“circle of friends” by Valentina Powers
Rudolf Steiner, Spiritual Scientist, and founder of Waldorf Education and Anthroposophic Medicine cites that children can’t in fact subsume, in a healthy fashion, reading, writing or mathematical concepts until well after the milk teeth have fallen out. The idea being that if you wake a child too early to intellectual machinations, you damage the fine tuning of their etheric (creativity and absorption) and astral (artistry and inspiration) integration.
In this over-intellectualized and mechanistic epoch in which we live, one of the greatest crimes I see in healthcare is over-intellectualized adults who struggle with accessing all of their organs for knowledge. They’re just not properly integrated! This produces anxiety and neurosis on a large scale as their capacity for trusting their inner guidance system (gnosis) has been tarnished due largely to the tyranny of forced education.
Parents who live in fear that their child won’t be able to compete in this global culture unless they’re bullied into unfolding their egghead processes early on, actually destroy their child’s innate capacities to become lifelong learners, something which ought to be borne as a self-inspired, inside-out gesture. Real knowledge has never been a successful outside-in game and never will be. You’ve heard the maxim, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
A natural curiosity is the stuff of health. It propels us from the Godhead of our ordination as human beings (not human doings) otherwise as children we’d never ask questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” If this innate desire is squashed, and replaced by government curricula and unproven homework that turns parents into hateful enforcers instead of advocates and protectors, we destroy a child’s delicate intuition.
When will we come to wholly trust, and have faith, that each of us will ask the questions – from an internal fount whose source is beyond our comprehension – that will propel the answers towards us? When will we come to the understanding that as we progress through our spiritual unfolding, our nuanced capacity to know will flow and ebb with each consciousness soul phase we blunder through so that we’re married to the functional purpose that evolution pours through each one of us?
When will we know that the gesture to bully and shove round pegs into intellectually limiting square holes is on its way out and that feminine wisdom is mounting a luminous trail so self-sustaining and rejuvenating that the silos of patriarchy are being revealed, and breaking down at an amazing rate? When will we know that the desire to “know thyself” is so flipping compelling to each one of us that its intrinsic nature is something to be preserved, not browbeaten or terrorized with ridiculous tests.
When will we preserve the essence of our innately curious being-ness as wonder-filled seekers?
When will we know?
While attending University, way back when, I used to board with a great big Irish Catholic family. Actually, there were once seven children at home but when I arrived on the scene to rent a room, only the mother and one daughter were left at home. The young woman and I both attended the University of Toronto at the same College.
When I came downstairs one day the mother, H. (I’ll call her), wearing a surgeon’s mask, was stripping the paint from around the oak window casings with a small blow torch and a paint scraper. She was singing softly to herself. I tried to creep by without disturbing her as she seemed so intent on her task. She called out, “Is that you Allyson?” I replied, “Yes, I’ve come down to make some breakfast.”
I recall commenting on the incredible amount of work she was doing and that it might take a year, or more, for her to strip all the windows in the house, including the stained glass ones, and wasn’t she afraid of burning the wood or torching the glass? She responded that it was therapy for her after the decades of work at Queen’s Park as an assistant to a prominent political member. She was now retired and it seemed stripping windows of their white paint was how she’d decided to best fill her days. At the time, I didn’t understand why a retired person wasn’t out scuba diving or lunching with a whole gaggle of friends.
She continued, saying that she wove her prayers into the vapour from the torch, that they would be carried heavenward with each bubble of paint that she scraped from the sill. During the hotter summer months, she’d often strip the paint for 8-9 hour stretches in her panties and a loose t-shirt. I wondered at this sixty-five year old feminist as if she was a most curious object. Sometimes, I knew that she could feel my eyes on her and I could feel her smile; she’d just continue humming as she worked without saying a word. One time she did ask me if I had issues with feminism, and for three decades after I was mystified by her question.
Late one afternoon, I came home via streetcar along Gerrard St. East, to find on my bed a book entitled, “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr. about a simple shopping list left behind by a monk and how its seemingly benign items like, “Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels–bring home for Emma” speaks to the rise and fall of humanity in the face of atrocities like a nuclear holocaust. At the time, I didn’t have a clue why H. would want me to read such a book, however, since she seemed to take an interest in me (I had been orphaned the year prior) I forced myself through its pages. We never spoke about why she gave it to me.
To this day, I still don’t wholly understand the ramifications of what was written on the pages of that book, so I took it on as a gesture of intention, a meditation of sorts. Just as this woman scraped paint day after day, perhaps not wholly understanding why or what her function or purpose was at the time, she was investing her thoughts into the practice. I tried to bring the same gesture to that book, and many other books and practices since.
H. taught me that to be a woman in the 21st century, it is sometimes enough not to will something into existence with a great fury, hell bent on accomplishment. That sometimes, seemingly meaningless, repetitive tasks can allow for the space to contemplate, ruminate and even pray. That sometimes, whispering your hopes and dreams into the whiff of vapour, or exploring the incongruous meaning behind why a person is canonized by patriarchal religion is similarly mysterious.
It is the task of remaining open and receptive, in a state of gratitude for the simple things in life, where laying down the rod of doing in exchange for a state of being is an act of utter courage. It is the meaning of the “mass” portion of Christ-mass. When I look up Mass, I get a whole conglomeration of meanings in Wikipedia that look something like this:
“The English noun mass is derived from Middle Latin missa. The Latin word was adopted in Old English as mæsse (via a Vulgar Latin form *messa), and was sometimes glossed as sendnes (i.e. “a sending, dismission”). The Latin term missa itself was in use by the 6th century. It is most likely derived from the concluding formula Ite, missa est (“Go; the dismissal is made”); missa here is a Late Latin substantive corresponding to classical missio.
Historically, however, there have been other explanations of the noun missa, i.e. as not derived from the formula ite, missa est. Fortescue (1910) cites older, “fanciful” etymological explanations, notably a latinization of Hebrew matzâh (??????) “unleavened bread; oblation”, a derivation favoured in the 16th century by Reuchlin and Luther, or Greek ?????? “initiation”, or even Germanic mese “assembly”.Already Du Cange (1678) reports “various opinions on the origin” of the noun missa “mass”, including the derivation from Hebrew matzah (Missah, id est, oblatio), here attributed to Caesar Baronius. The Hebrew derivation is learned speculation from 16th-century philology; medieval authorities did derive the noun missa from the verb mittere, but not in connection with the formula ite, missa est. Thus, De divinis officiis (9th century) explains the word as a mittendo, quod nos mittat ad Deo (“from ‘sending’, that which sends us towards God”), while Rupert of Deutz (early 12th century) derives it from a “dismissal” of the “enmities which had been between God and men” (inimicitiarum quæ erant inter Deum et homines).”
