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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
In past Connexions I have written articles about personal health and some fascinating individuals involved in healing work around the world. As the snows melt in the mountains and flowers pop up everywhere, a story comes to mind that took place in a distant mountain valley one May many years ago. It is a rather unusual story about the healing of a community.
The well worn wood sign to the side of the road read “On this very spot Jim Corbett killed the man eating leopard of Rudra Pryag”. Decades had passed since the splendid and glorious days of Kipling, wealthy maharajas and heroic big game hunters, but none the less the feeling of excitement and adventure was intense as we made our way slowly up the narrow winding mountain road through forest, terraced fields and tiny villages. We were on pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Badrinath, one of the most sacred sites in the Indian Himalayas. Thousands of pilgrims from all over India were focused on an ancient stone temple located in a village straddling the banks of the Ganges River near the source of the Alakananda fork at over ten thousand feet elevation in the mountains. The Himalayas, meaning ‘abode of the snows’ in Sanskrit, are the world’s highest mountains and, in my experience, the most magical and sacred.
The pilgrimage is an important aspect of the religious experience for people in different traditions all around the world. Moslems make a one time journey to Mecca, Christians trace Christ’s steps along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Basho is famous for his Haiku poetry written during his travels as a Buddhist monk in northern Japan, and I stumbled through the Brazilian mountains in the black of night with a group of drunken students en route to a shrine commemorating the appearance of some holy person in the Catholic religion. In India, however, the pilgrimage seems to be more a part of the daily lives of many people in some way, whether feeding wandering holy men called sadhus who spend their lives journeying from one festival or temple to another, making an occasional pilgrimage themselves or renouncing the material world and becoming ascetics and wanderers themselves. After several years on the road in search of the magical and wonderful, I often felt like a full time pilgrim myself, and on the way to Badrinath I was truly in my element.
Pilgrims from near and far first concentrate in the cites of Haridwar and Rishikesh, where the Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills, before beginning their three hundred kilometer ascent to Badrinath. ‘Rishikesh’, meaning ‘city of the rishis’, or holy men, entered our shared cultural consciousness in the 1960’s when the Beatles and Mia Farrow traveled there to meditate with the Maharishi (great rishi) Mahesh Yogi. For centuries it has been a gathering place for pilgrims en route to the temples at Kedarnath, Gangotri and Hemkund in the fabled Valley of Flowers in addition to Badrinath. Here the streets are filled with sadhus, most barefoot, dressed in the traditional orange cotton robes, carrying a few possessions including coconut shell begging bowl or metal pot, and sometimes walking stick, stool, or musical instrument.
Somewhere along the way I paired up with a young sadhu from the south who had been walking north for months. His feet were thickly calloused from countless miles on hot pavement, but I recall giving him a pair of rubber boots I had bought but could not fit into, as they were size eight, the largest in the town, while I wear a ten or eleven. Seeing him again somewhere months later still wearing the boots but without the blanket I gave him left me feeling both pleased and disappointed, as he obviously needed the extra warmth but had apparently given the blanket away to another traveler.
Details of the journey now escape me, with the exception of the leopard sign, until reaching my destination late one cold and windy night. I passed a night reminiscent of Jack London’s story “To Build A Fire” in which melting snow from an overhead branch drops onto his tiny campfire, ensuring his death by freezing in the remote arctic wilderness. Unable to find any lodging or shelter, I reluctantly broke into a tiny hut used by souvenir vendors later during the busy tourist season. Finding three matches in the rubble, I held out great hope for starting a fire to ward off the biting cold wind howling down from the glaciers higher up the valley. First match sputter… fizzle… poof. Second match… sputter… dud. Third match last chance tension mounts……..sputter…… and out. I continued to ponder the ‘what ifs’ ‘if onlys’ as I settled down for the night on a large slab of rock, the only flat surface I could locate in the dark, serenaded by an incessant clanging sound which daylight revealed to be a piece of sheet metal banging against rocks in the river beside me.
Entering the village the next morning just after daybreak I went to the temple, meeting Sri Karan Das Baba, an ex-police officer and now the resident caretaker and yogi. He was most impressive to behold, with long matted hair, strands of beads around his neck and holding a copy of the Bok of Manu, said to be the oldest written book inexistence. I enjoyed a soak in the natural hot pools as he explained that the snow that had buried the town for six months had just melted and no supplies had yet arrived from the outside. As such, he could offer me a cup of tea and bowl foul tasting brown powdered stuff, but then I must leave the village. I could return later in the season with other pilgrims when food was available. Walking back over the bridge that afternoon I felt just like the bad guy in a Western movie ordered by the sheriff to get out of town by sunset. I resolved to return later, and in fact did, when I encountered the vampire of Joshimat and the floating Lebanese couple, but that story will have to wait until a later time.
