart beating, digesting food, and making sure that you inhale and exhale when you need to. It is also a key player in the fight or flight response. The ANS responds to environmental demands by either mobilizing your mind, body, and brain in response to threats, or by calming your system down to allow your body to rest, repair, and grow. The ANS is divided into two major branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The SNS is like your body’s gas pedal. When you perceive a threat, the SNS triggers the fight or flight response by dumping stress hormones into your bloodstream that increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, contract muscle, and all but stop non-essential functions like digestion. Stress and SNS activation also activate the fear circuitry in your brain’s limbic system. When this system is active, the prefrontal cortex and other cortical regions of the brain responsible for planning, reasoning, and effective
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communication are severely inhibited. This makes you more likely to resort to primitive survival strategies like aggression, avoidance, or withdrawal. This is why you may find yourself snapping at others or avoiding them altogether when you feel stressed. The other branch of the autonomic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), is the body’s brake pedal, or its “rest and digest” mechanism. When your life is running smoothly, the PNS signals the body and brain to slow down your heart and breathing rates, lower your blood pressure, and relax your muscles. When you’re relaxed, your brain’s fear circuitry is no longer mobilized, letting you access a more flexible range of thoughts and behaviors. Essentially, when you’re not stressed, your mind, body, and brain return to a state of balance. Here you are more able to relate to others with ease, rather than react impulsively. The Vagus Nerve There is one more key player in the ANS that bears mentioning: the vagus nerve. Charles Darwin first noted the vagus nerve and its role in social behavior in 1872. In his book The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, Darwin proposed that the central nervous system and the vagus nerve engage in a dynamic, reciprocal exchange of information that influences the spontaneous expression of emotion. In other words, the functioning of your vagus nerve directly impacts your behavior. The word vagus is Latin for wanderer, and the vagus nerve certainly fits the bill. It originates in the medulla oblongata in the brain stem, and projects to most of the
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id you know that chronic stress can harm your relationships? It’s true. Studies have shown that when stressed, you are more likely to be anxious, depressed, irritable, stubborn, pessimistic, and have a hard time communicating effectively. But there is hope. Changing how you breathe can reduce the negative impact of stress, and help you interact with others with ease. Here’s what you need to know.
bodyâ€™s major organs, including the heart, lungs, and digestive tract, independently of the spinal column. This complex system of nerve branches relays signals from the brain to the body (efferent), and from the organs to the brain (afferent). This bi-directional communication is what allows your body to efficiently regulate metabolic output in response to environmental demands. Activity of the vagus nerve is referred to as vagal tone, and measured by assessing respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA). RSA refers to the rhythmic increase and decrease in heart rate that occurs synchronously with inhalation and exhalation. When you inhale, your heart rate accelerates, and SNS activation increases, which decreases vagus nerve (or PNS) influence. Conversely, when you exhale, your heart rate decreases, which stimulates the vagus nerve and PNS. The amplitude of the variability of your RSA shows to what extent your vagus nerve influences your heart. Research shows that individuals with greater variability in RSA are more resilient to stress and less prone to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Polyvagal Theory In his influential book The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication and Self-Regulation, Stephen Porges, Ph.D., examined the phylogenic evolution of the human nervous system, and the role of the vagus nerve in the development of social behavior. In his decades of research, he found that the more recently evolved, myelinated branches of the vagus nerve found in mammals play a distinct role in attention, self-regulation, communication, emotional expression, resilience to stress, and other capacities central to social functioning. These myelinated vagus fibers, which send signals to the brain more quickly than the phylogenically older, unmyelinated fibers, inhibit these older systems. As a result, the newer, myelinated vagal system in mammals can override the signals of the SNS, a phenomenon that Porges refers to as the vagal brake.
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P H Y S IOL O G IC A L F U N C T I O N
Here’s the catch. This system only works properly when stress is intermittent. When real or perceived stress is chronic, the SNS “gas pedal” gets stuck, making it more difficult for the vagal brake to be applied. How does this relate to social behavior? In addition to its role within the PNS, the vagus nerve controls the movement of muscles associated with facial expression, speaking, swallowing, sucking, and, most importantly, breathing. As such, your ability to regulate the vagal brake is directly tied to your ability to regulate your emotions, behaviors, and facial expressions—all essential ingredients for good communication.
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B. Grace Bullock is a visionary psychologist, scientist, organizational innovator, educator, and yoga and mindfulness expert. She is the author of Mindful Relationships: Seven Skills for Success—Integrating the Science of Mind, Body, and Brain. Her research, practice, teaching, and writing integrate principles of neuroscience, psychophysiology, cognitive-behavioral psychology, and the science of mindfulness. She is the CEO and founding director of the International Science & Education Alliance, a research scientist at Oregon Research Institute, and an adjunct professor at Endicott College. She is the contributing editor for research at YogaU Online, a frequent contributor at Mindful.org and Yoga International, and the former editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/ references.html.
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The Vagal Brake and Social Behavior The vagal brake’s primary function is to regulate heart rate through the rapid inhibition and disinhibition of vagal signals to the heart. According to Porges, when the brake is applied, vagal tone increases and cardiac output is reduced promoting relaxation, self-soothing, growth, and repair. On the other hand, when the brake is released, the SNS becomes dominant, and heart rate increases to catalyze bodily systems in response to environmental demands. When this brake is impaired for any reason, phylogenically older autonomic responses are activated, resulting in a narrowed repertoire of behaviors. According to proponents of polyvagal theory, the vagal brake plays a pivotal role in the development of appropriate social behavior. Because of its capacity to rapidly depress or recruit the SNS in response to environmental demands, the brake gives us the opportunity to willfully regulate our behavior during stressful circumstances. Numerous studies with infants and young children show that vagal tone is an important indicator of self-regulation, sustained attention, resiliency, and the ability to calm down after experiencing a stressor. This capacity to regulate behaviors is a critically important function in relationship. Those who are able to think and act flexibly, maintain attentional control, and regulate emotions and behaviors are far more able to respond appropriately to interpersonal stressors and demands than those who cannot.
Vagal Tone and Intentional Breathing In addition to its impact on facial muscles, the vagus nerve both controls and is influenced by how you breathe. Here is the key: By slowing down your respiration through deep, intentional breathing and elongating your exhalation, you can activate the vagal brake and begin the process of relaxation almost immediately. What’s more, with the resumption of the relaxation response, brain networks in the prefrontal cortex inhibit your fear circuitry, allowing you to regain your composure and relate mindfully to others. With time and practice, intentional breathing can be used as a powerful tool to defuse stress and manage daily hassles and challenging interactions. Even better, it takes no special equipment, training, or cost to breathe mindfully, you can begin right now, and you can use it anywhere. Many of my clients and students report that intentional breathing has been key to regaining their presence of mind and improving the quality of their relationships. As someone who has been practicing intentional breathing for more than a decade, I can’t say enough about how helpful it can be, particularly during challenging interactions at home or work, or when your stress level is off the charts. Give it a try!
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P R E GN A N C Y & B I R T H
A soulful alternative to a birth plan By Jessie Harrold, C.D.
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Birth Principles Workbook
ou’re pregnant, and now that the initial shock, excitement, and/or morning sickness has worn off, you’re starting to think about your birth. Maybe you’ve read every book on pregnancy and birth on your library shelves; maybe you’ve heard more of your friends’ birth stories than you can count. You’ve made yourself aware of your options for your birth, including who you want to attend your birth, where you want to birth, and how. You may have heard about writing a birth plan; maybe you already have one drafted. You feel reassured by knowing your options, but there’s a part of you that wonders: What will happen if I don’t get what I want? What if things don’t go according to plan? Birth plans were virtually unheard of just a few years ago. Now, most birthing women have at least considered creating one, and resources for doing it abound. In many ways, this represents a positive change in our culture: Women are beginning to realize that they can choose how, where, and with whom they birth. Birth plans can stimulate conversation about women’s preferences in labor and allow them to feel supported in birth. They help us shift away from the mentality that “doctor knows best,” and, indeed, from the notion that birth is a medical process. The increasingly popularity of creating a birth plan may signal that women are taking back birth, once and for all. But my sense is that we’re missing the mark with birth plans. Increasingly in my doula practice, I’ve noticed that many plans read like catalogues of birth outcomes that a woman wishes to select: “I’ll have this, this and this.” When shared with doctors, midwives, and nurses, some women’s birth plans incite an eye roll— perhaps because of their length, maybe their detail, or possibly the nature of their wishes. Other clients of mine have presented their birth plans nervously to physicians, wondering what their reactions will be. Some of these physicians will graciously tell them “that should be possible”— which, though initially pleasing to hear, ultimately insinuates that the control remains in the hands of the doctor, not the birthing woman. In my birth practice, I’ve learned a few things that have caused me to want to change the way we think about birth plans:
1. Birth is unpredictable. The longer I’ve been a doula, the less I realize I know. I am humbled, and my ego is quieted, on a regular basis by the raw power and sheer unpredictability of birth. This is probably the one thing that anyone who works with birthing women—doctors, midwives, nurses, doulas—can absolutely agree on, and it’s probably why the idea of “planning” one’s birth incites eye rolls and even frustration for care providers. It is simply impossible to plan what will happen. This is not to say that women should not know their options and prepare for birth, but that that preparation also needs to include how women want to respond to the unplanned.
