Archive for June, 2012

wild strawberries

These wild strawberries are tiny, but tasty! The various hedgerow berries will soon be ripe. It’s an extra special bonus on a walk when you stumble upon a little tasty treat.
Any unexpected tasty treats turn up in your life recently?

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Silver lining….

silver lining

All that glitters…..

sparkling hedge

dew web

sparkling leaves

rain row

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I remember a few years back there was a Public Health campaign directed at young people who were offered illegal drugs – “Just say no” – was the campaign slogan. Turns out the bigger problem is prescription drugs….


According to the UN report referred to in this sensationalist heading women are more likely to be “abusing” prescription drugs than illegal ones. And the problem is getting worse and worse….


The rate of increase in prescribing is colossal. It simply isn’t sustainable.

The excellent David Healy, author of “Pharmageddon”, points out that in the 1960s it was unusual for a doctor to prescribe more than two drugs to the same patient. Now, 50 years on, ten to fifteen drugs for a patient is not uncommon. That’s truly astonishing.
David Healy has an interesting take on this today. He points out that there was a shift in focus and law in the 19th Century which resulted in doctors, rather than patients, becoming the prime “consumers” of drugs.

Doctors who for centuries had being trying to push quacks and hucksters out of the medical marketplace were being offered the means to conclusively do so. You would only be able to get the drugs that really worked from your doctor. But the bargain was Faustian. Few if any doctors seemed to spot that patients would no longer be the consumers of drugs. If by consumers we mean those who are the targets of pharmaceutical company marketing, then doctors were the new consumers. These new consumers moreover would consume by putting drugs into their patients’ mouths and so would consume without side effects. This was a win-win of which Mephistopheles would have been proud.

As he rightly says

Left to their own devices few of a doctor’s patients would ever take 10-15 over the counter drugs at the same time for indefinite periods no matter what the supposed benefits.

He quotes Pinel as saying about the Art of Medicine –

“It is an art of no little importance to administer medicines properly: but it is an art of much greater and more difficult acquisition to know when to suspend or altogether to omit them”.

That’s what I was taught, but it seems this principle has lost ground rapidly. Nowadays doctors don’t only prescribe to suppress almost every symptom a patient presents, they prescribe for the healthy to stop them becoming sick!

This is not sustainable. It has to stop.

…..doctors are going to have to come up with something extraordinary. They may even need to become a revolutionary class, partisans, who create a space that markets do not readily understand – a space where No is the operative word.

I don’t want to be completely negative here. Understand I’m not arguing for doctors to refuse to help patients. I’m arguing for doctors to rediscover the Art of Medicine, to become patients’ partners in health, helping them to flourish in their lives, during health, and during sickness. I’m arguing for a reality check, instead of reflex prescribing of substances that only dope, and dull, and mask.

Let’s learn how to be discerning and only prescribe as a contribution to the work of assisting a person’s natural self-healing.

The Life Force – the only known way to health.

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Thomas Berry (The Great Work) wrote that the Universe is a

community of subjects, not a collection of objects

….a simple little phrase which has the potential to radically alter your perspective.

If the Universe is a collection of objects, and every person, every animal and every plant is just such an object, then we’ll relate to others in a certain way. In fact, if we consider that all of Nature is a collection of objects, we’ll not only treat the other as an object, but we actually objectify ourselves. What does it mean to live as if you are a random, meaningless, occurrence of a machine-like thing?

If the Universe is a community of subjects, then we open ourselves up to becoming aware of the experience of the other, and to our relationship with them.  And we open ourselves up to the phenomena of subjectivity – from love to beauty, to pain and distress, to consciousness itself. What does it mean to live as if you are a unique, purposeful, utterly connected manifestation of the Life Force?

How we view the world profoundly influences our experience of it. We really do create our own lived worlds.

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river teith

One of the great things about the recent rains is that the river is flowing fast and strong. As I stood by the River Teith at the weekend I wondered about how we emerge from what flows through us.
Pause for a moment and reflect.
Notice the air flowing into and out of your body as you breathe.
Think how all the cells of your body, billions of them, are constantly being replaced. Some cells are replaced within days, others weeks, all of them within about five years. How strange is that?
A stranger came up to me on the platform of the station the other day and told me he is going to be 70 on the 1st of July. He said, it’s strange because I still feel the way I did in my 20s. I can’t believe I’m almost 70.
Despite all this constant change, we still feel whole, we still feel ourselves (although sometimes as we emerge from major live events, we feel wholly changed, but, even then, we still feel we are ourselves).
Think for a moment of how everything that we are emerges from the flows of Life and Nature – energy, information, materials, time…..
Life is a constant flow, and we are constantly becoming as we emerge within this flow.
Be the flow.

