Fixation On The “Bad”

are you pickin' up what she's laying down?
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I suspect that our fixation on the “bad” is a habit left over from our ancient past.”Bad” is a very problematic word.  Mostly because it is used to cover so much territory.

It can mean unpleasant, or refer to something that does not work well. When two people are in disagreement we may have a bad relationship, to cover our incompatibilities or developmental deficits.  It can mean inconvenient.  It can easily be used as code word for something else.

I suspect that bad may have been less social for our early ancestors. For them, bad may have been an unwelcome dinosaur coming for lunch, a storm or not enough basic necessities. Of course, bad could also have been any number of diseases that were not understood and had no cure. Bad could have been a visit from headhunters or other marauders, or the plague.  Bad was often linked to challenges of our species living in a difficult physical environment.

As we seem to have conquered our environment, and that may be a matter up for debate, “bad” has become more ambiguous and that may be why people have so much difficulty with it and why it is so hard for people to feel good.

I think that feeling good is our normal state.  Many people like myself who meditate come to see bliss as our natural state and all the other stuff going on as distractions from our natural state.   However, as long as we are being graded in one way or another by ourselves or other people and treated like we are on trial every day of our lives, most of us are probably going to have a hard time getting rid of the bad feelings that plague us.

Certainly people have been judging each other for centuries.  Perhaps it only seems worse because there are so many people on the planet now.  Seven billion people judging each other like crazy is a lot of social overhead that has to be dealt with.

For highly sensitive people, judgments in particular cause a lot of pain because they are not only felt acutely but also they are experienced in the body.  HSP’s need to be particularly mindful about how clogged their systems can become with social judgment as well as other forms of pollution to prevent themselves from drowning in social pain.  Meditation, energy healing, and healthy dietary and lifestyle practices can do a lot to minimize bad feelings that HSP’s are prone to have.


How To Take Charge Of Your Health: 10 Health Factors From Ayurveda

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Ayurveda has a comprehensive view of health which asserts that we need to take into account 10 key health factors in order to enjoy good health.  These factors are foundational understandings about how we create health.

Too often in Western society, we have a restricted and limited view of the factors that govern health.  Some food, vitamins, a little exercise, a trip to the dentist and we think we are in good shape. Not so.

To understand the 10 health factors, it is important to start with the ayurvedic body types called doshas. These body types represent aspects of nature.  They are Vata: air, Pitta: fire, and Kapha tissue and structure. Each person has the three doshas but in a different combination.

You could say that we each have a unique dosha signature. Some people have one dosha that is very strong and other two weaker, others have two that are equally strong and the third weaker, and a few have all three doshas in balance. Once you know your body type you can start to live in harmony with your body. To find out more about your body type, you can take this Dosha Test.

Dr. Vasant Lad, of the Ayurvedic Institute and  one of the most important Ayurvedic doctors in the United States today, has written extensively about ayurvedic medicine and health.  In his book, The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies,p. 32-38,  he elaborates about the 10 health factors.  They are:

  1. Like increases like.  This is an important concept and an easy check on healthy habits.  Whatever your biological tendencies are, likes will create imbalance and opposites will create balance. One example is the Pitta body type. Pittas who represent fire and digestion are naturally warm. They become imbalanced in heat and stabilized in cool weather.
  2. Eating foods for health.  The right foods will create balance in the body, depending on your dosha type.  The Kapha dosha is a moist dosha and benefits from food that are light and drying.  Cornbread would be an example. The Vata dosha is light and moving and needs heavier food.
  3. Seasons and health.  Ayurveda has 3 seasons – one for each dosha: vata in autumn/winter, kapha in spring, and pitta in summer.  The most challenging time of year will be that time that is related to your body type(dosha) because the factor – like increases like – applies with the seasons.  Vata will have difficulty in winter which is dry, Kapha in spring which is moist, and Pitta in the summer which is hot. Therefore, health practices need to be adjusted for the seasons.
  4. Exercise and health.  Exercise is good for everyone; however, we do not all need the same amount, type and intensity of exercise.  We should not all be runners. Vatas need light exercise, Pittas, moderate and Kaphas benefit from strenuous exercise.
  5. Age and health.  Each stage of life corresponds with one the body types. Childhood is a Kapha time – a time of building the body; adulthood, a Pitta time  – a time of ambition and competition, and old age corresponds with the vata dosha. Individuals needs to adjust their habits to be in sync with their stage of life.
  6. Mental and emotional factors. Each of the doshas is susceptible to different unhealthy emotions when they are out of balance: Vata – fear and anxiety, Pitta – anger, hatred and jealousy, and Kapha – possessiveness, greed and complacency.
  7. Stress.  Stress is one of the plagues of the modern age, and a particular difficulty for highly sensitive people.  Following the best practices for your dosha type can be a kind of insurance policy against stress.
  8. The senses.  The senses have a role in balancing our body type since they affect our biochemistry.  A good example is the affect of listening to loud music, which disturbs the ears and potentially our balance.  Another is staying in the sun too long.  Everything we do involves our senses and affects our body chemistry which is why  we need to be careful about our choices of activities.
  9. Acting against our nature.  Sometimes we act contrary to what we know we need. We fail to get sleep when we need it or  eat something that does not agree with us.  These actions always cost us.  Even in the short term, we are harmed but in the long term we are creating disease.
  10. Relationships.  Relationships can be a joy or source of stress and unhappiness. Because relationships can often be long term, it is particularly important to make sure that they are healthy, because relationship problems can be one of the biggest causes of illness.

