Health & Healing, Medicine, Ecology
Genetically Modifying Our Food
by David Suzuki
Recently, I gave a speech at a Toronto health food conference where I spoke out against the widespread use of genetically modified (GM) food crops. The public and media reaction was immediate and strong. Since then, I have been quoted, misquoted and questioned as though concern about GM foods is something new. It isn't.
Around the world, in public and scientific circles, there is a major debate going on right now about GM food. In Canada, these foods have quietly slipped into our diets without public discussion. But now Canadians too are starting to ask questions. And no wonder. With nearly half of canola and soybean crops and 40 per cent of corn in North America already genetically altered, eating these foods is becoming a daily occurrence. Worldwide, it's a multi-hundred billion dollar business, and growing fast.
The industry argues that genetically modifying foods is not that much different than crossbreeding plants or animals to create new varieties - something humans have been doing for centuries. It's perfectly natural and safe, they say, because they are only making small, specific changes to an organism's genetic make-up. These changes may make them toxic to pests, for example, or resistant to herbicides. According to the industry, this will reduce the need for pesticides, improve crop production and generally allow farmers to grow more food less expensively and with less environmental impact than with traditional crops.
It sounds simple enough, so why all the controversy? Well, part of the problem is that genetic engineering takes a very complicated system and reduces it to the sum of its parts. The science of genetics is based on the concept of vertical inheritance, where genes are passed on to offspring through some form of reproduction between members of the same species. For millions of years, specific traits have been passed on this way, first by natural selection, then more recently by humans crossbreeding different varieties. In either case, traits are inherited vertically, within the original context of the species.
Genetic engineering bypasses this route altogether. Instead, it transfers genes horizontally from one species to a completely different species. This is a revolutionary technology. A pig cannot normally exchange genes with a plant, or a human with a fish, but now biotechnology makes it possible. Now a gene can be placed into a genome (the entire genetic material of an organism) in which it has never existed. Without the evolutionary context, we can no longer predict how the transferred gene will behave. Biotechnologists assume that since all genes are DNA, then a gene is a gene and it doesn't matter where it comes from or where it goes as long as it brings with it the desired trait. But they overlook the fact that genomes are selected as functioning, integrated units. Introducing foreign genes disrupts those genomes.
What's more, it's one thing to do experiments under controlled lab conditions, but these crops are growing in the real world, interacting with other organisms. What effects will this have on ecosystems and on us? No scientist can say, but the answer to this question is critical for us to decide if genetically modifying foods is a worthwhile endeavour. Unlike drugs that are found to be unsafe and can be pulled from the market, genetically modified food crops are living creatures and cannot be recalled. They become part of the environment.
Context is crucial. Yet genetic manipulation of food ignores millions of years of evolutionary context, and that could have serious implications in the future. We aren't dealing with an insignificant change to our diets here, we're dealing with a revolutionary technology being used in our food supply - affecting us, future generations and the ecosystems on which we depend. It is bad science to assume roles of heredity acquired after thousands of years of agriculture are equally applicable in the infant field of transgenic strains.
Right now, about three million hectares of Canadian farmland are growing crops of plants that have been genetically modified by biotechnology. Do such plants pose dangers to us and our ecosystems?
The only honest answer is no one knows for certain. The biotech industry claims that their crops are actually safer for the environment because they can be engineered to do things like resist disease and pests. In theory, this means that fewer pesticides need to be used, less tilling would be required, and crop yields would expand.
But problems have already surfaced. For example, engineering a plant to be toxic to pests can also make it toxic to other non-pest organisms. A study earlier this year, for instance, found that nearly half of monarch butterfly larvae feeding on milkweed that had been dusted with pollen from Bt maize (a genetically modified corn) died, while the control groups suffered no mortalities.
This raises questions about the impact of GM crops on biodiversity. We know that the diversity of species keeps natural systems in balance. But there are already far fewer organisms on commercial monoculture farms than are found on organic farms. If we grow fields of crops that are toxic to all organisms except humans, what will that do to beneficial insects, or to the important microorganisms that live in our soils? This could have serious repercussions because depletion of insect numbers, for example, would lead to fewer birds and small mammals, and could have other implications up and down the food chain.
Another study this summer reviewing 8,200 university-based trials of transgenic soya found that farmers growing the herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready Soybeans typically used two-to-five times more herbicide than those using conventional weed management systems. Not surprisingly, the same company that produces the modified soybean also produces the herbicide that is sprayed on it.
Organic farmers, meanwhile, are concerned that GM crops will hybridize with their crops, so they will be unable to maintain their organic status. Another worry is the chance that some of the traits, such as herbicide resistance, that are being engineered into food crops could jump to other species, resulting in superweeds.
How will GM foods affect human health? There seem to be few immediate health risks, although there is the potential for allergic reactions, especially if desired traits are transferred to crops from highly-allergenic foods like nuts. In the long term, the effects are unknown because scientists can't say for certain how a gene taken from one species will behave in a completely different organism. The testing just hasn't been done.
The Canadian government is now making the situation worse by introducing legislation that will transfer the responsibility for food-safety from the Health Department to the Agriculture Department. This should ring alarm bells because the Agriculture Department already promotes and does research for the biotechnology companies that make GM food. Health Department employees, worried about what this conflict of interest means for food safety, recently submitted a 200-name petition to government protesting the new legislation.
At a time when public concern over GM crops are mounting, it is foolish and dangerous to be watering down regulatory powers and reducing public confidence in food safety. The extensive use and consumption of GM crops has occurred with no public consultation, and what data does exist on the health effects of GM food has come from the biotech industry itself! It is unethical to conduct medical experiments without informed consent from the participants. Yet we now have more than 40 GM products in the Canadian food systems, without giving consumers a choice. We are part of a massive experiment and only after thousands of people have eaten GM food for years will we be able to tell if they are harmful. At the very least GM food should be labelled so we can choose whether to be part of the experiment or not.
Thousands of years of traditional plant breeding by farmers and scientists has created the food supply that we rely on today. Now, some scientists and corporations say that they can make our food even better through genetic engineering.
Above, I discussed the known and unknown risks associated with using these novel organisms. But do we have a choice? Some argue that we need to engineer our food in order to keep up with world food demands. If we don't, they say, we'll be faced with food shortages and even starvation.
Right now 40,000 children are dying every day from disease related to malnutrition. That's appalling, but will GM food really help these children? Probably not. Many nations that are seriously affected by hunger are actually exporting food to developed nations. In fact, most food shortages are caused by political and social issues, not an overall lack of food production capacity.
What's more, the novel traits that are currently being engineered into food won't benefit the poor or the hungry at all. Biotechnology companies, looking for a profit, have concentrated on engineering crops that are used in processed foods and in livestock feed, resulting in products that will be eaten almost exclusively by people in wealthy nations.
Sometimes, the industry says it is just meeting consumer demand - that customers want better food products and the industry is filling a need. But are they? Last year the journal Science reported that a British survey found 77 per cent of respondents want GM food banned outright, and 61 per cent won't eat food if they know it's been genetically modified.
This kind of backlash has infuriated farmers who were promised big returns by the biotechnology industry. While some GM crops have produced higher yields (at least temporarily), others like soybeans are actually producing lower yields than conventional varieties. And demand for some GM products has plummeted, leaving farmers with a surplus harvest. Some are now even planning class-action lawsuits against the biotechnology companies for misrepresenting their products.
So, genetic modification poses unknown risks to ecosystems and human health. The benefits to many farmers are not being realized. There are no clear benefits to consumers who, when asked, don't seem to want the products anyway, and GM crops won't solve world food shortages. Then what is the point of investing so much energy, money and other resources in this technology? Profit. Biotechnology companies have spent billions of dollars on researching these new life forms and they want to see that investment returned, with interest.
What should be done? Well, we need better and more systematic testing of these organisms before releasing them into nature, and we need mandatory product labelling. We need to slow down and take a hard look at what is motivating us to leap ahead with revolutionary, uncertain and largely unnecessary technology. But that doesn't mean research shouldn't continue. If humans continue to change the climate and otherwise degrade the resources of this planet as we currently are, sadly there may be a day when the need, for example, for a drought-resistant crop or a more nutritious rice, may outweigh the risk. We should be ready.
But until then we should really be asking ourselves why there is such a rush to engineer new crops and push for another "Green Revolution". The last revolution did increase agricultural productivity, but at a terrible cost in terms of soil erosion, water pollution, a loss of biodiversity and the exacerbation of food inequities. Now, in the profit-inspired rush to unleash exciting new technologies, we've forgotten that there may be better alternatives that don't carry substantial risks. If we really want to address world hunger, we need to look at its underlying causes. We're fooling ourselves if we think we can solve social and political problems with technological fixes.
Reprinted with permission from David Taylor, David Suzuki Foundation. DAVID SUZUKI PHD is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster (CBC's The Nature Of Things). He is the author of more than 30 books and a recognized world leader in sustainable ecology. He lives with his wife and two children in Vancouver, B.C.
