November 30, 2012

Seven Exercises to Prevent Memory Loss

I know: lists you find on the internet are often pretty stupid.

This time, I came across a list on AgingCare.com, a site for people taking care of their aging parents. It was part of an article titled "Prevent Memory Loss: Exercise Your Brain to Keep Your Mind Active." The list was created by Sue Maxwell, who heads the Lee Memory Care Clinic, in Ft. Myers, Florida. The facility provides evaluation, treatment, family counseling, and community outreach for people affected by memory loss. There are even one or two ideas here that I might try.

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It is very important to keep your brain active. Here are some simple exercises that take a few minutes out of your day and help prevent memory loss.
  • The obvious one: play games. Any board game is OK such as Clue, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, Monopoly, Pictionary to name a few. Card games are also very important. Or, computer games. It is important to have your brain do new things and not just do the same thing over and over like playing Bridge, or crossword puzzles. Most importantly, have fun while exercising the brain.
  • Switch it up. Here is a fun way, but challenging way to exercise the brain: If you wear your watch on the right hand, switch it to the left. Every week change your watch from wrist to wrist. Teach the brain to look at everyday things differently. Even think about a different way to drive to church, grocery store and work—get out of the ho-hum of doing the same thing the same way every day. Stop being a creature of habit. This one is guaranteed results!
  • Switch sides. Try this one: If you are right-handed, try writing with your left and vice a versa. Shave with your other hand or blow dry your hair with the non-dominant hand and see what has to happen for the brain to complete this exercise. Change hands with the phone. If you always talk on the phone with the same ear, then try the other one. The brain hears differently in each ear.
  • Go back in time. Pick an activity that you used to do in the past like playing jacks, shooting pool or maybe even jump rope or hula hoop. Don't be surprised if you need some extra practice. Most of all have fun and keep with the new activity until your skills return.
  • Learn a new activity. How about line dancing? It requires you to remember the steps – which takes mind-body-coordination and its fun. Any type of dancing accomplishes the same memory goal: learn and remember new steps, body positions and techniques. Other new endeavors: golf, chess, or take an adult education class at the local community college.
  • Practice active listening. Sit in the living room while watching TV and close your eyes. Use all the senses to understand the world around you. After the program has concluded, then go back in your mind and state how you felt and repeat what your heard. Paying attention without any other interruptions is very important — try not to multi-task.
  • Be good to yourself. Eat healthy foods... add nuts, berries and fish rich in omega-3 oils. Try drinking green tea in the afternoon for a boost. Give up those snacks rich in carbs and fats. In addition, walking is one of the best forms of exercise and doesn't cost one penny. So get off the coach and dust off those sneakers and head out for a brisk walk.
You will be amazed at how simple it is to exercise your brain and stimulate neurons and dendrites on the opposite side of your brain.

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November 29, 2012

Mercola: NIH in Bed with Big Pharma?

Yesterday I wrote about the dangers of conflicting interests – profits v. truth – when Big Pharma conducts drug studies.

Implicit in my post was the notion that studies conducted by non-profit or government entities – particularly NIH, the second biggest study funder after Big Pharma – would be fairer, more reliable, less driven by return-on-investment, more committed to public welfare.

Today, none other than Dr. Joe Mercola – the guy I’ve lampooned for hawking coconut oil on his website for $65 a gallon as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease – asks us to think twice about the reliability of all drug studies, including NIH’s. Even at our government’s most prestigious research facility, Merocla suggests today on his website (Merocla.com), there’s the taint of industry collusion, all driven by greed.

Perhaps there are important issues to consider in Mercola’s warning, even if it is painful to think that NIH is really in bed with Big Pharma.

Mercola wraps up his alert with these comments, which sound like the voice of reason itself:

November 28, 2012

The Tale of Avandia and Big Pharma: Why Critical Skepticism Matters as We Review Drug Studies

The front page of Sunday’s The Washington Post featured an article by Peter Whoriskey titled “As drug industry’s influence over research grows, so does the potential for bias.”

In a nutshell, the writer tells the story of how in 2006 Big Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) managed to land a glowing 17-page report about their diabetes blockbuster Avandia in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), even though:
  • there was apparently clear evidence linking Avandia to increased risk of heart attack and death, 
  • the drug trial had been funded by GSK, 
  • all 11 authors of the report received money from GSK. 
Four years later, in 2010, Avandia had disappeared from American drugstores. An FDA scientist estimated that while doctors in this country prescribed Avandia – propelled by laudatory reports like NEJM’s – 83,000 people using the drug suffered heart attacks or died.

