Nested

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Orion asked me to think on/study the concept of twin souls if I wanted greater understanding of the soul relationship between myself and a friend with whom I seem to share an intense connection that I’ve never really understood.  I did read some stuff about twin souls after I got that advice, but most of it didn’t ring true to me, either in general or specifically in reference to me and my friend.  However, I began reading Gary Zukov’s The Seat of the Soul (I can’t believe I’ve never read that before!) and jotted down some brief notes and diagrams inspired by some of his material.  This is a more complete examination of the ideas that came to me.  Orion has since said that these ideas are a good way for my mind to metaphorically grasp these ideas as I continue to work on non-linear ways of knowing.  Really, the exact words were “The insights you had… can assist you in helping your rational mind to have something to focus on as you begin to further embrace the non-linear ways of knowing.  We are pleased that you have come to understand that literal and rational knowing are… merely one tool to help you along your way when your logical mind might prefer something to focus on.”

In The Seat of the Soul, page 86-8, Gary Zukov says:

The higher self is the connecting link when the soul speaks to its personality.  It is the dialogue between the personality and its immortal self.  The personality-soul communication is the higher experience, but the personality does not communicate with the fullness of its soul.

All of the energy of the soul does not incarnate.  To incarnate, the soul creates a personality from those parts of itself that it wants to heal in the physical environment and from those parts of itself that it lends to the process of healing in that lifetime.

So powerful is the energy of the soul that it could not advance into physical form without, literally, exploding that form.  In the creation of a personality, the soul calibrates parts of itself, reduces parts of itself, to take on the human experience.  Your higher self is that aspect of your soul that is in you, but it is not the fullness of your soul.  It is a smaller soul self.  Therefore, “higher self” is another term for “soul,” yet the soul is more than the higher self.

Picture a cup, a gallon, and a water tank.  The water tank is the soul.  An aspect of the soul becomes a gallon.  That gallon is still soul, but not the fullness of the soul.  It is that part of the soul that is on a mission, so to speak.  The personality is the cup.  The cup contacts the gallon, the higher self soul, but not the full-bodied water tank.

Communication between the personality and its soul is an in-house intuitive process.  It is a process that is organic to your own internal system.  For example, decision-making, which is your process, can be an intuitive process in which you pull data from your mind, your heart and your intuition, relying upon the guidance of your higher self.  Each of these sources is a part of your own system of energy.  Your personality and your higher self are of your soul.

Intuition can also permit the personality, through the higher self, to receive information from other souls of higher process, souls that are not its own soul.  Sources of guidance other than your own higher self can come across on the same radio station, so to speak.  This is not the same as an intuitive process.  This is a process of receiving guidance through intuitive channels.

Receiving information through intuitive channels is significantly different from receiving information through intuitive processes.  Receiving information through intuitive processes is cooking at home.  Receiving information through intuitive channels is ordering out.

Gary Zukov’s explanation of personality/higher self/soul may go by different nomenclature elsewhere.  In Jane Roberts’ Seth material, there is reference to the oversoul.  This is not the first mention of oversoul – Ralph Waldo Emerson defined oversoul as being the collective soul of humanity.  But for my purposes, I understand the oversoul to be a larger soul than the individual soul and one that may have reference to more than one individual soul.  This understanding came from reading Jane Roberts’ novel The Education of Oversoul 7.  Yet, the concept I carry of “oversoul” and how I use it in this discussion is that it is not the ultimate collective soul of all humanity.  I believe there are many oversouls… I will explain further, but the definitions and words between various people talking about the same thing are often different.  In my mind, I define personality as the human form we occupy; the “higher self” that Zukov references, I simply call “soul.”  And the “soul” Zukov references, I identify as oversoul.  I am going to take that concept one step further than Zukov did in the writings I referenced above – this was my jumping-off point in this meditation on the theme.

So, Zukov uses the metaphor of cup/gallon/water tank.  I like that metaphor a lot – it helps make something more clear that is difficult for us to understand.  I don’t think it is necessarily entirely literally true, but I believe our human minds are somewhat limited in what we can understand of the true nature of reality.  Metaphors are helpful in this regard, and I don’t believe it’s important that we know the precise fullness of truth, neither is it practical or possible.  I believe we grasp what we can, and it leads us to higher truth if we allow it.  I believe that is good enough and all that is necessary/expected in our current incarnated state.

In reference to thinking on the concept of twin souls, I’m not sure that Orion directed me to this concept because it necessarily has anything to do with me and my friend per se.  (In fact, I am told frequently lately that part of the divine purpose in our knowing each other is that we spur each other to necessary lessons about relationships, connections and love that are larger than either of us individually.  And it’s fascinating to me thus far that no matter how personal things seem, the lesson always seems to extend out far beyond our individual interactions, misunderstandings, and current limitations.)   I’m not sure I believe that everyone has a twin soul (or twin spark), and I believe that most of what is put out there about twin souls is actually a manifestation of our cultural spell that everyone has an ultimate soul mate who will complete them.  I do not deny or degrade the experience of those who feel they’ve found their twin soul.  I accept this as possible and maybe even probable.  I just don’t buy into a lot of the explanations I’ve read and have no knowledge or experience of it myself (maybe someday…).  My understanding of the concept is that twin souls are formed from the same spark of infinite intelligence to create two souls who together form a complete yin/yang complement.  Perhaps this is a more personalized expression of the concept of our oneness.  Perhaps the idea of twin soul is so popular for the same reason metaphors help us understand larger truths – it helps us wrap our brains around something that ultimately our brains can’t understand.  But for my purposes, it is my jumping-off point, and here are the connections between Zukov’s metaphor and my extension of it.

So I’ll call the cup the personality, the gallon the soul, and the water tank the oversoul.  Starting at the cup level, what if the twin soul concept involves two cups in one gallon? That is, what if two personalities share the same soul?  I could buy this, easily.  I don’t necessarily think there are always two cups in each gallon container, but I could be wrong.  And maybe there are more cups than that in each gallon container.  Wouldn’t surprise me.

