The fascinating thing about experiencing the truth of impermanence in a precious human life is that there really are tools to dissolve the inevitable suffering that arises during each being’s long and winding journey. Meditation techniques develop both one-pointed focus and its complement, insightful awareness. Sequentially combining aspirational mantra with states of emptiness provides guidance from source. Commitment to learning from direct experience in this evolving drama brings fortunate players in the Game of Life into ancient teachings of the dharma. Following the dharma is the path for the dissolution of suffering. This is testable through direct experience.
This being who shares words
instances of thought amidst dharma wanderings
can come from awareness, yet be ignorant
be full of life, yet empty
be knowing, yet immersed within the complete unknown
then, as source enters,
it quickly disappears
this is as it is
“If what I say is wrong, please forgive me. I openly confess it. It is my misunderstanding. It is a mistake. It is a distortion. It is a lack of knowledge. If it may have also just been the phony advice of an old man, I don’t know. As an old man saying these things, I am just proclaiming all the thoughts in my mind. It is possible that it is like this – that there was no need for me to discuss these things – that I am discussing that which I don’t have reason to discuss and saying that which I don’t have reason to say. All people will come to make mistakes like this – not just me.’“
Kyabje Chatral Sangye Dorje Rinpoche born 1913, died 2015
The human body is an amazing creation.
Considering it to be a machine
be advised it must be maintained and fueled properly.
Considering it to be precious
be advised it is worthy of focused consideration.
Gather expert opinion and information
to make wise decisions
for what can become an ultimate quest
bringing the seeker into an ancient domain
known as the dharma.
Practicing the dharma brings emptiness
Emptiness brings wisdom
Wisdom emerges from Source
This journey of ten thousand miles
begins with a single step.
Obstacles to health and wellness arise in frequency as each body undergoes an inevitable aging process. The suffering of ill health and disease becomes more prevalent as the nation’s sedentary population ages and harmful chemicals are ingested through the air, food and water.
For those who are awakening beyond the commercialized programming of media and culture, the dissolution of suffering includes a strategic puzzle: how to optimize physical and mental health. Optimization benefits from commitment to intentional actions for the promotion of wellness, well-being and longevity.
It is important to recognize there is little to no institutionalized prevention of disease in this country. Instead, the detection, diagnosis and treatment of disease is an institutionalized commercialized strategy for the mitigation of suffering after illness and disease has been detected. Diagnostic procedures that include radiation and invasive probes can have harmful iatrogenic effects in addition to the potential adverse effects of treatment.
How to optimize wellness and well-being is informed by the point of view emerging from enlightened health care practitioners and researchers that a major cause of illness and disease is chronic inflammation. An essential aspect of wellness and well-being practices includes strategies for the prevention of chronic inflammation associated with pollution and lifestyles that increase the probability of disease.
It is no secret that a sedentary lifestyle that includes fast food, refined sugar and unhealthy fats is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases. Excessive meat and dairy consumption contributes to inflammation. Antidotes to these causes of suffering and early mortality include transitioning to 1) regular exercise and 2) a plant-based diet that counteracts inflammation, as well as 3) identifying a selection of beneficial nutraceuticals for enhanced cellular nutrition that optimizes the body’s immuno-protective response, plus 4) regular meditation, yoga and relaxation practices for enhanced stress management. Each of these components requires accepting response-ability for one’s wellness and well-being, rather than giving power to a conventionally trained allopathic physician.
CDC’s current recommendations for sedentary individuals call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This is a good basic approach for beginners, but as the body becomes more conditioned, exercise duration and intensity can be extended with measurable benefits.
It is important to first get a thorough health checkup that includes an EKG and blood tests for inflammation, fats and other predictive indicators. It is also important to get a knowledgeable internist or cardiologist’s opinion about the value of exercise and whether current heart health indicators suggest caution. Then one should begin slowly, and pay careful attention to the body’s internal sensations to avoid over-exertion. Smart watches such as the Fitbit Sense can give instant information about current heart rate and its variability.
