The Full Moon and Holy Week

For Christians the world over, today, Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week and the last week of Lent. As a little girl, I was taught that Palm Sunday commemorated the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem. I was taught that he rode in on a donkey and they people waved the palm branches and laid them on the ground to honor “He who came in the name of the Lord!” in the same tradition of those they held in high honor. Would these be the same people who called for his crucifixion later that same week? For active church goers, the week may have started off with a symbolic re-enactment of the Palm filled procession, with the cross bearer symbolizing Jesus, and will journey through the symbolism of Jesus being crucified, and being risen on Easter Sunday. Churches will have Sunrise services on Easter to celebrate Jesus rising from the tomb on the third day.

The timing of this holy week is closely aligned with the coming of spring. This year, after the long winter we have had, spring is as glorious as any I can recall. Somewhere over the course of our history, Easter became a time when, like the trees getting their new leaves, we all got new clothes, and as exciting as dying eggs, and getting jelly beans and chocolate, getting those new patent leather shoes and a pretty new spring dress complete with hat and lace gloves was equally exciting. Mingled in the religious traditions are the symbolisms of nature as well as materialism.

I am reminded that in two nights we will have a ‘blood red moon’ with the eclipse and that many consider this a dire warning of the fate of mankind. You and I could get caught up in this morbid, fear generating discussion, or we can celebrate that our Creator designed a world that is ordered, precise, and typically predictable. So predictable in fact that experts know centuries in advance the phases of the moon and when there will be lunar eclipses. We know that the sun will rise and that each day there is slightly more daylight than the day before as the season shifts from winter to spring and to then summer. I am also reminded of my time living in Jeddah during the holy season of Ramadan, a month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. It is the rising of the moon that ends their daily fast. After 30 days, the fast is broken when the first sliver of the crescent moon is spotted. Islam like Christianity and most religions has many traditions. The more I study, the more I find the common elements. Just as I can look up in the sky and know that my friends all around the world – from Abbeville to Houston and El Paso, from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to San Diego, from Baton Rouge to Amman and Bagdad are all looking up at that same moon.

Tonight, as I walked my dog under this magnificent full moon, encircled with a halo of its own, I felt the presence of God, and His love in every molecule of my breath. My days can be hectic and busy with calls, work, responsibilities, and a pages long ‘To Do’ list. So in moments like these when the night is quiet, the moon is high in the sky – my mind clears, my heart opens, and the Divine is there. Silly me, I know the Divine is always there, it is me that has the door to my heart closed, has my mind cluttered with the things that I think are important, and fills the hours of my days and nights with the stuff of life, forgetting that it is those moments that I recognize the presence of the Divine when I am truly living, feel truly and totally alive. And this is my wish for you this Holy Week, that no matter where in the world you are, no matter what religion or spiritual belief system, may you take the time this week to walk under this beautiful moon, clear and quiet your mind, open your heart and be aware of the Divine’s presence in your live, and our mutual love – a love that neither time nor distance can lessen.

Always,

Beth

On the Nature of Love and Friendship

A mere week ago was Valentine’s Day – the annual celebration of love.  I’m a huge romantic, so I fully appreciate what one of my favorite poets, Rumi wrote, “We are born of Love, Love is our mother.” 

For those of us not currently married or in a romantic relationship, we had a few choices on how to spend our February 14th.  We could:

  1. Have a pity party, complaining and residing in a negative place,
  2. Pull up the covers over our heads and hide from the world until the day passed, or
  3. Celebrate love in all its forms and be joyful for those who do have romance in their lives.

I decided last week to wait a few days before posting a new blog and during that time, I have had many blessed reminders of the various natures of love.  The list is long on the various types of love – obviously romantic love, but also the love a mother has for her children and grandchildren, a child for her  parent and grandparents, the love of siblings, cousins, and other relatives.  The love of all things beautiful, the love one has for her Creator, and the one I am going to focus on right now, the nature of love and friendship.

Friendship is sometimes defined as a relationship of mutual affection between two or more people.  It is a stronger form of interpersonal bond than an association. There are many forms of friendship and certain characteristics are present in many types of friendship.  They include affection, sympathy, empathy, honesty, altruism, mutual understanding, and compassion, enjoying each other’s company, trust and the ability to be oneself, express one’s feelings and make mistakes without fear of judgment from the other.

I am very fortunate to have traveled far wide and through my work met thousands maybe tens of thousands of people over the years.  I have friends I have known since I was six years old, whom I pretty much lost touch with after school until I joined Facebook.  The joy of those renewed friendships, even when we do not see each other often brings great joy and comfort in my life.  Those friendships helped create who I am as an adult.

I have people who came into my world professionally, and instantly bridged that world to personal friends.  Once many years ago I was on the stage at a major health conference with a panel of other speakers. I was there to talk about what we were working on in Congress, but I had an instant ‘connection’ with one of the other speakers and him with me.  A friendship was born on that podium and what I have termed the greatest taxi ride back to an airport in my life.  A ride we shared and in rapid fire discussion brought each other up to speed on our lives…as if we were meeting again after being apart for many years.  He has become a friend who I could tell anything to, who gives great advice, and never judges, who is now as much a brother as friend. We celebrate the joys, and lean on each other in the tough times and we co-create along our life paths.

There is the friend I met at a government meeting I was managing a year or two after my divorce, who I didn’t know had a book on the New York Times bestseller list.  All I saw at the time was a man wearing a really nice suit and Italian loafers who spoke in a South Carolina accent – a boy from home.  When we spoke, he never brought up anything about being famous, but instead we became fast friends. It was a couple of months later before I put together that he was the same guy my colleagues at work talked about, by then the fame didn’t get in the way of our friendship.  Over the years that friendship has stood the test of time and some rocky roads.  We may go a week, a month, or three months and not speak, and yet I know if I need a shoulder to cry on, someone to bounce an idea off of, or simply someone to make me laugh when the world irritates me, I can be sure the phone is going to ring and he will be on the other end of the phone calling me by his nickname for me.  And likewise, when its a full moon and he is in a mood to talk, I am there for him on the other end of the phone line, thousands of miles away, but right next door.

There are friends that I have made through my work whom I hold very dear, even though our friendship is limited to less personal matters, but for whom I would go to the ends of the earth to assist.

There are also the friends you love to grab a cup of coffee or lunch and catch up on girl talk with, the friends you most enjoy letting your hair down with.  There are friends who will join you in prayer and spiritual inquiry and friends who will drag you out dancing…and sometimes those are one and the same person!

And there are the friends who come into your life as you come down an escalator tired and rumpled from travel whose smile is not just on their lips but in their eyes – and that smile opens your heart to all the good and mysteries that the world has to offer.  Friends whom you don’t yet know the path your journey will take you, but for whom the miles do not matter.  Oh the joys and love in life that comes with friendship!

