Stay Positive

"In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer." - Alert Camus

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Healthy Inspiration

"Listen to all, plucking a feather from every passing goose, but, follow no one absolutely."

Chinese Proverb

Possible mentors and teachers can be found everywhere and anywhere. Everyone has something they could teach you – a skill, a bit of wisdom, or a personal secret to success. 

 In the end, though, you still have to think for yourself. It’s still your job to take the knowledge you gain and turn it into your own value system for solid decision-making. 

No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the Path;
Buddhas only point the Way.


Friday, April 26, 2013


"Obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it."
- Michael Jordan

One of my favorite philosophical tenets is that people will agree with you only if they already agree with you. You do not change peoples minds.
- Frank Zappa


"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
- John Wooden

Life is a gift of the immortal Gods, but living well is the gift of philosophy
- Seneca

"He, who every morning plans the transactions of the day, and follows that plan carries a thread that will guide him through a labyrinth of the most busy life"
- Victor Hugo 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Stressful emotions create damaging hormones and toxins in the body.

Emotions play a huge role in your physical health.

Stressful emotions create damaging hormones and toxins in the body.

The adrenal glands, the body’s main “stress” glands, secrete hormones to help us deal with short-term stresses. However, in our modern times, many people live under constant stress. 

The body does not differentiate between life-threatening stresses, such as being chased by a bear, and our current stresses, such as job stress, relationship difficulties, or money worries. 

It is important that we learn mechanisms to release stress buildup and improve our abilities to cope with stress.

Research in a field of study known as psycho-neuro-immunology found that
every part of our immune system is linked to the brain. 

Researchers discovered that every thought, experience, and emotion sends messages to the immune system, either strengthening or impairing its functioning.

Emotions that boost the immune system: 

- happiness 

- optimism 

- joy

Pessimism and depression are linked to an increased risk of disease. 

Emotional or mental stress impairs the function of the digestive system, as well. That is why it is best not to eat when you are upset. Avoid eating while you are very stressed.

Research has proven that stress affects our hormones, which can be damaging to our health over the long term. 

Research also suggests that emotions can become stored at the cellular level. This could be part of the reason why we can become stuck in the traumas we endure. Other studies demonstrate that stress can cause blockages in our energy systems.
When all is said and done, stress is really a figment of our imaginations. 

Life is only as stressful as we choose to let it be.

What to do?


Shift your view to be one that is positive, and you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make along the way. A positive outlook makes a tremendous difference and can help you to totally transform your existing life into the life of your dreams.

If you don’t like something in your life, have the courage to be honest with yourself. This is more difficult than it seems sometimes. We often delude ourselves into accepting aspects of our life so we will not have to put in the effort to make changes. Honesty is an integral part of remaking your life into the life you would like to have.

While there may be plenty of social conditioning that affects us, we are the only ones who can choose to accept thoughts and ideas as part of our reality. 

You are the only thinker of your thoughts. Those thoughts will create your reality. 

If you don’t like the reality your thoughts are creating, change your thoughts.

You become what you think and feel.

“The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human can alter his life by altering his attitude.”
― William James


Emotional Detoxification
Published on August 2, 2012 by fitnfree in Fitness, This 'n That

Attacking Parkinsons' through exercise in the Boxing Gym

*M.S. shares many symptoms with Parkinsons', so there is no obvious reason why to not use gentle boxing exercises to improve fitness and possibly motor control.

After former Marion County Prosecutor, Scott C. Newman was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at the age of 41, he began an intensive, high-energy one-on-one boxing training program which he claims dramatically improved his agility, daily functioning and overall physical health.

In 2006, thanks to private donations, Newman founded Rock Steady Boxing, the only boxing program in the USA aimed at people with Parkinson's disease. He started off with a small gym and boxing ring.

Newman hired former world champion professional boxer Kristy Rose Follmar, who helped build up Rock Steady's program during its initial stages. Today she is head trainer at Rock Steady Boxing.

The unique high-intensity boxing program gradually became more popular as word-of-mouth recommendations spread. Newman says there is a program for all stages of Parkinson's - from newly diagnosed patients to people who have been living with the disease for decades. Male and female, young and old individuals can find a program that is suitable for their levels of fitness, age, and severity of symptoms.

Newman and team explain that boxing training offers Parkinson's patients targeted workouts as well as lots of fun. It is also a way of forming friendships with other people who really do understand what it is like to have to live with Parkinson's disease.

Boxing gloves
Rock Steady Boxing is a boxing program in the USA aimed at helping people with Parkinson's disease.

