It’s never too late to learn

Did you hear the news item about Leo Plass? He’ll be turning 100 years old in a couple of months but he hasn’t been spending his time in a rocking chair waiting to die. He’s been going to school and just received his college degree!

Leo was finishing something he started back in 1932, when he left college just shy of graduation to take a job offered by a friend in the logging industry. The job paid $150 a month, far more than he was making as a teacher. “It was the Great Depression,” Plass said Tuesday. “That was a lot of money – a lot of money.”

He went on to have a “good family, good life, good food,” he admitted, but finally decided to get the one thing he missed out on: his college degree. He returned to school at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande and earned his associate’s degree.

“Never dreamed of something like this happening to me,” said Plass. “It’s out of this world.”

Most of us can’t imagine living until we’re 99, let alone returning to school at that age. But Leo serves as a reminder that we’re never too old to learn new things and have new adventures.

Learning truly is a lifelong process, and thankfully most of the learning we do as adults isn’t in a classroom. The whole world becomes our school and we pick and choose our topics. Best of all, no one’s going to grade us!

I’ve always been in awe of people who learn a new language, start playing a musical instrument, or begin a new career in their adult years (and the older they are, the greater my ‘awe’ level is). I’m not sure if I’m ready to take up the trumpet or study Chinese at this late date, but I’ve decided to keep an open mind about everything else.

An open mind is definitely a prerequisite for lifelong learning, as is a “half empty” one. When we think we already know all there is to know about something, that we have the total truth, we’re like the guy with the teacup in the Zen story about the student and the monk. You know the one. The student goes to the monk and says he wants to learn but all he does is talk and talk about what he already knows. All the time, the monk keeps pouring tea into his cup, until it overflows and spills onto the floor. Finally, the student notices the monk, who’s still pouring, and asks, “What are you doing?” The monk stops pouring and tells the student, “You are like this cup – so full that there is no room for more. To see the light of wisdom, you must first empty your cup.”

Our mental cups should never be so full they can’t hold more knowledge. Like the 99-year-old Leo Plass, we can always learn more, achieve more, have more fun. Every morning, we should jump out of bed thinking, “What new things can I learn today?” What a way to start the morning!

Using our ‘brain-world interface’

Wheel chair controlled by brain waves
The wheelchair developed by Toyota that is controlled by user brain waves

A couple of years ago, a Japanese company developed a wheelchair that could be controlled by the user’s brain waves. The announcement kindled a wave of “brain-machine interface” (BMI) devices that clearly demonstrated the energy output of the brain was sufficient to have a direct and visible effect on our material world. Today, engineers and scientists have taken that technology a step further and are developing wireless neural interfaces – “wifi” for the brain. They have even had success with a “thought-to-speech” device where a person can transmit thoughts and have them translated into synthesized speech.

Users control the machines by concentrating their thoughts on the action they want to take. They think about MOVING FORWARD, or they focus on the words they want to convey. In other words, they hold in their minds their intention, and their bioenergetic field translates that intention into action.

Despite the quickly accumulating wealth of research and evidence proving that the human body is a powerful energy system, science has been slow to accept the next logical conclusion: that we have, and can fully develop, our own natural BMI that allows us to control our bodies and surroundings just as directly as the “brain-machine interface” controls the wheelchair.

Most scientists and medical researchers are reluctant to talk about the body’s energetic fields because they’ve been ridiculing the notion for so long. Concepts of chi, chakras, and prana have been around for millennia but they have been dismissed as unscientific. They had no place in the scientist’s worldview and definitely not in the realm of medical treatment. Old wives tales. Quackery. Crackpot pseudo-science. Superstitions.

No wonder they can’t admit there’s any validity to the idea of the body’s subtle energy fields. Or, when their own research forces them to admit the power of the mind, they feel it necessary to disguise the concept with terms like psychophysiology, psychoneuroimmunology, and cognitive and affective neuroscience.

But that’s okay. Maybe it’s time to stop expecting or even needing the “old” science to validate new concepts – or revitalized ancient ones. We need to be our own scientific research unit, accumulating knowledge with open minds and positive intentions. We need to apply what we learn to our everyday lives and be mindful of the effect our thoughts have on our health, happiness, and spiritual development.

There’s an easy experiment we can all perform. Spend the next five days keeping your mind focused on positive thoughts and intentions. If you find yourself thinking of problems, or dwelling on unpleasant situations, flick your inner mental switch to something else (if you can’t control your own thoughts, who can?). If you catch yourself carping and complaining over something or someone, flick the mental switch. It doesn’t matter if you have to do this a hundred (or a thousand) times a day, keep doing it.

Of course, five days of emitting thoughts on a positive frequency may not automatically change your entire being, which is the result of a lifetime of thought transmissions, but you may be amazed at the results you see and feel.

