Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine on My Mind

A few years ago, I read the following story, which I’ve summarized from The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. With the nonstop media coverage of the Swine Flu, I went back to re-read this story and decided I want to share with you!

In the 19th century, medicine began to focus on killing germs when Louis Pasteur discovered the antibiotic effects of penicillin.

Another 19th century French scientist, Claude Bernard was also a famous medical researcher and friend of Pasteur, but he approached illness from a totally different point of view.
His focus was on the immune system of the patient and believed that keeping people’s immunity high was a much more effective approach than “killing the germ.”

Bernard’s theory led to some interesting studies. In one of them, a Russian scientist named Elie Metchnikoff and his research associates consumed cultures that contained millions of cholera bacteria – yet none of them developed cholera. Why? They had built up their bodies
immune systems so well that it defended itself against germ invaders.

Pasteur and Bernard continued a healthy debate about their different approaches to health and wellness for many years. But, as Pasteur perhaps began to see that antibiotics would be come less effective as the germs mutated and gained strength… he changed his mind. (Too late, however, to change the focus of medicine for the next century.)

In fact, on his deathbed, Pasteur said: “Bernard was right. The pathogen (germ)is nothing. The terrain i(immune system) is everything.”

Now, we come back to the topic of the day: Swine Flu. Which is currently causing semi-panic in Mexico, and a general uneasiness in the rest of the world.

Several times today I have heard or read reporters emphasize that there is no cure or vaccine to prevent the flu.

But I am wondering why no one seems to speaking of the need to begin upsizing the quality of our immune systems?

If Claude Bernard was right, then we should be focusing less on the “swine germ” and more on building up our body’s immunity.

Here’s a list of things you can do right now to help build up your immune system so that you can help protect yourself and your family from any kind of germ invader -- be it mad cow disease, bird flu, swine flu or anything else that Old MacDonald’s Farm o’ Pathogens can throw our way. And every single thing on this list is also excellent for your brain!

Take a good multivitamin with plenty of C, garlic (there are many odorless garlic pills), and astragalus, a potent immunity builder.

Drink black or green tea with honey (honey has wonderful antibiotic properties) to start your day. (Chamomile herb tea with honey in the evening to wind down your day)

Take probiotics or enjoy yogurts with active cultures like Activia or Dan Active daily.

Drink one smoothie a day (see my favorite Blueberry Smoothie recipe at the end of this post) to ensure you are getting plenty of fiber and antioxidants. (You can put your yogurt in here!) A good immune system has much to do with a healthy gut, and fiber plus probiotics are key. (Plus garlic to help keep bad stuff, like candida yeast, down.)

Sleep well and if you don’t, try melatonin or a supplement with GABA and/or magnesium in the evening to help you sleep better.

Take periodic “healing” baths -- Epsom salt or sea salt (1/2 to 1 c.) with baking soda (1/2 to 1 c.) and few drops of lavender is one of my favorite “feel better” rituals. It helps pull toxins out of your body and relaxes you for sleep.

Exercise – Oxygen is a key nutrient for the brain and body. Just walking a few minutes can have a restorative effect. I took my first yoga class today and loved it! There really is no antidepressent with all positive side effects, like exercise.

Take 10 to chill. A couple of times a day, if you can manage it… take ten minutes completely relax your body going from head to toe until you are limp. Breathe slowly and deeply. Some new studies also show that yawning, several times in a row, can be a highly effective way to both relax and restart your engines! Soft music in the back ground can facilitate relaxation, as can aromas like vanilla or lavender. (Use nontoxic candles or essential oils rather than waxy artificial candles).

If you can afford a massage --- by all means get one as a special treat now and then!

Laugh -- one comedy a day can keep the doctor away! Collect funny friends, sign up for funny emails, talk to a 3 year old… whatever floats your humor boat.

Gratitude – adopt an attitude of gratitude and positivity; just say a mental “thank you” prayer to the Creator for all the good things around you as you notice them. Positive people consistently fight off germs better than negative, complaining folk.

Nurture Relationships – a network of loving friendships and family, along with a loving marriage (with healthy sex life) is one of the best things you can do to boost your immune system. Hugging, touching, even stroking a pet builds immunity.

