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.

Golf: Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods, is the third member of the group, who should be considered the greatest golfer of all time, and thanks to the alphabet, I have saved the best for last. Despite the fact that I wrote, that Sam Snead should be in this group, the debate always boils down to Jack Nicklaus, and Tiger Woods. Those that feel that Nicklaus is the best, will always point to his major championship record, which is second to none. There is no doubt that people look at the performances in major championships, as golf’s holy grail. We need a little historical background on major championships, to put them in a proper prospective. Although Tiger Wood’s major championship record is not as good as Nicklaus’s, it is not all that far behind, when you look at the entire history of golf.

When Nicklaus was trying to win the most major championships of all time, he was chasing Bobby Jones. Jones had won 13 major championships, which included the U. S. and British Amateur, where he won 5 and 1 respectively. He won 4 US Opens and 3 British Opens to round out his 13 majors. When Nicklaus was making his run at Jones, he had won 2 US Amateur titles, before turning pro in 1962. Walter Hagen had 11 professional major titles. He won 3 US Open, 3 British Opens, and 5 PGA Championships. He won 4 PGA’s in a row when the event was all match play. Speaking of greatness, he is the greatest match play player of all time. It was convenient when Nicklaus won his 14th major, which included his 2 amateur wins, he broke Jones’s major record, and Hagen’s professional major record, at the same time. As the years went by Nicklaus’s majors number always included his amateur wins. When he won that memorable Masters in 1986, it was stated that this was his 20th major championship, which in 1986, looked like a record that would never be approached, let alone broken. Then, along comes Tiger, and all of a sudden, the talk is only about the 18 professional majors that Nicklaus won, like the US amateur is not considered a major any more. No one had the guts, to write that the great Bob Jones, now only had 7 majors. If you count Tiger’s 3 US Amateur wins, then that brings his total to 18 and only 2 behind Nicklaus. They both have won the 4 professional majors, 3 times each. Jack has won one more Masters, one more US Open, and one more PGA, thus the 2 more career majors. You just can not change, what is considered a major as time goes by. If it was counted as a major in 1980, then it is a major today. Even though Jack’s record in the majors, is still the best, Tiger is a close second, for sure.

Tiger is the G.O.A.T, because he just has done too many things that no one has ever done, plain and simple. The only person to win 3 US Amateurs in a row. The youngest to win all 4 majors, doing it when he was 24, about 2 years younger than Nicklaus. His making the cut 142 straight times, should be enough to put him at the top. He broke Byron Nelson’s record of 111 and Jack made a good run, with 105. Hale Irwin follows with 86 and Dow Finsterwald is 5th at 72, just a little above half of Tiger’s mark. Tiger was the only player to win 4 professional majors in a row. See, I know how to sneak that professional word in too. He has the lowest career scoring average. He is tied with Sam Snead for 82 wins. He has led the money list 10 times, Nicklaus is second with 8, and Tom Watson and Ben Hogan did it 5 times, each. Biggest victory margin in the US Open 15, next Willie Anderson 11 in 1899. Biggest victory margin in the Masters 12, Jack second with 9. Biggest victory margin in British Open 8. Two other golfers matched this record, J. H. Taylor, 1900 and 1913, and James Braid in 1908. The major he does not have the biggest victory margin, is the PGA, where he did win by 5 once, but Rory has the record at 8. He has 41 European Tour wins which is 3rd all time. Tiger has won Bay Hill 8 times, and The World Invitational at Firestone 8 times, tying him with Snead for the most wins at one event. He is 14 and 1 when holding or sharing the third round lead in a major. He has won a record 22.8% of his starts on the PGA tour. Nicklaus won about 12% of his. There may one player on tour today, who is close to 10%, but that is about it. He won the Vardon Trophy a record 9 times. Last but not least his playoff record is 15-2. Ben Hogan’s playoff record is 2 and 9. Any questions. Tiger is it, baby.

Golf: Sam Snead

Sam Snead is the golfer, that is most overlooked, when talking about the greatest golfers of all time. Other than Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, there is not a lot of argument given, for anybody, to join them. in the discussion of the greatest golfer of all time. In fact, in some rankings, you might find Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Walter Hagen, and even Harry Vardon ranked ahead of Snead. The biggest reason for this, is that Snead has this gaping hole in his record, of never being able to win the U. S. Open. He finished 2ond four times, and the one that stands out, is the 1939 Open, where he needed just a par to win the tournament, and made a triple bogey 8, to fall to 5th place. Snead said, that he thought he needed a birdie to just tie for the lead, and played the hole aggressively, which resulted in the 8. Such a thing would have never happened today, with all the scoreboards around. It is not to say that he would have parred the hole, but he certainly would have played it differently. But Snead’s career had many more highlights, than lowlights.

