Author Archives: Joseph Cooney

4 Thoughts

1. Autumn Equinox and the Fog

We have passed the second balance point of the year. Happy Autumn! We have recent memories of being embedded in the summer’s warmth and light. We lived for a while in the land of the sun. The earth’s blossoming nature, plentiful and colorful, had our attention.

There is no mistaking it: we are slowly descending. We all know where this is heading: the colorless, barren, cold winter. Outer, sensory input fades. Our focus is turned inward. We are more pensive in the winter.

If you look you will see the hallmark of the fall equinox — the fog. A mist is now more visible than any time of the year and points to what is to come. Notice it and think of it as dropping a veil across our senses, a mini shroud over nature pointing towards where we are heading: inwardly, deep winter. Summer lovers shouldn’t dismay too much. You wouldn’t know the joy of summer without the suffering of missing it. Besides, maybe these winter lovers can teach us a thing or two.

2. Science Quote of the Week

 “I’m not an optimist or a pessimist. I’m a scientist.”

some scientist somewhere (out of the limelight)

3. Note of the week from therapist’s desk

A standpoint for which to strive, if not all the time then at least frequently: “The most important thing to remember is that you’re always safe. The power recommendation is that whatever comes up, allow it. You don’t have to like it, but allow it. Say ok rather than running.”

4. Gratitude tweak 

We have to admit that all the social media posters and proponents for gratitude practices are right. It is so very healthy to be grateful. So why does it feel somehow disingenuous at times? It doesn’t feel awesome to be grateful for what I have when there are others that don’t have that or if it hurt others for me to have it.

“I’m grateful for my new gas-guzzling SUV.”

Today’s tweak — gratitude without self-orientation. No offense, but the things your personality is grateful for don’t have huge importance. My advice is to practice viewing from the point of humanity. It will resonate better. Practice gratitude from the place of universally positive things.

“I’m grateful for this beautiful day. Even though I’m inside working all day I know that lots of people are able to find joy in it, and I will partake in nice days soon, I trust.”

“Even though I’m struggling, I’m grateful for the human potential for transformation which many people have done and do.”

Do you catch my drift?

The exercise is gratitude for the nice things that we as a collective have at our disposal. Give it a whirl. And like the posts say: practice it daily with the intention of it being a habitual state. It just might cause a shift, for not just you.

Prescribing Principles

Perplexed

Vaccine experts are doing their best to see us through the pandemic, but they are not sure what to make of the situation in which we find ourselves this late summer.

The experts are torn, (not at the CDC which recommends the shots for the adult population). An article in STAT News, a medical and science journal, describes that independent vaccine experts are split about the benefits of broadlyoffering the recently-released, bivalent, reconfigured doses. And their debate is playing out publicly. Let’s visit the issue of why this vaccine version has them perplexed.

Warp Speed

This pandemic has been mind-boggling. We have seen new intracellular technology rise to center stage with the advent of human licensing for mRNA technology with these shots.

We have learned a lot as these product have been rolled out as our best path forward. They were novel, unprecedented and unproven. Drastic times call for drastic measures. We based our original strategy on very preliminary data from the drug company trials. We went full steam ahead based on the promise of the data points from the first month of the trial. There was much at stake.

Public Health has been bruised from some early missteps, such as describing breakthrough cases as exceedingly rare. The picture was not clear at the outset and is actually still emerging. Side effects, including serious ones, still need to be precisely calculated. The safety signals around these vaccines are currently being vetted. It takes time to decipher. Like any drug there is a risk-benefit consideration. Take on the risk when the benefit stands to be great.

Fortunately, we are not in nearly the drastic times of 2020. Does it mean we can be more discerning? More calculated?

Hamstrung

With the release of the newly reformulated bivalent boosters this month, we have a new ingredient being proposed to carry us through the fall campaign: hope.

Follow me closely here. The main promotion of the new booster is hope — hope as opposed to data. Hope is leading us when data cannot. There is no human data on these shots. It wasn’t studied. Not enough time, perhaps?

In June 2022, the FDA granted a pass to the companies that make mRNA vaccines. They were allowed to skip future human trials. No more human studies were deemed necessary to pass future versions of these covid shots. It is a gift for the companies in one sense, and let’s us have newer products; but without data to back them, it leaves room for questions and leaves us in the position of having to hope for the best.

“This will hopefully give us the kind of immunity we need right now,” FDA vaccine chief Peter Marks said.

At the CDC advisory committee meeting to review data on these shots last week, new data from 8 mice were presented (from Pfizer). The mice had a meaningful antibody response to the vaccine.

We hope it translates into enough benefit in our already vaccinated, already infected population. We hope it translates to something meaningful in the setting of a thankfully weak variant which has low affinity for receptors in the lungs. We hope the immune system incorporates the immune stimulus in a helpful and meaningful way after 2, 3, or 4 previous shots. But we don’t know because we have no human studies.

