Why Prayers Are Seldom Answered

<b>Why Prayers Are Seldom Answered</b>
Your “prayers not answered” means your “expectations not fulfilled.” The TAO wisdom explains why: your attachments to careers, money, relationships, and success “make” but also “break” you by creating your flawed ego-self that demands your “expectations to be fulfilled.”

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Brain Food

Brain Food

As you age, you mind also ages. Your body needs nutrients, so does your mind. Your mind is not very different from your body. The only difference is that you can see your body, but you cannot see your mind.

The physical conditions of your nervous and immune systems can influence your mental health; likewise, the state of your mental health can directly affect your physical wellbeing. Your body does not function independently of your mind. Therefore, mental health is critical to your overall physical wellbeing; it is the foundation of being younger for longer.

Your body changes with aging; your organs and body systems become limited in their normal functioning. However, such limitations generally result from disease, not aging; for example, confusion and disorientation are not the normal consequences of aging; they are more disease-related.

Depression not only can slow down an individual but also make that individual look and feel older. Dr. Harry Prosen, M.D. says, “Some people who are chronically depressed can look very old and have stooped shoulders, furrowed lines around the eyes, and all the other things that make a person looked aged I’ve seen some depressed people who look like they’re in their sixties when they’re actually 35 or 40.” The reason is that depression causes decreased muscle tone, contributing to sad facial expressions and poor posture, such as stooped shoulders.

In addition, depression reduces the immune cell activity, leading to a lowered immune response. According to Dr. George Kaplan, an epidemiologist, depression can cause coronary heart disease due to the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls. Rheumatoid arthritis is also another disease that may be triggered by depression.

Furthermore, depression may cause memory loss, which may affect your mental health. Memory problems often interfere with your daily living, causing frustration and undermining self-confidence. Remember, as you continue to age, depression and memory loss may become more prevalent, and your body’s capability to manufacture and absorb vitamins may also deteriorate. Therefore, it is important to supplement any deficiency.

Your diet may play an important role in your mental health: what you put into your mouth affects your mind as much as it does your body.

The important minerals

Magnesium

According to Dr. James D. Gordon of Georgetown University School of Medicine, depression could be due to problems in the thyroid. Nutrient deficiency, such as magnesium deficiency, could be a result of thyroid dysfunction.

Magnesium is a youth-preserving mineral. As you age, your magnesium level declines due to poor absorption and inadequate diet.

Magnesium is responsible for neurotransmission abnormalities, in addition to its implications in diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and thyroid dysfunction.

Magnesium is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. An anti-depression healthy diet should be rich in magnesium.

If necessary, take a magnesium supplement of 200-300 mg to remedy your nutrient deficiency.

Calcium

Calcium is an important component of a diet for a healthy mind. According to a study, depressed individuals with suicidal inclination show lower levels of calcium and magnesium.

Many Americans are short of meeting the recommended calcium intake. To help solve the calcium crisis, an array of calcium-fortified foods and beverages flood the consumer market, from juices, drinks, cereals, snacks to dairy foods. However, use of calcium-fortified foods is not the same as a healthy diet with foods that are naturally rich in calcium. Exceeding the safety limit of “tolerable upper intake level” of 2,500 mg calcium per day may have negative effects on other nutrients, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential ingredient in brain structure and functioning: about 30 to 35 percent of your brain is made up omega 3 fatty acids. Research has shown that nutrient deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids contributes to de-stabilizing moods in bipolar depression.

Salmon and sardines are particularly rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Include them in your healthy diet.

Always buy “fresh wild salmon” not their “farm-raised” counterparts. According to several studies, concentrations of several cancer-causing substances are high enough to suggest that consumers should consider restricting their consumption of farm-raised salmon. A healthy diet should avoid farm-raised fish as much as possible.