Beginning around age forty, or even earlier, there is loss of 2-3% of muscle mass every year. This creates a condition known as sarcopenia, the progressive weakening of muscles throughout the body. As this occurs with the aging process, there is greater risk for falling and breaking bones. Individual healing inevitably takes longer as the aging process unfolds.
There is an effective antidote for progressive muscle weakness: strength and flexibility training at home or a gym. Fitness specialists and personal trainers, as well as internet research, can provide coaching to get newbies started on a program to build the improved strength and flexibility that counteracts muscle weakness. Published peer reviewed scientific research demonstrates that, despite aging, individuals can develop and sustain increased strength and flexibility. Direct experience can provide the necessary evidence that weakness can be converted into strength through commitment to regular exercise sessions. But it is critical to listen to the body by paying attention to the sensations that arise during and after exercise and strengthening sessions. Sensitive awareness should take precedence over egoic striving, to avoid pushing the body beyond safe boundaries.
One of the foremost physician experts extolling the benefits of a plant-based diet is Dr. Michael Greger. For more than a decade he has regularly published blog videos that detail peer reviewed scientific research on food and nutrition. His website at nutritionfacts.org has a search function for the relationship of food and nutrition to an extensive variety of medical issues. He consistently evaluates the quality of published peer reviewed scientific research, including comments on whether the researchers and research funding sources might have a commercially based conflict of interest. He has testified before Congress about the importance of nutrition in reducing the incidence of disease.
For those with cardiovascular disease, Dean Ornish has documented the beneficial effects a plant-based diet program for this malady.
The single most researched and most important anti-inflammatory spice to add to any diet is organic turmeric. It can be beneficially paired with several tablespoons of organic extra virgin olive oil. A small amount of black pepper increases the bioavailability of turmeric by a factor of two thousand. The addition of organic Ceylon cinnamon effectively sweetens the somewhat bitter taste of turmeric. This anti-inflammatory combination of ingredients can serve as a tasty sauce for most meals.
The fifth edition of Integrative Medicine,  includes more than one hundred chapters written by separate medical experts. The Anti-inflammatory Diet chapter encourages variations of the mediterranean diet, along with ingestion of turmeric and black pepper.
Biochemist Sondra Barrett’s Secrets of Your Cells is an informative text. It makes the point there are thousands of metabolic processes taking place in almost every cell in our body. These metabolic processes are fed [or not] by what we eat, drink and breathe. Consider that there is little to no nutrient rich topsoil left in this country. Farms must use NPK fertilizer to stimulate plant growth that is deficient in the nutrients humans have thrived on for over a millenia. Nutraceuticals enable the human body to compensate for inadequate nutrition in the food we eat.
Examination of published peer reviewed scientific research on specific health and disease issues [including nutraceuticals] can be undertaken at a comprehensive user-friendly website run by the National Institute of Health since 1996: Pubmed.gov. Abstracts provide summaries for every article in the database. Many complete research papers can be downloaded for free. While the technical terms and statistical analyses may not be easily understood by most consumers, the basic conclusions drawn are usually clearly stated in the abstract at the beginning of the article and in the discussion section toward the end of the article.
Integrative Medicine  includes an excellent detailed chapter on nutraceuticals for dyslipidemia, otherwise known as problem blood fats. This condition includes high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high LDL and low HDL. These are important markers for early development of cardiovascular disease. There are many other chapters helpful for understanding a wide variety of diseases and how to cope with them. Chapter 28: Nutrition and Nutritional Supplements in Management of Dyslipidemia is authored by Dr. Mark Houston of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. For lowering LDL, he recommends starting with red yeast rice, plant sterols, berberine and pantethine. For lowering triglycerides and improving HDL, he recommends starting with omega 3 fatty acids and niacin. Research on pubmed.gov recommends against no-flush niacin because it has been shown to be less effective than straight niacin, which can cause skin flushing but is more effective. For reducing inflammation and oxidation, he suggests considering resveratrol, curcumin, EGCG and delta tocotrienols. For specific dosages and much more elaborate detail in Dr. Houston’s detailed chapter, purchasing of the 5th edition text is recommended.