By 2010, Rock Steady had outgrown its premises and started looking for a larger facility. In February 2011, a boxing gym was opened in Indianapolis thanks to a $100,000 "Impact Grant" and a partnership with Peak Performance Fitness Center.

Thanks to the Impact 100 grant, Rock Steady was able to gradually increase the number of classes available. Doctors started referring patients early in their diagnosis to Rock Steady sessions as part of their regime to slow down Parkinson's progression.

Rock Steady has a simple message:

"If you are living with Parkinson's, you are not alone. Our boxers may not win titles or trophies, but they are all champions in the Rock Steady Boxing ring."

Trainers can learn the Rock Steady method at "Rock Steady Training Camp".

Newman's aim is to reach thousands of individuals with Parkinson's throughout the USA who need help with coordination, agility, balance, strength, daily functioning and overall physical health.

Attacking Parkinson's at its vulnerable neurological points

The training classes focus on attacking Parkinson's at its most vulnerable neurological points.

The classes (all non-contact) concentrate on overall fitness and include:
  • calisthenics
  • core work
  • double-ended bags
  • focus mitts
  • heavy bags
  • jump rope
  • ring work
  • speed bags
  • circuit weight training
What if I have no boxing experience? - the courses are aimed at people with Parkinson's of all ages, with or without boxing experience.

Is boxing better than physical therapy or going to exercise classes at my local fitness center? - Newman says that a number of studies carried out during the latter part of the last century showed that intensive exercise, focusing on gross motor movement, rhythm, core strength, balance, and hand-eye coordination can help improve flexibility, range of motion, gait, posture, and activities of daily living - all serious issues for patients with Parkinson's disease.

In February 2012, Daniel Corcos, a professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said "It became obvious several years ago that exercise really was good for people with Parkinson's disease. Not only is it good for the heart, the brain, and muscles in the same way it is for healthy people, it also modifies signs and symptoms of Parkinson's disease."

Jay L. Alberts, a neuroscientist at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute, and team found that hard and fast cycling on a stationary bike benefits people with Parkinson's disease. They presented their findings at the Radiological Society of North America 2012 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago. Alberts explained that cycling, especially at rates higher than what patients would normally choose for themselves, appeared to make regions of the brain involved in movement connect to each other more effectively.

Newman explains that the Rock Steady boxing regime stimulates and exercises the whole body and parts of the brain that improve the patient's hand-eye coordination, flexibility, agility, speed, power, strength, and endurance. Boxing training also improves balance.

Do participants need a doctor's recommendation to attend Rock Steady Boxing (RSB) classes? - Yes. Participants must have a physician's release. They are encouraged to always discuss any form of exercise they are doing within or outside RSB with their doctors. Patients with cardiac problems, especially, must clear their participation with their doctors.

Parkinson's Class

Scott Newman says that people at Rock Steady are learning, on a daily basis, that they can fight back at Parkinson's disease and improve their quality of life by building muscle strength, speed and flexibility.

Through exercise with trainers who have been taught the Rock Steady method, which is specifically aimed at people with Parkinson's, you "can fight your way out of the corner and start to feel and function better".

Boxing training moves the human body in all planes of motion, movements are unpredictable and routines are forever changing as you progress through the workout. It has been proven, Newman says, that his classes help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life and overall health.

There are four levels of Parkinson's Classes, each one based on the individuals' Parkinson's symptoms and general level of fitness. People wishing to enter a course need to complete a 90-minute assessment with a trained Rock Steady coach to determine which level suits them best. The assessments are free.

KrossBox Class

Newman refers to the KrossBox class as "fitness with a punch". They are high-intensity sessions that combine cardio and strength training. KrossBox Class is available to males and females aged 18+ years.

Participants train for a real fight (non-contact) and have to undergo a range of demanding activities to achieve total fitness.

Through KrossBox, participants build:
  • Cardio endurance
  • More lean muscle mass
  • Superior strength
  • Extra power
With the guidance of their trainers, participants go through real boxing workouts "without the stress of actually competing". There is the option of taking part in sparring sessions. Individuals have the benefit of one-on-one attention from trainers who are not concentrating on the fight, but rather its preparation. According to Newman "We'll get your body in shape by training you like a pro!"

