Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), like any “syndrome” is a cacophony of events, with many “causes”.  Generally, we (non-brain surgeons and rocket scientists) would really like to find simple, quick and easy solutions for the things that trouble us. We would like for our mysterious RLS to be fixed with a quick stop by the pharmacy on the way home from work, so we can get on with living our lives… rather than having to spend months researching, and and trying to decipher what the experts write about, so we can translate an article into a therapy.

Here’s a helpful trend: the more simplistic our understanding, the more difficult it is to make sense of evidence.  This applies not only to laymen, but to doctors, researchers, forensic technicians, physiologists, archaeologists and even theologians.  There is a reason it could take five to ten years to earn a  PhD in any given subject: there is a lot to learn… many parts to understand; many influences.

Here is a good article about RLS from John Hopkins. I have highlighted certain parts, and added comments…

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome-3

For all the great research evidence uncovered, there are still gaps in understanding. The good news: other fields of study have been hard at work filling these gaps for decades. Moral of the story: if we really want to understand a complex syndrome, the best way to approach it is via interdisciplinary collaboration.

Basically: we are not slaves to our genes or biochemistry, or even our brain structure and function. Even with infants born missing parts of their brains, there are methods available to help  focus proper stimulation of the brain to form new pathways.

Keep in mind that we can dump chemicals in the body, but unless the regulatory systems are working, the chemicals cannot go where they are needed.   When a nerve fires off a signal, chemistry moves. Chemicals are used in the firing of the nerve, and chemicals fill the void made by what was used to fire the signal.

Nerves control regulation of chemicals, thru pathways that may change depending on the concentrations and conditions (ex: the way we shift from aerobic to anaerobic respiration depending on the physiological demands of the moment). There are many moving parts, and many options – nothing sits still, nothing is linear, or simplistic (“A causes B”). That’s what i like about this article – it touches on the complexity… it is also screaming for functional neurology input, but the researchers may not even know the field exists.

If a part of the brain has too much or too little of something, brain stimulation will cause things to shift. If you know the pathways (whether the chemical is “up” or “downsteam” in the pathway), you can start to shift things. Brain stimulation can alter brain chemistry. Why? Because the chemistry exists to serve brain function. Brain function does not merely react to chemistry like jerking away from a pin prick. If chemicals are pooling in an area, or not getting into the cells, using the brain in certain ways can alter this – because usage creates a cascade of events.

Stimulation of the dopamine system can also be achieved thru appropriate brain stimulation, not just injecting chemicals. How can we be sure the pooling of brain chemistry is not due to brain function, vs a chemical deficiency or excess? Both need to be evaluated simultaneously (“reduced receptor and transporter function in the brain”). “Dopamine receptors were decreased” – maybe because they are not being used, because the proper stimulation (nerve signals) are not occurring (“The increase in dopamine may be the brain cells response to the poor signal”).

Functional medicine has been dealing with serum vs tissue deficiencies for decades, but the researchers sound like they are re-inventing this wheel. Again – they could simply contact people outside their facility for help.

Genes are a whole other realm of misunderstanding (read Bruce Lipton’s work)… “Understanding how genes can affect our lives is quite complex”. Lipton started this understanding… it’s not one gene (“A causes B”); it’s many genes being activated by factors outside of the gene (“environmental” is not just chemical concentrations, it’s also nerve signals).

As the article says: how is it our genes create a good heart at birth, and over time, as we replace cells, we create a bad heart? Genes don’t control things – they are instructions – like books in a library. To make use of them, they need to be read, and the info needs to be put to use. The gene does not read itself (words do not read themselves). The gene does not build the house either – you have to read the book on how to build, and do it yourself.

We may not be able to change the genes, but we can influence how their information is expressed… thru environmental stimulation. That’s why they said gene structure is only “associated” with risk – there are many influences at work. Though there may be some tendency in a family’s gene pool that allows RLS to be the path of least resistance for brain function, this will vary for each member of the family, due to  individual environmental simulations.

Solution Summary: in addition to measuring serum chemicals, we can get  evaluated by a functional medical doctor and a functional neurologist (you may find one person who studies both).

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Cancer in Mind

Cancer brings the mind/body relationship into the forefront of life in a powerful way.  There are many factors involved, and I’m not an oncologist, but I do know the mind needs to be completely overhauled regardless of what else is going on. Emotional clearing is at the top of the list, and filling the left brain with knowledge that supports the healing process reinforces holding a positive emotional state.

Rule #1 of emotional work: the negative energy is trapped within the one feeling it. It does not come from the outside – someone else does not do it to you. If there is no responsibility accepted for your own inner experience, then you are vulnerable to all manner of suffering – and you simply will not heal. Healing requires taking responsibility – owning and managing your space. We all have to face this truth – and work hard to regain and maintain our spiritual sovereignty.

Here is some information to start the mental/emotional overhaul process:

[1] Embodying The Four Immeasurables with Dr. Mario Martinez, PsyD
 This presentation covers science and meditation, and discusses immune studies correlated to specific emotions and diseases. Dr Martinez  demo’s a powerful technique from Tibet to purge the negative states out of your body.