But let’s look at the oversoul – the water tank.  I totally buy the concept that each water tank contains several gallon containers with their corresponding cups.   That is, each oversoul has “calibrated itself,” in Zukov’s words, not just into one smaller part (or maybe it’s better to think of it as a more limited part or a more specific part), but into several smaller parts, or aspects.  It is not too difficult to understand the idea that if there is one aspect the oversoul would like to heal through the experience of physical existence, there may be several such aspects.  It would distill “those parts of itself that it lends to the process of healing in that lifetime” to the corresponding aspects.

So, imagine a water tank.  Inside this big water tank are open-topped gallon containers – several of them.  (Why open-topped?  That’s just the way I visualize it because it makes it easier for me to imagine how connected we are if we are each exposed to the same body of water despite our  separations.)  Inside each gallon container are open-topped cup containers – perhaps more than one in each.  The tank would represent the oversoul, the gallons the individual discrete souls (or what Zukov calls “higher selves”), and the cups represent our human personalities.

But let’s take the concept a bit further.  What if these open-topped water tanks with all their enclosed aspects are, themselves, contained in something larger – a swimming pool, perhaps?  What would we call that which is over the oversoul (or under and around the oversoul, for that matter)?  Well, it doesn’t matter… let’s keep on going… what if the swimming pool is not the only swimming pool in existence but it is, itself, housed within a larger body of water?  What if the ocean holds many swimming pools?  How far does this go?  The concept I’m working with right now is that it goes all the way to God.  What we define as “God” is simply the largest and most complete aspect, the one that holds everything else.  This metaphor helps us understand how we are all God, how we are all One, how all life and all things are connected… and yet we still have a frame of reference for understanding our individuality.  We still have a frame of reference for understanding why we feel so much more connected to some people versus others.  If we are sitting in the same gallon with another personality, we might feel extremely connected.  If Zukov’s metaphor holds truth, this would mean that two personalities may share the same intuitive processing system.  That would likely create a very specific and powerful kind of intimacy.  The concept of a twin soul, to me, makes more sense in that context.  If we are sitting in the same water tank with other “gallons” or souls, it makes sense that we might be more intuitively connected with those souls compared with a soul sitting in an entirely different water tank.

There’s another metaphor that I have the privilege to pull from, something that is not within most people’s frame of reference.  Growing up, my mother suffered from multiple personality disorder.  That’s what they called it then.  Now it’s referred to as dissociative identity disorder (DID).  If you have no concept of what DID is, the cable TV series United States of Tara illustrates this, albeit in an overly-dramatic, less-common presentation than is usually the case for people who live within this complex situation.  It is believed that if severe and constant trauma occurs during a child’s formative years, the personality can split off into different aspects (personalities) as a means of survival and maintaining sanity.  DID is chaotic, to be sure, but it’s not insanity.  Now, I want to be clear that I don’t really understand DID, and I am pretty sure no one really can unless they’ve experienced it.  Many psychiatrists still don’t believe it actually exists, that those diagnosed DID are merely misclassified somehow.  But because of my exposure to the disorder, it’s more on my radar than it probably is for most people.

Now, doesn’t the concept of DID sound kind of like what we’re talking about here?  The personality under trauma splits off aspects of itself, forming discrete personalities within the psyche of one person, one body.  All these aspects are still ultimately one person, no matter how fractured that person has become (and the concept of soul retrieval is not very different, really).  With the metaphor I’ve outlined above, it seems no different than the fracturing we’ve all experienced on the soul level (or perhaps I should more accurately say on the God level?).  But here’s a curious concept – those with DID occasionally integrate.  That means that the personalities all come together as one integrated personality once again (and similarly, there are plenty of folks who have participated in soul retrieval rituals to recover lost aspects of themselves).  Integration represents a reality that the person with DID can scarcely remember, as they’ve been fractured since early childhood, and this fracturing helped them survive.  I can only imagine the challenge involved in the process of integration, and many with DID have no desire for integration.  My mother did integrate when I was 12.  She has told me some of the fears she experienced at the time – wondering if parts of herself would disappear, and which ones would “die” when there was only one of her left.  Of course, they are all still there, just not split apart into their individual aspects.  She retained all their memories and all their skills (although, she reports that since several of them had different fingerings for the same piano piece, there were a few she couldn’t play for a while because she couldn’t sort out which one to use!).  There is no need for the fracturing anymore.  The experiences she’s been through have made her perception of the world and her inner experience different from what most of us experience, even now, but she is again one personality, not 20.

Let’s use the concept of DID as a metaphor for our own spiritual evolution.  Mom tells me that as she approached integration, the personalities had to learn to work together.  They had to understand how they were connected and make peace with one another.  They had to work on their own healing, and they had to recognize that they were all one.  When we think of how our souls have split aspects of themselves off in order to experience our current reference of reality, in order to be physical beings, the question arises whether we will one day reintegrate.  I believe we will.  In fact, I believe that this is likely a good metaphor to understand spiritual collectives that offer us guidance though channels like Esther Hicks (Abraham), Jane Roberts (Seth), and Betsy-Morgan Coffman (Orion).  A close friend of mine has a personal guide who is a collective of three souls. These various guides have told us that they are actually collectives of souls, although they speak to us as if they are one entity.  I suspect that there may be more involved that just one of a group of individual advanced souls stepping forward to speak for the group.  What if these souls have integrated to some degree or another?  I think perhaps they have.  And if we are all one, if we are all God, if we all have the potential to return to God, how does this occur?  Does it occur through greater and greater integration? And is this why helping each other moves us along our own paths?

