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Muscles of Breathing

Breathing is with us every moment of our lives, and is often something we take for granted.  Our breath is both a detoxification and a nourishing process.  When it falls into dysfunctional patterns, it can be an unnoticed cause of disease, such as fatigue, anxiety, mental health issues, and insomnia to name a few.  Today I want to teach you a simple test that yoga teachers use to evaluate your breath.

Begin by placing one hand over your solar plexus and another over the center of your heart.  Sit up straight, close your eyes, and breathe without attempting to change anything.  Just observe for a moment.  If the bottom hand moves when you breath, your diaphragm muslce is making that happen. If the top hand is moving, the muscles of your ribs and upper body are responsible for that motion, not your diaphragm.  By paying attention for a couple minutes, you can easily tell which muscles are working as you breathe.

When we consider that our primary relaxation and stress nervous systems are hard wired to these two different muscle groups, our test begins to take on meaning.  Our test tells us if we are stimulating the sympathetic stress response or the parasympathetic rest response when we breathe.  When you breathe with your chest muscles, you are telling your body, “hey, I’m using these extra breathing muscles that are used only when I need maximum air flow.”  Your body knows that this means you are in a situation where you need extra oxygen – aka fight or flight situations.  When you use your diaphragm to breathe, you are stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated during rest and digest situations.

As you sit there, with your hands over your heart and belly, eyes closed.  Where are the bears that are ready to eat you?  If the hand over your chest is moving in any significant way while you breathe, then you are telling your nervous system there are lions and tigers around!  Without knowing it, you are stimulating your stress response with every single breath.  Thus, our unconscious breath patterns can be a major source of dysfunction, constantly telling our body to prepare for impending doom.  It takes a lot of energy to hold that readiness.  When we are busy preparing for stress, we are also diverting resources from other important physiological activities.

Our test tells us if we need to retrain our breath pattern. By training ourselves to breathe diaphragmatically instead of with our chest muscles, we change the signals we are sending to our nervous system.   We can relax more deeply and allow our body to spend more time replenishing our energy reserves instead of amping up for stressful fights that simply are not present.

To recap, if the hand on your chest moves in any significant way while you are sitting calmly in a restful environment, then you have a dysfunctional breathing pattern that is worth fixing.

Tips For Better Sleep

For many people, sleep is a problem. Getting to sleep, staying asleep, and feeling rested when you are done can be elusive goals. Here are a few tips, tricks and insights that may help you get your the rest you crave.

Getting to sleep:

Few people understand that it actually takes energy to shift your consciousness into sleep. Many people that suffer from insomnia are so depleted that they fail to muster enough energy to jump into slumper. If you are one of these people, try taking some rejuvenative herbs or get a weekly massage for a month. Practicing yoga or meditation for 20 minutes before sleep will allow you to conserve and build energy, too.

Most of us have had the experience where we are very tired but then around 10-11pm we get a surge of energy and alertness that carries us into the wee hours of the morning. This second wind is caused by a rise in the fiery and stimulating force called pitta energy. Every night from 10pm-2am this subtle force rises up and affects us all. If you want to get to sleep on time, make a point of getting to bed at 9:30pm, before the stimulating energies of pitta give you a second wind and you lose three hours of sleep.

Staying asleep:

Have you ever heard that spicy foods give nightmares? They may indeed, but more importantly, spicy foods have a deep stimulating effect on our nervous system and consciousness. This agitation can affect our dreams, give us indigestion, and interrupt our sleep cycles. Try to keep the spicy foods out of your diet from 6pm onwards. Some people are very agitated by spice and may need to cut it out earlier than others.

Resting well:

They call the time between 12-2pm ‘liver time.’ What that means is that our liver and detoxification organs activate during the night to digest toxins and perform house keeping duties. Many of us fail to realize that eating food late forces our liver to digest that food instead of detoxifying us. It takes about four hours for our stomach to empty completely after a meal, which is why the rule says no food after 8pm. Adopting this strategy will go a long way to giving our bodies the undisturbed rejuvenation of nightly liver time.