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Kat Duff, in “The Alchemy of Illness”, says

There is a curious paradox that surrounds pain. Nothing is more certain to those afflicted, while nothing is more open to question and doubt by others.

It’s strange, isn’t it? How often is pain intensified by the refusal of others to believe it exists? How helpful is it for someone with pain to be told “Don’t worry, the tests are all normal”, with the implication being the pain “is in your head” ie it’s imaginary?

It’s not only pain which cannot be seen, and so, cannot be known by another person. Nausea is the same, as is fatigue, blurred vision, dizziness, itch. Patients present to doctors with symptoms which are descriptions of subjective experience. Why should those experiences be dismissed because any physical changes in the body cannot be detected using our current technologies and tests?

The failure to take pain seriously is part of our ranking “objective” as more important than the “subjective”, but, in my view, it’s the invisible which is the most important…..

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threatening sky

Images evoke emotions.
I wonder what feelings you become aware of when you look at this image?

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I noticed this (a fungus growing on a tree stump)


then I noticed this (a snail on a leaf)


…..nice to see the resonances in the shapes

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What do you see?

tree map of the sky

This is a photo I took in Africa. What do you see now?

Look at this next one….what do you see?

A loch the shape of Scotland

That’s a photo I took in Scotland. What do you see now?

Isn’t it interesting how we continuously look for and “recognise” patterns? How wherever we look we bring what we know to our experience of perception? I’m going to guess that, although it’s definitely not an exact match, in that first photo, you see Africa, and in that second one, you can see Scotland. I mean the shapes of those countries.
That’s certainly what I see. Of course, I bring something else too, to these photos, because in each case I was there. I stood in Africa and pointed my camera to the sky. However, I was taking a photo of trees. It was only afterwards that I thought – how like the shape of Africa! And I stood by the roadside on my way back south to Stirling from a holiday in Skye and thought what a lovely loch. Only later did I think, how like a map of Scotland!
Photos do that for me. They slow me down. They let my imagination kick in and then I SEE more and I EXPERIENCE more.
Photography is one of the tools I use to enrich my life.

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lightning strike

The long marks on this tree were caused by a lightning strike.

Although struck by lightning, this tree didn’t die, it survived. But it survives changed. The marks of the strike become part of the beauty and uniqueness of its bark.

Illness is like that.

Stuff happens. Bacteria are inhaled or swallowed, bones are broken, hearts are broken. Often we blame these external events or stimuli for our illnesses. We say we have an infection when our bodies develop a fever, pain, inflammation in response to bacteria or viruses. In fact we give the infection the name of the bacteria or virus – we say the patient has “E Coli”, or “TB”, or “measles”, despite the fact that most people who inhale or swallow that particular “bug” might not actually develop any fever, pain or inflammation. Thinking this way externalises the illness. It’s something that happens to us and we are the victims.

But it’s more complicated than that. The particulars of our illnesses are the results of our responses, our adaptive responses, to these events, or, more commonly in chronic illnesses, to multiple, often long distant factors/events. Not everyone with the same diagnosis will have the same symptoms, and certainly no two people with the same diagnose will narrate an identical story of their experience of this illness.

Understanding that illness emerges from within our lives changes the power balance. We reject the victim mindset and open up the possibility that this experience of illness presents us with an opportunity to learn something about who we are, what’s important to us, and how we adapt to the changes in our lives.

We are changed as a result of these responses. Kat Duff, in “The Alchemy of Illness”, puts it beautifully –

Our bodies remember it all: our births, the delights and terrors of a lifetime, the journeys of our ancestors, the very evolution of life on earth………in fact, every experience, from the sight of a field of daisies to the sudden shock of cold water, leaves a chemical footprint in the body, shimmering across the folds of the cortex like a wave across water, altering our attitudes, expectations, memories, and moods ever so slightly in a continual process of biological learning.


lightning in the forest

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