Non-Striving: Your Path to Personal Power

.

High virtue is at rest;
It knows no need to act.
Low virtue is a busyness
Pretending to accomplishment.
– Lao Tzu

by Kenton Whitman

This is the time of year when many of us make resolutions, vowing to lose that extra twenty pounds, stop smoking, or improve our marriage. Many of us create these goals with the best of intentions, and then embark upon the New Year with an action plan in place. And yet more often than not, we find that despite our intentions and plans, we end up failing to meet our resolutions. Is this because we’re weak or lazy? Or could it be that we’re going about things all wrong? An ancient teacher, Lao Tzu, left us with a book called The Way of Life. In it, he speaks of the Tao – a way of realizing our own true nature and learning to live in harmony with it. His message is one that turns our usual way of thinking on its head. He suggests that the best way to accomplish things and be successful in life is not by our usual methods of setting goals and striving to meet them. Instead, he talks about something we might call non-striving.

Here in the United States, the idea of non-striving or non-intention doesn’t make much sense. Here, we take action, working diligently to better our lives. Most of us believe that striving after goals is the only way to accomplish things. We must set our intentions and then direct our energies toward achieving them. How else could we possibly get anything done? If we observe ourselves and others, we’ll see that people are always striving – often putting aside the enjoyment of the moment in the hopes of achieving a future result. Whether it is money, fame, relationships, or reputation, we expend enormous amounts of personal energy striving to get more.

Lao Tzu asks us to examine this way of living and to notice that it leads us in endless circles of apparent success and failure. He wasn’t alone in this realization. St. Paul writes extensively about it in his teachings; Jesus speaks of it when he urges us to consider the lilies of the field; and Zen Masters use poetry and koans to point our minds in this direction. From Vedanta Hinduism to the writings of the modern psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, teachers throughout history have urged us toward this radically simple way of approaching life.

What Is the Secret of Non-Striving?

This way of living is so profoundly simple that it escapes even dedicated seekers. Non-striving springs from an understanding that humans, like all other living things, are natural. This means that we’re capable of natural action. Observe a tree, which grows perfectly without any apparent thought or purposeful action. Observe a fox, who need not plot future goals because her present actions are flawlessly suited to each moment.

Humans, however, seem to have been the brunt of a cosmic joke. While we, too, are capable of natural action in every moment, we often use our over-thinking brains to dwell on every possible outcome of a situation. If we have an important decision to make, we’ll often drive ourselves to distraction trying to figure out the best choice. In reality we’re operating on incomplete knowledge and our choices often turn out to be ‘wrong’ despite spending hours or even days striving to figure things out. This way of thinking might be good for increasing our technological ‘progress’, but it doesn’t necessarily increase our happiness or engagement with living.

In time, our adult lives become dominated by this striving; if we look at both our short-term and long-term actions, it becomes apparent that most of our energies are applied to meeting future goals, and that we miss the real juiciness of life because we’re always planning for the future or dwelling on the past.

The secret of non-striving breaks us free of all these chains. If we could stop striving for even a few heartbeats, we’d not only discover that we can fully appreciate This Moment (the only place we ever actually are), but that a great weight is lifted when we allow life to unfold naturally. Furthermore (and this is the most surprising part), we also find that we’re able to accomplish our former goals more effectively and efficiently when we’re not spending so much energy on striving.

You Perform Better When You Don’t Try

In my Metamorphosis program, I challenge clients to accomplish tasks that they perceive to be beyond their abilities. It might be a certain obstacle on the obstacle course that’s a little too high; or using the martial arts skills they’ve learned to spar against an ‘impossible’ opponent; or running further or faster than they think possible. One client was trying to better his time doing a barefoot 5-mile run over very challenging terrain. Each time he ran, he strained and pushed, using will and discipline to meet the challenge. Although he bettered his time with each run, the experience was invariably painful. One day I suggested that he just ‘give up’ his efforts to beat his time. Instead, we focused on the most distant cloud we could see, and pretended that we were chasing that cloud – running with an endless sense of ease. When he crossed the 5-mile finish line he felt relaxed, like he could have kept on running – and he had beaten his previous record by over 10 minutes.

