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Can Money Buy Happiness? Here’s the Magic Number Researchers Have Found
BY LANCE ALSTON
photo: zabalotta photocase.com
Money and Happiness: Rethinking the Relationship
Can money buy happiness? It’s a question philosophers have asked for millennia. While there is still plenty of debate on the topic in economics, just about everyone agrees money can only get you so far when it comes to happiness. That is, a lot more money only makes you a little bit happier, if at all.
As Ben Casnocha, an entrepreneur and best-selling author based in Silicon Valley, noted when it comes to billionaires, “Some of them are quite happy… But many of them are not happy or have prolonged bouts of unhappiness—even though they’re way ahead in the global rat race.”
If billions of dollars might not be enough, what can we conclude about money and happiness? Well, one recent study has even given us a number to work with—$75,000. According to Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman, both Nobel Laureates in Economics, an annual family income of $75,000 could take you to the top level of emotional happiness. Anything more than that might get you more things to buy and more social status, but it probably won’t add much to your long-term happiness.
“Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness.”
— Benjamin Franklin
Stop for a moment and ask yourself how you feel about that number. Would $75,000 be enough for you? If not, then why? How much would be enough?
Despite the evidence that more money can’t buy more happiness, the financial services industry continues to ignore the fact that money and happiness are only distant cousins. They prefer instead to pretend the two are close, intimate friends. This is because the bank and brokerage business model is built on a single promise—more money. Wall Street sells greed because that’s something you can put a number on. If you want to double your money, reach $1 million or retire by the time you’re fifty, Wall Street has a plan to sell you. But Wall Street only knows how to keep score in dollars.
Happiness, well, that’s not so easy to put a number on. It can’t be hedged or shorted, and you can’t put it in a presentation with flashy charts and graphs. If you’re interested in something more than money—if you’re looking for happiness or a meaningful life—Wall Street can’t help you. It’s up to you to envision a future that includes a lot more than just money.
Happiness is clearly an important concept, or so the Founding Fathers thought. They imbued our Declaration of Independence with its importance, holding happiness out as a standard for the citizenry:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Research tells us factors such as good health, friends, freedom, security, and trust are all important to our long-term happiness. Conversely, factors like unemployment, inflation, and chronic pain chip away at the joy we find in life.
Maybe money cannot buy you happiness, but what if there were a formula that could point the way to a deeper and wider range of happiness in your life? Enter happiness research—a confluence of research from the fields of neuroscience, sociology, psychology, and economics—which is shedding new light on what truly makes us happy. And, unlike most current work in economics, the research on money and happiness provides answers we can immediately apply to our everyday lives.
The formula for happiness turns out to be fairly straightforward: H = S + C + V.
H = sustained happiness. Not the kind you get from a piece of chocolate cake or a great first date but rather the kind of ongoing happiness you carry with you throughout your life. The type of real happiness humans long for and our Founding Fathers had in mind.
S = your individual set point. This is your natural level of happiness, akin to your body temperature or heart rate. They may go up or down for periods of time, but your temperature and heart rate will eventually settle back to your natural, steady state. Your level of happiness behaves the same way. In fact, when it comes to wealth and your set point happiness, researchers have found that even multimillion-dollar lottery winners eventually settle back into their previous level of happiness. There is a wide range to set-point happiness, and some people are naturally happier than others. This doesn’t mean you are powerless when it comes to your happiness, however. The good news is less than 50 percent of your happiness is attributable to your set point, which means you can control much of your own happiness if you choose to.
C = conditions in your life. These are the things you cannot change in your life, such as your race, age, or childhood family situation, and things that may change slowly over some extended period of time, like marital status and occupation. Think of conditions as the elements of your life that remain relatively constant from one day to the next. The good news here is humans are very, very adaptable to the conditions in their lives. Even serious cancer patients and impoverished third-world communities can report relatively high degrees of happiness.
V = voluntary activities which you have immediate control over. Prayer, meditation, social involvement, exercise, and volunteering are all examples of the kinds of choices you can make regarding your time, money, and energy from day to day and hour to hour that can have a lasting impact on your happiness.
In short, despite the fact that money can’t buy happiness, there are lots of things that can affect your happiness—some you can change and some you can’t. This article is about taking the emphasis off money—something that will probably have very little influence on your happiness—and focusing on the voluntary activities that just might make you happy for the rest of your life. Your conditions do not define your happiness, unless you let them.
Choice Conflict—Limit Your Options If You Want to Be Happier
Like many of the concepts we’ll discuss regarding money and happiness, too much of a good thing can lead to less happiness. Take choices for example; we know from the research that greater control over your living space, career path, and representative government—just to name a few examples—can significantly improve your happiness. Humans want to have choices when it comes to their environment. However, too many choices can paralyze you, often leading to no choice being made at all. Professor Barry Schwarz describes this as the paradox of choice.
Choice overload, as he calls it, encroaches into our everyday lives in powerful ways—from our trips to the grocery store to the investments we make in our 401(k)s. In the early 90s I studied Russian from an amazing professor in Washington, DC. He was a native Russian speaker but also fluent in English, French, Greek, and probably a few other languages I wasn’t aware of. In addition to his teaching workload, my professor volunteered his time helping Soviet emigrants assimilate into their new lives in the United States. Remember, these were the first few years of “Perestroika,” Russia was still part of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of thousands of Russians were fleeing each year.
Those Russians had rarely experienced freedom of choice in more than four generations. Choosing a career or where to live were not unbounded options for most Soviet citizens. My professor would take these new arrivals shopping and help them search for jobs and find housing in the Washington, DC, area. The stories he retold to our evening class were tragic, real-life examples of choice overload, which can impact how you spend your money and your happiness.
Even the simple process of choosing toothpaste or cereal for their kids could be overwhelming in the West. Where they were used to one or two options on the shelves in Moscow, they now faced one or two aisles of choices, four rows high. Incredibly, my professor shared more than one story of families returning to Russia because they were simply unprepared for the massive range of choices their new lives offered. Returning to the question of whether money can buy you happiness, it can give you more choice, but this isn’t always a good thing.
In his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz challenges the idea that having more choices is always better for us. In fact, he argues that seeking the very best may actually leave us worse off. By setting your standard to “the best,” you may be condemning yourself to a relentless feeling of “what if.” What if I had acted sooner; waited longer; done more research; known about this or that resource? Schwartz calls this “maximizing,” and this type of behavior can be counterproductive.
In effect, Schwartz recommends we lower our standards. Striving for “good enough” will lead to happier and healthier lives, with less stress and far more time for the important people who matter. He calls it “satisficing,” and it may be the solution in our age of too much information and too many choices. But you must choose to strive for “good enough.” It might not feel natural, may even seem like losing to some, because as a culture we tend to place a high value on winning. Will “good enough” be good enough to feel as if it was a success?
This is where Wealthfulness comes into play. You have a choice—to win the battle or win the war. Wealthfulness is a mind-set that can lead to a healthy, happy, and full life, but it might just entail satisficing when your natural inclination is to maximize. “The Best” is just today’s little skirmish—occasionally important, but probably not.
Running Toward a Number
“The elephant cares about prestige, not happiness.”
One of the most interesting findings in the research on wealth and happiness and whether money can bring happiness is the universal tendency for humans to prefer relative wealth over absolute wealth. What this means is a wealthy farmer in China with a few cows will generally report feeling just as happy as a wealthy farmer in Texas with a herd of six hundred cows. People tend to compare themselves with other people in their community, and consequently their happiness can rise or fall depending on where they see themselves in comparison to those around them. This might be why you often see a highly successful sibling or in-law as the antagonist in movies and books; they become constant reminders of our relative wealth.
I would venture to say the most frequent question I’m asked when discussing someone’s financial plan is, “How are we doing compared to everyone else?” The correct answer is, of course, it doesn’t matter.
Lee Eisenberg wrote a book several years back called The Number, in which he argued everyone has a “number”—the money in the bank they want to have when they retire. Eisenberg got the idea for his book from his conversations with Wall Street bankers and traders, who he said ALWAYS had a number.
The interesting thing, though, is Eisenberg found the number would change as their salaries and bonuses inflated. Their number got bigger because everyone around them was receiving a lot more money, too. Who could be happy with $2 million in retirement, which seemed like so much money at one point, if it’s less than your friend’s bonus last year? It’s not the amount of wealth that influences happiness, but what you have relative to your neighbors.
This idea of comparing ourselves to those around us and constantly trying to keep up is related to something psychologists call the hedonic treadmill. The idea is derived from the word hedonism, meaning the pursuit of pleasure. The hedonic treadmill is simply a constant and increasing cycle of materialism in search of pleasure.
As Carol Graham points out in her book The Pursuit of Happiness, “increasing levels of income—and income growth—tend to be accompanied by rising expectations and related frustrations.” Having more can make you want even more, which can lead to increasing stress and frustration and eventually to a lower level of happiness.
One of my most enduring memories as a financial planner is of an elderly gentleman with considerable wealth—more than his family could spend over several generations. Having grown up during years of unrest in Colombia, he was terrified of losing even a little bit of his money. One day I had the pleasure of hearing him reminisce about his life when he was young and in love. He and his future wife, owning virtually nothing but a beat-up motorcycle, would ride through the streets of Bogota in the summer evenings. You could almost feel the wind as he told his story, his bride of fifty years smiling beside him. He looked up at me and sighed, “We were happier then.” He truly realized that money cannot buy happiness.
A Wealthfulness mind-set helps you step off that money and happiness treadmill by forcing you to communicate your financial priorities and reassess your definition of success. My client was realizing in his eighth decade of life that it wasn’t the money or his success as an architect that mattered most. It was his life experiences with his wife, his family, and the memories of his youth in Colombia that resonated. All the money, in fact, was making him quite unhappy.
In the end, experiences create much deeper memories than material things. Friends and travel, for example, build longer-lasting memories than the new car that slowly becomes just a car. This is true partly because our memories are far more malleable than we think. Researchers have suggested that it is far easier to mold an experience than it is a material object. The experience is more subjective, more open to interpretation.
As Eisenberg wisely points out in his book, experiences are almost always less expensive and easier to come by than precious material things. He suggests, in the end, that the unexamined life is much more expensive, because those mindless material purchases never truly fill the empty void in our lives.
Conspicuous Consumption—Who’s Watching What You Buy?
If the research is correct in telling us that experiences matter more than material things, why are Americans still racing along on their hedonic treadmills—reaching for bigger houses, driving more expensive cars, and following the Kardashians on social media instead of hiking the Rockies with their kids?
Robert Frank, an economist at Cornell University, has spent decades trying to understand why people often behave in such irrational ways. Like many of the economists we’ve discussed so far, Frank has concluded that we are not the purely rational, self-interested creatures depicted in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. Frank points out, for example, that we like others to see what we are consuming—i.e., we want our neighbors and friends to see where our money goes. He calls this conspicuous consumption, and it has a surprisingly large role in how we make purchasing decisions. The houses we buy, the cars we drive, and the clothes we wear are all, to some degree, bought with others in mind.
Frank’s insight regarding wealth, money and happiness is that a bigger home or a new car is conspicuous, while a longer vacation or quality time with your family is not. Your neighbors and friends may not even notice the quality time you spend with your kids, but they’re sure to notice that new BMW. Consequently, we subconsciously (or even consciously) opt for the material objects that give us only temporary happiness, rather than the experiences that enrich our lives and make them more memorable. Wouldn’t we all be better off with longer vacations and shorter commutes, rather than suffering the incessant trend toward suburban McMansions and 24/7 job stress?
Think for a moment about your most recent purchases. Have there been more material items or experiences? How conspicuous? Do you rely on brands, labels, and high prices to lend credibility to what you buy?
Interestingly, our digitally connected lives may be leading to positive changes in our conspicuous consumption. Economist Tyler Cowen points out that people are obviously emphasizing experiences, i.e., leisure, as they flock to social media to document their evenings, food, and travel. Nowadays they can instantly share those great pictures of Italy or Cancun with hundreds of Facebook friends. So maybe, just maybe, Facebook is encouraging us to connect with more people in meaningful ways—to share experiences instead of things. Of course, the ultimate goal should be to spend time with the ones you love and to ditch the idea that money can bring you happiness, not simply to have more Facebook-worthy vacations.
The Two Most Dangerous Times In Your Life—Birth and Retirement
Dan Beuttner, a National Geographic Fellow, spent years traveling the world looking for the secrets to a long, healthy life. His eventual book, Blue Zones, summarizes his findings from small communities across four continents —Europe (Sardina, Italy; Ikaria, Greece), Asia (Okinawa, Japan), South/Central America (Nicoya, Costa Rica) and North America (Loma Linda, California).
In these “blue zones,” Buettner and his team of researchers found much higher percentages of healthy adults living well into their late nineties and beyond one hundred. What were their secrets? Plant-based diets, active lifestyles, strong community ties, and a deep sense of purpose seemed to be consistent themes.
Buettner gave a summary of his research in a September 2009 TED talk. In his talk he suggests the two most dangerous times in a person’s life are when they are born and when they retire. The first year of life is obviously a very risky time for all creatures, but why is retirement also fraught with risk? It turns out that many of the characteristics Buettner found in the blue zones fade away with retirement—daily physical activity, community ties, and a sense of purpose , to name a few.
If your identity is based on your income or your job title, then retirement can be a pretty big shock to both money and happiness. You lose those work connections to people and your sense of purpose the moment your career ends. Buettner and his research team discovered one blue zone community on a small Japanese island that had a name for a life purpose—ikigai. The Japanese translation is “a sense of life worth living,” and virtually all the centenarians Buettner talked to on the island could easily explain their personal ikigai. It was part of their culture.
In a separate study of forty-three thousand Japanese adults, the participants with strongly expressed ikigai had significantly lower rates of death, particularly cardiovascular deaths, over the following seven years. It’s very important to note that ikigai is not derived from societies’ definition of purpose—power, economic or social status—but rather it is cultivated internally, uniquely by each individual.
A 2006 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research supports Buettner’s contention that retirement is a particularly dangerous time in life. They found a strong connection between retirement and declining health. The incidence of illness increased, while mobility and mental wellness declined between 6 and 16 percent during the first few years after retirement. These negative effects turned out to be stronger when a person’s retirement was involuntary.
If you have developed deep, meaningful relationships throughout your life and beyond your career, then retirement can be just a turning point where you spend more time with friends and less time with (ex)coworkers. However, if your work has been allowed to consume your time and energy for decades, then retirement is not a turning point but rather a stopping point. In this case a person’s physical and mental activity levels can drop dramatically in a short period of time, alongside their wealth, money and happiness.