Waking alertly:

Creating regularity in your wake up time is a powerful way to sync all of your biological systems. Have you every tried to plan a party and not give exact times for your attendees? By waking up at different times of the day and by not setting a consistent alarm every morning, we end up with chaos, just like if we forgot to set a time for our party. The best advice for getting your hormone levels and other wake up systems all together at the same time and place is to wake up at the same time every single day: weekends, weekdays, and holidays, too. Trust me, its worth it to pop up out of bed alert, refreshed, and with all hands on deck ready to take on your day.

Maximizing Your Wellness Dollars

As a general rule, we like sales. Companies know it and use coupons all the time. I’m not opposed, in fact we offer several discount programs at my wellness centers. They work. They are a benefit to all involved. However, when it comes to getting the most out of the professional services you pay for, there is an important component that most of us don’t pay attention to. That component is the supporting practices and home based activities that you can do to enhance your service. Instead of always looking at ways to decrease the prices of the professional services we buy, we should consider things that we can do at home as another great way to get more bang for our buck.

It means taking personal responsibility for making your visits to the chiropractor, massage therapist, and personal trainer more effective. I can’t tell you how many people rush into a massage service, and then fly out of the building right back to work. They could enhance the benefits of their massage significantly if they built supporting activities into their day that compliment that massage instead of just relying on the service itself to deliver all the results. By simply arranging a few things in your day or week to compliment the goals of your services you can improve the results, shorten the therapy sequences, and reduce the overall cost. This secondary way of maximizing dollars may be the most underlooked way to save yourself some money.

While only you know the major goals of your wellness plan, here are some basic practices to showcase what I’m talking about.

Getting a Chiropractic adjustment? If you get adjusted don’t go to the gym right after. You should avoid intense, jerking, and rough exercises that jar, aler, or disrupt the correction you just paid for.

Getting a massage? They calm your nervous system and increases detoxification. Avoid alcohol, intense stimulation, or anything else that casuses increased stress for 24-36 hours after that massage.

On perscription meds? They need to stay active in your system to remain effective. Plan ahead so you don’t run out. Set an alarm so you don’t forget to take them. You may need to stay on them longer if you don’t let them do their job.

Taking college courses? Do your homework and show up to class. You are only going to be paying on those tuition bills for for the next 10-20 years, so make sure you get every penny worth of knowledge out of those dollars.

Our lives are busy. We are moving fast and getting pulled in a hundred directions. Sometimes we are too busy to clip coupons, even though they are a great way to save money. You may not always find the time to apply the personal practices I am suggesting here, but bringing home a few supporting practices to enhance your professional services makes every dollar stretch further. Take the idea into consideration and ask your providers, and yourself, what you can do at home to support the services you are receiving. In the long run, it will pay off far more than any coupon.

Triphala: A Traditional Herbal Formula Pt. 2

I thought we would do a second article on Triphala for two important reasons.  1: Yes, it is that good to have around.   2: Triphala is a good example to use in highlighting the fact that different medical systems operate from very different perspectives.  Here in the west we focus on taking the herbal tablet to get all of the wonderful benefits to our digestive system that I wrote about last week.  According to Ayurveda – India’s medical system, tasting Triphala gives many powerful medicinal benefits too.

Why such an emphasis on taste?  Taste in the Sanskrit language is the word rasa.  Rasa also means emotion and rasayana is a word for rejuvenation.  In our modern world, we don’t often associate those three concepts together.  But in India, they all share the same root; they all stem from a central association.

Ayurveda believes consciousness is an integral part of the healing process.  Getting sick often had emotional and mental components, as did getting well.  Today we talk about mind/body connection or wholeness.  Ayurvedic theory takes it a lot further by believing 99% of illness originates from an emotional or mental root cause.   Thus, working on a person’s body was not a separate thing from working with their emotions and their mind.  To them, the ability to rejuvenate ourselves is deeply integrated with our ability to balance our emotional space.  To them taste and emotion are deeply interwoven to such a degree that different tastes stimulate different emotions.  By manipulating the tastes we eat, we can adjust our deep emotional imbalances.