Who is the friend you first think of talking to when you have something exciting to share?

Maybe because we have had a February full of snow and gray days, and maybe just because it rings true, but I quite enjoy what Marcel Proust said, “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

As we prepare to move from winter to spring, may we all be good gardeners for our friends.  I am in gratitude for all of my friends, old, new, renewed, and yet to blossom!  May we share the passions of life, joy and loving friendship!

Always – friends –  in love,

 Beth

Living in Gratitude

The 2013-2014 winter season in the Washington, DC region has been one of the coldest in recent memory.  Early in the season I was grumbling at temperatures in the low 40s (Fahrenheit), today when the temperature rises above the freezing mark, it will seem almost warm considering the single digit temperatures and wind chill factors of much of the month of January.  I bring this up, because one of my goals for 2014 is to focus more on living in gratitude.  It is so easy in our crazy, stressful world to become cynical, to get wrapped up in complaining and focusing on the negative– because, it seems, everyone is complaining about something.  (And there are lots of things any of us can be complaining about!).  Complaining can be more contagious than the flu, and just like I take my Vitamin D3 and Silver, include more immune system supporting foods like onions, garlic, and citrus in my meals; I want to ward off catching the complaining bug by actively supporting living in gratitude.

In thinking about this concept, I can be grateful that the super cold weather will likely kill off invasive bugs that harm trees.  Trees as we all learned in elementary school play an important role in turning carbon dioxide into oxygen through photosynthesis.  And oxygen is essential to life!   I am also grateful for modern amenities such as electricity, heat pumps, the internet and my gloves!  These cold days and nights would be so much more challenging without them.  I am grateful for my west coast sister who calls to tease me that I need to move to San Diego where it is a mild 80 degrees.  After all, laughter makes every day better.

In thinking how challenging it has been to function in this cold weather, I am reminded that my father and his devoted wife Esther live on a farm on the top of a mountain five hours north of me in which every winter they have long stretches of weather much like this. The difference is they have horses that must be fed and tended to twice a day, and if a mare if foaling, more often than that.  I don’t know how Esther has managed all these decades, while also maintaining a job, and now caring for my father who is no longer able to help with the animals.  She does all this while also being very active in her church community, helping with the family apple orchard (first with her father and now with her brother) in the fall, and having a garden and other fruit trees from which she cans jams and vegetables in the summer.  I’m grateful that my father in finding Esther found a lasting stable relationship that has brought him joy and peace in his senior years, and that they have been able to live the country life in her home community.

I am grateful my mother’s health has improved over the last year since her surgery and since she gave up smoking (after more than 60 years).  I’m grateful that her talents with the creative arts such as quilting, crocheting and sewing keep her mind sharp and her hands nimble through these months, and give her purpose in her octogenarian years.

I am also incredibly grateful that I have the most amazing three sons and daughter on the planet!  They are smart, sassy, independent, healthy, and compassionate adults who are each finding their paths and passions.  I could not have been more blessed.  I am grateful that our Creator entrusted me with the privilege of being their mother.  The life lessons of parenthood and the shades of love that expanded in my being through this journey are a beautiful as any rose.

In thinking about the saying, darkest before the dawn, I believe I will have a tremendous appreciation for springtime in Washington and look forward to walking along the Tidal Basin when the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom.

 Always,

 Beth

Veterans Day – A Few Facts and Thoughts

November 11 – Veterans Day – What does it mean for you?  Is it simply a day off from work; a day not to get mail; this year the added bonus of a three day weekend; and a day to take advantage of Veterans’ Day sales?  There is nothing wrong with any of these, but will you also take time today, especially at 11 am, to remember those who have served our nation, put their lives at risk to protect and defend our Constitution against all enemies?  Will you be participating in a local Veterans Day event – a parade or a ceremony?  Will you take time to tell a Veteran thank you today?  Are you flying a flag today?

History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, having been founded in 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson as the first commemoration of the day in which the Allied nations and Germany when the armistice (temporary cessation of fighting) seven months before the official end of World War I.  The armistice went into effect at 11:00 on 11/11/1918.

President Wilson proclaimed: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”  It was designed to be a day in which local communities conducted parades, and public meetings and that all businesses would stop briefly at 11:00 in remembrance.

Congress would officially recognized Armistice Day with the passage of a concurrent resolution in June 1926.

Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and

Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and

Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.

In 1938, the 11 November was declared a legal holiday dedicated to the cause of world peace, and set aside to honor veterans of World War I.  In 1954, after World War II and the Korean Conflict, the word “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” and the day was expanded to honor all veterans.  The Secretary of the Veterans Administration was subsequently appointed Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee to insure the day continues to focus attention on the important purpose of Veterans Day: “A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.” (http://www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp)

Statistics on Veterans

The Veterans Administration is the second largest federal agency, with more than 300,000 employees.  The last of the 4.7 million World War I veterans have passed now.  Of the 16.1 million who served in World War II, 1.7 million are still with us.  This past summer, we lost one of these veterans, my dear friend, Clinton Ray Miller.

During the Korean War, 5.7 million who served, there are 2.275 million still with us.  Men and women like my father who grew up in the Depression, and now in their 80s and in declining health.  beth wtih dad1

In total between 1775 and 1991 more than 41.8 million Americans served in the military during war time.  (http://www.va.gov/opa/publications/factsheets/fs_americas_wars.pdf)

 Modern Veterans

Do you realize that we have been at war for 12 years now?  We have men and women serving in at bases around the world.  This war is different than previous wars.  We are not fighting an enemy in uniform, officially representing a single or group of countries.

This is also a war without a draft.  We have relied heavily on our National Guard and Reserve Units.  These families have sacrificed much to have a father or mother – and sometimes both – deployed three or more times in the last 12 years.  For those in Special Forces Units, there have been 8-11 deployments.  This is a huge sacrifice to families and local communities where first responders were often also National Guard and were called up to active duty.

More than 2 million men and women deployed in the first 10 years of the Global War on Terror which began after we were attacked on 9-11-01.  More than 4,500 lost their lives in battle and more than 30,000 were wounded in action.  Because of the advances in battlefield medicine, many lives are saved under extraordinary conditions.  Men and women whose vehicles are blown up with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) survive, even with the loss of one or more limbs and serious brain injuries.

The Signature Injury:  More than 20% of the 2 million likely suffer with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and/or a Traumatic Brain Injury (PTSD/TBI). What most of the public and even those in the military serve do not realize is that if you are close to an explosion, there is a concussive blast that everyone within close proximity is exposed and potentially injured by.  This is why so many have TBI – their brain was literally shaken up with each bomb blast.  The military has learned a lot and is now doing a much better job with ‘in the field’ evaluations.

Too many come home and self medicate with alcohol or other substances or get lost into  the cycle of off label prescribing of psych meds, all with black box warnings of suicide risk.  I heard on a news report last week that we lose another veteran to suicide ever 65 minutes.   This does not have to be.  We have not lost more veterans to suicide than we lost on the battlefield.