In an upcoming paper, Professor Cowen surveys a number of reasons why many of us may enjoy working—from the obvious, like status and more money, to less obvious influences, such as social, psychological, and demographic factors. According to the paper, the hours worked per person has not changed much since World War II, in spite of large changes in technology and productivity, along with smaller positive growth in personal income. We should expect people to work less as their incomes and productivity increase, yet professor Cowen points out, “One of the big lessons of economic data is that people really like work.”
Happiness, as you can see, is complicated. We know that money can’t buy you happiness; however, many factors, like social status and conspicuous consumption, are directly influenced by our income. We may continue to work just as hard as previous generations because of those external benefits, or, as Cowen suggests, we may enjoy working for a host of other reasons.
The question is not how can money buy you happiness, the question is: how can you best navigate the complicated journey of happiness? Here’s what Ben Casnocha recommends—think of your success and happiness in terms of a dashboard instead of a leaderboard. A dashboard, like the one in your car, provides lots of information about your driving experience but tells you nothing about the cars around you. Your money, wealth and happiness can be measured in the same manner, i.e., relative to the internal conditions you control. A leaderboard, on the other hand, forces you onto that hedonic treadmill or status ladder. As Casnocha tells us in his article, “you should measure yourself in the spirit of improving upon your last best record, not what an opponent has accomplished. Leaderboards turn your attention to others; dashboards turn your attention within.”
Over the years I’ve had clients who worked as practicing surgeons well into their late sixties and seventies. Earlier in the book I mentioned Peter Bernstein, an economic historian who wrote several of his most popular books well after he turned seventy. When I interviewed John Bogle in 2009, he had just turned eighty and was on his second heart transplant. At the time, he was busy working on a brief for a pending Supreme Court case, writing regular op-ed pieces for the major newspapers, and rewriting his classic book Common Sense on Mutual Funds. These people were not slowing down well into their seventies and eighties, and I believe it was due, in large part, to their happiness dashboard—their “ikigai.”
The Health Benefits of Deep Breathing: 9 Ways it Supercharges Your Body and Mind
BY REBECCA DENNIS
photo: chiara cremaschi
Wreathing heals on many levels, and understanding how it performs this function is good for our mental and physical well-being. Our breath constantly converts our life-sustaining energy, taking in oxygen, invigorating red blood cells and expelling carbon dioxide, which is a metabolic waste product.
By breathing deeply, you allow the diaphragm to drop downward, the rib cage to expand and create more space for the lungs to inflate. By mastering the art of deep breathing, increased oxygen floods into the body, eventually helping the heart pace to slow down to create feelings of calmness and relaxation.
In a nutshell… breath detoxifies, releases toxins and strengthens the immune system
Around 70% of our toxins are released from our body through our breath. Carbon dioxide is a natural waste product of your body’s metabolism. The benefits of breathing deeply help the systems in the body to process this more efficiently.
1. Breath Increases Energy
Oxygen is the most essential natural resource required by our cells. We can go without food for up to 40 days and without water for 3 days, yet we can die after just a few minutes of not breathing. From a purely physical point of view, breath equals life.
2. Breath Improves the Respiratory System
One of the benefits of breathing deeply is that it helps to release tension in the diaphragm and primary breathing muscles, relieving many long-term respiratory issues such as asthma and breathlessness. It opens up the chest, releasing tension from the intercostal muscles and around the scapula, erector spinae and trapezius muscles, allowing for a more relaxed posture.
3. Breath Calms the Nervous System
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing us into a relaxed state. It functions in the opposite way to the sympathetic nervous system, which stimulates activities associated with the fight-or-flight response.
4. Breath Strengthens the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system depends on gravity, muscle movement, and the benefits of breath to keep flowing so that the body can be cleansed. Deep breathing can play an important role in protecting the body from bacteria, viruses and other threats to our health.
5. Breath Releases Muscle Tension
When we are stressed or experience uncomfortable feelings such as anger or pain, our breath becomes shallow and our muscle tissues contract. Deep breathing helps to release this.
6. Breath Improves the Cardiovascular System
Deep diaphragmatic breathing tones, massages and increases circulation to the heart, liver, brain and reproductive organs. In one study of heart attack patients, 100% of the patients were chest breathers whose breathing involved very little diaphragm or belly expansion. Another study found that patients who survived a heart attack and who adopted an exercise regime and breath training afterward experienced a 50% reduction in their risk factor of another heart attack over the following 5 years.
7. Breath Elevates the Digestive System
The benefits of deeper breathing include increased blood flow in the digestive tract, which encourages intestinal action and improves overall digestion, alleviating irritable bowel syndrome and constipation. In addition, deeper breathing results in a calmer nervous system which in turn enhances optimum digestion.
8. Breath Affects Our Mental State
The quality of our breath helps to relax the mind and enhance the ability to learn, focus, concentrate and memorize. The brain requires a great deal of oxygen to function and increased intake of oxygen helps us to achieve clarity and feel grounded and productive. It also relieves stress, anxiety, depression and negative thought patterns. The benefits of breathing properly can help us overcome addictive patterns of behavior and eating disorders, as well as igniting creativity and passion.
9. Breath Keeps Us Looking Youthful
It’s a universal truth that a happy face is more beautiful than a stressed or angry one. Even better news: breathing deeply slows the aging process by increasing secretion of anti-aging hormones! By reducing stress, it improves our mood, elevating the levels of serotonin and endorphins. The Telomere Effect by Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn and Dr. Elissa Epel chronicles a 2013 study by Harvard Medical School’s psychiatry department, which discovered that people who meditate daily for four years have longer telomeres – the protective caps found on the end of chromosomes – than those who do not. Short telomeres have been linked to premature cellular aging.
Is There Anything the Breath Cannot Do?
In a word, no. Good breathing benefits us by helping us feel more confident and able to let go of old belief systems and negative thought patterns that no longer serve us. Releasing old stories and past dramas previously held on to on a subconscious level gives us new emotional depth. By expanding our awareness inside, breathing has a spiritual effect too, deepening yoga and meditation practice, creating inner peace, and leading us to higher states of consciousness. As if that isn’t enough, it can also reinvigorate sexual energy, deepen creative expression, improve sleep patterns and lower blood pressure.
Early Breathing Patterns
Most of us are not using our whole respiratory system to breathe. In fact, many of us use just 33%, a mere third of our total capacity. The next time you look at a newborn baby as they sleep, take note of the way their whole body is breathing and how their breathing is connected. Their back, tummy and chest move together with no blockages.
Toddlers usually breathe into their chests and their bellies. The breath moves consistently, like an ocean wave ebbing and flowing.
Each human being is unique, with a unique breathing pattern illustrating our story, where we are in the world, and how we perceive ourselves. Everyone’s breathing has a story that encompasses birth trauma, early childhood experiences, parental authority, school peers, and angst from our teenage years and early adulthood.
So what kind of breather are you?
Some of us are chest breathers while others are belly breathers. Then there are those who breathe more in the midsection. By opening and clearing the restricted breathing pattern, we can breathe more freely and easily.
Our breath represents how we flow in life. As we open and expand our breath, we have more energy and support for the body’s natural healing abilities. Our primary breathing muscles are the diaphragm, intercostals, scalenes and abdominals, yet some of us are working really hard with the upper chest muscles, which creates tension here. There can be tightness in the diaphragm, which is attached to the deep-seated core muscle, the psoas (from the Greek word meaning ‘loin region’), and if this becomes tight, the hips also become constricted.
If we consider the way we breathe a metaphor for how we live our lives, it becomes obvious that as we restrict our flow of breath, we impede our natural flow. By focusing our intention on reaping the benefits of breathing, we begin to experience a relationship with our life force, our creative power. Once we revive this creative flow, we begin to nurture our bodies and minds, and the fear and pain we’ve internalized as a result of toxins or destructive thought patterns is transformed into love and joy.
A Guide to Breath Patterns
We become shallow breathers during periods of stress, when we are depressed, when we’ve not had much sleep, have had a bad day at work or the kids are acting up.
If you breathe in the upper chest, you could be an over thinker who spends a lot of time in your head. If the heart area is closed, you may be protecting yourself in relationships or in life from being hurt. Often, this leads to holding back from true passion and relates to our connection to our heart and to the ability to do what we love.
Those who are not breathing in their bellies often don’t feel grounded and can be a bit spaced out. This category of breathers often has strong-willed parents and tends to consist of people-pleasers who put others before themselves and experience low self-esteem. Belly breathing is our connection to personal will and power. Belly breathers tend to be more grounded and present. When experiencing the benefits of breathing in our belly, we are more connected to our body.
Exercise: Diaphragmatic Breathing
Lie on the floor in Shavasana or Corpse Pose, on your back with legs comfortably spread and the arms relaxed alongside the body. Feel and connect with the ground beneath your body, placing both hands on your lower abdominals, just below your rib cage.
Start by focusing on the inhale and exhale and notice the rise of the inhale and the fall of the exhale. Breathing in through your nose, your belly rises, and breathing out through your nose, the belly comes down. Allow there to be a pause between each breath.
Can you feel the breath in your belly? If not, try bending your knees, keeping your feet on the ground. This will help the breath to come down into the lower abdominals.
Can you feel the rise and fall of your belly as you breathe? Imagine as you inhale that there is a balloon inside or a ball of light expanding with each breath. This is a deep diaphragmatic breath.
If you are having difficulties feeling the breath in your belly, then you can try this: find a heavy book or a large bag of rice. Place this on your belly and put your hands on top.
Now as you inhale, gently push the weighty object into your hands and keep it there as you breathe in and out. You can ask a friend or family member to observe you while you are doing this.
Rebecca Dennis is a breath coach and a workshop leader. She practices these exercises herself and has used breathwork to manage depression without medication for years. Dennis studied with Transformational Breath founder Judith Kravitz and other influential trainers throughout the world. She lives in London, England. She is the founder of breathingtree.co.uk.
Treating Diabetes Naturally: 9 Herbs and Supplements for Balancing Blood Sugar and Reclaiming Your Health
BY DR. MONA MORSTEIN
Many studies have shown the positive benefits of taking supplements for diabetes. An integrative physician such as I am feels very comfortable recommending supplements to all diabetic patients, as science is supportive, and so is my clinical experience.
Diabetic Treatment Supplements
The following list of supplements can be used for any type of diabetic patient (including both Type 1 and Type 2).
1. Essential Dietary Oils
O-3 oils, with both EPA and DHA, can help patients by lowering lipid panels (reduce triglycerides and cholesterol); reducing insulin resistance; reducing pain and inflammation so exercise and sleep are easier; reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure; reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; preventing and treating anxiety and depression; and promoting antioxidant actions in the body and brain to help reduce developing diabetic complications.
Pure fish oils are the main oils you should use to supplement your diet; they are extracted from oily fish such as sardines, anchovies, and salmon. For adults, 1,000 mg EPA/750 mg DHA is the starting daily dose. Sometimes I dose twice that much to some patients I feel really need a more aggressive dose.
2. Multiple Vitamin with Minerals
A good multiple vitamin and mineral product (or “multiple,” for short) is a great way to start supporting nutrient intake in all diabetic patients. This ensures every day that the body receives all the key nutrients it needs so that all its biochemical, hormonal, nutritional, detoxifying, healing, rebuilding, protecting, and strengthening processes can be performed easily and smoothly. The body runs on enzymes, as enzymes speed up reactions to make the body function more efficiently; all enzymes require nutrient cofactors to enable them to effectively engage the action they are designed to do. A good multiple vitamin supplement for diabetes ensures all those cofactors are available every minute, every day.
My choice for whole-food vitamins, if a patient wishes to use that type of product, is Whole Earth and Sea because they use totally organic, non-GMO, sustainably farmed foods, with some high-quality nutrients added in. Here are a few more recommendations.
First, avoid the One-A-Day brand. All of the well-known One-A-Day products contain poor-quality products at low doses, and are full of unhealthy excipients, fillers, and preservatives. A high-quality multiple will require you to take three to six capsules a day, but will cover all the nutrients your body needs. For children, there are good liquid or powder multiples.
Second, all minerals and vitamins should be taken in the most absorbable, bioactive forms. This makes the product a little more expensive, but there is a huge difference in the body’s ability to absorb and metabolize different forms of nutrients. I recommend Pure Encapsulations’ Polyphenol Nutrients to my patients, as part of a natural home remedies protocol for diabetes.
Lastly, patients should avoid taking products that contain: nickel or tin, talc, food colorings, food flavorings, preservatives, allergens such as (usually GMO) soy lecithin, sweeteners, and fillers such as maltodextrin. Look for pure products.
I believe every single patient with diabetes should be on a fish oil supplement and a good multiple vitamin and mineral product. Every single one!
Chromium plays a vital role in binding to and activating the insulin receptor on body cells, reducing insulin resistance. Supplemental chromium has been shown to lower blood sugar levels, lipids, A1C, and insulin in diabetic patients. It can also help decrease one’s appetite, particularly for sweets. A dosage from 200 mcg to 2,000 mcg a day is safe. Higher doses are unnecessary and can cause acute kidney failure.
Magnesium deficiency is common in diabetic patients, as magnesium can be lost in the urine with hyperglycemia. A study in Diabetes Care reported that low magnesium status is common in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) and showed that when low-magnesium Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients were given an oral dose of magnesium daily for sixteen weeks, the mineral reduced insulin resistance, fasting glucose, and A1C levels. Magnesium is high in green leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and grains, but we remove most beans and all grains from the diet of patients, which is why using magnesium as part of a natural remedy for diabetes can be beneficial. Low intracellular magnesium can cause insulin resistance. Dosing of up to 500 mg a day is fine, but higher than that may result in diarrhea in patients.
5. R-alpha-lipoic acid (R-ALA)
If I could only prescribe one supplement for a diabetes patient, I would prescribe R-alpha-lipoic acid. Alpha-lipoic acid has numerous benefits to the diabetic patient. It is a water- and fat-soluble antioxidant and has been shown to protect patients with fatty liver from liver disease progression. It can help reduce insulin resistance and has been shown to protect people with diabetes from developing complications in their nerves, eyes, and kidneys. R-ALA can prevent glycosylation of proteins, which reduces the A1C level. It is safe, although very rarely it can cause stomach upset. Alpha-lipoic acid is listed either as ALA or R-ALA. When listed as ALA, this means it contains two forms—the S isomer form and the R isomer form, in a 50:50 ratio. The key is to find a product that says it contains “R-ALA” instead of just “ALA.” A good daily working dose of R-ALA is 300 to 1,200 mg a day, which is the equivalent of 600 to 2,400 mg a day of regular ALA, if you buy a regular ALA listed product.
