Healthy Heart

 

It’s February. Hearts are everywhere. At this time of year many express their love for someone, or for everyone, in heart-shaped gifts. And who doesn’t recall being in primary school, giving or receiving the small heart sweets that had messages like “I LOVE YOU”, “BE MINE”, or simply “LOVE”, stamped on them?

These, coupled with a valentine placed in a decorated shoebox, made for a happy day. Why? Because of what accompanied the sweets and the cards – the sentiment of being appreciated and loved by classmates. That kind of thought lifts us. The trek home on Valentine’s Day was filled with joyful chatter, partly because we felt good about receiving gifts but perhaps even more so for having given them.

Could there be lessons to learn from that? February is National Heart Month in the US. There are many articles about exercise, diet, and healthy habits that focus on the heart as an organ of the body, which we should take care of. That goes without saying. From a standpoint of physique we think of the heart as central to life, indispensable to longevity or even activity. It is vital. But could there be something more to heart health – something found in that primary school experience?

I think there is. Beyond physique, “heart” is understood to mean the center of a person’s thoughts and feelings, the innermost part of our being. It also points to qualities such as courage, sincerity and the cherishing of someone or something. Those are true expressions of the heart. What is common in all of these connotations of “heart” is the focus of thought on others, not just oneself. As a child, this sort of focus brought us jubilation and energy, enriching the heart, and it can do so as adults, too, because it is precisely opposite to the self- absorption and fear which stress the heart, mentally and physically.

I felt this when I was driving home from my office one evening in heavy traffic, weighed down by various pressures at work. I suddenly began to experience pains in my chest and found it difficult to breathe. While seriously disturbed by this, I knew I had a caring family waiting for me at home, ready to greet me and appreciate what I was doing. I felt their love and looked forward to returning the same to them when I saw them. And, more importantly, I had a heartfelt awareness of God’s always-present love, divine Love, embracing us all. As a result, the stress left my thought and my physical condition also normalized.

Such cause and effect is indicated in a statement written by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, who over a century ago surmounted an oft broken heart to found a church based on Christian healing.

Referring to the divine Mind, God, she wrote that “…there must be a change from the belief that the heart is matter and sustains life, to the understanding that God is our Life, that we exist in Mind, live thereby, and have being.”

She continued: “This change of heart would deliver man from heart- disease, and advance Christianity a hundredfold. The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man. This change of heart is essential to Christianity, and will have its effect physically as well as spiritually, healing disease.” [Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896, pp. 50-51]

We can all express a generous and happy heart and, undoubtedly, a healthier heart, from as simple an act as placing a card in a decorated shoebox – or whatever the equivalent would be today – blessing both giver and receiver.

This article was published February 13, 2015 in the following newspapers:

Sedona Red Rock News

Lake Havasu City News-Herald

and will be published February 18, 2015 in the Globe Arizona Silver Belt

Stop Aging

 

 

How often have you asked a child, “How old are you?” It is innocent — like asking a neighbor about the weather. But the message behind the question to the child is an affirmation of a learned habit of focusing on age. That focus develops attitudes and assumptions that take on the aura of reality, when they are but myths.

 

The thoughts you might carry around about aging are not all supported by experience or data. Some of these common habits of thought about age are simply wrong. When we say that age is just a number, we need to be careful. What does the number represent to us? Is the number loaded with connotations that we have brought to the party?

 

Anne Tergesen’s article in the Wall Street Journal, November 30, 2014, makes the case as to “Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong”. For example, many assume that cognitive decline is a necessary part of the aging process. Dementia, more specifically, Alzheimer’s, weren’t part of the everyday conversation a few decades back. Today, by just existing in the media flow, those terms are constants and so is the fear they engender. The impression is that a majority of elders are subject to that condition, and we are advised to be alert to the early signs of its onset. This is incorrect.

 

It isn’t that these conditions never appear in the elderly but lapsing into these conditions is partly a function of attitude, not just stereotypical expectations of brain function decline. “Over a 38-year period, the decline in memory performance for those ages 60 and over with more negative stereotypes was 30% greater than for those with less negative views, says Becca Levy, an author of the study and an associate professor of psychology at the Yale School of Public Health”. So, the lesson seems to be, don’t buy-in to the negative stereotypes of aging.

 

Also, with respect to the concern about the prevalence of depression in the older members of society, there is actually less evidence of that condition in later life (5.5%) than in earlier (8.9%). The reason is that people with more life experience tend to focus on positive rather than negative emotions, memories and stimuli — tending to see more of the good than the bad in situations.

 

Finally, it was encouraging to note that those 65 and older scored higher than all other age groups in the following dimensions of overall thriving in life: life purpose, supportive relationships, economic life, sense of community, and having health and energy to get things done.

