17 April 2017

Resolving-problems -The-meditator’s-way

How does it work with problems?

Meditative techniques – mindfulness, contemplation, imagery, and stillness are all known to improve brain function, creativity, resilience, health and wellbeing. They enable us to overcome stress, manage big workloads and sleep well.

But it is not too hard to get stuck with our problems. Obsessive thinking, difficult emotions and poor decision-making can all lead to deep dissatisfaction.

Want to try something new? 
This week, fresh from contemplating all this amidst the recent Meditation Teacher Training and Meditation retreat that both included contemplation on problems; something you may find really practical and useful. Also news of our Winter meditation retreats, but first

            Thought for the day

    Spread love everywhere you go;
    First of all in your own house. 
    Give love to your children, 
    To your wife or husband, 
    To a next door neighbor...

    Let no one ever come to you 
    Without leaving better and happier. 

    Be the living expression of God's kindness; 
    Kindness in your face, 
    Kindness in your eyes, 
    Kindness in your smile, 
    Kindness in your warm greeting. 

                                                Mother Theresa

Contemplating problems
The aim is to become aware of how we process “problems” in our mind, and then regulate where we turn our attention. Here is how it works.

First, we become aware of 5 elements or components of the problem…

1. The Story
When we have a “problem”, it starts when we bring to mind a story.

We think “He did this awful thing”… “That terrible event took place”… “What is going to happen with the finances?”

The story is like the basic detail of what happened, what is happening, what might happen.

2. The Commentary
Almost immediately we think of the problem, the story, we tend to slip into commentary, the way we think about the story.

The commentary is commonly loaded with judgment and habitual thinking.

“That was such a bad thing that I did…”. “If only he had not done that, I would be different, my life would be different”.

If a problem is long standing, then we tend to run the same commentary, the same thoughts about it over and over. These thoughts tend to be circular in that they rarely lead to any clear resolution. So the sense of “problem” persists and each time we think of the same person or event, it triggers the same commentary.

3. The Emotion 
It is the commentary that then elicits the emotion.

“I hate that awful thing that he did. It makes me so angry. “What happened makes me feel so sad.” “Thinking about the finances makes me so scared.”

Often these emotions can become habitual. Sometimes they even become what we call “racket” emotions; emotions we get into the habit of running in many situations other than the one that first set them in motion.

Some move so quickly from the story to the emotion, that the commentary is immediately obvious. Sometimes it may feel as if the emotion is pure reflex.

4. Secondary commentary

This is when we make judgement on our own emotions.
“I know I should not be angry, but what he did makes me feel so cross. There must be something wrong with me that I feel this way and cannot control it.”

5. Secondary emotion 
Now we experience another layer of emotion, usually quite a self-destructive one that is based on the secondary commentary about the primary emotion we felt in response to the story and its commentary.
“Now I feel so guilty, so ashamed.” “Now I want to blame someone else for all that made me feel so bad.”

Finding a solution to the problem 
The chance of choosing a wise solution is slim if we are running a strong commentary or are affected by strong emotions.

1. Become aware what problems you focus on habitually
Some problems are simple. Thirsty? Glass of water. No problem. But some problems become like skin itches. We go back to them, scratch, pick at them over and over, and nothing much changes. Notice what problems you dwell on.

2. Become aware of the elements of your problem
i) Review the story 
Be as objective as possible. Contemplate the basic facts of the matter - what happened, who did what, what events unfolded.

ii) Notice the commentary
Tease out what seem to be the facts as you know them, and what are the secondary thoughts you have about those facts. You might notice how the commentary is judgemental and habitual and circular.

iii) Feel into any emotion
Maybe you have shut the emotion down. Maybe the emotion is really strong. Aim to allow yourself to feel what is going on with the emotional response to your problem. Notice too if you are running a secondary commentary with secondary emotions.

iv) Notice whether or not you get to a solution
Some  commentaries and emotions are so habitual, it is like being stuck in soft sand; no matter how hard you try, no progress is made. Some people attempt to fly right over the commentary and emotion and head straight for the solution. Notice what you are doing.

v) Make new choices
Curiously, many find once they do become aware of the story, the commentary, the emotions, the prospect of a solution and where in all this they may be stuck, that there comes a new sense of understanding and freedom.