This can, of course, be a frightening concept – we don’t want to disappear.  We don’t want to lose ourselves in the collective.  We don’t understand how we can remain fully ourselves and yet somehow also be absorbed into something bigger.  We so value our individuality, and in our current reality, the grip of the ego seduces us to think that looking out for number one is the only way to survive.  The idea of being part of something bigger brings up fears of losing ourselves. Hell, how many of us struggle to become part of “we” in a life partnership, let alone working with the thought of integrating at the soul level?  It looks scary to us.

I have a feeling, however, that our fears are groundless.  Perhaps we won’t truly understand that until we reach a level of spiritual advancement sufficient to offer us the choice to integrate into our fullness, to join with our more divine aspects.  Until we enter a space of true understanding (and I don’t think it will happen here), we can use our guidance systems, internal and external (“cooking at home” vs “ordering out,” as Zukov says), to learn our lessons, to advance our souls as much as we can through our experiences.  We don’t have to worry about full integration right now; we don’t have to worry about merging with God in any ultimate sense.  We do our best to touch God and to recognize our divine natures… anything more is for another day and another time, or more likely for a time and place beyond time and space.

What are your thoughts?

Medical Apartheid – an article by Dr. Larry Malerba

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This article should be required reading for every citizen of the United States – and possibly the entire Western World.  This says it all.  Very, very important stuff.  If you can’t be bothered to read the entire (short) article, I’ve added emphasis to the points I feel most important for us to understand as a people.

– A.

Let’s face it, we have created an increasingly divided medical system that resembles a form of apartheid. This medical apartheid is, not surprisingly, a reflection the polarized society in which we live. The etymology of the term “apart-heid” essentially translates into “separate” “hood.” The unnatural divide has reached extreme proportions as the balance of power tips more in favor of modern technological medicine with each passing decade. The pervasive influence of the medical-industrial complex has become so routine that we tend to equate medicalization (the expansion of medical authority into almost all aspects of our lives) with good medicine. The medical profession, once a personal calling to soothe the suffering and heal the sick, has instead become a profit-seeking corporate conglomerate whose primary purpose is to sustain itself.

Our current medical apartheid found its beginnings in the early 1900’s at a time when there were multiple distinct schools of medical thought, including the eclectic, osteopathic, homeopathic and naturopathic schools. In 1910, the Carnegie Foundation published a critique of all existing medical schools called the Flexner Report. (1) The Federation of State Medical Boards was subsequently founded in 1912 and this organization took its marching orders from the AMA Council on Medical Education. (2) The net result was the virtual abolition of all schools that did not conform to conventional biomedical standards. Ever since the Flexner Report gave the upper hand to the “regular” school, as it was known at the time, the deck has been stacked against those who choose to look for answers beyond the politically sanctioned boundaries of conventional heath care.

There are a variety of forms of medical apartheid:

Certainly, one cannot overlook the medical apartheid that took the reprehensible form of medical experimentation on blacks throughout American history as documented by Harriet Washington in her book, “Medical Apartheid.” Another glimpse of this stain on the American medical soul was recently spotlighted when evidence was uncovered that U.S. sponsored medical experimentation took place in Guatemala where subjects in prisons and mental hospitals were intentionally infected with gonorrhea and syphilis. Please note that I am in no way comparing the forms of medical apartheid discussed in this article with these dark chapters in our medical history.

With that said, medical apartheid exists on a number of other levels, first and foremost at the level of the haves and have-nots. The number of Americans without health insurance currently stands at 50 million–a number that is beginning to approach 20 percent of the U.S. population. This disgraceful state of affairs is, in actuality, a function of a pyramid scheme wherein monetary resources are funneled away from doctors, patients and other health care professionals, toward the insurance industry, pharmaceutical companies, medical technology companies, administrators and CEO’s. Keith Olbermann’s television coverage of the forsaken throngs of regular Americans seeking health care from the traveling free clinics designed to serve the have-nots depicts a stunning and sad spectacle that should make one’s stomach turn.

On a more fundamental level, the same medical apartheid that became systematized in 1910 continues to exist between conventional and alternative forms of medical treatment. The unprecedented power and influence of the modern regular school and the American Medical Association makes it a near impossibility to introduce new and innovative ideas, other than the enormously expensive technological advances that characterize much of modern medicine. The net effect is to deprive patients of methods of healing that can be safer, more effective, less invasive and less expensive. Modalities such as acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, Ayurveda, energy medicine, Chinese medicine and spiritual healing, in addition to various forms of self help such as nutrition, yoga, meditation and tai chi, are just a few of the low-tech healing resources that the conventional medical system fails to consider for membership in its exclusive pharmaceutical-surgical club. The pervasive intolerance and discriminatory policies perpetuated by the medical establishment are clear and undeniable.

At an even deeper level, we are divided by a philosophical form of medical apartheid. While modern medicine continues to cling to its outdated mechanistic and materialistic conceptions of human health and illness, many holistic forms of healing strive to incorporate the reality that there is more to medicine than the simple mechanical repair of the physical body. The very foundation of this reality includes a much more expansive conception of the mental, emotional, spiritual, energetic, social and ecological dimensions of human health, all of which are inextricably interrelated and can have a profound impact upon each other–and upon the physical body.

On a practical level, there is also a methodological form of medical apartheid. Conventional medicine relies heavily upon a rational, quantitative approach that emphasizes lab values, diagnostic imaging, statistical analyses and other measurable data. Many holistic approaches, in contrast, place greater importance upon first-hand, empirical, experiential information. The rational approach tends to demand explanations before it will believe that something is possible. Holistic approaches tend to emphasize tried and true methods that work, regardless of whether they can be explained in terms of the biases of a conventional medical worldview.
The bias of conventional medicine prevents it from understanding how insensitive its practitioners can be, for example, when they dismiss the first-hand reports of patients as irrelevant “anecdotal” evidence. The very same “anecdotal” information may be invaluable to the practitioner of an alternative healing modality.