The stress response is commonly known as the “fight or flight” response to perceived threat. The threat can be real or imagined, but the body’s response tends to be similar. When an individual experiences stress, the body’s hormones prepare it to fight or flee. Physician Hans Selye did the original research more than fifty years ago that established common mammalian patterns of response to a wide variety of threats and stressors. Selye, along with other researchers and clinicians established the view that humans have two types of stress response cycles: acute [short-term] and chronic [long term].
Acute short-term stress can be mitigated by a variety of relaxation techniques. The simplest is regulated breathing that extends the exhalation noticeably longer than the inhalation. Repetition of calming self statements or mantra can also be helpful, in combination with exiting stressful situations.
Chronic long term stress is a more serious issue that contributes to chronic inflammation. Sustained chronic inflammation can create a variety of conditions that include mental and physical exhaustion, as well as depletion of hormonal capacities of the endocrine system. This can significantly compromise the body’s natural immuno-protective response with subsequent severe deterioration of health.
Chronic long term stress benefits from extra rest and regular meditation or relaxation exercises, along with enhanced nutrition from nutraceuticals. This allows the body to rebuild the necessary hormones to restore a healthy immune response and mitigate the chronic inflammation that has been underway.
Commitment to Accepting Response-ability
The advent of ill health and chronic disease, as well as progressive muscle weakness is a late wake up call to accept response-ability for one’s own wellness and well-being. Disease prevention begins with personal research to better understand best practices for exercise, diet, nutraceuticals and stress management. Consultation with experts can be helpful in customizing an individualized program to fit personal circumstances. Be advised, however, there are a wide variety of opinions in this vast information-laden space. Gathering information from multiple expert sources [including pubmed.gov], combined with testing what works best for oneself is a wise best practice. The individual exploring wellness and well-being practices must generate diligent commitment to doing the research and determining what works best, given each being’s particular personal history, physical characteristics and idiosyncratic metabolism. The rewards for this effort include higher energy, better mood, and enhanced wellness, well-being and longevity. It is also true that as intention for wellness and well-being is clarified, and personal action is more closely aligned with intention, the results will better inform which specific practices work best for each individual.
What follows is a historical report of the dharma wanderer’s direct experience. He was trained as a clinical psychologist to help clients examine their personal history and current circumstances for causes that might be contributing to anxiety and stress-related problems. His training included the use of specifically targeted methods to help clients cope more effectively stress and anxiety. He has continued to adapt this paradigm in his personal quest for wellness, well-being and longevity. The section immediately below summarizes his significant personal discoveries in this ongoing quest. This is followed by a final section: a snapshot that summarizes and his life partner’s current personal best practices, which continue to evolve.
The dharma wanderer has been wondering about the causes of illness and disease throughout his life:
The wondering began in a childhood filled with unsually frequent colds and allergy attacks while bombarded with massive air pollution from Birmingham’s steel and iron making industry.
It continued with wondering why his eighty-two year old grandmother contracted leukemia in the 1950’s, when she had been strong, lean and healthy enough to cut her grass with a classic old style push lawnmower that had no gasoline engine. Observing her suffering and deterioration was a traumatic mystery for him. He learned years later that his grandmother and her daughter had been repeatedly applying insecticides on her home vegetable garden.
The mystery continued during his diabetic father’s early sixties when he had surgery for intestinal cancer, suffered psychologically from fecal incontinence, and then was diagnosed with a repeat of intestinal cancer. He died from his second surgery for the same condition more than fifteen years later.
The mystery continued with the unexpected illness, suffering and death of dear friends and relatives.