It is really a tough piece for me to sort through. I don’t fully understand its holy historical references; however, if I am patient enough, some vaporous light may illuminate it if I’m meant to know more. The other day, in a foreign country, where the language is foreign to me, I slipped into a two hundred year old church during mass. I sat in a back pew, closed my eyes in the cool stoney air and felt the wisps of incense wash over my fatigued bones. My camera draped at my side, I closed my eyes and fell into a meditative state as the filthy, homeless person with a ratty beard prayed next to me in Spanish on bended knee.
In the past, when directed by my mentor, Steven Decker, to study Rudolf Steiner until I drifted off to sleep more mystified and confused than ever, I’d become comforted without knowing precisely why I was studying such heady texts. It was like being tussled and tossed about in the washing machine of mystery. While I don’t always know in the moment, I trust that a canticle of meaning will eventually find me during the seemingly most mundane of tasks, a whispered prayer, poem or song received in the corridors of my heart.
I no longer have issues with powerful women. They don’t scare me. H. was right. It took me years to understand that just because I wasn’t counted as a wizened woman in my early twenties due to my weakened, diseased state doesn’t mean that I didn’t have the potential to eventually become one. After thirty years, through the portal of my own health, I learned to breathe many prayers into countless sill windows. Although ongoing, I now feel the answers to my own feminine mystery; a sweet place where I might serve in my ontological confines in this present space and time.
A canticle of seemingly endless lists filled with pastrami and sauerkraut in the face of political holocaust can join together to produce strong, capable and assured women, who whisper prayers for the salvation of self and other into the vapours of time. This unifying presence through family and intention is the Divine feminine ignited.
This year I am thankful for rest, health, verve, ease, strength, quiet, creativity and an inner grace that is ripening. I am grateful for inspiring women, and men, in my life who hold the candle of the mysteries of life in good stead until they’re ready to be wholly illuminated. I am able to fall into meditation, offering prayer-filled alms to the Spanish beggar for he shines the light on what is still my greatest challenge: the quickness with which I judge the sills of time to be too many to make a shred of difference.
“Just as in the body, eye and ear develop as organs of perception, as senses for bodily processes, so does a man develop in himself soul and spiritual organs of perception through which the soul and spiritual worlds are opened to him. For those who do not have such higher senses, these worlds are dark and silent, just as the bodily world is dark and silent for a being without eyes and ears.”
Happy Re-New-al Year to you all!
Well, we’ve put 19,000 kms in total on our car since June travelling across Canada and down the west coast of the United States and into Mexico. We’re finally settled in the most remarkable city that we’ve ever been to in both Europe or North America. Think ancient Italian port town nestled on a rocky bowl with mind-blowing food and culture for less than a few pesos.
Guanajuato, Mexico is built in a steep teacup that is an ancient caldera of a volcano. It was the seat for the Spanish invasion, and subsequent revolution, due to the wealth of the gold and silver mines documented in the art of Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo’s husband).
In the week that we’ve been here, we’ve already been to several concerts, with a world class symphony, with performers that hail from Russia, Europe as well as Mexico. Yesterday, I went to a piano recital that blew my socks off, afterwards there was a wine and tapas offering in the spectacular garden with local folks peppered with expats. It cost me $10 Canadian.
I’m learning to muddle through with my broken Spanish, although it is tough being so effusive and so short on vocabulary. I will start my tutoring online next week and hope to volunteer here with local youth who make organic soaps and olive oil so that I can learn more of the colour of this expressive romance language.
Our two room casita, with fibre-op, sits at the very top of the bowl with mountains jutting up on three sides. Any stroll to the the town takes us on a steep incline that makes me often think that I need a climber’s belt, ropes and several carabiners to make it back home.
Our morning hikes take us down cobbled streets through a dam, salted with patos blancos (white ducks), a gorgeous park past several schools and universities for art, political science and engineering. Of course, there are churches with huge iron bells and haciendas dotted in between with old colonial styling and balconies, man how I love a pretty balcony!
Jeff and I will scoot into Café Tal for a Sencha Tea (or the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had) and then we might have a couple of steamed tacos for breakfast from a street vendor. All totalling about $3.50 Cdn. A cab is 50 pesos (about $3.00 with tip) and the bus is 5 pesos (which is so little I can’t calculate it). Our groceries for the week come to about $30 – $40 Cdn at Mercado Hidalgo (built by Ernesto Brunel and Antonio Rivas Mercado with input by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel of Paris’ Eiffel Tower) where we get all our fruits, vegetables and meats.
It’s even cheaper if you walk the streets and locate the native indians, mostly women with babes in arms, who’ve brought their wares to sell down from the ranchos way above the lip of the caldera. One such young fellow, in front of his parent’s vegetable stall, stopped and asked me in broken English where I was from. I responded, “Canada,” gesturing way, way far from here, and he asked me if we speak English there and I said, “Yes, and French too!”
The weather is very cool here at night, dropping down to a nippy 5-8 degrees celsius which is in the mid 40’s on the fahrenheit scale. Like home, we have three blankets on our bed for warmth at night. And boy do we sleep! At 7,000 feet above sea level, we’re having to take the homeopathic remedies, Coca and Cundurango, for a touch of altitude sickness. You’re extra sleepy at night, the oxygen thinner so when hiking back up the 3,500 steps (about 15 flights of stairs … no, we don’t count them … we have an app for that!) from having tea, we need to stop a couple of times to catch our breath. Also, you can have headaches right where you’d have devil’s horns, if you were thusly inclined, on the top of your head and feel at times a little hungover with a stomach bug.
While it takes about six weeks, typically, to stabilize your blood oxygen levels, we’re already feeling amazing in our new locale. We travel like this to fulfill our astral desire function to know new people, culture, art, music and language. It builds the ontic (sense of autonomy/immunity) by holding our essence in check as we’re exposed to many different circumstances and seeming social incongruencies to our more conservative Canadian sensibilities. Also, living in Canada, frankly is just too familiar, and also very pricey now that we’ve just paid off all of the “investments” we made into our education.
We’ll see what the next five months here in Mexico yields. In our opinion, we’d much rather be on this side of any walls to be erected by boisterous (better if I don’t add the other adjectives I’m thinking of) politicians.
Our baby, Seamus is our “opps baby”. The pregnancy was a bit of a surprise since we weren’t trying and both of us are 44. We both have been in treatment with our Heikunstler (and I am a Heilkunstler in training) for over 15 years, eat organic and try to live a healthy lifestyle so getting pregnant easily should have been no surprise since fertility and health go hand in hand.