Not all fish are created equal. Sardines are made from many different species of fish. Sardines are particularly rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which help fight depression, breast cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. Due to their small size, the mercury content in sardines is negligible, as compared to other larger predatory fish such as shark, swordfish, and king mackerel. Make sure that your sardines are free of additives or preservatives. Kosher certification is always a good stamp of approval, as it means that the product meets stringent quality requirements. Include sardines in your healthy diet.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Consciousness of Living


Consciousness of living

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” Pope Paul VI 

To live well, you must always be conscious of your living.

Simplicity in Living

Consciousness of living a simple lifestyle is the key to happiness and longevity. In this day and age, living in this complex world of technology is not easy: The complexity of this world has taken a toll on the human mind, creating undue stress, as well as many emotional, mental, personal, and psychological attachments in the material world. For these reasons, profound human wisdom in living is essential to overcoming stress and letting go of all attachments. Simplicity is the first step towards detachment, which holds the key to unlocking the door to happiness. Live a simple lifestyle, deleting all the trimmings of life and living, as well as all the attachments that may have a negative impact on your mind.

Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, had this advice on how to lead a pleasant life: avoiding luxuries, and living simply. The explanation is that luxurious living may make you into a “needy” person whose happiness always depends on things that are impermanent and easily lost.

The late Robert Kennedy once said: “Sometimes I think that the only people in this country who worry more about money than the poor are the very wealthy. They worry about losing it, they worry about how it is invested, they worry about the effect it’s going to have. And as the zeroes increase, the dilemmas get bigger.” 

Can you live a simple lifestyle to help you let go of all the trimmings of life?

When you were in your younger days, you might have had many attachments to life that define who you were, such as the car you were driving, the designer dress you were wearing, or anything that defined your social status. Can you, at this point in your life, let go of all these attachments and just lead a simple life? 

Living in simplicity is living a humble life, which is emptying your toxic cravings and attachments.

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.” (Ephesians 2:3)

Attachments create your ego-self that not only separates you from others but also gives you your pride, instead of humility.

“Focusing on status gives us pride, and not humility.
Hoarding worldly riches deprives us of heavenly assets.

An empty mind with no craving and no expectation helps us let go of everything.
Being in the world and not of the world, we attain heavenly grace.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 2)

But with humility, we may see who we really are, not what we wish we were, and what we really need, not what we want. Humility is self-enlightening.

“Ever humble, we see the mysteries of all things created.
Ever proud, we see only the manifestations of all things created.

Only the mysteries, and not the manifestations,
show us the Way to true wisdom.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 1)

Live a simple life, especially as you continue to age, and you just don’t die!

Simplicity gives your clarity of thinking to see the wisdom of living in the present: the past was gone; the future is yet to come, and only the present is real—a gift from the Creator, and that is why it is called “present.”

"Simplicity is clarity.
It is a blessing to learn from those
with humble simplicity.

Those with an empty mind
will learn to find the Way.

The Way reveals the secrets of the universe:
the mysteries of the realm of creation;
the manifestations of all things created.
The essence of the Way is to show us
how to live in fullness and return to our origin."
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 65)

Clarity of thinking may let you have the true human wisdom to know your true nature, thereby ending your craving and hence your self-imposed suffering.

In the present moment, with clarity of mind, you may begin to see the ultimate truths of the self, others, as well as everything around you. More importantly, you may see your past follies in identifying yourself with your thoughts that have created your ego-self, your present futile efforts in striving to protect your ego-self, and your future futilities in expecting that your ego-self will all its attachments will continue to exist in the days to come.  

Living in the present is an awakening to the realities of all things. It may afford you an opportunity to look more objectively at any given situation, allowing your mind to think more clearly, to separate the truths from the self-deceptions that might have been created in your subconscious minds all along.

Focusing on the present moment liberates you from projecting your desires into the future as expectations that necessitate your over-doing to guarantee their fulfillment.

“Therefore, we focus on the present moment,
doing what needs to be done,
without straining and stressing.