 

This statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by the woman who started the Christian Science Monitor in her mid-eighties, has been a wonderful inspiration for many in maintaining a barrier to the encroachment of age-based stereotypes: “Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood. Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.”

 

So, we need not accept the decline in life outlined by popular presumptions, but rather seek to fulfill our promise, which is always expanding, and stop aging.

Published February 4, 2015 in the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper.

Health: Dependence or Independence?*

 

 

Dependence is certainly not what a toddler wants after learning to walk, or a teen after getting a driver’s license. They don’t seek to return to dependence on that which they have outgrown. They are overjoyed at the progress they have made in taking charge of their life and asserting their independence.

 

But is regression from independence a risk in regard to our health? Are there aspects of typical, modern health care that foster dependence? Can our attitude and thoughtfulness help avoid this dependence.

 

A young adult friend was in a serious automobile accident and consequently immobilized because of broken bones. A skilled and attentive surgeon set the bones and prescribed rest and low level activity that would aid recovery. Medications were included to control pain and address other precautions. This was normal protocol. The young adult adhered to the regimen initially, but unwelcome side effects accompanied procedures, and he wanted to diminish or cease the usage of the medications. He respected medical opinion, but he did not hesitate rethinking the nature, duration and intensity of these prescriptions as an independent thinker.

 

Expecting healing, rather than perpetuation of chemical assistance, helped him diminish the dosages until half way through the expected program there was no need for pain medication because there was no pain. Why? Because, in part, this young man was not perpetuating the thought of the accident. He held no ill will toward the drunk driver who T-boned him. He felt and showed much gratitude toward the emergency room personnel, asking on departure to go back to thank one of the nurses for the special care he had received when he was first brought in. He turned the physical challenges into a lesson of patience. In short, he had refused to depend upon the stereotypical victim conduct of anger, pity, or self-absorption. The result was a quicker recovery, both emotionally and physically, and freedom from continuing chemical dependence.

 

Good outcomes from maintaining an independent and open thought on the path to health have been evident for centuries. One finds Biblical precedent in the woman who, having spent her wealth on seeking medical help for her chronic bleeding without relief, reached out to the spiritual representative of health at that time, Christ Jesus, and was healed through reclaiming her own spiritual independence from the matter-based norm that had not helped her.

 

Like this woman and the young man mentioned above, we can be grateful for the caring received from skilled and well-motivated professionals without slipping into dependence. We can search out the spiritual qualities like graciousness, gratitude, humility and forgiveness, which bring confidence in the inevitability of good health and strengthen one’s conscious independence toward life-affirming decisions.

*Published December 10, 2014 in  the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper in Globe, Arizona.

 

iOS 8.0* Iconic Health

 

 

Major change. For those who use iPhones* and iPads*, Apple just launched a thorough update of their operating system for its customers. Without requesting it, a new icon appears when this software is downloaded. It is the “Health” icon. I didn’t ask for it. It just appeared.

 

The “Health” icon provides the user with a dashboard of health data about themselves. It also allows one to source other medical applications and to list critical personal medical information for emergencies.

 

When this appeared on my iPhone desktop, I looked for ways that I could incorporate my health data and its sources — files of spiritual inspiration and evidences of God’s love for man — under that desktop icon along with exercise regimen. For me the important sources are passages of inspired Scripture and learnings of a spiritual nature, many of which are from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, written by an early researcher in health, Mary Baker Eddy.  The iPhone program appears to assume that “health” and “medicine” coupled with exercise, are synonymous. But is that a sufficiently inclusive view of one’s health?

 

To many people, health, or wholeness, is far more than medical data and the tracking of cardio routines reported to the user. Those could be helpful but do not constitute a complete system for health. Others have found an effective operating system detailed in the book mentioned above, Science and Health: “Divine metaphysics is now reduced to a system, to a form comprehensible by and adapted to the thought of the age in which we live. This system enables the learner to demonstrate the divine Principle, upon which Jesus’ healing was based, and the sacred rules for its present application to the cure of disease.”

 

A system is a set of related parts that form a whole. So, wouldn’t we want our “Health” icon to cover all of the related parts that constitute our wholeness. Prevention of ill health is certainly part of that, which could include proper exercise. But prevention that includes a prayerful and meditative attitude maintains a peaceful and calm consciousness and can result in healing.

 

Healing, therefore, should also be part of the upgrade for the operating system of life. Over time, one could learn that a universal and divine sense of love, God as Love, according to the book of I John in the Bible, heals. It reaches what medicine can’t in relationships, life direction, motives for our actions, and, yes, physical restoration.

