Meditation: Fortune and Fame

As with most blogs of this type, let’s begin with some definitions. Fortune is defined as a large amount of money or assets. We are not talking about the luck definition. Fame is defined as the condition of being known or talked about by many people, especially on account of notable achievements. I don’t know if everybody that becomes famous, has what is known as achievements, but I will accept the definition, just to move along. Some people become famous for breaking the law, and others become famous, simply by making an extreme amount of money. That can certainly be considered an achievement, but it is not the same as an athletic, or scientific achievement. Fortune and fame do not always go hand in hand. There are lots of wealthy people, who are not famous. By the same token there are famous people, who are not wealthy. Fame can have it’s obvious drawbacks. The worst thing about being famous, is that everything you do, is seen under a microscope and everybody seems to know about it. I think what it all boils down to is, there is a price to pay for being well known. When the famous develop problems of addiction, depression, run ins with the law, and general bad behavior, although not excusable, it can be understood, why these things can happen. The solution can be simple. Just stop doing what made you, and is making you famous. It is a sacrifice, and it may seem unfair, but it is a solution to the problem. It seems even the wealthy and not so famous are not all that happy, and some can be pretty miserable. When we hear about this, we often wonder, how somebody with all that money, can have so many problems, and be that unhappy. All the wealthy are not like this, but there are enough, that there are many articles in many journals written about this subject. Here is a short review on the general consensus, of why the wealthy are unhappy.

First, here are some quick stats. There are close to 800 billionaires in the United States. Here are the top 4. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, all have a net worth between 105 and 188 billion dollars. Sweden’s richest man, Stefan Persson, is worth 18 billion which would just slip him in to the top 25 in the United States. Millionaires are a totally different story. There are well over 18 million of them and just over 75% of them are white. Apparently being a millionaire is not really all that great. Even the titles of some of the articles are ominous. The dark reasons so many rich people are miserable human beings. Then the article goes on to discuss people that are making a little over 100,000 dollars a year. That’s not rich, when compared to the millionaires and billionaires. There is an article, simply titled, why aren’t millionaires happier. That article talks about people knowing, that material things can not buy them happiness. It’s also hard to stop buying, once you start, but people with lesser incomes, seem to have that problem, also. Millionaires do not seem to be immune to having fairly high suicide rates, compared to other sectors of society. When compared with the other wealthy countries, it seems one of the wealthiest, the United States is also the leader in suicide rates. Reading these articles, even though they create a certain amount of sadness, do not give a good reason, why there is so much despair among the wealthy. I have my own theory.

It really boils down to not knowing, what to do with all that money. A lot of billionaires and multi millionaires do a lot of philanthropic work, and help a lot of people. They are all set up through some foundation, so even though a wealthy or famous person’s name is attached to it, it is the foundation doing the work, with a lot of people volunteering, and donating money. I think what the very rich need to do, to end all their misery, is to help people on a 1 to 1 basis. The 800 or so billionaires could give away 1 billion dollars each, in increments of 100,000 thousand dollars, to the poor and needy, directly. They could go down to the border right now, and give that amount to everyone crossing the border. They could walk into homeless shelters, and give each person there, 100,000 thousand dollars. There is approximately 5000 Americans with a net worth of over 100 million dollars. All of those Americans could give 1 million dollars each, in increments of 100,000 directly to the needy and poor. Just get the money, make a bank check made out to cash, and start passing them out directly. Don’t worry about tax breaks, and write offs, just go out and start giving that money away. You have plenty of it. If you have a foundation, it will be fine and will continue the good work that it is doing. For those of you under the 100 million mark, give what you can, but give it directly to the person. In order to be a happy billionaire, or multi-millionaire, you have to have that feeling of the one on one gift. It makes everyone feel good, and you get to do it many times. So just do it, all you millionaires and billionaires, and you are not going to feel miserable any more. It will give you a whole new feeling.