Rock Steady Boxing - NBC Nightly News

Rock Steady Boxing Homepage

Written by Christian Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today

Ampyra and chronic motor deficits caused by Strokes

Acorda's MS Drug Ampyra Helps Stroke Patients Walk

Editor's Choice
Main Category: Stroke
Also Included In: Neurology / Neuroscience
Article Date: 15 Apr 2013 - 11:00 PDT

Current ratings for:

Acorda's MS Drug Ampyra Helps Stroke Patients Walk

An Acorda Therapeutics drug, Ampyra (dalfampridine), which helps people with multiple sclerosis walk, also helps stroke patients who cannot walk, the company announced.

In a proof-of- concept Phase II study, Ampyra (dalfampridine extended release 10mg tablets) significantly improved walking in patients with post-stroke deficits. 

Post-stroke deficits include impaired walking, motor and sensory function, as well as manual dexterity - collectively known as chronic neurological deficits. 

These deficits often persist in stroke victims.

Ron Cohen, M.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Acorda Therapeutic Incorporated, said:

"There were clear efficacy signals in the dalfampridine-ER post-stroke deficits trial and we therefore plan to proceed with a clinical development program for this indication. A top-line analysis of the data found dalfampridine-ER improved walking for people with mobility impairment resulting from ischemic stroke. Dalfampridine-ER treatment was also associated with a positive change versus placebo on a scale of functional independence in this study.

We are analyzing the data further to better understand the entirety of the results. After we complete the analysis, we plan to discuss the development program with the FDA.
There are more than seven million stroke survivors in the United States, and approximately half of them have some lasting mobility impairment.
There are no medications currently available for these patients, so new therapies are desperately needed."

Crossover trial

A crossover trial is when the patients spend some time on the drug that is being studied, and then switch over to placebo or another medication, participants receive each treatment in a random order. This was a crossover trial.

The trial involved 83 people who had had an ischemic stroke at least six months before enrollment. They all had chronic motor deficits.

The participants received dalfampridine-ER 10 mg for 14 days and then placebo for 14 days, or vice-versa.

The study's primary outcomes were to examine the medication's tolerability and safety, as well as exploring various measures of efficacy (effectiveness).

Ampyra (dalfampridine) - Key Safety Findings from Post-Stroke Deficits Trial

As far as safety is concerned, the findings in this trial were no different from previous ones used on MS (multiple sclerosis) patients, as well as post-marketing data.

The following adverse events were reported in this study:
  • dizziness - 10.4% dalfampridine-ER, 2.5% placebo
  • fatigue - 5.2% dalfampridine-ER, 3.7% placebo
  • insomnia - 5.2% dalfampridine-ER, 2.5% placebo
  • nausea - 3.9% dalfampridine-ER, 6.2% placebo
  • arthralgia (joint pain) - 2.6% dalfampridine-ER, 3.7% placebo
  • Seizure - one participant on dalfampridine-ER had a seizure, as did one on placebo (with no prior dalfampridine-ER exposure). Another patient had a seizure after intentional overdose of dalfampridine-ER (the study investigator judged this to be a suicide attempt after a family tragedy). All three made a full recovery.

Ampyra (dalfampridine) - Key Efficacy Findings from Post-Stroke Deficits Trial

Walking - participants' walking improvements were measured by doing a T25FW (Timed 25-Foot Walk). They found that walking speed among those on dalfampridine-ER was superior when compared to the patients on placebo.

Functional Independence Measurement - also known as FIM. The FIM scale rates a person's ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as eating, grooming, bathing and walking unaided. Patients on dalfampridine-ER had better FIM scores compared to those on placebo.

Acorda says the researchers are currently measuring other efficacy characteristics.

Cohen said that the results would need to be confirmed in a much larger study, something Acorda says it has to discuss with the FDA. Experts say that Ampyra's usage for stroke patients is likely to be several years away.

Ampyra (dalfampridine) Cerebral Palsy Study Update

In a separate proof-of-concept study, involving 24 patients with cerebral palsy, dalfampridine-ER 10 mg was compared with placebo.

Acorda informs that safety findings were similar to those reported from previous clinical trials and post-marketing experience of Ampyra in multiple sclerosis.

Dalfampridine-ER 10 mg showed promise for improving walking and hand strength in patients with cerebral palsy. However, the company emphasized that the data are currently being analyzed to determine whether they are robust enough to warrant further trials.

Ampyra is approved by the US FDA for improvement in walking among patients with multiple sclerosis

MS patients with walking problems were shown to walk faster when on Ampyra

The company added that "the findings in post-stroke deficits and CP do not impact Ampyra's proven safety and efficacy profile in people with MS."

Visit  stroke section for the latest news on this subject. 

Walking Reduces Heart Risk As Much As Running

Brisk walking can reduce a person's risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol just as much as running can.

