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Tsewang Dhondup’s Escape From Tibet July 31, 2009

Filed under: Spiritual Wellness — aprasek @ 7:52 pm

When the firing began, a gap formed in the crowd as those directly outside the gate ran for their lives–all except a 21-year-old monk named Kunga, one of the 200 monks from Chokri Monastery who had joined the demonstration. Kunga found himself caught in the open, right in front of the police gate. He was immediately shot and slumped to the ground.


Tsewang rushed to help him. “There is a Tibetan saying, when a rabbit is picked up by a vulture it’s useless for the rabbit to petition the sky. But like the rabbit, I found myself calling out in my mind for the blessing of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.” Another man appeared and together they began to carry the monk away. Tsewang felt a searing pain in his left side and knew he’d been shot. He took only two steps before he was hit by another bullet in his left elbow. “Blood was rushing out of my arm like a water fountain and I began to feel dizzy.” Just before he lost consciousness, Tsewang managed to call out, “Someone help this monk!” Kunga later died from his wounds.

Read more of Tsewang’s amazing year-long journey here.

The Tibetan struggle is almost impossible for many of us to comprehend. It’s estimated that over one million Tibetans have been killed since 1950. What is even more excruciating about this genocide is that most Tibetans honor the requests of the Dalai Lama and refrain from violence against the Chinese. Unfortunately, the Chinese Government has taken advantage of this and mercilessly executes these peaceful warriors.

When I was studying in Dharamsala last month, I was able to spend time with many Tibetan refugees. Some of them were still struggling with physical injuries and emotional traumas that had followed them from Tibet. However, amidst these lasting marks of abuse, many still had hope glimmering in their eyes. They hope that one day, through a peaceful route, this struggle will end. Some say that it may not mean Tibetans return to Tibet, but at least their culture and practices will be accepted and the killing will end.

When I arrived home, I wanted to find a way to honor the lives that continue to be lost in Tibet. After sitting with this for a while, it became clear to me that the Tibetan struggle can serve as a powerful reminder of the violence and hate that is still prevalent in the U.S. Perhaps the assaults are not as blatant as they are in Tibet, but hate crimes against those who are gay, differently-abled, of a different race or those who practice a different religion are still common. I believe that if we take the opportunity to love and accept one another (without the ego-driven need to change or convert them), then we can find peace and happiness amidst the struggles that life inevitably brings.  

I have created affirmations that I say to honor those who work peacefully for change and remind myself that I am also a peaceful warrior:

I am thankful. And so are those without material pocessions. Becuase life is not measured in dollars.

I am beautiful. And so are those who look different than me. Because beauty blossoms in diversity.

I am happy. And so are those who have experienced tremendous life struggles. Because attaching to unhappiness is a choice.

I am wise. And so are those who have never attended school.  Because wisdom comes from within.

 I am divine. And so are those of a different religion than me. Because religion provides a language and a community to honor that which connects all of us.

We are all thankful. We are all beautiful. We are all happy. We are all wise. We are all divine.


Sign at TCV
This is a sign that hangs in the main play room at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV) in Dharamsala, India. I also like to sub the word “human” in for child.

Optimal Healing Environments July 30, 2009

Filed under: Complementary Therapies — aprasek @ 2:15 pm




Researchers at the Samueli Institute are working hard to understand the many variables that can influence healing. The Institute writes,

The Samueli Institute’s aim is to articulate a complete framework of actionable practices and evaluation methods that, if implemented, would lead to more cost-effective, efficient organizations in which the environment truly facilitates healing and where care providers are fully supported to reconnect to the mission at their professional roots – the mission of caring.

Click here to read more about the Optimal Healing Environments (OHE) research program.  You can also read the Institute’s report on the nature and prevalence of OHE initiatives in a sample of U.S. hospitals.

Hopefully, integrative programs like OHE will be included in U.S. healthcare reform. Initiatives like this can lower healthcare costs and encourage personal health empowerment (which would likely equate to a population with better health). Here’s more about the OHE program and patient empowerment from Dr. Wayne Jonas, President and CEO of the Samueli Institute:




What changes (if any) do you think healthcare could  make to help facilitate more complete and quicker healing?



Extra Calories on Your Plate? Slap’m With a Lawsuit. July 28, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 11:34 pm

Pamela Curry ordered the “Cajun Lime Tilapia” from Applebee’s “Weight Watchers” menu. Good job, Pam.

