Monday, October 6, 2014

Soul 7: Feel Like a Buddhist Monk in the Middle of the Big City

Does the fact that its Monday have you wishing you could run away to a Buddhist monastery?

Ah, the irony of the times eh? We have created a world for ourselves so full of stress that most of us struggle with serious mental and/or physical health issues.

Modern medicine has led to some miraculous treatments and cures, but in many cases, it still has a long way to go.  When Western medical practices fail us, we often turn to what are considered to be alternative treatments.  Some, like acupuncture, have begun to be integrated into conventional treatment protocols as evidence of their value and efficacy increases.

One area where Western medicine often falls short is in dealing with stress, anxiety.  When we report struggling with such issues, as most of us do, we are usually given a prescription for medication.  When we are struggling with another health concern, often the treatment itself causes additional stress and anxiety.  It rarely takes into account our individual needs and circumstances, rather, follows a generalized protocol.  Our health care system focuses on treating the body often at the expense of the whole person.

Hospitals are a great example of some of the oversights inherent in our health care system.  I am fortunate in that my only experiences with hospital stays have been to give birth to my two daughters.  Even though I was there for happy, joyful events, both 4 day stays for my Caesarian sections were absolutely miserable.  In what is considered the top obstetrical hospital in Canada, the maternity ward was a nightmare (even if it was no worse, I am sure, than most wards of any kind of hospital.)  Having just had major abdominal surgery and very little sleep, I desperately needed rest.  This was next to impossible.  Hospitals are filled with noise and light.  It was impossible to sleep let alone even relax.  The ideal sleeping temperature is 18 degrees Celsius.  My hospital rooms must have been closer to 25 .  I was hot and uncomfortable.  I can recall when my youngest was born, drenching myself and my newborn with perspiration as I tried to nurse her in that hot, stuffy room.  All I could think about was how doubly awful it must be to be stuck in such an environment when dealing with a life threatening illness or severe pain and be dealing with unfathomable stress and anxiety on top of the physical discomfort.  How could anyone heal in that hell?
Funny humor cartoon of bureaucratic hospital reception

There is increasing acceptance, even in conventional Western medicine, of the integral connection between mind and body.  We know that pain and illness can affect the mind and that the mind can affect physical health.  There is empirical evidence that some of the mind-body healing techniques used for centuries in other cultures are effective.  Meditation, for example, has consistently been shown to have positive health benefits.

Now I do not believe that meditation alone can cure serious illness like cancer, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, but it can lower physiological and psychological stress indicators, and improve depression, which, in turn, can increase immune function, which is critical for fighting disease.  This makes it a perfect practice for anyone struggling with stress or depression alone, or in the face of chronic pain or a critical illness.

Soul 7 is a new wellness and relaxation centre in Toronto that I would describe as a meditation and healing spa.  Opened by Bob Berman, it offers a number of treatment therapies using mind/body balancing technologies.  Berman (no relation to me!), discovered these technologies after he lost his own wife to cancer.  She tried conventional treatment but due to several blunders in her care, she succumbed to her disease.  Berman was devastated by her death, which led to him to a spiritual awakening.  Travelling all over the world, he researched a variety of treatments routinely used in Europe but largely ignored here in North America.  Therapies supported by research and scientists around the world.

Some of the therapies offered by Soul 7 include: guided imagery and meditation, neuro muscular vibration (biomechanical stimulation), light therapy, Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy, brain wave therapy, and bio-energetic water.

Now I’m a sceptic, and had I not spoken with Berman to understand the purpose of these treatments and done a bit of my own research to confirm their legitimacy, I likely would have turned down the opportunity to visit his centre.

I was treated to a session at Soul 7, along with my good friend who just completed cancer treatment.  Just one month after undergoing two surgeries, including a total hysterectomy, followed by 3 rounds of chemotherapy, and 25 straight days of radiation, her treatment might have been ‘done’ but her body and mind were still feeling the effects of her journey.  As it turns out, Berman runs a special 10-week healing program just for individuals undergoing or having completed cancer treatment.  It is FREE for friends or family members of Soul 7 clients who sign up for one of their 10 week programs.

The space is peaceful and elegant and designed to be calming.  Both of us experienced the Guided Imagery along with the Nero Muscular Vibration therapy.  This involved guided meditation with headphones while lying in what was basically a contoured bed with a canopy over top and eye mask to keep out light.  Acoustic vibrations, creating sounds very much like meditation music, are used to reduce chronic pain and alleviate stress.
The experience was very pleasant and relaxing. All I could think was, “This is what it should be like in the hospital for people trying to heal!”  I was then treated to PEMF therapy, which is often used to promote faster healing from sports injuries, because I have a stubborn shoulder injury that has been bothering me.  This involved a PEMF pad being placed under the affected area for 20 minutes.  I couldn’t really feel anything and wondered how something so subtle could really help.  But sure enough the next morning my shoulder really did feel better.  This therapy can improve injuries in just a few treatments.

Soul 7 customizes your treatment depending on whether you are dealing with chronic pain, cancer, depression or stress.  As a counsellor and therapist, I have many clients who could benefit from the therapies they offer.  While not everyone may be dealing with a mental illness or serious disease, just about all of us are negatively affected by the stress created by our fast paced and toxic lifestyle.  If you live here in crowded, traffic-clogged Toronto, there is a good chance you could benefit from a visit too!

For more info, check out their website.

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