27 February 2017

Toxic-packaging-in-fast-food-points-to-an-even-bigger-concern

Most of us have the sense that fast food is not the best for us. But did you know that what is in the wrapping around fast food maybe even more dangerous? Kidney disease, cancers, hormone problems, high cholesterol, obesity and immune suppression are all implicated, but worse, the chemicals involved are widely used.

So this week, details of our new website plus what you need to know about PFCs and PFASs to avoid serious risks, but first


         Thought for the day

Every acute symptom you experience is a protest;
Your body demanding some change be made.

Commonly, these symptoms are regarded 
As enemies to be suppressed.

However, symptoms can be regarded as allies
That are pointing to positive change.

Respect your body’s protest
And couple it with its innate ability to heal itself.

Greg Fitzgerald, Naturopath and Chiropractor


PFCs - What are they and what is the problem? 

Perfluorinated Compounds or PFCs are a group of man-made fluorinated chemicals produced commercially since the 1950s. They are also referred to as PFASs which stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances.

PFCs are highly persistent synthetic chemicals, some of which have been associated with cancer, developmental toxicity, immunotoxicity, kidney disease and other health effects.

PFCs first came to prominence with one of them, PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) being the key ingredient in Scotchgard, the fabric protector made by 3M. Then PFOS and numerous other PFCs were developed for a wide variety of stain and water repellant products used in clothing, carpets and car interiors, as well as non-stick cookware, cooking products like grease-proof paper, and fire-fighting foams.

Two PFCs - PFOS and PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic Acid) have been shown to be particularly toxic and very persistent, posing a global contamination problem. They are classified as long term, persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in animal and human bodies. To quote a 2016 assessment of risk :

Based on the persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity in mammals including humans and widespread occurrence in environmental compartments, it is concluded that PFOA, its salts and related compounds are likely, as a result of their long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects such that global action is warranted.” (Reference below)

How do we become exposed to PFCs or PFASs? 
From direct contact with any of the products containing it, through the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. PFASs in grease-resistant food packaging can leach into food and increase dietary exposure.

What did this US study reveal?
In the USA, one-third of fast food packaging contains PFASs.

“Our study is the most comprehensive assessment of how common fluorinated chemicals are in fast food wrappers in the U.S., and which types of wrappers are most likely to contain them,” said lead study author Laurel Schaider of the Silent Spring Institute.

“We found that nearly half of paper wrappers, for instance wrappers for sandwiches and burgers and flat bags for cookies and pastries, contained fluorinated chemicals, and that around 20% of paperboard packaging, for instance boxes for French fries and fried foods, contained fluorinated chemicals.”


                                              Not sure what is in your wrapper? Your cup? You need to ask...

Tests of 30 samples from paper cups did not turn up any of these chemicals. But in tests of 25 other beverage containers, 16% did have PFASs.

Researchers also did more extensive testing on a subset of 20 samples to see what types of PFASs were in the food packaging. Six of these samples contained a type of PFASs called PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8) that many U.S. manufacturers voluntarily stopped using in 2011 due to concerns about the potential health risks.

The research revealed that even chemicals supposed to be in the process of being phased out due to health concerns are still widely used said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, environmental medicine researcher at New York University School of Medicine.

What is happening in Australia?
There is a growing level of deep concern about PFCs in general. It is highly recommended to read the linked paper below from which is quoted :

“Australian citizens have both PFOS and PFOA in their blood, urine and breast milk. Recent research suggests that PFOS concentrations at current population levels may already be causing adverse health impacts, in particular thyroid disease, endocrine impacts in women and immunotoxicity.

As PFOS and PFOA do not break down, are passed from one generation to the next via breast milk and in utero, and have in some cases demonstrated changes in gene expression at very low levels, it is possible that like lead and mercury, there may be no safe level of exposure to PFOS and /or PFOA.”



It seems there have been no specific studies done on the usage of PFCs in the Australian fast food industry, but we need to be alert to their use across the community and the ongoing serious pollution resulting from widespread use of these chemicals in fire retardants.



What to do?
Obviously, avoiding fast food eliminates the particular problem we have focused upon here.

