In order to bridge this gulf, Buddhists over the centuries have devised an array of exercises aimed at smoothing the transition. They take that jump and break it down into little steps. Each step can be practiced by itself. Depression can be debilitating because some symptoms (like fatigue or low energy) increase the difficulty of daily life, while other symptoms (like hopelessness or disengagement) sabotage the motivation for even trying. It's a double dose of hardship that affects every area of life. Plus, depression is linked to so many contributing factors that getting to the root of what's really happening can be a challenge. There are chemicals and other substances in our environment--and particularly in the foods we eat--that can wreak havoc with the brain and neural system. These neurotoxins interfere with the electrical activities of nerve cells, impair cellular communication, and shorten the life span of those cells. The results can be devastating. In fact, neurotoxins have been linked to brain tumors, Alzheimer's disease, migraines, chronic fatigue, ALS, insomnia, inflammation, brain fog, memory loss, bloating, fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, kidney failure, soreness in the muscles and joints, and many other ailments. Of particular importance to our many clients--and to you--is that neurotoxins are one of the most significant contributors to depression. We readily visualize the devastating impact of pollution on our environment--clogged streams, steaming landfills, billowing factory smokestacks, and polluted brown skies. Many of us feel impassioned and rally to clean up polluted landscapes. With that disturbing thought in mind, consider this: we must learn to apply the same intensity and motivation in regard to the destruction taking place in our own polluted bodies. Where Do Toxins Come From? The most common way you and I get toxins into our bodies is through things that we ingest, inhale, or absorb from our diets or our environments. So, let's first discuss what people typically consume, and in particular what depressed people consume. I am not going to send you on a guilt trip about eating hamburgers and ice cream . In essence, as I pointed out in the previous chapter, good food produces a good mood; bad food produces a bad mood. I know this sounds simple, but it's so true!

To the degree that you strengthen and support your physical health, you will also strengthen and support your mental health. As you know, the standard American diet consists largely of high-sugar, highly processed, chemically enhanced substances brimming with neurotoxins. In fact, there are so many chemicals in our food that some things we eat every day have been banned in other countries for being unsafe. Certain artificial food dyes, for example, are banned in some countries because they have been linked to cancer, allergies, and childhood hyperactivity. Even so-called "healthy" fare can be problematic. While we've all heard about the benefits of wild-caught salmon, farm-raised salmon is another story and is banned in Australia and New Zealand. This is because farm-raised salmon are often fed a diet filled with antibiotics. Farm-raised fish can also have higher levels of pollutants that have been linked with elevated stroke risks for women. And brominated vegetable oil (BVO) has been banned in more than a hundred countries, yet it is commonly used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored sodas and sports drinks in America. Have someone follow you around with a video camera or a notebook and record your body language. Review it when you are done to see if you were successful in your changes. Our everyday existence is full of motion and activity. Sitting utterly motionless for hours on end is nearly the opposite of normal experience. Those states of clarity and tranquillity we foster in the midst of absolute stillness tend to dissolve as soon as we move. We need some transitional exercise that will teach us the skill of remaining calm and aware in the midst of motion. Walking meditation helps us make that transition from static repose to everyday life. It's meditation in motion, and it is often used as an alternative to sitting. Walking is especially good for those times when you are extremely restless. An hour of walking meditation will often get you through that restless energy and still yield considerable quantities of clarity. You can then go on to the seated meditation with greater profit.

Standard Buddhist practice advocates frequent retreats to complement your daily sitting practice. A retreat is a relatively long period of time devoted exclusively to meditation. One- or two-day retreats are common for lay people. Seasoned meditators in a monastic situation may spend months at a time doing nothing else. Such practice is rigorous, and it makes sizable demands on both mind and body. Unless you have been at it for several years, there is a limit to how long you can sit and profit. Ten solid hours of the seated posture will produce in most beginners a state of agony that far exceeds their concentration powers. A profitable retreat must therefore be conducted with some change of posture and some movement. The usual pattern is to intersperse blocks of sitting with blocks of walking meditation. An hour of each with short breaks between is common. To do the walking meditation, you need a private place with enough space for at least five to ten paces in a straight line. You are going to be walking back and forth very slowly, and to the eyes of most Westerners you'll look curious and disconnected from everyday life. This is not the sort of exercise you want to perform on the front lawn where you'll attract unnecessary attention. Choose a private place. The physical directions are simple. Select an unobstructed area and start at one end. Stand for a minute in an attentive position. Your arms can be held in any way that is comfortable, in front, in back, or at your sides. Then while breathing in, lift the heel of one foot. While breathing out, rest that foot on its toes.

Again while breathing in, lift that foot, carry it forward and while breathing out, bring the foot down and touch the floor. Repeat this for the other foot. Walk very slowly to the opposite end, stand for one minute, then turn around very slowly, and stand there for another minute before you walk back. Then repeat the process. Keep your head up and your neck relaxed. Keep your eyes open to maintain balance, but don't look at anything in particular. Walk naturally. Maintain the slowest pace that is comfortable, and pay no attention to your surroundings. Watch out for tensions building up in the body, and release them as soon as you spot them. Don't make any particular attempt to be graceful. Don't try to look pretty. This is not an athletic exercise or a dance. It is an exercise in awareness. Your objective is to attain total alertness, heightened sensitivity, and a full, unblocked experience of the motion of walking. Put all of your attention on the sensations coming from the feet and legs. Try to register as much information as possible about each foot as it moves. Dive into the pure sensation of walking, and notice every subtle nuance of the movement. Feel each individual muscle as it moves. Experience every tiny change in tactile sensation as the feet press against the floor, and then lift again. What happened?

When an individual was accountable to someone with an unknown view, they were more likely to consider both sides of an issue and use a cognitively complex strategy. However, when an individual was accountable to a person with known views, they tended to shift their attitudes toward the views of that person. Once again, these results suggest that we tend to conform to people in authority positions. The moral of the story--if you want better quality and less biased work from your employees, don't let your views be known before the work is done. As we've seen, our beliefs and decisions can be greatly influenced by others. In many cases, this is appropriate because other people can be an important source of information. We go to movies and read books that others say are good, and we're often glad we listened to them. However, problems can arise because the information we receive from others may not be the most reliable or unbiased. Why is that? We selectively expose ourselves to certain types of information and people. We typically read liberal magazines if we're liberal, and conservative magazines if we're conservative. We also tend to associate with liberals or conservatives depending upon our own political views. And so, the opinions that we receive from others can be biased toward our own beliefs, making it seem like there's overwhelming support for those beliefs. We're therefore less likely to question or change our point of view.17 In addition, we are storytellers, and we all have a desire to tell a good story. We want what we say to be informative and entertaining so that other people will listen to us. And since our audience wants to be entertained, they often give us the license to embellish the facts. As my friend Ron likes to say, "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story." As a result, misinformation is often passed on from one person to another. None of these legends are true, but many people believe them because they heard the story from someone reputable. However, it's difficult to judge the reliability of a message. It may be told for the fourth or fifth time, with embellished details added every time it's passed on.