 

While doing a normal exercise on the floor of my room, I felt a great pain in my hip and couldn’t move from the position on my back. The Old Testament healing of Jacob and his dislocated hip came to my thought and I knew at once that there would be a solution. Instead of fear, expectation of freedom from this pain and immobility calmed my thought. In a few days, I was moving normally by adhering to this idea and others like it.

 

The new icon on my iPhone is a wonderful reminder to broaden my sense of health to include more than medical data, maintaining a more holy view of health and wholeness. That’s a real operating system upgrade.

 

*Names are intellectual property of Apple, Inc.

Metamedicine or Metaphysics: Which Path to Immediate Health?

I arrived in Korea. I was to lead a meeting in the morning. The night resulted in intense stomach pain. Even if the language issues could be overcome, I couldn’t imagine postponing the plans for the day. I needed to be well quickly. Where to turn?

Probably food poisoning would have been diagnosed by a physician, and a generally accepted compound or pill prescribed. It was not my inclination to do this, and if it had, would it have been that simple?

There is a developing trend in medical health…metamedicine…which does not leave doctors with the surety of the past. Metamedicine is the emergence of a second tier of medical diagnosis and judgment that physicians must meet for obtaining approval for payment from insurance companies or government programs. In short, doctors are being second-guessed by a technocratic layer of qualifiers, controlling what is and what is not proper treatment for payment. This can be a problem for timely diagnosis and treatment.

Here is one physician’s concern:

“Knowing what to do when faced with a sick patient is relatively straightforward…But in today’s practice of medicine, that’s not enough. Physicians, PAs and NPs all live in two parallel universes these days, the world of medicine and the world of metamedicine. The world of medicine was created through understanding of life itself. It is vast and complex, and growing exponentially…The world of metamedicine was created by humans with limited understanding of life, but with vast experience in actuarial calculations and bookkeeping. It is growing faster than medicine itself.” http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/07/welcome-world-metamedicine.html

It appears that metamedicine isn’t treatment above general medicine to improve and accelerate its good results but, rather, poses an internal, double hurdle in medical judgment between practicing physicians and their approvers, which can lead to inconsistency of diagnosis and delay in treatment.

My decision in that moment in the hotel in Korea removed this dilemma for me. How?

Divine metaphysics is immediately available to anyone, anywhere. The author of an original book on divine metaphysics and healing, Mary Baker Eddy, says this, “Divine metaphysics is now reduced to a system, to a form comprehensible by and adapted to the thought of the age in which we live. This system enables the learner to demonstrate the divine Principle, upon which Jesus’ healing was based, and the sacred rules for its present application to the cure of disease.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

Half-way around the world from home, the calming and healing ideas of the loving presence and power of God, changing my view of myself from an acutely ill international traveler to the comforted person I needed to be in that moment, were immediately present and inspiring. I was free of pain that morning and able to conduct the work I had come to do.

Spiritual metaphysics enables one to resolve problems quickly, without conflicting physical diagnosis and its attendant complexities and challenges. Perhaps it can help reduce the problem noted by our physician friend in the same article.

My own experience suggests that the conscious awareness of un-conflicted ideas of health, available from a universal and divine source, a loving God, the same source one finds in Scriptural healing, can provide the most immediate and certain relief from illness to normal health.

Food For Thought

 

Savory or sweet might be our menu preferences but Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that “Bitter is Better” in his recent Huffington Post article (April 28, 2014) regarding the food we eat. Of course, it makes good sense to rebalance our eating with some less sweet tasting vegetables along with our more habitual fare.  Variety in diet has always made sense.

 

It was Aristotle who promoted the Golden Mean…balance (moderation) in all things. Naturopaths have built a health profession on the premise that most disease is caused by the unbalancing of one’s normal physical composition. They seek to restore it naturally to balance, often through the food one eats. Focus on eating behaviors and negative outcomes for poor eating behaviors have never had more public, even governmental, attention. Most Americans are aware of the dedication of the First Lady, Michelle Obama, to healthy nutrition of the young in our country. Many media publications have complete sections devoted to diet and health.

 

But for all the focus on healthy nutrition, a wise precept from the past is often forgotten: “What defiles a person is not what goes into the mouth; it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.” We are pretty careful not to ingest things that will upset our stomach, but are we equally as careful not to take in and voice ideas that are upsetting, even damaging?

 

It seems like most grocery shoppers are careful to examine the labels on food before purchasing or using. I’ve known friends who have considered every ingredient in organic garlic pepper, noting that it had a trace of organic sugar and therefore, they couldn’t eat the wild-caught salmon on the grill seasoned with it. We sensibly take stock of what we put into our mouth. But perhaps an even more important question is, how discriminate are we with the ideas or images we take into our thought that result in things we say and do?

