Downhill Skiing is Dangerous – So is Life

Looking down a hill well beyond your skill level is terrifying. Downhill skis are designed to be fast, are long, hard to turn without knowing what to do. Conversely, understanding how to use the edges, distribute your weight, time weight transfers, and position your shoulders, hips, and knees allows you … Read More

Navigating Life is Similar to Playing Major League Baseball

Feeling safe is the essence of enjoying life, healing, and thriving Healing chronic illness happens by moving towards health not by “fixing” yourself. An analogy can be made to becoming a professional baseball player. The goal is to be “safe” as often as possible. Your skills to process adversity and … Read More

The “C”quence of Healing Chronic Illness

Objectives Connecting to every aspect of your life is difficult but is at the core of allowing your body to heal. “Being” with your past may be challenging but is necessary in order to learn and grow.  It is the opposite of pursuing self-esteem, which separates you from you. The … Read More

“The Pit of Despair”

Modern medicine is evolving in a dangerous direction with regards to your care. The major factor in deciding to offer a procedure or treatment is often whether it’s covered by insurance and how well it is reimbursed. The effectiveness of the intervention is a lesser consideration. Additionally, there is little … Read More

Stress Kills – Don’t Allow it

Each of us has been given a profound gift – life. The meaning of life has been the focus of endless philosophical discussions ranging from life having no meaning to being connected to each other and the universe through deep spiritual bonds. However, the bigger question is what is the … Read More

Happy Holidays – Not

My first year in training I will never forget my first holiday season as an internal medicine resident in Spokane, WA. I learned that the holidays are a nightmare for the medicine service, especially the GI service. Diabetics don’t take their insulin and their sugars go out of control. Cardiac … Read More

How healing happens

It really appears insurmountable, & the process stops and starts, but when you begin to take this course, to move in a different way with the psychology & the physiology finally finding ‘right relation’ to one another, the magic begins show itself, it just takes time – then one day, … Read More

Connection – The Antithesis of Pursuing Self-esteem

Objectives The “C”quence of healing is connection, confidence, and creativity. You must first become aware of and connect with all aspects of your past in order to move forward. Confidence originates from being deeply connected to it. It is the antithesis of pursuing self-esteem where your efforts are spent trying … Read More

Why are New Year’s Resolutions So Hard to Keep?

  Each new year, many of us spend time figuring out how we’ll make it better and also to really complete some projects that we have been putting off, maybe for decades. Few of us are able to accomplish a fraction of what we envision. Why? It’s because our unconscious … Read More

No One Can Take Away Your Holiday Joy – But You

Dealing with Holiday Triggers  This blog is written in conjunction with Dr. Les Aria, who is an experienced pain psychologist working in Northern California. He brings a wide range of approaches into successfully treating and solving chronic mental and physical pain. Being triggered and stressed is so common during the … Read More

Do You Feel Safe in Your Own Home?

One of the most  basic human needs in addition to survival is to feel safe. Of course, the two go hand-in-hand. But how often in our lives do we really feel safe? Feeling safe There are many benefits of feeling safe and secure, with the first one being your body’s … Read More

Your Relationship to Food and Life

Objectives Our view of the world and our place in it is programmed in from the moment we are born. It becomes reinforced with age. Our relationship with food is a core example. Like many aspects of our life, we mentally punish ourselves if we don’t stick to our ideal … Read More

Heal by Connecting with Others

Objectives Social isolation is both a contributing factor to anxiety and also a result of it. When you are suffering, it is challenging to reach out to others in a meaningful way. The physiological effects are devastating, with significant mental and physical consequences. It even affects the expression of your … Read More

The Golden State Warriors and the “Ironic Effect”

We all know that when you try not to think about something, you’ll think about it more. Most of us don’t pay much attention to the implications of it, but it is at the core of human suffering. The underlying neurological process reflects the “ironic effect,” a term coined by … Read More