Not an Emergency but Not Free and Clear

Cases are low. The case load nationally is down to just over 70,000 cases daily. Locally we had an average of 27 cases per day recorded in Berkshire County. Severe disease is thankfully more rare. There are decent treatment options.

“Most Americans might not get, or even particularly need, another booster right now,” the STAT article states.

“Nor are we sure how long the new vaccine’s protection will last, a foggy question that shifts with each new variant’s lessons. [Officials] are careful not to promise reduced transmission, particularly without solid human data for the new vaccines on the table.”

“Biden officials are tiptoeing around messaging on what the updated shots can do, and what they can’t, stymied in part by the fact that there is not yet solid human data. Officials and outside allies described to STAT a need to temper expectations that this booster will protect against future variants, or to dispel notions that this booster might be the last one a person needs.”

Action is Best?

But it still is a serious task to protect our most vulnerable populations this winter. The shots have always made more sense in the more vulnerable who have more to gain. If there were no risk with medical intervention it would make sense to broadly recommend it. But with investigational and emergency measures that’s not the case. The track record isn’t established.

Prescribing Principles

I work with some basic principles around medicine that form my foundation. Maybe you will find them helpful.

  1. Your belief matters. If you have affinity for a medicine, it matters. It can go a long way to establishing it as a good medicine for you… and vice versa.
  2. Hesitancy has been given a bad name, but the precautionary principle is an important pillar on which I’ve built my practice. The pharmacology department at my medical school ingrained in me the risks of incorporating new products right away. Over 4% of new drugs get pulled off the market after approval.
  3. I say frequently the least amount of medicine you need is the right amount.
  4. Let your actions be your best medicine. Learn good detox habits like exercise and exercise. Did I mention exercise? And a whole food diet rich in vegetables is as important as good rest and habits reinforcing a balanced soul life.

I don’t think there is a right or a wrong action on this topic. I think it’s notable that sweeping recommendations are hard for the experts right now. Certainly considering individual affinity for the intervention and individual risk profiles makes a lot of sense to me.

In the future society will think differently on many topics compared to what we think now, and individually we will be satisfied if we can say we wrestled with the facts and took an active part of drawing a sensible conclusion. In this particular instance feeling the complexity and perplexity are authentic, for better or for worse. As always, we are here to help you navigate any and all issues. Reach out with any questions.

You can control 90% of your health

You can control 90% of your health.

It’s a fact.

And food quality is a huge factor in this basic public health fact, as are:

  • not smoking and
  • moving well 

We will always need healers, but you can do yourself a huge favor if you embrace the bounty!

Eat whole foods!  It’s short sighted to pinch your budget around food quality. The corn syrups and the chemical fertilizers and the mass produced food will bite you back.

Never in the basic and verified public health dictum that we control our health was it stated that bioengineered food would suffice. Sorry, World. Hippocrates said “let food be thy medicine” and in my opinion that is best read as “nature’s bounty holds the building blocks towards health.” Make the effort and diminish your toxic load. Dump processed foods in the broadest definition. Eat whole foods.

Nature isn’t complete. It needs our cultivation to bring order. We can tinker in a direction that comes from understanding and respect and deepening a connection with the essence of creation or we can tinker out of manipulation, reductionism, and cold disconnection.

The problem

Generations ago we were all involved modestly in our own food production.

We have slid away from local and self-sustainable to “Big Ag” movements and a synthetic global food supply system. We underwent a movement driving us to a chemically based, centralized system. Monoculture crops and diminished diversity have led us to ailing soils and an extreme vulnerability.

The result is calorie-dense, nutrient-poor food supply. As a whole we are more obese, undernourished, and chronically sick.

The answer

Take it back. You would never grow your own food with the ideas that are used in mass-produced foods. What will build back our soils?

Here’s the short list. Each word in the list is important:

  • Community gardens 
  • CSAs 
  • Farmers markets
  • Local and organic
  • Saving and growing traditional seed varieties
  • Diversity


Covid Comment

Cases are stable and low level. There were just over 90,000 cases per day nationally on average and around 20 cases per day in the county. About 8 people in each state die each day with a connection in some way to SARS Cov2. The risk is down.  There is not an emergency with Omicron’s less potent sickness, high levels of immunity both natural and synthetic, helpful treatments like paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies and others.

Please realize you have a lot of power. Control what you can control. Take some steps to become or stay as healthy as you can be!

Hear the other side

You have a really pleasant personality and you are clever in so many ways and I like you a lot…

…but you are super ignorant. Really, you are.

But, it’s ok. We all are.

One big thing to know is we don’t get anywhere by gathering facts. All that gets us is the mirage that we know things. We get more clever but don’t really come closer to a full view of earth and mankind and the cosmos.

We need a refreshed approach for that. I think it would have to be based in: 

  • open-mindedness 
  • equanimity 
  • positivity 
  • meditation 
  • healthy movement

These make up the foci of Rudolf Steiner’s advice for the main exercises for people interested in freedom from inner tyranny and a healthy approach to being in your life. It’s with this in mind that I want to use this bulletin to make a brief public service announcement, and here it is:

Audi alteram partem

It’s been relevant for millennia. 

