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Is Objectification the Problem?

12 Jan

sexual-objectification

Is Objectification the Problem?

Since the beginning of the second-wave feminist movement in the 1960s, strident complaints have been made regarding men’s sexual objectification of women. The foundation of this complaint was, and is, that when men objectify women sexually they see and treat them as sex objects. This line of thinking suggests that reducing women to sexual objects results in their dehumanization, which not only creates but also perpetuates men’s abusive and harassing behavior toward women. Women have been demanding that men view them in a more comprehensive, respectful, and humanized manner. Sadly, despite the call to action by feminists and the recent #MeToo Movement for the end of sexual harassment and sexual abuse, the response from many men has been nothing short of abysmal.
The fact that some men dehumanize and exploit women through sexual objectification is real and this behavior needs to be addressed. However, to fully understand this phenomenon there is still a piece of the puzzle that has not yet been properly explained. Without an effective explanation of what constitutes objectification, the discussion will continue to only scratch the surface and never fully reach a comprehensive explanation nor provide an effective solution to the problem.
What is Objectification?
Objectification is a word that carries a heavy negative connotation. It is associated as a way of speaking, thinking, and acting that is considered morally wrong. Usually, criticisms of sexual objectification center on how women are displayed in advertisements, in films, in the news, and in the general culture. Viewing women as sexual objects are seen as dehumanizing because it treats women as commodities, or like something that can be possessed or dominated. This predominantly male behavior has serious social and psychological ramifications. Typically, sexual abuse is inflicted for the satisfaction of a person without regard for the other person involved, which disempowers and alienates the victim. When a person insults another person by making inappropriate comments or by making unwanted sexual advances, the affected person naturally feels exploited as an object for the other’s gratification. Often, the person affected doesn’t have enough control in the situation to stop the abuse. Additionally, the objectified person is sometimes feels forced to ‘own’ or accept the sexually abusive messages and actions that are used to control or weaken them. This can be especially damaging to their self-esteem and autonomy.
Is There Anything Positive About Objectification?
On the other side of the aisle, some argue that sexual objectification isn’t always entirely negative. Writers and researchers have pointed out that in normal intimate relationships certain qualities and physical aspects of a partner can be a ‘turn on’ for both partners, thus enhancing the intimacy between them. It should be noted that it is not unusual for women to also objectify their sexual partner’s body or appearance. For example, author D.H. Lawrence said that for some sexual partners a certain amount of objectification of either the woman or the man adds a genuine erotic quality to the relationship. Extreme erotic objectification, however, is considered fetishism, which can be directed toward a person’s body parts and also toward associated physical objects representing a person in an erotic way. That being said, if the objectification can remain in a healthy, unimposing state there actually can be a positive aspect to it.
Objectification as a Natural Phenomenon
As a whole, objectification is not inherently abusive. Objectification is a natural phenomenon that is embedded in the normal human experience of subject/object dualism. It is inherent in the normal cognitive interactions a person has with the world. In fact, in the world of concepts, thoughts and social roles, it is often necessary and for the most part unavoidable way that humans relate to what we perceive around us. It is through experience and learning that we come to categorize and develop a sense of order in our individual worlds. When we regard another person or thing as an object, it is a way of identifying characteristics of that person (tall, short, smart, pleasant, etc.) or thing and how they can be useful or not to us. We use objectification to focus on how those objects serve our own personal interests and purposes. However, this dualist subject/object relationship has an unfortunate tendency to devalue, isolate, and dehumanize other human beings.
There is the subject (I, me, and mine) and then the object (it, you, they and them). In this dualism, it is the object that we are attracted to or repulsed by. A person identifies objects in the environment that they have learned to like or not through cultural teachings or through personal experience. Then, once a person identifies something that they are attracted to him, or she has a natural desire to have it. Of course, it is the opposite for something they see as unattractive. The erotic objects are also culturally and personally subjective. This is all part of the typical human process of objectification.
In marketing, objectification is, of course, a very important principle and a lot of time and money are spent on manipulating and enticing people to want to have and own the advertised objects. The phenomenon of want and desire is often used as a way of inviting or seducing the attention and desires of another person. This can even be used as a type of sexual foreplay between consenting individuals. When it is agreed upon foreplay, objectification can be a pleasing interaction for all parties involved. It is this interaction or ‘dance’ between the subject and object that excites and draws them more intimately together. In this way, when understood and used correctly, erotic objectification can be a normal process used to facilitate attraction.
Therefore, the point I most want to emphasize is that objectification is a natural classification system based on the dualistic subject/object relationship we have with the world around us. The subject is the self and the object is that which is represented in the environment. These poles can be switched where the self, through a reflection like in a mirror, objectifies oneself (I am fat, beautiful, etc.) and is either liked or disliked. Studies have clearly shown that in terms of how women objectify or view their own body type, appearance, and even personality, they commonly introject, or incorporate, outside perceptions. These can include male opinions, advertisements, and many other forms of ‘brainwashing’. Such introjection can result in a woman adopting a negative perception of herself leading to low self-esteem or, in the case of excessive positive perceptions, it can lead to arrogance. While introjection is a natural reaction, it can clearly lead to less than desirable outcomes.
What is the Real Problem?
When it comes to ‘objectification’, feminists are not objecting to the process of objectification itself, but rather the sexual harassment and sexual abuse that develop from it. Instead, there are two significant contributing factors to the problem of sexual abuse and harassment. The first is the sexist society, which encourages and allows the dehumanization of those being objectified solely in a sexual way. The relegation of a person to a sex object not only negatively affects the self-perceptions of those affected but also encourages their being treated in an abusive and condescending manner. The second factor regards the ethics and morality of the harassers and abusers. When a person sees a pleasing object in their environment, they can normally restrain themselves from taking or possessing it. There are a number of reasons why people restrain themselves. They might do so because of the fear of negative consequences, it might be an understanding and respect of personal boundaries, or it could be the knowledge that it is ‘wrong’. If a person does take whatever they like and desire, there is a breakdown in the pact each of us as individuals have with the accepted social code of legality, morality, and ethics.
Most cultures implicitly follow the well-known general rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ In ethics, the ‘right’ behavior requires self-restraint and self-responsibility regarding one’s interaction with the people and objects in their environment. It is a maturity that humans learn through healthy interactions with their families and society as they grow up. Since neurologically based impulse control disorders are rare, the vast majority of abusive actions taken toward others are choices that are rooted in the absence of ethical principles and considerations. Abusive individuals are selfish, immature, and typically lack empathy or respect for other people. They seek their own personal gratification regardless of the impact it might have on another person. If this tendency goes unchecked, it can easily become habitual and by extension harder to suppress. Objectification is merely a tool for a willful abuser to fulfill their desires.
Therefore, it isn’t simply the objectification that creates the behavior to which feminists object. In fact, without understanding the subject/object cognitive process, we are only describing the manifestation of objectification (for deeper analysis about dualism subject/object see my book, The Buddha’s Gift: A Gift of Wellbeing and Wisdom). When we only describe the action of objectification or harassment, it remains, just that, a description. More than a description, we need an explanation that truly understands the root cause. Without understanding the root cause there can be no remedy, only a continuation of the current frustration and anger. So, I propose that it is now time for the feminist movement and the #MeToo movement to better define and thereby understand and remedy the objectification discussion.
The Primary Causes
Media culture and the men and women who are influenced by the media is a primary cause of sexual harassment and sexual abuse that is linked to objectification. The sexist media culture obsessively sexualizes women through for-profit advertisements, fashion, pornography, etc. It is the profitable sexual objectification of a woman’s body by modern culture that bombards, oversaturates, and entices men to continue to sexually objectify women. In effect, this creates a significant part of the problem. The media creates a norm for what is desirable or not when it comes to the physical female shape. Marketing is often blamed because the thin women with long legs body type most idealized in modern times were certainly not the standard in past generations and cultures. In fact, it is still not the standard of beauty in other non-European and indigenous cultures. Men are influenced by this sexist culture, that fosters immature, unethical attitudes and behaviors which lack empathetic responses. From an early age, men are brought up in a patriarchal society that tells them that it is okay to react with obsessive thinking and oppressive compulsive actions when they see and interact with women.
My proposition is that sexual harassment and abuse is mainly not from the objectification itself, but, more importantly, it is men’s lack of emotionally intelligent behavior. A mature response to erotic material is an acceptance of what it is within the larger, more complex web of personal attributes that each person has. Additionally, an emotionally developed person understands that their likes and dislikes have been culturally influenced and have no inherent exceptional meaning. Giving respect and understanding to other people without selfish, egotistical and narcissistic baggage is much easier for an emotionally mature person than an emotionally immature one. An empathetic person can objectify and recognize another person as erotically pleasing, while also realizing that this objectification will never be a sufficient reason for them to dehumanize and debase a person through harassment or abuse.
Looking at this issue from a men’s liberation point of view, as depicted in the significant Berkley Men’s Center Manifesto, the significant issue is not objectification. Instead, the most significant issue is how our modern culture uses this subject/object relationship to create a juvenile connection to an erotic object. Men, or any person, who act toward another human being in a flagrant and openly harassing manner are clearly showing immaturity, as well as selfish tendencies. To counter this on an individual level, anti-abuse policies need to do more to promote empathetic and ethical behavior towards women rather than simply discouraging harassing behavior. This would ultimately result in personal relationships that consist of positive, empathetic, and kind behaviors, which would create a happier, more satisfying society for all.
What Needs to Happen Now?
Society has to change. A patriarchal sexist society sends the message that men are more privileged than women. It also proposes that men not only have the right but the obligation to control and subjugate women through harassing and abusive behavior. Sexual harassment and sexual abuse are surely both decisions made from a position of elitism and entitlement. Such entitlement does not encourage restraint, respect, or compassion for another person. This denigration of women is often reinforced by the groupthink phenomenon where some men conform to and support each other’s abusive way of thinking. Women, as well as emotionally mature men, must openly object to such behavior and give opposing feedback to men who act in obnoxious and sexist ways.
When each person in a relationship is seen not as an object to be used or manipulated but instead viewed with empathy, respect, and understanding, each person is better able to see one another as an equal. The natural interplay between subject and object can happen in a mature and interdependent relationship where the wholeness of the other person is honored and appreciated. In a relationship where each person’s feelings, thoughts, and sensitivities are esteemed, the natural function of objectification will be allowed to manifest within the bounds of an ethical and respectful exchange. Compassion, after all, is the natural opposite of narcissism.
Finally, any extreme objectification process that often leads to dehumanization is not only relevant to the discussion regarding sexism, but also racism and religious extremism. Since prejudice is the result of an exaggeration of the subject/object duality, it is relevant to all ideologies that define another human through the narrow scope of bias and dogmatism. It is the hope that with a clearer understanding of the subject/object relationship and through teaching emotional intelligence, maturity, and respect for others, people will want to act ethically and respectfully toward others and shed narcissistic selfishness and brutality.