My pregnancy was routine and uneventful and I did remain active throughout it – down hilled skied until I was 20 weeks, biked until 30 weeks and hiked until 35 weeks, this was on top of taking care of my two other boys (13 and 8 yr olds) and a female Newfoundland puppy. My last baby was born at home, and I planned a home birth for Seamus as well.
I went overdue, a new experience for me as both of my other boys were born at 39 weeks. As I approached 41 weeks with an OP position (posterior) I started taking homeopathic remedies to help turn my baby, along with seeing my acupuncturist and chiropractor. My labour started (literally) with a splash when my water broke all over our family room floor at 10:30 pm on a warm summer night. I called out to Doug but he was putting our youngest to bed and didn’t hear me, so my oldest son, told him my water had broke and I needed some towels. He ran downstairs with our “good” towels which I refused to use and frustrated him since he wasn’t concerned about what towels we used – he did go up and get different towels. He seemed more panicked than I expected and when I asked him what was going on, he replied that the last time my water broke, I had delivered within 15 minutes. Once I explained to him that I had been in active labour for a few hours then, and that this was the start of this labour, he settled down and we both laughed about the misunderstanding.
We put our boys to bed, who wondered if the baby was coming soon and we told them that it could be hours yet. At 11:00pm, I called my midwife and as there was no active labour pattern, she told me to try and get some rest and call her when labour had established itself. Doug and I chilled out in our bedroom – it was a wonderful restful, intimate time as we chatted and relaxed. Contractions started at 11:30pm (it should be noted that we were so relaxed that Doug dozed off while timing the first few contractions. LOL) and by12:30am they were becoming uncomfortable, so I asked my midwife to come and got into my tub to get some relief.
Our midwife and doula arrived at 12:45pm and my contractions were 3 minutes apart and were lasting 1 minute. At this point things went fast, and got blurry as I quickly dilated (my midwife did not do any internal exams – she usually doesn’t do them as she can usually tell how quickly a woman is dilating by observing her). I can remember feeling some fear as my contractions got more intense and asked Doug to write out a paper remedy for aconite which took care of it instantly. My doula and midwife were amazing using comfort methods between contractions such as ice cold cloths on my shoulders, giving me ice and water (at this point I wanted nothing to eat) and lots of encouragement, especially when I hit transition and decided that I didn’t want to have a baby after all. LOL. Doug was a rock star went things got tough for me, helping me in and out of the tub, keeping me reassured when I felt I couldn’t do one more contraction, and letting me squeeze whatever parts of him I had a hold of during contractions. I had assumed a half squat in my tub and it was suggested that I move around more but after changing positions, I quickly realized that I had naturally assumed the best position for me and quickly went back to it and stayed in that position until I was fully dilated – a great example of my body knowing what is right for it when left alone to follow its own guidance.
I started pushing at ~2:35am and started to lose control for a moment with the tremendous forces urging this baby down. My midwife quickly reminded me that this was a big baby and if I didn’t go slow, I could tear. I listened to her and put every effort into relaxing and letting my body move the baby on its own. At this point I was lying back in the tub and Doug was supporting my upper body. As Seamus was moving down, I could feel my hips shift slightly to accommodate him and within 10 minutes he was crowning. He had turned during labour from OP to OA (I had been doing paper remedies of Kali-carb throughout labour to help him turn) and once his head was out, I took a two-minute break while waiting for the next contraction – my midwife said he was rotating his shoulders underneath the public bone during this time. This seemed like a long time for Doug who initially worried about our baby’s head being out under water for such a period of time, but my midwife assured him, that baby was fine and was being given oxygen through his cord. I didn’t want to push anymore at this point (not that I had done a lot, as my body had done most of it without any effort on my part), but my last contraction took over and with one push, Seamus was born at2:50am.
He gave a little cry and quickly settled on my chest. Heated towels were put around him while we relaxed in the tub waiting for the placenta to detach. The cord stopped pulsating after 15 minutes so Doug cut it and my placenta was delivered 15 minutes later (actually I stood up and after the smallest of pushes it fell out). I had no tears from the delivery which was great seeing that he was our biggest baby weighing 8pds, 7 ounces. Seamus was peaceful and alert after the delivery and Doug and I spent the rest of the night/morning relaxing in bed with our new baby (I did a paper remedy of arnica to help me with my recovery).
My recovery was very short as all soreness had left within 24 hours of the birth (I also took birth remedies after the delivery), and all bleeding at stopped 4 days after delivery. I had my placenta encapsulated and started taking the capsules 5 days after birth. Breastfeeding is going well, and I’m feeling great. ~ By Lisa Power
Lisa asked me to point out to you the paper rx written on paper and laying on her chest in the photo above for those of you in the know. <wink>
“Shock the monkey
Shock the monkey
Shock the monkey to life”
~ Peter Gabriel
Some of you know that Jeff and I are living in Mexico for the Winter. It is stunningly beautiful here, warm, and teaming with fresh foods and life. Everyday we wake early, often walking the beach, biking or swimming for a couple of hours first thing before clinic and work calls. When we walk, we’re often strolling hand in hand back to our condo, mid-morning, for another swim in the pool, a little sunbathing and a meditation well before lunch. I feel like a kid who’s having so much fun, I forget to eat!
After being here for almost 2 months, I didn’t notice much that my physical body had changed. It is hot, so I wear a lot of dresses. One day, I grabbed a pair of white pants to wear out to dinner. When I buttoned them up, I noticed several additional inches between me and my waistband. Odd, I checked the size thinking I might have packed the wrong ones to bring, but no this was the snug pair that I’d brought with me from home.
Not a week later, I was speaking with a patient who’d fully actualized her essential self and was just finishing up her Heilkunst treatment with me. She mentioned having lost weight recently citing how easily she was letting go. She was excited to tell me how her daughter, who is a Chef, was the one to have recommended, “The Fast Diet” by a Dr. Michael Mosely and Mimi Spencer. I didn’t think too much about it as I’m not one much for fads of any sort, however, in the same week, I came across this Ted Talk video with Mark Mattson on fasting and ketosis and wondered at the recent phenomenon I was experiencing.
Interesting to me, as I both love and hate fasting! I do it full out a couple times a year. Based on principles of not allowing my body to become so complacent with the influx of cooked or even raw foods, I’ll go to a liquid or mono-food diet for a time to give my body a rest, metabolize hidden islets of toxicity and re-boot the grid with regards to my relationship to food. I love food, I love to cook and I often need to recall that,”I eat to live, not live to eat!”