But, her intentions to order a healthy meal were lost when her entree arrived with more fat, calories and ‘points’ than was identified on the menu nutrition facts.

So, Ms. Curry is now suing Applebee’s and Weight Watchers. Read the full article here.

What do you think about this suit? Should Applebee’s and Weight Watchers pay up for deceiving and fattening up America? Should the litigious Curry’s of the world lighten up and realize that every entree can’t be identical. Should…


Hands Out of Healthcare? July 27, 2009

Filed under: Health Care Reform,Take Action! — aprasek @ 11:06 pm




I saw something today that left me absolutely depressed. While heading to work, I saw about 20 people protesting on the sidewalk. They were shouting and raising their signs at cars passing by on Washington Ave.– one of the busiest streets in Minneapolis.

Their signs read, “Hands Out of Healthcare!”

Now, I’m all about peaceful protest, but I equate this display to walking around with signs that read, “Save Enron!” Hey, guess what? Enron lied. Enron cheated. Enron screwed over a whole lot of people. And yeah, so does our healthcare system.

I thought to myself, “You have no idea what it feels like to be uninsured.” For many years, Charlie (my husband) and I couldn’t afford the $300 minimum it would cost to access health insurance. Every morning, I would pray that we wouldn’t step on a nail, trip on a curb or run into any other bad luck that might send us to the hospital. During these years, I was in graduate school and working at least two part-time jobs. Hubby was also in school, working full-time for a small business and serving the community as a volunteer fireman. Unfortunately, nothing offered us insurance.

Now that we make a little more money, we have been able to access something called, “Short Term Major Medical.” This means that our $3,000 deductible plan covers nothing up to that point. So, there are no visits to the dentist, no check-ups or physicals with a GP and no chance of financial help for any kind of long-term care. Our plan lasts three months– if we get sick during that time, we get help for what’s left of the three months and then after that, we’re on our own.   

What blows my mind is that my husband and I are extremely lucky. Many of my friends have absolute horror stories about bankruptcies after a cancer diagnosis, denied insurance claims, endless fights with insurance companies over pre-existing conditions, medical mistakes, etc. Literally, our very own hands have been taken out of healthcare. Our health is now controlled by for-profit businesses.

Really, Enron looks like a saint next to the insurance companies. 

Check out this video from Bill Moyers Journal. The segment shares some interesting facts: 

  • H. Edward Hanway, Chairman and CEO of Cigna, made $11.4 million in 2008.
  • Ronald A. Williams, Chairman and CEO of Aetna, made $17.4 million in 2008.
  • John H. Hammergren, Chairmen, President and CEO of McKesson, made $29.7 million in 2008.

Hanway, Williams and Hammergren could insure 24,000 people for a full year with just their paychecks. Of course, no business owner would do that. And healthcare isn’t about you or me; it’s really all about the mon-ey. 


And here’s what ticks me off even more; the quality of healthcare in the U.S. sucks. It’s as if we pay for freshly caught, wild blue lobster but get served an excessive amount of expired imitation crab meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranked the U.S. healthcare system 37th out of 191 countries analyzed. That’s pretty bad placement considering we lead the world in healthcare spending. The U.S. spends 16% of its GNP on healthcare. France and Germany, countries that provide universal care, spend less than 12%. What’s more, the healthcare system in France was rated #1 in that same WHO report…

Ironically, for those who are insured in the U.S., life is no better. Even if you have insurance, it’s likely that you’re still UNDERinsured.


I’ve been hearing this lately from some opponents of healthcare reform: “It’s all a bunch of media bias.”  The belief is that media is pushing for universal health care and spinning all reports to achieve that goal. Well, that’s just not the case:

It’s becoming more obvious that many politicians, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the media want to keep things as-is. And, why not, when the current healthcare system makes them rich? Wendell Potter, a former senior executive for Cigna, provides some insider information:

“It is a system that is rigged against the policyholder,” Potter said. The congressional probe found that just three firms had rescinded more than 20,000 policyholders between 2003 and 2007, saving hundreds of millions. “That’s a lot of money that will now go towards their profits,” Potter said.

A lot of that money also goes into contributions to politicians of both parties – $372m in the past nine years – and in lobbying groups to run TV ads slamming Obama’s plans. Many of these ads deploy naked scare tactics. One report said that the industry was spending $1.4m a day on its campaign.