Visit his website at www.davidsuzuki.org
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Physician - Heel Thyself
by Paul Naras
The business of health/healing has become one of the most noteworthy and consequential battlegrounds of the New clashing with the Old. The field of medicine still remains saturated with square-toed dinosaurs who think that the concept of 'holism' will eventually go the way of the zoot suit, hula hoops and break-dancing. The physicians who have bothered to look down past their noses have noticed that the pedestals they have been standing on for a hundred years are crumbling. The spotlight is now focused on individual accountability - the synergy of body, mind and spirit. Allopathic medicine can't ignore concepts that work. Its ranks are very slowly being infiltrated by spiritually aware professionals.
A person's disposition (including all those emotions that make us who we are) has considerable influence biochemically speaking. That feeling of deep resentment or hatred will not destroy you if it is spasmodic and provisional - but it just might if you wallow in it; if you allow it to subjugate you. What you are feeling affects every cell in your body. Those cells are unremittingly reacting to the thoughts and bugbears you are synthesizing in your mind. Are they images of guilt, worry and hopelessness? Or are they rose-colored and wholly inspiriting?
Illness, when it does manifest, can be viewed in a positive light because it is purposive. It is an outer indicator of an inner discord; a signal that the body is in a state of inharmonium, that some homework needs to be done. The lesson could be as simplex as taking a few days of rest and allowing the body to restore itself (colds/flu) or, with more serious chronic disorders, there may be a drastic change in lifestyle required, encompassing a reassessment of one's belief system, attitudinal and behavioral shifts, nutrition, exercise and so on. Most maladies arrive equipped with their own antidotes. However, these elixirs may be difficult to identify and decipher.
The medical fraternity has always been skilled at pinpointing. Symptoms, that is, and not necessarily causes. Many doctors have always been more interested in the pathology than in the patient. They have excelled at removing tumors, but that raison d'etre, that causal seed has been blinked at and stitched over.
If they do muse on causality at all it's a matter of - You should give up those cigarettes or you're just asking for cancer or another heart attack. But many people who smoke do not get lung cancer (although they are more susceptible to a variety of maladies). Why? Because cigarettes, alcohol, stress, heredity, junk food, living beside a nuclear reactor etc. are all subaltern causes. As far as the chronic anguish people impose upon themselves is concerned, these causes are important but emotions and one's individual temperament are just as consequential.
The percentage of patients who are actively becoming involved in the healing process is surging. The modus operandi (whether homeopathy, diet, naturopathy, guided imagery, meditation) is, again, not nearly as pivotal as the patient's attitude - his or her desire to assume responsibility, to play the key role in strengthening the immune system.
Orthodox and New Age holistic medicine will eventually stop jousting with one another and become integrated. They will complement each other. But this transpiration lies in the distant nebulous future. The old school is still in charge. Until both sides shake hands we have to stand on guard to ensure that the strides already made are not sabotaged by politicians and pharmaceutical companies with their own self-serving agendas. As long as the standard-bearers of organized medicine continue to ride roughshod over the psychic matrix of disease they will linger like the denizens of Plato's cave - deliberating shadows on the wall while the object of their desire basks behind them in the light.
I'll paraphrase someone I once heard expounding on the nature of disease and its causes. It was put very succinctly - We eat crap, we drink crap, we breathe crap and, most importantly, we think crap!
It is fairly astounding that with all the nutritional and health related information we have at our fingertips today that it is the nature of the beast to earnestly pray for miracles and new scientific curatives for his afflictions while at the same time ignoring or even enhancing the circumstances that precipitate those same maladies.
In a sense disease is a choice, but 'choice' is a difficult word to use. It's easy for most people to accept personal liability in specific situations. Yes, I ran myself down though overwork and lack of sleep, weakened my immune system and made myself more susceptible to catching a cold, which I did. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day most of my life and I'm not overly shocked I've been diagnosed with lung cancer. I have HIV and it could have something to do with the fact that I never used protection while having sex with strangers. However, what does one say to a woman who has had a radical mastectomy and confronts you with - "You mean to tell me that I caused this; I chose this?"
Everyone has to play the cards they were dealt. Many people are born with robust metabolisms and immune systems while others come into the world with one or two strikes against them (hereditary factors). If a woman has breast cancer then statistics show that her daughter's chances of contracting the disease are much higher than the population at large with no such medical history. But the point that needs to be made is that there are no heart attack, diabetes or stroke microbes or other uncongenial little bacteria floating in the air and randomly flying up the noses of innocent citizens. These are our creations. We are not unconnected from our illnesses and we have to start taking some responsibility.
Health and disease are active mechanisms, not incidental processes dependent on nature's whim or a throw of the dice. Our thoughts and emotions are palpable (states of energy that influence our well-being) and so illness could very well be symptomatic of some emotional or psychological trauma. Without sounding accusatory or insensitive is there anything wrong with advising people, who have been fairly healthy and have just been diagnosed with serious disorders, to sit down and ascertain if and how they may have directly participated (consciously or unconsciously) in the creation of their corporeal reality? Is it not better to hope to undo what we have done rather than to just lie back and play the role of the passive, powerless martyr?
The medical texts may be rife with pathologies, plagues and symptoms but disease is fairly straightforward and its determinants are actually few in number. Chronic negative emotion (anger, anxiety, stress) saps the body's vital energy, the immune system is undermined and our physical bulwarks and battlements become much more vulnerable to inner and outer marauders. The venom of negativity, fear, animosity and any emotional stringency has to be jettisoned or else we simply end up temporarily curing those headaches without ever authenticating their determinants and the reasons for the subsequent recurrences. When we fully comprehend the interrelationship between our habits and behaviors and the state of our health then we are on our way to modification and resolution.
T.R. is in his early eighties. He is healthy despite having smoked cigarettes for forty-five years before quitting. I would venture a guess that in his personal case lung disease did not materialize because his one negative habit was neutralized by a score of positive ones. He had been a farmer who had worked ten to fifteen hours a day in the sun and fresh air. He loved his vocation. He loved his family. He sang in the church choir. His diet was rich in fruits and vegetables. His anecdotes and amusing yarns were the talk of the community. Cancer probably never had a chance.
P.N. is a social worker who has missed one day of work in the last twenty-five years. Is this sheer luck? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he meditates, exercises, is a vegetarian, appreciates the gift of life, and claims that (like Will Rogers) he has never met a single person he didn't like (well, perhaps there were one or two).
Questions & Answers
If you make people completely accountable for their own health won't they feel culpable if they are stricken with illness, and then become even more devastated if they try some alternative form of treatment and it doesn't work?
To those individuals who prefer to hand over total control of their physical well-being to the Almighty or to a lesser but nevertheless divine deity (their family doctor) let us simply say - All the best to you. However, even they should be familiar with the maxim that God helps those who help themselves.
And all the more power to those who believe that they can transform their lives by transforming their temperaments, their mindset. The question wouldn't even be asked if people ceased to see disease as evil or as a personal failure. Even men and women who usually follow all the rules sometimes work too hard, run themselves down and catch a bug. A cold may be irritating but it is not indicative of any fault or frailty. It is your body saying - Take a few days to rest and reenergize.
As far as the more grim afflictions are concerned we almost always have to examine the 'big picture', to take a metaphysical approach. We visualize parents at the bedside of their child who is dying of leukemia and it just does not make sense. It all seems so arbitrary and completely unjust. One explanation (though it leaves many seekers of truth unappeased and others outraged) is that disease is one of our master teachers. There have been countless examples of people who have, in their own way, recognized this fact - from the AIDS infected who are channeling all their energy into assisting others similarly affected; the cancer stricken who, for the first time in their lives, are squeezing every precious minute out of every day and enjoying and appreciating what life has given them; the couples and families that are brought together and the differences reconciled because of a particular health crisis.
Health will have a purpose when your own existence has a purpose. Many have learned this fact and have successfully surmounted their challenges. There will come a day, however, when all our wisdom and experience will not be able to save us. In our New Age this day will be tinged with the sorrow of leaving loved ones behind. This day will also be celebrated as a simple natural transition — an initiation into a Greater Reality.
Traditional medicine has taken a few shots recently. Is the criticism justified?
This article is not specifically about our health system but a few comments are in order. Our hospitals are filled with caring professionals. If you break your arm or need a laceration stitched up you will be capably looked after. However, if you develop a serious, chronic disorder then all alternative medicine is saying is that you now have an extra option. More and more people now have not only a family doctor but also a reputable holistic practitioner whom they can turn to as certain needs arise.
B.K. had gastrointestinal problems off and on for years and finally decided to visit a naturopath. What this professional was able to offer her (as opposed to the traditional medicine specialists) was time - an hour long consultation plus two more hours filling out questionnaires. The dietary regimen she was given along with a number of other suggestions allowed her to reach a state of physical normalcy within two months.
Pain is natural, valid and translatable. It's your body transmitting signal smoke to you. When you go to your family doctor because you are experiencing pain in a particular part of your anatomy the doctor makes an educated guess (or sends you for further testing) and nine times out of ten you walk out of the office with a prescription. And the prescription has more to do with the symptom than the cause. If a smoke detector went off in your home would you run up to it and knock it off the wall with a hammer (to stop the infernal racket) or would you look around and check for a possible fire?
Is vegetarianism mandatory for those on an evolutionary path? Is there such a thing as a spiritual diet?
