Monthly Archives: February 2008

Health and Spirit Wealth

flax-seed.jpgSo sorry for the lag. My friend who went into brain surgery is out but he needed some round the clock care and we were getting it organized. While I intend on adding new material here for generating spiritual wealth, it does help to talk about some of what I am experiencing here. It always amazes me about our medical system in the United States. We have one of the worst medical systems and yet we’re one of the richest countries. Riches apparently don’t have much impact on our ability to enjoy good health or to care for others properly. In fact, it seems when people get sick these days, the first thing hospitals do is try to think of absolutely the worst thing wrong with you and then work their way backwards. The sad truth is that every patient that comes in with a brain tumor is a gold mine for that hospital. They get to charge the patient’s insurance tons of money. It makes me wonder whether our system is geared to keep us sick instead of healthy.

Dr. Budwig

Well, there are alternative treatments for cancer, whether it is in the brain or the big toe. There is a strong dietary connection to cancer that even the American Cancer Society will admit. The problem is that despite the research, some even by very notable people, this type of information is not provided to patients right away. Instead, they go in and do all kinds of invasive treatments. They might suggest you stop eating sugar, but they don’t really tell you that sugars are different depending on whether they are simple or complex sugars. They don’t tell you that a diet high in meat is cancerous. They don’t tell you that cleansing and detoxing can fortify your body. I think they know practically nothing about alternative healing methods, especially because they don’t come with a way to bill your insurance for them. So, why bother telling you about them?

There is a notable physician by the name of Dr. Johanna Budwig who developed a dietary plan for even terminally ill cancer patients and had great success with it. Apparently, the German medical establishment freaked about her use of “cottage cheese and flaxseed oil” because it was too simplistic and couldn’t be patented. She used this, as well as other parts of dietary program, to treat multiple cancer patients to fortify their body and help aerate cells with what she said was a “90% cure rate.” They took her to court because doctors can’t claim cures that aren’t medically proven but eventually dropped charges and tried to hide the research instead. You’ll never see a clinical study on this because who would pay for such a study? The bottom line is it’s not profitable for anyone except people who make cottage cheese and flaxseed oil and no one will believe them. It has to come from a medical group. Is this a miracle cure? It’s anyone’s guess at this point because the profit motive that drives our capitalistic system isn’t interested in answering that question. But, I do know that I used flaxseed oil and diet to cure myself of something considered “incurable.” I got the diet plan from a cancer survivor who also used a similar diet. So, those who know pass the information along, since our health professionals aren’t legally able to do it. Once you cure your own body through natural healing methods or diet, you tend to distrust anything any medical professional has to tell you.

Are There Any Incurable Diseases?

From a conventional standpoint, there are. From a holistic, natural healing viewpoint there are no incurable diseases. The reason for this is that the body heals itself. There are only people with energetic imbalances that can always be set right if we treat the entire body/mind/spirit complex instead of just the disease. Of course, if you are sitting in a doctor’s office and they are telling you that you will end up on dialysis, in the cancer ward, or dead, it’s pretty hard to realize that there are no incurable diseases and to look for holistic healing methods. They scare the pants off of you to get you to agree to treatment. By the time they are done pumping you full of pharmaceuticals, you are sicker than when you started.

Spiritual Wealth Includes Good Diet

If you are looking to have a beautiful, wealthy, life then you have to include your dietary health too. Spirit is affected by what you put in your body. The body is not separate from the spirit and they work in symbiotic relationship. If you put unhealthy food in your mouth, it does have an affect on your ability to generate spiritual wealth and happiness. And, in fact, most people in spiritual circles naturally tend to reduce their meat intake and gravitate to the proper foods simply because the body begins to reject the foods outright. They either can no longer digest them or they have allergic reactions to them. This is perfectly naturally if you are progressing on a spiritual path. Different foods have different vibratory frequencies and when you have a brighter magnetic field that resonates at a higher spiritual level, some foods will naturally become inedible to you. If you ignore that signal and keep eating those foods, you end up sick. So, even though I had a week of comfort food, this whole thing has really bought me back to my natural diet and started me back towards paying more attention to my health.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by papertygre

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The Art of Happiness (and Sadness)

happiness.jpgI have to read The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and Howard C. Cutler, M.D., for one of my graduate classes. There is a whole chapter on changing our perception of suffering so that we don’t suffer as much from the mishaps of life. However, before we can do that we must face the fact of our suffering.

