Friday, October 8, 2010

Cholent in the Frischman Houshold

I was asked by a patient whether we serve Cholent for lunch Shabbos afternoon. First, for those of you unfamiliar, cholent is a food that is made in a slow cooker. We start it Friday afternoon, and it is served for lunch on Saturday. The best cholent, in a similar way as, let's say, fine wine, cheese or the herb Chen Pi, improves with time, or in this case, with cooking. The way we make cholent is quite different from that which is customary. (A typical recipe would contain Meat, potatoes, a cup of assorted dried beans, one large onion, garlic, 1/2 cup barley, ketchup, herbs, spices and lots of water). Our cholent consists of all organic ingredients: yams, zucchini, baby potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic, basmati rice, kasha (buckwheat) chicken, sprouted mung beans, plum vinegar and lots of aromatic herbs and spices, along with, of course, lots of water. The idea is for it to start like soup, and become thick while slowwwly cooking overnight. Unlike the typical cholent, though, which people usually feel incredibly heavy from, ours is quite light, and, in my humble opinion, just might make the liver,spleen and stomach smile.

Enjoy and have a wonderful Shabbos!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Process-part one

Just as my previous blog may not have been viewed as politically correct by some, perhaps many people, this article may be even more so.

Most of us have grown up considering ourselves as basically healthy and functional, and when we do get sick, we have been taught by our parents and society as a whole to view illness and disease as an assault which must be repelled, in order for us to continue to function normally. And the results had better be quick, because we have neither the time nor money to waste! If this entails taking medicines to suppress symptoms, then, of course, that's what we should do. If we are weakened and can't figure out what's wrong with ourselves, then we must go to the doctor, and have him identify what is attacking us, for there must be something wrong!: either a bacterial pathogen, a virus, some kind of a fungus, or maybe, even, G-d forbid, some kind of auto-immune disorder. If he can't figure out what's wrong, then maybe we're delusional, depressed or suffering from some other kind of psychological disorder, and he will probably refer us to a psychologist to help us "talk" about how bad we feel, or a psychiatrist to give us drugs to help us feel happy!

I tell you, though, with absolute certainty, that this "process" has engendered a society in which superficiality, quick fixes and anesthesia are endemic. We have an economy and a health care system that is bankrupt, and despite the fact that more and more money is being thrown at it, it gets worse and worse, more and more out of control, both the health care system, itself, and its victims, us. And unfortunately, millions and millions of people, yes the vast majority of society accepts the mantra, that the doctor knows best, that he has our best interests in mind, that I must vaccinate my children and myself to prevent diseases from attacking us, and if I do get sick and they are not able to cure me, then it must be my fault.

Well, I take a different approach, and view illness and disease, whether physical, emotional, mental or even spiritual, completely differently. In this multi-part article I would like to consider this other, different "process".

A first consideration, which not always, but often is ignored by Western biomedicine, and society as a whole, is the question of why?--What is the pathogenesis of the illness, what caused it to happen. This question of etiology, though perhaps of interest to the Western physician, is less relevant to him, than determining or putting a name on the disorder, a diagnosis, so as to determine how to attack it. But does it make sense to treat 10 people who have the same illness, but who all have had different relevant accompanying symptoms, have different constitutional body types, and have had different life experiences leading up to their illness--should they be treated the same? The Western biomedical answer, is generally yes.

My answer is emphatically, no, and the explanation to this answer is the antidote to the illnesses that Western medicine has been unable to cure, and the illnesses to society in general that I spoke of earlier.

As I have written before, the essential key to health is balance. Getting sound, peaceful, adequate unbroken sleep, and sleeping at the right time; eating the right amount and the right kinds of food, eating frequently enough, being in the right frame of mind while eating, viewing eating as a spiritual experience (and not a necessary evil), not multi-tasking while eating; having adequate exercise of the right kind, the right amount and at the right time of day; and being engaged in activities which one enjoys, which make one happy, which nurture a sense of well being, which foster a connectivity, to oneself, to one's loved ones, to society and to one's Maker: Breathing deeply in clean air, and slowly breathing out toxicity. These are the ways for one to establish and maintain health and balance. And the reverse of that, to allow oneself to become depleted, hungry, tired, or in pain, is to foster imbalance. Even worse, to force to body to continue to function when it is exhausted, is to exacerbate this imbalance. One should view the body like an investment bank account: In order for the account to grow, (ie. building up one's health), he needs to maintain some principle. But when he depletes the principle of his body, he compromises his balance and health. And even worse, if he taps into his overdraft (using adrenaline, stimulants or substances to block his pain), he pays very high interest to reverse the damage that he has done, paying back for a much longer time than the short term pleasure he experienced by tapping into his overdraft, which allowed him to keep going. Any thinking person would consider it madness to pay that price, yet, who doesn't do it? And ultimately, the price is chronic degenerative illness, and premature death. A very expensive price indeed.