Eating meat is not evil. However, our meat-centered diet is ecologically ruinous and nutritionally unsound. If meat lovers would cut down eating flesh to a few times a week they would probably be amazed at all the nourishing options available to them and, at the same time, they would be helping the planet.
If you examine the typical North American lunch (cheeseburger, fries and a soda) and take away the grease, the fat, the hormones, additives, chemicals, salt and sugar you won't have enough nutritive fare left to fill a thimble. You don't have to have a sensible diet to progress spiritually but a healthy body vibrating with energy can certainly facilitate the process. Those who neglect their health are like athletes playing a set of tennis wearing construction boots. Some people just like doing things the hard way.
Very little is gained in any attempt to bludgeon one's dietary ideology into the mindset of another. That same intuitive spirit that we have already talked about will also direct you to the kind of nourishment and regimen that your metabolism demands. And there are more books out there on diet and nutrition than there are calories in a maraschino cherried, whipping creamed, nutted, sprinkled, fudged, six scooped banana split. Let us, nevertheless, leave you with the basics:
- Never have so many obese North Americans been so undernourished. This is because their bodies are crying out for "real" food. Real food is in short supply in the average supermarket. When it comes to the nutriments contained in most refined products you're probably better off eating the package. Stick to foods in their natural state - fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds et cetera.
- If you are overeating try to ascertain why (fear? depression? boredom?).
- Avoid too much sugar, salt, white flour, hydrogenated oil and any product that requires a bevy of Latin scholars to decipher the ingredients on the side of the box.
- Drink lots of water. And exercise! Yes, I mean you!
- Learn some deep breathing techniques. This will remove the mephitic air in the lower lungs. And get lots of fresh air and sunshine.
- Write down this quote by Socrates and tape it to your refrigerator - "Other men live to eat, while I eat to live".
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The Disappearing Sea
by David Suzuki
Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, once oases along the fabled silk road to Cathay, are still names that conjure up images of a time long past. Today they are cities in Uzbekistan, one of five independent republics in central Asia that formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Recently, I spent two weeks there, chronicling an environmental catastrophe that shows how intimately connected our health and economies are to our environment.
Millions of years ago, the northwestern part of Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan were covered by a massive inland sea. When the waters receded, they left a broad plain of highly saline soil. One of the remnants of the ancient sea was the Aral Sea, the fourth largest inland body of water in the world. The Aral Sea was a rich source of fish. Some 20 species were identified by biologists, including sturgeon and catfish. The town of Muynac, located on the edge of the sea, was a fishing town that also attracted tourists to its seaside vistas.
In the 1950s, the Soviet Union decided the great plains were ideal for growing cotton. The critical factor to make it happen was water. Two great rivers feed the Aral Sea, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. The Soviet scheme was based on the construction of a series of dams on the two rivers to create reservoirs from which 40,000 kilometers of canals would eventually be dug to divert water to the fields. The fields flourished but with such vast areas of monoculture, farmers had to use massive amounts of chemical pesticides. And with irrigation, salt was drawn to the surface of the soil and accumulated. When the Tahaitash Dam was built on the Amu Darya near the city of Nukus, there was no water left in the riverbed to flow to the Aral Sea, hundreds of kilometers away.
To the surprise of the inhabitants of Muynac, the Aral Sea began to shrink. At first, they assumed it was a temporary condition and dredged a canal to the receding shore so boats could continue to ply the sea and still dock at the wharves. But the effluents that did reach the sea were laced with a deadly mix of salt and pesticides from the cotton fields. Fish populations plummeted and eventually, when the canal was 30 kilometers long and the sea continued to move away, the boats were abandoned to lie like great leviathans on sands that were once sea bottom.
Today, Muynac is a desert town more than a hundred kilometers from the sea. The only reminders of the once thriving fishing activity are the rusting hulks of ships and an ancient fish plant. The sea has shrunk to two fifths of its original size and now ranks about tenth in the world. The water level has dropped by 16 meters and the volume is reduced by 75 per cent, a loss equivalent to the water in both Lakes Erie and Huron. The ecological effect has been disastrous and the economic, social and medical problems for people in the region catastrophic.
All 20 known fish species in the Aral Sea are now extinct, unable to survive the toxic, salty sludge. So a centuries old way of life has disappeared in decades. The vast area of exposed seabed is laced with pesticides so when the wind blows, dust storms spread salt and toxics over hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers. It's estimated that 75 million tonnes of toxic dust and salts are spread across central Asia each year. If the Aral Sea dries up completely, 15 billion tonnes of salt will be left behind.
These pollutants have taken their toll. People here have the highest incidence of tuberculosis in the world, as well as elevated levels of bronchial and kidney problems, and cancer. Leonid Elpiner of the Russian Academy of Sciences recites a litany of problems, ranging from intestinal diseases, polio, viral hepatitis and noninfectious diseases, to higher levels of chemical pollution of air, water and food.
Zita Mazhitova, Head of Pediatrics at Kazakh State University, reports that 80 per cent of fertile women in the region are anemic and 87 per cent have various chronic diseases. Mortality has doubled and life expectancy dropped. Children are especially vulnerable.
"Each child from the Aral Sea area has many affected organs and systems at the same time," she says. "Half of the children suffer from insufficient weight and retarded growth and puberty. All children examined had immunodeficiency to various degrees... All the children suffer from disease of ear, nose and throat, 83 per cent have skin and mucosa lesions... every second child has chronic bronchitis....There is a high frequency of inborn defects of respiratory organs and bronchiectasis. The latter is caused by [the] impact on mucosa of [the] respiratory tract by [the] toxic mixture of fine-grained salines, pesticides and dust lifted by winds and storms into the air and transferred for long distances."
Mazhitova's devastating analysis concludes: "There are no healthy children in the Aral Sea area and 89 per cent of them have several organs and systems affected at the same time."
An estimated 100,000 environmental refugees have already left the region, 42,000 in Kazakhstan alone. But the impact of the Aral Sea disaster spreads far beyond the adjacent communities. Storms blow over hundreds, probably thousands of kilometers. And the region's climate has actually changed due to the loss of the sea's moderating effect. Winters are now colder and summers hotter - making dust storms even worse.
Kamalov Yusup, Chairman of the Union for Defence of the Aral Sea and Amudarya in Nukus suggests another potential looming problem. The region's water table has risen due to heavy irrigation and has now begun flowing "downhill" towards the lower water table of the Caspian Sea. Carrying toxic chemicals, an underwater plume more than 100 kilometers wide is now heading towards the Caspian.
It would be a mistake to conclude that the only culprit is the system of Soviet-style central planning. As Dr. Viktor Duchovny, formerly of the Ministry of Water, told me, megaprojects to develop and use water were pushed extensively in the United States and Canada - although without such tragic consequences, so far.
The real lesson is that it is a mistake to think we are so clever that we can shoehorn nature to fit our agenda. We depend on complex rhythms and cycles of nature - seasons, climate, soil hydrology, flora, fauna - all of which we barely understand. We have acquired the brute power of technology, but we have applied it without proper respect for the interconnectedness of living systems or the recognition that we don't comprehend all of nature's details.
The Aral Sea is a fable for our times, a warning. We have had our own lessons, but so far not on this great a scale. We know Love Canal, Chernobyl, and the Sydney Tar Ponds. And if we think about it, the way we are treating our own wetlands, boreal forests, old growth temperate rainforests, rivers, etc, represents the same mindset that was responsible for the Aral Sea disaster.
Reprinted with permission from David Taylor, David Suzuki Foundation. DAVID SUZUKI PHD is an award-winning scientist, environmentalist and broadcaster (CBC's The Nature Of Things). He is the author of more than 30 books and a recognized world leader in sustainable ecology. He lives with his wife and two children in Vancouver, B.C.
Visit his website at www.davidsuzuki.org
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Understanding the Cause and the Cure of Disease
by Dr. Walter Kacera
Have you ever wondered why we become sick or what is the ultimate cause of disease? If we can understand the cause of disease then we can initiate the course of action in the healing process. Each system of conservative and complementary healing medicine has its own unique perception of the cause of disease. Based upon this perception, each system sets about to develop a healing program to restore health.
For instance, traditional Allopathic Medicine looks to pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc.) as the cause of disease and based upon this model develops drugs to kill the pathogens. Chiropractors look at the cause of disease as mis-alignments or abnormal function of the bones of the spine, which creates an interference with nerve function. Thus, the cure is an adjustment or manipulation of the bones of the spine to correct the mis-alignment, opening the pathways for proper nerve function.
Every system of health care has its own model, and I have studied most along my journey. Too often I was left with a remaining question. Why? For instance, why do we become susceptible to the pathogens when we have an immune system that is supposed to keep us healthy? Why do the bones of the spine become dysfunctional? There must be answers. There must be deeper levels of cause. If so, then the pathogen causing an infection or the vertebrae causing nerve interference is only a symptom of some deeper underlying cause! I searched long and hard for that underlying cause and it was in the science of Ayurveda that I found it. Ayurveda means "the knowledge of living" or "the art of longevity."
Ayurveda teaches us that all disease begins when we are living out of harmony with our environment and the elements of nature: air, sun, water, soil and living and work space. When we take in inappropriate impressions from our environment through any of our five senses, we weaken the body and create an internal environment, which supports the creation of disease. In this environment bacteria, viruses and other pathogens thrive, and muscles tense and alter the function of vertebra interfering with nerve function.