To end our suffering,
we focus on the present moment,
instead of our expected result.
So, we follow the natural laws of things.”
(Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, chapter 63)

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Friday, March 5, 2021

Brain Fitness to Live Longer


Brain Fitness

Exercise

Exercise boosts blood flow to your brain by promoting the development of more blood vessels and connections between brain cells. Exercise also increases the production of new brain cells for learning and remembering. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that exercise can double or even triple the number of new cells, compared with the number in animals that do not exercise. If you wish to maintain your learning and remembering skills, exercise your body.

Regular endurance exercise, such as running, swimming, or biking, can also foster new brain cell growth and preserve existing brain cells. Build your physical endurance.

Strength training, such as lifting weights or using a resistance band, not only builds muscle and strengthens bone; but also boosts brain power, improves mood, enhances concentration, and increases decision-making skills. Build your physical strength.

Your flexibility gradually declines with age. Better flexibility means more energy, improved posture, and reduced risk of injury from falls. Build your flexibility with Tai chi, yoga, and stretching exercise.

Body balance diminishes progressively as you get older. Balance training is not just about avoiding falls. Better balance will improve your overall movement and your ability to do things better throughout your life. Build your body balance by standing on one foot or walking backward.

Diet

Eating foods high in saturated fats, like red meat, butter and dairy products, are associated with the development of degenerative diseases, such as heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Fish is a great source of omega-3, the type of fatty acid your body cannot produce, and it is good for your brain. To get your omega-3, eat salmon, cod, haddock, tuna, halibut, and sardines. If you don’t like fish, then eat plenty of walnuts, flaxseeds, and soybeans instead.

Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, are loaded with nutrients good for the brain. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are packed with antioxidants that slow down aging in the brain.

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which are also strong antioxidants that potentially improve blood flow to the brain and reduce inflammation. Unsweetened cocoa powder is another excellent option. 

Many herbs and spices, such as turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, are packed with antioxidants that may decrease harmful inflammation in the brain. Use these  strong flavors in your cooking.

Whole grains, such as oats, barley, and quinoa, are rich in many of the B vitamins that work to reduce inflammation of the brain to prevent memory loss.

The protein and vitamins B, D and E in eggs and egg yolks may help improve memory. You can reap the benefits of these vitamins while keeping your cholesterol to a minimum by mixing whole eggs with egg whites to round out your omelet or scrambled eggs.

Music

According to some scientific research, music has the capacity and capability to change your neuron activity. Music therapists believe that the different sounds from different musical instruments have different impact on different body organs in the physical body. Scientists have used MP3 music and subliminal messages for practicing hypnosis to awaken the subconscious mind to improve memory, to enhance learning, to heal sleep problems, and to increase self-confidence, just to name a few possibilities. Music has to do with sound, which is one of the important sensory skills for maintaining good memory. In general, music listening and playing improves your concentration and brain power.

Brain reserve

Humans have “brain reserve,” which helps the human brain adapt and respond to changes and resist damage. Your brain reserve begins to develop in childhood and gets stronger as you move through adulthood. People who continue to learn, embrace new activities, and develop new skills and interests are building and improving their brain reserve. Therefore, it is important to keep on learning new things to preserve the brain reserve.

Learning

Get yourself educated. It can substantially increase your ability to fight off dementia. The same is true of working at a challenging job. So, go back to school, take classes, get a degree or an advanced degree. You are never too old to learn, and your brain will thank you in the long run.

Playing

Do crossword puzzles, play chess, mahjong, card games, or online games. These activities can stimulate the brain. Playing electronic “brain games” may help you improve your reaction time and problem-solving ability. It is important to find one that you will want to continue to play.

Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, has recommended seven daily essential mental activities to optimize brain health and creativity.