A Washington Post review found that the NEJM published 73 articles about new drugs between August 2011 and August 2012. Here’s how Whoriskey characterized the literature over those 12 months:
Of those articles, 60 were funded by a pharmaceutical company, 50 were co-written by drug company employees and 37 had a lead author, typically an academic, who had previously accepted outside compensation from the sponsoring drug company in the form of consultant pay, grants or speaker fees.
My sense of smell is non-existent these days, but even I get a whiff of something unsavory here. Is Big Pharma’s drive for profit superceding public welfare?

November 27, 2012

Loene Trubkin on the Death of Our Pal, Hugh Yarrington




Hugh Yarrington
1942 - 2012

My friend Loene Trubkin has been battling cancer for years, amazing her friends with her good spirits. Then, several months ago -- perhaps encouraged by her writing class -- Loene unleashed her anger in a remarkable poem titled "Karma." I was so impressed, I asked Loene if I could post it on my blog, and she agreed.

Knowing that she and a mutual friend of ours -- Hugh Yarrington -- had exchanged many emails about their personal struggles with the disease, I asked Hugh to write an introduction to Loene's poem. Hugh's intro and Loene's poem are here: http://bit.ly/JxucJp.

Our friend Hugh died last Tuesday morning. I asked Loene if she'd write a remembrance. Again, she agreed. 

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My friend Hugh died this week.

After working together in the 1980s and early 90s, Hugh and I lost touch. Fifteen months ago, he contacted me. He had just been diagnosed with a high-risk form of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood plasma. He was reaching out for information and support, and he knew I had been in treatment for several years. Over the next months, we exchanged dozens of emails.

I have known many cancer patients, most of them courageous fighters, resilient in the face of unpleasant news and worse side-effects. But Hugh was sui generis. He couldn’t help being fascinated by and studying the science even as he was suffering the torment, to a budding chef, of all food tasting like “Adriamycin mush.” He loved the steroids that most patients hate, because they gave him wide-awake nights to read math and physics. As soon as a chemo round finished, he was outside, walking, slowly at first, to regain his strength while plotting the day he could return to the golf course, carrying his own clubs. Even though he knew his outlook was grim, he decided his attitude would be to “piss on this disease,” even if it meant he was “just ginning up as much courage as I can because I’m scared.” 


November 26, 2012

Online Pharmacies: Caveat Emptor!

On Black Friday, I wrote about the hidden costs for prescription drugs.

Today, Cyber Monday, I’m sharing some information about buying drugs via online pharmacies (OPs)… and why that practice carries risks. My source is the September, 2012 edition of Consumer Reports’ “onHealth” bulletin.

My interest in OPs (especially those in Canada) isn’t new. Who wouldn’t want to get the best price for a product he needs? Enter “online pharmacies” into the search bar (off to the right, below) if you want to check earlier posts.

CR doesn’t pull any punches here. It offers three compelling reasons why buying drugs this way isn’t a good idea:

November 23, 2012

Hidden Drug Costs

So what if this is Black Friday and I'm supposed to be following the masses to the malls.  I hate shopping in general and shopping malls in particular.  Thank God for Amazon one-click!

Rather than go out and spend money, I'll be a contrarian and talk about  possible ways of saving money on prescription drugs.

We know about costs hidden in the products we buy. Without giving it much thought when we purchase something, we’re also paying for packaging, for research and development, for marketing, for transportation, for employee salaries and benefits, for building maintenance… the list goes on.

The same issue -- hidden costs -- applies to the drugs we buy, as a recent article in Consumer Reports’ “onHealth” bulletin reminded me. In this case, though, it helps to know exactly where those hidden costs lie, because we might actually be able to do something about them.

November 22, 2012

Celebrating Thanksgiving with "Generation Alzheimer's"

There’s much I can be grateful for this Thanksgiving:
  • a family that’s healthy, busy, and close by, 
  • many wonderful friends of all ages, 
  • a house I love, and
  • generally good health… in spite of Parkinson’s prostate cancer, and a nagging back. 
I’m also excited to be taking my extended family -- including great grandchildren! -- to Iceland on Saturday for a week of adventures. Among other things, we hope to see the Northern Lights. The moon will be a bit past new, and if the weather is clear – and solar activity cooperates – we might be in luck.