Models can be created both to prevent and to treat disease. If disharmony is the cause of disease then the re-creation of harmony is the cure. This is what the science of Ayurvedic herbalism is all about.
One realization of this model is that both the creation and the healing of disease are under our control. It is a disturbing thought that we participate in the creation of disease, but an empowering though that we can also participate in the healing process. Ayurveda takes health into the realm of personal responsibility, and once we enter that realm we are no longer victims of the multitude of ailments that afflict humankind. We become empowered to participate in our own healing process!
Healing through Ayurvedic herbalism involves all five senses. Through taste, we utilize proper diet, herbs and spices. Through sight we utilize color and beauty of the living plants. Through smell we utilize aromatherapy. Through sound we utilize sounds of nature. Finally, through the skin we take in specially prepared herbal oils and receive massage. Ayurvedic herbalism also advocates the periodic elimination of accumulated impurities and food remains using specifically prepared herbs for purification procedures called Pancha Karma.
In Ayurvedic herbalism the practitioners sees each person as an individual with a different internal balance of energy called one's constitution. Understanding a person's constitution allows the herbalist, to set up a program of care specific for that individual. This program helps them to re-establish harmony with their environment thus creating an optimal internal environment for healing to take place. Understanding the internal energy of the body, the herbalist can foresee the effect a person will have and thus can recommend an herbal and dietary program specific to that individual.
We do not have to be sick. Through healthy practices we can become physically vibrant and radiant individuals. Ayurvedic herbalism is the science of reaching our full healing potential. An individual can take back control over their health and well-being.
WALTER KACERA Ph.D., D.N., is a Therapeutic Herbalist and Ayurvedic Nutritionist with over 25 years experience in the Natural Healing Arts. He teaches certificate courses in Therapeutic and Practical Herbalism, Constitutional Ayurvedic Medicine and Clinical Iridology. Website: www.thelivingcentre.com E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Staying Healthy with the Cycles of Nature
by Dr. Walter Kacera
"For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven."
There are natural rhythms in nature that affect us, like day and night, new moon and full moon, and the seasons- all important to our lives. Internally, we also have cycles known as biological clocks. These clocks control our metabolism and daily hormone levels, the menstrual cycles, the speed and degree of childhood development, and the onset of adolescence and menopause. Other internal cycles are reflected in our emotional, mental, and physical energies as well as more subtle ones that influence our ingenuity, compassion, appreciation of beauty, our self-awareness, and our spiritual awareness.
There is as much to be aware of within ourselves, as there is in the environment in which we live in. this is an essential aspect to health. We need to take the time to check our inner senses on a regular basis to feel what is happening and integrate this latest information into our lives. When we stop growing, or we resist our changes, we are liable to get sick. We must maintain our bodies and minds in a tranquil and open state to keep energy flowing- inside to out, and outside to in- how else can we truly experience life?
Can we stop nature? We may slow the powers of nature through intervention, like damming a river, but sooner or later nature will ALWAYS win- the message is clear - CHANGE! If we do not flow or if we resist our change or growth we will create blocks which will ALWAYS lead to pain, suffering and eventually to death.
Staying healthy with the cycles of nature follows the Ayurvedic philosophy of health and illness. Ayurveda is an ancient science from India. It literally means "the science of life" Ayurveda is an Eastern approach that also applies to us here in the west and in our modern world. This approach explains how each specific season produces herbs and foods to keep us healthy during these changes. The way this is determined is by understanding the particular tastes and qualities that each season contains.
Each change of temperature, barometric pressure, and moisture level stimulates or challenges different organ system and tissues of our bodies. We need to be flexible in order to adapt. This season's dietary and lifestyle regime may be the cause of next month's aches and pains. One way for treating seasonal behavior changes is by using herbal teas, formulas and dietary practices. By focusing on the tastes and qualities of herbs and foods that best work with the energies of the given season, is a good way to keep our bodies healthy and tuned in with the changes.
"All diseases begin at the junction of the seasons"
"It is chiefly the changes of the seasons which produces diseases."
Herbal Healing with the Seasons
Depending on your climate and activity, your optimum herbs and foods will vary in content and quality. During these transition times when the natural energies are in the extremes, it is beneficial to eat lightly and be particularly careful to follow a balanced, harmonious lifestyle. One of the greatest teachings that comes to us from the natural cycles of nature is how the abundance of the garden comes to us just when we need it. For example our herb and vegetable gardens produce healthy medicines in springtime with plenty of dark green leafy plants that cleanse our livers after a heavy stagnant winter. Or, the crops in the fall produce sweet roots that nourish us into the fall and cold season. Tending a garden is one way to become more in touch with the changing seasons.
Spring is a time rain and increased wind. The liver and gallbladder are the organs that are most easily unbalanced at this time. The main tastes and qualities that need to emphasized are bitter, pungent and astringent. Examples: are similar to winter but more focus on the bitter spring greens and herbs, dandelion leaves, hot spicy herbs, with astringent foods: low fat foods, decreased grains, more emphasize on salads and dark greens.
Summer is a time of hot sunny days. The heart and small intestines are the organs that are most easily unbalanced at this time. The main tastes and qualities that need to be emphasized are: more sweets, cool bitters, and astringents. Examples: peppermint, hawthorn berries in late summer, sorrel, increase raw foods, fruits, melons, fresh vegetables high-water-content foods, and leafy greens.
Fall is a time of cooling temperatures and increased wind. The lungs and large intestines are the organs that are most easily unbalanced at this time. The main tastes and qualities that need to be emphasized are: sweets, naturally sour, salty, warming, heavy, oily. Examples and high-fiber foods: root vegetables, whole grains, high-fiber foods, avocado, nuts, seeds and beans, some more ginger and garlic with their warming effect, coltsfoot, marshmallow, licorice root.
Winter is a time of dampness and coldness. The kidneys and bladder are the organs that are most easily unbalanced at this time. The main tastes and qualities that need to be focused on are: pungent, salty, and sour, warm, dry, and tonifying herbs and foods. Examples: ginger, garlic, cayenne, fenugreek seeds, flaxseed, kelp, root vegetables, sea vegetables, whole grains, greens, and sprouts.
Learning to flow with the changes of the seasons by making healthy choices will keep us strong and vibrant, and we will be in a position to give thanks and celebrate these ever-changing seasons.
Celebrating the Seasons
The seasonal changes in energy, feelings, and drives are an essential part of the human experience. We are accompanied by predominant changes in the world around us: by the varied fragrances, colours, sounds, textures, and tastes. The changing seasons remind us of cyclical time; loss and recovery, birth and death, and renewal. The seasons are nature's way of being our teacher. All around us, nature does her dance.
In connecting with the changing seasons we are reminded of the metaphor for a person's life, numerous teachings have linked spring with youth, summer with the prime of life, autumn with declining powers, and winter with old age.
Springtime- represents a season of reawakening, rebirth, sexuality and joy. Summertime- represents a season of warmth, happiness and generosity. Autumn- represents a season of harvest, abundance and change of color. Wintertime- represents a time of inner reflection, stillness and dreamtime.
Your adaptation to these changing seasons is vitally important to your continuing good health. Times of seasonal change are important as re-organizational periods, and as times for increasing self-awareness
"Change is the only truth in the universe"
WALTER KACERA Ph.D., D.N., is a Therapeutic Herbalist and Ayurvedic Nutritionist with over 25 years experience in the Natural Healing Arts. He teaches certificate courses in Therapeutic and Practical Herbalism, Constitutional Ayurvedic Medicine and Clinical Iridology. Website: www.thelivingcentre.com E-mail: email@example.com
"There is nothing permanent except change"
-Ancient Chinese Wisdom
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by Verónica Muñoz
The Principle behind a vegan diet
"Veganism is nothing but a way of life that reflects our inner and personal commitment to make a difference. It is a lifestyle that regards all species as sacred and respects all forms of life: the animals, the waters, the environment , people and all our planet. It brings the peace of knowing that one is recognizing the spirit in it all. From that fountain of unconditional tender love, springs an unreasonable bliss as one thinks, feels, speaks and acts towards the well-being of our beloved planet and all that is in it"
This is a philosophy of life, a way of silent expression through who we choose to be in our active role as humans beings. It reflects our compassion and love for all that contains life and exists on this planet. It embraces all that there is at an equal level. It is a journey that starts with a heavy coating of social, family and cultural conditioning and evolves from there through our constant questioning about all theses rules that we have accepted as "right", just because they've been taught to us.
By this hard but worthwhile questioning, we start to reflect and hear more and more our souls in connection to all that lives and breaths and we are drawn to take the necessary actions to change the status quo. We realize that we do have a choice and every person's responsibility is to make use of it, as we express ourselves through: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the cosmetics we use, the industries and companies we support. We make these choices based on the principle that all of life is sacred and deserves to be treated and respected us such. We acknowledge that these animals that most people eat, use for entertainment, cruelly hunt and so proudly wear; do indeed have feelings, as much as we do. We sympathize with their strong instinct to live and their struggle to survive and we are drawn to make choices that allow us to make a small, but big individual difference, on their behalf.