For someone who has watched my colleague, Dr. William Duncan devote the last 12 years of his life to making hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at 1.5 ata (the Harch Protocol) available to our war wounded, and seeing those in positions to make this available system-wide stand as barriers rather than facilitators, I am beyond frustrated.

HBOT 1.5 ata is oxygen delivered under slight pressure, is safe, effective and has an evidence base.  HBOT has been accepted for Medicare reimbursement and is routinely used for altitude sickness and ‘the bends’ in the military.  Tricare has reimbursed for some treatment but not all.

I have witnesses military medical leadership deny its benefit, tell Congress it cannot be adopted because it is ‘off label’ – a standard which if adopted would curtail the use of about 60% of medications within the VA/DOD health system including all but one of the anti-depressants being used with PTSD patients.  I’ve observed that the government was willing to fund and conduct poorly designed studies rather than work with a nation-wide network of established network of hyperbaric facilities.

I have also talked to numerous veterans and active duty military members at all levels of rank who have benefited from HBOT.  One officer I spoke with went through the best military medicine, but did not recover from his TBI.  He shared that with one medication, he for the first time thought about suicide.  It was only after he accessed HBOT, several years after his injury and forced retirement that he began to have recovery.

I also met a Navy Seal whose military career was saved after a training accident with the use of  HBOT.  He recovered and returned to a war zone, numerous times to be awarded some of the highest medals of valor for his acts.  I have seen the studies and data showing not only recover from brain injury but recovery of lots IQ points.  The 15 points recover is according to Dr. Duncan the difference in someone struggling to graduate high school and going on to graduate from college.

You may have seen the good work of my friend, Dr. Frank Lawlis with veterans using HBOT and other therapies on the Dr. Phil show.  His clinic in Texas (http://www.lawlispeavey.com/) is truly innovative and doing tremendous work.

If you want to learn more, or know someone that is living with PTSD and/or TBI, please visit International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation:  http://www.hyperbaricmedicalfoundation.org/.

I have a personal vision that HBOT can become a part of ‘material’ command – that all returning troops can receive HBOT and peer to peer counseling in the last 30 days of deployment as they are packing gear and equipment and preparing for their return stateside.  Such a plan would dramatically improve the health and well-being of our troops.

 Volunteers Making a Difference

There are many organizations that help veterans.  In every community around the country there are American Legion, VFW and DAV chapters.  They do amazing work in helping veterans and family members.  When I am on Capitol Hill, I am always impressed that it is members of these groups that come to Washington to push legislators to help veterans.  They engage and lead by example.  (http://www1.va.gov/vso/VSO-Directory_2012-2013.pdf)

One group that I would like to give a shout out to is the Twilight Brigade. (http://thetwilightbrigade.com/)  Their Chairman, Dannion Brinkley is a good friend, a USMC veteran and someone who walks the talk.  The Twilight Brigade was founded in the late 1990s to train volunteers to serve at the bedside of dying veterans.  Based in California they have chapters across the country and have trained more than 6,000 volunteers.  Too many of our veterans have no one to visit with them when they are in nursing homes and hospice units.  Volunteers like the Twilight Brigade improve those last months, weeks and days.  As someone who is a trained hospice  volunteer, I found the Twilight Brigade training was a tremendous supplement to the standard training.

The last time I was in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of seeing the Terry Fator Show (http://terryfator.com/).  He is an amazing talent, and the show made better knowing that he contributes the proceeds from the sales of the store outside his theater to veterans’ organizations like the Twilight Brigade.

 One of the Greatest Bids Adieu  

This past month, Congressman CW Bill Young of Florida passed away after more than 50 years of public service.  A high-school dropout born and raised in Pennsylvania, Congressman Young moved to the St. Petersburg area in 1945. He served in the Florida National Guard from 1948 to 1957, and was honorably discharged as a master sergeant.  After serving at the state level, he ran for Congress in 1970 and was re-elected 22 times.  At 82 years of age, he had announced his intention to retire after this term, but was hospitalized and later succumbed to a chronic injury related to the  back injury received in a plane crash in 1970.

Congressman Young was one of the ‘good guys’ on Capitol Hill.  He fought hard to improve health care at military and veterans facilities.  He used his position on the Appropriations to fund beach preservation activities and medical research.  Whomever is elected in his seat will have big shoes to fill.

As I was thinking about what I would write today, I realized that the last three of our Presidents, men who served as Commanders in Chief, never saw combat.  In fact, President Obama never served in the military.  As the 2016 presidential field begins to form, I for one hope that we have among the field of contenders  a few men and women who have served in uniform and know from personal experience the meaning of war.  I also hope that we elect more veterans into the House and Senate.

To veterans and their families and especially Elliott, Nathan, Gil, Dannion, Wayne, Steve, Ernie, Dan, Pat, Robert, Rob, William, and Luis – thank  you.

Always,

Beth

Musings on Gratitude

Gratitude: (1) A feeling of thankfulness or appreciation. (2) The quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.

The great American writer Henry Van Dyke wrote, “Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” These past few months I have reflected a great deal on the importance of gratitude. It is very easy to get wrapped up with all that is wrong with the world and the endless tasks before us for work and household and forget to look up at the sky as the sun sets and appreciate the colors created by the light reflecting on the clouds. By consciously seeking the positive, taking the time to look up, I find a connection to the Universe that fills me with appreciation of all that is, and the wonders and mysteries of nature.

A few weeks ago I had the distinct pleasure of traveling back to my hometown and attending my high school reunion. Driving into the town square that Friday afternoon brought back a rush of memories and a realization that there were numerous changes in this small town. Many of the mercantile establishments have closed, some vacant and for sale, and others replaced with new businesses. The economic challenges the Washington pundits talk about on the news shows is a stark reality in small towns across the country, including my hometown. The old diner is now a Chinese restaurant (which also sells jewelry in the window). My father’s last law office in the Opera House is now a Court Clerk’s office.
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The historic hotel next to the Opera House is under new ownership and a new small monument honoring the daughter of a local family sits close to the monument of a famous war hero. There is a story there which one day I will learn.

The Winn Dixie Grocery Store Building down South Main Street, where my mother used to sign a check and send me to do the shopping and to buy her cartons of Kent cigarettes after I got my licensen is now the County Library. (And after 60+ years, she has finally stopped smoking – something for which I am most grateful.)

The weather was cold when we drove to the football stadium, bringing back memories of dozens of football games in high school sitting on the side lines as part of the marching band, cheering on our beloved panthers. I was told that the team was having a tough season, but that was not evident this night. They were victorious with a final score of 55-0 as a beautiful young lady was crowned Homecoming Queen. I live in the ‘politically correct’ world of the Washington, DC metro area, and was delighted that the tradition of a public prayer and Star Spangled Banner being sung before the game remained. God, Country, Family, Friends and Football – it was an amazing night.