.I also will be remembering a dear friend who died on Tuesday after a valiant battle with myeloma and I'll be thankful for the talks we've had during the past year that deepened and enriched our friendship,

When I saw this article  on CNN’s Health page, I realized – again – how many blessings I can count this holiday. It’s title: Celebrating Thanksgiving with “Generation Alzheimer’s."

If you’re like me, the article might sharpen your gratitude, too. If you’ll be sitting down for turkey with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s -- as millions of American families will -- you might find a few tips to help make your special time together as wonderful as possible for everyone.

I should have had my kids and grandkids read the article before coming over for dinner today.

Happy Thanksgiving!


November 21, 2012

Letters of Love and Thanks Between My Late Wife Diana and Her Parents


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday since it is focused on family and friends without all the commercialism that has overwhelmed Christmas. The importance of family bonds, particularly in times of crisis, is on clear display in a moving exchange of correspondence I recently discovered between my wife and her parents back in 1948, ten years before we were married.

The LeBlanc Family



Diana LeBlanc Schappi
7/26/1928 - 5/23/1979
Diana was born in Sendai, Japan, where her father was on a teaching sabbatical. She grew up in  Cincinnati, Ohio and graduated from George Washington University in 1948 with a degree in political science. She began her career as an editor at the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA -- now Bloomberg/BNA) and worked there until her death from cancer in 1979.

Anna G. LeBlanc
10/2/1896 - 6/18/1986

Known to me (and others) as Nancy -- and to my children Todd and Ann as Nana -- Diana's mother was  born in  Lithuania, spent her early years in Baltimore, and then moved to Cincinnati  where she married Dr. Thomas J. LeBlanc.  
   

Thomas J. LeBlanc
6/28/1894 - 9/8/1948

Dr. LeBlanc received his bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1920, his M.S. from the same university in 1916, and his D.Sc. from Johns Hopkins in 1924. He served with the Rockefeller Foundation as a fellow and then a staff member until 1922. In that year, he became assistant professor of  preventive medicine at the University of Cincinnati's College of Medicine and became head of the department in 1934.

The Emperor of Japan honored him with a scroll for his service as head of the Institute of Human Biology at Tohoku Imperial University in Sendai, Japan. Earlier, Mexico presented him with a gold medal for his work in yellow fever control. During the epic Ohio River flood  in 1937, Dr. LeBlanc with two helpers inoculated over 24,000 people in six days for tetanus, typhoid, and other flood-related illness.

He was a true "Renaissance Man." His short story, Boyhood in the Bush, is included in anthologies of American non-fiction. He wrote for H. L. Mencken's American Mercury. I've framed several notes Mencken sent him urging him to submit more stories. Hanging in my office den where I'm now writing is a "Dear Tom" letter from Sinclair Lewis thanking him for writing "one of the best reviews of the book Arrowsmith either in America or in England."  LeBlanc and Lewis were friends.  In a letter to another friend, Lewis commented that Tom LeBlanc "was pretty much the model for Dr. Terry Wicket"  in Arrowsmith.

Here's my favorite part of Lewis' letter to Tom:
I deny your right to be called a scientist, because I have been reading your stuff in the "American Mercury"  and you're too good a writer to be from now on  respected as  a scientist.

November 20, 2012

Optogenic Stimulation: New Promise for Treating Neurodegenerative Conditions Like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?

Are we one step closer to using tweaked embryonic stem cells to treat neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s?

An article I saw in today’s edition of the e-journal “Medical News Online” gives me another little jolt of hope.

I’m about four years into my PD diagnosis, and at 83, I can’t realistically hope that this latest news holds promise for me personally. And then there’s this frequent caveat: this particular laboratory success occurred using human stem cells transplanted into rodents’ brains. We all know there’s a long trail ahead before we can duplicate these triumphs with human subjects. Still….

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham's Del E. Webb Neuroscience, Aging, and Stem Cell Research Center (La Jolla, CA and Orlando, FL) successfully made neurons derived from embryonic stem cells actually direct cognitive function. If the achievement can be broadened, engineered stem cells might well be used to replace brain tissue damaged by AD or PD (or other conditions, like brain injury), enabling patients to function more normally. If our ability improves to diagnose these degenerative conditions sooner, we might even find a way to prevent their onset.

