Archive for April, 2011

It strikes me there’s something thin and impoverished about a purely materialistic culture. If it’s possible to imbue meaning into the everyday then I think life shines more brightly.
It’s hard not to be impressed with how the Japanese people have coped with, and continue to cope with, the aftermath of the 11th March quake, tsunami and nuclear leaks. I’m certainly no expert in Japanese culture or people, but as I stroll around Kyoto this week, how could I fail to notice how much belief, and the symbols of belief are everywhere. The temple next door is having a 750th anniversary celebration and there are bus loads arriving every day. There isn’t a temple where there aren’t queues to say a short prayer, pull the bell rope, and ring the bell.
It’s not just impressive. It seeps in. I feel the better for just mingling…..

temple bell


bell rope

kodai ji kyoto



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As April, the month of transience, draws to a close this week, so the cherry blossom, such a powerful symbol of the power of transience, is falling in the temples.

temple blossom

fallen blossom

time for blossom

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Yesterday while walking to the Kyoto Museum (which turns out to be closed for refurbishment just now, by the look of things) we stumbled upon the Kaleidoscope Museum of Kyoto. Why not? Let’s pop in and have a look.
It’s a small museum, with a lot of staff, and a completely amazing range of kaleidoscopes for you to pick up and peer through. The staff don’t speak much English but when they discovered we were from Scotland we became VIPs – apparently, the kaleidoscope was invented by a Scot! There on the wall was a plaque dedicated to Sir David Brewster, the 18th century scientist who invented the kaleidoscope. And I came all the way to Kyoto to find that out?!
What a wonderful way to pass an hour or so playing with all the kaleidoscopes. Just beautiful. Before we left, we bought one, too. Here’s my attempt to take a photograph through the spy-hole of a kaleidoscope….



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leaves on leaves

What on earth is this? Look carefully….leaves and sky reflected in leaves on stone in the rain.

trees on marble

leaves on marble

Strikingly beautiful. Leaves and trees engraved onto marble glistening in the rain.

This next one makes it look like I’ve just teleported from Scotland to Tokyo. (I didn’t teleport, by the way, just the regular AirFrance flight)

reflected me

This was a striking experience……the combination of multiply different environments, natural, artistic, built and cultural…..suddenly, here I am, in a different, floating world.

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cherry blossom shadows

cherry blossom, and the shadows of cherry blossom

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I started today outside Physio in the garden of hospital where I work


red tulips

then I saw this gorgeous orange tulip

close up orange

and a natural bouquet outside one of the consulting rooms

natural bouquet

Next my walk stumbled into the dark

the dark

the double dark

Have you ever seen a tulip like this?


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For a while I was quite taken by the idea of “mind body medicine”. I was even impressed by how, in the US and in Japan, I could find “Mind Body Medicine clinics”. However, for me, the idea has worn off. It just doesn’t work for me any more. Here’s why.

The good intention behind the “mind body medicine” idea is to stitch back together what the advocates claim Descartes separated. It signalled the intention to address the subjective experience of the patient, and not just the objective body. All well and good.

However, what I don’t like is that it continues the delusion of two separate entities – a body, and, a mind – as if these are two different “things” which are linked in some way. But I don’t think it’s like that. I’ve never met a mind without a body, and I’ve only met a body without a mind in the mortuary. Is it ever sensible to focus exclusively on the body, or on the mind, if your job is to provide health care to human beings? I don’t think so.

Worse than that, many people seem to associate “mind” with psychological issues (or in terms of mental health, with psychiatric ones). Yet there is a lot more to the mind than cognition – particularly once you start to understand the mind as “an embodied, relational, process of regulation of energy and information flow“. Or if you begin to understand both the embodied and the extended nature of mind. Discovering the phenomenon of neural networks around the hollow organs of the body, particularly the heart and the gut, made sense for me of those phrases which up to that point seemed mere metaphors – “heart felt”, “heart broken”, “gut feeling”. The mind can’t be corralled into the skull!

The other experience I encounter frequently is one where someone has pain, or dizziness, or nausea, or fatigue, or something, and “all the tests are normal”, so they are told, “Good news. There’s nothing wrong with you”. But they’re still debilitated by their symptoms…..so, what now? “It’s in your head” – which means, either “you’re making it up”, or, “you’re mentally ill”. I think that’s a lousy way to make a diagnosis. If someone has a mental illness, it should be properly diagnosed and understood. And, more importantly, why assume a person is “making it up” if you can’t find any abnormal blood tests? Isn’t trust a foundation of successful medical practice?

The understanding of the concept of “complex adaptive systems” helps us to see that people are whole organisms, that health cannot be reduced to the sum of component parts, and that any disturbance within the organism is likely to produce changes throughout that organism and not be confined to single organs – not even the brain!

I do hope the medicine of the future will start from this perspective – holistic and patient-centred, based on trust and the ability to avoid subdividing people into the delusional idea of two entities – a body, and a mind.

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