I believe that medicine’s potential is much more than the version we see in the world today. A doctor should be an educator with the goal of bringing patients to a place of deeper understanding of who they are in the world. To me, medicine is ultimately about self-empowerment through self-knowledge and growth.
Berkshire Whole Health is looking to shake things up in 2023.
Nursing Therapy Clinic
First of all, thanks to Trish’s skills and experience we have started offering IV therapies on a small scale including nutritional IVs. These are vitamin IVs that can be used in certain scenarios to hydrate, recover from acute illness, boost immunity, or reduce inflammation. This is the first step of offering more nursing therapies. Providing access to the use of wraps, compresses, baths, and embrocations, which strengthen the body’s self-healing forces, is on our minds. We will keep you posted.
The Farm Connection
And secondly, we are getting involved in the development of a ‘wellness’ farm over the border in NY state. We are exploring ways in which the practice of medicine can be elevated by a relationship with a farm.
The farm project is being set up as a nonprofit which means it is for the public good. You are all invited to be involved in exploring the healing power of nature’s beauty — on our own little plot of paradise.
It’s important to say the medical practice will absolutely remain full-time in Stockbridge. There are no plans for it to change sites.
The farm in NY will be about another side of health and wellness. The farm’s main product will be connection. Lots of it.
In the first place, we are planning a majestic farm layout that will be a beautiful work of art such that people will come from all around to see the gardens, tour the greenhouse, pet the animals, and smell the flowers. Agro-tourism and education naturally go with a farm project like this one.
The farm practices will be such that they will generate rich soil that looks like chocolate cake batter and teems with life. Regenerative farming practices are quickly being recognized as a centrally vital practice for the health of the planet.
We will strive to make it a model farm: a small, organic, family-sized farm acting as a beautiful work of art, producing richly nutritious foods for local consumption and being economically viable at the same time.
And, in some ways most centrally, it will have social impact programs. We will have programs there that will weave into and be supported by the farm activity.
We want to have:
programs for young people to learn to farm, and cook
programs to give food to people just out of the hospital or in treatment
medical retreats on the farm for all comers regardless of ability to pay.
best practices around inclusivity and diversity.
And we have already started supporting seminars on the site to give doctors and medical providers the tools to fall in love with patient-care again.
The project is in its start-up phase. A part of the land has been purchased and the project is looking now to line up the financing for the second half. It has 100 acres currently and looks to double in size by buying the neighboring farm.
So, let this serve as the announcement that the nonprofit is formed and the wellness farm project is starting! We are excited to explore the collaboration. And it is available for every single one of you to be a part of it.
In fact, it needs you. A farm like this needs people to come and love it. And it needs people whom it can love!
Do you want to volunteer and plan a CSA with us? Do you want to help develop the programs? Do you want to come work in the forest to clear the trails? Do you want to learn about the many ways you can support our start?
Well, just say so. We are all ears. We will be happy to hear from you and discuss ways to support the project and get involved.
And, if you’ve noticed our “Eggs for Sale” sign at the front desk, its because the chickens are producing a surplus. We are happy to be in the company of the small club of doctor’s offices who have chicken eggs for sale.
Have you ever broken a mirror and worried for your future?
This Friday the 13th let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the centrality of thinking to our experience as human beings and the importance and power of clarity in our thinking. Clarity is not a given, but when we work at it we are more likely to get it. And when we get it, it’s good!
Perseverance vs flexibility
“I’ve made up my mind and I won’t give up, no matter what anyone says. I’m continuing on the path.”
What a great trait! It has led to many great tales of adventure, and success against all odds; it’s what legends are made of!
It is especially sweet when one’s inner drive guides the task.
However, perseverance doesn’t fit all scenarios. There’s another idea that is needed at times. It’s called making adjustments. Being Flexible. Adapting.
This is also a very fine trait!
Overly persistent perseverance can become stubbornness, right? And too much flexibility can resemble spinelessness, yes? We see that whether an action is right or wrong depends on the setting.