Triphala has all the primary tastes but is very high in bitterness.  Bitter slows down the momentum of our desires, and thus leads to a calmer emotional and mental space.  It leads to contentment instead of striving.  As people drink it, they taste the bitterness strongly and that narrowing tone can sometimes be rejected by the mind.  However, as our emotional space comes into deeper balance, the bitterness doesn’t jump out at us so strongly and the taste profile  becomes more pleasing.

Remember: The Ayurvedic medical system has been in use for thousands of years.  Their insights and methods may be different, but they have worked for millions of people.

To wrap up, here is a final way Triphala is used that exemplifies how wildly different our medical theories can be.   Triphala is often used to purify the tongue and the consciousness behind speech.  Thus Triphala is prescribed as a mouth scrub for all people trying to learn a second language.  Just wet your finger or your tooth brush and dust with powdered Triphala.  Gently brush the entire mouth including the sides of the cheeks, tongue, and gums.  The cleansing that happens helps to calm deep imbalances that can lead to dullness of speech, slowness of thought, and inflexibility of the tongue and mouth.  You can also use Triphala scrub to help stop yourself or your children from frequent cursing for the same reasons.

 

Triphala: a traditional herbal formula Pt. 1

Triphala means three fruits.  It is an herbal compound made from three different herbs.  The herbs are from the subcontinent of India where Triphala has been a staple herbal medicine for thousands of years.  As a combination remedy, it has properties that act strongly on our entire digestive system and it is gentle enough to be good for all body types.  Its properties make it broadly applicable and easily usable by a large percentage of the population.

So what does Triphala do?  It stimulates bile, cleanses the blood, gently lubricates the colon and it enhances peristalsis or the movement of material through the intestines.  These factors have the combined effect of enhancing our digestive and eliminatory capacities.  Triphala is often recommended as a part of weight loss programs.  By enhancing several detoxification functions throughout our body, it paves the way for the release of unnecessary weight.

Putting it into Eastern language, it balances all three of the governing tissues: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  These subtle tissues, when out of balance, overflow from their homes in the digestive system.  This ‘spilling out’ process pulls toxins out of the GI tract as well.  Once toxins are in the body, they build up and create health issues anywhere that they lodge.  Triphala is so highly recommended because it keeps our digestive system healthy; helping keep Vata, Pitta, and Kapha in their homes instead of spilling out into the body.  While the language is different between medical systems, the ideas are essentially the same.  Both systems say quite clearly that unhealthy guts are a significant way for bigger and nastier diseases to develop down the road.

Triphala commonly comes in two forms: tablets and powders.  We like the tablets in America much more than the powder because of Triphala’s taste.  However, it is traditionally served as a tea, where part of its medicinal power comes from tasting it.

CAUTION: Triphala packs intensely bitter and astringent tastes that take time to appreciate.  Prepare for it and don’t let it deter you.

Making Triphala Tea from powder is quite easy.  Start with either a teaspoon or a tablespoon of powder poured into a 12 or 8 oz coffee cup.   Fill it with near boiling water and let it steep.  Medicinal teas always steep longer then beverages, and while you can drink your tea after 20 minutes, in my personal practice I wait 8-12 hours.  By letting it sit a long time, the powder will settle to the bottom so you don’t need to mess with strainers.  When I need Triphala, I will drink two cups a day.  I make a cup after supper and let it sit covered on the counter to drink in the morning.  At breakfast, I will prepare my evening cup and leave it sit covered on the counter until then.

REMEMBER: Standard wellness theory has us looking for ways to halt the momentum of disease early.  Here is a great way to take the teeth out of disease early.

Balancing Against Extreme Cold

We have arrived at the top of the mountain.  And by mountain I mean crazy extreme cold weather.  This will, hopefuly, be the most extreme cold weather all year.  It is important to understand the implications that this peak weather has for our health.  The good news is that there is plenty we can do to minimize the stress that it puts us under.