Focusing on daily challenges helps your brain make some deep connections.
Playing creatively and joyfully helps your brain make new connections.
Connecting with nature and others daily helps your brain reinforce its relational circuitry.
Moving aerobically helps your brain strengthen its brain cells.
Reflecting internally, and focusing on sensations, feelings, thoughts, and images, help your brain integrate better.
Relaxing without any mental focus helps your brain recharge.
Sleeping restfully helps your brain consolidate and recover from the experiences of the day.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Saving Your Face


Saving Your Face


Unfortunately, the skin aging process cannot be reversed.
You can only fix your face through non-surgical procedures, such as BotoxÒ and RestylaneÒ, and other invasive surgical procedures, such as a face-lift.

BotoxÒ

BotoxÒ has been hailed as “the new fountain of youth” or the magic potion to aging.

Can BotoxÒ really save your face?

The pros of BotoxÒ are as follows:

BotoxÒ is a purified protein injected into your skin to make your muscles contract, and hence smoothing out your crows’-feet lines around your eyes.

BotoxÒ is minimally invasive, much better than invasive plastic surgery.

BotoxÒ is an instant fix: you can see the results almost immediately.

BotoxÒ gives a more natural look, except for the lines around the mouth. This is the reason why BotoxÒ is generally not applied on the smile folds because it weakens the muscle around the mouth, making your smile look “unnatural.”

BotoxÒ is a fairly safe and an ideal procedure because the botulimum (a toxic chemical) in BotoxÒ is extremely low, and there is little or no buildup of the toxin in your body (often eliminated within 24 to 48 hours—or at least according to BotoxÒ) to pose any major health risk.

BotoxÒ is relatively inexpensive, compared to other invasive procedures, such as a face-lift.

The cons of BotoxÒ are as follows:

BotoxÒ paralyzes your facial muscles, and therefore cannot fix your smile folds, making your smile seem “unnatural.”

BotoxÒ is still costly long term: the procedure has to be repeated every three to four months.

BotoxÒ is a drug with botulimum (a toxic chemical), and you may still have some concern about injecting it into your body.

Collagen injections

Besides BotoxÒ, there are other non-surgical procedures for consideration to save your face.

Collagen is a protein substance in the dermis layer of your skin, which is responsible for your skin’s elasticity. Collagen injections use bovine collagen, which is pure collagen obtainable from isolated cows, and which is clinically tested prior to injection.

Collagen injections have the following advantages:

Collagen injections make the lines on the face become less obvious and much smoother, but they do not make the lines disappear completely as BotoxÒ does.

Collagen injections are used mainly between the eyebrows and on smile folds, where BotoxÒ does not work effectively.

The disadvantages of collagen injections are as follows:

Collagen injections are not for everyone, especially if you are allergic to cows.

Collagen injections only soften your lines: they do not remove them completely. 

Fat injections

Fat injections are living grafts in which part of the fat from your own body, usually from the buttocks, stays and lives in a new environment.

Fat injections have the following advantages, compared to other non-surgical procedures:

They are more cost effective, compared to other non-surgical procedures.

The intervals between injections can be up to several months.

Fat injections may be the best option for deep smile folds, much more effective than collagen injections.

RestylaneÒ

RestylaneÒ is a clear gel injected into your skin to soften your facial contours, and to remove lines and wrinkles on your face. It is derived from a product as bio-compatible and bio-degradable as the natural hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in your body. Hyaluronic acid, present mainly in your skin, is a substance that gives your body its structure and volume by attracting and holding on to the water in your skin. As such, it is most ideal for line and wrinkle filler.

RestylaneÒ has the following advantages over other similar products to remove wrinkles:

RestylaneÒ does not paralyze your facial muscles. It can be injected almost anywhere on your face.

RestylaneÒ eliminates any rejection risk by your body because it is naturally found in your own body.

RestylaneÒ lasts longer (up to a year) than collagen injections. It is, therefore, more cost effective in the long haul, although it costs 40 to 50 percent more than a collagen injection does.

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, every year thousands of individuals opt for cosmetic procedures to save their faces, and of these individual in quest for a youthful look about 88 percent are women and 12 percent are men. However, cosmetic procedures only temporarily fix the problems of skin aging. Having a youthful look is more than just skin deep, and it never comes easy.