“The immune system is not a protector, it is a confirmer of your consciousness” – Dr Matinez

[2] “The Way Back Home”, by Bonnie Serratore. Learn how to uncover and clear negative emotional energy.

[3] Dr. Lorraine Day reversed her severe, advanced cancer by rebuilding her immune system with natural therapies; allowing her body to heal itself.

[4] Louise L. Hay was able to completely heal herself of cancer within six months through an intensive program of affirmations, visualization, nutritional cleansing, and psychotherapy.

[5] “The Biology of Belief“, by Dr Bruce Lipton, demonstrates how the new science of Epigenetics is revolutionizing our understanding of the link between mind and matter and the profound effects it has on our personal lives.

[6] Cancer Articles by Dr Joseph Mercola, DO. Mercola.com one of the world’s largest natural health websites.

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Repeating a Program is Not “Thinking”

The mind is everything in this world. If it is filled with garbage, life is needlessly hard and full of suffering. If it is clear and strong, and we understand its nature, life is a totally different story. What may appear to be a hopeless problem to one mind, has a clear and simple solution to another mind.

Applying life science involves understanding, and gaining mastery over the single largest problem generator in our lives – our thought processes.  If we can identify where our minds start to create a problem out of thin air, then we can nip the problem in the bud. The first step here is to be able to identify reflexive programming (operating on automatic pilot) vs unique, or original thought (thinking for oneself).  Since we tend to identify with our thoughts, we often mistake mindless “programs” for actual “thinking”. The problem with this is that once you identify with a thought, you are no longer free to change your mind… because it feels like death – like you are somehow killing yourself, by admitting an idea you once held to be true, is now realized to not be true. You are not your thoughts; practice catching yourself identifying with them, and trying on new ideas the way you do clothes.

A sure sign of original thinking is the ability to change your mind

As young infants and children, we are especially open to learning all we can about everything – we absorb information like a sponge. This is a very vulnerable time. It’s great if the info absorbed is true, and tragic if it is false. We live in a media-rich environment, filled with questionable information designed to create dependence, obedience, and separate us from our money. Media creates an incessant background drone of programming, that seeps into our minds, even when we are aware of it. How do we recognize its influence on our thinking?

One way is to watch yourself for assumptions. If you assume drugs are the best form of treatment, then you are programmed; and need to dissect this belief to determine its truth. If the dissected facts point in one direction, yet you “find it hard to believe”, then you are programmed. If you find that you believe everything the media tells you, you are programmed. If you think therapies or entire professions you know nothing about are worthless, you are programmed. If you don’t feel you are “smart enough” to evaluate a topic of science, you are programmed. If you think this stuff only happens to other people, but not you – guess what – you are programmed.  Keep this in mind with what ever you are evaluating – keep an eye out for things you assume are a certain way, even thought you have no proof, or experience with them.

 Knowledge is tainted. Ignorance is pure.

Everything we know has an element of programming in it. Approach a topic as if you are ignorant, and let the facts of the matter form their own picture, without the programmed assumptions imbedded in your knowledge.  This is one way scientific breakthroughs occur – a scientist admits ignorance (which clears the mind), and then sees the same old problem through new eyes. A healthy relationship with both ignorance and knowledge will allow us to find sustainable solutions to our problems (and we decrease our vulnerability to manipulation).

Everything “works” if it’s what you need

Healing has many factors; and the concepts in the mind are major players. We have a wide spectrum of different forms of medicine available to us in our modern world – from surgery to faith healers. For each of them, there are stories of success and failure. And for each person there are subconscious biases that influence their thought processes – in some cases denying anything positive; in others, denying anything negative. If you refuse to see the value in some form of therapy, then you limit your options, should you need that therapy some day. On the other hand, if you are prone to wishful thinking you may be wanting something you don’t actually need to be your solution. Many people (more  obvious with health care professionals) may not realize they actually harbor a “favorite” therapy. This is the method they want to be the solution to a problem (though it may not be, if the situation could be viewed objectively).

To take this idea to an extreme: if your favorite therapy is surgery, is it the appropriate therapy for a common cold, muscle soreness, or hormone imbalance? Extreme examples may seem foolish, but the point is to first establish the validity of the statement – is there any case where it is true? So now that we have established “truth” to the basic concept of “appropriateness”, we start to move into the grayer areas, to identify where we loose sight of the fundamental truth of appropriateness, and enter into the realms of our cognitive biases.

My point is that everything works IF it’s what you need. We simply may not need what any given therapy offers… and we may need something we are unfamiliar with, and know nothing about. The issue is always one of appropriateness, versus reflexive support of one’s favorite therapy, or pushing an agenda, or some ulterior motive (profit). Problems arise when we hold on to the idea that our favorite therapy is all we would ever need for any situation. This is wishful/magical thinking – it is not reality – it is not even logical.