He won 7 major titles, 3 Masters, 3 PGA’s, when it was a match play tournament, and one British Open. He has 82 official PGA tour wins, and but also a total of 142 professional wins, including being the only man to win an LPGA event. It was in 1962, a par 3 event in Florida, and Snead defeated 14 LPGA players including Mickey Wright. It was held the previous year with 24 men and women playing, and Snead finished 3rd, losing by 2 shots to Louise Suggs. Snead joined the tour in 1937, and over the next 25 seasons won at least one tournament every year, except for 1943, due to military service, 1947, and 1959. He won the Greensboro Open for the 8th time, in 1965, at the age of 54, making him the oldest winner of a PGA tour event, to this day. He won on the senior tour in 1980, making him the only golfer to win senior and regular tour events over 6 decades. Snead made a lot of noise on the PGA tour, even when he was in his sixties. He made the cut at the U.S. Open at age 61, which is a record. He finished in the top ten in three consecutive PGA Championships at ages 60 to 62. In 1974 at 61-62 years of age, he played in 13 events, made the cut 11 times, and finished in the top five 3 times, a 2ond, a 3rd, and a 4th. In 1979 at age 67, still competing on the PGA tour, he was the youngest player to ever shoot his age. On longevity alone, this man could be considered the greatest of all time. His greatest year was 1950. Playing in 25 tournaments, he won 11, finished second in 5 and 3rd in 2. Yet, Ben Hogan was voted player of the year, because of his comeback, and winning the U.S. Open, his only win that year. Before Tiger, Golf Digest voted Snead the 3rd greatest golfer of all time, behind Nicklaus and Hogan. There has always been, some kind of prejudice against Snead, for some reason, in the golfing press.

Snead had this kind of down home folksy persona, but he was, also, pretty much of a skin flint, and was always looking for ways to make money, from everyday activities. There were many stories from the Greenbriar, where he was the pro, where he would ask to join a group, then ask for 100 dollars, from each member of the threesome, to do so. He was notorious for not tipping caddies, and for keeping all his money in cans, buried in the back yard. Nobody in the media, really wanted to ordain this guy, with the G.O.A.T. tag. The U.S.G.A. never seem to like Snead either. The method of croquet putting, where you straddle the line, was invented around 1961, and was being used in sanctioned professional events. It wasn’t until Snead started using it in 1967, to combat the yips, that the USGA got all up in arms about it, and banned the method in 1968. Snead was considered double jointed, meaning he had hypermotility in his joints. There is the famous picture of Snead kicking the top of a door frame when he was in his seventies. How much this helped his swing will never be known. Sam Snead was just a better and more natural player than Ben Hogan. When you think of the greatest golfer of all time you can not simply look at statistics. Think of a beautiful and powerful swing that created some of the finest shots in the history of golf. Think of somebody who played competitively, on the PGA tour, for over 40 years. Think of Sam Snead.

Golf: Jack Nicklaus

These next three blogs on golf, are going to be about, who I consider the best three golfers of all time. They are going to be in alphabetical order, so just because I am leading off with Jack, does not mean I think he is the best. Doesn’t mean I don’t think he’s the best, either. Most people feel there is only a top 2, but I do feel there is a third golfer, who deserves to be in the conversation, when talking about the greatest golfer of all time. I am going to mention each golfer’s record, but I am going to emphasize more, of what made these three unique that made them so great. After these three I do not think anybody else is really close, but in future blogs I will discuss some of the other greats, who fall outside of the top 3. Nicklaus’s record in major championships is second to none. He won 2 U.S. amateur championships, and then won 18 professional majors. He also finished 2ond an amazing 19 times. It is not inconceivable to think, that a lip out here, or a bad bounce there, and he might have won 25 to 30 major championships. Despite all those 2ond place finishes, there is still not a major, that anyone thinks that Jack Nicklaus gave away. He simply got outplayed. The only time I ever heard any criticism of Jack’s play in a major, where he contended, was in the 1972 British Open. Lee Trevino beat him by one shot with a lucky chip in, for par at the par 5, 17th hole. Many in the press, said that Jack played too conservative in the first 3 rounds, and if he would have been more aggressive early, he would have won the third leg of the grand slam, that year. Jack won 73 tournaments on the PGA tour, which is third all time. But here is what set Jack Nicklaus apart from everybody else.

