fire in the blood.

Make Wealth History

This week has seen some excitement over the possibility of the first case of someone being ‘cured’ of HIV, generating a lot of hope and expectation for future treatments. This week has also seen a little attention on the story of HIV drugs in Africa, which is a much darker story. It’s been told for the first time in a new documentary, Fire in the Blood, which is currently screening in Britain.

It’s the work of Indian-Irish historian and filmmaker Dylan Mohan Gray, and it tells the story of how the pharmaceutical companies blocked the sale of cheap anti-retroviral drugs in Africa. It protected their profits, but caused an estimated 10 million unnecessary deaths. That’s a crazy number of deaths that could have been avoided. You would need to add the Holocaust and Stalin’s gulags together to match it. It’s little wonder Gray refers to it as ‘the…

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One Moment At A Time – What Is MBSR And Who Is Jon Kabat-Zinn?

Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and Jon Kabat-Zinn(1) (2)

In search of mindfulness I have been following the progress of mindfulness teaching locally and have been pleasantly surprised recently with the numbers of classes advertised.

A couple of weeks ago I saw one that was titled ‘Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction’ and was intrigued.

Another article in January/February Scientific American Mind 2013 related to mindfulness; it is titled ‘Focus on Your-self to Alleviate Social Pain’. The article discusses the benefits of mindfulness for pain, stress, anxiety and depression, but also how a new study recently that has shown it reduces feelings of loneliness or social isolation. Mindfulness was also shown to reduce inflammation and the risk of heart attacks.

So where did all this research start and why is there so much interest in mindfulness for health?

Taking to you-tube (as you do) I came across this one titled ‘The Healing Power of Mindfulness’.(1)

It has sparked my interest in Jon Kabat-Zinn who talks about his life and how at college he was one of 5 students who went to see a monk lecture on this topic. During the lecture he describes how he had one of those ‘Ah-ha!’ moments as he realised that what he had just been taught to do should be something that everyone gets to learn in kindergarten.

‘Being in the moment’ sounds like something we all could benefit from, but how many of us are actually present without our mobile phone, computer, television or radio?

I am sitting here with the computer and a phone so I am clearly not a shining example of being present within myself just right now.

When do we ever switch off?

Something else I am interested in is the research into ‘neuroplasticity’.  Jon Kabat-Zinn studied molecular biology in 1971 at MIT.

In the film he talks about how studies have now gone on to show that not only is the mind plastic but so are genes, and he describes how the corrosive acid of stress wears down our DNA causing problems within the body. Mindfulness meditation research is showing that this can be stopped and reversed.

He has been teaching and studying the effects of mindfulness since 1979 and is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Although watching you-tube isn’t always a mindfulness practice, I was really relaxed and centered when I had finished watching, and participating at one point(audience participation!), spending time with this innovative out of the box thinker talking about his life’s work with mindfulness.

I hope you feel that you can take the time to watch him as well, and perhaps take away some of his mindful thoughts and experiences on the benefits of being present in the mind and body.

You come from nothing, you go back to nothing, it’s what you do in between that matters. Don’t you want to always be present?

(For people in the area there are some good classes advertised at the Treehouse if you are looking for a teacher http://www.treehousewales.co.uk/ )

1)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I

2)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Kabat-Zinn

‘It’s character building’ – Epilepsy and Karate part 2

I read an article written by one Sensei analysing how she felt following a car accident where she injured her back quite badly and found her-self lying in hospital thinking ‘none of this is as bad as a training session with our Sensei’.

Under the firm conviction that ‘it’s a man’s world a girl’s got to be able to look after herself’ I put aside my reservations about Karate and joint care to have a go as an adult.

As a child I struggled to hit people with conviction. Not being the slightest bit athletic I was happier doing kata as it meant remembering patterns or dancing around as I saw it (all wannabe ballerina’s do!). I only learnt 3 kata because I didn’t stay long enough to learn any more.

As an adult, thankfully, like ‘Cat- woman’ in the latest Batman film ‘The Dark Night Rises’; I don’t feel quite so strongly about not hitting people. Preferring the approach of ‘varying degrees of massage’ I did feel strongly that it is important to be able to defend myself.

I went to see the film ‘Lawless’ last night (based on a true story) (1). The story of 3 brothers, the youngest of whom is Jack Bondurant (played by Shia Lebouf) who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

The film is interesting from the point of view that we see the events that change Jack.

How violence and injustice cause people to behave and the outcome at the end make for a gripping movie. What is more interesting is that the final straw is not violence inflicted on Jack, but against those he loves that is the emotional turning point.

The film is a study of fear and survival at a time of great hardship.

Physical and psychological attack is something that happens in life. No-one wants a big sign over their head saying ‘kick me’.

Sickness and disability in particular make people vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and abuse.

The way sick and disabled people are viewed in Britain currently is a whole new Dickensian novel. (2)

The Paralympics have just been hosted In Britain and while this has brought much discussion and debate in our country about ability in the context of disability; society has a long way to go before everyone is treated as equal. (3)

My own personal ‘fight back’ campaign began with Karate as a child and somehow stayed in my head as a ‘Nemesis’.

If I could draw a line pinpointing where it all started to go pear-shaped at 12 years old after falling down the stairs from having a seizure then Karate was the defining event.

Ultimately to beat epilepsy it felt like I had to do karate.

If I were a computer it would be like going in and re-writing the programming. Who doesnt need a copy of ‘Toumb Raider’ amongst the microsoft office software?

Is this going towards the ‘Dark side’ or facing up to my own demons?

Personally to me it felt like I was addressing something within myself.

I wake up every day and look at myself in the mirror. I see my best friend and my worst enemy. That is before I even have to deal with anybody else.

When I first started training I was very ill. I purchased a t-shirt with a superman ‘S’ on the front. It was like I needed to create my own personal alter ego to make me superhuman and to protect me.

Nearly 5 years down the line I can honestly say that karate training has helped me keep a job (despite discrimination), keep my home and given me the help I need without having to resort to violence.

I think that everybody can find their inner ‘grit’. For me I just needed to find the people who could show me the way.

There is no such thing as superheros who can protect us.

If we are lucky we have friends who care enought to look out for us.

It would be nice to think that there is someone out there that would fight for you when your screaming but no-one can hear you.

1)      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lawless_(film)

2)      http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/press-release-former-paralympian-joins-activists-to-target-atos#.UDaRnwwg0j0.facebook

1)      http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/2012/aug/23/paralympians-state-help-disabled-benefits-cut