Archive for the ‘Mind/Body Medicine’ Category

Blessings for a Happy, Compassionate New Year

Allen07

Dr-Allen-Schoen
Wishing all my kindred spirits a Happy New Year with a unique perspective on what True Happiness can look like….

After taking a bit of a retreat from blog writing, I am excited to share this heart advice from a Buddhist teacher on what happiness is

based on their perspective. I wish you all a truly transformative 2014!

This past year has been filled with seeing patients, large and small, lecturing about integrative veterinary medicine, mind/body medicine and the human animal bond throughout the world and working on new projects to be of benefit to all that is.  I lectured at the World Small Animal Veterinary Congress in New Zealand as well as the Canadian Veterinary Association Annual Conference in Victoria, B.C., sharing new insights from my 35 years of practicing and teaching.  In addition, I began working on some new projects evolving from my work with the Charter for Compassion where I was involved in beginning to establish Western Connecticut State University as one of the first Compassionate Universities.

With my co-writer, Susan Gordon, a holistically oriented horse trainer, we have begun a project called “The Compassionate Equestrian”  (see www.compassionateequestrian.com).  We have developed 25 Principles of Compassionate Equitation based on her decades of experience as a horse trainer and my decades of experience as a holistic, integrative veterinarian based on our exploration of what is ultimate healing for horses and humans and the Charter for Compassion.  We invite you to assist in this co-creation by sharing your constructive, positive, compassionate thoughts and insights as we create this new program and book.

In addition, I am working on similar projects for companion animals and wildlife. If you would like to assist in any of these co-creations, feel free to contact me here.

After reflecting on how I might be of most benefit to all beings at this point on my veterinary journey and my personal life journey, I feel like integrating compassion based on the latest research in compassionate neuroscience, contemplative neuroscience and quantum physics along with classic traditions is how I may be of benefit.  I look forward to sharing more from this perspective this year on this blog as well as through upcoming books, retreats, and teaching.

If you are interested in hosting any retreats, workshops or teaching regarding this new approach, feel free to contact me here as well.

Blessings to all of you for a joyous, peaceful, healthy, creative, fun, compassionate New Year!  Again, I would like to share these profound perspectives on what Happiness is from a special teacher.

Happiness by Gendun Rinpoche from Heart Advice from a mahamudra master

Happiness cannot be found

through great effort and will,

but is already there, perfect and complete,

in relaxation and letting go.

Do not worry, there is nothing to do.

Whatever appears in mind has no importance,

since it has no reality.

Do not hold on to it, and do not judge.

Let the play happen by itself,

arising and passing,

without changing anything-

everything vanishes and reappears, without end.

Only your searching for happiness

prevents you from seeing it,

just like a rainbow that you chase

without ever reaching it.

Although happiness does not exist,

it has always been there

and accompanies you

in every moment.

Do not believe that good

or bad experiences are real.

They are like rainbows.

Wanting to grasp the ungraspable,

you exhaust yourself in vain.

As soon as you relax this grasping,

space is there — open, inviting and joyful.

Make use of it.

All is yours already.

Do not search any further.

Do not enter the impenetrable jungle

to search for the elephant

that is already quietly at home.

Nothing to do,

nothing to force,

nothing to wish for —

and everything happens by itself.

Gendun Rinpoche

Charter For Compassion: Vancouver

This past March, Vancouver pioneered a new approach to living together with their Vancouver Conference on 12 days of compassion based on the charter for compassion.  I am grateful to share with you this Video of Karen Armstrong’s keynote Lecture on the Charter for Compassion.  Karen Armstrong is a world renowned historian of religion, author, professor and winner of the TED Prize for her development of the Charter For Compassion.  This is sponsored partially by the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network (www.gvcn.ca)  as well as the Simon Fraser University  Center for Dialogue and the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education.  The Dalai Lama sometimes describes compassion as a generosity of heart.  This is all part of a new movement for a Network of Compassionate Cities.

The one thing I would add to this discussion of compassion is that they include compassion for all beings to include the animal kingdom.  When this happens, perhaps the oil companies will no longer use sound frequencies that have been found to kill dolphins, whales and other marine mammals, poachers will no longer kill elephants, rhinoceros, primates etc.  and factory farms will no longer treat animals like objects rather than sentient living beings.