There were two things. First, he was the master of what I called the killer putt. This was a putt late in the final round of a tournament that just knocked the wind out of his opponents. One of his most famous, was the putt he made up the hill at the 16th hole in the final round of the 1975 Masters which enabled him to edge out Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller, for the green jacket. Second, was the Nicklaus brain. I not taking about mental toughness, or the ability to stay calm and focused under pressure. I am talking about his golf swing brain. This is what Nicklaus had to say about his golf swing and what he is thinking when he is playing tournament golf.

“You know, every shot I play, I think of exactly what I want to do with the swing. I never just let it happen. Ever. Never. Even today, I can think of four or five things during a swing and do all of them. And I probably use to be able to do more. Most people say to think of one or maybe one and a half, but I’ve always been able to think of several things to do during the swing. And I do those things.”

This, in the day of having one swing thought, or no swing thoughts, here is one of the greatest players of all time, thinking about four or five things to do during the swing, and maybe even more, in his prime. One of Nicklaus’s most famous shots, was his one iron on the 17th hole at Pebble Beach in the fourth round of the U.S. Open. In a very strong headwind, he hit a laser like one iron that hit the green, took one big hop, hit the pin and dropped right by the hole, for a kick in birdie, to seal his 3rd U.S. Open title. This is what he said about this shot and swing. “I remember I took it back a little inside and shut. I felt that happening but I couldn’t stop, so I adjusted the swing by holding on a little throughout it and hit the ball dead flush. My timing was terrific that week. I was able to adjust within the swing.” That is one great brain, obviously made for golf. In my view, that made Nicklaus totally unique, and one of the all time greats, in the game of golf.

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.

Food: Cholesterol, Fat, and The Mediterranean Diet

This blog is going to discuss three aspects of nutrition, but not in the way you might think. There is a massive amount of information on all three subjects, on the wonderful internet. What is interesting, is how much conflicting information there is, especially about cholesterol. One thing is clear, despite all the negative aspects of having too much cholesterol, or too much fat in your diet, both have very specific, and necessary functions, to maintain proper health. Unless you are suffering from severe malnutrition, or have some odd genetic issue, it would be extremely rare, to have not enough cholesterol and fat in your system. However, there does seem to be this obsession with fat free foods, so it could be possible, that if someone went to extreme levels, with some of these fat free foods, that they could wind up with some kind of fat deficiency. Let’s look at what cholesterol and fat are supposed to do.

Cholesterol is necessary to make hormones, helps the body make Vitamin D from sunlight, aids in digestion, boosts the immune system, helps maintain cell wall flexibility, and improves brain function. Boosting brain function is one of the most important things it does. Over 25% of the bodies Cholesterol is found in the brain. There are two types of cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) and low density lipoprotein (LDL). Lipoproteins are the particles that transport cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood stream. Triglycerides are the main constituents of natural fats and oils. The LDL is often call the bad cholesterol. However, this is the cholesterol, that travels to all the areas of the body, and allows cholesterol to perform it’s functions. What makes it bad, is that if you have an excess of LDL, then if will have a tendency to attach to the inside of blood vessels, which causes the blockages, that lead to heart attacks and strokes. The HDL is called the good cholesterol. This cholesterol transports the LDL back to the liver, where it is eliminated from the body. HDL can help break down that sludge, that forms on the arteries. HDL does nothing to help cholesterol do its job. Fat is an essential part of your diet. It provides energy, helps absorbs certain nutrients, and maintains your core body temperature. It also combines with cholesterol to do many of the same functions, that cholesterol does. Again there is good fat and bad fat. The bad fat is call trans fat and saturated fat. Trans fat is the worst fat, and is found in a lot of processed foods, and red meat. When you consume trans fat, you increase the bad cholesterol, and decrease the good cholesterol, the dreaded double whammy. The good fat is polyunsaturated fat, and is found in fatty fish, and various oils. It is the good fat, because it contains the omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids, which are necessary for brain health and cell growth.

This brings us to the Mediterranean diet, which is the diet of choice to try and control your cholesterol, and take in the healthy fat. It is a very flexible diet, but it does want you to limit your intake of red meat and pork, to no more than once a week, for either. What the diet wants you to consume, is lots of fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, some grains and nuts. Stay away from the processed foods, and you are well on your way. The Mediterranean Diet is big on the use of Olive Oil. Olive Oil falls under the heading of monounsaturated fatty acids. Nuts contain this kind of fatty acid. This fatty acid is considered a healthy fat, which lowers the bad cholesterol and raises the good cholesterol. Try to explore the Mediterranean diet, and make it become as much a part of your lifestyle as you can. The biggest thing is to avoid processed foods at all costs, because they are going to be loaded with trans fats. Here, is what I consider are the worst. Breakfast cereal, potato chips and chips of any kind, processed meats, such as bacon, lunch meats and hot dogs, microwave popcorn, and fruits in syrup, are to be totally avoided. Things that are frozen or dried, are not quite as bad, and can be eaten once in awhile.