Health and Illness
Have you ever considered that illness can be defined as the presence of a “trait” in the wrong setting? Acute inflammation, for example, is neutral. It’s neither inherently good nor bad. Inflammation is quite necessary for the processes of digestion and detoxification but is alarming when it’s found in a sensory organ, like the skin. Everything in its right place at the right time is health. We need many opposing forces; we just need them to be in balance. It needs to be ordered.
Harmony with perseverence and flexibility
Sometimes it is needed to push through to the goal. It would be a disaster to not go far enough. Other times not changing course would be a grave mistake.
Knowledge is what is needed. It alone helps to decipher what is needed at which time. A combination of paying attention and not being tied to any particular path (freedom) are the keys. When you have an investment in a certain path or outcome, it’s called bias. When there is reason to leave the old path but bias blocks the shift, it’s a type of illness. Knowledge can only come when bias is addressed. The other prerequisite to finding clarity is the conquering of fear.
The thinking about the use of mRNA shots going forward is evolving. I present two discussion points circulating in the mainstream circles in recent weeks that are indicating a change in course.
First, the booster is being considered a failure. Plain and simple. Immunologic studies are saying that people aren’t responding to it, probably because previous shots have trained the immune system to have the previous response they elicited. Dr Paul Offit, vaccine expert, summarizes it in a New England Journal of Medicine perspective piece like this: the data doesn’t support the booster for most people.
Second, a pattern is emerging in the data that taking ongoing shots increases the risk of contracting COVID. People first pass through a period of modest protection after a COVID shot and then the protection not only wanes and disappears, it reverses. People become more likely to get COVID than if they had not been vaccinated. A preprint from late last year shows a link between the number of boosters recieved and the likelihood of contracting COVID over time. It is a study of over 50,000 people at Cleveland clinic. This is far from the only time this phenomenon has been observed.
It’s reassuring to have a solution to the problem. It’s unsettling when the solution operates in shades of gray and is imperfect and complex. However, I would say that being a mature human being demands navigating shades of gray, complexity and imperfection. The lesson is to hold on to yesterday’s solution only if it’s right for today. For me, this all points to the highest level of medication: what I refer to as the world’s best medicines —
hydrating with good quality water
having a good stress response plan
minimizing your toxins
These go an astonishingly long way. And don’t forget the good news of the last year: Omicron does not have affinity for the lower lungs. It’s not a “nothing-burger” by any stretch of the imagination, but people generally tolerate it well regardless of booster status.
Without fear and bias, a certain path emerges. It will always be complex and imperfect, but in the face of it all to walk fearlessly and in freedom is when life has the chance become light, even playful, which is what life is at its essence.
Jan 6th is a feast day for some called the Epiphany and is in recognition of how a timeless part of us descends into a plane of time and space to work out our earthly destiny. The key word there is “work.”
I know going from ’22 to ’23 wasn’t all about fun. For one thing, I know for a fact that 1/4 of you woke up on New Year’s Day the same way you went to bed on New Year’s Eve: managing the flu or Covid. The rest of you had just gotten over one of those or RSV in December.
Remember the days when you had a cold and nobody knew or cared what exact organism you had? Fun to think about the good ol’ days.
But seriously, even if COVID never happened we are still in a position of managing a lot of challenges, big ones, on an every day basis. If we are trying to be happy, we have “bad” times. If we realize we are here to work, we are never off track.
I’ll concede there is a different type of happiness ahead to be had by those who are in the position to work for it, but it’s more along the lines of the feeling of satisfaction you get after working really hard at something and aching from the effort but satisfied you put in the time. I think, in general, we are supposed to face uncertainty and oppression and grow from facing it, while supporting each other. We seek a place where we can be active and try to bring a little order to the chaos in some way. That’s being human, as far as I can tell.
In that regard, I’d rather wish you a Fearless New Year than a happy one, especially as we point to our timelessness today.
Maybe fearlessness is the new “happy.”
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of fearlessness. Like it?