#MeToo and Human Liberation

31 Oct

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Accepting the definition that the #MeToo movement is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, I am saddened that this movement even needs to exist. My sadness is the need for women to still, in the 21st century, demonstrate in mass against sexual harassment and sexual assault. I am incredulous that sexual harassment and sexual assault, with the suffering that is the result of it, still need a mass movement to speak out against these forms of violence and abuse. It was about 50 years ago that the Women’s Liberation Movement began to speak out and protest against not only gender inequality and patriarchal social norms, but also all forms of abuse against women. The classic name for men who sexually harassed women was ‘Chauvinist Pigs’. Back then, this term was widely and enthusiastically shouted in many different situations of sexual harassment.

Having been a psychotherapist with female clients who were experiencing or had experienced abusive behavior by males, I developed an understanding of the suffering that this type of abusive behavior creates and I joined other men in severely criticizing that behavior. So to see that still, after 50 years of serious discussion and demonstration against all forms of abuse, that it is still so prevalent in our society makes me sad and angry. And so on a one level of my response to the #MeToo Movement is disbelief and sadness that the victims of sexual abuse, still need to actively demonstrate in mass against abuse and the suffering that it creates.

On another level, my disbelief and sadness that the #MeToo movement is so obviously needed is the fact that accompanying the Women’s Liberation Movement of 50 years ago was the Men’s Liberation Movement. Men’s Liberation then was a thoughtful response to examine and define the issue of men and masculinity. 50 years ago it was based on the introspection of how the patriarchal society was not only harming and oppressing women, but also men. For when men began to analyze the social norms and rules that the patriarchal society placed on them, they began to realize that there were many harmful conditions. Some examples of the questions raised by men about growing up male; sex role pressures in the socialization of the male child, as well as that men are lower self- disclosurers than women; are less insightful and empathic; are less able to love and more subject to demoralization than women. All of these aspects of manliness have negative consequences in health, relationships, self-esteem and longevity. So 50 years ago, as a response to the insights of the Women’s Lib movement about social norms and their incapacitation of both male and female potentialities and capacities, men began standing up against that oppression for both themselves and their female counterparts to create happiness, reciprocity and in general less repressive and more open and expressive lives.

In the 1960s, with the beginning of Men’s Liberation, conscientious men sought to aid in destroying the destructive sex-role stereotypes for men and women established by restrictive unfair sexual identities. One such group of men at the Berkeley Men’s Center wrote a manifesto. This group was typical, at that time, of many men’s groups throughout the USA and consisted of a group of men struggling to free themselves from sex role stereotypes and to define themselves in ‘positive non-chauvinistic ways’. A section of their manifesto reads as follows: ‘We want to relate to both women and men in more honest human ways – with warmth, sensitivity, emotion and honesty. We want to share our feelings with one another to break down the walls and grow closer. We want to be equal with women and end destructive competitive relationships with men. We don’t want to engage in ego battles with anyone. …We believe that the half-humanization will only change when our competitive male-dominated individualistic society becomes cooperative based on the sharing of resources and skills. We are oppressed by working in alienating jobs as ‘breadwinners’. We want to use our creative energy to serve our common needs and not just to make profits for our employers. We believe that in Human Liberation there is no hierarchy of oppression, every group must speak its own language, assume its own form, take its own action and when each of these groups learn to express itself in harmony with the rest this will create the basis for an all-embracing social change.’