I feel like this is part of synchrodestiny.  I was unaware of this network when I felt guided to begin my Kindred Spirits Project blog.  With my background as a veterinarian  committed to doing my best to help animals and their human caretakers, guided by my search for what is ultimate healing,  I had found myself on a subconscious quest which has led me to my own insights that compassion for all beings is one of the keys to heal the human condition and its disastrous impact on our environment.  I personally feel that by practicing unique mind body medicine techniques that I have developed for all animal lovers, animal hospitals, animal shelters, sanctuaries, zoo’s, aquariums, and any place where animals and people connect can actually become center for the awakening of compassion for all beings.

I will be sharing these techniques more in the future on this blog, in webinars, books, as well as various conferences for veterinarians and animal lovers.  Stay tuned.

I will keep this post short so that you can utilize your valuable time watching this special presentation at the beginning of the 12 days of compassion in Vancouver. Let’s expand on this develop a network of compassionate cities and compassionate animal care centers throughout the world!  What do you think?

 

 

http://charterforcompassion.org/news-and-events/article/60

Good Intentions Study

I chuckle sometimes when I  read studies that document what some might think is soooo obvious.  It is nice to see though that science continues to document  the beneficial impact of positive thoughts and intentions that ancient traditions and modern psychology discuss at length.  This particular study on the benefits of good intentions is one of those studies.  It seems like one of those “duh” moments.  Of course good intentions make us healthier and happier.

Neuroscience continues to document how our positive thoughts, intentions and emotions are not only of benefit to our own body, mind and spirit, but also have significant impacts way beyond us, to be of benefit to all beings we encounter and thereby to all beings that are encountered by the beings we encounter and on and on.  So simple, yet so challenging.  As I wait to board a flight back east to see my patients and their humans,  I get great joy by consciously thanking flight assistants at check-in, the security personnel, cashiers, etc. who are all just “doing their jobs”.  They immediately smile as they feel recognized and acknowledged as a fellow living human being, not just an automaton.  In reality, all of us, two-legged, four-legged, winged, domestic and wild, all we want is to be acknowledged and loved.  It truly is as simple as that.  If we have positive intentions and express them to everyone we encounter, we can and do indeed make a difference in the world, being by being, moment by moment.  When I enter a horse barn or an animal hospital, I do my best to smile, (most of the time) even during more challenging personal moments in my life.  That smile inevitably shifts to a more positive energy in the environment.  Neuroscience is documenting how mirror neurons, mirroring others visual images of each other tend to reflect back to us often what we are reflecting to others.  Once we realize this, it  might seem sensible, that we can consciously choose, as often as possible, to have helpful, positive thoughts and good intentions.  We truly are mirrors for each other.  We can be like that dark mirror in the Harry Potter movies, or we can consciously choose moment by moment to have good intentions and be a positive mirror to the world.  Good intentions stimulate good vibrations!  So as the Beach Boys used to sing…”Good, Good Vibrations”, let us all have good intentions and good vibrations!  Is this not what our animal friends stimulate in us and do for us when they whinny, purr, wag their tails, and show us their joy when they see us?  Let us wag our tails, whinny and purr and bring joy and good intentions to others!  Let’s support the findings of this study day by day.

 

 

http://mpm.umd.edu/Good%20Intentions%20SPPS%20In%20press.pdf

Kindred Spirit Canine Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in Dogs (PTSD): Our Dogs, Our Selves

A recent article in the NY Times acknowledges that Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome seems to be documented now in dogs as well as people.
The dogs being diagnosed are service dogs in the U.S. Armed Forces.
It is no surprise to me that dogs exposed to such trauma experience what is now titled Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). As a veterinarian and an animal behaviorist, I have seen many cases over the past thirty years that I would describe now as PTSD. In the past, one would see evidence of this in dogs after car accidents and then being fearful of getting into cars, shaking uncontrollably or simply refusing to get in one, or after loud noises such as fireworks on the Fourth of July or thunderstorms. I believe we see this in many species, elephants after they watch their relatives slaughtered or horses after a traumatic experience with needles or getting into a horse trailer.  In a previous post I discussed PTSD in Chimpanzee’s in captivity.
Personally, I believe that there is not that much of a difference in the nervous system of other mammals and us. Hence, it is not unreasonable to believe that they can have similar behavioral issues as we do. Unfortunately, it takes dogs exposed to the ravages and trauma’s of war to classify these traumatic events as PTSD. There is evidence that dogs search and rescue dogs experience depression and PTSD as well. There were cases of that in the rescue dogs after 9/11.
Dr. Walter F. Burghardt Jr., chief of behavioral medicine at the Daniel E. Holland Military Working Dog Hospital at Lackland Air Force Base feels that “the four-legged, wet-nosed troops used to sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings are struggling with the mental strains of combat nearly as much as their human counterparts