Infectious Disease Update
Flu and RSV came out hard and fast this fall, but they’re both on the decline. It’s possible RSV could peak again, but we are through the season’s biggest gauntlet, if you ask me. Flu should stay on the decline but linger to some degree. The new Omicron XBB variant promises to keep us guessing a little for the next couple of weeks, as does the outbreak in China and another new variant over there. It’s all Omicron, however, which has a weak affinity for the lungs. Most of us have had one variant of it or another which tends to make future infections less robust, even new variants. The chances of having worse than “just” a bad cold with COVID are dropping, no matter who you are. The need for universally contiuuing mRNA boosters is also being questioned by more medical data hounds. With fixed risks and falling benefits it needs to be re-examined for all comers, they say. Certainly if you’ve had Omicron, you don’t need a booster. We saw an FDA advisor and vaccine specialist come out and say that.
Some questions you might have about the even more contagious XBB variant: how much more contagious is it even POSSIBLE to get? I thought we STARTED the pandemic by saying we had an insanely contagious virus on our hands. But supposedly it gets more contagious every couple of months with each variant? What’s more contagious than insanely contagious? Wicked contagious? And who’s measuring this exactly? And how? Is there a contagiousness scale, like the Richter scale?
I get the sense it’s like a big fat bear talking about how sticky honey is. “The honey in this new jar is super sticky. No, wait. This next jar is the stickiest I’ve ever seen. Mmmmm, just wait for the next jar. That one is absurdly sticky.” Isn’t it enough to say they’re all super sticky or super contagious and to stop going on about it? I for one am officially over big fat bears sitting around the campfire talking about their precious honey and how sticky it is.
Awww, you can talk about honey, if you want, sweetie.
In general, my point is don’t hold your breath for the world to give you a break. It’s not going to. It’s not supposed to. It’s priming us to find the optimal response, to rise to the occasion. Find some ground to place your stake, find your like-minded allies, then ask yourselves how do we do some little good together today?
…again after they announced the relaxation of ‘zero COVID’ measures. China has lifted its super strict policies after protests by the people of China, who historically don’t have much of a voice. Human rights violations are an unfortunate way of life in China under CCP rule. This turn of events is clear evidence that we populace shouldn’t underestimate our power. Governments need our consent. Lockdowns in China were so drastically out of place but were corrected through feverish, inflammatory popular mobilizations. (Ahh, fever as a cure for stagnation! More on this below.)
Big questions remain: How will the people of China fare against the ensuing wave of cases? How will the US be impacted?
The variants now circulating in China seem to be the ones that have been most prevalent here, including the omicron subvariants BA.5 and BQ.1. Even though the population there is being described as under-vaccinated it can find consolation in that it faces the less-intense Omicron, which you will remember does not have a strong affinity for the lungs. It will be interesting to see what comes of the situation. I predict and hope for a non-tsunami of severe illness. It will presumably be tough to tell precisely what is happening because of the information wars that exist.
We surely are in a different place in the United States. We are moving on. Year three is coming to its final stretch. We are taking on robust flu and RSV seasons, which have arrived early in their returns after pandemic hiatuses. Good news: Both seemed to have passed their peaks.
What an epic moment in time! It’s true history in the making. Families with young kids have been catching one virus after another, left and right. But they are not alone. It has been an intense period of non-covid illnesses following all that’s come with the last 2+ years.
Future glimpse: I can see the cherubic faces of the young med students now, who have crammed into a lecture hall to hear the old man Dr. Cooney tell the tales (by then wildly embellished) of the Pandemic and the epic autumn of ’22!
My message today is that these inflammations are hard work, but are not without their important positive aspects. They break down old structures in the body and make room for future growth. They are not without risk, but they are truly cleansing. One understanding sees them as the opposite of sclerotic illnesses like cancer. All illnesses in general can be seen as the crack that lets the light come in. They introduce us to the precise forces it takes to meet their challenge.