Stuck with being solution orientated come what may? Maybe time to feel the emotion a little more.

Stuck emotionally? Maybe time to notice the commentary and how it affects you.

Stuck in the commentary, the thinking?
Maybe time to step back a little; develop more mindfulness along with the capacity to contemplate and thing things through more effectively.

This more meditative, contemplative way of looking at problems has recently emerged for the Meditation teacher training and meditation/ contemplation retreats Ruth and I have presented recently; along with me writing a new work on contemplation. It is a work in progress.

So feedback will be really useful. What do you make of all this? If you do try this approach, how useful do you find it?

Those who were at the recent programs where we discussed and developed this, please be encouraged to share your experiences with me as the plan is to write more widely about it. It seems to have been very helpful so far…

Could be added to the Comment section below on the blog, or maybe better send to info@insighthealth.com.au.

I will reply to all comments and any questions; many thanks!


June 5 – 9th Deepening Your Meditation

Our only 5 day meditation retreat, this program is all about taking time out, entering into a meditative environment and being supported to deepen your experience. Then, with this deeper experience, being able to take it with you so that your ongoing practice is more rewarding, more beneficial, more enjoyable.

July 1 -7th Mindfulness and Meditation in Daily Life

We have had many requests to present a meditation retreat in Queensland, so this is it. We are fortunate to be able to use the facilities of the Chenrezig Institute – a purpose built Retreat Centre in the hills back of the Sunshine Coast. Our retreat will focus on integrating mindfulness and meditation into daily life. I know when I first started, meditation was something I did for a few minutes (or hours) every day; but at first, I then went back to my day as if nothing much had happened.

The real benefit of these practices is in how they inform our daily life, so this retreat will be very practical. We will practice mindfulness and meditation together formally, and then use the rest of our time to bring the qualities of the practice into our daily experience – in a way that we can take them home and maintain them. My sense is that for many this could well be life changing.

October 9 – 13th Meditation Teacher Training – Module 2

This is a repeat of the earlier program. These training have been booking out, and like all our retreats, it is wise to register early.

03 April 2017


Like your fruit? Well, fruit sugars are getting really bad press in some circles. Many are confused. Some health practitioners advise their clients to avoid fruit, even carbohydrates, because they are of the opinion they act just like ordinary sugar and have all the same bad health consequences.

So what is the fact of the matter? This week we find out what science has to say and how it relates to the recommendations I have been making for decades, but first

         Thought for the day

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, 
    But most of them pick themselves up 
    And hurry off as if nothing ever happened.

                      Winston Churchill

What happens if we were to drink a white sugar based drink like Lemonade or Coke? (a can of either can have around 7 teaspoons of sugar in it!!!). Fact is we know we would get a big spike in blood sugar within the first hour; what we call hyper-glycaemia. This in turn would cause an immediate insulin release; a big one.

Insulin’s job, amongst other things is to regulate blood sugar, so quite quickly it does flatten that blood sugar spike. However, and here is the nub of the problem, whereas blood sugar is metabolized fast, insulin is long acting. So what happens after a sugar hit is as the insulin continues to drop our blood sugar levels, there is no new sugar being ingested, so blood sugar levels continue to drop, soon going below normal and we end up with what we call hypo-glycaemia.

But it does not stop there. Because our blood sugar levels are now below normal, the body thinks we are starving and releases first glycogen and later when the glycogen is used up, fat into our system. To be more explicit, good research now suggests excess sugar promotes the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type 2 diabetes (T2DM) both directly and indirectly. The direct pathway involves the unregulated hepatic uptake and metabolism of fructose, leading to liver lipid accumulation, dyslipidemia, decreased insulin sensitivity and increased uric acid levels.

These facts are why the fructose in ordinary sugar and high fructose corn syrup has been compared to alcohol in its potential for harm.

So what then about the source of natural fructose, fruit?

Recent research has supplied the answer, and the rationale. While this is the type of confusion we aim to clarify for people coming to our cancer residential programs (next one is coming soon - April 24-28), it is good to set it out clearly here.