The finding came from a new study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology which examined 33,060 runners in the National Runners' Health Study and 15,045 walkers in the National Walkers' Health Study.

During the six-year study period, the investigators discovered that the same energy used for moderate intensity walking and vigorous intensity running lead to comparable reductions in the likelihood for diabetes, high blood pressure, and potentially coronary heart disease.

Paul T. Williams, Ph.D., leading author and staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Life Science Division in Berkeley, Calif., said:

"Walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits of moderate-intensity walking and vigorous-intensity running because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities."

Walking and running expenditure was evaluated by distance, unlike previous research, which used time. The volunteers were given questionnaires in order to provide their activity data.

"The more the runners ran and the walkers walked, the better off they were regarding health benefits. If the amount of energy expended was the same between the two groups, then the health benefits were comparable," Williams explained.

The experts compared energy expenditure to self-reported, doctor-diagnosed incident hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, and coronary heart disease.

Results showed:
  • The risk for first-time hypertension was notably reduced 4.2% by running and 7.2% by walking.
  • The risk for first-time high cholesterol was reduced 4.3% by running and 7% by walking.
  • The risk for first-time diabetes was lowered 12.1% by running and 12.3% by walking.
  • The risk for coronary heart disease was lowered 4.5% by running and 9.3% by walking.
Williams revealed:
"Walking may be a more sustainable activity for some people when compared to running, however, those who choose running end up exercising twice as much as those that choose walking. This is probably because they can do twice as much in an hour."
Subjects were between 18 and 80 years old, the majority were in their 40s and 50s. Twenty-one percent of the walkers and 51.4% of the runners were male.

A study from 2012 indicated that regular exercise in middle age protects the heart.

"People are always looking for an excuse not to exercise, but now they have a straightforward choice to run or to walk and invest in their future health," Williams said.

A report from earlier this year found that the best way to save energy and maintain endurance is to alternate between walking and running.

Written by Sarah Glynn

Walking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction
Paul T. Williams, Paul D. Thompson
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology April 2013; doi: 10.1161/​ATVBAHA.112.300878

Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

Glynn, Sarah. "Walking Reduces Heart Risk As Much As Running." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 5 Apr. 2013. Web.
16 Apr. 2013.

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Please note: If no author information is provided, the source is cited instead.




Give Thanks

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in ink.”

- (C.K. Chesterton)



1- Study less, more.

2-get organized.  What comes first, Priorities or vision?

3-remember space is the new luxury; minimalism 

4-keep it simple 

5-set smart goals: specific,measurable,achievable,relevant,time-bound

6 - practice and repetition  Remember to seek progress over perfection and seek to do a little every day to achieve your goals.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.
- Proverb

He who is not contented with what he has will not be contended with what he doesn't have.  
- Socrates

It takes a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.
- Alfred North Whitehead

"You can't cross a sea by merely staring into the water."
- Rabindranath Tagore 

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
- Albert Einstein

“To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”
- Albert Einstein

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will”
- Vince Lombardi

“Liberty can not be preserved without a general knowledge among the people”
- John Adams

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance -- it is the illusion of knowledge”
- Daniel J. Boorstin

American King James Version
For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increases knowledge increases sorrow.
- Ecclesiastes 1:18

“Three passions simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life; the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind”
- Bertrand Russell

“There is no knowledge that is not power”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful”
- Samuel Johnson

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”
- Albert Einstein

“The only source of knowledge is experience”
- Albert Einstein

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge”
- Albert Einstein

“A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle”
- Khalil Gibran

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information”
- T. S. Eliot

“What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child”
- George Bernard Shaw

“The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance”
- Socrates

“Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life”
- Emmanuel Kant

“A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers”
- Plato

“Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness”
- George Santayana

“All the knowledge I possess everyone else can acquire, but my heart is all my own”
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education”
- Theodore Roosevelt

“Knowledge is a treasure, but practice is the key to it”
- Thomas Fuller M.D.

“When you know a thing, to hold that you know it; and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it--this is knowledge”
- Confucius

“A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”
- James Madison

“The great end of life is not knowledge but action”
- Thomas Henry Huxley

“If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest”
- Benjamin Franklin

“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers”
- Alfred Tennyson

“It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen”  - Proverb

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man”
- Albert Einstein

Large servings make us eat more.

Serving Size Is What Drives How Much We Eat More Than Anything Else

Editor's Choice
Academic Journal
Main Category: Obesity / Weight Loss / Fitness
Also Included In: Nutrition / Diet
Article Date: 21 Apr 2013

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Serving Size Is What Drives How Much We Eat More Than Anything Else


Large servings make us eat more, even when we are are taught about the impact of portion size on consumption, according to investigators from the University of New South Wales, Australia.

