Sunday, November 12, 2006

Hypertension 7: Accepting Altered Accepted Reality

Is the title confusing? It only gets worse.

By the end of December, 2005, I had decided to stop prescription medications. They did lower my blood pressure, but they had unacceptable side effects (at least, unacceptable before I’d tried any alternatives). It’s great to have my life saved, but I still have to feel as if I’m still alive. If the accepted treatment was not acceptable, maybe it was time to accept the unacceptable, and leave standard treatment for unstandard.

Is that clear? Or should I repeat?

Traditional North American treatments are not "traditional" outside of North America. And “traditional” treatments elsewhere are considered, here in North America, downright weird. Heck, why should the experience of millions of Chinese people over three thousand years mean anything to us—did they invent the Big Mac?

I like my burgers but frankly we place too much faith in factories. We love artificial, manufactured things, from foods to medicines. Why eat real cheese if you can eat processed cheese food?

It may be quite a jump to go from processed cheese food to Swami Rama, but please bear with me. What Swami Rama had to offer is worth you knowing.

Back in 1970 I worked was a researcher for a tv network. For a programme about a hot new topic, bio-feedback, our crew traveled to a certain famous American medical research facility to interview a doctor conducting groundbreaking research. One of his test subjects was Swami Rama.

Swami Rama had come to America from the Himalayas. He founded schools and the Himalayan Institute (some of his writing is available for free download at The Himalayan Institute's home page is at His mission, as he explained it to me, was to share his knowledge about the human body and mind with the West, and in return to learn the West's knowledge. He was being investigated by the doctor because he claimed to control his body in ways that, according to Western medical science, were impossible.

I remember him as an articulate man with a good sense of humour. He was very patient in explaining things which, to a Western mind, were unexplainable.

The doctor used biofeedback to investigate Swami Rama’s 'claims'. Using the latest in Western medical science, he wired Swami Rama up to all sorts of machinery, including computers. The doctor recorded everything, creating a paper record.

What did Swami Rama do? I remember that he was able to, in different parts of his palm, create and maintain four different temperatures. Most of us can not control the temperature of any part of our body, much less create four distinctly different temperatures in one small part of ourselves.

Swami Rama also told the doctor he could stop his heart at will. And he did. I did not see this myself, but the doctor told me that Swami Rama, sitting in the laboratory, stopped his heart from beating. Stopped it for four minutes. And only cranked up his heart again because the doctor got really worried, and was afraid that he might injure himself.

To be able to start and stop your heart at will is not something Western medical science accepted then, and probably not even now.

The point of this story is that when the doctor presented his findings to his esteemed colleagues at this leading research facility, none of them believed him. They refused to accept a person could stop his or her heart and then restart it. Of course, the doctor showed them the scientific evidence. He showed them the data, the print-outs. His colleagues rejected all of it, even though it was hard data. The facts went too far upstream against mainstream medical knowledge.

("The truth? You can't handle the truth!" spake Jack Nicholson, via the words of Aaron Sorkin.)

To this day I remember what Swami Rama was capable of doing (he demonstrated, I am sure, only a fraction of his abilities), and the inability of the doctor’s learned colleagues to accept hard documented facts that went against everything they believed.

There are always alternatives to mainstream “knowledge”, provided your mind is open. Once it was mainstream knowledge that you could not contract a venereal disease from a toilet seat. Now we know better (how many relationships were broken up by a “medical professional” insisting a person’s STD was contracted from a toilet seat?)

I had seen what Western medical treatments could do. Maybe there was an alternative. Maybe there was a different choice. A new way of looking at medicine. And, especially, one that would be easy: that would be an enabler for my bad habits, and help me to avoid dieting and exercise.

I had heard about acupuncture. Now seemed a time to look into what it could do for me, if anything. So I began treatments with a Chinese Medical Doctor. Her assessment was that not only could she help me, but she could possibly cure me. Instead of being told by a Western doctor I would have to take prescription medications for the rest of my life, I was told that after a year I could be free of medical treatments.

The treatments involved using herbal medications (none, I was assured, came from an endangered animal or plant). And the treatments involved something else, giving a new meaning to the phrase 'needling me'.

In mid January, 2006, I told my family doctor I had stopped his prescription medications. He was not pleased. I appreciate he thought I was crazy. In his office, with the Chinese treatments just beginning, my systolic blood pressure had risen to 180.

He referred me to a specialist. I accepted the referral.

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