Other forms of medical apartheid include separate medical schools, separate medical journals, and separate medical societies. The interests of alternative practitioners are often calculatedly excluded from these entities. The irony here is that adherents of mainstream medicine frequently call for “proof” as to the value of a particular alternative therapy, only to turn around and reject the validity of relevant research when it is presented to them. This hypocritical double standard becomes abundantly clear when we hear frequent faux cries of concern about the safety of supplements and nutritionals while certain pharmaceuticals that are documented to have taken many lives remain on the medical market.

Medical apartheid even influences the way different categories of patients seek different forms of care. Most patients that patronize alternative practitioners tend to be relatively well-off individuals (they can afford therapies not covered by insurance), women (men tend to be more skeptical), and the well-educated (many people are simply uninformed about the existence of other medical options). On the other hand, we are aware of the tendency for the poor to seek routine acute care in very expensive emergency hospital settings. A more level playing field would allow all citizens access to the benefits of both conventional and unconventional therapies.

The time for meaningful change is long overdue:
In spite of overwhelming evidence as to the value of alternative modalities, practitioners and their patients remain second-class citizens for no rational reason other than that they do not conform to the materialistic bias of mainstream medicine, and the unconventional therapies that they choose are not seen as profitable enterprises that can be exploited by corporate interests. To be sure, there are extremists on both sides of the fence that work hard to maintain the separate and unequal status quo. However, there is absolutely no reason why the two worldviews cannot find a middle ground–a synergistic relationship that would benefit patients and that might relieve some of the pressure that conventional patients and practitioners feel to conform to medical authority, and some of the isolation that alternative patients and practitioners can experience when they choose the road less traveled.

It is time to bring down the walls of medical apartheid. The divide is unnecessary, unproductive and unbecoming of the medical profession. Medical apartheid serves neither patient nor practitioner. It keeps us all hostage to a form of state sanctioned corporate medicine that, like the financial industry, serves mostly its masters. Democracy, diversity and freedom of access and choice are the features that characterize the emerging green medical revolution, which will allow all parties to exist side by side with mutual respect and appreciation for the value that they bring to the integrated medical whole. We must aspire to a system that incorporates the best of all medical worlds for the betterment of all citizens.

Thank you, thank you, thank you Dr. Malerba.  I will be reading your book with great interest – I’ve not seen this stated better or more succinctly.  Your voice is truly valuable.

The religion of science

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Following is a comment I just left at a blog with some seriously intense anger toward alternative healing methods (read, anything not initiated by the conventional Western medicine community).

Here’s the link to the original post, and I’ve seen this guy’s writing before.  (You need not read it to understand my comment, however.)  Boy, it gives me a knot in my stomach, but that’s something I feel a need to overcome in my own way and my own time.  Moving into the holistic arena, especially energy healing, is a leap for me.  I spent my entire adult life pursuing “legitimate” scientific education, and I want the acknowledgement and respect that tends to come with that.  Unfortunately, I have come too far, and I can’t turn from what I am discovering, even if it doesn’t mesh with the angry academics’ view of the world.  I publish my comment here because this is my first (if anonymous) foray into a defense of my direction.  I resist the idea that I should defend my point of view to disrespectful and close-minded cynics (respectful and open-minded cynics are another story), but ultimately, I have to find the courage to stand up to them, to let them call me a kook, and to own what I know – the knowing that doesn’t come from the application of the scientific method with a ramrod straight stick-up-the-ass inflexibility.   There are those who could use a heavy dose of humility, and it’s not my job to provide it… but I need to know, for myself, that it’s okay to stand with the kooks and the misguided.  My degrees won’t save me, and theirs won’t save them.  If our world is to be a better one, we’ll have to move forward with a sense of compassion that meets our curiosity measure for measure.  Amen.

Kat, thanks for being devil’s advocate in this extended vitriolic rant. I, too, am finding the entire thread here extremely arrogant and closed-minded.

It’s not that you all require proof – it’s that you don’t care to look at the evidence that already exists and promote further research regarding anything that challenges your worldview and scientific dogma. I, too, have a scientific background and am a currently practicing medical provider (PA). I understand the compulsion to believe that only what we were taught in school counts as legitimate “reasoning” or “critical thinking.” Yet, what many of you fail to consider is that we have been overly influenced by those with their own self-interests at the top of their list of priorities. We are currently living in a world that is saturated in toxins and science is used over and over again to justify whatever the government and corporations deem is “best” for people, even when there is quite compelling evidence that many of these things they’re insisting on are quite harmful. I grew up trusting authority… but through a slow painful process have come to know that I can’t trust the FDA. I can’t trust mainstream medicine. I can’t trust Big Pharma. I can’t trust agribusiness. Not to say that there isn’t good in there with the bad – it’s just so damned hard to sort it out, and I’ve got the education and intelligence to at least TRY to make sense of it. It does not surprise me one bit that society is turning increasingly to alternative “woo,” as you so respectfully declare it. Some of this stuff is definitely a little off kilter – but I’m increasingly surprised as I go along how much of it is NOT. In an age when we accept the quantum physical view of the universe with excitement and awe, everything biological is still stuck solidly in Newtonian theory. Because biological systems couldn’t possibly be anything other than mechanical, right? Somehow, we’re exempt from the laws that govern the rest of the universe and the findings of other scientific fields. Heaven forbid we explore these concepts at risk of being labeled “woo.”

The fault here is not in analyzing things critically. It’s that it would appear you and many of your commenters have no concept of approaching things you don’t understand in any critical manner. You’d rather just point, make fun, and feel superior. Too bad. It’s an exciting world out there, and we need innovative and open minds to move forward as human beings. However the chips may fall, whatever is “proven” or “disproven,” I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun sitting here with your eyes squeezed shut and your fingers in your ears. That’s far less threatening than questioning what’s happening in our world.

