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Essential Ecology Holistic Health Counseling

Physical Resilience . Mental Hygiene . Spiritual Nutrition

November 1, 2014
by Gabriel
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The Fruition of Nutrition

The subject of nutrition is vast and rife with controversy. The more one really gets into it, the more disheartening it can become, as accomplishing the ideal of perfect nutrition seems further and further out of reach (unless you devote an extraordinary amount of time and money). Science has learned a lot regarding a basic understanding of the nutritional needs of the body, but more mystery remains than has been revealed. The body simply isn’t a text book.

Everyone’s bodies are different and constantly changing so it is nearly impossible to pinpoint precisely how much of a given nutrient is needed. There are numerous tests that can play a helpful role in determining nutritional needs but these tests are often expensive and they mostly point to nutrient levels at the time of the test, which are subject to change. Sometimes these tests offer crucial data, as in certain acute conditions, but in most cases they are not necessary.

Naturally, the foundation of good nutrition is a wholesome, balanced diet. Of course diet is another topic rife with controversy. Truly, what defines a wholesome, balanced diet changes from person to person. A powerfully healing food for one person can be near poison for another. In general, we understand that the less processed or refined a food is; the more whole a food is; the better it is for us! Our bodies evolved close to the earth. So it goes without saying, a diet subsisting on vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, pastured or wild meats, fungi, and herbs is going to improve health and happiness in every way. These whole foods are superior to fried, sugary, factory farmed, industrially processed junk.

Really, the first step is to get clear about who you are and where you’re at. By looking at one’s health history and their current state of well being, much can be deduced about likely nutritional requirements and necessary dietary changes. Some things we are ready to change and others we may not be ready to change. That’s ok. We can start by finding ways to consume more of the good and less of the bad, while sorting out some of the sources of stress in our lives. Stress, tension and depression use up nutrients in the body and we often react to these feelings by self medicating with foods that only make it worse. So starting where we’re at, making changes we are ready to make, working creatively with mind and emotions are often the best places to start. A tall glass of water is good too!

Next we need to look at digestion, which tells us a lot about the appropriateness of one’s diet. If your digestion is not working effectively then it doesn’t matter how well you eat; the nutrients won’t be assimilated. The health of one’s gut is affected by many historical factors going all the way back to birth and by what passes through it daily. If the gut is damaged then even healthy food can cause an inflammatory response. Strengthening and repairing the gut is always a priority; balancing the gut bacteria is particularly important. Begin by chewing your food well; the degree one properly chews their food can make the difference between poison and ambrosia.

Part of establishing a healthy nutritional baseline is to evaluate our consumption of important nutrients that are commonly deficient. For instance, there are only so many dietary sources of Essential Fatty Acids and so it’s easy to determine whether you are getting them or not. And you should be. They’re called essential fatty acids because they’re essential! A lot can be deduced from diet because we know a lot about what nutrients each food offers. We also know a lot about what factors interfere with nutrient assimilation and even pull nutrients out of the body. For instance refined sugar will strip minerals from the body and alcohol will pull out B vitamins, amongst other things.

Many people will benefit from the use of nutritional supplements. Although diet should be the primary foundation for nutrition, these days it is very difficult to accomplish optimal nutrition with diet alone. Generations of soil depletion have led to a steady decrease of nutrients in whole foods, thousands of novel toxins must be processed by the body, most lifestyles are very demanding, and the nutritional base we begin with is very much impacted by the health of our parents and their parents before them. Ideally one continues to fine tune their diet and lifestyle so that supplements are only needed temporarily or as an occasional adjunct.

When I meet with clients we take it one step at a time, finding the pace that is most comfortable for the individual. Nutrition is very important and it plays a role in every condition of the body and mind. But there is no need to get overwhelmed by it. What arises in the present moment offers the vital key to what is most important. We can work together to feed what is true for you in your life. Real nutrition begins with authenticity. Discerning what is authentic and nourishing that; this is the foundation from which all positive changes are made. These changes build upon themselves until health and happiness becomes effortless and compelling. Nutrition is all around you!

July 17, 2014
by Gabriel
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Essential Joy

Caring is skillful means. Emptiness is care free.

The Way is Union.

It is not a religion.

It is love.

 

One Thought.

One Intent.

One Truth.

Naturally, it has limitless forms.

 

Many roads, many rivers;

Many directions home.

Of course.

When there is nowhere to go, there are limitless paths to get there.

 

Nothing to hold on to.

Best let go.

Now.

