“When people are overwhelmed by illness, we must give them physical relief, but it is equally important to encourage the spirit through a constant show of love and compassion. It is shameful how often we fail to see that what people desperately require is human affection. Deprived of human warmth and a sense of value, other forms of treatment prove less effective. real care of the sick does not begin with costly procedures, but with the simple gifts of affection, love and concern.”
His Holiness, The Dalai Lama
The 4th Annual Amy Stine Conference on Holistic Medicine is in full swing and so far it has been great. The topic of Spirituality in Health and Healing is a necessary dialogue, as 90% of our patients have some form of belief in something. The speakers have been inspiring. In about 3 hours I will have the opportunity to put some physics under the metaphysics.
Given the themes floating around the room today, I can’t think of a better time to share this video, inspired by the words of David Foster Wallace.
Excellent satire on the blind spots of dogma
Da knee bone’s connected to de’ leg bone…
This Saturday I will be presenting a talk, ”Fascia: the Conduit of the Mind/Body Connection” at the 4th Amy Stine Workshop on Holistic Medicine here in Pittsburgh. While the specific theme of this year’s conference is on spirituality and healing, I am very pleased they found a way to fit my passion into their format. In the meantime, here’s a review of a book for everyone interested in this idea…
One of my earliest childhood memories is hearing the “fact” somewhere, I don’t remember where,that we only use 10% of our brain. To my five year old mind that just seemed wrong.
I vowed that somehow I would find a way to use more of my brain than that.
I’ve been doing that ever since and, actually, so have you.
The story behind that scientific ratio can be found in “The Root of Thought” , a book dedicated to the mysterious glia, the fascia of the brain. Written by brain scientist Andrew Koob,“The Root of Thought” takes us on a nice historical overview of brain research and tells the tale of the discovery of neurons and glia, and the staining process developed by Camillo Golgi that made these structures easier to see and study. Neurons were thought to be more important because the cells extended longer distances (recapitulating the familiar tropes about men being obsessed with size). In the mad rush that ensued to establish the “Neuron Doctrine” by Golgi, Santiago Ramon y Cajal and others the glia were trampled underfoot and certain assumptions were made about their importance and function and went unchallenged.
Flash forward to 60 years of neuron dogma later and suddenly, because the brain is roughly 10% neurons to 90% glia, the sweeping pronouncement is made that we only use 10% of our brains! Is this really the way science works?
Forty-five years later, in the April 2004 issue of Scientific American in an article entitled “The Other Half of the Brain” it was revealed the the glia actually do communicate to each other and to the neurons as well via calcium waves.
You’ll find intriguing speculations in this book as to what that all might mean. As well as the real story about what made Albert Einstein’s brain so special.
One caveat: while Koob writes with great humor (sometimes it works, sometimes it distracts) and keeps a brisk pace throughout it would have been better if the book had been properly footnoted. While there are references at the end of each chapter, it would have been more helpful to have the research component better integrated into the more speculative parts of the text.
Still, if you have always been intrigued by how the mind fits into the mind/body complex via the liquid crystalline nature of the connective tissue matrix – get your hands on “The Root of Thought”.
An interview with author Andre Koob can be found here.
Two more studies have been released giving us more reasons not to stretch.
Gretchen Reynolds pulls out the relevant data: Just why stretching hampers performance is not fully understood, although the authors of both of the new studies write that they suspect the problem is in part that stretching does exactly what we expect it to do. It loosens muscles and their accompanying tendons. But in the process, it makes them less able to store energy and spring into action, like lax elastic waistbands in old shorts, which I’m certain have added significantly to the pokiness of some of my past race times by requiring me manually to hold up the garment.
I think that’s a good analogy.
There is both kinetic storage capacity and elastic recoil property in fascia, and it seems likely that pre-sports stretching diminishes this. I don’t think anyone thinks stretching is “bad” for you (at least I hope not) but I am reminded of one of the conclusions at the recent Connect13 Conference which was that stretching does have benefits but not the ones we think.
I think it would be fascinating to do a study with athletes where the control group does no stretching and the experimental group adds stretching to their conditioning (like say, 2 yoga classes a week) and then compare performance. Any takers?
Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Subjects trained 26 adults with no prior experience in this type of meditation for eight weeks. All of the blood samples taken during the course of the experiment showed changes in gene expression after meditation.
Lindsay Abrams writes that the implications are that: people who practice simple meditation aren’t “just relaxing,” explained the study’s senior author, Dr. Herbert Benson (he of the aforementioned institute). Instead, they’re experiencing “a specific genomic response that counteracts the harmful genomic effects of stress.” While this study only looked at one way of reaching this state, people have been figuring this out for themselves for thousands of years, through yoga, prayer, and other forms of meditation. Yet this is the first time researchers have been able to use basic science to show that these practices actually have an observable, biological effect.
Find the article here.
Find the published research here
The Friday night yoga class at SchoolHouse Yoga is one of my most important weekly rituals. After my recent road trip it was good to be back to it last night. Taught by the quietly amazing Monique Richards it’s always the perfect blend of mindfulness and wackiness – the perfect way to end your week and start your weekend.
Warning: Don’t drink and down dog!
Man, that’s one good-looking planet we live on!