This life long puzzle drove the dharma wanderer to seek out and digest hundreds of information sources over more than half a century. The bulk of these sources offered a variety of research studies and expert opinions about avoidable causes of disease, as well as how to promote improvements in health, wellness and well-being. He gathered the pieces of the puzzle and discoveries together over a period of more than four decades.
First Discovery: Intestinal Cancer, Meat and Refined Grains
His first exposure to research on diet and disease was the discovery of a medical text. He was browsing the medical school bookstore at the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1976 while his father was undergoing his first surgery for intestinal cancer. He was surprised to find a large thick paperback book titled, Diet and Disease, that is now out of print. The book was filled with thousands of references of experimental studies connecting diet to a variety of diseases, especially cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. He immediately scanned the table of contents, found a chapter on intestinal cancer and began reading. The two most prominent findings were an apparent causal relationship connecting meat, refined grains and a low fiber diet with intestinal cancer. This single discovery stimulated the dharma wanderer to undergo a major shift in diet, which had been for him what was then the traditional deep south culinary style of meat, potatoes and overcooked mushy vegetables. He was unsuccessful in persuading his diabetic father to modify his diet of roast beef, pork, bacon and chargrilled steaks, to which he consistently added two to three strong drinks of whiskey before dinner every night. This stiffened the dharma wanderer’s resolve to adhere to the healthiest diet he could identify. There appeared to be a clear choice: either live to eat, or eat to live. He chose the latter.
Second Discovery: Vegetarian Protein
He was so ignorant about nutrition in the 1970s that his revamped diet consisted completely of vegetables, and no specific source of protein. His second discovery occurred while he was complaining about persistent inflammation from minor cuts and abrasions on his hands, when one of his graduate students asked him, “Are you getting enough protein?” His clueless answer was, “What’s protein?” She advised him to buy a copy of Francis More Lappe’s Diet For A Small Planet. He learned in this book about what was then considered intelligent vegetarianism, so he began carefully and diligently incorporating specific combinations of foods to significantly increase his protein intake. He also added protein powder to a combination of peanut butter and honey for a satisfying daily sandwich spread. His body’s innate capacity for healing improved noticeably. This learning strengthened his resolve to continue learning about diet and disease.
Third Discovery: Antibiotics, Chlorine and Intestinal Yeast
He began hanging out in the local health food store in the small college town of Athens, Georgia in the late 1970s where he served on the UGA faculty training graduate students in clinical psychology. While browsing through books and pamphlets, he discovered the natural foods hypothesis that antibiotics and chlorinated tap water was killing healthy intestinal bacteria and enabling the growth of intestinal yeast. This condition stimulated the body’s inflammatory response, thereby fostering chronic inflammation which contributed to a variety of diseases. This kind of thinking was dismissed at the time by a conventionally trained allopathic medical community . Twenty years later, however, his father was medically diagnosed with an intestinal yeast infection after his second round of surgery for intestinal cancer. The fact that hypotheses about the genesis of disease could first be ridiculed and rejected by the medical community, but then accepted and used twenty years later made quite an impression on the dharma wanderer. He first shifted from public tap water to bottled water in the late 1970s. Several decades later, he learned about the potential for carbon block water filters to eliminate harmful chemicals [including chlorine] from tap water. This led to his installation and regular use of a filtered water system in his kitchen in 2014.
Fourth Discovery: Pollution and Chronic Inflammation
When he and his dynamic life partner moved to Shanghai in 1993, China was relying on high sulfur coal to supply most of their power generation plants. Within several years he was regularly having severe allergy attacks. Further research indicated that lead, mercury and cadmium were in the coal powered plant emissions. These air borne chemicals were pervasively entering the water and food supply. It seemed that his body was functioning like the bellweather canary in a coal mine as he reacted with a strong inflammatory response that created his debilitating allergy attacks. He began drinking bottled water. He also purchased and began running the best air filters he could find. The frequency and severity of the problem thankfully decreased, although it still occurred occasionally. This impressed on the dharma wanderer the importance of eventually living in an environment that had plentiful clean air, food and water. Because of a chronically weakened immune system, when he could no longer exercise without getting ill, he and his life partner departed China.