The First Noble Truth

Life is suffering. It sounds pessimistic to our Western mindset, but it is also quite realistic. The human condition has us completely wrapped up in samsara (illusion) that we generally can’t make heads or tails of our lives. Suffering ensues. However, instead of facing our suffering we tend to run away from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Then we come upon some people who show us how to stand firm in the face of suffering and open our hearts wide so that the suffering causes us to connect more deeply and at a level of compassion that produces healing. Life is suffering, but we don’t have to necessarily suffer. Instead, we can learn how to love through our suffering.

Giving Our Sadness A Wider Perspective

There are multiple ways to help us cope with sad events. Recently, I am facing the fact that a coworker and friend at a volunteer internship I work is in the hospital for brain surgery. There is tremendous sadness that this man is suffering. There is no real solution to problems like this and then we must also face our own loss and mortality. So, we start with our own shock and sadness. And, then we can move this out to encompass all the other suffering beings: my coworker in the hospital, his family, other work associates, all the people he’s touched. Everyone has the same essential desire: to be happy. So, we send them that wish and keep expanding our love out further and further until we encompass the entire world of suffering. This way we can move out from our own self-absorption into a greater experience of compassion.

We are all interwoven strands in a giant web of life. What affects one affects us all. As the Dalai Lama put it, suffering is what connects us one to each other. It is the human experience. Yet, in the West, we’ve lost this perspective and the path to freedom from suffering. In The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama explains:

There is a possibility of freedom from suffering. By removing the causes of suffering, it is possible to attain a state of Liberation, a state free from suffering. According to Buddhist thought, the root causes of suffering are ignorance, craving, and hatred. (pg. 142)

By paying attention to the causes of our suffering and employing our practice to send loving kindness to other sentient beings in need of love, we can help to eradicate the root causes of suffering.

The Western Aversion to Suffering

The Dalai Lama notes that:

…with growing technology, the general level of physical comfort has improved for Western society. It is at this point that a critical shift in perception takes place; as suffering becomes less visible, it is no longer seen as a fundamental nature of human beings – but rather as an anomaly, a sign that something has gone terribly wrong, a sign of “failure” of some system, an infringement on our guaranteed right to happiness! (pg. 147)

This is evident in how people who are sick are shuffled away from the general population and only close friends and family get to see them. Pretty soon, we believe it’s none of our business if someone we know is suffering unless they’re directly related to us. If it is our own suffering we are dealing with, it is much harder to escape our own discomfort. Then, of course, we start looking for someone to blame and playing the victim, which leads to more suffering, so we don’t have to face our suffering. Instead, the Dalai Lama says to take a look at the root causes of our suffering to be able to live a fuller and happier life.

My View

There are many things I like about being able to take our sadness and help us build compassion with it so we can become happier people and a more sane society. It also bothers me that what the Dalai Lama says about the West tending to hide the suffering in its society would naturally mean it makes us a much more intolerant and uncaring society. So, from this perspective, suffering is natural and our denial of it is unnatural. Life happens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tease out some meaning and value from it. Taking all of our negatives and transforming them into motivations for positive action is a great step towards becoming spiritually wealthy and happy.

If you are facing a small or traumatic loss this book is a good read to help you make sense out of an unhappy event. You can order a copy of The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living here

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by Sleestak66

Are You a Tech Addict? It’ll Cost You!

tech-giving.jpgI’m going to tell you something few people know about me: I have a mechanical engineering degree. You know, with that little secret out you would think that I am a huge tech fan, but it’s quite the opposite! I used to be one of those tech nerds that loved every new gizmo and technology that came out on the market. But, now that I am older and wiser, I have come to the realization that most of our technology is not only costly but also highly unsustainable for the future. So, if it isn’t costing you, it will probably end up costing your children and subsequent generations.

This is not to depress you, but to make you more aware. When I see things like this article on “The 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering,” I have to scoff. The idea behind this is to pick the technological advances that can help us survive on the planet in the future much better. If you really want my opinion, we need less technology and more common sense.

We Live in an Unsustainable Culture

The idea that technology is going to save us from the very survival crisis it has created is ludicrous. Why do we have global warming? Is it because the sun got hotter or because there are more fossil fuels being used on the planet? When we run out of water in our cities is it because of drought or poor water management and over-development? When our farmers don’t produce crops anymore because the government would prefer to pay them not to farm, then how is technology going to resolve a food crisis? If the technology we use for our cars, cell phones, computers, inkjet printers, and more end up in our landfills poisoning our environment, how is more technology supposed to save us?