It’s been relevant for so long that it outlived Latin, but the idea lives on and is certainly more relevant today than ever.

It means:

Hear the other side

And you might want to know that St Augustine who lived in the 4th century was the one who said it. It has become somewhat of a legal maxim, which is fitting because the legal sphere of society really represents our lively balance point. It’s where we pursue truth and harmony, in the ideal. We have two opposing lawyers in our courts who are allowed to develop the two sides of the story. And a judge gives both sides a fair shake at developing their angle.

And speaking of legalities, this theme lives in a Biblical proverb.

The first to plead his case seems right, Until another comes and examines him.

What am I getting at exactly? I’m looking at the gift of open-mindedness. I’m saying we are in a time when we have lost the attempt at balanced reporting, and we have to be more careful than ever to allow ourselves to “hear the other side.” For a long time media has controlled what topics we think about. Now that the programming allows itself to sit on one side of the aisle is it not threatening to control the content of the topics we think about as well?

And if you think, “…but my side is sane and they are criminal,” don’t you find it a little bit odd that the other side thinks the exact same thing? I’m talking to both sides now.

Loud and clear I am saying that if you read the NY Times you should read some Fox News articles, every day. And if you watch Fox News all the time you should read some of what CNN and MSNBC are saying, every day. And if you’re disgusted at the idea, I prove my point. We can’t understand each other any more. Imbalanced reporting bears some serious blame. And if we don’t even want to try to bridge to each other, we lose. We have to take an active step with this.

It’s a similar story with the world religions. Buddhists studying Judaism or Christians studying Hindu or Islam is helpful. And vice versa. There are different viewpoints and worldviews and you can only be born into one. The truth is too big to fit onto one page. Your brain is too small to envelope it all, so you might as well try to understand your fellow human. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Summon your interest for your neighbor. You can pretend at first, if you have to. Tell yourself you are just keeping an eye on how awful it is over there then sneak in a little interest and care for the other half of the country with time. You have to see their slant, spin, bias and maybe then you can see yours. It won’t hurt you. It should soften you. And you are too hard.

Hear the other side

What’s another therapeutic exercise? Let’s take social media, which elevates this problem to another level. You’re not even working with a polarity. You’re just lost in a total morass of the algorithm giving you what you like to see. Talk about distortion, being surrounded by yes people. That never ends well. 1 billion people log into Tik Tok every month. That’s a lot of thoughts being formed and perception being given based on what corner of Tik Tok you fit into.

The exercise for people getting their news from Tik Tok is different. Their therapeutic exercise is to actually go to the website of an independent journalist, like James Corbett, and watch some recent pieces of his, like his recent series on the history of media in 3 parts (123) (only 20 minutes or so each).

Drastic times call for drastic measures. Why did Augustine say to hear the other side of the story? Why are there two lawyers in the system? Why does a lawyer stay in the courtroom for the other lawyer’s arguments and questioning? What is the whole point of the court? To move the closest to truth as we can. 


Happy Eavesdropping on the other side. And remember they are not your mortal enemy. They’ll help you find a step towards the truth. You don’t need a villain in your life. They are understandable. Trust that.

And if you’re balancing systems are active, you’re in healthy activity.

Covid Comment

Cases have drifted down slightly. There were just over 90,000 cases per day nationally on average and less than 30 cases per day in the county. 

Infectious disease in the news: COVID and Polio

Withdrawal of COVID restrictions: what’s the story?

As of August, per CDC guidelines, just in time for the coming school year, official recommendations call for being reasonable and cautious but

  • no required 6 feet of distancing, 
  • no asymptomatic testing, 
  • no quarantining after exposure. 

New guidelines don’t differentiate based on vaccination status.

In general the guidelines acknowledge that

  • ventilated spaces and good hand hygiene are nice anytime, any place.  
  • Masking and distancing are smart for high risk people when community cases are high. 
  • Continued boosting, pre-exposure antibody shot, medication with infection are considerations that make more sense the higher risk you are.

Main points in detail

  1. For robust exposure/Close contact with a case — No quarantining is required after exposure, no contact tracing will be used in most settings. Do wear a mask for 10 days around others after a robust exposure when indoors in public and receive testing ≥5 days after exposure (or sooner, if they are symptomatic). Let your upcoming contacts know you are in a 10 or even 14 day window after an exposure if that’s the case.
  2. For respiratory/ infection symptoms — receive testing if symptomatic.
  3. If infected — isolate for ≥5 days. If all symptoms are improving and there is no fever, come off isolation after 5 days and mask in public until 10 days. Use antigen testing in the 6-10 day period to come off masking if you are improving: if you have 2 consecutive negative tests 48 hours apart, the CDC considers you off even the masking protocol.

Bottom line: Be aware, be courteous.  I think it’s best to tell people you will be seeing if you’ve had a recent robust exposure or you are just coming off infection if you are within a 2 week window.

