Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Process part II: Empowering ourselves through our diet with conscious eating (updated December 2013)

In Part I of this series on transformation, we addressed the roots of illness in Western civilization, both globally and individually. In this part we will begin to address specific behavior and lifestyle changes necessary to make the transition from dysfunctionality and pain to wellness and connectivity. This process involves developing one's sensitivity in five specific areas: The way one eats, breathes, exercises, sleeps, and nurtures his spirit. In this article, I will share with you specific guidelines that I give my patients on how to eat.

The wisest of all men, King Solomon, tells us in Koheles (Ecclesiastes 4:12) that
"... A rope with three strands will not quickly come undone," that though a single string can easily be pulled apart and two threads twisted together with greater difficulty can also be undone, a rope that has three intertwined strands, will always hold up under stress. From this we can learn that for anything to be sustained and accepted, it needs to be established, strengthened, then reinforced.

In developing nutritional guidelines for my patients, I have used this idea of the
three-stranded rope: integrating together the latest research information from biomedical nutrition, the brilliant categorization and observational analysis of Chinese medicine, and the wholistic and mulitfaceted, and Divinely given wisdom of the Torah, to develop a diet which promotes healthy digestion, absorption and elimination, makes one feel good, reduces cravings, and bring one gradually and gently to a weight which looks good and feels good. I want to add, parenthetically, that losing weight should not specifically be our goal, but rather to lose fat. Programs that emphasize weight loss generally cause patients to lose water weight, muscles mass and electrolytes (minerals that control water balance), and can create serious health problems including kidney failure.

The great 7th century CE Chinese physician and philosopher, Sun Si Miao wrote that the physician should "first treat with food and with modification of lifestyle. If this does not work then he should use acupuncture and herbs. Those who are ignorant about food can not hope to survive." This concept, that there is a vital connection between food and health is also espoused by the great 11th century Jewish scholar and doctor, Moses Maimonides, who prescribes balanced foods based upon their qualitative energetic properties, the parts of the body that they affect, and their flavors and temperatures.

Furthermore, the Torah views eating as a spiritual activity, not only affecting our bodies, but also impacting our emotions, thoughts and souls. The latest Biomedical research constantly reaffirms the role that food plays in affecting our moods, clarity of our thinking, and ability to concentrate. In Hilchos Deyos, chapter 3, The Rambam tells us that Man's ultimate purpose should be "to direct his heart to know G-d." Yet adds the Rambam, it is impossible, for one to connect to Ha-Shem, if one is hungry, sick or in pain! In the following chapter he gives us clear guidelines on how, what and when the Jew should eat. These ideas, then, contribute greatly to how we should begin to think about food, in the process of developing greater sensitivity.

Before we actually go into specifics of what each meal should look like, first,let us consider certain important rules:

1. Warm your body up for 15 minutes before eating each meal, by walking or exercising, making sure to breathe deeply, exhaling slowly.

2. Each meal must contain a balance of 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 20% fats. By protein I mean free range-eggs (which should be poached, soft or hard boiled only), fish, chicken, other poultry, and on rare occasion, perhaps once a week, meat (preferrably organic or free-range, if available). Also some legumes such as peas, garbanzo beans, peanuts and soy are good sources of protein. Note, however, that I do not recommend soy products UNLESS, they are fermented (eg. miso, tofu and tempeh) and even then, only if one is certain that he is not sensitive to it as soy is highly reactive. By carbohydrates I mean cooked vegetables, (the only exception being celery, parsley, cilantro and sprouted grains, beans, and seeds, which may be eaten raw) whole grains and either a white organic aromatic rice like basmati or jasmine, white quinoa, or kasha (buckwheat). Also, with carbohydrates, be careful to limit those with high glycemic loads (carrots, potatoes, corn, rice, and grains) to one per meal. By fats, I mean avocados, oily nuts and nut butters like macadamias, cashews and almonds, sesame tehini, olives and coconuts.

3. Try to integrate some kind of naturally fermented food with each meal,(making sure that they do not contain sugar or preservatives!) such as sauerkraut, cured olives, pickles, miso ( but don't cook miso, as if will kill the good bacteria it contains. Instead, add miso to foods after cooking.) cultured coconut milk, or potentially (if there aren't any issues such as allergies, poor digestion, candida or other fungal infections) fermented raw goat milk or cheese.

4. Try to determine if you are allergic to any of the foods mentioned or recommended.
The most reactive foods are dairy, sugar, wheat, corn , nuts but especially peanuts, soy, eggs and the nightshade family (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and tobacco). Be suspicious of any of them if you have any allergic symptoms. See my website for symptoms of food sensitivity, and how to test yourself to determine sensitivies. Also consider salicylate sensitivity if you find yourself highly sensitive or reactive to your diet. Read about it at:

5. Even if you are not allergic to them, avoid dairy, raw vegetables (see above exceptions), cold drinks, cold foods, sugar, corn syrup, cocoa and chocolate, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, coffee, alcohol, fried foods, greasy food, and spicy foods, ESPECIALLY at night.

6. Eat breakfast like a prince (or princess), lunch like a king (or queen) and dinner like a prisoner, making the evening meal, the smallest of the day, and making sure to maintaining the proper balance of foods.

7. NEVER eat fruit or melon with any other type of food, and never eat fruit or other sweet foods at night. Fruits to especially avoid, unless you have a strong digestive tract, include oranges, apricots, peaches, and nectarines. Melons are particularly cold energetically and should never be eaten in the winter, when cold, or even with other fruits.

8. Make sure to drink 4-6 glasses of water daily, even if you're not thirsty, and with meals drink only enough to wash your meal down, in other words, as little as possible. Never drink straight fruit juice, always dilute with at least 1/3 water, and squeeze the juice from a 1/4 of a lemon into water each time you drink.  Also, never gulp down your water.  Sip it slowly, as drinking a large amount of water at one time can damage the digestive tract and make you more vulnerable dysbiosis, dampness and fungal infections.

9. Never multitask when eating. Chew your food well and eat slowly. Never eat when stressed or emotional. Be happy, and consider that you are engaged in a holy activity. Have in mind that you are distributing all the nutrition in the food to where it is needed in your body, as you eat, eating with awareness. Never walk around while eating. If you are healthy, eat until you are 3/4 full and then STOP! If you are not that healthy, consider stopping when you are half full.  If you eat slowly and are not multi-tasking, it will be easy for you to determine when you are approaching satiation.

10. Wait after eating a meal at least three hours before going to sleep.

11. If you've eaten a big meal, wait at least 15 minutes after eating before walking, and at least a half hour before exercising.

12. Never eat if you have to use the restroom, and never delay eliminating for any reason!

13. Eat warming foods in the winter and cooling foods in the summer.

14. Make sure to eat 3 meals every day. If you are not hungry or don't have a good appetite, 20 minutes before each meal either have one to two tubes of Po Chai (a chinese medicine that will stimulate appetite), or else have a cup of ginger/tangerine peel tea, prepared by taking 3 thin slices of ginger root, and the peel from a half a tangerine, dried in the oven until it's crisp, bringing it to a boil and cooking for 10 minutes.

15. Avoid eating cold desserts at the end of meals as they prevent heavy meals from being digested. Especially avoid cold fruit.

Sample Meals:

Upon waking, have a glass of energetic water: place a half-cup water in the fridge over night, and bring a second 1/2 cup water to a boil. mix the two halves together, and squeeze the juice from a 1/4 of a lemon into it.

if you are thirsty or weak, and don't have any problems with  blood sugar, consider have a fruit such as a pear, kiwi or 4-5 non-sorbate pitted prunes, that have soaked overnight (Don't drink the water that the dried prunes soaked in as it is loaded with sugar). If you are not feeling weak or thirsty, skip this.

Even a better alternative to have after your energetic water is to have a cup of green smoothie. In my vitamix I blend the following ingredients:  4 cups of water, 2 bananas, 2 pears, an oz. of liquid coconut oil, 6 strawberries,  a shpritz of Stevia, an oz of goji berries, and one handful of arugula, and one handful of a salad blend called "power to the greens" which I get from Trader Joes, here in LA.  This usually lasts around 3 days.

Also spread throughout the day, have six teaspoons of fresh wheat grass juice.

If you are taking Chinese herbs, have them now.