Highly sensitive people have many health challenges.  Taking on the ten conditions for creating health can help HSP’s master their health.  The 10 health factors may seem restrictive, but in reality they will free HSP’s to be their best.

4 Reasons Why HSP’s Should Meditate

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Why meditate?  There are 4 reasons why HSP’s should meditate.  Many people have adopted the practice of meditation for many reasons as there are types of meditation. Chances are that most people adopt the practice for a short term gain like stress relief.   However there are many long term benefits that make a meditation practice worth the committment.

For highly sensitive people for whom a stress relief program is mandatory, here are 4 reasons why HSP’s should meditate:

  1. Meditation is a form of release.  Transcendental Meditation, my practice for the better part of two decades, uses a mantra to create a mechanism that enables the meditator to disengage from thoughts.  When we detach from thoughts we open to the larger universe and become more open to multiple perspectives.  Because HSP’s suffer from so much stress, the ability to achieve that kind of release from stressful thoughts is an important benefit, and facilitates a relaxed, naturally holistic perspective more easily.
  2. Meditation can helps us get out of a rut.  When we get stuck, and that can be often, meditation helps us release the cause of our rut, which is often a limited perspective.  Since life is very day to day, the capacity for perspective which meditation helps us achieve can create the internal space for new options.  When we cannot let go, we have essentially closed our sense of options.  When we meditate we open ourselves to new options by letting go.
  3. Meditation, in helping us to let go of a limited personal perspective, frees us to evolve to a more communitarian relationship with the rest of the world. Admittedly, in Western societies which emphasize the “self”, that can be a challenging perspective. However, the more we see ourselves as “all in this together” the more we reduce fear and stress in the world creating a world that is good for everyone and easier for HSP’s to live in.
  4. Meditation, when it helps us release, opens us up to our own creativity, making it easier to access our natural gifts that may be blocked by stress and unresolved issues. It enables HSP’s to have an easier time being at their best, in spite of their sensitivities and genetic diseases.
There are many reasons to meditate.  People use it for personal reasons: to help with grief, for spiritual enlightenment and other reasons, but the 4 reasons HSP’s should meditate listed above will help HSP’s reduce stress so that they can be at their best in all their endeavors.

A Holiday Wish

christmas stars © by mararie

It has been a strange holiday season this year.  Perhaps because of the mercury retrograde or perhaps because of all the change in the air. For me, it has been a season of thinking, this time about appreciation.  No, not the why don’t they appreciate me whine.  Something different.

I was thinking about our current messed-up state here in the United States, and I was remembering that back in the 50’s and 60’s there was an idea that we were entering a new age of leisure, that we had such sophisticated machines and they would do everything for us. We had it made. Whatever our demands were they would be satisfied.

That thinking has stayed with us for at least a half century.  It inspired an IBM ad not too long ago about an on-demand world. Just snap your fingers and it will be done.  In just snapping our fingers, we have also closed our eyes to what it takes to deliver on our demands, and what it costs us and our environment to do so.  Our natural empathetic natures became unnecessary, unwanted and even in the way.