Fifth Discovery: Glyphosate and Disease
When the dharma duo entered China in the early 1990s they were stimulated to start up and develop a management consulting company that delivered two training and consulting programs to foreign joint ventures [JVs]. One program was focused on sales development and the other on management teamwork and business process improvement. At that time, the frustrated JV General Managers and Chief Representatives of foreign sales offices faced a uniformly consistent set of challenges throughout the country. This was because of China’s surprisingly homogenous business culture that was driven by a command and control political system.
Out of more than a hundred transnational clients over a four year period, every General Manager and Chief Representative welcomed the programs on offer by the dharma duo, with two mysterious exceptions. These were the China based sales offices of chemical companies headquartered in the US at that time. The dharma duo’s standard eight day programs spread over three months always began with interviews of trainees and their managers. The objective was to better understand each company’s products and the interviewees’ perception of the issues they faced in reaching organizational goals.
The two puzzling exceptions were Monsanto and Dupont. Neither of these companies allowed the consultants to interview the trainees or their manager before the much shorter and much less effective sales training they required. The consultants experienced a strange aura of distrustful reticence by the salespeople in both companies. This contrasted noticeably with the usual information sharing readiness that was common among more than a hundred other client companies. The decision makers from both chemical companies were also unwilling to disclose and discuss the products their companies were selling in China.
The dharma wanderer’s clueless ignorance about this mystery was dissolved years later when he discovered that both companies were selling chemical products that were thought by many experts to be harmful: glyphosate from Monsanto and PFAS from Dupont. Both chemicals have been linked to serious illness and disease. This discovery led the dharma wanderer to seek out information about glyphosate. As he continued to learn more, he sought to avoid conventionally grown agricultural crops that were almost universally treated with applications of Roundup.
Sixth Discovery: Diet, Healthy Fats and Nutraceuticals
The dharma wanderer’s ongoing efforts to continue optimizing his health, wellness and well-being led him and his life partner to engage a local nutritionally oriented family physician within the MDVIP system in the fall of 2021. One of the benefits of the annual fee was more comprehensive and precise measurement of their blood. The medical consultation and quantitative/graphical report included an extensive variety of heart health measures. The dharma wanderer had presumed their regular exercise and mostly vegetarian diet would yield a healthy cardiac profile. This was not the case. He had been completely ignorant about the importance of healthy fats for their dietary regimen. As a result of including almost no fats in their diet, his body was apparently making cholesterol, so there were multiple lipid [fat] measures in the undesirable range for high risk. These included cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL and LDL-P. This became an intense wake up call for more detailed research.
He proceeded to do a deep dive into the pubmed database using a variety of search terms centered around dyslipidemia. He began his self education with more than forty hours of search queries and downloads of published articles and their abstracts. Reading the abstract summaries and most relevant sections gave him a helpful orientation to the potential for a combination of nutraceuticals that included red yeast rice as an alternative to the conventional medical recommendation of statins for hyperlipidemia. Further research indicated there were benefits to be gained by modifying their diet to include daily avocado, omega 3 fatty acids and high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil, plus cold water fatty fish twice per week. There was also research that indicated high intensity intervals [HIIT] were more effective than steady state cardio for reducing key heart health measures. Following the detailed protocol recommended by Dr. Mark Houston, along with implementing a vigorous exercise program, the dharma wanderer’s heart health results showed remarkable improvement in only three months.