Commit to a Daily Practice

Objectives Most of us strongly commit to making concrete changes at beginning of a New Year. Why can’t we follow through more consistently? The reason is because our behavioral patterns are so deeply ingrained. Just deciding to make a change won’t make it so. The commitment needed is to pursue … Read More

Feel the Life You Want 

Objectives Your brain is incredibly neuroplastic and can change quickly in whatever direction you choose. We automatically know how to feel pain. What about feeling pleasure? It gets buried in the stresses of life. Play and social connection are inherent in all of us and using feel and visualization to … Read More

Repetition and Healing

Objectives Learning any new material or skill is an active process than can only be acquired through repetition. There are few people with a photographic memory and even they need repetition to embed a skill. Living your life in the manner you wish requires many different skills, and most of … Read More

Your Life’s Roadmap – Just Begin Anywhere

Objectives Long term change always occurs in small steps and requires persistence. The reason is that our behaviors today are programmed by our entire past life experiences. Most of your reactions are automatic, in your subconscious brain, and beyond rational control. However, you can reprogram your unconscious by repetition and … Read More

Get Organized – Chronic Pain is Complex

Objectives Chronic mental and physical pain is a complex problem that requires a systematic approach to solve. How can you address the issues relevant to you without and organized approach? Reprogramming your brain requires repetition but not in a random manner. It is much more efficient to solve chronic pain … Read More

Who Do You Choose to be Today?

Objectives Most of us intellectually understand that the only moment we have in life is this very one. That is it. Being in medicine for over 40 years has shown me the incredible unpredictability of life. Life changes in second – sudden heart attack, bad car accident, diagnosis of terminal … Read More

Create Your “Personal Business Plan”

Objectives Most of us have become so used to solving problems and just making ends meet that we have lost sight of what we really want out of life. It is impossible to move forward without some idea of where you want to go. View you and your life as … Read More

Connect with the Life You Want

Objectives It is easy to become focused on problems to the point where you forget what you really want out of life. Most of us complain about problems – our own, other’s, society’s,, and the those of the world. But what do you want? What is the vision of your … Read More

Exercise Improves Your Health, Quality of Life, and Lifespan

Objectives: Regular exercise is a defined and to measurably lower inflammation, which will decrease your pain. It is basic to healing from any chronic disease, including chronic pain. It won’t solve your pain by itself, but other interventions will have limited impact without it. There are well-documented weekly recommendations regarding … Read More

Tune Your Nervous System and Lower Anxiety – You have the controls

KEY POINTS When stresses overwhelm the coping capacity of your nervous system, your body will go into flight or fight physiology. You have choices regarding what you input into your nervous system. If your attention dwells on disturbing topics, you’ll remain agitated, which fires up the physiology of your whole … Read More

Awareness–Ingrained Patterns/ Your Life Lens

Objectives A basic trait of human consciousness is to give meaning to everything from objects to experiences. These perceptions and concepts are embedded in our brains as concretely as physical objects. They are our individual version of reality, and we live our life accordingly. By definition, we are unable to … Read More

Deadly Nature of Self-esteem

Objectives Much of our identity or self-esteem revolves around the “stories” we create to make sense out of the world. Many if not most of our stories involve judgment and labeling, which are classic cognitive distortions. They are not real although they seem real. Once you become aware of both … Read More

You Have to Feel to Heal – Emotional Awareness

  Objectives Since emotional pain is processed in a similar manner as physical pain, why would you want to feel it? It is why our first instinct is to repress it. Repressed/ suppressed emotions fire up the nervous system even more than expressed unpleasant emotions. People spend much of their … Read More

Connecting to Life with Your Senses – Environmental Awareness

Objectives Humans are subject to an endless barrage of unpleasant thoughts that cannot be controlled. These thoughts are sensory input that is disruptive and creates a flight or fight response. Resisting them makes them stronger. It is much more effective to switch your attention to different sensory inputs that is … Read More