The cost has been much higher than we imagine. Our on-demand world has cost us a grounded relationship with process: natural process, manufacturing process, all process.  It means that we have lost relationship, the art of working things through, and the ability to know how to direct ourselves in response to the dynamics of living. Our desires and demands have made all of that irrelevant?

Our disengagement from our world behind the shield of entertainment doesn’t protect us from reality.  Pushing a button is not wisdom in action. Our disengagement means that we do not know what to appreciate or why.  We have delegated our lives and without the experience of living in process how do we begin to take them back?

There is one group of people who does not have the luxury of acquiescing to the current system.  Our humble and creative HSP’s are more engaged with process than any other group.  We take in everything and have to deal with it and are often alone in doing so.

Highly sensitive people have a capacity for appreciation that is exceptional.  All the processing of sensory information, thoughts, feelings and experiences gives us a library of information for working with a dynamic world. HSP’s are the people who can lead us back to a groundedness with our world.

It is my wish for HSP’s this holiday that they take a moment to appreciate themselves, as the stars in the tree that hold the light we need to bring us to a new communal understanding.  You are truly special and worthy of very high regard. Please celebrate your gifts to the world in this holiday season.

Food Causes Cell Death

Salmonella invades human cells © by Nutloaf

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Food Causes Cell Death? According to Science Daily, “Excess nutrients, such as fat and sugar, don’t just pack on the pounds but can push some cells in the body over the brink. Unable to tolerate this “toxic” environment, these cells commit suicide.”

This new information released last month by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis scientists and published in Cell Metabolism, shows that protein building RNA, which is related to DNA, the blueprint for our biology, is apparently also playing a role in the decision for a cell to die.  

The cell death process is put in place when large amounts of metabolic stress create such toxic conditions in the body that the cells cannot survive. According to the Science Daily article, “Though cell suicide is a natural process that protects healthy tissues from damaged cells, it can sometimes fall out of balance. If the cell death pathway gets shut down, damaged cells may divide and lead to cancer. On the other hand, too much cell death due to abnormal metabolites, such as high levels of fats and sugar, can impair the function of tissues in the body…”

This information follows on the heels of another study that demonstrated that fat cells are not dormant or inert as most people think.  The study which appears in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research according to this  Science Daily article, found six totally new proteins and 20 other proteins in the fat cells, which indicates that fat cells are very active in the body.

Both of these studies demonstrate the dynamic nature of the human system, the importance of environmental factors and the natural processes that exist to help us maintain balance.

Highly sensitive people are susceptible to many types of illnesses, diabetes and cancer being two of them.  It is important for HSP’s to know the role that fat, and sugar, play in creating destructive conditions in the body. Cell death is the first step on a destructive path that can result in chronic disease and organ death.

Ayurveda’s diet models are very effective for minimizing the consumption of unnecessary fats and sugars while maintaining balance in the body.  The two substances. fat and sugar, can create considerable stress in the body – something HSP’s need to avoid. Ayurveda’s focus on the effects of the subtle energies in food enable them to offer diet recommendations that create a supportive physical culture compatible with good health.

I Want A House I Can Feel In My Bones

Old House in Provo © by wickenden

I wrote this for an essay contest for Tiny Texas Houses which builds houses out of salvaged materials.  I didn’t win but enjoyed writing this, so I wanted to share. I was inspired by the idea of a house as a lived experience so these are the words that flowed:

I want a house I can feel in my bones.

I want a house that speaks to me across generations, that includes me in its conversation.

I want a house that doesn’t need to apologize for its rawness.

I want a house that holds time like warm tea in a cup, warming my innards with its resilient joy.

I want a house that is with me, not over me or anyone else.

I want a house that knows it is temporary, a monument to the living not the impressing.

I want a house that is humble because only then can we greet each other with kindness.

I want a house that speaks to the earth as a  friend not a burden.

I want a house that rests lightly with few demands and much spirit.

I want a house that knows the measure of all its parts and gives them all their due.

I want a house whose credentials are in the living.

I want a house whose shadows do no harm.

I want a whose whose quirks breathe with ancient knowledge.

I want a house that gives me back my past and a future to be proud of.

I want a house that has faith in me and that I can have faith in.

I want a house that like me is just happy to be here.

I want a house whose dignity is simple and with a known merit.

I want a house that gently takes its place on the earth.

I want a house that meets the moment with me.