Why the changes? Because you’re immune. It’s not a novel virus anymore. “High levels of immunity and availability of effective COVID-19 prevention and management tools have reduced the risk for medically significant illness and death.” But there are other things too. Main other thing: Omicron doesn’t go to the lungs. Let’s not forget that.

Came out of no where

It very interesting to remember the Omicron story. It appeared in Nov 2021 in Africa and took over the global scene. It was observed to be very infectious but caused a milder syndrome with less morbidity and mortality, which stayed true as it spread around the world. It was not a direct lineage of the previous variants. It was on a distinct tract from the other variants, diverging in mid 2020, it is thought. And we haven’t had evolution away from it since it’s appearance — just subvariants. Competing hypotheses on origin are being examined.

Covid Case Update

Daily cases nationally are just under 100,000. Local tallied cases still around 30 daily in the entire county. Remember the BA.5 variant worry? If we are going to be subject to the anticipation anxiety we should also follow through with the resolution relief. We did not experience a surge. In fact, cases are falling now. Immunity is high. Restrictions are being withdrawn. Just a little note to be active in pushing back against fear. Fearful is no way to live. I recommend instead: being aware, courteous, calm, up for a challenge.

Polio

What?: Per CDC: In June 2022, there was a serious polio case in New York. ‘Vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was detected in stool specimens from an unvaccinated immunocompetent young adult from Rockland County, New York, who was experiencing acute flaccid weakness.’

‘The patient initially experienced fever, neck stiffness, gastrointestinal symptoms, and limb weakness. The patient was hospitalized with possible acute flaccid myelitis.’

This report describes only the second identification of community transmission of poliovirus in the United States since 1979; the previous instance, in 2005, was a type 1 VDPV.

How?: This represents a transmission within the United States to the case patient who had not travelled internationally  originating with a person who received a type 2-containing oral polio vaccine (OPV) abroad. OPV gives an attenuated infection which can revert and can spread from the vaccinated person who remains asymptomatic. Unvaccinated status is the main risk for illness. Type 2 VDPV is an intentionally-made, weakened vaccine virus that has reverted to be able to cause illness. It appears to be spreading on its own now. Recent years changes in the OPV may have unintentionally given it ability to spread.

Other cases?: Certainly. Myelitis is a rare complication. To think that there was only one case and it had this complication would be almost certainly inaccurate. ‘Roughly 3 in 4 people infected with polio are asymptomatic. Even if there are symptoms, they usually resemble those of the flu.’ Cases would be easy to miss. The reason polio was detected in the patient was because it was a serious case. We don’t test for it generally.

Per CDC stats: ‘one in 1,900 poliovirus type 2 infections among unvaccinated persons is expected to result in paralysis.’ CDC doesn’t underestimate, so these types numbers are often the worst case scenarios.

Wastewater: Wastewater surveillance has spring boarded with COVID-19. It’s unclear exactly what current wastewater detection patterns mean because as far as I can tell there is not a lot of comparable historical data. It’s important to note, however, that this vaccine derived virus is being detected. ‘VDPV (Vaccine-derived Polioviruses) have been detected in wastewater in the patient’s county of residence and in neighboring Orange County up to 25 days before (from samples originally collected for SARS-CoV-2 wastewater monitoring) and 41 days after the patient’s symptom onset.’

VDPV shedding from persons who received oral polio is a phenomenon that has occurred for decades but is increasing with a shift in the oral polio vaccine in 2016.

The big difference here is the identification of a serious case as described above. Vaccination against polio can provide protection, and falling vaccination rates are part of the story, but not the whole story. The OPV and viral reversion and the change to the vaccine last decade are a part of this emerging situation as well.

Follow up: ‘As of August 10, 2022, no additional polio cases have been identified.’

Summary: The US uses killed, injected vaccine which provides immunity against polio. Vaccination with the live attenuated oral polio vaccine abroad also provides immunity but presents the risk of reverting and introducing polio disease. Only the unvaccinated population is at risk for disease occurrence.

In addition to reviewing your personal risk profiles and prevention approach I recommend again: being aware, courteous, calm, and up for a challenge. It provides a degree of protection, a boost for life in general. 

Don’t Settle for Fear

I thought it would be good to explore coming unhinged in this edition. We can call it the chaos edition.

From the Mailbag (unhinged edition)

Thanks for your feedback, questions, and suggestions. Here’s a (fictitious) note from the mailbag I thought you’d like very much. It comes from Jessika in Stockholm.

“Berkshire Whole Health, can I use my cell phone in the Metaverse?”

Good question, Jessika. A related question is — does the Metaverse have a Metaverse? Can you put on a virtual virtual reality headset in the Metaverse? If not I don’t know if I want to go to the Metaverse because I couldn’t stand living somewhere that didn’t have access to the Metaverse, even if we are talking about the Metaverse itself.