Common sense doesn’t require “proof”

The Achilles Heal of  intelligent and complex thinkers is over looking the simple  fundamentals underlying the complexity of what they know and must deal with on a day to day basis. Complexity, by its nature, tends to overlook simplicity. A great example of this was seen in 1847: Dr Semmelweis‘ simple advice to doctors to wash their hands in obstetric clinics in order to decrease mortality. The doctors of his time argued that there was no data or other evidence to support his advice – but if you think about it, all that was needed was a common sense understanding of basic hygiene – the same common sense applied to cooking and daily washing.

We tend to loose sight of basic truths when we encounter our attachments to what we know and understand; as well as when we hide from our ignorance.  If we desire to evolve as conscious beings, we need to learn to hold our space as beings grounded in reality when we encounter situations that expose our weaknesses, attachments, ignorance and fears. We can only move forward with our next step if we remove our foot from where we happen to be standing. To keep our feet in our current tracks is stagnation.  There is much more that we don’t know then what we know. “Learning”, by definition is moving into what we don’t know.

Learning and growing involve
perpetual recognition of our ignorance

If you try a therapy that you don’t need, do you expect to see amazing results? No. But if the therapy is exactly what you need, then it will do what it was designed to do – and you will see great results. It is ill-logical to condemn an entire method or profession because you didn’t require it, and received no benefit from it. It is also ill-logical to condemn things you have not tried, and know nothing about. Logical as this seems, people (including doctors) do this a lot. Don’t beat yourself up for it – we got programmed to think like this. Learn to recognize it. Become neutral regarding your knowledge. New things are always being discovered, so watch yourself for attachment to ideas. Keep an open mind: no need to make a judgement right away – give the next new idea room to prove itself.

 

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Equal and Opposite Experts

I received an email regarding a medication alert for a particular drug, with the caveat: “I don’t know how true this is, decide for yourselves”. It’s a great point: how true is it? We need to ask this question with everything we hear – even science. Now you could check snopes.com, or you could spend hours researching and trying to understand what you found… or you could think about it for a minute.

“Not enough research money has been made available to investigate integrative, leading-edge therapies that have proved in clinical practice to be beneficial to the patient. While the American demand for natural health care is at an all time high, as the public becomes more and more frustrated with traditional doctors, the amount of conflicting information that is out there puts the American public into a situation where they have an extremely difficult time separating beneficial therapies from those that are not.

Dr. Mercola

It seems that in order to make informed health decisions these days, one needs both medical and research degrees. Most people don’t want to devote their lives to health care – they just want to make good choices as they live their lives. So how can you make informed decision without earning advanced degrees in everything you may need to understand? You do it with pattern recognition and wise rules of thumb.


The Medical Brand

By understanding some fundamentals of the health care arena, we can get in the ball-park for good decisions; and in this ball-park, we will find people we can trust to help us sort things out. A major step needed to find more health options is getting over the idea that the U.S. health system is the “end-all, be-all”. Our medical system is not the definitive health science, it is merely a “brand” – just like Toyota and Ford. It “works”, but it is not the only way to do things. It is not right about everything. It does not do everything.  It does some things right, and other things wrong. It has a certain methodology to it, as do other brands like osteopathy, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and naturopathy.

The U.S. health system originated on the battlefield, and so the specialty is life saving. Hospital (allopathic) medicine is very good at saving lives, but not very good at maintaining life quality. For quality of life issues, you need to look somewhere else. All brands are designed to do certain things – but not everything. They all have strengths and weaknesses. They all address some issues, and not others. There is no one brand that does it all.  Just as people need to know when a certain drug is being recalled (medication alert), they also need to know they have options beyond drugs – that there is more than one brand to choose from. If you want more options, stay open to the value of different perspectives.

No matter how much you research a topic on your own (not being an expert), you may never develop the insight in to how to interpret the information you find the way someone who has devoted their life to the subject has. So take advantage of their expertise – but don’t forfeit your personal responsibility to them (this is what helped to cause our current health information problems). You could spend months researching a topic, and end up confused and overwhelmed. Or you could let the experts do the heavy lifting, by paying for advice from several different brands of doctors, and applying some common sense to the agreements and disagreements of their collective advice.

Common Sense
The body is designed to process material from the environment (food, water etc) to sustain itself. The body does this naturally. What is unnatural (difficult) for the body is processing synthetic materials (processed “food”, drugs, etc). We can handle a little bit, but chronic synthetic stress over decades wears us out. Under ideal conditions, drugs are used only to help the body get through rough spots… if used for long periods of time, drugs begin to create problems of their own. So the point is to seek to understand a condition requiring drugs as much as possible, so that you can look for more natural and sustainable ways to address it long term. A good example of this is Dr Day‘s approach to her cancer.

A good Rule of Thumb for drug alerts:
“Better safe than sorry” – avoid any drug that is questioned.