People who learned how to engage in mindful - instead of mindless - eating still ate much more food than those given smaller servings with no orientation regarding mindful eating.

The researchers explained in the Journal of Health Psychology that we need to find new ways to reduce the impact of portion size on overeating.

Author, Dr. Lenny Vartanian, a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Psychology and an author of the paper, said:
If no effective approaches are found, it may be necessary to develop policy-related changes to provide a healthier food environment for people."

Most experts believe that portion sizes at home and in restaurants, which have increased considerably over the last 40 years, have contributed to the obesity explosion.

Dr Vartanian said "Studies have consistently shown that increases in portion sizes for a wide range of foods and beverages result in increased energy intake. And the impact is not affected by factors such as hunger or the taste of the food."

The authors say that their study, which involved 96 women, is the first to examine the effectiveness of educating people about this phenomenon. The women were randomly selected to be served one of two portion sizes of macaroni with tomato sauce for lunch:
  • Large portion - 600 grams
  • Smaller portion - 350 grams
Half the women in either group were placed in a "mindfulness group", they were given a brochure about how external factors, including portion size, social and cultural influences, advertising, and mood can contribute to overeating. They were then asked to write about how such factors affected their food consumption in the past.

The participants in the mindfulness group were taught how to concentrate on the internal sensations, such as the feelings of hunger and satiety, as well as the taste of food, before being given their pasta meal.

Dr Vartanian said:

"Neither of these brief exercises reduced the effects of portion size. Overall, participants in the larger portion group consumed about a third more pasta - 69 grams - than those in the smaller portion group."

The participants in the large portion group consumed 87 more calories than the ones in the smaller portion group.

In March 2012, Dutch researchers explained in the journal Flavour that strong aromas lead to smaller bite sizes, and might also help control portion size.

Written by Christian Nordqvist

Visit obesity / weight loss / fitness section for the latest news on this subject.


*Note:  With multiple sclerosis in its advanced stages, exercise becomes difficult.  This means that to maintain a healthy body weight, it comes down to careful management of the calories you consume.  My solution has been to follow some of the ideas of Dr. Dean Ornish, like eating  a  primarily vegetarian diet that is low in animal fats.

Monk Meditation Study: Compassion

 Brain Scans
 A brain scan of a monk actively extending compassion shows activity in the striatum, an area of the brain associated with reward processing. Photo: SPAN Lab, Stanford University / SF

 A brain scan of a monk actively extending compassion shows activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with reward processing. Photo: SPAN Lab, Stanford University / SF

 A brain scan of a monk actively extending compassion shows activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with reward processing. Photo: SPAN Lab, Stanford University / SF

Stanford studies monks' meditation, compassion

Updated 12:02 p.m., Sunday, July 8, 2012

Stanford neuroeconomist Brian Knutson is an expert in the pleasure center of the brain that works in tandem with our financial decisions - the biology behind why we bypass the kitchen coffeemaker to buy the $4 Starbucks coffee every day.

He can hook you up to a brain scanner, take you on a simulated shopping spree and tell by looking at your nucleus accumbens - an area deep inside your brain associated with fight, flight, eating and fornicating - how you process risk and reward, whether you're a spendthrift or a tightwad.

So when his colleagues saw him putting Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns into the MRI machine in the basement of the Stanford psychology building, he drew a few double-takes.

Knutson is still interested in the nucleus accumbens, which receives a dopamine hit when a person anticipates something pleasant, like winning at blackjack.

Only now he wants to know if the same area of the brain can light up for altruistic reasons. 

Can extending compassion to another person look the same in the brain as anticipating something good for oneself? 

And who better to test than Tibetan monks, who have spent their lives pursuing a state of selfless nonattachment?

Meditation science

The "monk study" at Stanford is part of an emerging field of meditation science that has taken off in the last decade with advancements in brain image technology, and popular interest.

"There are many neuroscientists out there looking at mindfulness, but not a lot who are studying compassion," Knutson said. "The Buddhist view of the world can provide some potentially interesting information about the subcortical reward circuits involved in motivation."

By looking at expert meditators, neuroscientists hope to get a better picture of what compassion looks like in the brain

1. Does a monk's brain behave differently than another person's brain when the two are both extending compassion?

2. Is selflessness innate, or can it be learned?

Possible Therapeutic Uses?