Covid Update

If you pay attention you’re hearing about Monkeypox and politics this week and not much about Omicron BA.5 or Covid-19. That’s because nothing has changed: still about 120k cases a day nationally, still about 30 cases a day in the county.  Is no one drawn to the headline, “Cases haven’t changed at all. Maybe BA.5 isn’t so bad”? However, that’s what is happening. I think that’s big news. Why do we give so much airtime to the scary stuff?

Fear

I have given a lot of thought to fear in journalism, in medicine, in community, all over the earth. It’s not just we get fed it so we eat it. We are not babies. And it’s not just that the journalists don’t publish the good news. We say we want it, but we don’t read it when it comes.

We click on the fear based stuff.  We the consumers are a big part of this dance routine. Why would we do that? It’s like picking a scary clown for a dance partner.

I think I know why we pay so much closer attention when we feel threatened?

Should I tell you why we click at the fear-based stuff? The answer is not related to primitive, self-preservation either. It doesn’t include stories about saber tooth tigers. Ready for me to tell you?

Ok fine. We are attracted to those things because they propagate the biggest lie of our existence — that we are separate and that’s our whole story. That lie is so strongly imbedded across the whole world that when we are fed a thought that is confirmatory to the separateness story it has a resonance with us. When you’re separate of course you’re fearful. Of course death and illness are unbearable.

Being stuck in the separateness story is the sign of the times. Our system of medicine is even built up around separateness. It’s connected with fear and chaos. We have models of illness where we are being attacked by foreign entities. The model says resources are scarce. Lock your door.

The problem is it’s not our whole truth. As we learn more we find the human body is not an island. It is a symbiotic ecosystem teeming with all sorts of life we used to never know was in us, and it’s not just in the gut. We formally just found out only 15 years ago that bugs aren’t bad, they actually are us.

Isolating individual components in nature causes chaos to increase. The more complex the system the more that chaos signal diminishes. Mass shootings take on a different light in this context. How many stories of shooters depict a marginalized person, separate from community? Chaos. We can’t be lopsided and succeed.

Full View

On one hand we sit alone in the center of our conscious awareness facing the peripheral world and receiving input from far and wide. We feel alone and learn about chaos.

This needs its counterpart.

Looking inward our conciousness works in a system where it is the periphery. It surrounds an inner point which also is a source of vast information. We can see that inner point is connected with our intuitive knowledge. You thought the other information pole was massive?! Fear disappears in the larger system. It’s here where we remember ourselves. Connection abounds.

Our separateness orientation is not unwelcome — it just needs to be remembered in context of the the fuller system.

We can rhythmically alternate between the two. We know this approach: like day and night, like in breath, out breath. Then we are whole. “I give thanks to God when I am pressed, and I give thanks to God when I have needed rest.”

My message: don’t settle for fear. Meditate that you are at the center, conscious of the periphery. Then that you are the periphery, conscious of the center.

Now imagine this headline:

“Cases haven’t changed. The way you view the world is lopsided. You in opposition to the world is chaotic. Take steps every day, every hour to live closer to your wholeness. Fear nothing.”

You bet I’d click on that!

5 score and 4 years ago

Covid Update

  • The 14 DAY trends are flat, I’m happy to report. 130k cases per day nationally. Only 30 cases per day locally in Berkshire County.
  • Look again to a country who went through a BA.5 wave before us: South Africa. Less than 60 days after it began, South Africa’s fifth wave of COVID-19 infections ended with the lowest peak and fewest deaths of any previous wave in the country. Their fifth wave was driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the omicron variant. Lasting about 8 weeks, it was the shortest and least severe wave they have seen so far. Maybe we are 1/3 of the way through it ourselves.

We’ve done a lot of the work to move through this Pandemic, as it stands. Maybe we are almost done.

Who would tell us if we were? The same people with “state of emergency” powers? I think not. Let me tell you, novel viruses cease to remain novel after a while. If they’re not novel, they have a pretty good chance of blending into the landscape. The fear is thinning out day by day. It’s a good sign. Believe me, we are getting there.

5 score and 4 years ago

It’s helpful to take a faraway look on life, occasionally, if only for a short moment. It gives important perspective. Take a look back again with me to the Flu pandemic of 1918–1920 and see how it informs us.

The first world war concluded at the end of 1918 with 17 million deaths. Talk about a two-punch combo! 40 million people then died in the Influenza Pandemic of 1918–20. 40 million is equivalent to 150 million deaths worldwide today; it’s over 2% of the population.

Medicine was scarce. There were no federal guidelines about anything. There was no CDC. There was no National Institutes of Health. There was no Department of Health and Human Services. Info was suppressed, especially at the outbreak, because it was wartime. Truth is an early causality of war, so they say. Censorship and opinion-control get elevated.

They had it worse, way worse, it seems to me. Covid-19 has had 6.5 million confirmed COVID-induced deaths world-wide, far, far short of 150 million, even if the real number is more like 15-20 million, which some estimate.

Make-shift hospitals and convalescent wards were constructed or created out of stadiums, and the like. The high death rates took a serious toll. Society and families were collapsing. From major cities and rural areas came reports of people starving “because no one had the courage to bring them food”; People had to rely on what they had on hand.