“Deciding for ourselves” equates to determining which expert is right, and which is wrong – in other words: who do you want to believe? Who is qualified to do that? Not me. I don’t even waste my time tackling these types of arguments; and I can do this in relative safety with the rule of thumb. For the most part, I keep this type of stuff out of my body – so I don’t have to worry about what it’s doing to me…

Exceptions to the Rule
Obviously there are times when your life may depend on a drug – that’s an exception to the rule. Also for quality of life issues (pain management), the rule must be bent… but if you are always on the lookout to understand your condition in more depth, and to look for natural ways to address it, you will be better off in the long run.

When drug/substance alerts come out (especially for something found in many common drugs/foods), there will always be arguments about safety. A good example is aspartame/phenylalanine, an artificial sweetener. On one side is the industry making money off the drug in question, and on the other side are health watch-dogs. They both provide “expert” evidence… but “for every expert there is an equal and opposite expert“. Brains for hire (“experts”) can be bought, just like politicians. Ask a simple question: who is more trustworthy (not profiting)?   Biochemistry is very complex. Like any science, it comes with conflicting philosophies/perspectives, and can be “spun”, just like the “facts” in a news story. “Scientific research” can be made to say anything an expert wants it to. Moral of the Story:

We simply need to be able to think for ourselves

This doesn’t mean we need to become perpetual “professional students”, studying everything under the sun in order to make informed decisions. No one knows everything. Intelligence requires data and education, and takes years of training and study. Using intelligence requires we gather all the facts, analyze and test them. Wisdom requires pattern recognition, and happens in a moment. Using wisdom requires:

1. Understanding that aspect of human nature that tends to mislead (profit motive)
2. Understanding the body is designed to process natural food (vs synthetic food-wanna-be’s and drugs)
3. Understanding that if you don’t have all the facts and ability to interpret them, the safe bet is to avoid synthetic food and drugs – find natural ways to stay healthy.

We could spend our lifetimes chasing facts that we could never begin to understand, because we don’t have PhDs in biochemistry. This path wastes a lot of time. The simple, easy and safe bet is to just avoid anything that “smokes” (chances are there is actually a “fire” somewhere)… this translates into avoiding drugs as much as possible. Every synthetic drug has “side effects”. These effects come from all the additional chemicals required to “hold” the main drug chemical in a form that can be bottled. These other ingredients place additional stress on the liver to neutralize and eliminate them from the body.

Food is Medicine
Any time we stray from pure, raw, organic food, there will be side effects, and potential problems. You don’t have to be a food nazi, but by realizing where the line is drawn (natural vs synthetic anything), we can make more informed choices. Keeping things in perspective, synthetic food (yummy as it may be) will never be the best thing for us, but it is less of a problem than drugs; which are concentrated and designed to aggressively alter body chemistry. Over time, a body can only take so much – so go easy on yours.

Health options are not an “us vs them” deal, it’s a matter of doing what works, while minimizing harm. Everything has its place, and there are more options then we have been led to believe.  Our current system of medicine can provide drugs to ease arthritic pain… but realize that people have reversed such pain by cleaning up their diets. This often requires radical changes, that not everyone will want to commit to. So do as much as you can – its not “all or nothing” either.

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Limitations of Spiritual Practice

Human beings are biased by design – always looking to “either-or”, “us-vs-them”, resist, blame or separate things.   It’s no wonder we are riddled with problems.  The medical and natural treatment communities create sides to defend, and endless things to fight over about how to manage a physical body. The same war is waged in how to manage the non-physical aspects of being human as well: mind and spirit.

The human being has four fundamental aspects: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. These four overlap, but that does not mean they are best addressed all at once, all the time, in one big amorphous cloud of understanding. Sometimes it’s best to divide and conquer: to isolate one aspect and deal with it on its own terms.  Each aspect, from physical to spiritual, gets ever more subtle. Sometimes it’s best to deal with the grosser, more tangible aspects first, before fine-tuning things in the more subtle realms.

We tend to get attached (biased) to our own methods, blinding ourselves to the value of other approaches.  Many spiritual aspirants think spiritual practice can fix everything in their lives, but ignoring the more earthy aspects of physical life can cause major problems. A great essay on this can be found in Robert Masters’ Spiritual Bypassing.

 

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The Mind of the Healer

December 21, 2012 had a lot of meanings attached to it.  It’s the winter solstice, the beginning of the Age of Aquarius, the end of the world according to some, and the beginning of a new Golden Age according to others.  Now that the end of the world is behind us, we can get on to more important things – like how to use our minds.

Without getting into all the variations of the 2012 thing, what’s important is how we manage information in our minds. Most people are easily swayed/manipulated – especially by fear, ignorance, and wishful thinking. This way of thinking causes a lot of problems; some causing tangible health issues. The mind of a healer needs to be very clear, and neutral. It needs to be able to look at all evidence without condemnation, and hold a paradoxical attitude that is both neutral to accept what comes as well as  positively biased to alter outcomes.

Too many people in the healing communities condemn logical thinking… and to be fair, too many people in the medical communities condemn non-logical (not to be confused with ill-logical) thinking. What will it take for people to stop taking sides? It’s like the age-old war in Gulliver’s Travels about which end to break an egg.  One part of the population believes only left-brained usage has merit, and another believes only right-brained usage has merit.  The fact that we were created with both halves never seems to surface in the arguments.