Breakfast:  have a whole grain cracker or bread (remember wheat and some other grains, soy and corn tends to be very allergic, so be mindful of how you feel and make sure that it doesn't contain sugar). Watch out for reactions such as gas, belching or bloating which may be signs of allergy, and if so, consider a different kind of whole grain cracker such as rye, spelt or kamut. Eat with it some kind of spread, such as almond butter, humous, techina, guacamole, eggplant, etc. As each meal should have protein, for breakfast a good choice might be free-range eggs, either poached, soft or hard boiled (don't eat scrambled eggs, omelets or eggs fried in oil ), fish, or even chicken, if you like it.  Remember, breakfast should be nourishing but not too big. After your meal, before you set out on your day, have a relaxing cup of a warming tea.  I like to mix 1 teabag of chamomile with 2 bags of Ruby Red Roibbos Chai (available from Trader Joes).

Lunch (largest meal): cooked vegetables or perhaps a hearty vegetable soup, chicken or turkey, and a grain such as white organic basmati rice, Bhutan red rice or kasha. A glass of cultured coconut milk.

Dinner: Again, cooked vegetables or soup, fish, 1/2 an avocado, again a grain, and a glass of cultured coconut milk.

Unless eaten for religious reasons such as on Shabbos, bread should only be eaten once a day, at breakfast. I would not recommend "Ezekiel Bread" because among other things, it contains soy. If you have issues with bloating, consider using a simple and non-reactive unleavened bread such as spelt matza as an alternative.

Make sure to season foods well with aromatic spices such as turmeric, cardamon, cumin, curry, cilantro, tarragon, basil, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, lavender, and a little sea salt, garlic, onion, or ginger if you like them. A very nice herb blend that is available at health food stores called "Herbes de Province."

Different kinds of vinegars can be used based upon your constitution: If you tend to be irritable, and your digestion is weak, consider seasoning with apple cider vinegar which strengthens the Spleen and liver, sweet rice vinegar also strengthens the spleen, wine vinegar strengthens the lungs, and Japanese Umeboshi plum vinegar, which is available at health stores strengthens the Kidneys. (It has pleasant and distinct salty-sour flavor, and is a great salt-substitute. I would not recommend regular white vinegar.

Mid afternoon or evening snacks: Even though I said not to eat raw vegetables, an exception is celery, which you can have as a snack with peanut, almond or other nut butter, 1/2 avocado, a handful of nuts if you feel good when eating them, a whole grain cracker with a spread, sprouted beans, grains or nuts, and/or a cup of one of the herb teas that are recommended. Also, sprouted grains, beans and seeds are a nourishing and invigorating snack. Remember to not eat fruit mid-afternoon unless you will be eating your supper within an hour thereafter, and never eat fruit in the evening.

Do not nap mid-afternoon, if you have trouble sleeping at night, but remember that a 15 minute power nap in the daytime is equivalent to an hour at night.

Eat at proper intervals so you don't get too hungry or compromised.

Remember that Chinese Herbal medicines should be taken before meals to promote proper digestion and utilization (take either 30 min before and 60 min after meals).

Also, if you notice that you feel particularly heavy, bloated or tired after eating meat or animal protein, consider that your stomach may not produce adequate Hydrochloric acid necessary to digest it. If so, take supplemental Betaine Hydrochloride right before eating protein, and as your body moves toward greater balance, you will find that you will need less and less!

Other specific foods to include:

If Blood vacuous: chicken liver, tahini, beets, yams, celery, parsley, cilantro, canned tuna and sardines in water, and, of course, wheat grass juice, the highest food form of chlorophyll which is an analog for hemoglobin.

If Yin vacuous: gooey foods such as cooked vegetables, (again, yams are particularly good) almond and other pure nut butters, avocados, legumes like garbanzo beans, rice, string beans, kasha, etc.

Many people are iodine deficient, which affects the thyroid, the adrenals and fibrocystic breasts. One of the best ways to make sure to get adequate iodine is by adding seaweed (I recommend Wakame and Kombu as they contain good amounts of iodine) to your cooked vegetables or making soup with it.

good teas: Rooibos, black cumin seed, chamomile, and green tea (except in the winter, and unless you tend to feel cold, have cold feet or knees, or are Yang Vacuous)

Try different grains, as many of them tend to be allergic, so experiment. Best approach is keep it simple: one grain at a time, (eg. white organic basmati rice,red Bhutan rice, kasha, barley, spelt, oats, kamut, millet, sesame, amaranth, white quinoa, and teff) and see how you feel.

Instead of vegetable or canola oil, use cold or expeller pressed olive oil, sesame oil, almond oil, walnut oil or sunflower oil, and don't fry them on a hot flame. Make sure to refrigerate all oils except olive oil. Though one should never use margarine or butter, an acceptable alternative is Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread.  Avoid other spreads as they usually contain dairy, corn or soy.

About Sweeteners:

Avoid sugar, all chemical artificial sweeteners (eg. aspartame, saccharine, sucralose and splenda) and ANY corn syrup or sweetener. Options to consider are Stevia (the best I have found is Kal Brand raw stevia powder), raw unpasteurized  organic honey, blackstrap molasses, xylitol, coconut sugar, sucanat or fruit juice. Syrups, such as rice syrup, barley malt syrup, date syrup, agave, or maple syrup, even if raw, are just too concentrated to healthily process.

All sugar alcohols, such as xylitol,  mannitol, sorbitol, erythritol and maltitol all can cause diarrhea, but of them xylitol besides tasting just like sugar, does have the benefit of preventing tooth decay.

Avoid preparing or storing foods in plastic wrap or soft plastic containers whenever possible. Don't warm up foods in a microwave oven.

A main goal in each of the areas of growth should always be to gain a greater awareness of ourselves. Two important clues should guide us in this pursuit: one, how we feel, and two, what our tongue looks like. If we make changes in our life, and we don't feel good, although it is entirely possible that we are having a Hexheimer's reaction or healing crisis, we can't assume that for sure. When in doubt, when you don't feel good upon making changes, contact your physician for guidance. Secondly, look at your tongue: ideally, it should be neither pale, nor red, nor purple but rather be pink, with a thin white coat throughout. It should be neither excessively moist, nor dry, it should neither have cracks nor be swollen, it should be neither long nor short, should be balanced and not veer to one side, and shouldn't quiver. Study your tongue, and if you notice any of the above signs, monitor them as you change the way you eat. Hopefully as you feel better, your tongue will look better. May eating always be looked at as a gift, as a holy yet thoroughly enjoyable activity, and never as burden or necessary evil. B'tayavon (Bon apetite)!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thank you

Thank you all so very much! Many of you have written to me privately The Jewish sages tell us that we humans are indeed different than any other creation, and what makes us different? It is the gift that we are given of speech articulating from our mouths, taking our thoughts, some of which get stuck (the source of most psychological disorders) and bringing them out through our mouths. As  Rebbe Nachman says, this is connecting Chochma to Malchus.  Sometimes it's reflected in talking to each other with sensitivity and connectivity, sometimes it's expressed in personal prayer with our beloved Maker, sometimes it's crying, sometimes it's screaming, sometimes it's laughing, and sometimes it's simply singing or humming a melody.  But just as we are told that He created the world with power of speech so too we who are in His image, and are G-dly (and goodly) when we share, when we talk, when we thank and when we comfort.  I often read out loud written  sentiments that are sent to me for that very reason, and it is also for that reason that I don't have texting on my phone.  Again, thank you all for your sweetness and love. As Chana enriched, refined, changed and matured me (Chen Pi (aged tangerine peel)is less harsh than Qing Pi (immature tangerine peel), so too, at least for me, time and connecting has made life so much smoother and really very sweet (good for the spleen(the digestive function)!      

Friday, November 29, 2013

Further thoughts on aging

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

My musings of yesterday elicited a lot of warmth and friendship  to which I am deeply grateful, yet many thoughts were provoked  which, it is  clear to me,   I need to clarify more of, in terms of  what I do and the conclusions that I have come to.

First, as some of you have pointed out, there is much more to longevity and wellness than just eating right.  I really try to practice what I preach, and I encourage my patients to daily address six aspects of their lives:  what, how the amounts and when they eat, proper hydration, proper breathing, gentle stretching exercises, sleep in the right amount and at the right time, and nourishing the soul and mind with joyful, expanding activities (for me as a Jew that means learning Torah, particularly Chasidus).  I don't want to go into details here as to the specifics of these activities, but would be glad to answer any questions that you have concerning them.