Stress in the Womb

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There is a growing awareness that stress in the womb plays a major role in the creation of genetic diseases and the highly sensitive trait.  Maternal stress during pregnancy results in higher levels of testosterone in the body and by extension a fetus. The higher levels of testosterone change brain development increasing the chance of genetic diseases, the highly sensitive trait as well as high creativity and giftedness.

The BBC  Mum’s stress is passed to baby in the womb reported recently about a study in the journal Translational Psychiatry showing that women under the stress of potential violence have children with a genetic change in the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), which regulates the response to stress, making the children more sensitive to stress.

The article discusses how a change occurs in methyation, an important biological process in “gene expression.”  The best lay explanation comes from Discovery. This is their description:

“Methylation is a process by which a gene’s behavior is altered, but the gene itself isn’t changed. This is almost like following all the directions in baking a batch of cookies correctly, except for the oven temperature. Even though all of the ingredients are the same, those cookies won’t bake — or behave — the same way when baked a couple hundred degrees lower than they should be.In methylation,  environmental exposures or different lifestyle choices have the potential to cause methyl groups, which are groups of one carbon and three hydrogens, to land on top of our genes and change how they are expressed. This, in turn, changes the ability of our genes to share the directions they contain for making our bodies’ proteins.”

Apparently, stress in the womb affects the methylation process during pregnancy, altering gene expression.  Methylation seems to be a major factor in the biochemical processes responsible for a fetus becoming a highly sensitive person.

This is just one study, but it points to an increasing awareness of the impact of stress in the womb in the creation of highly sensitive people.  It is an important tool for developing approaches to minimize genetic diseases of all kinds and shows us how genetic mutations and environmental factors can create unintended results.

For more information about the traits of highly sensitive people, HSP Health offers information about the biology and characteristics of HSP’s.

What Causes the HSP Trait?


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What causes the HSP trait? In the 1980’s the findings of an important medical study were released.  The study laid a biological and scientific basis for understanding the highly sensitive trait.

Dr. Norman Geschwind, a neurologist at Harvard Medical School, conducted a study of 3000 people with Dr. Peter Behan, a neurologist at the University of Glasgow.  He was attempting to discover the correlation between left handedness, learning disorders and genetic diseases.  The report, titled  “Cerebral Dominance” revealed his findings.

Apparently what causes the HSP trait is stress during pregnancy which sets a chain of events in motion that results in changes to the development of the child.  Higher levels of testosterone in the mother caused by stress cause the fetus to develop differently because the testosterone creates reserve lateralization of the brain. Reverse lateralization of the brain slows the left brain’s development as a result of the increased testosterone and advances a greater developed right brain.

One result is that brain functions may be located in atypical places in the brain -an example would be language skills changed to a location in the right brain;  speech problems may be a result.  Another result is a greater chance of  left-handedness, a known characteristic of highly sensitive people.  Since each side of the brain controls the opposite handed, handedness located in the right brain results in left-handedness – an HSP effect that is more pronounced in males than females.

The study that Dr. Geschwind did with Dr. Behan showed left-handed people were 2 and 1/2 more times more likely to have autoimmune disorders and 10 times more likely to have learning disabilities.  Near relatives of left-handed people can also be affected and may acquire HSP traits.  Apparently there is a familial genetic basis for these conditions so that any family member can be right handed and also experience learning difficulties, autoimmune disorders and other human genetic diseases because the family has a history of left-handedness and the highly sensitive trait.  It is possible that what causes the HSP trait in some individuals is a familial genetic condition, possibly from a prior generation where stress during pregnancy resulted in the birth on an HSP child.

It is amazing that stress can be so powerful that it can cause a human being to become a different person – that it can effect such a powerful change in a human being.  Violence and the threat of violence are bad enough under ordinary circumstance.  When they occur during pregnancy, a human being can be born with a variety of sensitivities as well as any number of genetic diseases.  That’s a lot of damage!  What causes the HSP trait is stress.  In a world of 7 billion people, reducing stress would seem to be a humane solution to the consequences of excess stress.

How Time Affects Health

Seasons © by *~Dawn~*

One of the most important factors in health is time but perhaps not in the way you may think.

In Western society, we think of one minute as the same as the next, and although we recognize the changes of season, we are often insulated from them, in our homes, offices and cars. Time is often measured in economic not natural terms, so we do not understand how to harmonize our lives with natural time.

