Archive for March, 2014

Tweet Those Fitness Goals

Online Friends Help Us Stay on Track

by Tamara Grand

Image

Humans are inherently social creatures. Most of us enjoy the company of others and spend much of our waking time engaging in social interactions with colleagues, friends and family. People that spend a lot of time together often adopt one another’s eating and exercise habits—sometimes for the better, but often for the worse.

At least one positive side to wishing to conform socially is unexpected. Finding the right circle of friends—our own personal support group—can make sticking to an exercise schedule or diet easier. It’s a key factor in the popularity of organized weight-loss groups and exercise classes.

Studies published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology and the Journal of Obesity demonstrate that just having a weight-loss or fitness support system in place results in better adherence to diet and exercise with more pounds shed and kept off over the long term. Researchers believe that in addition to the motivation and accountability supporters provide, benefits are also enhanced by learning through observing; changing our behavior through watching the actions and outcomes of others’ behavior. If we don’t have physical access to a local support group, we can access one online or create our own, using one of the following social media platforms.

Facebook

The leading social networking website includes thousands of community and group pages devoted to weight loss, exercise and healthy living. Its search function helps find one that fits our needs. Make an introduction and join the discussion. Participating in a special challenge helps everyone stay motivated.

Twitter

This micro-blogging site is informal and fast-paced, providing nearly instantaneous feedback. Use Twitter to identify friends with similar health and fitness goals. Follow links to motivational photos, low-calorie recipes and at home workouts. Tweeting when feeling the urge to eat virtually guarantees that we’ll receive a helpful response in a minute or two. Twitter chats are also a fabulous way to connect with an established and helpful healthy living tribe.

Pinterest

A visual smorgasbord of clean-eating recipes, at-home workouts and inspirational photos keeps spirits up. Pinterest accesses photos throughout the Internet that we can grab and “pin” to a personal online vision board. It’s also possible to create a visual cookbook, pinning recipes to, for example, clean eating, Paleo, pumpkin and oatmeal themed boards. It’s fun to connect with our favorite healthy living peeps and start following their boards for continuous injections of inspiration and motivation.

Instagram

Love to take photos using a smartphone? Instagram provides a platform for sharing snippets of our day via pictures. Fitness fans regularly “Instagram” their meals and workouts, in part to remain accountable to their online followers, but also to help motivate themselves and others to make healthy choices each day.

YouTube

Our go-to resource for music videos is also home to hundreds of healthy living “channels”. Want to follow someone’s 100-pound weight-loss journey, learn how to cook quinoa or follow along with free, at-home workout videos? This is the place. Watch, share and comment on a favorite YouTube video to become part of its online community. The key to using social media to improve our health and fitness is inherent in the name. It’s a friendly way to interact, participate and engage with others.

Tamara Grand, Ph.D., is a certified personal trainer and a group fitness and indoor cycling instructor in Port Moody, British Columbia, in Canada. Her new book is Ultimate Booty Workouts. She contributes to Life.Gaiam.com and blogs at FitKnitChick.com.

A Tribute to the American Elderberry

Image

A Tribute to the American Elderberry The International Society for Horticultural Science named the elderberry its 2013 Herb of the Year for good reason. In June, scientists gathered in Columbia, Missouri, to share research on the potential of elderberries and elder flowers for preventing and treating illnesses at the first International Elderberry Symposium.

For example, Dennis Lubahn, director of the University of Missouri’s Center for Botanical Interaction Studies, and his team are researching the molecular mechanisms behind elderberry’s folk medicine legacy; specifically, how the berries might help prevent strokes, prostate cancer and inflammation while boosting an individual’s resistance to infectious diseases. Preliminary results show that just two tablespoons of elderberry juice per day appear to offer protection against prostate cancer.

Madeleine Mumcuoglu, Ph.D., from the Hebrew University Hadassah Medical Center, in Jerusalem, explained how the yet unnamed active principle in elderberry blocks viruses from entering human cells. She believes that elderberry extract holds significant potential for preventing and reducing symptoms of the flu, including avian flu and swine flu, plus HIV and the herpes simplex virus. The effective dose may be just one tablespoon a day.

While Mumcuoglu believes elderberry extract is safe, she does not recommend it for pregnant women or those with autoimmune diseases, because it is a known immune system stimulant. “It may be completely risk-free,” she says. “We simply don’t yet have adequate data for proof.”  

For more information, visit MUConf.Missouri.edu/elderberrysymposium.

Near Death Experiences

Proof of Life after Death

by Linda Sechrist

Image

The advice that the White Queen gave to young Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass might be some of the best to offer non-believers and skeptics that question the credibility of near-death experiences (NDE). When Alice protests, “One can’t believe impossible things,” the White Queen famously retorts, “I daresay you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Glimpses of Grace

The majority of physicians and clinical researchers in the medical community continue to consider NDEs as impossible and merely pure fantasies generated by a surge of electrical activity as a dying brain runs out of oxygen. However, according to a Gallup poll, the 8 million Americans whose transcendental NDEs freed their consciousness to leave the body and enter into a wondrous reality that exists completely free of physicality, believe them to be real, meaningful and life-changing experiences.

Recently, the renowned NDE narratives of Anita Moorjani, author of Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer to Near Death, to True Healing, and Dr. Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife, have sparked fresh public interest in NDEs, a word coined by Raymond Moody, Ph.D., in his 1975 classic, Life After Life. Moody, a psychiatrist and professor of philosophy who has spent nearly 50 years investigating what happens when people die, has interviewed thousands of individuals that have personally experienced an NDE.