When the subject of cholesterol and fat are explored on the internet, the opinions are as varied, as eat all the high fat and cholesterol foods you want, or do not eat anything, that you would consider high in either. Obviously some middle ground is needed, and the above should get you started. The bottom line on all this, is to start to make and eat real food. It is not that hard to do. There are great granola recipes, made from rolled oats, if you have to get a cereal fix. There is a great variety of foods out there, that are easy to make, and will lead to a healthier body.

Golf: Intention

When you look at the title of this blog, you may think, that intention should be under meditation. If you google intention, you will find many sites related to life goals, and ways to make powerful intentions. Intention may be the one tool, that we are leaving out of our golf games. I was going to hold off on this blog for awhile, because I think intention is the thing that as sparked my own golf game, but I wanted to get more rounds under my belt, before I wrote about it. I have played 13 rounds using intention as my main thought process. What prompted me to write about this now, was watching the Phoenix Open. I do not think I have seen so many top players struggle so much, during a final round. The leaders were putting balls in the water, in the cacti, in sand traps, and missing more putts than I could count. When Brooks Koepka pitched in for an eagle on the 17th hole, I clapped, and said out loud, somebody finally did something. It was the winning shot of the tournament. After watching so much failure, from the best players in the world, it made me think that maybe everybody is missing intention in their golf game.

Intention can be defined in different ways. Intention can be something that you want, and plan to do. Intentions can be how you want to feel, or simply what you’d like to get out of the day. There are websites dedicated to how to go about setting intentions, to make your life powerful and strong. This is a breakdown of what most of them say. Set an intention and let it go. Set these intentions when you are feeling content and not when you feel you are lacking something. Detach yourself from the outcome. Allow the universe to handle the outcome. Try keeping the mind quiet. Keep things on the short term. Keep things positive and make sure that your intentions are always evolving. Try to stay in the present moment. You can see how all of this can be applied to golf. One of my favorites is keeping things on the short term. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Another one I like, is to keep your intentions evolving, because that is what the round is going to do, evolve. Before we move forward, we need to differentiate between intent and visualization, since visualization is so much a part of golf. There is some debate on this subject, but I do believe there is a distinct difference. Intent is a determination to do something. Visualization is related to mental imagery. You can visualize golf shots, but you must apply intention, as the final step. I will say, visualization is not as big a part of my game, since I have applied intention. We have all been there when our golf games have abandoned us. Here are some examples of things that have affected my own game. Hitting the poor tee shot into trouble. This may happen about 5 to 7 holes into the round. It does not really matter how I am scoring. I have hit 4 or 5 drivers in the round, and they have all been very good to excellent drives. The holes, however, have been fairly easy driving holes and now the 8th hole has some trouble on it. I do not care where the trouble is, left or right or on both sides, just a narrow driving hole. I have hit good drives up to this point, but sure enough my drive on this hole finds the woods, water, or worse the out of bounds. Another good example, I am hitting the driver well all day, even on the tight holes, but my irons into the green are atrocious. Then, there is the day that on the par 3’s I am hitting great iron shots, but I am driving so bad, that you never get to take advantage of your good iron play. Finally, there is putting. Of course putting would be involved, when you are thinking about missed opportunities, or bad shots. I may start out a round not playing all that great, but my putting is holding the round together, because I am making some nice par saves by sinking a handful of 6 to 10 footers, or longer. Then like many times in golf, I hit a good shot out of the blue, to about 10 feet, for a birdie, and of course, I miss the putt. This is where I believe intention can help reduce and eventually eliminate these bad shots.