Second, though I don't wish upon any of you the loss of a loved one, it's very important not to project what you "think" I feel or need when relating to me, or anyone else for that matter.  I want to share with you the following story which illustrates this point: A soon to be five year old's parents asked him what he wanted for his birthday.  Without hesitation he answered, "A bike!" So came along his birthday, and after the party, his parents excitedly told him to close his eyes as they walked him down the hall to his bedroom where they would bring him to his birthday present.  He opened his eyes and lo and behold, there in front of his was...A racing car bed set!  They were all excited, but he was crushed. They just didn't get it: We must always remember that  bestowing kindness is predicated on having the sensitivity to give what the recipient wants and needs, not what the bestower projects that he needs.  Many people have come up to me and have related to me solemnly, telling me how sorry they are about my loss.  I've had close friends and relative who have actually not called me at all, or have delayed calling me because, as they confessed, they just didn't know what to say.  Though I can't speak for anyone else, and as I said, I don't wish my experience on anyone else, I will tell you this:  for someone so raw as I still am, to act solemnly around me brings me down and makes me feel depressed.  That's the wrong thing to do.  The most important thing for me is to connect.  I feel enormously blessed to have had my Chana Fayge for 35 years, and I feel comforted and aware of her loving protection constantly.  I really feel that she and the many holy people I have connected with, alive or eternal, are looking out for me, and that makes me enormously happy and grateful.  And, as I said, I keep VERY busy.

Now to wheat grass juice and my nutrition in general:  Indeed, as some of you have pointed out wheatgrass juice is energetically cold, and for someone like me, who tends to be Yang vacuous, integrating wheatgrass juice certainly requires more of an explanation.

First, though,  I must  make several comments relative to the above: One,  upon reflection   I would add two more major contributing major  factors to aging and death:

 Particularly for men,  who by our very nature are physically, emotionally and spiritually more Yang than women,  a third major factor contributing to aging and death must be the increasing inability to warm the Yang. This can be seen in many ways.  Biochemistry clearly has noted, for example, lower levels of androgens in the aging male population.   This is just one of many examples.

A fourth major contributing factor to aging and death is conflict and discord.  This should not  be confused with stimulation or competition.  Rebbe Nachman of Breslov notes an amazing phenomenon, that there is no such thing as "neutrality," whether it be internationally, interpersonally or internally. The concept of detente or peaceful coexistance is a lie.  There can be only conflict or harmony.  Now that harmony can be tense complex and multi-faceted, but if must  based upon trust and integrity.  Otherwise it is disingenuous, dishonest and doomed to failure.  The great author, systems theorist, inventor and futurist, Buckminster Fuller coined the term "Tensegrity" (combining the words tension and integrity) to describe this very idea.  And this concept applies to all relationships, which flourish when there is dynamic energy and interaction.  (I work a lot with married couples, and as with Chana and myself, we each grew enormously because of the dynamic energy and trust that we worked on and developed.)  The Jewish sages tell us that the word for peace is the same word as perfection, and the definition thereof, is when two opposites are made to work together, harmoniously complementing each other.  The same applies internally.  What is the result of unresolved conflict that leads to discord? irritation and inflammation.  This can show itself on many levels, not just physically.  And when it does the result can be autoimmune disease, cancer, deterioration and death,  and the four cardinal signs of inflammation: redness, pain, heat and swelling are all manifestations of this unresolved conflict in the body.   More than two hundred years ago, Rebbe Nachman in the most brilliant macro and very non-Western perspective recognized that internal conflict of the body's organs, systems and structures is the root cause illness.

One other observation that I have noted, is the shocking lack of purpose and awareness in general that I have noticed with students of Chinese medicine and natural healing in the  way they eat.  It was astonishing to me as I attended both masters and doctoral programs to see the junk food that these future doctors, leaders and teachers of the sick were themselves ingesting.  Now in retrospect, a little bit older wiser and more tolerant, I understand why--and I can explain by presenting you with the following image:  imagine a cone. at the bottom it's wide and the higher it goes the narrower it gets. This cone really reflects what we can get away with in terms of what and how we eat.  When we are in our 20's most of us have the latitude to eat pretty much what we want without consequence. In our 30's a little less so, in our 40's a little less so.  Once we hit our 50's we had better wake up, because eating wrongly, even if we've eaten that way our whole lives will begin to cause us pain, suffering and illness.  And this latitude gets narrower and narrower as we age.  That's the down side.  But the good news is, if you DON'T cheat.  If you train yourself to eat ALWAYS in a manner in which you listen to your body and  put yourself  in touch with your body, not eating what you, specifically shouldn't  (of course also following the recommendations in the 2nd paragraph above) I believe that you can live happily and healthily well past 110.  The holy Jewish  sages, (Maimonides and others) by the way, tell us, that in the early days of mankind, when lifespans were enormously long, some longer than 900 years, not everyone lived such long lives.  Only the select people mentioned in  Genesis lived long, and specifically because of how they lived, ate, breathed and conducted themselves.  For us as we age, it's important that we think less about the pleasure that we give ourselves and more about the pleasure that we give others, our environment, and our Creator.

Now to wheatgrass juice and me:  So if I, as a 61 year old male also have to concern myself with my Yang, (as well as inheriting a weak digestive tract from my mother  and my father's father)  how can I ingest and benefit from something as cold as wheatgrass juice? (By the way, for those of you who are not familiar, at least here in LA, wheat grass juice is inexpensive and readily available. Virtually every health food store in my area has a wheat grass juicer.  They grow it on trays, cut it with a scissors while wearing disposable gloves, and juice it with a special juicer used only for wheat grass, so there is no issue with kashrus.  Generally the cost is somewhere around $2.00 for the first ounce, and $1.00 for each additional ounce.  I buy 3 ounces at a time spending under $10 per week.)

 The answer is that daily, three times a day, I take a number of Chinese herbal formulas in pill form, as well as drinking  thrice daily, home-made room temperature green smoothies (to which I add a spritz of Vietnamese cinnamon and ginger powder).  Again, I've grown to know my body quite well, knowing what I need, as well as how much of each medicine I need, and as such have developed a protocol (doses and elements of which I vary slightly based upon how I feel each day) which addresses the following issues:  mildly nourishing The Kidneys while also warming, nourishing and harmonizing the  Spleen and stomach Yang and Qi, draining dampness and dispelling cold.  Regulating the Middle Jiao Qi, eliminating food stagnation, and mildly moving the Liver Qi, and finally, mildly moving the blood, and  dissolving and dissipating phlegm and nodules, softening hardness.  Though this may sound overwhelming, it is important to know that this is for me, and though elements may apply to someone else, we all need to look within, train ourselves to filter out all the noise and distraction that pollutes our lives,  fine-tune our receivers and   become better listeners.

A practice that I engage in daily is to go to a quiet and natural place, and literally just talk, like a child talking to a loving parent or as one friend to another.  I start off by reviewing the past day, what I've done, even small things that I regret and could have done differently, articulating my regret and resolving to make the next day better. Then I say thank you for the enormous blessings that I have in my life, again out loud, and again, even for little things, because they too matter!  Finally, I acknowledge that I'm not so great, I don't really deserve anything that I've been given, but nonetheless, You, my Father, my Friend and my Lover, you are so good to me.  And if you could maybe give me such and such that I don't have,  I could really serve you better.

In terms of Mankind's ever-longing search for longevity, for the fountain of youth we must view this search with the right perspective.  This is a wonderful world in which we live.  This is the only world in which we can better ourselves and those that come into our sphere of influence by our actions. Our lives must be used to unselfishly love, give and expand ourselves, until we have truly completed what we were brought into this world for, our soul correction.  Perhaps there are those who can influence themselves, others and the world by going into a monastery, meditating and peacefully harmonizing themselves internally.  But this is not the Jewish way.  The Jewish way of longevity is to interact, to actively heal and to resolve conflict while maintaining individuality and integrity, not just getting along. It is the antithesis or being boring!

I have a lot yet to do, and G-d willing I hope to be around for quite some time. I look forward to sharing the ride together with you!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thoughts of Aging and What to Do About It.

Dear friends and colleagues,

As you may know, I lost the love of my life, my precious Chana Fayge a little over 2 months ago.  Thank G-d I've kept very busy with changes that I've made in my life (to help elevate her soul) and with my practice. We were blessed to know each other exactly 35 years, almost to the day.