There are numerous studies of botanical medicines and herbs for diabetes that speak to the effectiveness of natural and home remedies for diabetes. I have listed the most useful herbs with the most documented benefits. A patient does not need to take one hundred bottles a day of everything out on the market, but rather it is important to focus on a few botanicals backed by the most impressive studies and the best clinical evidence. The botanicals listed below are safe and effective.
6. Gymnema sylvestre
Known as gurmar, or “sugar destroyer,” in Aryuvedic medicine, Gymnema has consistently shown benefits in patients with diabetes. The most active part of Gymnema seems to be gymnemic acids, and many products list the percentage each capsule contains. Analyses of the herb for diabetes have shown it may be helpful in lowering high blood sugar levels. It can delay glucose absorption from the intestine. It was shown to regenerate pancreatic tissues, allowing more insulin to be produced, and help regulate insulin secretion. It also increases the utilization of glucose by the cell, reducing insulin resistance and decreasing appetite, especially for sweets. I usually use it in capsules, or in liquid form in some patients. Due to Gymnema having a very similar shape to glucose, it can fit into the taste bud receptors for sugar; it thus has unbelievable power to actually prevent the taste of sweets in the mouth for up to 1.5 hours. When I have a patient who is still struggling to not eat cake and cookies and so forth at parties or celebrations (or just in general), I will give her a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This is one of my favorite herbs for diabetes. In capsule form doses of 400 to 2,400 mg a day are recommended.
Cinnamonium cassia and its relative C. burmanii are the types of cinnamon that have the best effect on diabetes symptoms. There have been numerous studies on cinnamon and, overall, they have shown cinnamon can slow stomach emptying and lower postprandial glucose levels. It also reduces glucose levels in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients who have had poor diabetic control. It may also be helpful in lowering insulin levels, blood pressure, and A1C, and reduce AGE formation. This is a safe herb for diabetics. A good dose is 1 to 2 g a day or 200 mg or more of a concentrated extract.
8. Green Tea Leaf Extract
Green tea contains the bioflavinoid epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to be a safe and effective antioxidant. In a study in Japan, green tea was shown to reduce the risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus onset. It has been shown to improve glucose tolerance in patients, and decrease blood sugar production and over-secretion in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus patients. Green tea has also been shown to have an effective anti-angiogenesis factor, that is, it reduces problematic overgrowth of blood vessels, which may have a significant effect on preventing diabetic retinopathy. It has also been shown to promote fat oxidation and thermogenesis. Last, green tea can provide antioxidant protection for the pancreas and the fatty liver. A good dose is 200 to 400 mg a day. It’s also beneficial to drink organic green tea.
9. Curcumin Extract
Curcumin is a bright yellow chemical produced by the spice turmeric, among other plants. Curcumin seems to have multiple benefits for diabetes symptoms. It has been shown to be a marked inhibitor of reactive oxygen species that promote oxidation damage in cells. Curcumin lowers inflammatory chemicals like tumor necrosis factor-alpha, and that’s good because TNF-a causes insulin resistance and irritates fatty livers. Curcumin can reduce another pro-inflammatory chemical called NF-KB. The above-mentioned actions provide a benefit in diabetes protection and reduce the risk of developing diabetes symptoms and complications. Curcumin has also been shown to enhance pancreatic beta cell functioning and reduce fatty liver deposition. It reduces high blood sugar, A1C, and insulin resistance. It was also shown to reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, and that is a higher risk in diabetic patients than in nondiabetic patients. A good dose is 200 to 3,000 mg a day.
Dr. Mona Morstein is a naturopathic physician with a medical practice focused in integrative diabetes treatment. Her clinic, Arizona Integrative Medical Solutions, is located in Tempe, Arizona, where she sees patients of all ages and genders for acute and chronic conditions. An expert on prediabetes and diabetes, she is a frequent lecturer at conferences and webinars, and is the founder and executive director of The Low Carb Diabetes Association. Dr. Morstein is also a member of the Arizona Diabetes Coalition. Visit her website lowcarbdiabetes.org
The Benefits of Ghee:
7 Health-Boosting Properties of the Delicious Ancient Superfood Clarified Butter
BY JUSTIN FAERMAN
Ghee is one of those special superfoods that gives you the best of both worlds: it’s deeply rejuvenating, powerfully health-boosting and has out-of-this-world flavor. It should come as no surprise that it has been revered as a prized food in India for thousands of years. In fact, many Ayurvedic practitioners consider ghee to be such a supreme health tonic that it is often recommended, in small doses, as the first food given to a newborn child, even before breast milk  in order to help kick start digestion, seed the body with life force (or ojas) and supply deeply nourishing nutrients for building a healthy brain and nervous system. But those incredible health benefits don’t just apply to newborn children—ghee is a wonderful health-boosting tonic at any age, the benefits of which affect nearly every system and process in the body.
But before we dive into that, let’s first get clear on exactly what ghee is: clarified butter. Clarified butter is essentially butter that has been lightly simmered on a stovetop, the process of which causes the milk fats, water and other impurities to separate out to the top and bottom of the pan. These are then filtered out removing the lactose and leaving the highly purified, medicinal oil known as ghee, which solidifies at room temperature.
Ghee vs. Butter: Losing the Casein and Lactose, Gaining Incredible Health Benefits
The process of clarifying butter into ghee changes it from a delicious, nutritious fat into an incredibly tasty, highly medicinal powerhouse due to the concentrating and purifying effect clarification has on the butter. Ghee is literally all of the best parts of butter without any of the troublesome allergens like casein and lactose. The process of simmering the butter and filtering out the sediments and milk solids removes 99% of the lactose and casein, meaning that even those who are lactose and casein intolerant/sensitive can often eat ghee without any issue. With that being said, if you have one of these allergies, start slowly with ghee to see how your body reacts, just to be on the safe side.
The Health Benefits of Ghee
While the term superfood is thrown around pretty loosely these days, ghee’s benefits truly live up to the hype—from the brain, to the digestive tract and beyond, this ancient nourishing fat truly rejuvenates the body from the inside out.
1. Nourishes and Protects the Brain
Few people realize that saturated fat is essential for proper brain health and ghee is one of the highest-quality and healthiest sources of saturated fat available. For starters, neurons and nerve fibers in the brain are largely coated in myelin sheathing, which, you guessed it, is largely composed of saturated fats like those found in ghee. The myelin sheathing helps neurons, axons and nerve cells fire and communicate properly, which they can’t do when our diet is lacking high-quality saturated fats. Furthermore, saturated fat is a fundamental building block for brain cells and it is certainly interesting to consider that one of the richest sources of saturated fat in nature is human breast milk, clearly showing its role in the development of a healthy brain.
Ghee is also rich in cholesterol, another vitally important brain-boosting nutrient that has been wrongly demonized by the media for years. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, functional medicine doctor and author of Grain Brain, cholesterol is essential for not only proper brain function but also preventing disease:
“Cholesterol is vital for a well-functioning brain. Cholesterol functions as a brain-protective antioxidant. It is the raw material from which our bodies make vitamin D, a fundamental player in preserving brain function. In addition, cholesterol is the precursor for the sex hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone¾all of which contribute to healthy brain function. While the brain constitutes about 2-3% of our total body weight, an impressive 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain. So when the FDA last year began requiring consumer warnings on certain cholesterol-lowering medications related to memory decline and other cognitive issues, it wasn’t surprising. Indeed, it has now been shown that in the elderly, those folks whose cholesterol levels are the highest may have as much as a 70% risk reduction for dementia.” [2, 3]
And if all that wasn’t enough, ghee also contains choline and omega-3 fatty acids, both incredibly important brain nutrients. Choline also acts as a precursor to essential neurotransmitters like acetylcholine, which plays an important role in memory and learning. A choline deficiency can result in poor concentration, poor memory, mood changes and other cognitive impairments, especially as someone ages. Omega-3 fatty acids have a number of important roles in brain health, from increasing neurotransmitter production to reducing inflammation to increasing gray matter to slowing the rate of aging and improving cognitive health, memory and overall mood and wellbeing. 
2. Heals and Repairs Digestion and the Digestive Tract
When it comes to healing and improving digestion, there are few substances on the planet as powerful as ghee for a number of reasons.
The first is that ghee is one of nature’s richest sources of butyrate (butyric acid), a short-chain fatty acid that causes intestinal wall cells to proliferate, meaning that it essentially causes the growth and repair of new tissues in the digestive tract.  This has a number of benefits, from protection against colon cancer to the repair of leaky gut syndrome, IBS, ulcers, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, among other things.  Toxins, gluten, antibiotics and other allergens and pollutants enter our digestive tract through our food and medicines and can damage the intestinal lining over time, causing scarring and holes in the intestinal wall. The butryic acid in ghee (when consumed regularly) works to reverse this damage and restore a healthy colon by soothing and reducing inflammation in the digestive tract and healing wounds in the mucus lining of the stomach and intestines.
Butyric acid is also balancing and strengthening to the gut flora (probiotic bacteria), is beneficial for reducing Candida overgrowth and other unwanted pathogens and balances hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach, which are frequently disturbed in those with digestive problems . Even if you don’t have any major gut issues, ghee can strengthen digestion to new levels, improving nutrient absorption and overall health.
The Enteric Nervous System: The Brain in Your Belly
Most people are not aware that a major portion of our nervous system is located in our intestines, also know as the “enteric nervous system” by doctors or, more commonly, as our “second brain.” In fact, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine. Furthermore, your intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters identical to those found in your brain that are used by your central nervous system to regulate mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, mental functioning and any number of other essential body processes. As you can imagine, an imbalanced, damaged or poorly functioning digestive system—whether that is due to antibiotic use, diet and lifestyle or simply overconsumption of irritating foods—interferes with the functioning of this second brain and has been implicated in depression (and other mood disorders), immune system disruption and many other common diseases. In that sense, ghee also works to nourish, protect and strengthen the brain in your belly as well. Many people notice many of the above-mentioned benefits from regularly consuming ghee as a medicinal tonic.
And if that wasn’t enough, ghee also stimulates and renews bile production in the liver, which is extremely important for proper digestion, particularly the digestion of fatty foods. 
3. Rich in Essential, Health-Boosting Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients
In addition to all of its medicinal benefits, ghee is also rich in some harder-to-get essential nutrients:
Unlike most foods, the Vitamin A in ghee is in retinol form, meaning that it is in the most biocompatible form for the human body. Most of the vitamin A in our diets comes from beta-carotene, which requires the body to convert it into retinol before it can be used. However, not everyone converts beta-carotene into retinol form as efficiently, and some people run the risk of mild-to-moderate vitamin A deficiencies if there is not enough retinol-form vitamin A in their diets. Vitamin A is important for eye, skin, hair and immune health among other things.
Ghee contains high amounts of vitamin E, one of the most powerful and important antioxidants in the human body.
Essential for healthy bones and heart, vitamin K2 can be hard to get, as it is somewhat rare in most foods, but ghee is rich in it. Proper levels of vitamin K2 help to protect against tooth decay, support proper growth and development of bones, and protect against the calcification of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis.
Despite being demonized by the media in past decades, cholesterol is essential for proper health, hormone production, brain function, nerve function, cellular health and a number of other highly important bodily functions, the consumption of which does not cause heart disease and blood clots as previously thought. Ghee supplies high-quality cholesterol to the body and brain.
Omega-3 and Omega-9 Fatty Acids
As long as it is from grass-fed cows, ghee contains omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids, which play a number of vital roles in the human body and are particularly important for mood and brain health, among other things.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Abundant in ghee made from grass-fed cows’ milk, initial studies indicate that CLA may help to reduce tumors, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, reduce inflammation and actually burn body fat.
4. Rich in Ojas: Increases Life Force and Deeply Rejuvenating to the Mind, Body and Spirit
Of all the benefits of ghee, perhaps the most important is its ability to increase life-force energy in the body. According to the ancient Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda, ghee supplies the body and mind with ojas, which loosely translates to “vitality” or “life force.” In Ayurvedic philosophy, ojas is a primordial life energy that we all possess that keeps us alive and healthy but can be depleted by age, stress, poor diet/nutrition, sexual excess, toxins and more. Ayurvedic doctors believe that certain building foods and herbs, such as ghee, can resupply the body with ojas if it has been depleted or “top it up” in the case of those who are looking to further strengthen their already good health.
Jing energy, which ghee also supplies, is similar in many ways to ojas. According to Daoist philosophy, jing is the deepest and most fundamental aspect of our energy. It governs the gradual processes of development and aging. Ghee can be classified as a jing-enhancing food in the Daoist herbal tradition, which means that it is nourishing at the most fundamental levels to the body, mind and spirit.
5. Physically, Energetically and Emotionally Calming and Nourishing
In Ayurvedic medicine, ghee is said to be tri-doshic in smaller doses, meaning that it restores balance and harmony and tends to calm (pacify) all body types (or constitutions). For people of a skinny (vata) and medium build (pitta), ghee in small to large doses is generally calming and relaxing both physically, emotionally and energetically. For those of a larger or heavier build (kapha), ghee is best taken in smaller quantities for maximum benefit, as it can calm an otherwise sluggish metabolism too much. For this reason, ghee can be taken at night just before bed to help drift off into a pleasantly deep sleep. It is also great in combination with more stimulating, hot and spicy foods like peppers of all kind, ginger and garlic, which it helps to balance out.
6. Great for Cooking: High Smoke Point and Tastes Great
Ghee makes a great cooking oil for almost any type of food by any method. It can handle heat up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 Celsius) and imparts a rich, buttery flavor. As a saturated fat, ghee is also more stable than other fats/oils, thus it is less prone to oxidation and nutrient destruction during cooking. Best of all, because it contains virtually no milk solids, ghee stays good almost indefinitely. It can be stored at room temperature or in the fridge—simply be sure to keep moisture and water out of the jar.
7. Detoxifying Physically and Emotionally
In Ayurveda, ghee has traditionally been used as a detoxifying agent on the physical and emotional levels. According to Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and chiropractor Dr. John Douillard:
“Ghee has a lipophilic effect on other fatty acids and fatty toxins in the body (which are lipophilic, meaning they are attracted to other fats), acting like a chelating agent to pull stored fat-soluble toxins out of the body and back into the intestines for removal from the body. Molecules of emotion—which, according to Ayurveda, are also lipophilic and stored in the fat cells—can also be “pulled” out of their hiding places using this method.”
Ghee also helps to lubricate the body and intestines, helping with constipation and promoting regular bowel movements in healthy individuals, which assists in elimination and detoxification. It has traditionally been used in panchakarma treatments (a special Ayurvedic cleansing ritual) to remove deep-rooted physical and mental toxins. It is considered to be a vital step in the preparatory phase (purvakarma) of the cleanse, as well as during the cleanse itself. By taking ghee in large doses prior to the cleanse, it “loosens” the deep-rooted toxins from the tissues, which allows them to be eliminated through purgation.