You can be sure of one thing: for as long as humans have existed, there have been principles and effects that were not understood. Most of what you believe in and consider legitimate today was heresy in the past. To consider that our scientific thinking and methods cannot be improved upon, to hold staunchly to the idea that only what you understand and can approach with the knowledge you already possess is worthy of analysis… that’s frankly sad. You might try some compassion for those who are doing the best they can to make sense of the world around them, no matter how “kooky” their ideals seem to you. And perhaps more importantly, if you consider yourself a person of reason, you might open your brain and heart and go to work on a line of true critical analysis that doesn’t dismiss ideas you’re uncomfortable with out of hand. I have a feeling you’d have been one of the many who refused to wash their hands because they didn’t understand the germ theory of disease. The very same thing is ongoing today, rampant in the attitudes of the supposedly educated and intellectually mighty.

The Way of the Wounded Healer

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My heart has been battered. This is what William tells me, what my guides tell me.

There’s a tendency to disregard such an idea. We’ve all had hurts. We’ve all had struggles. But now disregarding the state of my heart is beginning to feel like denying myself. So maybe it’s true. Maybe my heart has been battered.

What does it mean that my heart has been battered? I’m finding it doesn’t mean what I might have presumed. I’m beginning to wonder if the discomfort I feel emotionally so much of the time is not an attempt to boot the energy of whatever arises in the way of feeling out of my heart. I’m starting to understand that it belongs there. There, in my heart. And if I don’t allow it into my heart, I can’t “transmute” it, as William suggests. Maybe I’m an alchemist after all.

I got some very good, focused guidance on how to approach times past where I’ve blocked my heart from feeling. My task is now to go back to those times and repair… repair the heart, disperse the energy of the feeling that still hangs around me. But I am also getting additional advice on how to begin allowing my heart to open, to accept the energy of uncomfortable feelings, to draw them inside and turn them around.

The very last thing I’ve ever been inclined to do is pull an uncomfortable feeling inside myself. The thought is kind of repugnant. It’s frightening and it seems counter-intuitive to me. But a flash of wisdom comes to me that this is how to diffuse the power, to prevent the energies of things I don’t want to feel from getting “stuck” in my field – where they can harrass me forever.

So much of the energy I feel over the past few years has no specific source or name. I feel irritable. I feel uncomfortable. I feel angry or emotionally raw or anxious, and I don’t know why. I can’t draw a parallel to anything going on in my life, although the feelings tend to pile up and pull in more of the same. How many days have I woken up with a vague feeling of dread and had to give myself a pep talk in order to believe I can get through my day? How many times have I hoped that whatever is bothering me will pass through and the sun might come out in an hour or two? Honestly, this hope, knowing things can change so quickly, has so often been the only thing that gets me to put one foot in front of the other, heading out into the world I am “supposed” to inhabit.

My insight for today is that I don’t need to know why these energies float around me, and more important, I don’t even need to “own” them. I don’t have to accept them as belonging to me. I don’t have to get to the root of them. I don’t have to analyze them. I don’t have to overcome them. And I don’t have to protect myself from them – at least not in the way I’ve always imagined I should, the way I’ve always tried to. I don’t have to fight them. I don’t have to hedge against them. I don’t have to struggle to keep them out of my field.

Here’s what my guides suggested this morning: draw them in.

WHAT?! I don’t want them in! I want them out! I want them away! I want to work with the idea of why they’ve come. I want to understand how to make them go. It’s not that I need an easy solution – in fact, the struggle has often been colossal. But draw them in? Why, in god’s name, would I want to do that?

But I’m learning to trust, and I’m learning how to move energy. So I imagine the feeling, the discomfort as an energy. And rather than seeing it as an attacking force, something to block, I somehow stepped outside my fear (it helps that the discomfort was vague and mild – baby steps, you know) and… *gulp* … mentally pulled the feeling right into the middle of my chest.

How can I explain the trust it takes for me to do this? I can think of a gross example, but it’s rather accurate, so I’m gonna go with it. Imagine you’ve just taken the biggest, smelliest shit of your life. Instead of flushing it away, reach down, grab it, and smear it all over yourself.

NooooooooOOOOOoooooOOOOoooo!

(I’ll give you a moment to get over that image.)

Here’s the interesting part. It really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it felt no worse than trying to keep it out, to make it be something else, to figure it out, to think my way through it. Once that feeling was in the center of my chest, I imagined (as I’ve learned to do) a bright white light (which represents pure unconditional love as we rarely experience it here on Earth) moving from above my crown to the center of my chest. The white light surrounds the feeling energy, envelops it, embraces it, accepts it, and gently swirls around it. I imagine the uncomfortable feeling as a dark mist, and as the white light mixes with it, it becomes lighter and lighter.

And then it feels better. It really does.

Day 1 – insight and inspiration.
Day 2 through infinity – practice, practice, practice.

I feel like I’ve finally been shown what to do with a basketball. Don’t try to stand on it. Bounce it. Like this. Shoot it. Like this. Am I a basketball player yet? No, but at least I’ve gained the insight that standing on the ball has nothing to do with the game I want to play. And that knowledge is power.

Ivory-billed Hope: the future of medicine?

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Today, I discovered the website of Dr. Pam Pappas, MD.  She is a local psychiatrist and homeopath here in the Phoenix area.  In shuffling through her various writings, I came across the following article, which really speaks to me.  Thanks, Dr. Pappas, for your beautiful writing – and the dose of hope all true healers (even those of us “in hiding”) need as we navigate the mess that our medical system has become.  It is up to us to preserve and expand the habitat… and to find our place within it.

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Pamela A. Pappas MD, MD(H)
© 2005
Ivory-billed Hope

Imagine yourself deep in southern woods, your kayak gliding through swamp water studded with giant cypress and tupelo trees. Your paddle stirs decaying tannin-brown debris; pungent air fills your lungs and moistens your skin.    Your senses are attuned to beauty, movement and sound.  You know what lives here — or do you?