When wrapping food, always use old fashioned baking paper or parchment instead of grease-resistant wrappers typically used in food packaging that these days may contain nasty chemicals. Even old fashioned grease proof paper is not ideal as it is commonly coated in paraffin that is petroleum based and not good to have in contact with food. Baking paper or parchment is simply paper that has been processed to make it dense and resistant to moisture etc, so it is OK.

Xindi Hu, an environmental health researcher at Harvard School of Public Health says that whenever possible, avoid disposable packaging altogether. Again, there are obvious environmental benefits to this, but your health could thank you as well.

Then there is the need to avoid carpet, clothing and cookware that contain these chemicals. Be very thorough in your investigations before purchase!

REFERENCES 
1. Shalder LA et al, Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging
 Environmental Science and Technology Letters, online February 1, 2017.

2. The Persistence and Toxicity of Perfluorinated Compounds in Australia – National Toxics Network



NEW WEBSITE
Please do check this out…


Many thanks to my new PA Joanna and the team who worked on this project.

Collectively we hope it makes access to our material easier and that sections like the Recommendations are really helpful.

Speaking personally, I enjoy having a health related website that is not laden with waivers or cautions but goes directly to Recommendations. Maybe you will find something useful amidst the advice on meditation, nutrition, healing or wellness??? Go to the website...

Comments welcome below…, and if you do happen to find a typo, please let us know


COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation

March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.








April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond
For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness? It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.


21 February 2017

Which-generation-has-the-most-stress?-And-4-practical-solutions

How do the different generations compare when it comes to coping with stress?

Are modern technologies making life easier or tougher?


This week we examine why it is that Gen Y, or as they are also known, the Millenials, are suffering from more stress than any other generation; and we hear from a Gen Y friend and 4 things that have turned her life for the better, but first




   Thought for the day

     When the character of a man 
     Is not clear to you, 
     Look at his friends. 

            Japanese Proverb






Sadly, it does seem to be that of all the generations, it is the young who report experiencing the most stress the least relief and the least capacity to manage it well.

The Department of Health claims the prevalence of mental-health issues such as depression and anxiety may be up to three times higher among young Australians than across the community as a whole.

According to the American Psychological Association, it is the Millennials, or Gen Y (ages 18 to 33) and Gen X (ages 34 to 47) who report the highest average stress levels. However, Boomers (48 to 66) and Matures (67 years and older) join them in reporting levels that are higher than they consider healthy.

Both Millennials and Gen X report an average stress level of 5.4 on a 10-point scale where 1 is “little or no stress” and 10 is “a great deal of stress,” far higher than Boomers’ average stress level of 4.7 and Matures’ average stress level of 3.7.

Of course, people recognize some stress is healthy, or at least OK. However, the gap between what feels OK and what is being experienced is again higher in younger generations; lowest in the oldies. The difference between Matures’ stress levels and their perception of healthy stress is 0.7 points, compared with 1.3 for Boomers, 1.4 for Millennials, 1.6 for Gen X.

Also, 39% of Millennials say their stress has increased in the last year, compared to 36% of Gen X, 33% of Boomers and 29% of Matures.

What is happening for Gen Y?
On the one hand there are so many opportunities for younger people, yet according to recent Australian surveys, they are feeling higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.

They identify with pressures not of their making and "largely beyond their control".

Financially they feel they are going backwards; owning a home seems a more and more remote possibility.

Home ownership in this age group has fallen 25% since the early 1980s, more than half are renting and many stay in their parent’s homes.

Security at work feels more tenuous for Gen Y, and while 50% are in the casual workforce, 20% are unemployed.

Now, Gen Y is known for its increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. Is this usage linked to heightened levels of busyness, stimulation, distraction, loss of concentration? And what can be done about it?

Four practical solutions
“This is amazing! This stuff really works”

I was talking with a Gen Y friend just recently who has known me and my work for many years. Early 30s, difficult time getting a job, well established now, recently promoted, stressed out. Finally, out of desperation and after ignoring such things assiduously to date, she joined in a mindfulness program offered within her workplace.

“Life suddenly seems clearer and easier”.

So what makes the difference? Here are 4 things my friend tells me she has noticed; 4 things that have flowed on from just a few months of her new mindfulness and meditation practice.