Flip Your Consciousness – 4 Types of Awareness

Objectives A significant aspect of your healing journey is stimulating your brain to create a new set of circuits that are pleasurable. The sequence to change your brain is 1) awareness 2) separation (create some “space” 3) redirecting or reprogramming. None of this can happen without you being aware of … Read More

Becoming Aware of Being Unaware

 Objectives Every action we take today is determined by what we learned from our past. Each one of us has a unique lens and our version of reality, so it is impossible to see things the way they really are. A basic step in deepening your awareness of the present … Read More

Awareness – The Starting Point for Deep Healing

Objectives All of our actions this minute are determined by all of your past experiences up to this very second. Each of us has a unique perspective on life. Awareness involves seeing past your own personal biases and seeing the world more as it actually is. You cannot change anything … Read More

Taking Control – The Eye of the Storm

Objectives: It is a common perception that if we could manage our stresses better, we’d have a better life. That is true on one level, except that the stresses that are the most damaging are the ones we can’t control. Ongoing exposure to threats creates an adverse physiology that is … Read More

Become a Genius at Solving Pain

I always wanted to play golf at a level where I could consistently shoot in the 70’s. I began to play when I was 14 but I never took lessons and didn’t practice much. Then in college I subscribed to Golf Digest and read about a dozen golf instruction books. … Read More

Plan A–Lowering Inflammation Lengthens Life

The COVID-19 virus is a member of the Corona virus family that usually just causes the common cold. The problem is that we now have a strain that is potentially fatal. However, there are some strong hints of how to survive it and it revolves around learning strategies to regulate … Read More

Negative Messages to Your Brain

I spent a day with Bruce Lipton, a cell biologist and author of a best-selling book, The Biology of Belief. One of his major points regarding the function of the nervous system is that 95% of our nervous system is functioning from the unconscious aspect of it and only 5% … Read More

People – The Most Powerful Part of The DOC Journey

It has become apparent that one of the most important factors in people moving away from their pain is our weekly Question and Answer sessions that we hold every Tuesday and Thursday at noon Pacific Time. We have about 25-35 participants in each session and most are present on both … Read More

The Guided Course of “The DOC Journey”

Chronic pain is a complex problem consisting of many variables that affect your perception of it. Additionally, we now know that unpleasant mental input is processed in a similar manner as physical pain. Applying simple solutions to such a multi-layered problem can’t be and isn’t effective. Through many years of … Read More

Awareness–Ingrained Patterns

    Awareness is the essence of healing in that you cannot stimulate your brain to develop in a given direction, unless you know where you are starting from. Awareness is both a tool and foundation for moving forward with your life. There are four patterns of awareness that work … Read More

Develop a “Family Business” Business Plan

Any business of that consists of more than one person involves creating a legally binding contract that spells out the expected responsibilities of each party, distribution of the rewards, and assumption of liabilities. The ultimate business is that of marriage or being legally bound together defined by time. It is … Read More

Decreasing Your Stress Chemicals (Anxiety)

Chronic stress can be deadly. People experiencing chronic elevations of stress hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline, cytokines, histamines, and cortisol mentally and physically suffer. Some of the problems include the following: Early mortality – average life span is shortened by seven years (1) Increased heart disease (2) Depression/ anxiety/suicide Autoimmune … Read More

Relationships and Rock Tumblers

Over the last several years, it has become apparent that family dynamics are a major factor in perpetuating or solving chronic pain. I am on a continual journey to learn more about these forces. At one of my annual spine society meetings, I became involved in a conversation with three colleagues … Read More

Back in Control Coaching

I would like to introduce you to Kendra Bloom, who is a somatic psychotherapist. She has been a wonderful resource for my patients for many years in Seattle. Although, the DOC process is largely self-directed, the journey out of suffering is always enhanced by a coach who can help you … Read More

Holiday Landmines – Your Family

  For some, the holidays are synonymous with a strong sense of familial closeness and love. However, this is not the case with many family gatherings, where relatives trigger each other, and chaos quickly ensues. If this describes your experience with the holidays, then this article is for you. I’ll … Read More