Follow The Joy Diet! (Plenty of fruits and veggies, healthy oils, lean meat and fish, whole grains and dairy products if you don’t have an allergy to them. Organic and fresh in season when possible. )

(Along with the above, of course, washing your hands fairly frequently is also helpful!!)

Swine Flu… Schmine Flu.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry… for tomorrow you have a lot to live for!

Becky’s Feel Better Blueberry Smoothie

1 c. orange juice
1 c. frozen blueberries
1 banana
1 dan active yogurt drink (I like vanilla)
1 emergen-c packet
1 T. protein powder( or more vanilla yogurt if you like..)
dollop of honey (has antibiotic properties)
Blend, blend, blend... should serve 2!

(Vary according to your taste....)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

All Ya Need is Love... Really?

(Pictures of my 5 year old niece and religion philosopher, Whitney.)
As I read today's entry (April 16, my birthday) from the many-decades old devotional, God Calling (written by two anonymous authors) that began: " Love, love, love. Tender love is the secret..."

...I thought of the little crayon scribbled paper, a gift from my little niece Whitney that she gave me one day on a visit here, without words or fanfare. Just walked into my office, handed the paper scrap to me as if it were a delivery and bounced out the door. It said, "Gob is love. Love is Gob. It's all love, love, love"

I just noticed that the scripture that went with the "God Calling" devotional is from 1 John 4:16. Hmmm... 4:16... Today is 4/16.... I'm detecting a repetitive message here. I've always had an unprovable and totally subjective theory that when things happen in "threes" -- it maybe more than coincidence. It's probably God on his megaphone from heaven: "Pay ATTENTION."

The verse says: "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1 John 4:16)"

I'm a deep thinker. Complicated thoughts about the meaning of life, of God, of my purpose are always running through my brain.. which is why I make up my laptop in my bed and don't know it, why I always have to call my cell phone to find it, why I have no clue what day it is most of the time. My prefrontal cortex is way to busy figuring out the Secret to Life to bother with mundane things like what day it is or where I last placed my purse.Now I am wondering, could The Secret to Life really be this simple?

On this, my 50th birthday, I'm sensing that the secret to growing older well, will mean becoming a lot more childlike. To "enter his Kingdom as a child" -- to, like my little neice, simply "know and rely on the love God has for us." To live, dwell, abide -- settle down and make our home in that simple assured state of being loved by Someone greater than ourselves. And once God and His love have taken up residence in our hearts, love splashes over to others. It cannot do otherwise.

At this midpoint in my life (if I live to be 100), that's about as close to The Secret of a Meaningful, Joyful Life as I can come up with..."

Love, love, love. The secret is Tender Love." God Calling Devotional

"Love is Gob. Gob is love. It's all love, love, love." Whitney Age 5

"God is love. Whoever lives in love, lives in God, and God in Him." (Apostle John)

Simply.... profound.

Post-script: I took the facebook quiz: "What is your life's themesong?" No kidding. It came up "All You Need is Love."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

PRAYER. What is it GOOD For?

(My sister Rachel sent this card to me when I was experiencing loss upon loss, grief upon grief. The caption says, "Just when it seems we will never smile again, life comes back." It was the card that meant the most to me during that season of pain. And its message proved true.)

I'm blogging earlier than I thought I would be because I was ushered into a place of Very Deep Thoughts, when in spite of weeks of prayers for Ron, my friend's husband who had open heart surgery on Monday, he died.

It's one thing to know the right theological answers about such things, its another to feel so terribly alone and even abandoned by God, as Jesus must have felt in his most agonizing moments in Gethsemene. Still another to hear the gut-wrenching cries of a newly widowed and dear friend.

So, in a week where my fervent prayers – along with family, friends, noted prayer warriors and facebook friends and strangers -- for my friend’s husband to recover from heart surgery went "unanswered" -- how could I possibly say prayer does any good?