Meditation: Results

When you read or hear anything about life, or life coaching, it is always about the journey not the destination. It is about the process, not the outcome. This subject, results, could have been written under any of the titles, that I discuss. Food, how does it taste? Golf, what did you shoot? Sports, what was the final score? Meditation, what are the benefits? All the answers to those questions, have nothing to do with the process, but the results. On your job, you need to have results. What is the bottom line? Every boss has said, at one time or another, I do not want to hear about any excuses, I want results. We all want to get to our destination, whatever that may be. People set a goal, and some will have a plan to achieve that goal. The best laid plans can go awry, due to many unforeseeable circumstances. This philosophy, that what’s important is the journey, or the process, is just a way to help handle failure. I am not too sure, if that’s the reason, that coaches try to get their clients to think this way, but to have this results only attitude, is not something that is going to improve your health.

There is no question, the sports fan is at the top of the list, of the results only philosophy. You will see many fans tweet, that if my team does not reach the championship game or series the season is a failure. Now in professional sports you are really fighting the odds. There are 30 to 32 teams in each of the four major sports leagues. That means, that with everything being equal, there is only about 3% chance, that your team is going to win the championship. Now, we all know that everything is not equal, so there are going to be some teams that have a better chance than others, to win the title. The teams that do win the title, seem to have some process, or plan, and when it succeeds, then everybody tries to copy them to some degree, with various results, that are usually not as successful as the original team. One thing about the process it is not ignored, especially in golf. In fact the process is given too much credit, by some professional golfers, who have had success in the past. They have a had a great stretch of golf covering years, and run into a bump in the road, and will change coaches, and swings, to see if they can recapture their previous success. Sometimes they don’t even need a bump in the road, to completely revamp their swing, supposedly, trying to get better. The best example I know of this, is Tiger Woods. After winning the Masters by 12 shots, he changed his swing. Now because he went on to have great success, that decision is not questioned, as much as it should be. There are many other examples of this in golf, the most recent is Rory Mcilroy, who is going through this process right now. He is only ranked 11th in the world, I would be changing my swing, too. Is it really the journey, and process, and what are we to do if the results are not what we want?

To get the first part of question out of the way quickly, the answer is a resounding no. If this kind of thinking helps you, then go ahead and continue, but do not delude yourself into thinking, that results do not matter. The one factor that is forgotten about, when there is any successful outcomes, whether it be on a small or short term scale, or a large or long term scale, is luck. Yes, that’s right good old luck. We never give luck enough credit, whether it be good or bad luck. The reason for this, is if we think luck played a major role in our success or failure, it takes the results, out of our hands. It can also, make it seem like all the hard work we put in, may have been wasted, if we were not lucky. Instead of being grateful for our good fortune, we brush it under the rug, and try to forget about it, because we do not want to lessen our accomplishment. This doesn’t really lessen the accomplishment, it is just our perception. When our luck is bad, we don’t talk much about it then, because it looks like complaining. If it is not the journey or the process that is important, how are we to handle the less than desirable outcomes or failures. You have to handle failure with acceptance. In other words you almost have to be happy to fail. This will not stem your desire to succeed, but it will allow you to move on, and possibly try again, or move into a totally new direction, with a new plan. It is the process that allows you to try and find your path. There is that fine line between having faith in yourself, and continuing on the journey, or finding a new path toward a different life goal. It is the hardest part of the whole process, of finding your way through this life. Results are important, but the most important part of any result, is what you do with it once you get it.

Meditation: Masks and Governors

At first, this blog was going to be a rant. Rants can be very cathartic and make you feel good, when you are doing them. Rants can also be very nasty and unkind. Since I have put this under meditation, and have just finished meditating, I decided to write this in a more conventional way. I am not going to use the words, moron, idiot, stupid, crazy, and brainless. The subject of masks and governors have come up a lot over the last few weeks. Masks have been in the news for a long time, and have caused confrontations on many levels, in many areas of the country. Governors have been in the news, more than usual over the last year, because it has been up to them to handle the pandemic, in their respective states, since we never have had a national policy. However, in the last two weeks there has been some new twists concerning both. I am taking big breaths, to remain calm, as I begin to discuss each one.