 

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Biased by Design

“Reality is an illusion“. We’ve all heard this before, but how is something that seems so real an illusion? In the same way as a dream is an illusion.

You see images in dreams. Where do they come from? Certainly not from your physical eyes. Dream images come from the mystery that is your mind. Your paradigm, the way you see reality, also comes from the mystery that is your mind. But what about the “objective” sensory information entering from your eyes – is that an illusion?

The light from the tree gets converted into electrochemical nerve impulses. We become aware of these impulses, not the light from the tree.

Sensory data (light) enters your  eyes – but that is where “objective reality” ends, right there on the cornea covering the lens of your eyeball. From your lens, to your retina, to your brain, to your mind are many opportunities to subjectively modify objective sensory information. Why? Because everyone is different – no two people have the exact same lens shape, nor do any two people possess the exact same neurochemistry. “Objective” light is immediately converted into subjective electrochemical signals and mental interpretations create perceptions about what is seen.

Are you seeing the top surface of the stairs or underneath them?

Take a look at the stair illusion. Which is more real: seeing the stairs from above or below? This simple example is enough to explain many of the differences in opinions and perspectives we experience from the realities of those around us. There is a bio-logic to being a social being – a member of a community.  Having a support group or a counsel to bounce perceptions off, is a good idea, otherwise there is the likelihood of one-sided perspectives and distortions that can become an issue for others (with different realities); especially with emotionally charged subjects.

Trust Experience, Question Interpretation

Dr Bruce Lipton‘s stem cell research spells it out scientifically: we are not slaves to our DNA, we actually select what DNA gets expressed into our behavior. For anything to “happen” in the body, specific DNA in our cells must be activated, which produces various responses, behaviors, etc. This DNA is not self-selecting and self-activating. DNA is selected by the conditions present in the cells’ environment (blood and surrounding tissues). What controls the circumstances of this environment? It is your perceptions – your subjective interpretations of your objective experience.

Being open minded is realizing that though you may be the center of your universe, you are not the universal center.

Do not become attached to your interpretation of your experience of reality. This mindset is unique to your specific perspective in the universe. It does not represent the “true”, “ultimate” or “generic” reality. It only represents “you”.

Your subjective perceptions create subjective interpretations, which create subjective perceptions… Do you think dog’s are the only beings who chase their tails? Humans chase their minds.

Dr Lipton’s work shows how perceptions create tangible changes in brain chemistry; and this modified chemistry is transported to all the cells in your body via your blood. Subjective biological information in the chemical soup you created is what activates specific DNA sequences, and becomes your behavior, and your experience of reality. That is why if you change your mind (beliefs, interpretations, etc), you can change your life. Dr Lipton says we are not victims of our heredity, we are masters of our biology.

You are a slave only to the gilded cage of your own mind. If you are attached to your own subjective interpretations of reality, you live in the cage of your  mind. Realize you are biased by design, and seek to know the reality beyond the limited bias of your biology – the spirit that witnesses life through the biology of your body. The more you look for this perspective, the more you will become aware of, and the more your universe will expand.

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Stroke: Signs, Assessment, Recomendations

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroanatomist who wrote a best selling book (My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey) about her recovery from a stroke, and the insights she gained into the workings of the brain. Below are some quick info bits to help recognize a stroke,  as well as her recommendations for assessing and interacting with someone in recovery.

 

S: Speech or any problems with language.

T: Tingling or numbness in the body.

R: Remembering or any immediate problems with thinking.

O: Off-balance or problems with coordination.

K: Killer headache.

E: Eyes or any problem with vision.

A stroke is a medical emergency. Dial 911

 

Ten Assessment Questions

1. Have you had my eyes and ears checked to make sure you know what I can see and hear?

2. Can I discriminate color?

3. Do I perceive three dimensions?

4. Do I have any sense of time?

5. Can I identify all of my body parts as mine?

6. Can I discriminate a voice from background noise?

7. Can I access my food? Can my hands open the containers? Do I have the strength and dexterity to feed myself?

8. Am I comfortable? Am I warm enough? Or thirsty? Or in pain?

9. Am I oversensitive to sensory stimulation (light or sound)? If so, bring me earplugs so I can sleep, and sunglasses so I can keep my eyes open.

10. Can I think linearly? Do I know what socks and shoes are? Do I know that my socks go on before my shoes?

 

Recommendations for Recovery: Forty Things I Need Most

1. I am not stupid, I am wounded. Please respect me.

2. Come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly.

3. Repeat yourself—assume I know nothing and start from the beginning, over and over.

4. Be as patient with me the 20th time you teach me something, as you were the first.

5. Approach me with an open heart and slow your energy down. Take your time.

6. Be aware of what your body language and facial expressions are communicating to me.

7. Make eye contact with me. I am in here—come find me. Encourage me.

8. Please don’t raise your voice—I’m not deaf, I’m wounded.

9. Touch me appropriately and connect with me.

10. Honor the healing power of sleep.

11. Protect my energy. No talk radio, TV, or nervous visitors! Keep visitation brief (five minutes).

12. Stimulate my brain when I have any energy to learn something new, but know that a small amount may wear me out quickly.