Why Simplification is the Answer

Yesterday my daughter saw the most useless piece of technology for sale at the supermarket: a device to pull the tabs off the soda cans to open them. I’m surprised it didn’t come battery-operated. My daughter’s comment: You have to be really lazy to use one of those! But, daily we use devices that are supposed to make our lives easier or more exciting: electric toothbrushes, door bells, GPS devices, electric coffeepots, microwave ovens – you name it! These are not really even necessary devices, they tend to break easily and end up in some poor third world countries’ landfills, like China, who didn’t even have the benefit of enjoying them while they were working. The American consumer culture is completely unsustainable and it’s an embarrassment when we use our technology addiction to justify the slow poisoning of our environment, if not our neighbors’ environments. Yes, technology is the gift that keeps on giving – environmental nightmares, that is.

Is it Even Convenient?

The big story line we are handed when one of these devices or technologies comes on the market is that it’ll make our lives easier. And we usually buy it: hook, line, and sinker. As an example, a friend of mine was extolling the virtues of her GPS system to me until she actually had to use it to visit me from Georgia to North Carolina. She spent two hours trying to find my house using the GPS system (once she was actually within my city limits) because she apparently wasn’t able to read a map any longer. The reason for this waste of time? The GPS system can’t tell when two streets that are close together don’t actually meet so all the little “short-cuts” it suggested ended up being dead-ends. Sounds kind of like a metaphor for our ideas about technology. We are so intent on getting to the short-cut we waste tons of time actually getting anything good done. In the end, it’s not a convenience, it’s a distraction. And, really, that’s what all good technology is really meant to do. It’s meant to distract you from the actual condition of your life so you don’t sit up and wonder: Hey? How come my air is dirtier? Why is my city water running out? Why is my food poisoned? Do I actually need to be paying $80/month on cable? Wouldn’t I be happier with less? Couldn’t I simplify my life and do more for my community? Wouldn’t it be great if I spent that money to find some sustainable way to enhance my community instead?

The Digital Picture Frame

If you still don’t believe that technology is going to cost you in the end, think about the newest addition to our air-head technology improvements: The digital picture frame. Now, instead of taking the trouble to change out your paper pictures, you can buy a digital picture frame and download images to it and have it go through them automatically. I think that’s the gist of this newest toy. At any rate, the cost of this baby? You can expect to pay $60 to $100 dollars to buy a picture frame – one picture frame. A picture frame that you could take used popsicle sticks and make one for nothing with more charm. But, that’s not the point. The point is that now you can get multiple digital picture frames and when they fizz out, like all good electronics with limited lifespans do (so you can be sure to go out and buy another), then we can give them to China to make a bigger mess as a show of international camaraderie. I say, just don’t buy one. Make sure the manufacturers of these techno-horrors get the message: We don’t want your techno-trash. Not us. Not our neighbors. Not our children.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by CP

Long Life, Your Health, and Retirement

marking-time.jpgNo one likes to think about death, but when you are trying to plan retirement you have to sort of guess at when you’re going to die. The average lifespan of a woman is 79 years versus a man’s 73 years. Yet, somehow, we all think we’re going to live forever. We know we aren’t supposed to retire until the full retirement age of 67, for the most part (depending on when you are born), yet many of us might be forced into early retirement due to illness or job loss. How long you live is influenced by lifestyle choices but good genes have also been implicated in people who live well past their 80’s. Retiring at 67, we would still expect at least 13 years to reach our 80’s, yet most plans use a longer time frame now.

Why It’s Good To Plan The Long View

Despite the average lifespan, many retirement planners are urging their clients to estimate their death at 90 or 95 years of age when planning their retirement. That’s a difference of 10 to 15 years! The idea is that it is better to have sufficient funds in your account, in case you do beat the odds, and if not your beneficiaries can end up with whatever is left over. Another reason it might be better to start with this assumption is that you might end up retiring early through illness or job loss, significantly cutting the nest egg you might have otherwise had. So, if you start with the assumption you will live longer, you will save more automatically.

Do You Really Want To Know When You’ll Die?