According to ancient wisdom there are 10 pairs of opposing qualitys in our physical world.  The opposites of temperature, hot and cold, are the strongest to affect us.  Other qualities come with the extreme cold that we have been feeling, and bringing in their opposites can be greatly beneficial.  To help explain, think of what it would be like to stand on the top of a mountain.  Wild wind would be whipping across the landscape in gusts and swirls.  You could feel the cold and dry wind attempting to freeze, crack, and ravage your skin.  When we pay attention to the qualities of our winter weather, we find it to be full of dryness, roughness, mobility, lightness, sharpness, and coldness.  Those qualities are affecting us all.

To stay in balance, we want to be very conscious about bringing  the opposite qualities of those listed above into our lives.  An example would be dryness.  The more extreme the dryness outside, the more extreme we need to get in our efforts to drink more water and apply moisturizers to our skin and chapstick to our lips.  Pretty simple.  And so, we balance against the mobile wind with regularity and consistency in our daily schedule.  We balance against the rough, sharp and dry qualities of the air outside with things that are soft, smooth, and liquid.  We add warming activities and foods into our diet to combat the cold.   All of these practices have at their core the goal of minimizing the stresses that our environment is putting on us.

Remember: Stress can be defined as any change to homeostasis.  Think about the difference between our core body temp at 98.6 degrees and the current temperature outside?  The larger the difference, the larger the stress.  The same goes for all the above named qualities.

Practices:

Eat more soups.  Soup is hot, heavy, wet, and smooth.  Basically, you can’t do much better at finding a food with qualities so opposite of our weather.

Winter is also the time to add more acidic foods to your diet.  Acids are considered to be heating, and foods like nuts, beans, and meats all have warming qualities to them that are more appropriate in winter than in summer.

Moderate and regular exercise.  The key to this one is that regular exercise warms you, but extreme exercise stresses us.  So be consistent and be nice to yourself with 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a day to heat you up.   Also, exercise brings blood to the muscles and skin.  This helps the skin stay moist and healthy.

Stay home and read a book.  The more extreme the weather, the more extreme the stress.  So rest.  Turn off the stimulants and the motion in your life.  Curl up in a warm cave of blankets and hibernate a bit.

Strategies For Dealing With Uncontrollable Life Events

There are many things in this life that we have no control over.  Getting a firm grasp on what we can control and what we can not is a very important part of wellness.  Once we understand which things are within our power to adjust, then we can make much more powerful and intelligent choices.

Accepting that we don’t have control doesn’t have to be a scary or devastating.  Life can certainly throw massive curve balls at us, but there is always something that we do have control of.  In wellness practice, we like to talk about regular habits  that we can build into our daily life that rebuild balance.  But, if we break it down, there are two major strategy types for dealing with the uncontrollable aspects of life.  Understanding these two strategy types can help us as we get down into the particular details of our own wellness program.

The first category I call, “balancing against.”  These strategies all acknowledge a need to balance the scales.  If something is happening that we can’t control and it increases our stress levels, then we need to increase the amount of time we spend reducing that stress.  If we cannot control something that is pulling us to the left, then we need to put more things into our life that pull us to the right.

These practices have at their core the idea that you don’t want to move from where you are.  The intention is to stabilize, mitigate, and balance.  These practices can be as simple as putting a cooling cucumber into our water during hot summer days.  They can also be comprehensive programs to balance against a single stressful influence, such as a high pressure job.  Someone suffering from repetitive use injury from their job would want to use these strategies.  They want to stay in the job, but need to balance against the negative effects that it has on their bodies.

The second category I call, “using the current.”  These strategies focus on finding the best ways to utilize the energy that is in the present moment.  Instead of always opposing the uncontrolled aspects of our lives, it is often very practical to surrender to their power; allowing them to pull us along.  These strategies often require a little more flexibility of mind, but they can make mercury into gold pretty nicely.