This is to remind you that waves and peaks come and go, and we eventually find ourselves on the other side of them. It’s already happening with the tripledemic. You’ll notice the news no longer carries reports that pediatric hospitals are full. Moreover, the current reports of rising COVID cases nationally should not forget to mention that we are still at less than 10% of the omicron peak of last January.
Does it surprise you to know that I am somewhat of a conspiracy theorist? I think the tripledemic is actually a conspiracy. I think Covid is also a conspiracy. I think illness itself is a conspiracy. I even think being excessively busy is a conspiracy. That is to say, I think all these things conspire to hide the magic contained in each moment. We are deceived to think we have to wait until the cold is gone, until hospital rates drop, until the war stops, until justice is served for us to remember we swim in an ocean of wholeness. Think of the words of a sage who declined to wait for certain conditions to be met:
I have arrived. I am home, In the here, In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate, I do dwell.
Thich Nath Hahn
The next two weeks in the northern hemisphere are the darkest. Our inner light has the opportunity to be the contrast. These nights are well suited for introspection, for looking forward and picturing / planning the year to come. Do you have a space where you can go every day for some uninterrupted contemplation? to light a candle and slow your breathing and to quiet your mind? Why not commit to it for these nights? A few minutes is all it takes. Connect to your inner monk.
Keys to secrets that lie in plain sight are always great. I want to share some thoughts about MINDSET — and I’ll start with a simple observation:
You are a beautiful work in progress.
I want to repeat it. You are a beautiful work in progress. You are a learner. Your blunders, your obstacles, your failures, and even your illnesses are opportunities. Embrace them with a zest for the challenge.
There is no circumstance that can’t help but be transformed by this mindset.
The point is you can remain whole no matter what you find around the next corner. You can breathe with your entire lungs. You can stop hoping for certain outcomes. You can stop bracing yourself. There’s less need to numb yourself or shield yourself.
When you live in this developmental mindset fear cannot thrive. If it’s there it’s probably habitual. Whenever it’s there it needs to be challenged. Nothing at our border should be let in without our say. Loving but firm boundaries are best.
The opposite of a learner is a performer. They see themselves and their skills as fixed. A stumble is more likely to have their task fall apart, at least temporarily.
The importance of mindset is well-known in psychology. The ideas you adopt determine so much. You are only as successful as your mindset allows!
A study looked to prove mindset could be trained. It looked at a group of students who were classified as having a performance mindset. They would struggle with challenging test questions and not recover for easy subsequent questions.
Through a series of exercises, the experimenters trained half the students to chalk up their errors to insufficient effort and encouraged them to keep going. Those children learned to persist in the face of failure — and to succeed. The control group showed no improvement at all, continuing to fall apart quickly and recover slowly.
Thinking matters. Remember are a beautiful work in progress. Your blunders, your obstacles, your failures, and even your illnesses are opportunities.
Did you ever see the TED talk by the psychologist Kelly McGonigal?
She discusses the science of personal attitude determining the stress response. Her point is stress isn’t bad for you unless you think it is bad for you.
She describes a study of 30,000 people followed for 8 years. They self-reported their stress levels. And they were categorized as to whether they believed stress was harmful or not. Stress levels weren’t the determinant of mortality in the study. It didn’t matter whether participants had a lot of stress or a little stress. Thoughts about stress were the strongest determinant of longevity. People who reported little stress had worse outcomes than the people who believed stress was a part of life and not harmful — no matter what level of stress they had.
It’s more science that staying whole, staying in harmony no matter what the circumstance is a powerful place to put our effort.
Or how about this study?: hunger hormones in the blood were observed to be lower in participants that drank a shake labeled high calorie than in participants that drank one marked low calorie. The shakes were exactly the same!
Ideas determine so much.
Couldn’t the best medical care train mindset? For example, hearing from survivors who talk about how illness can be a catalyst for a greater appreciation for life, as well as for personal growth, stronger relationships, new possibilities, and a greater sense of purpose. I think so. Mindset is medicine.