A Couple Re-united

During the last few years of practice, our team became extremely aware of the effect of chronic pain on the family and the family dynamics around pain. When a patient is in a survival mode, he or she loses awareness of the needs of those close to them. Conversely, the … Read More

Listen to Your Family–No Advice or Criticism

“I am asking you to not give ANY advice to any member of your family for the next month and hopefully indefinitely; especially your children.” This is the foundation of creating functional family dynamic, especially with those dealing with chronic pain. Chronic pain takes a terrible toll on families. People … Read More

A Safe Haven – Omega 2018

Our next weekend workshop will be held this summer at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY. The dates are Friday evening, June 29th until Sunday noon, July 1st. The intent of the program is to create a structured safe environment where you can connect to your capacity to heal through … Read More

Why are New Year’s Resolutions So Hard to Keep?

  Each new year, many of us spend time figuring out how we’ll make it better and also to really complete some projects that we have been putting off, maybe for decades. Few of us are able to accomplish a fraction of what we envision. Why? It’s because our unconscious … Read More

Happily Ever After

My wife and I were at a wedding this weekend. The bride was the daughter of some of our closest friends. She and her new husband are a wonderful couple. The excitement and energy around supporting them in their new venture together was electric. Their commitment to each other was … Read More

The Impact of Mirror Neurons on Your Family

It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic pain has a tremendous impact on your immediate family. One of the more direct ways is through mirror neurons. I frequently tell my patients that when you smile at a baby the reason the baby smiles back is not because the baby is … Read More

The Taste of Freedom – Omega 2017

Becoming socially isolated often occurs when suffering in pain. Additionally, the area of the brain that lights up is similar to the same circuits that are active in chronic pain. The effects of being isolated will play off of each other and you can spiral downward quickly. Loneliness There is … Read More

Your “Identity” Can Destroy You

Humans spend a good part of their life energy creating and maintaining something called “self-image.” Thanks to parents, peers, and the socialization process, we are conditioned to identify with an “image” of our “selves.” While this conditioning is well-intentioned, it can wreak havoc in our lives. It is only about … Read More

The Chronic Pain Marriage-Go-Round

I have long asked the spouses/ partners of my chronic pain patients to participate in the DOC project (“Direct your Own Care”—my step-by-step method that allows patients to take control of their treatment plan). One reason is that partners of chronic pain patients also experience suffering—they have their own broken … Read More

The Two Faces of Christmas

Louis Cozolino, in his exhaustive book The Neuroscience of Human Relationships, points out that that human consciousness developed through interacting with other humans. We all know that people seek connection with others and when deprived of it develop significant health problems. We will do almost anything to stay connected. It … Read More

Moving Forward with Your Pain

Moving Forward with Your Pain Objectives Most of us are under the impression that you must first solve your chronic pain before you can move forward and enjoy your life. It is actually the opposite scenario. You have to fully engage in life in order to move away from your … Read More

Be All that You Can Be – or Just Be

Objectives Modern civilization offers more opportunities than any other era of human history. Yet our mental health is declining. We have been led to believe that experiences, knowledge, possessions, and accomplishments can make us happy. You cannot outrun your mind. It is a futile effort because your unconscious survival reactions … Read More

The Essence of the DOC Process

“The essence of the DOC process is simply chilling out and moving on. One cannot happen without the other. This is a corollary of the other basic principle that it is important to move forward with your life with or without your pain. If you are waiting for your pain … Read More

Take Back Your Life

Whenever your peace of mind is at the mercy of your external circumstances, you are at the mercy of them. The essence of taking your life back is disconnecting from this energy. There are many levels and ways of doing this. Some of them include: Forgiveness – is a selfish … Read More

Happy Father’s Day – Not

I was landing in Salt Lake City to spend Father’s Day weekend with my son and daughter-in-law. While standing at baggage claim I heard a father yelling at his daughter to hold still. I looked down and saw a remarkably cute five-year-old little girl with curly hair being stopped in … Read More

