The Gut Brain Axis: Let your Hara Lead

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August 7, 2017
old man meditating by Pixabay

old man meditating by Pixabay

The Gut Brain Axis and your Hara

Recently in an inspirational talk on meditation, the teacher spoke of practicing a kind of virtual reality of imagining in our guts our true nature; I interchange Buddhist concepts and more Earth-centered ones of divinity. You can use your own definition. You may simply imagine yourself as a whole healthy human. (Personally, I have little interest in virtual reality though meditation centers like Spirit Rock are using it; look up via NY Times).

For me and for the teacher I was listening to, our guts are a center of feeling. We all know the old saying, to have a “gut feeling” about something. Well in my practice I live by those intuitive gut feelings and trust, as James Hillman suggests, that the rational thought will align and I will not try to fly off the roof.

After listening to this talk as the shower water poured over me I felt my “gut” which I know better by its Japanese name, hara and indeed I felt very good, whole and open-hearted. The teacher also spoke of doing this for at least 30 days to strengthen our “core” belief in self as perfect just as we are. I also remembered literally strengthening my core muscles in Pilates and as you may know, Pilates was and is used by dancers very effectively. Imagine yourself with the grace and balance of a dancer, moving through your days even when facing challenges. I found myself feeling delighted and remembering one of my all-time favorite books, now old but still very worthy, simply called Hara: The Vital Center of Man. 
I will not go into this more except to say I highly recommend it. I find that living from the hara is especially good for men to begin to get it that thoughts and feelings are inter-woven and as Buddhists would say, co-arising. Men have been so trained to repress emotions and that I suggest this split is part of why “heart” disease was an early killer, with emotional expressive (often abused) wives surviving. (My own mentor, a world-famous teacher, and scholar told me personally that women know much more clearly as they get the big picture via their feelings of relationship energetics).

Many men are now very adept at knowing their feelings and now many are learning to able to express quite well in relationships. Feeling vulnerable and open is no longer filled with fear. In fact they learn what was long called “women’s intuition.

I want to move on to the Gut-Brain Axis. I hope you get a sense of how wise cultures that encourage the gut as the “true brain” may be healthier than ours, in which we overrun our gut instincts far too often to our detriment.

The Gut Brain Axis

For this section, I will be using the work of Chris Kresser, an MS and a Traditional Chinese Medicine integrative health practitioner in San Francisco for several reasons, but mostly for what I see in using his book, The Paleo Cure and reading his very informative blog posts. As you now have the link to his site and brain-gut axis teaching, I suggest if you have brain or gut or other issues you read straight from him. And I will also say that I differ greatly with millionare computer geek turned natural health guru, Kresse. Paleo is not for everyone.

I want to make a few points from my experience and learning. I find the words digestion, nutrition, and nourishment very evocative and metaphorical and very “referential” to the knowing of the gut. All terms of how we take in life experience as nourishment or poison are what I am pointing towards. Does your life nourish you? Are you digesting and assimilating not just food but experience? Is your personal microbiome in good shape, keeping good critters working and bad ones out? Do you have good internal and external boundaries?

I hope by this point you realize that I am mostly focusing holistically, now often called epigenetically, that is, the impact of our personal nature and nurture systems. Who said, as within, without? Let’s put it very bluntly: if you have digestion issues you probably have brain issues and Kresser will tell you more. And I believe if you have these issues, you also have emotional issues, something Kresser will also teach you. The environment you force yourself to live in will make you ill or help you heal. Since beginning my very profound meditation and healing methods, my gut issues have much improved.

I just received this video on trauma and gut issues, like IBS. Perlmutter is very respected and these findings are very profound especially if, like me, you suffered in childhood.

Gut Bacteria Change Your Brain

Here is the book he mentions. I am delighted it parallels this post, mentioning both emotions and intuition (i.e. hara!):

Getting Tested or Self Testing your Poop

uBIOME, just up the way from Stanford University, a leader in genetic research, I believe is the first pro poop testing company. When they first opened I went for it and then they offered me another for free. I definitely need more good bugs in general. As I can no longer afford this service I practice poop watch, not obsessively but as part of my general health self-care. You can easily know whether your poop is good or bad and if you do as I did under genetic guidance before uBIOME was available, I learned to use the Bristol Stool Chart. You can find many online. It is easy and you learn it very fast.