So my sadness of seeing the pain and suffering that still is routinely being foisted on women is based on both the oppression and suffering of women and also the corrupt social norms which still raise young boys into oppressive and abusive men. That the insights won 50 years ago by thoughtful, empathetic intelligent men have lost their momentum. What I see at the heart of the #MeToo Movement is the protest against harmful cultural and societal norms with which men are raised in the society- the Growing Up Male effect. My hope is that now men again put at the forefront of their personal agenda not only to analyze growing up as a male but also the unlearning of dysfunctional masculinity that will expunge the power and control mandate that is so harmful to not only women but to themselves. Male Liberation calls for men to free themselves of the patriarchal sex-role stereotypes that limit their ability to be fully the empathic persons possible. To give up those sex-role stereotypes often considered the characteristics of manly success; that men should be highly achieving, competitive and domineering. One example of dominance that is potentially open to any man is dominance over a woman. When society generally teaches men they should dominate, that they should have power and control to be successful, it also teaches women that they should be submissive – making it easier for men to dominate women. More and more, as the #MeToo Movement shows, women are rightfully reacting against the suffering of being dominated and controlled. But the battle of women to be equal and respected will not be a battle against men, as the oppressors, once men liberate themselves from oppressing themselves and others. Whether or not men are the enemy is a choice for men themselves. Until that time, women must continue to demand respect and non-abusive environments.

So my appreciation of the #MeToo Movement is not only their advocacy of the necessity and even obligation for women to demand social equality and non-abusive behaviors on the part of men, but it also highlights the vitally important progress that men need to continue what began 50 years ago. That is for men to analyze, discuss and change the social roles that handicap and bind them into creating lives promoting inequalities, suffering and unhappiness for not only others but also themselves. In the end, my and other’s hope still continues to be that a Human Liberation will be the end result where society’s norms and culture includes the promotion of health, cooperation, safety, equality, empathy, individuality and all groups living together well.

‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ Probably the Best Argument for Gun Control.

18 Jun

A famous quote of Roman politician Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4Bc-65 AD) is ‘A sword never kills anybody; it is a tool in the killer’s hand.’ This quote simply states a simple truth of basic physics. An object at rest remains at rest until acted on by an outside force. A sword, sitting there, doing nothing, will not kill anyone. The same goes for guns or any other item that can cause death. None of them have any intent to cause harm, that is what the human adds to the equation. Only humans have intent, only humans can kill and the fact of the matter is they have been killing since pre-historical times and it is naive to think they will automatically stop for no particular reason. The inanimate objects are merely tools in the hands of a killer. As long as people have ignorance and unwholesome thoughts and intentions, and succumb to them, they will use tools to kill others. So since society cannot nor should constantly monitor the state of mind or intentions of its citizens (Brave New World), the most potent and catastrophic tools for killing ( i.e. assault weapons/bombs/etc.) must be restricted for the government to maintain a stable and safe society for its citizens.

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What Is your Newest Book About?

9 Jun

Since I first posted about the publication of my newest Book- The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations, I have had numerous inquirers asking about the content of the book. I thought the quickest look at the book contents would be to list the Table of Contents. Good reading!

The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations

Contents

Preface…xi

Chapter 1 Introduction 1

Chapter 2 Self/No-Self 7

Chapter 3 Self as Construction 23

Chapter 4 The Human Being as a Collective, Unified Unit 35

Chapter 5 Awakening and Enlightenment: Psychological Transformation and Transcendence 61

Chapter 6 Enlightenment: Reality, Actuality and Transcendence 73

Chapter 7 Knowing and Not Knowing – What is Possible? 81

Chapter 8 The General Doctrine of the Law of Dependent Co-arising 99

Chapter 9 Kamma 109

Chapter 10 Sense of Agency 119

Chapter 11 Agency Labelled as Self 129

Chapter 12 Dividing Existence – Duality 143

Chapter 13 Language Construction of Duality 163

Chapter 14 Identification 181

Chapter 15 The Buddha’s Compassion 197

Chapter 16 Memory 207

Chapter 17 The Unconscious 227

Chapter 18 Habits 243

Chapter 19 Cognitive Biases 253

Chapter 20 Meta-cognition and Mindfulness 267

Chapter 21 Automatic Influences on our Actions and Perceptions 277

Chapter 22 Organisms as Coherent Embedded Systems 299

Chapter 23 Happiness 379

Chapter 24 The World without a ‘Self’ 391

Chapter 25 Closing Thoughts 405

Appendix A Explanation of the effects of stress on the different systems of the human body 411

Appendix B Special experiences 415

About the Author

Rodger R. Ricketts, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist and mindfulness meditation teacher. He has been studying Buddhism for over thirty years, both as part of his own personal quest and also in the application its principles as a therapeutic tool in psychotherapy. He has written three books exploring the foundation of the Buddha’s Teaching in psychology. Rodger has given numerous presentations at wellness and professional psychological conferences on the topics of cognitive psychology, mindfulness and wellbeing. Rodger continues his study of both science and Buddhism, and maintains a regular meditation practice.

Interesting and Surprising Facts about the Buddha and his Teachings

12 Mar

The Buddha was the first thinker in known history to teach the doctrine of human equality and social freedom amongst all humans. Society should be open to all, regardless of caste, color, or class. No caste, class, or race privileges existed among his lay followers or in the Order of the Sangha that he founded. Instead, social classes and castes are nothing but functional divisions of society, man-made, subject to change and resulting from social and historical factors. Any social doctrine based on the alleged superiority of a caste, class, or race, and advocating to keep it dominant by the use of force, will lead to the perpetuation of social tensions and conflict, and never bring about harmony and equality. The Buddha’s doctrine of equality means each person should be treated equally with dignity, and given an equal chance to develop their inherent potentials of economic, moral and spiritual progress, and of human perfection. Also, the Buddha was the first who attempted to abolish slavery, which included the traffic in, and the sale of, females for commercial purposes. In fact, this is a prohibited trade for his followers.

A man named Dighajanu once visited the Buddha and said, ‘Venerable Sir, we are ordinary laymen, leading a family life with wife and children. Would the Blessed One teach us some doctrines which will be conducive to our happiness in this world and hereafter?’ In a large number of his discourses, the Buddha has given practical guidance for the lay life and sound advice to cope with life’s difficulties. The Buddha identified four traits conducive to lay happiness (Pali: sukha) in this life: hard-working (uṭṭhāna-sampadā), being skilled and diligent in one’s livelihood; vigilance (ārakkha-sampadā), protecting one’s wealth from theft and disaster; virtuous friendship (kalyāṇa-mittatā), associating with and emulating those who are learned, generous, virtuous, wise, who will help one along the right path away; and, balanced living (sama-jīvikatā), abstaining from drunkenness, gambling and unwholesome friendships and behaviors.While accepting material comforts, Buddhism always lays great stress on the development of the moral and spiritual character for a happy, peaceful and contented life as well as society.