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2. Rigidity and inflexibility can be detrimental. Being hell-bent on having your birth go a certain way plays some risky odds. Because birth is unpredictable, the odds of everything going according to plan are not always in your favor. Sometimes it’s easy to go with the flow when things go differently than you’d expected—maybe you had conjured images of yourself slow dancing with your partner to cope with contractions, but that particular technique didn’t end up working for you. That’s probably no big deal. But being completely devoted to the idea of birthing at home in the water, or getting an epidural as soon as you arrive at the hospital so you feel no pain, can lead to discord, disappointment, or even trauma if things don’t go as planned. (Note: I believe that, as a society and as a culture, we have a long way to go before we truly take back birth. I recognize that there are a multitude of historical and sociocultural influences on what birth has become, as we know it currently. It is crucially important for women and birth workers to speak out against practices that are potentially unnecessary, and rooted in misogyny and the medicalization of birth. So, when I say that rigidity and inflexibility can be detrimental, I respect that a woman may feel she has limited or undesirable options to consider as a result of the culture and system within which she is birthing, but suggest that she find ways to hold her power and work within a system that is, unfortunately, not going to change overnight, rather than expect to reverse a culture that is too insidious and staid than any one person during any one birth can possibly alter.) 3. Most women’s true desires for their births are deeper than “outcomes.” I have found that, ultimately, no matter what the individual decisions a woman makes about how she wants to birth, most of those desires and decisions are more deeply rooted in how she wants to feel during labor, and how she wants to be treated by the people supporting her. That’s where this article comes in. Most birth plans center around things like a woman’s stance on various interventions and comfort preferences around the treatment of the baby and mother in the
It is the act of stepping into the unknown—not the potential for pain, or its intensity—that makes birth one of the most important rites of passage in the human experience. immediate postpartum period, and her infant feeding choices. All of these are considered outcomes, and outcomes are the most unpredictable facets of the birthing process. No one, not even the most experienced doctor or focused mother, can control or predict the outcomes of a birth. Let’s dive in here. I’ve thrown around the word unpredictability a few times now, and it might create some edgy feelings. It’s a scary thought. In our lives, we usually experience very little of the unknown. Thanks to Google and smartphones and other technologies, we have a great amount of information at our fingertips, which equates to increased predictability and perceived control over the situations we find ourselves in. Birth isn’t like this. Not knowing what will happen makes most women uncomfortable or anxious. The interesting thing about the unknown—the part that I invite you to explore—is that nothing that requires our bravery, our advocacy, our hard work, and our determination, and potentially results in our pride, our courage, and our connection to our power, is predictable. It is the act of stepping into the unknown—not the potential for pain, or its intensity—that makes birth one of the most important rites of passage in the human experience. Empowerment, in birth and in life, comes not from fighting against things that are, but in finding the strength and grace to accept what is and thrive anyway. So, what are birth principles? Birth principles are based on your fundamental values and deepest beliefs about yourself and about birth. They underpin your outcome-related desires for your birth. Wellthought-out birth principles will make your individual decisions around how, with whom, and where you want to birth easier, for those choices are inherent in your principles. Being clear on your birth principles will help you to enter the process of labor and birth with the confidence in your own resilience, knowing that you have the ability to thrive. The questions on these next pages are intended to help you gain that clarity. The following questions are meant to prime you, to shift your thinking about your birthing process into a new realm. Answer them as instinctively or as methodically as you need to. Revisit them after a long walk in the woods, a steaming bath, or a heart-to-heart with your support person, if you need to. Be curious and exploratory in the process.
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P R E GN A N C Y & B I R T H
Tapping Into Emotion
These questions explore how you want to feel during your birthing
process. Your response could be a list of adjectives, or draw upon your previous experiences, or be a story you write about the vision you have of yourself birthing. Play, here, with what feels authentic and meaningful to you. How would you like to feel while you’re in early labor?
How would you like to feel as you actively labor?
How would you like to feel when you are pushing your baby into the world?
How would you like to feel in that first special hour after you’ve had your baby?
Navigating External Influences
When you respond to these questions, think about the
environment within which you want to labor and the people you want there supporting you. It may be helpful to return to any visualization you did in the previous questions to help you explore these ideas. How do you want the room to feel when you are in labor? What does it look like? What is the atmosphere like?
How do you want others in the room to treat you?
Whom do you trust when it comes to your birthing experience?
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Stepping Into the Unknown
You may be required to navigate any number of unknowns
during your birth process. Some of these may pertain to the specific outcomes you desire, be they your preferences around intervention, pain management, or any other aspect of your labor and birth. While these may be outside the realm of your control, the way you respond to them is up to you. How do you feel about the unpredictability and unknown in labor and birth?
How would you like to meet with unexpected situations, or situations that are out of your control, during your birth?
What resources, support, or tools do you need to accomplish this?
It’s time to get in touch with your power. These questions will help you find the
strongest part of yourself and get to know it well. This includes knowing the situations that have brought your strength to the fore, what your strength looks like, and how to call upon it when you need it. What three character strengths do you have that will serve you well during birth?
What types of situations bring out these strengths?
How can you stand in your power during your birth?
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P R E GN A N C Y & B I R T H
Understanding Your Beliefs
The birth principles you establish will be grounded in your beliefs
about birth, your body, and yourself. Take some time to reflect on what you believe to be true.
What do you trust when it comes to your birthing experience?
What do you know to be true?
What are your core beliefs about birth?
Your Birth Principles
You’ve thought about how you want to feel during your birth. You’ve visualized
the setting and surroundings in which you want to birth, explored how to strongly step into the unknown, delved into your strengths and how you can stand in your power, and you’ve uncovered your core beliefs. You’ve spent this time in a place beyond the individual choices and outcomes you desire for your birth, and you are ready to take what you’ve found and channel it into a few key principles you can hold central during your transition from pregnant woman to new mother. Take some time to look through your responses throughout these workbook pages.
Do you see any common themes?
What ideas or statements make you feel grounded in your feet, strong in your core, and light in your heart?
What do you want, most deeply and essentially, for your birth?
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Here is some space to explore. If you want, you can complete the following prompts, or you can
explore your ideas on a blank page. Brainstorm, use words, draw, color, write a poem: Express your desires in the way that resonates most deeply for you. I want….
Sharing Your Birth Principles It’s up to you how you wish to share your birth principles with your support person and your care providers. Much of this process will allow you to find your own clarity. Being clear on your principles will help to inform the individual decisions and choices you make concerning your birth. It will inform how you navigate the events that unfold, the people that surround you, and the space that you’re in. Use these principles as your North Star. Check in with them often, and allow them to guide you in your birth journey. May you know strength. May you know support. May you know love. Journey well, mama.
Jessie Harrold, founder of Nalumana Women’s Wellness, is a DONA-certified birth doula, Sacred Pregnancy instructor, and a certified professional life coach. Jessie is passionate about supporting women through the psychological and spiritual aspects of transitioning to motherhood. Jessie lives in Nova Scotia with her husband and two children, each birthed powerfully in their own way. To download a copy of the Birth Principles Workbook, please visit nalumanawomens wellness.leadpages.co/birth-principles. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
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OU T ER WOMB
Co-Sleeping By Kathleen M. Waddington
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the soothing smell, sound, and touch of her parent, a baby may be overcome with a sense of helplessness. Research has revealed that babies thrive when they are exposed to human contact. Kangaroo nursing—a technique in which the baby is taken from the intensive-care cot and placed against mothers’ skin in a pouch-like fashion— was developed for the treatment of premature infants. It was noted that these babies’ vital signs stabilized, their core temperatures improved, and they were quicker to gain weight than their counterparts who did not receive this treatment. My nephew, now a young adult, was born at 24 weeks’ gestation. He was kangaroo nursed, and video footage evidences that his whole demeanor altered during this period. Babies and young children require constant parental attention, day and night, and if they sleep in a separate room they shouldn’t be left to cry it out if they are unsettled. They need to feel safe and cared for, and if that means sleeping in the same bed or room as the parent, then l believe that they should. Cortisol, a stress-related hormone, can suppress immunity, growth, and brain development if released in high quantities. A child so often needs his or her parent for comfort and reassurance. Why should it be any different at night? Co-sleeping is an individual choice, and it has been revealed that it doesn’t cause any detrimental effects, such as insecurity or clinginess. In fact, studies have shown that children who sleep with their parents develop high self-esteem,
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here is a lot of controversy regarding co-sleeping with children. In some cultures, it is normal and expected that families sleep together. In others, co-sleeping is taboo. In Western societies it is typical to encourage separate sleeping quarters for parents and their children from as early as infancy. At birth, it is common practice to put a baby directly on the mother’s bare chest, skin to skin, to promote bonding and to encourage successful breastfeeding. Babies are born with a walking and crawling reflex, present for the first few weeks of life. This gives newborns the ability to make their own way and self-attach to their mothers’ breasts. While in the hospital, babies are encouraged to room with their mothers so that this process of bonding can continue. Ultimately, if all occurs as it should, babies thrive and are less likely to encounter problems under these circumstances. Even partners are welcomed so the whole family can bond together. Gone are the days when babies were left parked in the hospital nursery, intermittently brought out to their mothers for feeding. Nowadays, the family unit is encouraged to stay close together. Yet as soon as the family leaves the hospital, this bonding process is often disrupted. The focus turns to conforming to what society expects—in other words, establishing habits such as separate sleeping arrangements (there’s usually a nursery set up) and encouraging the baby to sleep through the night, which goes against their natural impulses. Infants require frequent feeding and are more settled and content in the vicinity of a parent. Who in the animal kingdom sleeps away from their young? At birth, a human baby is still very immature and has no reasoning or recognition of his or her whereabouts. Infants must rely completely on their senses. They are comforted by their parents’ voices, touch, and scent. A baby’s only way of communicating is through crying, and a parent will instinctively want to attend to her needs. At this early age, babies need to be close to their parents, especially at night when their sense of sight is lost. If left alone in a dark place without
are happy, and are less likely to develop anxiety issues. It is important that all family members get adequate sleep. Sleep can certainly be disrupted if two, three, or more people are all cramped into one bed. Co-sleeping habits shouldn’t lead to sleep deprivation or interfere with a couple’s intimacy. Parents should do whatever works best for their families, and if they choose to bed or room share, they should not be made to feel guilty. Co-sleeping is easier in single-parent families, particularly with just one child. There is usually plenty of room, and you don’t have to worry about disturbing a partner. Providing you’re not just sharing your bed to combat your own sense of loneliness, co-sleeping has some added benefits. It allows shared time together, particularly important for situations in which the single parent has a full-time job and is busy playing catch-up when he or she gets home. If you have a child who’s having trouble sleeping through the night, or who is afraid of the dark or has night terrors, then bundling up with you will not only provide the security your child needs, it will also assure you of a better sleep. The demands of parenting alone are taxing, and so it’s important to have a good night’s sleep, whichever way you can get it.
When my son was younger, he was afraid to sleep in his own room, as it was too far away from mine. He was scared that something might happen to me during the night. This fear was exacerbated by not having anyone else in the house. If we had a houseguest, such as his grandmother, he felt more secure. I did a little research on who was crawling into his or her parents’ beds among the children of friends of mine—those with both partnered and single parents— and found that it was still quite common practice among primary school–age children. I am all for co-sleeping. I truly believe this arrangement has health benefits. I remember as a child how it felt when my father crawled into bed with me. There were four of us to choose from, and l would hope it would be my turn. I slept on the bottom bunk, so my chances were good. I didn’t care that I was shuffled a little too close to the wall. Nor was I the least bit bothered by the fact that his warm breath tickled my neck or that he snored so strongly that he sucked in the curtains. None of this mattered to me. His arm around my body, hugging me tightly, conveyed love and security. There was nothing to be afraid of, as I was safe in my father’s arms.
Kathleen M. Waddington is a single parent and lives with her teenage son in Melbourne. She currently works as a nurse, midwife, and hypnobirthing practitioner. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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FA M I LY W E L L N E S S
Sleeping Like a
leep. No other word can generate such an emotive response in so many parents of young children. The “baby sleep industry” is worth millions—a myriad of products from pharmaceutical to musical, mechanical, and material adorn the shelves, luring in tired new parents with the promise of peaceful nights. Thousands of professionals earn a living from exploiting the vulnerabilities and exhaustion of sleep-deprived parents around the world, training babies and toddlers to sleep through the night. To add to this, the media regularly reports on surveys showing how the sleepless nights of babies and toddlers lead to breakdowns in relationships. Sleep is a big issue in our society, and an enticing moneymaker. Is our species so flawed that we must forever be on the verge of a nervous breakdown for the first three years of our offspring’s life? Or does our obsession with infant sleep show a more troubling need to better understand the norms of our evolutionary biology? If parents were truly educated about the sleep behaviors of normal babies and children, and the illusion of the perfect “contented little baby” sleeping 12 hours at night by as many weeks was shattered and replaced with realistic, evidence-based information, then everything would change. It would change how we are with our babies and children, it would change the value of motherhood, and it would change the support we give to young families. I do not think I am being overdramatic to say that in turn it may then just change the world.