We stand out in the middle of a dead flesh eating society to defend these animal's right to live and to enjoy their lives, as fully as we wish to enjoy ours. We are considerate of the effect that this can have on the whole planet. By stopping using these animals, we are not only allowing them to recover their full right to live, but we are also helping humanity to embrace a new way of living. A life that would allow all the land, which has been so far used for raising animals, to be used to grow crops which could feed twice or three times more people, without any of the high costs inferred on the environment by the meat, egg and dairy producing industries. We are helping the world embrace a healthier way of living which at the same time respects all the animals and living things on earth and could put an end to starvation.
We believe in living in love, peace and harmony by silently walking our chosen path of action. We embrace all life, make environmentally friendly choices and make choices that protect all of Nature and the Animal Kingdom. They are part of this planet as much as we are. Our mission is to give these citizens of the world a voice through our way of living, so that one day, we can all look at one another in the eye and hold no hard feelings, no grief about causing any deaths, any harm on each other or on any of the living life and matter on this planet. The day we can all be connected in such a pure way, recognizing the spirit living in ALL..., that day there shall be "peace". For anytime we are participating in hurting an animal, the environment, nature or our brothers; we are truly hurting ourselves and in consequence humankind and our planet. We cannot have a clear conscience, and embody our moral and ethical responsibilities, as rational human beings, if we do not allow ourselves to fully feel compassion and put a stop to the cruelty and grief we enforce on those who also share our planet.
Let's acknowledge the intrinsic legitimacy of all life. It is outright unacceptable to kill non rational creatures because of their animal nature. The value of life to its possessor is the same, whether it is the life of an insect, the life of a cow or that one of a child. The only difference is that we can choose, they can't. We've chosen for them and they are forced to live and die with the cruelty, torture and pain that we've consciously chosen to impose on them. In the end, it is up to each individual to tune in with all of life and make the change that makes all the difference.
Enzymes & The Raw food diet
The most important requisite and belief for being or becoming a raw-foodist is a powerful, belief that raw nutrition is indeed the only normal and natural way to live. This belief must be the end product of one's own conclusions. One should not accept anything to be true until personally experimenting with this true and coming to one's own conclusions.
This philosophy is based on the way that things naturally came to be and how they were meant to be naturally sustained. The principle behind this diet is that there are living enzymes contained in all vegetables when they are eaten raw. However the moment these same vegetables or grains or any food is exposed to fire and extreme heat, those living enzymes are killed.
If you don't believe this and you need convincing try if for yourself. Place your finger under boiling hot water and you won't be able to stand it without causing major damage to your tissue and basically killing your skin. This is exactly what happens to all the food which comes in contact with such intense heat. The problem with this is that our body is designed to rely on those enzymes and the nutrients derived from living foods to function at its best. When foods are consumed cooked those enzymes which would naturally be available to ease the digestion of those foods, are dead. This means that the enzymes necessary to digest that food have to be provided by the body. This causes over the years huge burden on the human body, gradually draining it of its life and natural vitality and causing so many of the so popular diseases which affect our present society.
Today society consumes highly processed foods as a main source of nutrition without realizing that there is little or no nutrients in that food. Most of society is addicted to meat and milk products which clog the body and cause considerable health problems throughout the years. Most of the time the basic requirements of the organism are not properly provided. A bag of chips and a hamburger are far from what the body needs to function at its best. Our society is addicted to pre-packaged food and fancy presentations to please the eye, the palate but not the body. When you see any of the so called "processed foods" can you immediately tell all that is in it? Instead if you look at a salad or a fruit, it is obvious that it is in its natural state. That is the way food is meant to be eaten and it is the only way one can have the certainty of supplying one's body its complete requirements. When cooked foods are ingested people are not aware that the cells immediately start to struggle for nutrients and they usually cannot find all they need and remain quite hungry in spite of having just finished a whole meal.
People are not aware that all diseases are caused by the need of the normal cells for proper living enzymes and nourishment which is not fulfilled. They are also due to the pernicious chemicals and unnatural food extracts and additives present in most foods. The only way to abstain from these is to consume organic produce in its raw form to make the best use of all the nutrients and in so doing replenish one's body with unlimited energy and life. If you do not believe this to be true, think of how your feel after you are done eating a full cooked meal and then compare how you feel after you are done eating a nutritious salad. Most likely in the first case you will feel depleted of your energy and somewhat tired because your body is using up valuable reserves to digest the food. While in the second case you will feel full of energy and vitality.
All these self-caused diseases make most people following traditional medicine resort to taking drugs to deal with them. This usually far form solving the problem, causes further burden on the body. Instead if one consumed natural raw foods the body would most likely work towards healing itself. All medicine needed to cure oneself is found in nature. As the saying goes part of the problem is that people live to eat instead of eating to live. If one would just take food as one's natural and precious medicine there wouldn't be so many health problems affecting so many people.
The other benefits of the raw diet are not just personal but extend to all the earth and the planet. By choosing to eat this way you can reconnect with the natural cycles of life. When buying food that is in season and connecting to what nature makes available for us to eat, we can reestablish our long lost connection to all living things. Also animals benefit because they get to live their full lives as it is their full right. In turn, all the land that is necessary to feed one single meat-eater would feed 20 or more people. On top of that there would not be any further environmental burden due to the
agro-business pollution, waste and over-use of water. In addition, the fact that foods are eaten in their natural form can reduce the amount of all the cans and packaging that go into presenting processed food.
Raw food diets can be nutritious and fully balanced. The stomach gladly welcomes all raw food making digestion easier. There are other advantages to choosing this kind of diet. One of them is your sustained health for a longer period of time but also a well-balanced body. You can maintain your ideal weight and not have all the weight problems caused by inadequate processed-food diets. Also people report to feel more in tune with nature, and their bodies, more relaxed, loving, full of strength, health, vigor and happiness. There is a connection between this diet and an overall sense of well-being. Raw food nourishes both the body and the spirit leaving one fully charged with an incredible amount of positive energy and love for all people, beings and all the planet.
Like in anything else in life, the best guide is not what one is told to believe or do but what feels right and in tune with one's body, spirit and soul. If one listens closely it is quite obvious that one's pure instincts will naturally lead anyone towards a diet which comes directly from nature prior to it being manipulated or processed in any way by our human hands. Creation is perfect. Nature reveals perfect order and balance. If one believes this principle, then a raw diet can be regarded as the most ideal way of natural nutrition. Eating naturally as nature has intended should be the aim of all those searching their path back to their natural roots. If you do not think this is true how come trees do not give potato-chips instead of fruits?
My Personal History
My own personal history and experience throughout my transition from a meat diet at birth to a vegetarian, vegan and raw food diet.
The following is my own personal experience and my transition and evolution towards a low-impact diet on the environment and planet and a high impact diet on my health. When i am narrating this, it is not my intention to hurt or judge others but simply to share how I personally lived this transition.
I would like to briefly share with you how I ended up making all the changes I have in the past years of my life towards a eating a cruelty -free diet and following a cruelty free lifestyle.
I grew up in Argentina which happens to be a huge meat eating country. This culture is quite oppressive when it comes to any other alternative diets. The idea being that the only way to stay well fed and keep your body at its optimal functioning level is by eating as much meat as one can in one meal and giving second or third place to vegetables and fruits.
For someone who felt compassionate towards animals and had an inner calling to which answer , it was very hard to overcome all the cultural, family and social pressures which attack any lifestyle that would not be the one followed by the crowds and established by the status quo of a society which has always taken pride in eating dead flesh food at the cost of the suffering and killing of animals.
As a result of this and many other family and social circumstances at the time, I ended up becoming anorexic for a few years and I was forced to follow a treatment which was very similar to following the rules of a concentration camp. I had no control for 4 years of what I wanted to eat. I was forced to eat what it was given to me which most of the time happened to be quite heavy meals served in what felt to me as rather large servings consisting mainly of meat. These meals left me tired, full and depleted of energy and vitality. I recall every time after finishing a meal going into my room and promising myself that the minute I would be an independent adult I would do exactly what I wanted. In the meantime, if I did not want more punishment, I had to follow their imposing and disgusting rules. I was never to choose what I wanted to eat. If going to a restaurant or at home a third person had to decide for me. I was given always exactly the same serving which was established by the governing body of this compulsory treatment. I also had to keep a strict diary of everything eaten and I was only allowed to eat during the 6 times preset throughout the day. I always had to eat in front of other people who had to sign on this diary what I had listed as eaten so that the doctors could always keep track. Basically, I had no freedom at all to eat what I wanted. To me, it was a coercive and imposing treatment extremely humiliating and radical that left no room for self-expression or recovering a healthy relationship to food and people. I also had to go for check-ups to the hospital and if I would lose even one gram they would put one on a even heavier diet or punish one by placing one in a disobedient group. Internally I detested and resented everything about this treatment. I knew that my parents thought that it was the only way for me to recover and they did all this out of love. However, those were the worst years of my life. I guess with a very strong spirit I was able to survive relying on my inner peace and my dreaming for freedom.