As the article states….”By some estimates, more than 5 percent of the approximately 650 military dogs deployed by American combat forces are developing canine PTSD. Of those, about half are likely to be retired from service, Dr. Burghardt said”. The article gives multiple examples of behavioral issues in the war dogs.
Signs, diagnosis and treatment are similar to humans. Treatment consists of behavioral modification with desensitization or medications, or a combination of the two. Recently a colleague and friend of mine, Vera Paisner, a renowned human psychotherapist, developed a new approach in dogs and horses, extrapolating it from people. It is called EMDR, Eye movement Desensitization and Retraining. She has had some excellent success with a dog in an automobile accident and horses with needle phobia.

It seems only reasonable that we explore new more natural approaches for PTSD in animals as we still do not understand the modes of action of medications in people, how can we understand them in animals. In addition, if EMDR is documented to help animals, then any placebo effect has been eliminated and we can appreciate how it can be of more benefit in people as well.

 

From Dinosaur to Chic: The Quiet of Nature

Serenity

A client and dear friend forwarded me this wonderful  New York Times opinion article written by a favorite author of mine, Pico Iyer, from December 29, 2011 titled “The Joy of Quiet”.  My clients comment to me after reading the article, was:   “As I sit quietly at night, with the only sound in my home being the breathing of my asthmatic cat, who knew that I had gone from dinosaur to cutting edge chic?” I feel like this amusing, but truthful article is an appropriate beginning blog post for the New Year as silence and quiet time in nature are a key part of the foundation of the kindred spirits project.  My friend also commented  ”I thought this would resonate with you”.  It did indeed.  I felt like Pico personally endorsed and reaffirmed my own decisions and that perhaps, I no longer needed to consider myself a dinosaur for choosing to live on a quieter, more remote island, living a more peaceful life with less nonstop connection to the outer world. I chuckled as I read it and thought, oh, I am not the only one who has made a conscious choice like that.   Cool beans, my choices are now becoming chic for a new generation!

After living around the greater New York area most of my life, and heading off  to quiet retreats around the world whenever possible to rebalance my attunement to the calmer vibrational frequencies of nature, and then finally moving to a more tranquil island,  I too feel acknowledged by this article.  It is not easy to make these conscious choices as the majority of the population chooses to stay tuned to the world 24/7 , competing to survive, and thriving on the nonstop busy mind traffic. Like a frog in boiling water society has slowly adapted to the increase in noise, visual, water and air pollution.  All the chronic busyness and stress impacts on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual states.  After my first ten years of veterinary practice, being on emergency call every other night and inevitably being called out every other night, I was well aware of that stress and the toll it took on me and my soul yearned for disconnection from phones, beepers, etc. (more…)

Transform Your Mind, Change Your Brain and Your Animal Friend’s as well

meditation

The basis for all transformation of consciousness focused on creating a more compassionate world for all beings begins with our thoughts and emotions.  One of my true heroes in mind/body medicine is Dr. Richard Davidson a premier researcher at the University of Wisconsin Neuroscience Laboratory.  I invite you to watch this informative Google Tech Talk from 2009, where Richard Davidson explains the neuroscience of positive human qualities and how they can be cultivated through contemplative practice.  What is even more exciting is that new research is demonstrating that some of these meditation-based practices delivered online can produce behavioral and neural changes as well.