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Our society is not supportive of young families. We parent miles away from our own families, no longer embraced by a support network. We are under pressure to “have it all,” to be a “yummy mummy” with a perfect figure, a perfect house, perfect clothes, and a perfect job. It is however, just not possible to live up to this ideal while also responding to the normal and natural needs of our infants. Something has to give, and very often it is the needs of our children. We sleep-train our children in order that they fit into our modern lives more easily. We fool ourselves into believing that it is our offspring that have sleep problems, rather than opening our eyes to the real problem—the disharmony between the primal needs of our young and the expectations of the modern world. Whose problem is it, really? Babies and toddlers don’t sleep like adults. They wake— a lot—and this is perfectly normal. When a baby is in utero, he borrows the circadian rhythms (body clock) of his mother as melatonin is passed to him via the placenta. Once born, however, he’s on his own, and it takes his body a while to be able to do what his mother’s did. In fact, it takes him until at least 4 months to get anywhere close, and even longer—until he begins school—to really get the same effect. That’s not all, though. Not only do infants lack the hormonal regulators of sleep of an adult, but a baby’s sleep cycle is hugely different, lasting about half as long as an adult sleep state. This makes perfect biological sense: It keeps our tender young offspring more alert should a predator threaten
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What we really need is not to sleep-train our babies and toddlers, but to build a network of support once again for parents— a “village,” as some say.
their lives. But what predator will come and gobble them up in their nursery? Nature might be clever, but not quite clever enough to evolve us that quickly, so—for now—we still possess the same innate responses that kept our huntergatherer predecessors safe. Imagine, then, that a baby goes through a sleep cycle twice as quickly as an adult. That means they wake at least twice as often as we do during the night. In fact, they move into a light sleep state around once every 25 minutes. That means there is a likelihood of their waking fully every 25 minutes, if something alerts them. In addition to this, babies and toddlers have a greatly underdeveloped neocortex compared to an adult’s brain. This frontal section of the brain is responsible for rational and analytical thought as well as the regulation of emotional responses. Because of this, babies do not yet possess the skill of emotional self-regulation, or as the sleep trainers like to call it, the skill of “self-soothing.” The “self-soothing” referred to in mainstream books is anything but that. It is a myth— a myth perpetuated to make parents feel better about ignoring their baby’s needs. The way to boost emotional self-regulation in an infant is to be responsive to him when he needs it, so that in time, when his brain’s connectivity matures, it will hardwire the pathways necessary for true “self-soothing.” Modern science supports the notion that our sleep expectations are anything but realistic, with recent research suggesting that at least a third of 15-month-olds still wake regularly; most children don’t sleep through the night until
they are 2 or older. If sleepless nights are still so common in toddlerdom, why do we consider it a problem if our babies and toddlers do not sleep all night? Why do so many inquire about our children’s sleeping habits and suggest methods that do not meet their needs in an attempt to “fix” their sleeping problems? Indeed, even the U.K.’s National Health Service website recommends controlled crying. But it immediately contradicts itself with this passage: “By the time your child is 6 months old, it’s reasonable to expect them to sleep through most nights. However, up to half of all children under 5 go through periods of night waking.” Surely if so many children under 5 go through periods of night waking, then night waking in children must be normal, and not really a “common sleep problem” at all? Sadly, we have such incorrect expectations of normal infant behavior in society. We try to fix babies: We sleep-train them, we wean them early, we give them “hungry baby” formula to make them sleep for longer, and we follow routines of baby experts to train them to sleep through. However, it isn’t our babies who have sleep problems. They are sleeping normally; quite simply they “sleep like a baby.” Rather than fixing our babies and toddlers, isn’t it time we looked to fix ourselves? If we have realistic expectations, we realize that what we really need is not to train our babies and toddlers, but to build a network of support once again for parents— a “village,” as some say. The issue really is a problem belonging to adults and society. What really needs fixing? We need to respect what a huge honor parenting is, and we need to support mothers as much as possible so that they can concentrate on the most important thing they will ever do—raising their babies. How do we return respect to motherhood and provide that necessary support? We must get our leaders and policy makers to understand that what a family really needs is support to be just that— a family. We need to begin with a change in expectations; we are lucky that science is on our side, someday soon it will be impossible to ignore the research any longer. As mothers, we also have the opportunity to gently re-educate from a grass-roots level. I call it “the Maternal Revolution.” When the mothers of the world reclaim their power I believe they can do anything. Will you join the revolution?
Sarah Ockwell-Smith is the author of eight parenting books, including the bestselling The Gentle Sleep Book and Why Your Baby’s Sleep Matters. She previously worked as a doula and antenatal teacher. She lives in England in a 17th-century cottage with her husband, four children, three cats, 20 ex-battery chickens, and six Indian Runner ducks. She blogs at sarahockwell-smith.com. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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PA R E N T I N G
NEW PERCEPTIONS Revisiting Jean Liedloff’s The Continuum Concept through a Waldorf lens
he very first book that set me off and running on the road to “natural parenting” was Jean Liedloff’s The Continuum Concept. Having devoured Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery and militantly given birth to my first son at home, I was off and running. Co-sleeping, using a sling, breastfeeding on demand...off we went. The Continuum Concept was a revelation. I had been a youth worker for many years and had studied child development at college—but here was a new way to conceptualize and bring together parenting practices in a coherent and, to my relief, humane form. The “in-arms” phase made so much sense to me. I had been a Waldorf teacher, so the information about not centering life around the child made so much sense to me. I loved this book! But I did have a few doubts. I saw women who followed the The Continuum Concept becoming, in my mind, punching bags and doormats to their children. I also witnessed parenting that was very verbal and centered on a child’s choices. People took Liedloff’s writing about the innate wisdom of children to mean that little ones could verbalize this potential—and therefore slid toward a childcentered approach which often created very unpleasant children, just the opposite of what Liedloff advocated. [Read about the child-centered approach published in Pathways issue 7.] It was interesting to see, over the years, how those parents who followed children’s choices headed toward unschooling or free-school options, while those who favored the non-child-centered approach went toward Waldorf education, a system that emphasizes the role of imagination in learning. Waldorf is based on the educational philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy, which maintains that an objective, understandable spiritual world is accessible via inner development.
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One of my problems with Liedloff is the core upon which she sets out her work—her methods are based on what I would see as a very limited and materialist understanding of human development. (If human beings are spiritual beings, then a way of understanding development which takes no notice of the spiritual element is of course going to be restricted.) And this is the basis of her work—that human consciousness is a continuum and that modern babies carry their needs, which were formulated in the dawn of human awakening, with them. Anthroposophy, on the other hand, tells us that human consciousness has developed over the millennia and that our current consciousness is worlds away from that of previous eras. Liedloff says that what we need to do is to get in touch with our innate wisdom that has been programmed into us. Anthroposophy tells us that we no longer hear the voices of our ancestors, and that our task as modern, free human beings is to develop heart-warmed thinking, which will help us form the correct conclusions. To make a long story short, I have spent 20 years trying to understand child development and a healthy way to bring new human beings into the world. I’ve concluded that the anthroposophical underpinning of Waldorf is the strongest and healthiest way of parenting children, but that people like Jean Liedloff have very important contributions to make. We can see from the start that the two philosophies appear pretty much opposed. Nevertheless, I still maintain that there is enough in Liedloff’s work which can be of use— and that, moreover, I believe that some of her findings can be brought into the light of anthroposophical research and understood in new ways. For example, in her article “The Importance of the In-Arms Phase,” Liedloff makes some tantalizing
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observations about the effects of being held or carried on babies’ energy. She talks about how adults who carry babies absorb this excess energy, and how this, then, is the reason why the Yequana babies are so peaceful (the Yequana are the non-Westernized Amazon people she studied; they carried their babies everywhere). I am fascinated by this. I, too, have observed that when a mother carries a baby without making him the center of attention, and, critically, while she is peacefully centered and busy working with her hands, the baby becomes happy and content. This is a living example of what anthroposophists call the etheric link between the mother and child, which nurtures and supports the child, especially in those critical first three years. [This was covered in Pathways issue 52, in the article “The Blessed State: A Conversation with Mila Furstova.”] Another example: Near the end of The Continuum Concept, Liedloff talks about the phenomenon of extreme sports, and of children and young adults who do not seem to be able to settle down, to be content in their bodies, who crave (or reject) stimulation. While acknowledging that there are many reasons for this, I am intrigued by Liedloff’s assertions regarding every baby’s need to absorb movement passively from his mother, and, should this need not be met, that later in life children or adults will find other ways to meet these needs. With the overwhelming number of children having some sort of issues with sensory integration, restlessness, and basic discomfort in their bodies, I wonder about this need and about how something as simple as wearing one’s baby might help dramatically with this. As a Waldorf educator, however, I need to stress that another fundamental need of little children and babies is to not be overstimulated by sense impressions. So here we have a problem: How can one wear one’s baby all day long and be engaged in movement and yet live in the modern
world? We are not Amazon tribespeople. We use cars or public transportation; we have new experiences every day, instead of walking down the same forest tracks that our ancestors made. We are surrounded by the bustle and technology of modern life. We flip a switch instead of working from dawn to dusk for our survival. I certainly do not advocate rejecting all modern technology, so we have a potentially monumental challenge in front of us! Wearing a baby is not an end unto itself. We must wear the baby and nurture the senses. That can be very difficult. We need to de-mechanize our lives so we can spend more time in healthy, active occupations at home. We need to slow down and make our lives more human-friendly. We need to let go of our driven modern go-get-’em consciousness and instead Zen-out, bringing peace and centeredness to our mindful daily existence. And somehow, we need to not totally isolate ourselves while we create our lives.
Donna Simmons was a Waldorf student for 14 years; she has taught in several Waldorf schools, and has founded a kindergarten. For many years she homeschooled her sons using Waldorf education, and she started to work with other parents. She is an anthroposophist and has been a youth worker, a curriculum writer, a biodynamic farmer—and much more. For 15 years Donna has helped parents wishing to work with Waldorf education in the home, as well as Waldorf teachers wishing to deepen their experience of the anthroposophical foundations of Waldorf education. The fruit of her work is her website, ChristopherusHomeschool.com, and she continues to be challenged and inspired by the families and teachers she encounters. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
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TIMEL ESS W ISDOM
A New Kind of
T H I N K I NG The way to the heart is through the head By Philip Incao, M.D.