What to Look for When Buying Ghee
The most important consideration when buying ghee is that it comes from 100% grass-fed, pasture-raised cows. If it is also organic or biodynamic, that is an added plus. However, so long as the cows are raised by traditional methods (grass-fed and pastured), the ghee product will generally be of high quality. Ghee should always be packaged in glass jars for maximum freshness and potency.
Recommended Ghee Products
Organic Grass-Fed Ghee
Ancient Organics offers an artisan-quality grass-fed, organic ghee churned in small batches by hand according to ancient Ayurvedic principles. Honoring the tradition of artisan ghee making in India, Ancient Organics is produced in a peaceful and mantra-infused kitchen, and they offer a special line of full moon prepared ghee for an extra energetic and spiritual lift.
Sun Potion Prash is inspired by the Ayurvedic formula Chyawanprash, which is a highly medicinal and delicious blend of wildflower honey and various tonic herbs for improving digestion and overall health and wellness infused in a base of biodynamic ghee.
4th & Heart offers a 100% grass-fed ghee prepared from free roaming, humanely raised and pastured New Zealand cows, widely considered to be some of the best treated cows on the planet. 4th & Heart also offers a range of ghee butters infused with medicinal, culinary ingredients such as vanilla beans, truffles, himalayan pink salt and more.
Mt. Capra offers a truly one-of-a-kind goats milk ghee sourced from pasture-raised, grass-fed goats. Goat’s milk is more easily digestible than cows milk and less allergenic making their ghee a good choice for sensitive individuals, although as milk products go, ghee tends to be very mild and non-problematic even in those people with lactose intolerance.
Ghee tastes phenomenal and has a variety of uses as follows:
+ Eat it straight out of the jar for a calming and nourishing medicinal snack
+ Ghee can be used in place of most cooking oils and is great for sauteeing
+ A classic use is on toast or bread as substitute for butter
+ In baking recipes as a substitute for butter
+ As a skin lotion for moisturizing deeply
+ Medicinally as prescribed by Ayurveda
Side Effects and Interactions
Ghee has no side effects and is extremely safe but should be avoided by people with extreme dairy allergies. If you fall in this camp, contact your doctor or naturopath before consuming ghee.
About The Author
Justin Faerman is the Co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and a visionary change-agent, entrepreneur, international speaker and consciousness researcher dedicated to evolving global consciousness, bridging science and spirituality and spreading enlightened ideas on both an individual and societal level. He is the co-founder of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine and a sought-after coach and teacher, known for his..
The Genetics of Higher Consciousness:
Is Cognitive Engineering The Future of
BY NANDINI GOSINE-MARYHOO
photo: nicolasberlin photocase.com
Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the article below are entirely those of the author and associated organizations and are not representative of Conscious Lifestyle Magazine or its team. This piece is intended to spark a larger conversation and dialogue about the future of humanity and human consciousness as we enter the impending age of genetic engineering, which will require great responsibility to be used safely and beneficially for all life.
The Past and Future of Consciousness
Man’s quest to understand his origin—and therefore his power, is eternal. At its core, every religious construct seeks to lead mankind to be more conscious of the mysteries of his existence. Eastern philosophy in particular, teaches that in order to attain that consciousness, we need only look within—because it is there that our true power lies. As a collective, we have succeeded only in making hard work of this, reserving heightened states of consciousness for the likes of monks and mystics.
The last fifty years have seen incredibly rapid advancements in science and technology. The Information Age brought vast knowledge to our fingertips and saw the invention of the Internet, considered to be one of mankind’s greatest achievements. Even with its myriad of benefits, the Internet’s potential to alienate us from each other has long been a concern.¹ Another quantum leap in technology, artificial intelligence, challenges humanity to be more than just a fleeting phase in a robotic evolution.² Humanity’s scientific transformation carries an important lesson: the most valuable evolution is that of our consciousness, without which we may lose every semblance of our humanness. Scientific breakthroughs and consciousness evolution must work in tandem. The former, devoid of consciousness, may very likely lead to our destruction. The latter, without the benefit of scientific advancement, will continue its very slow progress in achieving any widespread understanding of the Power from which we came.
Before exploring how science can impact the evolution of our consciousness, perhaps we must first attempt to define consciousness. Being conscious can be described as being aware of one’s own existence. Possessing higher or spiritual consciousness can be described as being aware of things as they truly are. This implies a deeply spiritual understanding of our existence, far beyond the everyday confines of our humanness. We humans have the power to achieve this awareness, but until this time in our history it has been only through a slow process of intense introspection, meditation and even extreme solitude.
Both Western and Eastern Philosophy have long recognized the cognitive potential of the human mind.³ While science has begun to acknowledge the mind exists outside of our physical bodies,⁴ it is yet to fully explain anything beyond the mechanical workings of the human brain. Neuroscience is beginning to catch up with Eastern Philosophy in recognizing that our cognitive faculties can be trained through meditation.⁵ Yet, scientifically explaining the human consciousness potential remains elusive… at least, until now. One organization undertaking pioneering work in this field, Future Life Institute, has applied a scientific approach to explaining spiritual states of being. In the book Transcendental Engineering (by FLI’s founder John Mee), mathematical axioms and formulas are applied to reveal cardinal laws governing the dynamic interplay between spirit, or the Power from which we originate, and the material universe. Transcendental Engineering introduces a new branch of science called “cognitive physics,” which expresses fundamental laws governing consciousness (which exists outside of our brains), and its relationship with our physical neurology. Why is this important? The huge implication is that in having a scientific understanding of consciousness, we can look to other scientific applications to enhance it.
The science behind genetically engineered DNA molecules for cloning in foreign cells has been with us since the early 1970s.⁶ The commercial sale of genetically engineered food began in the mid-1990s. In the U.S., the Human Genome Project was launched in 1990 and the mapping and sequencing of the human genome was announced in 2000. Humanity has entered its Genetic Age. The standout development of this era so far is a genome editing technology called CRISPR.⁷ This technology’s impact on biological research is being compared to the steam engine, which gave rise to the Industrial Revolution and the transistor, which launched the Information Age. CRISPR has enormous potential, particularly for applications in medicine—and investors are paying attention (according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, public and private genetic engineering companies raised $15B globally just in the last two years). Genetic engineering application in enhancing human physical attributes such as appearance, strength and agility is possible. If genetically engineered food causes contention, the genetic engineering of humans can be an ethical minefield. Again, the evolution of human consciousness alongside scientific technological advances comes into sharp focus. That evolution is necessary, indeed mandatory, if we are to counter the base human tendencies of power and greed—tendencies which could lead to the gross misuse of advances in genetic engineering.
In its research into scientifically actualizing the potential of human consciousness, FLI envisages the use of CRISPR to enhance human cognitive functions. FLI calls this “cognitive engineering,” but with a greater emphasis on consciousness enhancement, as opposed to only enhancing cognitive brain-based skills. FLI is overseeing research programs for the formulation of genome engineering designs to achieve these aims. FLI will implement not only the scientific editing of the DNA affecting higher states of consciousness, but also comprehensive education and psychological counseling around managing those higher states of consciousness. Universities with appropriately trained teachers will tutor students, delivering education and counselling programs. This education is vital to managing higher states of consciousness and will therefore precede the actual genetic upgrades, which will be administered via reversible pill therapy (enabling short, long or permanent states of higher consciousness). It is a given that not all students entering these universities will eventually meet the stringent requirements for gene therapy.
It is intended that the research entities and universities will, with astute management, establish a gold standard of quality, and importantly, integrity for human genetic consciousness engineering.
GenI and the genetic Revolution
What does all this actually mean to someone interested in, and qualified for, cognitive engineering? As mentioned, students who prove themselves ready to attain and manage higher states of consciousness will become eligible to receive access to gene therapy resources. FLI has coined the term “GenI” (pronounced Gen-I), to describe cognitively-upgraded individuals who successfully complete the course of education and receive the gene therapy. The higher state of consciousness enjoyed by GenIs is its own reward, but there are important benefits which will extend to communities and society as a whole. The Key Rewards chart outlines some of these benefits, which will empower individuals to effortlessly remain centered in their spiritual identities as they live each day. GenIs will enjoy continuous awareness of awareness, providing an example to others of mankind’s spiritual capacity and the ensuing impact on our world. GenIs will represent the consciously-enhanced future of humankind, paving the way for future generations of advanced humans who embrace science and technology as a means of benefitting and preserving humanity.
Cognitive Capital: Humanity’s New Wealth
The Genetic Age is giving rise to a new form of wealth—genetic capital. The rush to invest in genetic engineering underlines the long-term returns anticipated by investors. The myriad of applications for genetic engineering includes, but is not limited to, agriculture, energy, health and industry. The use of genetic engineering to enhance cognitive abilities gives rise to cognitive capital. Artificial intelligence poses an undeniable threat to the need for humans to perform jobs,⁸ a threat that is progressing at a speed most people are yet to grasp. As robots replace humans, the loss of affected jobs will usher in the creation of millions of high-remuneration, cognitively-demanding jobs. With globalization, these new jobs will inevitably emerge where the mental capacity of the workforce matches their demands. This phenomenon has been studied by Oxford scholar Nayef Al-Rodhan,⁹ who believes that harnessing cognitive enhancement technologies can help nations “engineer more productive, competent, focused, and skilled individuals in the workplace, thus increasing the overall output of their economies and projecting global power further afield.” Al-Rodhan outlines some inevitable social and political implications of this cognitive enhancement, not least particularly the potential implications of inequality between enhanced and non-enhanced individuals. Perhaps these ethical challenges become redundant if cognitive enhancement is used to raise not only physical and intellectual capacity, but also our consciousness, which will always seek the best outcome for the whole of humanity.
It is logical that various countries have considered the economic impacts of having a “more productive, competent, focused, and skilled” workforce. China’s emergence as a global economic power includes it being recognized as the world leader in human genetic enhancement.¹⁰ With conservative Western attitudes towards genetic engineering, China’s lead will only widen. China’s competitiveness on the world stage will increase with a potential upgrading of its population’s cognitive abilities. Loss of jobs in the West through the threat posed by artificial intelligence, would lead to vast numbers of alienated and agitated individuals, eager for radical change. Voters being drawn to ever more powerful demagogues with false promises of hope pose a real risk. The viable solution for displaced workers is education, but many will lack the mental capacity to handle the education that will make them re-employable. Cognitive enhancement provides the means for an individual to gain the focus, emotional intelligence and motivation needed for success in more mentally challenging work environments. The West must not play catch-up in the human genetic engineering chase.
To the Future
The astonishingly rapid scientific and technological breakthroughs of the past fifty years make predictions of what our world would look like in the next fifty years difficult, if not impossible. The Genetic Age brings much promise, but carries considerable risk without a dramatic upgrade in humanity’s collective consciousness. The tried and tested means to higher consciousness are slow, unable to match the pace of scientific developments. Disruptive and original thinkers in the search for higher consciousness for humanity, such as the researchers at Future Life Institute, are outlining practical—if as yet unproven—solutions. The need for radical thinking investors and philanthropists who seek a future conscious human existence, is immediate. Cognitive engineering is here. Consciousness engineering must be part of humanity’s scientific evolution.
The scientific evolution of consciousness provides the spiritual means for humans to continue their existence, not as egotistical destroyers of each other and their Earth, but as preservers and seekers of a greater future. The scientific and spiritual possibilities that await a consciously enhanced humanity exceed anything that we can currently imagine.
Nandini Gosine-Mayrhoo serves as Future Life Institute’s lead research analyst. Nandini honed her skills as an analyst during her management career in wholesale banking at Lloyds Banking Group in London, where she specialized in large asset and project finance risk analysis. At Lloyds, she was responsible for researching and investigating the feasibility of financing large asset transactions, including the building of ships, aircraft, power plants and roads. She also organized and directed risk management analysis for LDC, the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.
Originally from Trinidad, Nandini lived in London for over 20 years before moving with her husband to Florida. She is active in several other non-profit organizations serving women’s needs and local communities, and is currently studying for a Doctorate in Metaphysics. She is passionate about natural health, wellness, personal development and engaging in a deeper connection with the elemental world. Visit her website: futurelives.org
The Basics of Astrology: Everything You Need to Know to Become Fluent in the Language of the Stars
BY RICHARD WEBSTER
photo: mark tegethoff
The Origins and Brief History of Astrology
Thousands of years ago, people gazed up at the skies and were awed by the mystery of the planets and the stars. The movements of the stars and planets must have seemed like magic to them. Not surprisingly, these movements were observed and recorded. Solon, the Greek historian, wrote that astronomical information was being recorded nine thousand years before he was born. If this is correct, people have been interested in astrology for at least eleven thousand years. It’s possible that astrology is the oldest form of divination in the world.
Astrology probably originated in Mesopotamia, but almost every ancient civilization, from Babylon to Egypt, and China to Greece, studied it. Early astrologers noted that most groups of stars, known as constellations, moved around the sky together. However, five of the larger and brighter stars traveled independently. They called them “wanderers.” Today we know them as planets. Astrologers thought these wanderers were gods and called them Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Uranus was discovered in 1781, followed by Neptune in 1846, and Pluto in 1930. They also noted the movements of the Sun and Moon, which factor significantly into understanding astrology basics.
Astrologers gradually came to realize that people who were born at a particular time of year, when the Sun, Moon, and planets were in the same part of the sky, had a great deal in common. Even though every person is unique, these people shared many of the same interests and feelings. This enabled astrologers to construct horoscope charts for individual people. A horoscope is a picture of the heavens at the date, time, and place where the person was born. If you could lie on your back and look up at the sky at the moment you were born, you’d see all the planets in the same positions as they are in your natal chart.
Preparing your chart used to be a lengthy process, but nowadays it can be done in seconds. If you Google “free horoscope chart,” you’ll find many sites that’ll prepare a chart for you. However, interpreting and understanding an astrology chart is an involved process that takes years to master.
The Four Elements
The twelve signs of the zodiac are divided into four groups, each containing three of the signs. The four groups are named after the four elements that were proposed by the ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles twenty-four hundred years ago. They were believed to be the building blocks of the universe: fire, earth, air, and water. In basic astrology terms, the elements express the indispensable nature of the different signs.
+ Fire (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius) Fire is positive, assertive, energetic, enthusiastic, impulsive, inspirational, courageous, powerful, passionate, and initiating.
+ Earth (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn) Earth is cautious, responsible, reliable, ambitious, practical, focused, disciplined, dependable, solid, and persevering.