I've also thought a lot about the 23 years that she suffered, what I did, and what I could have done. 

I want to share with you what I think is a remarkable observation that I have made, and which has changed my life.  Follow me carefully if you will:  As any student of Chinese medical theory and gerontology will tell you, to the best of my limited knowledge as a clinician, there are essentially two prevailing schools of thought as to what precipitates aging and the debilitation that accompanies it:   Blood Stasis and  Yin Vacuity. I would contend that they really are two manifestations of the same phenomenon.  Think about hemoglobin:  Hemoglobin is the iron containing and oxygen/Co2  transporting protein constituent of the red blood.  Amazingly hemoglobin makes up 97% of the dry weight of erythrocytes and over 1/3 of the total weight (counting H2O). Remember also, that we humans are over 2/3 water.   Now from a Western Biomedical perspective, there are any number of factors that we know contribute to aging, but certainly three such common contributing factors are malnutrition/malabsorption, dehydration and oxygen deprivation. These obviously have a major impact on the Blood and Yin, both in terms of volume and motility. 

So with that background in mind, I began to think: what can one do differently to nutritionally nourish the Yin and move the Blood.  Or to state it differently, what can one do to promote the production of healthy hemoglobin?

Then I remembered reading in Victoria Boutenko's book, "Green for Life" that chlorophyll is essentially an analog of hemoglobin, meaning that they're almost identical chemically.  And what food substance is the most concentrated form of chlorophyll?  Wheat grass juice.  

So I started drinking wheat grass juice, (and as a matter of fact, a half a dropper of wheat grass juice was the last food that Chana ingested before her passing) but there was a problem.  I was getting a little headachy and nauseous having it, and it tended to give me a little diarrhea.  I read that this is a typical Herxheimer die-off reaction, but I didn't buy that entirely.  Rather, I recalled yet one more interesting phenomenon of biochemistry: the Goldilocks principle when administering any medicinal substance: Too little will be ineffective, and too much will illicit a toxic reaction.  The dose has to be "just right!"

 So instead of taking small amounts, one or two ounces at a time, I started experimenting with much smaller doses: one teaspoon with each meal, and with each green smoothie (which I make myself), essentially ingesting 6 teaspoons or one ounce per day. (BTW, wheat grass juice is very volatile, must be refrigerated and should be used up within 3 days).  

The result is that I have no side effects whatsoever, and I feel like I have a new lease on life:  I have remarkable energy, I am clear-minded and  my vision has improved.  I am very aware of my intestinal motility (it's actually a pleasant sensation) and my elimination is efficient but not loose at all.  It's just very simply, a wonderful sense of feeling vibrant and alive, not slowing down and getting old.

Of course this is all anecdotal, but I wanted to share it with you for your consideration.

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Key" l'olam chasdo--For His kindness is endless

 For some unknown reason, when I was on the way to LAX (Los Angeles International Airport)  bringing my wife to her final resting place on Har Hazeisim, I brought along my keys, including one of my two electronic car keys.   Unfortunately, before I left Israel, I couldn't find my keys, but suspected that they fell behind a bookshelf in my grandchildren's room. I didn't really think about them much until last week,  but when I mentioned it to my son about a week about, he started looking for them, found them 2 days ago, and said that he would mail them to me.

Now yesteday afternoon., after a day of patients, I came home, had something to eat, walked down the alley to shul for  mincha, walked a few blocks to do two errands and then came home to go to my car to run a few errands for Shabbos. Though I did have my keys, and assumed that I also had my electronic car key, my Prius "did not detect" the presence of the key, so it obviously fell off. Anyway, I  retraced my steps first to shul, then to the fish store, then to the bank. No key.  I did some hisbodedus, happy that Hashem had given my this test and wondering what he was trying to teach me. I said the special segula to find a lost object, "Amar Reb Binyomin..."  and put aside tzedoko as a redemption, but. still no key. Then I remembered that my son was mailing me my other set of keys, and I realized that maybe Tatty (Dad) is telling me that I don't need to drive for a few days.  Who knows what would happen?   Also, it was a reminder of one of the 10 principles of Jewish medicine: He always creates the cure before the illness. 

I might yet find them, I dunno.  But whatever happens I know that Tatty gives me exactly what I need, and even in adversity, it could have been worse.  I find it compelling that my son and I just happened to speak of my keys earlier in the week and that the set in Israel were found, just before I lost my car key here. 

This morning, I realized when I woke up that it would be quite far for me to walk to Beis Yehuda (the shul where I have been davening for the last month each morning) so what should I do?  Then I remembered that when I came back from Israel, for the first two weeks I had walked each morning the 3 blocks to daven at the Mesivta, Rabbi Nechemia Langer's Yeshiva high school for some of the very best boys who had graduated from the Chasidishe Cheder.   The davening there is slow, intense, and enthusiastic. They also begin davening an hour earlier, than where I had been davening. I again realized, that  Hashem was talking to me, guiding me and directing me.  He knew that when I davened at Bais Yehuda, I was arriving late for my first patient.  He knew that my neshama needs to connect with a fiery and thoughtful davening rather than a rushed and mechanical davening which I wasn't keeping up with anyway.  So what did he do?  He woke me up by "guiding me" to lose my "key," and to remember my other "Key:" Key l'olam chasdo! 


Friday, May 31, 2013

My continuing Tikkun from Uman--8 months later

Those of you who follow my blog will recall that last September I had the life-changing opportunity to spend Rosh Hashana with Rebbe Nachman in Uman.

As I reflect on the remarkable events that I am about to share with you, I realize now that this story actually begins four and a half months earlier, right after Lag Ba'omer.

B"H, a year ago, Lag Ba'omer, I merited to come again to Israel to participate in the third birthday celebration of my son Yechiel's second son, Dovid Matisyahu, by Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai in Meron.  It so happened, that on the way to Israel, I read a remarkable book entitled, "Escape From India," which details the larger than life story of an unfortunate fellow who is caught with drugs in the Mumbai airport, the living hell of his imprisonment as well as his transformation in prison as a true Baal Teshuva (penitent) and his remarkable and quite supernatural escape from the inescapable,  due to the pidyon nefesh (payment of ransom for his soul) that was accomplished through the efforts of a great Tzadik in Israel.  (This idea that when one suffers, particularly in the case of illness, a redemption is necessary to sweeten and mitigate any harsh Heavenly judgment, is addressed by Rebbe Nachman in Likutei Moharan Part II, lesson 3).

Quite intrigued by this concept of pidyon nefesh, when I arrived in Israel, I asked my son Yechiel if he knew who this tzadik was who accomplished this pidyon, and would I be able to meet him to perhaps accomplish a pidyon for my wife Chana--to which he smiled. When I asked him why he was smiling, he told me that his good friend was the brother of the chief gabbai (attendant) of the tzadik, Rav Eliezer Berland, and he would see what he could do, in the short time that I would be in Israel.

Truly guided by Hashem, doors opened seemingly by magic, and Monday after Lag Ba'omer, we were told to bring $1000 for the pidyon, and come to an address in Betar at a certain time to see Rav Berland.   Upon coming into his room, Rav Berland took the pidyon, but instead of speaking of Chana or giving me instructions, immediately gave me a number of vials of medicines, and commented very matter of fact but in his usual enthusiastic way, "take these medicines for your liver and you'll be just fine.  You see, when the blood vessels or the liver backs up, serious illness results.  Notice how your veins are protruding. This is because your liver is not working as it should.  But take the medicine and you'll be fine."    With that, his gabayim (attendants) began to scoot us out of the room. "But wait,"
I said.  "What about my wife and her seizures?  That's the reason why we came!"  To which Rav Berland took out four more medicines, quickly gave me specific instructions for her to take the medicines, and wished her a complete recovery.  Like a whirlwind, we left in a daze.  (I will say, by the way, that Chana is clearly better since taking Rav Berland's medicines, with her seizures now occurring, much, much less frequently than they had been for years previously.)

But what about me and what about my liver?  I never thought twice about it except that interestingly, 8 years earlier, while being worked on during a CranioSacral seminar, a therapist remarked that he had never seen a liver so hard and so stuck.