Discovering Your Own Path to Power

Time and again, in my own life and the lives of people I work with, I’ve observed the power of non-striving at work. Whether the undertaking is an everyday task or a life-altering challenge, striving is replaced by calm poise and assuredness. We can encounter life’s challenges with ease and apply our energies toward the actions that are appropriate in any given moment. But if this is true, how can we claim this power for ourselves?

This is a tricky question. We’re addicted to effort-full actions, and even in trying ‘not to try’, we tend to apply striving. We can easily get into the trap of ‘trying’ to relax our efforts. Experimenting with this can be the start of an exciting and enlightening journey. One good place to begin is to examine the mechanism that encourages us to plot and plan. Most of us assume that we know what is good or bad in life, and this assumption causes us to expend great effort trying to achieve the good things. I’ll leave you with my version of an old story that challenges that assumption, and encourages us to move through life with a calm attitude of non-striving.

An old farmer lived in a village with his son. One day, his horse ran off, and his neighbor came over to offer his consolation. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” his neighbor said. But the farmer only shrugged and said, “Who knows what is good or bad?” The next day, the horse returned, bringing a wild horse with it, which the farmer took in to tame. “What luck!” his neighbor exclaimed. But the old farmer only said, “Who knows what is good or bad?” The next day, the farmer’s son was thrown from the wild horse and broke his leg while trying to tame it. “That’s terrible,” his neighbor exclaimed. But the old farmer only said, “Who knows what is good or bad?” The day after, military officials came through the village, drafting all the young men for the war, but the old farmer’s son was passed by due to his injury. “How fortunate!” his neighbor told him. But the old farmer only replied “Who knows what is good or bad?”

Kenton Whitman guides clients toward re-connecting with nature, discovering their full potential, and living life to the fullest through his Metamorphosis program and workshops. Visit www.kandrcreative.com to learn more.

I Did It My Way … Both Times!

by Arwen Rasmussen

My journey into parenthood began over a plate of rice and beans. I know that some women say that they feel like their journey began when they saw the pink stick, but pregnancy brought out a part of me I did not always care for, so I like to say my real journey into mommyville started when the contractions got stronger over the fried ice cream. My husband and I were eating out at a Mexican restaurant when labor started, so we finished dinner and went home to see if they would quiet down. But it was my son’s due date, so I was relieved that he had decided to be punctual. We went home, rolled on the exercise ball for a while, called the soon-to-be-grandparents to let them know, and watched some Friends episodes to take my mind off of the pain. As if that could really help.

Like any couple new to this, we went into the hospital when I thought it was getting pretty rough, only to be told I was only at three centimeters and it was going to take awhile. We swayed, rolled, crouched, sat in the tub, and then my little guy decided he was going to move, and not in a good way. Now if you have had back labor, you know what I am about to say, and if you haven’t, count your blessings. Back labor is stabbing pain in your lower back that doesn’t really let up; back labor is having your 200 pound husband practically stand on your lower back to counteract the contractions without much relief; back labor is when you, or at least when I, called for the epidural. This really surprised me. My entire pregnancy, I was the epitome of organic. I tried to eat only organic, grass fed, free range everything. So naturally I was going to have this baby au naturale. Plus, being a survivor in my earlier years of some pretty serious IBS stomach issues, I really wondered if labor was as bad as people said. What was my threshold of pain? I have to say that before the back labor started, the contractions hurt, but they weren’t killing me. The back labor put the nail in the coffin and I asked for the drugs. In the moment, my husband, my wonderful and reasonable husband, said it’s okay to take the drugs. You aren’t a bad mother. So I said yes.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, epidurals are the most common pain relief during pregnancy, with more than 50% of women in labor using them. Statistics say that the numbers vary by hospital but some hospitals use epidurals in more then 75% to 90% of births. So I am certainly not alone in my decision. In fact, plenty of women arrive at the hospital and ask for epidurals to begin with, before any pain has even started. And after the 45 minute wait for Mr. Anesthesiologist, which, with back labor is too long, everything went numb. Six hours later, I had a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

