Daikon - The Cancer Fighting Radish

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

The Oriental white radish is very common in most Asian cuisines because it is plentiful all year round and therefore very inexpensive. Besides price, daikon is known to many to be a healthy food choice. The Japanese, Korean and Chinese use daikon a lot in soups, stews and in pickles. It may be one of the reasons why Asian people, especially those eating their traditional diets are living healthier, longer lives than most others in the Western world.

Chinese medicine regards daikon or “lo-bak” as slightly cool in nature and sweet in taste. It acts on the lungs and spleen to clear phlegm, stop coughing, promote digestion, move stagnant qi or energy downwards, cool internal heat and prevent/stop the development of cancer cells. “Lo-bak” is commonly used in many home remedies.

One of the main reasons cancer is becoming more and more common nowadays is because our modern diet is creating the internal body environment to foster cancer growth. The over indulgence of food, especially meat, sugar and dairy products and the lack of high fibre vegetables, are making our gut too acidic. The over processed foods especially deep-fried and grilled foods are too hot in nature and are lacking the digestive enzymes necessary to break down food quickly therefore creating indigestion, heart burn, constipation and leaky gut syndrome. To correct all these internal problems and imbalances, daikon is most suitable and it is far more effective than any modern medicine can do without any side effects.

The best way to eat daikon on a regular basis is to make pickled daikon. It is most simple to make and can be kept in the fridge to last for months. It is best to eat it as a starter or eat with salad to promote appetite and to get the digestive juices flowing before eating the main meal. There are many other recipes on our website www.nourishu.com using daikon for curing cold/flu, for weight loss and for promoting qi.

pickled daikon

Pickled Daikon to Beat Cancer

There are numerous reports of how people have beaten cancer just by eating pickled daikon, even those with  cancer at an advanced stage. They did not only eradicate cancer, they regained good health as well.

This is really very good news. I believe we have nothing to lose by eating pickled daikon regularly. People who have cold and weak spleen/stomach conditions should not eat too much daikon because it will give them stomach pain.  Also, when people are taking potent herbs such as red ginseng, they should stay away from daikon for a few days because it will lessen the effectiveness of the herbs by passing it through too quickly.

cut daikon

INGREDIENTS

  • Daikon – one (large)
  • Salt – 2 spoonfuls
  • Rice vinegar – one bottle
  • Organic cane sugar – one cup or to taste

daikon radish

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Wash daikon (with skin) with a vegetable scrubber and rinse clean.
  • Cut out the top and bottom part, cut daikon into a few large sections and then cut each section diagonally into eight or ten pieces.
  • Put all in a stainless steel pot or container and add salt. Toss daikon to mix with salt for about 5 minutes.
  • Transfer all with juice to a glass container and add sugar and then vinegar to cover the daikon.
  • Shake well until all sugar is dissolved and put it in the fridge. The daikon is ready to eat in a week.

pickled daikon

USAGE

Use a clean fork to take out the required amount each time to prevent contamination. Use the vinegar separately for cooking or use it to cure mouth sores by drinking a small cup.


The Thyroid in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

The thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that wraps around the trachea (windpipe) in the throat. The thyroid’s function is to secrete hormones (thyroxine) that help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, and the rate at which food is converted into energy. Thyroid hormones are essential for the function of every cell in the body. They help regulate growth and the rate of chemical reactions as well as our body’s metabolism. Thyroid hormones also help children grow and develop.

thyroid

The thyroid uses iodine, a mineral found in some foods and in iodized salt, to make its hormones. The two most important thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is produced by the pituitary gland, acts to stimulate hormone production by the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland also makes the hormone calcitonin, which is involved in calcium metabolism and stimulating bone cells to add calcium to bone.

Thyroid disorders fall into two categories, hypo - or under active thyroid, and hyper - or over active thyroid. Here is a description of both, with a list of their symptoms.

HYPERTHYROID (over active)

Hyperthyroid results from an overactive thyroid that produces too much thyroid hormone. Below are a list of hyperthyroid symptoms.

  • high blood pressure
  • rapid heartbeat
  • moist skin
  • increased sweating
  • tremor
  • nervousness
  • increased appetite with weight loss
  • diarrhea, and/or frequent bowel movements
  • weakness
  • eyes that seem to bulge out of their sockets
  • and sensitivity of the eyes to light

 

HYPOTHYROID (under active)

Hypothyroidism is characterized by an under active thyroid gland. Symptoms of hypothyroid are below.

  • hoarse voice
  • slowed speech
  • puffy face
  • drooping eyelids
  • sensitivity to cold
  • constipation
  • weight gain
  • dry hair and skin
  • depression

Traditional Chinese medicine regards both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism as imbalances of the Yin and Yang energy of the body. In Chinese medicine, Yin and Yang are considered the essential components of the material universe. Everything that exists has both Yin and Yang aspects. In the body, when Yin and Yang are in balance, we are healthy and able to ward off disease, but when Yin and Yang become imbalanced, illness develops.

When treating hypo or hyperthyroidism, a TCM practitioner will use acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy and energy work like Tai Chi and Qi Gong to rebalance an individual's Yin and Yang. Chinese Medicine theory states that external factors (like diet, weather and physical injury or trauma) and internal factors (such as emotional states, mental stimulation and hereditary factors) are all contributors to changes in Yin and Yang.

acupuncture needles

Hyperthyroidism in Chinese medicine is considered a deficiency of the Yin energy of the body which is unable to control Yang and, because Yang is Fire, it flares upwards giving rise to hyperthyroid symptoms like anxiety, anger, dry mouth with a bitter taste - all symptoms of heat in the body.

Hypothyroidism is considered a deficiency of Yang causing excess Yin, which represents water or cold energy which causes symptoms like lassitude, poor memory, edema, being pale and feeling cold.

yin yang

There is some question as to why there seem to be so many cases of thyroid disorders in recent years, and why the numbers are increasing. Some theories suggest that we are getting better at diagnosing the disease, and others speculate that there is not enough iodine in the diet. I believe that in a world where we are constantly in a hurry, eating nutrient depleted foods covered in pesticides, and overloading our bodies with toxins like fluoride, that it is our lifestyles that have become toxic and are no longer as able to support health as they once were. If we were to look back even a generation ago, the food that was eaten was much closer to what grew out of the ground and people didn’t have to work 2 jobs to pay the mortgage. Other things that contribute are wearing tight, constrictive clothing that inhibits the movement of qi or energy throughout the body, energy that is important for all our physiological processes and psychological well being. We seem to have lost the balance in life and perhaps in some cases the meaning of life itself. In many traditions like those of the Native Indians, Ayurvedic medicine (the medicine of India) and Chinese medicine, there is a deep connection to nature and the world around us that is inseparable from the human being, and health on every level is an integral part of supporting us on the journey we are all on in this life and on this planet. In some ways, this seems to be getting lost.

girl

The good news is that these ancient systems like Chinese medicine are a treasure trove of wisdom that have thousands of years of practice and development. It would be overly simplistic to say that Chinese medicine is a medical system, it was designed as a way of life. Chinese medicine can teach us the art of living, and the goal is for every being to live harmoniously with themselves, the people and creatures around them and the natural world so that they can live long, happy and healthy lives.


Adventures at Meditation Camp

I wanted to share this with all of you as I had such an overwhelming response to the post about my Vipassana experience. I was very fortunate to, on the last day at the retreat, meet some wonderful ladies, one of whom went home and wrote about her experience as well. It is wonderfully refreshing and very funny.