Jim Martin, LAc
Magnetism and Healing
Another Ancient Healing Modality Comes of Age
Jim Martin, L. Ac, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
Like acupuncture, magnetic therapies can be traced to ancient times but are currently experiencing dramatic growth worldwide due to therapeutic benefit and cost effectiveness. As new products enter the market, we are faced with a wide range of choices and confusion regarding relative benefits.
The medical use of magnets is traced back 100,000 years to magnetite mines in Africa. In ancient European, Middle Eastern and oriental cultures great doctors and philosophers including Paracelas, Aristotle and Galen examined magnets in healing, while the Chinese investigated effects of the earth’s magnetic field. As science evolved through the seventeenth century, Gilbert and Mesmer published research but, as is typical of science and medicine throughout history, their work was ridiculed and ignored. In fact, the term ‘Mesmerizing’ came into use at this time in reference to fraudulent, unscientific phenomena. Nonetheless, research continued over the next two centuries. A major setback occurred in the 1920s when researchers at the prestigious Edison Laboratories and later Rosenberg claimed that no healing benefits to magnetic fields could be found. This became the prevailing medical opinion of the time. Research continued in the 1930s and 40s, however, indicating that subjective symptoms of pain, as well as inflammation, responded positively, and that magnetism functions primarily on the autonomic nervous system.
Much of the more recent research on healing applications of magnetism has been performed by the Japanese, millions of whom today use magnets on a daily basis. One major discovery is the concept of the ‘Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome’ by Nakagawa. He maintains that any changes in the earth’s magnetic field will negatively impact the human body and function. Specifically, a 50 percent decrease in the magnetic field strength over the last 500 years has been measured, with a predicted reduction to zero within the next 2000 years if the trend continues. This loss, combined with the field reducing effects of steel framed buildings and vehicles, has resulted in a variety of disorders including neck and shoulder tension, headaches, lassitude, chest pains, lumbago, insomnia and constipation. The solution is to apply a magnetic field to the body to correct the imbalance and alleviate symptoms. As most of my patients report these problems, magnetic therapy has been a component of my treatment programs for over ten years.
Magnets for pain? Constipation? Insomnia? “Oh, sure. And sell me some property in the swamp while you’re at it.” Such responses from the uninformed people are not surprising, so it is fortunate that sound scientific theory exists to support the benefits reported by many recipients of magnetic therapies.
Decades of research has proven that electromotive force (EMF) is generated in the body by an external magnetic field. This EMF creates currents which cause dissociation of body fluid which acts on the human body as stress. In other words, the magnetic field converts motion energy of body fluid to electricity which in turn creates beneficial therapeutic effects. Other factors include the Hall Effect of Faraday’s Law that explains how movements of charged particles in blood dilate the vessels and promote increased flow to injured tissues. This enhanced circulation appears to be the bottom line in many therapies including massage, heat lamps, hot water ands liniments. Promoting blood flow to problem areas increases levels of glucose, nutrients and oxygen while eliminating toxins and waste products, thus enhancing healing.
Healing magnets fall into two categories. Electromagnets involve fluctuating fields and are generally used in a series of short applications. Acupuncturists commonly use small diameter permanent bipolar magnets in various forms. The north pole disperses excesses like inflammation, swelling, bacterial growth and pain, while the south pole is warming. More complex magnets composed of various metals in the form of disks and pellets may be employed in combinations and locations depending on diagnosis and symptoms.
A state of the art form of magnet is composed of multiple alternating poles arranged to optimize circulation and healing. This flat, flexible material can be formed into devices specific to different body areas. They may be worn indefinitely, retain field strength, and are cost effective. These products are popular with ordinary people as well as Olympic and professional athletes including NFL and NBA football and basketball players whose livelihoods depend on prevention and fast healing of injuries.
Recently, far infrared (FIR) materials, capable of benefits such as stimulating tissue growth and DNA replication have been combined with magnets to enhance therapeutic effects.
Who, then, will benefit from magnetic therapy? I have seen, for example, a stiff old man able to bend over and touch the floor after less than an hour, and a woman free of pain over night after five years suffering following a car accident. I recommend magnets to anyone with muscular pains, circulatory disorders and slow healing injuries, for starters. I have magnets in my shoes and bed, and drink magnetized water, and I believe every American can benefit from doing the same.