What has this got to do with your animal friends you may ask? I feel that this is one of the keys of transforming our relationships with our kindred spirits.  Once we develop techniques and incorporate these mental practices into our everyday lives, the results of them will directly impact on our relationships with our animal friends and thereby transform there conscious awareness and how they respond to us and others.  This is one of the key principles and bases of my proposals for  an “animal field theory” or “trans-species field theory”.  As we change our own thoughts and emotions, it changes our biochemical and energetic foundation and then we create a healthier, happier energetic field around us and that can impact on our connection and relations with our animal friends.  Potentially this can improve your riding and communication skills with your horse, your communication with your dogs, cats and all species that you share your lives with.

Watch this extensive explanation of the basis of my theories and please share with me your thoughts on this and how it may impact on you and the animals that you share your lives with.

Blessings for a happier, healthier mind and body and deeper connections with your kindred spirits!

 

 

Medmob: Global Meditation for Peace: August 28

I was excited to come across this peaceful meditation movement online (www.medmob.org) recently. It is such a joy to see the vision that I have had for animal lovers through the kindred spirits project develop separately for various groups throughout the world. It is a magnificent demonstration of the information field and the interconnectedness of consciousness. Medmob which is essentially a website organized to create mass meditation for world peace simultaneously throughout the world. This is based on the global coherence theory that we have discussed in previous posts. I imagine they are based on the flashmob theory. They state that “Our intention is to create an environment for people from all walks of life to come together in meditation. By exposing people to meditation through public display of meditation and sending positive intentions out into the world we can lead be the example.” Simple acts can change the world. As Gandhi has stated “be the change you wish to be” .

Part of the vision of the kindred spirits project is create meditative environments and meditative moments wherever animals and humans congregate together. This can be at animal shelters, animal hospitals, wildlife sanctuaries, horse barns, horse shows, organic farms, etc. I believe that regularly scheduled times of meditation among animal lovers and their animals can transform the human animal bond and through that, the world.
Perhaps this may be the first invitation to all animal lovers to begin connecting with their animal companions through meditation simultaneously throughout the world. Go to www.medmob.org and see if there is a medmob meditation in your area. If not, perhaps you may be interested in organizing one where you are or perhaps in an animal related location in your area. Perhaps your friends at an animal hospital, shelter, horse barn etc. may be interested in organizing one with you. Perhaps if there is not sufficient time for this one, we can create one through the kindred spirits project.
Let me know what you think and feel and let us begin this momentous movement for world peace through the love of animals now!

Medicine Buddha Retreat: Healing Ourselves and Others

Continuing with the theme of retreats, I recently participated in a Medicine Buddha Teaching near my home. As I find myself following my passion of exploring the  integration of  the latest in neuroscience, quantum physics, consciousness studies, mind/body medicine with the essential truths of ancient traditions in order to help animals heal, I am always amazed at how much one documents the other.

The Medicine Buddha practice is part of an entire psychological and spiritual Buddhist tradition, and by no means do I intend to claim to understand the deepest foundations of these fascinating and invaluable teachings.  I am merely an interested novice practitioner  in the study and teachings of Buddhism and how they may be of benefit to all our kindred spirits.  These personal explorations and study are part of my commitment to be of benefit to all sentient beings, including animal lovers and all our beloved animals.  Along this healing journey I have found Medicine Buddha teachings to be of immense benefit in my own efforts to purify my thoughts and busy mind traffic and thereby improve my healing skills with animals.

One excellent Buddhist teacher, The Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, states that “We practice the Medicine Buddha in order to attain states of mental and physical health or balance, not merely for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others as well”. This practice can improve the health of our own mind and body as they are inseparable.  As we improve our own mind and body health, we are able to be of more benefit to others.