She has very kindly given me permission to share it so that you can have a different persons take on the experience. It is a great piece and I have compiled her 3 entries into one post. Her original posts are on her blog - The Sparkler -  here - Adventures at Meditation Camp Part 1 - Expectations / Meditation Camp Part 2 - Monkey Mind / Meditation Camp Part 3 - Itching is Not Eternal. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

*I believe that she intends to add more posts so I will continue to add them to this post as she posts them...

Adventures at Meditation Camp
Part 1 - Expectations

I promised a full disclosure account of my 10 days spent in silent meditation at the Southeast Vipassana Center but I’ve been putting this off—trying to digest what I learned and put what I learned into practice but mostly trying figure out a way to summarize a VERY COMPLICATED experience.

A few days after my return, my dad (ever the pragmatist) asked, “So, what was the take-away?" My response to him was, “An ancient Buddhist meditation technique that (I hope) will help me maintain some sort of balance through the next round of challenges life throws at me." But my answer to him doesn’t really hint at the depth of what I experienced and learned, there and since.

Without a doubt, it has had a profound effect on me. Many who know me well have immediately recognized it in my face and demeanor (I call it the Vipassana facelift—I swear I have less wrinkles). But to tell the truth, it all seemed very ordinary at the start and quite a few days in I did not hold any hope of seeing any major changes. It was very peaceful there but it was almost over before I saw even the hint of the possibility of a change in consciousness, much less a drastic or revolutionary one.

There we were (me and about 60 strangers with whom I could not speak) in the middle of freaking nowhere in rural south Georgia (Jesup, GA, to be specific) on an enormous property accessed by dirt roads with no cell phone service within ten miles of the place.

The subtropical landscape felt like home, about an hour from the coast, lots of pines, magnolias and scrub oak, white sandy paths, cheerful waving palmettos and silvery Spanish moss in the trees (all very similar to coastal Alabama where I grew up).

I arrived just before one of the regular late afternoon thunderstorms. As we checked in everyone was supernice and calm, talking in low voices. Shoes are not worn in the buildings. There was a good vibe. Lots of cars in the parking lot had bumper stickers promoting peace and liberal political ideals. The folks checking in around me were diverse in age and ethnicity. The registration process included taking of all cellphones and other electronics and any belongings (car keys) that were not needed during your stay. All would be returned in eleven days as you departed. (This process was obviously scary for some participants. I watched as some students handed these items over with furrowed brows, many questions and nervous laughs.)

Eventually I walked into the freshly scrubbed and simply furnished dorm room I would share with three other women. I was immediately disheartened because they were all half my age and talking animatedly about things not remotely spiritual or enlightening. I was longing for a deeply spiritual, life-altering experience at this retreat and this was NOT AT ALL how I expected it to begin. I wanted to switch rooms, maybe join some of the older students, but I knew the dangers of holding on to expectations and made a conscious effort to just go with the flow.

Beyond this initial aversion to my dorm situation all was calm and generally blissful for the first few days. I enjoyed the quiet, the beautiful landscape around us, the food, even the meditation itself and the teachings of the guru, S. N. Goenka, whom we watched each evening by video.

Goenka is this adorable little man with a great sense of humor. I was often giggling to myself at his self-deprecating stories and his phrasing and pronunciation of certain words. Goenka would say slowly, “Alvays remain avare, remain avare," sounding more like Bela Lugosi than a Burmese-born meditation guru.

He repeated everything twice. And in teaching us Anapana breathing he would pronounce “nostrils" as “nose-trills." which actually makes more sense but still sounds amusing. “Focus all attention on the breath as it enters the nose-trills," he would repeat slowly like a hypnotist.

I felt that the breathing technique we were practicing was super easy, but little did I know this was just to sharpen our minds before we learned actual practice of Vipassana meditation. Once we began Vipassana practice, things began to shift for me. The process became more challenging, and things began to intensify on many levels.

More on that soon.

Meditation Camp Part 2 -
Monkey Mind

At orientation on the first evening of the retreat we all repeated a solemn vow to observe “noble silence" until the tenth day of our stay. We were even advised to pretend that we were alone on this retreat, to not even acknowledge one another or make eye contact as we passed in the hall. No need for social formalities here. Just stay within.

I was ready for this, ready and willing. This retreat was a last resort for me. I was in desperate need of profound, positive change and we all know the most profound changes come from within.

We woke at 4 am to start our first day of meditation, wandering by the light of the moon to the meditation hall. The Center is run very much like a monastery. Gongs were sounded for waking, breaks and meals. We ate full meals at 6 and 11 am and then had just fruit and tea at 5 pm. (I hear your question and no, I never felt hungry and the food was amazingly healthy and delicious.) Lights went out each night at 10 pm. Everything ran like clockwork so we had nothing to do but face the challenges of the silence and the meditation itself.

As I mentioned previously, I was finding the Anapana breathing technique easy, like child’s play, but maintaining my mental focus was a whole other story. It felt like an exercise in futility even though I was an eager student.

The mind has ways and wiles you will never know until you try to meditate regularly. In the world of meditation this is called “monkey mind," a mind that willfully refuses to be tamed (Very accessible discussion on this topic by Buddhist Lama Tenpa Gyaltsen herehttp://badlamaguide.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/enter-the-monkey/).

And oh, DID I EVER have a bad case of monkey mind. In those first days as I dutifully sat on my cushion for hours at a time, I wrote most of a comedic screenplay about a former job in my head. I designed dresses and came up with an entire business plan for the my company (which I decided to name Maude Designs after Harold and Maude). I had fantasies about Benedict Cumberbatch. I thought about baked brie and wedding cake and mojitos (not together). I also listened to long, grumbling south Georgia thunderstorms as if they were symphonies.

In other words, I found endless ways to distract myself and usually without even being aware that I was doing so until I had followed a random train of thought for a full half hour. But then, as the gentle Buddhists suggest, I did not berate myself for wandering. I recognized that I was following the monkeys, yet again, and came back to the breath. This is the process.

I did not have trouble staying awake as many others did (you would occasionally hear snores in the meditation hall) but instead my mind was in hyperdrive, perhaps from being denied the normal barrage of stimulation we encounter in everyday life.

But I also believe that a large part of the reason we cannot easily meditate (perhaps an even stronger reason than our limited attention spans) is fear. We are deeply afraid of what we are going to find when we really look within, and our mind does circus performances just to keep us from going there. This was definitely the case for me.

But by the third day things improved. I was able to sit for longer periods without shifting my position and I was much more focused. Goenka’s mind-sharpening technique seemed to be working. My mental focus increased and this happened just in time, because the next day we began our Vipassana training in earnest.

Will share the gory details about what happens next very soon. Peace out. ;)

image

Meditation Camp Part 3 -
Itching Is Not Eternal

Many people have said to me that they absolutely could NOT spend ten days in silence, much less in silent meditation. I readily admit that it is no easy task but I do believe that if I could do it and if prisoners in state penitentiaries can do it (http://www.prison.dhamma.org/), then pretty much anyone could do it. Being WILLING to do it is a whole other subject.

I was certainly willing and my mental focus was much-improved as I sat on the third day of this retreat, but physically I was still struggling. My foot would fall asleep. My back would ache. Random parts of my body would itch. A hair would fall in my face. I was suddenly too hot or too cold. All of these annoying and uncomfortable physical sensations would arise as I sat. But the teachings tell us to retain our composure of mind and sit through all of these annoying sensations, completely still and in the present moment.

