This is the title of a book written by Larry Dossey, MD who served in the military as a battalion surgeon in Vietnam where he received the Army Commendation Medal of Valor as well as a Bronze Star.
In my last blog, I used two specific people--the Dalai Lama and Congressman Tim Ryan--to demonstrate the positive power of meditation. Today I describe two major studies that show how we can benefit from the use of meditative approaches. Researchers at Harvard Medical School report that long-term practitioners of relaxation methods such as yoga and meditation had many more disease-fighting genes than individuals who did not practice any form of relaxation. These genes protect us from pain, infertility, high blood pressure, and even rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, the meditative state of relaxation is linked to higher levels of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin. According to the publication, Psychology Today, research also shows that when meditators shift their brain activity from the stress-prone right frontal portion of the brain to the calmer, left frontal portion of the brain, a decrease in the negative effects of stress, depression, and anxiety occur. Additionally, there is less activity in the amygdala, where the brain processes fear.
Each meditates every day. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people, who imparts a message of universal responsibility, love,compassion, and kindness to people throughout the world. Central to this perspective is the Tibetan holistic approach to health, which involves diet, behavior, prescription of medicine, and contemplative (meditative) practices. In 1989 he was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. You can learn more about this remarkable individual and his teachings/writings by visiting www.dalailamafoundation.org
Early in November 2012, the Los Angeles city council unanimously approved a resolution recommending city residents not eat meat on Mondays. This Meatless Monday campaign started internationally in 2003. The Los Angeles effort is associated with Johns Hopkins University’s public health school.
Not only is the environment diminished by the amount of meat consumed in this country, a high-meat diet is linked to health problems such as colon, prostate, kidney and breast cancers, as well as heart disease. Furthermore, the problem of obesity can significantly be moderated by reduced meat consumption.
So what’s a meat eater to do?
Hundreds of studies suggest that diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Results from a Harvard University study showed that replacing saturated fat-rich foods (such as meat and full fat dairy products) with foods rich in polyunsaturated fat (such as vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19 percent. Research results also suggest that higher consumption of red and processed meat increases the risk of Type II diabetes. In addition, the consumption of red and processed meat is associated with higher mortality rates.
Interestingly enough, replacing a meat-based meal with fish such as tuna and salmon isn’t that difficult to do; nor is substituting an inexpensive bean and rice dish for meat, since the two combined form a complete protein. Fortunately, information regarding meatless meals is readily available on the Internet—not only are there countless recipes, updated research results inform readers of the many health benefits of eating meatless meals.
Years ago when I became interested in healthier diet options, I began by choosing white turkey and chicken instead of red meat. Gradually I began to incorporate fish into my diet. Now I am comfortable with fish two or three days of the week and lean fowl on the other days. When I have a yearly physical exam and the doctor remarks about the status of my good health, I attribute this to regular exercise and a healthy diet. You’d be surprised how rewarding it is to transform anxiety-ridden doctor’s visits to a life-affirming event!