With more people getting vaccinated, there was a confrontation between Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci, over wearing masks, with Senator Paul calling them theater. There has even been mask burning gatherings, with kids participating, in many parts of the country. Being against wearing a mask, is like being against wearing clothes. Walk into any establishment without wearing a shirt or shoes, and see what happens. You will see your “constitutional rights” trampled, as you are escorted out of the building. Unlike clothes, masks are not required 24/7. You only have to wear a mask, when you are inside. You don’t have to wear one in the parking lot. You don’t have to wear one as you walk toward the building. You only have to put the mask on when you enter the building. When you are doing grocery shopping, inside a mall, or a larger mega mart, you are probably going to be there between 30 to 60 minutes. That is all that is being ask of you. Such a small and insignificant thing to do, but you will be protecting many people, including yourself. Restaurants even require less time with a mask on. How such a simple thing to do, created such anger and rage is something that is very difficult to explain. The human race, apparently, has really failed in their ability to do things for the greater good. Even though mask wearing will never become law, it should be, to save people, from themselves.

Recently, there have been articles in many news sources giving positive reviews to governors that have essentially kept their states open during the entire pandemic. They say that these states are not any worse off with corona virus cases than states that went through lock downs. Their economies are better, because of the governors policies of allowing businesses to function, like there was no pandemic at all. These articles miss one very huge point. It really doesn’t make any difference what a governor does or doesn’t do, people are going to do what they want, therefore the states really aren’t much different from each other. In states that went through restrictions, people still found ways to meet in large groups, not wear masks, and find restaurants that defied restriction mandates, and opened anyway. In states where the governors kept things opened, most businesses still required masks, people sheltered in place on their own, and followed social distancing guidelines. The reality is, that no matter what a governor mandates, without some intense enforcement, many will simply defy the mandates. The idea that a governor should be praised for whatever he did, or did not do, during the pandemic, is ignoring this fact. The governors policies only had a minimal effect, on how the pandemic played out in their state. As in the case of masks, many people did what they wanted to do, not really caring about the common good. As far as I am concerned, this pandemic has brought out the worse in society. People fighting over, trying to keep from getting sick. A disease, that essentially many people do not want to stop from spreading. One can only hope, but I am not optimistic, that we may learn from the mistakes we have made.

Meditation: Stress

Stress is defined as a a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Stress is thought of as a natural response to a challenging or dangerous situation. Most stress responses are only designed to function for a short period of time, of about 1 to 2 hours. It is when these stress feelings, or emotions, last for days on end, that health issues can arise. These health issues can be many things, ranging from high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive problems, mental disorders, mood swings, digestive and sleep problems. They intertwine with each other, which leads to a multitude of issues. However, one of the most concerning problems about stress, is how it can affect the brain. Stress can affect the memory, and other brain functions like mood, and anxiety. Stress also seems to promote inflammation, which can not only adversely affect the brain, but also the joints, and the cardiovascular system. The ways to deal with stress are well known, and have been around for a long time. They can range from meditation, listening to music, exercise, reading, social interaction, and deep breathing. It is a foregone conclusion, that stress is a natural part of life. One article goes so far as to say that a life without stress, is not only impossible, but also would likely be pretty uninteresting. Many feel that a certain degree of stress is helpful for growth. In fact, there is a term eustress which means beneficial stress. Is that really the way things have to be? Since stress seems to cause so many problems with our bodies and minds, when does beneficial stress become harmful stress. Instead of trying to deal with stress, maybe we should be trying to prevent it altogether, even though that seems to be impossible.

