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    Sunday
    Nov282010

    Desiderata

    "Desiderata" is latin for "things to be desired." Desiderata was written by Max Ehrmann in the 1920s. See below.

    Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
    and remember what peace there may be in silence.

    As far as possible, without surrender,
    be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
    and listen to others,
    even to the dull and the ignorant;
    they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
    they are vexatious to the spirit.

    If you compare yourself with others,
    you may become vain or bitter,
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
    Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
    Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
    it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

    Exercise caution in your business affairs,
    for the world is full of trickery.
    But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
    many persons strive for high ideals,
    and everywhere life is full of heroism.
    Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
    Neither be cynical about love,
    for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
    it is as perennial as the grass.

    Take kindly the counsel of the years,
    gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
    Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
    But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
    Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

    Beyond a wholesome discipline,
    be gentle with yourself.
    You are a child of the universe
    no less than the trees and the stars;
    you have a right to be here.
    And whether or not it is clear to you,
    no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

    Therefore be at peace with God,
    whatever you conceive Him to be.
    And whatever your labors and aspirations,
    in the noisy confusion of life,
    keep peace in your soul.


    With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
    it is still a beautiful world.
    Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

     


    The author is Max Ehrmann, a poet and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, who lived from 1872 to 1945. It has been reported that Desiderata was inspired by an urge that Ehrmann wrote about in his diary:

    "I should like, if I could, to leave a humble gift -- a bit of chaste prose that had caught up some noble moods."

    Click to read more ...

    Wednesday
    Nov242010

    A Rush to Operating Rooms That Alters Men’s Lives

    August 30, 2010
     
    By DANA JENNINGS

    As I scuffed through the stations of the prostate-cancer cross these past two years, I sometimes wondered whether I wasn’t a dupe caught up in a Robin Cook medical thriller.

    Sure, the biopsy (so I was told) showed that my prostate was cancerous. And after it was removed, the pathology report revealed that the cancer was unexpectedly aggressive, thrusting me from the relative comforts of Stage 1 to the deep woods of Stage 3.

    But at least on the surface, the cancer itself never did any damage. It was the treatments that razed me — the surgery, radiation and hormones producing a catalog of miseries that included impotence, incontinence and hot flashes. And a small voice kept whispering: What if this is all a lie? A dark conspiracy of the global medical-industrial complex?

    And now comes “Invasion of the Prostate Snatchers,” by Ralph H. Blum and Dr. Mark Scholz, effectively confirming my whimsical paranoia.

    Mr. Blum, a cultural anthropologist and writer, has lived with prostate cancer for 20 years without radical treatment, and Dr. Scholz is an oncologist who has treated the disease exclusively since 1995.

    Their book, written tag-team style, is a provocative and frank look at the bewildering world of prostate cancer, from the current state of the multibillion-dollar industry to the range of available treatments.

    About 200,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, and the authors say nearly all of them are overtreated. Most men, they persuasively argue, would be better served having their cancer managed as a chronic condition.

    Why? Because most prostate cancers are lackadaisical — the fourth-class mail of their kind. The authors say “active surveillance” is an effective initial treatment for most men.

    They add that only about 1 in 7 men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer are at risk for a serious form of the disease. “Out of 50,000 radical prostatectomies performed every year in the United States alone,” Dr. Scholz writes, “more than 40,000 are unnecessary. In other words, the vast majority of men with prostate cancer would have lived just as long without any operation at all. Most did not need to have their sexuality cut out.”

    Yet radical prostatectomy is still the treatment recommended most often, even though a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that it extended the lives of just 1 patient in 48.

    And surgery, of course, is most often recommended by surgeons and urologists — who are also surgeons. Mr. Blum writes: “As one seasoned observer of the prostate cancer industry told me, ‘Your prostate is worth what Ted Turner would call serious cash money.’ ” As for patients, their rational thinking has been short-circuited by the word “cancer.” Scared, frantic and vulnerable — relying on a doctor’s insight — they are ripe to being sold on surgery as their best option. Just get it out.

    Every urologist I met with after my diagnosis recommended surgery, even though it was believed then that I had a low-risk Stage 1 cancer. The best advice came from my personal urologist, who declined to do my operation because it was beyond him: “Avoid the community hospital guys who do a volume business in prostates.”

    I did, but I’m still maimed. In my experience, doctors play down punishing side effects like incontinence, impotence and shrinking of the penis. Those are just words when you hear them, but beyond language when you go through them.

    Despite the impression the authors give, though, judging the velocity or voraciousness of a prostate cancer can still be imprecise. I know this firsthand.