These strategies often include a sense of motion.  Using the current may take you strongly forward into a new direction or speed up a time of transition.  They can be as simple as allowing your day to be flexible instead of rigid.  One example of this might occur when one of your children gets sick.  Instead of fighting to work from home, turn the day into a rest and recoup day for both of you.  If you trip and rip your pants, don’t get angry.  Go shopping!

Remember: Even if we can’t have direct control over our stressors, its good to know that we can choose to balance against their influence or use the power of their current to take us somewhere we do want to go.

What Is A Trigger Point

Pain is something we all deal with on a fairly regular basis. Today I wanted to discuss a very particular type of pain created by trigger points called referred pain. While it is very common, our lack of understanding how referred pain works causes many of us to suffer needlessly.

Trigger points are very specific muscle knots. There are two important things to know about them. The first is that they are almost always a chronically tight muscle that don’t release on their own. Secondly, we feel the pain they cause in another area of our body. This referred pain is confusing because we try to rub a painful area or put icy-hot on it, but the actual cause is in another area of our bodies altogether. Our efforts to solve our pain don’t work because we don’t realize that the pain we are feeling is referred from a trigger point somewhere else. These two issues are what make them difficult to manage unless you know about their potential.

Trigger points are chronically tight because they are caught up in a positive feedback loop. The conversation between the muscle and brain continues to enforce the need for the muscles to stay contracted. The loop continues to create a state of tightness that can last long after the initial strain that caused it is forgotten. In this way the bruise and inflammation from a fall can heal, but because of a faulty loop in our nervous system, we keep the knot in our muscles long after.

Researchers are still looking into exactly how and why pain is referred from a trigger point to another area of the body. The good news is that trigger points follow a fairly consistent referral pattern. Therapists trained in trigger point therapy have a pretty good road map to follow that leads them to know what specific trigger points can be causing the pain you feel. For example, we know that a trigger point in the front neck muscles can cause a headache that radiates up to the temples and crosses the forehead. There are also several trigger points in the abdomen can cause significant back pain along the sacrum and ribs.

So how do you get rid of a trigger point? The answer is that you have to break the positive feedback loop. In many cases, the feedback loop is the last remnant of an old injury and as soon as the loop is broken the pain can disappear like magic. I have had several clients have “miracle” cures from long term pains after a single session of massage. You break the loop by putting sensation into the trigger point in such a way that the body can reevaluate the communication between muscle and brain. Typically this is done with massage directly on the trigger point or through active slow stretching as from doing yoga.

Caution: Your stubborn pain may only be difficult because you didn’t realize it was referred pain. If you can’t find the trigger point yourself, ask a massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor for trigger point therapy.

Expectation

Expectation is the cause of great suffering.  The Packers final game this year was a great example of expectation and hopes dashed.  They SHOULD have won that game.  They dominated for 90% of it.  As we, packer nation, rolled into the fourth quarter we had every reason to expect a super bowl berth.  We could taste it, it was so close.

Dashed.

And while we could talk about the horrible statistic that says domestic violence rises proportionally to the intensity of dashed expectation of our team winning, this is not just a Packer issue.  It is a human emotional reaction that can be allowed to create suffering and drama in our lives whenever our expectations are not met.

What causes expectation to turn to anger and then to drama or even violence?  If we break it down, expectation is a desire.  By placing our desire into an external outcome we create drama because no matter how hard we try, we cannot truly control anything but ourselves.  The higher the intensity of our desire, the higher the negative or positive reaction we have when our expected results appear or disappear.  If we have no invested desires in an outcome, then we have no emotional reaction to any of the results, be they good, bad or ugly.

Anger is an emotion that basically says, “Get out of the way!  You are blocking me from achieving my desire.”  If our expectations are not met, then the flash of anger that comes from it sometimes explodes outward like a grenade.  Anything in the immediate area is going to get hit with that flash of anger as we process our reaction to dashed expectations.  Again, the higher our investment in the result, the higher the potential anger.

Once we understand and identify this process, we have an opportunity to work with it.  The first critical step in handling the negative effects of expectation is building self-awareness.  This includes awareness of our true expectations as well as the level of emotional investment we are projecting onto the results.