Saturday about a third of our class and some spouses came together at a local country club for our reunion. The evening began with a walk down memory lane; Mary Lyn shared the names of the classmates who had passed – each story a tragedy of a light gone out too soon because of addiction, cancer, accidents, illness, and suicide.

The evening comments had a focus on gratitude. I believe the words of Aesop, “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls” ring true when I recall the comments of David S. and Nathan T. David talked about being grateful for the leadership lessons of a high school football coach who understood that football and team sports is not just about playing a game (and winning), but about building character, inspiring dreams, and providing leadership training on the field and the locker room. Nathan T. shared memories of teachers and family members who helped him grow from the class cut up to one of our most loved classmates. Nathan might have chosen a life in ministry, he is a natural, but instead swore and oath to protect and defend, put on a Air Force uniform and served our country with distinction, all while he and his wife raised a child with autism. He could be bitter and angry, but instead he teaches us with his inspiring words about gratitude and the Divine.

Facebook has become an amazing tool for reconnecting with friends and sharing thoughts and events. Some of my friends are posting daily thoughts on gratitude throughout November leading up to Thanksgiving Day. I find them inspiring.

Growing up in this small southern town I had many great teachers – the lessons that stand out the most are not the history and grammar lessons, but the life lessons on character, integrity, and faith. One of my best friends growing up, Margaret, was not at this reunion. She likely does not know how grateful I am for her lasting friendship growing up, how she helped me keep my sanity when my family was splintered by a nasty divorce and subsequent tragedy a few years later. She was always resolute that I could get through the craziness and come out the other end with my sanity and my dreams intact. She was at times my rudder and at other times my life raft.  Other friends, Emma Jo, Caroline, and Nancy Jean were unable to attend due to personal or family illness. They too  were missed.

Carl Jung said, “One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” The warmth of these and other friendships indeed has been and remains a vital element for the soul of This Child.

35 class reunion

Thank you.

On the Passing of Pioneer of Health Freedom My Dear Friend Clinton Ray Miller

Beth with Clinton MIller

July 24, 2013:  The 24th of July is Utah’s Pioneer Day, a celebration of   the arrival of Brigham Young and the early settlers of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) into the Salt Lake Valley, it is also the day that my dear friend Clinton Ray Miller drew his last breath on this earth and returned to our Maker.  At 91, his passing was not unexpected, his strength had declined and as he would say, some of his parts had simply worn out. For those of us who know that death is not an ending, but a transition, the loss of his physical presence is bittersweet.  I miss him already, but know the physical pain he was in has now passed, and that he has joined his beloved Bonnie at the right hand of God.  Even when we last spoke by telephone late last week he was present and focused and caring.  His concern for health freedom was present even then.  In his honor we all will put our shoulders to the wheel and carry on.

Clinton Ray Miller was ever faithful.  Born to hard working Latter Day Saint parents, Clinton often regaled me of stories of his youth, talking about going door to door selling his honey.  He would serve our nation during World War II, and from his military training he learned strategic thinking which he used skillfully as he continued to support and defend liberty.  He also talked frequently about how his wife of more than five decades Bonnie had been so patient, thrifty, and smart – how she balanced his temperament.  They lived their vows and having the type of partnership that we all could learn from and of which I hope to one day achieve should love come my way again. 

 He lived his principles and like many Americans, Clinton preferred alternative health approaches over conventional medicine, and found his calling in championing health freedom.  He defeated cancer some years ago by calling upon trusted advisers on effective alternatives and mixing their advice with his own research and intuition. 

 When the American people needed a champion for health freedom, Clinton stepped up, and Bonnie joined him. They moved their family so he could walk the halls of Congress. 

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It would be Clinton who at the time led the National Health Federation who garnered the passage of the Proxmire Amendment that blocked the Food and Drug Administration’s arbitrary limiting of vitamin potency and set the stage for the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. In one of our health freedom conferences he talked about how the FDA took their quest to set maximum upper limits on vitamins to the international arena and have used the Codex Alimentarius to establish guidelines that are contrary to existing US law, something I witnessed personally.  As the US and the European Union negotiate the Transatlantic Treaty, the harmonization of regulations is on the table and we all will, as Clinton would, fight the good fight to insure more restrictive regulations do not creep into US law through the back door. 

 Over the last year Clinton wanted two things accomplished, the most pressing is to restore free speech for consumers when talking about foods and supplements.  Few people realize that unlike any other industry, truthful statements by consumers when talking about the health benefits of foods including dietary supplements is restricted, and manufacturers can be punished if a consumer dares to say the food helped improve their health if a disease is mentioned.  Clinton was appalled by this and wants it changed.  Congressman Ron Paul had introduced the Testimonial Free Speech Act in the last session, but it has not been reintroduced by other legislators this term. 

 A second issue was that he wanted to strike the word ‘other’ in 21 USC (Food and Drug Law) in the definitions section -  every incidence when defining foods and drugs where it stated, “man or other animals”.  Clinton felt strongly that it should state, “man or animals”.  I hope before he retires, that Senator Hatch will make this change simple change in the law.

 Clinton perfected a methodology of communicating with legislators that has served this nation well. His method – the one page fax – both grabbed attention and educated at the same. After leaving the National Health Federation, Clinton worked with the Sunshine Health Freedom Foundation, whom I am honored to consult with as well.  Over the last few years, we talked almost daily, and with each project, we would formulate a strategy with one page fax to communicate a message, and empower tens of thousands of Americans to have a voice with their elected officials.  Even as email and online petitioners have come in vogue, Clinton stayed true to the fax.

 A few years ago Clinton left his comfortable life in Cedar City, Utah and moved south to St. George.  He loved St. George, and he loved his independence.  He said he had ‘taken himself on a mission’ and spent many mornings at the St. George Latter Day Saint Temple.  On those days, I always loved catching him on the telephone right after he had returned from the temple as he was so in tune with the Lord.  This spring Clinton moved back to Cedar City to spend his last weeks with his children, with the benefit of hospice services as well.  As someone who has been a hospice volunteer, I know that those who came to help Clinton were the ones who benefited from these interactions.

 During one of our conversations a few years ago we learned that our families were connected in another way.  He was singing praises of one of his granddaughters (he loved singing his grandchildrens praises). As it turned out his granddaughter and my niece had attended the same college in Washington State, and had one year apart participated in their school’s study abroad program in Paris, and had been nanny to the same prominent French family.  I hope to meet her when I attend the service to honor him this Saturday in Salt Lake City.

 The list of Clinton’s accomplishments is too long for me to list here – you can be sure however that over the last sixty years if there was a fight involving health freedom, Clinton was working to protect you.  I will summarize by saying, he fought for religious freedom, for health freedom, and did so with integrity, dignity and purpose.    