Buddhism teaches ‘The Middle Way’ because it avoids the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification.
For six years the, to be, Buddha fervently followed a path of self-mortification, yet it led, not to higher wisdom and enlightenment, but only to physical weakness and the deterioration of his mental faculties. Ascetic Gotama then thought of another path to enlightenment, one which balanced proper care of the body with sustained contemplation and deep investigation. He would later call this path “the Middle Way”. He had experienced both extremes, the former as a prince and the latter as an ascetic, and he knew they were ultimately dead ends. To follow the middle way, however, he realized he would first have to regain his strength. Thus, he gave up his practice of austerities and resumed taking nutritious food. Later, He became Awakened and The Noble Buddha.

The name bhikkhuni refers to a fully ordained Buddhist nun i.e. a woman who has taken higher ordination (upasampada) in the Buddhist monastic community. Bhikkhunis live a simple life, equal to that of a bhikkhu or monk. In fact, all the monks and nuns are equal as the disciples of the Buddha. The order of nuns was established lastly, after the Bhikkhu Sangha, and the communities of laymen and laywomen. Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord Buddha, can women attain enlightenment?” The Buddha said to him, “Ananda, yes of course they can.” He said, “If they can, why don’t you allow them to join the Sangha, learning and practicing directly?’ Because of practical considerations, it took some time and persuasion for the Bhikkhuni Sangha to be established by the Buddha, but thanks to Maha Pajapati-Gotami and Ananda’s support it came to be.

In Buddhism, actions are not termed ‘sinful’ but unskilful or unwholesome. Buddhists do regard humans as sinful or ‘evil’ by nature but the wicked person is ignorant, foolish and immature. They need instruction most of all, more than punishment and condemnation. The Buddha has encouraged us to develop and use our highest understandings through responsibility for our thoughts and actions. Our suffering is not handed down by the Gods, instead, it is created by our not understanding the great principles of life: Life is impermanent, continuously changing and interrelated; there is No-Self and there is Suffering in life. As our Enlightened teacher, The Buddha advised us on how to lead a pure life and achieve the attainment of nibbana.

The Buddha did not encourage the use of magic, charms or fortune telling to improve our lives. They have no spiritual significance or value. It is only through our Right Understanding, Right Effort and Right Practice that we advance.

In the Kalamas Sutta, the Buddha said, ‘Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.’  Many honest seekers today, like the Kalamas, of the Truth become confused and worried by the many conflicting and inconsistent sects and theologies that are pronounced daily by so many people calling themselves the ‘light to follow’. The Buddha provided a simple and direct test to guide us to know the truth of his teaching: trust yourself, your own experience, and through your experience of the correct teachings which you have found to be reliable and insightful – follow and use. Those people who are “the wise” will teach with the plan that you will see the benefit for yourself through your experience and transformation and not through blind faith and, therefore, you don’t become a slave to their wisdom, instead, you use your reason, your common sense, and your own experience as the ultimate guide and confirmation. So you develop insights for yourself ultimately. While you can benefit from reading books and listening to teachers, etc, your true reliance is upon your real understanding created through the real work that must ultimately be done in transforming and purifying our individual mind. In the end you know for yourself the confirmation of the Buddha’s teachings – there is suffering and the ending of suffering- and this is the only authority needed or desirable.

The Buddha spoke of “beginningless time” and how there is no beginning. The Buddha said that “there is no first beginning, no first beginning is knowable.” (Samyutta Nikaya 15.1-2) This implies that certainly at even the most basic level of existence, everything is made of the same atoms and cosmic ‘stuff’ and we see exclusion and separation only made by our minds.

The Buddha gave to all a practical method (Eighfold Path) for the development of the mind and heart for the shaping of our lives to eventually achieve Awakening or Enlightenment. He did not teach theology or doctrinal orthodoxy. The Buddha understood that all religious doctrines and theology are human inventions built up by the particular authors out of their own mentalities and foisted on people’s minds from the outside. Instead, The Buddha was the teacher who gave the lessons and, if we so want, we are the ones who practice sincerely what he taught and thereby develop our own insights and knowledge of especially the primary Three Universal Truths of Impermanence, No-Self and the existence of Suffering. In Buddhism this is entirely a matter that each individual has to settle for him/herself. But if one makes the effort sincerely- the benefits appear immediately.

Emperor Asoka (304–232 BCE) was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent  from c. 268 to 232 BCE. He [propagated the relatively new doctrine of Buddhism to new heights, as far as ancient Rome and Egypt. He made Buddhism his state religion around 260 BC. He built thousands of Stupas and Viharas for Buddhist followers. The Stupas of Sanchi are world famous and the Stupa named Sanchi Stupa was built by Emperor Ashoka. During the remaining portion of Ashoka’s reign, he pursued an official policy of nonviolence (Ahimsa). Even the unnecessary slaughter or mutilation of Animals was immediately abolished. Everyone became protected by the king’s law against sport Hunting and branding. Limited Hunting was permitted for consumption reasons but Ashoka also promoted the concept of vegetarianism. Ashoka also showed mercy to those imprisoned, allowing them leave for the outside a day of the year. He attempted to raise the professional ambition of the common man by building universities for study, and water transit and irrigation systems for trade and agriculture. He treated his subjects as equals regardless of their religion, politics and Caste. The kingdoms surrounding his, so easily overthrown, were instead made to be well-respected allies. He is acclaimed for constructing hospitals for Animals and renovating major roads throughout India. After this transformation, Ashoka came to be known as Dhammashoka (Sanskrit), meaning Ashoka, the follower of Dharma. Ashoka defined the main principles of Dharma (Dhamma) as nonviolence, tolerance of all sects and opinions, obedience to parents, respect for the Brahmans and other religious teachers and priests, liberality towards friends, humane treatment of servants, and Generosity towards all.

Buddhism teaches that the two qualities-wisdom with compassion—are as interdependent as the two wings of a great bird. Together, where there is true wisdom there is compassion, where there is true compassion there is wisdom. This teaching develops positive cooperative relationships among all people and with sentient beings. It is a teaching for a peaceful, fruitful world and enlightened personal mentality.

Buddhism is concerned with how anyone, male or female, can follow a definite path of mental culture and development to have that same realization. In his own lifetime, The Buddha saw many of his followers realize Enlightenment. After his death, and down through the centuries, thousands have experienced the awakened state – and not only monks. Buddhism is a teaching that explains how realization can be acquired in one’s life – here and now.

The Greeks had a story of a handsome young man named Narcissus who went to a pool, where he saw his own reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image or illusion. Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, later he fell in the water and drowned. Narcissus is the origin of the term narcissism, a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance.
The Buddha, before the Greeks, warned of the suffering caused by a belief and love of the illusion of a self. The Greek story is a nice exposition on this ignorance and the dire consequences of it. The Buddha taught the doctrine of Anatta or no-self.