Second, the application of a philosophy called, “Releasing The Fruits” can be useful.  It calls for us to change the focus of our minds from gaining satisfaction in the results of our actions to gaining satisfaction in the process leading up to the results.  It is often said differently, “Happiness is not in the destination, but in the journey.”

So, instead of focusing all our satisfaction on making a big sale, we can gain satisfaction from dressing professionally, speaking clearly to the client, and answering their questions.  If we learn to find satisfaction in performing well, then the result of that sales call doesn’t have such a high impact.  The result doesn’t carry ALL of the weight in terms of emotional payoff.  The real gem of this practice is apparent when we understand that in its essence, we are attempting to move our satisfaction into the realm of things we can control instead of being at the whim of fate.

In the end, the intense drama that expectation can create is a form of stress that has deep and wide implications for our health and our relationships.

 

 

 

 

How To Begin Using Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy as a healing art attempts to distinguish itself from simple scent therapy with the use of the term ‘therapeutic grade.’  If your essential oils are not therapeutic grade essential oils, then they are probably synthetic or have been harshly extracted with excess heat or chemicals and have lost many of the healing plant compounds that make Aromatherapy such a robust healing art.  If it’s not therapeutic grade, then its just a smell.

Once you get on board with the idea that Aromatherapy might be helpful, the most frequent questions revolve around how to get started?  There are two ways I recommend to do this.

1)  Use essential oils to fix an existing issue in your life.

2)  Start with three to five broadly applicable essential oils.

Both ways allow you to begin with a small sampling of essential oils.  The following essential oils are where I recommend people to begin.

1) Lavender – Lavender is very safe and can be applied directly to the skin right on household burns and sun burns.  Its scent stimulates calm, reduces anxiety, and soothes anger.  Great to use in a diffuser to calm children before bedtime and on test days.

2) Lemon – Why are all of our cleaners scented with lemon or pine?  Not just because we like the smells, but because of their very potent anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties.  Use Lemon Essential Oil to boost the lemon flavor in drinks and cooking.  It also enhances circulation and cellular cleansing when diluted and massaged into the skin near cellulite or lymph nodes.

3) Peppermint – Has an interesting property of both calming and awakening the mind.  This bolsters mental focus for studying and at the office.  Dilute peppermint into some oil and massaging onto sore and painful muscles greatly increases blood flow and acts as a natural icy-hot.  Peppermint has long been regarded as a great stomach soother; it increases general digestion but also calms nausea.

4) Tea Tree – This oil has a very broad range of uses.  You can think of it as a supreme anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral oil.  It can be applied on areas of redness, bruises, and other areas to reduce the spread of infection in the body.  Used as a general sickness fighter, it is a great cleaning agent as well.

5 ) Eucalyptus – Most noted for its ability to increase blood flow in our respiratory system, this oil has great uses around cold and flu time when we need to breathe through all that mucus.  Eucalyptus has spot cleaning and several other beauty benefits as well as being a nice hand cleaner when combined with salts and oils for after tinkering around in the garage.

CAUTION: While some Essential Oils can be used internally, this practice has many more potential side effects and should be undertaken with caution, if at all.

REMEMBER: Aromatherapy can be a valuable healing modality.  There are, like everything, specific cautions and details that make it safe and effective.  Committing to a small investment of time and money can pay off handsomely in increased health.

A Bit About Stress

If you look through the top diseases that kill us in America, you will find one risk factor that most of them share.  You guessed it, stress.  I thought we might want to take a closer look at stress to get a handle on this risk factor that all of us have.

A very basic definition of stress is: Any change to homeostasis.   Homeostasis is our body’s ability to stay in equilibrium amidst a dynamic and complex set of conditions.  Stress is something that pulls us out of that equilibrium, a.k.a. our happy place.  When we get pushed out of our happy place, we need to spend resources and energy to pull ourselves back.  The greater the stress, the greater the cost in resources needed to pull us back.  The expense of maintaining our equilibrium builds up over time.  Large amounts of stress over large amounts of time deplete us in significant ways.

