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October 05, 2011 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-10-05

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8B Wednesday, October 5, 2011 // The Statement
PERSONALSTATEMENT

ONE WEEK IN THE HIMAL
HOW ONE STUDENT'S PH
WAS CHANGED IN DHAR
BYANKIT MEHTA

Rather than zigzagging up the
coniferous foothills of the Hima-
layas, we took an ill-advised direct
ascent up the Dhauladhar range
to reach our destination. Though
fatigued, I felt the allure of the
Dharamsala municipality, which
is home to His Holiness the Dalai
Lama and the dislocated Tibetan
government.
As we entered the village of
McLeod Ganj, my companions and
I were greeted by a street vendor
selling Momos, a steamed Tibet-
an dumpling. She was standing
in front of a large sign that read,
"Tibet: One People, One Nation.
Fifty Years of Resistance 1959-
2009." Her two missing front teeth
peeked through her smile as we
asked her for directions to the vil-
lage square. We politely bought
several Momos to show our appre-
ciation and set off to plan the next
several days of trekking, self-devel-
opment and acculturation to the

Tibetan lifestyle.
After World War II, the Chinese
government pronounced the unifi-
cation of all Chinese descendants
under one empire. It used this to
collude and forcefully take owner-
ship of Tibetan lands and perform a
cultural genocide. As Chinese hos-
tility peaked in 1959, the Tibetan
government and the Dalai Lama
fled Tibet for Dharamsala, India.
As we acclimated to the eleva-
tion, we spent time learning about
Buddhism. Our first stop was Tsug-
lagkhang, the Dalai Lama's temple.
The monks showed us ancient
Buddhist scripts that were carried
from Tibet during China's invasion
as we picked their brains about liv-
ing in the Himalayas. We also med-
itated for a mere twenty minutes
inside the temple - a task that was
extremely challenging considering
how modern society breeds us to
develop some level of A.D.D.
I was surprised to learn Bud-

AYA 5enjoyed Afghani hash, a popular
. substance in the area supplied and
y distributed by a large Israeli popu-
I LO SO P H Y laion living in Dharamsala.
Trekking near this Buddhist
A M SALA mecca in the humbling pres-
ence of the Himalayas deserves
a brief illustration. While step-
ping through the rocky path, you
are two paces away from a two-
dhism is a philosophy that coex- hundred foot drop: your senses
ists with science and rationalism. are sharpened, your footwork is
It does not assert or depend on the precise and your mind is clear.
existence of a god and itcagrees with At every turn, you see several
the scientific view of an ordered five-colored prayer flags hang-
universe ruled by law (Dharma) ing across trees. Every time they
blow in the wind,
"At every turn, you see several they are meant to
carry the bless-
five-colored prayer flags ings written on
,, them to bring

way to the front of the house, we
found a young lady sitting on her
porch.
She was a 24-year-old American
Buddhist who decided to spend two
years of her life in Dharamsala. She
offered us tea. She explained how
she felt liberated and content living
such a simple and sustainable life-
style, much different than what she
experienced stateside.
If one can eliminate desire, she
explained, one can eliminate suf-
fering and eventually attain nir-
vana, a perfect peace of mind. We
listened intently, thanked her for
the tea, and parted ways still in
deep thought.
. Since my trip, I have been chal-
lenging my familiar western
ideology, preaching lofty ideals
and requirements for a content
life. Having spent seven days in
Dharamsala, where locals believe
you can live an equally satisfying
life by focusing on simplicity and
developing good karma, I now see
an alternative path towards my
notion of "self-development."
To my surprise, the more I've
reflected on this philosophy, the
more inspired I have become to
return and spend an entire year in
Dharamsala.
- Ankit Mehta is an LSA senior

hanging across trees.'
- a system that works itself out
inexorably over vast periods of
time without divine intervention
(karma). It seemed like Buddhism
has the ability to bring a compro-
mise to the centuries old dilemma
of science or religion.
We hiked up to Triund, a pla-
teau and popular camping ground.
At this elevation, the main villages
looked like colorful treehouses
nestled in the mountains. At every
breathtaking view, we stopped and

benefit all.
On our way
down, we befriended two Gaddi
Kuttas, a breed of mountain dog.
They guided us, and in return, we
fed them. It was an unspoken deal.
Ultimately, they ended up lead-
ing us the wrong way and we were
forced to improvise. Eventually, we
snuck around a female mountain
goat and her calves through a small
pass in order to jump onto the roof
of a remote house and find a path
back to the nearest village. As we
dismounted the roof and made our