Now fast-forward to child number two. It was the end of June, hot, and I’m larger than I have ever been. This pregnancy once again did not bring out the best in me. But at 4:00 p.m. one afternoon, a contraction hit, and I thought it was a false alarm. She couldn’t be early; I couldn’t be that lucky. So, we called the hospital and they said we should come in just in case we were wrong. Fifty minutes later, we found out I was five centimeters dilated and not likely to go home. Now this caused a bit of a problem because we had thought it was a false alarm, and we didn’t have anything with us. No clothes, no music, nothing planned for where the two year old was going to go. So in the middle of the 6:00 p.m. news, my husband rushed to feed the cat, take care of our son, and get back to me before it got too bad. So I watched some TV and was sort of amazed at how different this time around was from that last time. The contractions were about five minutes apart and they hurt, but not to the point where I couldn’t stand it. 7:00 p.m. rolled around and that’s when my daughter decided to make her entrance. The contractions were two minutes apart, then one minute apart, and I said, “Can I have drugs?” Now here is where my husband got the Best Husband EVER award (as if he didn’t have it already). He said, “Are you sure you don’t want to try the tub?” So I just followed his lead. They filled the tub, I sank in, and the contractions got worse. And I swear to you, I wasn’t in the warm tub for three minutes when I needed to push. That’s three centimeters in three minutes. I somehow crawled up on the bed, pushed for twenty minutes, survived the ring of fire my friend warned me about, and was holding my baby girl in my arms.

Afterwards, when we were reliving the night, my husband said how proud he was of me for doing it without drugs. He said he knew how disappointed I was with my first that I relied on the drugs, and he knew I could do it naturally and really wanted to help me achieve that. What a guy, eh?

Sometime later that week, while sitting with a friend, she asked me, so if you had to do it again, which would you choose? Drugs or not? And I really couldn’t answer her. And five months later I still can’t. The overall end result was two beautiful healthy kids, but if I had to choose how to do it again, I’m still stumped. On one hand, I was relaxed, numb, and somewhat rested with the epidural; but it did take longer. On the other hand, experiencing all of the primal pain of giving birth drug free is one experience I won’t soon forget. And I am proud that I did it free of anything that would make that experience anything other than original. I guess if we have another I will make that decision when the time comes, and I think that is my biggest lesson. It’s important to leave yourself open to other possibilities. If you had asked me with my son if I was going to get drugs, I would have said, “No way.” But in the moment, all I previously thought changed, and I am proud to say that I was flexible enough in my thinking that I could change my mind when it needed changing. And with my daughter, instead of trying to recreate the only experience I had known, a labor with drugs, I was flexible enough to wait just long enough for the end of labor to start, which made my decision for me. Overall, my birth experiences, like everyone’s, were unique and exciting no matter what decisions were made. In the end, I did it my way both times, and that’s all that matters.

Both of my beautiful children were born at Luther Hospital in Eau Claire. Gordon will be 3 in March 2011 and Quinn is 6 months old already.

An Alternative Approach to Asthma

by Dr. Tammy Amoth

It’s that time of year again…the festive lights on holiday trees, the warm crackling of a fire, and the chill in the air all signal that winter is here! Did I say “chill” in the air? What I meant was “frigid, arctic frost!”  The blustery, cold winter can create respiratory challenges for everyone (who hasn’t taken a deep breath on a very cold day and felt like their airways froze shut?), but for asthma sufferers, the frigid air compounds an already serious problem.