13. Use age-appropriate (toddler) educational toys and books to teach me.

14. Introduce me to the world kinesthetically. Let me feel everything. (I am an infant again.)

15. Teach me with monkey-see, monkey-do behavior.

16. Trust that I am trying—just not with your skill level or on your schedule.

17. Ask me multiple-choice questions. Avoid Yes/No questions.

18. Ask me questions with specific answers. Allow me time to hunt for an answer.

19. Do not assess my cognitive ability by how fast I can think.

20. Handle me gently, as you would handle a newborn.

21. Speak to me directly, not about me to others.

22. Cheer me on. Expect me to recover completely, even if it takes twenty years!

23. Trust that my brain can always continue to learn.

24. Break all actions down into smaller steps of action.

25. Look for what obstacles prevent me from succeeding on a task.

26. Clarify for me what the next level or step is so I know what I am working toward.

27. Remember that I have to be proficient at one level of function before I can move on to the next level.

28. Celebrate all of my little successes. They inspire me.

29. Please don’t finish my sentences for me or fill in words I can’t find. I need to work my brain.

30. If I can’t find an old file, make it a point to create a new one.

31. I may want you to think I understand more than I really do.

32. Focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot do.

33. Introduce me to my old life. Don’t assume that because I cannot play like I used to play that I won’t continue to enjoy music or an instrument, etc.

34. Remember that in the absence of some functions, I have gained other abilities.

35. Keep me familiar with my family, friends, and loving support. Build a collage wall of cards and photos that I can see. Label them so I can review them.

36. Call in the troops! Create a healing team for me. Send word out to everyone so they can send me love. Keep them abreast of my condition and ask them to do specific things to support me—like visualize me being able to swallow with ease or rocking my body up into a sitting position.

37. Love me for who I am today. Don’t hold me to being the person I was before. I have a different brain now.

38. Be protective of me but do not stand in the way of my progress.

39. Show me old video footage of me doing things to remind me about how I spoke, walked, and gestured.

40. Remember that my medications probably make me feel tired, as well as mask my ability to know what it feels like to be me.

Dr Taylor on TED.com

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Is Your Reality a Biological Illusion?

We all enjoy a great illusion. Even when we know we are being fooled into seeing something that isn’t there.

Mystics are aware of the illusion of reality; our court of law recognizes the fallibility of an eyewitness; and neurologists can provide scientific evidence of how easy it is to fool the senses (that will hold up in court)… yet so many of us are still so “sure” about what we perceive, that we routinely pass judgments on all sorts of things (consciously or not).

 

“You are principally confronted not by
defined objects that are independent of you,
but by an indefinable process that includes you.”

– Franklin Albert Jones

Spiritual mystics tell us that all of life is an illusion. We can’t afford to just take information for granted – to just believe everything we are told – we need to determine for ourselves what is true. To do this we need evidence, various forms of logic (left/right brain, heart, spiritual) and honesty. You may or may not agree that “life is an illusion”, but in either case, on what evidence do you base your believe? What is your thought process?

In the old days, the mystics didn’t have the benefits of neuro science; so they used their intuition to audit their perception of reality. Today, a fact-based scientist may not use the word “illusion”, but “sight” is basically an illusion (as are all the reports from our five senses).  It’s an illusion because what we see is not what we got. The body is easy to fool… and so are the mind and emotions. Every one of our five senses can be fooled.

The light from the tree gets converted into electrochemical nerve impulses. We become aware of these impulses, not the light from the tree.

When we “see” a “tree”, we don’t really see the tree we are looking at – we “see” a bio-computer (brain) generated image (an illusion) of the tree. You may know this already… but do you appreciate the depth of the implications?

The light from the tree stops on the back of the eye (retina); after that it’s all electrochemical signals running through the brain… that mysteriously get seen and acknowledged by consciousness.  The process is analogous to watching an event on the news. We don’t see the actual event, we see an illusion created by electrical signals. For all practical purposes, the illusion of the event is accurate enough for us to feel that we witnessed the actual event. With this good-enough-for-biology process, we navigate through our physical world.

The brain can create images even without light stimulation from the eyes. We experience these images during dreams. Waking or dreaming, your consciousness experiences images, sounds, and other sensations. Where do information from visions, premonitions or “out of body” experiences arise?  There is much more going on than mere physiology… the mystery of life is always right there, at work in the background.

“We are spirits having bodily experiences,
not bodies having spiritual experiences.”

– Art Runningbear

Consciousness is still largely a mystery. A logical way to deal with mystery is to trust your experiences and question your interpretations. In order to evolve, we must prove ourselves wrong about everything we thought we knew. You can start this process by simply realizing how easy it is to fool your senses. This is a significant first step, since our often rigid perception of “how things are” was assembled from information reported from our senses, regarding the world around us.  The images below will help you generate some healthy doubt about how you perceive things.