Make Joyful Effort.

March 15, 2014
by Gabriel
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What is Spiritual Nutrition?

We have a sense of ourselves existing as an individual identity, and yet that identity is entirely predicated on a vast web of life that reaches thoroughly beyond our self definition. Where do we begin and where do we end? The answer to this question is quite subjective and entirely relative to our scope of vision or attention. Our bodies are literally comprised of trillions of life forms. We can discern their apparent individuality and we can assert that they are separate from ourselves but none of us would be here without the other! If we look at all the life forms in nature and in our relationships with fellow humans, family, community, and beyond, we can discern that our very life is dependent on many forces beyond ourselves. Are you separate from the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat? The particles you are made of are merely recycled from the very particles that have been flying around since the dawn of time, and when you die those particles will dissemble and get further recycled into many other forms, perhaps limitless. Where does spirituality fit into all this? Who are you?

I think that spirituality as a general term, encompasses a journey of incorporating our smallest point of reference, with the broadest view imaginable. It is the continual resolution of our most limited scope of how we understand ourselves, with the farthest reaches of who we truly are. In many respects this is limited only by our imagination, which is determined by the degree to which we are open and attentive.

Religions and spiritual traditions of the world offer a diversity of spiritual food. Some people find themselves deeply nourished by the image of Jesus Christ while others may find themselves equally nourished by the vista from atop a great mountain. Some will be inspired by the ancient teachings of the Vedas while others may find great solace in the laws of quantum mechanics. Religions and systems of science seek to offer guidance towards an apprehension of the ‘greater whole’ because humans have known for thousands of years that a realization of wholeness is the secret to peace and happiness. It is the secret to freedom.

Is the belief in a benevolent force of love at the heart of all things, so disparate from the view of limitless atoms spontaneously orchestrated by dynamics of light and sound? If there is one “Ultimate Ground” or “Truth”, or “Whole”, is what we call it really as important as the reality that everyone and everything is equally that? Most saints would agree that love offers the most accurate vision and path towards realization of Wholeness. Love can dissolve boundaries and melt the ice block of ego into the greater ocean. But these are just words.

Spiritual nutrition is not so much about ingesting literal dogmas claimed by many to be superior super foods. It is all about assimilation. Words are like enzymes. Each person must find the appropriate enzymes with which to digest truth and assimilate spiritual nutrition. How do we free ourselves beyond the limits we’ve imposed on ourselves and each other? How do we find peace and happiness? Spiritual nutrition goes right to the heart. It will look different for everyone but ultimately the results will be quite similar. We have to offer our heart to something beyond our self. That is to say, we would do well to open our hearts to the amazing fullness of who we truly are. We are already that. Whatever we believe, whatever we want to call it.

There is nowhere to go and yet there are miles of trails through every kind of landscape. In this journey, the heart is a golden compass. You can trust it.

January 27, 2014
by Gabriel
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What is Mental Hygiene? part II

The first and primary foundation for mental hygiene is proper breathing. Rather than a shallow breath in the chest, the best breath is a deep diaphragmatic breath into the abdomen. This is how the body was designed to breathe 95% of the time. It is how a baby breathes. The other 5% is how our breathing changes in synchrony with fight or flight responses.

Stress can induce shallow breathing which helps initiate release of the hormone cortisol as well as spiking blood sugar levels and producing adrenaline. The heart rate increases and the muscles tense. Continuous production of this stress hormone is toxic at every level and it interferes with the production and reception of more ‘positive’ hormones. Unfortunately most of us have trained ourselves to hold this shallow breathing pattern. Deep breathing will switch over the production of stress cortisol, adrenaline and its resulting blood sugar imbalances, with ‘feel good’ hormones like prolactin and oxytocin, resulting in blood sugar balance and peace of mind. The heart will settle and the body will relax. Depending on how we breathe, we either anchor a reality of perpetual struggle and continual conflict, or we secure an embodied balance, peace, and clarity.

There are books, videos, and practitioners who can properly reacquaint one with this natural way of breathing. You can start by putting one hand on the abdomen and one hand on the chest, and breathe so that the lower hand rises higher than the upper hand. The chest can expand too, but only after you’ve really brought air down into your core. Practice breathing through the nose. Practice exhaling all at once, really letting it go. Breathe like your life depended on it! All this work with the breath will bring about benefits too numerous to count in every area of life. It is the foundation of physical resilience, mental hygiene, and spiritual nutrition so it is something we will return to in future posts.