He was a mentor, a leader, and most of all he was and remains my friend.  Until we meet again Clinton……Always, Beth

 

Watermelon – Summertime Memories & Surprising Health Benefits

Summer has finally arrived and with it the delivery of ripened watermelons.  Often when I am slicing up a watermelon I can’t help but remember happy times in my childhood when my brothers, sisters and I would spend hours in the hot summer sun riding bikes, fishing, climbing trees, jumping in the water sprinkler and a host of imagination driven games.  We didn’t stop to run in the house when we were thirsty, we would grab a drink of water from the hose pipe and keep playing.

 In the middle of the afternoon, when the heat and humidity was at its worst, Mom would spread newspapers on the picnic table and bring out a huge chilled watermelon.  She would slide it into half circles or triangles and we would all stop playing long enough to enjoy the juicy sweetness.  One of my sisters would shake salt on her slice, so of course, we all had to try that as well.  In stark contrast to supper time, no one worried about how messy we were while we ate.  Instead, we enjoyed the succulent juicy slices, laughing and giggling at our own antics.  When we finished eating, we would see who could spit the watermelon seeds the farthest.  One or the other of my brothers usually won, but it was the game itself that mattered. By the time we finished, we had watermelon juice running down our arms and chins.  We just laughed and sprayed each other off with the hose, and got back to playing.

 A friend of mine (another South Carolinian) was recently in town and shared that he had snacked on watermelon all day at his meeting.  He has a medical condition that requires him to take blood thinners and in the decades that I have known him I have observed that he very wisely uses his foods as medicine (i.e. for their therapeutic benefit). Because he has taken charge of his own health, studied the benefits of foods and supplements in place of, or in conjunction with medicines, he is alive and in amazingly good health today.

 It got me to thinking about the health benefits of watermelon, so I did a little research.  Did you know that watermelon doesn’t just taste good it is really good for us?  Watermelon is more than 90 percent water, which is why those slices are so juicy and help rehydrate us.  Watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins A, B6, and C.  It also has the highest concentration of the anti-oxidant lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable.  Furthermore, watermelon has potassium and magnesium as well as citrulline and arginine.  The phenolic compounds in watermelon including cartenoids, flavonoids, and triterpenoids as well as the lycopene make this a food with great anti-inflammatory properties. There are even ‘internal sunscreen’ properties, helping protect our skin from sun damaging and slowing the aging process.

 Each of these nutrients plays many important roles in keeping our bodies working.  They support the immune system and keep skin and mucous membrane cells healthy so bacteria and viruses don’t stick around.  They reduce our risks of cancer, heart disease, strokes, Type-2 diabetes cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, anxiety, and depression and for the guys, even erectile-dysfunction.  They also improve brain function, muscle and nerve function as well as the digestive process for proteins. Some of these help the body eliminate toxins and waste through improvement of liver and kidney function.  I could detail each of these vitamins, minerals and amino acids and their specific benefits, because there is a significant body of scientific evidence supporting their therapeutic benefits. But this is a blog not a research paper.  Instead, I’ll tell you that some years ago noted nutrition researcher Dr. David Heber of UCLA published a book, What Color is Your Diet? In this book, he detailed how we all need to eat more brightly colored fruits and vegetables to insure optimal body function.  He provided science behind the nutritive and therapeutic benefits of each of the colors of fruits and vegetables.  It’s a great book which to me shows the wisdom of our Creator. It also reminds me that my mother, in her best home economics teacher voice would often say when I was a teenager that when one serves a meal it should be colorful and ‘pleasing’ to look at on the plate.

I’ll leave all the specifics of the science supporting the benefit of watermelon for another day. Something I did not know that I learned while I was looking up the specific benefits is that watermelon seeds also have nutritive value.  In Asia watermelon seeds are roasted and seasoned and used for snacks the same way sunflower seeds are consumed here. They are ground up and used to make bread.  In West Africa, watermelon seeds which contain protein and fat are pressed for oil and used in some foods.  In the South, there isn’t anything that can’t be pickled, cucumbers, beets, eggs, pig’s feet, even watermelon rind.  I recall that my mother would often save the rinds to make watermelon rind pickles, but I do not have any memory of every actually eating a watermelon rind pickle (or pig’s feet). I don’t know when she would have had the time, so I’m thinking she had the ‘best of intentions’ and never got around to it.

 In recent years, I have noticed there an increased tendency of farmers to grow the hybridized ‘seedless’ watermelon. They are cute and easy to serve, but frankly, I think the old fashioned seeded variety tastes better and I hope farmers will get back to growing seeded watermelons.

 Enjoy your summer and don’t forget that watermelon!

What If PRISM is Used By DOJ When DOJ is Defending the Government in Court?

June 9, 2013:  When the news broke this week that the Federal government developed a program code-named PRISM to collect and store every telephone call, email message, online communication, internet search, everything every American does in the digital and communication world, I like most Americans felt a cold chill run down my spine.  Why?  Because with each action such as this, we lose both privacy and liberty.  We as a nation cannot fall victim to the fear tactic that we must compromise all of our liberties and all of our privacy for the ongoing hunt for terrorists.    This goes so much farther than the long term program Echelon.

 This is in and of itself troubling. Combine it with the ongoing IRS abuse of power and discrimination scandals, the spying on media by the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the expansion of data mining projects at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and across the Federal government and it is chillingly pushing us further away from the nation envisioned by our Founders and more like that of nations in which the government controls its citizenry through spying and intimidation.   

 PRISM on its surface violates the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution (adopted from the Bill of Rights) which declares, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” 

 How PRISM Works:  On one of the news stations today, a retired intelligence director discussed how federal investigators can do a keyword search on this massive volume of data.  He used the example of a cell phone number that was collected oversees from a terrorist.  This number could be keyed an every phone call made to or from that number would be pulled and from there, the electronic communications would be pulled and evaluated.

 Consider This Scenario:  An American individual or company has a law suit involving the Federal government.  The parties involved in the lawsuit will communicate via telephone and email, including to their attorneys.   There is a presumption by these parties that this is information is not in the hands of the opposing council (in this instance, the DOJ). How can anyone not believe that some energetic lawyer at DOJ isn’t going to access this database and glean information to help the government prevail? 

 How Long Has This Been Going On?   One can only presume this has been going on for many years.  For the 5,000 families in the Autism Omnibus Proceedings, they have to presume DOJ may have used PRISM (or another program) to gather ‘intelligence’ about the strategy and information gathered by the families, their experts, and their attorneys.  Were the organizations researching the issues also subject to a similar ‘intelligence gathering’? Given the many dramatic actions I have observed by government officials and their contractors and grantees, where the tenets of good science were set aside to protect the existing policies, and numerous ethical violations occurred with the collection of evidence, communications, even witness intimidation, one can only presume that PRISM was tapped into to insure in the Omnibus proceeding.