In these hardwood marshlands, there used to live a woodpecker so big, so raucous, and such a feathered spectacle that people called it the “Lord God Bird”.  Also known as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, it was nearly two feet long in black and white splendor, had a three-foot wingspan — and beneath its red pterodactyl crest, had fearsome, glinting yellow eyes.  It definitely got the attention of naturalists wanting to shoot it or draw it!

Image courtesy birdinginarkansas.com

Alexander Wilson had done both in 1809, smuggling a live Ivory-billed Woodpecker into a Wilmington, NC hotel even though it shrieked loudly beneath his coat.  Locking the bird in his room, Wilson left briefly to tend his poor frightened horse.

Dust and flying bits of plaster greeted his return a few minutes later; the bird clung near the ceiling, having pecked a 15-inch crater in the wall for escape!  After a frenzied wrestling match, he tied its leg to the room’s mahogany table.  Then he
wondered: could the bird be hungry?  He ventured into town for something it might eat.  Re-entering his room (without any beetle grubs, unfortunately), Wilson found the angry bird atop what was now a pile of mahogany chips.  He drew quickly, while
the furniture lasted!

He later wrote:  “While [I drew him] he cut me severely in several places and, on the whole, displayed such a noble and unconquerable spirit, that I was frequently tempted to restore him to his native woods. He lived with me nearly three days, but
refused all sustenance, and I witnessed his death with regret.” *

Though it had previously ranged from Texas to North Carolina, people thought this bird extinct since the late 1800’s.  After all, the Civil War had left them with an insatiable appetite for wood to rebuild their homes.  So they cut down the forests in
which the Ivory-billed Woodpeckers found their food . . . and these majestic birds gradually disappeared.

That is, they disappeared except in the imaginations of a few optimistic souls who kept searching for them.  Every now and then someone would tantalize with questionable sightings, but the bird is frequently confused with its more widespread cousin, the Pileated Woodpecker.   Sporting a similar wild red crest and its own cacophonous drumming, it is certainly impressive to see.  But it’s smaller, black-backed, and has a grayish bill with a maniacal, laughing cry far different from the kank-kank-kank tin-horn sound of the Ivory-billed.

Again, imagine yourself kayaking in Arkansas’ Big Woods in February 2004. A huge black and white bird flies above you, and disappears behind a tree.  Could it really be what you think it is?  Heart leaping, you glimpse it again, and want to be sure.

You call in professional birders for help.  They canoe into the same area you paddled in, just a few days before . . . and when they see your critter flapping in their binoculars, grown men weep with joy.  These two experienced ornithologists simultaneously identify a bird that has not been seen in the US for over 60 years.  It is an Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and a landmark discovery!

Science publishes frame-by-frame video footage, showing that conservation really can keep habitat alive.  Stirred at finding something feared lost, people galvanize efforts to save that deep forest bottomland.   According to John Fitzpatrick, co-leader
of the Ivory-bill search effort and director of Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

“Since the first sighting, this has consumed us. We have dedicated our time and our dreams to protecting and conserving this area. These woods are my church. There is no bird like this in the world.”

Organizations such as the Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Cornell Lab University of Arkansas, and several others are banding together towards this goal.

It could happen in medicine too.

Imagine yourself in a swampland of managed care madness.  You wade through medical charts, endless phone calls, harried nurses, and patients with insurmountable problems overflowing their 8 minute appointment slots.  You’re hungry, having missed lunch; you have 12 patients yet to see and are on call tonight.  Your son has a soccer game that you will miss.  The insurance company is late with its payments to your practice this month, but regular with its ‘withhold’ fee. Mrs. Kleeman is dying of her cancer, and wants to talk with you about further treatment.   Her son wants to sue you because her tumor metastasized.  It is all too much, too chaotic; you just want to dictate your notes and get out of there.

In your heart there used to live a compassionate, gentle spirit who enjoyed caring for patients.  S/he felt called to medicine, and worked with genuine enthusiasm – where did this spirit go?  Its necessary habitat is dwindling, endangering survival.

Once a strong population, this physician species itself is declining.  People tell stories of having seen such individuals long ago, but are there current sightings?  Do any still live?

Yes!

I am one of the optimists, knowing that the Soul of Medicine does live – even when in the background. I seek this with passion, tenacity, and openness. Physicians embodying it can be covert, remaining in the underbrush for fear of being ridiculed
or worse.  However, with enough care and attentiveness, hearts and souls can be revived so that it’s safe to come out.

What habitat do we need to preserve, so the Soul of Medicine can flourish? Community, forgiveness, and regular doses of joy might be a start.  This would be accompanied by firm individual hold on boundaries – each of us knows the time and
circumstances required for our best work and most fulfilling life.

Connection with Spirit in our own personal way might help also.  Learning to accept ourselves and each other with kindness and respect would further replenish us.  How else but well-rested, supported, and fed, can we offer ourselves to patients needing
care?   We end up flailing with beaks and claws to escape, otherwise.  An alternative might be numbness, an equally dire outcome.

The Ivory-billed Woodpecker embodies 2 archetypal poles at once: extinction and lost glory on one end, perennial hope on the other.  Thanks to a team of committed and cooperating seekers, it flies exuberantly into our awareness — live, noisy, and
vibrantly real.

This robust vitality defies pronouncements of death.   And yet, what might have happened if that first kayaker had not appreciated what he was seeing, that beautiful day in the swamp?