I should also note that while waiting in Rav Berland's entry room, we struck up a conversation with a wonderful fellow who happened to be the grandson of one of the great Breslov tzadikim of the previous generation, Harav Shmuel Shapiro, ZT"L.  Rav Yehuda Tzvi Shapiro mentioned that the previous week, the Spinker Rebbe from Brooklyn, happened to come to see Rav Berland.  The Spinker commented to him that Rav Berland's medicine was nothing but a cloak, and the real power of the medicine came from combinations, permutations and meditations on Hashem's holy names that Rav Berland "injected" into the medicines!  

Anyway, I took Rav Berland's medicine and really felt much clearer and stronger than before, but as I didn't change anything in my lifestyle, slowly, I returned to how things were before.

Fast forward again, to Erev Rosh Hashana in Uman

As I mentioned, I had the privilege of connecting with and treating a great tzaddik while there, as well as during a subsequent visit to Eretz Yisrael.

(When I saw the tzaddik some three months ago I asked him for a blessing for a safe and easy birth for my daughter in law, whose due date was June 6, and mentioned in passing that I would be coming to Eretz Yisrael for Lag Ba'omer again.  He immediately told me to change my ticket to be there for the bris mila.  As such, I changed it for the latest possible date,  arriving in Israel right before Shavuos, and staying for 2 weeks, which should have given enough time for me to be there for a simcha. But more on that later!)

As I mentioned in the uman blog, before treating the tzaddik  I went to  mikvah first, and then, after completing the treatment, headed back to my apartment, preparing to go to sleep, when I was suddenly taken by the strongest urge to go to Rebbe Nachman's tzion (tomb) and just talk to him.  It was the strangest thing: my whole life, whenever I daven, whenever I talk to Ha-Shem during hisbodedus (personal prayer), I invariably will speak about my family, my friends and my patients.  But this time,  I suddenly had an overwhelming need to talk about myself and how at age 60, though perhaps not recognizable to others, parts of me were beginning to not work as well as they used to.  So from 1:00 to 2:00 am, I went from head to toe sharing with Rebbe Nachman what I felt inside of myself.  Tears flowed from my eyes and the time just flew by, but when I finished I felt amazingly stronger and clearer minded, but I also seemed to hear inside of myself a  voice telling me, "you can have it, but you'll have to pay."

As I left the Tzion, I suddenly realized that my only towel was missing.  So back I went and from 2:15 till 2:30 am I scanned the benches and racks of the Uman mikvah,  unsuccessfully, looking for my towel. But then, as I was about to leave, this huge  Ukrainian guard, whose great-grandfather could easily have been one of the murderous Cossacks  suddenly bellowed out, "Meester!" and pointed to me to come to him. As I approached I became aware that next to him was a blind 20 something chassid who needed help going to the mikvah, and rather than being put out, I was thrilled that I was able to help this young man, at 2:30 in the morning, to get undressed, shower, go down the steps into the mikvah, help him out, help him to get dressed and walk him back to the the guard who awaited  him.  This I thought was my payment, and that what would follow would be  a year of new-found vigor.  Little did I realize, though, that my Uman mikvah incident was just a small down payment.

We all have our quirks. Ever since my college days, I have always loved the seductive quiet of the night.  I find that I think better and write better then.  But  this wonderful clear mindedness also causes me to lose track of time, and so, on a nightly basis,  needing to finish whatever project I happen to be working on, I invariably find myself staying up late, sometimes very, very late:  on an early night, until 2:30 am!  How is someone able keep it up:  Staying up so  late, and then being able to function the next day, let alone going to minyan?   Well, truth be told, I haven't always, and  what I have been able to do I wouldn't have been able to were it not for the Chinese herbs and Qi Gong exercises that  I essentially have used for the past decade to keep myself from collapsing. 

One would think,  as an intelligent person, that I would start to get it:  My eyes have become much more tired and my vision less clear,  my body in general, but my shoulders especially have become more achy,  and my ribs have increasingly become more sore and tense. But instead of looking within and stopping, I have just kept going (Were it not for Shabbos, I certainly would have collapsed sooner!).  That was until a month ago.  

Shortly after Lag Ba'omer, the generalized achiness became dramatically worse, first manifesting as chills, and then exploding as septicemia (blood poisoning) and cellulitis in my right leg.  All this occurred, mind you, as I am preparing to leave for a two week trip to Israel to spend Shavuos with our son, and hopefully, celebrate the birth and bris that I spoke of earlier. My intentions were to come as a proud Zeyde and doctor, b'malchus (as an aristocrat) as one who has accomplished much.  Even the night before traveling, I still didn't get it, and stayed up to take care of paperwork, packing and organizing late into the night.  The result?  Now in addition to the achiness and chills, I came down with the stomach flu, and had Hashem not sent a bathroom as I was walking towards the departure gate, I don't know if I would have been able to fly.

Finally Thursday morning, I arrived at Ben Gurion airport, rented a brand new Mazda, and headed straight to my children in Elad. I  took my herbs, and then out of sheer exhaustion, collapsed, and slept all day.  When I finally awoke, in the late afternoon, in addition  to my stomach feeling queasy, the chills and my right leg being still quite red, though the swelling was significantly reduced,  my lymph nodes were now swollen and in addition to all of the above, I now had lymphadenitis and sinusitis.  So with the exception of Shabbos, most  the next 4 days until Shavuos I spent in bed to the complete bewilderment of our little ones, ages 5, 3 3/4, and 2 1/2.

One small glimmer of light I would like to share with you in the midst of all this darkness:  B"H, Erev Shabbos I was able to drag myself to mikvah, and then, to the delight of Shimmy and Dudy (Yechiel's first two boys: Shimon and Dovid Matisyahu), I drove them in my car to the Breslover Shteibel before Shabbos.  And though I did drag myself to Shul Shabbos morning and again for Mincha/Shalosh Seudos, most of the time I was sitting  with my head down on the table.  After Shabbos, I was approached by one of the many holy Jews that daven at Breslov with Yechiel.  A mekubal and a sofer (scribe) he gave me a holy Kamaiya (amulet) with many combinations and permutations of Hashem's holy names to wear, but to make sure to return it before I left Israel.  I was also instructed to double wrap it in plastic and cover it to protect it from unholy influences.  Interestingly, within a day after placing it in my pocket, the nose piece of my glasses broke.  I don't think that this was just a coincidence.   In retrospect, I truly believe that the Kamaiya also had a major influence in my recovery.  

After Shabbos, though, I was back in bed where I pretty much remained, sweating, tossing and turning  until Shavuos.  

I really wanted to stay up all night Shavuous, and B"H, though my mind was foggy I did manage to go with my son, Yechiel,  to the Breslover Shteibel to say the Tikkun Leil Shavuous.  Around 3:30 am, Yechiel noticed that I was looking weak and dozing off, so he asked me if I'd like a cup of coffee.  Mind you, I hadn't drunk coffee for well over 5 years, and though hesitant, (knowing that besides being a tonic and a stimulant, coffee is also a mild purgative and a diuretic) I agreed to a weak cup of coffee.  Everything seemed OK for about a half hour, but then, as I went to the  mikvah to immerse myself to connect the night to the day in purity, as I walked the 4 or so blocks to the mikvah horrible cramps got worse and worse until, by the time I reached the Mikvah, I was doubled over in pain desperately needing a bathroom.  But this time, what came out was blood and pus mixed with stool--dysentery!  Somehow, I managed to immerse and Hashem even provided me an unexpected shortcut back to Breslov (I mistakenly thought that Breslov was on Rechov Rabbi Akiva, and intuitively I followed that street which led me right to the shortcut--actually the Breslover steibel is on Rechov Hillel!  Yet one more gesture of Hashem's amazing mercy!) I don't know how I did it, but I made it back to shul, davened shacharis at dawn and, doubled over in pain made it the 6 blocks back to Yechiel's apartment on Rechov Yehuda Hanasi. Arriving home, again, I took my herbs, went right to sleep, and woke up late afternoon, drenched in sweat and coughing spasmodically, bring up thick yellow phlegm, and almost aspirating my lungs from the intensity of the coughing.  Pneumonia!  Now, I could no longer lie down, for every time I would lie on my sides or back I would break into more spasmodic coughing, and so for the balance of the two weeks that I was in Israel, I slept sitting up on the living room couch, getting an average of 3 hours sleep a night, and a couple of more hours during the day.  Yom tov Sheni (the 2nd day of the holiday celebrated by Jews living abroad) Friday and Shabbos, were spent pretty much in a daze, dozing on and off, and taking my herbs, and though I really tried to participate in the Shabbos meals, my appetite was poor.