The second foundation I want to mention is presence, or living in the moment as they say. Nothing classifies bad mental hygiene like the misery of lamenting the past or fearing the future. A lot of physical and mental degeneration results from having to process hormonal chemicals and neural peptides that are released in accord with negative thoughts. The body exists in the present moment but our thoughts are often disassociated from present circumstances.

Scientists have shown that a given activity and the mere thought of that activity will stimulate the same areas of the brain, initiating many of the same biological responses. By pushing the body to metabolize and respond to events that aren’t even happening, our bodies and minds are unnecessarily burdened and I would posit this as a significant source of dis-ease. The more we arrive in the present moment the greater our freedom. We can even take refuge in awareness itself; that awareness that is present during every thought and in between thoughts. The more we rely on awareness, the less power thoughts have over us! This is ecologically critical to thinking clearly, maintaining peace, and realizing lasting happiness. The breath is supremely useful in this practice.

The third foundation for mental hygiene I want to share is the importance of listening to one’s conscience or even following one’s heart. We know more about who we really are, how we really feel, or what we really need, than we might think. We know the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately we find many ways to not act on our conscience or even go against its council. We might do things that aren’t good for us or others, or say things that aren’t honest or kind. We might remain silent when we know we should speak. We might hold back out of fear. Our conscience always has our best interest at heart. It is not the same as the relentless dictator in one’s head who criticizes everything and is rarely satisfied.

At its core health and wellness follows what is natural, follows authenticity; it follows truth. We each have our own truth and our heart is telling us this truth every day. It is much more about being authentic than maintaining some ideal state. Dr. Candace Pert talks about different cases where a spontaneous outburst of anger initiated full cancer remission. Anger may not generally be good for our health but suppression of what we truly feel is much worse. This foundation is simple and obvious but it often isn’t easy. Be compassionate and patient, but really challenge yourself to do the right thing, for yourself and everyone around you.

Breathe deeply, stay present, and listen to your conscience. Duh right?

December 29, 2013
by Gabriel
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What is Mental Hygiene? part I

The mind can be a powerful ally or a formidable enemy. It can be a foundation for good health or the very crux of disease. We have little control over what happens in our lives but where we can have control is in our minds; the motivation underlying every activity, our response to events, and the ever flowing focus of our attention. From an ecological perspective we might be driven to realize some optimal state of mind that governs the body in good health, offers wise council, and establishes a climate of amiable adaptability. Ecologically, the most effective and resilient mind is a mind of peace and clarity. Out of peace and clarity one is able to practice sharp discernment, effectively problem solve, and achieve lasting happiness. One’s mind comes into harmony with their body and a growing health and vitality are the likely result. Good mental hygiene might then refer to the cultivation and preservation of these qualities of peace and clarity as a fertile environment for genuine well being and success.

What are the conditions and practices necessary then to maintaining health and cleanliness of the mind?

Of course this is a vast topic, the exploration of which will proffer a diverse set of answers depending on the individual. Since birth each of us has been challenged to assimilate continuous narratives of life handed down to us from family, friends, and society, measured against our own disposition and understanding, and then incorporated within our personal experience. Despite this unbelievable diversity of cultural transmission and personal experience we find many common threads of psychological struggle. An example might be our penchant for focusing on a single defeat over a hundred victories, one defect over hundreds of qualities, or one nasty remark over a thousand complements. When encountering a minor misfortune we can immediately forget the many blessings and good fortune in our lives and in that moment one becomes the most impoverished person, even while sitting in a comfortable chair in a beautiful home with a loving family. This is not good hygiene!

Ecology basically means the study of home. It is the understanding of relationships in nature, by means of a living logic of cause and effect, practical and flexible. In fostering mental hygiene there are many practical solutions or even ecological strategies. These solutions can be dynamic and diverse, and differ in their appropriateness from person to person, moment to moment. If the world around us and within us is always changing form than it is more than likely that the logic we apply to understanding this ‘home’ must also be capable of changing form. We have to be willing to re-evaluate and adapt our way of thinking. But there are some core foundations underpinning any sound ecology of mind. In the next post I will illustrate a few of these foundations.

December 9, 2013
by Gabriel
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What is Physical Resilience? Part II

The body is an incredibly vast landscape. If the entire circulatory system were laid end to end it would circle the planet about two and half times. It is even estimated that the amount of possible connections in the human brain is comparable to atoms in the entire universe! This vast landscape is densely populated with various micro-organisms. There are around ten times as many organisms in the digestive tract alone as there are cells of the body. That means about 90% of our bodies aren’t even ours! The human body is definitely a whole planet unto itself.