“I thought, ‘It’s extinct.  You can’t see an extinct bird.’  I knew it was impossible, but there it was.  It was the most wondrous thing that’s ever happened in my life.” [Gene Sparling, that intrepid kayaker] **

I believe it can be likewise for us as physicians, and for the Soul of Medicine.  Each of us needs to trust, acknowledge, and appreciate what we find within ourselves – even if it seems fleeting.    Meeting in small, intimate groups such as Dr. Rachel Remen’s Finding Meaning in Medicine and others is a way to renew ourselves, and to collectively nurture needed habitat.  Carrying metaphorical or even tangible binoculars helps too – we can be open to the miraculous, despite what’s called “impossible”.

Are we anything like this mythical woodpecker who survived in a swamp?  Can we transfer this Ivory-billed hope to our profession and those we serve?  Lord God, what a bird!  And Lord God, I believe we can.

*Hoose, Phillip: The Race to Save the Lord God Bird.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.
** Weidensaul S: The ivory-bill and its forest breathe new life.  Nature Conservancy, Summer 2005, pp 22-31.

Let’s talk about stevia

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So much to post, so little time.  Well, gotta start somewhere, and although this is not anywhere near the top of my list of recent concerns, I happen to be thinking about it tonight.

We’ve all heard a lot about stevia lately.  It’s a natural sweetener used for ages by South Americans and decades in Japan.  It’s touted as a healthy sugar substitute, and indeed, it appears to be – from beneficial influences on diabetes and hypoglycemia to dental health to blood pressure regulation to obesity to osteoporosis.  Like xylitol, it appears to retard the growth of oral bacteria associated with plaque and tooth decay.  I’m not entirely sure how effective it is for these purposes, but one thing appears plausible: its general safety.

So, let’s all go out and get our stevia!

Wait a minute.  You know that in the world of industry and processed foods, it could never be that simple, right?  *smirk*

In 1931, a couple of French chemists isolated two glycosides that give stevia leaves their sweet flavor: stevioside and rebaudioside.  Now, stevioside extract has been used in Japan for decades with no known ill effects.  Stevia accounts for 40% of the sweetener market, according to wikipedia.

While not conclusive, it certainly inspires confidence.  You can also use powdered forms of the whole leaf, although these apparently can taste more bitter and have a licorice-like aftertaste.  However, this article has some helpful tips on how to be sure you’re purchasing high-quality stevioside, which should result in minimal aftertaste and bitterness.  (The author of this article sells stevioside powder and therefore is not unbiased, but the information is compelling, anyhow.)

As stevioside is not a whole food product, I have questions regarding how it is extracted from the leaves – I read somewhere that it can be done chemically with ethanol or methanol.  Ewww.  But it can also be done with water extraction (score!).  According to the article above, many producers add impurities such as fillers (starch), maltodextrin (to cut the bitter taste of lower-grade products), or even silica!  Wow.  Bet that’s not listed on the label.

Now let’s talk a little bit about rebaudioside.  Rebaudioside-A is the form marketed as Truevia (a Coca-Cola product) and PureVia (a Pepsi Co. product).  It is also called Reb-A and rebiana.  Be aware that these products are not actually natural stevia!  As is the case with the vast majority of processed foods, a natural product is modified and or extracted chemically, combined with other substances (in the case of PureVia, erythritol, a sugar alcohol used to cover up the bitter flavor, and “natural flavor,” which is basically a carte blanche from the FDA to add whatever the hell they want without having to disclose it) – and then, believe it or not, legally allowed to call their product “all natural.”  You see, there is ZERO regulation on the use of the word “natural” in food marketing and labeling.  I could shit in a jar, mix in some NutraSweet, and label it all natural.  (Of course, it would, indeed, be “all natural”  if I refrained from adding the chemicals to it… well, assuming I ate a natural diet, which is damn near impossible in the United States… which leads to another point – just cuz it’s “natural” doesn’t mean it’s something you want to put in or on your body.)

Studies suggest that Reb-A may have some effects OPPOSITE to stevioside – namely, that it may contribute to osteoporosis rather than help prevent/resolve it.  The two compounds also behave differently in the body – they are metabolized at different rates.  These are clearly not equivalent substances.

Even so, Reb-A appears to be a safer bet compared with artificial sweeteners like aspartame (NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda).  At least Dr. Mercola thinks so.  Personally, I am going to be on the lookout for a high-quality source of stevia leaf powder and/or stevioside extracted with water.  Might I occasionally indulge in a Reb-A product?  Sure… probably… but not if I have a choice between that and the forms I just mentioned.

Part of the reason I may not have the choice I just mentioned is due to the way the FDA operates.  Hang on to your shorts, dear readers, this is another example of what’s wrong with the FDA and why they are not to be trusted.

Stevia – natural stevia – WHOLE stevia leaf, as well as stevioside – were banned as food additives in 2007, deemed “unsafe.”  Despite 1500 years of use in parts of the world and decades in Japan, the FDA took it off the market in response to some research done on rats with exceptionally high amounts of Stevia (form unknown – I wouldn’t be surprised if the original research didn’t even bother to distinguish how the substance was processed or what additives might have been present – although I admit I haven’t looked up the studies to read them in detail).

Now, don’t get me wrong – if it was the way of the FDA to ensure reasonable safety prior to allowing foodstuffs on the market, that would be one thing.  Except they are notoriously poor on this count.  Take their recent stance on BPA as just one of numerous examples.  The FDA historically have not had a problem allowing industry to use the population as guinea pigs whilst they take years to complete their analyses… they’d rather err on the side of the industries with powerful lobbies in Washington.

And this is what the stevia issue is ultimately about.  Stevia is a natural substance.  Therefore, it cannot be patented.  Many believe (and I’m inclined to agree) that the banning of stevia was effectively a trade limitation presented to the artificial sweetener industry in a nice gift-wrapped package with a big ol’ bow on top.  However, the irony comes in with the recognition that stevia has been available commercially since 2007.  As a “supplement.”  That means you can buy stevia by itself but not as a part of any food.  And it can’t be marketed as a food or a sweetener.  Interesting, no?