“Over the past 20 years there have been enormous strides in resuscitation technology. Defibrillators and public access defibrillation programs, as well as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, are major factors that allow modern medicine to bring people back from a state that 100 years ago would have been labeled death,” observes Moody.

Through his research, he has identified numerous common elements that occur in NDEs—an out-of-body experience, the sensation of traveling through a tunnel, encountering a bright light (usually interpreted as God, Jesus or an angel), communicating with deceased relatives, feeling emotions such as profound peace, well-being and love, plus a flood of knowledge about life and the nature of the universe. Perhaps the most significant element he reports is the supremely conscious and superbly blissful state that exists beyond both limitations of the senses and intellect and the confines of space and time—the pure conscious form of each one’s truly real Self.

Life as Love

Rushed to the hospital in a coma, Moorjani, whose body had been devoured for four years by cancer of the lymphatic system, describes the real self that she discovered during her NDE. “There I was, without my body or any physical traits, yet my pure essence continued to exist. It was not a reduced element of my whole self; in fact, it felt far greater and more intense and expansive than my physical being.

I was overwhelmed by the realization that God isn’t a being, but a state of being… and I am that state of being… pure consciousness.
~ Anita Moorjani

“I felt eternal, as if I’d always existed and always would, without a beginning or end. I was filled with the knowledge that I was simply magnificent,” explains Moorjani, whose cancer completely disappeared within five weeks after her release from the hospital.

“Not only did I come back with a clean slate, I brought back one of my biggest lessons—to love myself and be an instrument of love. I also returned to life here with a sense of purpose—to fearlessly be as authentically me as I can be. This means,” she clarifies, “that in whatever I do, I am acting from my sense of passion and the sheer joy of doing it.”

During Alexander’s seven-day coma in a hospital, brought about by antibiotic-resistant E. coli meningitis that attacked his brain, he left his mortal identity behind. “My brain wasn’t working at all,” he relates. “My entire neo-cortex, the part that makes us human, was entirely shut down. I had no language, emotions, logic or memories of who I was. Such an empty slate granted me full access to the true cosmic being that I am, that we all are,” says Alexander. He further recalls that as his NDE unfolded, it occurred to him that he was being granted a grand overview of the invisible side of existence.

He also had a lovely ethereal companion that floated along on a butterfly wing, telepathically teaching him to accept the universal truth that, “You are eternally loved and cherished, you have nothing to fear, and there is nothing you can do wrong.”

“If I had to boil the whole message down to just one word, it would be Love—the incomprehensibly glorious truth of truths that lives and breathes at the core of everything that exists or will ever exist. No remotely accurate understanding of who we are and what we are can be achieved by anyone who does not know it and embody it in all their actions,” Alexander now understands.

Prior to his life-threatening illness, this neurosurgeon’s sophisticated medical training had led him to dismiss the possibility of NDEs. Today, he works at returning to his NDE state of oneness and unconditional love by using meditation and sacred acoustics, as well as quantum mechanics, to explore the nature of consciousness and higher brain function.

“We need to accept—at least hypothetically—that the brain itself doesn’t produce consciousness.”
~ Dr. Eben Alexander

Like Moody, Alexander studies the ancient Greek philosophers Parmenides, Pythagoras and Plato, who took the notion of an afterlife seriously and questioned “what” survives bodily death. Alexander’s consequent nonprofit organization, Eternea, fosters cooperation between science and spirituality by sponsoring research and education about spiritually transformative experiences and holistic consciousness beyond conventional definitions. “I had to learn a whole lot more about consciousness than I had to know about neuroscience,” quips Alexander, who now believes that the brain blocks access to knowledge of higher worlds. “We need to accept—at least hypothetically—that the brain itself doesn’t produce consciousness. That it is, instead, a kind of reducing valve or filter that dumbs down consciousness for the duration of our human experience.

“Neuroscience can’t give you the first sentence about how the physical brain creates consciousness,” he states, while many are finding how science and spirituality strengthen each other

At age 37, a blood vessel exploded in the left hemisphere of Jill Bolte Taylor’s brain. A Ph.D. Harvard-trained scientist specializing in anatomy of the brain, she was fascinated to observe the breakdown of her brain-related functions.

As described in her book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, she became the witness to her stroke, which initially left her unable to talk, walk, read, write or remember anything prior to that occurrence.

As her left brain shut down, Taylor lost her ability to process all language; with her mind suspended in newfound silence, she experienced an unprecedented sense of deep peace. She also experienced an inability to visually distinguish edges and boundaries between herself and the outer world. Absent conventional orientation, “I could actually see that my skin was not my physical boundary.

“In touch with our wholeness, illness can’t remain—in ourselves, others or the planet.”
~Anita Moorjani

“As a result of such a glorious state of blissful realization that I am—as we all are—connected to everything and everyone around us, I no longer see myself as a single, solid entity, separate from other human beings,” advises Taylor.

“Although my left mind still thinks of me as a fragile individual, capable of losing my life, my right mind realizes the essence of my being as eternal life.” She now understands that she is part of the cosmic flow of energy, which she characterizes as a tranquil sea of euphoria.

Present Possibility

In The Hidden Face of God: Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth, author Gerald L. Schroeder, Ph.D., suggests that each of us is a part of the universe seeking and finding itself. Could it be that without the mental filter and self-limiting beliefs, we are free to consciously know our higher state of wholeness and the truth of our magnificence?

Upwards of 8 million people that have experienced their own NDE are trending the world toward a tipping point into the comforting awareness that anything is possible.

 

Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Visit ItsAllAboutWe.com for the recorded interviews.