I knew that the only way to achieve final freedom to be who I needed to become and was called to be was to fool them all into believing that I was embracing this treatment and its rules. There was no other option. Time and time again I saw how those girls who were also following the treatment and openly resisted it were punished by heavier meals and stricter rules. I realized that in my case I was only going to win by losing. So I did. In all the reports I always wrote exactly what they all wanted to hear. As it was expected and forced on me I always ate every single particle of what it was given to me showing no sign of complaint for 4 full years. In the solitude of my room or sitting by the lake, I would cry or internally incentive my inner soul to keep going and to be patient until those days would be over and I would be handed back my freedom. Sometimes, I would cry on my own and I had to work hard not to build extreme resentment towards those who loving me so much thought that this was the way to heal me. I felt abused, poisoned and hurt. I felt extremely humiliated and a slave. Yet I coped. Yet I tried to hold on to the strength of my ever growing faith and soul. I cherished my own thoughts and lived internally they way I believed and externally the way I was expected to live. Let's say I played their game as my plan towards my escapade to obtain some of my freedom.
Now, after almost 15 years of that situation, I can pat myself on the back for having overcome those years. I do not know how I did it but I succeeded. The next step was getting out of my home as soon as possible so that I could start redefining who I was called to be and getting rid of all the imposing rules and values set by society and family. I had no money so I had to hang on for a few more years at home while I still had to fool them all into believing that I was playing by their rules. I had slightly more freedom but they kept following the same rules even once the treatment was over. I knew that my spirit could not shine under an oppressive environment. So I was once more patient and waited to finish my career and worked for a few years to save money to leave.
And one fateful day I did get my opportunity to leave. I was fortunate enough to apply for a scholarship and be chosen and invited into the program. In six more months I was on my way to the United States. This was a great liberating experience. I felt like the heavy weight of years of rules and oppressive mandates where gradually being left behind as I was getting farther from Argentina and closer to the furthest land North of my country. I knew that my cherished and longed hope for freedom was waiting to materialize and I was ready to embrace it and dedicate my whole life towards using it constructively and loyally according to the mandates of my heart and soul. And I did! When the meal arrived during my flight. I rejected the dish with the heavy meat on it and asked for a vegetarian one instead. After that moment I never ate meat again. It felt so good to be doing what I believed in. It felt so good to be acting upon the mandates of my soul instead of those from a dead-flesh eating society.
I still had a long struggling fight ahead of me towards my freedom. When I arrived at my home stay they served me hotdogs and hamburgers for dinner and I refused to eat them and asked for the vegetables instead. I did this every meal until they reported me to the coordinator on the grounds that I was sick because I ate all their fruits and vegetables but not their meals. They tried to institutionalize me again at the Eating Disorder Psychiatric Department in a hospital in MN. However this time, society could do very little to force me to be somebody who I was not. First of all in the United States, differently from Argentina nobody can forced one after a certain age to follow a treatment. You are free to choose. Secondly, on the intensive interview carried out by a team of 6 psychiatrists where they heard my side of the story and the side coming from the program coordinator and this family, they immediately honored mine. Right away they told me that I was not anorexic anymore, I was just trying to be myself and that in North America it was not only all right to follow a vegetarian diet but it was also considered to be more beneficial that any meat-based diet. They issued an official report stating that I was totally healthy, physically, mentally and spiritually and basically this was to me my passport to freedom. This was to me my legal permission to be who I was called to be. No more manipulations, no more oppressive controlling. Why can it be so hard to be allowed to be oneself when one is going in the opposite direction of main stream society? But then again, looking more closely at history we can clearly see that this kind of
persecution followed all those who dared question the status quo in the history of humankind. How many of the now acclaimed and renowned revolutionary inventors and pioneers were initially mocked and unwelcome by society?
At this point, there was nothing that could stop me from following my heart, I had conquered my freedom! I could now dedicate the next years of my life towards polishing and perfecting my ability to listen carefully to my soul and to walk proudly the path of my heart, in spite of what my family had to say about it, in spite of what my friends had to say about it in spite of what society had to say about it; in spite of all that, I could now follow my heart and fly through life with the freedom of a dove conquering the sky.
My change towards a vegetarian diet brought about only further changes in my spiritual connection to the world and all the living species inhabiting this planet. Gradually meat started to gain the form of what it really was, a piece of dead flesh sitting on somebody's plate. I started to empathize with the suffering of these animals and my level of compassion started to climb upon the ladder of my open soul. I stopped resisting and started receiving. I was now free, and the only thing I was to defeat were the ego's evil commands long accumulated in the past. Little by little my love towards all of nature became stronger and stronger and I started feeling the equality with all the beings on this earth. I then began to feel the need to speak for them, to protect them, to stop their on-going and cruel abuse and to stop ridiculing them by exhibiting their furs and dead skin on my body. At this time the call towards veganism was clear and strong. This time, it was easier than before. I felt strong and powerful. My heart was totally under the domain of my compassionate soul and nobody could bring me down. So, I embraced this call and the very moment I did, I felt as if another huge heavy burden had been taken off my back and now I felt even lighter and more connected to all the living. I also started feeling a call for taking open participation and action to speak up for these animals and for the forests manipulated and killed by a society which seems to have long forgotten all about love.
Recently, I have started to feel more and more gravitating towards products and foods which are as close to their natural form as possible. This means eating vegetables, fruits and grains in their natural and fresh form. I can feel the vitality and energy received form these foods and how my body thanks me and welcomes them inviting them with pleasure to travel towards a very easy-going and vitalizing digestion. I feel even more vibrant than before and for the first time since I can remember I am proud of what I eat. I feel that this is the way we all were meant to eat. I can now celebrate all the process of putting together a meal. I enjoy buying the seeds, rinsing them in water, sprouting them and making them part of beautiful and colorful nourishing salads. I know that with each of my choices comes a natural succession of resistance from family members and society directly proportionate to those choices. However, I am strong now and there is nobody that can take away from me my freedom to be and live according to the beat of my heart. This is the most precious treasure any human being has. It is the innate right to choose the way we want to live. Some people choose to gradually kill themselves by abusing their bodies through heavy smoking, drinking or doing drugs. Others choose to wear their bodies off by extreme forms of exercise. I choose a lifestyle that my soul craves to live. I choose to follow the cravings of my soul and to faithfully respond to those calls springing from deep inside my heart. They lead me to follow a healthy lifestyle where the first source of nourishment is a way of life that is based on the inner awareness of our interconnectedness to it all and of the intense vibrations of the flow of this all encompassing love. It is a lifestyle that as much as possible cherishes the life in all living beings: humans, animals and plants. It is a life of heart-felt compassion. I can now lead a life from my heart and as much as the rest of society has the right to live lives based on the endless acquisitions of possessions and consumerism, I choose to live the less traveled road of a simple, light and compassionate life. I hope to meet you sometime along this same path. I the meantime I will respect you and send my love to you as we cross our paths and walk in different directions while trying our best to live light on this land and always smile, love and laugh.
Verónica Muñoz is a dreamer who believes that everyone's dreams can come true. She is a speaker on behalf of social, human, animal and environmental justice and peace on this planet. She is the author of Tales From A Dream Before It Happened and her website is www.artisticliving.com
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The Alexander Technique - Taking the Pressure Off Your Body
by Robert Rickover
"Stand up straight!" "Pull your shoulders back!" As children, we were told to have good posture. Yet we were seldom taught effective ways to accomplish this. Indeed, we were often not even told just what "good posture" is.
The consequences of this information gap can be seen all around us: stiff necks, shoulders hunched forward or pulled tightly back, restricted breathing, and tightness in the thighs, legs and ankles. Backaches, headaches, and other painful symptoms are often the unfortunate result.
By the time we've spent a year or two in school, sitting for hours on chairs and at desks chosen primarily for their economy and for the convenience of the custodial staff, we have learned tension patterns that interfere with our natural easiness, balance, support, and freedom of movement. These tension patterns - slumping or stiff "good posture" patterns - become so habitual that they start to feel normal despite the fact that they seriously restrict our breathing and freedom of movement.
The Alexander Technique is a time-tested method of teaching ways to restore our natural balance, flexibility and ease of movement. It teaches the use of the appropriate amount of effort for a particular activity, releasing more energy for all our activities. It is not a series of treatments or exercises, but rather a reeducation of the mind and body that helps you discover a new balance in your body by releasing unnecessary tension. It can be applied to all of your daily activities.
The Alexander Technique places a great deal of emphasis on the relationship between your head and neck. The way we manage that relationship has huge implications for the way the rest of our body is organized. If, as is so often the case, we compress our heads down into our spines, a whole series of compensatory tensions is created. If, on the other hand, we can learn to allow our head to balance lightly on top of our spine as nature intended, our built in "anti-gravity" reflex is activated and our body is encouraged to release previously held restrictions.
How the Alexander Technique is Taught:
The Alexander Technique is above all an educational method. Alexander teachers use a combination of verbal instruction and a light, guiding, touch to convey information to their students. Alexander Technique teaching is done in private lessons and in group classes. Private lessons are usually between 1/2 and 1 hour in length.
Most certified Alexander Technique teachers have completed a three-year full time training course recognized by one of several major professional societies. Typically, the training courses have a student teacher ratio of 5:1 or less, and provide a great deal of individual attention for each trainee.
