The Chess Player and the Monk

If you have ever played chess, you will know that in order to win you must anticipate your adversary’s next moves. The more moves you can anticipate and the more patterns you can recognize, the more success you are likely to have as a chess player. Given that in any chess position there are roughly thirty possible legal moves and that a game usually last about forty moves, the possibilities are almost endless. Due to this anticipation of countless moves, chess teaches a form of paranoia. It is not surprising that many chess masters have ended up with mental disorders: Raymond Weinstein an American chess mater has been in a psychiatric hospital since 1964 for murder, Akiba Rubinstein a polish chess grandmaster ended up with schizophrenic tendencies, Bobby Fisher was well known for his paranoia, Wilhelm Steinitz the first undisputed world champion also suffered from mental disorders.

On the other end of this spectrum, if we look at people who focus on positive thoughts and strengthen patterns associated with calmness and happiness, we find major health benefits. Researchers at Harvard Medical School have shown that when people practice relaxation exercises such as meditation and yoga they see their immune system function better, they are less prone to inflammation, and end up with healthier hormone levels.

We all know that stress has negative effects on health. Stress is linked to a fight or flight response associated with danger which impedes the function of the immune system, the cardiovascular system and nervous system. On the other hand, relaxation is associated with enhanced digestion, improved immunity and better memory. Amazingly enough there is a supplement which mimics the beneficial effects of meditation. The ingredient in question is theanine, the component of tea that gives it its relaxing and healthful properties.

The moral of the story is pretty simple. Be mindful of your thoughts and where you focus your mental energy because in the end, they play a vital role in your happiness and make a major difference for your mental health. If you ever need a leg up, consider theanine; it will kick start the brain waves associated with relaxed wakefulness and will help maintain a peaceful state of mind.


In good health,

Ludo Brunel, ND


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