One of the most basic tenets of Buddhist thought (across all traditions) is to have neither aversion to the unpleasant nor cling to the pleasant. It is believed that clinging and aversion are the roots of all suffering. And, an important aspect of meditation is to practice this non-clinging and non-aversion on the mat in order that you may take this practice into your daily life.

But me and my ‘beginner’s mind, beginner’s body" could not sit still. I tried different positions. I shifted around on the cushion in reaction to aches and pains. I could not resist the need to lean forward and stretch to relieve tension in my neck. I scratched things that itched.

Goenka knows his students so well. It seems that each time an issue came up for me, it would be the topic of discussion during discourse that evening. That night Goenka talked about sitting on the cushion, wanting to move or react to every unpleasant sensation. He laughed and said, “itching is not eternal."  He explained that sensations arise and they pass away. We were advised to just sit and observe. Eventually each sensation, pleasant or unpleasant, will pass. Everything arises and passes in meditation and in life. Nothing is permanent.

And with this teaching I began to observe my need to “scratch each itch." And I was surprised by how quickly the sensation goes away when you just observe it, not reacting. I have also been surprised how much easier aches and pains are to deal with when you focus on them, bringing your full awareness to the site of pain and observing it as an outsider, studying the sensation, not identifying with it. Separating yourself from it makes it easier to bear.

These were the things I was working on as we began our fourth day. This was the day that the retreat got really intense for me.

More on this tomorrow.

Image below of S. N. Goenka, teacher of Vipassana meditation

Meditation Camp, Part 4,
Equanimous Mind

I’ve delayed publishing this installment because I felt a moral conflict. I was hesitant to say anything remotely negative about my roommates from the retreat. But I finally concluded that if they ever read this, I would hope that they would not be offended and would know that by the end of our time together, I had no hard feelings and loved them unconditionally. So here goes…

I was already aware that silent meditation retreats are deeply challenging and not at all appealing to everyone but I became painfully and personally aware of this fact when several of my roommates decided that it was not for them.

The first of them to balk broke her silence on day three to announce that “she already knew all this stuff" and wanted to leave. She even went so far as to pack her suitcase a few times. I cannot deny that I was hoping she would depart on each of those occasions and make our dorm room a more peaceful place.

This roommate’s overall mode of being was forceful and determined. She moved in sudden confident bursts and slammed doors at entrance and exit. She would come into the room like a tornado, unconcerned whether anyone was meditating or sleeping. She was so irritable about being there that, even when she wasn’t exhaling long drawn out sighs of angst and misery, she exuded negativity like an angry thundercloud.

She reached a point where she ignored most every rule they asked us to follow. She even wore her shoes indoors which is a sign of real disrespect in this tradition. If she had been rooming on her own it wouldn’t have mattered but we were all sharing this intimate space with two sets of bunk beds and a single bathroom. She made sure that we knew how miserable she was at all times.

Mind you, I had real compassion for her. I knew her ego had taken over out of complete fear of dealing with the things she might have to face in the silence. Our minds will do all sorts of desperate and surprising things (even beyond the circus antics of “monkey mind") to keep us from dealing with our own dark stuff.

But even though I recognized what she was doing and empathized, I was still feeling abused by her disruptive behavior and disrespect for others. It was as if she was not only going to reject the experience but to ruin it for those around her as well.

Frustration began to brew in me because I could not speak up to ask to her to consider the rest of us. I had made a solemn vow, and to speak up would mean breaking that vow. I decided to do my best to ignore her and to enjoy my time there, focusing on the work.

But on the fourth day we began practicing Vipassana meditation (more specifically the Vipassana meditation technique as taught by S. N. Goenka which is different from Vipassana as taught in the Theraveda Buddhist tradition). In the morning I felt very happy. I was now accustomed to the routine of waking at 4 a.m. and actually delighted in walking alone in the silence by the light of the moon to the meditation hall each day. Later in the morning it was sunny and clear, dragonflies flitted around and all seemed right in the world.

But after the morning sessions of Vipassana it seemed that all hell broke loose. A second roommate broke her silence (soon I was the only one in the room determined to honor our vow). This roommate was in her early 20’s, beautiful and full of energy. Meditating seemed antithetical to her nature. She could barely sit still. She brought her exercise mat and would exercise in the tiny dorm room (which was not allowed) even when others were trying to rest or meditate, huffing and puffing with her exertion. She found infinite ways to change her clothing and hairstyle each day, even shaving one side of her head about halfway through. Even though I did not know her, I could tell that she was a delightful person, but she was also absolutely miserable and complained in loud whispersabout wanting to leave.

My frustration continued to build. In meditation, I was struggling with the new meditation technique because suddenly my body was wracked with all sorts of random aches and pains each time I sat. I was extremely uncomfortable on the mat and I was unable to remain still for the full two-hour sessions. I went from “monkey mind" during the days of Anapana breathing to extreme levels of physical discomfort during Vipassana. I also found that the Vipassana body-scanning technique did not come easy to me. There was visualization required and a constant maintaining of focused awareness. Every session was like a mental wrestling match and it was really exhausting.

This struggle along with my whispering and restless roommates was making it incredibly difficult for me to maintain what our teacher, Goenka, calls “equanimous mind." I kept talking myself down from getting really upset with each additional incident.

Each day there were times when we were allowed to meditate in our rooms. I found it to be the most physically comfortable place to meditate and it was full of light—a nice break from the dark meditation hall. But my roommates would not keep quiet in the room.

That afternoon as I sat in my bed with my back to the wall immersed in meditation I was interrupted repeatedly and on the fourth or fifth time, I gave up, slumped down in my bed and began to cry with my head in my hands. I cried because my roommates were making me miserable. I cried because I had such high expectations for change and healing during this retreat and because I felt that circumstances outside my control were ruining all my efforts. I mostly cried because it all felt so unfair. I just broke down.

But it was not long before all my Buddhist teachings came flooding into my mind, reminding me that suffering is caused by clinging and aversion, both of which were playing major roles in this meltdown. I realized that I was clinging to expectations for the retreat when I know full well that this causes great suffering. If we do not want to suffer we must accept things as they are, as they unfold, rather than constantly wishing that they matched up to some self-created ideal.

And I was feeling strong aversion to the behavior of the people around me when acceptance would have kept me from feeling increasingly frustrated and reaching a state of emotional breakdown. Both clinging and aversion are barriers to maintaining a state of “equanimous mind," that the Buddha taught as the path to enlightenment. If we want to be free from suffering we must accept things as they are. Even if we do not like things, we do not have to react to them with aversion. Even if we really like something (or someone) we do not need to cling to it. It is all about balance.

We cannot control what other people do. We can only control our reactions. We do not have to suffer and, in this instance, I did not need to suffer. I realized in that moment that I would not be miserable if I simply accepted the situation and the people around me exactly as they are. I could not speak up because of my vow but I could choose to meditate elsewhere rather than spend time in the room, which was causing my greatest frustration. There are ways to make things better, to greatly decrease our suffering, even in difficult circumstances through acceptance and heartfelt compassion.

I am grateful to my roommates for pushing me to this epiphany. I experienced a “breakdown to breakthrough" and learned some things that I will be able to apply in daily life, but it was not easy. I came to a new and better understanding but that afternoon I thought to myself in a very non-Buddha-like way, “If I had a bottle of tequila, I’d be doing shots right now."