Looking to the future, neuroscientists wonder whether compassion can be neurologically isolated, if one day it could be harnessed to help people overcome depression, to settle children with hyperactivity, or even to rewire a psychopath.

"Right now we're trying to first develop the measurement of compassion, so then one day we can develop the science around it," Knutson said.

Stress reduction

Thirty years ago, medical Professor Jon Kabat-Zinn used meditation as the basis for his revolutionary "Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program." 

He put people with chronic pain and depression through a six-week meditation practice in the basement of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and became one of the first practitioners to record meditation-related health improvements in patients with intractable pain. His stress-reduction techniques are now used in hospitals, clinics and by HMOs.

"In the last 25 years there's been a tidal shift in the field, and
now there are 300 scientific papers on mindfulness," said Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director for the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

People who meditate show more left-brain hemisphere dominance, according to meditation studies done at the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Essentially when you spend a lot of time meditating, the brain shows a pattern of feeling safe in the world and more comfortable in approaching people and situations, and less vigilant and afraid, which is more associated with the right hemisphere," she said.

Effect on aging

The most comprehensive scientific study of meditation, the Shamatha Project led by scientists at UC Davis, indicates meditation leads to improved perception and may even have some effect on cellular aging.

Volunteers who spent an average of 500 hours in focused-attention meditation during a three-month retreat in 2007 were better than the control group at detecting slight differences in the length of lines flashed on a screen.
When researchers compared blood samples between the two groups, they found the retreat population had 30 percent more telomerase - the enzyme in cells that repairs the shortening of chromosomes that occurs throughout life. 

This could have implications for the tiny protective caps on the ends of DNA known as telomeres, which have been linked to longevity.

"This does not mean that if you meditate, you're going to live longer," said Clifford Saron, a research neuroscientist leading the study at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.

"It's an empirical question at this point, but it's remarkable that a sense of purpose in life, a belief that your goals and values are coming more into alignment with your past and projected future is likely affecting something at the level of your molecular biology," Saron said.

Knutson's monk study at Stanford is in its early stages. He has some data collected from Stanford undergrads to use as part of the control group, but he still needs more novice meditators and monks to go into the MRI machine. It's an expensive proposition. Subjects are in the machine for eight to 12 hours a day, for three days, at $500 an hour.

Knutson's study is funded by Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, which was started with a sizable donation of seed money from the Dalai Lama after his 2005 campus visit to discuss fostering scientific study of human emotion.

Knutson and his team asked the monks and nuns to lie down in the MRI scanner and look at a series of human faces projected above their eyes. He asked them to withhold emotion and look at some of the faces neutrally, and for others, to look and show compassion by feeling their suffering.

Next he flashed a series of abstract paintings and asked his subjects to rate how much they liked the art. What the monks and nuns didn't know was that Knutson was also flashing subliminal photos of the same faces before the pictures of the art.

"Reliably they like the art more if the faces they showed compassion to came before it," Knutson said, "Which leads to a hypothesis that there is some sort of compassion carryover happening."

Extending compassion

Next Knutson asked the Buddhists to practice a style of meditation called "tonglen," in which the person extends compassion outward from their inner circle, first to their parent, then to a good friend, then to a stranger and last to all sentient beings. 

He wants to see whether brain activity changes depending on different types of compassion.

"There's a concern that scientists might be 'trying to prove meditation,' but we are scientists trying to understand the brain," said Matthew Sacchet, a neuroscience doctoral student at Stanford working with Knutson.

"The research has important possibilities for medicine, and also it could get rid of some of the fuzz and help make meditation more empirically grounded," he said.

"If there is some kind of underlying structure to be understood scientifically, it could make things more clear for everyone.

Meredith May is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail:

Stanford studies monks' meditation, compassion - SFGate


Albert Einstein prescribes compassion for all living creatures and the whole of nature

A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest -- a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

- Albert Einstein

Friday, April 19, 2013

Quotes: Make a Plan

1. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” - Yogi Berra

2. “Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.” – Viktor Frankl

3. “To reach a port, we must sail—Sail, not tie at anchor—Sail, not drift.” - Franklin Roosevelt

4. “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.” - David Ogilvy

5. “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” - Abraham Lincoln

6. “Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.” - Helmut Schmidt

7. “Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive.” – Bill Copeland

8.”Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” - Vincent van Gogh

9. “The most important thing about goals is having one.” - Geoffry F. Abert

10. “You can’t reach your goals without occasionally taking some long shots.”- Unknown

11. “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” - Mario Andretti

12. “The reason so few people are successful is no one has yet found a way for someone to sit down and slide uphill.” - W. Clement Stone