In present times, our hospitals run as close to capacity as they can. They get fairly easily overwhelmed. I’m just noting we didn’t need to build any makeshift hospitals during Covid-19. The Army Corps of engineers were left waiting by the phone. The call never came.

Lingering symptoms after infections were seen then too. Mental health suffered for years after the pandemic ended. You have to factor in WWI and war trauma, but even in neutral Nordic countries psychiatric institutions saw the average number of admissions show a seven-fold increase in each of the six years following the pandemic, compared to earlier, non-pandemic years.

So now what?

People will look back on our recent political situation, the censorship (the fake news over there, the misinformation over here), the riots, the insurrection, the war in Ukraine, the supply chain disruption, the workplace revolutions as a part of the social unrest of the Covid-19 Pandemic years. And they’ll probably shake their heads, recognizing how difficult it was for us. Nevertheless, it’s important for us to not get too entrenched in our own stories. We need to find our healthy standpoint.

Your Daily Bread

We should learn, instead of sinking into our story, we have one main job when we wake up in the morning and face our day.

Before we enter the labyrinth of a day waiting for us, our job is to make an effort to step out of time and space even if just for 1 short moment and to connect to the well of peace that lives in us. Imagine if we all learned that and practiced that.

Despite the collective plight: the censorship, the manipulation, the jockeying, the coverups, the selfishness, the fighting, the warfare, the terrible plans and projections

Despite our individual plight: the suffering, the illness, the loneliness

Despite it all, we have an ideal that we strive for: to regularly spend a moment dropping our story, fearlessly letting it go. We might not be able to reach it on this day, but we can start moving towards it. We can at least recognize that we thrive at our job as a human in community when we learn how to connect to a power for good that lives not above the clouds but in our core. It’s the ideal waking up moment. It sets the tone. It makes a difference. It matters. And so do you. And none of it just happens without aiming for it.

Self-Connection

Covid Update

  • Good News: Covid case incidence is flat locally and nationally. Despite BA.5’s arrival, numbers aren’t taking off. 
  • We continue to be counting a low percentage of the actual cases due to less centralized testing so don’t be too cavalier. 
  • President Biden has COVID. Kamala is a primary contact. We want Vladmir and Xi to know that Joe is still working, just taking it easy a little bit- probably binge watching a few seasons of “West Wing.”

Yesterday’s Weather Report

It was hot yesterday… and it might have gone to my head.

Today’s Weather Forecast

Hotter than yesterday.

Psychiatry Update

A major new review of the research published this week in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reached a interesting conclusion. In “The Serotonin Theory of Depression: A Systematic Umbrella Review of the Evidence,” a team of six top European researchers found “there is no evidence of a connection between reduced serotonin levels or activity and depression.”

The truth is we don’t know why antidepressants work. Actually, we are unsure of lots of things in our mental (and physical) health. It’s a fact that most of the major studies in psychology can’t be reproduced. In 2015 a huge, collaborative research project attempted to recreate 100 studies that were recently published in major psychology journals, and it found that only 39 of those studies’ results could be replicated.

Self-Connection

We are more than just physical bodies. We have to take our soul-spiritual life into account.

An analysis of self-connection is a great place to start to see what this means. We need to look at the three components of self-connection (as detailed in an article by Arash Emamzadeh in Psychology Today from May of this year). “These consist of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-alignment.

  • Self-awareness: Awareness of one’s internal experiences, thoughts, emotions, sensations, preferences, values, intuitions, resources, goals, etc.
  • Self-acceptance: Full acknowledgment and acceptance, without judgment, of self-relevant characteristics and experiences. And seeing them as part of us and belonging to us.
  • Self-alignment: Using self-knowledge to behave in ways that authentically reflect oneself and fulfill one’s psychological needs (e.g., autonomy).”

At Home

We can’t be at home without self-connection. There are many opportunities to practice this throughout the day:

  • just as a routine, as in first thing when waking up
  • when having an extra minute, if stopped at a light or in traffic 
  • if uncomfortable or in pain

Just be aware without judging your experience. Your self-connection attempts will slowly shift… everything. It will give you more stamina, more options, more levity. Our self wants to be seen and heard and experienced.  If it’s uncomfortable to go there because of guilt or sadness, take little pit stops, at first. You’ll learn to not get lost in racing around.


From this week

A banker said to an economist:

“The cyclist is a disaster for the country’s economy, we need more drivers, not bikers. The cyclist doesn’t buy cars with cash and she doesn’t borrow money to buy them. She doesn’t even need to purchase a car insurance policy.

She doesn’t buy fuel, she doesn’t have to pay to get the car serviced, and she has no need for repairs to her vehicle. She doesn’t use paid parking in the city. She causes no major accidents. And she creates no need for multi-lane highways.

Also, she is getting healthier, she is not getting overweight, she sleeps better, and her cardiovascular health improves dramatically.