More soon.


My Ten Day Vipassana Meditation

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I just returned from a 10 day Vipassana meditation. It was my first.

It was a deeply profound experience. It was both the best and the hardest thing I think I have ever done.

It is difficult to put into words an experience that by its very definition cannot be explained and must be experienced. It has been designed very deliberately to separate you from your daily life and distractions including banning all technology and communication with the outside world and even with your fellow meditators. This is so that you can venture into the depths of your being. It is the only way to get there. There have been 2500 years to figure this out.

First, let me tell you the facts. This is probably easiest.

Vipassana is a type of meditation taught by Gautama Buddha 2500 years ago. The technique existed before him, but he further developed it and it is his technique that is still taught today and is called Vipassana. Vipassana literally means seeing things as they really are. And this is what the technique helps you to do.

You are away for  twelve days in total, but the meditation course itself is ten consecutive days. You arrive in the afternoon of day zero and that evening after a brief orientation and light meal you descend into noble silence which continues for the entirety of the 10 days. You hand over your phones and any electronic devices when you get there. There are no books, paper, pens or pencils allowed. Dress must be modest and loose fitting. Clothing is worn to cover shoulders, navels and knees. And there is no eye contact.

Everyone is on their own journey and even though we are all together, living in close quarters, everyone is working in isolation. The rules attempt to eliminate distractions. You are out in the middle of nowhere, deep in nature where the only sounds are of birds, crickets and the thunder in the distance. It is incredibly peaceful and crazily remote.

There are both men and women who attend the course - I believe 24 of each - and they are segregated to different parts of the property. Each gender has their own dorms, dining hall and outside areas. The only time the men and women are together is in the meditation hall. We are on opposite side of the hall, and because there is no eye contact and when we meditate our eyes are closed, we never see each other. You are vaguely aware of their presence on the other side of the property, but so engrossed in your work that you don’t really notice.

vipassana meditation

Your meals are prepared by volunteers, former students who are giving their time so that we may all have this experience. All meals are vegetarian and prepared with intention and love. And you can taste it. There are 2 meals a day and tea at dinner time. The schedule is rigorous. You wake at 4am and the first meditation of the day starts at 4:30, and with the exception of meals and a break to shower and rest, you meditate until 9pm. There are recorded discourses in the evenings with instructions about the technique given by S.N. Goenka who was both incredibly wise and very funny which, after a day of intense meditation is a breath of fresh air and helps to deflate the tensions that linger from a long day spent inside your head. Lights out at 9:30pm, and, at least for me, there was never any worry about sleeping because I was practically asleep before I hit my bunk, and I wasn’t alone, by 9:15 gentle snoring could be heard floating down the halls. Each day is more intense than the last and you are working HARD. It is like boot camp for the mind.

There are teachers that supervise the meditations, one woman for the women, and a man for the men. They are there if you need to ask questions (you are allowed to speak to them for this purpose), and each gender has a manager that they may speak to if they have any problems with logistics - not feeling well, problems with food or accommodations. Things like that.

It is strange to think about how 24 girls could live in extremely close quarters for 10 days in complete silence with no ability to communicate, but it is amazing how adaptable we are. We soon all fell into a rhythm, ebbing and flowing with the schedule, sharing a bathroom and eating our meals. Together, but alone.

I came to get a very good sense of the energy of all the girls in our pod. There were 8 of us. And it got so that I could feel them coming and going and could tell who was in the room without seeing them.  It is amazing how much communicating you can do without words, and living closely with people for days you come to know what they need and what their habits are. This was fascinating to me.

In meditation hall this sensitivity to energy became amplified for me. I found that I could feel who was struggling and who was calm and in the zone so to speak. You draw strength from someone sitting near you who is focussed and solid in their practice and send energy to anyone you feel is really struggling. And this fluctuates all the time, changing minute to minute.

Dhamma Hall ready for the first course 4th October 2007

The first few days were tough. For me it was the schedule change. I have always been a night person and 4am is closer to my bedtime than the time I would ever consider getting up. Everything happens with the ringing of a gong which starts gently at 4am. I would crawl out of bed in complete darkness trying to be quiet and stumble outside where it was still the middle of the night and the stars still were out. I would quietly enter the meditation hall and find my cushion on the floor, (a spot is given to you on the first day and is kept for the duration), get comfortable and sit for 2 hours until breakfast. Then the gong would sound and everyone would quietly get up and move silently to the dining hall where we all peacefully eat breakfast. The dining hall was designed in such a way that you are never facing anyone, the entire experience is designed so that you can be alone and not be distracted. After breakfast three more hours of meditation until lunch at 11am. That is the last meal of the day, and the afternoon and evening schedule is hard core, with meditation from 1-5pm with a break for tea until 6, then meditation and the evening discourse until 9 by which point we were all so spent that we could barely make it back to our bunks before we were out cold. I slept like a corpse.

The first few days I was so exhausted that, strangely, it was a lot easier to pry myself out of my bunk at 4am and meditate, then crash out after breakfast until the next session, crash out after lunch until the gong and so on. I think I was just so tired that my body was on autopilot, and too tired to even be unhappy about it. It was about day 4 that I started coming out of the exhaustion and my head cleared. Interestingly, this is the day that they teach you the Vipassana meditation. Until then, you are doing what is called Anapana meditation in preparation for Vipassana which takes you deeper. We were told that day 4 and 6 are the hardest and when people tend to want to go home, or, as I think Goenka put it in his discourses - “run away”. For me, this is the day it got really REAL.

S.N. Goenka
S.N. Goenka

I never had the strong urge to run away, but I think that is only because I decided before I got there that I would surrender to it and let it take me where I needed to go. What I didn’t know is that it is YOU taking you where you need to go, and often where you don’t want to go. There is a purification that happens over the ten days, and it isn’t entirely pleasant. You are going deep inside yourself, and digging up old scars, hurts, anger, sadness, fear and other emotions that are still in there, long after the incident that caused them. They are things that we have been hanging on to, and if I understand it correctly, it is the hanging on that is allowing them to continually hurt us in the present, even if we are not consciously aware of it. The technique is allowing you to venture so deep that, at least for me, terrible, painful things are coming out, and it feels awful. But there is nowhere to go, nothing to distract yourself with, and this is the whole idea. You have to DEAL.

I was amazed at the things that were buried deep inside myself. The fears, the anxiety, they were overwhelming and several times I had uncontrollable urges to cry. I was not alone, and there were times people would be overcome with emotion. But the idea is, that you are doing a very deep surgery on yourself, trying to get at an infection, and when you finally reach it, you cut into it and all the pus comes flooding out. It feels awful, but you are cleaning out the wound. You are then able to apply healing balm to it, and let it heal while also learning how to live your life without acquiring any more infections, all the while allowing any remaining ills to come to the surface and be released. It is a healing purification on the most fundamental level.