13. “Please understand my friend, that where you find yourself tomorrow is a function of the positive decisions and actions you take today.”- Akin A. Awolaja

14. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

15. “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” - Jim Rohn

16. “By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands — your own.” – Mark Victor Hansen

17. “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” – Aristotle

18. “Crystallize your goals. Make a plan for achieving them and set yourself a deadline. Then, with supreme confidence, determination and disregard for obstacles and other people’s criticisms, carry out your plan.” – Paul Meyer

19. “The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

20. “The unfortunate aspect about living life without your own goals is that you may very well reach a point in your life where you will wonder, ‘what would have happened if I had only done…’” - Catherine Pulsifer



Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Meditate Twice a Day - It is good for you and it's Free!

 *Meditation is an always-available gift of replenishment that we can give to ourselves anytime during our harried work schedule.

Researchers are exploring the benefits of meditation on everything from heart disease to obesity. Sumathi Reddy and Dr. Aditi Nerurkar join Lunch Break.

Doctor's Orders: 20 Minutes Of Meditation Twice a Day

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, doctor's orders can include an unlikely prescription:

"I recommend five minutes, twice a day, and then gradually increase," said Aditi Nerurkar, a primary-care doctor and assistant medical director of the Cheng & Tsui Center for Integrative Care, which offers alternative medical treatment at the Harvard Medical School-affiliated hospital. "It's basically the same way I prescribe medicine. I don't start you on a high dose right away." She recommends that patients eventually work up to about 20 minutes of meditating, twice a day, for conditions including insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome.

Integrative medicine programs including meditation are increasingly showing up at hospitals and clinics across the country. Recent research has found that meditation can lower blood pressure and help patients with chronic illness cope with pain and depression.  

In a study published last year, meditation sharply reduced the risk of heart attack or stroke among a group of African-Americans with heart disease.

At Beth Israel Deaconess, meditation and other mind-body therapies are slowly being worked into the primary-care setting.
The program began offering some services over the past six months and hopes eventually to have group meditation classes, said Dr. Nerurkar.

Health experts say meditation shouldn't be used to replace traditional medical therapies, but rather to complement them. While it is clear that "when you breathe in a very slow, conscious way it temporarily lowers your blood pressure," such techniques shouldn't be used to substitute for medications to manage high blood pressure and other serious conditions, said Josephine Briggs, director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health. In general, she said, meditation can be useful for symptom management, not to cure or treat disease.
Dr. Briggs said the agency is funding a number of studies looking at meditation and breathing techniques and their effect on numerous conditions, including hot flashes that occur during menopause. If meditation is found to be beneficial, it could help women avoid using hormone treatments, which can have detrimental side effects, she said.

The most common type of meditation recommended by doctors and used in hospital programs is called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which was devised at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.  
Dr. Nerurkar said she doesn't send patients to a class for training. Instead, she and other physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess will demonstrate the technique in the office. "Really it's just sitting in a quiet posture that's comfortable, closing your eyes and watching your breath," she said.
Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., says it isn't clearly understood how meditation works on the body. 

Some forms of meditation have been found to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which stimulates the body's relaxation response, improves blood supply, slows down heart rate and breathing and increases digestive activity, he said. It also slows down the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol.

Dr. Doraiswamy says he recommends meditation for people with depression, panic or anxiety disorders, ongoing stress, or for general health maintenance of brain alertness and cardiovascular health.

Thousands of studies have been published that look at meditation, Dr. Doraiswamy said. Of these, about 500 have been clinical trials testing meditation for various ailments, but only about 40 trials have been long-term studies. 

It isn't known whether there is an optimal amount of time for meditating that is most effective. And, it hasn't been conclusively shown that the practice causes people to live longer or prevents them from getting certain chronic diseases.

Some short-term studies have found meditation can improve cognitive abilities such as attention and memory, said Dr. Doraiswamy. 

Using imaging, scientists have shown that meditation can improve the functional performance of specific circuits in the brain and may reduce age-related shrinkage of several brain centers, particularly those that may be vulnerable in disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

Recent research found that meditation can result in molecular changes affecting the length of telomeres, a protective covering at the end of chromosomes that gets shorter as people age. 

The study involved 40 family caregivers of dementia patients. Half of the participants meditated briefly on a daily basis and the other half listened to relaxing music for 12 minutes a day. 

The eight-week study found that people who meditated showed a 43% improvement in telomerase activity, an enzyme that regulates telomere length, compared with a 3.7% gain in the group listening to music. 