Resistant Starch; Pre and Probiotic

Now that you know you need lots of good, especially soil based, bugs in your guts and you are wanting to improve your digestion and your mood, you may want to add pre or probiotics to increase your gut flora. Kresser seems to prefer prebiotics especially resistant starch, an indigestible fiber that gives your poo great shape and good bugs. For quite a while I made a resistant starch cookie which I will share shortly but it became too expensive for me as it requires organic cashew butter and it is quite expensive. I have a friend now hooked on his own formulation of this. For now, I leave the question of probiotics up to you; many who have other issues, like “leaky gut” from antibiotics can aspirate bacteria into lungs as on friend did, getting pneumonia.

Resistant Starch Cookie Dough Balls

I learned of the resistant starch tigernut  flour from outstanding nutrigenomist, Cynthia Smith in a conversation on FaceBook. As usual, I took off on my own research and found this fabulous tigernut ball recipe from https://www.mommypotamus.com/resistant-starch-cookie-dough-recipe/  I made some adjustments, using monks fruit maple syrup as it is sugar-free. I was able to find organic cashew butter locally but at ten dollars a jar, it was unsustainable. I tried sunflower butter but found I am sensitive to it. So, for now, I do not eat these. Enjoy if you can. Of course, organic cocoa nibs, please, in moderation as they can make kidney stones worse as chocolate is high in oxalates, another whole topic.

Circling Back Home

I hope you have enjoyed this highly eclectic journey, which I feel is a lovely expression of epigenetics: as within, without. You are what you eat and how you feel depends on the nourishment of food and environment. For the open-minded, here is the video that got me going down this trail. talking about virtual reality and our guts. Enjoy.

AbrahamHicks Virtual Reality

Bébés!: Nurturing Our Most Precious Youth

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June 15, 2017
Multicultural babies sleeping together

Multicultural babies sleeping together

Nurturing Our Most Precious Youth

As many of my friends know, I am a Crone with no youth or children of my own. I have never had a child. Doctors said it would be anatomically difficult and I was very clear that I did not want to pass on my family dysfunction that was well-off but very abusive. Now as I recover my true self and feel free of what I will call the “family and marriage trance” I feel blessed and able to share my great love and concern for youth who are inheriting a pretty challenging mess.

My Early and Later Influences

Two books vividly affected me as a young teen and avid seeker even then. The first is Aldous Huxley’s last novel, Island. I urge you to at least read the blurb. It is gloriously Utopian. What has stuck with me so vividly is that the Islanders considered children to belong to all. Whenever there was an issue in their home hut, arguing, sex, whatever, youth were able to simply go to another “family” and be welcomed.

This concept awed me. I had my dear Auntie to go to as a girl but shouldn’t we all be responsible for the well-being of children? In today’s culture, due to much strife and pain, this is often the case and mixed and non-traditional families abound. As a student at the College of Santa Fé, studying At-Risk-Youth, accepted this new normal, which is actually very old. That suited me and my own beliefs fine and later considering grandparenting as an area of doctoral study, I would discover a great amount of very positive research on the wonderful impact of grandparents. To sum up, I have long felt children’s well-being is all our responsibility.

The second book of great impact regarding loving families I read as an adult, was The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant, (considered a feminist sci-fi genius). A man escapes the cruel world into a very loving community. In fact, so loving that they ritually feed each other. I always saw as sort of a stadium event, in the moonlight, spooning food to each other. This image still gives me chills. Highly recommend this cult classic.

Thirdly, a big influence on my beliefs was going to college ONLINE and Face-to-Face at the Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. I sometimes had arguments with classmates and had to learn how to make up. I experienced my cohort, as civil and kind. This, being raised in violence and constantly challenged, was a big awakening and I will be forever grateful that I am still friends with a few. So, “families” can be kind! These are the values that lead me to share here.