The other thing that was interesting to me was what happens when you are in silence for a little while and out in nature. It makes you realize how loud the outside world is, that there are layers of noise and distractions around us at all times, and it isn’t until you take them away and be silent that something amazing happens. You begin to notice that everything alive and your natural environment has a hum that you can now hear. It is always there, but you have never been quiet enough to hear it before. Plants, insects, trees, the sky, everything has a hum, and it is like the most beautiful music - the music your ears were designed for. Every chance I got I would walk or sit outside. My mind became so focussed, I would watch colonies of ants, dragonflies or listen to birds speaking to each other in distant trees or the sounds of the wind sweeping through the landscape. I loved the silence that allowed these subtle sounds, and now that I know that they are there, I am looking forward to spending hours in forests, in the ocean and in trees listening. Quietly listening.

nature

Another thing that I discovered is that my own body had a hum which I became aware of during the process. My body and I have always had a pretty good relationship, each respecting the other, but the silence in my world now brought this to a whole new level. I have always accepted that my body has an intelligence that far exceeds the one attributed to my brain, and that became even more apparent in the ten days of meditation. Your body will speak to you if you are quiet enough to hear it. It will tell you if something is right, or wrong if you learn the language it is using to communicate. This is a bit difficult to explain. If you know what I mean when I say a gut feeling, then  it is similar to that, only more subtle. I was suddenly intimately aware of what my body needed, and if it was feeling bad, why. It is like discovering that your body is the best feedback mechanism for living the way you are supposed to - living your truth, whatever that is for you. For example, eating is hard for me until I am fully awake and that certainly doesn’t happen at 6:30 when we ate breakfast. The first couple of days I would try to eat but my body made it clear that if I tried to put anything into I would I spend the next few hours trying not to throw up (eww).  So I had a chat with “myself”,  explaining that I wasn’t trying to be cruel, but this was the time we had to eat and, if we didn’t take the opportunity we’d pass out with hunger by evening. This made a big difference and “we” compromised by eating a little granola with fruit. I am so glad that I had that time to make friends with my body again and reassure it that I am looking out for us and that I always have our collective interests at heart. In the real world, my day and life is ruled by my head and it often overrides what might be kindest for my body. I hope that in the future I can attain a little more balance.

I can’t speak to other people’s experience, but I found the entire process to be life changing. If you had asked me the first few days I would have had a different answer, and the days after that when I was in the depths of it I might have had a different opinion still, but it is going through the whole experience, beginning to end that allows you to see, to FEEL the complete picture. It is only after getting rid of all that darkness that you realize how terrible it was making you feel and how amazing you feel without it. And I know I felt this enormous gratitude for the fact that this place existed and that I was able to have this experience. The entire organization runs on donations, and they are all from students. There is no fund, or company set up to financially keep it going, the staff are all volunteers (former students) and all the money that keeps it operating is donated from students who have completed at least one course. I remembered thinking one day in one of the bazillion meditations that I was able to have this experience because a former student donated the money to allow it to happen. That was incredibly humbling.

This may seem strange or even impossible, but its true. It is all by donation. There are centres all over the world, with 9 in the United States and 5 in Canada. Also, in case some of you are wondering, there is no religion, no dogma, no rites or rituals. Everyone is welcome, no matter your race, where you are from or what you believe. It is a meditation technique, and its goal is to bring humanity out of its suffering and unhappiness, teach compassion and love for others so that we may all be happy, harmonious, peaceful beings. There is no purer thing in the whole world than that. And I know that I am incredibly grateful that it exists. I know that I got enormous benefit from it and I will be forever changed because of it, and my wish is that anyone who wants to be happy and live a peaceful life goes and has the experience as well. I wish it for all of you.

Peace is good.

P.S.

If you are curious about Vipassana meditation and would like to watch an excellent documentary about it, watch
The Dhamma Brothers. It is a very inspirational story. If you would like to read about my second Vipassana retreat you can do so here - Vipassana 2.0.

dhammabrothers


Living With The Seasons in Chinese Medicine - Summer

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

There are 5 seasons in traditional Chinese Medicine, corresponding to the 5 elements - Fire / Earth / Metal / Water / Wood. They correspond to Summer, Late Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring respectively.

Summer represents the outward expression of energy, expansiveness, movement and activity. It is the most yang of the seasons and is ruled by fire. Life and energies are at their peak. Summer in Chinese Medicine, is the season associated with the heart and the small intestine. The colour is red, the emotion joy, and it is a time for growth, expansion, light, abundance and is the manifestation of all we have been cultivating throughout the spring.

surfing

Many look forward to summer all year round. The weather is hot and the sun is out, improving people’s moods and people are drawn outdoors to participate in all the activities they have been longing for all winter. Plants grow quickly, people are full of energy and the body’s Qi and vitality are at their peak. It is a time to cultivate the yang energy (fire), while making sure that it does not come to excess. In Chinese Medicine, the heart, mind and spirit are ruled by the fire element, so priority should be given to these important aspects of ourselves in the summer season.

journaling

Rising early in the summer allows us to benefit from the suns nourishing rays. Being up early enables us to get all of the suns nourishing energy which is the most bountiful at this time of year. In summer, our work, play and relationships should be filled with joy and should instill in us a feeling of happiness and delight. We should live our lives and go about our daily activities with joy, passion, and laughter. This is how we know that the heart energy is balanced in us.

Physically, when we are properly balanced, the heart circulates oxygen rich blood throughout the body, and assures proper assimilation in the beginning stages of digestion in the small intestine. In Chinese Medicine, mental acuity is associated with the heart therefore memory, thought processes, emotional well being and consciousness are also attributed to the heart and the fire element. This is a time to nourish our spirits, realize our life’s potential, finding joy in hot summer days and warm summer nights.

memory

When the heart is balanced, the mind is calm and we sleep deeply and wake rested. When the heart is imbalanced, we may lack joy (which manifests in depression) or have an excess of joy (mania or manic behaviour). Some indications of a heart imbalance are nervousness, insomnia, heartburn and confusion, red complexion, poor memory and speech problems.

Emotionally, because the heart is connected to our spirits, summer is the best time to heal emotional wounds that we have carried with us from our pasts. Healing these wounds frees up space that we can fill with love, joy and happiness and ensures that we will not carry our old hurts with us into the future.

living with joy

Here are some tips to help you make the most of the summer season

  • Drink plenty of water and other fluids
  • Wake up earlier in the morning
  • Go to bed later in the evening
  • Rest at midday
  • Add pungent flavours to your diet
  • Refrain from anger; keep calm and even-tempered. (anger causes and exacerbates heat!)

heart fruits and vegetables

Summer is about abundance, and this is definitely the case with foods. Fruits and vegetables abound in summer, and we are lucky to have a multitude of choice when it comes to what we eat. Because it is the season of maximum yang, it is important to stay cool and hydrated. There are many foods that are beneficial to eat during this season. All foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine have a temperature, and energetic properties so in summer, we eat cool, yin foods that are moistening to balance the heat. Many raw foods are seen to be cooling in nature, so summer is the perfect time to indulge in salads, which are full of raw vegetables, very cooling and hydrating to the body. Eating more foods with pungent flavours and reducing bitter flavours help to strengthen the lungs - responsible for sweat so helps to maintain the normal sweating mechanism . Foods with cooling properties also clear heat, can reduce toxins and help to generate body fluids. Generally, most vegetables and fruits are cooling, eating them raw makes them cooler still, and many seafoods are also cooling in nature.

Here is a list of foods that are beneficial to eat in the summer months

  • Apricot
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Lemon
  • Peach
  • Cucumber
  • Orange
  • Asparagus
  • Sprouts
  • Bamboo
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Chinese cabbage
  • Corn
  • White mushroom
  • Snow peas
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Watercress
  • Seaweed
  • Mung means
  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Dill
  • Bitter gourd
  • Mung beans
  • Wax gourd
  • Lotus root
  • Lotus seed
  • Job’s tears
  • Bean sprouts
  • Duck
  • Fish

watermelon is good in summer

Living in harmony with the seasons is at the core of Traditional Chinese wisdom. It was based on living in harmony with nature and one's environment. Traditional Chinese Medicine is also a system that is rooted in prevention. Food is medicine and the ancient Chinese used food and its healing properties to build up the body when deficient, cleanse it when toxic, and release it when in excess. With these basic principles of eating with the seasons, and an awareness of the organs associated with each phase and their emotions, we can all stay healthy, strengthen our bodies, minds and spirits and live long, happy healthy lives.