+ Air (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) Air is lighthearted, joyful, curious, restless, independent, communicative, impractical, entertaining, intellectual, and trusting.
+ Water (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) Water is compassionate, forgiving, understanding, emotional, creative, intuitive and spiritual.
Understanding Astrology Sun Signs
The Sun is the energy and force behind the entire solar system. Without it, life as we know it could not exist. In your horoscope the Sun represents independence, willpower, strength, energy, leadership, motivation, creativity, and even your popularity. It indicates your individuality—what you are really like inside.
Even if people know nothing about astrology basics, most people know what their Sun sign is, and they usually know a few of the character traits that are assigned to it. The astrological predictions that appear in many newspapers and magazines are based on the Sun signs. These are by necessity generalizations, as there are only twelve Sun signs, and this means all of humanity is divided into twelve groups. Obviously, this isn’t the case, but it’s a good place to start looking at your horoscope chart when learning how to understand astrology.
In astrology, the sky is divided into twelve sections, each representing one of the signs of the zodiac. It looks like a circular cake cut into twelve equal slices. At the moment you were born, the Sun was in one of those twelve sections, and that determines what sign of the zodiac you belong to. The Sun spends thirty days in each section, which means it takes a whole year to visit each section and circle the zodiac. The dates change by a day or two from year to year. Consequently, if you were born near the beginning or end of a sign, it would pay to check the year you were born in to find what sign you were born in. Incidentally, when I was young, someone told me that people who were born “on the cusp,” which means at the start or end of a sign, pick up the positive aspects of each sign and miss out on the negatives. This isn’t totally true when you begin to understand astrology beyond the basics, but it’s amazing how many people who are born on the cusp have a positive outlook on life.
Each section provides its own particular energy to the people who are born in it. Thousands of years ago, astrologers used the names of animals, people, and objects to describe this energy. This is why we have: Aries the Ram, Taurus the Bull, Gemini the Twins, Cancer the Crab, Leo the Lion, Virgo the Virgin, Libra the Scales, Scorpio the Scorpion, Sagittarius the Centaur, Capricorn the Goat, Aquarius the Water Carrier, and Pisces the Fish.
+ March 21–April 20 + Element: Fire Ruling + Planet: Mars
People born under the sign of Aries are leaders and pioneers. They enjoy responsibility and are happiest when managing and organizing others. They are magnetic and outgoing and can inspire others to action with their dynamic leadership. They are courageous and prepared to take calculated risks, and they fight for what they believe in. They need to be busy to be happy. Arians are often happiest when working for themselves, but also rise to positions of leadership and responsibility when working for others. They are curious and have a keen interest in everything that’s going on. Because they’re quick-witted and like to get to the heart of any problem, they can get impatient with people who take time to come to a decision. They enjoy talking and look forward to social activities. They make warm and lively friends.
People born under the sign of Taurus are practical, patient, and determined. According to astrology basics for this sun sign, they’re naturally cautious and think matters through before acting. Because of this, they can appear stubborn and obstinate to others. They like to do things their own way. Taureans can be extremely generous, but they always keep something in reserve, as security is important to them. They are generally good at managing their financial affairs. They are persistent and possess enormous drive and determination. Taureans love beauty and work best in harmonious surroundings. Their homes invariably display good quality and tasteful objects, and whenever they buy something, it has to be of good quality. The main lesson Taureans need to learn is how to control obstinacy. Once they’ve made up their minds on something, it’s almost impossible to change it. This can make them inflexible and unforgiving, which is out of tune with the calm, harmonious approach they usually have.
+ May 22–June 21 + Element: Air Ruling + Planet: Mercury
People born under the sign of Gemini are ingenious, versatile, restless, and quick-thinking. They love meeting new people, and have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They are good with words, and can talk at great length on almost anything. They enjoy occupations that use their voices in some way. They enjoy mental stimulation, but often waste time on idle chatter. They are easygoing and get on well with almost everyone. They’re versatile, highly creative, and often artistic. They need a great deal of variety in their lives. This endless search for variety often means they leave a trail of half-finished projects behind them. They possess a great deal of nervous energy and always seek quick results. They have the ability to see both sides of a problem.
+ June 22–July 22 + Element: Water + Ruling Planet: Moon
People born under the sign of Cancer are romantic, emotional, and imaginative. They are ruled largely by their feelings. They are highly sensitive and easily hurt, but are able to fight back when pushed into a corner. They have the ability to charm and captivate others and use this to devastating effect when they know what they want. Because they’re incredibly tenacious, they ultimately achieve their goals. A core concept in understanding astrology is that each sign is ruled by a particular planet, and Cancerians are ruled by the Moon, which emphasizes the sensitive, emotional side of their natures. Consequently, they may sometimes appear unwilling to commit in case they get hurt. Cancerians love the security of home and family, and they make extremely good parents. They can be self-indulgent and spend money freely, yet they’re also extremely good at getting a bargain. They are usually highly intuitive, and have the potential to develop considerable psychic ability.
+ July 23–August 22 + Element: Fire Ruling + Planet: Sun
People born under the sign of Leo are ambitious, determined people with open, friendly natures. They are born leaders and instinctively gravitate to positions where their leadership potential can be utilized. They’re open, honest, and enthusiastic about every aspect of their lives. Because they’re generally happy, they want everyone close to them to be happy too. They are confident and determined and always make their presence felt in everything they do. They invariably get where they want to go, though overconfidence can cause delays and problems along the way. Pride is very important to Leos, and they hate being ridiculed or demeaned. They are susceptible to flattery and need to learn how to control this. They are generous and enjoy making magnanimous gestures. They spread their warmth and enthusiasm everywhere they go. They can exaggerate or distort the truth at times, as they like to weave a good story.
According to astrology basics, people born under the sign of Virgo are modest, down-to-earth, and matter of fact. They have a shrewd outlook on life. They are intelligent, cautious, conforming people who invariably look respectable and tidy. They enjoy doing detailed and precise work, and this, coupled with good memories, makes them highly capable administrators. They can assess people quickly, though they usually keep their thoughts to themselves. They are naturally reserved, and this makes it hard to get close to them until they’re ready to let you in. They make good friends once this happens. They are their own worst critics, as they constantly aim for perfection and set high standards for themselves. They enjoy analyzing things and can sometimes pay excessive attention to tiny details. They are self-motivated but find it impossible to complete anything to the high standards they require. This can cause significant worry. They generally prefer working behind the scenes but enjoy the inner satisfaction of a job well done. They can be outspoken and critical, and this often comes into play when they feel that justice and fair play are absent.
+ September 24–October 22 + Element: Air Ruling + Planet: Venus
People born under the sign of Libra are harmonious, well-balanced, and friendly. They have a tendency to be indecisive. They are good talkers but prefer to avoid arguments and confrontations. They’re honest and sincere and expect others to be the same. They feel their emotions deeply and are very involved in the lives of the people they care for. They love beauty and have good taste. Librans find it hard to make decisions. They like to think about the matter, agonize over it, and weigh it up carefully before making a decision. This can cause impatience in other people, especially when the indecision is over something that is unimportant. However, once the decision has been made, they’ll follow it through with great determination. Librans have a strong sense of justice and fair play. They often side with the underdog.
+ October 23–November 21 + Element: Water Ruling + Planet: Mars
People born under the sign of Scorpio are forceful and determined. They have enormous powers of concentration, but don’t always reveal this side of themselves as they’re also secretive and never reveal their true nature to anyone. They’re intuitive, and this gives them great insight into how other people work and react. Scorpios are individualistic. They’re prepared to take risks, but they’re always carefully calculated first. They watch and wait for opportunities, using the element of surprise to their advantage. Scorpios usually know what it is that they want, and they possess incredible determination and tenacity, which helps them reach their goals.
+ November 22–December 22 + Element: Fire Ruling + Planet: Jupiter
People born under the sign of Sagittarius are friendly, open, and optimistic. They are naturally enthusiastic and have a great zest for life. They’re honest and loyal, but can be outspoken and tactless at times. Independence is important to them, and they need space and room around them in order to thrive. Because of this, they’re often interested in sports and other outdoor activities. Sagittarians need to learn to channel their energies, as they often try to do too many different things at the same time. This is especially the case when they’re young, and it can be frustrating to others who can see their potential. Sagittarians enjoy learning, and often do this on their own, as they feel hemmed in and restricted in classrooms. They possess considerable foresight and vision, and over a lifetime develop a strong philosophy of life.
People born under the sign of Capricorn are solid, practical, and hardworking. They have a serious approach to life and slowly but steadily reach their goals. They are cautious, logical, careful, and fair. They’re ambitious and set their sights on far off distant goals that they invariably achieve. They are practical, conservative people who like to work everything out carefully before acting. According to the basics of astrology, they are thrifty and careful with money. They enjoy saving money but are happy to use it for specific purposes. They find it hard to express their emotions but can be extremely romantic with the right partner. They enjoy family life and are good, responsible, and loving parents.
+ January 21–February 19 + Element: Air + Ruling Planet: Uranus
People born under the sign of Aquarius are sympathetic, broad-minded, tolerant, unconventional, and completely lacking in prejudice. They’re inclined to be independent, intellectual, inventive, and altruistic. They possess strong humanitarian ideals and are happiest when they’re involved in helping others. Their humanitarianism extends to all humanity. Aquarians have a scientific frame of mind and are always progressive and frequently radical in their ideas. They’re constantly looking ahead, trying to turn their dreams into reality. They accept people for who they are and accept their needs and idiosyncrasies. They make excellent, long-lasting friendships. Aquarians seek the truth of life in everything they do. They learn using both logic and intuition. They live largely on a mental plane and enjoy coming up with original ideas.
+ February 20–March 20 + Element: Water + Ruling Planet: Neptune
People born under the sign of Pisces are gentle, imaginative, thoughtful, philanthropic, and creative. Although they can be vague and indecisive at times, they are generally popular and make successes of their lives. They’re sensitive and easily hurt, and this can lead to disappointments and emotional crises. They need encouragement to perform well. Pisceans are intuitive, receptive, and sympathetic. This makes them good judges of character. However, it also means they get easily hurt, and they suffer in silence when rebuffed or dismissed. They are extremely compassionate and are always available with a shoulder to lean on. They are happiest in any occupation that involves helping others.
The second most important part of understanding an astrology horoscope chart is called the ascendant, or rising sign. Because of the Earth’s rotation on its axis, the zodiac appears to revolve once every twenty-four hours. This means that one of the twelve signs was on the eastern horizon at the time you were born. This sign is called the ascendant. If you were born between 4:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., for instance, the sign coming over the horizon would be the same as your Sun sign. If you were born between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., your ascendant would be the sign that immediately follows your Sun sign.
In basic astrology terms, your Sun sign describes your individuality, and your ascendant reveals your personality. It also has an effect on your physical appearance and how you present your individuality in everyday life. If your ascendant is a fire sign (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius), you’ll appear enthusiastic, optimistic, and full of energy. If your ascendant is an earth sign (Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn), you’ll appear cautious, reserved, practical, and serious. If your ascendant is an air sign (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius), you’ll appear sociable, friendly, and communicative. If your ascendant is a water sign (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces), you’ll appear emotional, intuitive, and sensitive.
If you don’t know your time of birth, astrologers normally use 6:00 a.m. This places your Sun Sign in the first house. However, you should use your time of birth if you know what it is. Sometimes your friends might be able to help you decide on a possible ascendant by comparing you to the qualities provided by the four elements.
Your horoscope sign and ascendant provide valuable insights into you and your nature. They also explain why two people of the same sign can be completely different to each other. Someone born under the sign of Aries, with a Leo ascendant, will be outspoken and enjoy being the center of attention. Another Arian, with a Pisces ascendant, will be quieter and more sensitive.
The Ten Planets
Astrologers refer to the Sun and the Moon as planets when doing their calculations. Of course they know this isn’t actually the case, but because they have a strong influence on our lives, it’s convenient to consider them as planets when looking at a horoscope chart and for understanding astrology in general. The ten planets are: the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. According to the basics of astrology, each of these relates to a different side of our personality.
The Sun passes through every sign of the zodiac for approximately one month every year. It reveals what we want out of life. The Sun is the giver of life, radiating energy, inspiration, self-awareness, enthusiasm, and wisdom. However, the warm rays of the Sun can be used for both good and ill. When adversely affected, this creates pride, anger, conceit, and egotism. The Sun relates to the conscious mind.
The Moon symbolizes fertility and relates to sensitivity, imagination, feelings, emotions, the subconscious, and intuition. It also relates to nurturing, domesticity, and home and family life. People who are ruled by the Moon are essentially emotional, sensitive, and changeable. In advanced and basic astrology, the Moon relates to the subconscious mind.
Mercury governs the nervous system and intellect. It relates to self-expression and getting on with others. The keyword for Mercury is communication, which is why it’s related to rapid thought, adaptability, eloquence, quick perceptions, and the intellect. It’s also related to travel.
Venus is the goddess of love and sexuality. It represents gentility, sociability, beauty, and the arts. It controls the deeper and finer human emotions, such as appreciation, love, and devotion. Venus reveals what you enjoy and how you handle close relationships.
Mars, the god of war, symbolizes courage, force, bravery, assertiveness, and physical drive. It gives the qualities of boldness, frankness, endurance, and initiative. Mars reveals your energy and sexuality. People influenced by Mars are better at doing things, rather than planning them. When Mars is well situated in a chart it gives strength of character, leadership ability, and a strong desire to succeed. It also provides moral courage and the ability to carry ideas through to completion.
Ancient astrologers considered Jupiter as being second only to the Sun. It symbolizes wisdom, moderation, and generosity. Jupiter reveals how we enjoy ourselves. Good fortune and luck have always been associated with this planet. Jupiter is also related to wisdom, knowledge, higher learning, philosophy, ethics, understanding, and the intellect. Because it’s always looking ahead, Jupiter is also associated with..
The Ultimate Guide to CBD: Everything You Need to Know About the Miraculous Health Benefits of Cannabidiol
BY LEONARD LEINOW AND JULIANA BIRNBAUM
CBD for Health Concerns
The ancient doctors and healers across the globe who prescribed cannabis thousands of years ago did so because they witnessed its medical benefits firsthand. In the last half century, modern science has begun to shed light on the biological processes behind the healing, where plant and animal chemistry work in concert. The body of research on cannabidiol, CBD oil benefits, THC, and other cannabinoids has grown exponentially in the past decade. The following brings together the latest scientific studies and stories from patients and doctors with advice on treating specific symptoms. It also includes dosage suggestions and information on recommended types of cannabinoid-based medicines for the particular condition.
A 2016 opinion statement from the authors of a study on cannabinoids and gastrointestinal disorders summarizes the current climate and calls for action from the medical community to bring cannabis-based medicine into line with our current understanding of neurochemistry.