Since we mentioned it, I’d say best medicine also includes:
self-exploration and growth
practice — every day, to adopt a healthy mindset
nutrition which comes from practices that leave the earth whole
artistry — to name a few.
Those are my thoughts for today’s bulletin. Remember you are the source of so much power for good. Embrace today with a zest for the challenge!
“One thing has become crystal clear: In order to activate our innate healing abilities, to overcome cancer or any condition, we have to shift our biochemistry from a state of struggle and survival to a state of harmony and wellness.”
—Isaac Eliaz, MD
Don’t you love this quote? We can shift our biochemistry. We can access harmony and wellness. How do we do that exactly? I always favor the pathways to health that involve our own inner initiative.
A more robust look at our inner life shows us how to move towards living in harmony.
We are always getting feedback from our bodies. Our sense of touch tells us what is happening at our body’s boundary. We get messages from our organs all the time also. Are you hungry? Are you tired? Do you need to empty your bladder?
We have a sense of harmony or well-being that lies behind these signals. Often we don’t give it a lot of attention when all is well but we sure notice it when there is a disturbance in it. You know that feeling when you know you are coming down with something? That’s a disturbance in the sense of well-being or life-sense.
Do you have an ‘ear’ for subtle disturbances in your well-being? Were you taught good self-care? Do you prioritize it? Can you appreciate harmony when the body’s needs are met — when you are well-fed and well-rested and well-exercised? Can you appreciate it even when they aren’t?
The harmony in our body is always there; it is who we are at our core. It just gets blocked when loud signals emanate from our organs. Today I write about growing your connection to your inner fountain of well-being.
If we give our body a routine so it knows what to expect and its needs are met we can access more feelings of well-being. I love working with the basics: hydration, sleep patterns, healthy diet, and a good routine. The reason I do is I have such respect for the life-sense.
Any addictive substance is an obstruction to the life sense because we have to tend to the parameters of the substance before we are free to connect.
Seen from another direction, addiction can be caused by inherent impaired access to well-being. Prevention can start with knowledge of the life sense and with techniques to assess it and the subsequent cultivation of connection to it long before substances become an option.
Moreover, a sense of well-being in oneself is the portal to accurately receiving input from the world around us and ultimately from the people in the world around us. We are better observers, better listeners, and ultimately better citizens of our communities when we can access our own well-being.
Are we free to see one another? Are we free to sense the thought and individuality of who is in front of us?
As a culture are chasing a connection to harmony all the time without really studying what it is or where it comes from. Aren’t we falling prey to cheap substitutes? Aren’t overeating, overdrinking, and over-anything often, at their core, medicating an improper connection to our inner life sense?
Taking all this into consideration, eating well is seen in a new light. For example, did you know that trans fats make people angry? There is a body of evidence to support this. The standard American diet of processed foods causes a disturbance to our sense of well-being and makes us borderline anti-social!
You have a duty as a citizen to take loving steps every day to tend to your self-care.
Furthermore, a chronic disturbance in well-being, like with chronic pain or PTSD, does not mean we are without access to well-being. It means we cannot access it as easily. Harmony is there under the surface all the time in all of us. With a chronic disturbance, our effort and attention need to be extra engaged. It’s like a master class. You might have a superstar inside you looking for the challenge that confronts you!
I’ll leave you with this quote on the healthy relationship between the individual and community:
“A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when, in the whole community the virtue of each one is living.”
Here’s to a healthy community through new perspectives and personal shifts!
To be in balance and in the flow that comes with good physical health WE have to take it upon OURSELVES to take charge and make the right choices. Our discernment and our decisionsare the keys. Nobody else will do as a stand-in; Uncle Sam certainly won’t. It’s not their place to do so.
Did you know? The USDA does not have a standard in the meat industry when a company uses the term “humanely raised.”
The meaning subsequently can vary within the industry — not only for meat and poultry but also for eggs and dairy.
Most people assume that a label such as that means the animals have adequate living space, go outdoors, and are raised without cages. Not necessarily so.
More disturbing is that the majority of meat raised in this country does not even claim to be humanely raised.