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of God—of conscious, living spiritual beings and forces from which our material world on Earth had descended, condensed, and evolved. In these ancient worldviews, which persist today in indigenous cultures, the Sun, moon, planets and stars belong to the world of creative spiritual beings and forces. Even into the modern world, poets and artists have often felt the ideal world living in their souls when they are seized by creative imagination and inspiration. The poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller wrote the following lines at the end of the 18th century: “Truth seek we both, Thou outside in life, I in the heart within. Surely each will find it, For the eye, if healthy, Encounters God in outer life. And the heart, if healthy, Surely mirrors all Creation.” By using the qualifier “if healthy,” Schiller was perhaps diagnosing a soul illness in those contemporaries who were not convinced of God’s presence in the outer world of phenomena, nor in their inner thought-world of mind and heart. If so, the illness can be traced back to the sea change in thinking that had begun gradually two centuries earlier due to the influence of Copernicus, Galileo, and Isaac Newton, known today as the Scientific Revolution. This change in consciousness spelled the end, in all scientific thinking from that time onward, of Plato’s ideal world of divine living spirit-forms from which intelligence and life flowed into each individual in the huge variety of plants, animals, and humans on Earth.
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ithin and behind our everyday world is another world, inaccessible to our presentday perception but accessible, if we make the effort, to our thinking. For the Greek initiate Plato in 400 B.C., this other world was more real than our everyday world. It was a world of living, shining forms of which the physical objects of our natural environment, as beautiful and precious as they are, are merely the shadows. Plato saw two different worlds—one light-filled and enduring, the other shadowy and transitory. He felt the contrast starkly. Therefore his philosophy was dualistic, a view of two interpenetrating but distinct worlds. For most of us, since Plato’s time and continuing today, the everyday world of transitory objects and events is experienced as the real world. That other, invisible, world of Forms, or Archetypes, so important to Plato, has been called the ideal world. The ideal world can reach into the human soul through thinking—by means of ideals, images, concepts, and ideas. The dualistic worldview of the contrast between two worlds, between spirit and matter, between “I” and “world,” between soul and body, persisted for centuries in human consciousness. Putting it very simply, one could say it has been the task of theology and religion to study the ideal world, the task of science to study the real world, the task of philosophy to describe our human experience of reality as a link bridging these two worlds, and the task of the arts to bring the ideal within the real to greater expression and visibility. For 2,000 years after Plato in the West (and for longer in the East), it was universally acknowledged, and by some experienced, that the invisible ideal world was the home
“[The real nature of thinking is] warm, luminous, and penetrating deeply into the phenomena of the world… [it is] the power of love in its spiritual form.” —Rudolf Steiner,
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Now there would be just one world, a self-sufficient world of matter energized from its own innate mechanisms and needing no help from the ideal or the divine. God was still in heaven, but heaven, for human thinking, had become an abstract, distant realm. God had wound up the clock of the universe and now, as viewed by the new science, it was running very well by itself according to its inherent mechanical laws. The momentum and global spread of this new one-world scientific thinking was unstoppable, and has continued to the present day, not only in science but in all realms of thought, including religion. Early on, objections were raised by poets, artists, and others who had a strong feeling of active spiritual impulses in their lives, their work, and in the world. The poet and artist William Blake declared: “…and twofold always. May God us keep from single vision And Newton’s sleep.” The scientist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a friend of Schiller, also opposed the dominant thinking of his time. For Goethe, the active participation of the ideal world in all the phenomena of Nature was not a theory; it was a living, direct experience. Out of this direct experience he wrote scientific treatises on the metamorphosis of plants and on color as a spiritual-physical interplay between light and darkness. For Goethe, scientific discovery of the true workings of the natural world was only possible if the scientist was motivated by a love and reverence for Nature. The 19th century was not yet ready for a science based on a loving partnership with Nature, because too few were
able to see in Nature what Goethe’s thinking saw. Not even Schiller’s thinking was alive enough to enable him to follow Goethe in seeing the living ideas/ideals within the natural world. Goethe was not clairvoyant, but his powers of thinking and observation were far ahead of his time. Goethe was able to liberate his thinking capacities and achieve a degree of freedom from the materialism of his age. In the 20th century, Rudolf Steiner revived Goethe’s scientific approach and developed it further. This resulted in a remarkable creative output: biodynamic agriculture, anthroposophic medicine, Waldorf education, eurythmy, rhythmical massage, and new approaches to speech, drama, singing, painting, sculpture, design, architecture, botany, and economics. In these disciplines, the practitioner’s work is both scientific and artistic. Scientific because, through practice, one seeks to know, factually and objectively, the spiritual ideal elements (and the physical elements, too) within one’s discipline and their characteristic ways of working. Artistic because, through practice, one seeks to bring one’s own creative forces into play to enhance and develop the expression of the ideal elements living in the discipline. For Steiner too, the ideal world was a concrete experience. Like Goethe, he experienced it not as a world separate and remote, but abiding with us and in us and in inseparable union with our perceived reality, as expressed in the maxim, “Matter is never without Spirit.” For Goethe and Steiner there was just one world, a shared reality of matter and spirit. By contrast, one who observes science as it is practiced today can have the impression that the two worlds of Plato have returned, but in an inverted form. For Plato and the
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TIMEL ESS W ISDOM other ancient philosophers who acknowledged an ideal world, it was an active world from which proceeded the causes of all happenings in the real world: “As above, so below.” But today, our biomedical science assumes that the ultimate causes for health, illness, and all that goes on in the human body and mind are working at the sub-microscopic level of our molecules and genes. This assumption, called reductionism, leads modern biomedical scientists to dissect down to ever deeper levels of living organisms, always seeking ever smaller parts whose activities are thought to trickle upward to determine the health of the whole organism: “As below, so above.” The study of this netherworld of molecules (molecular biology, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, etc.) would of course be impossible with our unaided senses, so powerful and sophisticated instruments are necessary, like the electron microscope and many others. There is no doubt that the reductionist approach to medicine and its accompanying technology have made life-saving discoveries, like insulin, antibiotics, and other hormones and drugs. Steiner clearly applauded such discoveries. Yet he also said that the most perfect knowledge of the molecular and biochemical processes underlying an illness might still not help us in understanding how to heal it because, in order to heal, we must direct our observation and thinking not from below upward but from above downward. He said in his first lecture course to physicians that the most important forces working in cells are the same forces that work in the universe around us, fully accessible to our experience—i.e., to the observation of our unaided senses and to our healthy thinking. We usually use the noun experience to describe the result of active participation in life and the world, especially having lived through an event and learned from it. The learning is conditional on being awake and on one’s interest, courage, and goodwill in actively grasping the lesson offered by the experience, even though, due to our errors, the lesson may be painful. Most of us have found that what we learn through experience is far more valuable than the knowledge gained through studying and thinking. With experience, our knowledge is put to the test by life itself. Is our knowledge realistic and practical? Does it work? Thinking alone cannot answer these questions because our thinking today is abstract. Thinking is not immersed in reality. It seems to function in its own virtual sphere within our head, insulated from the workings of the great universe in which we live. Our thinking is usually just a pale reflection of the physical reality around us. But to regard this “virtuality” as expressing the true nature of thinking is like mistaking the shadow of a human being for the real human being. Thinking has not always been so abstract and shadowy as it is today. Nor will it be so in the future. We are living now through a low point in the evolution of the human faculty of thinking.
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To help us ascend from that low point was Steiner’s mission in writing The Philosophy of Freedom (first published in Berlin, in 1894) and in all his subsequent labors. In a letter to a friend, Steiner said of The Philosophy of Freedom, “I was not setting forth a doctrine, but simply recording inner experiences through which I had actually passed…personal experience in every single sentence.” Steiner then said that writing the book was an intense personal struggle that he compared to climbing a mountain for the first time and having to find the right path as you go. Thus the book itself is a record and an example of the kind of thinking into which our ordinary thinking must evolve if our global culture is to become healthy. Thinking must not remain only in the head, but must become alive and as immersed in real life as the practical experience of our hands. As thinking connects with its living source and becomes heart-centered, ideas can become life-forces. Scientific thinking today is “head-thinking” only. It lacks the warmth and spiritual power to motivate researchers to work for the highest good, so they are easily tempted to work instead for personal gain. In this way the mission of science is corrupted, and the health of the Earth and all its inhabitants suffers. Only a scientific thinking based on love and reverence for the natural world can lead researchers to the hidden truths within Nature. These must not be mere sentiments grafted onto an arid intellectual science that seeks to control Nature. Love and reverence for the world are pulsing in the heart of any scientist who learns to bring life into thinking. All our attempts to solve the world’s problems start from our thinking about them, so before anything else can be healed, our thinking must be healed. Many of us today carry love in our hearts but often the love is ineffectual because we lack love in our intellect. A loving intellect is nothing soft or sentimental—it is rigorous, truth-seeking, and practical. But rather than contracting into a narrow focus to study molecules, a loving intellect expands its field of vision to include the ideal world in its scientific worldview. Such an intellect works not from the head alone, but from the integrated and healthy whole human being. The thinking of the loving intellect is not content to reflect the world as “through a glass darkly,” but it courageously seeks to meet the world in living experience, face to face.
Philip Incao, M.D., has had a practice of anthroposophic medicine since 1973. He was featured in the July/August 2003 Mothering magazine article, “The Healing Crisis: Don’t Worry Mom—I’m Just Growing!" His essays on health and medicine are in The Vaccination Dilemma, published by Lantern Books, and on his website, philipincao.com. He lives in Crestone, Colorado, with his wife, artist Jennifer Thomson. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
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iodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition. Biodynamic agriculture has been practiced for nearly a century, on every continent on Earth. Biodynamic principles and practices are based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of Dr. Rudolf Steiner, and have been developed through the collaboration of many farmers and researchers since the early 1920s. Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of regenerative gardens, farms, ranches, orchards, and vineyards, in a wide variety of climates, ecological contexts, and economic settings. Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals, and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality, and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant, and animal health. Most biodynamic initiatives seek to embody triple-bottom-line approaches— ecological, social, and economic sustainability—taking inspiration from Steiner’s insights into social and economic life as well as agriculture. Community supported agriculture (CSA), for example, was pioneered by biodynamic farmers, and many biodynamic practitioners work in creative partnerships with other farms and with schools, medical and wellness facilities, restaurants, hotels, homes for social therapy, and other organizations. Biodynamics is therefore not just a holistic agricultural system, but also a potent movement for new thinking and practices in all aspects of life connected to food and agriculture.
