LSD, Lilly and me, floating in a tank

Float pod, photo by Sattvic Planet

Float pod, photo by Sattvic Planet

 

“In the province of the mind, what one believes to be true is true or becomes true, within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the mind, there are no limits”

-From The Center of the Cyclone, written by John C. Lilly, M.D.

 

Literature cited
Isolation tanks, or float pods, are increasingly popular these days and can now be found in large cities throughout the US West. Celebrity Joe Rogan deserves some credit for spreading the word as he often raves on his podcast about the benefits he enjoys from owning a tank and floating regularly in his home. However, the person who deserves the most credit is a scientist named Dr John C. Lilly who invented the concept during the 1950s. You may have heard of Lilly if you ever listened to The Joe Rogan Experience, and you can usually find one of Lilly’s books for sale at a float studio. Lilly did much more than pioneer this meditative therapy, he took the concept further than any of us can imagine. Lilly was fascinated with exploring the human mind, and unlike most scientists today he was willing to experiment with his own mind rather than the minds of his test subjects. One such experiment involved taking LSD and then entering his isolation tank on multiple occasions to learn more about human consciousness. Since I was interested in having a similar experience I decided to read his book The Center of the Cyclone prior to my first journey. The book is a personal account of his LSD influenced float tank experiences along with other stories of mind exploration. Lilly seemed to be writing the book not only to document his pioneering efforts, but also to provide assistance and warnings to others who might follow his path.

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Coconut cacao sweet potato (yam) recipe

Garnet "yam". Photo by Sattvic Planet.

Garnet “yam”. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

Chocolate for breakfast?! Well, almost, but not quite. Many people often confuse cacao and chocolate, the former being the primary ingredient for the latter. However, in addition to cacao, chocolate often contains milk from conventional dairies that we should probably be avoiding, sugar which we already eat way too much of in our diets, and other unnecessary ingredients depending on which chocolate you buy. When eaten alone cacao can be equally as delicious as a bar of chocolate, without the negative effects on your health.

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Spirit Plant Medicine

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Amazonian ceremonial maloca. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

Destination Peru

As I mentioned in my last article about Kambo poison frog medicine, I am currently visiting Peru for the primary purpose of improving my health. If you haven’t already heard, in recent years there have been increasing numbers of Americans traveling here in search of plant medicines that can’t be found in the US. Much of Peru is covered by the Amazon rainforest, regarded by many as the plant pharmacy of the world. Some Americans come here as a last option when they face a serious condition that western medicine is unable to treat. A couple nights ago I watched the documentary Sacred Science which shows the results of bringing eight westerners with various diseases to the rainforest in search of relief from their suffering. While some of the people did have life threatening diseases, I don’t think this is a requirement for coming to the rainforest seeking better health. In one way or another even the best among us have some sickness, it is nearly impossible not to in this society, and there is always room for improvement. In my case, my intention was to eliminate some challenging food allergies that had been bothering me recently. In addition, I wanted to work on some trauma that I accumulated during my military years.

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Kambo, poison frog therapy

Focus!

Focus!

 

Alternatives
Many people turn to alternative medicine for one of two reasons, they are either suffering from a condition that western medicine is unable to treat, or they are simply opposed to a pharmaceutical and surgery dominated approach that primarily treats symptoms rather than eliminating the cause of disease. In my case the opposition came first, as I believed there must be a better way of managing people’s health. Next came my realization that the experts were unable to treat my condition; as evidence of this they diagnosed my allergic reactions as idiopathic angioedema, which translates to swelling caused by an unknown origin. In Canada I met an excellent Ayurvedic medicine practitioner who helped me to manage this reaction through a highly disciplined diet, but was unable to eliminate the reaction entirely through diet alone. As a result, I now find myself traveling to Peru in search of some relief from this condition. This condition was not my only motivation for visiting Peru, though it was definitely a driving force behind my decision to try Kambo therapy.

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The Spiritual Carnivore

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

A traditional Cuy meal, also known as guinea pig. Photo by Sattvic Planet.