Factory farming is the primary way that the United States and many other countries produce popular animal products like hamburgers, cheese, and eggs.
And factory farming is a disaster on so many levels.
In the industrialized approach to food all resources are concentrated at large central facilities; the animal is taken out of its natural environment. It’s a fundamental flaw.
It causes significant damage to rural communities, surrounding environments, and the farmed animals themselves, not to mention the effects on the food produced, in ways immediately measurable and beyond.
Science to the rescue? Science and technology miss the mark when they are used to enable a flawed approach: then it’s truly adding insult to injury. Let me give you an example.
Pigs raised inhumanely in factory farm settings suffer extreme physical and psychological trauma and depravation and are prone to respiratory infections. The dense populations, poor air filtration, and stress are equal contributors. Infection should be seen as an alarm sounding.
The ‘modern’ solution being offered is to genetically modify the pigs with CRISPR gene editing technology to make a population that is resistant to certain respiratory infections.
I don’t like that solution. We are solving inhumane with unnatural. Genetic modification with CRISPR has a huge problem of unintended consequences. Even if the technology becomes more precise and doesn’t damage DNA sequences not intended to be affected, scientists are finding they can’t predict or control the varied ways in which a living organism responds to the modification, which can lead to variable and unpredictable outcomes.
Besides, the problem is inhumane practices. The solution, which cannot be ignored, is in acting out of our humanity.
Pigs are highly social and intelligent animals. They are curious, playful, and affectionate. They are considered as intelligent, if not more intelligent, than dogs. Whether you would consider eating the meat from pigs or not, the starting point is to recognize what their special character is as an animal.
Who is advocating for humanely raising pigs? Who is allowing the poor treatment of animals?
We decide! We as consumers actually decide what practices are allowable. The industry knows what the consumer accepts is allowed, and what we don’t, is not. We put a stop to the inhumane practices when we refuse to buy certain products.
“Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
I’m for intentionality at every step, which includes considering how food was raised and not settling for anything less than truly humane, as is acceptable to you. We have to know the story behind our food, and every purchase for that matter.
Self-subsistence. And if you want it done right, sometimes there is nothing like doing the job yourself… I know we would be better off if we took back a portion of our own food production.
Do you believe a vegetable garden adjusts its products to what it can sense of the workers tending to its plants? Yes, those bare hands in the dirt are communication. Do you believe in the intelligence of nature that awaits our cooperation and appreciation?
You would amazed at the level of intelligence at work all around you. And as it goes for the health of the food production so it too goes for your personal health. The lessons are similar. The back story matters; and, we have control.
Here’s to your power to make the world healthier, one small choice at a time.
I want to start off with a piece of wisdom that I have been pondering this week and then tie it in with a major need of our times.
When you feel repulsion towards something or are feeling antipathy towards it, you might have the impulse to push the thing away. The problem is the activity of pushing away builds recoil as if you were pushing away a pendulum. It will have the tendency to come back to you.
The opposite is true as well. If you long for something you might have the impulse to pull it towards you, but in doing so you build up the potential to have the object swing away from you out of reach and maybe even more so than your starting point.
Keep the pendulum steady. Calm and centered is the approach. Curious and measured. Awake and attentive. Nothing rash will do. The objective is simply to be with the emotion or scenario. It can apply to even an illness or a symptom. Be with it rather than act on it. Sit in it.
This is the middle path. Acting on your likes and dislikes will never satisfy in the long run. Resisting the push or pull leads to lasting peace. It’s a solution of sorts in and of itself to just be with the likes and dislikes, to stand between the two poles. It’s where our humanness resides. Things have a tendency to transform when that is done. The right relationship will emerge.
Speaking of our humanness, we have entered the era of transhumanism which has startling and undeniable components:
Technology is moving beyond our capacity to understand how it works.
Social media is an undisputed toxic Cyber-drug. Evidence is mounting that it foments extremism. Just see how the comments are often so nasty on the internet.