Sometime between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD, the first representations of the physical Buddha were developed. These were absent from earlier Buddhist art, which preferred to represent the Buddha with symbols such as the stupa, the Bodhi tree, the empty seat, the wheel, or the footprints. The Buddha never encouraged statues or artistic representations of himself when he was living. The physical Buddha image like the standing Buddha in the photo was inspired by the sculptural styles of Hellenistic Greek influence.

When some people hear Buddhists say that ‘The World is an Illusion’ they think that means everything in the world is unreal, an illusion. This is a misunderstanding. The Buddha taught that the external environment is ‘real’ but our understanding of it is filtered through our senses, expectations, identities, and memories so our mental construction of the world is an illusion in that we believe that to be the ‘real’ reality but it isn’t – it is like a magic show. To be Awakened is to see beyond the tricks of the magician.

The Doctrine of Karma or Kamma is not a mystical force and does not entail fatalism. Instead, it is a natural phenomenon, like gravity. Our thoughts create consequences inside our mind which we then act on. The doctrine refers to our intentional mental actions- our volitions. What we are now is determined by our thoughts and actions in the past and what we do next, in the future, is determined by our thoughts and actions in the present. Therefore, our kamma has the potential to continuously change depending on our development of our thoughts and actions. The Buddha was very clear in teaching the Noble Eightfold Path that we can definitely transform the quality of our mind and action for the better and ultimately achieve Enlightenment. So Karma does not mean that we have a fixed destiny across lifetimes that we must passively accept or that bad or good things happen only because of our past actions.

IS QI/Ki/CHI REAL or only a NEW AGE FANTASY? 2

14 Dec

To continue this topic—

There is no longer any doubt that electrical currents do flow through the entire body in an intercommunicating network [54], and these electrical currents can indeed be detected as ultraweak magnetic fields by the SQUID magnetometer.

Acupuncture meridians were observed to have the properties of electrical transmission lines [46, 47]; by contrast, acupuncture points typically exhibit 10 to 100-fold lower electrical resistances compared with the surrounding skin. Acupuncture points may correspond to singularities or gaps between collagen fibres, or where collagen fibres are oriented at right angles to the dermal layer. Indeed, acupuncture points tend to be located along cleavage planes between muscles, or between muscle and bone or tendon [48]. Acupuncture points may also represent important junctions between channels and can thus simultaneously influence distant sites, as for example, sticking a needle into the acupuncture point at the side of the little toe could either be stimulating the eye to create signals in the visual cortex of the brain, or else it could be stimulating both eye and brain at the same time.

The conducting water channels in the connective tissues are continuous with the ordered hydrogen-bonded water proton wires – in the ion-channel proteins of the cell membrane. There is thus a direct electrical link between distant signals and the inside of every single cell in the body, capable of causing physiological changes inside the cells, including all nerve cells. This electrical channel of intercommunication depends on the mechanical continuity of the connective tissue matrix, a continuum that always changes as a whole. Mae- Won Ho

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It is important that you know about the progress that has been made by modern science in the study of Qi. This will keep you from getting stuck in the ancient concepts and level of understanding. In ancient China, people had very little knowledge of electricity. They only knew from acupuncture that when a needle was inserted into the acupuncture cavities, some kind of energy other than heat was produced which often caused a shocking or a tickling sensation. It was not until the last few decades, when the Chinese people were more acquainted with electromagnetic science, that they began to recognize that this energy circulating in the body, which they called Qi, might be the same thing as what today’s science calls bioelectricity. We must look at what modern Western science has discovered about bioelectromagnetic energy. Many bioelectricity related reports have been published, and frequently the results are closely related to what is experienced in Chinese Qigong training and medical science. For example, during the electrophysiological research of the 1960s, several investigators discovered that bones are piezoelectric; that is, when they are stressed, mechanical energy is converted to electrical energy in the form of electric current. This might explain one of the practices of Marrow Washing Qigong in which the stress on the bones and muscles is increased in certain ways to increase the Qi circulation.

It is understood now that the human body is constructed of many different electrically conductive materials, and that it forms a living electromagnetic field and circuit. Electromagnetic energy is continuously being generated in the human body through the biochemical reaction in food and air assimilation, and circulated by the electromotive forces (EMF) generated within the body.

In addition, you are constantly being affected by external electromagnetic fields such as that of the earth, or the electrical fields generated by clouds. When you practice Chinese medicine or Qigong, you need to be aware of these outside factors and take them into account.

Countless experiments have been conducted in China, Japan, and other countries to study how external magnetic or electrical fields can affect and adjust the body’s Qi field. Many acupuncturists use magnets and electricity in their treatments. They attach a magnet to the skin over a cavity and leave it there for a period of time. The magnetic field gradually affects the Qi circulation in that channel.

Alternatively, they insert needles into cavities and then run an electric current through the needle to reach the Qi channels directly. Although many researchers have claimed a degree of success in their experiments, none has been able to publish any detailed and convincing proof of the results, or give a good explanation of the theory behind the experiment. As with many other attempts to explain the How and Why of acupuncture, conclusive proof is elusive, and many unanswered questions remain. Of course, this theory is quite new, and it will take more study and research before it is verified and completely understood.

Much of the research on the body’s electrical field relates to acupuncture. For example, Dr. Robert O. Becker, author of The Body Electric, reports that the conductivity of the skin is much higher at acupuncture cavities, and that it is now possible to locate them precisely by measuring the skins conductivity. Many of these reports prove that the acupuncture which has been done in China for thousands of years is reasonable and scientific.

Although the link between the theory of the Body Electric and the Chinese theory of Qi is becoming more accepted and better proven, there are still many questions to be answered. For example, how can the mind lead Qi (electricity)? (Of course, we know that there is no seperation of mind/body- so there is no mystery- Rodger)How actually does the mind generate an EMF (electromotive force) to circulate the electricity in the body? How is the human electromagnetic field affected by the multitude of other electric fields which surround us, such as radio wiring or electrical appliances? How can we readjust our electromagnetic fields and survive in outer space or on other planets where the magnetic field is completely different from the earth’s? You can see that the future of Qigong and bioelectric science is a challenging and exciting one. It is about time that we started to use modern technology to understand the inner energy world which has been for the most part ignored by Western society.

This article is a direct translation of text from the book Taijiquan, Classical Yang Style by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. YMAA 1999

Healthy Diet, aging, anti-oxidants, Cancer, and Telomeres

28 Jul

This blog is about the very important topic of Healthy diet and our health. As you will read much of our health is determined by our diet and lifestyle. As with all research over time some research becomes outdated and new information is accepted. So this blog was for me an interest to find and share some of the best information at the time on diet, nutrition and health. Please use this information as a springboard for thinking and finding up to date information in these areas. Best health to you!