The effects of two diets were compared; one based on added sources of fructose only, the other added sources plus fruit. Total fructose levels were restricted in both diets and the effects compared. The diet that included the fruit did significantly better.

People who only had added sugar, as in sugar from corn syrup and the like, did badly; those who included fruit did well. The added sugar diet, not the one with fruit in it was associated with poor liver function, high blood pressure and hypertension. Those with fruit in their diets lost weight, those without it, did not.

Where it seems confusion arises is that some think sugar from concentrated sources acts in the body the same way as sugars in more natural, more complex forms such as in fruit. So some consider that if we eat watermelon we would get the same blood sugar spike with the same unhelpful consequences as a sugar drink. Right? Wrong!

This is the key point. 

The sugar in fruit behaves differently in the body when compared to concentrated sugars like the white sugar and corn syrup that is added to so many “foods” these days.

When tested, even if we add fruit to straight sugar, there is no spike, no hypo-glycaemia and no surge of glycogen or fat released into our blood streams. The blood sugar levels simply go up and down in a way that is perfectly reasonable for our bodies.

Why does this happen? Why is fruit different to ordinary sugar? Why is fruit OK?
Maybe it is to do with the consistency of the fruit, which may decrease the rate of stomach emptying compared with just swallowing a sugary drink. Instead of a sugar spike, we get a slower, more steady release of sugar into our blood streams.

Also, the soluble fiber in fruit has a gelling effect in our intestines that slows the release of sugars. So researchers tested to see if the difference was caused by just the fiber. They experimented with berry juice that had all the sugar but none of the fiber. A clear difference was observed early in blood sugar insulin levels. After 15 minutes, the blood sugar spike was significantly reduced by the berry meals, but not by the juices, however, the rest of the beneficial responses were almost the same between the juice and the whole fruit, suggesting that fiber may just be part of it.

Another fact is there are phytonutrients in fruit that inhibit the transportation of sugars through the intestinal wall into our blood stream; again, off-setting any spike. Phytonutrients in foods like apples and strawberries actually block some of the uptake of sugars.

Also, consider this. We know eating white bread produces a big insulin spike within two hours. However, add some berries and although we have added more sugar in total, the effect of the berries is to blunt the spike. Like pancakes? Eat blueberry pancakes!

The take home messages? 
Just the same as what we have consistently recommended since starting our work in 1981!

Sugar spikes are a real problem. Slowly released sugars are not so significant.

The occasional small amount of white sugar is no big deal unless you are being diligent in response to major illness like cancer when it is best to avoid it altogether. Remember, when you are well, it is what you eat mostly that is important. So aim to avoid sugar at home, but if out, no need to be too paranoid; just be careful and make smart choices.

Fruit sugars are OK. (Best eat fruits with their peels or skins if they are edible.) Two to three pieces of fruit per day are recommended; more if it suits you.

Refined carbohydrates are not OK (as in white bread).

Complex carbohydrates are OK (as in good quality wholemeal bread).

WANT MORE DETAILS? Read You Can Conquer Cancer - has many details like this re food...

Enjoy your fruit. Enjoy your complex carbohydrates.

Madero M et al. The effect of two energy-restricted diets, a low-fructose diet versus a moderate natural fructose diet, on weight loss and metabolic syndrome parameters: a randomized controlled trial. Metabolism. 2011 Nov;60(11):1551-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2011.04.001. Epub 2011 May 31.

Petta S et al. Industrial, not fruit fructose intake is associated with the severity of liver fibrosis in genotype 1 chronic hepatitis C patients. J Hepatol. 2013 Dec;59(6):1169-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2013.07.037. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Johnson RJ et al. Sugar, uric acid, and the etiology of diabetes and obesity. , Diabetes. 2013 Oct;62(10):3307-15. doi: 10.2337/db12-1814.

Stanhope KL. Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy. Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2016;53(1):52-67. doi: 10.3109/10408363.2015.1084990. Epub 2015 Sep 17.


April 24 – 28th Cancer and Beyond   -    COMING SOON in the Yarra Valley

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. FULL DETAILS Click here