I know that when I’m ready to know a whole concept, the teacher will appear. In this case, my patient, was the cathartic nudge I needed to figure out why I was naturally and easily dropping weight. I knew that our foremothers and fathers did not have the food availability that we do in these modern times and that often, they were not eating 3 meals a day due to shortage.
Even when I worked on the family farm, often we’d be out in the fields or milking cows before dawn, coming up to the house around 11:00 a.m. or noon for our main meal. The table heaped with meat, green beans boiled to well beyond their death in milk and potatoes, always heaps of potatoes. Then we’d have a smaller supper, usually a sandwich made from the noontime leftovers. Then you’d fall into bed just after the sun was down, spent and fulfilled within my beloved community.
My kids, even though they were mostly raised on farms, naturally ate the same way. They would almost always skip breakfast and desire a decent meal around noon and then a snack-like meal again in the early evening or sometimes not at all. Often, they were easily going over 12 hours without food in their teens as they dictated their own nourishing schedule! I also noticed that my children, now adults, always self-regulated their diets out of their innate volition. I also knew to trust my kid’s innate rhythms, as they were the healthiest people I had the pleasure of observing through their organic unfolding!
I was always curious about society’s expectation that we eat three meals and snacks as it always seemed excessive to me. The idea of not eating for longer spans of became clear to me when I read how glycogen gets stored up in the system. In humans, glycogen is made and stored primarily in the cells of the liver and the muscles hydrated with three or four parts of water. Glycogen functions as the secondary long-term energy storage, with the primary energy stores being fats held in adipose tissue. Muscle glycogen is converted into glucose by muscle cells, and liver glycogen converts to glucose for use throughout the body including the central nervous system.
The glycogen’s function is to lovingly take care of you in instances of fight or flight. The fast twitch muscles rely on this substance for your reflexes to think and act fast. On that note, perhaps think of the immediate gratification required by our present society; fast food, fast education crammed into our first 20 years, fast growing crops, fast trades on the stock exchange, children growing up too fast and too soon, fast diagnoses, fast pills and fast sex. Little in our modern world is slow and delicious, as we’re always rushing from one thing to the next. The armouring in our physical bodies speak to this constant gesture of immediate gratification.
The problem becomes that if you’re eating every couple of hours, you’re not only adding to the sugar in your blood, but you’re also rarely getting to the strata of the fat layers stored beneath the glycogen. The state of burning fat is termed “ketosis”. Producing ketones is a desirable state loved by both the kidney and heart, that was formerly controversial by some allopathic scientists.
There is an assumption that if a body is burning a lot of fat for energy, it must not be getting “enough” glucose. However, there is no indication, from studying people on reduced carbohydrate diets, that this is the case. If you can’t periodically get into ketosis, you end up suffering a physiological vicious circle of fight/flight. Then, when you grab a latte for lunch en route to an afternoon meeting, you prevent the system from burning fat, sinking into the slow, heat burning furnace we’re capable of.
Many folks are starving from a lack of micro-nutrients, but they’re also superficially cold both physically and emotionally. This is true for slim individuals too, as folks who are ripped in their musculature are often as armoured as the obese person. Think of the runners who’ve dropped dead and the finish line or the woman with arthritis so bad in her one hundred fifteen pound frame. Even Dr. Mercola speaks to the benefits of intermittent fasting and he’s a really lean dude!
When we do eat it is important to engage consciously, deliberately and prayerfully with our food. In our culture, we’ve mostly forgotten the art of romance with food and who we are eating with. Think how nourishing it can feel to eat together with loved ones and while lingering over a bowl of chowder. My husband, Jeff, when he’s eating something he loves that I’ve prepared will literally moan with each bite, closing his eyes and savouring each proffered chaw. God, how I love to feed him!
So how to solve our glycogen habit you ask? First, we have to stop being junkies and then as Peter Gabriel suggests, we’ve got to “shock the monkey!” First of all cut out the coffee. Coffee suppresses fear and is a big cause for anxiety and sleep issues in our culture. Perhaps deal with the underlying cause. Eat organic fruits and vegetables that resonate with your blood type. We’ll send you the food lists, or you can check out Dr. D’Adamo’s book, “Eat Right For Your Type“, and then one to two days a week, you bring your calories down to a mere five hundred for the day.
The idea is that our physiologies are not really designed to eat three meals a day plus snacks. When was the last time you had to fish, forage or hunt for you food? When you’re hungry, really hungry, your mind gets sharp, your body brilliantly taut and at the ready to smartly outwit that trout.
Where did the false premise of eating every couple of hours come from? It is promoted by dieticians trained to follow government food guides, which in turn arise from inimical forces in the allopathic medical field who make money on your three meals a day choices. This constant consumption of food contributes to obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Suppressing our innate drives of creativity and desires for love and intimacy, by mouth, is often the socially acceptable drug of choice for a lot of people. I’m suggesting that we solve the underlying cause for the angst and pain we suffer instead and stop being so resigned to it; go ahead and shock the monkey! See the stuff that you’re really made of.
This is also the basis for Dr. Mosley and Mimi Spencer’s “The Fast Diet” (although his use of coffee I can’t condone especially for all other blood types except ‘A’). And, no, that doesn’t mean you’re eating like you’re in a blitz! Think the other kind of “fast,” the spiritual one. Folks have been fasting for religious reasons for thousands of years. It is for the purpose of spiritual transformation, getting into the strata of your being-ness, plumbing the depths of your intimate relationship to God. If you’re an atheist, then just think of how your organs and health will benefit.
On five hundred calorie days, it also means slowly and lovingly savoring a farm-fresh egg and some organic cottage cheese with half a grapefruit perhaps late morning, for example, and then a beautiful little stir-fry early evening. If you’re wanting to get back to your healthy weight, have clearer thoughts and a healthier body, Mosley suggests engaging thusly on this fast two days per week and if you’re seeking to maintain your health, purging your system of unwanted toxins or islets of organization, then one day a week is sufficient. It actually is a a lot easier than you might think! Read the testimonials of folks who’ve let go of hundreds of excess weight at the back of the book.
When I was doing the research for this article, I queried my 18 year old daughter, Adie, who is a natural athlete. She trains Olympic-level horses and must remain in a state of self-governance with regards to her heath and regimen.
“Adie, what do you do when you feel hungry?” I heard her pause at the other end of the phone, “Well, I acknowledge the need for a moment and then just let it pass, really. It’s just hunger, it’s not like I’m going to die or anything. Often it’s just a call for more water so I drink, or recognize it for what it is and then just let it go or re-engage more deeply with what I’m working on. I don’t let it dictate my actions as the more I eat, the more food I want.”