Despite the political and social controversy affiliated with it, the medical community must come to the realization that cannabinoids exist as a ubiquitous signaling system in many organ systems. Our understanding of cannabinoids and how they relate not only to homeostasis but also in disease states must be furthered through research, both clinically and in the laboratory.
The words of these scientists convey the significance of the endocannabinoid system, first identified by Raphael Mechoulam in the mid-1990s and possibly one of the most important recent discoveries about the endogenous chemical transmitters involved in maintaining health. Endogenous (created naturally within the body) cannabinoids and their receptors are found not just in the brain but also in many organs as well as connective tissue, skin, glands, and immune cells. The list of CBD oil benefits and health concerns treatable by CBD is so long because these receptors are integral to so many bodily systems.
This is also the reason cannabinoids can be used as a general preventative medicine, protecting the body against the damages of stress and aging.
CBD as Preventative Medicine
Cannabinoid therapy is connected to the part of the biological matrix where body and brain meet. Since CBD (cannabidiol) and other compounds in cannabis are so similar to the chemicals created by our own bodies, they are integrated better than many synthetic drugs. According to Bradley E. Alger, a leading scientist in the study of endocannabinoids with a PhD from Harvard in experimental psychology, “With complex actions in our immune system, nervous system, and virtually all of the body’s organs, the endocannabinoids are literally a bridge between body and mind. By understanding this system, we begin to see a mechanism that could connect brain activity and states of physical health and disease.”
1. Reduced Risk of Diabetes and Obesity
Several studies have shown that regular cannabis users have a lower body mass index, smaller waist circumferences, and reduced risk of diabetes and obesity. One 2011 report published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, based on a survey of more than fifty-two thousand participants, concluded that rates of obesity are about one-third lower among cannabis users. This is despite the findings that participants tend to consume more calories per day, an activity that is potentially related to THC’s stimulation of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite but also increases the metabolism of carbohydrates. CBD on its own was shown in 2006 to lower the incidence of diabetes in lab rats, and in 2015 an Israeli-American biopharmaceutical collective began stage 2 trials related to using CBD to treat diabetes. Research has demonstrated that CBD benefits weight loss by helping the body convert white fat into weight-reducing brown fat, promoting noatherogenesisrmal insulin production and sugar metabolism.
In studying over 4,600 test subjects, researchers found that current cannabis users had fasting insulin levels that were up to 16 percent lower than their non-using counterparts, higher levels of HDL cholesterol that protects against diabetes, and 17 percent lower levels of insulin resistance. Respondents who had used cannabis in their lifetime but were not current users showed similar but less pronounced associations, indicating that the protective effect of cannabis fades with time.
Excess insulin promotes the conversion of sugars into stored fat and leads to weight gain and obesity. The research emerging about the interplay between cannabinoids and insulin regulation may lead to some major breakthroughs in the prevention of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
2. Better Cholesterol Profiles and Lowered Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
A 2013 study that measured data from 4,652 participants on the effect of cannabis on metabolic systems compared non-users to current and former users. It found that current users had higher blood levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL-C) or “good cholesterol.” The same year, an analysis of over seven hundred members of Canada’s Inuit community found that, on average, regular cannabis users had increased levels of HDL-C and slightly lower levels of LDL-C (“bad cholesterol”).
Linked to diet and lifestyle, atherosclerosis is common in developed Western nations and can lead to heart disease or stroke. It is a chronic inflammatory disorder involving the progressive depositing of atherosclerotic plaques (immune cells carrying oxidized LDL or low-density lipoproteins). A growing body of evidence suggests that endocannabinoid signaling plays a critical role in the pathology of atherogenesis. The condition is now understood to be a physical response to injuries in the arterial walls’ lining, caused by high blood pressure, infectious microbes, or excessive presence of an amino acid called homocysteine. Studies have demonstrated that inflammatory molecules stimulate the cycle leading to atherosclerotic lesions. Existing treatments are moderately effective though carry numerous side effects. CB2 receptors triple in response to inflammation, allowing anandamide and 2-AG, the body’s natural cannabinoids, to decrease inflammatory responses. The CB2 receptor is also stimulated by plant-based cannabinoids.
A 2005 animal trial showed that low-dose oral cannabinoids slowed the progression of atherosclerosis. Researchers the following year wrote that the immunomodulatory capacity of cannabinoids was “well established” in science and suggested they had a broad therapeutic potential for a variety of conditions, including atherosclerosis.
A 2007 animal study on CBD effects showed it had a cardio-protective effect during heart attacks, and more details were published that year about the involvement of the CB1 and CB2 receptors in cardiovascular illness and health.
3. Reduced Risk of Cancer
Could cannabidiol help prevent tumors and other cancers before they grow? A 2012 study showed that animals treated with CBD were significantly less likely to develop colon cancer after being induced with carcinogens in a laboratory. Several studies had already shown that THC prevents tumors and reduces them, including one in 1996 on animal models that found that it decreased the incidence of both benign and hepatic adenoma tumors. In 2015, scientists analyzed the medical records of over eighty-four thousand male patients in California and found that those who used cannabis, but not tobacco, had a rate of bladder cancer that was 45 percent below the norm. Topical products can be used to treat and prevent skin cancers. Continuing research is focused on the best ratio of CBD to THC and the most effective dose level in cancer prevention and treatment.
4. Helps Maintain Brain Health and Create Resilience to Trauma and Degeneration
Cannabinoids are neuroprotective, meaning that they help maintain and regulate brain health. The effects appear to be related to several actions they have on the brain, including the removal of damaged cells and the improved efficiency of mitochondria. CBD and other antioxidant compounds in cannabis also work to reduce glutamate toxicity. Extra glutamate, which stimulates nerve cells in the brain to fire, causes cells to become over-stimulated, ultimately leading to cell damage or death. Thus, cannabinoids help protect brain cells from damage, keeping the organ healthy and functioning properly. CBD has also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
As the brain ages, the creation of new neurons slows down significantly. In order to maintain brain health and prevent degenerative diseases, new cells need to be continuously created. A 2008 study showed that low doses of CBD- and THC-like cannabinoids encouraged the creation of new nerve cells in animal models, even in aging brains. CBD also benefits the brain by helping to prevent other nerve-related diseases like neuropathy and Alzheimer’s disease.
5. Protects against Bone Disease and Broken Bones
Cannabinoids are facilitative of the process of bone metabolism—the cycle in which old bone material is replaced by new at a rate of about 10 percent per year, crucial to maintaining strong, healthy bones over time. CBD in particular has been shown to block an enzyme that destroys bone-building compounds in the body, reducing the risk of age-related bone diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. In both of those diseases, the body is no longer creating new bone and cartilage cells. CBD helps spur the process of new bone-cell formation, which is why it has been found to speed the healing of broken bones and, due to a stronger fracture callus, decrease the likelihood of re-fracturing the bone (bones are 35–50 percent stronger than those of non-treated subjects).
6. Protects and Heals the Skin
The skin has the highest amount and concentration of CB2 receptors in the body. When applied topically as an infused lotion, serum, oil, or salve, the antioxidant (a more powerful antioxidant than vitamins E and C) in CBD oil has many benefits and can repair damage from free radicals like UV rays and environmental pollutants. Cannabinoid receptors can be found in the skin and seem to be connected to the regulation of oil production in the sebaceous glands. Cannabis-based topical products are being developed to treat related issues from acne to psoriasis and can promote faster healing of damaged skin. In fact, historical documents show that cannabis preparations have been used for wound healing in both animals and people in a range of cultures spanning the globe and going back thousands of years. The use of concentrated cannabis and CBD oils to benefit and treat skin cancer is gaining popularity with a number of well-documented cases of people curing both melanoma and carcinoma-type skin cancers with the topical application of CBD and THC products. Best known is the case of Rick Simpson, who cured his basal cell carcinoma with cannabis oil and now has a widely distributed line of products. Cannabis applied topically is not psychoactive.
7. Anti-inflammatory Benefits of CBD
Cannabinoids have been proven to have an anti-inflammatory effect in numerous studies. CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system in many organs throughout the body, helping to reduce inflammation systemically. The therapeutic potential is impressively wide-ranging, as inflammation is involved in a broad spectrum of diseases.
8. Anxiety and Stress
The oral use of cannabis and CBD for anxiety appears in a Vedic text dated around 2000 BCE, and it is one of the most common uses of the plant across various cultures. While THC can increase anxiety in some patients, it lowers it in others. However, CBD effects have been shown to consistently reduce anxiety when present in higher concentrations in the cannabis plant. On its own, CBD has been shown in a number of animal and human studies to lessen anxiety. The stress-reducing effect appears to be related to activity in both the limbic and paralimbic brain areas.
A 2012 research review assessed a number of international studies and concluded that CBD has been shown to reduce anxiety, and in particular social anxiety, in multiple studies and called for more clinical trials. Two years later, researchers in an animal study related to stress and the endocannabinoid system wrote that augmentation of the endocannabinoid system might be an effective strategy to mitigate behavioral and physical consequences of stress.
In addition to elucidating the relationship between CBD and anxiety, these findings appear to support that the anxiolytic effect of chronic CBD administration in stressed mice depends on its proneurogenic action in the adult hippocampus by facilitating endocannabinoid-mediated signaling.
How to Take the Medicine: Dosage and Delivery
It is suggested that patients work with a health care practitioner experienced in recommending cannabidiol or medicinal cannabis so that dosage and delivery methods can be developed and fine-tuned on an individual basis. At the same time, educated and aware patients can be their own highly informed health consultants.
For anxiety, CBD products with a ratio of 20:1 or higher are recommended and administered as drops, capsules, or edibles. High-CBD cannabinoids can be very effective in reducing chronic anxiety, treating temporary stress, and protecting the body from the physiological effects of both. Varieties high in linalool, a terpene shared with lavender, are known to be effective for relieving anxiety. In particular the strain AC/DC is very effective.
Always start with the micro dose to test sensitivity and go up as needed within the dosing range, before going to the next, until symptoms subside. The micro to standard dose is usually recommended to treat stress and anxiety with CBD. For relief of immediate symptoms, as in a panic or anxiety attack, vaporizing or smoking work well. The medication lasts one to three hours, whereas most ingested products, including CBD oil, take thirty to sixty minutes before taking effect and last six to eight hours. Vaporizers that use a cartridge filled with the CO2 concentrate are highly effective, and these are available in various ratios of CBD to THC. Herbal vaporizers that use the whole plant are also an effective delivery method. Sublingual sprays or tinctures taken as liquid drops take effect quickly and last longer than inhaled products.
Effectiveness: Current Science—CBD Benefits for Anxiety
The Cannabis Health Index (CHI) is an evidence-based scoring system for cannabis (in general, not just CBD oil effects) and its effectiveness on various health issues based on currently available research data. Refer to cannabishealthindex.com for updated information. Using this rubric and based on eleven studies, cannabis rated in the possible-to-probable range of efficacy for treatment of anxiety.
9. Depression and Mood Disorders
Clinical depression is a serious mood disorder characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest, sometimes leading to decreased appetite and energy and suicidal thoughts. Commonly used pharmaceuticals for depression often target serotonin, a chemical messenger that is believed to act as a mood stabilizer. The neural network of the endocannabinoid system works similarly to the way that serotonin, dopamine, and other systems do, and, according to some research, cannabinoids have an effect on serotonin levels. Whereas a low dose of THC increases serotonin, high doses cause a decrease that could worsen the condition. In 2009 researchers concluded that there was substantial evidence pointing to endocannabinoid signaling as a target for the pharmacotherapy of depression. Authors of a 2016 study wrote that “CBD could represent a novel fast antidepressant drug, via enhancing both serotonergic and glutamate cortical signaling through a 5-HT1A receptor-dependent mechanism.”
It is suggested that patients work with a health care practitioner experienced in recommending cannabidiol or medicinal cannabis so that dosage and delivery methods can be developed and fine-tuned on an individual basis. At the same time, educated and aware patients can be their own highly informed health consultants.
CBD products with a ratio of 20:1 or higher are recommended and administered as drops, capsules, or edibles. Specifically, products made with Valentine X or Electra 4 are more energizing, helping relieve depression. When low energy is an issue, sativa or other stimulating strains can be helpful for improving energy and focus when THC can be tolerated. Varieties that are high in the terpene limonene are recommended for mood elevation.
Always start with the micro dose to test sensitivity and go up as needed within the dosing range before going to the next, until symptoms subside. The micro to standard dose is usually recommended to treat depression. Vaporized or smoked cannabis is recommended for relief of immediate symptoms, or a boost in dosage, and it can also be useful for sleep issues. Sublingual sprays or tinctures taken as liquid drops take effect quickly and last longer than inhaled products.
Effectiveness: Current Science—CBD Benefits for Depression
The Cannabis Health Index (CHI) is an evidence-based scoring system for cannabis (in general, not just CBD effects) and its effectiveness on various health issues based on currently available research data. Refer to cannabishealthindex.com for updated information. Using this rubric and based on twenty-one studies, cannabis rated in the possible-to-probable range of efficacy for treatment of depression.
Research in 2005 called for clinical trials to look into the effectiveness of cannabinoids for bipolar disorder (manic depression). In 2010, a study suggested that CBD was not useful for the manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder. However, for depressive episodes, the evidence points to greater potential for effectiveness.
Authors of a 2013 review of animal studies wrote that CBD showed antianxiety and antidepressant effects in several models and suggested that the compound worked by interacting with the 5-HT1A neuroreceptor.
“It is important to remember that CBD benefits and improves the activity in the endocannabinoid system by increasing the time anandamide works on the CB1 and CB2 receptors,” writes Dr. Michael Moskowitz. “Anandamide works on the serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine systems. It also works on the GABA-glutamate system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Its main role is restoring balance through inhibition when levels are too high and enhancement when they are too low. This is the most likely reason phytocannabinoids in general and CBD specifically are able to regulate depression and anxiety.”
“For the relief of certain kinds of pain, I believe, there is no more useful medicine than Cannabis within our reach,” wrote Sir John Russell Reynolds, neurologist, epilepsy research pioneer, and physician to Queen Victoria back in 1859. In fact, cannabis was used for pain relief in all of the major ancient civilizations from Asia through the Middle East and into Europe and the Americas. The scientific inquiry into cannabis over the past several decades has confirmed that it is an effective and safe analgesic for many kinds of pain.