Caution:  If we define stress as any change to our equilibrium, we need to remove any prejudice from our use of the word.  Some stresses are very bad for us.  Some stresses are good for us.  That’s the whole point of going to the gym, to stress our muscles into growing bigger.   A wise person learns how to tell the difference between good and bad stress and how to use stress to grow in positive directions.

Remember: EVERY change to our homeostasis can be called stress.   Stress forces us to adapt, react, mobilize, or pull against its push.  It forces us to spend energy to get back to our happy place.

Experiment: This is a great 18 hour experiment you can undertake any Saturday night.  Get a bunch of friends together.  Eat lots.  Drink Lots.  Play late.  Sleep little.  When you wake up the next morning, witness the state of your body; pushed out of equilibrium by a variety of stressors.  Take notes all day as your body pulls you back into equilibrium.  Watch as it processes all the excess food and beverage chemicals in your body.  You can feel the bloating and lethargy pass over time.  As time passes you also gather energy and recover from little sleep and wild partying.  Eventually you can take off the sunglasses and feel decent when moving about the house.   After many hours you can function like a normal person again.

This is an experiment in stress and homeostasis.  Enjoy.

Crimes Against Wisdom

There is a pearl of wisdom that says, “Well over 90% of all our dis-ease comes from performing crimes against wisdom.”  What could a crime against wisdom be?  The answer is quite simple.  A crime against wisdom happens when you know you should not do something, but you do it anyway.  In other words it is not heeding our inner voice of wisdom, also called heart knowing or our gut reaction.

We say, “Gosh, I’m tired.  I should go to bed.”  We stay up anyway.

We say, “I’m full.  I should stop eating.”  We clean our plate anyway.

All of us fail to listen to our inner voice of wisdom at times.  Often, this is because our mind and our gut have different opinions about what to do.  Our mind wants to get its own way, so it argues like crazy.  Our mind creates excuses, talks us in circles, and often manipulates us with our own desires.  It does this in order to convince you to go ahead with what it, the mind, wants.  Our gut comes to conclusions a different way.  Our gut can’t argue the way our minds can.  Our gut’s voice doesn’t explain itself with rational thought or wordy explanations.  Our gut just knows.

The difference between the voice of the gut and the voice of the mind can be explained in short by saying that knowledge isn’t wisdom.  Our mind is a complicated thing.  It has great power, but its knowledge is limited.  Wisdom is deeper.  It is intuited.  Wisdom from the gut isn’t clouded by the opinions of the mind and is therefore very honest.  This is important when it comes to wellness.  Your gut says, “I’m full.”  Your mind says, “I must keep eating until everyone else is done, too.  I don’t want them to think I don’t like the food.”

Wellness Practice:  By making a conscious effort to listen to what your gut is saying, you will strengthen your connection to that level of internal wisdom.  Start simply with two food based practices.  The first opportunity to connect occurs when you choose to make a meal.  Stop, close your eyes and ask yourself what you want to eat.  Start listening to your responses and try to make the meal your gut is telling you it wants to eat.  The second opportunity happens as you end your meal.  Listen and watch.  When your body tells you it is full, do you stop eating?  What stories do you tell yourself that complicate the simple impulse of, “I’m full?”  What are the parts of the conversation that conflict with the voice telling you to stop?  Are you conscious about your end of meal habits?  Do you nibble and don’t know it?  Is the fork back in your hand?  Stay with these two awareness building practices.  Eventually you will learn more about yourself and hopefully be able to perform a few less crimes against wisdom each week.

Caution:  By continuously suppressing our internal voice of wisdom we end up constantly pushing the boundaries of our health.  By eating too much, we stress our system.  By neglecting rest and sleep, we stress our system.  We stress ourselves by little bits again, and again, and again.  What happens to a body after 30 years of extra little stresses again, and again, and again?

Remember:  All stress caused by crimes against wisdom is avoidable.   Train yourself to heed your internal voice of wisdom.