How do you apply intention to your golf game? When those bad shots happened in the past, I would look at various things to help correct the problem. I would look at my swing. In fact there is one train of thought that your driver swing and iron swing are two different swings. I got away from that process, and also got away from swing thoughts on the golf course. But that does not mean I do not think about anything. On driving, the old thought process would be to try and visualize the shot and try to avoid trouble when the situation called for it. When it came to iron shots, the first thing I would have to do is to figure out what club to hit. In that process you weigh things like the wind, and where the trouble is around the green, and whether I would hit a draw or fade. This thinking would sometimes lead to a lot of indecision. On short shots you would try to visualized the shot, and you would do the same thing on putting. When you begin to put intention into your game you wind up making the game much simpler. It comes as close to trying to play with a blank mind as you can get. Now, when I have a driver in my hand, I go through my routine, but now I think simply of where I want the ball to go, which is the middle of the fairway, no matter what the hole is like. With irons I still have to go through the process of picking a club, but once the club is chosen, I simply think of where I want the ball on the green. With the short game and putting I think of where I want the ball to end up, in the hole. One little adjustment I make, which I think is critical, is that before I execute the shot, I look at the spot where I think I will pick up the ball, when I look up. On full shots I look at spot in the sky, and at about the height, I think the ball will be. On short shots, I look where I think the ball will be when I look up. I do the same think on putts. Since I have been doing this, I work the ball less consciously, but I work it more intuitively. I am aware of, but pretty much ignore trouble. Since I have been letting intention be my main focus during a round, my scores have been, between 72 and 84 with 9 out of 13 rounds being in the 70’s. One of the biggest improvements of my game has been the rhythm of my swing. I can’t say it never gets out of whack anymore, but it does not happen very often. Intention is something that is simple, but can be hard to put into practice, with the usual things going on when playing golf. Only time will tell if this will be a permanent, and beneficial way for me to play golf. It may take a lot of time, since we are in a winter wonderland right now, in Western Pa., with no end in sight.

Golf: Grip Pressure

How firmly or lightly do you hold the golf club when you swing? Grip pressure is such a subjective thing, that it can be very difficult to describe. One of the basic themes when discussing grip pressure is that most people hold the club too tight, in a so called death grip. Most instruction is geared to having a lighter grip on the club. Before we get to the ways that grip pressure has been described, I want to define two words, tight and firm. Tight is defined as fixed, fastened, or closed firmly; hard to move, undo, or open. Firm, when applied to gripping something, is defined, as having steady but not excessive power or strength. Now let’s look at the way grip pressure has been described in golf instruction over the years. This will not be a complete list by any means, but you will see some of the imaginative ways grip pressure has been described.

Probably the most common instruction has been to grip firmly with the middle two fingers of the right hand and the last three fingers of the left hand. In contrast the thumb and forefinger should have light pressure on the club. You can find this instruction in many golf books including Arnold Palmer’s My Game and Yours, and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.

Another idea when it came to grip pressure was that the left hand should grip the club more firmly than the right hand. Tommy Armour described the pressure of the left hand as about the same as the pressure you would apply when opening a door knob.. Bobby Jones in his instructional writings, advocates a much firmer grip with the left hand, when compared with the right. He also emphasizes those last three fingers of the left hand.

Ernest Jones, the swing the clubhead instructor, freely used the words tight and firm when talking about the grip. He felt the average golfer gripped the club too tight but advocated a firm grip. All three instructors talked about firm left hands, but not so firm, as to feel that the forearms are tightening up. They all three felt the right hand should grip the club lightly or with a lot less pressure than the left.

Leave it to Sam Snead to come up with a unique description of grip pressure. He felt you should hold the club like you were holding a bird and trying to keep it from flying away. What some people forget is that Sam probably had the most powerful hands in golf. I am sure it felt exactly like this to him.

Tiger Woods makes an interesting point in his book, How I Play Golf, concerning grip pressure. He feels that the reason many people grip the club too tight, is because their grip is faulty, and therefore it is difficult for them to maintain control of the club, unless they grip the club very tightly. Tiger likes to feel that his hands fit snugly on the club.

Even though most experts agree, that the average or beginning golfer grips the club too tightly, they still believe that you must have at least a firm grip on the club, especially with the left hand. Even though they do use the word firm in their instruction, I think this fear of gripping too tightly, has led many of us to grip the club without the necessary firmness. I think this may be even more true of the short game and putting. All that is ever talked about, is how light the grip pressure should be in putting. It is often said, that right before you putt, somebody should be able to come up, and take the putter right out of your hands, if you have the right grip pressure. As with so many other things in this game, I do not think there is enough experimentation going on, when it comes to grip pressure. I do not think that anyone, who is shooting in the 80’s, is holding the club too tight, for any phase of their game. However, they may be holding the club too loosely. Many advocates of light grip pressure, say, that as you start to swing the club, that you will instinctively increase your grip pressure. This goes against what some instructors say, that grip pressure should be constant, throughout the swing. You can not do that, if you are starting with light pressure, at address. Even though grip pressure may be difficult to describe, it has to be one of easiest things in one’s golf game to fool around with. Try different pressures for all phases of your game. You will never know what you might find, like consistency and fun.