The participants meditating also showed improved mental and cognitive functioning and lower levels of depression compared with the control group. The pilot study was published in January in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Government-funded research also is exploring meditation's effect on dieting and depression.

Write to Sumathi Reddy at

A version of this article appeared April 16, 2013, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Doctor's Orders: 20 Minutes Of Meditation Twice a Day.

More About the Mind and Body
Rewiring the Brain to Ease Pain 11/15/2011
Anxiety Can Bring Out the Best 6/18/2012

Source: /article/SB10001424127887324345804578424863782143682.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_lifestyle

New Technique Holds Promise For The Treatment Of Multiple Sclerosis And Cerebral Palsy


Main Category: Multiple Sclerosis

Also Included In: Neurology / Neuroscience; Stem Cell Research

Article Date: 15 Apr 2013 - 2:00 PDT

New Technique Holds Promise For The Treatment Of Multiple Sclerosis And Cerebral Palsy

15 Apr 2013   

Researchers at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine have discovered a technique that directly converts skin cells to the type of brain cells destroyed in patients with multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and other so-called myelin disorders.

This discovery appears in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

This breakthrough now enables "on demand" production of myelinating cells, which provide a vital sheath of insulation that protects neurons and enables the delivery of brain impulses to the rest of the body.
In patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), cerebral palsy (CP), and rare genetic disorders called leukodystrophies, myelinating cells are destroyed and cannot be replaced.

The new technique involves directly converting fibroblasts - an abundant structural cell present in the skin and most organs - into oligodendrocytes, the type of cell responsible for myelinating the neurons of the brain.

"Its 'cellular alchemy,'" explained Paul Tesar, PhD, assistant professor of genetics and genome sciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and senior author of the study. "We are taking a readily accessible and abundant cell and completely switching its identity to become a highly valuable cell for therapy."
In a process termed "cellular reprogramming," researchers manipulated the levels of three naturally occurring proteins to induce fibroblast cells to become precursors to oligodendrocytes (called oligodendrocyte progenitor cells, or OPCs). Tesar's team, led by Case Western Reserve researchers and co-first authors Fadi Najm and Angela Lager, rapidly generated billions of these induced OPCs (called iOPCs). 
Even more important, they showed that iOPCs could regenerate new myelin coatings around nerves after being transplanted to mice - a result that offers hope the technique might be used to treat human myelin disorders.
When oligodendrocytes are damaged or become dysfunctional in myelinating diseases, the insulating myelin coating that normally coats nerves is lost. A cure requires the myelin coating to be regenerated by replacement oligodendrocytes.
Until now, OPCs and oligodendrocytes could only be obtained from fetal tissue or pluripotent stem cells. These techniques have been valuable, but with limitations.

"The myelin repair field has been hampered by an inability to rapidly generate safe and effective sources of functional oligodendrocytes,"
explained co-author and myelin expert Robert Miller, PhD, professor of neurosciences at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine and the university's vice president for research. 
"The new technique may overcome all of these issues by providing a rapid and streamlined way to directly generate functional myelin producing cells."
This initial study used mouse cells. The critical next step is to demonstrate feasibility and safety using human cells in a lab setting. If successful, the technique could have widespread therapeutic application to human myelin disorders.
"The progression of stem cell biology is providing opportunities for clinical translation that a decade ago would not have been possible,"
said Stanton Gerson, MD, professor of Medicine-Hematology/Oncology at the School of Medicine and director of the National Center for Regenerative Medicine and the UH Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center. "It is a real breakthrough." 

"It is a real breakthrough."

Additional co-authors of the publication include Case Western Reserve School of Medicine researchers Anita Zaremba, Krysta Wyatt, Andrew Caprariello, Daniel Factor, Robert Karl, and Tadao Maeda.
The research was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health, the New York Stem Cell Foundation, the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Case Western Reserve University

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Depression is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO)

Depression is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as follows:
Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.
Depression can be long-lasting or recurrent, substantially impairing an individual’s ability to function at work or school or cope with daily life. At its most severe, depression can lead to suicide. When mild, people can be treated without medicines but when depression is moderate or severe they may need medication and professional talking treatments.
Depression is a disorder that can be reliably diagnosed and treated by non-specialists as part of primary health care. Specialist care is needed for a small proportion of individuals with complicated depression or those who do not respond to first-line treatments.
If you suspect that you are suffering from depression, please reach out for help as soon as possible.

Should you feel uncomfortable talking to your family members or to your friends, there are other ways to get assistance.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Stephen Hawking