“Stars Through the Bars”

Many years ago I was involved with helping a young friend, Larry, in his 20’s deal with a difficult legal situation involving drugs. He was a great kid and had ended up associating with friends who were on a path to hell. His father was also incredibly critical of every … Read More

Pain Rules the Roost

I am noticing a pattern that seems to be quite common. People in pain control others around them – especially their close family members. I have not had the chance to research the literature but it is becoming increasingly clear how devastating chronic pain is not only to the patient … Read More

The Power of Love – Anthony

  Anthony was a patient who I saw just a couple of times in his early 20’s. He was experiencing low back pain that was significantly impacting his quality of life. His MRI scan showed some mild degeneration at L4-5 and was not a problem that would respond to surgery. … Read More

“I’m Paying You to Inflict Pain??”

  This is Scott, who is a personal trainer that I work out with on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 am. This is his picture at the gym one memorable Halloween. He’s a little unusual in that he laughs at us – the whole time we are working out. He pushes … Read More

Breaking Loose – Not Quite

Family Patterns Behavioral patterns laid into your nervous system are the essence of your life view. Until you become aware of them and their effect on your day-to-day life you cannot connect with the core of you really are. Being around your family usually will precipitate a massive resurgence of … Read More

Escaping Your Family – The Crab Bucket

Having a family member on disability is a significant risk factor for becoming disabled. For years, I was puzzled by this connection, but I saw it frequently. I learned that it is a powerful influence that centers around embedded family patterns. The initial download to your brain There are many … Read More

Mastering Pain – Shuhari

The foundation of the DOC project is understanding that pain circuits are permanently laid down in your brain quickly. It is unclear in a given person when acute pain becomes chronic, but we do know that it becomes a bigger problem after 12 months (1). The brain activity switches from … Read More

STOMP – Structuring Your Own Management of Pain

Structuring the Own Management of Your Pain (STOMP) is a program that was developed by Dr. Gordon Irving and his staff at the Swedish Medical Center Pain and Headache Center. They have a wonderful set of resources that has greatly enhanced my patient’s capacity to become pain free. They also … Read More

Mirror Neurons—Family Healing

I always ask family members or close friends to fully engage in the DOC project. It is not just for support, which is important. People exert a direct neurological effect on each other’s brains. The brain contains mirror neurons, which are cells that fire in response to the observation of … Read More

Protect Your Family from Your Pain

Chronic pain is dangerous Chronic pain is dangerous. When you are trapped by anything in life, especially pain, you’ll become angry. When you’re angry, everything is completely about you and your efforts to escape. You can no longer see the needs of those around you, much less respond to them. … Read More

“Many Italians Choose Suicide” – People Need to Work

Few physicians have sufficient training in the nuances of occupational medicine, yet all of us have the capacity to completely remove a patient from the work force. It has been my observation that when a person is sitting at home, his or her pain usually worsens. Without the distractions of … Read More

Staying in the Storm

Almost every patient of mine who is in chronic pain is also experiencing much adversity in the rest of his or her life. Chronic pain rips through every aspect of your life and there is no apparent escape. The stories I hear each day are mind-boggling. They include abuse, murder, … Read More

Breaking Loose – NOT

Behavioral patterns laid into your nervous system are the essence of your life view. Until you become aware of them and their effect on your day-to-day life you cannot connect with the core of you really are. Being around your family usually will precipitate a massive resurgence of these patterns. … Read More

Visualization – Holt’s Winning Run

Stimulating your brain to form new circuits first involves awareness of what already is, separating or creating some space between the stimulus and response and then redirecting your attention. Visualization is an effective method to create new pathways around your embedded pain pathways. Part of the chronic pain experience is … Read More

Pain = Anger = Abuse

I was raised in a chaotic household. My mother was physically and emotionally abusive. It was confusing for me to feel like I had a mother who would do anything for her family and then, within seconds, watch her unpredictably fly into a rage lasting several days. From a young child’s … Read More