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For Your Well Being: Body Wise and Soft Eyes

April 5, 2007, Vol. V Issue 7

Dear Friends,

You know you have success on your hands, when you walk out of the event, and the first words out of the meeting planner’s mouth are, “That was awesome!” That’s what I heard last week in Tacoma, Washington, about Dr. Deborah Kern at Franciscan Health System’s “Healthy You” event. I’ve known Deb for almost ten years, so it was fun to spend a little time together and get to experience one of her programs again. You’ll read why in this issue.

Also, I have quite a few newsmaker highlights to share in this issue. No one likes the unfortunate news we heard last week about the return of Elizabeth Edwards’ breast cancer in her bones. It is what physicians call stage 4 cancer, meaning that it is not curable, but it is treatable. That is exactly what we emphasized in our article about Fern Carness in our last issue – that people are living longer with cancer, and living well. It was obvious from some of the TV interviews that the broadcasters did not have this framework to relate to. That’s another good reason education about these things is so important – so we can continue to spread understanding. Relating this kind of information is something that speakers like Fern Carness and Deb Kern do so well. It is my honor to represent them and share their expertise.


Dr. Deborah Kern: Body Wise

The buzz in the hallway after Deb Kern’s talk was all about the fun they had moving their bodies. It wasn’t “Dancing with the Stars.” It was dancing in their places – a couple of minutes of simple moves to Jana Stanfield’s song, “I Believe,” toward the end of the program. “Now I know why my kids are out dancing,” I overheard one woman say. “I haven’t moved like that in years. It felt so good, I want to do it again.”

It was all in the name of getting their spines moving. As Deb pointed out to us, “We don’t move the core of our bodies in our daily lives, yet that’s where the energy centers are.” One of the things Deb does so masterfully (and there are many), is that she enrolls her audience in the experience so they not only hear what she’s saying, they feel it in their bodies. That brings the message home.

“Our bodies are no different than our ancestors’ bodies,” she told us. “But the world in which we live is dramatically different. In one day, we process more information than our ancestors did in a year. The biggest health risk factor women have going on in their lives is the “Busy, busy, busy” syndrome.”

The Surgeon General states that 75-85% of all disease in this country is directly related to lifestyle. For years we have thought that lifestyle meant diet and exercise. But Deb has a broader view. She says that diet and exercise habits and practices (or perhaps more correctly, non-habits and non-practices) are symptoms of our lifestyles. Does the style in which we live allow us time to exercise and prepare healthy meals, or is it so full of busy-ness that we have no time to eat well and exercise? Does the style in which we live leave us feeling a peaceful sense of purpose at the end of our day, or does it leave us feeling anxious, worried or frustrated – which leads us to self-medicate with sugar, television programs or web-surfing?

Self-medicate with sugar? A few quick questions, and it was obvious that most of the women in the room could relate. Deb shared these sobering statistics: In the 1850’s sugar came in a cone, and an aristocrat could only afford 4 ounces of sugar per year. In the 1900’s, the average American consumed 4 ounces of sugar per year. In the 1950’s, it was 5 pounds per year. When Deb revealed the amount for 2000, there was an audible gasp in the room — 172 pounds per year!

These statistics led to Deb’s discussion of sugar sensitivity, which is biochemical and sets up sugar addiction, alcoholism, depression, obesity and other addictions. With humor and compassion, she explained the chemical relationships as well as the symptoms and solutions. Deb is a health scientist (please see our website for her credentials) and because she gets how daunting the science of our health is for most of us, she translates it into ideas and examples that readily communicate. Things like brain chemistry,  neurotransmitters and receptor sites come alive. And then she gets us all dancing, and WE come alive!

Deb relates woman to woman, as a wife, mom, step-mom, working woman  – a woman dealing with the same frustrations you have and she’s got a handle on some things that just may help you deal with it all a little more peacefully. Please visit our website to learn more about Deb Kern’s fascinating background and her most current topics.

Updates – Speakers in the News

Since my iBook gave out this last week, I’ve spent quite a few hours at the Genius Bar at my local Apple store, archiving, downloading, uploading, you name it – all of that involves a lot of patience – sitting and waiting. At least I had my wits about me enough to pack my briefcase with reading material. I was hunkered down with the April issue of “O” magazine, while my computer was having a heart transplant, so to speak, when I came across a story about courage written by, Cara Birnbaum. Turns out, she’s trekking in Peru with one or our speakers, Miriam Nelson, PhD.