 

I’m writing this post from a small village in the Peruvian Andes where a community of spiritually focused foreigners have either visited or settled over the years. Having arrived only yesterday I obviously have much to learn about this community, though a couple of my observations seem very clear to me already. First, they seem to gather their practices from a wide array of disciplines such as Ayurveda, Buddhism, and indigenous Shamanic culture. It seems to be a true hybrid of global spiritual philosophies. My second observation, which is the inspiration of this post, is that vegetarian and vegan diets are the preferred choice at their hotels, restaurants and retreats. I’m talking about the foreign community here and not the locals when I refer to the choice of diet, as the locals appear to eat chicken, beef, trout, alpaca, eggs, and cheese.

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Here’s to the crazy ones

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

-From Apple’s Think Different advertising campaign

 

Apple_logo_Think_Different

 

Why in the world would a website like Sattvic Planet glorify the lyrics from a television commercial of a powerful corporation? Over the past year on multiple occasions I have written about the destructive role that corporations play on the health of people and planet. I often write negatively of the pharmaceutical industry, genetic engineering companies such as Monsanto, junk food companies such as McDonalds, and extractive companies such as Exxon. Yet, this is the third time a quote related to Steve Jobs has appeared on Sattvic Planet in the past year. Jobs led Apple to become the most valuable corporation on the planet, and today everybody and their mother has an Apple product in their pocket. Apple has very much become a mainstream product, perhaps not to the extent of Microsoft or Coke, but they are in no way a part of the counter culture. The irony here is that the Think Different campaign of the late 90’s appears to be born of the counter culture. In a society of mass conformists afraid of being different, the Think Different campaign is at least partly responsible for launching Apple to new levels of wealth and popularity.

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Music as Medicine

 

 

From bobmarley.com

From bobmarley.com

 

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain”

Lyrics from Trenchtown Rock, performed by Bob Marley and the Wailers

 

Bob Marley was born 70 years ago on February 6, 1945. I wanted to take this opportunity to briefly examine these famous lyrics and what they mean in the context of preventive medicine. On this blog I frequently refer to the concept of Food as Medicine, which refers to the practice of preventing and even treating disease through the diet. I also frequently target the pharmaceutical industry as an over used and harmful form of treatment that too often takes the place of simple lifestyle modifications. Instead of finding the source of a symptom, pharmaceuticals are frequently used to mask the symptoms and allow the patient to continue the destructive behavior that is causing disease. The language we use says much about our beliefs as individuals and as a society. For example, many people use the term “medicine” to describe the pharmaceuticals they are taking for various diseases and conditions. When I think of medicine I imagine some form of therapy that does nothing other than to support, heal and strengthen the mind-body-spirit. From my perspective medicine is an odd choice of words as there are often many unwanted side effects associated with these drugs. Admittedly, people suffering from serious diseases may not respond to other methods of treatment, though it just seems like two steps forward, and one step back. Another example is to describe a powerful plant medicine such as Ayahuasca as a “drug”, while an indigenous shaman from the Amazon rainforest might prefer the word “medicine”. How is it that one culture uses certain plant medicines to heal a wide range of conditions, while another culture declares the substances illegal, and without medical value?

Fill in the blank as Medicine

Listening to Marley sing Trenchtown Rock it sounds as if he is describing a sick patient being dosed with painkilling drugs, yet he refers to nothing more than the sound coming from his guitar and your speakers. So we have Food as Medicine, Plants as Medicine, Music as Medicine, and the list goes on. What about Travel as Medicine when we change our surroundings and get inspired by a new perspective? Or perhaps Career as Medicine when we feel good about our professional purpose and the people we work with rather than grinding through the daily routine to earn a check that pays the bills. For those of us living in the cloudy Pacific Northwest we could even talk about Sun as Medicine. These are ideas I plan to explore in greater detail as I travel to South America this month; I hope to share the results with you soon, ciao!

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From bobmarley.com

 

Nature as Medicine?

Nature as Medicine?

 

An Owner’s Manual for life

Photo by Roy2k.com

Photo by Roy2k.com

 

When we were born, our bodies didn’t come with an Owner’s Manual that gave us instructions on how to operate this new vehicle, or did it? What should you eat, how much should you exercise, and when is the best time to sleep? These are all questions that some of us may be thinking about if we want to recover from poor health, or if we are striving for optimal health. However, if we are not thinking about these questions then we must have already found an answer, so where did that answer come from? If you were fortunate to be born into a family of knowledgeable parents then you probably received most of your guidance from them. Yet many people are not so fortunate, and receive guidance from their parents that steers them away from health. Besides our parents, if we are not actively asking questions on how to live then we are likely to receive guidance from our media, which seems to have displaced our culture. The media saturates our senses to a level that dilutes whatever remnants of traditional knowledge there are remaining in our society. Who are the village elders passing down their wisdom in modern America, McDonalds, Coke, Monsanto? I guarantee that if you are not actively asking questions on how best to operate your body through life then you are receiving answers from a constant stream of corporate advertisements and television shows. Don’t fret, because I’m here to tell you that there is a reliable source of knowledge available to all, but only if you are willing to open your mind.