‘Priority to non-poisonous rather than nutritious foods.’ “It takes months to build and only a minute to break down. How strange!” I heard a carpenter talk thus to himself while wiping his brow. No matter how careful you are about your nutrition, if your care does not include the condition “Never take poison”, your dietetics can crumble from the foundation at any time. Preservatives, anti-drying chemicals, artificial coloring, insecticides, weed killers, artificial flavoring, (etc, etc, etc) – are all dangerous. Kanjitsu Iijima

And our sense of the word (healthy) stands in need of some broadening. When most of us think about food and health, we think in fairly narrow nutritionist terms – about our personal physical health and how ingestion of this particular nutrient or rejection of that affects us. But I no longer think it’s possible to separate our bodily health from the health of the environment in which we eat or, for that matter, from the health of our general outlook about food (and health). If my explorations of the food chain have taught me anything, it’s that it is a food chain, and all the links in it are in fact linked: the health of the soil to the health of the plants and animals we eat to the health of the food culture in which we eat them to the health of the eater, in body as well as mind. … Food consists not just in piles of chemicals; it also comprises a set of social and ecological relationships, reaching back to the land and outward to other people. Michael Pollan

Meat offers a good proof of the proposition that the healthfulness of a food cannot be divorced from the health of the food chain that produced it – that the health of soil, plant, animal, and eater are all connected, for better or worse. … The whole of a dietary pattern is evidently greater than the sum of its parts. … In recent years a less reductive method of doing nutritional science has emerged, based on the idea of studying whole dietary patterns instead of individual foods or nutrients. The early results have tended to support the idea that traditional diets do indeed protect us from chronic disease and that these diets can be transferred from one place and population to another. … Such an approach can take into account complicated interactions among nutrients and non-nutrient substances in studies of free-living people. Michael Pollan

ARE TELOMERES THE KEY TO AGING AND CANCER?

Inside the center or nucleus of a cell, our genes are located on twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA called chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect our genetic data, make it possible for cells to divide and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

Like the rest of a chromosome and its genes, telomeres are sequences of DNA – chains of chemical code. Like other DNA, they are made of four nucleic acid bases: G for guanine, A for adenine, T for thymine and C for cytosine.

Without telomeres, the main part of the chromosome – the part containing genes essential for life – would get shorter each time a cell divides. So telomeres allow cells to divide without losing genes. Cell division is needed so we can grow new skin, blood, bone and other cells when needed. Without telomeres, chromosome ends could fuse together and degrade the cell’s genetic blueprint, making the cell malfunction, become cancerous or die.

Geneticist Richard Cawthon and colleagues at the University of Utah found shorter telomeres are associated with shorter lives. Among people older than 60, those with shorter telomeres were three times more likely to die from heart disease and eight times more likely to die from infectious disease.

When telomere length, chronological age and gender are combined (women live longer than men), those factors account for 37 percent of the variation in the risk of dying over age 60. So what causes the other 63 percent? A major cause of aging is “oxidative stress.” It is the damage to DNA, proteins and lipids (fatty substances) caused by oxidants, which are highly reactive substances containing oxygen. These oxidants are produced normally when we breathe, and also result from inflammation, infection and consumption of alcohol and cigarettes.

Another factor in aging is “glycation.” It happens when glucose sugar from what we eat binds to some of our DNA, proteins and lipids, leaving them unable to do their jobs. The problem becomes worse as we get older, causing body tissues to malfunction, resulting in disease and death. This may explain why studies in various laboratory animals indicate that restricting calorie intake extends lifespan. Author: Lee J. Siegel (I reduced article for blog) What is Glycation? Glycation is a process by which proteins, certain fats, and glucose tangle together. It affects all body tissues, and tends to make them stiff and inflexible. Glycation causes most problems for organs where flexibility is most important, such as the heart, kidneys, skin and eyes. Once it has become glycated, the tissues start to produce ‘glycotoxins’, such as Advanced Glycation End-products – or AGEs, which are damaging to our cells. AGEs do this in two ways, both of which promote aging: they produce free radicals, and increase inflammation.

Glycation, and the glycotoxins caused by it, are a major cause of the horrible side-effects of being diabetic – higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and eye problems. Happily, though not widely known, these conditions can be partly or fully controlled, as discussed below.

Glycation is particularly relevant to diabetics as it is more likely because of the raised blood sugar which is a feature of diabetes.

Treatment of Glycation Treatment of glycation is through 3 routes: 1. Avoiding certain foods, 2. Keep blood sugar levels low, and 3. Supplementation.

  1. It is the preparation of food which is important when seeking to avoid glycation. Specifically, high temperature cooking must be avoided. Frying, grilling and roasting all produce glycation and ‘glycotoxins’.

Much manufactured food will have been prepared using high temperature processes. Junk food can be a nightmare of glycation! Food should be chosen which is which is raw, steamed, stewed or poached. A slow cooker is very useful to prepare meat, fish or vegetarian meals easily, conveniently – safely.

  1. A healthy blood sugar range is below 100mg/dL. Above this level, glycation occurs much more readily. This level can be checked with a ‘fasting blood test’; ie you don’t eat for a length of time, then blood is taken for analysis. If blood sugar is higher than 100mg/dL, action can be taken to reduce blood sugar. This can quickly be achieved by dramatically reducing starchy food in the diet, and replacing it with extra vegetables, salads and protein.

The starchy foods to cut out or reduce dramatically are; sugar itself, potatoes, and grains and grain products including bread, pastries and pasta. Fruit juice and cooked fruit should be reduced or cut out because its sugar quickly passes into the blood; but moderate amounts of whole fruit are fine as they contain abundant nutrients and their sugar is absorbed more slowly thanks to the fibre content of the fruit. Poaching, stewing, slow cooking is best.

Scientific American had a story about boosting telomerase through diet, exercise and stress reduction. Specifically, he (Ornish et al.)found that telomerase was boosted by 30 percent in prostate cancer patients who followed a plant-based, whole-grain diet with very little fat or sugar for three months. The men also took fish oil supplements, did daily 30-minute bouts of exercise, and practiced yoga or meditation for an hour a day. “Telomerase turns up those genes associated with disease prevention and turns down the genes associated with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer,” explains Ornish. Just an ounce. The “pound of cure” lifestyle approach examined in his study may not be necessary for healthier folks, he says. They may need only an ounce of prevention to maintain their telomerase levels: switching from regular to nonfat dairy products; adding two or three servings of fruits and vegetables to their diet, for example; or doing just a few minutes of daily meditation.  2009 It turns out that most of our DNA is the software involved in determining how and when 30,000 genes are expressed. Regulation of this expression can be affected by environmental, nutritional, and other factors. These changes to the genome by external factors, called epigenetic changes, can have significant effects on a wide variety of molecular processes. For example, one of the most important nutritional factors modulating gene expression is folic acid: a lack of folic acid has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer. Folic acid, which is found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and green lettuce, participates in a pathway leading to the stabilization of DNA.

Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk. An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk.

The mere existence of these and other epigenetic changes demonstrates that your DNA is not set in stone. It is a living part of the cells in your body and its software code can be influenced by nutritional and environmental factors.