 Where does it Stop?:  Understand, I feel strongly that our intelligence community needs to be able to root out terrorists. I believe in our nation.  I am not a ‘conspiracy theorist’.  I am also an American who believes that the Constitution matters.  Liberty matters.  I am reminded that Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying that if we compromise liberty for temporary security, we deserve neither and loose both.  I do not think that spying on our media or on every single American is the answer.  Human intelligence, on the ground information gathering is still the best way for our intelligence community to stop terrorism.  Sadly, this has not been the focus.  The easy to do (i.e. computer data mining) has been the focus rather than an emphasis on what truly works best.

 Power Corrupts, Absolute Power, Absolutely Corrupts:  We know that whenever a government is given too much power, it will be abused.  PRISM will be abused, if it has not already been.  We cannot forget that Private First Class Bradley Manning currently on trial at Fort Mead is alleged to have downloaded 700,000 US Government classified documents while serving in Iraq and sent them to Wiki leaks. And Edward Snowden the young man who alleges he leaked information about PRISM to the media.  He is quoted in the media today:  “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,” he added. “There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.” http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57588403/man-claiming-to-be-nsa-whistleblower-comes-forward/  What does Snowden mean?  He means that data that is classified can be accessed by tens of thousands of individuals, with little to no supervision.  We presume that there are checks and balances in the system to protect data.  However, when access is abused, we typically only find out after the fact.  

 It Promises to Be a Long Summer in Washington:  All of the scandals that have erupted and this latest one, insure that it will indeed be a long summer in Washington. I am reminded of the summer of 1974. I spent a chunk of my summers each year with my grandparents in Silver Spring, Maryland.  1974 was a summer spent watching the Watergate hearings and talking about the politics of it all over dinner each night and more broadly when all the local family gathered for Sunday dinner. 

 I flew home the evening of August 8th and was in the car with my mother driving home when from the airport when President Nixon came on the radio to announce his resignation effective at noon the next day. 

 A Time for Leadership:  At this point, we need leadership to take charge, clean house, shut down the abuses to liberty and abuses of power, and correct the rudder. 

Memorial Weekend 2013: We Honor Those Who Died by Helping Those Who Lived!

Flags-and-Headstones

Memorial Day was founded to honor those who paid the ultimate price to defend our liberty.  Every Memorial Day we hold ceremonies and parades across the nation, honoring our war dead.  These activities are very important and help us teach the next generation about patriotism and service while reminding our veterans that we as a nation will always remember the sacrifices of those who swore an oath to protect and defend our Constitution, and then put on a uniform went into harm’s way.   

Traumatic Brain Injury – the Signature Injury of the Global War on Terror:  For the last ten years my colleague William Duncan, PhD, a veteran of the US Army and of Capitol Hill has been working tirelessly to help active duty military, Reservist and Veterans living with Traumatic Brain Injury and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (TBI/PTSD) obtain access to a safe and effective therapy which does not simply treat (or mask) symptoms, but helps the brain heal. The therapy has been around for over a century, it is FDA approved for more than a dozen indications (including 3 neurological conditions) and is even Medicare approved.  The therapy has been validated through multiple studies in both animals and people, by multiple groups in the United States and abroad who have confirmed (1) safety, (2) dose, (3) benefit, and (4) that the response is not simply the placebo effect.  I have reviewed the published research which have been through peer-review and even seen some of the yet to be published research, all which shows through both objective and subjective measures, including brain scans and IQ testing that those who follow the protocol at last to the half way point, improve. 

I heard from a respected source about a retired Brigadier General who was hit by an IED in Afghanistan and spent about a year at Walter Reed, after a year, a doctor at Walter Reed referred him to a local facility for the therapy and the Brigadier General recovered, returned to his private life and a career in public service.  His therapy was reimbursed by TriCare. 

 I have met a Navy Seal who was injured in a training exercise.  It was not a brain injury, but could have been a career ending injury because the Navy doctors wanted to perform a surgery that would have forced him out of the Navy.  He opted for this therapy, returned to full duty and deployed multiple times to war zones.  The Navy did not reimburse this for the therapy. 

Last summer I met a retired professional football player who suffered repeated concussions when playing football.  He had begun using this therapy along with key dietary supplements and was seeing a tremendous recovery. 

Meeting Major Richards:  Earlier this month I had the honor and privilege of spending some time with Maj. Ben Richards (US Army Retired).  The West Point graduate and father of four was in Washington just after appearing on 60 Minutes talking about the new Walter Reed Facility for TBI/PTSD and his injury.  He is still a young man, in his mid-30s, clean cut, and dedicated to our country.  He had planned to make the Army a career. 

As I would learn, Major Richards was injured six years ago.  He shared that 90 of the 100 men in his command had been in vehicles blown up with IEDs, some of them 4 or 5 times.  When they returned to the United States, they were evaluated by the Army and not a single one of those 90 was diagnosed with a TBI.  Major Richards would be diagnosed with PTSD, and was reassigned to a teaching position at West Point. His health deteriorated and he would get a referral to Walter Reed, where brain scans showed he had a TBI.  With the TBI came intense headaches, body pain, severe fatigue, and myalgia.  Major Richards shared that he got the best medicine of military medicine. He was given multiple medications, received behavioral therapies, alternative therapies, learned coping skills, and was being taught how to live with his new normal.  He would return to West Point and be medical retired from the Army. While at Walter Reed, his doctor would tell him about brain neuroplasticity and that the current military thinking is that the brain does all of its healing within the first 2-3 years.  So, five years post industry, what he had would be as good as it got. 

The 60 Minutes story was not the first times Major Richards had been in the news.  Last August he and his wife were interviewed by the New York Times Review about living with TBI/PTSD.  Several retired Generals who were also West Point Alumnus saw the story, knew about the effective therapy I mentioned and reached out to Major Richards.  They raised the funds for his treatment, which he completed just a few weeks ago.  When I asked how he was doing, he said he felt he was about 50% back.  The good news is that he sleeps now, he can read books again, he is taking less medication, and his memory is much better.  He is now a dad to his children, and is planning to return to school this fall, where he feels he will really be able to tell how he is doing.  He was in Washington sharing his story with legislators and their staff.  He shared that he felt had Walter Reed offered the therapy he got this year while he was still in the Army, that he would have been able to recover and preserve his military career, to continue to be of service to his country. 

 Sadly the 60 Minutes story did not share anything about Major Richard’s recovery.  The focus of the story had been on the Intrepid Centers being built by the Fisher Family, so while CBS taped him discussing his recovery, that video was not aired.  And equally sad is that the Intrepid Centers are not likely to offer the therapy because the Defense Department (DOD) will be in charge of running them and while they are fully informed of the benefit of this therapy, and have used it for other treatments, and reimbursed some, they have been a part of the problem rather than a part of the solution.