Concept 1: Children as Perfect

A large part of my healing occurred in a snap, after journaling about my trauma first in a group with a well-known trauma coach who has over 300 YouTube videos and many are on the Insight Timer app I recommended earlier. I did not stick with the group due to other writing demands I had; she was kind and refunded my money. She did several things that were uplifting for me and best of all, I realized I know much more than she did and had studied formally. And I discovered the work of Abraham Hicks and reacquainted myself with quantum concepts, especially that we are all stardust originally and I believe we come to learn.

I finally got it that we are born perfect, and if quantum physics is right, we are made of stardust. Secondly, through the coach’s use of Erikson’s Stages of Development (which feminists like me have issues with; it is built for a capitalist patriarchal world) and made a comparison to my life, via lots of journal writing, I finally really felt pride in myself and especially in my childhood dreams that are still very alive and well. For the first time, I felt myself beyond my family’s warped concepts of me.

Please embrace this basic concept of perfection for yourself and all of us, especially in your interactions with children and youth. They come unblemished and faults are false; we are all faultless for the problems visited upon us. I am now at the point where I truly forgive.

This all was greatly enhanced by discovering the work of Abraham Hicks, who has over 1k YouTube videos by these “channeled” entities. And you may especially be touched by their take on childhood abuse. While the method may be a little strange to you, the psychology is spot on. Very liberating, forgiving and loving. Here is a video on parenting:

Esther and Jerry Hicks have several books for children, based on the adventures of Sara. Here is a link to a three book set of Sara stories. Please consider following many spiritual and psychology models and treat your kids as precious and very capable. My own book, called Who’s in Charge of My Life? has a ton of resources for you towards helping young people recognize their true value, just as they are.)

Concept 2: Feed Your Children as Well as You are Able

This is where I do my usual rant. NO GMOs; they are truly toxic; be as organic as possible even if you have SNAP. Eat whole unprocessed foods as a family. This is true nutrition and education as our bodies and our relations as worthy of care. If you are up to it, make your own homemade baby food. Amazon has tons of tools and books but I would be cautious about what the materials compose the kits. Are they non-toxic? READ THE REVIEWS. This looked like a great book: The Best Homemade Baby Food on the Planet. If you want to learn and perhaps buy pre-made, research Amazon. Here are the results of my search on non-gmo baby foods. NOTE: I had a long discussion with a very aware friend. Organic food can still be exposed to GMOs…thus we chose that search term. I am still considering if one is better than another. MOST OF ALL READ LABELS AND REVIEWS.

Concept 3: Play with your Kids

Do I really need to tell you this??? Let the kids lead you; make it research into fun. There are some great apps that get you outside, exploring like geocaching. I think I will let you look those up, preferably together. And of course all the usual fun things. I was jubilant when I learned to catch a fish! And later to golf. If you don’t know how to play “gamefully”, with allies, your kids do. You can bone-up reading Jane McGonigal’s Super Better and watching any of her many TED talks. Super Better is her doctoral dissertation and full are very good research. When kids play video games in the same room, they become more friendly and more socially able. Jane cured her own injury/depression treating it gamefully. She is one of my longtime heroes. Living gamefully is a life philosophy that can heal.

Jane has many TED talks. Here is one on healing trauma gamefully:

Concept 4: Consider Learning and Practicing Meditation Together

I would recommend Thich Naht Hanh, a Buddhist teacher I spent much time with and his meditations for children are on Insight Meditation app and YouTube and you can buy his books. Thich Nhat Hahn in one of his books teaches a way to develop a non-punishing time out, by allowing a child time alone in a special space with an altar and favorite objects. Mindfulness develops self-awareness; something I hope you understand as crucial to becoming a worthy adult. I just updated my own post on meditation here in light of the recent shootings and the use of psychiatric drugs on youth. Meditation on Living Co-creatively.

Lastly, there is a wonderful new author, on the lost father. I just can’t find it at this moment.

May your parenting and be caring, joy-filled and mutually beneficial. I feel I am right: the youth do belong to us all. As Sly Stone sang, “We are all Family.”