Summer sky

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If you would like a downloadable information sheet that will tell you all about how to live in harmony with the Summer Season in Chinese Medicine, you can find it here - The Summer Season in Chinese Medicine. If you are a practitioner and would like this sheet to hand out to patients find it here - Summer Season - Professional.


Ask An Acupuncturist. - Do You Do Acupuncture On Yourself?

Question

As an acupuncturist, do you do acupuncture on yourself?

Answer

This is a good question and I am a bit surprised that I don't get asked it more often. The answer is yes, I do do acupuncture on myself when I really need it. For me, it is always preferable to have an acupuncture treatment performed by another acupuncturist (this is a more relaxing experience), but I certainly do points on myself when I can't get to see an acupuncturist myself.

I used to always travel with needles, but after a few incidents at airports, I am a bit leary of carrying needles with me on airplanes (the TSA is so sassy!), but I usually have a little acupuncture medicine kit with me with needles, herbs and other things like herbal burn cream, ear seeds and moxa for anything that might come up.

I do acupuncture on myself mainly when I have a headache, cramps, digestive issues or a cold or flu. Sometimes it is a bit tricky to get needles in, and because you are doing the work, it isn't the most relaxing experience, but it gets the job done and for me, is always preferable to taking a pill.

There are also theories that propose that when you work on yourself that you are interrupting your own energy, so that any theraputic effects are diminished. I can understand this, as when I do points on myself I am concentrating, and never entirely relax, whereas when you are being treated by someone else, their energy is going to treating you in its entirety, and you are able to take in the treatment completely which is your focus, and you are able to relax.

There are certain things that I cannot easily treat myself like points on the back and neck, but anything else, at least that I can reach I can treat myself. I would always go and have a proper treatment from an acupuncturist if I had the choice, but it is really nice to have the option to treat myself if I need to. :)


Bitter Melon - The Number One Melon for Diabetes

By Vicky Chan of NourishU

Li Shizhen (1518 -1593), one of the greatest Chinese doctors, scientists, herbalists and acupuncturists in history ranked bitter melon as the number one melon on earth in his renowned medical textbook, the Compendium of Medical Herbs (1596).

He described bitter melon as cool in nature, bitter in taste and with proven healing properties of expelling evil heat, sharpening vision, improving liver function, promoting heart health and expelling toxic effects in the body.

In recent years, western medical science has confirmed the effectiveness of bitter melon in controlling viral diseases, regulating metabolism and transporting glucose from the blood into the cells, therefore reducing the body’s blood sugar levels. That is why bitter melon is most beneficial to people with diabetes.

Bitter melon is also known to cure a large number of ailments including stomach complaints, skin problems, type 1 herpes simplex virus, measles and chickenpox.

With the many health benefits of bitter melon, it has long been in use by many cultures around the world as home remedies. It is important for people today to know about it and eat more for good health. However, because of its distinctive bitter taste, not too many people really like to eat them. To make them less bitter, it is important to clean out the seeds and white membrane in the middle completely. Cutting them thinly or blanching them in hot water for a couple of minutes before cooking can definitely help. The best approach is to combine bitter melon with meat or seafood to make them delicious. We have many recipes in our website using them for treating various ailments.

Here is a quick and easy recipe to make a delicious dish. It is most palatable and even welcome by children. It is best for preventing and treating diabetes.

Bitter Melon Omelette with Goji-berries and Enoki Mushroom

Bitter melon recipe ingredients

THERAPEUTIC EFFECTS

Detoxifies, clears internal heat and regulates blood sugar.

INGREDIENTS

  • Bitter Melon 涼瓜 – one
  • Enoki Mushrooms 金針菇 – one package
  • Goji Berries – one to two table spoons
  • Chopped Scallions and Coriander– one spoonful each
  • Eggs – two to three
  • Sugar, Salt, Cooking Wine and Sesame Oil

Bitter melon recipe ingredients 2

DIRECTIONS

1.   Wash bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise, and remove seeds and white membrane with a spoon. Cut each half lengthwise once again. Then slice melon thinly, season with one spoonful of salt for about 10 minutes and rinse.

2.   Cut out stems of enoki mushrooms. Cut the rest into short sections and soak with plenty of water for 5 to 10 minutes. Rinse and strain.

3.   Soak goji berries for 15 minutes, changing the water a couple of times and strain.

4.   Beat eggs in a bowl with one spoonful of cooking wine and one spoonful of sesame oil.

5.   Warm two spoonfuls of oil in a non-stick pan. Add bitter melon to stir fry for a couple of minutes. Then add one spoonful of salt and sugar and about half a cup of water and let it cook for 10 to 15 minutes until melon is tender and there is a little water left.

6.  Add enoki mushrooms, goji berries, scallions and coriander and stir to combine. Let cook for a few minutes.

7.   Add half of the egg mixture to the cooking and let it brown slightly on one side. Then flip over, add the remaining egg mixture and brown the other side. Add more oil to the cooking if necessary. When it is evenly brown, it is ready to serve.

Bitter melon omelette with goji berries and enoki mushrooms

USAGE

No Restrictions. This recipe is best served with rice.


The Raven's Warrior

Chinese Medicine Living friend and contributor Vincent Pratchett offers a teaser from his new novel - The Raven's Warrior. And we are so happy that this, his debut novel, is getting rave reviews (2 of which are included below) - congratulations Vincent!!!

By Vincent Pratchett - www.vincentpratchett.com

From Wikipedia

The British historian Joseph Needham and the American historian Robert Temple write that the practice of inoculation for smallpox began in China during the 10th century.[6][7] A Song Dynasty (960–1279) chancellor of China, Wang Dan (957–1017), lost his eldest son to smallpox and sought a means to spare the rest of his family from the disease, so he summoned physicians, wise men, and magicians from all across the empire to convene at the capital in Kaifeng and share ideas on how to cure patients of it.[8] From Mount Emei in Sichuan, a Daoist hermit, a nun known as a "numinous old woman" and "holy physician"—who Temple says was associated with the 'school of the ancient immortals' and thus most likely specialized in 'internal alchemy'—introduced the technique of inoculation to the capital.[9] However, the sinologist Joseph Needham states that this information comes from the Zhongdou xinfa (種痘心法) written in 1808 by Zhu Yiliang, centuries after the alleged events.[10]

From The Raven's Warrior

This Chancellor, once the emperor’s most trusted minister, ambled throughout the palace grounds like a wraith. He had always borne the responsibility of his post well, but now it paled by comparison to the weight that pulled him down and slowed his every step. He was without purpose, a man who knew that in reality his life had amounted to nothing. Sorrow was a heavy burden, and the fact that he would never really know his son added to it greatly.

His regrets were many. Their time spent together was as an official with his heir, he wished now it had been much more as a father with his son. There was no comfort and no solution, and for all his worldly influence, he was now utterly powerless. He had steered his boy away from all things frivolous, but would now give anything just to hear that childish laugh once more.