There are many things out there, that can be good for us, in small to moderate amounts, but if we overdo it, can be harmful. Sunlight, alcohol, food, and even exercise, if carried to extreme can do us harm. The difference is, these are all tangible items, that we can see and do. Stress is something that we create, 95% of the time. There is natural stress, which is mostly caused by danger, and our fears. Fear is a very real thing to the person who has the fear, even though many people may think the fear is ridiculous. I am not going to get into specifics, because this blog is about stress. These stressors are there to protect us in times of danger or can help us conquer our fears. These natural stressors do not make life any more, or less interesting, but I agree are impossible to avoid. The stress related to our relationships with friends, loved ones, spouses, life partners, coworkers and careers(yes, we have a relationship with our career/jobs), is the stress that we create, and need to prevent, not manage. We all know the things that create this stress. Things go wrong, not the way we want them to, job related pressures, and all the things in an interpersonal relationship. The list can go on and on. Preventing this stress is like most things in life, it is easier said than done. I believe there are ways of doing it. Start the day with meditation, and end it by counting your blessings. Acceptance of a situation is a big step in preventing stress. Make a move, that you have been thinking of doing for a long time. Do something. There is a solution to every problem, it just hasn’t been found yet. Do not think of the consequences, if someone else, is in control of those consequences. Do your best at all times, and move on. Deep breaths, when fear and anxiety seem to be taking over. Anticipation always seems to be worse than what will actually happens. The bottom line is this, just don’t feel stressed. It does not have to be created. The idea that in order for a life to be interesting and full, it has to have stress in it, is absurd. Natural stress is protective and necessary. Created stress just makes life miserable, not interesting. You may not be able to control outcomes, but you can control how you react to them. Think like you just received an anti stress vaccine. It is possible to live a life, free from created stress.

Meditation: N. O. M. V. Suicide

It stands for Not One More Vet, and is an organization to give help and support to veterinarians, who are feeling overwhelmed by some of the unique problems, and stress of the veterinary profession. The suicide rate in veterinarians is about 2 times the national average when compared with the general population. On social media, you are seeing pictures of people in the veterinary profession, with N. O. M. V. superimposed on their profile picture. When people find out what that means, they are surprised to learn, that this is such a problem in the profession. The N. O. M. V. organization was started in the year 2014, when one of the most well know veterinarians in dog behavior, Sophia Yin, took her own life. I listened and spoke to her at many veterinary conferences, and her training methods, and her lectures, were the best I have ever experienced, before or since. I am sure I was not alone in my feelings, and that is why her death was so shocking. This organization has been around for close to 7 years now, and people are still are not aware, of what a veterinarian has to go through on a daily basis. They are not aware of what it means to be a veterinarian. It starts with the reason why people want to become a veterinarian. It is what gets people off on the wrong foot, before they even get started.

The vast majority of people that think about having a veterinary career, do so, because they have a love of animals. This sounds all well and good. However, it is the second word of the profession, you better love, medicine. As a veterinarian, you are going to practice more medicine in your career, than than any 10 MD’s combined. Even though veterinary medicine is becoming more specialized, the general dog and cat veterinary practitioner, is most likely going to manage, and treat cases involving, the heart, the liver, the kidney, the skin, the intestinal tract, the spine, the brain, and hormonal conditions, involving the pancreas, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The veterinarian will handle those cases from beginning to end. Even in cases, where a specialist should be involved, many people can not afford the cost, and the veterinarian will have to do the best that he or she can, under the circumstances. The amount of medical knowledge one has to consume in veterinary school, and continue to consume throughout one’s career, concerning diseases and conditions in dogs and cats can be overwhelming. You must have a never ending thirst for knowledge. Plus, you are going to be doing surgery, which is a totally different aspect of the job. Even though you may have a great love of animals, you are still going to have to deal with people, on a daily basis. You will have to deal with them, most of the time, in very difficult situations, when they are dealing with a sick pet, and financial difficulties. If you are not a people person, you are going to have major problems, in a veterinary practice. This may be one of the reasons, that in many surveys, less than half of the veterinarians surveyed, recommend their profession has a career choice. Veterinary schools need to show what it really means, to be working as a veterinarian. This is not to discourage people to become veterinarians, but to become veterinarians for the right reasons.