Also, Dr. Nelson was recently interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show, regarding new research regarding a link between renewing brain cells and exercise. “We have known for several years that physically active individuals have a reduced risk of cognitive impairment as they age. This study shows us that neurogenesis – the production of new brain cells with exercise – may be responsible for some of these improvements,” she said. She also had some encouraging news from a new study on exercise and breast cancer – women who exercised the most had the greatest reduction – 31% – in breast cancer occurrence. Click here to watch the entire interview.

Another one of our speakers, Dr. Marie Savard was on the Oprah Show last week, as the expert about two important women’s health issues – the HPV vaccine for cervical cancer and the pros and cons of prophylactic mastectomy to prevent breast cancer.

And, speaking of newsmakers, I just heard this morning that at a campaign appearance in Iowa yesterday, Elizabeth Edwards was advocating for women to get their regular mammograms. She said that she didn’t and by the time she discovered her lump in 2004, the cancer had spread elsewhere.

“It had the chance to migrate because I sat home doing whatever I thought was important and didn’t get mammograms,” she said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t know. There are women in this audience who know perfectly well whether or not they’re doing what they need to do and get mammograms. If you are one of the people who knew but aren’t doing it, obviously you need a new strategy.”

Her comments were in response to an audience member who asked her to spread the word about the importance of mammograms. “Women put themselves at the bottom (of the) list of things to do. When I put my health at the bottom of the list, I was putting him (her husband John) at the bottom of the list, my children at the bottom of the list, the country at the bottom of the list.” Elizabeth Edwards has just become a powerful advocate for women’s health.


WomenSpeak 2007

In the Feb. 22 issue of For Your Well Being, I promised you a follow-up to WomenSpeak 2007, the conference, Paula D’Arcy was inspired to organize. “WomenSpeak 2007 exceeded all expectations –” Paula told me, “those of the attendees, the speakers, the entertainers, and the founders. From its beginning on Friday evening, March 9th, this international gathering of women had a certain power and excitement that filled the San Antonio Convention Center.”

The women were from all races, creeds and economic levels. They came from India, Africa, Israel, Taiwan – from women’s shelters, middle class homes and some, formerly from prisons. Most interestingly, there were no grants or endowments supporting Red Bird Foundation, the sponsoring organization. It was 100% made possible by women who wanted to reach out and help others and then learn how to use their lives to help the world.

In her opening remarks, Paula quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do the thing you think you cannot do.” This was a challenge Paula accepted. She’d never organized a women’s conference yet when the vision presented itself, she moved into the unknown. The power of gathering, the power of one person making a difference, the power of volunteers, the power of intention, the power of women, this is incredible power demonstrated by this event and its far-reaching dynamics. “Now that the women who attended have returned to their homes and communities,” Paula said, “the pebble thrown into the pond begins to ripple…and the real power of WOMENSPEAK is clearly just beginning.”

Meeting Others with Soft Eyes

I brought home a practice from Deb Kern’s presentation in Tacoma that I want to share with you. Deb has a wonderful way of helping women see their lives in the context of the culture we live in, while bringing us ideas and practices from other cultures that we can apply to improve the way we live. About a year and a half ago she traveled to India to facilitate a fertility retreat, and one of the treasures she brought back was a practice she calls “soft eyes.”

It’s a practice that can help you ground and be present in the face of the on-the-fly question, “Hi, how are you?” when there’s seldom the courtesy of truly stopping, listening and even answering. You’re left feeling lost, vacant, disconnected. Yet it’s typical of our hurry-up culture; we accept it, shrug it off, and go on. Yet, I think it’s disempowering, not honoring the other people in our lives, and not letting them honor us.

Deb urges us to slow down as they do in India, and honor the people we encounter on our daily paths. “Consciously stop,” she suggests. “Look the person in the eye, and focus your attention on the left eye as you greet them — softly gaze into their left eye while still being able to see all around them and behind them. This will establish connection without them feeling like you’re staring at them. Giving your attention to another human being, even for a very short time, honors them.”

This is an excellent tool for staying in the present and I’ve been making a conscious effort to practice it ever since Deb’s program. I don’t get it right every time, but at least I’m catching myself. It’s helping me slow down and turn an otherwise empty moment into a connection and sometimes, even a conversation.

Until next time, stop and enjoy the moment, honor those around you — for your good health and those you love.

Yours truly in good health,

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