The Biodynamic Association is a North American membership organization that awakens and enlivens co-creative relationships between humans and the earth, transforming the practice and culture of agriculture to renew the vitality of the earth, the integrity of our food, and the health and wholeness of our communities. Founded in 1938, the BDA is considered to be the oldest sustainable agriculture nonprofit organization in North America. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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N U T R I T ION
B eyo n d Organic any people who are unfamiliar with buying food directly from the farm ask us if we’re organic. My standard response is that we are not certified organic by the National Organic Program (NOP), but we consider ourselves to be “beyond organic.” That, of course, always elicits the question: What’s beyond organic? In order to fully answer that question, we need to understand what organic is and where it originated. The term organic as a description of clean, chemical-free food was perhaps first used in the 1940s by J.I. Rodale, a health food fanatic who founded the publication Organic Gardening and Farming, dedicating its pages to agricultural methods and health benefits of growing food without synthetic chemicals. Rodale and other visionaries like him expanded on the works of Sir Albert Howard (1873–1947), an English agronomist knighted after his 30 years of research in India, providing the philosophical foundations for organic agriculture. Howard’s little bombshell, An Agricultural Testament, was
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published at about the same time as the influx of petroleum fertilizers, but pointed in the opposite direction. Due to Rodale’s magazine, the organic food movement gained a following, but the movement was still in its infancy when, in 1990, several food scares in the conventional sector brought organic food into the spotlight as an alternative. This created a period of double-digit growth that not only spurred mainstream food companies to create their own organic brands, but also marked the beginning of federal recognition for organic agriculture, which ultimately resulted in the development of the USDA organic program and full government oversight—and regulation— of organic agriculture. However, since the USDA developed a set of standards in the 1990s, organic food production has steadily consolidated into the hands of industrial-scale corporate producers. This has caused the initial vision of pioneers like Howard and Rodale to dim, and most organic food production to be modeled after the status-quo conventional system, with the only difference being certified organic inputs and the removal of synthetics.
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By Sam Fisher
I’m not here to say industrial organic is wrong or that it should not exist. But here are some of the concerns that I have for it: An organic CAFO (confinement animal feeding operation) is still a CAFO, whether it is 40,000 chickens under one roof with only “said” access to the outside, or hundreds of beef animals in a dirt feedlot. Animals are creatures of habit, and in the chicken-production scenario there is no access to the outside until about the fifth week, by which time the chickens are well established in their routine and never go outside at all. The producers do not want them to go outside because of their extremely fragile constitutions—the result of high stress and a closeconfinement environment without the crutches of antibiotics and growth hormones allowed in the conventional model. In the beef scene, all the feed is brought to the steers and consists of organic grains and other harvested material, regardless of the fact that cattle are herbivores and were not designed to eat grain. Plus, the organic feed does not change the constant condition of either mud or dust inherent in the feedlot model. All things considered, the only difference is what they’re eating. There’s no difference in the production environment. There is no evaluation of whether the production model aligns with the way the animals would live in nature. The above concern brings us to this one, which is the source of
supermarket 12 months of the year not only places a strain on the regions able to grow in our off-season, but creates a considerable transportation cost and environmental impact to bring this jet-setting food to us. Because of this, I question whether we might improve our stewardship if consumers focused on creating a local in-season market demand from farms we can trust to do an excellent job, perhaps even outside of organic certification. That said, I still have a deep respect for a number of organic farmers who do phenomenal work on their farms and have a passion for the philosophies of organics. The organic dairy industry has created wonderful opportunities in our area for family farms, even though all their product is pasteurized, homogenized, or both. However, we have opted to forego organic certification at this time, and have no desire to pursue it. This is mostly driven by our local customer base who knows us and knows what we do, which is why I have such a deep appreciation for the local food movement versus the nationwide (and increasingly, worldscale) industrial organic model. We call ourselves “beyond organic” mostly because our food animal production models are drastically different from the industrial organic models. We raise chicken on pasture in floorless field shelters that give access to all nature has to offer, moving them daily to a new area to
“It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret.”
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—JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE the ingredients used in the organic CAFOs. For example, around 90 percent of organic soybeans are grown overseas, imported from Turkey. This requires them to be transported through international waters where there is very little oversight of the interaction between cargo ships. There is ample reason to believe that an unknown amount of imported soybeans coming into the states under an organic certificate are not being produced organically. Most organic imports are never tested, but there have been a few instances where tests were run for pesticide residues, and found positive. We pay a premium for organic meats, but that does not mean the ingredients were all tested and proven organic. The organic watchdog group Cornicopia Institute has done excellent work on spotlighting some of these transgressions within the industrial organic realm. As for organic produce, due to an increase in demand for a year-round supply, more and more organic fruits and vegetables are being imported from extended-growingseason regions like Mexico and Cuba, where their organic production standards differ from our USDA standard. While it may be sold under the USDA certificate and stamp, it is only imported as such. This practice has only intensified since Walmart and other large grocery chains carry a selection of organic foods. As an aside, Walmart is now the largest retailer of organic foods in the U.S. To demand a full selection of fresh organic fruits and vegetables from a local
allow them full benefit of the pasture. We view the statusquo confinement pork production model (organic or otherwise) as perhaps the most arrogant overstepping of nature’s template ever created by man, which is to confine an animal as intelligent and inquisitive as a pig to a concrete-and-steel building over a pit of its own excrement. The grain we buy for our poultry and hogs is not certified organic, but is produced without chemicals by a local Berks County farmer-owned mill. We believe all beef (and dairy) should be 100 percent grass-fed and grass-finished, but are doing it on land that has been chemical-free for more than 20 years and is not certified organic. We also believe these production models could be duplicated in many localities the world over, providing a product far superior to any certified organic product raised in a conventional production model. Plus, when this happens, it will allow a host of consumers access to locally grown and healthier food. As Big Organic becomes more industrialized and the contrast between it and conventionally produced food lessens, I believe “beyond organic” local food will be the future.
Sam Fisher is a farmer with his wife at Freedom Acres Farm in Honey Brook, Pennsylvania. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
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Traditionally WITH LITTLE TIME TO COOK By Joette Calabrese
Is This You? A friend of mine is raising four lovely, thriving children. The various sports and clubs they are active in keep the family so on-the-go that meals together are hard to schedule. Another mom I know works hard in the kitchen to prepare nourishing food but is run ragged with other responsibilities. Moreover, when it comes time for her family to sit down and eat, the kids balk at her creations. Perhaps you can recognize another friend who came to traditional foods later in life, when her children were older and less than receptive, making changes surrounding food a tedious chore. Everyone has a story. I don’t claim to have walked in anyone else’s shoes, but I do know that each family must find its own balance and flow in life, including the areas of food and wellness education. The evidence that supports the acts of preparing food and instilling its value into children is clear: The more they
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know and appreciate the hows and whys of food, the better equipped they’ll be to live fully with highly functioning brains, vital bodies, and steady emotions. What helps me make food a priority in my family is keeping life simple. This looks different from one family to the next, but the idea remains the same. But implementing this simplicity is the tricky part. Can something be changed to allow for more time in the kitchen? Schedules trimmed? Allowing only one sport or club per child each semester? How well can you get to know your slow cooker? Can a social volunteer position be given to someone else for a season? There are many possible choices, but a different answer for everyone. Sacred Gathering Author Molly Wizenberg reminisced about her family’s dinners growing up in A Homemade Life: “It was the steady rhythm of meeting in the kitchen every night, sitting down at the table, and sharing a meal. Dinner didn’t come through a swinging door, balanced on the arm of an anonymous waiter; it was something that we made together. We built our family that way—in the kitchen, seven nights a week. We built a life for ourselves, together around that table.” Wizenberg’s sentiments hit home for me, weaving delicious food into everyday life that unites my family. This means that all things “food” take up a big part of my day: buying, preparing, cleaning, planning (which might include a little creative flair), researching recipes and food experimentation, setting a welcoming and fun table, and thinking up ways to include my children in the whole process. Oh, and I can’t forget having the mental room left to remember to pull out the red “You Are Special” plate when one of my boys has done something extraordinary! This encompasses
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s time marches on, I enjoy the various phases, stages, and changes life brings. In this ebb and flow, there have been times when I haven’t been able to live out my ideal as food provider to my family. Let’s face it, nourishing a family with traditional food practices—procuring and preparing ingredients of superb quality—can be a nearly full-time job (not to mention costly). Throw kiddos who are not accustomed to real foods into the mix, and it can be quite the adventure! Where is the middle ground— the compromise of doing the best by your family and avoiding battles? How can families eat foods they enjoy, yet still supply their bodies with life-imparting nutrients? And don’t forget about tight schedules, which make things even stickier. There are still ways to make wise choices without giving in and rolling through the closest drive-thru just to survive the day.
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my food objectives—minus the wind-blown, easily flustered Mommy rushed from an overscheduled, busy day. These food-focused undertakings support what I believe to be a fundamental real-food truth: Food does more than nourish our physical bodies; it also feeds our souls. Connecting around a table ties our heartstrings to family and friends alike, and provides those increasingly precious opportunities to engage in good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations. Time magazine published a piece, “The Magic of the Family Meal,” wherein author Nancy Gibbs asserted, “there is something about a shared meal—not some holiday blowout, not once in a while, but regularly, reliably—that anchors a family even on nights when the food is fast and the talk cheap and everyone has someplace else they’d rather be. And on those evenings when the mood is right and the family lingers, caught up in an idea or an argument explored in a shared safe place where no one is stupid or shy or ashamed, you get a glimpse of the power of this habit….” The benefits achieved from consistent family meals come by way of teaching kids civility, bestowing wise judgment, and imparting core family values. Experts in adolescent development have found through studying this table-centered practice that the more often families share a meal, the more likely children are to choose to eat vegetables, maintain a healthy weight, and do better in school. In fact, a report from Columbia University states, “Compared to teens who have five to seven family dinners per week, those who have fewer than three family dinners per week are nearly twice as likely to report receiving mostly C’s or lower grades in school.” Children who experience shared family meals are also less
likely to eat trans fats, drink sodas, develop eating disorders, smoke, abuse alcohol and take drugs. Those youngsters gathering at the table with their parents at least five times a week are two times less likely to use tobacco or to drink alcohol and one-and-one-half times less likely to smoke marijuana. Anthropologist Robin Fox, who teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey, brings a historical perspective to family meals. He asserts that food is too easy to come by these days, giving a lesser sense of significance to a once sacred event. Fox says, “When we had to grow the corn and fight off predators, meals included a serving of gratitude. It’s like the American Indians. When they killed a deer, they said a prayer over it. That is civilization. It is an act of politeness over food. Fast food has killed this. We have reduced eating to sitting alone and shoveling it in. There is no ceremony in it.” The act of building ceremony around meals is as nourishing to our loved ones as the traditional foods we strive to serve; it is part of raising well-rounded, compassionate children that grow into adults who make wise choices for a fruitful and enjoyable life. Make Family Meals Work, Somehow, Somewhere Does the idea of dinner conjure up a vision of the 1950s mom, dressed to the nines, from her lipstick to stiletto heels? Get rid of ideals—just making it happen is what matters. For me, amid the chaos of my personal surroundings, cooking dinner somewhere between 3 to 5 p.m. is when it is easiest for me most days (even in my ratty pajama bottoms and bunny slippers sometimes!). While my time frame may change as family life takes on new dimensions, this is my usual routine.