The real problem, though, is that so many of us wake up when it's already very late, when we finally realize that our dis-ease is not a microbe, but is instead a severe imbalance. This realization is the first step on the way back to balance. But, again, it can be a long process, an expensive process, a painful process, a process that engenders loneliness and self-doubt as one hears friends, family, neighbors, religious leaders,and even spouses saying:"what are you doing? you're spending all this money, you're eating strange food, and you're just as tired and sick as you were before!" Yet the key is to look within. The wise person will daily talk to Ha-Shem out loud, and review what he has done that day and how it feels. Those who have the wisdom to do this will clearly recognize that they are getting better, much better! And they know, and they are correct in knowing, that the day will come if they are patient, when they will feel like a curtain has been lifted off from them, and they will feel strong, happy, balanced and whole, for maybe the first time in their lives! This is the process that I encourage my patients to take. In part two, I will begin to share this process with you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Observations on the state of our profession and how I practice

A colleague of mine questioned the relationship that we should maintain with our patients, and suggested that as acupuncturists, we should limit our practice to "safe" areas such as pain management. This issue, I believe, cuts to the root of how, and what we practice, and, in essence, what we are: For if, we are skilled technicians, whose job is to ameliorate symptoms, much as chiropractors, physical therapists, speech pathologists or even, yes, psychologists or social workers, then absolutely, we must make sure to maintain a strictly professional relationship with our "clients" who we, the therapists are serving.

But if, on the other hand, we are physicians treating the whole person, emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, then, I believe our goal should be to help our patients find equilibrium and balance, and most importantly enable them to learn how to heal themselves. This, I believe,
can't be done if we compartmentalize the treatment, and it will also require a patience and wisdom enabling the patient to trace back those components which contribute to their present illness. This is the process of determining and resolving the pathogenesis of the illness, at the pace that the patient is
able to. Now this can be complicated, and may necessitate developing a deeper relationship with your patient. Again the key and the focus must be to always remember to take responsibility: The patient, in order to heal, becomes VERY vulnerable. That vulnerability MUST be honored and respected. We must NEVER violate that trust and openness, by betraying it personally, or to others, even family members, and certainly not anyone else. We also must remember that our goal must be to enable our patient to become strong and self-sufficient, and NOT dependent on us (though, paradoxically, during this process, as we educate them to become independent, they may become very dependent upon us! So we must never lose focus as to our goal!!!) Remember that the traumas, physical and emotional, that they have endured have disabled them, and to heal them is to free them. Remember the wonderful Shirley Temple movie, Heidi? Yes, when our patients are healed, free and balanced, we can indeed become friends with them, much like comrades who have survived a war, but each step along the way, in the process, including the appropriate boundaries, needs to be honored, while guiding and fighting what can be unrelenting enemy.

Now, again, it depends how one runs his practice and how he treats his patients. I see each patient for 2, sometimes 3 hours. I integrate craniosacral therapy into my every treatment. As such, I usually treat 3 to a maximum of 5 patients per day. I also am available for my patients to call me, 24/6 and I don't charge for phone consultations with existing patients. I know that this model is very different than is typical, as most successful practitioners will treat many more patients per day, charging less per patient than I do (I charge $100 per hour plus herbs and minerals when necessary). But even though, in all likelihood, they make much more money than I do, this model works for me, and I would never consider changing how I treat or relate to my patients.

One other note that I will mention: It can be a bumpy, unpredictable, at times, traumatic path which we take, as old, sometimes forgotten traumas are brought to the surface. Some people can't handle it. It can also be a long path, and some may not be able to afford it, financially. But for those willing to take the journey, the reward can be enormous.

The question that I leave my fellow practitioners and physicians with is this: What is the purpose, the raison d'etre of your practice. In Hebrew, the word for love, ahava, comes from the root, hav, meaning to give. If what you are doing is unselfishly giving to your patient, then only good will result.