The other factor in making a veterinarian’s career difficult, is the overall sadness that happens of a daily basis. Veterinarians and their staff, probably see more people cry, than in any other profession. There is hardly a day that goes by that a veterinarian is not euthanizing a beloved pet. Many people, not in the profession, think that euthanasia is such a good thing. Many times, when I had to put an animal to sleep, I would have a client say, I wish they would do this for people, so they would not have to suffer. Intuitively, this seems correct. But the process of deciding, when to euthanized an animal, can be extremely stressful, for the owner. Then you have the other side of the coin. As a practitioner of medicine, the enemy is death. When a life is saved in human medicine, whether it be, from an accident or a disease, the physician may see that person go on to live a wonderful and fruitful life. The person may be alive, whenever the doctor retires. He will see the fruits of his labor, for years and years. The veterinarian, when he saves a life, knows it is a temporary postponement. In 5 to 10 years, that animal will die or be euthanized. The victories can be savored, but you know that death will win out at the end. Euthanasia can also be used as a convenience. When a child is diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, one of the options not given to the child’s mother is, if you don’t want to go through the issues of managing a diabetic, we can just put Johnny to sleep. Yet, I have had many cases of diabetes in dogs and cats that were under the age of 10, where the owner elected euthanasia. Then you have the dichotomy of thousands of dollars being spent to treat dogs and cats illnesses, while every year over a million dogs and cats are being euthanized at shelters, across the United States. The strangeness of that, can really make one think, why am I doing all this? Dealing with, and watching this much death, can take it’s toll. It can lead one to believe how peaceful and serene death is, and a way to solve one’s problems.

Other issues today, are the high cost of the education in relationship to the return. The information highway, that makes people feel, that they know more about how to diagnose and treat their pet, than the veterinarian does. Even though things have improved on this front, there still is this lack of respect for the profession. You will hear that famous line, why didn’t you become a real doctor. There has always been this certain paranoia in the profession. Back in the 70’s and 80’s when the profession had it’s most popularity, we were inundated with, we were graduating too many veterinarians, and there would not be enough business for this huge influx of veterinarians. Veterinarians have always been paranoid about losing business. They were worried when emergency clinics started, that they would lose patients to them, because clients would go back to them for their regular visits. It may be this attitude of trying to keep clients at all costs, that leads to much of the abusive behaviors, that veterinarians and their staff have to endure. When I had my practice the first thing I said to an unhappy client ( and I had plenty of them), was that there were 4 other clinics within 5 miles, and I would be happy to send their records there, so they could try them. If we are going to put a stop to this crisis in veterinary medicine, we need to educate young people about what it takes to be a veterinarian, not this James Harriot bullshit. We need to find a way to make a veterinary education less expensive, cutting the years down to become a veterinarian, from around 8 to around 6. We need to find ways to help veterinarians deal with the concept of death and seeing it on a daily basis. Yes, veterinary MEDICINE can be a very challenging, rewarding, and satisfying career, if you realize just how tough it is, and know what you are getting into. I still recommend it, whole heartedly.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part IV

Pleasure is something we all seem to want, or at least, it is something that you would think, you should want. But somehow, over the years, the word pleasure, or the seeking of pleasure, has taken on this negative viewpoint. The most obvious example of this feeling, is the articles you can read about guilty pleasures. These articles will list about 10 to 12 things, that you should feel guilty about, when pursuing these endeavors . These lists can range from bubble baths, to binge watching TV, and playing hooky from work. Then, there is Freud’s Pleasure Principle. This is the theory, that as babies, we want immediate gratification, and will do anything to get it. This will gradually subside when we get older, as REALITY sets in. The reality is, that sometimes we must wait, a proper amount of time, to receive our pleasurable experience. In some cases, there is this feeling of sophistication when it comes to pleasure. This is when art and museums, are the things that gives one pleasure. Pleasure is one of the few words that is directly associated with sex. That can creative negative thoughts for many. There is this atmosphere of distain, for people that are constantly seeking pleasure. Shouldn’t all of us be seeking pleasure. Maybe, it’s the reason we seek pleasure, that is creating the problem.