Of all the reasons that people use CBD today, pain is the most common. The same can be said of cannabis in general. In the United States, over seventy million people suffer from chronic pain, which is defined as experiencing over one hundred days per year of pain. Physicians differentiate between neuropathic (usually chronic) and nociceptive pains (usually time-limited), and cannabis works on most neuropathic and many nociceptive types of pain. A number of studies have demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system is both centrally and peripherally involved in the processing of pain signals. Most discussions of using CBD for pain treatment suggest that finding the right dosage is critical.
Cannabinoids can be used along with opioid medications, and a number of studies have demonstrated that they can reduce the amount of opioids needed, lessen the buildup of tolerance, and reduce the severity of withdrawal. At least ten randomized, controlled trials on over one thousand patients have demonstrated efficacy of cannabinoids for neuropathic pain of various origins.
How to Take the Medicine: Dosage and Delivery
It is suggested that patients work with a health care practitioner experienced in recommending CBD oil or medicinal cannabis so that dosage and delivery methods can be developed and fine-tuned on an individual basis. At the same time, educated and aware patients can be their own highly informed health consultants.
Oral CBD products with a ratio of 20:1 or higher and administered as drops, capsules, or edibles can be very effective in treating pain, especially the inflammatory type. Most discussions of treating pain with CBD suggest that finding the right dosage is critical. Always start with the micro dose to test sensitivity and go up as needed within the dosing range by body weight until symptoms subside. The micro to standard dose is usually recommended to treat pain, but patients need to carefully monitor their condition and experiment to find the right formula; 10–40 mg of CBD or CBD+THC together is usually enough.
If CBD-dominant products alone are not enough to treat a particular case, products with a higher ratio of THC are sometimes recommended to better manage pain. For day use, more stimulating, sativa varieties with higher concentrations of myrcene could be added to the formula. In general, for pain, and especially for evening and nighttime, indica strains are favored for their relaxing, sedative effect. A person without experience with THC should use caution and titrate slowly up to higher..
The Brain in Your Chest:
Science-Backed Techniques For Tapping Into Your Heart Intelligence
BY GREGG BRADEN
photo: natalie collins
The “Little Brain” in the Heart
In 1991, a scientific discovery published in the journal Neurocardiology put to rest any lingering doubt that the human heart is more than a pump. The name of the journal gives us a clue to the discovery of a powerful relationship between the heart and the brain that went unrecognized in the past. A team of scientists led by J. Andrew Armour, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Montreal, which was studying this intimate relationship between the two, found that about 40,000 specialized neurons, or sensory neurites, form a communication network within the heart.
For clarity, let me say that the term neuron describes a specialized cell that can be excited (electrically stimulated) in a way that allows it to share information with other cells in the body. While large numbers of neurons are obviously concentrated in the brain and along the spinal cord, the discovery of these cells in the heart and other organs, in smaller numbers, gives new insight into the profound level of heart intelligence and communication that exists within the body.
Neurites are tiny projections that come from the main body of a neuron to perform different functions in the body. Some carry information away from the neuron to connect with other cells, while others detect signals from various sources and carry them toward the neuron. What makes this discovery exceptional is that the neurites in the heart perform many of the same functions that are found in the brain.
In simple terms, Armour and his team discovered what has come to be known as the little brain in the heart, and the specialized neurites that make the existence of this little brain possible. As the scientists who made the discovery say in their report, “The ‘heart brain’ is an intricate network of nerves, neurotransmitters, proteins, and support cells similar to those found in the brain proper.”
The discovery of 40,000 sensory neurites in the human heart opens the door to vast new possibilities that parallel those that have been accurately described in the scriptures of some of our most ancient and cherished spiritual traditions.
A key role of heart intelligence is to detect changes of hormones and other chemicals within the body and communicate those changes to the brain so it can meet our needs accordingly. The heart’s brain does this by converting the language of the body—emotions—into the electrical language of the nervous system so that its messages make sense to the brain. The heart’s coded messages inform the brain when we need more adrenaline, for example, in a stressful situation, or when it’s safe to create less adrenaline and focus on building a stronger immune system.
Now that the little brain in the heart has been recognized by researchers, the role it plays in a number of physical and metaphysical functions has also come to light. These functions include:
+ Direct heart communication with sensory neurites in other organs in the body + The heart-based wisdom known as heart intelligence + Intentional states of deep intuition + Intentional precognitive abilities + The mechanism of intentional self-healing + The awakening of super-learning abilities + And much more
The heart’s little brain has been found to function in two distinct yet related ways. It can act:
+ Independently of the cranial brain to think, learn, remember, and even sense our inner and outer worlds on its own
+ In harmony with the cranial brain to give us the benefit of a single, potent neural network shared by the two separate organs
Armour’s discovery of heart intelligence has the potential to forever change the way we think of ourselves. It gives new meaning to what’s possible in our bodies and what we’re capable of achieving in our lives. In his words: “It has become clear in recent years that a sophisticated two-way communication occurs between the heart and the brain, with each influencing the other’s function.”
The science from the new field of neurocardiology is just beginning to catch up with traditional beliefs when it comes to explaining experiences such as intuition, precognition, and self-healing. This is especially apparent when we examine the principles offered in some of our most ancient and cherished spiritual traditions. Almost universally, historical teachings demonstrate an understanding of the heart’s intelligence at the level of having direct influence upon our personalities, our daily decisions, and our ability to make moral choices that include the discernment of right and wrong.
Your Heart’s Wisdom Is True Only for You
Your heart’s intelligence is with you always. It’s constant. You can trust it. It’s important to acknowledge this because it means that the wisdom of your heart—the answers to the deepest and most mysterious questions of life that no one else can answer—already exist within you. Rather than being something that needs to be built or created before it can be used, the link between your heart and the place that holds your answers is already established. And while it’s been with you since the time you were born, it’s your choice as to when you access that link as a “hotline” to the deepest truths of your life.
1. What is my intention in sharing what I’ve discovered?
2. Who will benefit if I share this information? Or more specifically: How will _______ benefit if I share this information? (Fill in the blank with the name of the person with whom you’re considering sharing your revelation.)
3. Who may be hurt by my choice to share this information?
The key to using these questions is to be absolutely clear with yourself about the very first question. To be conscious of your intention is the foundation of your personal responsibility. With your intention firmly in place, it becomes easy to evaluate your answers to the next two questions to see if they honor your stated intention. Whether they do or don’t, through this simple process you will find the answer to your question about the appropriateness of sharing your deep knowing.
With these ideas in mind, let’s discuss how to apply the steps of coherence to access the wisdom and guidance of the heart.
Asking Your Heart a Question
Now that I’ve described the role of heart intelligence in accessing deep intuition, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a proven technique that allows you to access its wisdom, as well. And I want this exercise to be personal, so I will offer this section as if I’m speaking to you directly while you are sitting with me in my living room. This exercise is one of those places where science and spirituality overlap beautifully. While science can describe the close relationship between the heart and the brain, the ancient spiritual practices and self-mastery techniques that have helped people rely on this relationship for thousands of years do so without needing a scientific explanation.
It’s probably no coincidence that the rigorous scientific techniques developed by the researchers at the Institute of HeartMath closely parallel some of the techniques preserved in the monasteries of ancient traditions or by indigenous spiritual practitioners. We all learn in different ways, and my sense is that when something is true, it appears in the world in different forms to reflect the variations in our learning.
With this idea in mind, I’ve chosen to share the following IHM technique, with permission, because it’s safe, it’s based upon well-researched science that validates the steps, and it has been simplified in a way that makes it accessible and easy to use in our everyday lives.
As with any technique that’s passed from teacher to student, however, the steps for creating heart-brain coherence are best experienced with a seasoned practitioner to facilitate the process. So while I’ll describe these principles for creating heart-brain coherence in the following paragraphs, I also encourage you to experience them for yourself using the no-cost online instructions found on the Institute of HeartMath website.
The technique to create heart-brain coherence is appropriately called the Quick Coherence® Technique and has been refined by the Institute of HeartMath into the first three simple steps described below. Independently, each step sends a signal to the body that a specific shift has been put into motion. Combined, the steps create an experience that takes us back to a natural harmony that existed in our bodies earlier in life, before we began to disconnect our heart-brain network through our conditioning. Steps 4 and 5, where we access our heart intelligence, build upon the coherence created in Steps 1 through 3.
Five Steps to Ask Your Heart a Question
The steps to create quick coherence for accessing your heart’s intelligence are as follows.
Step 1:Create Heart Focus
Action: Allow your awareness to move from your mind to the area of your heart.
Result: This sends a signal to your heart that a shift has taken place: You are no longer engaged in the world around you and are now becoming aware of the world within you.
Step 2:Slow Your Breathing
Action: Begin to breathe a little more slowly than usual. Take approximately five to six seconds to inhale, and use the same pace as you exhale.
Result: This simple step sends a second signal to your body that you are safe and in a place that supports your process. Deep, slow breathing has long been known to stimulate the relaxation response of the nervous system (aka the parasympathetic response).
Step 3: Feel a Rejuvenating Feeling
Action: To the best of your ability, feel a genuine sense of care, appreciation, gratitude, or compassion for anything or anyone. The key to success here is that your feeling be as sincere and heartfelt as possible.
Result: The quality of this feeling fine-tunes and optimizes the coherence between your heart and your brain. While everyone is capable of evoking a feeling for this step, it’s one of those processes that you may need to experiment with to find what works best for you.
With the successful completion of Step 3, the connection linking the heart and brain—and resulting in heart-brain coherence—has been established. At this point, the heart and brain are in communication through the neural network that connects them. While this is technically the completion of the Quick Coherence® Technique itself, it’s also a beginning step in other processes. We may use the coherence we’ve created to access deeper states of awareness, including the deep intuition described in this chapter. It’s from a state of heart-brain coherence that we may access our deep intuition and receive the guidance of our heart’s intelligence. Steps 4 and 5 below detail a procedure to do just that.
Step 4: Ask Your Heart a Question
Action: The previous three steps create the harmony between your brain and your heart that enables you to tap into your heart’s wisdom. As you continue to breathe and hold the focus in your heart, it is time to ask your question. Heart intelligence generally works best when the questions are brief and to the point. Remember, your heart doesn’t need a preface or the history of a situation before the question. Ask your question silently, as a single concise sentence, and then allow your heart to respond in a way that works for you.
Result: Your intuition opens up and you begin a dialogue.
I’m often asked to interpret the symbols that show up in people’s dreams or the meaning of an experience that they’ve had in their lives. While it’s possible for me to offer an opinion, it’s just that. It’s my sense of what the image or experience may mean in their life. The truth is that I can’t possibly know what another person’s dream or experience means for them. It’s also true that they can!
The key to being successful at dialoguing with your heart is this: If you are empowered enough to have the experience, then you are empowered to know for yourself what your experience means.
While I don’t want to influence your questioning process, an example is sometimes helpful. A mysterious dream is the perfect opportunity to apply heart intelligence to a real-world situation. From the heart-brain coherence established in the previous three steps, simply ask the following kind of questions, filling in the blank with the names of the people, symbols, or identities of what you’re asking about. These are example formats only. You can choose one that fits for you or create your own using one of the following as a template.
“From the place of my heart’s deepest knowing, I ask to be shown the significance of _______ in my dreams.”
“From the single eye of my heart that knows only my truth, I ask for the meaning of the _______ in my life.”
“Please help me to understand the significance of _______ in my life.”
Step 5: Listen for an Answer
Action: Become aware of how your body feels immediately as you are asking your question in Step 4. Make a note of any sensations—such as warmth, tingling, or ringing of the ears—and emotions that may arise. For people who are already attuned to their bodies and their hearts’ intelligence, this step is the easiest part of the process. For those who may have had less experience in listening to their bodies, this is an exercise in awareness.
Result: Everyone learns and experiences uniquely. There is no correct or incorrect way of receiving your heart’s intelligence. The key here is to know what works best for you.
As I mentioned before, I tend to receive my heart’s wisdom as words, while at the same time feeling sensations of warmth in my body. Other people never hear words but experience nonverbal forms of communication only, such as warmth radiating from their hearts or in their guts. Sometimes people feel a wave of peace wash over them as they receive the answer to their question. Remember, you and your body are unique partners in the world. What’s important here is to listen to your own body to learn how it communicates with you and give it the opportunity to be heard.
Now you have a step-by-step technique to help you feel empowered in the face of life’s greatest challenges. While you probably can’t change the situations that arrive at your doorstep, you can definitely change the way you feel in and respond to those situations. If you’ve not already done so, you may discover that the wisdom and intelligence of your heart becomes a great friend to you, one of the greatest sources of strength in your life. The consistency and accuracy of heart-based solutions empowers you to face any situation with any person or force with a confidence that’s hard to find if you feel helpless, overwhelmed, powerless, and lost.
I can honestly say that my heart’s wisdom has never led me to make a bad choice. And while I haven’t used this technique for every big decision I’ve made in my life, I can also say with honesty that the only choices I’ve regretted are the ones I made when I did not honor my heart intelligence.
As you complete this exercise, I invite you to bear an important point in mind: There is no correct or incorrect way of receiving your heart’s wisdom. Each of us is born with our own unique code that allows us to access our heart’s wisdom and apply it in our lives. The secret to the code is to know what works best for you.
Gregg Braden is a five-time New York Times best-selling author and is internationally renowned as a pioneer in bridging science, spirituality and human potential. From 1979 to 1990 Gregg worked for Fortune 500 companies such as Cisco Systems and Martin Marietta Aerospace as a problem solver during times of crisis. He continues problem-solving today as he weaves modern science, and the wisdom preserved in remote monasteries and forgotten texts into real world solutions. Visit his website: greggbraden.com
Psychedelic Explorers Guide: The 6 Keys to Safely Tripping on Psychedelics for Deep Insight and Expansion of Consciousness
BY DR. RICHARD LOUIS MILLER, M.A., Ph.D.
photo: sarah diniz outeiro
Editor’s Note: The following is an interview conducted by Richard Louis Miller with James Fadiman, who is widely acknowledged for his extensive work in the field of psychedelic drug research, including a major contribution with his most recent book, The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide.
Putting Dangers in Perspective
RLM: LSD. How dangerous is it? If you look at the sun while you’re on LSD do you go blind? Does hair grow on the palm of your hands? Do you end up in the emergency room? We have now had forty to fifty years of people using it on their own, illegally. You’re citing figures going into the tens of millions—you know how many people are being admitted to the emergency rooms each year around the country. You know how many people have died, so please share that information with us.
JF: I say to people that psychedelic drugs are very powerful substances, and used incorrectly you can get in trouble. Used correctly, the chances of anything going wrong are extraordinarily low. One of the reasons I like LSD is that you use literally a hundred millionths of a gram—there are almost no physiological changes.
Things go wrong if you take it in the wrong setting, with the wrong friends, at the wrong time, with the wrong other substances. Or if you take too much—which is true of most other substances.