Just remember the following:

Your face is not you.

Your youthful look is only a part of you, and it is bound to change, no matter what. Learn how to delay, but also to accept, that inevitable change on your look.

Nobody’s face is perfect—let alone yours.

Do what you can, but do it!

Your over-concern for face image will level off at around fifties and sixties, when you would be more concerned with your health than with your youthfulness. This is the reality of life!

Make yourself look younger and healthier for longer.


Nora Wise
Copyright© by Nora Wise

Teaching Children About Sex

Sex is “a big deal,” especially in a marriage.

Surprisingly, some couples may have more sexual intimacy after several years of marriage. The explanation is that by then they may have much reduced level of stress: better financial environment; children growing up; less worry about conceiving a child. In short, sex can even get better as years go by in a good and healthy marriage.

However, some couples may also cease their sexual intimacy due to: childbirth; pursuing a career; midlife crisis; an out-of-marriage affair. That, unfortunately, is also the reality.

Living together without love or physical intimacy is “living separate lives”—it may also be due to pornography, which is addictive, pervasive, and destructive to the addicts and their respective relationships.

So, it‘s important for parents to educate their children about sex. But how?

   Like building the foundation of a pyramid, teach them about the values of life and living, which are usually dignityhonor, and respect for self and others. 

   Growing up and getting married isn’t just about self or just two people: it’s about human relations—how you relate to others around you. For example, in a marriage it isn’t just about the relationship between you and your spouse; it also involves your children or stepchildren, the in-laws, and the friends. So, learn to develop good relationships, and teach your children to do likewise as they grow up. 

    Relationships are related to emotions, both positive and negative ones. Teach your children to control and manage their emotions and temper tantrums, which will play a pivotal in subsequent life choices and decisions.

All of the above will define and shape your children’s perceptions and understanding of the meaning and the importance of sexual intimacy when they grow up into adolescents and young adults.

The reality

Remember, just do your best, and let God do the rest. You can teach your children about sexual intimacy, but you just can’t control what they feel and experience in their lives. Controlling only generates resistance and distancing. This applies not only to your children, but also to your spouse. You can share with them what you believe in, but you just can’t make them believe what you believe in. That’s the reality.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

GETTING MARRIED TO MAKE YOU HAPPY?

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Let Go of Your Thoughts

In life, we all have undergone many life experiences, both pleasant and unpleasant ones.

We all have a choice when we process the data and information in our minds while undergoing those pleasant and unpleasant experiences: with consciousness, we can always add or delete our own assumptions, expectations, and predictions. Again, with consciousness, we can choose to think about them, or simply reject them. For example, if our thoughts about our past experiences tend to be negative, then we could reject them whenever they pop up in our minds; on the hand, if our thoughts about our past experiences are positive, then we could share them with our friends.

The bottom line: we all have a choice about what is happening in our minds. If an unpleasant past experience pops up in  the brain, make a conscious effort to distract it by thinking about something else instead. We all have a choice.


If you just don't die and continue to live to a ripe old age, you will certainly have many unpleasant experiences that might have left many indelible imprints in your mind. These negative memories will continue to show up every now and then, especially when you are all alone by yourself. Therefore, it is important to be always conscious of their presence, as well as how they may affect your thinking mind. Remember, they belonged to the past, which was gone forever. Even positive memories with positive emotions might turn negative, if you compare them with your present situation.

The bottom line: let go of all thoughts related to the past; instead, always be conscious of the present because the past was gone, and the future is uncertain, and only the present is real. Just have the wisdom of letting go.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Skin Aging


SKIN AGING

Everybody's skin ages with time, with no exception. But how?

 Intrinsic aging

Intrinsic aging is caused by internal factors in your body, some of which are beyond your control.

Cessation or interruption of skin cell replication

Your skin cells divide and replicate continually. However, after a while, they stop the replication process. Surprisingly, the skin cells do not perish; instead, they accumulate in your skin and secrete substances that further interrupt the natural renewal process of other healthy skin cells. Such interruption adversely affects the level of collagen, which is the most abundant protein in your body. Given that collagen makes up approximately six percent of your body weight, its breakdown takes away support of the skin, and thus causing fine wrinkles to appear on your face.