A few teachers have trained more informally on an apprenticeship basis and some of them have become members of professional societies through a rigorous review process. Not all Alexander Technique teachers are certified and not all teachers eligible for certification are members of a professional society.
Choosing a Teacher:
All of the major professional Alexander Technique societies publish a teacher's list as well as on-line listings. Recommendations from friends and colleagues can be useful in choosing a teacher, but you will have to judge for yourself if a particular teacher is right for you.
Ask about his or her training and be prepared to take a few lessons before deciding whether to continue with a course of lessons. If you live in a community with several teachers, have a lesson or two with several before making a final decision.
The basic ideas of the Alexander Technique are not in any way complex or mystical, but they do represent a new way of thinking about the functioning of your body and may take a little getting used to at first.
Excess tension in your body can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms and it can interfere with your ability to perform activities well. Therefore it is not surprising that most people come to the Alexander Technique because they are in pain (backaches, sore necks and shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome etc.) and/or because they are performers who want to improve the quality of their singing, playing, acting or dancing.
People of all ages and occupations have benefited from Alexander Technique lessons. The Technique also has its share of famous people who have publicly endorsed it - including two Nobel Prize winners and a great many celebrities like Paul Newman, John Cleese, William Hurt, Sting, James Galway and Yehudi Menuhun.
What Happens During an Alexander Lesson or Group Class?
When I speak to new students on the telephone before their first lesson, I find they often have questions about what will go on during the lesson and about the teaching process itself.
What Not To Expect
For a start, you don't remove your clothes. Nor is any kind of special clothing required - though as table work often forms part of the lesson, women students usually feel more comfortable wearing slacks or jeans, rather than a skirt.
Alexander lessons are not painful. There is nothing physically aggressive about the work. On the contrary, it is a process of allowing the student to release tension - and the harmful habits that were responsible for it - at a pace that suits him or her, individually.
What Does The Teacher Do?
During the lesson your teacher will be observing your posture and movement patterns. She will also supplement the visual information in a very important way by using her hands, gently placing them on your neck, shoulders, back and so on. The teacher is using her hands in order to get more refined information about your patterns of breathing and moving.
To help her with this, she will probably ask you to perform some simple movements - perhaps waling, or standing up or sitting down in a chair - while her hands are kept in easy contact with your body.
At the same time that the teacher's hands are gathering information, they will also be conveying information to you. The teacher's hands will gently guide your body to encourage a release of restrictive muscular tension.
Naturally, teachers vary somewhat in their approaches to teaching. Just like any other group of professionals, there are variations due to differences in personality and style of training. Some teachers may talk and explain more at first; others prefer to spend most of the time during the first lessons simply helping you to get a new experience of ease and flexibility. Similarly, some teachers emphasize a few, fairly basic movements, allowing the effect to carry over into all your activities, while others prefer to work with you in a wide variety of applications.
How Long Are Lessons - And How Many Will I Need?
A lesson usually lasts between thirty and forty-five minutes. It will probably take a few lessons for you and your teacher to get an idea of how quickly you will make progress. As with the learning of any new skill, a lot depends on how far you want to take it. The majority of students come for a few months, taking between twenty and forty lessons during that period and then, perhaps, come back for refresher lessons or groups of lessons, from time to time.
At the start, students are usually urged to come for lessons fairly frequently, perhaps two or three times a week if that's at all possible. This is because the new approach to movement, and to thinking about movement, which they are learning is a bit unfamiliar at first and may need a little extra help to become established. Later on in the process, students often find they continue to progress quite well with lessons spaced a week or more apart.
What About Alexander Group Work?
Some Alexander Technique teachers have found that by working with individuals in a group setting, they can help far more people that would ever have been possible with individual lessons. Group work is as old as the Alexander Technique itself and experience has shown that under the right circumstances, it can be a very effective way of teaching.
An excellent, somewhat longer, discussion of the Alexander teaching process can be found at http://www.alexandertechnique.com/articles/sweeney
A few months ago I read about a man who was attending a baseball game with his wife. During a break in the game, a woman sitting behind him tapped him on the shoulder and said that she was a doctor and had noticed a small dark spot on the back of his neck. "I'd have it looked at by your family physician," she said.
He did, and after an additional check with a dermatologist, it was determined that it was in fact a melanoma which was easily removed. "It's a good thing we caught it so early - it could easily have spread into your body and that would have been very serious," his doctor told him.
When I read that story, I thought about how many times I've seen children who have developed, often at a very early age, harmful patterns of posture that I know are likely to lead to serious problems later in life. Sometimes it's very hard for me to resist bringing this to their attention, knowing there are many effective ways to help release those harmful patterns.
But experience has taught me that it is almost never a good idea, even if I know them personally.
Kids just don't want to hear comments about their posture. And why should they? They are young and resilient and their posture hasn't yet caused them any noticeable problems.
In any case, most of what they have heard - from parents or teachers - consists of admonitions such as "Stand up straight." or "Pull your shoulders back."
Apart from being annoying, these admonitions simply don't work - at least not for more than a minute or two. Which is just as well because anyone actually attempting to "stand up straight", for example, for a prolonged period of time would likely do more harm than good.
Professor John Dewey, the American philosopher, public education reformer and longtime student of F. M. Alexander, the developer of the Alexander Technique, had a very clear understanding of the problem:
"It is," he wrote, "as reasonable to expect a fire to go out when it is ordered to stop burning as to suppose that a man can stand straight in consequence of a direct action of thought and desire. The fire can be put out only by changing objective conditions; it is the same with rectification of bad posture.
"Of course, something happens when a man acts upon his idea of standing straight. For a little while, he stands differently, but only a different kind of badly. He then takes the unaccustomed feeling which accompanies his unusual stance as evidence that he is now standing straight. But there are many ways of standing badly, and he has simply shifted his usual way to to a compensatory bad way at some opposite extreme."
Or, as the late Marjorie Barstow, a well-known teacher of the Alexander Technique, liked to say when a student in one of her classes would "stand up straight", "You're just rearranging tensions in your body."
The good doctor who went out of her way to help a stranger had the advantage of knowing that her advice would probably be appreciated - and heeded. I don't have that luxury and so I usually keep my observations to myself.
Still, I can't help projecting forward a few decades in the lives of children I meet, when it's very likely they'll be experiencing the sorts of problems I see everyday with my adult students. The teenage slouch, for example, is likely to evolve into severely stopped shoulders by middle age.
Alexander always believed it made much more sense to teach children, whose harmful posture and movement patterns were comparatively weak, rather than adults, when they have often become quite fixed.
As John Dewey noted "(Alexander's) discovery would not have been made and the method or procedure perfected except by dealing with adults who were badly coordinated. But the method is one of remedy; it is one of constructive education. It's proper field of application is with the young, with the growing generation..."
The ABC's of Good Posture by the Father of American Education http://www.angelfire.com/fm/alextech/index.htm has more information about John Dewey and Posture
The Posture Page http://posturepage.com provides information about a variety of proven ways to improve your posture.
The John Dewey and F. Matthias Alexander Homepage http://www.alexandertechnique.com/articles/dewey contains a wealth of information about the connections between these two men.
The Posture Guide http://postureguide.com has more information about posture and the Alexander Technique.
Robert Rickover is a teacher of the Alexander Technique living in Lincoln, Nebraska. He also teaches regularly in Toronto, Canada. Robert is the author of Fitness Without Stress - A Guide to the Alexander Technique and is the creator of The Complete Guide to the Alexander Technique. Visit his site at
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The Biology Of Enlightenment
by Sol Luckman
The evolution from human to divine consciousness involves healing duality and its legacy of karma and disease at the cellular and atomic levels. There is no illness that cannot be healed simply through intention. Many of the thousands of documented so-called miracle healings powerfully demonstrate the impact of consciousness on physical as well as emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Mind-body medicine, which is statistically valid enough to be taught in today's medical schools, offers additional proof of our ability to heal ourselves. Molecular biologist Bruce Lipton's research further indicates that people can modify their DNA and overcome life-threatening illnesses simply by changing their consciousness.
Deepak Chopra has remarked that "the similarity between a thought and a photon is very deep." A photon is a particle or quantum of light or other electromagnetic radiation. Dr. Chopra is implying a connection between thought and light. In many shamanic traditions, thought (intention) is considered a form or function of higher-dimensional light. Mind is "the illuminating energy which 'Lights the way' of an idea or form to be transmitted and received," wrote Alice Bailey. "Upon a beam of light can the energy of the mind materialize." Following this line of reasoning, we can imagine ourselves not only as "frozen light" (to quote Dr. Richard Gerber) but also as "frozen thought."
This way of looking at the human body as a congealed thought, which may at first strike the reader as strange, is in the final analysis deeply empowering. Quantum physicists have repeatedly demonstrated that a scientist always affects the outcome of an experiment simply by observing it, a realization now universally accepted in the scientific community as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Even more amazing is the paradigm-altering discovery that gives rise to the particle-wave duality: the probability that the physicist actually creates the quantum particles that he or she observes, since in unobserved states these particles appear to exist only as waves.