You should seek to make every experience a pleasurable one. Some people may say that is just about impossible, but I think it is something to strive for. However, the major reason I think people seek pleasure, is to avoid pain. It is this avoidance of pain, through the use of drugs and alcohol, that can lead to physical addiction. The other detrimental behaviors I wrote about in previous blogs, such as being on social media, the internet, your phone, and video games, may also be due to the avoidance of pain, or painful experiences. Pleasure is confused with avoidance or dulling of pain in everyday life. That good old alcohol buzz may feel pleasurable, but it is nothing more than a blocking device, for what is causing your discomfort. The same thing could be said for products, that claim to create pleasure. It is a tough road sometimes, just to find pleasures, in the simple things of life. This is simply finding pleasure, for the sake of pleasure. Some philosophies believe, that the only way to know you are alive, is to suffer. This may seem to be a little extreme, but it could be true. Trying to avoid pain and suffering, is a fruitless endeavor. It has been shown that avoiding loss, is a very high human priority. People seem to want to avoid losing money at all costs, rather than taking a moderate risk, to make money. Avoidance is giving pleasure a bad name.

You must embrace life for what it is. It is a series of ups and downs. Seeking pleasurable things to make you happy, is never a bad thing. There is so much of life, that can not be controlled. When something gives you joy, appreciate it, and be happy. Remember, there are no guilty pleasures in life, just the wrong reason for seeking them. Look for pleasure when things are going great. When something bad happens feel the pain, embrace it the best you can, and hope for a better tomorrow. Great losses in your life can be the hardest to overcome. Remember the ones we have lost would want us to move on and continue to get the most out of life we have. Pleasure is always worth seeking as it will improve the body and the mind. What pleasure can not do, is minimize or suppress the pain and suffering found in life.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part III

In the first two parts of discussing pleasure, I wrote about how pleasure seems to create problems in our lives, and the chemicals in the body, that seem to be the agents, in allowing us to feel pleasure. In this blog, I am going to look at ways health experts have tried to control these chemicals, in order to treat psychological problems, and improve our lives. They have tried to do this through medications, and a process that is termed dopamine fasting. Both are an ever evolving processes, which you could say is true of anything involving the brain. These techniques and medications, some of which have been used for years, have meant with various degrees of success. Unfortunately, there is a long way to go, before we are really going to know what is going on, in that thing between our ears.

Dopamine fasting is a relatively new technique, which came to fame, about 2018. Basically, it is abstaining from “addictive” technologies, like the cell phone, social media, the computer, and internet gaming. The proponents of dopamine fasting, say it can even help in overeating, and gambling. The term dopamine fasting is a misnomer. Even people who advocate this method, know it does not affect dopamine levels. They fessed up to this, when it was brought to their attention, that there is no good reason to reduce dopamine levels. It does too many things to help brain function, so reducing it, is not a good idea. What they are trying to do, is to avoid overstimulation of the brain. Dopamine fasting is nothing more than some behavior modification techniques. When you read articles about dopamine fasting, they make it sound so easy. If this was an easy thing to do, taking away all technical stimulation for a finite period of time, then why would we need dopamine fasting. You would just set aside a particular time not to be on the computer, your phone etc. All the things that dopamine fasting is suppose to help are not physically addicting. It is a an insult to people that are battling the physical addiction to alcohol and drugs, to use the word addiction for the aforementioned behaviors. It is not easy to stop some of these destructive behaviors, but your body is not going to go into a horrible withdrawal. Dopamine fasting is simply another way of saying find a quiet spot and breathe.