The promise of connection turns out to be a farse, and we are alienated even more.
Neurosis, psychosis and exaggeration of sex and violence are signs of the times — all enhanced by our devices.
We far and away use the internet mainly for the following three things: sex, violence, and sports.
Technology has become a way of life. Sure, there are plenty of incredible conveniences. That’s clear. It’s also clear that humans are destined to continue our evolution on earth hand in hand with machines, and we need to have a decisive orientation to that.
We are called to find a solution. We find it, like with many things, through perspective. I go back to what I’d call the middle orientation. I would argue that technology weighs our humanity down and tethers it somewhat to the earth.
We preserve the middle space for the human and provide a counterbalance to the current age by simply recognizing and honoring the divine in one another. We lift the human up again. We can’t back out of the phenomena of our age. We need to learn to live with them and neutralize them. Compassion, empathy and soul warmth are huge middle path keys and serve to keep our technology-heavy lives in balance.
COVID (and flu) update
Numbers look similar to last week, and the last few. 40K cases per day on average nationally and in around 20 cases per day locally. Hospitalizations might be a better way to keep track of caseload because there are gobs of cases not getting counted. Those aren’t showing major changes. Statisticians have historically blended pneumonia and flu numbers, and there’s no guarantee those numbers won’t get more confused this year with a more normal flu season and COVID. Testing isn’t perfect, by a long shot, after all. Then there are the hospitalized patients who also happen to have COVID. They often get counted. At any rate, the numbers aren’t bad, COVID is around though. Flu is too. There are larger numbers in the south, but sporadic cases here.
It is high time to review some COVID items. Here are 7 of the things we are seeing:
1) The current numbersf7941e
National numbers for new COVID cases are at 40K daily. They have been steady there for a while even though there is a slight uptick over the last week. Local cases are the same as they have been; less than 30 per day in the county on average.
2) The changing season
We are hearing a lot in the media about the weather changing and what that might mean for COVID cases. People are indoors more. Then there are those pesky holidays that make us congregate. Health officials are worried. They worry like it’s their job every year, but there’s more for them to worry about this year.
“The challenge with holiday seasons every year is it’s also a time where contagious respiratory viruses — like influenza, RSV, and, again this year, Covid — spread,” said Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator, during a press conference this week.
The key question: Just how bad will Covid-19 be this winter? Or just how not-that-bad?
3) The prediction
Just when you thought the anxiety would penetrate your armor, there’s this from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), an independent global health research center:
“MILD WINTER: The U.S. probably won’t see a major surge in COVID deaths this winter,” according to new models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.
By Feb. 1, 2023, daily deaths are projected to be at a high point of 335, which pales in comparison to the approximate 2,500 daily deaths seen during the Omicron surge around the same time last year, according to a recently published policy brief from the IHME.
The report estimates the COVID-19 infection-fatality rate (IFR) to be below 0.2% as of October 17.
“Many people have been exposed to COVID-19, either through infection or through vaccination, [so we don’t expect] a high hospitalization rate and high mortality rate,” Ali Mokdad, PhD, a professor at IHME and chief strategy officer for population health at the University of Washington, told MedPage Today. “We will see a little bit of a rise, but it will not be as high as what we have seen in the past.”
Also contributing to that flattening of the deaths curve is the fact that current and emerging variants appear less severe and unable to thwart humoral and cellular immunity — though Mokdad warned that the appearance of a new variant that is more severe and immune-evasive could change those predictions. Nonetheless, he said, the probability of that happening is small.”
That’s reassuring! And not so anxiety-provoking.
4) T cell immunity
Researchers have been using antibody levels (B-cells) as a predictor of the helpfulness of injections, but T-cell immunity (the other arm of the immune system) is probably more important with Coronavirus infection. T-cell immunity is the main place where immune memory is stored with COVID and it’s not easy to evaluate. Critics say lack of good quality data leaves us guessing.