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But for your family, in whatever age or stage it might be, dinner could look different. A picnic blanket spread out on a private grassy knoll before your child’s ball game might make do for the family table on occasion. Or your main meal together may not even be dinner. Families with a parent working night shift, for example, may choose breakfast to be their sacred family meal. Working around sporting events and after-school activities may mean some families eat dinner at 8 p.m. instead of the typical 5:30. Try one thing, try another, and keep trying until something works, and then stick with it. Opting for Second Best I admit I have a weakness for not settling for second best. I want the crème de la crème for my family, which usually means the most expensive ingredients and the most timeconsuming involvement. With every fiber of my being, I believe this investment is worth each nutrient-packed morsel and tick of time; however, as the busy-ness of life continues to grow along with the size of my family, there have been times when I have had to compromise. And that is OK! Suffering anxiety that every speck of food must be flawlessly prepared, organic/biodynamic, and soaked to perfection can be counterproductive to my overall goal of gentle, lifelong physical and mental wellness. In her engaging book, The Happiest Mom, author Meagan Francis says this: “I’m not recommending that you completely give up your standards, but by embracing a slower pace and setting realistic goals, you’ll cultivate more happiness for the whole family.” While raising her five children, Meagan discovered that we need to be gentle with ourselves, and permit ourselves sometimes to compromise gracefully for the sake of family bliss. This is a lesson I am (slowly) learning.
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First, stop comparing yourself to others. There are some families that appear to be real-food superheroes: baking sourdough bread, brewing kombucha, fermenting sauerkraut, culturing kefir, raising a backyard cow…you know who I mean. This may even be you, but if it’s not (which is most of us), let go of the belief that you must reach these same goals; give yourself some wiggle room to grow and change. Your time will come when these projects or aspirations will find their way into your days. Next, take heart that “second best” is not necessarily “second-rate” (of course, this could mean something different to those healing certain health conditions). Using some canned foods (e.g., salmon, sardines and beans), brown rice pasta, jarred salsa, store-bought tostadas, bagged corn chips, serving a smoothie as a side dish, or eating the same meal three nights in a row may help you find a sense of calm and do-ability in the bustle of creating family meals. Refer to the Weston A. Price Foundation shopping guide for direction on the best and secondbest choices (it is available for purchase or comes free with Foundation membership). Finally, rework any priorities that are getting in the way of regularly serving a soul-nurturing family meal at least five times a week. Purposefully schedule enough downtime to embrace everything under the umbrella of feeding your family well and make meal prep, cleanup, and inventive creations a team effort, while steadily elbowing out distractions (such as TV and phones). And when the going gets frazzled, frenzied, and fast, allow yourself to make “secondbest” adjustments where needed to ensure that shared family meals happen. Remember, you’re doing much more than giving your family vitamins and brain-building fats when you dedicate attention to food—you are gluing your family together with lifelong bonds, while slowly and surely launching your precious babies into the world with a strong sense of security, confidence, and belonging, and a solid foundation of Grandma-approved manners.
Joette Calabrese, H.M.C., C.C.H, RSHomm, is an international homeopathic consultant, author, educator, and sought-after speaker. She is an honorary board member of the Weston A. Price Foundation, and has authored a column in its international quarterly journal for nine years running. Joette treats readers to her homeopathy secrets on her blog. Visit her website, joette calabrese.com, for more. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamily wellness.org/references.html.
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HOL I S T IC H E A LT H C A R E
Scientism The Impact of Neglecting Medical Philosophy
o r quite some time, freedom of thought has been under siege within the medical profession. More often than not, the war against new ideas is justified in the name of science. When a discipline like science becomes so certain of itself that it believes it can manage without periodic reexamination of its basic principles, it starts to resemble a doctrine. The more doctrinaire it is, the less receptive to outside input it becomes, and the more it balks at challenges to its authority. In the final analysis, medical science justifies its assertions simply by virtue of the claim that it is science. As a consequence, medicine has become intolerant of freethinking and is quickly falling behind the curve of new paradigm medical theory and practice. We romanticize science as man’s search for truth when, in actuality, it often serves as defender of the status quo. Rather than a tool for exploration, science has become a means to stifle inquiry and free speech. Science easily becomes an ideology when a civilization neglects its philosophical heritage, spiritual development, and moral responsibilities. The only answer to scientific overreach is a return to freethinking. Just like freedom of religion, we need freedom of medical choice, and the freedom to debate basic scientific and medical principles. To do otherwise runs contrary to the spirit of science itself. The modern myth of scientific progress posits that science inevitably evolves toward greater precision, certainty,
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and understanding. We take it for granted that contemporary science provides a more accurate representation of reality than does the science of bygone eras. But this is a highly debatable point that philosophers of science have wrangled over for decades. It is true only in the sense that it applies in a specific and limited way to the material dimension of existence. Science focuses its attention on matter but says nothing about the immaterial—that aspect of our lives that involves purpose, meaning, spirit, and soul. It treats emotion, intuition, imagination, and even psychology as ancillary topics. As far as neuroscience is concerned, consciousness exists only as a byproduct of brain anatomy and function. Modern science has become increasingly imperialistic, overstepping its bounds and staking claim to basic truths that historically have been the exclusive province of religion, theology, and metaphysics. The message is clear: The only reality is the hard, cold reality of material existence. All else is unscientific, insignificant, and of little relevance to human health. Modern life is defined largely by the tangible, quantifiable reality that science has mapped out for our convenience, drained of all its symbolic, synchronistic, and spiritual meaning. Our form of medicine is also a reflection of that same influence. Human illness has become a strictly physical event. There is no purpose to suffering; it is merely an inconvenience, a glitch in the biological program that
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By Larry Malerba, D.O.
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Western culture has become dangerously alienated from its own spiritual roots. Into this vacuum steps science, functioning as a substitute for religion for many, providing
needs to be overridden. By severing consciousness from disease, science believes that it has purged the program of superstition. When we open our eyes to compare our personal healthrelated experiences with what medicine teaches us, we begin to realize that something is amiss. Physical medicine is incapable of adequately addressing the deeper causes of illness and the needs of the psyche. We collectively buy into the legitimacy of the external authority of science and medicine, no longer believing our own personal experiences. Medical science is quick to point out that subjective experience cannot be trusted. The rational theories of medicine take precedence over the experiential truths of patients. I believe that this conflict between scientific knowledge and personal experience is the crisis of our time. The purported unreliability of subjective experience is one of the primary tenets of the scientific method. Science has been waging war against subjective experience for a very long time, and it has taken its toll on Western culture. In the same way that organized religion makes us hesitant to trust personal spiritual truths, medical science has undermined our confidence to make healthcare choices that are in our own best interests. Personal experience should not need validation from science to justify itself, although it is certainly nice when the two agree. Medical science, on the other hand, does
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need to be verified by personal experience. If a medical theory or therapy does not bear itself out in the practical experiences of patients, then one must wonder about its reliability. Restoring trust in experiential knowledge will be the first step in rectifying this imbalance. Modern science has no ground to stand on when it comes to the larger truths of human existence. It fails to realize that its discoveries have distinct limits—they apply only to the material universe. Because science has deliberately divorced itself from right-brain input, it is incapable of achieving a truly holistic understanding of the universe and of medicine and healing. Western culture has become dangerously alienated from its own spiritual roots. Into this vacuum steps science, functioning as a substitute for religion for many, providing a sense of hope and meaning in an otherwise impersonal and materially impermanent universe. When science fulfills this need, however, it is in danger of becoming just another competing dogma. When science becomes an ideology, it is no longer science; it is scientism. Whereas religious fanaticism once led to the persecution of heretics who dared to question, it is now conceivable that we are not far off from scientistic persecution of those who challenge the dogmas of science. There is no greater evidence of this than in the medical arena, where ideas proposed by holistic practitioners are routinely rejected
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a sense of hope and meaning in an otherwise impersonal and materially impermanent universe.
without fair deliberation, regardless of their merit. They are branded pseudoscience the minute they deviate from conventional theory. In short, they constitute a heretical threat to medical dogma. Conventional science’s lack of awareness of its own metaphysical presuppositions is the very thing that predisposes it to scientistic influence. The solution is to educate ourselves regarding the differences between science as it was originally conceived, science as it is construed by mainstream medicine today, the particularly disturbing modern trend called scientism, and a more authentic and inclusive form of future medical science that will no longer ignore the lessons learned and knowledge gained from subjective experience. Most philosophy of medicine is limited to unadventurous discussions of bioethical dilemmas posed by orthodox medical practice. Basic metaphysical assumptions are never questioned. True philosophy of medicine that examines medicine’s philosophical roots has no real voice. It is important for patient and practitioner alike to become cognizant of the beliefs that underpin Western medical principles. Without this, it will be difficult to institute any kind of meaningful change. Medicine allows its unconscious philosophy to guide its practices. Putting the cart before the horse, medicine looks for evidence to confirm its predetermined beliefs regarding the nature of illness and cure. It puts theory before practice. When patient outcomes do not corroborate its theories, it persists, forcing the issue in the hope of making reality conform to theory. A simple example of this is the failure of antibiotics to keep up with increasing microbial resistance. Reluctant to revisit the basic principles of germ theory, medicine continues to assume that the only viable approach to infectious disease is to kill bacteria and viruses. This leaves no other option but to continue doing more of the same. Dysfunctional medical practices and poor patient outcomes begin with false beliefs regarding the nature of health and illness. This makes it nearly impossible for conventional medicine to develop a coherent theory of disease development and treatment. Without a conscious philosophical framework to guide it, medicine has deteriorated into a haphazard collection of treatments and procedures that are subject to change at a moment’s notice. The latest study contradicts a previous study, which invalidates the original study. This is not, as we are led to believe, the trial-and-error of science at work. It is medical science navigating without awareness or understanding of its own guiding principles. I am concerned about modern science’s pervasive disregard for experiential authority, its increasing disrespect for the sacred, and its general encroachment into territory where it does not belong. The same applies to medicine as a whole—it makes light of patient input by calling it anecdotal, focuses almost exclusively on the physical, and
downplays the role of consciousness in health and healing. It is the trend in popular culture to refer to those who critique science or medicine as “science deniers.” Many fall for this trap, arguing that science should not be open to criticism. A healthy scientific culture should welcome criticism and review. A common debate within philosophy of science is whether science can reveal the true nature of reality or whether it is a tool used to achieve practical ends. I am more concerned with whether medical science can serve its original mission of healing the sick. However, it is important to understand what reality means from a holistic perspective. Holistic reality encompasses all phenomena, including consciousness and subjective experience, not just the objective, material aspect of human health that medicine deems reality. Healing is a holistic phenomenon that involves much more than just targeted symptomatic relief, temporary palliation, or forcible suppression. It implies that the overall health of a person is moving in a positive direction over the course of time. Contemporary medical theory is increasingly out of step with the leading currents of our time. What is needed is a renaissance in the field of medical philosophy. In concurring with medicine’s materialistic approach to healing, academic medical philosophy abdicates its responsibility, thereby losing an opportunity to make significant contributions to the advancement of medical science. We need a practical medical philosophy that addresses the real needs of patients and practitioners. It is time to bridge the gap, so that philosophy becomes indispensable once again to the art and science of healing. Adapted from Metaphysics & Medicine: Restoring Freedom of Thought to the Art and Science of Healing.