A fundamental and revolutionary truth emerges from this information: consciousness creates. As human beings imbued with free will, we can use the power of our consciousness to re-create our reality: including but not limited to a body, mind and spirit free of disease.
I stress "re-create" because, clearly, we already inhabit one creation. The world as we know it is based on the principle of duality. Another way of stating this is that a dualized or divided consciousness, one that already saw itself as separate from other consciousnesses, including unity or God consciousness, gave birth to the universe as humans often experience it: a battleground between good and evil, light and dark, right and wrong, "us" and "them."
But duality is not merely a philosophy; it is a physical state of being as well. The very atoms that make up our cells are based on positive and negative charges whose opposition sustains a certain life-form. Lipton has coined the phrase the "biology of consciousness" to summarize the transformational idea that living organisms, including humans, rather than being empirical givens, are actually malleable thought-forms. In other words, adopting a quantum perspective, we are basically waves that only cohere as particles through an act of consciousness. By changing our consciousness, we change our physical form and functioning.
Healing means to make whole. Healing leads to unification and implies atonement, which in this context should be read as "at-one-ment." In a world where thought creates and biology is a product of consciousness, not the other way around, the mind has the power to forge a new biology, one no longer based on duality but on the principles of unity and harmony. In Return of the Bird Tribes, where a central theme is the reunion of the human body with the soul in the pivotal years we are currently experiencing, Ken Carey neatly summarizes how we must proceed, individually as well as collectively: "In the order of healing, it is human consciousness that first must change." Our challenge, which is also a tremendous opportunity, is to open up to a literally life-changing way of thinking ourselves into existence.
Enlightenment is about raising consciousness and letting the light of the soul in to the point that we become it. True enlightenment follows a path of conscious personal mastery that results in transformation and, by definition, involves the creation of a stable lightbody. The lightbody or soul body is a "trinitized" (balanced and harmonious) physical vehicle that has resolved duality, karma and disease at the cellular and atomic levels.
We can conceptualize the current evolutionary Shift occurring in our species' DNA as a change in "operating systems" from a binary to a "trinary" code based on the ener-genetics of the three-fold tetrahedron shape. We might even go so far as to say that humans are evolving out of biology into "triology." In this light it is most interesting that some in the alternative science community have alluded to suppressed research on a third DNA strand reportedly activating in many humans.
An illuminating way of visualizing how metamorphosis into a light-based physiology actually occurs is to look at a quantum particle known as positronium. Positronium is composed of an electron, which has a negative charge, and a positron, which has a positive charge. Positronium is a perfect example of duality. It also provides a wonderful illustration of how the lightbody is created. Since electrons and positrons are antiparticle opposites, after combining to form positronium, they immediately cancel out each other and decay into two particles or quanta of light (photons). A third stable and unified element, that is neither positive nor negative, is thus created from a preexisting dualism.
Barbara Hand Clow has written that this process of combination and decay in the positronium atom, mirrored in lightbody activation, "resolves inherent duality into light . [As] the electron is the basic unit of activation--life--it triggers the transmutation of the positron--karma." Contrary to popular misconception, karma has nothing to do with punishment and reward. It exists as part of our holographic universe's binary or dualistic operating system only to teach us responsibility for our creations--and all things we experience are our creations. When these creations are out of tune with Source, they often manifest in the disharmony known as disease. This can occur not only in individuals but in entire civilizations. In both cases, disease, which is typically considered a crisis, simultaneously serves as a powerful stimulus for transformation and transcendence.
As we raise our consciousness and activate our lightbody, we realize that we are our own creators made, or making ourselves, in the image and similitude of the one Creator. Indeed, since in a hologram the part contains the whole, we are the one Creator. By learning this truly transformative lesson, we return to unity consciousness while mastering physicality. In other words, we achieve god-realization as the light of soul descends into a divine or soul body healed of duality and freed from the instructional cycle of karma.
Copyright © 2005 Sol Luckman. All Rights Reserved.
Sol Luckman is managing editor of DNA Monthly and co-founder of the Phoenix Center for Regenetics, offering cutting-edge educational services and materials designed to activate unity consciousness and actualize human potential. The developers of the Regenetics Method are educators and ordained ministers, not medical doctors, and do not pretend to diagnose or treat illness. The preceding article is adapted from the recently published Book One of the Regenetics Series, Conscious Healing with the Regenetics Method. For information visit http://www.phoenixregenetics.org or call 1-828-216-3982.
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The Healing Continues: What do I do Now After Drug Rehab?
by Abhilash Patel
Having gone through alcohol or drug rehabilitation is a major undertaking. Congratulations. Now you might be wondering several things. Where do I go from here? What do I do with my new life? What are the best strategies for staying clean and sober? The information in this article answers all of these important questions. It comes mostly from the experts: people, like you, who were once in a treatment center and have been in recovery for many years. Additional information has also been contributed from professionals that have helped recovering alcoholics/addicts after the alcohol or drug rehabilitation process.
Taking Action - The Process
- Create a plan for after you leave. Work with your therapist, counselor or the treatment center you attended to assist you in developing an after care treatment plan. These are designed to give you a strategy for staying clean. It's a plan that will keep you on track in the recovery process. Lay person and professional experts in recovery know that an outlined plan detailing the things you can do to stay sober is valuable. Here are some of the most common, and maybe not so common, steps/actions/objectives that can be part of your plan towards a goal of staying healthy, sober and free from addiction.
- Continue with therapy. Follow up sessions with a trusted counselor or professional helps to address those issues or problems that are new for you. Life after addiction comes with new or confusing situations you will be faced with. For example, there was a man that after having been in a drug induced state for years did not know how to order his eggs at a restaurant. He would say, "I just let them throw the eggs on the plate, anything to get some food in my belly. I never paid attention to or cared how they were cooked". When you are confronted with something you don't know how to handle, frustration and desire to turn to what you know best (getting high) may become overwhelming. There is no problem too small or large that a trained professional can't help you with. It's better to seek their advice and look for solutions than to return to abusing drugs or alcohol.
- Keep your body healthy. This part of the after care plan should involve listing ways you can keep your body functioning at optimum levels. Some steps may include:
- Nutrition and eating right are essential. There have been studies recently showing that the right intake of calories, vitamins and nutrients, staves off the craving for drugs and alcohol. When your body feels good, the chances are you can better fight the cravings for addictive substances.
- Drink lots of water. Water hydrates the body and maintains your body temperature. Proper hydration allows for smoother waste elimination, and keeps the body emotionally balanced. Experts that work in the crisis industry (rape crisis centers, nurses in emergency or triage, etc.) have long known the power of water in regulating a person's mood. It has a calming effect. An added bonus among many, water keeps your skin from drying out too.
- Exercise. Find an exercise routine and stick with it. If you like the gym or workout centers get a membership Take evening walks in your neighborhood after dinner. Use stairs wherever you go instead of elevators. Remember to find exercises that will bring your heart rate up (aerobic) and those that include warm-up, stretching and free-weights.
- Keep your teeth clean. One of the first things to not only put on your plan but to arrange is a dental exam. Drug use and alcohol abuse damage teeth and gums severely over time. Studies have shown that excessive plaque and tartar on the teeth carries through to our blood stream and creates a plaque build up in the arteries. This means potential heart problems and cardiovascular disease. Also, clean teeth means you will smile more and that alone will better your social life.
- Make social activities part of your plan. When you're developing your after care plan, be sure to include activities that make you happy. Socializing will decrease depression and keep you from feeling isolated. On this note, make sure to not include former drinkers or drug using "buddies". Chances are very high that if you begin associating with your former partying partners (that are still using) you will quickly begin abusing the substance again. Find people that have been in recovery for a long time or others that have never had a substance abuse problem. Seek new friends, return to favorite hobbies, whatever it takes to get you out and busy.
- Find your spiritual path. Whatever spirituality means to you, discover or re-discover what it is that gives you strength through the hard times. Returning to a spiritual place that made you feel connected, worthy or special will help.
- Find the creativity within. Do you draw, paint, dance or read? Bring the creative you back to life. Creativity gives a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. This is important for anyone recovering from an addiction. By the way, start your creative processes with your treatment plan. Give thought to the social activities you like. Outline some ideas to eat foods that will not only nourish you but make you feel good, alive and energetic. There are many healthy foods that can give this feeling. Bring your creativity to your plan and make it uniquely yours.
When preparing your after care plan, make sure it's what you want. There is nothing worse than having a plan that fits someone else's needs or expectations. Often in alcohol or drug treatment and detox centers we hear quite a bit about what we should do. Our days are planned with activities, counseling, meal times and social events. We become accustomed to what others think we should do to remain sober. Family and friends offer advice, your counselor or therapist may suggest items for your plan but in the end, the treatment plan belongs to you. It needs to be tailored with the purpose of achieving your goal. Your goal is to remain sober and clean. If the plan is one you want and can live with, the chances are you will respect it, follow through with the steps/objectives and stay sober for many years to come.
This article was written by Abhilash Patel for Passages Malibu Treatment Center, a drug rehab and alcohol rehab treatment center. The Passages Drug Treatment Program provides residential substance abuse treatment for men and women suffering from alcohol and/or drug addiction/dependencies. Any reproductions of this article must include a link pointing to http://www.passagesmalibu.com/.
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