Jim Martin, LAc
A ladleful of cold water hisses and pops as it hits the red hot rocks in a tin bucket on the bare wood floor, engulfing me in purifying steam as I enter the ceremony room and take my place against the west wall with the other men. Drummers and singers are already seated to my left, waiting silently in anticipation, while the women enter and find seats on the opposite side of the room. Before me on the bare floor is a pile of sage, and beyond that a row of pots and dishes containing the ceremony food usually consisting of a stew, fry bread, wojape (plum pudding) and coffee, all purified and blessed with a sprig of sweet smelling prairie sage . The walls are bare with the exception of a few sacred articles such as canupas (pronounced cha-new-pah), the sacred pipes, hanging in decorated deer skin pouches, and some ceremonial drums. Against the north wall is the altar, a slightly rounded pile of earth from a mole hill, brushed smooth with an eagle feather and inscribed with a sacred symbol. It is surrounded with tobacco filled prayer ties, small ‘flags’ and a hoop made of choke cherry stems typical of Lakota sacred ceremonies. Sacred rattles which will later perform healing rest at the altar as well. A long string of 405 tobacco ties which I have prepared defines the perimeter of the sacred space and must not be crossed by participants. I have attended many ceremonies with the Chipps family on the east coast as well as here on the plains of windswept South Dakota, but this night is special, for tonight the healing ceremony is for me, the culmination of many days of prayer and preparation.
The Yuwipi healing ceremony is one of the principal ceremonies of the Lakota Sioux people, along with the inipi (sweat lodge) and hanbalecha (vision quest). This particular ceremony was a gift from spirit to the Chipps family generations ago and is practiced by family members to this day, passed along from father to son. The current ‘yuwipi man’ in the family, Godfrey, received the power to talk with spirits at the age of twelve and considered one of the foremost healers of his kind in America today. We first met some years earlier when I sponsored Lakota teachings at my home in Massachusetts, and was later invited to visit the family “in the country” near the town of Wanblee (Eagle) on the Pine Ridge Reservation near the spectacular Badlands.
At first meeting, I found Godfrey to be strikingly different from the image of the classic native American medicine man I had previously held. Here was man in his thirties, (younger that me), short and barrel chested, wearing boots and blue jeans with a printed T shirt and long black hair cascading from a baseball cap bearing the inscription ‘shit happens.’ As I have come to know Godfrey over the years, however, I have come to see him as a warm and sincere human being with flaws and shortcomings like all the rest of us, as one of my principal teachers and spiritual guides, and an extremely dedicated, focused and powerful healer. His role, as he explains it, is ‘spirit interpreter.’ Godfrey receives information directly from the animals, elders and other beings in the spirit world and relays this information on to those individuals in need of healing. This is his unique gift and burden, and I have approached him in the traditional manner, offering my ‘canupa’, requesting healing.
Once all attendees are seated, the canupa is filled with the smoking mix of tobacco, bark and osha root to the accompaniment of the sacred pipe loading song it is then handed to Grandmother Vicki to hold and pray with.
Eventually Godfrey enters the ritual area and removes his shirt and shoes. Assistants bind his hands behind his back, then wrap him entirely in a star quilt which is in turn bound with deer skin thongs. He is gently placed face down upon the bed of sage and we are ready to begin. My excitement soars as the flickering light of the lone kerosene lantern fades and we are left in absolute dark, the world of spirit, wonder and mystery. A rapid burst of drumming accompanied by the voices of singers pierces the silent blackness as ancient healing songs invite the spirits to enter and participate. I am directed to stand, offer prayer and request healing. Suddenly, the rattles lying at the alter are taken up by the unseen spirit beings and fly about the room, shaking and sparking against the ceiling before coming to me for ‘doctoring’ in which they rapidly but gently shake against my body from head to foot. Godfrey’s muffled voice can be heard as he speaks with the spirits and receives further instructions from them for herbal formulas, behavioral changes further ceremonies to be performed and so on. Next, the star quilt is thrown against me, indicating that Godfrey has been freed by the spirits and the healing has taken place. After a few more songs the lamps are lit, revealing Godfrey untied and sitting up, recovering. The canupa is passed around the room and smoked by all. After prayers we feast, and the ceremony is complete.
I have seen many incredible and mystical things around the world and the Yuwipi ceremony, performed right here in America, ranks among the top. I give thanks for the opportunity to share this healing experience with the Chipps family and all the Lakota people. Mitakue Oyassin – All My Relations.