This is bad because healthy people are less useful to the economy… they do not buy as much fast food, or as much medicine, or go to hospital as frequent. Simply put, healthy people on bikes add less to the country’s GDP… Walking is even worse. Pedestrians don’t even buy a bicycle! Walkers are a complete & utter travesty.”

Don’t let someone else’s version of you limit you or drag you down. Go against the main cultural current to be healthy, listening to your intuition, fully inhabiting your physical body. We will build a new economy based on your good health and your self-connection and the social interaction that come from it.

Battling Invasive Species

Imagine my shock and intrigue when I came across this passage:

“The gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar), also known as the spongy moth, was introduced in 1868 into the United States by Étienne Léopold Trouvelot, a French scientist living in Medford, Massachusetts. Because native silk-spinning caterpillars were susceptible to disease, Trouvelot imported the species in order to breed a more resistant hybrid species. Some of the moths escaped, found suitable habitat, and began breeding. The gypsy moth is now a major pest of hardwood trees in the Eastern United States.… [In fact,] according to a 2011 report, the gypsy moth is now one of the most destructive insects in the Eastern United States.” (Wikipedia)

Gypsy moths escaped from a lab?!

Curiosity and tinkering by man unleashing an undesirable phenomenon which becomes unstoppable: it’s actually an archetypal story.

Remember Jurassic Park? “What could go wrong? The cloned beasts will never get off the island.” And it’s written by a medical doctor, interestingly enough.

We know this theme deep down in our bones.

It’s Pandora’s box playing out again… and again. Or Adam and Eve. The insatiable curiosity leading to the inevitable regretful moment. It makes you pause even longer on the question of where Artificial Intelligence is heading. Is that the next version of humanity going beyond what we intend or can control? If it’s so archetypal and plays out repeatedly, what are we to make of it?

Now what?

The most challenging part of the Pandora’s box myth is that it doesn’t offer anything for a solution. In fact, Pandora tried to close the box and only succeeded to lock in one thing: hope. Remember that part? Not exactly an ideal bedtime story. We are left with the question, “what now?” If you look at it, our knee jerk reaction is to go to war.

Battling Invasive Species

We battle against invasive species. We say things like, they must be stopped. They are bad. Period. We spray chemicals. We do it in the name of preservation (peace). And the same goes for disease or pestilence in any form. They just don’t fit. We will fight them all. They have too great a potential to cause harm to the environment, the economy, or to human health for us to resist war.

But what if war is a bad idea. Didn’t we learn that trying to close the box cuts us off from a part of ourselves. We need a more deliberate approach, one that won’t make us wonder if our solutions just exacerbate the problem.

Non-war tools

1. Inclusion. Eradication specialists may be starting to rethink their approach.

  • ‘Conservationists may be thwarting their own efforts, as well as causing harm to wildlife, in their battle against invasive species
  • In numerous cases, non-native species have been shown to benefit wildlife, while their management — from toxic chemicals to culling — may be causing more harm than good.’

Have you ever heard of the Manichaean myth about the kingdom of light? It was invaded by dark forces, and light prevailed. The punishment handed down was to incorporate the dark into the kingdom of light. It’s the ultimate integrative model. Let your invaders punishment be to become part of the kingdom. The new territory where light and dark were combined, where the dark could be redeemed by the light, was called humanity.

2. Positivity. Accentuate the silver lining. In certain cases and in certain aspects, invasive species are ‘actually quite beneficial, and perhaps it’s time to recognize that. In California, for example, native butterflies feed on non-native plants. In Puerto Rico, alien trees help restore abandoned pastures to a condition suitable for native plants. Non native birds are filling a gap and are spreading native plant seed. Even the much-maligned zebra mussel helps filter toxins from lakes.’ How can invasive be recognized and harnessed for good?

3. Let natural biologic systems help. Spongy moths have a number of natural predators, the most effective being small mammals. Other predators include birds and parasitoids. How do we let them thrive in the effort to incorporate the ‘invasives’?

4. Forgiveness. We humans have to tinker. We will tinker. We’re here to tinker. We just have to be pretty humble about it. Mistakes happen. It’s embarrassing but as long as you’re honest and apologize and are careful we’re all right with it. It all fits.

Even if Trouvelot had evil intentions, like using the infestation to advance his magical French cure-all tincture, for example, so what? This plague is here, just like the last one and just like the next one. It’s an opportunity to practice our best selves and our highest principles. And if those are practiced more intensely because of a mean-spirited gesture somewhere, the gesture is transformed into a force for good.

Hope prevails

1 million acres of deforestation in an average year from the gypsy moth is no slouch, and the solutions are complex. Staying with our best tools, the ones that are most representative of our wholeness, gives us access to hope, and that is my message for you here. 

Covid update

Recorded cases continue to drift down slightly in our area. We are in 25 cases per day in the county range and up slightly to 130,000 per day in the country. Ba.5, Omicron variant, and what possibly could come of it, is in the news quite heavily. What’s quite relevant is how others (Portugal, S Africa) have already done with it. I expect worst case scenario a peak much muted from the Jan Omicron peak (maybe 30% of that at most), lasting for about 6-8 weeks. Best case, smaller peak and shorter term.