BEH

I

ND

THE

BAN

SMOKING
From Page 5B
cancer. People tend to believe that
lung cancer is merely caused by
the inhalation of smoke into the
body, but these studies indicate that
genetic capabilities for the cancer
could somehow be regulated by the
very act of obtaining pleasure from
cigarettes.
The finding also confirms Kirk-
land's hypothesis that addiction is
more biologically based - showing
that helping people quit might not
be as easy as invoking peer pres-
sure.
"We tend to believe that we
can personally control a lot more
things than we actually can," Kirk-
land said. "Most people, if you ask
them, believe that anybody can lose
weight if they just try hard enough,
which study after study shows is
not true. And most people probably
think that they can cure themselves
of addiction if they just try hard

enough, which, again, is not true."
Part of Pomerleau's nicotine
research has illuminated posi-
tive aspects of the drug, including
evidence that the chemical plays
some role in alleviating symptoms
of Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's
disease results from the death of
dopaminergic neurons, some of
which play a role in regulating
movement, which causes patients
to develop muscle spasms and trem-
ors. But since nicotine acts to pre-
venting the dopaminergic receptors
of the brain from developing insen-
sitivity, some researchers are look-
ing to a nicotine-like compound as
a potential therapy for the disease.
"The patient that I am thinking
of here in Ann Arbor was really
remarkably recovered," Pomerleau
said. "I actually have videotapes of
his being able to smile. and to be
able to move around. He traveled to
Europe ... It was quite effective."
Though Pomerleau is committed
to the field of smoking cessation, he
isn't denying that nicotine doesn't

have its positive effects. But some
may not agree with him. Pomer-
leau recalled presenting his find-
ings on pituitary hormone studies
at a tobacco research conference in
Glasgow, where he explained nico-
tine could improve performance on
tests of memory.
"I remember this very angry
person in the field of public health
saying, 'How dare you tell us things
that are good about smoking? Our
job is to banish smoking and to tell
people all the harm it does.'
"And my answer to her was that
my job in science is to tell it like it
is."
FUTURE ENDEAVORS
Warner expressed that the mis-
sion of the School of Public Health
is not to completely outlaw smoking
from the Ann Arbor grounds - not
even close.
"I don't know anybody in the pub-
lic health community of any conse-
quence who is proposing we should

ban smoking. Period," he said.
Kozak realizes that it has become
more difficult for the College Lib-
ertarians to take an active stand
against the policy now that the ban
has gone into effect.
"It seems like kind of an odd
stance to take," he admitted. "Why
stick up for this activity that we all
know is not healthy for us? Why
choose that?"
But Kozak said he is worried
about the implications of what the
ban might engender in imposing
"a system of values ... by a group of
individuals that believe they know
better." The goal of the Libertar-
ians now is not so much to actively
oppose the smoke-free initiative,
but to lead students to question the
reasons why the ban was instated in
the first place, he said.
"(Our goal) should be to chal-
lenge people to think about where
you stop," he said. "Smoking is an
easy thing to oppose. There are Lib-
ertarians who are anti-smoking, but
it's only going to bea matter of time

when people start calling into ques-
tion something you like to do with
their own point of view."
Warner doesn't take as much of a
fatalistic approach to the policy as
Kozak.
"We are certainly restricting
smoking where it can be done and
when," he said. "It's not unlike alco-
hol - there are places and times
when you can't drink. (It) doesn't
mean you can't drink alcohol, just
means you can't do it at certain
places and certain times."
Douglas echoed this sentiment,
though he expressed a more for-
ward-thinking mentality. Despite
the gains the University has made
in the field of smoking cessation, he
anticipates more work needs to be
done in the next couple years.
"We're dealing with the single-
greatest health threat in the United
States,"he said. "We shouldn't mon-
key around with it. This is serious
stuff, and we need to deal with it in
a respectful and practical way.
"Focus on it likea laser beam."

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