November 19, 2012

The Looming Threat to Medical Research Funding

As negotiations begin to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff, powerful lobbies are girding for battle. Defense spending will surely become a combat zone. In another arena, labor unions and the AARP are marshaling forces to prevent reductions in Social Security and Medicare benefits. No question: these issues will be major battlegrounds in the weeks ahead.

But I fear that other areas of discretionary spending will end up taking big hits, because it's easier for policymakers to trim where the public won't see much immediate impact. I worry that cuts will occur in an area I care most about these days: medical and health research.

As an 83-year-old man with Parkinson's Disease, prostate cancer, and a big fear of dementia, my concern about these funds admittedly is based on self-interest. But major research breakthroughs in recent years suggest we may be on the verge of finding cures or at least major advances in treatment for costly diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and cancer. Given the potential savings in dollars and lives, funding this research brings a positive cost/benefit ratio... certainly much higher than the cost/benefit ratio for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

November 16, 2012

President Obama Celebrates Tihar in the White House

In the post that appears after this one, I report on the celebration of Tihar or Deepawali at my house.  I just learned about this celebration of the festival (called Diwali in India) at the White House.

I liked the celebration at my house better, even though it was somewhat more modest, because it was with loved ones.

But President Obama describes the meaning of the festival better than I did.

Celebrating Nepal's Deepawali/Tihar in DC's Palisades



As we get ready for our two big holidays -- Thanksgiving and Christmas -- my Nepali friends are just ending the second of their two biggest festivals. Both occur in the fall as the harvest is ending. The dates vary with the phases of the moon.

Dashain
Dashain comes first, and it's the main event. Nepalis in country and abroad do their best to get home for this festival -- at 15 days, their longest. Over the past decade, I've been fortunate to have celebrated Dashain four or five times in Nepal.

During Dashain, the goddess Durga is worshiped with many offerings and thousands of animal sacrifices for the ritual of drenching the goddess in blood (not my favorite part of the festival). But the emphasis is on family gatherings and the renewal of community ties.

Dashain was celebrated in October. On the festival's final day, the family elder gives the red tika blessing to family members. I performed that function for the first time last month as the elder (by far!) in our family.

Tihar/Deepawali
The second of the big two festivals is Tihar, or Deepawali -- which literally means "row of lights." It lasts five days and honors Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and good luck. I've also celebrated Tihar in Nepal several times and really enjoy it.

November 15, 2012

Pending Medicare Settlement Eases Rules for Home Health Care

In a proposed settlement of a nationwide class-action lawsuit, the Obama administration has agreed to scrap a decades-old practice that denied home health care, skilled nursing home stays, and outpatient therapy to Medicare beneficiaries if there was no expectation that the services would result in medical or functional improvement.

This proposed change could help people with chronic conditions like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and injuries of the brain or spine. It also would provide relief for families and caregivers who are often stretched financially and personally to provide care.

Until now, the federal government had been following an informal "stability presumption" under which Medicare coverage for home health care was automatically denied for patients whose conditions were "stable" or deteriorating during the coverage period. A showing was required that the services would result in medical or functional improvement.

Neither the Medicare law nor regulations require beneficiaries to show a likelihood of improvement. But some provisions of the Medicare manual and guidelines used my Medicare contractors establish more restrictive standards under which coverage could be denied or terminated if the patient reaches a plateau or is not improving.

This practice resulted in denying coverage for degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Here's an example of the crazy results from this practice:


November 14, 2012

A Report on My No-Lipitor Experiment


Back in July, I wrote a series of posts about a new book, Are Your Prescriptions Killing You? The author is Armon B. Neal, Jr., a consulting geriatric pharmacist who received the 2010 achievement award from the American Society of Pharmacists. Neal also writes AARP.org's monthly "Ask the Pharmacist" column. So, he's no quack. 

One of those posts was titled "If you are over age 60, stay away from statins at all cost!" It concerned a chapter in Neal's book about statins, which he described as "among the least effective and most dangerous drugs on the market." He went on to say:
I stop these drugs on all the older patients I see because they are invariably at the root of nearly all their problems.
Neal is particularly opposed to prescribing statins for men over 80 who have shown no sign of heart disease.

That's me. I've been taking the most popular statin -- Lipitor -- to control my cholesterol for almost 25 years. Neal said that if your HDL (the so-called "good cholesterol") is over 45, you shouldn't worry about the other numbers (the total cholesterol reading and the one for LDL, the "bad cholesterol").