Read more about Potter in an article from the Guardian. If you don’t trust Potter, then perhaps direct quotes from confidential documents drafted by America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) to combat Michael Moore’s documentary, SICKO, would be more convincing:

Review:  5 Strategies We Reached Consensus On

  1. Debate the System not the Anecdotes: Set record straight then get off Moore’s turf and on to ours.
  2. Reframe the Debate:  Mount Campaign against a Government-run Health Care System.
  3. Define the Health Insurance Industry as Part of the Solution.
  4. Caution Democrats with Aligning with Moore’s Extremist Agenda.
  5. Game Plan for Various Potential Scenarios

Review:  Our Target Audiences

  • Federal and state policymakers
  • National media and media in key markets
  • Political and health policy influencers
  • Industry employees


“Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.” 

“Bring victims of single-payer systems to the US for a media tour.” 

“Encourage Democratic pundits to speak to media, candidates, congressional leaders, etc. about the potential harms of being linked to Moore.” 

“Encourage Republican media strategists to cut an ad that shows the way for Republicans to attack Democrats who are too close to Moore.” 

“Research and message development for an aggressive national paid and earned media campaign to disqualify government-run health care as a politically viable solution.”

Read more from the confidential documents here and here.

On a recent episode of Bill Moyers Journal, Dr. Marcia Angell (first female editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of the fantastic book, The Truth About the Drug Companies), said, “I think we have to start all over on this … I think we have to go for a single payer system … It would give the private insurance industry a chance to go into hurricanes, earthquakes or something. To get out of the health business.” Click here to watch the full episode.


I believe it’s time we wake up as a community. We need to come together and create a system that supports EVERYONE. Healthcare should not be a luxury– it should be a right. And really, how can we expect to have a healthy, thriving country if we’re not willing to support the most basic needs of our people?

Think about it; what if you were born into poverty? What if you didn’t have daddy’s bank account or connections? What if you were born into a minority group and had to deal with health disparities? What if your career dreams led you to work for a small business that couldn’t pay as much or offer insurance? If this was your situation, would you want access to healthcare? Or would you want to just ‘tough it out?’

What’s so flippin’ crazy to me about this whole debate is that a universal system doesn’t have to cost more money. We could provide better care to everyone (even those insured) for less money. Doesn’t it just make sense in every logical way? We can keep the amazing practitioners that we have and get rid of the corrupt system that stifles and marginalizes their work. It’s time that we honored the health of our country enough to make ethical, informed and creative changes.

It’s time we put OUR hands back in healthcare.


Service Dog Program for Our Troops July 24, 2009

Filed under: Complementary Therapies — aprasek @ 9:11 pm




This is awesome. Al Franken, Minnesota’s newest senator, wants to make service dogs available to veterans:

After I met Luis, I did some research. Service dogs like Tuesday can be of immense benefit to vets suffering from physical and emotional wounds. Yes, they provide companionship. But they can also detect changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent to anticipate and ward off an impending panic attack with some well-timed nuzzling. They are trained to let their masters know when it’s time to take their medication and to wake them from terrifying nightmares.


Click here to read the full op-ed piece.

There is a ton of research to support the amazing health benefits that animals can offer humans. I’m excited to see that these complementary healing techniqes are being supported!



Cowgirl Wrap July 20, 2009

Filed under: Nutritional Wellness — aprasek @ 11:59 am

It’s Meatless Monday! What are you having for dinner?



Here’s what I’m noshing on tonight:

A cowgirl wrap:  A brown rice or sprouted wheat tortilla filled with fresh spinach, a generous slather of hummus and cowgirl salsa. Click here for my hummus and salsa recipe. Both recipes are super easy to make and delicious on a hot day.

For dessert? Definitely watermelon.

Have a vegetarian recipe to share? Email the recipe(s) to aimee@wellnessgossip.com and I’ll post them. Or, feel free to write them as a comment below.

Enjoy your dinner!


The Horse Boy July 19, 2009

Filed under: Complementary Therapies — aprasek @ 2:49 pm


This is such a beautiful story:



The film comes out in September, so be sure to check back and visit www.horseboymovie.com to find a showing near you. Rupert Isaacson, the boy’s father, has also written a book about this journey, The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His SonClick here for information on purchasing the book.


What do you think?   

What are your thoughts on complementary treatments for autism? And, if you’ve read the book, be sure to comment here about it. It would be wonderful to read some reviews!