I want to tell you two stories now: One from Rebbe Nachman and one that happened to me.

Rebbe Nachman begins his famous story of the Seven Beggars with the following introduction:  "There once was a king who had an only son.  The king wanted to give over his kingdom to his son during his lifetime.  On the day of the coronation, the king made a great ball.  Whenever the king makes a ball there is great rejoicing, but now, when the king was giving over the kingdom to his son during his lifetime, the rejoicing was immense.  All the royal ministers, dukes, and officials were there and they rejoiced greatly at the feast.  Everyone in the land was also pleased by this.  It was a great historic event that the king was giving over his kingdom to his son during his lifetime, and there was great rejoicing.  There were all sorts of entertainment at the ball, including bands, comedians and the like; everything to make people rejoice.  When the rejoicing reached its peak the king stood up and said to his son: "I am an expert in astrology, and I see in the stars that you are destined to lose your kingdom.  When you lose power be careful not to become depressed; you must remain joyful.  If you are happy, then I will also be happy.  But if  you become sad, then I will still be happy--because you are no longer king.  if you are not able to remain happy when you lose your royal power, then you are not fit to be a king.  But if you remain happy, then I will be extremely happy."

Shortly after Lag Baomer, I was scheduled to see a patient on a Wednesday afternoon at 1:30 pm.  As the patient hadn't yet arrived, I went to the hall outside of my office to get something.  There, in front of me were two distinguished looking chasidic Jews who asked if I could give them a few minutes.  I told them that it was impossible, as I had a patient arriving any moment for an appointment.  During this interaction, suddenly the phone rang, and it was my patient running about 20 minutes late.  There are no coincidences, right?  Obviously, Hashem was guiding things and wanted me to welcome these guests, so I escorted them into my office and it turned out that  they were the principal and spiritual guide of the Breslover Cheder in Jerusalem.  Clearly, Rebbe Nachman was speaking to me again.  Seeing the obvious Divine involvement, I arranged some connections for them, introducing them to members of the community, as well as Shabbos and a parlor meeting.
When they came to LA, they knew almost no one, but now, B"H, Breslov Yerushalayim had a toe-hold.  

This set the stage for my trip to Israel:  When they heard I was coming to Israel, they went out of their way to meet me at the airport (at 6 am!) and invited me to come see the Breslover Cheder as well as Rebbe Nachman's chair which was smuggled into Israel and reassembled there.  Finally, Sunday afternoon, still doubled over in pain, Yechiel and I drove to Meah Shearim.  Limping from our parked car on Rechov Shomrei Emunim to Breslov,  the two blocks felt like ten miles.  Someone seeing me might have thought that I was in my 80s!  But like balm for the neshama (soul) we had the opportunity to view three classes in the Breslover Cheder.  In each class, I was given a mesechta (tractate) of the mishnayos they were learning and told to choose an arbitrary perek (chapter) and mishna. To my surprise, in each class, in beautiful harmony, the boys would sing the words of the mishna flawlessly (and with complete understanding) to different Breslover niggunim. The intensity and love that was invested into their chinuch (education) was obvious.

After mincha which I davened next door, at Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok, I went back to the Breslover Bais Hamidrash, set up a chair and table, and sat in front of Rebbe Nachman's chair, saying vidui (confession).  I was told that the great Lelover Rebbe, Reb Moshe Mordechai, used to daily come by and kiss the chair.  Our sages tell us that objects merely used by Tzadikim a quality of holiness which the great can discern.  Certainly, that would be the case with the very chair used by Rebbe Nachman, himself.  Though different than the sensations that I felt in Uman, putting my head down in front of the Rebbe's chair, I certainly felt its impact.  

Still very weak and very much in pain, we next drove to Gush Shmonim, to the Bais Hamidrash of the great mekubal and tzadik Rav Itche Meir Morganstern.  Rav Morganstern has written extensively about the halachic ramifications of alternative medicine, and I was fortunately able to ask him a specific question about my practice.  Those interested in finding out more should definitely purchase his annual voluminous text of issues and questions both in revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah entitled "Yam Hachochma".

From there, as it turned out, the great self-effacing Tzadik, Rav Nissan Dovid Kivak was making a bar mitzva for his grandson in Brachfeld (near Modi'in).  A little background about Rav Kivak:(Unlike other prominent figures in the Breslov movement, very little has been written about Rav Kivak, so what follows is based upon my experiences or what I've heard from others.  A native New Yorker, from what I understand, Rav Kivak learned in Yeshivos Tiferes Yerushalayim and Torah V'da'as, and received smicha (ordination) at age 16. Harav Moshe Feinstein was has mesader kiddushin.  As a young man he was the chavrusa of the present Skverer Rebbe, Shlit"a.  But drawn to the the writings of Rebbe Nachman and the charismatic leadership of Rav Eliezer Shlomo Schick, at age 19,  Rav Kivak moved to Israel. Rav Schick recognized Rav Kivak's greatness, and groomed him to be his right-hand man, but for whatever reason, they had a falling out, and Rav Kivak quietly moved to the new community of Kiryat Belz in Jerusalem.  As the story has it, as the Belzer Rebbe, shlit"a was building his magnificent community, he ran out of money and get extremely depressed.  One of his Chasidim knew of Rav Kivak, and convinced the Rebbe to speak with him.  In the Breslov tradition, Rav Kivak encouraged the Belzer to not give up, and it was this strengthening which provided the boost to allow the Belzer Rebbe to complete Kiryat Belz.  Slowly and gradually Rav Kivak has develop quite a large following. My first experience with him was 5 or so years ago, on Rebbe Nachman's yahrtzeit.  Quite in a state of ecstasy,my son Yechiel encouraged me to approach Rav Kivak to give him "Sholom," but warned me that  he probably would not engage me in conversation, and that under no circumstances should I refer to him with any title of honor.  To my surprise, Rav Kivak started asking me all about my medicine, and for a half hour, with people dancing all around, we engaged each other in conversation--until I made the mistake, when he asked me if I could treat back problems, of answering, "it would be my pleasure to treat the Rov"--to which he bolted away from me, screaming, "what's this talk about rabbis?" and that was it.  Subsequent to that, on multiple occasions, I have attended his shiurim, which are magnificent, and reach straight to the heart or each listener.  Rav Kivak as part of his presentation, actually makes fun of "Rebbes," mimicking their aristocratic and regal mores, promoting humility, honesty and optimism.  Yet, on Rosh Hashana night, in Uman, well over an hour after davening was finished in the large Kloiz, Rav Kivak was still immersed in prayer, like nothing I'd ever seen before.

So now, at his grandson's bar mitzva, all of a sudden Rav Kivak called me over and had me sit next to him.  After a while, he said, "let's go outside and talk," and for a good half hour, I gave over to him all that I had gone through since Uman.  All the while he listened quietly.  After I finished, in classic New York English, Rav Kivak told me, "Forget about it, man, and don't think about it any more.  You've go so much!  You've got Shabbos.  You've got the Rebbe.  You've got your beautiful family.  Just forget about what happened and focus on all that you have.  Be happy and grateful, and just move on."  With that we returned upstairs and still in pain, but slightly less, I davened with Rav Kivak and his followers ma'ariv, finally arriving home at around 1:30 am.

The next day, Monday I woke up late, moving very slowly--coughing, weak, and very much still feeling under attack.  I didn't have the time or strength to go to the Kosel (western wall), I had very much wanted to visit my elderly cousin who lived in the south, but I just didn't have the strength, but before I left, I knew that I needed to go to Meron and the shrine of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, as well as to go to Tzfas, visit my granddaughter Rochel who was learning there, and go into the mikva of the Holy Arizal as well as daven by his and his rebbe the Ramak's graves. On the way, I intuitively thought it wise to add Yechiel as an additional driver on my rental car, a decision which turned out to be quite wise.  But once we got to Tzfat, I just didn't have the strength to go down the stairs to the  cemetery and the mikva, so Yechiel acted as my emissary After waiting for him, we proceeded to Meron.  

