Change your story of words and sensations.
By: Dr. Sharon Montes, MD
“There is a danger there – a very real danger to humanity. Consider, Watson, that the material, the sensual, the worldly would all prolong their worthless lives. The spiritual would not avoid the call to something higher. It would be the survival of the least fit. What sort of cesspool may not our poor world become?”
Arthur Conan Doyle, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes
Sir Conan Doyle voiced a somewhat jaundiced view of longevity. People with a materialistic orientation will choose to prolong their life on this planet while spiritual people will prefer to leave the body. As a meditating physician, I hold a more integrative view. Our manifest material world that operates on a timeline is formed by and saturated with the field of infinite possibility. Today, as we explore ideas related to longevity, I ask you to consider:
How long do YOU really want to live?
How old do YOU want to be when your body dies?
Are YOU fully alive in this moment?
Are you living BIG – unifying the power of the infinite with this manifest moment?
In today’s written conversation we will explore how the language we speak affects our brain and health behaviors that contribute to longevity; how using our senses in a more integrated way could help us access the infinite in this moment; and how the integration of science and classical wisdom can promote not only longevity for humans but also for other inhabitants of this planet.
Over 20 years ago a Vedic astrologer told me that I would live to be 82 years old and that my marriage was hard on my physical body. From the perspective of a 30 year old, neither of those stories really concerned me, or changed my behavior. Through the years my perspective has changed, and currently purposefully cultivating vitality and physical health are more important to influence the decisions I make. The above introduction questions touch on making decisions that will affect the quantity and quality of your future and being fully present in the moment. While training to facilitate lifestyle medicine groups, we watched a powerful one minute video that does a REALLY effective job of contrasting a life of vitality vs illness in an elder man. (Please pause, click and let me know what you think. Make Health Last. What will your last 10 years look like? http://youtu.be/Qo6QNU8kHxI?list=PLlLH6D8gy0Ox9IUNhUcaGo9WFZQSk6hm9)
While my intention is to make decisions today that will design a future filled with vitality AND support others in making similar decisions, frequently the forces that determine our choices are subconscious. I have recently been reading about the power of words to influence our brain and behavior in subtle ways. Dr Jacob Schor has written an informative and entertaining newsletter describing how: using swear words triggers different brain activity than polite vocabulary, swearing increases our tolerance to pain, Shakespeare’s creative use of grammar activates greater parts of your brain, and our moral compass may shift depending on whether we are making decisions using our first language or second language. http://www.denvernaturopathic.com/Power-of-words.htm [i]
In addition, Dr Keith Chen’s research shows the effects of our native language on behavior. Languages differ in ways used to describe current and future events. Some languages create a strong distinction when describing an event that will happen in the present or the future, and other languages use the same word to describe something that will occur in both present and future time. Dr Chen proposed that grammatically separating the future and present would lead speakers to disassociate the present from future in other ways. In contrast, people speaking languages that grammatically equate present and future may be more likely to act in ways that link present and future. Dr Chen writes, “Empirically, I find that speakers of such languages: save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese.” http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.2.690[ii]
Using different language activates different parts of the brain, orients us in time, and influences physical and fiscal health promoting behaviors. Language filters and influences our behavior, frequently without our even being aware of it. Our sensations also influence our actions, and connection with material and immaterial reality.
As children we were taught about the five sense organs and where and how they processed information – seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing and touching. As I grew and learned more, I added a sixth sense – proprioception (i.e. the ability to sense movement and know where my body was in space.) After completing my Family Medicine residency, I enjoyed the process of regaining and rebuilding another sense – intuition. (Somewhere in the journey through medical school and residency, I lost it. In the process of reclaiming intuition, I had to redevelop an awareness of body sensations. (One technique for surviving physician training included practicing mind/body dissociation. Hmm.. maybe that is why the Vedic astrologer’s predictions had so little impact.)
There are many ways to develop our capacity to more consistently connect with and integrate higher consciousness. I have found a couple to be especially useful.