Asthma is a chronic condition caused by constriction and inflammation of the bronchial tubes and often includes increased mucous production in the airways. It afflicts over 22 million Americans, accounting for over 20 million outpatient visits, over 1.6 million emergency room visits, 500,000 hospitalizations, over 20 million lost work days, over 10 million lost school days, and over 35 million prescriptions per year. There are about 5000 asthma-related deaths per year. Despite medical attempts to treat it, asthma rates have increased more than 160% in children under the age of five, and 74% in children aged 5 to 14 since 1981. Medical management of asthma has helped save many lives; however, medications can only quiet the expression of symptoms.

The basic underlying cause of asthma is an imbalance in the immune system. An asthmatic’s immune system differs from a non-asthmatic’s in several ways. First, the system overreacts to external irritants that have no effect on non-asthmatics. Second, their immune cells tend to produce an excessive amount of pro-inflammatory chemicals which can lead to increased mucous production and a prolonged inflammatory response in the airway. In addition, asthmatics may have an imbalance in their autonomic nervous system favoring the parasympathetic nervous system, which causes constriction of the airways. Therefore, a seemingly insignificant stimulus causes a heightened immune response with excessive and prolonged inflammation, mucous production, and bronchial tube constriction. Medicine can reduce asthma’s symptoms, but it cannot restore proper balance to the body. Thankfully, there are some natural ways to restore balance to the body and help prevent the cascade of events that cause asthma attacks.

The nervous system controls and coordinates all of the cells, tissues, and systems of the body. The bones that make up our skull and spine protect our nervous system at its source: the brain and spinal cord. A loss of integrity of the moving bones of the spine can impair this vital communication link between your brain and body. If you have nervous system compromise, do you think you will be sicker or healthier?  If this compromise affects the autonomic nervous system, could it cause bronchial constriction?  Could it impact immune cell function? Yes! Chiropractic is the art and science of reducing nervous system interference, called “subluxation,” by improving the function and structure of the spine. Gentle adjustments to the spine restore the fundamental communication flow from the brain and spinal cord to the body, allowing the body to express optimum health, balance, and well-being. Consider a chiropractic assessment to determine if your spine has subluxations that may be affecting your respiratory function.

In addition to evaluating their spinal health, it is imperative that those with asthma make significant dietary shifts. Inflammation plays an enormous role in asthma, and the building blocks for the pro- and anti-inflammatory chemicals produced by the body come from our diet. Reducing the intake of foods that amplify inflammation while increasing those that normalize the body away from inflammation will help restore balance to the body. Replace processed foods, sugars, and unhealthy fats with whole, simple foods such as vegetables, nuts, chicken, meat, eggs, legumes, whole grains, fruits, olive oil and organic butter. Beware of dyes, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Take a high-quality omega-3 supplement to shift the body away from inflammation, as well as probiotics to enhance appropriate immune system function. Consider taking antioxidants to fight free radical damage caused by inflammation. Drink an ample amount of water. Address any emotional stress, which can also trigger asthma attacks.

Asthmatics can improve their body function through dietary changes and regular spinal checkups. Creating body balance makes it possible for healing to occur, allowing some people to reduce their medications and enjoy the wonders of the winter season, regardless of the chill in the air.

Ways to sidestep that pesky common cold

Ayruveda, an ancient Indian healing practice, says that colds are an imbalance of one’s dosha. Basically, when your energy goes bonkers, you get a cold, which often happens in the autumn or winter seasons. These seasons increase the vata dosha, which is associated with the wind and colder weather. A cold caused by increase of vata usually has a dry cough, watery eyes, and runny nose . Practitioners believe that change from hot to cold weakens our digestive fire, or the agni, and leaves our bodies with excess toxins called ama. Increased ama makes us more susceptible to colds and flu.

Too much ama can also lead to an increase in kapha dosha, the dosha associated with cold and wet. This imbalance can make you feel sluggish and congested.

You can counteract these effects by keeping your body temperature up. When you get that feeling that a cold is coming on, schedule a hot stone massage or take a warm bath or shower which will fire up your digestion and help burn off the phlegm and mucous. You can also try taking ashwaganda, amalaki, or gotu kala. Ask a local TCM practitioner which would help you more.