 DOD medicine it seems would rather hand out very strong mental health drugs to manage the symptoms of TBI/PTSD, many with FDA required Black Box Warnings for risk of suicide, than actually provide the therapy that actually facilitates brain healing.

A Modern Tuskegee:  That the DOD for 10 years has been informed of an effective therapy for TBI/PTSD and not moved to make it available to me is as bad as the Tuskegee experiments.  Many members of Congress have done everything within their power to make sure our war wounded had access, and military leadership, in particular the Surgeons General have blocked access, and blocked reimbursement.  During one Congressional interaction, the DOD representative said the DOD could not pay for it because the therapy was being used ‘off label’.  This was a false statement given that about 60% of medicine is given ‘off-label’ including almost all of the drugs the DOD prescribes for TBI/PTSD.

 A Congressional Hero:  Congressman Walter Jones is so frustrated with the DOD that he has introduced legislation to make this therapy available.  I applaud his tenacity and his dedication to the military families of North Carolina and the rest of the country.  The truth is the DOD and the VA can make this therapy available today.  They can do so in house as well as refer to the hundreds of facilities across the country that provide this therapy.  TriCare could today determine that they would reimburse the therapy routinely rather than only when someone has the ability to fight them until they comply.

 It is Unconscionable Not to Provide A Safe and Effective Therapy:  I cannot fathom why DOD and VA are not listening to the evidence and to the war wounded who have gotten better.  They dishonor those who died in service to this country by refusing to make this therapy widely available immediately.  They have contributed to the pain and suffering of 750,000 war wounded.  Thousands who could have been healed have instead taken their lives in suicide, some as an adverse reaction to the medicine prescribed, some because they were forced out of the military without benefits and never were diagnosed and treated.  Their deaths are on the shoulders of those within the DOD and VA leadership who failed to act, who acted with malice, and who refused to do something within their power to be a part of the solution rather than to continue being a part of the problem.

 So What is This Therapy?  Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy at 1.5 atmosphere (ATA). The protocol is to treat for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for 40 treatments, take a break of a month or two and repeat.  A total of 80 treatments are considered optimal.  The cost using Medicare Reimbursement Rates is around $16,000.  The protocol has been used safely and effectively thousands of times each year around the world. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy often simply referred to as HBOT at 1.3 ATA is the military’s recognized treatment for altitude sickness.  The military also uses HBOT to treat ‘decompression sickness’ often referred to as ‘the bends’.  HBOT is so widely available, that even the hospital in my little bitty home town now has an HBOT facility.

 $16,000 One Time or Every Year?  The onetime cost of the full treatment may seem like a lot – $16,000; but when you look at what it will cost each year to keep doing what the VA is doing for our TBI patients, it is not.  We know that the VA will spend about the same amount annually to treat TBI patients.  So which is smarter – $16,000 once or $16,000 x 30-50 years. 

Its Oxygen Under Slight Pressure:  Most of us know that oxygen is essential to life.  Oxygen under the slight pressure stimulates healing throughout the body, including the brain.  Frankly I believe that every soldier and marine combing out of a war zone should be given HBOT therapy before they return stateside to stimulate healing throughout the body.  If you have been in close proximity to an explosion or bounced around a military vehicle, your brain has been jostled around and you may have a mild TBI. 

Reimbursement Means Access:  Because TriCare is not reimbursing for HBOT 1.5 consistently there are tens of thousands who cannot access this therapy.  While many clinics have been donating therapies, they cannot do this for all that need it, and frankly they should not have to.  We waste more money providing ineffective therapies than it would take to help everyone of the TBI/PTSD patients of the last decade.  HBOT and those who desire access are being discriminated against.  This needs to stop.

Calling on the Commander and Chief: As frustrated as I get with government officials, I still have faith that our country can and will do the right thing for our war wounded.  The challenge is whether it will happen in 2013 or 2023?  President Obama has the power today to fix the access issue.  He inherited this problem, but he has an opportunity this Memorial Day to issue a command to DOD, VA and TriCare to make HBOT at 1.5 ATA available to all of our war wounded and veterans with TBI/PTSD. What will it take for him to do so?    

If you want to learn more about HBOT, please visit the website of the International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation (http://www.hyperbaricmedicalfoundation.org/)

Finding Your Calm after a Week of Traumatic Events

Finding Your Calm after a Week of Traumatic Events

The focus on North Korea’s possible nuclear attack of early April seems like a distant memory after this week’s events.  The Boston Marathon Terror bombing followed closely by the ricin-tainted mail discovered in both White House and Senate mail and then the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion.  Americans of all walks of life were shocked back into the reality that ours is a world in which bad things can happen to good people.

Those who were close to the explosions are likely walking around with undiagnosed concussive injuries, which can display itself with emotional as well as physical symptoms.  I hope that hyperbaric oxygen therapy will be made available.  (For more on that check out the International Hyperbaric Medical Foundation) For those of us not directly affected, stress can and likely still is a factor.  It does not matter if you live in Boston, Washington, Dallas, San Diego, or Spokane, the stress of these traumatic events takes its toll.  If you have previously experienced a similar trauma, such as the residents of New York or Washington on September 11, or served in a war zone, these events may jolt you right back into the emotions of those events.  The same for those who were in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina or the tornadoes in the South and Midwest.  These are the times that we all need to pause and check on our own stress levels and seek the calm within.

I was frustrated on Sunday morning to hear one of the doctors on Fox News jump right into promoting the use of medications for anxiety and depression, which I am sure happened on other news outlets as well.  One cannot medicate oneself back into feeling safe, so the suggestion is false on its premise (and loaded with risks as well as many of these drugs have risks for suicide in black box warnings on the labels.)  The challenge of course is that in the current gun control debate, that psychiatrists, psychologists and other doctors may report their patients to a ‘no gun buy’ database not unlike the ‘no fly list’ because they have deemed a patient as ‘no longer mentally fit’ for gun ownership.  I find the idea that a doctor, with no objective measures can be handed such power, with the medical community at large is ‘anti-gun’ is an egregious miscarriage of policy.  It this proposed database does become a reality, it will become a deterrent for those who truly need this type of medical care to seek assistance. This however is a discussion for another day.  If you need medical attention, please seek it.

What you do you to find your calm? 

Everyone has their own stress relievers, ways that they seek to find an emotional calm.  I have one friend who reaches for her bottle of anti-anxiety pills the moment she gets stressed.  Both my parents had been heavy smokers when I was growing up, but my father stopped smoking in mid-life.  However, when his mother passed, he bought a package of cigarettes and smoked half a pack on his drive from Pennsylvania to Maryland.  He needed to find some calm and thought the cigarettes would help.  Other people I know will turn to alcohol to dull the emotional sensors they are experiencing. There are other ways, some of which I discuss below.