With no real way to escape his pain, he wandered vacantly to the only place that gave him small respite. As he approached this private spot, he froze when he saw another in his place. He stood quietly and watched carefully to see what the boy had come to steal. Instead he saw the page light an offering before the urn that held the ashes of his son. The smoke rose and circled as the boy bowed three times and thrust the incense into the bowl of alter sand.

An image of chopsticks stuck in a rice bowl came to mind. He walked forward, and at the sound of his closing footsteps, the page’s tear-wet face turned suddenly in his direction. The frightened boy stood clumsily and prepared to flee. “Stay,” the minister bid, and reluctantly but without choice the boy sat once more. “Why are you here?” the chancellor asked, and when the page answered, “I came to visit my friend,” his eyes could not hide their surprise.

He raked through memory for anything his son may have told him about this friendship, but there was nothing. He did remember the distain his boy had of the rough commander, and what once he thought irrational now began to make more sense. Their status was as opposite as night and day, but their ages were similar. In the adult realm of the palace, the minister was starting to believe that his son may have had a secret friend. The Chancellor asked bluntly, “What besides your years could you two possibly have had in common?”

The page responded with an unwavering stare, and with an answer that took the emperor’s highest official completely off guard, “Horses, Sir. Your son loved horses.” There was a time his boy walked into the palace smelling like the stable, and the memory of how he had rebuked his child now scalded him like bitter tears.

Over the course of the afternoon he gleaned many details from the page about a boy that he didn’t know. The minister heard about his son’s dreams of one day joining the military. Proudly he heard that his son was kind to the page and the animals that he tended. In a short time the minister realized that this boy knew his son much better than he did, and he took delight in every hidden detail.

The page eventually apologized but explained that he had his duties to attend to, and that any slip would bring harsh retribution. The minister did not want him to go but understood the workings of the palace. He felt much lighter as he stood to face the page whose position now grew more desperate with every passing moment.

"Sir,” the page intoned with one final recollection, “It was your son’s strongest desire to rid the land of the sickness that came in time to claim him.” With an awkward and uncustomary embrace the minister said, “Goodbye.

The minister walked with new direction, grateful for the gift the young page had given him.  He was clearer in thought and lighter in spirit than he had been since his son’s departure. Once inside his private chamber, he took his position behind his desk. He sat straight and breathed deeply as he looked at the blank silk paper that lay before him. Gathering in mind the spirit of his boy, he dipped the brush and began to write in his beautiful cursive script.

Before assigning his seal, he examined carefully his first official decree since the death of his son, and was well satisfied. The minister had written a summons to physicians, wise men, and magicians from all over the empire, to come to the capital and try to find some remedy.

The official proclamation was sent out across the entire kingdom. It went out over the land like the smoke of the many funeral pyres, and touched the furthest corners of the realm. 

The Raven's Warrior by Vincent Pratchett

Reviews of The Raven's Warrior

The Raven's Warrior is a most fascinating and splendid read! The marvelous Vincent Pratchett has fashioned one of those great adventure novels that literally grab you with the first sentence and never lets go. What a truly wonderful literary ride it is!

The attention to detail, the sense of history and fantasy, the vivid characters who leap off the pages, are all seamlessly integrated to produce a most memorable read. Mr. Pratchett has a magnificent way with a sentence.It is as if there is not a single superfluous word..every word is integral to the whole.

The Raven's Warrior combines so many terrific elements..Celtic history, Arthurian Legend, the supernatural..and all fit in so well in the overall narrative. The adventures and startling life of Arkthar, from kidnapping by Viken raiders and descent into the Baghdad slave market is brought so vividly to life. When Arkthar arrives in the Middle Kingdom..the reader feels as if they have accompanied him on the remarkable journey. Everything a great book should be!

I must also applaud Mr. Pratchett for the immense amount of research that has obviously gone into THE RAVEN'S WARRIOR..there is quite a bit of fact mixed with fiction..together producing a rollicking adventure..and a must read!

AN OFFICIAL JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB MUST READ

RICK FRIEDMAN
FOUNDER
THE JAMES MASON COMMUNITY BOOK CLUB - 7,150 MEMBERS

 

ForeWord Review

Original review here - The Raven's Warrior - ForeWord Review

Terry Pratchett’s kin crafts a smooth, new branch of the Arthurian legend.

Debut novelist Vincent Pratchett takes readers from Celtic Europe to China’s Middle Kingdom in a fantasy tale that commingles Western European, Northern European, Middle Eastern and Chinese landscapes and cultures. The result is a novel full of spiritual growth, rousing fight scenes, and a respectful use of martial arts in both their philosophical and martial aspects.

Celtic warrior Vincent is taken by Norse raiders to a slave market far from his homeland. Dusty, weak, wounded, and near death, he is bought by a man and his female servant and settled into a wagon. The pair, whose names he mispronounces as Merlin and Sea Lass, are actually Mah Lin, a former Buddhist monk, and his daughter, Selah, a healer and herbalist. Vincent mistakes them for wizard and sorceress on first meeting. As Selah tends his wounds, she reveals their true callings. Vincent has also gained a guardian, of sorts: a raven has followed him since his Norse captors wended their way to that slave market.

On the way to the Middle Kingdom, Mah Lin teaches Vincent the way of the warrior priest and Selah educates him on nature’s warning signals and herbs’ efficacy. Another case of mispronunciation leads Selah to call him Arkthar, which is approved by the raven’s raspy repetition of his new name. His healing way and physical education are, however, in danger: an imperial commander seeks Mah Lin to revenge himself for a long-ago event.

Thus the mystical circle that began with Mah Lin/Merlin finds and joins with Vincent/Arkthar, the connection is made, and the readers know that The Raven’s Warrior is another branch on the tree of Arthurian legend.

Finishing a novel is a challenge; being first cousin to Terry Pratchett, one of the most beloved fantasy writers alive, might add even more reason to expect a well-written debut. Readers are in luck: Pratchett is a natural storyteller and he knows how to structure a fantasy novel that’s much more than that.

Pratchett’s approach to the Arthurian legend is rare if not unique. Katy Moran’s 2010 novel Spirit Hunter has several similarities toThe Raven’s Warrior. Pratchett’s addition of a might-have-been China, an imperial ruler, and the deep knowledge of a martial artist cause a reader to pay closer attention to the story and how it unfolds. A ribbon of concern for the loss of old ways and skills (and their rescue) weaves through the novel as well. This is not your grandma’s Arthurian saga.

From his personal experiences as a traveler across Asia via ancient roadways (the routes of Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Marco Polo), a martial artist and instructor, firefighting and teaching, Pratchett has indeed crafted a new branch of the Arthurian saga. The novel flows smooth as silk, the characters are as real as your next-door neighbor, and the setting and pacing are spot-on.

The Raven’s Warrior reads like the work of a mature writer well seasoned with much background material on which to draw. It will be interesting if Pratchett returns to this world for more of his vision of Arthur—the quality of this first foray into novel-length fiction bodes well for such ventures.

Janine Stinson


Escape Fire - The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare - A Review

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Escape Fire is a documentary film that presents a sobering exploration of the US medical system, and how it is largely failing the American people. In a country that spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world ($2.7 trillion annually), it seems that there should be a direct correlation with the amount of money spent and the overall health of the population. Instead of being at the top of the list in life expectancy, the United States is number 50. The film states that in the US, 75% of healthcare costs go to treating chronic diseases that are largely preventable. It is also estimated that 30% of healthcare spending (roughly $750 billion annually) is wasted and does not improve health.