Ayurveda = Knowledge of Living

Assuming you already know what Ayurveda is, let’s summarize by defining it as one of the oldest systems of medicine known to humans. Sure, there are plenty of books on the market today explaining how to eat, but who to believe? Butter was good then it was bad, and now it is good again, depending on whom you talk to. Perhaps you place all your trust in science, but even this powerful tool can produce some conflicting results depending on how the research is performed and who funds it. I find comfort in receiving guidance from a system of medicine that has survived the test of time, especially when it is supported by modern science.

The Daily Regimen

In Ayurveda the term Dinacarya refers to the daily regimen. I find it fascinating to know that a daily regimen exists for the sole purpose of promoting optimal health, and that the source of this knowledge was not contaminated by the influences of money. Pure knowledge that is presumably free of ego, profit, confusion, or other forms of interference. So if you are asking the question of how best to live for optimal health, and you trust Ayurveda as a reputable source of traditional knowledge, let’s begin with a very brief introduction to Dinacarya. The following list is from sunrise to sundown.

Awaken: early is best, before sunrise, usually between 3-7.

Evacuate waste: with regular digestion this should be first on your list.

Drink: warm or room temperature water, up to 750mL.

Cleanse the mouth, eyes, nose, and throat: Techniques include scraping the tongue, brushing the teeth, filling your mouth with oil, gargling, using herbal rinses for the eyes, nasya and neti pot for the nose.

Breathe: deep-breathing exercises known as Pranayama.

Therapeutic smoking: no, this is not an excuse to smoke cigarettes, rather medicinal herbs are used in small doses. Vaporizers could provide a healthier alternative.

Exercise: people may be surprised to learn that you should only perform to one half of your strength. Stop when perspiration, dryness and heavy breathing begin.

Massage: full body self-massage using plant based oils, though dry massages are sometimes appropriate.

Bathe: minimize or eliminate soap, instead soak in fragrant waters, remove oils with bean powders, and clean your hair with herbal rinses.

Yoga: remember, this is not a form of exercise; it is preparation for meditation.

Meditate: to attain mindfulness

Eat: diet is at the core of Ayurveda and can’t possibly be summarized here, but every factor related to eating is considered. Eating 2 meals per day is recommended.

Duties: finally, you can begin the duties of your day, while practicing the mindfulness attained during meditation of course. Naps should be avoided.

Sex: before bed, winter and spring are the best times.

Sleep: between 7 and 11 is best, especially if you’re waking between 3-7 in the morning…

Unlearn all you’ve learned

Well, I had to be concise as each of the above topics could easily fill an entire page, or in the case of eating, an entire book. Consider this an introduction to a subject that you can dig deeper into later if you are interested. The dinacarya appears to be very time consuming doesn’t it? To be honest, I am definitely not completing a full daily regimen every morning. However, I include as many practices into my day as possible, and some days are better than other. For example, on days when I don’t work it is possible to complete much more of the regimen. Before you dismiss the daily regimen as being impractical in this modern world, think of it as a goal you strive for, but recognize that you may never fully reach. Perhaps you can’t do a full body self massage with oil every day, but once per week is more reasonable. To my young readers, remember that you don’t have to live like everybody else. Instead of working 60 hours per week to buy a huge house and fancy car, have you considered working less and using the free time to focus on your health and happiness? We really need to examine our priorities in life. And to the busy single mothers with small children, it only takes 15 seconds to scrape your tongue!

 

“Instant quick, new improved, hurry hurry rush rush, world on the move, marijuana illegal, but cigarettes cool, I might look kind of funny, but I ain’t no fool”

-From Synthesizer, performed by Outkast

 

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What is Sattvic Planet?!?