I gave a lot of thought to Adie’s words. It is true that I answered the call for food too often myself. Even though I’ve naturally purged a dress size or two, I’m going to grab that monkey by the tail and give him a good yank! Also, I NEVER underestimate happiness, beauty, the beach and good geography for allowing a gal to simply let go.
“Cover me when I run
Cover me through the fire
Something knocked me out ‘ the trees
Now I’m on my knees
Cover me, darling please
Monkey, monkey, monkey
Don’t you know you’re going to shock the monkey”
~ Peter Gabriel
I had another brand new patient explain to me yesterday, “You know, Dr. Ally, I’ve been putting off starting treatment with you because I was afraid you’d make me give up my use of Cannabis.” I smiled at the other end of the Skype line as I looked into his eyes. I saw both his courage and his shame vying for space on his face. I thought how beautiful he is to be able to admit such a thing to me after knowing me for less than an hour. He’ll use that courage, I ruminate.
“Actually,” I respond in the usual way, “I would encourage you to continue with your normal usage as if we’ve not met or spoken today. You’re not going to give up something until you feel something juicier emerge and rise up in your life to displace the drug use. I’m pretty confident that as your self-love, creativity and joie de vivre leaps forward through Heilkunst Medicine, you’ll naturally put more and more time and space between yourself and your vices. I’m also pretty sure that the drug use isn’t the only addiction you employ in your life.”
The patient looked back at me with shifting eyes, however, and now I could see the fear. I acknowledged, “I know you’re afraid. You wanted me to tell you to get off the drug for your health or Heilkunst won’t work, but you’ve been bucking false authority your whole life and you wanted to put me in the position to be precisely the same archetype for you telling you what to do. You’d only rebel against this, so I won’t be that person for you. I want to plumb a different relationship with you, letting you know that either way, I’m not attached to the outcome.”
I see him take a breath before I continue,” You see, I can’t just meet that old expectation. We both know that a true, permanent cure is not an outside in phenomenon. It naturally comes from the inside out. Yes, I will start the process of detox for you by putting the homeopathic remedy ‘Cannabis’ into your ‘Drainage and Organ Support Dropper’, however, it won’t be me ultimately picking up that bag of pot, rolling the joint or choosing to smoke it or not. A reinfection with the drug is entirely your own choice. However, I will send you a few resources for you to look over regarding the longer term effects are of pot on your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health are.”
<Here’s what I sent here.>
Now he was looking at me like a curious child, the fear had ebbed, “Ok, I will just try and take it day by day and see if I can try and avoid my habit.” I knew he was having trouble with the concept with the number of “trys” he’d used in his sentence, “Actually to reiterate, I don’t want you to apply your will to quit or diminish just yet as you don’t yet trust yourself. It’s ok, it will come. If you try to quit now, you’ll probably not succeed, and you’ll feel like crap, a failure again, beat on yourself and that is the last thing we want at this juncture. That is an old, karmic pattern, my friend, and it is that loop that we need to jimmy you out of first.”
He smiles, “I can see that you have trust that I can change. Why does that scare me so bad?” I feel a tears rent at the back of my eyes, “Because, Love, you’ve not felt a huge number of self-marshalled successes to date in your life. So your inner trust and faith is a little tarnished. I know because this was also true for me too. Way back awhile ago, I was just like you. I was you. I used to live to eat, now I eat to live and I’ve cultivated a life so full of self-love, beauty, connection and creativity that food no longer has the same pull for me.”
“Wow,” he exclaims, “Thanks for sharing that. I just assumed that since you treat others that you’ve always had your shit together.” I think, ‘if he only knew.’ As I look at the homeopathic prescription I’ve created for him thus far, I ask him if there is anything else he’d like me to help him detox from and I tap the keys of my computer in answer, “Coffea, Alcoholus, Tabacum, Arsenicum, Sacc. Alb., Nat. Mur., Nux Vom.,” for his other addictions to coffee, alcohol, commercial tabacco (which contains arsenic) on rare occasions, sugar, salt and I add Nux the homeopathic helper for addictions. I add all this to his Drainage and Organ Support Combo. dropper and feel a sense of completion in that realm.
His Emotional Support will have remedies for nurturing (mother’s milk) and self love (increasing his inner value), along with some carefully chosen Flower Essences which I know will gently shift his mind from lack of self-honour to a greater sense of grace. I will also look forward to addressing his timeline of emotional and physical traumas as this will decidedly get the chronic (tonic) diseases out of the way, naturally providing him with more free will.
As we finish up, he lets me know the session wasn’t as daunting as he thought. I smile wide and let him know that he did just great and that I’ll get his remedies off to our pharmacist later this afternoon and that they’ll be shipped out to him tomorrow morning.
I also let him know that he can call my office anytime and I’d be happy to connect with him should he need before our next follow-up session in a month’s time. I consciously radiate love and care towards my new patient and hold in my mind’s eye his perfect transformation with ease and gentle, but illuminating, healing reactions.
I see his future, healthy, effulgent self come more to life, animating him with new possibilities. He’ll find his inner and then outer connections. He’ll be more potent with his choices and subsequently carry them through. I see it in this new connection I’ve made with this other human being on his evolutionary path to greater freedom, his path to cure.
An excellent article, published on Aeon on how childhood trauma manifests as physical disease later on:
Adversity in childhood can create long-lasting scars, damaging our cells and our DNA, and making us sick as adults
Photo by Charles Gullung/Gallery Stock
If you saw Laura walking down the New York City street where she lives today, you’d see a well-dressed 46-year-old woman with auburn hair and green eyes, who exudes a sense of ‘I matter here.’ She looks entirely in charge of her life, but behind Laura’s confident demeanour lies a history of trauma: a bipolar mother who vacillated between braiding her daughter’s hair and peppering her with insults, and a father who moved out-of-state with his wife-to-be when Laura was 15 years old.
She recalls a family trip to the Grand Canyon when she was 10. In a photo taken that day, Laura and her parents sit on a bench, sporting tourist whites. ‘Anyone looking at us would have assumed that we were a normal, loving family.’ But as they put on fake smiles for the camera, Laura’s mother suddenly pinched her daughter’s midriff and told her to stop ‘staring off into space’. A second pinch: ‘No wonder you’re turning into a butterball, you ate so much cheesecake last night you’re hanging over your shorts!’ If you look hard at Laura’s face in the photograph, you can see that she’s not squinting at the Arizona sun, but holding back tears.