    After my biopsy, it appeared that I had a Stage 1 cancer, a doddering old nag that the authors would have designated for active surveillance. As it turned out, I had an especially pure Stage 3 cancer, a real top-fuel eliminator in terms of velocity (and hunger).

    Click to read more ...

    Wednesday
    Aug252010

    Bacteria ate away at gulf oil plume, study shows

    Findings verify government spill statistics
    By David Brown, Washington Post  |  August 25, 2010

    WASHINGTON — The Gulf of Mexico ecosystem was ready and waiting for something like the Deepwater Horizon blowout and seems to have made the most of it, a new scientific study suggests.

    Petroleum-eating bacteria, which had dined for eons on oil seeping naturally through the seafloor, proliferated in the cloud of oil that drifted underwater for months after the April 20 accident. They not only outcompeted fellow microbes, they each ramped up their own internal metabolic machinery to digest the oil as efficiently as possible.

    The result was a nature-made cleanup crew capable of reducing the amount of oil in the undersea plume by half about every three days, according to research published online yesterday by the journal Science.

    The findings, by a team of scientists led by Terry C. Hazen of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California, help explain one of the biggest mysteries of the disaster: Where has all the oil gone?

    Click to read more ...

    Saturday
    Jul242010

    How Microbes Defend and Define Us

    July 12, 2010

    Dr. Alexander Khoruts had run out of options.

    In 2008, Dr. Khoruts, a gastroenterologist at the University of Minnesota, took on a patient suffering from a vicious gut infection of Clostridium difficile. She was crippled by constant diarrhea, which had left her in a wheelchair wearing diapers. Dr. Khoruts treated her with an assortment of antibiotics, but nothing could stop the bacteria. His patient was wasting away, losing 60 pounds over the course of eight months. “She was just dwindling down the drain, and she probably would have died,” Dr. Khoruts said.

    Dr. Khoruts decided his patient needed a transplant. But he didn’t give her a piece of someone else’s intestines, or a stomach, or any other organ. Instead, he gave her some of her husband’s bacteria.

    Dr. Khoruts mixed a small sample of her husband’s stool with saline solution and delivered it into her colon. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology last month, Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues reported that her diarrhea vanished in a day. Her Clostridium difficile infection disappeared as well and has not returned since.

    The procedure — known as bacteriotherapy or fecal transplantation — had been carried out a few times over the past few decades. But Dr. Khoruts and his colleagues were able to do something previous doctors could not: they took a genetic survey of the bacteria in her intestines before and after the transplant.

    Before the transplant, they found, her gut flora was in a desperate state. “The normal bacteria just didn’t exist in her,” said Dr. Khoruts. “She was colonized by all sorts of misfits.”

    Two weeks after the transplant, the scientists analyzed the microbes again. Her husband’s microbes had taken over. “That community was able to function and cure her disease in a matter of days,” said Janet Jansson, a microbial ecologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a co-author of the paper. “I didn’t expect it to work. The project blew me away.”

    Scientists are regularly blown away by the complexity, power, and sheer number of microbes that live in our bodies. “We have over 10 times more microbes than human cells in our bodies,” said George Weinstock of Washington University in St. Louis. But the microbiome, as it’s known, remains mostly a mystery. “It’s as if we have these other organs, and yet these are parts of our bodies we know nothing about.”

    Click to read more ...

    Sunday
    Jan312010

    Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber

    "All of us have Cancer cells in our bodies, but not all of us will develop Cancer."

    From Publishers Weekly

    After undergoing chemotherapy and surgery for brain cancer, Servan-Schreiber, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, asked his oncologist if any lifestyle changes would prevent a relapse; the answer was no.
    Certain this was wrong, Servan-Schreiber spent months researching a mass of scientific data on natural defenses against cancer. After a lucid introduction to cancer and its causes, he points out studies indicating that a poor diet, unhealthy habits (like smoking), some hormones, and environmental toxins increase risk.
    Servan-Schreiber also advocates a positive, life-affirming attitude, illustrating with anecdotes of patients whose cancers disappeared when they attained inner peace. Servan-Schreiber underscores that his advice should be an adjunct to, not a replacement for, conventional treatments like surgery and chemotherapy, in this spirited mixture of good medical information, helpful suggestions and alternative medicine. (Sept. 22) ""
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    From Booklist