1. Attention
“ My ability to focus and pay attention to a given task has skyrocketed. I used to be easily distracted with what was going on in the office, with checking my phone and social media, and with the thoughts and feelings in my head. Now I can keep my mind on the job much better.

Science backs this. Research from Harvard has shown that meditation leads to changes in brain regions involving learning and memory and improves our ability to sustain attention.

2. Discipline
“I used to have good intentions at work and then be easily distracted. Now I find I can put my mind to something and stick with it. It actually makes the day easier”.

A daily meditation practice can increase self-discipline and sharpen focus at work. More research, this time from the University of Sheffield, shows that mindfulness does in fact encourage persistence at given tasks

3. Productivity
“I am naturally a bit shy and used to prefer working in isolation. This was not always ideal. What I have noticed recently is that I am more open, actually more interested in collaboration. My feeling is that this is more productive – and I am coming to enjoy it”.

Mindfulness meditation practice has been shown to lead to a state of “effortless action”.

This is associated with higher levels of concentrated productivity that are related to understanding and establishing goals, prioritizing tasks, overcoming challenges and more effective time management.

4. Self Esteem
“I used to be racked with doubt. This is weird. Now I just seem more accepting of myself and others. There has been no conscious effort in this. Really it is a bit strange. I used to analyse everything, but now, it seems that just through sitting quietly most days, things have become better. People seem nicer to be with somehow”.

Research has shown that meditation promotes acceptance and helps us let go of negative self-talk and reduce procrastination. Meditation leads naturally to being more actively engaged in present feelings, thoughts and behavior in a nonjudgmental but focused way.

Conclusion
It is remarkable. Making time each day for a few minutes of quiet, of stillness, of no stimulation; this may well be the most productive thing a busy person can do.

COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation


March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.








April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond
For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness? It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.


13 February 2017

Meditation-Teacher-Training-with-Ruth-and-Ian-Gawler

Meditation is the greatest gift you can give to your self or to someone else. Learning to teach meditation accomplishes both things. There is no better way to learn something than to teach it; and to teach meditation you need to understand it well and to practise regularly.

So this week, a call for you to consider training as a meditation teacher, or to pass this information on and encourage a colleague, friend or family member to take it up.

In this dynamic world we live in, where so much is changing, where there is so much uncertainty and fear; there has never been a more urgent time for more people to take up meditation. One suspects that if a significant percentage of the population meditated regularly, the world would be a far more liveable, sane, happy and meaningful place.

What then happens during our meditation teacher training programs? This week, we get to find out, but first




             Thought for the day

A hundred times every day 
I remind myself that my inner and outer life 
Depend on the labors of other men, 
Living and dead, 
And that I must exert myself 
In order to give in the same measure 
As I have received. 

                            Albert Einstein





Ruth and I love teaching others to teach meditation.

People who aspire to teach meditation are such a fine bunch. They may be health professionals – doctors, psychologists, counselors, natural therapists etc; they may be teachers or leaders in their corporate workplaces, they may be meditators who have felt the benefits of their own practice and are inspired to pass on those benefits.

When they come together to learn, these people create an incredible atmosphere.

We really enjoy their passion. In our view, meditation is the best of all self-help techniques, because as we know, the mind decides how we think, how we react, what we do. Meditation helps us to get to know our own mind – how it does work, what it is capable of. And our aspiring teachers are committed to helping others receive the benefits of a calm and clear mind.


Our training then, consists of a 5 day residential program. 

It is conducted amidst the natural beauty and comfort of the Yarra Valley Living Centre, and is presented as part of a complete training package.

The Gawler Foundation has been teaching meditation teachers since I first started doing this in 1988.

These days The Foundation presents two 5 day modules.

One is presented by our colleagues and friends Paul and Maia Bedson (Remember Paul is the co-author of Meditation – An In-depth Guide). The Bedson’s module focuses on preparing to teach an 8 week Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation course.

The module Ruth and I present prepares the teachers to teach two 4 week courses; one on Contemplation, the other Guided Imagery. This includes theoretical and research aspects of how the mind functions and how this knowledge leads into understanding and utilizing the benefits of affirmations and imagery.