Larry Malerba, D.O., D.Ht., is a classical homeopath, osteopathic physician, and educator whose mission is to build bridges between holistic healing, conventional medicine, and spirituality. He is the author of Metaphysics & Medicine and Green Medicine. His new book, Dynamic Medicine: The World According to Homeopathy, is an insider’s account of the second most popular form of medicine used worldwide. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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HOLISTIC Do You Believe? MEDICINE By Kelly Brogan, M.D.
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’ve always been confident. truly want to be guided back to themselves. Because some Somehow, I feel like I may have been born people need to be sick and want to be sick, even when this this way. It didn’t come from my upbringing, isn’t conscious. Others harbor so much fear that I could from years of therapy, or from new-age soul never wrest their attention from the conventional model’s work. I am comfortable with being wrong, and rhetoric. Still others suspect there is something to holistic with not knowing, but I have always felt in medicine but aren’t ready to take the plunge, and so they touch with an inner reservoir of competence fight it, even as they engage it. to get me through any challenge. These days I do a preliminary assessment to establish I brought this confidence to my clinical work as a holishow willing a given patient is to shed their fear. And how tic practitioner, and I’ve felt powerfully optimistic about much faith they bring to the healing process, to the unmy ability to help patients—as the first stop, the last stop, predictability and complexity of their journey, and to their or somewhere on the path. Wielding an enormous tool kit, intuition. As Dr. Gonzalez said, faith, as an active belief I wanted to believe that I could help whomever was sitting in the body’s self-healing potential, is the most important across from me in my office. ingredient for healing. At one point, this attitude earned me a one-year waiting list for a consultation. Now, becoming a patient in my Sickness as Part of Health practice is something between a Harvard application and Symptoms and illness don’t have to be scary. an Okcupid.com profile assessment. What’s changed? Dr. Gonzalez and holistic pediatrician Larry Palevsky, In my work with Nicholas Gonzalez, M.D., I learned M.D., speak about the vital importance of childhood illabout the alchemy of the healing dyad. He said, “Patients nesses to the priming of the adult immune system— have to do the treatment they believe in. Fear is an infecan immune system that can now be disabled by a tick bite tious disease. You can catch fear, but you can’t catch faith.” or a bout of mono. If we look to illness as a precursor to As someone who spent progress, as suffering for my entire adult life as a selfgrowth, it becomes less of identified faithless individual, something we want to beat he helped me to understand into submission. that I did have faith back in I own my faith now. I be—Mahatma Gandhi my atheist days. It was in lieve that life is an unfolding. the religion of medicine. I I believe that if I live connected believed that science could to a feeling of lightness and if bring truths. Clear, present, incontrovertible truths. I seek joy and focus on the wonder, I will be protected. And if I believed that doctors delivered these truths. And I believed I become ill or if tragedy befalls me, I will accept it and look in the power of the intellect to commandeer the recklessness for the lesson in it, letting curiosity and non-judgment lead of nature. my understanding. I embrace the “maybe” principle. Then, six years ago, my belief shifted. Alan Watts explains it: “The whole process of nature It became more of a visceral sense of knowing as I is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it is watched my own body heal through nutrition, supplemenreally impossible to tell whether anything that happens in tation, exercise, meditation, and more purposeful living. it is good or bad. Because you never know what will be the I began to clear the cobwebs from my mind and peel them consequences of misfortune, or you never know what will from my eyes. I woke up to the truth about information and be the consequences of good fortune.” how it is trafficked and manipulated in our society. Under Dr. Gonzalez’s mentorship, I came into betMind Control ter touch with my own intuition because I was learning You may have rolled your eyes at The Secret, or corny phrases through a trusting relationship and a heart connection. In like “the Law of Attraction,” and yet also, somewhere inside this space, I could let go of my frenzied brain and all of the you, acknowledged that there must be some truth to them. thousands of catalogued studies in my mental Rolodex. The truth may be as simple as this: “To change what we see, I let it all go and I listened harder for the truth: My truth. it is sometimes necessary to change what we believe,” as And he helped me do that. He modeled it for me, and I anthropologist Jeremy Narby wrote in The Cosmic Serpent. witnessed its effects on his patients. I make this point to my patients with a simple example: He taught me that I am not meant to help everyone and If you are walking down a dark alleyway, alone, and hear anyone. He taught me that fear can destroy the most effecrapid footsteps behind you, what’s going to happen? An tive protocol, and that faith can heal with no protocol at all. entire fight-or-flight cascade unleashes, complete with You have to engage the medicine that is right for you. And racing heart, sweating, shortness of breath, and paralyzing you have to be aligned with it. I get that now. fear. You see, feel, and think danger. But if you then hear I want to help the patients who want to be helped. Who your friend’s voice from those footsteps, what happens?
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“Our beliefs are our destiny.”
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A contemporary example of this was carried out at Harvard Medical School, where 12 patients with fractures were split into two treatment groups, each with X-ray studies over 12 weeks. One group was guided in healing hypnosis and the other wasn’t. The hypnotized group healed 2.5 weeks faster than the non-hypnotized group. Then there are the spinal surgery patients at UC Davis who had 45 percent less blood loss when they practiced a brief pre-surgical visualization technique. Mindset matters. Placebo: Friend or Foe? Once we shift our beliefs and our energetic focus, our reality begins to reflect these beliefs. In medicine, the study of this phenomenon is called the placebo effect. Dismissed as a nuisance confounder in primary clinical research, it is a poorly understood but very powerful factor—so powerful, in fact, that sometimes the only information that comes out of a sophisticated and expensive trial is clear support for the power of belief in symptom resolution. In acknowledgment of this phenomenon, the New
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All of this dissipates, and you might even laugh. What has changed? Your perception. You told your body that it is safe. And your body reflected that. I recently read Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under, the story (a fictionalized version of actual events) of an American doctor who spends three months in the bush with Australian aboriginals. In one particularly powerful scene, a tribesman suffers a compound fracture of his leg. After a ritual that involves chanting and the application of a clotted blood salve, the man walks on his leg the next day, and the wound heals completely within five. What if we believed in the body’s spontaneous healing potential? We know the body can heal itself, but what if we have been interfering with it for so many decades—with Tylenol, antibiotics, steroids, and the like—that we have shifted expectations for just how rapidly and completely it can do so? What if we were raised in a culture that believed more in the vital power of the body to heal, even spontaneously, rather than in one that believes we need man-made chemicals to outsmart it?
England Journal of Medicine reported, “Placebo effects rely on complex neurobiologic mechanisms involving neurotransmitters (e.g., endorphins, cannabinoids, and dopamine) and activation of specific, quantifiable, and relevant areas of the brain (e.g., prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, and amygdala in placebo analgesia).” There’s even data looking at outcomes of belief. A Harvard study took 84 hotel attendants with cleaning responsibilities and told half of them that their daily work satisfied the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle as exercise. They told the other half nothing. The study concluded, “As a result, compared with the control group, they showed a decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect.” The brilliant Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., who has worked to awaken us to the reality of our beliefs as the most important factor in our health and wellness, and to decentralize the deterministic gene-based model, states “The placebo effect should be the subject of major, funded research efforts. If medical researchers could figure out how to leverage the placebo effect, they would hand doctors an efficient, energy-based, side-effect-free tool to treat disease.” This principle is never more relevant than in psychiatry. With no objective tests for diagnosis or progress, psychiatry is the arena of opinion, belief, and subjectivity. Prospective patients are literally conditioned by direct-toconsumer advertising to believe their broken brains need chemical adjustments. Such advertising is legal only in the United States and New Zealand. These consumers form beliefs about what medications can do for them.
“In fact, I am certain, there has never been a doctor anywhere, at any time, in any country, at any period in history who has ever healed anything. Each person’s healer is within.” —MARLO MORGAN, MUTANT MESSAGE DOWN UNDER
Placebo and Nocebo In the literature, it is referred to as expectancy. Probably the most powerful demonstration of this was a study entitled “The Role of Patient Expectancy in Placebo and Nocebo Effects in Antidepressant Trials.” In two fluoxetine (generic Prozac) discontinuation studies, 673 diagnosed depressed outpatients were treated to in an open-label (they knew they were receiving fluoxetine) trial over 12 weeks. At the 12-week point, all patients were informed that they would be randomized to placebo or continued fluoxetine. Impressively, participants who continued on fluoxetine and those who took a placebo both developed worsening
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“The placebo effect should be the subject of major, funded research efforts. If medical researchers could figure out how to leverage the placebo effect, they depressive symptoms. This suggests two significant interpretations: The initial effect was attributable to placebo since all patients knew they were receiving treatment (open label). The loss of benefit with the introduction of the possibility of being randomized to placebo is the undoing of the placebo effect, or the nocebo effect. This trial was the foundation for my clinical tenet of non-progression with medication tapers if the patient is fearful. To engage a medication taper in my practice, there are several elements to best outcomes, but the most important one is mindset. I want patients to feel empowered by the changes that they experience through lifestyle modification, and then to approach the taper with enthusiasm about this next chapter in their journey. There is also a rich body of literature implicating the role of belief in psychiatric symptom relief that comes from the work of Irving Kirsch, Ph.D. In 1998, Dr. Kirsch, an expert on the placebo effect, published a meta-analysis of 3,000 patients who were treated with antidepressants, psychotherapy, placebo, or no treatment, and found that 25 percent of the therapeutic response was attributable to the drug’s action. This was followed up by a 2008 review, which invoked the Freedom of Information Act to obtain access to unpublished studies, finding that, when these were included, antidepressants outperformed placebo in only 20 of 46 trials (fewer than half!), and that the overall difference between drugs and placebos was 1.7 points on the 52-point Hamilton scale, a rating scale for depression. This small increment is clinically insignificant, and likely accounted for by medication side effects strategically employed (sedation or activation). When active placebos were used (placebos with similar side effects to the active medication), the Cochrane database (a database of evidence to inform healthcare decision-making) found that differences between drugs and placebos disappeared, giving credence to the assertion that inert placebos inflate perceived drug effects. The finding of tremendous placebo effect was also echoed in two different meta-analyses by Khan et. al., who found a 10 percent difference between placebo and antidepressant efficacy. What does this mean? It means that what we believe can be so powerful that it directly shapes our experience. We have to reclaim our agency in order to reclaim our beliefs. We have to take back an inner sense of knowing, and to feel confident that our own intuition can guide us.
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would hand doctors an efficient, energy-based, side-effect-free tool to treat disease.” —BRUCE LIPTON
We need to go from believing these things: ▪ We are broken. ▪ Fear is an appropriate response to symptoms. ▪ We need chemicals to feel better. ▪ Science knows the definitive answer. ▪ The body is a collection of gears and levers. To believing these things: ▪ Prevention and disease remission are possible. ▪ Your health is under your control. Working with lifestyle medicine is an effective way to send the body a signal of safety and to engage vitalism— your body’s natural desire for balance. Your journey is your journey for a reason. You have the choice to fear, or you can stop living life like it is a minefield of infections, cancer, and random onset of predestined diseases that require urgent pharmaceutical attention. Choose to identify the beliefs that are keeping you sick. Change them. Heal.