    If anyone has the cred, professional and street, to discuss cancer prevention and survival, it is Servan-Schreiber, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, cofounder of Doctors Without Borders, and 15-year brain cancer survivor.
    That he chooses to talk about, even promote, certain environmental, dietary, and emotional adjustments one can make in one’s life that can mitigate suspected carcinogenic influences makes this a slightly controversial book. Typical of his demeanor, though, as researcher-teacher rather than practitioner, he addresses the controversy head-on, cautioning his critics to note that he does not promote these life adjustments in lieu of conventional medical interventions such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
    He promotes them in addition to, as a support for, traditional treatments. He calls them anticancer practices. Stay away from white sugar and flour. Eat more cruciferous vegetables and dark-colored fruits. Get regular exercise, and take up yoga or some other form of meditation. These practices made for him a new way of life that he claims helped him beat cancer twice and, he believes, once and for all. This has been a best-seller in France and may well become a valuable resource about personal wars waged on cancer in this country, as well. --Donna Chavez

    Review

    " A handy book to have around . . . a common-sense blueprint for healthy living."
    -The Chicago Tribune

    "In presenting the science of cancer, Servan-Schreiber offers clear and vivid descriptions. . . . [And his] writing offers much more than science. It is full of passion for his topic and compassion for his patients"
    -The Seattle Times
     
    The New York Times bestseller takes us on an empowering journey and changes the way we think about fighting cancer
    David Servan-Schreiber's story of his journey from cancer patient to health combines memoir with a clear scientific explanation of what makes cancer cells thrive and what inhibits them. Anticancer is filled with easy to understand charts and diagrams and a sixteen-page color "Anticancer Action" insert that enables readers to make small but essential changes in lifestyle and diet. Your body knows how to fight cancer, says Servan-Schreiber, and you have to help it with nutrition, physical exercise, stress management, and avoiding environmental toxins. Anticancer enables people living with cancer to adopt a proactive attitude to living, even thriving, with cancer and helps healthy people prevent it.
    About the Author
    David Servan-Schreiber, M.D., Ph.D., is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and cofounder of the Center for Integrative Medicine. He is a founding member of the organization Doctors Without Borders and continues to work in international crisis intervention.
    Saturday
    Jan022010

    It's All Good, Even the Bad

    I recently came across some new research being done on the meaning and value of moods, and it got me thinking.

    The Lotus symbolizes purity -- the flower grows in the mud, yet remains untouched by it.For some time now, I've been interested in the conceptof dynamic holism -- the idea that the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and that everything in a system is a significant part of the growth of the system. Life evolves in cycles: hot/cold, feast/famine -- in general, better/worse, and everything contributes to the expansion of the system. For instance, food shortages lead to better agricultural methods, leading to increased populations, which leads to food shortages. Cycles help systems to grow.

    In the same way, being exhuberant can lead to recklessness, which leads to loss, which supports greater need for controls, which lead to stability, which foster interst in risk, which leads to exhuberance. I'm referring to the economy, but it could also describe human behavior in general.

    Our moods are part of the process. Loss leads to gloomy moods, which leads to being risk-aversive, more careful; gain leads to cheery moods, which leads us to be more open to risk, more experimental. Both are necessary.

    As it turns out, a bad mood can be, at times, a competitive advantage.

    Positive attitudes, good moods promote creativity, flexibility, cooperation, and foster more impulsive behavior, more reliance on mental shortcuts.

    Negative moods trigger more attentive, careful thinking, paying greater attention to the external world. They make us double check things, and think things through.

    And it seems obvious that both, in balance, are necessary for a person, and life, through that person, to evolve. Too much negativity, life bogs down. Too much positivity, and accidents happen.

    Pessimists and optimists are both needed for a balanced view of life and the world, like other dichotomies: liberal/conservative, introvert/extrovert, altruistic/self-interested.

    If I emphasize being positive with my clients, it's usually that I'm trying to balance out an excess of negativity. Negativity (meaning noticing what's missing) is a necessary part of growth and development. Our culture, particularly through the media, fosters an excess of negative perspectives -- more positivity is generally needed, for balance. But the truth is, every part of life, every emotion, serves some purpose, in the proper context.

    Too much darkness, and we want more light -- too much light, we put on sunglasses. In horticulture, dry soil fosters root growth. In sociology, crisis helps people come together. In life, distress pushes us to seek outside of our comfort zone.

    And our moods swing back and forth, the same way our breath goes in and out. I guess we're all sort of bi-polar, in a way. Our view of life is formed by our tendency to see in dichotomies.

    So where does anger fit in? I think it's often the feeling of bridging from fear (negative) to hope (positive). It's a fear-tainted way of trying to assert control, and make things better, a sort of panicky confidence, if that makes sense.

    Just some thoughts I wanted to share.

    Sent from my Sprint Blackberry

    Friday
    Jan012010

    Yama, Yoga Ethics -- Living the Good Life

    This is the first in a series of eight articles on what is called Ashtanga or "Eight Limbed" Yoga*.