Meron felt very different, and after Davening Ma'ariv by Rebbe Shimon, I put the need to put my head down, and close my eyes.  I suddenly broke into a deep sweat, and again, heard that voice that I had heard originally in Uman which told me, "You can have it, but you have to pay the price!" This time though, the message was different: "All that you suffered until now is your tikkun.  You've learned your lesson, and now you will get better and will have a healthy and vigorous life.  But don't repeat the mistakes of your last 40 years.  Don't stay up so late.  You know what you've done, and you know that each aveira creates a prosecuting, malevolent angel.  I've waited patiently for you to get it, but you haven't gotten it. So now they are cleansing you, and if you're smart,  that will be the end of your suffering. But be happy and know that this is for your benefit.  The proof will be that no one in your family will get sick despite all the coughing, and phlegm and sickness.  This is your personal tikkun."  So I left Rabbi Shimon, and had much to think about as I drove home.

The next day with my daughter in law, Rivka, still not having given birth, I took the family to Ikea in Natanya, where they had a lovely amusement park inside the store which the boys loved.  At Ikea, the very expectant mom, was able to buy all kinds of different odds and ends to help feather her nest in anticipation of the coming event.

It was wise indeed, that I added Yechiel as an additional driver, and the wisdom become more apparent with the days.  I don't think I would have made my flight, had he not driven me, but I did.  Again, I thought that I had everything well planned out: and I flew business class direct from Berlin to LA.  But what a flight--the whole 16 hours for the most part, I was coughing, hacking and miserable, able to sleep very little.   

Ten hours after arriving home in LA, Yechiel called to tell me that they were on the way to Maayonei Hayeshua hospital in Bnei Brak, and two hours later he again called me to daven as the labor was seemingly stuck.  As I have done before, I enlisted the help of the Ramak who speaks about Bina giving birth to Tiferes, but the importance of involving Chesed to transform any harsh Judgments (Gevura). B"H within 15 minutes, I again received the wonderful news that we had a new baby boy! 

Over the next week, the car was indispensable, allowing Rivka to comfortably get to the hospital, for Yechiel to buy all the necessities for the Shalom Zocher in Bnei Brak by the Biala Rebbe, Shlit"a, to bring Rivka home with their new package, and of course to plan the bris.  

B"H I was able to participate at the bris nonetheless, as my granddaughter Rochel, my grandson Dovid and my daughter Ariella all have I-phones.  Preparing myself, I learned the passages from the Zohar, just as if I were there, and orally invited Eliyahu Hanavi (the Prophet Elijah), the angel of the Bris to join us in Elad, as well as here in Southern California to heal all the members of our family. (Our wonderful assistant, Connie Wiggins, tells me that though Chana Slept through the Bris, nonetheless, this morning, my Chana seemed different, like she'd gone through some kind of medical procedure!

 At 2:30 in the morning, not knowing even if the mikvah had water in it, I went to the shul down the alley from me.  Not only was the mikvah full, but the water was warm and inviting, and I felt my prayers connected on high with each immersion, as I invited the many tzadikim who I had connected with to join us for the bris.   

The bris began a little after 3:00 am, and Rav Morganstern was the Sandek (godfather), who held the baby, gave the blessings and announced the name.  Our new grandson's name?  Aharon Nosson, named for two great self-effacing tzadikim: Rav Aharon Strashelye, the main student of the Baal Hatanya (the Alter Rebbe of Chabad), and, of course, Rav Nosson of Breslov. 

The bris took place Thursday afternoon in Israel (Early Friday morning here) and now, Motzei Shabbos, I feel like a different person.  I absolutely believe that Eliyahu Hanavi was present at the bris as well as here, at 321 1/2 N. Genesee, in LA.  I am much, much better now. I feel that the illness is about 90% gone and I'm close to 80% back to my full strength.  During this process I lost 16 lbs, but over Shabbos, gained back two lbs and now weigh what  I did when I graduated high school.  But more importantly, my neshama (soul) feel clean. Though I was too weak and tired to go to Shul this morning, I went for Mincha this afternoon, and merited to go to Mikvah before Davening, as well as getting an aliya and making a misheberach (a blessing) for my daughter-in-law Rivka as well as for Aharon Nosson that they should have speedy and complete healings.  (Our sages tell us that the third day after a bris is the most difficult, so the timing was definitely opportune).  

When I went to Israel I thought that I knew what Malchus (Royalty) was, but what I really learned and integrated is that Malchus is not about me or my plans, but rather it is about feeling the absolute joy of being the King's son, constantly being honest with myself and judging myself carefully each day, seeing the good in all that befalls me, and knowing that everything that happens to me is a loving gift and reminder of what I need to know and reflect on, and even more importantly, what I need to do.

B"H, I continue to get stronger.  This amazing experience has enabled me to better understand the Chinese concepts of Wei Qi (superficial or defensive vitality) and Ying Qi (nutritive vitality).  I find that I now feel stronger than I have in many, maybe perhaps 30 years, and for the most part, that which attacked me is for the most part gone.  Nonetheless, the process of filling in the vacuity, and strengthening me from within I see as a much slower process.  During this process, when I have stayed up later, I've felt it quite dramatically the next day.  Yet, when I've acted prudently, I've felt remarkably stronger from deep inside.  Saturday evening, June 8, I celebrated  a  Seudas Hoda'ah (meal of Thanksgiving), to express my gratitude to Hashem and the tzadikim for giving me a second chance to live.  It was especially auspicious in that it also coincided with Seudas Malava Malka (The mystical meal of King David escorting out Shabbos) as well as a Seudas Rosh Chodesh (A meal honoring the beginning of the Lunar month of Tamuz, my birthday month 61 years ago).

With Hashem's help, I pray that I have the wisdom to have learned from my mistakes, and make the most of this second chance.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Epilepsy, Electricity and Complementary Medicine

My dear wife of 34 years, Chana,  has been suffering from seizures for 23 of them. I believe that each
seizure is the body's attempt to discharge electricity, often, unsuccessfully.  Imagine if you will, a seizure every 25 days or so, followed within the next few days, by 5-8 post-ictal seizures, for more than 20 years. Do the math, and you will realize that the number of seizures that she has endured numbers well over 1000! Besides the obvious damage they have done, one other consequence has been a rawness, and an inability to concentrate. How could you expect someone who harbors and is distracted by so much electricity, to be able to focus, concentrate or engage in any relaxation technique? The cumulative sequelae of the seizures have just been too overwhelming for her to engage in any active relaxation--at least until recently.

I am pleased to report, though, that now, for the first time over an extended period of time, the seizures are becoming less frequent, and I am very hopeful that slowly and gradually she will be able to discharge the electricity and  heal.

Anecdotally, I will tell you that some years ago, she was seen by late Dr. John Upledger, the developer of CranioSacral therapy. An interesting therapy that Dr. Upledger suggested was she daily, for an hour,  connect a copper wire to her leg, and attach it to a ground, to discharge excess electricity. It was yet another interesting idea, but had little effect in her case.

Let me digress for a moment and share with you how I think as a practitioner:

I feel that there are three critical aspects to be considered as a starting point with each patient:

1.   Thoughtfully determine the pathogenesis of the patient's condition. Trace backward step by step with the patient, to a time before he or she was sick, and then consider how to  reset events differently.
(We traveled around the country and around the world considering so many options and causes eliminating one after the other, until we came to our present conclusion as to what caused the seizures to occur).

2.  Determine the differential diagnosis. The great sage and medical genius Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches that internationally, inter-personally and internally, there can only be conflict or harmony.  As with people or nations, illness is a lack of internal harmony in the organ systems, and  the practitioner's task should be to encourage and promote that internal harmony.
(Every three days, I review Chana's symptoms, check her signs and take her pulses, adjusting and adapting her protocol accordingly)

3.  Meet the patient where he or she is. Never have an agenda or prejudge.  Always relate to the patient with pleasantness, being sensitive  and adapting to whom the patient is.  For example, not every patient is an appropriate candidate  for acupuncture or Chinese herbs.
(In Chana's case.  we tried over the years many different methods and approaches to acupuncture, and not only were they not beneficial, as every acupuncture protocol accelerated the onset of seizures in her case, but she has expressed that she feels she is being tortured when she is given acupuncture. In such a case,  I must honor her and respect her boundaries.)