Robert Svoboda, well known Ayurvedic physician and author of The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda explains in his book how the cycles of the day, and the year and the bioenergies of the body are all related to elements of nature. There are five elements of our world: ether, air, fire, water and earth.  Ether represents empty space, air represents wind, fire represents metabolism and transformation, water represents lubrication, and earth represents solidity. They are represented in nature, in our bodies and in time.

Because they are the most fundamental to life, air, fire and earth define the three bioenergies or doshas of the body: vata is air, pitta is fire and kapha is earth.  Ether is considered part of air and vata dosha.  Water is part of pitta dosha (fire) since water is necessary to activate the stomach acids for the fire of digestion and kapha dosha (earth) which has the role of lubricating the body.

The body is not the only way in which the three bioenergies of vata, pitta and kapha are relevant. The day reflects the bioenergies as well.  The day is divided onto six segments which incorporate the doshas according to the natural rhythms of the day. The time segments are:

2-6AM: Vata

6-10AM: Kapha

10AM-2PM: Pitta

2PM-6PM: Vata

6PM-10PM: Kapha

10PM-2AM: Pitta

Vata represents the movement of prana and as a result is active at dawn and dusk when prana is most active. Pitta representing fire is active when the sun (fire) is strongest and when our digestion is strongest. Kapha which represents the solidity of our bodies slows down at night and when the sun rises starts to awaken. Its lubricatory function is warmed by the sun so that is fully available to our digestive systems at midday.

A perfect example of how Ayurveda uses this information is the practice of eating the main meal of the day at midday.  Since the digestion is strongest then, food can be processed more efficiently minimizing the possibility of building up undigested food in the body which leads to disease. Poorly digested food is one of many sources of toxins that create imbalances impairing our ability to function and our happiness.

Ayurveda fosters daily habits that work with nature which contributes to enjoying a long, heathy life. I helps us minimize disease as much as possible.  Although genetic disorders won’t be altered by using Ayurvedic practices, if you work with Ayurveda disease can be minimized by keeping you in balance as much as possible. For highly sensitive people who have many health challenges, Ayurveda is a worthwhile investment.

Child Abuse Affects The Brain



Article first published as Child Abuse Affects the Brain on Technorati.

The December issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine has reported the findings of a Yale University Study which shows that child abuse, physical and emotional impact many areas of the brain. The study included the results of the self-reported Childhood Trauma Questionnaire and brain scans of 42 teenagers, with equal numbers of caucasian and African-Americans.  Four multiracial teenagers were also included in the study.

The research showed that the volume of gray matter in the brain was diminished in the teenagers who had suffered the abuse or neglect.  The number of regions of the brain affected was substantial:

According to MedPageToday which reported the study findings these are the regions of the brain and some of their functions that are affected:

  • Physical abuse: left dorsolateral and left rostral prefrontal cortices (executive function), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), right ventral striatum (emotion and motivation), right insula (emotional intelligence), and right temporal association cortex (memory)
  • Physical neglect: left rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), right parietal association cortex (spatial perception), and bilateral cerebellum (balance)
  • Emotional neglect: certain portions of the hypothalamus and midbrain, bilateral dorsolateral prefrontal cortex(executive function), bilateral rostral prefrontal cortex (executive function), bilateral dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (cognitive function), right superior frontal gyrus (self awareness ), right orbitofrontal cortex (emotional regulation and sense of the self), bilateral striatum, bilateral amygdala (processing emotions) and hippocampus (emotions and memory), bilateral cerebellum (balance), and left parietal (perceptual difficulties and problems with speech, writing and math), right temporal (visual memory), and left occipital association cortices (integration of visual information).

Girls showed more brain deficits in areas governing emotional processing and boys were more challenged in areas of the brain responsible for impulse control.

It is apparent that substantial and comprehensive brain damage is created as a result of child abuse. When you consider all the brain regions suffering damage from the abuse, it is inevitable that the individual will have developmental difficulties if not worse.  Sense of self, integration of sensory inputs, executive functioning and impulse control are all vital to effective daily functioning and human development.

It might be time to ask ourselves whether it is worth the cost in health bills, law enforcement and social problems as well as lost human capabilities to continue to ignore child abuse.  Better yet, if we eliminated child abuse, what would our world look like?