Last month I had a late night email conversation with close friend Lindsey O’Connor who, after being on the receiving end of a multitude of prayers, miraculously lived after having slipped into a coma and barely surviving on life support for months. Many times we were told she might not live through the night, and today she’s a brilliant journalist, loving mom, beautiful friend. In our professional circles we had just heard about a young mother, with young children, who had just slipped from a coma (following a car accident) into heaven. “Why was I healed,” Lindsey asked, “and not her?”

Things neither of us could understand or answer. One airplane full of people whom God loved made a miraculous landing in the Hudson River. Not long after, another plane full of people whom God loved equally, left no survivors.

Last week I was having lunch with Greg and Carol Cromartie, longtime friends from Texas, the sort I can totally “exhale” with about things shallow and deep. Carol spoke of the prayers that had been answered when she survived breast cancer; then shared that a dear friend, also a mother, had just died from cancer. “We prayed like crazy for her. I loved her so much. Why did she die so quickly and I live?”

“Carol,” I said, “I have NO idea. Those answers won’t come until heaven. But I will tell you this, my concept of prayer has changed remarkably in the last few years. I think we put too much pressure on prayer to be what it was never meant to be.”

A few years ago I read a beautiful prayer-memoir by Patricia Raybon (who has since become a friend) called I Told that Mountain to Move. In it she described all the unanswered prayers around her – an angry ill husband, daughters who did not follow her religious path, a mother who drove her crazy. And then she decided to dig in and really learn about prayer, study it, practice it…. and it eventually dawned on her that prayer was about 1) softening her heart until it became more like God’s heart and 2) sending God’s love, via the spiritual mystery of prayer, to others. It was totally not what she’d assumed it was, but once she got it, she watched the miracle of her prayer-soaked, changed heart provoke miracles of redemption around her.

Some of the brain research on prayer is astounding. Prayer changes things and some scientists believe it even changes cells both inside the person praying and also the person prayed for, even if the people are unaware of the prayers aimed their direction. Patients who were anonymously prayed for rested better, needed less pain medication, were more at peace. Not all were physically healed. Some, in fact, died. But, they died a little more peacefully, a little less painfully. Prayers, especially prayers of loving-kindness or for blessing others calm, center and soothe the brain. Prayer allows our bodies and minds a better chance of healing. It seems God wired us to pray and to be prayed for.

God, however, never promised a sparrow would not fall to the ground. Just that He would be with the sparrow when it fell. We are not promised a perfect life free of pain. But we are promised access to perfect peace, which often comes through simple, centered prayer. Sometimes the best prayers are simple, childlike, repetitive. I love some of the old Celtic prayers because of they tend to be simple, lyrical , soothing, uplifting. “Christ above me; Christ below me; Christ before me; Christ behind me….” is such a line in one of St. Patrick’s prayers, a particular go-to favorite of mine.

Does this mean that I, in saint-like calm, only pray for perfect peace when someone I love is hurt or sick and I am frightened and desperate? No. Like all humans, I beg, “Lord, please let this person live! Heal him!” ….but somewhere deeper than my fear there is the knowledge that healing could be deeper than my human eyes can see. That I am not all-wise, or all-loving and I do not see the upper part of the human tapestry from God’s eye view… I am limited, finite, desperate.

I have lots of Bad Prayer Days, trust me. Days, even, where I refuse to talk to God. He must smile at that.

Eventually, no matter the outcome of the circumstances, my prayers evolve into praying for peace and well-being in spite of disappointment, grief or shock of what has happened.

Prayer. What is it GOOD for? Absolutely everything …..that really matters. As long as we don’t expect prayer to be what it was never intended to be.

Even those who died, I believe, at some level felt our prayers as angels ushered them away. Those who mourn, feel our prayers as intangible hugs of love. Our prayers matter, they are felt, they give peace and life. Even in situations where God calls the loved one Home and we are left to ponder the gifts the beloved husband or child or good friend left in their passing. Our prayers matter as we to learn to be grateful for what we had in our time with them, and still have in our remaining earth-time with each other, and as we ask God to change us inside for the better – through the lessons in the wake of loss -- even as we weep.

Joy always comes in the morning.

And sometimes, surprisingly, it also comes in the mourning.