Jim Martin, LAc
Having just returned from spending an incredible week with the most unusual and amazing person I have ever met, I am bubbling to tell everyone I see about the experience. Some people are immediately engaged, asking questions and expressing sincere interest, while others don’t register the slightest curiosity at all, as if I had spoken to them in a foreign language. They seem unable to comprehend the significance of what I am relating. Such it is, trying to share the story of a woman who has not eaten or slept for fifty years, prays almost unceasingly, bleeds from the cross shaped wounds on her hands and feet, enters a state of grace in which she channels blessings and medical remedies from God, and is in constant communion with the Holy Spirit.
The story of my reunion with Sister Susan Kuruvilla after more than twenty years is a unique example of the power of the World Wide Web, as well as the potential far ranging effects of this newspaper, the New Connexion. My original article on Sister Susan appeared on these pages last November. Some weeks later I began receiving emails about the story, including one from a man in Michigan who had who had red about Sister Susan in a book published in the 1970s called People Living in the 21st Century, and wanted to travel to India to visit her. He had searched the web for information on her and found just one reference, my Connexion article. Several emails later he informed me that he had located Sister Susan and that she was in Toronto, not India, that he was going there to see her, and that she wanted me to call her on the phone. It was truly wonderful hearing her voice after all these years, even though I have a difficult time understanding her accent, heavily influenced by her native language Malayalam. She told me about her orphanage in India, up from about 25 residents when I visited to about 125, many living in shacks covered with palm fronds since the monsoon rains destroyed one of the main ashram buildings. A chapel had been built with contributions from generous benefactors, but a medical clinic remained incomplete due to lack of funds. As always, it is a constant struggle to care for the children who are in need of food, clothing, medical care and education. We exchanged photographs by mail – my small family and her big one. She asked me to locate a man in New Jersey who had won a 93 million dollar lottery and ask him for assistance, which I did, but without reply to date. Learning that Sister Susan would be in Canada only until August, I put my family on the plane and set out for Toronto.
We were met at the airport by Sister Susan, Father Matthew, her sponsors Rita and Denise and assistant Pheejo. Sister Susan, wrapped in white, seemed little changed despite her 75 years. Her soft smile, calm presence and radiant loving nature were all so comfortably familiar. When we hugged, I detected layers of soft cloth, sweetly perfumed, but no solid body inside, like a big cotton ball. Not surprising, I was to think some time later, considering that she never eats solid food and x-rays have revealed a totally withered digestive system. Father Matthew, who has been with her as an assistant since he was healed of asthma at age 13, is recently ordained as a priest of the Orthodox Church and remains in her company. Rita and Denise proved to be wonderful, generous hosts, and we instantly felt like old friends. Pheejo cooked wonderful Indian meals and played with daughter Tara.
The next day Sister Susan experienced ‘The Pain’, as she has twice weekly since first marked with the stigmata as a teenager. Surrounded by about a dozen friends and visitors crammed into her tiny room, chanting and praying for her, she entered just as the bleeding resumed and lay down on a mattress. For the next half hour she thrashed about as the pain seared her frail body, all the while calling out to God and praying. Next, entering the grace period, she suddenly went limp and rolled onto her back, exhausted. Her voice became deep and resonant as she continued to pray, blessing dozens of people and their families, including my own. Next was a period of speaking with reference to scripture, with guidelines for leading a proper life such as avoiding pride and greed. Lastly, we met with her individually for personal blessings, questions and, for many help with medical issues. In response to a request for guidance helping my father who recently suffered a stroke, I was told to pray and sponsor 33 Gregorian masses, currently being performed in India as I write. Others were given specific medications, including homeopathic remedies. The Holy Spirit is a homeopath! When asked about this, Sister Susan replied that she knows nothing about homeopathy, but that God recommends these remedies because they can do no harm.
The week was filled with stories of miracle healings and amazing events. In one case, a woman talked about Sister Susan being in two places at once, and performing a long distance healing. She felt electric sensations in her body while sleeping with her grand daughter, and dreamed that Sister Susan, then in India, had come to her in spirit. The woman then called Sister Susan, who confirmed the healing, and asked about the little girl whom she did not recognize. From that day on, a digestive system disorder was dramatically improved.
I came out of this incredible experience with a renewed sense of reverence, respect for a spiritual tradition with which I am not all that familiar, and understanding of the power of prayer. My commitment to the Sister Susan is to inform people about her Ashram and orphanage, and encourage people to make contributions to its operation. For example, one can become a lifetime member of the Ashram for 70 dollars, for which we receive daily prayers from Sister Susan as well as a set of masses for us and family members at the time of our death. I am also collecting funds for ashram operations, and computers to send to India to train the children. Anyone interested in participating may contact me directly for information.