Medicine Buddha Teachings

Medicine Buddha Teaching by Phakyob Rinpoche

I was privileged to experience these teachings again by Phakyab Rinpoche  who had his own profound experiences with Medicine Buddha.  While teaching in Tibet, Phakyab Rinoche became known for his ability to assist individuals in their physical and emotional healing. He was then faced with his own severe health challenges and left Tibet in 2003 where he was granted full political asylum by the U.S. government.  He spent several months in a New York hospital where conventional medicine was unable to help him heal and three physicians recommended amputation of his leg. He consulted with his mentor, the Dalai Lama, and made the decision to not accept further medical intervention.  He relied solely upon his spiritual practices to heal himself.  To the astonishment of his doctors, his leg and his whole body healed and he brought himself back to radiant health.  Phakyob  Rinpoche is now part of an ongoing medical study as to how he was able to alter cellular changes through meditation that led to his complete recovery.  He shared his story during the teachings with such humor and light.  He shared that often when we are confronted with challenges, mental, physical or emotional, it is so we can develop further empathy for others going through similar challenges and really be there for them.  Personally, I have found this to be so true in my own life numerous times.  Each time I have been confronted with some health challenge, I learned from it and then was able to use my experiences to be of benefit to others.  An old saying that I share in workshops that I teach is that “experience turns knowledge into wisdom”.  There is no greater teacher than experience.  Phakyob Rinpoche believes that the primary way to heal oneself is to cultivate compassion and loving kindness, as well as to practice forbearance and patience.  I have found that the more I develop my commitment to cultivate compassion and loving kindness for all beings (including myself), the more I am able to be of benefit to all our kindred spirits.   (more…)

Retreat: From a Moment to Eternity Part 2

I have received many fascinating responses to the post on retreat.  There are many quotes on the importance of retreat time. One of the simplest, shortest personal retreats can be summed up in this quote: “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”…Etty Hillesum.   Some horse clients commented that the time on their horse is their retreat time. They go into such a state of peace when they are on their horse.  Winston Churchill once stated that “Their is no wasted time when in a saddle”.  Other clients felt that the time grooming their horse was a mini-retreat, while others felt the time mucking the horse stall was a meditative retreat.   I actually used to call mucking the stall “muck therapy” as over and over again I heard how meditative and peaceful different people found it.

My dog clients responded saying that the time they walk their dog is like a mini-retreat in their day and cat clients commented that the time grooming and petting their cat was their retreat time.  One can see that time with our kindred spirits can indeed quiet our minds and nourish our souls.  When we do not have enough time to take an extended retreat, these  quiet moments in our day are essential for quieting the busy mind traffic and creating mini-retreats, momentary retreats.  It is true too that each breath can be a retreat.

One of my meditation teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche has just chosen a more extended retreat, three years!  This is a very traditional Tibetan Buddhist tradition. I just received an email from his monastery with the letter he just wrote to his students regarding his choice of his extended retreat.  Mingyur Rinpoche decided to set off on a personal retreat, with just the clothes on his back, a small pack and wander through the Himalaya’s for three years. Rather than going into a more traditional meditation retreat cave in the Himalayas, he took off wandering and meditating, without any destination.   Wow! I thought, how remarkable that is for someone of his stature and with thousands of followers worldwide to just take off like that in the middle of the night. Sogyal Rinpoche, one of my favorite teachers and author of the “Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” and “Glimpse after Glimpse” commented in this Sogyal Rinpoche on Mingyur Rinpoche Retreat on Mingyur Rinpoche’s choice to go on a wandering solitary retreat like in the old days, yet in todays modern world, letting go of email, facebook, twitter and all other forms of communication as well as all other modern conveniences.

I cherish my own personal retreat time, whether it be one deep breath, a silent moment between seeing patients, my morning meditation, a one day of weekly retreat or six months of retreat.  Each retreat time allows me different levels of depth into inner peace and awareness.

How do you retreat? What have been your experiences?

TV Interview with Dr. Karen Becker and Dr. Schoen

Dr. Karen Becker, author of “Dr. Becker’s Real Food for Healthy Dogs and Cats” and one of my absolute outstanding students interviewed me in a two part heartfelt, candid TV interview for her radio show. I thought you might be interested in watching this interview. The second part of this TV Discussion about the Kindred Spirits Project goes into the background and deeper questions that I pose on the kindred spirits project. I share with Dr. Becker, my personal spiritual journey that I based the creation of the kindred spirits project.
Dr. Becker is an excellent interviewer and brought out my deeper vision of what we are co-creating as part of the kindred spirits project. It is a joy to see younger veterinarians enthusiastically embracing the concepts of holistic integrative veterinary medicine and spreading the word to an ever widening audience. It is even more heartening to see how a new generation of veterinarians is acknowledging my theories of animal field theory, trans-species field theory and the healing power of the human animal bond.
I hope you enjoy these two TV interviews! Till next time…..May all you kindred spirits be blessed with inner peace, joy, health and love!