    Yoga was my introduction to the spiritual path over thirty years ago, and while I haven't often spoken about it directly, the philosophy of yoga forms the basis of much of the counseling work that I do. Much of who I am as a counselor is a result of the yoga teachings I received personally from great yoga masters like Yogiraj Shri Swami Satchidananda, Swami Muktananda and others in the late sixties and early seventies. Yoga was and is very important to me, both as a wisdom lineage and as a personal practice, and with these articles I want to share and pass on what I was taught, and what I came to understand through my own practice.

    Ashtanga Yoga has never been as popular as it is today, but the increasing commercialization of yoga, and an overemphasis on the physical practice of yoga overshadows much of the deep wisdom and beauty of the teachings.

    Each generation discovers yoga newly, and reinvents it to some extent, and it is my hope that what I pass on of what I learned will inspire and support a deeper and more satisfying understanding of yoga in the present generation.

    Millions worldwide practice yoga as a physical discipline, but many don't know that the physical practice of yoga is rooted in a profound ethical philosophy, a simple set of ideas that not only support and uphold a person's physical health and well-being, but their emotional health and well-being as well.

    Underlying Asana and Vinyasa practice in yoga are a set of five essential ethical precepts or principles called Yama. These five core concepts form the ethical basis of the yogic approach to life, and constitute what is called the first "limb," or part, of eight limbs of yoga.

    Self-alignment allows us to grasp the totality of ourselves.The five principles of Yama guide not only our physical practice of yoga, but also provide a a platform for understanding how to live our best life possible. Properly understood and put into practice, they serve as powerful organizing principles, bringing out what is best in us and supporting us in bringing out the best in one another.

    Ethics are much more than just following social rules and obeying the law. Ethical behavior is life-supporting behavior. It is conduct that promotes well-being in the world.

    In another sense, ethics could be thought of as living in harmony with the greater life around us, living our most "natural" life, living as we meant to live.

    Ethical conduct cannot be achieved through external controls, whether personally or socially imposed. As is often remarked, morality cannot be legislated. Ethical conduct is the result of a person living in accord with their own nature, which would result in a natural sense of empathy and investment in the well-being of others.

    When we feel whole and at peace within ourselves, we naturally want to support others in feeling that same sense of well being, if for no other reason than that it feels good.

    The precepts of yama are mental landmarks, principles that allow us to orient and anchor our understanding and our actions. We use the five precepts as starting points for our understanding of how best to be in life -- nothing more. They are not rules of behavior; rather, they are descriptions of the good life. Properly used, the precepts allow us to find our own way by helping us to make sense of what matters most in our own experience and to align ourselves with it.

    Again, they are not rules or codes of conduct; they are recommendations meant to help us find our way in life, guideposts to the good life, to a life that is satisfying and rewarding.

    The first step to making use of the five precepts is to develop an understanding of them. Simply grasping the simple logic of the ideas can transform a life and change the world. For example: the first yama, ahimsa, was the inspiration for the work of Mahatma Gandhi, and not only helped India find its freedom, but later inspired the non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King. Each of the yamas has the power to change your life and change the world.

    Perhaps more importantly, the precepts of yama also serve as validations of your practice of yoga -- proof to yourself that you are achieving a state of yoga, that is, of alignment or harmony between yourself and nature.

    As you come into a state of yoga, as you become more aligned with yourself, with your own sense of joy and appreciation, you concurrently come into alignment with nature and with life itself, and the yamas just arise in you. They reflect your natural inclination, your natural way of being.

    The yamas are the characteristics of one who is in alignment, of one who is in a state of yoga. They are the way yogis tend to be  -- in other words, you don't have to work at them. Matter of fact, you can't. Trying to force yoga or force the yamas goes against all of the yamas.

    It would be very difficult to enact or follow the precepts without more or less being in a state of yoga -- when you are at odds with yourself, you don't have the focus or presence of mind to hold the needed perspectives. The precepts are your natural way of being when you are in a state of yoga -- or more or less at peace with yourself.

    When you're in yoga, you're feeling good, your perspectives are broader and more inclusive, things make sense, and things go your way. When you're upset, and not in yoga, you lose perspective, few things make sense, and life doesn't really support you.

    The practice of yoga is designed to support you in being in harmony with yourself and the world around you. When that happens you have support from every corner, inside and out.

    A good way to understand whether you're currently in a state of yoga is to feel how much peace of mind you have overall. When you're feeling peaceful and happy, and life seems good, you're in yoga. You're aligned.

    Click to read more ...