Kelly Brogan, M.D., is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist, author of the international and New York Times bestseller A Mind of Your Own, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from MIT in systems neuroscience. She is board-certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, and is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. She is on the board of GreenMedInfo, Functional Medicine University, Pathways to Family Wellness, NYS Perinatal Association, Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, Mindd Foundation, the peer-reviewed, indexed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, and the Nicholas Gonzalez Foundation. She is medical director for Fearless Parent and a founding member of Health Freedom Action. She is a mother of two. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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PA R A D I G M S H I F T
Are you not selfish enough?
By Dan Sanchez
ave you ever read How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne? I finished it the other day; published in 1973, it is mind-blowing even now. I’ve since restructured how I approach even the most elemental constituents of my life—my moment-to-moment actions and thoughts. This mind-shift has had immediate, spectacular results. In the past few days, I’ve been dramatically happier, more clear-thinking, and more deliberate. I’ve had more energy, yet also more serenity. Like Browne, I found freedom by learning to live free. Harry Browne’s idea of freedom is more mental than physical, more spiritual than political. He doesn’t boil it down in quite this way, but this is my definition for the kind of freedom he discusses: Living Free: Abstaining from preoccupation with the preferences of others and instead maintaining a clear focus on your own preferences.
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Before you dismiss this as antisocial selfishness, note that this does not mean being oblivious to the preferences of others. The optimal route to one’s own goals often runs through the goals of others. The best way to accomplish what you want is often by eliciting the help of others (whether in the form of goods or service), and the best way to elicit that help is often to appeal to their own preferences by offering something they want in return. Such exchanges can involve both the formal trades of business and the loose reciprocities of friendship. Enlightened selfishness is sensibly sociable. (A whole other essay could be dedicated to this.) Freedom doesn’t mean ignoring the preferences of others; it means not compulsively imposing someone else’s preferences on yourself. Freedom from Social Anxiety When first adopting this rule for myself, I was amazed to realize how much of my attention was previously used up by worrying about external opinions. Such worries had a constant effect on almost all my thoughts and actions, even down to such basic behaviors as the expression on my face. Even now, I still sometimes catch myself giving a meek smile as I walk by other people, as if to express, “I’m harmless and nice. Please like me!” I used to constantly fret over whether the way I was moving, communicating, or otherwise acting came off as hostile, weird, dumb, or unbecoming. Instead of sensibly selfish, I was compulsively unselfish, or “otherish.” My “otherism” was making me neurotic, holding me back, and dimming my shine. As part of my new philosophy, I’ve made it a point to no longer give a damn about such things. Instead, when I walk, I focus on the next thing I want to accomplish. When I talk, I focus on what I would like to know or convey, or on enjoying myself through conversation.
Relapses into my old social anxieties have become less frequent. Now I walk, talk, and act with the air of a man intent on his own purposes—because I am one. An interesting side effect is that people now seem to treat me with greater respect and friendliness. The funny thing about not caring what others think about you is that it seems to result in others thinking more highly of you. The reverse is also true. Social anxiety has the perverse consequence of generating the very awkwardness it fears. MYOB to the Max Again, living free is not being preoccupied with the preferences of others. This means not imposing the preferences of others on yourself. It also means not trying to impose your own preferences on others. It is “selfishness” in the sense of minding your own business (MYOB). We often give lip service to the MYOB principle, but very few adhere to it. At most, we apply MYOB to strangers out in public, with the huge exception of politics; we’re more than willing to bomb or cage strangers for their own good or for not measuring up to our standards, as long as it’s through the intermediary of public policy. But when it comes to people in our lives—family, colleagues, friends, etc.—MYOB goes right out the window. Because of their closeness and their impact on our lives, we consider their business to be our business. The closer they are to us, the more we feel the need to change them, to fix them, to re-educate them—even if it takes a steady barrage of reprimanding, bullying, nagging, whining, guilt-tripping, and petty criticisms and insults. Even if it doesn’t involve violence, all of this amounts to trying to supplant someone else’s preferences with your own. It is another form of otherism: preoccupation with the preferences of others at the expense of focusing on your own and attentively minding your own business. Such “aggressive” otherism can tie you down just as much as “defensive” otherism. When you let yourself become preoccupied with the preferences of other people, you make your own happiness contingent on their decisions. And since you can’t really control those people, you thereby give up control over your own happiness. Ironically, by trying to spiritually subdue the people in your life, you actually subject yourself to an unhealthy dependence on them. You limit your own freedom when you try to limit theirs. You free yourself when you free the other people in your life: when you abdicate the responsibility of improving or correcting them, whether for your sake or theirs. Detox Your Mind For me, this side of enlightened selfishness has been just as liberating as the other. It made me realize how cluttered my mind used to be: cluttered, not only with an irrational fear of external judgment, but with my own compulsive habit of constantly judging others.
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Unleashed Potential Embracing enlightened selfishness and quitting compulsive otherism has swept away the entangling, encumbering cobwebs from my mind. Clearing the static of distracting preoccupations with the preferences of others has freed my precious time and attention to focus on improving my own life according to my own lights. This has involved redoubling my efforts toward the cooperative ventures that most powerfully create joy and profit: my family, my jobs, my friendships, etc. Now the world is my oyster. I no longer see the world as a minefield of obligations to appease or re-educate others, but as an open vista of opportunities to accomplish the things I want, often with the free and willing cooperation of clients, customers, vendors, colleagues, friends, and loved ones. As a result, my initiative, productivity, mental clarity, goodwill, and joyfulness have all ascended to a new level. The Source of Otherism This approach to life isn’t some philosophical artifice manufactured by Harry Browne. Sensible, sociable selfishness is the natural mindset of human beings. The only reason it is so rare is that almost all of us have had otherism spiritually beaten into us by psychological child abuse. Throughout our formative years, domination parenting and regimentation schooling subjected us to a constant barrage of authority-dispensed carrots and sticks, praise and admonishment, training us to ever judge our own conduct according to imposed, external standards. This made us addicted to the dopamine rush of being patted on the head and paranoid about the judgment of authority figures and classmates. We carry this neurosis throughout our lives. Even as grown-ups, we are still approval junkies, constantly jonesing for our next fix of external validation. The flip side of this lesson is the conviction that others should continually judge their conduct by our standards, and that it is our responsibility to enforce those standards through force or peer pressure. The upshot of this universal curriculum is a world full of guilt-ridden, meddlesome, virtue-signaling neurotics ever at war with each other and within themselves. Most of our problems, both personal and political, can be traced to this backward, abusive upbringing.
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It would be an interesting experiment to count the number of times somebody aggravated you in a single day. If you were brutally honest with yourself when making the tally, I bet you’d be surprised. Your imperfect spouse, your noisy kids, your nosy parents, that annoying colleague, that unsmiling cashier, that inconsiderate driver, that swaggering passerby—even people who likely will never feel the heat of your judgment, like that obnoxious celebrity or that monstrous politician. It all adds up. That is a lot of toxic negativity throughout your every day. Aggressive otherism distracts you from your own affairs and corrodes your sense of well-being. And for what? It almost never does any good. You almost never manage to sustainably change the object of your scorn. Therefore, aggressive otherism is a recipe for a chronic sense of frustration and impotence. Indeed, that is precisely what makes it so stressful; it is distressing to be preoccupied with things you cannot change, like your coworker’s personality or the outcome of a national election. I’ve found that enlightened selfishness just washes all that psychic acid away. Whatever foibles and vices I perceive in other individuals are their own business, not mine. There is nothing I can do to rectify the failings of politicians and other distant strangers. And if I try to fix the supposed failings of those close to me, I will most likely just end up aggravating them and myself and damaging our relationship. Once I accepted these truths, it became easy to kick the habit of reflexively judging people. I no longer felt the responsibility to judge and correct society or any part of it outside of my own skull. I have dropped that burden, and what a weight off my shoulders it was. What freedom! It’s the freedom to focus on the things I can profoundly and decisively improve: namely, my own affairs. Now, when I catch myself mentally throwing shade at someone else, I shake it off and tell the other person in my mind, “You do you,” and return my attention to my own endeavors. All of my relationships, from my marriage to my career, have benefited from this mindset shift. Trying to re-educate the other person is the source of nearly all conflict in relationships. Without such a quixotic crusade, my relationships have become serenely simple; it’s all about enjoying the other person’s company and/or profiting from their freely given cooperation. If there is no such enjoyment or profit in the relationship, then there is always the option of exit; I am free to part ways and seek more suitable life/business partners, which is a much more effective recourse than trying to wring enjoyment or profit out of another person by forcing them to become more suitable to my preferences. Thankfully, all of my current relationships are good ones, so that hasn’t been necessary.
I still sometimes catch myself giving a meek smile as I walk by other people, as if to express, “I’m harmless and nice. Please like me!” I used to constantly fret over whether the way I was acting came off as hostile, weird, or unbecoming.
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But don’t waste your energy blaming older generations for our plight. Pavlovian conditioning and obedience training were the only kinds of “education” our parents and teachers knew, having been subjected to it themselves in their own childhoods. Thankfully, Harry Browne was able to break this cycle of psychic violence by rehabilitating, deinstitutionalizing, and emancipating himself. He rediscovered the freedom and selfsovereignty that dwelt within him all along, and broadcast the message that it dwells in us too. “You’re free—if only you’ll realize it,” as he put it. Wisdom, Serenity, and Courage To live free is to provide yourself with your own answer to the Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.
Living free is having that wisdom. It is granting yourself the serenity that comes with the acceptance of the basic fact that you cannot ultimately control what others do or how they think of you. It is making room in your soul for the courage to unreservedly tackle the one thing you can fundamentally change for the better: your own life. Your freedom is a saving gift you give yourself. Keep reminding yourself until it sticks: You’re free if you want to be. Dan Sanchez is a libertarian writer and educator. He is the digital content manager at the Foundation for Economic Education, a contributing editor at Antiwar.com, where he writes a regular column, and an independent journalist at Anti-Media. His work has frequently appeared at such websites as Zero Hedge, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, and David Stockman’s Contra Corner. His writings are collected at DanSanchez.me. View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/references.html.
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T H E M A R K E T P L AC E
E D U C A T I O N
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Don’t Just Manage Life.
and live It well.
Most people are aware of the cost of everyday distractions. But to be completely free to focus on what truly enriches our lives, we must learn to recognize the larger, all-encompassing distractions that divert our attention from life’s greatest goal: to live and love fully. In Hands Free Life by New York Times bestselling author Rachel Macy Stafford, you ou will be equipped to create habits that allow you to invest in the most significant parts of your life so when you look back, you’ll be confident that you didn’t just manage life. You actually lived life—and lived it well.
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Simply by noticing the quality and presence of our noticing, we are granted the energy needed to adjust and align our minds and bodies.
Published on Sep 6, 2017
Pathways Magazine provides vital resources for family wellness. Our articles give parents the necessary information to actively participate...