My teacher taught me to do and teach multi-sensory integrated meditations in a specific order. This leads to organization of brain and meridians in a specific pattern, which in turn facilitates connection with source, cosmos, Tao. The order she taught me is:
This way of expanding our senses expands our consciousness and connection with the infinite.
Moving from classical wisdom to science, did you know we have “smell” receptors scattered throughout our body, and that stimulation of smell receptors in our skin may help our wounds heal faster? To quote from Science Daily: “The function of those (olfactory) receptors has also been shown to exist in, for example, spermatozoa, the prostate, the intestine and the kidneys. The team … has now discovered them in … cells that form the outermost layer of the skin …activated by a synthetic sandalwood scent, … That pathway ensures an increased proliferation and a quicker migration of skin cells — processes which typically facilitate wound healing.” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140708092555.htm
Hurrah! Yet again modern science is catching up with classical wisdom.
Continuing this theme, did you notice that Google industries has given birth to Calico Labs? To quote from their website:
We’re tackling aging,
one of life’s greatest mysteries.
“Calico is a research and development company whose mission is to harness advanced technologies to increase our understanding of the biology that controls lifespan. We will use that knowledge to devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives.” http://www.calicolabs.com
Something about the creation of this company and their mission plucks my silly string. Aging is not a mystery it is a natural process. The bees and the trees do it. Maybe it’s the absence of mentioning classical wisdom philosophy or practices. Does anyone have friends working inside Google or Calico? Could you ask them how they will to integrate the philosophy and practices of classical wisdom that already exist to enable people to lead longer and healthier lives?
For the last few weeks, white pelicans have been visiting a neighborhood lake. The grace of these birds in air and water is spectacular. One morning, as I was sitting by the lake thinking about this column, I had the pleasure of watching three pelicans groom themselves. The fullness of that time with the pelicans – the vision of pelicans and the reflections of trees in the water; the smell of earth and moist crisp early autumn air; the taste of the season leaving late summer; the sound of grass rustling, a rare fish jumping on the surface of the lake and the sensation on my skin of a light breeze and the early morning sun. All my senses engaged in the moment, being still and filled with the forces of life, movement, and light.
Honoring the Native American tradition that emphasizes that each of the earth’s manifestations carries a facet of divine wisdom, I explored the internet for others’ interpretation of the magic and gifts of the pelican. One author wrote: “Pelican speaks of the group dynamic, shared responsibilities, and making the most of what we have been given.”
One of the messages from the natural world is that the human perspective on longevity is only one point of view. As I make decisions to promote the longevity of self, family, clients, and other earth inhabitants, the task of integrating spirit and body is one of my challenges. Longevity is defined as a duration or life or service. As I am designing a long life of long service it will include the joys of embodying the infinite moment by moment. What is your connection with the infinite that is manifest in the material now? What stories are you creating with words and sensations? Are you listening with all your senses to the stories the natural world is sharing with you?
“Are you creating a story BIG enough for you and others to live in?”
Personal conversation with Dianne Connelly
Yours in JOY-FULL gratitude,
Dr. Sharon Montes, MD
i The Power of Words: Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO. June 29, 2014. www.DenverNaturopathic.com
ii Chen, Keith M. “The Effect of Language on Economic Behavior: Evidence from Savings Rates, Health Behaviors, and Retirement Assets.” Status: Published, American Economic Review 2013, 103(2): 690-731
Editor’s choice, Science Magazine, Vol 339(4). Permanent address: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.2.690
Sharon Montes, MD – practiced and taught family medicine in medical schools for 17 years. Dr. Montes is committed to integrating science and world wisdom in her professional and personal life. Dr. Montes served for 5 years as the Medical Director for the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine and has practiced meditation for 34 years. She is an active and enthusiastic member of the tribe committed to integrating ancient wisdom and modern technology with the goal of creating health care and educational systems that serve with greater joy and efficiency.