In my family, living to be 85 is pretty common. For me, it might make sense to plan for a longer lifespan since good genes play a critical role. Lifestyle choices like smoking can also affect how long your odds are for a long life. Your body mass index, BMI, will also play a key role in your health. These are things we have total control over and can help us survive health issues in later years that might prove fatal to someone else. This interesting death clock calculator shows the impact of some behaviors on your potential lifespan.

The impact that our final death date has on our retirement benefits can’t be understated. This article states that if you save $500,000 in an IRA and only estimate 20 years of withdrawals, you will end up with an annual disbursement of about $43,590. If you have to plan for 30 years of withdrawals after you start disbursing monies, you will only be able to access approximately $36,320 a year. That’s a difference of $7,270 a year!

Good Health Is A Good Retirement Investment Strategy

Even counting all this, the biggest expense you can possibly have in retirement will be health costs. Some people might suggest that if you have a low life expectancy in your family that you shouldn’t estimate a longer lifespan, but this will keep you from saving up early and more when you are completely able to make that investment. It is also true that keeping healthy will add years to your retirement planning, but poor health can add much more significant costs than $7,270 a year, from loss of potential income and additional health expenses, with less enjoyment of your retirement too. It definitely pays to put away the cigarettes and watch the diet as we get older.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by Chris(UK)

Comfort Food for the Body, the Soul, and the Wallet

mac-and-cheese.jpgI don’t know what got into me today. I just had to have some macaroni and cheese. Typically, that is not my cup of tea. I prefer more ethnic fare, but today was a comfort food grocery trip. For me, that means buying all sorts of cheap, unprepared, food ingredients and taking them home and cooking up a storm.

Today was mac n’ cheese and mole. Mole is a Mexican dish of chicken with a chocolate sauce. If you’ve been brought up on the stuff, it’s heavenly. If you haven’t it may be an acquired taste. It’s definitely comfort food in the Mexican tradition. It goes good with mac n’ cheese too. So, out came all the pans and skillets and the whole cut-up chicken that was on sale for $3 because it was getting close to the expiration date. I just love coming in and finding deals like this! It means I get to do a batch of comfort food and put it away for later. By the way, mole freezes well too (at the least the way I make it).

So, there I go on my little trip and they are having a giant BOGO (Buy One, Get One Free) sale that I managed to catch on the second day. Of course, I figured that once I got there all the BOGO items would be gone because if you don’t get there early, they usually are gone. Being a weekday, however, I lucked out. BOGO heaven! These were items I normally buy like toilet paper and meat. Comfort was really top of my mind today, I guess. I estimate the food choices I made will last me two or three weeks, which mean I got a steal and a half but I only used my normal weekly budget to buy it all.

Then I got to wondering if comfort food is so named because it is so inexpensive to prepare and that’s why people associate it with home. It can be comforting for your body, your soul, and your wallet! If wealth is a state of mind, a stomach full of comfort food is probably one way to feel wealthy even when you are cash-poor. As odd as it may be, my daughter considers Ramen noodles comfort food. That’s definitely not one of my choices, but she loves the stuff. So, now I have the following comfort foods planned for the next couple of weeks:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Mole
  • Rice and beans
  • Lentils
  • Turkey burgers
  • Meatloaf (from turkey because I don’t like beef)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • French fries
  • Spanish rice with peas and corn
  • Banana pudding
  • Lemon bars
  • Pancakes
  • Muffins
  • Lima bean soup
  • Rice pudding
  • Tamales
  • Tortillas or gorditas
  • Lasagna
  • Hot chocolate
  • Hot tea
  • Hot coffee

Okay, so it’s not for people on a diet, but I know I’m looking forward to it…

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by ninjapoodles

Valentine’s, Debt, and Romance

single red roseI’ve been reading Debt Kid’s blog and I see that he fears that he can’t date until he gets his financial house in order. Apparently he’s over $300,000 in debt and fears to have to reveal that to anyone he is dating. There is a lot of justification for these beliefs in our culture where our status in life is dependent on how much we make, meaning that being severely in debt and facing bankruptcy could disqualify you from the dating game. Well, maybe yes and maybe no. Does debt kill romance? I don’t really think it has to unless you are the one judging yourself. I don’t think debt is a good reason to give up dating. I think that being unable to connect with someone you like is a better reason. And, who knows, maybe if Debt Kid is willing to date someone during his financial upheaval, he will start to find some of the values that speak towards cultivating spiritual values and an internal sense of self-esteem instead of one based on his income or debt. Dating is one thing, marrying is completely something else. Marrying, you should have your financial house in order so it doesn’t affect your loved one. Ironically, many people would suggest that marriage kills romance, heh heh. So, take your pick.