If you don’t want to spend the next 6 months wrapped in a blanket with the tissues near by, here are some new ways to beat the sniffles. Ayruveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and naturopathy invite new ways to tackle a cold.

If you are too late and the cold is bringing you down fast, here are some ways that may help speed up the recovery. Cut down on your dairy intake as well as foods made with sugar and oils, both of which increase your kapha and your mucous. Make sure you get plenty of warming herbs like cinnamon, ginger, or basil, which soothe kapha and vata doshas. Drink lots of water and sip herbal tea. Try this recipe:

½ tsp tulsi
pinch of ginger
juice of 1 lemon
honey to taste.

This mixture is made of pungent, dry, and sour, which reduces kapha and vata.

Naturopathy believes that the body can heal itself in time. To help fight colds and flu, it may blend conventional medicine with natural treatments.

To smash colds before they begin thriving, wash your hands often. Add more herbs to your diet to kick start the immune system. Try Echinacea, fresh garlic, ginger root, zinc, or shitake or seishi mushrooms. Extra sleep is always a good idea. And drinking at least half your body weight in water helps to flush out your systems.

If you are too late, many naturopaths will prescribe treatment based on your individual needs. Try a steam humidifier to help clean out the lungs. For a stuffy or runny nose, you can mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with three parts water and use as a nasal spray. You can also try putting on a pair of wet socks before bed. Cover them with a pair of dry wool socks and as you sleep, the body will move blood to your feet and away from your head, which can help relieve your congestion.

Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on the flow of your life energy or your qi. Illness happens with one’s qi is blocked. Colds and flu happen with “wind” attacks, which affect your lungs. A wind cold will result in a common cold or body aches, nasal discharge, and headaches, and a wind heat will result in the flu or fever, thirst, sore throat, and colored nasal discharge.

Your first step is to build up a resistance. To strengthen your immune system, many herbalists will recommend Gejie Ta Bu Wan or bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan. See a local practitioner to see which prevention treatment is right for you.

If you already have the sniffles you can try acupuncture or self massage. There are several pressure points that can help:

1. The fleshy part between your right thumb and forefinger. Gently press the area with your other thumb for 1 minute.
2. Two finger widths up from your wrist is another pressure point. On the inside of the forearm, gently press for 1 minute.
3. The middle of the groove outside of each nostril; press each point for 1 minute.

You can also add hot lemon water to your daily diet. This will replace the lost fluid and give your system a mega dose of vitamin C.

Adapted from Natural Health magazine Oct 2008.

Cracking the Code on Lyme Disease

By Dr. Lindsley | There is a disease that has swept across the nation and then been quietly swept under the rug. It has quietly and insidiously crept into the lives of tens of thousands of people living in Wisconsin and surrounding states especially. Lyme disease has become a household name in this neck of the woods, but with this familiarity, our understanding of the disease is surprisingly still quite limited.

Einstein once said (paraphrasing here) that if we were to solve a tougher problem, we better change our thinking or will get the same answer. If we’re going to solve the problem of Lyme disease in this country, we need to put down the bottle of antibiotics, put on our thinking caps, and figure it out for real. After all, future generations are depending on this.

Lyme disease masquerades as a lot of other incurable diseases so, including: MS, ALS, depression, Bells Palsy, Cancer, and Alzheimer’s, all of which have no known cause or cure. Want to keep going? I just described about $200 billion worth of incurables. Interestingly, we have no idea what causes the diseases I just listed and yet the world of modern medicine is spending billions on methods that treat symptoms only – they can’t touch the cause of any of these disease processes. These diseases are a mix of inflammatory and immune deficiency diseases. I have also seen every one of these involved with a patient suffering from Lyme disease.

Did you know between 250,000 and 350,000 cases of MS have been diagnosed in the United States, and the illness is five times more prevalent in northern climates? In fact, in Wisconsin, one in five hundred people are now said to have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). We have yet to tally the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) patients that I have seen coming through my office that may or may not have been given a diagnosis. With 30,000 cases of ALS diagnosed and 5,000 new cases per year, it is becoming evident that while diagnoses are increasing, our ability to put a stop to these diseases is not.