Recently quoted percentage that WIV was the source of the pandemic after zoonotic trail still not emerging and new paper presents more analysis of the SARS COV-2 genetic content. In other words, SARS COV-2 was almost certainly not natural and it escaped from the lab. Indigestion-inducing.
6) The Changing Variants
In case you want a review of the letters and numbers that are up next: Omicron’s BA.5 is dropping and has come down to be found in just 50% of cases. The newer, more immune-evasive variants such as BQ.1.1 and BA.2.75.2 are being tracked, and appear to be becoming more prevalent. Evusheld and monoclonal antibodies may lose some of their ability to help. However, the pattern has held true so far that the emerging variants are less severe.
How are we doing?: Booster uptake is poor.Nationwide, uptake of the bivalent booster is lagging, with only 7.3% of those eligible having received it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boosters target both the original COVID-19 strain and omicron subvariant BA.5. Data to support decisions is lackluster. Speculation is good enough for some and important for the high-risk but clearly isn’t satisfactory for the majority.
That’s the COVID round-up and headlines as I saw them.
While we are at it, in case you haven’t heard: “Cases of MONKEYPOX are continuing to decline in the U.S., but the disease is still disproportionately affecting people of color, a White House official said.
“We continue to have a decrease over time,” Demetre Daskalakis, MD, White House National Monkeypox Response deputy coordinator, said at an online briefing. “We’re about 85% down from where we were at the peak of the outbreak. So that’s a lot of hopeful news, that we continue to see monkeypox going under better and better control.”
Warm greetings to you! I have a simple thought I would like to share with you.
It comes from the former monk, Cory Muscara, bestselling author of Stop Missing Your Life and host of Practicing Human podcast.
Cory knows what happens when you spend 6 months meditating in silence with only bare necessities on hand.
“It was the hardest experience of my life. And by far, the most rewarding.”
Hard and rewarding is a powerful combination! This is the cornerstone of a sophisticated philosophy. It’s the opposite of simple pleasure-seeking, which is only full of flashes of satisfaction and leaves one with an unquenched deeper thirst. Thank you for that, Cory!
What did Cory learn during his time of intense meditation training? What did it boil down to for him?
“I became my own best friend. It’s as simple as that. And it has made EVERYTHING in my life easier, especially the hard times. I feel like I have a constant inner companion rooting me on, reassuring me, and reminding me of what’s possible. It’s like an inner coziness. I’m so grateful for it.”
This is profound. Life doesn’t have to be complex. This is my simple Friday message today. Self-love is a huge answer to life’s questions. And it becomes reality not through the knowledge of it, but through action: repeated action, known as practice. Go on, Cory. Tell us how it happens.
“I’ll share how it happens in meditation. When you meditate, you intentionally turn toward your experience with presence and compassion. You choose to meet whatever arises–difficult thoughts, negative emotions, painful sensations — with curious, loving awareness. You learn to be with, relax into, and show steadiness toward all aspects of yourself.
You replace judgment with understanding. Hatred with compassion. And tension with ease.”
What is more important than sinking into loving contact with ourselves? I’ll take this one: NOTHING! It’s foundational for mental health which is foundational for physical health. And no shortcuts will do. It’s about creating a daily habit in support of self care. What are the main prerequisites? I would say the intention to do it and regular quiet time. Love takes time. Cory?
“Over time, you develop a deep self-respect because you see just how messy and confusing this human experience is, and what it takes to keep showing up for it. The inner friendship grows organically.
There is no room for perfectionism; it doesn’t fit. Practice meeting whatever arises with curious, loving attention. It’s a simple and clear direction.
And I can’t think of any greater gift we can offer ourselves in this life, because at the end of the day, we have to go through this life alone.”
No one can fill you with self-love but you. We have to confront our whole selves to get there.
The initial course in life is to look externally for answers. Subsequently, we can start the process, through stillness, to a different approach. We can look internally for answers. With loving, curious attention, we can be filled with self-love and then give that to the world. Thanks, Cory.
“Let this be the beginning of a new relationship with yourself.”
Agreed! And thankfully we have each other for support as we find our way together.