The shade of A and B are the same.

The shade of the A and B squares are exactly the same.  It’s unbelievable, but welcome to the fundamental design flaw in your ability to perceive the environment around you. I had to prove this to myself below, by cutting out a piece of A and B and placing them together. I also placed pieces of B in a trail from A to B, to see how the illusion formed.

Proof that A and B are the exact same shade. See A and B side by side in the upper left. And follow a trail of B from A to B in the main image.

Trust your experiences and question your interpretations. We can trust that we actually perceive B to be a lighter shade than A… but just don’t get attached to the idea – question the interpretation that B must be a lighter shade than A – even if you can’t prove it. Stay vigilant to the fact that your perception is limited, and that you may be misperceiving, and making wrong assumptions. This is a great conceptual icon to keep in mind as we evaluate all knowledge. It may be relatively true as far as we can tell, but ultimately wrong as we learn more. It’s ok to be wrong – that’s how we evolve.

Click on the picture to see the animation. Is the girl spinning clockwise or counterclockwise?

Our perceptions are not only subject to illusions of shading, but motion and many other things as well. Perceiving reality through a physical body is a precarious perch on “reality”. It is much more subjective than we might like to think. This is why eyewitnesses see different things, and part of how assumptions get formed and misunderstandings arise. We may not be aware that we have a subconscious belief about something, but it will alter the way the brain/mind interprets what we see.

How do we integrate knowledge of the fickle functions of our biological design into our lives? We strive to become what Robert A. Heinlein describes as a “Fair Witness” in his book Stranger in a Strange Land

 

“Jubal called out, “That new house on the far hilltop – can you see what color they’ve painted it?”

Anne looked in the direction in which Jubal was pointing and answered, “It’s white on this side.”

… it doesn’t even occur to her to infer that the other side is probably white too. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t force her to commit herself as to the far side… unless she herself went around to the other side and looked – and even then she wouldn’t assume that it stayed whatever color it might be after she left… because they might repaint it as soon as she turned her back.”

Trust experience, question interpretation. Acknowledge the physical experience of life in your body.  But also acknowledge the limitations of your body’s physical experience. Look through and beyond your biology for who you really are.

 

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Ethics, Survival and Evolution

Ethics, our code of behavior, is a complex and deep subject, that spans the spectrum from the trenches of warfare, to the divine realms. Historically, ethics refers to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of actions, and motives; and is relative to culture and circumstance. But we need not be chained to historical thinking processes.  We are quite capable of thinking for ourselves – and defining our own meanings.

Ultimately we define words with our own unique spin. All people with eyes don’t see things exactly the same way. The same is true for all of our senses; as well as our minds.  Just as our personalities reflect our unique perspectives and vantage points relative to each other, so do our understanding of the meanings of things. As the universe holds all diversity together without contradiction, I try to apply this way to my understanding of ethics.

Ethics, as a code of behavior is based upon how we perceive our relationship to be with our world, universe, spiritual hierarchy, etc.  Hinduism teaches “dharma” (the way of righteousness), and Taoists speak of the “Tao” (the way). This post explores ethics as a function of a broader, universal perspective: “the way of the cosmos.” How would a person in tune with the way of the cosmos behave? The cosmos provides a right to life for many strange and diverse life forms. The cosmos does not appear to be selfish or biased in its granting of rights to life. From this perspective, ethics is about going with the flow of the universe; understanding its ways, and working with it, vs against it. There are many aspects to the way of the universe, and each aspect has layers of meaning – evolving meaning; meaning that expands and deepens.  To study the nature of the universe is to study the ethics of reality.  Following the expanding path of universal ethics is following a path of evolution.  As we evolve in our understanding and identity, the scope of how we think, feel and behave evolves.

What is the nature of the universe? Is there a universal “right” or “wrong”? What behavior is in tune with such an understanding? A simple example is  sustainable living. Viewing the environment as a closed system supports behavior that balances creation, maintenance, and destruction – a way that mimics the way of the cosmos. Viewing the environment as an open system, has created exploitation, waste and pollution; limiting the ability to continue creating in this way.

Human ethics are not so simple; as we must deal with perceptions and concepts, rather than just material logistics and energy flow.

Understanding ethics allows us to use our abilities in a way conducive to evolution; in a way that mirrors how the universe functions. Keep in mind that the universe operates on both small and large scales – and things from these various perspectives may appear to contradict any general assumptions we might make. An ethical path involves respecting life and its circumstances. Conscious ethical awareness balances the unconscious survival instinct – it is an aspect of the virtue of “compassion”.

Do we live in a universe defined merely by “survival of the fittest”, or is this only the perspective of some of the fittest? There are examples in our universe of the fit protecting and even sacrificing their lives for the weak (body guards); and of the weak commanding the fit. Of the learned educating the ignorant; of those with more sharing with those with less. Step outside of yourself, step outside of your biology for a minute…what is the way that includes all ways?