Take a Walk

When the stress becomes too much, turn off the news and go outside and walk.  Other forms of exercise are also helpful.  I put my earplug in (I only use one ear plug so I am not totally absorbed while I’m walking and cross the road without hearing traffic)  and turned on music (this week a mixture of Bach, Beethoven, and Jon Serrie) on my smart phone and walked my dog a little bit more on good weather days.  If you want to put a spring in your step, consider the Beetles collection – there is something so stress breaking about listening to the early Beetles songs – Pop music at its finest!

The Power of Breath

There are a number of practices that encourage the focus on breath – meditation, QiGong and Yoga.  Each encourage breathing techniques.  Taking the time to simply breathe, deep belly breathing (like that taught to singers) counting to five as you breathe in, pausing and then a slow exhale of breath through the mouth is tremendously calming and has been shown even to help reduce blood pressure.

Mindfulness meditation or what is now being used with some war veterans, mindfulness exercises or ‘therapy’ in which meditation, stretching and acceptance of thoughts and emotions are utilized is a valuable tool for getting through stressful times like we are all facing.

If you do not know how to meditate, there are lots of audio sources, even from online resources.  My good friend Dr. Frank Lawlis has a series, The Quick Relief Collection, which can now be downloaded from I-tunes or Amazon. 

The Power of Prayer

Whether Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or other spiritual practice, there is a reason we refer to God in some texts as ‘the Comforter’.  The power of prayer alone and as a group is tremendously calming and sets the intention of finding your calm.  On April 18, 2013, the United States Senate Chaplain, Dr. Barry C. Black offered the following prayer at the start of the day:

Let us pray. Hear our voice, O God, and listen to our prayer. You know our inward thoughts even before we think them. As we place our trust in You, enable us to experience Your joy. Breathe upon our Senators the fresh Spirit of Your love that old things will become new and the darkness will turn to dawn. Amid the dangers and destruction in our world, give us the miracle of Your peace. Make us good stewards of the gifts You have given us.  And, Lord, we ask You to comfort the victims and families affected by the explosions in West, TX. We pray in Your great Name. Amen

I also find great calm in reading spiritual texts like the Bible and even the Qu’ran as well as poetry.  A favorite is Rumi.  The King Fahad Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qu’ran has what is likely the best English language translation.  I am not one that blames the acts of terror on the religion of Islam, rather, having lived in Saudi Arabia many years ago know that such acts of violence are a violation of this and all religions.

 Complementary Therapies

There are a number of complementary therapies that can be utilized to help find that place of calm.  If you have access to an acupuncturist, I find acupuncture to be a very powerful way to deal with stress overloads. After September 11th and the subsequent anthrax attacks, while working for Congress and being on the Capitol Complex, my stress levels were through the roof.  Many times, I called my physician who was also an acupuncturist and asked if he could fit me in to his day for an acupuncture session.  It got  me through impossible times and helped me find my calm.

Massage therapy, Reiki and Shen are other complementary therapies that can be very helpful.

Unlike pharmaceuticals, gentler approaches to dealing with stress are flower remedies, homeopathy, and dietary supplements.

The one that immediately comes to mind is Rescue Remedy is a specific Bach Flower Remedy that is a combination of 5 flower remedies, all working on emotional imbalances associated with stress.  Rose Rock and Star of Bethlehem are specific Bach Flower remedies that may help as well.

In homeopathy, there are a number of products that may help with stress including (but not limited to:  Aconite (Aconitum napellus), Argentum nitricum (Arg-n), Arsenicum album (Arsenicum, Ars), Calcarea carbonica (Calc), Gelsemium (Gels), and Ignatia amara (Ignatia, Ign).  It is important when picking a homeopathic remedy to make sure the characteristics described with the product ring true with you as different remedies are used with people of different personality types and differing characteristics.  This is a field I am fascinated with and have on my list of things to become more expert in.  The subtleness of homeopathic healing is so powerful and tied I believe into subtle energies.

There are also dietary supplements that are helpful during stressful times.  The B vitamins are essential.  I always ramp up my B complex during these times as B is considered the ‘stress’ vitamin, our body uses and needs more during these times.  Vitamin C is a given.  I think most of us get too little Vitamin C each day in our diet, so supplementing is important.

There are other ingredients or products that may be helpful.  Kava kava (Piper methysticum) was originally used in the South Pacific in places like Fiji as a ceremonial drink.  It has properties that promote well being, contentment and relaxation.  There are scientific studies in its use for anxiety. About 10 years ago there were 30 reports of liver injury in Europe from but it was never confirmed if there were drug interactions with the kava, or other herbs interacting with Kava or whether it was Kava at a very high dose that led to liver injury.  I have previously used kava kava in low doses and found it helpful.  Obviously if you have concern about liver issues, speak to a trained herbalist or nutritionist with training in herbs.

Sam-e (S-adenosylmethinone) is another important dietary supplement and one that I think gets too little attention.  It has been tested both as an injected drug and as an oral supplement for depression and inflammation.  It is important to make sure you are taking a good B-vitamin with folic acid, and vitamins B6 and 12 when if you take Sam-e.  There are some drugs that it interacts with, so make sure you read labels or seek expert advice (and check it out online.)  I have found some fact filled information at the University of Maryland website http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/s-adenosylmethionine-000324.htm

Be smart about any products you are going to use, read labels and take into account what your own personal medical history.

Food for Thought

Paying a little attention to your diet in stressful times is important as well.  Make sure you drink plenty of water.  If you are like me and you use caffeine therapeutically, then be careful not to turn two cups of coffee in the morning to six.  Consider switching the type of caffeine you use from coffee to tea for a day.  Tea is more soothing.

It is spring and berries are coming into season.  Enjoy the bounty – strawberries, blueberries, etc.  All of the anti-oxidants are important to overall wellness.

For many of us, stress eating can be an issue.  I could write the book on this, but for now, I will simply say, know yourself. Identify foods that may be unhealthy stress options, and be conscious of your stress eating.  If chips, chocolate and ice cream are stress foods for you, do not keep them in your house.

Keep it Simple Sweetheart (The KISS Method)

We are one week out now from the Boston Marathon Terrorist attack, and many are working to get back to normal.  Today, at 2:50 pm there is a moment of silence planned.

During these stressful times, just keep things simple.  If you feel overwhelmed, simply breathe, focus on the in and out of your breath until your emotions settle.  Do not overload yourself with projects and a long “To Do” list.

Be kind to those around you.  Stress can make us short tempered, usually with those we love the most.  I was thrilled yesterday to see the ‘hug patrol’ out in Boston.  The power of a hug cannot be discounted.

Take time to appreciate the blue sky and spring flowers.  Appreciate what you have and those that love you.  There is a dawn after the long dark night.  We all can find our calm. These stress tips I hope are useful here and to my friends around the world.

Boston Strong!

Always,

Beth