The program itself is highly experiential. While there is a good theoretical background that we study, during the training there are also many sessions where we break into small groups for supervised practice in leading meditation sessions.

There is also good time devoted for questions, answers and discussion.

There are very thorough manuals all participants receive that give explicit detail on how to present the material.


It may be worthwhile to point out that as yet, not so much is taught these days on Contemplation or Guided Imagery, despite both being profoundly helpful. Many people report how these techniques have transformed their lives for the better, and my sense is that with more and more people taking up and benefiting from basic mindfulness practices, there will soon be a big wave of people having the sense there is more on offer and enquiring as to what comes next.

Also, perhaps not surprisingly, most people who attend these trainings report how beneficial they are for their own practice. There is a deepening of their understanding and of their experience.

Membership 
Completing both modules will meet the training requirements for Provisional membership of the peak professional body for meditation teachers, The Meditation Association of Australia (MAA) - see their website for current details. Other Meditation Retreats facilitated at the Yarra Valley Living Centre could contribute to these registration requirements.

So, is this something for you? 
A new vocation perhaps? Something extra you can add to what you are already doing???

Is there someone you know how may be interested? If so, please do share your enthusiasm. Speaking personally, it is wonderful to teach anyone to meditate, but when we help another person to take up being a teacher, we know there will be a big flow on effect.

What better time than now?

For details, click here
or phone the Gawler Foundation directly on +61 3 5967 1730.

NEXT MEDITATION RETREAT

April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest - MEDITATION and CONTEMPLATION

This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. 

NEXT CANCER RESIDENTIAL PROGRAM

April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond

For many people these days, living with cancer is an ongoing reality. So how to do that? How to live fully and well in the potential shadow of a major illness? It seems to me to be virtually essential to regularly take time out, to stand back, to re-assess, to keep on track, to get back on track when necessary, to clarify the confusion that is so easy to get into with all that is in the Press and on the net, and to perhaps most importantly, to be re-inspired and re- enthused for the journey ahead.

06 February 2017

Contemplation at your leisure

From time to time I come across a quote that plunges me into deep contemplation. Something juicy where even on the surface the words cause one to puzzle – what is the immediate meaning?

But then, the words do not fall away; they linger. And deeper meaning emerges.
Sometimes, just sometimes, personal change follows.

So this week, words that came to me recently that are still resonating, but first

Thought for the day

Tomorrow is a new day; 
Let today go so you can begin tomorrow well and serenely, 
With too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. 

Each new day is too dear, 
With its hopes and invitations, 
To waste a moment on yesterdays.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

Leisure?
Does this refer to how many holidays we have? Is it to do with how many hours in the week we work? Is it to do with how fully we cram our day with every little thing??? How spaciously we approach the day? Our work, our friends, our family, our closest relationships?

Most people I meet these days tell me how busy they are.
For some, a significant some, there is the sense that
the busyness is necessary to cover the gaps.

When we finish one thing, and before we begin another;
there is a gap.

In the gap, there is a silence.

And there is us.


For those uncomfortable with, or unused to their selves; that gap, that brief moment with self,
can be tough. So, maybe it is easier, more expedient, just to keep busy. No leisure. No gaps.
No problem… Or so it may seem.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

Success?
What sort of success are we talking of here? Maybe more holidays, less working hours, more actual free time is being pointed to. Makes sense on the surface.

But if life gains meaning by being helpful, by being of service to others; just how much free time need there be? Now that is worth contemplating.

Then again, there is this question of spaciousness.

Back home in the last few days from attending the annual summer retreat with Sogyal Rinpoche – who shared these words and profound teachings on Open Awareness – there has been plenty of grass to mow and slash on our little farm.

This has the potential to be a very meditative activity, or a real bind – something that has to be done amidst all the busyness.

There is often a lot to catch up on when back from retreat.

So a wonderful opportunity to be aware.

Aware of the state of mind of the mower.

To be frank, these few words, and the deep contemplation they are prompting, has resulted in a more spacious, leisurely mower/slasher.

A sign of success is when you have more leisure.

And the job got done…

Happy contemplation!


COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

Both the meditation teacher training, and our next meditation retreat feature contemplation


March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.








