Learning from the Body: How to Neutralize Toxicity

As part of my MindfulBiology project, I recently posted a graphic (see image heading this essay) that listed things we can learn from our livers. The first item was: neutralize toxicity.

The post was an experiment; it seemed like a quirky way to exploit the body's wisdom. But when a colleague remarked, "How to neutralize toxicity? Would be a nice topic to write ," I decided to take her suggestion.

What follows is a partial list of the ways...


The Body Is Nature

As an adolescent, I found solace in the mountains, beaches, and deserts near my home in Los Angeles. Although my family was about as dysfunctional as they come, I had ready escape. We lived within bike-riding distance of beaches and coastal hills, while the granitic San Gabriel Mountains and the sun-baked Mojave Desert were just hours away. The availability of so much nature offered respite from the unhappiness at home. I learned to head...


Aging Body, Golden Friend

As we age, the body begins to fail. For those who have suffered unusually severe stress, breakdowns may happen early. For instance, neck disease ended my surgical career at forty-one. Spinal problems had accumulated because of chronic muscle tension, careless body mechanics, and poor career choice, all of which grew out of intense childhood hardship. Other people, blessed with less punishing experiences (or better genetic heritage), may live into their eighties or nineties before serious...


Dancing toward Freedom

Waves move all around us, rolling across oceans and breaking upon shores. They propagate through air as music and speech. They speed through rock during earthquakes.

My father was a professor of wave mechanics, so I grew up knowing waves are everywhere. Already tuned in to waves, during my formal education I paid special attention whenever coursework covered their action. High school physics taught me how waves ring outward concentrically when a pebble is tossed in...


Living to Learn

Why bother?

Anyone who has ever been seriously depressed has confronted a question like this. What does life offer in exchange for all the pain, disappointment, betrayal, and loss? Why endure such suffering?

Every spiritual tradition attempts to provide answers. Some say we suffer because of humanity's sinfulness. Others say we are here to serve fellow beings. Buddhism takes a different tack, and unveils the causes of suffering: craving, aversion, and delusion.

Some of these responses strike me...


All in the Name of Shame…

Funny how you can learn something about the mind many times with no change in behavior. Then, one day, you hear the same notion again, and the psyche transforms.

Decades ago I watched videos of John Bradshaw talking about shame. What he said struck home, but nothing shifted inside me. More recently I've listened to recordings by Brené Brown, with the same resonance and the same lack of effect.

Then, last week, my therapist pointed...


Living in the Moment

The human body grows from a cell that is just barely visible to the unaided eye. Although a tiny speck on everyday scales, this cell is far larger than most and holds the potential to become another startling example of Life in human form. Another woman or man, another poet or scientist, another personality arises from such beginnings.

An interesting book about fetal development is Life Unfolding: How the Human Body Creates Itself, by University of...


Walking a Narrower Road

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
--Robert Frost

In recent entries I've explored the nature of choice and identity. Today I want to step back and address a more fundamental question: how can we find ease of mind?

In this society, we are raised to make our way in the world. We learn to socialize, produce, and reproduce in culturally lauded ways....


My Refuge in Reality

Anyone who has followed my writings, however sporadically, has witnessed my maturation. As I review essays written over six years, it seems clear my tone has grown less competitive, more accepting, less self-centered, and more compassionate.

This budding of genuine adulthood has proceeded neither steadily nor smoothly, as explained in my post Healing After Trauma: Ten Steps Forward, Nine Steps Back. As recently as four days ago (Easter Sunday) I found myself on the brink of that growling chasm of...


The Accidental Self

Is who we become in life decided by chance, or by choice?

Our genetic composition was determined when our parents (and all prior ancestors) selected mates, but these weren't our decisions, so our stock of genes is a chance outcome as far as we're concerned. Likewise, the quality of early childhood, although strongly relevant to our trajectory later in life, cannot count as personally chosen. So right away we see that many dice were cast before we began to make decisions of any import.

What about our early...