Many people mistakenly believe that Lyme disease is a single bacterial infection that enters our immune system. A round or two of doxycycline or similar antibiotic should whip it into submission and we can go on our way and enjoy our lives again, right? The reality of this disease process is this: I have yet to see any antibiotic completely wipe it from an individual who was has been exposed to Lyme. Lyme disease is not usually a single bacteria entering our system, but several co-infections arriving on the scene adding chaos to the immune system. In fact, as many as seven different bacteria and parasites at one time can result from a single bite. Many times, the labs running Lyme disease tests are only running the single bacteria of Borellia Burgdorferi (Lyme bacteria) while leaving out the possibility of Babesia, Erlichia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Rickettsia Rickettsi (Rocky Mountain spotted fever) and a few other variants. Truth be told, most individuals who are exposed to this disease process will have at least two of these bacteria-parasite combinations to fight off at one time, and antibiotics are simply not going to remove all combinations from the musculoskeletal system and the central nervous system completely.

The best antibiotic might remove 75% of the infection, leaving the immune system the remaining 25% to deal with. Without some type of immune support for the body, it can manifest again months or years later in the brain and spinal cord as a neurological disease. Most of what is going to attack us is either parasitic or bacteria and will be swallowed and enter our digestive tract. This is where the majority of our immune system lives (roughly 80-85%); the rest is spread out in various tissues of our body. The idea of treatment is to stop the invader before it gets outside our digestive tube and enters into our organ and central nervous systems.

While a tick is attached to our skin, it releases several bacteria and parasites in our tissues that very quickly work their way into our blood stream and then very quickly try to leave the blood stream and head for the hills. Why? It is a strategic move by the parasites and bacteria to move away from the immune system and enter areas of the body where it can quickly overcome the localized immune system and set up shop. It sounds like a really smart military strategy: attack a weaker opponent, take the territory, and raise the flag. That is exactly what Lyme disease will do: it takes over your body one organ system at a time, going after the communication systems first.

Our main computer system involves the brain and spinal cord. It’s our central nervous system because all information from our body flows up through our nerves to our brain, where the brain (our CPU) makes a decision on how to handle the situation. Then it sends the best known correct action back down through our nerves to our organs and muscles. We make the “fight or flight” decision hundreds of times a day without even knowing what is happening, while our 50 trillion cells communicate and run the show. Our autonomic nervous system is tasked with defending our tissues from all known invaders into our bodys’ tissues.

What gets commonly missed, though, when the bacteria and parasites take hold of the nervous system, are the toxins they secrete. Ammonia, lactic acid, and phenol are the big three. Bacteria are parasites entering our central nervous system (CNS), which secrete ammonia at high levels. Local immune cells and detoxification cells cannot handle the load allowing the ammonia to accumulate in the CNS. The accumulation eventually causes enough inflammation in the brain and spinal cord that we begin to see neurological changes in the body’s movements, moods, and thought processes. Neurotransmitters are blocked from working and the inflamed tissues begin to degenerate, leaving us with memory loss, depression, and decreased motor function to arms and legs. Short term memory loss, fatigue, and depression are simply precursors to the larger categorical diagnosis.

As much as big pharmaceutical companies want us to believe that petroleum-based products (drugs) used to treat symptoms will cure our diseases, this unfortunately is just not the case. Our bodies are incredibly strong, smart and well-functioning systems. Gumming up the systems with oils and petroleum is eventually going to stop working.

Now that you know a lot more about Lyme disease and how it functions in the body, stay tuned next issue to find out what your natural alternatives are when it comes to healing your body of Lyme disease. There is hope, and actually, great success!

Dr. Lindsley is a former Lyme Disease sufferer that has been studying natural approaches to help patients remove the source of the toxins from invading bacteria and parasites while naturally boosting their immune systems.  He is currently working on a book to help others educate themselves on effective natural approaches to heal themselves from Lyme Disease.