April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest


This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.

24 January 2017

Meditation,-the-'vacation-effect',-cellular-health-and-wellbeing

Club Med or a meditation retreat? Which is better for your health? If you are interested in your health and wellbeing, is it worth “sacrificing” holiday time for a retreat, or are you better advised to simply head to the beach?

You may think this to be a silly question. However, the “vacation effect” is well known. There are measurable positive health changes that flow from a simple holiday; while intuitively we expect a meditation retreat will do us good.

So this week we go Out on a Limb once more and examine new research. What happens when meditators and non-meditators head for a residential holiday or retreat? Who comes home healthier, and who is healthier months later? But first

Thought for the day

There is a difference 
Between interest and commitment. 

When you are interested in doing something, 
You do it only when circumstances permit. 

When you are committed to something, 
You accept no excuses, only results.

Art Turock



Modern researchers are beginning to look at some really cool things. What happens physiologically when we go on a meditation retreat compared to just having a holiday?



Most of us who work hard – either formally or at raising a family - will have been on a good holiday, felt a release of pressure; maybe even something of a relief.

We might have regained some balance for a bit, but then the holiday ended and we went back to life as usual with the same old coping skills we had before the holiday began.

We feel a bit better, but has anything changed?


Many who read this post will have been on a meditation retreat. Same release of pressure; same relief. But maybe more. A deeper level of relaxation. Relaxation of body and mind. Maybe some new learning, some new insights, some new techniques we can take back to our ongoing life. We feel a bit better, but maybe something has changed?

In a highly controlled and randomised residential study, regular meditators, new meditators and non-meditators spent 6 days in the same retreat environment. Blood tests examined interesting things like telomerase activity, Aβ peptide levels and tumour necrosis factor alpha.



Everyone benefited from a significant ‘vacation effect’ - highly significant epigenetic changes as well as a reduction of stress-related responses and immune function related to acute-phase wound healing and decreased inflammation.

Remember, meta-inflammation is a major driver for all the chronic degenerative diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer’s and MS (see the link below).




The study also identified an additional ‘meditation effect’ in those who had practiced meditation before their retreat.

The regular meditator group, showed additional epigenetic changes associated with cellular functions that relate to healthy ageing, and this was associated with increased expression of a number of telomere maintenance pathway genes and an increase in measured telomerase enzymatic activity.

Remember too, telomerase protects and repairs our telomeres; the shortening of which is directly related to the rate of our aging.

Changes in wellbeing were assessed after the retreat/holiday, as well as 1 and 10 months later. All groups showed equivalently large immediate post-intervention improvements in wellbeing, but interestingly, novice meditators showed greater maintenance of lower distress over time compared with those in the vacation arm.


The researchers concluded that this study provides a strong distinction between beneficial effects of short-term relaxation typical of a vacation versus acute intensive meditation for regular meditators.


Also, they pointed out that for those already trained in the practice of meditation, a retreat does in fact appear to provide additional benefits to cellular health beyond the vacation effect.


So there you have it. The meditation retreat was a clear winner! Maybe armed with this evidence it will be easier to approach the boss for time off to attend a future meditation retreat – there are well proven advantages.

MAIN REFERENCE
Epel ES et al. Meditation and vacation effects have an impact on disease-associated molecular phenotypes. Translational Psychiatry (2016) 6, e880.  LINK HERE

RELATED BLOG
A New Way of Living


COMING PROGRAMS - Retreats and Trainings

March 27th -31st     Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2
Ruth and I train people aspiring to be meditation teachers, or who already are and are seeking to extend their skills. This program is allied to Module 1, presented by Paul and Maia Bedson who teach on Mindfulness Based Stillness Meditation. We teach Contemplation and Guided Imagery.








April 7 – 13th     Meditation in the Forest
This is our annual Pre-Easter 7 day retreat at the Yarra Valley Living Centre. Each year we learn a little more about relaxation, mindfulness and meditation, and we practice together. Then each year there is a specific theme; this year it is contemplation. There is not so much written on contemplation, and very few retreats on this specific topic, yet in my experience it is one of the most useful and profound elements to add to our practice. Ruth and I love presenting this retreat, and we love observing the benefits it brings to those who attend.