Humanism

Covid update

All still is holding steady.

Cases remain in the 30 per day in the county range and around 100,000- 110,000 per day in the country. Pretty similar to last week. The majority of cases are the new sub-variant. Don’t forget, Omicron doesn’t have affinity for the lungs. Be reassured by that. Omicron is consistently reminding us that this is a different disease from early variants. It’s a robust inflammation, but not nearly as lethal.

A little more on fear and freedom

Last week we talked about how fear and pain (and other symptoms) are so often closely linked. And, in fact, in many cases fear is the cause of many bodily symptoms.

I present today how a certain pervasive approach to our very nature needs to be addressed to navigate our current age optimally.

Metaphor matters because it creates expectations.

—James Geary

It’s not hard to find Western culture’s predominant metaphor for the human body: a magnificent machine made out of flesh and bones.

Metaphors orient us. They give us a point of reference. However, there are such things are bad metaphors. Man as a machine doesn’t get us all the way to where we need to go.

I personally don’t subscribe to this particular metaphor, and I think it eventually leads to a disorientation. It’s limited. It’s misleading. It’s not the whole picture at all. It’s about as robust of an idea as is moving civilzation underground and never seeing the sun. A whole side of us is denied.

Let’s take a closer look.

This metaphor is everywhere, from the university classrooms to the laboratories, from hospitals to the clinic exam rooms. You know it well. It is pervasive. Our brains are hard drives. The heart is a pump. Food is fuel. Sleep fills up our battery. Like a car, you should get your check up every year.

Our divine nature is quite uncomfortable with these thoughts.

Let’s continue. The machine breaks down if you’re unfortunate. The job of the doctor is to patch it up, maybe replace something over here, unclog something over there.

Sound about right?

Our human story is much bigger than this, and the bigger story suffers with a small view of our existence. Healing and transformation is reduced to shop work.

The mechanistic model will let us down. It already does. Our inner should life is not nourished by it.

If we can’t see the ways in which we go beyond a machine those aspects of us won’t flower.

Machine Age

We are on the brink of the merger of man and machine — in society and in our individual bodies. The body-as-machine philosophy invites this merger without reservation or adjustment. The one flows right into the other. If we are a machine, let’s upgrade.

Most insiders say an automated workforce is already possible: online schooling, robot chefs, robot truckers, robot laborers. The humans just have to be brought up to speed. Culture just has to be led to the adjustment.

Humans are going to have machine upgrades presented to us and applied to us. Our handheld devices are considered “peripheral brains.” Technology will ask why we should put up with having to carry something around, something we can misplace? Why not integrate it? This is how technology advances us.

I don’t think this needs to be resisted or can be stopped. It’s scary, but the solution is not to change the outer course as much as it is to find the fullest inner stance. We need to navigate the machine age smartly, in a way that recognizes our full stature. Technology will fortify the picture we have of ourselves, whatever it is. We need to work with the full picture.

Much more than machine

The vast majority of us have an orientation to a hidden story of the universe beyond what we grasp of the world immediately, but we also default to the thoughts inherent in the machine model of the human being. It’s not so easy to work out how spirit and matter are at work in the human body.

We can’t be passive and get there.

Humanism

The opposite of the machine model is the view that the human body houses the spirit. Life and consciousness aren’t merely special phenomena of the cells but rather separate phenomena which co-exist with and inform the cell. They belong to different worlds than the one immediately presented to us.

It’s an acknowledgement of the intangible. Adherents to this philosophy have to be able to make room for the mystery. There’s no need to account for everything with cellular phenomena, from the bottom up. Show me a scientist who says they understand the origin and nature of life and consciousness. You can’t. The intellect can’t grasp it. So it reduces it to something it can grasp.

If we are going to automate society and change the nature of what we as humans do, and it appears we are, we need to penetrate into our true nature so we don’t abandon it in the process. We need a different type of thinking.

With the humanist approach we seek to navigate the technological age while keeping our integrity. Last week we talked about how liberation is tied closely to calming our fear. I am arguing that a limited model like the body-as-a-machine model will lead to nowhere else but fear. And the truest eradication of fear is to realize our wholeness.

Our separateness is our starting point. Separate and small (and machine-like) is our birth rite. Don’t settle there. We have to work to remember our wholeness, to break out of the machine model. It’s the work of our lives. What do we do to remember every day or help other people remember? Any kindness or warm act for another is certainly a step in the right direction. Start somewhere. Know you aren’t a hackable machine. Start by resisting that. Live in acknowledgement of the mystery. Fear acts as a reminder. Remember your full stature: your spiritual nature, your citizenship of the whole universe. Remember you don’t have to control everything. Move with what presents itself to you. Let the world express itself to you. Learn its language.

This fuller view of us wraps us and holds us and reassures us. It nourishes us. It’s like being back home. In my view, it is the archetypal mother’s embrace. It’s the best medicine.