After her father left the family, he sent cards and money, but called less and less. Meanwhile, her mother’s untreated bipolar disorder worsened. Sometimes, Laura says: ‘My mom would go on a vitriolic diatribe about my dad until spittle foamed on her chin. I’d stand there, trying not to hear her as she went on and on, my whole body shaking inside.’ Laura never invited friends over, for fear they’d find out her secret: her mom ‘wasn’t like other moms’.
Some 30 years later, Laura says: ‘In many ways, no matter where I go or what I do, I’m still in my mother’s house.’ Today, ‘If a car swerves into my lane, a grocery store clerk is rude, my husband and I argue, or my boss calls me in to talk over a problem, I feel something flip over inside. It’s like there’s a match standing inside too near a flame, and with the smallest breeze, it ignites.’
To see Laura, you’d never know that she is ‘always shaking a little, only invisibly, deep down in my cells’.
Her sense that something is wrong inside is mirrored by her physical health. During a routine exam, Laura’s doctor discovered that Laura was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy and would require a cardioverter defibrillator to keep her heart pumping. The two-inch scar from her surgery only hints at the more severe scars she hides from her childhood.
For as long as John can remember, he says, his parents’ marriage was deeply troubled, as was his relationship with his father. ‘I consider myself to have been raised by my mom and her mom. I longed to feel a deeper connection with my dad, but it just wasn’t there. He couldn’t extend himself in that way.’ John’s poor relationship with his father was due, in large part, to his father’s reactivity and need for control. For instance, if John’s father said that the capital of New York was New York City, there was just no use telling him that it was Albany.
As John got older, it seemed wrong to him that his father ‘was constantly pointing out all the mistakes that my brother and I made, without acknowledging any of his own’. His father relentlessly criticised his mother, who was ‘kinder and more confident’. Aged 12, John began to interject himself into the fights between his parents. He remembers one Christmas Eve, when he found his father with his hands around his mother’s neck and had to separate them. ‘I was always trying to be the adult between them,’ John says.
John is now a boyish 40, with warm hazel eyes and a wide, affable grin. But beneath his easy, open demeanour, he struggles with an array of chronic illnesses. By the time he was 33, his blood pressure was shockingly high; he began to experience bouts of stabbing stomach pain and diarrhoea and often had blood in his stool; he struggled from headaches almost daily. By 34, he’d developed chronic fatigue, and was so wiped out that he sometimes struggled to make it through an entire workday.
John’s relationships, like his body, were never completely healthy. He ended a year?long romance with a woman he deeply loved because he felt riddled with anxiety around her normal, ‘happy family’. He just didn’t know how to fit in. ‘She wanted to help,’ he says, ‘but instead of telling her how insecure I was around her, I told her I wasn’t in love with her.’ Bleeding from his inflamed intestines, exhausted by chronic fatigue, debilitated and distracted by pounding headaches, often struggling with work, and unable to feel comfortable in a relationship, John was stuck in a universe of pain and solitude, and he couldn’t get out.
Emotional stress in adult life affects us on a physical level in quantifiable, life-altering ways. We all know that when we are stressed, chemicals and hormones can flush our body and increase levels of inflammation. That’s why stressful events in adult life are correlated with the likelihood of getting a cold or having a heart attack.
But when children or teens face adversity and especially unpredictable stressors, they are left with deeper, longer?lasting scars. When the young brain is thrust into stressful situations over and over again without warning, and stress hormones are repeatedly ramped up, small chemical markers, known as methyl groups, adhere to specific genes that regulate the activity of stress?hormone receptors in the brain. These epigenetic changes hamper the body’s ability to turn off the stress response. In ideal circumstances, a child learns to respond to stress, and recover from it, learning resilience. But kids who’ve faced chronic, unpredictable stress undergo biological changes that cause their inflammatory stress response to stay activated.
Joan Kaufman, director of the Child and Adolescent Research and Education (CARE) programme at the Yale School of Medicine, recently analysed DNA in the saliva of happy, healthy children, and of children who had been taken from abusive or neglectful parents. The children who’d experienced chronic childhood stress showed epigenetic changes in almost 3,000 sites on their DNA, and on all 23 chromosomes – altering how appropriately they would be able to respond to and rebound from future stressors.
Kids who’ve had early adversity have a drip of fight-or-flight hormones turned on every day – it’s as if there is no off switch
Likewise, Seth Pollak, professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Research Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, uncovered startling genetic changes in children with a history of adversity and trauma. Pollak identified damage to a gene responsible for calming the stress response. This particular gene wasn’t working properly; the kids’ bodies weren’t able to reign in their heightened stress response. ‘A crucial set of brakes are off,’ says Pollak.
Imagine for a moment that your body receives its stress hormones and chemicals through an IV drip that’s turned on high when needed and, when the crisis passes, it’s switched off again. You might think of kids whose brains have undergone epigenetic changes because of early adversity as having an inflammation-promoting drip of fight-or-flight hormones turned on every day – it’s as if there is no off switch.
Experiencing stress in childhood changes your set point of wellbeing for decades to come. In people such as Laura and John, the endocrine and immune systems are churning out a damaging and inflammatory cocktail of stress neurochemicals in response to even small stressors – an unexpected bill, a disagreement with their spouse, a car that swerves in front of them on the highway, a creak on the staircase – for the rest of their lives. They might find themselves overreacting to, and less able to recover from, the inevitable stressors of life. They’re always responding. And all the while, they’re unwittingly marinating in inflammatory chemicals, which sets the stage for full-throttle disease down the road, in the form of autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, fibroid tumours, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, migraines and asthma.
Scientists first came to understand the relationship between early chronic stress and later adult disease through the work of a dedicated physician in San Diego and a determined epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Together, during the 1980s and ’90s – the years when Laura and John were growing up – these two researchers began a paradigm-shifting public-health investigation known as the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study.
In 1985, Vincent J Felitti, chief of a revolutionary preventive care initiative at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care programme in San Diego, noticed a startling pattern in adult patients at an obesity clinic. A significant number were, with the support of Felitti and his nurses, successfully losing hundreds of pounds a year, a remarkable feat, only to withdraw from the programme despite weight-loss success. Felitti, determined to get to the bottom of the attrition rate, conducted face-to-face interviews with 286 patients. It turned out there was a common denominator. Many confided that they had suffered some sort of trauma, often sexual abuse, in their childhoods. To these patients, eating was a solution, not a problem: it soothed the anxiety and depression they had harboured for decades; their weight served as a shield against undesired attention, and they didn’t want to let it go.