Tobacco causes approximately 400,000 deaths a year. Alcohol causes approximately 125,000 deaths per year. Peanuts cause about 100 deaths. Psychedelic drugs aren’t even on the list. Although I am beginning to worry about peanuts. Have people gotten into serious trouble? Have some been hospitalized for years after taking psychedelics? The answer is yes, but probably as much from the bad situation and from the kind of well-meaning but ignorant health care they received immediately afterward.
Forbidden Fruit and the Folly of Prohibition
JF: If you go to Burning Man, where there’s a huge amount of drug use, they have a medical tent, and what they call Sanctuary, which is there to help people who are frightened, upset, and paranoid (also dehydrated), usually to simply recover without interrupting the flow, so the experience can complete itself. There are even ways to work with very difficult situations, which are especially common at major concerts or festivals, where people have not had the chance to get decent information for the last forty years. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to put out the basic safety information, to ensure that if people are going to use something illegally that they have the best information available—to get the safest and most beneficial psychedelic trip experience possible. We must not forget that the reason people want to use these substances is because they feel there’s some benefit.
RLM: Yes, so here we have a legal book about how to use an illegal substance, which is so attractive to people that they’re using it by the tens of millions—right in the face of government and media focus that says: “This is so dangerous that we’re making it illegal.”
JF: The last time the government tried to prevent people from doing what they wanted was called Prohibition. Before Prohibition, there were eight hundred drinking establishments around Times Square. During Prohibition there were twenty-five hundred drinking establishments in that same area. We should have learned that prohibition is not the best way to prevent people from using whatever it is that the government doesn’t like.
RLM: In fact, if anything, it makes it more interesting. It’s like when we were told as children that we should keep away from a certain thing the adults might be using, and we were thinking, “Gee, if that’s the thing to keep away from, I want to find out what it is.”
JF: We must never give a bean to a small child and say, “Don’t put it up your nose.”
Six Variables for a Safe and Beneficial Psychedelic Session
RLM: I’m asking you a question I shouldn’t ask, but I’m asking anyway—if you’re allowed to do this, tell us, what is the proper way to take LSD?
JF: There are six major variables that make a successful psychedelic trip and session. Successful means healthy, safe, and meaningful.
1. First, the mental set.
2. Second, the physical setting, which should be safe and comfortable.
3. Third, the sitter—I recommend, recommend, recommend a guide who can assist you if you get into places that are frightening or difficult.
4. Fourth, the substance—there are many kinds of psychedelic drugs and how much you take matters.
5. Fifth, the session itself—how the six to twelve hours run, what you do during that time.
6. Sixth, what kind of a life group you come back into—to people who support this kind of expanded awareness? Or to people who feel that you have just done something either evil or dangerous?
I want those basics available out there as widely as possible, because I’m a safety nut, and I’m also a guide nut. You don’t learn to drive by throwing someone the car keys and saying, “Good luck!”
1. Set: Mental Attitude and Intention
RLM: What is set?
JF: Set is mental attitude or intention. Are you taking this psychedelic drug because you would like to become closer to divinity, however you understand that? Or are you taking it because you are interested in working on your own personal issues? Or are you taking it just for self-discovery?
Are you taking it just for recreation? Someone in New York recently asked me at a conference, “Is there anything wrong with using things just to have fun?” I had to admit there is a good argument for that.
Other ways of using it are for scientific problem solving—for very hard-nosed, rational problems—and just for discovering what happens inside your own mind when you give it a nudge in a different direction.
RLM: What is an example of using LSD for problem solving?
JF: We did some research just as the government was shutting us down, and we’d had senior scientists taking what we call low doses of LSD. That would be 100 micrograms, a hundred millionth of a gram, and we basically gave them a safe, supportive setting. We gave them a couple of hours of free ranging inside their mind, and we then asked them at the peak of the experience to work on their own chosen problem—an important technical problem—and I mean very technical: theory of the photon, chip design, engineering problems, architecture problems, and so forth. Things that they had hitherto worked on and not been successful. That was our criteria during the psychedelic trip, because we wanted them to care a lot about problem solving.
There’s been a lot of stuff on every level about Steve Jobs, and my favorite headline is “Steve Jobs Had LSD. We Have the iPhone.”* From what he reported, it was one of the most important experiences of his life. And to me that meant that he did it well—did it carefully. He was looking at the material world as well as his inner world.
RLM: We don’t know whether he continued to use it, we just know that he did use it early on. There are so many people—as you well know, Jim, myself included at various times in my career—who were willing to talk about using it many years ago. If there are those who would prosecute me I would say, “That was thirty years ago.”
JF: But I think we can say with Steve Jobs that we have zero indication that he used it later in his life. He did use it early in his life. It was part of what oriented him toward elegance, and beauty, and making things easy for people, but he did not use it and come up with the iPad.
RLM: But we also know, for example, that Carl Sagan’s widow revealed he had used LSD but was afraid to tell the world. Even a man of his great magnitude was afraid to tell the world that he used it in some of those discoveries, which I think speaks volumes about the fear level that has been perpetrated in our country about psychedelic drugs.
JF: Fear and social stigma. When I walk around carrying this book—as authors do—almost everyone I meet suddenly begins telling me about their psychedelic trip experiences after I talk to them for a while.
2. Setting: Landscapes and Soundscapes
RLM: So we have some idea of what set means: your mental set, that is, what’s going on in your mind—your intention. The next thing one wants to be aware of when experimenting with psychedelic medicine is setting. What is setting?
JF: Setting is literally the physical situation in which you find yourself. Albert Hofmann, who was still giving two-hour lectures to professional groups at 101 years old, was asked—as he said, “only ten thousand times”—how should you take LSD? His answer was, “Always take it in nature.”
My answer is a little different. Take it in as safe and comfortable a setting as possible, which often is the living room, where you are able also to lie down to listen to music through headphones or earbuds; and to even put on an eye mask so that you can investigate the universe from the inside. Then perhaps later in the day it is good to be outside in nature to investigate the universe from the outside. Setting is the physical environment and the people who are in that environment during the psychedelic trip—which we’ll get to when we talk about sitter, because taking it around people you feel safe with turns out to be very important.
RLM: What about the place of ambient noise? Is that a factor that people should be cautious about? A machine noise, lawn mowers—the things that are going to intrude on consciousness?
JF: One of the wonderful things we have technologically are headphones, which block out ambient noise. Almost everyone, including indigenous people, find music or singing to be a very important part of the psychedelic experience. What we’ve found is, the reason people prefer music, and music without words, is that it allows them to stop thinking about daily trivia and to simply appreciate the enormous expansion of awareness that comes with almost any psychedelic trip. The most common comment we hear is, “I never knew music could be so beautiful and so intricate.”
You know, when you hear a symphony orchestra, and you kind of hear a blur of sound with the melody rising and falling? If you’re a professional musician you hear more, but on psychedelics, people report hearing each individual section, working with and against the others, and even report hearing individual players. So you’re hearing with a much higher level of awareness. Headphones seemed to be the best way to handle the lawn mower, the ambulance, and the jackhammers.
RLM: So the setting is the physical environment: nature, or some very safe-feeling and quiet place, using headphones to block out ambient sound.
3. Sitter: Your Safari Guide
RLM: What is the sitter?
JF: Well, I sometimes lose some of my hipper, younger friends when I say you should take psychedelic drugs with a guide. A guide is someone who knows the terrain, who’s been there a number of times, who is not disturbed by a little difficulty. The reason for having a guide is the same reason you start with a guide when scuba diving or learning to fly a plane.
The image that makes the most sense to me is of a safari guide, say in Africa. He doesn’t see the animals for you, but he may say, “You see that rhinoceros that’s running toward us? If I were you I would stand behind a tree.” Or, he may say, “That little patch of sand in front, to your right? That’s actually quicksand. You might want to walk around that.”
So a guide or coach seems to be invaluable during a psychedelic trip if you are taking your own experience seriously and you’re interested in using the materials the way they’ve been used in a sacred way in every culture we know of that had access to it.
4. Substance: “What” and “How Much”?
RLM: What do you mean when you say the “substance”?
JF: What you take matters. There is an enormous list of psychedelic drugs and substances: mushrooms, peyote, and mescaline, all of which have the same basic set of experiences available. The biggest difference is a psilocybin (mushroom) experience lasts six to eight hours and LSD lasts usually eight to twelve hours. LSD is the one I know the best.
There are other psychedelic families, including the one that is most exciting to people these days, called ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is really two plants combined together, and they have a much different, much more physical expression, and it takes you to a very different part of the radio dial of consciousness.
What you take matters, and how much you take matters enormously. If you take too much of anything—that includes aspirin and peanut butter—you will get ill. With psychedelics, that “too much” is of two sorts. One is you really won’t know where you are, and you can become disorganized and more frightened. Two—and for me this is equally important—you really won’t remember the useful or beneficial parts. You’ll simply have had a psychedelic trip that you have no remembrance of.
Some people take too much of a psychedelic drug to prove how macho they are, and that’s just a waste of everyone’s time. If you take a small dose, obviously you’ll have less of an experience. The purpose of the guide is so you don’t make a mistake about what’s correct for your body and your intention.
RLM: What is an appropriate dose if one wants to do inner-space work—one wants to explore and learn about oneself? What is a substantial dose of LSD in micrograms?
JF: One hundred to 200 micrograms is the dose people have used historically when they are working psychotherapeutically. If you’re working for spiritual experiences it’s double that [200 to 400 micrograms].
For people who are alcoholics—and the alcoholism research with LSD is excellent—it is usually necessary to take a larger dose, because they are used to alcohol, and it’s stifling their own altered state inside themselves. Again, the guide turns out to be invaluable. Giving dosage numbers over the air, given how different people are, is simply not the correct service.
RLM: Understood. But what you’re saying across the board, in terms of the normal curve, is that 300 to 400 micrograms is more of a spiritual dose, and 100 to 200 micrograms is more a dose for psychotherapeutic inner work.
JF: Right, psychotherapeutic inner work, where again, you need someone else with you during the psychedelic trip. And if you’re going for the higher doses, a guide is an absolute necessity if you wish to discover what it is that the classical mystics are talking about.
RLM: Is a higher dose 500, 600, 700 micrograms, or more?
JF: No, it’s 300 to 400 micrograms.
RLM: I see. What happens when you get above 400 micrograms?
JF: My recommendation is: don’t. You bring back too little and you risk too much.
5. Session: The Duration of Mind Alteration
RLM: What is meant by the “Session,” Jim?
JF: A session is the hours when the substance is affecting you—the length of the psychedelic trip. We’re talking about a substance in millionths of a gram. It actually leaves the body in about 1.5 hours, so most everything that goes on is within your own body and within your own body chemistry. But this is a full day or full night of events, and therefore you need to plan for that entire time.
Remember we need to reiterate—both my personal taste and my publisher’s taste is to remind you—these are illegal substances, and that affects all these things. These are illegal substances, and people are imprisoned for far longer than anybody thinks is sane for both using and distributing psychedelic drugs. Therefore, this is not to suggest that anybody should use these, because they are illegal. But a bit like sex, you’re probably going to be interested in it, so you might as well understand it. If you go ahead and do it, you might as well do it with some good sense to prevent illness, disease, and so forth.
With that caveat, this is only for people who have some understanding of what I’m talking about from their prior experience. We are looking at the ways to make things safe. What are the ways that lead to what is called a learning experience? Because we’re not just talking about a single psychedelic trip, like a roller coaster. A recent article pointed out that people who took psilocybin for spiritual purposes at Johns Hopkins University were still, fourteen months later, what they called “more open to the creative” and “more open relationships”—basically a healthier person as well as psychology can measure.*
RLM: I can feel my blood starting to boil when you talk about that study, Jim. I’m thinking about fifty years of government suppression of these medicines. Here we have one psychedelic medicine, which the people took one time, and a year later they’re still having positive effects. How many medicines do we have in our entire pharmacopeia that you can take one time and a year later you’re still feeling positive effects?
Basically, in the pharmaceutical industry you sign up for an annuity, right? You’re going to be taking the medication daily and paying for it for the rest of your life. On the other hand we have a psychedelic medicine people can take one time, and a full year later they’re still feeling measurable positive effects. However, no one can buy this new medicine right now. No one can get psychedelic drugs legally. Your doctor can’t prescribe it to you—there’s nowhere you can get it legally in the United States. Isn’t that correct?
JF: Let me add, Richard, a wonderful bit of film footage I saw recently about someone who took LSD once forty years ago, who was a serious, heavy-duty alcoholic—losing his job, his marriage was falling apart, life was terrible, and he was totally addicted. He took LSD once in a safe, secure, therapeutic setting, and forty years later, the filmmaker asks if he’s had alcohol since then. He said, “Oh no, not a drop.” The filmmaker then says something about willpower, and the man laughs and says, “No. No interest.”
The change is about learning—about worldview and changing the way you see things. We really need to begin to let go of the medical model. As you were saying, the medical model says, “Pill in, body changes. Pill out, body back to normal. Needs more pills for next cycle.” Psychedelic trips and medicine are really more like discovery. You only have to go to Europe once to find out that the world is much larger than the United States. You don’t have to keep going back every week to be reminded.
RLM: Yes, the psychedelic medicine finds the atherosclerosis of the spirit and cleans it out. It’s like a spiritual Roto-Rooter, and it gets all the junk out of us and clears us up.
JF: Right—one wants to see something that relaxes the hardening of the attitudes.
6. Life Group: Supportive Community
RLM: The sixth thing on your list of the six essential things to know for a safe psychedelic trip or journey is the life group after. Tell us about what that means psychologically. Tell us about the life group that you come into after you’ve had this psychedelic experience.
JF: Remember that for over 80 percent of people in one study, taking a psychedelic drug was the most important experience of their life.
Basically, the lifegroup is seen if you had this kind of transformative experience and you come back home to your family, and they say, “Isn’t that wonderful! We really are delighted that you also now understand what we’ve known,” or if you come back to your family and friends and they say, “That’s nonsense. You’re not supposed to know about God. There are books for that. You’re always supposed to go to some other authority to ask their opinion,” or even worse if they say, “This is craziness, and we’re not sure that you should be allowed to go to work!”
We’re talking about what kind of worldview you are in after a psychedelic trip or the use of psychedelic drugs. Fortunately, knowing a lot about your sphere of radio influence, there’s not much of a problem in this part of California, because so many people have already had these kinds of experiences and are basically aware that the material world simply can’t be all there is. No culture but ours has ever made that materialistic assumption, and as we all know, we got it wrong. The world is being loused up by people who have forgotten that the interconnectedness of all things turns out to be very important.