Decline of hormone production

In chronological aging, your body’s production of hormones declines as you age.

If you are a woman, your estrogen (hormones) level may decline by as much as 30 percent during the first ten years of menopause. This significant loss of estrogen not only causes your skin to become thinner and less elastic, but also prolongs the renewal process of your normal skin cells.

Change in physical structure of the face

Over time, the physical structure of your face changes due to the loss of bone mass and the decline in the volume of fat under the skin.

Stress

Stress may cause the flare up of acne, eczema (red swollen skin), and rosacea (a chronic skin disease in people with fair or light skin)—they damage skin texture.

Extrinsic aging

Extrinsic aging is often within your control because the contributing factors are no more than a reflection of your lifestyle.

Photo aging

The sun’s UVA and UVB rays cause irreparable damage to your skin, known as photo aging. Sunrays promote the growth of free radicals in your skin. Free radicals are damaging agents to youthful skin: they are responsible for the reduction of collagen (protein under your skin), causing your skin to become thin and loose; they accelerate the release of copper and iron from your skin cells, and thus promoting the growth of more free radicals.

Remember, going for that tanned look often comes with a hefty price.

Tobacco smoke

The nicotine in tobacco generates free radicals, which damage your skin.
Quit smoking immediately. Smoking is no longer “cool” when you look much older than your chronological age.

Excess alcohol consumption

Too much alcohol damages your liver. A dysfunctional liver cannot efficiently remove body toxins and waste products accumulated in your skin, and a damaged liver gives you a yellowish complexion, instead of a healthy glow.

Always drink moderately. More importantly, learn how to cleanse your liver to rid your body of toxic waste materials.

Pollutants from the water

Install a filter system (e.g. a home reverse-osmosis drinking water system) to filter out chemicals and pollutants from the water you use for drinking and bathing. Do not buy bottled water (unsafe plastic bottles).

Poor diet

Avoid all processed foods, which are loaded with chemicals, such as food colorings, food emulsifiers, and food preservatives, among other chemicals.
Go organic and eat only super foods. Eat a balanced diet with abundant antioxidant vitamins (vitamins A, C, and E) to ameliorate the oxidative stress of free radicals, which are the main agents for skin aging.

Dehydration

Dehydration dries up your skin. Water and body fluids form a major component of your body. They serve several important functions for your skin:

Cushioning skin cells for protection against external damage
Flushing out toxins through your sweat glands
Enhancing communication between skin cells, thereby maintaining skin sensitivity
Moistening skin tissues to prevent problems of dry skin
Transporting nutrients and oxygen to skin cells

Research studies have shown that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated due to the following reasons:

Dry artificially heated or cooled living environment
Regular consumption of dehydrated beverages, such as alcohol, caffeine, and carbonated sodas

Install a humidifier in your home.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. Your body produces water when it turns foods into energy. At least 25 percent of your daily water requirement should come from fruits and vegetables. Of course, drink only pure water, and drink more—not just eight glasses!

Wind and heat

Extreme wind and heat may also damage your skin, especially in a work environment outdoor, or with regular close proximity to fire, furnace, and stove, such as working in a kitchen.

Protect your skin from dehydration with lubricant, such as Vaseline pure petroleum jelly (no need for expensive body creams and lotions).

Gravity

Gravity, over time, weighs down your skin, causing it to sag. Gravity begins to have its toll on your face in your 40s and 50s.

To sum up, your lifestyle has an impact on not only your overall health but also the youthful look of your skin. Remember, in your 20s, you have the face that Nature gives you; in your 40s and 50s, you have the face that you might rightly deserve due to your lifestyle.

The bottom line: Make yourself look younger and healthier for longer.


Nora Wise
Copyright© by Nora Wise