A Harvard research study conducted by psychologist David McClelland measured the antibody Salivary Immunoglobin-A in subjects before having them watch a film showing Mother Teresa tending to orphans. Watching the film not only touched the subjects emotionally but it also elevated the SIG-A levels in their body, strengthening their immune response.

This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, using the BMI, the wheelchair responded to brain waves in as little as 125 milliseconds. Using your built-in brain-world interface, your body and surroundings are capable of responding just as rapidly. And, thankfully, you don’t need electrode implants to make your BMI work!

Why are we so resistant to new ideas?

It’s amazing to me how we humans can be so incredibly innovative that we invent and discover new things every day, while at the same time are so adamantly resistant to new ideas and change.New Ideas

This is especially evident in nearly any type of scientific discovery. Examples include everything from Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation (1686) to Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift in the 1900s, and, in more recent times, Linus Pauling’s advocacy of vitamin C to Prof. Jim Oschman’s work on energy medicine.

Granted, a certain measure of skepticism can be healthy. We can’t latch onto every new idea that pops out of someone’s head or makes headlines in the National Enquirer. But, we can’t shut our minds so tightly we refuse to even consider the possibility that maybe – just maybe – we don’t know everything or that our long-held beliefs are wrong.

Yet, I see this attitude every day. People rail against a new movie, even though it hasn’t been released yet and they haven’t seen it. They argue the validity of the ideas presented in a new book but, when pressed, admit they haven’t read it. How many times have you heard “I don’t have to read it to know it’s just crap”?

When it involves a book or film, it doesn’t really matter much. The worst that will happen is that we’ll miss something we might have liked.

But when it comes to scientific exploration – and particularly to health and wellness issues – we risk imprisoning ourselves in outmoded and potentially harmful mindsets and denying ourselves and society the benefits of true progress.

As a doctor of chiropractic, I’ve witnessed this resistance to new thinking firsthand for decades. It doesn’t matter how much research is conducted that shows chiropractic to be safe and effective for all people (and NOT just for low back pain in adults!), a portion of the population still labels it “quackery.”

Most of these people have never been to a chiropractor or even known anybody who has (other than the apocryphal story of Uncle Charley’s friend Joe whose wife went to a DC one time and was hurt). I doesn’t matter. They refuse to open their minds even a crack to allow in new ideas. They’re the same ones who believed the world was flat despite the curved horizon or who ridicule acupuncture as “voodoo” medicine.

What’s even more mind-boggling – and unsettling – is that so many medical professionals fall into that same “flat earth” category. Unless research promises a “cure” by drugs or surgery, it isn’t worthy of scientific consideration.

It’s not surprising that part of the resistance is rooted in economics. Thirty years ago, Dr. Robert Forman of the University of Toledo noted: “Treatment modalities that are not interesting theoretically or that do not offer promise of prestige for the physician-researcher or profits to corporations are not likely to be extensively promoted in the medical world… One wonders how many potentially valuable medical discoveries are being overlooked because they are too simple and not profitable enough.” (Medical Hypotheses, Volume 7, Number 8, 1981, pp. 1009-1017).

To me, though, what’s most disturbing is that chiropractors and other alternative health care practitioners aren’t immune to this closed-minded attitude. When new ideas of energy healing or the neurological impact of subluxations are brought up, some DCs from both the extreme right and left of the profession act as though they’re being personally attacked. They can’t (or won’t) even examine the ideas to see if they might have validity. Instead, they’d rather barricade themselves behind what they already “know” to be true. They don’t even seem to recognize that this is exactly the same thing MDs and other critics have been doing to chiropractic for the past century.

French scientist Jules Henri Poincaré, who worked on everything from the theory of relativity to pure mathematics, nailed it when he stated: “Doubt everything or believe everything: these are two equally convenient strategies. With either we dispense with the need for reflection.”

If we’re ever going to be true innovators, we need to take time for reflection. If we’re willing to do that, we may discover new and better ideas or, at the very least, reinforce the strength of our existing beliefs. Either way, we’ll learn something and that’s never a waste of time.

The B.J. Palmer Memorial Home

Chiropractic interest: BJ Palmer Memorial HomeChiropractors, more than most other health practitioners, have a strong sense of history, maybe because the profession is relatively young. Those of us who have a few years under our belts actually met and talked with people who met and talked with B.J. – and some of those people had met and talked with D.D. The “seven degrees of separation” between us and the founder and developer of chiropractic shrinks to two or three for many of us.

Those of you who were at the New Beginnings seminar earlier this year were treated to a gallery of great historic photos, and it was fascinating to take a look at Palmer College and some of the other historic locations that played such an important role in our history.