Okay, so now let’s talk about the idea that Valentine’s Day might kill romance because “it fosters the notion that romance is something for special occasions” as J.D. at http://www.GetRichSlowly.org put it. While I like the way that J.D. is offering some frugal tips for lovers, I tend to disagree that it’s purely commercial. Christmas – sure! It’s pure commercialism, but Valentine’s Day can be anything you want to make of it. And besides, exactly how expensive is a box of chocolates? It’s not the Christmas spendathon that retailers want us to engage in around Christmas. That is really not a way to build personal nor spiritual wealth. I take the stance that Valentine’s is about relationships, your relationship wealth. So, you can use frugal tips like the ones at http://www.getrichslowly.org or you can do it up and splurge. It really doesn’t prove you love someone more or less, just that you were thinking about them – and that’s the point.

I will give you an example of romance and Valentine’s Day that is thinking outside the box. I am a single mother and one year I heard the door bell ring on Valentine’s Day. I opened it and there was a single red rose tied to my door. It was from a “secret admirer.” Ha, ha. Secret admirer…Okay, it doesn’t matter who it was from because I knew, but the point was he never admitted it until much later. The idea is that he didn’t want to admit it because it was meant to be romantic not pompous. It wasn’t a half dozen roses and it wasn’t a diamond ring. It was a single red rose and it came with no strings attached: Very romantic. I think it was the “no strings attached” that made this gift romantic and the appeal of a little mystery and sensitivity. That year I felt special and that was the intent. See, I did not have a live-in spouse and wasn’t expecting a gift. How nice it is to receive a beautiful, heartfelt, token of someone’s affection with no strings attached. Do I want Valentine’s Day banned for commercialism? No. Maybe it would be different if I were married and had taken my loved one for granted and didn’t think they required any “special day” to show my love and affection. That’s really being blessed in tremendous relationship wealth, but I think the rest of us would like to be noticed at least one day of the year, especially if we’re not married. It doesn’t have to be about spouses or lovers, it can just be about friends. It’s celebrating our relationships, not our bank accounts.

Romance is definitely one of those intangibles worth cultivating -whether you are rich or poor, married or single, dating or not. It has to do with making someone else feel special just because they are a human being and you’ve noticed them. It’s very life-affirming in a very intimate and personal way. I don’t care if it comes with a box of chocolates too, all the better!

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative commons license by Zest-pk

Sustainable Living To Increase Spiritual Wealth

water.jpgOne of the things that makes me hopeful about our present day culture is the continuing emphasis on greening our economy. Here in Raleigh, the drought has raised awareness on how we use water and how to conserve water. We have lots of work to do, but there are public measures being put in place to help us stem the loss of water in our city. I think that this type of awareness is something we need to cultivate on a daily basis.

It’s just too easy to waste our natural resources in the city, and we’re starting to figure out that some resources are not infinite. They depend on the goodness of Mother Nature, in many cases. Others we don’t even notice and rarely take advantage in our culture, like solar energy. Since the back to the land movement proved somewhat unsuccessful, maybe our options should be to attempt to green our cities? There is much news that this increases a city’s livability factor and, in turn, attracts future investment.

Here are some things I was considering as I thought about this idea of staying in a city, but greening my area:

  • Investing in a solar hot water heater (my conventional one is getting old)
  • Adding an attic fan for cooling
  • Getting a push mower
  • Reducing my amount of waste
  • Recycling
  • Growing a kitchen garden
  • Figuring out how to dry food with a solar cooker
  • Collecting rainwater in a cistern
  • Using grey water to water plants or flush toilet
  • Educating myself on how to implement more measures

Many of these options are common sense and don’t require a big expenditure, except for the hot water heater. I was reading about how people in other cultures use everything and make their lives more sustainable. Examples were small every day actions that we might not consider, like saving our orange rinds and drying them to use as flavoring agents in teas, cakes, and the like. Wasting is epidemic in our American culture and it can be reduced. We can start small and try to increase our awareness through everyday simple actions.

*Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license by darkpatator