Felitti’s interviews gave him a new way of looking at human health and wellbeing that other physicians just weren’t seeing. He presented his findings at a national obesity conference, arguing that ‘our intractable public health problems’ had root causes hidden ‘by shame, by secrecy, and by social taboos against exploring certain areas of life experience’. Felitti’s peers were quick to blast him. One even stood up in the audience and accused Felitti of offering ‘excuses’ for patients’ ‘failed lives’. Felitti, however, remained unfazed; he felt sure that he had stumbled upon a piece of information that would hold enormous import for the field of medicine.
After a colleague who attended that same conference suggested that he design a study with thousands of patients who suffered from a wide variety of diseases, not just obesity, Felitti joined forces with Robert Anda, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC who had, at the time, been researching the relationship between coronary heart disease and depression. Felitti and Anda took advantage of Kaiser Permanente’s vast patient cohort to set up a national epidemiology laboratory. Of the 26,000 patients they invited to take part in their study, more than 17,000 agreed.
Anda and Felitti surveyed these 17,000 individuals on about 10 types of adversity, or adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), probing into patients’ childhood and adolescent histories. Questions included: ‘Was a biological parent ever lost to you through divorce, abandonment or other reason?’; ‘Did a parent or other adult in the household often swear at you, insult you, put you down or humiliate you?’; and ‘Was a household member depressed or mentally ill?’ Other questions looked at types of family dysfunction that included growing up with a parent who was an alcoholic or addicted to other substances; being physically or emotionally neglected; being sexually or physically abused; witnessing domestic violence; having a family member who was sent to prison; feeling that there was no one to provide protection; and feeling that one’s family didn’t look out for each other. For each category to which a patient responded ‘yes’, one point would be added to her ACE score, so an ACE score of 2 would indicate that she had suffered two adverse childhood experiences.
To be clear, the patients Felitti and Anda surveyed were not troubled or disadvantaged; the average patient was 57, and three-quarters had attended college. These were ‘successful’ men and women, mostly white, middle-class, with stable jobs and health benefits. Felitti and Anda expected their number of ‘yes’ answers to be fairly low.
The correlation between having a difficult childhood and facing illness as an adult offered a whole new lens through which we could view human health and disease
When the results came in, Felitti and Anda were shocked: 64 per cent of participants answered ‘yes’ to having encountered at least one category of early adversity, and 87 per cent of those patients also had additional adverse childhood experiences; 40 per cent had suffered two or more ACEs; 12.5 per cent had an ACE score greater than or equal to 4.
Felitti and Anda wanted to find out whether there was a correlation between the number of adverse childhood experiences an individual had faced, and the number and severity of illnesses and disorders she developed as an adult. The correlation proved so powerful that Anda was not only ‘stunned’, but deeply moved.
‘I wept,’ he says. ‘I saw how much people had suffered, and I wept.’
Felitti, too, was deeply affected. ‘Our findings exceeded anything we had conceived. The correlation between having a difficult childhood and facing illness as an adult offered a whole new lens through which we could view human health and disease.’
Here, says Felitti, ‘was the missing piece as to what was causing so much of our unspoken suffering as human beings’.
The number of adverse childhood experiences a patient had suffered could by and large predict the amount of medical care she would require in adulthood: the higher the ACE score, the higher the number of doctor’s appointments she’d had in the past year, and the more unexplained physical symptoms she’d reported.
People with an ACE score of 4 were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer than people who hadn’t faced any form of childhood adversity. For each point an individual had, her chance of being hospitalised with an autoimmune disease in adulthood rose 20 per cent. Someone with an ACE score of 4 was 460 per cent more likely to face depression than someone with a score of 0.
An ACE score of 6 or higher shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years.
Researchers wondered if those who encountered childhood adversity were also more likely to smoke, drink and overeat as a sort of coping strategy, and while that was sometimes the case, unhealthy habits didn’t wholly account for the correlation Felitti and Anda saw between adverse childhood experiences and later illness. For instance, those with ACE scores greater than or equal to 7 who didn’t drink or smoke, weren’t overweight or diabetic, and didn’t have high cholesterol stillhad a 360 per cent higher risk of heart disease than those with ACE scores of 0.
‘Time,’ says Felitti, ‘does not heal all wounds. One does not “just get over” something – not even 50 years later.’ Instead, he says: ‘Time conceals. And human beings convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.’
Often, these illnesses can be chronic and lifelong. Autoimmune disease. Heart disease. Chronic bowel disorders. Migraines. Persistent depression. Even today, doctors puzzle over these very conditions: why are they so prevalent; why are some patients more prone to them than others; and why are they so difficult to treat?
The more research that’s done, the more granular details emerge about the profound link between adverse experiences and adult disease. Scientists at Duke University in North Carolina, the University of California, San Francisco, and Brown University in Rhode Island have shown that childhood adversity damages us on a cellular level in ways that prematurely age our cells and affect our longevity. Adults who faced early life stress show greater erosion in what are known as telomeres – protective caps that sit on the ends of DNA strands to keep the DNA healthy and intact. As telomeres erode, we’re more likely to develop disease, and we age faster; as our telomeres age and expire, our cells expire and so, eventually, do we.
Researchers have also seen a correlation between specific types of adverse childhood experiences and a range of diseases. For instance, children whose parents die, or who face emotional or physical abuse, or experience childhood neglect, or witness marital discord between their parents are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, headaches, multiple sclerosis and lupus as adults. Facing difficult circumstances in childhood increases six-fold your chances of having myalgic encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome) as an adult. Kids who lose a parent have triple the risk of depression in their lifetimes. Children whose parents divorce are twice as likely to suffer a stroke later down the line.
Laura and John’s stories illustrate that the past can tick away inside us for decades like a silent time bomb, until it sets off a cellular message that lets us know the body does not forget its history.
Something that happened to you when you were five or 15 can land you in the hospital 30 years later
John’s ACE score would be a 3: a parent often put him down; he witnessed his mother being harmed; and, clearly, his father suffered from an undiagnosed behaviour health disorder, perhaps narcissism or depression, or both.
Laura had an ACE score of 4.
Laura and John are hardly alone. Two-thirds of American adults are carrying wounds from childhood quietly into adulthood, with little or no idea of the extent to which these wounds affect their daily health and wellbeing. Something that happened to you when you were five or 15 can land you in the hospital 30 years later, whether that something was headline news, or happened quietly, without anyone else knowing it, in the living room of your childhood home.
The adversity a child faces doesn’t have to be severe abuse in order to create deep biophysical changes that can lead to chronic health conditions in adulthood.
‘Our findings showed that the 10 different types of adversity we examined were almost equal in their damage,’ says Felitti. He and Anda found that no single ACE significantly trumped another. This was true even though some types, such as being sexually abused, are far worse in that society regards them as particularly shameful, and others, such as physical abuse, are more overt in their violence.