After my regular physical earlier this year, my doctor reported that my HDL good cholesterol number was "a splendid 68," well above Neal's benchmark of 45. So I decided, "What the hell, I'll take a Lipitor holiday and see what happens." That was exactly four months ago.

November 13, 2012

Preventing Cancer: Diet and Exercise

I’ve been writing about curcumin – the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric – for months. It’s been used medically for millennia in south Asia, and touted in overwhelming numbers of peer-reviewed studies demonstrating its ability to prevent and treat many illnesses and conditions. Just enter “curcumin” in the “Search This Blog” bar below on the right, hit the "search" button, and you’ll get lots of links to posts about this unheralded wonder substance.

So, I wasn’t surprised to see this comment in an article by Pam Harrison in the online journal Medscape.com titled “Specific Plants Protect Against Specific, Not All, Cancers”:
Probably the best example of a phytochemical that serves as an anti-inflammatory is curcumin. “Turmeric is the most potent source of curcumin, and curcumin is the most potent anti-inflammatory phytochemical we know,” Dr. Beliveau told Medscape Medical News.
The article offered a variety of examples to support its headline. Here are some of the bullet-points:

November 12, 2012

Sunday in the Woods with John

Maybe Sondheim will compose a musical, like his Sunday in the Park with George, after he sees this blog post and the accompanying photos.

I had several ideas for a post today, but they would have required spending time indoors. Today and tomorrow are probably going to be the last with temps around 70 degrees, sunshine, and the fall foliage past its peak but still beautiful. So, spending the day outdoors won out.

I've been using my back pain as an excuse for not taking the neighborhood walks I've always enjoyed. But since I want to be in better shape for the family trip to Iceland after Thanksgiving, I decided to do what my back doctor told me to do a year ago: "just walk through the pain."

So guess what happened on my walk today? The back pain gradually eased, and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. But -- no surprise -- I also found I was seriously out of shape and had to stop and rest more than before.

November 9, 2012

Dementia: Impact of Light, Melatonin, and Circadian Cycles


I’m taking the family to Iceland later this month to see – we hope – the Northern Lights. 

At this time of year, the island nation gets only about five hours of light a day. The nights are very long – good if you’re hoping to see the Aurora Borealis, bad if you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I’m not really one of them, but I’ve still been wondering how I’ll feel during a week with really brief, dim daylight. I even get mildly depressed when we switch back to standard time.

And so, I was especially intrigued by a series of articles about light, mood, and dementia I just saw at AlzheimersWeekly.com.

Blue-White Light, Sleep Tight
In one very small study involving male patients with dementia in a long-term care facility, blue-white lights were installed in the main room, where patients ate their meals and participated in activities.

Blue-white light is most like real daylight, and researchers thought that simulating daylight would encourage patients to remain active and awake during the day. The extra boost, they hoped, would help regulate the men’s sleep-wake rhythms -- associated with the 24-hour biochemical “circadian” cycle of the hormone melatonin -- enabling them to get deeper, satisfying sleep at night.

November 8, 2012

Supplements Update, #2: Antioxidants and Calcium -- Get Them from Food, Not Pills

Before the welcome (as it turned out) interruption of Election Day, I started a series of posts on the latest findings about dietary supplements, which we buy each year to the tune of $30 billion. The first report involved the lack of evidence for claims that supplements treat cancer, and claims for omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants in general.

More on Antioxidants
According to current thinking, oxidative stress may play a role in aging and chronic illnesses, like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, even cataracts. There are thousands of antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, coffee, tea, chocolate, and wine. As a first line of defense, some antioxidants suppress formation of free radicals, while others "scavenge" to remove them before they do damage, or repair damage when it occurs.

Some familiar nutrients that act as antioxidants are vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and selenium. Many others are phytochemicals, such as quercetin and other flavonoids. Still others are enzymes, like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.

November 7, 2012

A Perfect Way To Spend Election Day


I spent much of this Election Day touring the Library of Congress and the U.S. Capitol with my good friends Zahed and Sony and their three young children. Zahed and Sony became U.S. citizens earlier this year and, after our tour, returned to their polling place in suburban Maryland to vote for the first time. 