If you weren’t already aware, the FDA treats “food” and “supplements” completely differently, even though both are ingested.  There are problems and blessings inherent in this huge inconsistency.  The problem is that unscrupulous manufacturers can market and sell whatever they want to whomever they want for whatever reason – and not have to prove safety, bioavailability, or purity.  But the flip side is that, currently, it is often the only way legitimate products that the FDA is trying to block for their own unscrupulous reasons, can be made available to the public.  If you weren’t aware of this issue, you are now, and there is really only one thing to say: BUYER BEWARE.

But back to Reb-A – although the sweetener is NOT natural, NOT supported by long-term use, and in fact, chemically processed, the FDA considers it to be “safe” and has approved it as a food product.

*scratches head*

You too?

So, this is why I may occasionally succumb to the temptation to consume Reb-A in it’s various forms.  If I have a choice between (for example) a drink sweetened with NutraSweet and one sweetened with Reb-A, I’ll take my chances with Reb-A.  Unlike coffee, most items bought in stores or ordered at a restaurant don’t come with an “unsweetened” option – and let’s face it, I’m not likely to carry around my shaker of water-extracted stevioside powder.  I could be talked into it if I had the chance to substitute it for other sweeteners, but seeing as I’m not a coffee drinker, the action is of limited usefulness.

In short, I am happy to have either form of stevia available, as it appears a wise choice than more established, demonstratedly more toxic options.  I am also quite content to use sugar alcohols occasionally, although extraction methods are also a concern with these natural substances.  In our culture today, sometimes your choice is between uncertain and certainly worse.

Thanks to the authors of these articles, as well as those linked above:

http://www.myqute.com/2009/04/roundup-aspartame-splenda-sucralose-saccharin-stevia/

http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_Article.aspx?Id=2269

Let’s talk about Big Farm, Big Pharm, and BPA

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Sorry I haven’t gotten to posting the Ning alternatives yet, my varied and few readers.  😉

But while I’m trying to get time to publish the list I’ve compiled, let me ask you this:

How is Big Pharm like Big Farm?

I’m seeing a distinct connection.

I started thinking about this when I read the following on wikipedia regarding the Weston A. Price Foundation:

Much criticism of the foundation stem from whether one should obtain nutritional information from a group whose members include “many farmers” who directly benefit from the information the foundation promotes.

Excuse me a moment.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!

Srsly, folks?  Doesn’t this strike you as funny?

Weston A. Price Foundation supports SMALL, LOCAL farmers who provide natural, whole, raw foods.  The FDA and USDA, on the other hand, support BIG AGRIBUSINESS.

Who would you rather trust, generally speaking?  Those hard at work in their own communities to provide traditional dietary choices in the form of unprocessed organic food – or those with national or multi-national interests that offer highly-processed, chemically-laden, genetically- modified, mass-distributed quasi-food?

Hmmmm….

But back to my original question:

How is Big Pharm like Big Farm?

Perhaps the answer is obvious.  U.S. Government politics are supported by big industry – pharma and food/farm lobbies both.  To connect the dots even more concretely, just to illustrate the happy harmony enjoyed by those involved: Big Farm *supports* Big Pharm… and both are supported by U.S. politicians.

It goes something like this. Big Farm contributes to an increasingly compromised food supply of non-nutritive, low-nutrition, and quasi-nutritive foodstuffs, usually overly processed and filled with artificial ingredients either known or suspected to cause harm, some of the most common being endocrine and brain dysfunction. Additionally, very little of it is grown sustainably, most of it is laden with chemicals added during the growing process and grown in soils with run-off from the wastes of grain-fed livestock (read: E. coli), and a lot of it is genetically modified to make life easier and more profitable for the growers and manufacturers, even when doing so compromises nutrition and sustainability.

The vast majority of food available to the vast majority of people at affordable prices is the food mentioned above. As we become more and more innundated with this type of food, we observe more and more health problems, from obesity and diabetes to mood disorders, autism, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and various autoimmune disorders that have risen in incidence dramatically as we’ve seen this shift in our food supply. Instead of addressing the root causes for these epidemics (of which our food supply is a major one), we turn to Big Pharma to give us pills that fix our ills. Now, don’t get me wrong – some of what Big Pharma provides is nothing short of miraculous. But much of it is a tiny band-aid on a hemorrhaging limb, and there is little concern for treating the underlying issues or investigating stuff that can’t be patented (then tweaked slightly in a few years to invent a new chemical that does the same thing but is so much “better” than the old chemical that has since gone off patent).

So, you see, Big Farm supports Big Pharma rather nicely. If you think the FDA has any interest in supporting your interests over the interests of either of these two, I’d like to suggest that you pull your head out of the sand and start reading up on exactly what the FDA does and for whom.

Let’s consider and illustrative example.  I find the FDA’s current stance on BPA quite interesting:

…[O]n the basis of results from recent studies using novel approaches to test for subtle effects, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and FDA have some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.

…FDA is …supporting recommendations from the Department of Health and Human Services for infant feeding and food preparation to reduce exposure to BPA.

FDA is not recommending that families change the use of infant formula or foods, as the benefit of a stable source of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure.

Say what?

Keep in mind that we only get to this level of “progress” when we have overwhelming evidence of risk – even then, it’s not enough to reign in the big guys – we wouldn’t want to inconvenience them any.  Reworded, the official stance of the FDA:

Parents – sure, do your best to limit your childrens’ exposure to BPA.  Just don’t expect us to help you by insisting manufacturers of baby food and infant formula cease and desist use of potentially hazardous substances that disrupt the functioning of your childrens’ BRAINS and GLANDS, even though we stand by our opinion that these foods are vital for your child’s nutrition (and paradoxically use this belief to JUSTIFY not compelling reform, as much sense as that makes).  We’ll think about it if it is deemed FOR SURE risky when our studies are complete.  Long after your children are grown.  Maybe.

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