If you live in or travel to Florida, be sure to visit the B.J. Palmer Memorial Home, B.J.’s winter residence and where he died in 1961. The B.J. Palmer Historic Home Foundation has taken great care to preserve the home’s authenticity and surrounding gardens. They collected an amazing number of B.J.’s personal items and restored the home to its original appearance and splendor as much as possible.

You get to see dozens of rare photographs, newspaper articles, memorabilia, and original furniture. B.J.’s bedroom, including all original furnishings, remains exactly as it was when he died. The four remaining bedrooms including B.J.’s Hideaway (a private upstairs suite) are being remodeled to reflect the Floridian style.

The B. J. Palmer Memorial Home – located on St. Armand’s Key in Sarasota, overlooking Pansy Bayou, a manatee protected waterway – is within walking distance to Lido Beach, exclusive shops, and fine restaurants. One of B.J.’s favorite restaurants, The Columbia, is a short 10-minute walk from the house and still serves his favorite Cuban foods.

Starting in mid-July, the house should be available for over-night stays.  If you can’t get there to visit personally, you can support the maintenance of this important part of chiropractic heritage by donating to the Foundation – a donation of $2,500 puts you at the Atlas Level … $1,500 at the Axis Level.

By the way, the Foundation is currently re-organizing everything from the Home’s  website, tour information, brochure, staff, etc.  They also plan to remodel several guest rooms for use by donors who can schedule an exclusive 3-7 day visit to the B.J. Palmer Home.

For more information, contact Susan Wall of the B.J. Palmer Historic Home Foundation at 770-438-9577 or

Guest Post: The Selfishness of Unselfishness

Dr. Frank Bowling

The AA principle, which has since been applied to every kind of addiction, dependency and compulsive behavior imaginable, is in some ways similar to the one we affirm in our weekly meetings of the local Rotary Club, where we always close with the motto, “Service above self – he profits most who serves best.” It also brings to mind Norman Vincent Peale’s simple formula for success, “Find a need and fill it,” or Zig Ziglar’s famous quote, “You can have anything you want in life if you will help enough other people get what they want.”

And yet, there is a difference. The people in addiction and dependency (12 Step) programs, though they come from every background imaginable, have one common bond – they’ve hit bottom, or as close to the bottom as they ever want to be. They’re desperate. They’re grasping at straws. They’re willing to try anything to get better. When they gather together, if they speak at all, they speak from the heart. They have nothing to hide. Their passion is palpable.

Passion. It’s something I’ve chased after forever. I’ve thought and written about it a lot. I think it’s the key to a meaningful life. If a man can find something he can be passionate about, and figure out a way to live there… well, to me, that sounds like heaven on earth.

Heaven. Now, there’s another deep subject. It has always seemed to me that more wars are fought and people killed in the name of God than for any other reason. Yet old Bill W., the hero of our story, seems to have had that figured out, too. A central requirement in his program was –  and is – to turn one’s will and one’s life over to “a Power greater than ourselves.” Each individual is free to interpret that in his or her own way.

BJ Palmer, developer of the chiropractic profession, tried to live his life and make his choices, one moment at a time, based on his ability to “tune in” and align his conscious awareness with his own “Innate Intelligence.” I believe if old BJ were alive today and we could ask him, he’d say that Innate Intelligence is the part of God that resides within each of us, the part that will always steer us toward right decisions and right action if we can relinquish control of our will and our life to that Higher Power.

I recently wrote an article about being all we can be, in which I advanced the idea that we have only to stay focused on that “divine essence,” that “inner perfection,” and our lives will tend to more closely approximate the ideals we all hold in our hearts. But perhaps there’s more to it than that. Maybe what we really need is to realize the inseparable nature of our relations with one another.

Perhaps we need to take the revelation that Bill W. received in that hotel in Akron, Ohio to another level, and understand that so-called “unselfish” action is the key to our own self-realization. That the only true solution, not only to our problems, but to our dreams and aspirations, is to live with a passion for one another. That the truest and best way, perhaps the only way, to get to heaven is to get there together.

Wishing you health, happiness, and peace.

NOTE: Dr. Frank Bowling is received his undergraduate training at Rose-Hulman Institute and Indiana State University in Terre Haute, and his chiropractic education at Logan College and Life University. He’s been practicing chiropractic for 32 years. Active in both chiropractic and civic organizations, Dr. Bowling is a Diplomate of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, a member of the International Chiropractors Association (ICA), and First Vice President of the ICA of Indiana. Locally, he is President of the Washington Rotary Club.

He and his wife Mary Sue have a son and a daughter, Eli and Sarah, ages 25 and 23 Their first grandchild, Annabelle Grace Driller, daughter of Sarah and Brent, was born on December 19, 2008, and Sarah is expecting their second in January of 2011.

Up close and personal