The next goal is to consider the whole person: emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and physically as well as considering possible contributing factors.  Though they are magnificent therapeutic tools, I don't believe  that Acupuncture and  Chinese medicine alone can resolve all conditions. My experience has taught me that sometimes, a condition can manifest as a mineral or vitamin deficiency. Consider, for example, peripheral neuropathy is a common symptom of diabetes, but it can also result from a deficiency of Thiamine or B12, or even from Guillain-Barre Syndrome; Muscle spasms, insomnia, bone spurs, kidney and gall stones, and osteoporosis can all result from  magnesium deficiency;  Hypothyroidism, mental retardation, fibrocystic breast disease, and breast cancer can all result from iodine deficiency; Diabetes, Alzheimer's, Obesity, hypertension, depression, chronic fatigue, psoriasis and fibromyalgia can all result from a deficiency of Vitamin D3 (never take D2 which is known to cause toxicity and side effects); Bromhidrosis (body odor), Anosmia (poor sense of smell), Ageusia (poor sense of taste), hair loss, anorexia, and dermatitis all can result from zinc deficiency!  Though some of these conditions might be successfully treated by acupuncture, moxa, herbs, diet, Qi gong or tuina, in my opinion the wise practitioner must always consider a biochemical component as well.  (As a result, in Chana's case, with each dose of herbs she also takes a number of nutraceuticals based upon her signs and symptoms, but never without a clear indication of their benefit, leaving little to chance).

Let me add, as an aside, that neither Chana, nor any of my patient take multi-vitamins, to the best of my knowledge, for as importantly as it is to fill a deficiency, it is equally important to not toxify with an excess.

The third goal is to carefully consider six aspects of the patient's lifestyle: What and how they eat, proper hydration, thoughtful breathing, gentle stretching and walking, appropriate and adequate sleep, and nourishing the spirit and making oneself happy. In short, the patient must always be related to as a living and vibrant human being, and not a biomedical machine.

Which brings me to my wife, Chana. Western Biomedicine was not only unsuccessful in treating her, as she was not able to tolerate western pharmaceuticals, and almost died from a reaction to Lamictal. On the other hand, Chinese medicine was helpful in ameliorating some of her major accompanying symptoms, (such as constipation, urinary incontinence,  less intense muscle spasms, and insomnia), and nourished her greatly between seizures, but  was completely unsuccessful in stopping the seizures.  . In addition,  she has had 5 MRIs in as well as  CTscans, PETscans and EEGs. No evidence of hot foci or scars( though the PETscan did pick up a cold focus) were seen, as usually is present with seizure disorders. A lumbar puncture (LP) was performed to rule out the presence of bacteria, virus or fungus in the cerebral spinal fluid. Negative.

But, after the LP 4 years ago,  our neurologist suggested that we try a new anti-convulsant, Keppra (Levetiracetam), and though indeed there have been side-effects, such as greater irritability and weakness, and less focus,  its benefits have been life-changing, and now, with the Chinese herbal decoction that she takes three times daily, the three cups of freshly made green smoothie, (see the article on my blog which speaks of green smoothies)  and the regimen of nutraceuticals, seizures over the last couple of years have occurred between 40 and 110 days apart, often without any post-icatal aftershocks!  Dosing has been very important, not just with the Keppra, but with every aspect of her regimen, and I constantly change the herbs in her decoctions based upon my readings of her pulses and other signs and symptoms. I am very hopeful that the long struggle is close to being over.

As I mentioned previously, all along, I considered all the various factors that could have contributed to her condition, in order to determine the pathogenesis and  I am now absolutely convinced the seizure are iatrogenic (physician caused) in nature, resulting from a trauma suffered more than 50 years ago, and leaving  a microscopic lesion, probably in her temporal lobe, which no scan has been able to pick up, and which set in motion the electrical imbalance that eventually caused the seizures. It seems to me,  that such an intense unnatural trauma can only be counteracted by a Western pharmaceutical.

One other important point to always consider, based upon the principles of Jewish medicine is to both carefully avoid negative stimulation and gently and positively nourish.  To that end, we have recently revisited the ketogenic diet (high fat, low carbs and moderate protein).  Back in the early 90s we tried it with little success, which validated research which seemed to show it only effective in cases of pediatric epilepsy.  I find it significant, though, that often Chana's seizures have occurred on the weekends.  How do we eat differently then?  Well, as orthodox Jews, we specifically eat delicious organic and whole grain home baked challah (bread) for all three meal on the Jewish Sabbath: Friday night, Saturday lunch and Saturday afternoon, as well as having a little grape juice mixed with wine.   Could the higher ingestion of carbohydrates be precipitating greater electro-stimulation to her brain?  We'll see, and I'll report my finding to you. 

It is my hope that with time, as the seizure become less frequent,  her accompanying tremors, spasms and irritability will dissipate, as the electricity is slowly discharged.  As this happens, Chinese medicine and the other accompanying therapies will become, with G-d's help, even more effective, but even more than as medicines, as nutrients.   But it will take time and patience.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Jewish Model of Healing

 I believe that  it is a serious  flaw in judgment to consider simply amelioration of symptoms to be healing.   Unfortunately, this  is precisely  the goal of many allopathic physicians (biomedical and naturopathic): to consider pain relief as therapeutic success.  Among the many lessons that we can learn from the wisdom of the  ancients is the importance of treating the whole person, body, spirit, mind and emotions, and that if one aspect remains out of balance, invariably the physician's "success" with the patient will only be temporary.  This is the problem with using wonderful modern technological devices such as Scenar or effective therapies such as EFT.  Used independently they indeed do relieve pain.   But the problem lies when they are viewed as an end in and of themselves, discouraging the physician and patient alike to look deeper in order  to determine what the pathogenesis of that pain might be and what other manifestations might be underlying.  The great  Chassidic master, Rabbi Dov Ber of Mezeritch substantiates  this idea when he says: "If one has a small hole in his body, he has a big hole in his soul."  The point is that as in the Jewish tradition,  the great masters of Chinese medicine also recognized the indivisibility of the whole person, as reflected in their writings of theory and therapeutics.  

This solid foundation requires two paradoxical approaches from us:  On the one hand, we need to view ourselves as the torchbearers of a brilliant, deep and integrated medical and philosophical tradition.  As such, it is incumbent upon us to delve as deeply as we can into ancient sources,  learning from masters throughout the centuries  how to understand these texts, and how to clinically apply that wisdom to our practices.  On the other hand, we need to appreciate the gift that modern  technological  tools offer us:  to confirm, reinforce and expedite  diagnosis  and treatment.  

One final thought I'd like to share: We find in Jewish Talmudic, Midrashic and medieval texts many therapeutic healings, prescriptions and remedies. Yet, for the most part,  these medical practices are ignored. Why, one should ask, is this wealth of medical tradition at best, just glossed over?  It is from the great legal commentator, Rabbi Akiva Eiger, who lived 200 years ago, that we find the answer.  Rabbi Akiva Eiger ruled that one may not rely on these ancient healings, for both man and  nature have changed, and as such, those healings no longer work! 

Yet, the observant Jewish student of Chinese Medical history of course finds this ruling perplexing,  for how can one contend  that ancient Jewish medicinal cures referred to in texts written between 2000 to 3000 years ago no longer work, whereas we know that  medicine written about, in the far East, during the same period, clearly does?  Are not the therapeutics  as valid today as they were when the Nei Jing and the Shang Han Lun were written?!   How can we reconcile , the wisdom and enormous erudition of the Jewish sages in light of this inconsistency?

Perhaps, though, we can consider this approach: The Chinese written tradition consists of characters or pictograms which are understood the same throughout the far east, so that a reader in Mongolia, though speaking a completely different language, will be able to read a text from Southeast China, Japan, Korea or Vietnam.   Within the Jewish tradition, on the other hand, substances have changed names over time.  For example, the great Jewish Egyptian physician and scholar Maimonides uses a term which today means cucumber to describe a melon, in his  Laws of Temperaments, written 900 years ago.  As such, I would humbly suggest that neither man nor nature at their roots have changed, (although the potency and strength of each have certainly diminished from pollution and improper use), but that our understanding of substances found in ancient Jewish texts is not always correct. 

It is the approach of Jewish tradition to view the individual as a reflection of society as a whole.  We Jews, despite having  lived in exile from our land for nearly 2000 years, have learned what it takes to survive.  Yet from a larger perspective, mystical Judaism views this exile as symptomatic of spiritual illness.  We believe that our redemption from exile has been delayed by the imbalances in our lives.   May we therefore merit a time soon, when ancient knowledge will  again be readily available,  and at that time, the role of doctors will be, as the great sage and physician, Nachmanides tells us,  that of educators, teaching us how to maintain vibrant health and balance, both in body and soul rather than treating illness.