The medical profession has tried to help people, by trying to affect the chemicals of pleasure, with medication. The most common way they have done this, is with medications called antidepressants. Right now, there are at least 22 medications, described as antidepressants. There is no question, that these medications have saved thousands of lives, and have helped people make it through some really dark times. Even though the medical profession doesn’t like to hear this, there is a lot of trial and error, when it comes to prescribing these medications. That is why it is imperative to be acutely aware of how these drugs, or any combination of them, is making you feel. You are the blood work, the MRI, and contrast study, all rolled up into one. There are no good tests, that are able to discern, how effective these drugs are. Hopefully some day, there will be ways to tell just what these drugs are doing, and when they are doing it. In the final part of looking at pleasure, I will look at the feeling itself, and try to figure out why, it is perceived to be, at times such a problem.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part II

In order to understand pleasure, we have to look at the logistics of how the mind and the body experiences pleasure. Pleasure is created by neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical substances that are released at the end of a nerve fiber by the arrival of a nerve impulse and, by diffusing across the synapse or junction, causes the transfer of the impulse to another nerve fiber, a muscle fiber, or some other structure. The exact number of neurotransmitters is unknown but more than 200 have been identified. Neurotransmitters are different types of protein substances that are manufactured by the body from the foods we eat. Most of the western diets are high in protein, so the body does not have much trouble in making neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitter that has been related to pleasure is dopamine. Dopamine  has a number of important functions in the brain; this includes regulation of motor behavior, pleasures related to motivation and also emotional arousal. It plays a critical role in the reward system.

Dopamine is made from the amino acid L-Dopa, which can be synthesized indirectly from the essential amino acid phenylalanine or directly from the non-essential amino acid tyrosine. These amino acids  are found in nearly every protein and so are readily available in food, with tyrosine being the most common. Although dopamine is also found in many types of food, it is incapable of crossing the blood-brain barrier that surrounds and protects the brain. It must therefore be synthesized inside the brain to perform its neuronal activity. That is not a problem because both L-dopa and tyrosine can cross the barrier and therefore Dopamine is made by the brain, for the brain. Dopamine can cause health problems if an individual has too little or too much in their system. The most common disease linked to a Dopamine deficiency is Parkinson’s Disease. You can measure Dopamine in the blood. Since Dopamine can not cross the blood brain barrier, this is not going to tell you how much Dopamine is in the brain. Until recently there was no way of knowing how much Dopamine was in the brain. Now MIT has developed MRI sensors, that consist of magnetic proteins that can bind to dopamine. When this binding takes place, researchers can continuously monitor dopamine levels in a specific part of the brain. One of the key discoveries was that dopamine did not make neurons more active, but made neurons active for longer periods of time. Unless your are going to be hooked up to the these sensors, no one is really going to know what is happening in the dopamine brain system.

There are other feel good substances in the body. Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin often referred to as the happy hormones, even though only one is a hormone. They are all connected with each other when it comes to pleasure. Endorphins are stored and produced in the pituitary gland. They can inhibit pain mechanisms. You create endorphins when you do something related to exercise that you really like to do. All of these chemicals are involved in the feelings of pleasure and reward and how to get both. When any of these chemicals get out of whack not matter what the reason, we begin to have problems. This can make pleasure seem so confounding at times. Sometimes, it is what we do to bring all this in balance, that can at times make everything worse.

Meditation: Pleasure, Part I

When we think of pleasure, we think of things that make us happy, bring us joy, makes life fun, and results in a feeling of contentment and joy. Pleasure is defined, as a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment. This sounds like a rather simple endeavor. However, not all people agree on what is pleasurable. Pleasure originates in the most complex organ of the body, the brain. There is the disorder known as anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Another condition, related to a perceived lack of pleasure, is dysphoria which is a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. There are many opinions about pleasure. Some groups feel that pleasure is something that should not be sought. There are other opinions, that pleasure and suffering are the only way we know that we are alive. There are ideas, that when pleasure is associated with rewards, that this can lead to destructive behavior. There is a feeling that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous. That seeking out a more productive and meaningful life may not be a pleasurable experience, but your life may be more satisfying, and therefore you are happier. By constantly seeking pleasure, one will not pursue contemplation, which does not reside in orgasmic thrills, or sensations of warmth, but in deep absorption and immersion, a state we now call “flow.” And during this state there is neither thought nor feeling. You are simply “one with the music. In other words pleasure can inhibit meditation. I am not sure that I agree.