Dhanavantari-dharmainc

Dhanvantari, the god of Ayurveda, from dharmainc.org

 

As I celebrate the One Year Anniversary of Sattvic Planet I think now would be a good time to review the purpose of this website by looking back on the previous year, and looking ahead to some changes coming soon, but before we do that I think a few quick definitions would be appropriate.

Definitions and concept

This website has been built upon the foundation of Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine from India that dates back thousands of years. Following the philosophy of preventive medicine, Ayurveda focuses on diet and lifestyle to maintain health. Sattva is a Sanskrit word meaning “Your Truth”, and represents a state of mind that can be achieved through a meditative process. As you can imagine, discovering your truth results in a myriad of benefits that range from improving your health to finding your purpose in life, both spiritually and professionally. The name Sattvic Planet describes a society in which majorities of people see clearly through the destructive illusion that shapes our reality.

2014

Looking back on the past year the content of Sattvic Planet has varied greatly. Topics have ranged from recipes, lifestyle guidance, and environmental concerns, to corporations, politics and current events. Despite this wide range of topics, every article posted to date has been connected in some way to health. My website statistics tell me that people have an interest in learning new recipes and having common yet confusing dietary questions answered. You’ll have to excuse me when I feel the need to express my opinions related to current events such as the consequences of our Election Results, or the meaning of our Black Friday obsessions. However disconnected some of these topics may seem, the reality is that every decision we make, bite we take or commercial we watch has an influence on our health. Ayurveda may not seem related to Steve Jobs, Avatar, Float Tanks, or Joe Rogan, all subjects of previous posts, but upon closer inspection we find that mindfulness is the glue that holds this website together.

2015?

As Sattvic Planet grows, I gain a greater understanding of what people are looking for. I suspect that many want to change the way they live, look and feel. Perhaps they want to improve their health, or they suspect the industrial food and healthcare systems are broken, regardless, I think people are waking from their slumber to ask if there is a better way. The Internet is connecting people and providing information at a scale never before seen, and people are using this technology to learn about topics not commonly covered by the mainstream media. Sick people want to be healthy, and healthy people want peak performance, but the conventional path rarely leads to complete mind-body-spirit health in my humble opinion. As people come to this realization they begin looking elsewhere and this is where Sattvic Planet enters the picture. I have a few ideas brewing for 2015, including a cookbook, but it all depends on what happens during my upcoming trip to…

Peru

I’ll be starting 2015 with a trip to the Amazon to participate in plant medicine healing ceremonies led by indigenous shamans of the rainforest. This journey is certain to inspire many posts to Sattvic Planet! The more I hear about this therapy, the more excited I am to learn exactly how it works. The ceremonies are said to connect people with the spiritual world, a process that could probably solve many of our health problems in this spiritually disconnected society. I have begun to notice many unexpected similarities between Ayurveda and Amazon medicine, as both are traditional systems of medicine that use methods such as controlled diet, purging, meditation, and connection to nature. Stay tuned for more on this subject!

 

DSC08875

 

“Used to think 30 years old then the end comes, now I feel like I’m just gaining momentum, seen the world 2 times, all except for India, about to vacate there when we finish this one”

-Lyrics from World of Vibrations, performed by Blackalicious

 

India

Thanks for that quote Blackalicious, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Yes, after “we finish this one” (trip to Peru) I will be preparing for a 3-month journey to India, the home of Ayurveda. My trip to India will not happen until early 2016, but I’m sure it will inspire Sattvic Planet in ways that can’t possibly be predicted. While I’ve already spent a great amount of time studying Ayurveda in the US from an experienced teacher, I believe this trip to India is necessary to really take my knowledge to the next level, and I hope to share that knowledge with you when I return.

Revolving and Evolving

The many topics covered by this website are informed by science, traditional knowledge, and yes, a few of my humble opinions. What happens when you mix Peru, Michael Pollan, Pink Floyd, Pink Salt, Paleo and Psilocybin together? Besides a mouthful of P’s, you get a hybrid of philosophies representative of my style and interests. I’ve definitely put my stamp on this project, but I can assure you that these are more than just my opinions; I receive my information from credible sources, either straight from the ancient texts or modern research. It is difficult to say exactly how Sattvic Planet will evolve, but after my trip to Peru I hope to have a better idea. Thanks to all of you who completed this revolution around the sun with me, and as always, feedback is appreciated.