The film presents some of the reasons that the present system is not working and why, despite the enormous amount of money spent, Americans are so unhealthy. The first and most fundamental is that it is a system not based on health, but on disease. Disease is the focus of both medical education and practice and therefore, doctors are not taught basic things like nutrition and prevention and instead specialize into fields where the focus is on disease. This focus on disease means that the entire system does not even enter into the equation until the disease has already manifested, and is thus based on intervention after the problems have already developed.

A Design Flaw in the System

Doctors making money

Another problem with the present system is pay structure. Doctors are paid not for having healthier patients, but by seeing as many patients as possible, making it a numbers game. This leads to frustration for many doctors, as there is not time to flush out the root of the problems they encounter with their patients, so they are only treating symptoms, which means that patients come back with the same problems, again and again. The system is not based on outcomes, no matter how complicated or how much time they spend with a patient, it is based solely on how many patients they see. Doctors are doing what they can, cramming their schedules, but this approach is about quantity, not quality.  Everyone is doing what they think is right, the government pays hospitals to be full, so they try to be full, and pays doctors to see patients, so they try to see as many patients as possible. Everyone is doing their jobs, it is just that their jobs have been designed wrong.

Dr. Andrew Weil, Professor of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Arizona, says

“What’s wrong with medical education is that it simply doesn’t address whole subject areas that are absolutely essential to understanding human beings, health, illness, and treatment. An obvious one is nutrition which is almost omitted from medical education.”

In 1994 Dr. Weil started a fellowship to retrain people who had been through medical school. In the fellowship, he exposes them to a broader way of seeing their patients, and arms them with a deeper understanding of healing, thus giving them a wider range of tools that they can use to help their patients.

Lifestyle Chioces

Healthy Eating

Dr. Dean Ornish, President of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute has spent more than 30 years conducting studies that show that heart disease can be reversed by what we eat, how we respond to stress, how much we exercise and the amount of love and support we have in our lives. He believes that the underlying causes of chronic disease are largely lifestyle, and therefore both preventable and reversible. In his model, the doctor acts as quarterback and assembles a team to work with the patient - a nurse, yoga instructor, exercise physiologist, registered dietitian and clinical psychologist. In this way, the patients empower themselves to change their lives and regain their health.

Love support friendship

After 16 years of trying to get Medicare to recognize his program, it was finally announced in August 2010 that Medicare would reimburse Dr. Ornish’s heart disease lifestyle program. Dr. Ornish said that getting Medicare to recognize his work and agree to cover his program was the hardest thing he had ever done in his life, but thanks to his tireless work, his program will be covered and the information and treatment will hopefully spread, giving people another option to surgery and drugs for not only heart disease, but eventually for all diseases.

The Pharmaceutical Industry

Pill Person

The US spends a staggering $300 billion a year on pharmaceuticals, almost the amount of the rest of the world combined. In the 1950’s people were taking pharmaceuticals at 10% the rate they are now. So, what happened? It turns out that there are only 2 countries that are allowed to advertise pharmaceuticals. The United States is one, and New Zealand is the other and these ads seem to drive demand. The ads always  say, “Ask your doctor!” and apparently, people do. People ask their doctors about that new drug that is supposed to be wonderful for high cholesterol, or elevated blood pressure, and doctors, wanting to help their patients, prescribe it. As a result, the US has turned into a hugely overmedicated society, and the pharmaceutical industry is raking it in.

Prescription drugs have also become a huge problem in the military. Soldiers’ use of prescription drugs has tripled in the past 5 years and has lead to other problems like an increased number of suicides. In fact, according to Pentagon statistics, the US military set a record - 350 suicides among active-duty troops. That’s more than the number that died in combat in Afghanistan, and more than double the number of reported suicides from a decade ago.

Acupuncture in the Military

The Military

Dr. Wayne Jonas, President of the Samueli Institute for Military Medical Research says:

“15 years ago a consensus conference at the NIH (National Institute of Health) asked a question: “Do we have good evidence to show that acupuncture is safe and effective for any condition?” They said, “Absolutely, it’s been demonstrated that acupuncture is safe and effective, especially with postoperative and injury pain.” He continues, “Fifteen years later you can’t walk into your average hospital and get acupuncture. Its not that it doesn’t work, it is that we haven’t figured out how to get it into the system.”

Dr. Richard Niemtzow, who is Director of the US Air Force Acupuncture Center has been using auricular acupuncture (acupuncture of the ear) to reduce pain in troops, some of whom were originally on a number of painkillers and has experienced great success with this program.

Ear Acupuncture in the Military

The military is looking into using acupuncture on injured soldiers being evacuated to medical centers in the United States, as it would reduce pain and the number of medications needed, thus avoiding the risks of dependency and overdose.

It may seem strange that something like acupuncture, which comes from Eastern medicine with its emphasis on a holistic system that seeks to balance  mind, body and spirit, could coexist inside an institution like the hard core military. The explanation, according to Dr. Jonas, is that the military has seen unprecedented numbers of soldiers suffering from drug addictions, psychological problems like PTSD, both of which have lead to an dramatic  increase in the number of suicides. It was this alarming trend that drove the military to seek out other treatment options like acupuncture.

There is an exciting program that is showcased in the film at Walter Reed Army Medical Center where troops are sent when they return from combat with injuries. The program incorporates yoga, meditation and acupuncture in their recovery. The film follows one soldier who returned from Afghanistan where he lost many of his men and was suffering from physical injuries as well as PTSD. His journey through the program illustrates that healing is needed not just on a physical level, but on all levels and that the program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center is getting results.

Military Meditation

A for profit business

All of these statistics lead us to believe that something is terribly wrong. Sick people are not getting the care they need, and despite the enormous amount of money spent, Americans are not healthier and do not live longer. So something needs to change, right? Well, to find out why that change has been so slow to arrive, we need to look at who is benefitting from the system in its present incarnation. In a for profit system, the emphasis will always be on profit, and not health. The ones benefiting are the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the lobbyists in Washington who have a huge influence on policy making due to their deep pockets and generous campaign contributions.

People Over Profit

The Solution

It seems obvious that the present healthcare system is not fulfilling its job of caring for the health of the American people, so what is the solution? The film suggests that the problems are not small or easy to fix and that it would be a complete restructuring of the system from the ground up that is needed. Medical education needs to be reevaluated and changed from a disease focus to a focus on health and prevention, or perhaps a healthy balance of the two. And perhaps most importantly, the public needs to become engaged, and incite change with their actions and more importantly, their dollars. If patients go to their doctors asking for nutritional advice and information about vitamins and supplements, then doctors will be compelled to give it. As it stands, the system is broken, but the United States still has amazing resources, doctors and hospitals.  It is second to none in critical care, emergency medicine and complicated surgeries and there is incredibly important medical research being done in this country. So it is not that it isn’t possible, it is how the care is being delivered, pay structure, and a lack of prevention or focus on a healthy patient. The present healthcare system tends to be implemented after there is already a problem which is in contrast to other models (like Chinese medicine) which are focused on prevention, and empower the patient to be the master of his own health.

The good news is that, despite the problems the United States faces with healthcare, one of the most amazing and powerful things that is built into its foundation is democracy and the ability for the people to enact change on a large scale. Even though it seems that large corporations like insurance companies, big pharma and lobbyists are holding all the cards, an engaged and educated public can change the entire system, and it seems that perhaps, that time has come. :)