This makes sense if you think about how the stress response functions on an optimal level. You meet a bear in the woods, and your body floods with adrenaline and cortisol so that you can quickly decide whether to run in the opposite direction or stay and try to frighten the bear. After you deal with the crisis, you recover, your stress hormones abate, and you go home with a great story. For Laura and John, though, that feeling that the bear is still out there, somewhere, circling in the woods, stalking, and might strike again any day, anytime – that feeling never disappears.
There are a lot of bears out there. Chronic parental discord; enduring low-dose humiliation or blame and shame; chronic teasing; the quiet divorce between two secretly seething parents; a parent’s premature exit from a child’s life; the emotional scars of growing up with a hypercritical, unsteady, narcissistic, bipolar, alcoholic, addicted or depressed parent; physical or emotional abuse or neglect: these happen in all too many families. Although the details of individual adverse experiences differ from one home to another and from one neighbourhood to another, they are all precursors to the same organic chemical changes deep in the gray matter of the developing brain.
Every few decades, a groundbreaking psychosocial ‘theory of everything’ helps us to develop a new understanding of why we are the way we are – and how we got that way. In the early 20th century, the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud transformed the landscape of psychology when he argued that the unconscious rules much of our waking life and dreams. Jungian theory taught, among other ideas, that we tend toward introversion or extroversion, which led the American educationalist Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers to develop a personality indicator. More recently, neuroscientists discovered that age ‘zero to three’ was a critical synaptic window for brain development, giving birth to Head Start and other preschool programmes. The correlation between childhood trauma, brain architecture and adult wellbeing is the newest, and perhaps our most important, psychobiological theory of everything.
Today’s research on adverse childhood experiences revolutionises how we see ourselves, our understanding of how we came to be the way we are, why we love the way we do, how we can better nurture our children, and how we can work to realise our potential.
To date, more than 1,500 studies founded on Felitti and Anda’s hallmark ACE research show that both physical and emotional suffering are rooted in the complex workings of the immune system, the body’s master operating control centre – and what happens to the brain during childhood sets the programming for how our immune systems will respond for the rest of our lives.
The unifying principle of this new theory of everything is this: your emotional biography becomes your physical biology, and together, they write much of the script for how you will live your life. Put another way: your early stories script your biology and your biology scripts the way your life will play out.
Unlike previous theories of everything, though, this one has been mind-bogglingly slow to change how we do medicine, according to Felitti. ‘Very few internists or medical schools are interested in embracing the added responsibility that this understanding imposes on them.’
With the ACE research now available, we might hope that physicians will begin to see patients as a holistic sum of their experiences and embrace the understanding that a stressor from long ago can be a health-risk time bomb that has exploded. Such a medical paradigm, which sees adverse childhood experiences as one of many key factors that can play a role in disease, could save many patients years in the healing process.
But seeing that connection takes a little time. It means asking patients to fill out the ACE questionnaire and delving into that patient’s history for insight into sources of both physical and emotional pain. As health-care budgets have become stretched, physicians spend less time interacting one-on-one with patients in their exam rooms; the average physician schedules patients back-to-back at 15-minute intervals.
Still, the cost of not intervening is far greater – not only in the loss of human health and wellbeing, but also in additional healthcare. According to the CDC, the total lifetime cost of child maltreatment in the US is $124 billion each year. The lifetime healthcare cost for each individual who experiences childhood maltreatment is estimated at $210,012 – comparable to other costly health conditions, such as having a stroke, which has a lifetime estimated cost of $159,846 per person, or type-2 diabetes, which is estimated to cost between $181,000 and $253,000.
Further hindering change is the fact that adult physical medicine and psychological medicine remain in separate silos. Utilising ACE research requires breaking down these long-standing divisions in healthcare between what is ‘physical’ and what is ‘mental’ or ‘emotional,’ and that’s hard to achieve. Physicians have been well-trained to deal only with what they can touch with their hands, see with their eyes, or view with microscopes or scans.
Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in underconnected areas of the brain
However, now that we have scientific evidence that the brain is genetically modified by childhood experience, we can no longer draw that line in the sand. With hundreds of studies showing that childhood adversity hurts our mental and physical health, putting us at greater risk for learning disorders, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, suicide, substance abuse, failed relationships, violence, poor parenting and early death, we just can’t afford to make such distinctions.
Science tells us that biology does not have to be destiny. ACEs can last a lifetime, but they don’t have to. Just as physical wounds and bruises heal, just as we can regain our muscle tone, we can recover function in underconnected areas of the brain. If anything, that’s the most important take-away from ACE research: the brain and body are never static; they are always in the process of becoming and changing.
Even if we have been set on high-reactive mode for decades or a lifetime, we can still dial it down. We can respond to life’s inevitable stressors more appropriately and shift away from an overactive inflammatory response. We can become neurobiologically resilient. We can turn bad epigenetics into good epigenetics and rescue ourselves. We have the capacity, within ourselves, to create better health. We might call this brave undertaking ‘the neurobiology of awakening’.
Today, scientists recognise a range of promising approaches to help create new neurons (known as neurogenesis), make new synaptic connections between those neurons (known as synaptogenesis), promote new patterns of thoughts and reactions, bring underconnected areas of the brain back online – and reset our stress response so that we decrease the inflammation that makes us ill.
You can find ways to start right where you are, no matter how deep your scars or how long ago they occurred. Many mind-body therapies not only help you to calm your thoughts and increase your emotional and physical wellbeing, but research suggests that they have the potential to reverse, on a biological level, the harmful impact of childhood adversity.
Recent studies indicate that individuals who practice mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) show an increase in gray matter in parts of the brain associated with managing stress, and experience shifts in genes that regulate their stress response and their levels of inflammatory hormones. Other research suggests that a process known as neurofeedback can help to regrow connections in the brain that were lost to adverse childhood experiences.
Meditation, mindfulness, neurofeedback, cognitive therapy, EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing) therapy: these promising new avenues to healing can be part of any patient’s recovery plan, if only healthcare practitioners would begin to treat the whole patient – past, present and future, without making distinctions between physical and mental health – and encourage patients to explore all the treatment options available to them. The more we learn about the toxic impact of early stress, the better equipped we are to counter its effects, and help to uncover new strategies and modalities to come back to who it is we really are, and who it was we might have been had we not encountered childhood adversity in the first place.
This is an adapted and reprinted extract from ‘Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal’ (Atria), by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. Copyright © Donna Jackson Nakazawa, 2015.