 

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How often should you snack?

I’m going back to my roots. After posting articles during November about Daylight Savings Time, the US Election, Pharmaceuticals, and Black Friday, today I’m going to write once again about my favorite subject, food. Based on my observations, people simply don’t know how to eat. That may sound like a funny statement because we all eat every day, and it is a task that is essential for our survival. Well, you may know how to eat, just put food in your mouth and chew, but do you know how to eat properly for efficient digestion and optimal health? The quantity, frequency, timing and combination of your food are all important factors affecting your digestion. Believe it or not, I could probably write an entire chapter on how to eat, but instead of that, today we will focus on a topic that is confusing to many people, snacking.

Radical snactivism

We’ve all heard the theory that it is important to snack many times per day to keep our energy levels high, but is that even true, and where did it come from? If you think about it, the frequent snack theory appears to be adapted to high performance athletes. Imagine a professional football player who spends the whole day lifting weights, running, and training for his job. The amount of energy expended by a professional athlete must be several times more than what you expend sitting in your cubicle and tapping on that keyboard. Frequent snacking seems appropriate for such a physically demanding lifestyle. Somewhere along the way sports nutrition got confused with the nutrition of the average person. Perhaps it was an improper dissemination of information through the media, or our fascination with professional athletes. Many of us obsess over our favorite athletes; we wear their jerseys and spend billions of dollars following them weekly, so it’s not difficult to imagine their diet strategies crossing over into the average person’s life. Another possibility is the source of funding for research. How much money is available to research the nutritional needs for producing a star athlete versus the nutritional needs for helping an average person reach their true potential? Perhaps the government can fund some research, but corporations heavily influence governments, and do corporations bring in revenue by selling wholesome breakfasts, or by selling snack packs? Regardless of the origin of the multiple snack theory, and the role of sports idols, money and politics; we have access to an unbiased source of information for guidance on how to eat. According to Ayurveda, a traditional preventive medicine system from India, the average person should practice a diet of minimal snacking.

sugar_ngm

2 meals per day

To understand why minimal snacking is the suggested diet of Ayurveda, one only needs to have a basic understanding of digestion. Digestion is at the core of Ayurveda because good digestion is thought to be essential for having good health. Ideally a person would wait until their previous meal was completely discharged from their stomach before eating the next meal, but if you are snacking 3-5 times per day there are simply not enough hours in a day to do this. Generally speaking, it should take at least 3 hours for your stomach to be empty, so if you ate every 3 hours beginning at 6am and ending at 9pm that would be 3 meals and 3 snacks. With a schedule like that some problems become immediately apparent. It is unlikely that you are eating on an empty stomach if your schedule consists of eating 6 or more times per day. If your stomach is completely empty then you must be either eating small meals or easily digested carbohydrates and sugars, and we have all been hearing lately of the dangers associated with diets high in sugar. Your digestion should improve if you wait until your stomach is completely empty before consuming the next meal, and as a result your overall health should also improve. To completely digest each meal then you will have to eat less frequently which of course means less snacking. One great strategy for eating less frequently is to eat large meals containing more slow burning fuels such as oils, fibrous vegetables, and perhaps some meat if you are not vegetarian. As you are increasing the amount of slow burning foods, try decreasing the fast burning foods such as sugar, flour, grains, and in some cases fruit. For an excellent and detailed description of what this meal looks like read Todd Caldecott’s article about breakfast. A large breakfast such as this allows me to go 6 hours without eating, and during those 6 hours I enjoy the benefits of a slow sustained release of energy without the inconvenience of having to interrupt my busy day to find more food. Ayurveda recommends eating twice per day, and the only practical way for a person to do that in this modern world is to make sure your two meals are large and dense enough to power you through the day.

From Time magazine.

From Time magazine.

Goodbye low fat diets

As we emerge from the failed war on dietary fat into a world of obesity, diabetes and cancer we can look to the past for guidance on moving into the future. Ayurveda is a valuable source of traditional knowledge that is not contaminated by money or politics. People would have never chosen the frequent snack theory if the low fat theory didn’t exist. It is difficult to snack all day if you are eating high quality fats because quite simply, you will not be hungry as often. So as we say goodbye to the low fat era we should also say goodbye to the high snack era. Unless you happen to be a high performance athlete, try eating like me, a radical snactivist.

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