With pleasure now becoming more complicated, it was only a matter of time, before neuroscience would have to get involved. Neuroscience, at one time, felt that only objective behavior reactions could be studied, and pleasure was a subjective reaction, depending on what each individual felt was pleasurable. With new technology in brain studies, that viewpoint, while still being argued, is in the vast minority today. Today, a neuroscience of pleasure can be pursued as successfully as the neuroscience of perception, learning, cognition, or other well-studied psychological functions. Neuroscience did show the evolution of hedonic reactions. Hedonism is a family of theories that all have pleasure as a central theme. There is this conflict between hedonism and religion. By constantly seeking pleasure, it could ruin your life. However, most religions follow the principles of hedonism, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. Trying to get into heaven, and avoiding hell at all costs is one of the basics of Christianity.

Pleasure, which looked so simple, turns out to be one of the most complex and misunderstood mental experiences. There are many things that can give people pleasure. Sometimes these pleasurable experiences can lead to destructive behavior. Why can’t things that are perceived to be pleasurable always be good for us? Why can’t we perceive, that in the long run, what we find pleasurable is causing us harm? How are we blocking things that would give us pleasure, and help us live better lives? Chemistry seems to be the answer. The number and the amount of these chemicals, seems to be the elusive answer to the previous questions. As this is explored further, you may get the same feeling that I have, that science is not all that close to an answer.

Meditation: Deserve

Deserve is a word that we hear many times, during the course of a day. The word deserve means to have earned or to be given something because of the way you have behaved or the qualities you have. Most of the times the word is used when somebody receives an award, and comments are made, whether he deserved the award, or not. When it comes time for the Oscars, there are movies that people feel deserve or did not deserve a nomination. The word is not always used in positive situations. Sometimes when bad things happen to people, someone might comment they deserved it. We all have had this experience when watching a movie, the villain, or vile person, gets his just due, in the end of the movie. We are all satisfied with that ending, because he deserved it. When a person commits a crime, they deserve to go to jail. This is not the way we are supposed to feel when something bad, or serious happens to another person, but it is still pretty harmless. In fact, it is often fun to debate who deserves what. On the smaller stage of life, we see people have opinions on whether or not someone deserved a promotion, or the new job they are pursuing. People will comment on another person’s new relationship, if it seems to be going well, as something they deserve. As long as a person applies deserve to another person or thing, then this process can be, for the most part, not a major problem, in one’s own psyche. It’s when deserve starts to be a way they describe their own life, that problems can arise.

It’s when you start thinking, that you deserve a better job, a new promotion, a better relationship, or just a better way of life in general, that can have a negative impact on your life. This thinking can spiral into a worse situation if you start perceiving that you deserve any of the bad things, that may be happening. We all feel there are times when we can do better, in dealing with other people, and ourselves, but this does not mean, that we are a bad person and deserve the results, when things go wrong. When you look up synonyms for the word deserve, you will find entitled. When people say they are entitled, this can bring quite a negative response. Maybe the word deserve should have more of a negative connotation. Is there anything that is good or bad, that we actually deserve. Just because you work hard, and do all the right things, is not going to guarantee success, or a monetary reward. Luck is always going to be a factor in life. Do we all deserve to be lucky? I think the answer lies at the end of movie The Unforgiven. The sheriff is about to get his head blown off by Clint Eastwood and says that he does not deserve to die like this. Eastwood’s characters reply is “Deserves got nothing to do with it”. That statement can be applied to every action and result in life, deserve has nothing to do with it. We need to get into that mode when dealing with deserve. It is just an opinion and it needs to be vanquished, from our own lives, if we want to have contentment. The reason for doing anything is for our own self satisfaction and peace. To do this, we need to remove deserve from the middle of our minds.