Ethics represent the code we live our lives by. We accept it from others, or write our own law, and we live by it, for better or worse. For some, ethics has come to mean “anything that promotes one’s survivability”.  But this interpretation has no boundaries, or motivation to evolve. A strict interpretation of “ethics = survival”, or soldier ethics, may be appropriate for certain life-or-death situations, but it only serves to keep one in the game (life in a body); it does not reach beyond the body. There is no upward, evolving motive. “Upward” and “evolving” are about growth, not surviving.  My definition of ethics is a path to evolution; which involves a constant urging to evolve (pushing you beyond your self – beyond the hardwired desires of your body).  It’s not an all-or-nothing philosophy; it is the best synthesis of nature and spirit that we are capable of in the moment.

Survival vs Thrival

Life can be defined by two realms: survival and growth (thrival).  An organism (be it a single cell or an entire body) must first survive before it can grow. You cannot perform your life’s purpose if you are ill. First you need stable health (survival), then you are capable of getting involved out in the world (doing things other than surviving). Who would write poetry or design cell phones if everyone were only concerned with personal survivability all the time? Surviving is only phase one. Phase two lies beyond.

Nature is cyclic, evolution has a direction. The goal of survival is to stay as you are. The goal of growth is to evolve. Survival must be assured before we can grow.

Nature is cyclic, evolution has a direction. The goal of survival is to stay as you are. The goal of growth is to evolve. Survival must be assured before we can grow.

The goals are different for the two realms. Survival is survival, growth is growth. Survival is about staying in the game. Growth is about ethics; a more advanced concept concerned with the natural order of the universe (vs keeping one body alive). If there is no distinction between ethics and survival, then there are no boundaries to the animal nature (the urge to kill to get what you want); and there is no guiding star to beckon you beyond your self. If everything is about survival, nothing is about growth. A survival-only orientation may provide you with a stable foothold in the game (the cyclical path of nature), but by definition, there will be no evolution – no upward movement. Ethics come from above (a straight line up to “divinity”, spirit or higher consciousness). Survival comes from below (the circle of nature). Evolution is nature spiraling upward toward greater things.

 

The Ouroboros

Souman and Ernst from Tübingen, Germany, have shown that we tend to walk in circles without something beyond ourselves to guide us (like the sun, a landmark or compass). This analogy also applies to ethics (learning to function as the universe does). If our only guiding reference is ourselves (our inner perceptions), our ethics tend to follow the circular path of the Quo (staus quo, or survival “as is”), rather than the Tao (evolution or growth beyond the way things are now).  There are layers of depth to every idea. The Ouroboros represents how life consumes itself to continue to exist; it represents the closed system of nature. Though any given body may cycle within nature, the spirit extends beyond nature’s cage – beyond the cycle; it has direction – it evolves.  As new beings are born into the world, and learn the basics of survival, those here before them help them to grow. The elders teaching the young the nature of the universe and its relationship to who we are. With this sense of being we conduct an ethical life and evolve.

Working Conclusions

A code of ethics arises through contemplation. We observe, we contemplate, we conclude, and along the way we make practical assumptions.  Out of this process we formulate our code of behavior.  Due to our physical design, our knowledge is always bound by biology and ignorance. We need to take this fact into consideration by acknowledging that our conclusions about our experience of life are working conclusions, not absolutes. Life is full of mystery, so we have to learn to observe as purely as possible, make educated guesses, and modify our conclusions as we go.

A rule of thumb: trust experience, question interpretation (another way to say this: trust events, question meanings). “Believe” the message that your eyes reported to your brain, but realize both the eye and the mind are easily fooled, so one should remain certain about nothing. Instead stay open to the fact that all knowledge is relative and limited, and may ultimately be proven wrong as you learn more.

“The wise man learns more from the fool
than the fool learns
from the wise man.”

– Marcus Aurelius

We must listen for truth in all words: from old and young, good and bad, wise and foolish, mundane and fantastic. We can be sure of nothing, so be attached to no idea. Allow your knowledge to be proven wrong as you evolve. You can’t evolve without being proven wrong, so accept that all your conclusions are works in progress; stepping-stones to deeper understanding.   Do not become attached to what you know or believe – stay open to evolution.

Codes of ethics are often issued from religions; supposedly originating from “God” (an unquestionable authority figure; and another concept that we may one day realize we got “wrong”…).  Part of human evolution involves not believing everything we are told – whether it be from good or bad teachers, or beloved organizations we grew up with. To evolve, we must learn to tap into the source of truth for ourselves. In doing so, we will confront that which resides within our mortal bodies… and our perception of the universe will change.

We must realize, that so long as we are in bodies, we are subject to the influence of its biological ways: that traumatic events shape/taint our philosophies.  Our bodies are hard wired to survive, and so we must acknowledge such urges, vs reflexively obey them. We must give the body its due; but to evolve, we need to constantly stretch beyond our biology. We live as the middle climber on the mountain of evolution. Attached by rope, we are pulled up by spirit above us, and dragged down by nature below us. Ethical living is a balancing act, that is hopefully slightly out of balance, in favor of “up”.

 

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