Strengthening and Stretching – The dharma wanderer joined a fitness gym with his life partner and regularly works out twice per week for 60 – 90 minutes. He engaged a personal trainer for four sessions. She knowledgeably guided him on specific exercises and machines for improving posture and counteracting sarcopenia in major muscle groups. To avoid straining a muscle group, he begins on each resistance machine with approximately half the maximum weight he expects to use and then increases the weight incrementally for each of 3-5 sets for a given day. This helps him avoid injury and “wake up” dormant muscle fibers so they can handle more weight without strain. Most sets are for 8-12 repetitions, unless he is working on a particularly weak or problem muscle group, in which case he reduces weight and increases reps, slowly and cautiously. For each repetition on a machine, he inhales deeply on the muscle contraction, then exhales forcefully when returning to the starting position. At the end of a set or the entire exercise session he stretches major muscle groups in the opposite direction from the direction of the contraction required by a machine. If soreness or stiffness arises on the first or second day after a trip to the gym, he uses a trigger point foam roller to loosen tight muscles and dissolve discomfort. When he can detect a noticeable improvement in muscle group strength, he increases either number of reps or the maximum weight. He follows each strengthening session with a serving of whey protein powder in addition to his daily smoothie combination that is regularly made with Kachava, organic kale and Ceylon cinnamon. The duo’s nutritionally oriented physician strongly recommended a daily smoothie made with Kachava because of its plentiful nutritional ingredients.
Cardio – He covers four to five miles on the Monterey Bay marine trail an average of three times per week for cardiovascular exercise. He begins by walking with a brisk pace to warm up. After 10-15 minutes of warming up, when his muscles feel more awake and oxygenated, he usually shifts into a more intense exercise mode. In this mode, he moves faster during a single interval until he feels out of breath, then he slows down to a walk. On the advice of his physician, he does a faster pace that might be characterized as an older person’s version of high intensity intervals. When he began this version of more intense cardio exercise, he could barely do a slow jog after warming up. After doing intervals for more than a year, he has increased the number of intervals in a given session from four at the beginning to 10-15 or more currently. He has recently noticed that the fitness gym leg strengthening sessions seem to be enabling a faster pace. He uses the Fitbit Sense smart watch for feedback on his heart rate. He checks his heart rate when he finishes a given interval and has started walking. He targets a maximum heart rate of 120-150 or more beats per minute [bpm] during an interval of running, with the maximum rising during a given exercise session as his tissues become more oxygenated. After he has shifted to a slower walk, as he feels his breath has recovered, he checks his watch for a minimum decrease of 30-40 bpm from the previous maximum rate. The faster the maximum, he waits for a greater decrease to enable the recovery. He can examine an informative profile of the heart rate peaks and valleys when he checks his Fitbit report after it has synced with his phone.
Diet – The dharma duo have established a consistent dietary regimen of organic ingredients from Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Amazon:
Breakfast – a small serving of oat meal, to which is added: black beans cooked overnight with goji berries and black sesame seed, plus [added in the morning] Garden of Life protein powder, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, almonds, chia seed, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, banana and freshly ground organic brown flax seed. A variety of other powders are included, such as maca, amla, pomegranate and lion’s mane mushroom.
Avocado – 1/2 or whole, with Himalayan pink sea salt, ground black pepper and garlic powder.
Dinner – Local wild caught cold water fish as protein source twice per week. Other nights: tofu, lentils or chickpeas as protein source. A mix of colorful vegetables every night. No rice. Instead, cooked barley is the grain. Mixed into hot dinner as a tasty anti-inflammatory sauce every night: 2 tbsp of high polyphenol extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 rounded tsp of turmeric, freshly ground black pepper, coriander, garlic powder, Himalayan pink sea salt and Ceylon cinnamon .
Nutraceuticals – The dharma duo’s nutraceutical regimen is based on their individual health concerns and personal research. Even so, a pattern that is common to them both may be useful for consideration: Liquid multivitamins, Liquid calcium, sublingual B12, B complex, optimized quercetin, zinc, green tree extract, glutathione, bio-fisetin, omega 3s, resveratrol. And specifically for men: ultra prostate formula, mega lycopene, super miraforte.
This journey of ten thousand miles
begins with a single step.