This was a perfect way to spend the day! I've been depressed by much of what's been going on (or, more accurately, what's NOT been going on) in our political system and with the growing inequality in our society. Given the crucial issues confronting us, I've been dismayed by the failure of both candidates to discuss these issues and to campaign instead using superficial trivia and negative personal attacks.

One thing that has kept me optimistic about our country is my involvement with immigrant families. I've posted before about my two Nepali families: Bhawana and Nimesh (who live with me) and Laxmi, Rahel and Ramesh, with whom I frequently stayed when they lived in Pokhara. I see them frequently now that they live in Washington.

My Bangladeshi Family
Zahed and Sony also are treasured friends. Their story is an example of what hard-working immigrants can still achieve here despite how tarnished the "American Dream" has become today.

November 6, 2012

Supplements Update, #1: More Fail the Test

More than half of us take dietary supplements and spend nearly $30 billion a year on them. But scientific studies continue to find little support for the claims that they truly help us. Back in February, I did a series of posts about the most popular supplements. Here's a link to the last post in that series; you can work your way back from there -- http://bit.ly/whYrES.

Since then, I've continued to follow reports on new studies. As a distraction from the tidal wave of election news the last few days, I've decided to do an update on supplement developments since February. As usual, most of the reports concern supplements that -- when tested -- failed to live up to their hype.

Here's a rundown:

Supplements To Fight Cancer
A review of the scientific evidence for the National  Cancer Institute found little support for marketing dietary supplements as protection against cancer. That evidence suggested that high doses of some supplements can actually increase cancer risks.

November 5, 2012

Drumming for Parkinson's


I don’t know anything about drums. A small exception: my housemate Nimesh often plays his Nepali drum, and – if his wife Bhawana and I are lucky – he’ll add a vocal accompaniment. It’s fun having live music in the house. 

Then earlier this week I got an email from Jessica Burns, an intern at a music management company in California. Among other duties, Jessica helps promote Shauney "ShauneyBaby" Recke, a drummer who tours with different musicians, including Sting and the Pussycat Dolls (Sting I've heard of; I know nothing about the Pussycat Dolls, but it's a great name).

Shauney did something else -- the reason Jessica reached out to me in the first place -- that got my attention. Two years ago, Shauney founded “Drum for Goodness Sake,” an organization that promotes drumming – with its various therapeutic attributes – as a means to help people dealing with cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stress-related disorders.

I’d read that many different forms of physical exercise were beneficial for patients with some of those conditions. I’ve written on this blog how some of them -- including tai chi, dance, and singing -- have helped people, like me, with Parkinson’s. Drumming? That was a new one to me, but I get it.

November 2, 2012

How the New "Dalai Lama Model" of Mindfulness Meditation Works for Me


Mindfulness meditation helps people maintain a healthy mind, quieting negative emotions like desire, anger and anxiety. It encourages positive dispositions like compassion, empathy and forgiveness. But how does that happen?

Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital have proposed a new model that characterizes mindfulness as a broad framework of complex mind mechanisms. Called "Mind and Life XXIV: Latest Findings in Contemplative Neuroscience," this model was recently presented to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It differs from the current description of mindfulness as a way of paying attention, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. 

The researchers identified several cognitive functions active during mindfulness practice. These functions encourage:
  • Self-awareness to reduce biases and negative thoughts,
  • Self-regulation to enhance regulation of behavior,
  • Self-transcendence to increase positive, pro-social relationships with oneself and others.

November 1, 2012

Meditation Is Expensive! Who Knew?


For the past year, I've explained how meditation has improved the quality of my life more than anything else I've tried.

Years ago, after a long struggle with insomnia -- and a series of experiments with many meds and techniques that didn't help -- I found a form of meditation that involved (don't laugh) a secret handshake. Since then, I've used that handshake technique when sleeplessness -- now infrequent -- troubles me.

These days, though, meditating is a regular part of my schedule, an early-morning ritual that follows a bathroom visit around 4:30am. I meditate -- sometimes for an hour -- then go back to sleep. I've come to value this meditation time as much as my sleep. 

I use the term "meditation" loosely. I do stretching and muscle tensing/relaxing exercises, hoping to find a miracle cure for my lower back pain. Mostly, practicing my own version of mindfulness meditation, I observe random thoughts and sensations as they come and go.

The Meditation Ah-HA Moments... and Their Cost 
Often, during this time, solutions to problems mysteriously materialize. New ideas frequently emerge. Here's an example:

UA-20519487-1