 

On the positive side, thoughts that lead to unselfish acts toward others leave healthy imprints. But a diet of clever but biting humor, without any balance of mental uplift, can lead to dark and empty images. Dwelling on or sharing such images robs us of the opportunity to engage in enriching dialogue that might help resolve societal problems.

 

Unsolved problems often create anxiety, which isn’t a healthy state of thought. In keeping with Aristotle, we might better seek to balance our concern for food perfection, an elusive goal, with a diet for enriched ideas and beneficial conversation.  Our world needs our best thinking, conversing, and acting, more than anything.

 

There are many sources for finding help to balance our intake of good thinking and acting? I find balance in this statement from an inspiring and effective spiritual thinker: “Selfishness and sensualism are educated in [human consciousness] by the thoughts ever recurring to one’s self, by conversation about the body, and by the expectation of perpetual pleasure or pain from it; and this education is at the expense of spiritual growth”… a heavy expense.

If we focus a bit more attention on what we are consuming in consciousness and a bit less on physical diet, we might find the rebalancing we are looking for that includes a diviner, less food-centered, experience. Then what “comes out of the mouth” will be health-generating to ourselves and to others. That’s balanced food — for thought.

 

*Matt. 15:11 (New English Translation)

Science and Health With Key To The Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 260

Positive Thinking or Spiritual Power

 

With ten kids, I find positive reinforcement indispensible. They gain confidence from honest recognition of the good work that they do.  Positive thinking certainly seems more helpful than negative thinking.  But it falls short of real help at times and, as some note, it can feed off delusion rather than inspired understanding.  Not ideal.

In a recent article by Bob Carden, “How positive thinking can trip into costly delusion”, published in the Arizona Daily Star (special to the Washington Post)*, “positivity” is readily panned.  His basis is the duping that occurs when unreasoned positive expectations spur financial ruin…the kinds of ruin we have seen from the frenzy around economic bubbles or “get rich” scams.

Carden interestingly attributes the founding of positive thinking to the 19th century spiritualist, Phineas Quimby.   Quimby sought to heal physical maladies from a positive energy, albeit through physical touching and a belief in some transference of magnetism through water thought to cure.  His method wasn’t particularly spiritual, and certainly did not attribute any healing to a divine influence or power.  This left his patients in a personally dependent position.  That seems more downside than upside.

Whether one thinks negatively or positively, being dependent on the mind of any person, even oneself, is risky.  My kids rightly don’t make decisions based merely on what I say to them, but rather on what they know to be a wise choice from all they have experienced.  Also, I don’t think they want to rest merely on their own limited opinions and inexperience.  So, when in a negative thought pattern, to whom or what does one appeal?  Even when in a positive thought pattern, where is the foundation that removes the risk of reversal?

I was raised with plenty of positive support and good friends to “be there” when I needed a boost.  But after college in the Peace Corps, far away from parents and friends, I needed healing of malaria and, instinctive for me, I turned to prayer or affirmation of a source of support beyond human opinions… let’s call it a sense of drawing on universal love and spiritual law that I know as God.

When I returned suddenly from the Peace Corps, after a complete recovery from malaria entirely through reliance on prayer (not mere positive thinking) and a growing understanding of the universal, regenerative power of divine Love, I faced the prospect of applying to law school out of cycle.  It was April.  Most law school admissions were closed for the following fall.  I hadn’t taken the LSATs.  I hadn’t been awake for an entire day for over a month.  I arrived in country for temporary quarantine on Tuesday.  The last test for late admissions was Saturday.  I was in San Francisco; the testing center that would take me on an exception basis was Northwestern Law School in Chicago.   I flew in Friday night, packed a bag lunch and left at dawn to arrive early and take care of the unusual, untimely registration for the all-day exam.

Positive thought is certainly more helpful than pessimism, or I might never have tried to pull this off.  But there needed to be more. There was no cheering section, no magnetic head rubbing to make it through this experience.  I had learned in the healing of malaria to depend on a spiritual and divine sense of calm and power, the stillness of prayer, to overcome whatever doubts I had and whatever physical challenges might come along to defeat completing the day successfully.  That deep turning to prayer in advance of the exam resulted in a successful day in every way.

Being positive is useful, so long as we aren’t being gullible.  But stepping up to a sense of divine law that governs us all, like the law of aerodynamics governs all that flies, we find a source outside of ourselves that is much more than positive thinking…it is universally present and powerful and brings results without the risk of delusion.

*The Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, April 13, 2014

Published by the Arizona Silver Belt newspaper April 30, 2014