Early bacteria living in Earth’s oxygen-poor atmosphere learned to extract energy from the sun that only 30% of processes normally associated with aging are dictated by genes, while 70% are under your personal control  through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle behaviors. by combining the energy with carbon dioxide from the air and water from the ocean, they were able to form the glucose they needed for their cells to function. This process, known as photosynthesis, gave these bacteria a huge advantage over competing species, but created a problem: the oxygen they produced as a byproduct of this chemical reaction threatened to destroy them through oxidation of their DNA. So, they developed specialized antioxidants called phytochemicals, which have properties that enable them to absorb the extra electrons found on oxidized chemicals and oxygen radicals. Phytochemicals are truly sponges for oxygen radicals.

In the human body, different types of antioxidants are found in specific locations where they can be most effective. For example, some act only in the oily environment of fat cells while others act in the liquid, water-like environment of muscle cells. This latter adaptation is particularly important, as the primary energy producers within muscle cells, the mitochondria, also leak oxygen radicals in oxygen-poor environments. The ability of antioxidants to mop up these radicals enables them to play an important role in the fight against cell damage and the development of cancer. This is where exercise can be particularly useful exercise increases the levels of many antioxidants in the muscles, thus reducing the levels of dangerous free radicals.

The Color System of Antioxidants

The different types of antioxidants can, for the most part, be grouped by color. For example, the antioxidants found in red tomatoes are identical to those found in red watermelon or pink grapefruit. Although the system is by no means perfect, organizing phytochemicals by color is an easy way to help you differentiate between the different types of antioxidants and learn how to get a variety of phytochemicals and antioxidants into your diet.

The red group, including tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon, contain lycopene, one of the most well-studied antioxidants in the fight against prostate cancer. Population-based studies that were conducted when prostate cancer was diagnosed at more advanced stages clearly demonstrated that increased blood levels of lycopene and increased intake of lycopene-containing foods were associated with a reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer. In recent years, as the population of prostate cancer patients has shifted to the identification of cancers at earlier stages, and as the population of patients has changed, some of these associations can no longer be demonstrated.

There are several short-term studies in which tomato paste or lycopene supplements were given to men prior to prostatectomy. Lycopene was identified in the prostate tissue after surgery and there were changes in prostate cells suggesting benefit. Multiple animal studies have also demonstrated the ability of lycopene to reduce tumor growth as well. It is also clear from multiple studies that the benefits of lycopene are more readily available when absorbed from cooked tomato products and juices than from whole tomatoes. In fact, more than 80% of the lycopene in the American diet comes from cooked tomato-based products such as pasta sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice, and ketchup.

Ultimately, studies focused on the ability of lycopene to prevent the initiation and progression of prostate cancer have not yet established definitively the benefits of increasing the intake of lycopene-containing foods or supplements. More research is needed to clarify the potential benefit of this nutritional component.

Importantly, some animal studies have shown minimal or no benefit to lycopene alone for slowing prostate cancer growth, while whole tomato extracts have been shown to slow tumor growth. Thus, the benefits to the red group are likely due to more than just lycopene, and simply taking a lycopene supplement will not confer the same benefit as eating whole fruits and vegetables. Again, this is a simple reminder that there are no shortcuts to a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The red/purple group, including pomegranates, grapes, plums, and assorted berries, all contain anthocyanins, which accounts for the color of the group. However, different berries in this group have unique properties. For example, pomegranates have ellagitannins, which inhibit inflammation and may have benefits for heart health, cancer prevention, and dementia, while cranberries have proanthocyanidins, which target a bacteria common in urinary tract infections. The full benefits of blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries are still being studied, but they all have antioxidant power and work together with the other red/purple berries.

The orange group, including carrots, mangoes, apricots, cantaloupes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, contain alpha and beta carotenes. Beta-carotene, the more well-studied of the two, is converted by the body into vitamin A, which is important for vision, and works together with the red, green, and yellow/green antioxidants. Note that carrots provide about half the alpha and beta carotene in the average American diet, with significant contributions from tomato-based products.

The orange/yellow group, including oranges, peaches, papaya, and nectarines, contain betacryptoxanthin, a minor carotenoid that accounts for only a minute amount of the daily intake of all carotenoids by the average American. About 87% of cryptoxanthin comes from orange juice, oranges, and tangerines. However, one must be cautious about relying on processed juices as some of the nutrients are removed during production and high amounts of sugars are often added.

The yellow/green group, including spinach, collard, yellow corn, green peas, avocado, and honeydew melon, contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids concentrate in the eye and contribute to eye health. Lower intakes have been associated with cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the primary preventable cause of blindness in America.

 

The green group, including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and kale, contain sulforaphane, isothiocyanates, and indoles. These compounds stimulate genes in the liver to produce enzymes that break down carcinogens, including those that are produced when overcooking and/or charbroiling meats.

The white/green group, including garlic, onions, asparagus, leeks, shallots, and chives, contain allyl sulfides, which activate an antioxidant response in cells.

Plant foods that don’t fit into the color system can also have unique benefits. For example, celery has salicylic acid, which is closely related to the active ingredient in aspirin and has been used for centuries to relieve headaches. Mushrooms are a complex group of plant foods with possible effects on the immune system at the level of the intestines.

Also, keep in mind that because the color of the fruit or vegetable is tied to its chemical properties, foods with deeper, richer colors are typically more nutritious. Compare, for example, a regular store-bought tomato with one bought from a local farm. To be able to ship a firm tomato by truck, the tomato is picked while it is still green and is rapidly ripened by being blasted with ethylene gas, a substance normally produced by the plant as a signal to ripen. While ripening, the family of lycopene compounds accumulates, especially in response to heat and light. However, once ripening stops, the accumulation of lycopene stops. Because the ripening process is stilted, the color of the typical store-bought tomato is often somewhat washed out. By contrast, the tomato that ripens naturally on the vine at the local farm is typically deeper in color and richer in taste and thus more nutritious.

Incorporating a variety of both colorful and colorless phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables can help to maximize intake of key chemical elements required to maintain healthy tissues and reduce the risk of disease.

How can this cause cancer? Well, if a tumor suppressor gene is abnormally turned off, or an oncogene is turned on, then cancer (carcinogenesis) can occur. One key is a chemical change to the DNA called methylation. First, we need to define the process to make it clearer. Abnormal methylation in cancer has been known for 20 years. Hypo-methylated areas turn on normally silent areas such as virally inserted genes or inactive X-linked genes. Hyper-methylated areas silence tumor suppresser genes.

We know that cancers have abnormal levels of methylation and we know foods can help prevent cancers. Is there a link between foods and epigenetics? Yes! The study of food nutrients and their effect on disease through epigenetics is known as nutrigenomics. Epidemiologic studies suggest there are bad foods and good foods. BAD: red meat, processed meat, grilled meat, dairy, animal fat, partially hydrogenated fats. Good: Fish, fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains. Foods with epigenetic effects include green tea, cruciferous vegetables, and grapes. Usually we hear about antioxidants and foods. Antioxidants are important but there are beneficial substances in foods called polyphenols which can affect genes. Of the polyphenols, different forms exist but flavonoids are the most highly cited for health benefits and are found in a variety of vegetables and fruits. Types of flavonoids include flavanols in tea, isothiocyanate in cruciferous vegetables, anthocyanidins in grapes and berries, flavonone in citrus fruits, flavonols in onions, isoflavones (genistein) in soy.

