I have always felt a deep connection to St. Francis of Assisi, the Christian saint best known for his love of nature, animals, and the poor. In the early 1980’s I lived in Holy Protection monastery, a Byzantine Eastern-Rite Franciscan monastery. This was where I was professed as a 3rd Order, Secular Franciscan.
Born at Assisi in the year 1182, St. Francis came from a wealthy family. Although he spent his early years enjoying the material benefits of wealth, he soon recognized the shallowness of his lifestyle, and renounced his inherited wealth. He chose instead a simple life of poverty, which allowed him to fully devote himself to God and his calling.
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Energy enhancing beverages are everywhere these days, but most are designed merely to provide an intense, temporary jolt of energy. Unfortunately, this false energy leaves you depleted when the “high” wears off.
Most commercial energy drinks depend upon large amounts of caffeine (two to three times the amount found in a cup of coffee), an excessive amount of sugar (from six to sixteen teaspoons in one serving), and long list of other questionable ingredients.
Energy drinks are actually a great idea that can benefit almost everyone needing an infusion of energy, including athletes and people suffering from chronic illness or undergoing chemotherapy. But instead of drinking a highly sweetened, caffeinated, chemical concoction, try Schi-Zam™, my natural energy drink.
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I spend a great deal of time counseling individuals with life threatening illnesses. Understandably, the unknown—the emotional trauma of their unexpected diagnosis, the rounds of invasive medical treatments, and their suddenly uncertain future, frightens many people.
They come to me for advice in how to best approach their illness, knowing that they will receive a leading-edge, holistic protocol that encompasses nutrition, botanical support, information about medical procedures, and lifestyle recommendations. What they generally don’t anticipate receiving is spiritual guidance. In my experience, however, the people who do best are those who deepen in their spiritual practices, and who strengthen their connection to God, however they may conceive him to be within the context of their personal beliefs. For healing to occur at the deepest level of being, I believe that a strong personal connection to God is essential.
Continue reading “The Practice of Lectio Divina”
If you’ve ever walked into a room and couldn’t remember why you were there; misplaced your keys (or even your car in a parking lot); or forgotten the name of an acquaintance, you might have momentarily wondered about your memory or if you were losing your mind. If you’re over the age of 50, you might even be seriously concerned about the possibility of Alzheimer’s.
It’s a valid concern. According to the 2008 Alzheimer’s Association figures, more than five million Americans over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, approximately 500,000 Americans under the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Although a decline in memory and brain function is generally regarded as an inevitable part of growing older, in reality, brain aging is caused by poor cerebral circulation, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative damage, and decreased levels of anabolic-repair hormones, including DHEA and testosterone. All of these factors contribute to changes in the brain that lead to neuronal degeneration and cognitive impairment.
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As a musician, I’m attuned to the transformative power of music. My father was a musician, and I grew up listening to classical and jazz compositions. I was intrigued by the complex rhythms and melodies of jazz, and was inspired to begin playing the bass guitar in my early teens. In my early twenties, I added another dimension of music to my life when I entered a Franciscan monastery and experienced the meditative chants of the monks. I always felt that I both lost and found myself in music, whether it was classical, jazz, or Gregorian chants.
As a researcher, I’m interested in understanding exactly how music affects the body. From the beginning of recorded history, sound and music have played a significant role in healing. Whether through the hypnotic drum rhythms of an African tribe or the sonorous chants of Tibetan monks, music pierces the soul and accesses the power of healing in a way unlike any other.
In the West, there’s a growing interest in music therapy. Studies show that music helps to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression; eases pain and muscle tension; lowers blood pressure; and improves immune function. People with cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, anxiety, and depression have all been shown to benefit from music therapy. For example, researchers at the November 2008 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions meeting in New Orleans presented a study showing that emotions aroused by joyful music have a beneficial effect on blood vessel function. Laughter and relaxation are also helpful, but music seems to be the strongest of “medicines” for the heart.
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When people ask me to name the most powerful medicine I know, many are surprised when I respond, “Love.” In my two-and-a-half decades as a healer, I have observed that love is the greatest of all medicines and is the true essence of all healing.
My work brings me into close relationship with people facing life-threatening illness. It’s not uncommon that upon diagnosis of a serious illness, such as cancer, that people are often struck, as for the first time, with a deep understanding of the preciousness of life. It’s as though the thought of life being taken away is what sparks renewed life. Suddenly, our goals in life change—often radically—and we reevaluate who we are and where we are going. With great clarity, we become certain about who and what is important in our lives, and we know how we want to live out the rest of our days.
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