The terminology of resilience is becoming more and more popular. Consider the differences between how a well hydrated or dehydrated person will respond to a strenuous hike in the noon day sun? Consider the difference between how a properly nourished or malnourished person will respond to a flu virus or even a stressful day at work? Resilience infers that not only will a given system respond and recover from challenges; it can learn and grow, it can recognize crisis as opportunity and become even stronger. Some of the best insight for understanding resilience is found in the latest ecological observations and research.

Some key principles of resilient systems include diversity, self regulation, and learning. Diversity is important for a number of reasons but it is particularly important because it generates what is known as “functional redundancy”. This means that more than one organism or sub system carry out a particular function. If we look at the immune system we learn that there are many different bodily processes for fighting illness, not just one. If a foreign pathogen evades one line of defense it will soon encounter another. We can also understand the importance of diversity in our diet and lifestyle, providing a broad range of nutrients and experiences that enable the body to access its full potential.

Self Regulation or adaptability is evidenced in many ways. For instance the body can shift from utilizing carbohydrates for energy to burning fat, and in times of severe food scarcity the body can take apart proteins. The body has to employ thousands of mechanisms for maintaining a balance or homeostasis between vitamins and minerals in the body. For example calcium is very important, but too much calcium will upset the magnesium balance, even aggravating osteoporosis. Zinc is crucial to the body but too much will actually suppress the immune system and upset the functionality of copper. The body can store, excrete, and even convert various surpluses, and to a point it can compensate for deficiencies.

Learning is ongoing at every level of biological organization. From subtle genetic processes to overt nervous system responses, the human body works in direct concert with the brain to accomplish functional harmony in relationship to life experiences. This capacity for learning is highly refined and automatic; however the complexity of human consciousness and its impact on bodily function requires an attentive stewardship on the part of the individual. What we do with our bodies is obviously an important matter, but just as important and often even more so, is the state of mind with which we do anything.

The most important concept to take away from this post is that the human body is definitely an eco-system deserving of conscious stewardship. Exploring the correlations between personal health and environmental ecology is something we will return to from time to time. Essential Ecology is not about strapping ourselves into some abstract scientific philosophy, but is really the art of discovering and nurturing the simple, intuitive law of one’s nature. There may be some universal dynamic principles governing the play of body, mind and spirit, but each person has an utterly unique journey within their personal wilderness. Perhaps we do not ultimately know anything, but our intuition and attention can guide us in masterfully shaping our inner landscape. You have the right and responsibility to grow the garden of your dreams.

November 3, 2013
by Gabriel
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What is physical resilience? Part I

Physical resilience refers to the body’s capacity to adapt to arising challenges, maintain stamina and strength in the face of demands, and recover efficiently and effectively when acutely damaged or microbially besieged. The body must have adequate nutrition and the functional capability to utilize that nutrition; as well the body must excel in eliminating waste.

If health is the body’s natural state, ‘resilience’ simply refers to the body’s ability to realize and express it’s true power and always return to that state. Ultimately our role in this is straightforward and incredibly simple. However it is complicated by a broad array of cultural and environmental inputs, and it is foremost complicated by the degree we have grown estranged from our own bodies. Of course years of this estrangement can establish deep patterns and complexes that may require real detective work and a firm resolve.

Vibrant health can remain elusive until we take the time to pay attention and listen to our bodies. The body knows what is good for it and what is not.  As long as we remain strangers to ourselves, navigating an endless sea of scientific and philosophical abstractions, we risk putting off real self knowledge by investing all of our energy in treating symptoms.

Health can be defined simply as being free from illness. That sounds so good! But the words health and resilience and how we use them naturally evade textbook definition. There are many kinds of illness. The mind and body create each other.  A lot of people stress themselves out trying to eat healthy and science has shown that constant stress is literally poisonous! We also know that stress and a broad range of mental imbalances can be significantly improved, even completely resolved with proper nutrition.

I have offered my own definition of physical resilience as it pertains to the human body, and I have hinted at what is fundamentally required to achieve it. In my next post I will go deeper into the language of resilience and how it applies to ecology.

September 5, 2013
by Gabriel
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We can do this!

My name is Gabriel and I would love to work with you in accomplishing your aspirations for health and happiness!

Unfortunately this website is very much under construction and I am new to WordPress and website design in general. Bear with me.

 

Prayers to all…