These findings demonstrate that a good diet is the most powerful weapon we have against disease and sickness…. In fact, dietary protein proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed… These findings show that heart disease, diabetes and obesity can be reversed by a healthy diet. Other research shows that various cancers, auto immune diseases, bone health, kidney health, vision and brain disorders in old age(like cognitive dysfunction and Alzheimer’s) are convincingly influenced by diet. The diet that has time and again been shown to reverse and/or prevent these disorders is a whole foods, plants-based diet. …We now have a deep and broad range of evidence showing that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the best to reverse and/or prevent these disorders…..The most promising preventions and treatments have now been shown to be diet and lifestyle changes, a constitutional approach to health. T. Colin Campbell The most impressive evidence favoring plant-based diets is the way that so many food factors and biological events are integrated to maximize health and minimize disease. Although the biological processes are exceptionally complex, these factors still work together as a beautifully choreographed, self-correcting network. It is exceptionally impressive, especially the coordination and control of this network. T. Colin Campbell  All tea contains polyphenols, but the highest levels are in green and white tea. Green tea has been well studied and appears to have anti-cancer benefits. In China, green tea drinkers are 50% less likely to develop gastric or esophageal cancer (Carcin 2002; 23 (9): 1497), and 2 cups daily added to topical tea extract reversed oral leukoplakia (J. Nutri Biochem 2001; 12 (7): 404).

Green tea has powerful antioxidant effects but it also helps to balance normal methylation in DNA. In fact, one study in esophageal cancer cells demonstrated that EGCG from green tea is able to turn on tumor suppressor genes that had been chemically silenced by methylation (Cancer Research 2003;63:7563).

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Bok choi and their anti-cancer effects have been demonstrated in epidemiologic studies. These powerful vegetables not only induce enzymes that break down carcinogens but they also inhibit DNA methylation allowing tumor suppressor genes to thrive. Inhibiting abnormal methylation also helps cruciferous vegetables to inhibit the cancer causing action of tobacco smoke by preventing the formation of nitrosamine-DNA adducts.

Grapes, which contain resveratrol, are excellent for heart health and they have anti-cancer activity. Grapes work by preventing the formation or initiation and promotion of cancers. They don’t have methylation actions as discussed above but they work by modulation histones.

Histones are the chief protein component of the DNA chain (chromatin). They act as spools for the DNA to wind around which then shortens the length of the DNA to 30,000 times shorter than an unwrapped strand. This process not only allows the long DNA chain to fit into a cell but also plays a role in gene expression because how the genes are wound affects which are exposed and available for turning on or off. Rolling the spool a different way would expose other genes and change their expression.

Histones are modified after translation by acetylation, methylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination. The changes occur at lysine residues (except for phosphorylation of serine or threonine). When the histone is acetylated the charge is changed and the histone loosens its grip on the DNA strand and the DNA unwinds, exposing the genes to be transcribed, or repaired.

When histone tails (H3,H4) are acetylated, genes are transcribed, when they are deacetylated, genes are turned off. Histone deacetylases work to maintain deacetylated sites.

Resveratrol, found in grapes, activates Sirtuins; SirT1 (Sir2 proteins). There are at least 7 Sir2-like proteins and they are histone deacetylators. Sirtuins are induced in animals during starvation states. They seem to have a life preservation effect. Interestingly, when an animal is starved, it can live longer. When the calorie intake of rodents was decreased by 40% in rodents, they actually lived 50% longer and appear to have fewer chronic diseases. The same benefit occurs when rodents when they are given resveratrol in their diet.

Resveratrol deacetylates histones causing tighter packing of the chromatin and a lower level of transcription of DNA. This silencing of the DNA is thought to be the mechanism of life prolongation, heart health, and its beneficial actions to prevent cancers. This is why grapes or red wine is beneficial to your health. How much red wine should you drink? No one knows for sure, but any beneficial effects might be negated after two glasses a day because of the alcohol. I wouldn’t advise drinking more than this until more is known. The data is very promising, but more research is needed.

The foods that we put into our bodies on a daily basis, whether it is fast food, raw foods or organic foods, have an effect on us. For instance, did you know there are foods that prevent cancer? You read right, these same foods can also help prevent other chronic diseases as well. In this article we will explore 3 green giants in the food world that can help prevent disease.

1 – Broccoli

The first green giant of foods that prevent cancer is broccoli. According to an article by J. Cohen published by the National Cancer Institute in 1992, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University announced the discovery of a compound found in broccoli that prevented the further development of tumors by 60% in participants as well as reduced the size of existing tumors by 75%. Broccoli also contains Vitamin C, Fiber, Calcium, Vitamin K, Beta-Carotene and much more, it is also a great source of iron for those that do not eat meat.

Broccoli also contains sulforaphane which scientific studies have shown to be effective against a specific bacterium that is a common cause of gastric ulcers and gastric cancer. Smokers under the age of 65 are encouraged to indulge in a cup of broccoli a day as studies have shown it to help battle colon cancer cells as well.

2 – Spinach

The second green giant of foods that prevent cancer is spinach. Spinach is a powerful food. It contains Vitamins C and E, Beta-Carotene, B vitamins, Calcium, iron and many more natural minerals and nutrients.

Spinach has been shown to help protect the eyes from age-related degeneration. Spinach, as well as other green vegetables, is high in potassium and low in sodium. Along with the mixture of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and other minerals, spinach is great for lowering your blood pressure.

3 – Wheatgrass

The second green giant and perhaps most powerful of foods that prevent cancer is wheatgrass. Wheat Grass is one of the most beneficial complete foods there is. It is very high in chlorophyll and provides natural detoxification. The chlorophyll found in a liquid ounce of wheat grass and other leafy greens not only cleanses and builds blood, but research now shows that it may also assist in offsetting the adverse effects of radiation. Wheatgrass is one molecule away from hemoglobin in the human blood so it is the closet we can come to a blood transfusion without actually getting a blood transfusion. Now that is a powerful food!

Wheatgrass is high in oxygen like all green plants as it contains chlorophyll. The brain and other tissue in the body function at an optimal level in a highly-oxygenated environment. Science has proven that chlorophyll stops growth and development of unfriendly bacteria and can assist in increasing low red cell count. It is so nutritionally condensed that 15 pounds of Wheat Grass is the equivalent of 350 pounds of carrot, lettuce, celery, and other juices.

The above 3 types of food are just a few of the green giants in foods that prevent cancer and there are many others. Remember, the foods — good and bad – that we put into our bodies affect us. Make the right choice.

There are many contributing factors in the causes of cancer such as diet, lifestyle, stress, toxicity and more. Eating good amounts of the above is a great way to improve your overall health and immune system, but it is important that you look into the other factors as well.

The National Cancer Society has estimated that nearly one in three cancer deaths are actually diet related. Those are astonishing statistics considering that means we may actually be able to prevent cancer with our diet choices, or cause it.

Research has shown that certain foods actually contribute to the growth of cancer while others help to lessen the risk. The dietary choices we make today affect us for the rest of our lives.