Jim Martin, LAc
Among the volumes of printed material and hours of televised programming commemorating 9-11 and how it has changed our country, one item that caught my attention was a recent report on the heightened stress levels now experienced by Americans, and most notably New Yorkers. One manifestation of the damaging effects of prolonged stress there is absenteeism from work, which has increased dramatically since 9-11.
Closer to home, recent developments in the stock market, widespread job layoffs and the Iraq War have devastated many families’ finances, resulting in tremendous stress as they struggle to save homes, retirements and their children’s educations.
In my practice, I see the results of stressful lifestyles and events in the form of symptoms including digestive disorders, neck and shoulder tension and pain, headaches, insomnia and depression. While some people may consider these complaints to be simply inconvenient and unpleasant, I wonder how many are aware of the long term problems associated with unrelenting stresses in our lives. It is estimated that 80% of all visits to physicians today are stress related. Many diseases including autoimmune disorders, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and other conditions such as acne, memory loss and learning disabilities are all brought on by stress.
The human stress response has evolved as the body’s reaction to dangerous or physically demanding situations. For example, imagine a caveman, armed with a rock and sharp stick, encountering a twelve foot long saber tooth tiger. His body immediately goes in to the ‘fight or flight’ mode, preferably flight in this particular situation. Adreneline, ACTH cortisol hormones rush into the bloodstream. Blood is directed to essential tissues and organs such as the heart and muscles, while stomach acid secretion and the digestive function cease. He leaps over a ravine, scampers up a cliff like a goat, and sprints to the safety of his cave. There he collapses, heart pounding, and sleeps for the remainder of the day, recovering from his ordeal. The next week he is ready to do the same thing again.
In out modern society, however, there is no opportunity for recovery. As stresses from sources including traffic, work (or lack of it), TV news, air pollution, electrical appliances and so on accumulate, hormone levels climb. Some of us get accustomed to these elevated levels, becoming ‘adrenaline addicts’ requiring highly stimulating activities such as bungie jumping or car racing to feel alive. Cortisol destroys brain cells in areas related to learning and memory. Poor digestion and assimilation lead to malnutrition, and further complications including immune and endocrine system depletion. We are, as the old saying goes, ‘burning the candle at both ends.’ The long term outlook is not a pretty one. Stress has become a big enough medical problem today that it was featured on both Time and Newsweek as the cover story.
In this time of heightened stress loads and the resultant negative impact health, I was very pleased some time ago to come across an intriguing herbal formula designed specifically to fight stress. I have lots of stress formulas to choose from, often B vitamin complex and a few relaxant herbs, but this product was unique. The story of its development is a most unusual and interesting one.
Early in the Cold War, the Soviet Academy of Sciences created a team of 1200 Soviet biologists and physicians who were assigned the task of developing a natural, plant based formula to combat the negative effects of stress. It was intended for use by the country’s most high performing people, including Olympic athletes, Bolshoi Ballet dancers, cosmonauts and the military, to give them a competitive advantage over other countries. Funded by a billion dollar budget, they produced over three thousand scientific papers spanning forty five years in what has been described as one of the most massive programs of human testing in scientific history. We did not hear about this research because it was kept secret until, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the final formula known as Prime One was brought to America by the project leader, Dr. Israel Breckman.
Among thousands of plant chemicals studied, a few were found to possess extraordinary stress relieving abilities. They were called adaptogens, as they help the human body adapt to the destructive effects of stress. Among the many benefits are the ability to increase energy, strength, stamina, endurance, recovery, mental work capacity, immunity, sexual function, growth rates in premature babies and life expectancy following exposure to harmful radiation; to improve sleep, to help us cope with anxiety, fear and worry; to protect human cells from chemical toxins; to suppress high levels of damaging hormones and prevent damage from oxygen free radicals. Thousands of studies found them to be safe, with no negative side effects.
The highly successful Russian Olympic team trained on this formula for years, and my patients are reporting benefits today. It was used by the police and firefighters cleaning up the ruins of the TradeTowers in New York City. I took it on a twenty six hour flight to South Africa last month and found people there to be using it as well. I recommend it to anyone seeking a better quality of life.
Jim Martin, L Ac, Dipl. Ac (NCCAOM)
herbs, adaptogens, stress, performance, athletes, Olympics, memory, endurance, strength,